Tag Archives: Murder

The Cousins – Karen M. McManus

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Penguin Australia

  • December 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241376942
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • RRP: $17.99

Attention all of you who loved One of Us is Lying! This YA thriller will get you and your readers in from the first page. I literally ate it up over just a couple of nights. Three cousins all the same age who barely know each other, having not met since they were around five years old, are suddenly thrown together for the summer. Their respective parents plus another sibling have been disinherited and disowned by their grandmother years ago, before they were even born and yet, mysteriously they have all been invited to the old family home where the famous Gull Cove Resort, Catmint House and the Story family are held in the greatest esteem.

Envy of all, rich and privileged, the older Story children were very close despite their different personalities but following the death of their father, and their mother’s decline into a morbid grief as they all began their independent lives at college and in the adult world, there comes a great shock. A bald communication from their mother’s lawyer You know what you did signals their instant dismissal from their mother’s life. So why does the mysterious Mildred Story suddenly and unexpectedly invite her grandchildren to come and be part of the Gull Cove Resort team for the summer?

As the narrative unravels the secrets, the lies and deceptions unfold in such an extremely satisfying (for we sleuths!) way that the reader is completely engrossed in the story. The cousins’ curiosity and determination to uncover the truth reveals far more than anything expected. This is truly a thriller that will delight your astute readers.

It gets a huge recommendation from me with the rider that it does have some significant coarse language and some adult themes but for your mature readers a great big tick!!! Family first – always. Right?

People of Abandoned Character – Clare Whitfield

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Harper Collins Australia

December 2020

  • ISBN: 9781838932749
  • ISBN 10: 1838932747
  • Imprint: Head of Zeus – GB
  • List Price: 32.99 AUD

Imagine the man you married was a murderer, in fact, one of the most infamous murderers in history. Susannah Chapman fears she is married to the monster who came to be known as Jack the Ripper.

Step into Victorian London where the wealthy and outwardly respectable live cheek-by-jowl with the dregs of society, each with their own sordid secrets: drugs, alcohol, violence, homosexuality, sexual perversions and cruelty. Sometimes the most dangerous are those who appear to be the most refined.

Born illegitimate to a mother not long out of childhood herself, Susannah becomes an orphan at five years old when her mother is brutally killed by one of her customers. Raised by grandparents the girl has always been a little different. Her kindly grandfather appreciates her more unusual nature but her strict grandmother despairs of her and is continually frustrated in her attempts to subdue what she sees as a wayward child. When her grandfather dies, Susannah assumes the role of carer for her ailing grandmother and dreams of a time when she will be free to make her own way in the world. Eventually that time arrives as Susannah nears thirty and she takes up training as a nurse at the London Hospital. Finally she feels she has achieved some independence and self-worth and with her closest friend, Aisling, makes a pretty fair nurse at a time when that profession is just beginning the transformation into the one we know today. When Aisling is killed by a violent drunk Susannah is devastated and begins to doubt her direction in life. But then she catches the eye of handsome young surgeon, Thomas Lancaster.

After a whirlwind romance, the pair are married but within weeks of their passionate honeymoon, cracks begin to appear feeding Susannah’s doubts about her own worth. Thomas is cruel and violent, capricious and erratic and as the weeks turn into months, his behaviour becomes more and more unpredictable. The newspapers are filled with lurid reports of the shocking murders of Whitechapel prostitutes and Susannah’s preoccupation with the details of these bring her to a strong suspicion that her husband could well be the violent perpetrator being sought by the police.

As the narrative proceeds the reader turns to first one and then another character, each of them with dark secrets, with growing unease while poor Susannah becomes more and more isolated and frightened for her own safety. Clare Whitfield has created in this, her debut novel, a marvellously wrought historical novel which swiftly becomes not just a murder mystery but a thriller with plot twists that are both unexpected and astonishing. It’s a page-turner of extraordinary depths – dare I say – a ripping yarn though not for the faint-hearted. There is liberal strong language and graphic bloody violence but a great read with a denouement that will make you gasp.

