Friday, August 16, 2019

Review: QUBYTE

QUBYTE by Cat Connor (2018)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Flu season is in full swing, surrounded by germs and illness, SSA Ellie Iverson reacts like any new mom, with hand sanitizer at the ready and a desire to keep away from anti-vaxers. Her newly hatched germaphobia escalates when Delta A is asked to investigate animal rights activists and a missing laboratory monkey. 

An incident in Lexington, Virginia leaves the Director of the FBI fighting for her life. 

A sudden violent death of a colleague in Washington, the discovery of a spate of deaths linked to the Intelligence Community, herald the arrival of an old friend from the UK with news of a potential global disaster. With biker gangs, drugs, grudges, and a plethora of ‘accidental’ deaths in the mix, this is no ordinary flu season. 

QUBYTE is the 10th in the "Byte" series from New Zealand author Cat Connor, featuring FBI Agent Ellie Iverson. A series that probably would be best read in order, and is definitely one for readers who enjoy a spot of supernatural goings on with their crime fiction.

This is a series that I've dipped into and out of over the previous nine books, with some of those I have read working better than others. Ellie is a strong character, with paranormal visions, she's got a good strong team around her and these books are nothing if not action packed.

In QUBYTE the action is complicated by Ellie's recent family expansion, which means that when she and her team take to a remote hideaway to consider the outcomes of a bad flu season, a life-threatened FBI Director, animal rights activists, a missing laboratory monkey and the portent that brings with it, they do so with Ellie's family in tow.

Into that scenario you insert a spate of deaths linked to the Intelligence Community, a possible global disaster, bikies, drugs, accidental deaths, and that whole flu season on steroids thing, and you've got the requisite action packed adventure that comes with a book in this series. Although this time out the action didn't quite compensate for what felt like a somewhat confused, kitchen sink-ish style plot, and a bit of reliance of good old coincidence which, for this reader, watered down the threat that should have inspired all that action.

The strength of this series is undoubtedly in the character interactions and the team that surrounds Ellie Iverson. As mentioned earlier, if you like a bit of thriller-styled action, with that supernatural/paranormal thing thrown in, and you're looking for something on the good fun, cliff hanger side then the "byte" series could fit your requirements neatly.



Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource - please check it out. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a Judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best NovelShe kindly shares her reviews of crime and thriller novels written by New Zealanders on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: DEATH OF AN AGENT

DEATH OF AN AGENT by David McGill (2019)

Reviewed by Alyson Baker

Easter 1965 and radical Wellington students are threatening President Johnson's envoy, here to urge New Zealand to commit troops to its Vietnam campaign. American `advisers' warn our security services of violent action by a disaffected anarchist.

In his fourth outing, former detective and spy-catcher Dan Delaney is first on the scene of a woman dead in a hot tub and his good friend Ru Patterson unconscious beside her. The deceased is a security agent attempting to infiltrate Patterson's left-wing circle, which includes radical students such as the anarchist and Ru's headstrong daughter Hine, Dan's goddaughter.

The authorities demand Dan's help. Delaney is caught up in gang and police threats to Hine, a police raid on a suspected marijuana dealer, an SIS interrogation, the planting of an incendiary device, an unexpected encounter with Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, student confrontation at the envoy's airport motel, response to a Parliamentary intrusion with Special Task Force marksmen surrounding the building.

We first met Dan Delaney as a young wannabe detective holding the fort on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour in 1935, then again back in Wellington after having been a POW in the Second World War, and then in Auckland in the mid-1950s. He is now an Auckland vintner, and reluctantly down in Wellington again – “What possessed anyone to live in this godforsaken city?” – to visit his ex-POW mate, now radio personality, Ru Patterson, and Patterson’s daughter Hine, Dan’s goddaughter. It is Easter 1965, and the worst thing about Dan’s trip is the weather, until he accompanies Ru to a party for planning anti-Vietnam War protests, and a woman is found dead in a hot tub and Ru is discovered in a compromising position.

The dead woman is an Australian agent, working under the radar in New Zealand, as the Australians and the Americans are beginning to think New Zealand is the weak link in their ANZUS Treaty partnership. And Henry Cabot Lodge is on his way to New Zealand to talk to Prime Minister Holyoake about getting New Zealand troops on the ground in Vietnam. And Australian spies aren’t the only ones trying to infiltrate the anti-war, anti-nuclear, anti-Vietnam War groups – the New Zealand SIS are also active, slightly laughable, considered ‘clowns’ by the activists, but they are just the agents they know about.

