Tag: #CrimeFictionFriday

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Book Summary

They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the court room start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind.

What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom? What if the killer isn’t on trial? What if the killer is on the jury?

What I Thought

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
— Christopher McQuarrie, The Unusual Suspects

It doesn’t get any better than this! Steve Cavanagh has done it again, pulling out all the stops to bring another fast-paced, thrilling, rollercoaster read. A thoroughly compelling story in which the Devil truly is in the details.

Eddie Flynn is back in the arena, the courtroom that is, playing the ‘fall’ guy and sitting second chair to Rudy Carp, the lawyer representing actor, Bobby Solomon, in the case of the century. Thing is, Eddie has been talked into playing the fall guy by going after the cops who, Carp has convinced Eddie, planted evidence at the scene of a heinous crime, implicating Bobby Solomon in the murder of his wife and security guard.

While Eddie isn’t convinced either way, not yet at least, he’s taken the ‘second’ chair and, in doing so, the opportunity to do what he does best, because Carp Law has offered him something he needs right now. A boring, secure job in a big law firm, in order to win back his wife. He needs this, he tells himself. Because the one thing Eddie Flynn doesn’t want to lose right now, is his daughter. And if it means going ‘straight,’ and getting out of the way of the bad guys, Eddie is going to give it his best shot.

But not everything is going to go according to plan, as always. Cavanagh throws every possible spanner into the works, and mixes it up, putting Eddie back in the firing line, and in the sights of not just a couple of corrupt cops, but a serial killer.

As always, the author amps up the tension on several levels, as Flynn and Carp get set to defend Bobby Solomon, unaware there is another player in the room. One who has his own agenda and, a need to kill. Cavanagh alternates between Flynn’s side of the story, told in the first person, and that of serial killer and clever chameleon, Joshua Kane—and if this creepy unnerving guy doesn’t give you goose bumps, no one will.

I particularly like the way the author has written the alternating parts of this story, because while Kane is clearly a main story component, it’s through Eddie’s eye and thoughts that the story really opens up. Eddie is at the emotional heart of the story. Here’s a man trying hard to keep it altogether, because not only has he vowed to himself to do the right thing, but if he doesn’t change, he knows he will lose his wife and daughter for good.

So while we read about Kane and his past, and what makes him a cold-blooded killer, heartless to a fault. Eddie keeps us grounded in reality. And, in between the sensational details of a murder trial, a game of cat and mouse begins. But rest assured, Eddie Flynn is no mouse. He’s going to need his background as a conman not just to help get Bobby Solomon off a murder conviction, but to out-smart, and out-play a killer in their midst.

Aided by a well-round cast of characters that each have their own unique personalities, with some crackling twists and turns that had me furiously page turning, the climatic end left me almost breathless and dizzy. Intense, taut, adrenaline-fuelled, plausibly plotted, cleverly twisted, and masterly engineered to leave you wanting more.

Eddie Flynn and his author deliver another thoroughly absorbing and entertaining read. Highly recommended!

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Book Summary

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that 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 choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

What I Thought

Jane Harper has done it again. Written another compelling, thought-provoking, absorbing slice of life in the Aussie outback beneath a blistering sun. THE LOST MAN is as complex and twisted as they come and taking the same formula that worked for The Dry, puts the reader deep in the heart of Queensland, riding roughshod over a family that like The Dry, has one too many secrets buried deep in the scorched red earth.

Everyone, including the Pommy backpackers, has a story to tell. And every character, including the children, have secrets they’re not supposed to share. And as the story and the details surround the grisly death of middle son, Cameron, unfolds, layer after layer, is peeled away revealing forgotten and hidden truths left to long festering in the dark. Family secrets that begin to bleed through as Nathan, the eldest son of Liz and Carl Bright, narrates the story.

Oh, what a wonderfully twisted mind Harper must have, because she skilfully weave a thoroughly absorbing multi-layered story about people struggling on every front: with loneliness, the weather—brutal and unforgiving—to familiar family dynamics. Each character is a richly detailed person with their own set of problems, but the heart of the story is centred around Nathan, as he starts to piece together what happened both present, and past.

These fascinating characters are at the heart of this family drama, but the countryside, and the brutal unforgiving world these people live in, is also a big part of Harper’s storytelling; bringing the landscape to life as breathing, living thing. Her detailed descriptions have you sweating in the heat, they’re so visceral. I felt like I could see the shimmer of the heat across the dry, baked ground, hear that hum of wind and sand, and feel my skin blistering beneath the noon-day sun.

“At night, when the sky felt even bigger, he could almost imagine it was a million years ago and he was walking on the bottom of the sea. A million years ago when a million natural events still needed to occur, one after the other, to form this land as it lay in front of him now. A place where rivers flooded without rain and seashells fossilised a thousand miles from water and men who left their cars found themselves walking to their deaths.”

The one thing you can be certain of, Jane Harper really knows how to tell a great story, giving ample room for each character to draw you in, delving into everyone’s worst fears and dark secrets. And using Nathan, as an amateur detective, slowly and deceptively, unravels and reveals the truth behind Cameron’s death in an utterly believable way. There are a number of themes, including abuse and rape, that are explored with a deft, careful hand. But it’s the family dynamics that Harper excels at, that keep you page turning right through to an end I didn’t see coming till the last minute, when I was as thoroughly surprised as Nathan!

Harper has the ability to captivate the reader and transport them into a wholly believable world, where everyone, including the land, is in a struggle for survival.

If you enjoy emotionally charged, character driven, layered stories, then Jane Harper’s THE LOST MAN is a must.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Book Summary

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.

