Book review: A Very Mersey Murder by Brian L. Porter

I am delighted to share my review of A Very Mersey Murder (Mersey Murder Mysteries Book 5) by Brian L. Porter

Brian L. Porter

About A Very Mersey Murder

1966. England wins the soccer World Cup. Same night, the body of a barmaid is discovered close to an abandoned lighthouse. Two more murders follow; all remain unsolved.

2005. D.I. Andy Ross is called in when a disturbingly similar series of murders begins in the same location.

If their estimates are correct, Ross and his team have one week to solve the case before the next Lighthouse Murder takes place.

In A Very Mersey Murder, D.I. Ross and Sergeant Izzie Drake return in a race against time, as they seek to identify and apprehend the vicious killer who seems to leave no clues, and no evidence.

The price of failure is death.

This is a standalone novel, and can be enjoyed even if you haven’t read other books in the series.

My thoughts

It can be a tricky task reviewing Book Five in a series, but I am new to Brian L. Porter’s writing and dived straight into his latest release. A Very Mersey Murder really is a stand alone, the author providing a useful catch up which is brief enough not to drag on the present story, while giving plenty of context. A tricky task for any author and Porter does it well, although I now feel compelled to start back at Book One!

The novel opens with a chilling scene of a murder that took place back in 1966. What unfolds is a gripping murder mystery set in the present as D.I. Andy Ross and his team try to prevent the murder of one of their own, which, if their predictions are correct, will take place in just one week. It is a set up that cannot fail to hit the mark for crime fiction fans!

Porter’s plotting and pacing are excellent. There are plenty of twists and turns. Just when you think you have it all figured out, you are thrown back into doubt. The author knows when to hold back and when to dish it when it comes to the gory details and he evokes a strong setting that puts the reader in amongst the action.

All of Porter’s characters are well-rounded and believable. A Very Mersey Murder has plenty of texture, too, as the various relationships between the police team play out, as well as the stories of the lives of those affected by the murders. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of excerpts from the killer’s own journal.

All good crime tackles pithy social issues, and Porter is no exception. In A Very Mersey Murder, the reader will confront themes of illegitimate children and adoption, and gender identity, alongside tensions in friendships and a dash of romantic love.

Porter keeps his readers guessing right to the very end, in what amounts to a complex, intense and highly intriguing whodunnit. I suspect this whole series would make for good television, something to rival Vera!

 

Review: On the Job by Sandi Wallace

I’m delighted to present my review of On The Job by Australian crime author, Sandi Wallace.

 

 

“The highs and lows of cops on the job. The cases that make them, break them, bring them laughs, maybe even love. Police on the beat, working one-officer shops and seasoned detectives pursue a cunning home intruder, a full-moon prankster, false friends, vengeful partners. Adrenaline-charged car chases, unsanctioned surveillance, intense interrogation. The impact of a child’s tragic death. The import of unearthing what happened to an infant and her mother. Lives saved and crooks captured. This gripping collection of Sandi Wallace’s award-winning short fiction–“Busted,” “Silk Versus Sierra” and “Losing Heidi”–along with new and never-before released verse and stories, includes “Impact,” a finalist in the international Cutthroat Rick DeMarinis Short Story Contest. ”

As ever with Sandi Wallace, each story in On The Job has the reader settling into a relationship of trust from the first paragraph, confident that the journey will satisfy. Wallace is a courageous writer, tackling the confronting and hard-hitting with sensitivity and depth of understanding. Her protagonists, the cops ‘on the job’, are sharply crafted and authentic. Wallace’s storytelling draws the reader up close, experiencing the reactions of investigating officers as they solve crimes and bang to rights the perpetrators.

Little wonder the stories here have won awards. Wallace charms her readers with tales that not only grip, they present socially realistic worlds, especially of rural Australia. There can be no doubt the author has done her research. These are stories that linger, long after they are read, and after experiencing the works of Sandi Wallace I, for one, will never imagine rural Australia in quite the same way again. This collection does not disappoint.

Find the author here.

Buy here. 

I’d like to thank the author for my review copy.

 

#AWW challenge completed!

I signed up late to the 2017 Australian Women Writer’s challenge. Despite those lost months, I committed to reviewing at least six books by Australian women authors, which is known as the ‘Franklin’ challenge. I ended up reviewing seven titles and I would have written more had I not found myself unexpectedly moving house!