With Ru in hospital, Dan stays in Wellington, hovering on the periphery of the growing protest movement, and getting a bit concerned about Hine’s flatmate, Oliver, a skinny theatrical type, who appears to be getting overly-friendly with his goddaughter. He would have been happy though to quit the city and get back to his family in Auckland, and to pruning his vines, but then he, Hine and her strange flatmate are arrested. And Dan’s old colleague, and far-from-favourite person, Detective Chief Inspector Milton, gives Daniel an ultimatum: Feed him information on the planned protests, or Ru and Hine will suffer the consequences.

The hectic environment of Wellington is well-described: The art scene, the café scene, the experimenting with drugs, and the still raw memories of war experiences. The stories being spun about the ‘yellow peril’ and the ‘domino theory of communist expansion’ creating hysteria among some, scorn among others. Political theories of communism, socialism, nationalism are being openly debated, and we have a Prime Minister who you can just call in on and be invited in for a cup of tea. Among the array of characters there is tension building between those wanting to take peaceful protest action and those in favour of taking a more aggressive stance. And an anarchist group has gone missing, and the threat of direct action against Cabot Lodge is of concern.  Having no useful information about when and where an attack may take place is driving the SIS, the Police and U.S. agents to distraction.

The characters are complex: Dan is not sure what to think for most of the novel but then “He realized he wanted for the first time in his life to stand next to this thin line of unlikely protesters” – unfortunately at the time of his epiphany, he has a more important role to play. Ru does not feature much in the novel, being in hospital for most of it, but Dan finds out that he has entered a pretty dodgy relationship with a local gang, uses drugs and that Hine is totally aware of this. Oliver is very conflicted; privileged but abused, he has taken refuge in self-harm, religion, and a desire to act in the theatre. He is committed to stopping the various groups that are threatening his idealised world, and his Catholicism – that is until he realises that there is something more real and down to earth to adore – Hine.

The novel is full of cultural references that will resonate with anyone who lived in New Zealand, especially Wellington, during the mid- to late-1960s. At times I felt there were a few too many historical details added, and an over-abundance of adjectives and quotes – there is even mention of the dreaded short story about an earwig; the cause of my not being able to sleep with my ears uncovered since I was at high school – although it is attributed to Dahl, and I am sure it was by Oscar Cook. But this slight over-enthusiasm for the times and background aside, there are some very thrilling moments, and the politics are fascinating – especially considering recent events in New Zealand – when we are once again realising sections of our community are being dangerously swayed by myths of imminent threat. Another great New Zealand read and although it is part of a series, it can be read as a stand-alone.

Alyson Baker is a crime-loving librarian in Nelson. This review first appeared on her blog, which you can check out here

Review: HOW THE DEAD SPEAK

HOW THE DEAD SPEAK by Val McDermid (Little, Brown, 2019)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

With former profiler Tony Hill behind bars and former DCI Carol Jordan finally out of road as a cop, he's finding unexpected outlets for his talents in jail and she's joined forces with a small informal group of lawyers and forensics experts looking into suspected miscarriages of justice. But they're doing it without each other; being in the same room at visiting hour is too painful to contemplate. 

Meanwhile, construction is suddenly halted on the redevelopment of an orphanage after dozens of skeletons are found buried in the grounds. Forensic examination reveals they date from between twenty and forty years ago, when the nuns were running their repressive regime. But then a different set of skeletons are discovered in a far corner, young men from as recent as ten years ago.

When newly promoted DI Paula McIntyre discovers that one of the male skeletons is that of a killer who is supposedly alive and behind bars--and the subject of one of Carol's miscarriage investigations--it brings Tony and Carol irresistibly into each other's orbit once again.

It must be hard to sustain a long-running crime series at very high levels. Like a band putting out album after album, it must be tricky to balance reader/audience demand for something that's a mix of similar and different. I'm sure keen crime readers can all think of characters we love to follow whose exploits plateau in later books, whose creators seem to be going through the motions a bit. More of the same with not enough forward movement. Still enjoyable, but not reaching the previous peaks.

Then there are authors like Val McDermid (and Michael Connelly, among others), who've been entertaining us for more than a quarter century - 32 years in McDermid's case - and continue to grasp for higher ground. Among many impressive things about McDermid's storytelling is the way she continues to push herself and her characters, finding fresh stories to tell, issues to explore, and ensuring that past events have an impact, rather than pressing the reset button each book.

This eleventh novel starring Tony Hill and Carol Jordan is a great example.

Throughout the novel the duo is separated, and both are struggling with their new situations and the absence of the other, following the cataclysmic ending to the tenth tale, INSIDIOUS INTENT.

