Friday, October 3, 2014

Hello world!

I'm resurfacing for air briefly to say, yes, I'm still alive and although I've been noticeably absent from the literary world, I have been very busy in the academic world. Doing a PhD seemed like such a good idea at the time, but now I am down to the business end of things, writing up a thesis, I have discovered like most writing projects, it consumes your life. But that's OK, all means to an end.

On the plus side, from an author's perspective I have come across fantastic material to use in my novels, and have a list of ideas for more Sam Shephard novels, psychological thrillers and also a children's novel that insists on getting my attention.

So hello world, I'm still here, I'm just a little distracted...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Wake by Elizabeth Knox

Wake

By Elizabeth Knox

Elizabeth Knox is the very popular New Zealand Author of books such as The Vintner's Luck, Billie's Kiss, the Dream Hunter books and very recently Mortal Fire. In Wake she ventures into the territory of horror, and rips into it from the opening pages. It is one of the more spectacularly gory starts to a book I have read, when what is best described as a mass insanity overtakes the small settlement of Kahukura, near Nelson, and the residents set about destroying one another. Disturbing and blood-thirsty as this start is, it perfectly sets the scene, and the horrified, scared and bewildered mindset of the small number of survivors. They find themselves physically trapped within the town and its surrounds by a mysterious force field they call the no-go. They are completely cut off from the outside world, have no idea what they are up against, what caused the others to become homicidal, and if it is over. With bodies everywhere and the risk of disease that have to set about dealing with the dead while also taking care of the differing needs of the living.

Wake provides a window into the way people cope with crisis or don't cope, as the case may be. They are a diverse bunch of people, from a police officer and a nurse, to a DOC worker worried about her kakapo, a man in mourning for his wife murdered in the first wave, a woman who seems to have split personalities, a lawyer, a teenager, a mother & daughter. Add into the mix the realisation that they are trapped in this town, trapped with something, something invisible that is playing them, picking at them, unraveling them. And there is the mystery man, the man in black, who they are unsure is a friend or foe.

I found this to be a cracker of a book that had me staying up way too late at night. It combines perfectly horror, science fiction and psychological thriller with human drama. Elizabeth Knox throws these characters into a seemingly hopeless and unsolvable situation and picks away at them, unraveling them until they distill down and we see who fades and who finds strength.

Because of its graphic beginning I think this is a book that will divide opinion. But I for one, after getting over the shock of that, loved it. It showed how humanity can flourish or fade under adversity and also the extremes people will go to to survive or to protect others. It is superbly written, but above all else, it is a great story.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Farm by Tom Robb Smith

The Farm

By Tom Robb Smith

The Farm is an interesting thriller. Daniel gets a panicked and tearful call from his father Chris to say his mum is sick, mentally sick, that she'd been committed to a mental institution near where they live on a farm in Sweden, but had convinced the doctors to discharge her and she's gone missing. He warns that if she turns up at Daniel's home in London, that she is unwell and saying all sorts of false things, making accusations, and not to believe her.
Then Daniel gets the call from his mother, Tilde. She is at Heathrow, he  must pick her up. He finds her there, calm, lucid, fearful and she insists on telling her story, step by step, from the first days of their retirement to Sweden and the farm, to the slow unraveling and sinister details of the conspiracy to cover up a crime - a crime she says Daniel's father is somehow involved with.
So we have Daniel caught in the middle. Does he believe his father - that Tilde is psychotic and that all this evidence she is building is all in her head and that she's making something out of nothing? Or does he believe his mother - the woman before him with her bag full of her evidence, calmly and systematically building up the chain of events? It is an awful situation for Daniel to be in and ultimately he has to make a decision - who does he believe?
The Farm is an unusual book. It's structure is quite different to any I've read before and it slowly builds up tension. As the reader you are listening to Tilde tell her story, and sometimes you think what she is saying is palusable, then at other times you question if she is a reliable narrator, and you can't make up your mind. It is a book that is quietly dark and brooding and because of that I wasn't quite sure what I thought of it.
I tend to love a book or hate a book, and this one left me somewhere in between. I'm definitely glad I read it, but I am uncertain as to where it sits on my spectrum of enjoyment. I guess you'll have to make up your own mind...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolute

I'm a gal of ceremony, I like the little rituals that make things special - frilly tea, clinking a wine glass and proposing a toast. I always look forward to New Year's eve - that roll over from one year to the next. Sure, it may be an arbitrary second, ticking over to the next, same as any other, but for me there is something cathartic about waving ta-ta to one year and welcoming the next. This year, it was quite frankly, a relief.

2013 was a very challenging year. It was a year of recovery and one I never felt I got on top of. Recovering from the snapped achilles, and then dealing with a monster DVT (ugh, injecting yourself in the belly with heparin is no fun, and warfarin...shudder) left me feeling life was a bit adrift, and made me realise I was mortal after all!

So on New Year's Eve, when the clock struck midnight and the fireworks lit up the sky, one of the biggest cheers was from me, saying good riddance 2013, rock on 2014, and my big resolution for the year... to have more fun!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Fiction ... Finalist!

I'm rapt with the news The Faceless has been names as a finalist in the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Fiction.

My fellow finalists for the award this year are:

Paul Thomas - Death on Demand
Paul Cleave - The Laughterhouse
Julian Novitz - Little Sister

The winner will be announced on the 2nd of December.

Here's the link to the official announcement via Beattie's Book Blog.

It is brilliant that the New Zealand crime fiction award bears the name of Ngaio Marsh. As you all know, I'm a bit of a fan of Ngaio's and feel extraordinarily proud to be a finalist.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Where the Dead Men Go, by Liam McIlvanney



Where the Dead Men Go

By Liam McIlvanney

Journalist Gerry Conway is back at the Glasgow Tribune three years after losing his job courtesy of a story gone bad and a fall from grace. This time he is stranded reporting politics while his former underling, Martin Moir is the paper's top crime reporter. But when Moir goes missing and then turns up dead in his car in the bottom of a flooded quarry Conway and Moir's widow aren't convinced by the police conclusion of suicide. Conway embarks on a mission to find the truth and look into the stories Moir had been investigating.

Liam McIlvanney has swapped the wilds of Scotland for the wilds of Dunedin to take up the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand, but despite residing on the other side of the world makes full use of his knowledge of his old stomping ground and the politico-social environment of Glasgow. Where the Dead Men Go combines the pressing issues facing the city - the upcoming Commonwealth Games, the Scottish referendum on independence and the politics surrounding them and throws in a dose of organised crime to produce an edgy and relevant thriller. Gerry Conway is a hugely appealing character and with the story told in first person, his head space is a great place to occupy.

I thoroughly enjoyed Liam's first novel, All the Colours of the Town, and I enjoyed Where the Dead Men Go even more. Highly recommended.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kathy Reichs in the Antipodes


I had the great pleasure of interviewing Kathy Reichs for the Dunedin leg of her tour of Australia and New Zealand promoting her latest Temperance Brennan novel Bones of the Lost. What fun, getting to be in the hot seat asking all the questions of a woman whose work I hugely admire. Kathy was brilliant to interview, warm, witty and generous with her stories. We covered her professional life as a forensic anthropologist, the Tempe Brennan novels, Bones TV series and the perils of working with your children, as well as the new book. An hour went very quickly!

I also reviewed Bones of the Lost on National radio recently - here is the review: