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Sunday 30 September 2018

‘An Isolated Incident’ by Emily Maguire

Published by Lightning Books,
7August 2018.
ISBN (HB): 978-1-7856303-5(HB)

Strathdee, a small Australian town situated about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne on a highway between those two cities, isn’t much of a place. But it is the town where two half-sisters, Chris Rogers and Bella Michaels, grew up. In some ways the sisters couldn’t have been more different. Bella, much the younger, is kind and caring; she works in an aged-care home. No-one has a bad word to say about her. Chris couldn’t be more of a contrast. She works in a bar whose principal customers are the truckers who drive the highway. She’s popular with the truckers because they know that, if they ask, they can stay over at her place on the understanding that the next morning they will leave money for her. And they also know, that with her fiery temper, she is not to be messed with. Only one trucker has been much more than a one-night stand, Nate, a giant bearded bear of a man to whom Chris was married for a few years until her deep-seated anger against the world turns itself on him and he leaves. Driven by that anger and an equally deep-rooted despair, both resulting from a violent father and an inadequate mother, Chris also drinks heavily. Only Bella’s love for Chris and Chris’s love for Bella stand between Chris and total surrender to her demons. And then Bella’s body is discovered on waste ground, brutally mutilated. There is plenty of violence in Strathdee, much by men against women, but who could have wanted to turn it on the sweet and gentle Bella, loved by all who knew her? Torn apart by grief and rage, which the concern shown by some of her neighbours cannot assuage and only Nate’s arrival is of any consolation. And Chris knows that Nate cannot stay; he has a new woman and he must return to her sometime.

To top Chris’s misery there is, of course, a media storm. Among the first on the scene is May Norman who works for an on-line news journal. But May’s mind is only partly on the job: she had been having an affair with a married man called Craig. Now he has ended the relationship and she is devastated.  And then, Nate who has a history of violence although only for one incident and that many years ago, is arrested.

This is not a crime novel – we learn only incidentally that Bella’s killer has been identified. But it does seem that Chris will be able through friendship to start working through her problems and that May will be able to focus on what she wants to do. This is is an excellent novel which has been shortlisted for a prestigious literary award in Australia which I would describe it as admirable, rather than enjoyable. With its emphasis on the violence perpetrated by so many men against women it is a grim expose of a problem which only recently is being brought out into the open especially now that the MeToo movement has become so prominent. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Emily Maguire is the author of five novels and two non-fiction books. Her latest novel, An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Stella Prize, the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Emily’s articles and essays on sex, feminism, culture and literature have been published widely including in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Observer and The Age. Emily works as a teacher and as a mentor to young and emerging writers and is the 2018 Writer-inResidence at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. 

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

Friday 28 September 2018

‘Last Instructions’ by Nir Hezroni

Published by Point Blank,
July 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78607-386-0 (PB)

This is a sequel to the author’s first thriller, Three Envelopes, featuring Mossad secret service operatives, although it is equally enjoyable as a stand-alone.

In the latest novel, ably translated from Hebrew by Steven Cohen, Mossad is on the hunt for its former agent 10483, now a disgruntled, vengeful psychopath who’s trying to extinguish the organization of which he was once a part.  But it’s not only Mossad who’s on his trail but also two separate independent units all competing in a race against time, and a race for glory, to snuff out and put an end to the ex agent’s evil genius.

10483’s mind and behaviour were rewired and messed with in programming experiments   (called “transformations”) while he was with Mossad.    He now makes it his twisted, zealous mission to exact retribution by seeking out and assembling a hidden nuclear warhead that he’ll convey to and detonate at the CIA’s Langley HQ.  His story is narrated in the first person that makes it all the more immediate and urgent and gets the reader into his thinking processes as to the reasons for his wanting to settle scores. Indeed, one can’t help feeling a sneaking sympathy for him given how he was treated and what he was subjected to.