With Tony behind bars and Carol no longer a cop, the remnants of Jordan's ReMIT team are forced to deal with both their unsettling absence and the unsettling presence of new bosses and peers, who have their own agendas. How much trust can Paula, Stacey, and Alvin have in the new regime as they move forward and tackle twin investigations sparked by the discovery of dozens of bodies in the grounds of an abandoned convent. Can so many deaths be explained away by the nuns? And what about the other bodies that are uncovered nearby? Has a serial killer been operating under the radar?

McDermid adroitly weaves a variety of storylines into a gripping novel. While the new-but-not-improved ReMIT team is busy with the convent bodies, Carol is struggling to cope with ongoing PTSD as well as her absence from Tony and unexpected requests from two former nemeses. Tony is trying to keep himself occupied, and alive, inside the concrete walls of prison. Fresh shoots for all.

So much has changed. What do you do?

HOW THE DEAD SPEAK showcases Tony and Carol's former colleagues while also giving readers a greater understanding of the series protagonists. After INSIDIOUS INTENT, McDermid could have taken the easy way out in a number of ways (jumping ahead to a new equilibrium, having Hill 'let off' for his actions), but instead she painted herself into a corner, then delivered a superb tale that could be a fitting conclusion to a beloved series while underlining the impact of all that has gone before.

More than thirty years after introducing the first-ever openly lesbian detective into British crime fiction, and almost a decade after receiving the Diamond Dagger for a career of ‘sustained excellence’ and a ‘significant contribution’, Val McDermid continues to raise the bar.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Review: LAST SEEN LEAVING

LAST SEEN LEAVING by Catherine Lea (2018)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Syd Shaeffer used to be so much: ambitious and fearless, a stellar New York District Attorney, and fiancée to love of her life, Frank Spinelli. A viral eye infection changed all that. Now she's blind and runs a failing law practice out in the burbs.

But when Frank goes missing in New Zealand and the ransom note tells his mother not to call the police, Syd just may be the only one who can find him. Is Syd just driven by honor? Or is she trying to prove that she's still good enough? And when the first dead body turns up, can a blind woman see what everyone else has overlooked? Or will she be next on the killer’s list?

The blurb for LAST SEEN LEAVING outlines a particularly interesting concept - high-flying, New York District Attorney, with a happy personal life is struck down by a viral eye infection which renders her blind. Now running a small, suburb based law practice, her ex-fiancée is reported missing in New Zealand, and his mother receives a ransom note, and a gruesome example of the kidnapper's intent. Syd Shaeffer is contacted by Spinelli's mother which leads to her heading for New Zealand to try to find the missing man.

Now I will admit that if you sit down and think about this for a while it may sound a little unlikely, but why shouldn't a blind woman head off on her own to New Zealand. Although it is a place she's never been to before, she's left to rely on total strangers to guide her about, on an unknown trail of a missing ex. It get's a bit hairy at points needless to say, and whether or not you're going to be comfortable with all of that will depend a lot on how much the character of Syd Shaeffer convinces you of her abilities and determination.

Syd's an interesting character. On the one hand, no idiot, but on the other she does some seemingly daft, almost fem-jep things in LAST SEEN LEAVING. She's does manage to remain believable, despite the occasional "what the" moment though. What's less convincing about the novel overall where some of the seemingly endless byways that we were dragged into, with a tendency to just go on for way too long, rendering any sense of tension lukewarm. The other issue was some rather over the top depictions of the secondary characters - I must admit I never did decide if Spinelli's mother was supposed to be comic or not.

With some tightening of the plot elements, and more clear-cut depictions of the secondary characters, there's some potential in Syd Shaeffer and it would be good to see where she could go in the future.

Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource - please check it out. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a Judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best NovelShe kindly shares her reviews of crime and thriller novels written by New Zealanders on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction

Review: GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL

GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL by Michael Robotham (xx, 2019)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth? Fiendishly clever, swiftly paced, and emotionally explosive, Good Girl, Bad Girl is the perfect thrilling summer read from internationally bestselling author Michael Robotham. 

Sydney author Michael Robotham has long been one of the leading lights in modern Australasian crime writing. Although due to the fact he sets his excellent thrillers overseas - most in the UK where he worked for many years - he's sometimes overlooked when people discuss the growing antipodean crime wave. But he has been on the crest of that wave as much as Jane Harper and her Outback novels, Paul Cleave and his Christchurch thrillers, and Peter Temple's Melbourne tales.

The Gold Dagger Award-winning author is a tremendous storyteller.

In recent years Robotham has interspersed his series starring Parkinson’s-afflicted psychologist Joe O’Loughlin with an array of standalones . This latest novel GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL steps away from Joe but swims in similar psychological terrain. It could, perhaps, be the start of a new series.

