Book Review: The Good Mother by Rae Cairns

The Good Mother by Rae Cairns

‘Past and present collide on and off the page in this explosive debut’ Sunday Telegraph

‘This story wouldn’t let me go’ Michael Robotham

Shortlisted for the 2021 Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction

She’s protected them from the truth. Can she save them from her past?

Sarah Calhoun is a regular Sydney soccer mum, but she’s keeping terrifying secrets from everyone she loves . . . and her past is about to catch up with her.

When two men from Northern Ireland hunt her down, she’s forced to return to Belfast to testify at a murder trial. Caught in the crossfire of an obsessive policeman driven by a disturbing past, and a brutal IRA executioner, Sarah faces an impossible choice: lie and allow a killer to walk free, or tell the truth and place her children in the line of fire.

With her family and innocent people at risk, Sarah must find the courage to fight for the truth. But righting the wrongs of the past just might cost her everything . . .

This fast-paced, explosive thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat to its gripping finale.

‘Show me a soldier who would fight harder than a mother to save her son.’

My Review

The Good Mother by Rae Cairns is a fast-paced thriller that had me on the edge of my seat until the very end.

Suburban mum Sarah Calhoun has kept her past a secret for years until it catches up with her in the worst possible way – through her children. She used to work as youth worker in Ireland during the 90s until she witnessed a murder by a brutal IRA member and had to leave because her own life was on the line. Now her children may have to pay the price of what she saw.

At first, Sarah comes across as a bit of a helicopter mum who doesn’t want to let her children out of her sight, but it soon becomes apparent that her fears are well-founded when an obsessive Irish policeman hunts her down and she is left with two choices: let the killer walk free or put her children’s and other innocent people’s lives in danger.

Not being a mother myself, I was a bit worried that I would find Sarah difficult to connect with, but I found her relatable in other ways. Particularly with her motivations around what she witnessed in the 90s and her fearless determination to make sure that the IRA didn’t get away with murder this time.

I also really enjoyed the setting of both the modern day and 1990s Ireland and I feel as though I learned a lot about The Troubles woven throughout the book in a natural way. The author’s own experiences have provided invaluable insight into such a complex period of recent history.

The good mother is a strong debut and was Shortlisted for the 2021 Ned Kelly Award for Best Debut Crime Fiction. I’ll be looking forward to reading more from this author.

Thanks to HarperCollins for my review copy

Details

Title: The Good Mother

Author: Rae Cairns

Published: HarperCollins AU 30/03/2022

Pages: 368

RRP: $32.99 AUD

Source: Publisher

Goodreads: The Good Mother

Book review: The Portrait of Molly Dean by Katherine Kovacic

I’ve been obsessed with books set in the 1930s lately, so I was instantly intrigued by The Portrait of Molly Dean when I discovered that it’s a true murder mystery set against the background of Melbourne’s bustling art scene in 1930.

Goodreads Blurb

An unsolved murder comes to light after almost seventy years…

In 1999, art dealer Alex Clayton stumbles across a lost portrait of Molly Dean, an artist’s muse brutally slain in Melbourne in 1930. Alex buys the painting and sets out to uncover more details, but finds there are strange inconsistencies: Molly’s mother seemed unconcerned by her daughter’s violent death, the main suspect was never brought to trial despite compelling evidence, and vital records are missing. Alex enlists the help of her close friend, art conservator John Porter, and together they sift through the clues and deceptions that swirl around the last days of Molly Dean. 

Review

The Portrait of Molly Dean is based on a real unsolved murder. Molly Dean was brutally murdered in Melbourne in 1930. She was a beautiful and popular artist’s muse who was determined to break out of her complicated home life and make a name for herself as a writer but her murder was never solved and she was almost forgotten.

This novel imagines what might have happened in Molly’s last days via the fictional investigations of an astute Melbourne art dealer who snaps up Molly’s portrait in 1999 for a bargain. As Alex and her art conservator friend investigate the painting and the mystery surrounding the death of Molly Dean, they discover that there were many inconsistencies surrounding the investigation and that there are still people out there who will do whatever it takes to make sure that the truth remained hidden.

There really isn’t anything that I didn’t love about this book! Both the 1930 and 1999 timelines were full of distinctly timely and Melbourne features and I also found the art history fascinating. Molly was such an interesting character that I found myself invested in finding out what happened to her. I feel like I could have been great friends with her. And I loved Alex Clayton the sassy art dealer and will be adding the rest of the Alex Clayton art mystery series to my TBR list!

Details

Published: March 1st 2018 by Bonnier Publishing Australia/Echo

Source: Own copy

Read: Paperback, January – February 2021

Pages: 271 pages

Rating: 5 stars

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About the author

Katherine Kovacic was a veterinarian but preferred training and having fun with dogs to taking their temperatures. She seized the chance to return to study and earned an MA, followed by a PhD in Art History. Katherine spends her spare time writing, dancing and teaching other people’s dogs to ride skateboards.

A research geek, Katherine is currently fired up by the history of human relationships with animals, particularly as they appear in art. Her first book, The Portrait of Molly Dean, was shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Award for best first fiction.

Katherine lives in suburban Melbourne with a Borzoi, a Scottish Deerhound and a legion of dog-fur dust bunnies.

January 2021. True Crime.

Available in all good bookshops and online (paperback, ebook, audio) including:

The Schoolgirl Strangler (Booktopia)

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Book Review: THE SCHOLAR by Dervla McTiernan @DervlaMcTiernan

I have been in a bit of a blogging slump lately. Luckily, I have had the brilliantly atmospheric second novel of the Cormac Reilly crime thriller series THE SCHOLAR by Derva McTiernan to drag me out of my reading and blogging slump!

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THE SCHOLAR by Dervla McTiernan

“Being brilliant has never been so dangerous”

Paperback: 377 pages

Published: February 18th 2019 by HarperCollins – AU

ISBN: 1460754220 (ISBN13: 9781460754221)

Series: Cormac Reilly #2

Source: HarperCollins Publishers Australia

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“When DS Cormac Reilly’s girlfriend Emma stumbles across the victim of a hit and run early one morning, he is first on the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him. The dead girl is carrying an ID, that of Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company. Darcy Therapeutics has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own
ground-breaking research. The investigation into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure.

As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn’t be involved, but how well does he really know her? After all, this isn’t the first time Emma’s been accused of murder…”

THE SCHOLAR picks up the life of Irish detective Cormac Reilly not long after the ending of the runaway best selling THE RÚIN. Since then, he has moved to Galway with his girlfriend Emma so that she can take up a prestigious job at the Irish pharmaceutical giant Darcey Therapeutics.

Cormac has taken a step backwards in his policing duties which suits him quite well. Despite the boredom and petty office politics he is dealing with, he is quite enjoying living a peaceful life with Emma…until she is accused of committing an unthinkable crime that he is working on. Cormac is forced to question his loyalty to the woman he loves and his own ethics when his work on the case comes under scrutiny.

The setting of Galway University as the scene of the crime was perfectly done and really added to the tense and atmospheric feel of the novel. I love the book cover design, which includes a dark and menacing image of Galway University.

THE SCHOLAR is a page-turning crime thriller that will have you wondering what the truth really is until the very end. We’ve come to know Cormac and Emma so well that it feels like such a huge betrayal when the evidence against Emma begins to mount up and it seems as though Cormac has used his position to protect her. This is a testament to Dervla McTiernan’s excellent character development skills.

I can’t wait to read more about Cormac Reilly. 5 stars!

 

 

 

My #review of the spellbinding thriller “THE NEW GIRL” by debut author Ingrid Alexandra @IngridWrites

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THE NEW GIRL by Ingrid Alexandra

Goodreads Description

You’ve only just met.
But she already knows you so well.
When Rachel moves into the spare room in Mary’s flat, everyone is quick to jump to the conclusion that there’s something strange about her. Everyone apart from Mary.

And when Rachel starts sleepwalking, everyone’s fears grow. But there’s something about the new girl that Mary can’t help but trust, and having recently escaped a toxic relationship, she needs the support.

Rachel becomes a friend and an ally, and Mary soon discovers that they have more in common than she ever could have imagined.

In fact, Rachel seems to know more about Mary than she knows about herself…

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My Review 

Mary shares a flat with her long time best friend, Cat, and likable school teacher, Ben in a Sydney flat right by the beach. The room mates decide to bring in a new girl, Rachael, to help with the rent, but Mary is the only one out of the group who doesn’t think the new girl is a weirdo. As Mary gets to know Rachael she discovers that they have more in common than she first thought. They both have a troubled background full of secrets and betrayals, and Mary begins to grow closer to Rachael than she is with her best friend, Cat.

I don’t want to say any more about the plot of THE NEW GIRL in case I give away any of the crazy plot twists! I read this novel very quickly because I was constantly on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was really going on. I never would have guessed the ending of this novel in a million years and the final reveal was so well done. 4 stars!

