In the Woods, Tana French

July 21st, 2007

Author: Tana French
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Edition released: June 2007
ISBN: 978-0-340-92475-4
485 pages
Review by: Karen Chisholm

Is it really only a month or so since IN THE WOOD was released in paperback? There's a lot of talk about this debut book, and you should be listening, the positive talk is highly deserved.

In 1984, in Knocknaree, County Dublin, Ireland, three 12 year old children - Adam, Peter and Jamie (Germaine) are playing. They've been life long friends and they go everywhere together. They are seemingly leading an idyllic childhood, with the housing estate they live in filled with young families and other children, backing onto the wood in which they regularly explore, run and play. Until the day that Peter and Jamie disappear, leaving Adam, seemingly unharmed, but terrified into total and complete amnesia. Peter and Jamie are never found. Adam and his parents move away, Adam is sent to boarding school and over the years he morphs into Rob Ryan - returned to Ireland with a posh school British accent, a policeman, attached to the local murder squad.

Cassie Maddox is only the 4th woman to join the Murder Squad, and she's young, straight out of Undercover Drugs operations - she's not exactly conventional and she's regarded with immense suspicion by many of the longer term Murder Squad Members. Cassie and Rob end up as partners and close friends. Friends only, despite the rumours and innuendo flying around.

When the body of a young girl is found on the edges of Knockarnee and the wood, Cassie is the only person who knows about Rob's past. Cassie and Rob are joined by a third investigator - Sam - and the three of them try to discover the identity of the killer of young, promising ballerina Katie. Rob's past increasingly haunts him and it starts to affect his decisions and reactions to the current day.

There are layers within layers and stories within stories in this book. Not a book for fans of the quick resolution, massive amounts of action style, IN THE WOODS weaves and wanders through an investigation that bogs down quickly with no easy suspects or motives for Katie's death. Interspersed with the investigation is a fascinating character study of 3 people working closely together. Rob and Cassie have a close, intimate relationship, without a romantic element. There is something simultaneously engaging about a close friendship that doesn't instantly morph into a sexual or romantic relationship, at the same time there's something slightly off-putting about the intimacy and closeness of these two people. There's something in Cassie's background that has obviously affected her life, we know only too well what has happened to Rob in his childhood. Into this twosome, Sam is pushed as a result of the investigation. Sam's pretty uncomplicated compared to the other two, a normal robust childhood, a slightly dodgy Uncle is about as difficult as it gets in Sam's life. He slips into the investigating threesome easily in some ways, and in other ways he's an observer, secluded and separated by the closeness of Cassie and Rob.

Overall it's the people that populate IN THE WOODS which makes it really interesting. So many people in this book are just not quite right, not exactly what they first seem to be be. Katie's life seems normal for a 12 year old girl, but there's also something that doesn't quite add up. Her sisters - the same. Her parents seem to have been loving, concerned parents, but there's also something just ever so slightly wrong. Rob seems so caring, so kind, a SNAG, but he's also haunted by what he can't remember of his past (and the snippets that he does). Does that past and that uncertainty make him vulnerable, stupid or just human. Cassie's past is also revealed, but is she a ruthless investigator or is she just as vulnerable in her own way.

There are some elements of IN THE WOODS that do drag a bit, it does bog down a little in some places and get dangerously close to repetitiveness or over-egging the angst pudding, but ultimately IN THE WOODS is fascinating. It's one of those books that twists and turns and moves and shape shifts to the point where you really don't know what you did or didn't think you knew a few pages before. And there is something for all sorts of readers to see, identify with, get annoyed about, smile and nod in agreement with, wonder about, worry about. It's also one of those books that ends with not everything nicely answered / tied up / resolved - just like life really.

It has finally happened - new austcrimefiction online

July 19th, 2007


The new AustCrimeFiction environment is now up and staggering.

There's still some reformatting / tidying up around the edges to do, so you will find that some of the Writer database entries are readable but not exactly well formatted yet - I'll get those fixed over the next whatever weeks.

You'll also find that if you had a user name and password on the old site they have not been copied over - I'm always very twitchy about the privacy implications of just willy nilly moving people's private passwords around - you're more than welcome to register at the new site.

The reason for the new environment is to provide more interaction for people - you can now post comments on writer / book records, there are interactive polls and quizzes, you can post your own book reviews and everyone with a login automatically has a blog.

Every entry has the capacity to be "tagged" so that with one click you can find all of the entries on the site with the same tag - so say you're looking at an author's entry - clicking on their tag will bring up all the book reviews, comments, forum posts, questions, poll's, quiz entries - whatever that relates to that particular author.

We'll also reactivate the ability to find books by location, series name and so on once all the pages have been reformatted.

At some stage soon I'll be moving my blog over to that package as well so that everything's in one easy to find central location.

In the meantime, please drop by and check out what we're doing. Let me know if you have any problems via the feedback links, and more importantly, feel free to dive in.