The author has extensive experience of hands on military intelligence and this credibly shines through, is skillfully interwoven and makes for interesting and vivid reading.   The plotting is intelligent and well structured; all major characters are given their fair share of telling their version of this dark, complex story and the enthralling climax is thrillingly played out in Tel Aviv. The result is an   arresting, fast paced, not –your- average thriller, a real nail biting page-turner written in immersive style that will give readers a cracking ride to the very last suspenseful paragraph.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax
Nir Hezroni was born in Jerusalem. After studying physics in high school and completing several years of military service in intelligence, Hezroni retired to study economics and business management. He then proceeded to build a career in high tech. In 2014 he published his first thriller, Three Envelopes, which was enthusiastically received by critics and readers alike. He lives with his family near Tel Aviv.

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals   then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

‘In the Blood’ by Ruth Mancini

Published by Head of Zeus,
9 August 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78854330-9

As every crime fiction reader knows, there's a wealth of highly competent writers out there, all producing well plotted books with sharply drawn characters and backgrounds that come to life. 

But every now and then we stumble across an unfamiliar author whose work seems to come from a different place. I'd hardly read a chapter or two of In the Blood before I realized that Ruth Mancini was writing from the heart. 

Her protagonist, Sarah Kellerman, is a criminal defence lawyer. Not only that, she is also the single mum of Ben, a severely disabled five-year-old. Sarah knows all about the juggling act that most working mothers perform every day: the broken nights, the rushed supermarket trips, the problems of finding the right childcare and alleviating the doubts of work colleagues. So when she is asked to prepare a defence for another single mother who stands accused of trying to kill her own child, she is more than willing to pull out a few stops.  

Ellie, the accused mother, isn't an easy person to help. She lives in a run-down flat in an area awash with drugs and violence, denies vehemently that she is responsible for any of the signs that baby Finn has been abused, but refuses to back up her assertions with anything resembling evidence. She claims that the baby's father is supportive, but also claims legal aid to pay her costs. Above all, there is no doubt that she was present when Finn's dialysis line was pulled out, leaving him to bleed almost to death. 

Sarah is faced with the almost insuperable task of refuting a mountain of evidence which seems to point to Ellie's guilt, and makes one discovery after another which render the task even harder. At the same time she is battling colleagues who think she is not pulling her weight when she insists on leaving work on time and opting out of night-time duty solicitor call-outs in order to care for Ben. When she meets a man who seems to understand, and who actually proves helpful with her son, it feels like a gift from above – until work and personal life collide. 

Mancini paints an all too lifelike picture of two women driven almost to the edge by circumstances beyond their control, each facing a nightmare situation. Some of the background details – the meltdown in the supermarket, the frantic dash to A & E, the defensive interview with the boss – will ring horribly true to any working mum. The supporting characters too have that essential spark of life, as do the multiple locations in and out of London. 

This was one of those books I found hard to put down. My head told me Ellie was innocent; that's the way the genre works, after all. But my heart was unsure, though desperately hoping it would end well, for both Ellie and Sarah. The reveal, when it came, was a corker. Read it and see for yourself. 
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick 

Ruth Mancini was born in South-West London and, after graduating, started her career as a marketing executive for a publisher before undertaking a post-graduate diploma in law and retraining as a solicitor. Ruth has spent the past twenty years in and out of courts and police stations, representing those accused of crimes. She still practises as a lawyer for a large criminal law firm with offices in London, conducting advocacy in the courts and defending people arrested at the police station. She also reviews the trial files across the firm and juggles her legal work with writing crime and psychological fiction. Her debut crime thriller In The Blood is a Sunday Times Crime Club pick and a top ten Amazon bestseller. She now lives in Oxford with her husband and two children. Her eldest child is severely autistic and learning disabled and her In The Blood protagonist, lawyer Sarah Kellerman, is also raising a similarly disabled child whilst working full-time. Ruth is also the author of domestic suspense novels The Lies You Tell and His Perfect Lies.

She can be found on Twitter @RuthMancini1
Facebook at

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.