What I Thought

Jane Harper has done it again. She has captured lightning in a bottle not once, but twice. With FORCE OF NATURE she has crafted a second beguiling novel, with a tapestry of threads that crisscross throughout the story weaving a masterpiece of misdirection till the final reveal. A surprise, I for one, never saw coming. The clever red herrings, the subtle misdirects, she does it all to perfection. You think you know what’s going on? You don’t. And believe me, I’m pretty good at sussing out the culprit early on. Not this time around.

Harper’s oh so believable cast of characters—highlighting the best and worst of human nature under duress, and in a hostile environment—are people you might know, people you might have met or worked with, people who, as the story progresses, start to fall apart. I loved every scene and every page detailing what happened to the five women as they set out on what should be, a bonding weekend. As they dissolve into a female version of Lord of the Flies. Every bitching, snide remark, every possible slight, every hurt revealed. Every fibre of these women is shredded, slowly and surely, till they become their own worst enemies.

For me, this is writing at its best. The detail, the emotion, the pain and the secrets, are all slowly laid bare for us. Every scab is picked at till it bleeds, and we see what’s beneath the thin veneer of respectability. Five women from the same company, but from different strata, thrown together and then, go feral. But there is so much more than that, so much more than the in-fighting. Lives and secrets opened up along with the lies and deceit. And why people do what they do. Harper gets in there, beneath the skin, and exposes it all.

Aaron Falk, who was, for the most part, the focus of The Dry, takes almost a back seat in FORCE OF NATURE, as Harper alternates chapters featuring the slow dissolution of the five women, and between Falk, his new partner, Carmen, and the search for the missing woman. Each dynamic has its part to play in the story as a whole, and each chapter dovetails cleverly to keep you guessing. I liked how we got to see a bit more of Falk’s history with his father, filling out more of his own backstory, while not deflecting from the story at hand, the missing women lost in an unforgiving outback.

A rugged brutal landscape that is the perfect backdrop to this kind of story, and a character in and of it self. All adding to the tension that slowly builds towards a heartbreaking reveal. Nothing and no one is ever what they seem, and Harper makes sure we are left wondering right up till the last few pages about the who, why, and how.

Clever twist and turns, so that you never quite know what’s going to happen next, or what these women might say or do next, is, believe it or not, a gripping read. Try it for yourself, you will not be disappointed.

And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic

Book Summary

Deaf since early childhood, Caleb Zelic is used to meeting life head-on. Now, he’s struggling just to get through the day. His best mate is dead, his ex-wife, Kat, is avoiding him, and nightmares haunt his waking hours.

But when a young woman is killed, after pleading for his help in sign language, Caleb is determined to find out who she was. The trail leads Caleb back to his hometown, Resurrection Bay. The town is on bushfire alert, and simmering with racial tensions. As Caleb delves deeper, he uncovers secrets that could ruin any chance of reuniting with Kat, and even threaten his life. Driven by his own demons, he pushes on. But who is he willing to sacrifice along the way?

What I Thought

This is the second book in the Caleb Zelic series and, like Resurrection Bay, is relentless in its pacing as Caleb once again is trust into the centre of a murder mystery. Continuing a few months on from the aftermath of events that took place in book one, Caleb, beset by nightmares, is barely making a go of it and struggling physically and mentally. When, out for a run, he’s approached by a homeless man and given a cryptic note asking for help. Unable to resist, of course, Caleb follows the down-and-out to a dark alley and, everything from there on in goes to hell in a hand basket!

Poor Caleb, you have got to feel for this guy. So well written by Viskic he feels like someone you know or should know—a friend of a friend—he seems so familiar. Fighting the world on several fronts not least of which is battling through an ordinary day dealing with talking people, we get to know so much more about Caleb, and just how hard it is to be deaf in a speaking, hearing world. Viskic does an outstanding job of making us feel and live through Caleb’s eye. And yes, his ears too. Every missed word, every simple situation made all the more difficult by the obstacles he faces. 

But Caleb is undaunted by his hearing impairment, and though he struggles, it’s made him who he is, more acutely aware of others in a way we cannot comprehend. And Viskic really reflects this so well in her writing. How he interacts with others and, just as importantly, how they, in turn, interact with him. It’s all so brutally honest.

It’s also both jarring, and so cleverly done. This is what makes for a far more interesting read, because Viskic’s characters are working within this framework, along with us, the reader. Making Caleb one hell of an interesting character never mind he’s determined, stubborn to a fault, and never, but never give up once he’s committed to doing something. In this case, finding out who killed the woman in the red dress.

With plenty of mystery, false leads, any number of ruses and misdirects, Viskic keeps things moving along at a decent pace, and never flags with both the plot, details, or character involvement. Even down to the secondary characters carried over from Resurrection Bay. We’re treated to more details and background, learn more about the community itself, where Caleb grew up, including more involvement with his younger fucked up brother, Ant.

It all makes for a thoroughly absorbing read. I was so invested in what was going on, I read this one in three very nail biting sittings. So determined to find out what was going on, who the killer or, killers, where, and whether or not we’d see Caleb get back together with Kat, his estranged wife. 

And Fire Came Down takes on a lot and delivers lightning in a bottle for a second time. Tense, fraught, razor-sharp observations and, as I said, relentless. Caleb takes us on another journey of discovery, both personal and emotionally, as well as thematically. And while the ending ties up a number of threads by the end, it also poses a few more that we just know are going to be answered in the next instalment, in Darkness For Light. 

While this might read OK as a standalone, I suggest reading Resurrection Bay first, as it will give more depth and background to the characters, plot, and setting. Never mind, just what makes Caleb tick.

Another outstanding read from beginning to end, I highly recommend this series.