Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

Sent a copy of Daniel Coles’ Ragdoll by the publishers through NetGalley (thank you to both), I was excited to read a new crime book by a debut author. While the premise of the book was quite daunting and ugly (six dismembered bodies sewn together to form one Frankenstein’s monster), I was keen to see how Cole developed the professional and personal relationships of his leads, as well as resolved the hideous crime, in the first book in a series. After reading a really charming foreword where readers learn Cole thought to write a screenplay after watching the character of Jack Bauer in the TV series 24 and, having his efforts rebuffed, wrote this novel, it’s easy to see the influence of what was, at the time, cutting edge television. The main character in Ragdoll is Detective William (Wolf) Fawkes – his entire name forming the neat and symbolic anagram. Having disgraced himself and his profession in an earlier case, and served time, Fawkes is assigned to track down the ragdoll killer along with his former partner, the edgy Emily Baxter. Complicated, irascible and capable, Wolf is a loner in every sense. Divorced from his wife, the anchor of a tabloid news show that is stalking the Ragdoll investigation’s every move and impeding it, he’s also loyal and believes himself smarter than everyone in the room. This is fair enough, as he mostly is – he’s also attractive to all the women, including his professional partner and ex and even a suspect in the crime. But for someone so smart, he really ends up doing some very silly things. This, frankly, annoyed me. Well-written, paced and mostly plotted, I loved the first three-quarters of the book. But, for me, the last quarter lost a bit of credibility – and...

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The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte by Lesley Truffle

The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte is the fantastically titled second novel by Melbourne-based writer, Lesley Truffle and I have to say, it is unlike any book I have ever read. Part historical fiction, part-fantastical and whimsical romp, part crime mystery, cooking extravaganza and cautionary fable, it’s also a picaresque novel that tells the tale of the irrepressible Sasha Torte, flame-haired daughter of a murderess and heiress to a bad reputation and melancholy, who becomes not only a world-famous pastry-chef in, of all places, the wilds of Tasmania in the early 1900s, but courts men, drugs and danger with abandon. Told with Truffle’s wonderful flair, at first I wasn’t sure what to make of a book that opens with the heroine in a luxuriously appointed prison accused of murder. Deciding to pen her memoirs, Sasha then takes the reader back through her childhood, revealing how she grew up in a brutal and unconventional family surrounded by dedicated servants and a doting grandfather. As she matures, she learns to deal with nepotism, bullying, the cruelty of strangers and their kindness in equal measure. When her Aunt Lily enters her life, she finds a soul-mate and confidant to whom she can also aspire. Launched into the society that wants to reject her, but finds they’re unable to resist her, the beautiful Sasha appears set to conquer not only men, but the globe. But in earning devotion, Sasha also attracts enmity, even from those who purport to love her and it’s when the handsome Dasher brothers enter her sphere that trouble for Sasha and those she cares about looms large and deadly. Featuring wilful, sassy and smart women, dedicated and dastardly men, horses, dogs, a psychic goldfish (no, I’m not kidding) ghosts, gangs, and, of course, amazing confectionary and pastries, this novel...

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Cavalier: The Story of a 17th Century Playboy, by Lucy Worsley

As I read this wonderful book, Cavalier: The Story of a 17th Century Playboy, by Lucy Worsley, I could hear her voice with all its lilting passion telling me the history of William Cavendish and his rise, downfall and rise again – the latter occurring along with the Restoration of Charles II. Poetic, often moving and with incredible detail about the social mores and hierarchy of the English aristocracy at the time (from old King James, his son Charles I, the Civil Wars and Cromwell, to Charles II), it’s also a tale of sexual intrigue, gossip, and conspiracy.   Recommended for lovers of history, architecture (there is a long chapter on the Cavendish home – a former abbey) and those who like beautifully written books. It’s clear Worsley knows her subject so well and the detail leaps from the pages and is underpinned by meticulous footnoting and research. A terrific...

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The Little Book of Slow by Sally Wise and Paul McIntyre

When was the last time you not only stopped and smelled the roses, but pruned them too? When did you last host a dinner party for friends you might eagerly text or follow on FaceBook but haven’t seen for months or years? When did you last listen to a vinyl record with all its scritches, scratches and layers of sound? When did you last bake a cake, bread or dog treats? Play a board game with your kids, partner or friends? Hand write a letter or card instead of tying it or emailing? If you answered, “I don’t remember” or “never” to any of these questions, then do yourself a favour and read this marvellous, gem of a book with a gorgeous cover. Written by well-known writer, Sally Wise, and award-winning, international playwright, ABC radio senior producer, and first time author (and a friend of mine – I declare it now), Paul McIntyre, The Little Book of Slow is packed full of not only ideas about favourite past-times, but also how to pass the time in meaningful, mindful and often relaxing ways, and really appreciate this in a world where we so often cry we’re time-poor. Whether it’s op-shopping, keeping a dream diary, or cultivating good manners and being civil or making your own curry pastes and powders, pickling veges and planning a picnic, this “little” book is big on caring about ourselves, the planet and each other. Reminding us to live mindfully and meaningfully, the prose is sweet and gentle but the messages are so important, especially in a world of cyber and other distractions that mean we too often disconnect – not only from others, but from ourselves. As I read this book (and I did cover to cover, though it’s designed to dip in and out...

