Rosie’s #Bookreview of Australian #Mystery The Lost Man by @janeharperautho #TuesdayBookBlog

The Lost ManThe Lost Man by Jane Harper

4.5 stars

The Lost Man is a mystery set in a wild outback region of Queensland. At a landmark known as the Stockman’s Grave, the body of a man is found; it appears that his last desperate few hours were spent following the shade from the landmark.

Cam Bright was due to meet his brother Bub at a radio mast, where together they planned to make some necessary repairs; his truck was fully stocked with food and water, so why was it found nine kilometres away from Cam’s body? This is a distance too far to have travelled by foot in the heat and desert conditions, and nowhere near the mast.

Nathan Bright has been estranged from his family and the townsfolk for years after a fateful choice which left his father-in-law on the side of the road. But the death of his brother has made him question all that he once believed. Brought back to the family home by Christmas and the death of his brother, Nathan pieces together Cam’s last hours and discovers a nest of family secrets.

There’s something about the harsh landscape of Australia’s interior that fascinates me; just the raw skills needed to survive are enough to strike fear into most, but I can understand the call of the vast open space. Once again Harper successfully portrays the setting and the people making them believable and intriguing. Another good book from this author.

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Book description

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

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Rosie’s #Bookreview of Australian #Thriller Force Of Nature by @janeharperautho #TuesdayBookBlog

Force of Nature (Aaron Falk, #2)Force of Nature by Jane Harper

4 stars

Force Of Nature is a thriller set in the fictional Australian Giralang Rainforest Ranges, an area several hours’ drive from Melbourne.

A group of five woman take part in an outward-bound adventure/survival weekend, but they become  lost, and only four find their way back to safety. With dense foliage, Australian wildlife and no phone signal, their situation quickly spirals out of control.

Harper’s writing strength is in descriptions of the settings and well-built characters. I really felt I was there in the dripping rain, feeling the cold and fear of the women as they realised that they were lost.

The chapters alternate between the current rescue operation for the last woman, and scenes that lead up to the moment when only four people found their way out of the forest. As the story evolves, Harper successfully builds the backstory and the tension, with several twists and turns.

After reading both The Dry and The Lost Man this setting was a good contrast to the arid deserts of the other books which I like so much, but the story still worked well. Overall a mild thriller with some wonderful backdrops.

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Book description

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along a muddy track.
Only four come out on the other side.
The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and encourage teamwork and resilience. At least, that’s what the corporate retreat website advertises.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker, Alice Russell. Because Alice knew secrets, about the company she worked for and the people she worked with.
The four returning women tell Falk a tale of fear, violence and fractured trust during their days in the remote Australian bushland. And as Falk delves into the disappearance of Alice, he begins to suspect some dangers ran far deeper than anyone knew.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview of Cultural #Thriller Set In #Australia THE DRY by Jane Harper

The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)The Dry by Jane Harper

4 stars

The Dry is a crime thriller set in Australia.

Aaron Falk, a federal police officer, arrives in Kiewarra, a drought stricken rural town, for the funeral of his school friend. It has been twenty years since Aaron left. The heat is oppressive, the land dry as tinder and the people are angry about the effects of the drought on their lives.  Luke Hadler, his wife and son are dead. The evidence suggests that Luke killed his family, then turned the gun on himself. However, not everyone believes the verdict. Luke’s baby daughter was left untouched. Falk also has his own problems, as he finds himself unwelcome in the town; twenty years ago he was a suspect in an unsolved drowning and people in the town have long memories. He plans to only stay a day, but Luke’s parents ask him to look at the case again. Instead he finds himself helping the local police and once again facing angry accusations.

The setting and atmosphere were so well-written: the strength sucking heat, the lack of water and the despair all felt tangible. I pictured myself right there in the dust, thirsty for a drink and deeply saddened by the human struggle to survive in such conditions. On top of this were the appalling murders in a community where few could keep secrets. They touched everyone and moved me as I read the story.

The unravelling of the murders was good, with plenty of twists, but for avid readers of the genre it might be easy for them to spot the culprit. I didn’t mind the slow pace of the investigation as clues were unpicked from the complex story sewn into the community. For me it was the harsh baked dry land that will stay with me for a long time.

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Book description

A small town hides big secrets in this atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper.

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier.
But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds bleed into new ones.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Social #Histfic The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs here https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Alison has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

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This is a hugely emotive and important subject and one that deserves to be in the spotlight. While this is fiction, these dreadful thigs really did happen and the way unmarried mothers were treated was absolutely appalling. Anyone who has read about the Magdalene laundries, or watched ‘The Magdalene Sisters’ or ‘Philomena’ (both very much recommended) will be familiar with the issues behind this novel.

Lindsay is naïve though she tries to be a grown up. She’s vulnerable, though she seems to have it all. She’s looking for love, acceptance, acknowledgement. So she’s the perfect target for the slippery, creepy Jon.

This is a very well-written book. Lindsay is a great main character – she’s not perfect, she’s selfish and headstrong and vain. But she doesn’t deserve what happens to her. Her development as a character, the relationships and friendships she forms, all change her. And what happens to her shapes her life. Her story is written with honesty and candour, and feels completely authentic.

The cast of characters are memorable and their own stories are heart-breaking, particularly poor little Dawnie. And these are stories that deserve to be told. Anything that shines a light on the way these girls and women were treated is a good thing and this novel shows their stories so well.

That said, there were a couple of things that prevent me from giving this novel five stars. I felt that some of the historical detail used to give a sense of time and place were a little forced, felt a little shoehorned into the narrative. I also felt that the story’s full potential wasn’t completely realised – it felt like there was so much more to tell. I wanted to know more about the conditions at the home, Lindsay’s emotions and feelings at having to be there, more about her time afterwards. It felt a little rushed at times, and though it’s not a short novel, I felt that the characters and their stories deserved a bit more time.

That said, this is an important novel, well-told and a must read.

Four out of five stars.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat set in 1970s #Australia

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

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This is the fifth of Liza Perrat’s novels I read, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I am a fan. I have read her historical novels in The Bone Angel Series, and also The Silent Kookaburra, set, like this novel, in the 1970s. It seems that the author intends to write a new series of independent novels, set in Australia in the 1970s, reflecting the everyday lives and realities of women in the period, and this is the second one. All of the author’s novels have female protagonists and closely explore their subjectivities and how they adapt to their social circumstances in the different historical periods. They might be fictional but the pay close attention to details and are the result of careful research.

Here, the main character is Lindsay Townsend, who narrates the story in the first person, in three different time periods, the early 1970s, the early 1990s, and the final fragment, set in 2013. The first part, and the longest shows us, Lindsay, when she is about to become 16. She is (at least on the surface), a very confident girl, clever, pretty, with plenty of money, from a good family, although not all is at it seems. She seems to lead a charmed life, but her home life is rather sad, with a violent father more interested in keeping up appearances than in looking after his wife and daughter, and a mother hooked on pills and spending as much time as possible out of the house on her charity work. Despite all that, Lindsay is not a particularly sympathetic character, and I know that might be a problem for readers who are not that keen on first-person narratives, as placing you in the skin of a character you don’t like might make for an uncomfortable reading experience, even if it is for a very good reason. She is a typical teenager, overconfident, and a bit of a bully, showing no sympathy for anybody’s circumstances at the beginning of the book. She dismisses her peers, feeling superior to all of them, and, as usual at that age, she believes she knows better than anybody and is invincible. That lands her in a lot of trouble, as she falls for one of the teachers, with consequences that readers might guess but that, at the time, don’t cross her mind. At a time when society was far less tolerant of alternative families, and women’s liberation had not taken hold, Lindsay is faced with an impossible decision and is suddenly confronted with a reality miles away from her everyday life. Her intelligence (unfortunately not accompanied by common sense) and her stubbornness don’t provide her with any answers when confronted with a teenage pregnancy. Faced with hard work, and thrown in the middle of a group of girls from different walks of life and social classes, she discovers what she is really made off and learns a very bitter lesson.

Although Lindsay herself is not likeable, especially at the beginning of the story, when she goes to St. Mary’s we learn about the varied experiences of other girls in her same circumstances and it is impossible not to feel touched and care for them. We have girls from the rural outback, abused by relatives, others who are the children of immigrant families who have no means to look after their babies, and with Downey, the little aboriginal girl whose story is, perhaps, the most heart-wrenching because she is a child herself, we get a representation of the scale of the problem (and a pointed reminder of the aboriginal experience in Australia). This was not something that only happened to girls of a certain social class or ethnic origin. It happened to everybody.  Through the different timelines, we get to follow the historic and social changes that took place, how laws affected adopted children and their biological parents, and we also get a picture of the ongoing effect those events had on those women, the children, and their families. We have women who never want to learn what happened to their babies, others who try but cannot get any information, others who get reunited with their children many years later, some who suffer ongoing negative consequences from their experiences, whilst others manage to create new lives for themselves. But the wound of the loss is always present.

The author deals with the tragic topic skilfully. If at times some of the scenes seem to have come out of a horrific version of a fairy tale (there are characters who are like evil witches, and Lindsay and her friends confront tasks that would put Cinderella to shame), and the degree of corruption and conspiracy stretches the imagination, we only need to read the news and listen to personal accounts of women who have been in such situation to realise that, whatever the concessions to fiction, the writer has done her research and has managed to capture the thoughts and feelings of the many women affected by this issue.

The action is set in Australia, mostly in Wollongong, New South Wales, with some events taking place in Sidney and other areas of the country. I have always admired the author’s talent for recreating the locations of her stories and for making us experience them with all of our senses, submerging us in the smells, the sounds, the tastes (I don’t know some of the foods and labels included, but they do add to the feel of authenticity), the flora and fauna, the clothing, the music, and the language of the time. Although forced adoptions are a widespread problem and it has affected a number of other countries (we might not know its full scale yet), the realistic location (and the family connection and research the author refers to in the author’s note at the back of the book) makes it more immediate and real still.

The story is extremely well-written, with enough description, both of the place and of the period, to ground the action without making it drag, but although it manages to combine action and surprises with reflective passages, the strongest point of the novel is its exploration of the psychological effects of losing a child, especially in those circumstances. The author manages to capture the thoughts and feelings of the character and through her conversations; we also get some insight into the experiences of others. In the first part of the book we have a young girl, and we get to share her thought process, her hesitations, doubts, and we feel trapped with her by a situation she is not in control of, and even though we might not have much in common with her, we do empathise and get to see things from her point of view. We do suffer with her and her friends, and although we might not like everything she says or does, we appreciate her kindness and the way she gets to bond with the other girls at St. Mary’s. Lindsay lives through much heartache, and grows and changes as a result, but people reading this book need to be aware that there are disturbing scenes and the topic of adoptions and depression might hit close home for many.

This is another great novel and although it can be read simply as fiction, I would recommend it in particular to readers interested in adoptions, particularly forced adoptions, and the perspectives of the families involved. I think it would make for a great book club choice, as the subject is one that will interest many readers, and it will bring much discussion, and the author includes a detailed list of some of the resources she has used to research the topic, providing extra material for those interested. Personally, I felt more empathy for other characters than for Lindsay, but no matter how much or how little we like each individual who went through such experiences, this novel will give readers pause and make them reflect upon the horrors that have been enforced in the recent past in the name of morality and decency. A powerful and poignant novel, to add to the catalogue of an accomplished and talented writer.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Social #Histfic The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

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4.5 out of 5 stars

This is a fictional story about the terrible injustices committed towards young, unmarried mothers in Australia until the 1980s, when they were forced into homes and made to sign papers to give their babies up for adoption, often without even seeing them.  It’s hard to imagine such a crime now, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when this book is set, a teenage, out-of-wedlock pregnancy was seen as a disgrace to a family, with the girls made to feel like the lowest of the low.  No consideration was given to their feelings, or the resulting trauma they would experience throughout the rest of their lives.  Liza Perrat lists her research material at the back of the book.

Headstrong, pretty and popular Lindsay Townsend has an unhappy childhood with a weak mother and a bully for a father, when she begins an affair with Jon Halliwell, a teacher at her school.  The first half of the book describes not only the passage of the affair and her belief that Jon truly loved her (I loved this part of the book!), but also her time at the home, during which she is finally beaten down.  On a happier note, though, it is there that she made lifelong friends with the other girls who shared her plight.

Jon’s treachery is worse than she knows, as the middle of the book shows us, with a truly shocking twist; I was gripped.  We then move to the immediate aftermath of Lindsay’s loss, and then to the early 1990s and finally to 2013, as she and her friends aim to right the wrongs done to them.

The books is dialogue-led, with much of the story told in conversation. The emotions are real, and well-portrayed, and there is no doubt that Liza Perrat has in no way exaggerated the effect on the women who were at the home with Lindsay; I admit to shedding a tear or two during the final ten per cent of the book. Most of all, though, for anyone who might think, ‘well, I wouldn’t let that happen to me’, Ms Perrat has depicted so well the hopelessness, the reality of being completely trapped and without options, that the girls experienced. It was, indeed, a different world. Well worth a read.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS