When Christian White appeared on ABC breakfast to discuss his debut novel, The Nowhere Child, I was immediately struck by not only his humbleness, but about how he spoke about the craft of writing. Then, of course, there was the summary he gave of his novel. I confess, I was hooked, and wasted no time downloading The Nowhere Child, anticipating with no small degree of excitement what I might discover (another great novelist and tale).
I was not disappointed.
This story about a young woman, Kim Leamy, who is approached by an American man on the streets on Melbourne, is marvellous and utterly gripping. The man tells Kim he believes she is actually Sammy Went, a girl who was kidnapped from her home, Manson, in Kentucky 28 years earlier. Refusing at first to credit such an implausible notion, as she begins to delve into the possibility, everything Kim thought she knew, about herself, her family and her past is suddenly thrown into doubt.
Left with no choice, Kim/Sammy must now go backwards in time, to the place this man believes she originated from to confront what might be her past in order to reclaim her present and her future. But the past is a dark place filled with secrets, some of which should never be disturbed…
Segueing between “then” and “now”, the USA and Australia, as well as moving between first person PoV and third person, this is a masterfully plotted, beautifully characterised novel that draws the reader into not only small-town life with its strange folk, customs and religious devotees, but also into what makes and breaks a family. Able to move the reader between places and times with ease, White paints a picture of different kinds of family life, tragedy, grief, confusion, tolerance and intolerance, loss and guilt so well.
Particularly fascinating (and repellent) were the strange religious cult (who refuse to embrace that name) that have a peculiar hold over the township – even of those who don’t approve of or believe in its practices.
Eerie at times, always plausible and with some excellent twists, this is such an accomplished book (with a simply lovely Author’s Note and Acknowledgments). I am really looking forward to what White produces next. Highly recommended.
Tags: Australia, crime, family, Kentucky, kidnapping, Melbourne, prison, religious cults, The Nowhere Child by Christian White, USA
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Thus far,this is my favourite in the DCI Ryan series. Starting where Angel finished, it’s to news that the notorious psychopath, The Hacker, has escaped prison. There can be only one reason for this, apart from unleashing his brutality upon more brunette women, and that’s to bring Ryan, the man who put him behind bars, to his knees.
When detective Denise McKenzie is kidnapped from her own home in the opening scenes of the novel, it’s evident The Hacker is not wasting time. Nor does Ross. The pace does not stop. Knowing this will alert Ryan to his intentions, The Hacker seeks out more victims, all the while tormenting Denise, watching Ryan and his lovely brunette fiancée, Anna – the one person whose demise would destroy the man he both hates and is obsessed with.
Deploying every skill he has, utilising every last scrap of manpower he’s given, when the trail for The Hacker turns cold, Ryan soon understands that what is needed is for The Hacker to make his next move. Be careful what you wish for – after all, he has Denise in his clutches and more vulnerable woman to prey upon, never mind Anna in his twisted sights. Will Ryan able to prevent another brutal death?
Fast-paced, invested with emotional angst and fear, this is a gripping read. Finished it late one night and immediately bought and started the next in the series. Can be read as a stand-alone but, as usual with any series, there are even more reading pleasures and rewards for those who have followed the development of the characters with each book and adventure and the inter-relationships portrayed. Overall, a terrific read
Tags: fear, fire, High Force DCI Ryan #5, kidnapping, murder, stalking, The Hacker
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Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner is a marvellous, beautifully written novel that while it sits under the crime genre, is so much more than that.
When Cambridge University post-graduate student, Edith Hind – a privileged young lady whose parents not only have royal connections but friends in high political places – goes missing, DS Manon Bradshaw, a self-described misanthrope is put on the case. A shade this side of 40, Manon seems to be the only one not too perturbed by the high-profile nature of the case – not even when every possible suspect has a water-tight alibi – Manon has more things than death and kidnapping on her mind. Yet, there is blood at the scene of Edith’s disappearance, suspicious circumstances and behaviours leading up to the event but, there’s no ransom note or any other clue as to where in the hell Edith is.
With the media breathing down their throats, time ticking and budget limitations, never mind stressed parents on their backs, the police are hard-pressed to know what to do. Every angle appears to lead to a dead-end or uncovers an element that bears no relevance to Edith’s disappearance.
In the meantime, Manon does her job and gets on with her rather miserable life. Stuck in the predictable rut of internet dating, she uses sex as a panacea for loneliness and just exacerbates her condition. With good friends and a reliable partner, however, it’s not all bad, especially not when a young street kid comes into her life.
However, there is the over-arching case and associated pressures of solving Edith’s disappearance and when more death follows, Manon begins to understand that they’ve all been looking in the wrong places and at the wrong people.
