Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

This was another one of the books that appeared on the list of top ten crime books by Australian authors that I hadn’t yet discovered – what an oversight on my part! Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic is a cracker of a read.

In this first book in what is clearly going to be a series, the reader is introduced to Caleb Zelic, a divorcee who runs a security business with his friend, older woman and ex-cop, Frankie. Because he’s differently-abled, Caleb is able to observe the world and people in ways those with hearing cannot, picking up physical signals and cues as well as possessing a terrific memory.

When the story opens, a childhood friend and policeman is murdered and Caleb, determined to prove the victim is not the corrupt cop some are trying to portray him as, finds his role in the crime being questioned. In a bid to prove his innocence, Caleb is drawn into a world that’s at once brutal and incredibly dangerous – and that’s not just because of the criminals who enter his sphere. Under investigation himself, Caleb moves between the city and the small town where he used to live, determined to clear his name and that of his friend’s. But when his beloved ex-wife is drawn into danger and people he love go missing, Caleb begins to doubt not just his stubbornness at being unable to let go of the case, but wonders who he can trust.

Well-paced, gripping and with a tight plot and wonderful narrative that invites the reader to deploy his or her senses, with a flawed and interesting main character and terrific secondary ones, this is an excellent addition to the marvellous canon of Australian crime fiction.

Cannot wait to read Viskic’s next book and learn more about her original and endearing protagonist, Caleb.

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The Seagull, Vera Stanhope #8 by Ann Cleeves

This latest novel in the Vera Stanhope series, The Seagull, is a ripper. It opens with Vera being forced by her unsupportive boss to deliver and education lecture in a prison. While there, she encounters a former colleague, John Brace, who has been jailed for crimes and corruption. Ill now, Brace tells Vera about a cold case – claiming he didn’t kill the missing man but knows where the body is buried. He will only tell her if she does him a favour.

What unfolds is an investigation that takes the reader into Vera’s past as, along with the detective, we learn more about her father, Hector and the activities he was involved in before his death. Part of the “Gang of Four”, Hector, and three other men, including a mysterious “Prof” would wheel and deal in illegal fauna. The linking factor between people, past and even present, appears to be a former glamorous club called The Seagull. But, as Vera stumbles closer to the truth of what Brace was trying to reveal to her, she discovers the Gang of Four’s activities might also have involved murder.

Once again, Vera and her team, with all their strengths, weaknesses and glimpses into their personal lives are brought to the fore as the case moves along. Characters and setting are wonderfully drawn and the plot is paced nicely. I love the way Cleeves slowly unpeels a person and their history, before she then builds up layers that make them seem so real and very easy to invest in.

I am already looking forward to a new Vera Stanhope novel and frustrated I know I have to wait a while yet!

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Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series is like comfort food –ironically in the crime genre, though the novels are so much more than crime. For those who await each instalment eagerly (as I do), it’s wonderful to follow in Brunetti’s dogged, measured footsteps as he paces around his beloved Venice, glides the canals in a gondola or rides a vaporetti, patiently interviews suspects in whatever crime he’s attempting to solve and opines about the fly-swarms of tourists infecting his calli and piazzas along with the corruption of those who hold the reins of power and who would sell their mamma’s souls as quickly as sink the ancient city. The interactions he has with his academic wife and growing teenage family, his irascible boss and clever PA, never mind his loyal staff are manna from reader heaven.

Moreso than the others in the series I’ve read, Earthly Remains is the most languid and leisurely paced. Part of the reason for this is, after behaving in an unusual manner to save the reputation of his side-kick, Brunetti’s given leave from the Questura. Encouraged by his wife, he leaves the main island and enjoys a sojourn on an outlying one, Sant’Erasmo, in a home belonging to member of his wife’s family. While there, not only does Brunettti begin to shed the tension and anger that his job sometimes provokes, but to fall back into the rhythms of his past and which he finds nourishing and fulfilling. While there, he befriends the caretaker of the house, an old widower with a history he’s reluctant to share. Inviting Brunetti to join him as he rows the laguna to check on the health of his bees each day, swims and fishes, the Commissario finds the man’s laconic companionship, the water, sun and peace living alone with good books, a much-needed restorative.

When the caretaker goes missing after a storm, Brunetti is drawn into the investigation. What he discovers not only takes him into the caretaker’s immediate and distant past, but into that of Venice and the very people with the power to either restore Venice to its greatness or sacrifice its soul.

Beautifully written, the prose steals upon you, warming your heart before chilling you like the winds that whip across the water. The pace is slow, measured, much like Brunetti, but this only adds to the mystery, to the sense of building towards a climax that rather than being shocking, is heart-wrenching in its utter callous indifference.

In many ways, this novel is analogous to so much that’s happening in the world today – how greed and the desire for power rips apart the lives of the innocent and not-so-innocent. How those at the top are out for themselves and will sacrifice whoever and however many it takes on the altar of avarice and narcissism. The manner in which corruption infects everything – not only in the short-term, but sadly, and with greater consequences, in the longest of terms.

A wonderful, thought-provoking read with a beloved character who, despite the themes, leaves you with optimism at its heart. As long as we have Brunetti and people like him, the world will be left a better place…we hope.

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Catalyst by Michael C. Grumley.

Another terrific instalment in what’s fast becoming one of my favourite action-adventure, techno-thriller series ever. Add to that a dose of science fiction and eminently readable prose, engaging characters and a terrific plot, and this is a recipe made in reader heaven.

 

Commencing about two weeks after the events in book #2, Leap, Catalyst has the intrepid group determined to protect an amazing discovery – at any cost. But when other parties not only become involved but demonstrate the lengths they will go to ensure the prize is theirs, the group comprising of John Clay, Steve Cesare, Alison Shaw and her colleagues as well as Deanne, Dulce, Dirk and Sally begin to wonder if the sacrifices required are worth it.

 

Nail-biting at times, with heart-warming (and breaking) moments, this is a wonderful read that has an OMG finish.

 

Can’t recommend highly enough. I have downloaded book 4, but am saving it as I don’t want to finish this series too quickly!

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