Six years after a traumatised adolescent dubbed ‘Angel Face’ was discovered hiding out at a brutal crime scene, the renamed Evie Cormac wants out of state care. Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven is called in to assess the unusual young woman who seems able to act as a lie detector. Meanwhile, Cyrus also consults with the police on the headline-grabbing murder of a teenage ice-skating star.

Intercutting between Evie and Cyrus’s perspectives (two fascinating characters who’ve found different ways to cope with each of their traumatic childhoods), GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL engages quickly and flows throughout It's a real page-turner, with the whodunnit of the murder bolstered by plenty of intrigue in relation to a variety of character secrets.

Overall this is yet another example that Robotham is an accomplished storyteller who knows how to draw readers in, hold their attention, and deliver an absorbing psychological thriller. I'm curious to see if we will see more of Cyrus or Evie in books to come. There's definite series potential here.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Review: ONE SINGLE THING

ONE SINGLE THING by Tina Clough (Lightpool, 2019)

Reviewed by MJ Burr

Journalist Hope Barber disappears two weeks after returning to New Zealand from an assignment in Pakistan, leaving her front door open and her bag and phone inside. The police are tight-lipped about their reluctance to act, and Hunter Grant and Dao agree to help Hope’s brother Noah find her. But when details about Hope’s time in Pakistan start emerging, they only raise more questions. Was Hope under surveillance? Was she linked to terrorists? And who is the man Hope called ‘my stalker’?

Hunter, who in THE CHINESE PROVERB used his front-line Army experience to save Dao, finds himself in unknown territory where outside agencies and powerful personalities need to be negotiated. When a key person from Dao’s past life in captivity turns up, things reach crisis point and Hunter once again takes matters of justice and retribution into his own hands.

This crime thriller is a sequel to THE CHINESE PROVERB. Much of the continuing story of Hunter and Dao involves characters and events from that earlier novel and that poses problems for readers unfamiliar with it; most notably the names and influence on the story of characters and villains of the earlier work; viz Mint, John, the Boss and Bram/Bramville. A further example is that the surname of the leading character, Hunter, doesn’t appear in the first 65 pages, while Dao’s surname never does, and such omissions are irritating for a reader wishing to settle into a multi-branched and well-layered plotline.

The plot revolves around the disappearance of a successful photo-journalist from her Auckland home following her return from a fact-finding assignment involving honour killings in Pakistan. The supposition that the long arm of the Pakistani Establishment has reached out in retribution is cleverly masked when the journalist survives a terrorist attack on her way home through the active intervention of one of the terrorists. At which point New Zealand intelligence services become interested in why and wherefore, and she is placed under surveillance as possibly having terrorist links.

This doesn’t prevent her disappearance in circumstances that suggest a swift and spur-of-the-moment abduction which quickly comes to involve Hunter Grant and Dao, herself a survivor of a previous and long-lived abduction. Complicating things and drawing the odd red herring across them is the re-emergence of some of Dao’s demons from her own past and, while this muddies the waters surrounding the journalist’s abduction in providing another, if tenuous, opportunity for villainy to emerge, the journalist’s disappearance has its roots in something much simpler than either historical villainy, terrorists or Pakistani displeasure.

ONE SINGLE THING is notable for being a genuine attempt to drop a crime thriller into a New Zealand setting, and Clough is to be commended for that in full measure for it is a well-paced and enjoyable tale that moves purposefully along, even if the formality of Clough’s writing style occasionally appears at odds with the casual nature of the New Zealand vernacular.

Its central characters are a mixed bag: Noah the brother, painted as impossibly neurotic but consumed by an anxiety perfectly understandable in the circumstances; Branson, the stereotypical rumpled and creased cop whose first name we never discover; Robinson, the ‘white knight’ and the key to the whole mystery; Dao and Hunter, self-assured and almost always omniscient enough to stay ahead of the game and the other players. By comparison, Charlie, Kristen, Tyler, Matt, Willow and even the villainous John and Will receive modest brushstrokes and might have been enhanced.

One suspects that we will see more of Hunter Grant and Dao, and that is to be welcomed if sufficient detail is provided for readers who drop into their saga cold.



This review was first published in FlaxFlower reviews, which focuses on in-depth reviews of New Zealand books of all kinds, and a lightly edited version is reprinted here with the kind permission of Flaxflower founder and editor Bronwyn Elsmore. 

Review: THE CHAIN

THE CHAIN by Adrian McKinty (Orion, 2019)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

Your phone rings. A stranger has kidnapped your child. To free them you must abduct someone else's child. Your child will be released when your victim's parents kidnap another child. If any of these things don't happen, your child will be killed. You are now part of the Chain. 