Superbly written with shifting points of view, allowing you to access other characters in the story in ways that are unusual to this genre, this story is an absolute cracker of a read. Insightful, deep characters with moving and logical interactions all set to a wonderful pace, this is a story you can get your teeth into. You see the crime from multiple perspectives, get to know all the police involved in the action and the people who are affected by what has occurred. You care deeply what happens and no more so than to Manon.
Filled with surprises and ah ha moments, more because of the rich street-philosophy and observations about people and life than anything, this was a joy to read. I didn’t want it to end. Cannot recommend highly enough for lovers of crime but also literary, well-written books with great plots and characters. Cannot wait to fall into another Susie Steiner.
Tags: betrayal, Cambridge University, crime, England, family, grief, guilt, internet dating, kidnapping, London, love, loyalty, Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner, privilege
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While this is the first book by Jussi Adler-Olson I have read, the inaugural novel in the Department Q series, titled Mercy of The Keeper of Lost Causes, won’t be the last.
Deputy Detective Superintendent, Carl Mork, returns to work after surviving a situation that kills one colleague and permanently paralyses another. Unpopular, argumentative and prone to alienating his peers, Carl is nonetheless an excellent cop, something his reasonable boss recognises and, in a sense, rewards when he places him in charge of a new department, called Q that’s responsible for cold cases. Given an inexperienced non-law enforcement but canny assistant who is quirky and intelligent, Carl isn’t keen on his new assignment, but when he starts to look into the circumstances surrounding the mysterious disappearance and assumed death of a successful and beautiful politician five years earlier, Carl discovers discrepancies in the case; discrepancies and oversights that lead him and his accidental new partner down unexpected and ultimately very dangerous paths…
Slow to start, but never boring, Mercy is a fabulous novel with marvellous characters and a plot that draws you in. The writing is clever and contained, the atmosphere that’s created, whether it’s in the basement to which Carl is assigned, to those of the alternate chapters, is suffocating. You find yourself longing to escape, not from the book, which is difficult to tear yourself away from, but the unfolding events and the inevitable consequences.
This is a masterful novel, at once suspenseful but also authentic. Highly recommended for lovers of good crime, with well-drawn characters and tight plotting.
Tags: cold cases, crime, Department Q, Jussi Adler-Olson, kidnapping, Mercy, murder
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This downright original book was recommended to me by a beloved friend who, when I asked her to describe it, struggled to find the words. In fact, she kept using contradictory language and that had me intrigued. Not only because someone who I admire for her use of language found it hard to put this novel into words, but also because those that she chose were binary opposites: beautiful/ugly; horrific/marvellous etc.
Basically, the novel focuses on a young woman named Maya who is rescued from what’s clearly a protracted and shocking abusive environment by the FBI. From the outset, the reader is plunged into the first of many interviews between two agents, Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison and the frank and bold survivor of this abuse, Maya.
Kidnapped years earlier, Maya is one of many young women who find themselves trapped in what’s, aesthetically at least, a paradisial garden. Fed, clothed and cared for by a man they call “The Gardener”, the girls are given new names and tattooed with elaborate butterflies before being raped. From that point on, they’re expected to be at the brutal but also charming and considerate (in his eyes) man’s beck and call and that of his vicious son, Avery.
The story of the continued abuse and the relationships that develop between the girls unfolds slowly throughout the interviews with the agents as does Maya’s background.
While the tale itself is utterly awful, the writing – and the way Maya tells it to the FBI agents and the way her history and that of the other girls, as well as the awful fates some meet – is tragically lyrical, sometimes humorous and even, as odd and distasteful as it sounds, lovely. Not what The Gardener or his son do to the girls, but how they manage it – how Maya copes and the strategies she and the other butterflies put in place to simply survive and not be broken by the circumstances they find themselves in – even when they know the only way to escape the heavenly hell they find themselves in is to die.
Some of the girls have fallen victim to Stockholm Syndrome; most, however, rely on each other for fortitude and friendship and that deep bond that arises through sharing tragedy and when hope is but a distant dream. It is this – the close attachments formed between the girls, the ways they use memories to sustain themselves and willingly adopt the identities given to protect their “real” selves that is both powerful, incredibly moving and beautiful.
I have never read a book quite like this and it’s hard to put down. I know it will haunt me for days. It has twists and turns, and operates much like a psychological thriller, but it’s also expressive and literary. I once described J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy as the most wonderful book about the most awful people I have ever read. I think The Butterfly Farm is similar in that it is a mesmerising book that manages to be both poetic and dreamlike when it covers a subject (and introduces characters) that is the stuff of nightmares.
My friend was right to struggle to describe this book, and to use contrary words when she did. It is a contradiction, a powerful one that works so well and is very original. Four and half stars.
Tags: abuse, Dot Hutchinson, J.K. Rowling, kidnapping, rape, Stockholm Syndrome, The Butterfly Garden, The Casual Vacancy
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