What a delightful experience the #AWW has been! I’ve ventured into genres I wouldn’t normally read. I’ve found many absolute gems along the way.

I began with Kathryn Gossow’s Cassandra, an absolutely charming literary coming of age story. “Cassandra is laced with evocative descriptions of rural Queensland. Gossow’s characterisations are convincing and her pacing measured. Early suspense shades into a textured exploration of clairvoyance, dreams, trance states and the predictive powers of Tarot, as Cassie tries to get a handle on her own inner powers; her friend, the ever doubtful Athena, egging her on.”

From there I ventured into crime with Sandi Wallace. I ended up reviewing two titles by this author, Tell Me Why, and Dead Again .  “With wit and a sharp eye for the essentials, Wallace has built a story world that feels real. A page turner with much to savour, Dead Again is a moving and highly engaging read.”

For literary fiction, I turned to Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love “Rose is a masterful writer, her depictions of incidental characters sharply observant, yet her prose is always gentle, haunting. The Museum of Modern Love is a meditation, on art and creativity to a large extent, but above that on pain, physical and emotional pain, the anguish of loss and grief.”

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose, winner of the 2017 Stella Prize. Read more of my reviews at https://isobelblackthorn.com/my-book-reviews/

I went back to crime with L.J. M. Owen’s Mayan Mendacity  my review appearing on the Sisters in Crime Australasia’s website. “In all, I found Mayan Mendacity difficult to put down. Owen has provided her readers with an entertaining story that also informs, without allowing exposition to put a brake on the narrative. Pulling off a story laden with this much technical detail and maintaining a fast pace is quite a feat.”

I then took a detour into historical fiction, unable to pass up the opportunity to review Elisabeth Storr’s  Call To Juno an absolute feast of a read. “This is a story for those who enjoy their historical fiction rich with fine and accurate detail. Call to Juno is intensely visual, bringing ancient Rome to life, composed by an author who clearly knows her subject.”

Finally, I was treated to Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s The Tides Between “The Tides Between pulls the reader in two directions, the desire to continue turning the pages at odds with an equally a strong wish to pause and reflect on its various intricacies, its depth. The only difficulty faced in reviewing a book of this quality is putting it down long enough to scribe reflections. A work I would describe as literary historical fiction, The Tides Between, is a captivating and immersive read.

Dead Again by Sandi Wallace

The second in Wallace’s rural crime series, Dead Again is a fast-paced thriller set in the fictitious town of Bullock in the Yarra ranges east of Melbourne, and in the historic spa town, Daylesford.

“It is almost two years since wildfires ravaged the tiny town of Bullock, and Melbourne journalist, Georgie Harvey, is on assignment in the recovering town to write a feature story on the anniversary of the tragedy.

In nearby Daylesford, police officer, John Franklin, is investigating a spree of vandalism and burglaries, while champing to trade his uniform for the plain clothes of a detective.

When Georgie’s story and Franklin’s cases collide, she not only finds herself back in conflict with the man she’s been trying to forget since their first encounter, but she uncovers the truth about how the fires started – a truth no-one is wanting to believe.”

My Review (first appeared on the website of Sisters in Crime)

Dead Again opens with a perpetrator consumed by guilt for a crime he doesn’t reveal. From the first, the reader knows a little more than city journalist Georgie Harvey and Daylesford cop John Franklin. What unfolds is a flawlessly plotted unravelling of a heinous truth. The plot, jump cutting between the two protagonists, never stumbles. The story architecture that leads to a dramatic conclusion is convincing and plausible. Sub plots provide pleasing texture, driving the story forward, affording the necessary complications and frustrations. The result is a rich and satisfying tale.

Catch up on the novel’s predecessor is deftly handled. Georgie and Franklin have history, one that is unresolved. Franklin is consumed by an unwavering passion. Georgie is conflicted, her relationship with hot shot lawyer AJ, on the rocks. Wallace develops her characters with considerable finesse. It isn’t easy creating emotional character arcs in a novel heavy with plot. It appears Wallace has a hunger for Wallander in rural Victoria. Both Georgie and Franklin are introspective, troubled, frustrated and hurt. They are mirrors of each other, yet distinct. Wallace applies the same character-developing care in her antagonist. The reader will be forgiven for feeling some initial sympathy for a figure who has plainly committed some terrible act.