About the Author 

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Ingrid Alexandra, author of THE NEW GIRL 

Ingrid Alexandra was born and raised in Sydney and now lives on the New South Wales central coast.

Her work has previously been long-listed for The Ampersand Prize and while living in London, Ingrid had the privilege of being mentored by the Guardian First Novel Award shortlisted and Nestle Prize winning author Daren King.

THE NEW GIRL is her first psychological thriller novel. She is currently working on her second.

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My #BookReview of the atmospheric psychological suspense novel THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl @alexdahlauthor

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THE BOY AT THE DOOR by Alex Dahl

Goodreads Description

This riveting psychological suspense debut by Alex Dahl asks the question, “how far would you go to hold on to what you have?”

Cecilia Wilborg has it all–a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a gorgeous home in an affluent Norwegian suburb. And she works hard to keep it all together. Too hard…

There is no room for mistakes in her life. Even taking home a little boy whose parents forgot to pick him up at the pool can put a crimp in Cecilia’s carefully planned schedule. Especially when she arrives at the address she was given
and finds an empty, abandoned house…

There’s nothing for Cecilia to do but to take the boy home with her, never realizing that soon his quiet presence and knowing eyes will trigger unwelcome memories from her past–and unravel her meticulously crafted life…

My Review 

“What would you do for the perfect life? Would you lie? Cheat? Or…kill?”

THE BOY AT THE DOOR by debut author Alex Dahl is full of atmospheric Nordic suspense that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Cecilia Wilborg has the perfect life with her handsome husband and two gorgeous daughters in the picturesque Norwegian town of Sandefjord. When the tiny and abandoned 8 year old Tobias needs a place to stay Cecilia’s perfect life slowly begins to unravel before her very eyes.

THE BOY AT THE DOOR is a brilliantly twisty and turny debut from half-American, half-Norwegian Dahl. There were a couple of times that I did need to suspend disbelief, such as the explanation for how Tobias came to stay in the Wilborg home for such an extended period, but once I decided to go with it I was too caught up with the mystery and suspense to worry about it.

I loved the first person narrative style, particularly from Cecilia’s perspective. She really did begin the novel as the perfect rich bitchy Mummy type and brilliantly descended further into madness as the novel progressed. I particularly loved the scene where she threw a champagne bottle at some of her frenemies!

A delightfully suspenseful debut and I’ll be looking forward to reading more from Alex Dahl.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.

About the Author

 

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Alex Dahl

Half American, half Norwegian, Alex Dahl was born in Oslo. She graduated with a BA in Russian and German Linguistics with International studies and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an MSc in Business Management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the UK and the US as well as a novel, Before I Leave You, in Norway in 2013. Alexandra is a serious Francophile and currently lives between London and Sandefjord.

Sandefjord is the setting of Alex’s new novel, The Boy at the Door, a brilliant psychological thriller which has already attracted worldwide interest and book deals in UK, USA, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic and Sweden.

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Winner of a copy of The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Thank you to everyone who entered the competition to win a copy of The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. I loved discovering everybody’s favourite classic movies and have added a lot of movies to my to watch list!

I entered all of the contestant’s names from WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter into a random name picker…

Teejay Canof from my Facebook page who’s favourite classic movie is Chocalat. Congratulations Teejay, I hope you love The Woman in the Window!

Win a copy of The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

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The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

 

Goodreads Synopsis

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

My Review

A.J. Finn’s debut novel The Woman in the Window has had a lot of hype surrounding it, and rightly so. Finn’s first person narrated psychological thriller is written in a similar style to recent hit thrillers Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, with a large nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window. 

The Woman in the Window’s protagonist, Anna Fox, is a lot more grown up than the usual thriller protagonist. She’s a 38 year old former psychologist with agoraphobia who passes her time drinking wine, watching classic movies, and spying on her neighbours through the window of her New York apartment. 

When Anna sees something that doesn’t make any sense, and she can’t convince anybody to believe her, we are taken on a twisted journey that that will have you holding onto your seat until the final page. 

“Just remember: It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening.” 

 

Giveaway

I have an extra copy of The Woman in the Window to giveaway to one lucky reader thanks to Harper Collins Books Australia. All you need to do to enter is let me know in the comment section or any of my social media pages what is your favourite classic movie?

I will randomly draw a winner Monday, March 5th, 2018.

