Tag: crime

Book Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Book Review: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

The Word is Murder Anthony Horowitz Publisher: Harper Collins First Published: August 2017 RRP: $27.99 paperback Anthony Horowitz is one of those authors who has been on my radar for a long, long time. I’ve never read his popular Alex Rider series, but they’ve been…

Childhood Favorites: The Teenage Years

Childhood Favorites: The Teenage Years

Last week I blogged about my childhood favorite stories and series. This week I bring you part 2 where I describe the novels that got to me in my teens. Again, in no order. 1. The Merlin trilogy by Mary Stewart Mary Stewart was famous…

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?” Book Review

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?” Book Review

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?”

Lemony Snicket

Publisher: Put Me In The Story

First Published: 2015

RRP: $16 US

Regular readers of this blog and my Goodreads account know that I am an enormous Snicket fan. I love the word play and the ambiguities and the sadness and the grey moral pit which is humanity and the quiet humanism which underpins both A Series of Unfortunate Events and Snicket’s newer series, All The Wrong Questions. Regular readers also know that in some ways I love this newer series more: the writing is sharper and packs more punches, the characterizations are all spot on and the film noir spoof suits VFD’s early days perfectly. So it was a delightful surprise when I received an email from American publisher, Put Me In The Story, requesting a review of the customized reprint of the series. Children have always loved placement in stories, especially detective style ones where adults are wrong and children fix things (and adults who are young at heart love these too) and I could see immediately that the Snicket world of VFD, book readers beating out followers of violence and a story filled with codes and secret handshakes would suit a customized medium perfectly. Snicket had practically gone there with An Unauthorized Autobiography anyway. I leaped at the chance.


In this final story, Lemony Snicket must board a train returning to the city to finally uncover Hangfire’s diabolical plot and help his friends try to save Stain’d By The Sea one last time. At first I was afraid the story was a spoof of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. It wasn’t at all. Strange and bitter and sad, instead the story reveals the source of the VFD schism, the corruption already alive in VFD long before Olaf came along, and the beginnings of Snicket’s lonely journey to being both a part of, and seperate, to his secret society. The ending definitely leaves room for a follow-up series exploring Snicket’s romance with Beatrice and subsequent parting as the schism saw them labelled to different sides.

I have always loved Snicket’s ambiguity about people and their actions. The third story in this series saw Snicket make a rousing speech about literacy and decency and passive fights and him and his friends seem to be all on the same side. By this novel’s end, we feel sorry for the hapless and confused Theodora S Markson, the fatherless Ellington Feint and the wild and disillusioned Hangfire. The mysterious villain is revealed to be deranged, but not without cause, and it is a mark of how brave this series has been that Snicket is forced to do wrong to save the town and his friends and concede to some of Hangfire’s perspective. It is clever, if deeply tragic, that Snicket loses his friends to save the town.

Ellington Feint and her terrible coffee have always been an interesting component of the series and the story picks up the second she spars with Snicket: ambiguous, lost, alluring and childish. Snicket’s love for her is a precursor to how he loves Beatrice; with all of his heart and soul and damn the consequences. Her imprisonment with Kit leaves open many possibilities. All of them interesting.

I recently attended a Writers Party where someone said Lemony Snicket was a children’s author. Maybe that’s how he is marketed. That’s definitely not how his series can be read. Yes, the early Series of Unfortunate Events books are juvenile. But later books, and this most recent series, teach adults as well as children and make us question our values about good and bad, right and wrong. For there is still a kernel of hope if you see beyond the terrible waste and sadness of the ending to this series, just as there always was in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Tor books had a great review exploring this element here

“We are an aristocracy,” Snicket tells Moxie in “Shouldn’t You Be In School?” “Not an aristocracy of power, based on rank or wealth, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate, and the plucky. Our members are found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between us when we meet.” He goes on to say, “Our schisms and arguments might cause us to disappear. It won’t matter. People like us always slip through the net. Our true home is the imagination, and our kingdom is the wide-open world.” It is a beautifully telling quote amongst a series of beautifully telling quotes. Yes, people are good and bad like a chef’s salad, including Snicket himself, but if we can try to be good and kind and decent and well-read, perhaps we can leave the world a little better than when we began in it. It’s the perfect story to share through customization because it’s the moral all of us want for our children.

All four books were presented  as an associate’s training guide, and include:

·         Personalized covers with the reader’s name and initials cleverly integrated in the front and back cover art

·         Reader’s initial designed into the opening artwork page

·         Photo of the reader included on a character portrait page

·         Unique customized letters and interactive messages to the reader from Lemony Snicket

·         Two of the reader’s friends’ names incorporated in the letters and messages

·         Dedication page for the gift giver to write a personalized message to the reader

 Only the most recent book was printed in hardcover. The rest are paperback.

My brother loved this Christmas gift. He loved the messages addressed to him and the photo on the opening page of each book and the references to places and people he knew, as though he himself had joined VFD. And he’s twenty-three. So what are you waiting for? Interested in children’s books with meat? Go forth and purchase!

“Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?”: 4/5 inky stars

All four books in this series were supplied by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Flash Fiction: The Hestia

Flash Fiction: The Hestia

This piece was originally published last year as part of IfBook Australia’s Open Changes project, but I thought my blog readers might enjoy reading my brief crime piece here. The Hestia My hips wedge against the boat rim. I can taste the roughness of knotted…

(Dis)Ability in Genre Fiction: A Small List

(Dis)Ability in Genre Fiction: A Small List

A few weeks back I asked my Facebook if they could recommend books to me which depicted protagonists with disability in genre fiction where the story wasn’t an ‘issues’ story (like Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time) or where the person with…

Anthology Review: Suspended in Dusk

Anthology Review: Suspended in Dusk

Title: Suspended in Dusk
Editor: Simon Dewar
Publisher: Books of the Dead Press
Year Published: 2014
RRP: $99c Amazon

I made two resolutions to do with my reading habits at the beginning of this year:

1. To read a wider range of genre fiction, including genres I am not so keen on
2. To review, read and interview a wider range of Australian authors, editors and publishers for this blog

I have pushed myself to read a bigger amount of horror and short story collections, so I jumped at the opportunity to read Simon Dewar’s new anthology Suspended in Dusk: a collection of fresh horror shorts from new and established writers. I am no horror aficionado, but as a layman on the outside looking in, this anthology has much to offer to any eager readers.

From the blurb:

A time between times.

A whore hides something monstrous and finds something special.
A homeless man discovers the razor blade inside the apple.
Unlikely love is found in the strangest of places.
Secrets and dreams are kept… forever.

Or was it all just a trick of the light?

Suspended in Dusk brings together 19 stories by some of the finest minds in Dark Fiction:

Ramsey Campbell, John Everson, Rayne Hall, Shane McKenzie, Angela Slatter, Alan Baxter, S.G Larner, Wendy Hammer, Sarah Read, Karen Runge, Toby Bennett, Benjamin Knox, Brett Rex Bruton, Icy Sedgwick, Tom Dullemond, Armand Rosamilia, Chris Limb, Anna Reith, J.C. Michael.

Introduction by Bram Stoker Award Winner and World Horror Convention Grand Master, Jack Ketchum.

The collection features a range of horror writers from UK, USA, South Africa and Australia and includes tales of the weird, the zombie apocalypse, unexpected spirits and murder, graveyards, spraying body parts and ghosts of history past. All 19 stories are inspired and linked by the theme of ‘dusk’ – whether the literal definition of the transition from light to dark, or more metaphorical permeations of evil or the in between space between good and evil, moral and immoral, good and bad.

Highlight stories were those by Alan Baxter (on the darkness within), Anna Reith, Arman Rosamilia, J C Michael, Ramsey Campbell (with a clever take on the universal fear of being buried alive), Wendy Hammer (with her tribute to the late Ray Bradbury) and Angela Slatter (with a spin on who’s playing at villain and victim, hunted and hunter). My absolute favorite story, however, came from Brett Rex Bruton with his thoroughly post modern hard boiled crime story told out of order, featuring tongue in cheek cliches left, right and centre, and literary plot devices that were central to the crime taking place (the object of everyone’s desire is a literal maguffin in a box).

The anthology is currently 99c on Amazon, so if you like horror or short stories or just taking punts on emerging writers, this is the anthology to buy!

Suspended in Dusk: 4/5 inky stars

You can buy the anthology here.

