Jan 29, 2015

Book Review – Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

moriartySherlock Holmes is Dead!

No, not really. Not unless you have been hiding under a rock since Federation. 

Holmes’ death is largely immaterial to events that play out in this novel. He doesn’t appear (or does he?) but his and Watson’s roles are taken up by the American Pinkerton agent and narrator of this tale, Frederick Chase and Athelney Jones, Scotland Yard Inspector and Holmes fanboi/stalker.

Moriarty is a Holmesian tale that occurs after the death of Moriarty and Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls.  Our narrator Chase, is on the tail of an American master criminal who he believes was attempting meet up with Moriarty to form a continent spanning criminal empire.  While at the Falls he meets with Scotland Yard Inspector, Athelney Jones who has been sent from London to inspect the body of Moriarty.  Holmes’ body isn’t found.

Chase and Jones set out to impersonate Moriarty and meet with the mysterious American mastermind so Chase will get his man. Jones is an admirable Holmes stand in, having being spurred on by his offhand treatment in Dr Watson’s narratives to become a more Holmes like detective.

The story supplies ample action and mystery for the Holmes fan and if you let yourself get drawn in you will be surprised by the resolution.  This is a good outing from Horowitz in a field so well ploughed.


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Jan 28, 2015

Book Release – Clade by James Bradley


Today is publication day for James Bradley’s Clade.  James is a well known Australian book critic and author and frequent guest on the Coode Street Podcast.  Booktopia have some signed copies for sale.  So if you are interested click here.

So what’s it about?

A provocative, urgent novel about time, family and how a changing planet might change our lives, from James Bradley, acclaimed author of The Resurrectionist and editor of The Penguin Book of the Ocean.

Compelling, challenging and resilient, over ten beautifully contained chapters, Clade canvasses three generations from the very near future to late this century. Central to the novel is the family of Adam, a scientist, and his wife Ellie, an artist. Clade opens with them wanting a child and Adam in a quandary about the wisdom of this.

Their daughter proves to be an elusive little girl and then a troubled teenager, and by now cracks have appeared in her parents' marriage. Their grandson is in turn a troubled boy, but when his character reappears as an adult he's an astronomer, one set to discover something astounding in the universe. With great skill James Bradley shifts us subtly forward through the decades, through disasters and plagues, miraculous small moments and acts of great courage. Elegant, evocative, understated and thought-provoking, it is the work of a writer in command of the major themes of our time.


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Jan 27, 2015

Book Review – Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

burial-ritesIt’s always a little difficult to read and review a book that has received a good degree of hype, deserved or not. 

I can’t help but read Burial Rites with an expectation that it be good, very good.  It has won about four awards to date and been shortlisted for almost twice that number.  Kent was rumoured to have received a six figure advance in addition to earlier prize winnings and this is her debut novel. She is a fellow South Australian and has been well supported by local media. She’s also received national coverage in the form of an Australian Story profile.

Any Australian reading Burial Rites will have to negotiate this coverage and the expectations that grow with it. They will also know to some degree the narrative, or at least its outcome.

Taking on an historical figure as a central character is always going to bring with it challenges.  Those challenges would be difficult for a writer at any stage of their career, let alone someone on debut.

So the big challenge is getting us hooked into a story we know the outcome of. Has Kent done this?  Yes and convincingly so.  She does this first, by slowly conjuring a believable and stark setting, remote Iceland in the early 1800’s.  Historical excerpts (translations of articles, poems and letters) give the work a certain verisimilitude but I think Kent’s skill, her almost poetic description of the land, the elements and the people breath life into this story.

Much of the story takes place within tight confines.  Agnes Magnusdottir has been sentenced to death for her role in the murder of two men.  She is billeted with a local farming family while awaiting the execution and it is at this farm that we begin to learn her story - the story of her life as well as the events leading up to the murders.

Part of the popularity of this story is I think that it is not particularly unique in the wider sense of the treatment of women.  Indeed the story of last woman executed in South Australia almost mirrors the events in this book.  Burial Rites’ relevance though stretches beyond that.  We can find similar examples in women currently prosecuted for murdering their husbands, despite being the victims of repeated sexual and physical abuse.  In that sense the story of a women born and executed nearly 200 years ago has direct relevance to modern lives.

I did feel very much confined in the reading of this book, as if I were in the room or claustrophobic baĆ°stofa with the family.  Quite a feat if you consider I was seated in a room with fourteen foot ceilings in the midst of an Australian summer.  It is an indication of Kent’s skill in weaving a believable story.

Kent has also delivered a character who is easy to like.  Agnes is intelligent, inquisitive and a hard worker. She’s also an archetypal underdog who bears most injustices resolutely and never quite presents as the victim.  That she ultimately dies in this story doesn’t diminish her.

Try to ignore the hype, come to Burial Rites in the expectation of a moving, well executed story. A story that might cause you some reflection but that will definitely deliver you to another time and place. 


This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015.  Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.aww-badge-2015


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