Based on actual historical events and people, this novel is a powerful and moving tribute to the Australian nurses, doctors, allied health workers and civilian volunteers – British too – who did all they could for the men and women who survived the horrors of the WWI battlefields.

When Australian nurse, Sister Cora Baker, has the opportunity to serve her country at a newly established hospital in Middlesex England in a little village called Harefield in 1915, she doesn’t hesitate. Harefield House, donated to the Australian army by some generous expatriates so it can be turned into a hospital to care for wounded Australian soldiers, Cora works with other Aussie medical staff to establish and transform the grand house.

Not knowing quite what to expect, as the war rages on and the casualty and death count grow, Harefield House is overwhelmed and all too soon, Cora and the other nurses and doctors are working around the clock, exhausted but determined to do their duty. When they call for volunteers, a local, young seamstress, Jessica Chester steps up.

It’s while working at the hospital that she meets Private Bert Mott, a recuperating soldier who is destined, like so many others they care for, to be returned to the front.

As endless stream of injured and dying enter and leave the care of the dedicated nurses and doctors, it’s apparent the nurses are fighting their own kind of war, one defined by bandages, pain relief, and an abundance of loving care. But is it enough when despair, fatigue and a crushing sense of failure abide with them as well?

The Nurses’ War is an amazing story of a little-known chapter in Australian, British and war history. It doesn’t steer away from portraying the brutal realities of the physical, psychological and emotional wounds inflicted upon the soldiers, the courage of those at the front, but also that of those who fought a silent, different and harsh battle behind the lines – one of healing, resilience and hope.

Heart-achingly raw yet filled with the beauty of the human spirit, this is an important and ultimately triumphant story of Australia’s part in the Great War and what happened in the aftermath – when peace was finally reached and an unforeseen enemy arose to fell yet more. The novel explores love, loss, incredible bravery, fortitude, frustration, failure and above all, hope. It shows that heroes wear all kinds of faces and uniforms.

The Nurses’ War is a triumph that will linger in my heart and soul a long time. The Authors Notes at the end are wonderful as well. Here, Victoria not only reveals the real history behind the novel and how these people are commemorated even to this day, but a very personal link to the story as well. So incredibly moving. I should also add a caveat – I was given the privilege of reading an Advanced Readers’ Copy of this book – an ARC – and asked if I would endorse it. Hence, my quote on the front cover. Authors don’t endorse lightly, and I was proud – especially as an ex-service member – to do just that for this wonderful book.

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The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

What a magnificent novel this is – the fact it’s a debut work makes it even more astonishing. It is at once, accomplished, tightly plotted, with beautifully crafted characters and a terrific setting – Galway, Ireland.

The book opens in 1993, when a young constable (Garda), Cormac Reilly is called out to a dilapidated mansion. There he finds the body of once-glamorous Hilaria Blake and, sadly, her two young children – the teenage Maude and little Jack, both of whom have clearly suffered years of neglect and abuse. It’s a case Cormac has never forgotten, especially when, after taking them to hospital at Maude’s insistence, she abandons her younger brother, never to be seen again.

The book them moves forward in time. In 2013, the reader meets a young, ambitious doctor, Aisling Conroy, on the cusp of a career move and faced with a huge personal choice. When her beloved boyfriend is found dead in the river, having committed suicide, and Cormac, newly transferred back to Galway and a DI, hears about the case, past and present collide.

As the investigation into the suicide proceeds,  the past and dark secrets let alone the lengths people are prepared to go to protect them are revealed, even people who, above all others, should be able to be trusted.

I don’t want to reveal any more of the plot except to say that it moves at a good, solid pace and is, at all times, plausible. Furthermore, Cormac is such a refreshing character for a plod. Filled with common sense and not one to take crap from his peers, he isn’t burdened by alcohol, nor is he a brooding loner with a string of broken relationships behind him (not that I mind those sort of cops, but they are becoming a wee bit of a cliché). Cormac is in a stable and loving relationship and, believe it or not – he actually talks to his partner and his peers about what’s bothering him! I know! I couldn’t believe it in this genre either!

The bleak Irish setting is marvellous and we move through the city and various towns with ease, guided by an expert hand.

I have to digress for a moment here and just have a bit of a rave about the quality of crime and mystery books being produced by Australian authors and publishers. From Katherine Howell, Candice Fox, Michael Robotham, to lately, Jane Harper and now Dervla McTiernan (and so many more), we are in the midst of a literary banquet and I love coming to sup at this imaginative table. Thank you.

If you enjoy crime or just an excellent read, then I cannot recommend this moody, atmospheric book with a fabulous central character and plot enough. Cannot wait for the next Cormac Reilly case.



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Sycamore Gap by LJ Ross

Sycamore Gap, the second book in the DCI Ryan Mysteries, takes place about six months after the events in Holy Island. Ryan and Dr Anna are all but living together in Durham when Ryan is called to Hadrian’s Wall where a body has been found stuffed in cavity. Just as the police discover the body is only a decade old and not, as the ambitious archaeologist hanging around the site hopes, ancient, another much fresher body turns up in the same place – a body with ritualistic markings similar to those who were murdered on Lindisfarne months ago.

Once more, past and present collide for Ryan, his side-kick Phillips, and Anna as they work to uncover the killer or killers and seek connections to the brutal, sadistic Circle who caused so much havoc on Lindisfarne.

But it’s when Ryan is forced to confront his sister’s killer that events take an even more sinister turn. There are those involved who have professions and stellar careers to protect and, if they’re at risk, then what have they got to lose, especially when there are more victims to claim?

Fast-paced, the book nonetheless manages to delve slightly deeper into Ryan and Dr Anna’s relationship as well as the professional ones of Ryan, Phillips and their colleagues – as well as the case that almost broke Ryan. The dreaded Circle and its members are also fleshed out, though I confess there were times I found my disbelief stretched almost to breaking point.

While the Mills and Boonish air of the first book has, thankfully, dissipated in this one, there is still the sense that everyone is so bloody beautiful, they’ve been cast by a US modelling firm. Only some of the villains seem to bear any ordinariness in their physical characteristics… I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it did. LOL!

Still, I really enjoyed the book and Ross knows how to keep a reader turning the pages. Have already bought book three and look forward to losing myself in it.

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