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The Westminster Poisoner by Susanna Gregory

This is the fourth Thomas Chaloner book I’ve read featuring the much put upon and impoverished former roundhead spy who now works for the ungrateful (and disloyal – to him) Earl of Clarendon. This time, a poisoner is at work killing the King’s clerks in brazen circumstances. When the Earl asks both Chaloner and a new man he’s appointed to investigate these crimes and the case of the king’s missing Bernini sculpture, setting them against each other, and the Earl’s own secretaries Bulteel and Haddon take bets on whether Chaloner or the new man will solve the cases, Thomas understands his job is at stake. But, it’s not only his employ that’s under threat. As usual, on the mean streets of Restoration London, it’s his life as well. With his only friend, his former boss, Thurloe, about to leave the city and his old friend, the former Puritan and now brothel madame, Temperance, fast losing patience with him and a new relationship with one of the queen’s ladies to foster, Thomas has his work cut out and many dangers to avoid – never mind worrying about where his next penny will come from. But as the body count mounts and he’s no closer to solving the case, Thomas understands that his priorities and friendships may have to change… Gregory has such a rich and detailed understanding of the period, of the complexities of the political, social and sexual machinations of the court, it’s sometimes hard to keep up as a cast of hundreds appear and disappear and the plot thickens until it almost congeals. Only, it doesn’t. Immersing the reader in the murky settings and even murkier plans of those who seek power at all costs, Gregory’s novels are a great way to rediscover history and cleave to a...

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The Missing and the Dead Stuart MacBride

While I’ve so enjoyed every single book in this series bout DC Logan McRae and his hilariously inappropriate but utterly loyal sometimes boss, DI Steele, so far (so much so, I am saving the last few books so I don’t leave this world yet), this one has to be my favourite. Unlike the earlier books which saw McRae part of division and investigating murders, this installment has him posted (on secondment for professional development purposes – or so he’s told, but you get the impression and his record indicates, it’s more punishment) to community policing. No longer an Acting Di, McRae is once again a constable, but without the “detective” moniker. In charge of three areas in a remote location, he has his work cut out. From the opening pages, the reader is thrust into both the humdrum and dynamism of this kind if police work. The way MacBride captures this, the almost staccato yet speedy nature of the narrative, how we move between cases, radio demands, conversations, and crimes is exhausting and exhilarating. You live and breathe the job with McRae and his team. Yet, though there are many cases and criminals, MacBride brings it all together superlatively with some overarching cases and interlinking. Within a few chapters, you’ve grasped the various capes – geographical, people, cultural and feel as embedded as the cops whose shifts we share. I didn’t want this book to end. It was thoroughly captivating, peppered with its usual wonderful dialogues and character interactions – positive and negative. It has its quirky characters (both on and off the force) and those who you wish would get Steele’s boot up the proverbial. I know I promised myself I would wait to read the next McRae book, but it’s going to be hard. This was just...

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Whisky in Small Glasses by Denzil Meyrick

Whisky in Small Glasses by Denzil Meyrick is the first book in the DCI Daley series, set on the west coast of Scotland. Loaned to me by a friend with an excellent recommendation, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book as I’d recently discovered the Stuart Macbride DS Logan series set in Aberdeen and felt a great deal of loyalty towards that. How silly am I! I should have known that just because one write creates fabulous characters and plots in a part of the world you love doesn’t mean another cannot! And boy, does Meyrick create some terrific characters and a cracker of a story. When a body is washed up in the remote township of Kinloch on the West Coast of Scotland, DCI Daley is called in to investigate. Carrying his own emotional baggage in the form of a rocky marriage, DCI Daley and his wonderful side-kick, the heavy drinking and smoking DS Scott, have to put up with the suspicion and parochialism of the locals – especially the constabulary. But DCI is a no BS kind of guy and soon earns the enmity and respect of various people. But when the prime suspect in the murder is killed and more bodies start appearing, and the DCI Daley’s wife and the man he suspects is her lover also turn up unexpectedly, the plot doesn’t just thicken, it becomes both personal and deadly. filled with rich and evocative language, characters you quickly grow to care about and a page-turning plot, this is a wonderful first in what I quickly discovered (because I swiftly read all four books in the series thus far) is a compelling new series. Highly recommended....