The Devil's Jump, Peter Doyle

July 18th, 2007

TITLE: The Devil's Jump
AUTHOR: Peter Doyle
ISBN: 0091641968
PUBLISHED BY: Arrow / 2001

Another book from the local books pile that I've been catching up on lately - The Devil's Jump is from the same author that wrote GET RICH QUICK (which won the Ned Kelly for Best First Crime Novel in 1997) and AMAZE YOUR FRIENDS (which won the Ned Kelly for Best Crime Novel in 1999).

THE DEVIL'S JUMP is set in Sydney at the end of the Second World War - in fact the blurb on the book says "The war in the Pacific is over... The war on the streets has just begun". It's the story of Billy Glasheen - local lad and (in the author's words) apprentice lurk merchant. Billy's not exactly a bad lad, but he is inclined to find the easiest path. Never part of the Armed Forces (bit of a medical problem) Billy's been mixed up with a local hood for a while now. Returning Servicemen, including his brother, looking to settle down into civilian life, get a job and get on with life the right way, doesn't really appeal to him - if there's a bit of a scheme going on and some easy money to be had, Billy just can't help himself. When his boss, Toohey goes missing it seems that a list of members of a slightly questionable Political group is being offered around for sale, and Toohey is the last person known to have the register. Given that Billy has sort of stepped into a lot of Toohey's activities since his disappearance a lot of people decide that it's only logical that Billy has the register. Only he doesn't.

THE DEVIL'S JUMP has a really realistic post Second World War feel to it - from the characterisations (Robert Menzies even makes a cameo appearance), the terminology, the lurks that Billy gets up to (in this case lurk is a slang term for pursuit / goings on / avocation legal or illegal, such as in the phrase 'that's a good lurk' &#59;) ) Of course, for some, the terminology could create a slight air of confusion but if anybody's watched Dad's Army it should be a doddle :)


July 17th, 2007

Well I was avoiding it all for a while - but I finally relented and our library has been uploaded to librarything.

It's amazingly addictive - and its really fascinating to wander around and see firstly who has the same books as you (Hi Helen B) ) and then to see what else is in their collection.

Wander over - have a look - now you know why the house needs restumping regularly :)

Sucked In, Shane Maloney

July 13th, 2007

Author: Shane Maloney
Publisher: Text Publishing
Edition released: March 2007
ISBN: 978-1-921145-44-5
276 pages
Review by: Karen Chisholm

I happily went out earlier this week and bought a copy of Sucked In and it took me roughly one day to finish it - and that was an unfair delay - I could have sat down and read it in one sitting. Needless to say the 6th book in the Murray Whelan series (for which we've all been waiting an absolute age), lives up to the expectations of the long wait!

Murray is older, slightly wiser and just that little bit more cunning. A member of the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament, he and a number of other "pollies" are "doing the rounds" in Country Victoria, when Murray's long time mentor and friend, Charlie Talbot, dies from a heart attack in the middle of the dining room of the Grand Hotel in Mildura.

It's an interesting coincidence that the day before Charlie's untimely demise, the remains of (allegedly) a long-lost union official are discovered in the mud of drought stressed Lake Nillahcootie. Merv Cutlett had gone overboard from a fishing boat during a trip to the Union "Shack" on the banks of the Lake many years before with Charlie and other union luminaries including (now) Senator Barry Quinlan.

All of this is of slight interest to Murray, up to his elbows in Labor Party machinations over pre-selection for Charlie's very safe seat in Federal Parliament. When a well-known local journalist starts to hear rumours about Merv's cause of death, and these rumours trickle through to the power brokers in the Labor Party, pre-selection battles now have to fight for attention with a bit of very overdue Union "housekeeping". All of this whilst Murray tries to teach Red how to drive, resurrect his slumbering love life, extract himself from a risky sex life, learn Greek and finagle himself into something resembling re-charged enthusiasm for the "Cause".

A slightly older Murray Whelan is something that causes pause for consideration - how long can he keep up these gymnastics - both mental and physical! But aside from that sneaking concern, SUCKED IN really delivers on a number of fronts. The "investigation" of the death weaves it's way in and out of the ongoing business of being a Politician in pre-Millennium Victoria, in a Labor Party struggling to hold a caucus meeting that would stretch the accommodations of a telephone booth. There's something really realistic about the way that things just roll along, balanced delicately on the edge of the precipice - with a lot of day to day darting around just trying to keep ahead. The political swipes are, as always, hilarious. That slightly jaundiced, True Believer view of the political system that Maloney specialises in has a particularly accuracy in SUCKED IN that you just can't help but roll around in laughter with. There are also more than just a few characters in SUCKED IN that you can pick out of the local crowd. But again, regardless of the "spot who that is" games that we locals can play, SUCKED IN is going to appeal to lots of readers, regardless of where they come from. A touch of humour, a touch of poignancy, a bloke who eventually sort of gets his man, and looks like he might just have a vague chance of getting the girl, and overall you've got one entertaining reading ride.