I would highly recommend it for anyone who loves a terrific suspenseful novel.

Death sets Sail – Robin Stevens

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Penguin Australia

  • September 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241419809
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $16.99

All good things must come to an end – even great things must – and I foresee there will be gnashing of teeth amongst my readers who are so dedicated to this series as they realise this is the final chapter. Robin Stevens has turned detective/murder mystery fiction into a best-selling and thoroughly exciting adventure for readers from around middle primary to secondary. Her two star detectives, the irrepressible Daisy Wells and the slightly awkward Hazel Wong, have become the darlings of their readership and rightly so.

The books are full of lively personalities, creative thinkers and assured self-confident young people and while I’m quite sure that none of my readers would actually like to be involved in a murder investigation, they would love to test out their sleuthing skills.

This final novel in the ten part series pays homage to Stevens’ inspiration, the great Agatha Christie, taking the Detective Society girls along with the Junior Pinkertons to Egypt for a cruise on the Nile. Each part takes its title from Christie novels which is a lovely nod to the Queen of Crime and the whole intentionally has the same feel and atmosphere of Death on the Nile.

Hazel and Daisy are off to Egypt as the guests of their friend Amina El Maghrabi and Hazel’s long-suffering father decides to join them with her little sisters, Rose and May. Of course, Hazel manages to have the Junior Pinkertons, Alexander and George, coincidentally in the right place at the right time as well. The jolly party does not, however, reckon on the inclusion of a particularly nasty group called Breath of Life, pretentious and dangerous foolish adults who believe they are the reincarnations of Egyptian pharoahs. When the head of this outwardly genteel, but inwardly scurrilous group, the odious Theodora, is found brutally murdered it’s time for the Detective Society to leap into action. Could this be the work of an innocent and put-upon sleepwalking daughter or was it the act of a calculating and cold mind?

With as many twists and turns as previous adventures, readers will be wildly trying to match the wits of Daisy and Hazel, along with their able assistants, as first one then another passenger comes under suspicion.

It would be unfair for me to spoil the most shocking revelation so I won’t but suffice to say, there will be howls of outrage and despair, which fortunately will be mollified.

The book concludes with some interesting factual information about Ancient Egypt and – praise the reading gods! – the teaser of a new forthcoming series. Never fear readers – you have not heard the last of Daisy and Hazel!!

Amongst my keen beans there is no need for recommendation for this highly entertaining series but if you have not yet picked up on it for your mob, do yourself and them a favour and put it on your orders list.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards.

Moonflower Murders – Anthony Horowitz

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Penguin Australia

August 2020

ISBN: 9781529124354

Imprint: Century

RRP: $32.99

The Master triumphs again! Mind-bendingly clever and tricky, Horowitz has once again presented his readers with two devilishly complicated mysteries – once again a book within a book! I can only imagine how difficult it is to construct one complex murder mystery let alone two at the same time!

Susan Ryeland, former editor at Cloverleaf and victim of the nasty plot that killed her obnoxious star author Alan Conway, has been living in Greece with her partner Andreas running, with some difficulty, their hotel. Despite the idyllic setting, the frantic struggle to get the hotel on its feet and the loss of her editorial and bookish connections are making Susan feel frustrated and fretful. Out of the blue the spectre of Alan Conway arises when an English couple visit Susan and ask for her help in resolving the disappearance of their daughter. At first baffled by this, it becomes clear that there may be some connection between Cecily’s disappearance, a murder on the day of her wedding eight years previously and Alan Conway’s Atticus Pund Takes the Case which Susan edited. With Susan’s dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Greece, she needs little prompting to take on the amateur investigation especially as there is a very generous remuneration on offer. The hotel badly needs an injection of funds just as Susan badly needs a small reprieve from the daily grind.

