Quickie book review #3 Melbourne murder re-imagined

KATHERINE KOVACIC – The Portrait of Molly Dean

“But now as thoughts of murder and missing files chase each other around my head, I realise something: I’m completely hooked.”

Alex Clayton is a Melbourne art dealer, with a strong hunch that a portrait of a woman who was murdered in the 1930s will fare her well come resale time. As she sets about finding out more about the subject of the portrait, Molly Dean, she is sucked into a tale that leads her deeper and deeper to expose the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

The first Alex Clayton mystery novel by Kovacic re-tells the real-life story of Melbourne woman Mary “Molly” Dean, who was brutally murdered in the 1930s in St Kilda. She uses fictional characters and motives to reimagine what might have happened.

This is possible, because the case remains unsolved to this very day. Nothing spikes interest like an unsolved murder, right? Just ask the creators of all those successful crime podcasts. There is clever interplay between the world of Molly Dean’s 1930s in the days and weeks leading up to her death, and the ‘current’ 1999 day of art dealer Alex Clayton.

Gripes: Not many. I chuckled at the convenient entrance of some people in the story to allow Alex to re-hash the details with someone else, i.e. her mother calling her.

Not a gripe, but amazed to find the words sanitiser and toilet paper within the first 6 pages of each other, and I kid you not, corona is on page 85… This was published in 2018. 😮

Pros: Cleverly executed, I mean you know the ending, well that of Molly Dean’s anyway as you begin to read… yet knowing this and still wanting to know what happened? Well, it’s crime genre, and you have to know who done it, even if it is a fictional whodunnit, right? Despite not being a major art buff and art is definitely a dominant theme, I was hooked early on.

I also loved the nod to various Melbourne locations. We’re taken to places such as Luna Park and Flinders Street Station, and let’s face it in this day of lockdown we can live vicariously, right? Albert Park Lake, Toorak, and inner-city Melbourne are all made mention of.

Molly never got her closure, she still hasn’t in real life, so it’s a kind tribute when people try to settle it for her. When we recreate the past, however fictional, we try to work things out for the sake of those involved, but more so for ourselves. It brings a peace and closure to the story, and provides a voice for those that can speak no more.

For mystery and crime buffs, you can find out more about Molly Dean if you google podcasts and books on the subject.

Early (coffee) traders

Coffee Traders

3 Blake Street Mornington

(Visited November ’18)

My prerequisite for that Saturday morning was, ‘which local café is open early enough for me to grab a decent bite before my seriously stressful word-passion-fuelled day?’

Or in other words ‘who has good coffee and good grub?’

Some other types of words, okay, not so fancy, but still, they drive the point home.

Because I was headed to the city via train to catch a 10am all day course on the creative process of Writing a Life… and I needed to be fuelled up something decent for something as nerve-wracking as that, reading my own life words out to an audience of strangers in a small room, far, far FAR from home.

And also far from any food or coffee. Which is why what I started with was sooo important that day.

I walked into Coffee Traders, the small café that had won the open-early and good-coffee competition, and I already knew the latter because I’d had great coffee there multiple times already… with an amazing slice of cherry pie. Oh my God. I didn’t even know how good cherry pie could be until I tried it, and DROOOOOLED.

It was post 7am, and I was one of two customers hanging around the joint. No, I lie… there was an older couple drinking their lattes out front.

So I was one of three. 😉

Something substantial. It had to be decent, sustain me the trip to the city, the nerves, the nail-biting anticipation…

So I got the –

Breakfast ciabatta – traders’ traditional smashed egg with bacon, melted cheese, rocket and tomato relish

Oh, it was decent alright. Juicy, and moist, the bun was soft, and the whole thing together, soft and saucy and the perfect kind of meal to eat after a big night out… or before a word-filled day. 😉

It was really filling. I made sure to get my coffee to arrive as I finished eating, and so my cap soon followed.

It was smooth, strong, and a perfect addition to a satisfying breakfast burger.

And off I went, the butterflies in my stomach being held down by a good start to the day…

Food: 7/10. Pleasing yet different enough to be memorable.

Coffee: 7/10. Perfectly hot and strong to accompany the breakfast burger.

Ambience: Okay… quiet? Ha ha. Having frequented this place many times both before and after my word-filled day, it’s a small café that feels intimate but due to its size can get cosy and noisy, really quickly. If you like making friends with the person on the next table, or hearing about their weekend due to earshot, then this is the place for you.

Staff: Friendly.

People: All the locals, so the pensioners, tradies, Mums and bubs, couples, and young-ish creative types (ahem, me).

Price: Under $20 for both, an acceptable and pleasing start to the day.

Advice: Eat the cherry pie! Eat the cherry pie! Eat the cherry pie!

If you don’t like being squashed, go there either at non-peak coffee time (late morning, after lunch) sit outside, or get takeaway.

In a nutshell: Coffee Traders has become one of my many local faves neighbouring the ‘Main Street’ strip, and whether it’s at the start, middle or end of the day, I can always find a reason to stop by…

For that cherry pie! 😉

Coffee Traders Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Quickie book review #2 Amelia in all of us

ERIN GOUGH – Amelia Westlake

“Bios are bullshit.”

For my next ‘quickie’ book review I bring to you a former winner of the coveted Hardie Grant Egmont award, the Ampersand Prize, and with it her second book, Amelia Westlake.

Will Everhart and Harriet Price couldn’t be any more different. Will goes against the mainstream, battling against the establishment as much as she does symmetrical haircuts, while Harriet is the picture perfect high-achieving student, as blonde as she is bouncy on the tennis courts.

A sudden shared goal brings them together to shed light on some unfair treatment being dished out at their prestigious all-girls school.

But they need a ruse, and they can’t use their real name… enter their personal work of fiction, Amelia Westlake, a so-called student at Rosemead Grammar.

It’s a high school whodunnit, only we know whodunnit and we’re waiting for the penny to drop for the powers that be. I love being part of the know. And they go from girls barely able to stand each other, to working well together, to really working well together!

Gripes: Very few, this book was superbly written and grabbed me at every chapter. Minor things like a Nancy Drew/Jessica Fletcher type reveal when the secret is revealed and we get a massive info dump, kind of made me cringe, if only a little.

Continuity piqued my interest when Harriet needs to look up Will’s house address from the school contact list, but the thing is, she’s already been there. Compare pages 192 and 236. I’m a stickler for details.

Pros: This book has so much character. Will and Harriet are so varied in their life, personalities and styles, that it’s impossible to believe you will love them both… and yet you do, so so much. This YA explores so many teenage issues and topics of class, race, same-sex relationships, discrimination, and world issues, while maintaining that really teen-centric vibe and keeping it light and on the pulse all the way through. Very current, and very diverse. I can see the lengths gone to tie up every possible loose end, and the work apparent in doing that makes me stand up and do a standing ovation.

Also, Gough’s ability to write herself out of difficult situations without relying on the deus ex machina, is impressive indeed. I was scratching my head thinking, how will she get from here, to there?

But she did.

One more quote, I can’t leave it at just one.

“Star signs are a loud of crap, but I’m willing to bet she’s a Leo.”

Must read for context. 🤣🤣

My ‘No’ List

Every so often you come across a realisation that makes you stop and think, and it literally blows your mind.

You discover yourself in a whole other way.

I came across a blog post on Instagram recently, by author Sally Hepworth. She had been interviewed on a podcast and had happily shared her list of no’s… that is, things she says a firm NO to, time and time again.

Her list was so surprising, so long, so wide and varied, that she was asked to share it again… the short version, I believe. 😮

Here are some (emphasis on ‘some’) of the insane things on her list that she says NO to:

  1. Entering the school grounds of her kids for ANY reason

2. Cooking dinner

3. Remembering birthdays

4. Entertaining at her home (apart from her close friends, and then it’s only takeout 😮😮)

5. Talking on the phone (unless it’s work or an emergency)

6. Dancing

7. Playing with her kids – not like park outings or play dates, she means more like hide and seek or dolls 😬

8. Going to the supermarket

I KNOW! MIND BLOWN, right?

I was freaking out, because firstly she has 3 kids. And secondly, I do all of those things, sometimes daily!

It must be said here that Sally has a very supportive husband who pretty much does all the things she doesn’t as she goes about supporting the family with her day-job, i.e. writing.

Nonetheless, it was an enlightening and thought-provoking piece, and it left me with the ultimate question…

What is on my ‘no’ list?

I went to Hubbie the next day, a little upset. I actually felt like I didn’t have much of a ‘no’ list! Sally was so badass, sure of herself, laying down rules and foundations, etc etc.

And Hubbie said to me “that’s not a bad thing!”

Awww. Trust him to make me feel better.

He assured me that not having a big no list was not bad. It meant I was easy going and chilled about things, and that was great in itself, just as Sally is awesome for setting her boundaries!

We can all be awesome, and are awesome… just in different ways. 😁

So, I must ask, and I bet you’re already wondering, counting, pondering… what is on your definitive ‘no’ list? This is the list that you are very clear-cut about, no umms, maybes, sometimes yes, sometimes no.

This is dead set, NO.

Now that’s not to say that you aren’t allowed to ever change your no list. In fact I would be a little disappointed if you didn’t change at least some through the years. That’s life, and we are always changing and evolving, shifting as we enter different life stages and come across new realisations.

Do you wanna know what’s on my list? (But you have to promise to share some of yours!)

Here’s my very small ‘no’ list, and I’ve been sitting on it for weeks now so I know it won’t get much longer, despite my hardest to be super badass 🤣

  1. Ironing. It is overrated, time wasting, and I hate it. I admit, if I have to do it (pre-fancy occasion), I begrudgingly pull out the iron… but I curse the whole time, and still think it’s shit when I’m done.
  2. Super high heels. Like, why would I want to risk killing myself, and buckling my toes in the process? And walking like a baby horse that’s just stood up for the first time?
  3. The cold, and cold activities. The snow can wait for me, like all my life.
  4. Sucking up to people. I physically can’t do it. I recoil. If you think you need to suck up to someone, news flash, you don’t, you just need them out of your life.
  5. Coke. Never. Ever. I found my kindred spirit without meeting them in my uni days, when scrawled along the outside of a building I saw the graffitied words “coke is great toilet cleaner.” Now when I ask baby girl what coke is good for, she says happily “cleaning toilets.” Case closed.
  6. Any messy activities baby girl engages in, like play doh, glitter, glue, paint… must have newspaper underneath, and must be supervised! (Not so much a ‘no’, as a ‘no buts’). I’ve even been known to set her up outside on sunny days, on the grass, just so I have less mess to deal with.

That’s it. That’s my minuscule list, but I guess looking over it I’m a little badass about it. 🤣 It’s really easy to go the easy route and start listing food and drinks you don’t eat, but that’s cheating a bit, and unless it’s something truly shocking, I don’t think it counts as one to put on the ‘no’ list.

So now, share! Please tell me yours. 😁📣

Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash