Tag Archives: debut novel

Book Review: The Good Mother by Rae Cairns

Whew, just closed the last page of this debut mystery thriller and am still trying to recover.

Sarah Calhoun, a Sydney divorced mum of three is living her life, arguing with her children, making the school lunches and working. She gets along with her ex-husband and negotiating their family life in two separate households. Along comes a detective who pops into her life digging up her past, a past in Ireland when she worked as a youth worker during the nineties.

The detective wants her to testify against a man who has become a leader of the IRA, and he is not about to let her forget the terrifying past when she dodged bullets and grenades. To complicate matters she sixteen-year-old son has won a trip to play soccer in Ireland.

That same IRA leader finds her whereabouts and threatening her family, he directs her to return to Ireland. Trusting no-one, she reluctantly turns to her estranged father for help. Having no choice she and her father leave Australia, leaving her two daughters in the care of her ex. The detective assures her safety and her father protects her son but she doesn’t reckon on what the IRA leader will do to her.

This debut novel is simply astounding. It sets a cracking pace of tension and edge-of-your-seat page-turning action. I found myself screaming (in my head of course) for Sarah not to make the decisions and action she chose. But having no idea what else she should do, you just know you’d probably do the same to save and protect your children no matter what the cost.

Cairns has captured the very essence of the mother lion in all of us and thankfully, is very rarely tested in the circumstances that Sarah faces. Yes, there’s some violence, a lot of tension and even a bit of romance. It’s well-written and there’s a lot to learn about the battles between Protestants and Catholics during the 1990’s. It’s also about resilience and learning to trust.

If this one isn’t a movie soon, then it really should be. Calling all movie producers! Get this one made. Move over Jack Reacher for Sarah Calhoun. In the meantime, go out,  buy this one and prepare to read it quickly.

Book Review: Wimmera by Mark Brandi

I was totally unprepared for this unexpected story.

The blurb, (which I rarely check before diving in) is about two young boys, Ben and Fab, who in 1989 do all the things youngsters do; play cricket, go yabbying and camping. They talk about all sorts of things except for how Fab’s dad hits him or what happened to the girl next door. When a new neighbour moves in, their imagination soars wondering if he’s a secret agent. The opening scene is the discovery of a drum in the local river.

It’s a moody book and the first half is pretty much about the boys’ everyday lives from Ben’s point of view with a slow build of tension and foreboding when they meet Ben’s far too friendly neighbour.  Half way through the novel, Ben’s voice disappears and we’re propelled into the future almost twenty years later into Fab’s point of view. Fab still lives in the same country town, lost and alone working in a supermarket and we’re left to wonder what happened to Ben.

The second half takes on a sense of urgency and the story unfolds in a very unsettling way.  I appreciated the second half far more than the first. There was much left to the readers imagination and for the reader to piece together and I liked that. The last couple of chapters was dramatic and a page turner.

The subject matter isn’t for the faint-hearted and there’s no trigger warning about child abuse. But if you can see your way through the dark subject, it’s a very decent debut.