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Review: Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman

 Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again… rebecca

Rebecca’s Tale is an unauthorised sequel of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Gothic mystery. The year is 1951 and Colonel Arthur Julyan, long-time friend of the De Winter family, is still haunted by the circumstances of her death. With the help of his daughter, Ellie, and mysterious newcomer, Terance Grey, he determines to uncover the mysteries surrounding Rebecca’s death and her life before Manderlay.

The novel is told from multiple points of view, Colonel Julyan, Ellie, Terrance Grey, and Rebecca. During the course of their investigations Rebecca’s journal is discovered! Her journal details her childhood and why/how she came to marry Maxim De Winter and come to Manderlay. I loved reading from Rebecca’s point of view, even if she is proven to be an unreliable narrator, along with everybody in this story.

A lot of people have posted negative reviews of this novel. I think the biggest issue is that this version of Rebecca doesn’t match the way they see her. The author does use quite a lot of poetic license to create her version of Rebecca and the other characters. I really love this novel, though. It’s not quite as atmospheric or mysterious as the original, but it was still a very enjoyable read.

Description

April 1951. It has been twenty years since the death of Rebecca, the hauntingly beautiful first wife of Maxim de Winter, and twenty years since Manderley, the de Winter family’s estate, was destroyed by fire. But Rebecca’s tale is just beginning.

Colonel Julyan, an old family friend, receives an anonymous package concerning Rebecca. An inquisitive young scholar named Terence Gray appears and stirs up the quiet seaside hamlet with questions about the past and the close ties he soon forges with the Colonel and his eligible daughter, Ellie. Amid bitter gossip and murky intrigue, the trio begins a search for the real Rebecca and the truth behind her mysterious death.

Details

Title Rebecca’s Tale

Author Sally Beauman

ISBN 006117467X (ISBN13: 9780061174674)

Published 2000

Pages 464

Genre Mystery, Suspense, Historical Fiction, Gothic

Source Own Copy

My Rating 5/5 stars

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Fetish by Tara Moss

Fast-Paced Australian Thriller

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Img Source: Goodreads

Makedde (Mak) Vanderwall is a Canadian model and psychology student. When she arrives in Sydney, Australia for a modelling shoot she discovers that her best friend, Catherine, has been horrifically murdered. Mak is determined to catch her friend’s killer, but will she find him before he makes her his next victim?

I have been meaning to check this series out for ages and finally picked up a copy at my local second hand bookstore. Fetish is the first novel of Canadian born Australian model, Tara Moss, and first in the Makadde Vanderwall series. I can see there a lot of similarities between Moss and Mak, so the insights into the modelling world really interested me.

Fetish is a fast-paced thriller and liked the main character, Mak. A fantastic first novel, and I would be interested to read the next book in the series.

Description

Mak is young, beautiful- and in grave danger. An international fashion model, she arrived in Australia on assignment, only to find her best friend brutally murdered, the latest victim of a serial killer with a very deadly fetish. Before she knows it, Mak herself is caught up in the hunt for the killer .and trapped in a twisted game of cat-and-mouse. Who can you trust and where can you turn when you are the dark obsession of a sadistic psychopath?

Tara Moss began modeling at fifteen and worked as a top model around the world for the years before becoming a full-time crime novelist.

Details

Title: Fetish

Author: Tara Moss

Published: Leisure Books January 1st 1999

ISBN: 084395633X (ISBN13: 9780843956337)

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Australian

Pages: 325

Source: Own Copy

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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Mystery and plot twists galore! Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

When Libby Day was seven years old her mother and two sisters were darkplacesmurdered in their sleep. Libby was so certain that her 15 year old brother, Ben, committed the gruesome murders she even testified against him in court. But when she is approached by the head of a group of amateur crime sleuths to help solve the crime she begins to wonder if perhaps they are right and Ben is innocent after all.

The novel is told from the perspectives of Libby in the present day as well as Ben and their mother, Patty, on the day of the murders. I love novels told from multiple points of view when it is done as well as in Dark Places.

The premise of Dark Places drew me in instantly. I was dying to find out what actually happened the night of the murders from the very beginning of the novel, and it was certainly worth the wait. There was no way I could have guessed the final plot twist!

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A bonus Instagram photo of Zeus who thought I should be taking photos of him instead of books!

 

Description:

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?

Details:

Title: Dark Places

Author: Gillian Flynn

ISBN: 0307341569 (ISBN13: 9780307341563)

Published: Published June 10th 2010 by Phoenix (first published January 1st 2009)

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Pages: 424

Source: I purchased my copy

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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