Since the year’s first round up for this genre AWW participants have posted 74 reviews of 46 books. Nice work everyone! As is always the case crime fiction does account for a majority of the content but for a change there is some true crime to discuss so we’ll start with that this time.
Tracey at Carpe Librum reviewed Robin Bowles’ INTO THE DARKNESS: THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF PHOEBE HANDSJUK. It is Bowles’ account of the investigation and inquest into the death of a young woman who is presumed to have climbed into the garbage chute of her apartment building and died as a result. I found Tracey’s review interesting because it highlights one of the things that can be troubling for me about reading true crime. Tracey says
Bowles had me gripped with her account of Phoebe’s case and investigation into her death
but also observes
that the author Robin Bowles inserts wayyyyyy too much of herself into the text.
I can understand Tracey’s concerns about this personalisation of the storytelling but can also appreciate that authors need ways of engaging readers in what can often be dense and impenetrable legal and forensic exposition. And there does seem to be a trend towards making everything more personal these days. But this is a book I have been promising myself I will read since I listened to Phoebe’s Fall, (the Melbourne Age‘s podcast about the same case) so I really ought to make up my own mind about this one before commenting further.
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On to a book that straddles the boundary between fact and fiction: Sarah Schmidt’s SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE. It is a novel but has at its core the very real 1892 murders of Andrew and Abby Borden by their daughter Lizzie (or not as the case may be). In her review at Good Reads Cass Moriarty writes that the book
…is a beguiling bio-fiction; the author has gathered the threads of all the available facts, and spun them together to weave a tale of family drama and dysfunction, sibling rivalry, and authoritarian parenting.
The question of what to fear inside your own family, as well as from strangers, is examined, and indeed, the portrait drawn of the Borden family is dark and complicated; it is difficult to look away. Something Sarah Schmidt has done very well in this book is to make use of ‘white space’ – she does not tell us everything, even if she herself has decided her opinion on the matter, but leaves it to us to fill in the spaces between the words and come to our own conclusions.
I like the idea of being left to draw my own conclusions and that the author has succeeded in finding something new to say about this much-discussed crime.
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The Challenge’s most prolific reader, Brenda, often piques my curiosity even if I’ve no hope of matching her reading pace but I am particularly keen to track down Brigid George’s RIPPLING RED. It is a cosy mystery set in Darwin and sees an investigative journalist, Dusty Kent, and her assistant Sean investigating two suspicious deaths. In her review at Good Reads Brenda says of the book
Tense, intriguing and utterly unputdownable it has the usual smattering of humour and dry wit occurring between Dusty and Sean, along with the serious business of finding answers and solving cold cases. Rippling Red is one I highly recommend.
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And though I am not normally drawn to fantasy I have to admit that Tsana’s review of Angela Slatter’s VIGIL makes the book sound tempting. It seems the novel centres on Verity Fassbinder who is a half-human, half-Weyrd criminal investigator living and working in Brisbane. Tsana says of the it
Verity and the other characters all have layers to them, which makes the book particularly compelling. As well as enjoying Verity’s character, I rather liked a couple of the side characters in particular. The human police officer whose job it is to deal with the official side of the investigations was well done, as was Verity’s human love interest. What I liked most about David, the love interest, is the way the relationship was important to Verity but not her main concern for most of the book. For most of the book solving murders is the main thing going on in Verity’s life, closely followed by not dying and keeping the people important to her safe. I appreciated that the romantic storyline was in the background because, let’s face it, a string of siren murders is kind of more interesting than a healthy romantic relationship.
I don’t even know what a Weyrd is (at least not until I google it later) but I agree that murders make for more interesting reading than a healthy romance 🙂
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I can only highlight a few reviews during this bi-monthly wrap-up so do check out the Challenge’s extensive database of reviews if you need more inspiration.
I’m Bernadette Bean. I’ve been reading avidly for as long as I can remember, blathering about the subject since late 2008 at Reactions to Reading, am co-host of Fair Dinkum Crime, a site devoted to promoting and discussing Australian crime fiction, and have twice been a judge for a national crime fiction award.
Thanks for this round-up Bernadette. As you know, I’m not a big crime reader, but I am intrigued by all I’ve been hearing about See what have I done. Sounds fascinating. Does it fit the true crime category or is it TOO fictional for that?
I’ve read it and it’s definitely historical fiction / crime fiction, nowhere near true crime. I actually didn’t enjoy it too much, although it’s quite the buzz book at the moment.
Thanks Tracey for that. I guessed that would be the answer but thought it worth asking.
Hard to know isn’t it? I guess this one falls into similar territory as Geraldine Brooks or Hannah Kent have done…perhaps they get to have the best of both worlds.
haha, good point Bernadette. they probably do.
Thanks so much for including me in your write-up Bernadette. I definitely think ‘Into the Darkness’ is a very worthwhile read.