Given the phone call Cecily made to her parents just the day before she disappeared, it is very clear that some clues to the truth of the murder and therefore her disappearance must lie within Conway’s book and Susan is determined to uncover the facts and vindicate a wrongly convicted suspect. Naturally the twisting and turning plot provides much fodder for us armchair sleuths with suspicion shifting from one character to another. Susan’s investigation leads her into some very murky places figuratively but she is aided by surprising help from a couple of characters we first met in Magpie Murders.

Tied in with the search for justice is Susan’s conflicting emotions about her relationship with Andreas, brought into focus by her much-loved sister’s marital dilemma.

This is exactly the sort of juicy murder mystery I have always loved and while I can be the most complete dunce in seeing the carefully hidden clues, the unfolding of the complexities is a delight and really, no one does it better than Anthony Horowitz. For one who basically ate up murder mysteries for years, it is just pure joy to become so involved in the cunning and entertaining world AH creates.

It is always such a privilege to review such an extraordinary writer and needless to say this has my highest recommendation. If you love a great mystery you will be glued to this as I was until you reach the shocking conclusion.

His Name was Walter – Emily Rodda

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Harper Collins Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781460756195

ISBN 10: 1460756193

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 17.99 AUD

Back in October 2018 I had the immense privilege of reviewing Emily Rodda’s new book His Name was Walter and immediately fell in love with it. I promoted it heavily with my kiddos and was very excited to be one of the schools selected to receive samplers and another copy for classes to share – an opportunity that was eagerly taken up with one of my favourite Year 4 teachers. That first edition was the most beautifully presented hardback and my review copy made a very special prize for my most enthusiastic reading challenge winner. Let’s just say my generosity has its limits so this new paperback edition is staying on my own shelves as it is a book that begs to be re-read many times. The students and I were thrilled when it won the CBCA Book of the Year award as well as the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – so richly deserved – and it continues to prove a favourite among our young readers.

I find it hard to believe that anyone has remained ignorant of this treasure of a book so please do yourself and your kiddos a favour if you have not done so yet and promote it through book talks and ‘first chapter’ readings. The following it receives will warm your  heart and children who read it will be so enriched by its many layers and concepts.

Again it gives me the greatest pleasure to highly recommend this book to your readers from around 10 years upwards as well as your staff who would be well pleased at the reception they have if using it as a read-aloud.

Read a sampler and teaching notes available.

I have had the very great pleasure of socialising personally with Emily on a couple of occasions and she is both gracious and very funny (so is her husband Bob!) and I live in hope that on my annual visits to the Blue Mountains that I will somehow manage to ‘bump into her’ again!

If you missed this when it aired ABC News did a fabulous piece with Emily which you can watch here.

Murder Most Unladylike #8: Top Marks for Murder – Robin Stevens

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9780241348383

Penguin

August 2019

ISBN: 9780241348383

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

Yes there are seven previous books but this series has been somewhat of a ‘sleeper’ in my library. Now, however, due to the enthusiasm of several devoted fans it is steadily growing in its popularity. I know that this newest volume will be avidly sought after and the reservation list will be frustrating for some of my girls.

Deepdean School for Girls might seem to be an innocent place but that’s never the case and the current state of affairs is no exception. When Daisy and Hazel return after their absence the place is humming with anticipation of the Anniversary Weekend but parents begin to arrive and poisoning sends shock ripples throughout the school. Everything seems to point to a parent being the guilty party and the girls are fearful that if the perpetrator is not caught, Deepdean might cease to exist altogether.

As always this is almost like a very dark and deadly Malory Towers but the power of ‘school stories’ is always evident. When some murder is thrown in amongst a gang of smart and sassy girls there’s bound to be loads of excitement, suspense and clever detection work to be had – an irresistible combination for my middle school readers!

His Name was Walter – Emily Rodda

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Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460756188

ISBN 10: 1460756185

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

On Sale: 23/07/2018

List Price: 22.99 AUD

Oh my gosh!

 

Yes, of course there will be more to say but really this book was so incredible it really did almost leave me speechless. Just when I think Emily Rodda cannot get any better (I mean, I just loved The Shop at Hooper’s Bend!) she comes up with something so extraordinary that it is hard to imagine how any person can be so very talented.

After their excursion bus breaks down on a lonely country road a history teacher and four children are forced to seek shelter in a strange old, once grand, house until they are rescued. The overwhelming atmosphere of the shabby half-ruined place is one of melancholy and malevolence.  When they accidentally discover a very beautiful hand-written and illustrated book in a secret drawer the mystery deepens. The allegorical fairytale written to tell the story of Walter and Sparrow drives Colin and Tara especially, as the most sensitive of the group, to seek the truth behind the story .  While they are all intrigued by the strangely vivid almost lifelike painted illustrations it is the story itself that envelops them and compels them to keep reading throughout the night.

Emily’s book within a book explores the themes of justice, loyalty, compassion and true love all cloaked in a tale filled with magic and murder, prophecies and promises and long-hidden secrets.

As the haunting tale of Walter and Sparrow unravels the children and their teacher are drawn into a poignant and forgotten history until they finally solve the puzzle and at last, though decades later, justice can be served.

What a treat this book is! I read the first three chapters to Year 5 last Friday and you could have heard a pin drop with all of them clamouring for more – fortunately they will get that!

If you haven’t yet added this to your shelves be sure to do so. I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around ten years upwards.

 

Inheritance – Carole Wilkinson

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Walker Books

ISBN: 9781760650360
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Release Date: September 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

Carole Wilkinson has created a superbly plausible narrative which realistically weaves historic realism from Australia’s past from the perspective of both First Australians and early white settlers putting an ugly side to the beginnings of our modern nation in full view. For too long much of this history has been ignored or whitewashed (pun intended) in order to placate a national consciousness.

Fourteen year old Nic (Veronica) has been left in the care of her taciturn grandfather in the old family homestead out in the country. Her mother, whom Nic lost when she was born, grew up here and Nic longs to find out more about her. She also wonders why the once grandiose sprawling homestead has become so rundown and neglected and so finds more than one mystery to solve.  Her start at a new school is not very encouraging but she at least can assimilate into the ‘loners’ group. Most especially disturbing for her is the instant antipathy from Thor, another loner, whose grievance against her seems to be solely based upon her family name.

While Nic discovers a strange gift inherited from her Scottish female side – the ability to time travel – and begins to unravel secrets about her pioneering family, Thor is trying to find evidence of a truth he knows to be so with regards to the tragedy of his own people, the Djargurd wurrung, original occupiers of the area.

After their inauspicious start Nic and Thor end up joining forces to uncover the truth of their own family histories and a start to reconciliation though not without many disconcerting discoveries, including the real story of Nic’s mother.

For those who have not read Bruce Pascoe’s excellent book Dark Emu there will be much to learn here about largely unknown First Australian culture, settlements and agriculture. The oft-repeated stereotyping of the ‘hunter/gatherer/nomadic’ society who did nothing to entitle them keeping their land is thoroughly de-bunked – a falsehood perpetuated as some kind of justification for the dispossession of our indigenous peoples.  For those who are not aware of the heinous actions of some early settlers, there will also be disturbing revelations about the conduct of some of those often held up as examples of founders of white settlements.

Young readers may well be dismayed to find out such history but it is important to know if we, as a nation, are to move forward with the gathering momentum towards full recognition and reconciliation. It has already taken too long and many older people would prefer to ignore the truth so it is essential that our youth know the real facts.  Historical fiction such as this, based squarely on actual events, goes a long way towards this.

I highly recommend this book to readers from Upper Primary upwards and think it is a valuable addition to a ‘read around your topic’ for students of history.