alreadydead-fordThe most popular book for crime fiction fans during the past two months of AWW2014 has been Jaye Ford’s thriller ALREADY DEAD. The book’s opening act depicts a man [Brendan Walsh] leaping into the car of a random stranger (Miranda Jack) waiting at traffic lights. He points a gun at her, demands she drive on and frantically rants that he is being watched. Marcia at Book Muster from Down Under thought it a great introduction to Ford’s work and she plans to go back to the earlier titles

Her writing is powerful, with her use of short sharp sentences conveying the urgency of her voice, so much so, that you can’t help but keep turning the pages, as the third person narrative point of view effectively transports the reader into the mind of a woman who has been placed in a situation where she is no longer sure of what is real or imagined. And it doesn’t end there!

She continually ups the ante by throwing in other characters whose motives are questionable and, by revealing only a layer at a time the real circumstances surrounding the carjacking, she keeps the suspense taut as she makes Jax’s life (and ours) a living terror.

While Shelleyrae at Book’d Out was struck by one of the novel’s themes

Ford’s exploration of the issues associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Already Dead gives added depth to this work of crime fiction. Walsh has struggled to readjust to civilian life after two tours in Afghanistan and people are quick blame PTSD for his accusations. Jax, in the wake of the abduction, is also suffering from the disorder’s symptoms – nightmares and anxiety, exacerbated by her still fresh grief and a history of tragedy

Other novels to receive attention this month included:

murderinthetelephoneexchange-wrightJune Wright’s 1948 novel MURDER IN THE TELEPHONE EXCHANGE was re-issued this year and was the subject of a delightful review and commentary (with great photos) from present-day author Josephine Pennicott

Knowing June is drawing on her personal experience in her experience as a telephonist,  also makes it an absorbing read. I’d never considered before how frantic and overwhelming it could be for switchboard operators working through bushfire seasons, and international crises. The pressure seeing the girls collapsing from exhaustion, the stress on the late roster girls when the evening shifts are cut right back, the strained concentration you need when you have half-a-dozen lines under your fingers… Not to mention of course, the girls who love to listen in on socialites’ private calls. And little details like the possessive emotions the Hello Girls foster towards their telephone sets. And Maggie, the hero of the story, laughing over that wherever she goes, she runs into somebody from the telephone exchange, including when she went to New Guinea on a trip. You can really touch the author herself through those little flourishes, and they make for authentic insights into a particular era and career. And it is through her knowledge of the telephone exchange that Maggie Brynes, the book’s hero is able to help solve the crime

let-her-go-barkerDawn Barker’s LET HER GO tackles the currently hot topic (in Australia at least) of surrogacy with a woman having a baby for her sister, Angela Savage says of it

Some heavy handed dialogue notwithstanding, Barker shares with authors like Wendy James and Honey Brown an ability to inject credible drama into ordinary people’s lives, encouraging readers to imagine what they would do in similar circumstances…

Let Her Go ultimately raises more questions than answers about surrogacy. But Barker’s novel can and should contribute to current national discussions about infertility, surrogacy, parenthood and the rights of the child.

cooperbartholomew-jamesRebecca James’ COOPER BARTHOLOMEW IS DEAD about a boy whose death from suicide is not accepted by everyone left behind. Shaheen at Speculating on SpecFic

The first thing that struck me about this book were the extremely vivid characters. Libby, Sebastien and Claire practically fly off the pages as they each take turns narrating the story after their friend Cooper dies. Cooper himself gets to take centre stage often as the story jumps between THEN and NOW, showing the times before Cooper’s death and afterwards.

I think the time jumps and the four narrators work perfectly because it allows the author to control how much information Libby (and the reader) has. It makes for a brilliantly suspenseful book that will keep you guessing.

Shaheen also posted an interview with Rebecca James which is well worth a read.

canyoukeepasecret-overingtonCaroline Overington’s CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET which Marcia from Book Muster Down Under found thought-provoking

Even though I think that some will find the subject matter a bit of a challenge, this aside, Caroline’s writing has a surprisingly relaxed and easy feel to it which immerses you into Caitlin’s world and keeps you turning the pages. She’s also been rather shrewd in choosing Caitlin to be the narrator as we get nobody else’s viewpoint until the very end. For me, the title itself asks the reader “can you keep a secret”? As a reviewer, yes, I sure can!

Claustrophobia Tracy RyanTracy Ryan’s CLAUSTROPHOBIA is a suspense novel that hooked Monique from Write Note Reviews

Claustrophobia is set in Perth, Western Australia. It’s a fitting backdrop for a book that examines feelings of social isolation – and even isolation within a relationship – since Perth is one of the most remote cities on Earth…Married couple Pen and Derrick live, work and do most things together (both work at the same school). While renovating their house, Pen discovers a letter to Derrick from a former lover.

Taut, tense and surprising … Claustrophobia is a slow-burner with themes that lingered in my mind long after I put the book down. If obsessive attachment, isolation, betrayals, secrets and lies is the sort of thing that gets under your skin, give this one a go. It will hook you slowly, but when it does, it will reel you in tight.

♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

If you’re after some ideas of more crime/mystery/thriller or true crime books to read then head over to the genre’s reviews page for this year’s challenge to see what else is being discussed or check out the previous roundups for this review category

About Me

I’m Bernadette Bean. I’ve been reading avidly for as long as I can remember, blogging about reading since late 2008 at Reactions to Reading and co-hosting Fair Dinkum Crime, a site devoted to promoting and discussing Australian crime fiction, for the past couple of years. I read and reviewed 18 books as part of my own participation in the 2012 challenge. Some of them weren’t even crime novels!