Quickie book review #5 Woe-mera


“Then, with his eyes still closed, he reached into his pocket for the rabbit’s foot and gripped it tightly in his hand, pushing it deeper, safer, inside his coat.”

It’s the late 80s, and Ben and Fab are 10 year-old best friends who spend their free days in the country town of Wimmera catching yabbies, running away from the school bully Porky, and playing cricket and two-square.

But then the girl down the road hangs herself, and soon a mysterious stranger moves into the house where she used to live… and starts to take a special interest in Ben.

Two decades later and the past has finally caught up with the present. Will justice prevail on the horrible traumas experienced so many years ago, or will life itself dish out its own brand of karma?

This novel was a fast read for me, for two main reasons: both because the content was hard to read at times, and I had to quickly move past it… but then I wanted to know more, so I was reading desperately fast hoping all would end up okay.

The novel is broken up into 3 parts, and I can easily break down how I was feeling in each of them. Part 1 is the brewing, hold your breath, oh God no part.
Part 2 is the ‘just say it, just say it, just say it’ part that makes you want to keep turning the page.
Part 3 brings it all out in the open, good, and bad.

Gripes: The content is quite difficult and may be impossible for some to get through. If you’re a parent, hell if you’re just a decent human being, you may struggle and be saddened to read many sections. You’ve been warned.

While the ending is really very full circle, I found it both sad and hopeful. I was quite upset about one aspect, and nearly cried whole big tears, but like I said, full circle.

Pros: It’s a gripping story that paints the picture of 80s country life and the secrets that it possesses exceptionally well. It’s a really masterful piece, even if it is about a pretty horrible thing.

Themes of dark family secrets that border on sadism, strong friendships where the need to protect stands above all else, and the small-town, simple-minded folk that flit and float away throughout all of this are the glue that holds this story together. I felt like I was there in town with the characters, with Mark Brandi making it all the more real with his expert grip on weaving the social and cultural references of the time into the tale. It’s a real strength of his.

It’s a deeply troubled story woven into a fascinating tale about the things we need to share with those we love, and explores the reasons why we don’t… I for one am still thinking of this story, a couple of weeks after finishing it, and the characters are still well embedded in my head.

My new rating system? The score out of 10 where I need to know where the characters are.

‘Need to know where the characters are’ rating system: 9/10.

Genre, targeted audience, word count… none of this matters. All that matters is, how much you still want to know about it.

Hit me up if you’ve read this one, I would love to discuss this unique and dark story.


Quickie book review #4 Don’t go into the mountains…

KYLE PERRY – The Bluffs

“Jasmine felt Madison squeeze her arm affectionately, and she turned with a smile, patted Madison’s leg, snuggled closer. I hate you so much bitch, she thought.”

Jasmine Murphy and her friends are about to embark on a year 10 camp into the mountains. The destination is the Great Western Tiers National Park in Northern Tasmania, place of legend and folklore of the infamous ‘Hungry Man disappearances’ of 5 girls in 1985.

The mystery of the folklore comes into the present day as they head off on the hiking trip… and out of it comes more questions, secrets, twisted relationships, hidden motives and betrayal than any ‘hungry man’ from the forest can poke a stick at.

Gripes: None, other than it finished! I noted with amusement some common small-town mystery character tropes… the out-of-town detective with a secret, the local drug-lord, corrupt cop, etc.

Pros: EVERYTHING ELSE! I’m calling this my book of the year so far. There is a particular eeriness about this novel that keeps the voyeuristic reader wanting to turn page after page despite the dark themes. After reading Christian White’s front cover review, the blurb, and then that Hungry Man poem, I was honestly shitting bricks, this former lover of ghost and horror movies now turned wimp after motherhood.

But this novel is so, so much more, thank God. Sure it’s crime, but it’s also YA, mystery, small-town secrets (oh the secrets!) and supernatural, with an amazing analysis of the small-town psyche and the various characters that present, entwined in a beautiful sadistic plot of BONE BROTH.

We witness the story unfold through many characters eyes, and this brings the plots and secrets forward to the point that it becomes physically impossible to put the book down. There are so many surprises and secrets all the way to the end, making it a simply brilliant work of fiction.

Note first impressions and initial words said – they provide clues. A great Shawshank feel in it too, for those who are fans of the redemption movie.

Also, sequel potential? I can’t wait!

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.