Remember those chain letters from childhood: pass them on for something good to happen and more importantly to avoid something bad happening if you don’t. You could kind of laugh them off as a kid - as well as their modern-day equivalents on social media or with email spam.

But what if the stakes were raised and it became all too real? What if the good thing was eventually getting your kidnapped child back alive but the only way to ‘pass it on’ was to kidnap another child?

And then encourage your victim’s parents to do the same. Or your child dies.

That’s the horrifying premise in this standalone thriller from the uber-talented Adrian McKinty, who has hoovered up awards and acclaim in recent years thanks to his superb Sean Duffy series set during the Troubles, and now seems belatedly set for wider appreciation among readers all over the globe.

Your child is kidnapped; kidnap another child. That’s the chilling reality facing cancer survivor Rachel when her teenage daughter Kylie is snatched from a school bus stop in Massachusetts. The voice on the phone makes it crystal clear. Just paying a ransom won’t be enough to get Kylie back alive; single Mom Rachel also has to choose another child to kidnap, someone whose parents are also capable of holding their nerve, kidnapping another child, and staying quiet.

The rules are simple, and strict: no law enforcement, no politicians, no journalists. Choose your victim carefully or your own child will be executed. You can never break the Chain.

As Rachel scrambles to find money and choose a child to kidnap, she realises that all her moves are being tracked. Is there any way out of this nightmare? McKinty delivers a white-knuckle, head-spinning tale that also clutches at readers' hearts. How far would you go to save your own child? How much pain would you inflict on others? Is there anywhere you’d draw the line?

The Chain is every loving parent’s worst nightmare, on steroids. It’s terrifying and traumatising in a way that ultra-violent fare just cannot touch. Impressively, Northern Irishman McKinty manages to infuse what is a high-concept, adrenaline-filled thriller with textures of social commentary and touches of the lyricism that’s already won him so many admirers among his peers and critics.

While long-time McKinty fans may miss Duffy, THE CHAIN is a triumph from a true master.


Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Review: GOODWOOD

GOODWOOD by Holly Throsby (Allen & Unwin, 2016)

Reviewed by Karen Chisholm

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It's a place where it's impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood's most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don't just disappear.

As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.

Small town living in 1990's Australia is big in GOODWOOD, which is interesting as this is a slow burning, confined, seemingly "small" story in the life of 17 year old Jean. She lives in Goodwood, a small town, near a bigger town, with her mother, near her grandparents, surrounded by people she knows, or is somehow related to, all of whom are known, related to somebody. It's the sort of town where you go to the bigger town to do the big shop, but the local town is where you get the essentials - and the gossip - and the support and understanding.

There is so much that rings true about that time, and the reality of small town life that you can really believe/understand how it is that the disappearance of two people from such a small community has such a profound impact. Even more understandable is Jean's confusion and her way of processing not just the disappearances, but the fallout for everyone in the town. Suspicion and fear don't rub along well in a world with, as Jean's Nan puts it, "a high density of acquaintanceship".

Small is a poor description to use for this novel but it's a hard one to explain. It's small in that the location, the events, the impact is local and the ramifications don't seem to stretch much outside the community. It's not small in that those ramifications are pretty shattering for that small a community, but they are illustrated more in the day to day, than in grand psychological analysis.

It's also a slow burner, languid, as the mystery behind these two disappearances is used to explore consequence and the impact of the unexpected. Jean's observations about the communities reactions, the slow twitch of discomfort that everyone is experiencing, and the different ways it manifests is beautifully executed. Dryly funny, observant and both young and old for her age, Jean's the perfect sort of character to carry the narrative here forward and a bit sideways at times. GOODWOOD is not really about the investigation of disappearance, it's about the fallout.

Jean's style is enhanced by a great supporting cast, with plenty of believable characters in their own right, many of whom are able to drop a truism into a conversation as effortlessly as they do a little gem of Australian-style wisdom. Jean's Nan made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion, as she let go lines that my own Grandmother would have happily and unflinchingly served up.

GOODWOOD came flagged as a crime fiction novel, and the thing I'm increasingly coming to admire in Australian Crime writing circles is how widely that genre definition is starting to spread. This isn't crime/investigation as mentioned above, but it's definitely possible crime / fallout and ramifications.



Karen Chisholm is one of Australia's leading crime reviewers. She created Aust Crime Fiction in 2006, a terrific resource - please check it out. Karen also reviews for Newtown Review of Books, and is a Judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best NovelShe kindly shares her reviews of crime and thriller novels written by New Zealanders on Crime Watch as well as on Aust Crime Fiction