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Close to the Bone: Logan McRae #8 by Stuart Macbride

Another cracker of a read from Stuart MacBride featuring DS (now Acting DI) Logan McRae and the cast of regulars that readers of the series have grown to love: the inappropriate (“we are not home to Mr Fuck-Up”) but somehow loveable DCI Steele, prone to stuff-ups, Rennie, “Dildo”, Wee Hamish, Finnie etc. This time, a feature film based on a successful supernatural book, Witchfire, is being shot in and around Aberdeen. Former DI Insch is involved in the production and the cops and population are bewitched. When a gruesome murder that has clearly been based on those described in the book occurs, the cast and crew come under scrutiny. When the body count starts to grow and even one of McRae’s own disappears, the stakes become high; but this is an elusive and clever criminal McRae’s seeks, one who is above all convinced they are righteous and that makes them doubly dangerous. Apart from the occasional bursts of humour amidst quite dire circumstances, the interpersonal relationships between the police and the great dialogue, what makes these books so compulsive is Logan himself. A man with a head and heart, he is simultaneously vulnerable, heroic, resilient and kind. Whenever I finish one of the books, I promise myself I’ll read something else for a while, but I find myself returning to the series, needing and wanting to know how his tale pans out. Highly recommended....

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The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Can this guy write a bad book? If The Wrong Side of Goodbye is anything to assess the others by (and it is) the answer is a categorical and resounding “NO!” Frankly, this crime series is one of the most consistently terrific I have read, and over so many instalments.  Just when you think Harry Bosch, can go no further, do no more, fail to surprise you, Connelly takes your expectations and dashes them. He takes Bosch and thus the reader to the most unexpected heights and thrilling of places – emotionally, physically (even for an ageing cop) and psychologically, but without once asking you to suspend your disbelief. Working in a part-time position for the San Fernando PD, Harry, who also has a Private Investigator ticket, is asked by an ageing, wealthy tycoon to find out if he has an heir from a love affair he had many years ago. With no family to leave his billions, the reclusive old man hopes to leave his estate to family as opposed to the board of directors currently in line to inherit. Harry is to work only with this man and reveal anything he discovers only to him. Unable to refuse a cold case that may as well have come out of a freezer (and a decent pay cheque), Harry accepts, and it’s not long before he discovers a connection to the man during the VietNam war. Before he can pass on the information, the billionaire dies. When the circumstances of his death turn out to be suspicious and Harry is warned off pursuing the notion of an heir further, Harry does what he does best: refuses to be bullied or threatened. When Harry asks his half-brother, the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller, to help him, the ante is upped and...

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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

This book was recommended to me by a dear friend with whom I often exchange reading ideas. Actually, she was staying with me as she was finishing this and I watched as she gasped, sighed and looked altogether satisfied with what she was reading, barely able to put the novel down. She didn’t need many words to persuade me to enjoy this book as well. When I first started reading this tale, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. Based on true stories of “fasting girls” from history, those who refused food and remained alive, claiming it was God’s work, this is a about an eleven-year old, clever and very sweet Irish girl who, though not eating for months, remains alive, claiming to be nourished by God. A British nurse, Lib, along with a Catholic nun, is sent to remain by her bedside for a fortnight to see whether or not the girl is fraudulent or a miracle. The story of what happens is told through Lib’s eyes. To be sure (couldn’t resist), the writing was lovely, lyrical, and it was easy to be swept away by vivid descriptions of the Irish midlands, the brusqueness and almost fanatical devotion of the locals and the resistance to the British woman’s presence among them and the suspicion she brings in her wake. Now that I have finished the book, it’s hard to remember why I felt that way. I think it might have been the religiosity underpinning the tale, the blind faith and the painful accuracy with which this was painted. It is frustrating indeed. Though, having said that, the wonderful superstition and pagan practices that were still extant in this period were marvellously realised. The reader sees the family, the wee girl at the heart, and the neighbours...

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Karen Brooks's books on Goodreads
TallowTallow (Curse of The Bond Riders, #1)
reviews: 29
ratings: 489 (avg rating 3.79)

VotiveVotive (Curse of the Bond Rider #2)
reviews: 10
ratings: 154 (avg rating 4.25)

The Gaze of the GorgonThe Gaze of the Gorgon (Cassandra Klein, #2)
reviews: 1
ratings: 14 (avg rating 3.78)

The Kurs of AtlantisThe Kurs of Atlantis (Cassandra Klein, #4)
ratings: 15 (avg rating 4.12)

Rifts Through QuentarisRifts Through Quentaris
ratings: 12 (avg rating 3.56)