Dead Again is a brave book. The theme, termed Red Victoria in the narrative, concerns the Black Saturday bush fires of 2009. The horrors of that day cannot be erased from collective memory. The trauma lives on. Stepping into this terrain is dangerous, the author will inevitably be accused by some as cannibalising the tragedy of others for personal gain, a vulture, picking over trauma as though it were carrion. Worse, misconstruing or trivialising real events. These are unfair accusations. Authors travel where their muse takes them. Besides, Wallace is well aware of the dangers. The author treads lightly, defensively, tentatively, as does her protagonist, Georgie, the city-dwelling outsider on an assignment to write a magazine feature.

“’It’s impossible to describe. It’s a unique sound. Terrifying. And I hear the death screams of humans and animals.’ Gravelly, she added, ‘Ever heard that?’

Not trusting her voice, Georgie shook her head.

‘I feel the ghosts of my friends. This is stuff that I wouldn’t believe if it hadn’t happened to me. It keeps me awake at night.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘Hour upon hour, every single night. And the smells…’ Kelly shuddered.

It felt cruel to want more, but Georgie hung on each word.”

In this fashion, the wildfire theme is handled with respect and consideration, like an artefact held in the hand and turned over, sensitively scrutinised.

All the incidentals in the story are carefully researched, adding to the social realism that the author strives for. With wit and a sharp eye for the essentials, Wallace has built a story world that feels real. A page turner with much to savour, Dead Again is a moving and highly engaging read.

Find out more about Sandi Wallace here.

Buy Dead Again here.

Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen

Dr Elizabeth Pimms has a new puzzle.

What is the story behind the tiny skeletons discovered on a Guatemalan island? And how do they relate to an ancient Mayan queen?

The bones, along with other remains, are a gift for Elizabeth. But soon the giver reveals his true nature. An enraged colleague then questions Elizabeth’s family history. Elizabeth seeks DNA evidence to put all skeletons to rest.

A pregnant enemy, a crystal skull, a New York foodie, and an intruder in Elizabeth’s phrenic library variously aid or interrupt Elizabeth’s attempts to solve mysteries both ancient and personal.

 

 

 

My Review (written for Sisters in Crime)

Set in Canberra, and in the Mayan empire in what is now Guatemala, Mayan Mendacity is the second in L.J.M. Owen’s Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth series. It is a challenge setting up the next book in a series and Owen has done so with finesse. The narration is light, buoyant, playful at times, yet ever observant, the result, a most satisfying read.

The main plot is driven by protagonist Dr Elizabeth Pimm’s new volunteer project, given her by the exacting Dr Marsh. She must assess an archeological find, the remains of a cesnote in Guatemala, meeting a series of crushing deadlines. Elizabeth’s pursuit of answers to the mysteries of the find is continuously thwarted as a number of complications beset her. Obstacles and challenges come from all directions, enough to make the weak among us buckle, but not Dr Pimms.

Owen has created a convincingly flawed and utterly lovable protagonist. She’s determined, dedicated, thorough and loyal. She sallies forth with gung ho exuberance, never down for long, no matter what befalls her. Elizabeth’s attitude is probably best summed up when she confronts another disaster and asks herself, ‘What fresh new hell was this?’

Dr Pimms is supported by a cast of characters, all rounded out and believable. The reader is introduced to each in turn as the story unfolds and a secondary plot emerges, one that is deeply personal. Indeed, it is Dr Pimms’ own history that thwarts her investigation, yet ultimately leads her to mature and open her heart.

The story is thoroughly researched; the author clearly knows her themes and her setting. Technical details are provided in an engaging, easy to follow manner. This is especially evident when Owen opens a window on the fascinating world of the Mayan empire, making use of a parallel narrative to take the reader back to the time of Dr Pimms’ find.

Elizabeth’s phrenic library is an interesting addition to the narrative, a fascinating invention, one that creates a curious occult dimension to Owen’s series. This phrenic library is a personal and mundane version of the Akashic records, a metaphysical compendium of all that has ever occurred in human history, stored on the inner planes, according to Theosophical belief. As a device, Elizabeth’s inner library works well, granting her plausible, if esoteric, access to knowledge she would otherwise be hard pressed to gain.

In all, I found Mayan Mendacity difficult to put down. Owen has provided her readers with an entertaining story that also informs, without allowing exposition to put a brake on the narrative. Pulling off a story laden with this much technical detail and maintaining a fast pace is quite a feat.

You can buy a copy of this book HERE

Visit the author L.J.M. Owen
With thanks to Sisters in Crime for my review copy