Tag Archives: crime novels

Book Review: The Corset by Laura Purcell

 

This is a difficult book to review without giving away spoilers. But boy, it’s a book which stays with you for some time.

Dorothea, a young, wealthy woman studies the science of phrenology when visiting women in jail. She meets sixteen-year-old Ruth, who is facing the death penalty for murder. Dorothea wants to test the theory that the shape of a skull reflects a person’s propensity for crime and redemption. After getting to know Ruth, she considers another idea, which is that it may be possible to kill with a needle and thread by supernatural means.

Set in Victorian, England this is a fascinating read as we enter the points of view of both women. Ruth tells Dorothea her story; her childhood, dictated by poverty and horrific circumstances meant she had little choice than to become a seamstress for a madwoman. When she loses the people she loves, she takes on the blame. Sewing herself into a corset, Ruth believes it will offer protection against the needle’s evil power to do bad things to the people she sews for.

Dorothea’s ideas are challenged by Ruth’s frankness and she struggles to believe her story. She identifies with Ruth – their mothers both died when they were young. Their fathers are weak. Dorothea, secretly in love with policeman, David, is an unmarried twenty-five-year woman turned Catholic. Her father is desperate to get her off his hands by marrying her off to anyone eligible he finds and Thomas is perfect. She has other ideas and when her father announces that he is to remarry, she takes matters into her own hands with disastrous consequences.

The themes of poverty and wealth in society are explored particularly for women whose wealth is dependent on men. It was fascinating to learn about debtor’s prisons where prisoners were unable to earn money to pay their debts and so were doomed as soon as they entered.

As a reader, we’re swept up with the idea of superstition and the ‘magic’ of the needle and thread. Purcell weaves an intricate and clever plot with unexpected twists and turns. I wondered about the two men in Dorothea’s life – David and Thomas – who seemed to fade away and I would have liked to know what happened to them. However, this may be deliberate as we are left wondering about Dorothea and what she has become, long after the last page. The ending is masterful and reading each word carefully is a must. It’s a pity I can’t reveal more.

It’s a definite page-turner, although grisly and gruesome in parts. Beware! Just check it out for yourself.

Book Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White


What would you do if you found out from a stranger that he suspects you are a missing girl, named Sammy, who may have been abducted when you were two from another country? This is the basic premise of a book which is full of suspense and twists right until the end.

Kim Leamy is the woman who has been approached and after initially brushing off the idea, she begins a quest into her family history. Her mother is already dead so she can’t ask her and the more she questions the more difficult it is to find logical answers. Her digging takes her to unexpected places with almost disastrous outcomes.

I’d heard a bit of hype and had actually seen the author talking about his debut novel at a couple of events and after reading it, I was not disappointed.

It’s much more than a kidnapping and whodunit story as the author explores trauma, cults and religious zealotry. The alternating stories between past and present was superbly done and as a reader we feel Kim’s gradual realisation,her confusion and pain.

I finished this one in two days so immersed was I in it. Highly recommend it.

Book Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

After reading The Dry last year, I was keen to sink my teeth into Jane Harper’s second book. Force of Nature is another gripping crime novel featuring Detective Aaron Falk whom we grew to love in the first book.

Alice together with four female colleagues attend a work retreat in mountainous country where they are expected to trek for three days through remote wilderness without communication with the outside world. When they return to their designated point the women are distressed, injured and have no idea what has happened to Alice. Panic ensues and Aaron Falk and his sidekick Carmen Cooper who happen to be secretly investigating money laundering in the firm with Alice’s assistance, become involved in the search for her.

The story weaves back and forward into the point of view of each of the women hikers from the beginning of their journey then back into the Aaron’s present day point of view. It is a clever and engaging way of progressing the story compelling the reader forward as information is revealed bit by bit.

For me the premise seemed far-fetched and a little hard to believe. To put executives in such a situation without communication would be a health and safety issue and would hardly be accepted practice in today’s corporate world. There seemed to be no real purpose to the exercise and the company running the expedition would surely have been more involved. Nevertheless, if you disregard all this, it is an engaging enough story.

The intertwining relationships of the women’s private lives is really interesting but we learn little more about Aaron Falk whose personal story unfolded in The Dry except for his relationship with his father, which frankly for me wasn’t that interesting. I wanted more about him but he was as remote as the wilderness which, I might add, is very beautifully and accurately described.

Carmen who was an interesting character seemed a little out of place and a gratuitous romantic notion toward Aaron left me puzzled. However, the tension between the women and the bleakness of the environment was portrayed very well – I  felt for their misery and desolation.

The second half of the novel is gripping and makes for a fast paced read. Like The Dry it’s a page turner with twists and turns of the unexpected. I did enjoy this novel, but not quite as much as The Dry. I would however read another of Jane’s books again.

Book Review: The Heat by Garry Disher

Wyatt is a smart thief with scruples who’s been around long enough to be cautious and wily. Turning down a job in Melbourne with the haphazard Pepper brothers, he instead, accepts a job in Noosa to steal a painting. He’s meticulous in his planning, holding off the charms of the local real estate agent who freelances as a crook herself. But the plan dramatically unravels as Wyatt, using his wits fights to survive.

I don’t often read crime novels and this one was told from the criminal’s point of view. This is the first book I’ve read by Australian Garry Disher. I’d not heard of him until this book was recommended to me by a friend. Although, this is the eighth in a series, it appeared not to matter that I’d not read any of the earlier novels.

The start was slow as the story and characters were set up. Then the action started and I could barely put the book down. I enjoyed the description of places I know well.  I didn’t  really warm to any of the characters – well, they are crooks after all. The fast pace of violence and suspense hooked me as I tried to figure out the double cross. Oddly, I found myself on Wyatt’s side hoping he’d get away with the crime and survive.

Overall, I enjoyed the writing style. The Heat is an enjoyable holiday read, perfect to take you away from your everyday.  I think I may now be hooked on crime novels especially by Garry Disher.