TWO KINDS OF TRUTH BY MICHAEL CONNELLY

I don’t know how it’s possible, but this series just keeps getting better and better, so much so, I need more than five stars to rate it. The only downside of this latest adventure with former LAPD detective and now cold case worker, Harry Bosch is, because I virtually inhale the book the moment I start it, it’s over far too soon.

In Two Kinds of Truth, Bosch is faced with present and past dilemmas. He might be working on cold cases, but when one of his from 30 years earlier is resurrected, one which not only put a psychopath on death row, but which, if the killer’s appeal to have his sentence overturned and massive compensation paid succeeds, throws every case Harry has ever worked on, every criminal he ever helped convict, into doubt.

Claiming Harry framed him and he has the evidence to prove it, the killer’s case appears tight, so much so, Harry’s former partner is persuaded to help those assigned to investigate the matter. Things look grim for Harry, particularly since he left LAPD under less than salubrious circumstances. Determined to clear his name, he commences his own investigation.

In the meantime, he’s asked to help in a brutal double-murder. Keen to be back on the streets and working “hot”, Harry and his team uncover the corruption and cruelty of big pharma, those who benefit from its nefarious dealings, and the toll this takes on the most vulnerable in society.

Older, most definitely wiser, with the cunning of a fox and instincts of a seasoned hunter, and yet willingness to share his knowledge and experiences, if there’s one thing Harry will not stand for, it’s having his honour – as an officer of the law and man – questioned. Nor will he tolerate the motives of a good person being trashed, especially when they’re no longer there to defend themselves or explain their actions and motives. This means Harry will take terrible risks in order that the truth outs and that those who seek to bury it pay the consequences of their deception.

But Harry is dealing with those who don’t share his values and don’t care about truth – unless its silencing the man who seeks to find and expose it.

Taut, fast-paced, but without sacrificing tension or emotional integrity, this is a magnificent read that is impossible to put down. Characters from previous books such as Lucy Soto, Jerry Edgar, Mickey Haller, Harry’s daughter and others appear, their desire to help the man who has always had their back admirable, though not always successful.

Like all the Bosch books, it can be read as a standalone, but the rewards for following Harry’s career and personal life are so much richer when you have the whole context.

Highly recommended – nah, bugger that. Read it! You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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The Scandalous Life of Sasha Torte by Lesley Truffle

31306285The 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 is fast-paced, enormous fun and heart-aching at the same time. Able to transport you from the docks of fictitious and rough Wolftown, to parties on wealthy estates, then sail you to London (where the Hotel Du Barry has a cameo role), Paris, Vienna and beyond, you find yourself captivated by Sasha – honest, steadfast and fair – as you ride the roller-coaster of her full and often tragic life.

For all its fantastical elements, the book coheres into a luminous whole, an adventure and story like no other that you feel the richer and more fulfilled for reading. Like one of Sasha’s sweet creations, it lingers in your mouth, head and heart long after you’ve finished it. Quite simply, it’s so completely different and a real treat.

 

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

imgres-4Another 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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Skin Deep by Gary Kemble

The debut novel, Skin Deep, by award-winning short story writer, Gary Kemble, published by Echo Publishing (who kindly sent me a review copy – thank you very much) is a ripper of a read. Not being familiar with Kemble’s work, I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially when the promotional blurb announced the novel was cross-genre. I have had mixed experiences with cross-genre novels (no pun intended) so worried I might be a little disappointed, especially as the blurb set my expectations high. What I read was a page-turning, exceptionally well-written, tale of regret, deception, betrayal, politics, war, corruption at the highest levels and all with a marvellous supernatural bent that evokes time, place and people with richness and depth.

25356542Journalist Harry Hendrick, once a star student at the university where he did his journalism degree, who because of a major mis-step early in his career is stuck working for the a local Brisbane newspaper (having been rejected by all the major ones, including the “Brisbane Mail” – a thinly disguised Courier Mail, the paper for which I’ve written for over 16 years!). When he wakes one morning after a particularly wild night to find himself sporting an odd tattoo, he is unable to explain when or how he came about it, believing he must have been incredibly wasted not to recall. When other tattoos start appearing on his body, accompanied by vivid and horrific dreams, dreams that include olfactory and taste sensations as well, Harry knows something fantastical is happening to him. But who can he tell? Who would believe him? Not the girlfriend who has just dumped him, the attractive reporter at the Chronicle where he works or his patient boss. As for his best mate, Dave, he’s likely to think he’s mad. Harry isn’t convinced he’s not.

When the dreams intensify, and the tattoos appear with alarming regularity, telling their own gruesome version of the events Harry experiences night after night, he understands something major is afoot, something that involves not only the story that almost had him kicked out of university and discredited as a serious journalist years earlier, but one that involves wild and dangerous magic, a desperate desire for revenge and extraordinarily powerful people who will stop at nothing to ensure no-one lives to repeat the tale they’ve worked so hard to bury.

From the first page, this book gripped and didn’t let me go. Kemble is a terrific writer and his evocation of place, particularly, is outstanding. It’s not just Brisbane (which I know and love and smelt, felt and imagined as I read), but the surging seas off the coast of Australia, the dry, barren lands of the Middle East and even the interiors of houses and office buildings as well as landscapes. Likewise with people. Harry (along with the other characters in the book) is flesh and blood and his fear and confusion as events overtake him are visceral.

I don’t want to say too much for risk of spoiling the plot except to say that this political thriller-cum-action-crime-supernatural novel is fabulous. My only reservation is the cover. I don’t think it does justice to the contents and certainly, I never would have picked it up. The title is so apt and tantalizing and yet the vague image of smoky squiggles just doesn’t cut it for this reader and if it as the same effect of repelling other potential ones, then it’s to their detriment as they’d miss out on a great novel.

A fantastic debut from a terrific writer. I cannot wait for his next book.

 

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Book Review: Piece of my Heart by Peter Robinson

This engrossing novel commences in 1969, when a lovely young, free-spirited woman is found dead in a sleeping bag after a huge music concert and the suspects range from concert attendees to the musicians themselves.

Fast forward to the Twenty-First Century and Banks is called to investigate the quite brutal murder of a music journalist, Nick Barber,  in a small village. Not only is the motive for his death unclear, so are the reasons for Barber’s presence in an unremarkable part of the UK. The list of suspects slowly grows but is unsatisfactory as while there are motives for murder, they aren’t realPiece Of My Heart (Inspector Banks, #16)ly enough to sustain a murder charge. Puzzled and intrigued, Banks knows there is a mystery attached to this man and his death, a feeling confirmed when a page of numbers, some circled, is found scrawled in the back of a novel Barber purchased. But what do they mean? Are they even important?
Segueing between 1969, the era of free love, hippies and counter-culture and current times, two unrelated crimes, two different types of investigations, are explored and the plot literally thickens. The further Banks is drawn into the sometimes seedy world of famous rock stars, the more perplexing the case becomes but it’s not until Banks and his team begin to look into the past that not only do answers begin to emerge, but painful memories that some will do anything to repress also erupt…

This is a terrific Banks installment. Not only does Robinson evocatively explore the late 60s with musical references, clothing, ideology, living conditions and generational differences through the older case, in both the past and present he manages to intertwine the personal and professional imbuing the novel with layers that are at once exciting and touching. Add to that Banks and Annie Cabot dealing with an ambitious boss, and Winsome with an unpleasant sycophantic peer and the story fires on so many levels.

Intricately plotted, it’s evident that Robinson painstakingly researched this book to give accurate dates and times for which to connect his fictitious scenarios with real world events, giving the story additional verisimilitude. It is also fascinating to contrast the policing styles of the late 60s and the science available to that of present times. Also compared are two fathers who raise/are raising children within different social and cultural contexts and the challenges they face understanding and relating to their kids.

Thoroughly enjoyed this Banks book. Clever, well-written and tightly plotted, A Piece of My Heart works as a crime novel but also as a time capsule of a bygone era.  My only niggle is that for all the effort Robinson put into writing a wonderful, gripping story, the kindle version I read had so many errors – typos, punctuation, syntactical, it was incredible. I have never read a professionally published work so littered with mistakes and it was really annoying. You pay for quality – even in electronic form – and expect it. I think Robinson has been let down in this regard. Fortunately, the story is so good, it didn’t detract (too much) from my reading pleasure.

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