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Sunday, 25 September 2022

‘Mad, Bad and Dead’ by Sherryl Clark

Published by Verve Books,
23 August 2022.
ISBN: 978-0-85730-820-7 (PBO)

Judi and Andre, co-owners of a pub in Candlebark near Melbourne, are struggling to make a profit. She also cares for Mia her orphaned niece. One night she is woken by the incessantly ringing telephone. On answering it she receives a really nasty threatening call. Completely baffled, later that morning she rings Connor a policeman friend of hers, who promises to investigate.

Then for no apparent reason one of the employees at the pub is murdered, shot in her bed and her young fourteen-year-old daughter goes missing. It is soon discovered that the murdered woman had fairly recently changed her name. What and who was she hiding from?

Judi is reluctantly caught up in the ensuing murder investigation and also receives more nasty phone calls, but cannot understand why. She wonders if they have anything to do with threats from Bronwen, a woman who runs a nearby health farm. Her “clients” frequently sneak off and eat at the pub. She accuses Judi and Andre of “luring them away”.

The fourteen-year-old daughter is then found but refuses to tell police why she went into hiding, she is obviously scared to death. For some reason she does not trust the police. Something happened in Sydney to have made her mother change their names and her daughter blames what happened on the police there.

Then there is another murder, a man is shot in the street outside the pub, and it is soon discovered he had connections to drug dealing.

As if Judi hasn’t enough to deal with, she receives a phone call from her mother’s nursing home to say she has had a fall and is very ill, not expected to live. However, things that happened to Judi and her brother Andy when they were young, led her to hate their mother and she will not go and see her.

To add to the problems at the pub, a man books a room for several nights and Judi takes a dislike to him, certainly does not trust him. What was he doing creeping around outside in the middle of the night on more than one occasion?

When things do not seem as though they can get any worse, they do, especially when it involves gangland bosses.

There are two eprevious books in the series involving the same characters.  I will be seeking these earlier books out. A highly recommended thoroughly absorbing thriller.

Reviewer: Tricia Chappell  

Sherryl Clark is the author of the Judi Westerholm series set in the Australia outback. She also has had two collections of poetry for adults published by Pariah Press - Edge (1990) and Thicker Than Water (1999) and is a co-editor of Poetrix magazine.  Her most recent book is Mad, Bad and Dead the third in the series.

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors. 


Friday, 23 September 2022

‘Witness’ by Daniel Peltz

Published by the Book Guild,
26 July 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-91512235-3 (PB)

This is a book of fiction heavily based on research by the author relating to the limitations of the German Penal Code in prosecuting ex Nazis.  The main characters are Wilhelm Eicke - the son of a Concentration Camp superior officer and Benjamin Levi an inmate of the same Concentration Camp.  The two boys, on opposite sides of the camp fence, witness a dreadful and totally unwarranted murder of a young woman committed by a man later married to Wilhem's mother.  This horrifying event connects the two boys for the rest of their lives and the consequences of their future actions and motivations forms the crux of the story. 

Much of the detail is set against the background of 1960's Germany in the aftermath of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem.  Daniel Pelz clearly has a profound knowledge of both German society of this period and its penal code.  The story is both fascinating, horrifying and meticulously detailed.  I found it impossible to put down when I started to read the story and was profoundly moved by the attention to detail, and frustration suffered by both protagonists as they try desperately to bring the murderer to justice.  This is a story that needed to be told and will be appreciated by those of us who have never understood why so few Nazi personnel were actually brought to justice after the War.  Not only did I appreciate the story line, but I value the knowledge Daniel Pelz brought me.

Reviewer: Toni Russell

Daniel Peltz is CEO of the property company London Freeholds Ltd. A governor of Birkbeck, University of London, he sits on the board of various education, mental health and heritage trusts and foundations, and has an OBE for philanthropic and charitable services. He is married with four children.


Toni Russell
is a retired teacher who has lived in London all her life and loves the city.  She says, ‘I enjoy museums, galleries and the theatre but probably my favourite pastime is reading.  I found myself reading detective fiction almost for the first time during lockdown and have particularly enjoyed old fashioned detective fiction rather than the nordic noir variety.  I am a member of a book club at the local library and have previously attended literature classes at our local Adult Education Centre.  I am married with three children and five grandchildren. 

‘A Tangled Tale’ by Dermod Judge.

Published by The Book Guild,
28 May 2022.

ISBN: 978-1-914471-74-2 (PB)

Pat Quinn is considering his magnum opus, and thinks it will be a thriller, featuring a central character with a snappy name – possibly Mr Tom Brown.  He meets a striking brunette in his block of flats. They exchange addresses and, in a subsequent conversation, he discovers that her grandfather is Whitey Sullivan, an infamous gangster, and she is looking for someone to write his memoirs.  He is interested and develops the idea of writing about the history of the gangs in the city and the idea is to disguise it as fiction, to ensure that the gang leaders are not bothered by legal repercussions. 

He meets Francesco, whose grandfather is Federico Consini, another gang leader and key enemy of Whitey.  They both feature in the subsequent weekly articles that Pat writes for publication in a local newspaper.  Pat develops the articles with the inclusion of Mr Tom Brown and Mitzi, the two main fictional characters.  The articles are immensely popular, and there is talk of a film.  But confusion is setting in, as Whitey and Federico are having trouble separating truth and fiction, as is the local police force.  And then Pat starts to have his own problems.

This is a lively, inventive novel, with elements of humour and frustration, and reminders of the violence of gang wars.  The descriptions of the two gang bosses are robust and their views of the past are well conveyed.  The comparison of the memories of those who took part in old events and the written description of events, the confusion of reality with fiction and the problems caused by slipping believable fictional characters into the mix, has consequences that cannot be predicted.  Pat’s journey from new author to successful writer is an interesting one, so much is promised, and the future looks bright, until unexpected events lead to an a surprising end.

Reviewer: Jo Hesslewood

Other Books by this author:  Clash, Two Jam Jars for the Manor, Bopping in Ballymalloy, MacBride’s Wars, A Healing Place. Lost on the Sea of Galilee

Dermod Judge has been a designer, typographer, copywriter, creative director at one of South Africa’s largest advertising agencies, dramatist, actor, broadcaster, international award-winning filmmaker, film and stage director, script writer and editor, and international lecturer on storytelling and filmmaking. Now he has written five books, published with the Book Guild, A Healing Place, which is non-fiction, and four novels; Clash, Two Jam Jars for the Manor, Bopping in Ballymalloy and MacBride’s Wars.

Jo Hesslewood.  Crime fiction has been my favourite reading material since as a teenager I first spotted Agatha Christie on the library bookshelves.  For twenty-five years the commute to and from London provided plenty of reading time.  I am fortunate to live in Cambridge, where my local crime fiction book club, Crimecrackers, meets at Heffers Bookshop .  I enjoy attending crime fiction events and currently organise events for the Margery Allingham Society.