Weird Fiction and Other Fun Labels: An Interview with Deborah Biancotti

Weird Fiction and Other Fun Labels: An Interview with Deborah Biancotti

I really loved Bad Power and I wanted more. I didn’t actually think that Deborah would agree to an interview, but to my pleasant surprise, she did. Not only has she supplied me with lengthy answers, many are also very thoughtful. Read on to find…

Book Review: Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti

Book Review: Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti

Bad Power, Deborah Biancotti Twelfth Planet Press October 2011 RRP: $18 Australian I first heard of Deborah Biancotti two years ago at a Conflux Convention. I encountered her in a crime panel when I decided to break up my steady diet of epic fantasy, doctor…

Author Interview: Sarah Hilary

Author Interview: Sarah Hilary

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an author interview and I am very lucky indeed that Sarah had some time to talk to me about her debut crime novel, Someone Else’s Skin. I have known Sarah online for a few years and had the pleasure of seeing her picked up by an agent and later a major publisher. She is talented, edgy, has a wicked turn of mind and a wonderful passion for her chosen genre. Today, she gives us the low down on her experience in the crime genre for the blog. Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions, Sarah!


1. How did you first discover the crime genre and what is it about crime writing that appeals to you?

I was about nine or ten, and someone introduced me to Sherlock Holmes. I love the complexity and the neatness of the genre, the way it sets up expectations and then perverts them. At its best, it’s a very anarchic genre.

What are your favourite crime reads?

Innocent Blood by PD James. The Collector by John Fowles. The Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. More recently, Fred Vargas’s Adamsberg series.

3. You write wonderful, and award winning, crime flash fiction, established the Flashbang competition, and support other flash writers. What is it about micro crime fiction that appeals to you?

The discipline and the wickedness: telling a story in the time it takes to smoke a cigarette; it shouldn’t work, but it absolutely can and does.

4. What advice do you have for aspiring flash fic writers?

Take us straight to the detail of the story. Think of those long zoom shots at the start of Hitchcock’s films – the cityscape, the street, the building, the room, the desk, the knife… Now jump-cut to the knife. But – and here’s the trick – do it without losing the story. You need to be a bit of a magician to pull it off. It’s why I admire stories like Iain Rowan’s Search History so much. Iain won the first ever Flashbang contest and his story is magnificent. Check it out: http://flashbangcontest.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/winning-story-2012/

5. Your debut crime novel, book one in the DI Marnie Rome series, comes out at the end of the month with Headline. I know that Someone Else’s Skin took a bit to get to print. How many years did it take from first draft to publication date and how many times did you rewrite your manuscript?

Twelve months, BUT I’d written four unpublished novels before that, so I’d put in my time earlier on. Now I usually take about three or four months to do a first draft then two or three months to get it to a second draft; so one major rewrite and then fine-tuning.

6. Your publication story is one that is proof of never giving up. What helped you to keep going when the writer’s road got tough?

Bloodymindedness and a dash of defiance. Oh and some really, really good friends. I think a writer’s ego is a strange beast – you have to lose almost all the arrogance you start out with, but not so much that you give up on the (crazy, mad, impossible) dream that you will be published. The iron has to enter your soul, but not at the expense of your imagination.

7. Someone Else’s Skin deals with complex forms of sexual violence around culture, race, gender and sexual preference. How much research was required for Someone Else’s Skin to make your story believable?

I think if you’re dealing with complex and sensitive issues than your research has to be up to scratch. But it also has to end somewhere, so that you can tell your story. I’m telling stories not writing non-fiction, so I would never over-emphasise the extent of my research. I hope I did enough for the story and its characters to have integrity and to move the reader enough to engage him/her with the subject matter.

8. Can you give us a teaser for Book Number Two? Maybe a cryptic clue?

I’ll give you a couple. Have you ever played Happy Families? Well, imagine if that was a matter of life or death. Now look around you and find the most innocuous object within easy reach. How could you turn that into a weapon and who would you use it against?

9. You have said before that you find characterization easier than plotting, yet Someone Else’s Skin juggles three different multi-layered plots. Was it hard to structure your book with these three plot lines and what’s your advice for people in search of a great story to match their great characters?

I didn’t structure the first draft in that way. It developed into the multi-layered plot as I added the detail. It looks like this is how I’ll do the second book too, so perhaps that’s my best advice: add layers once you have the spine of the story in place. I do think plot comes from character, not the other way around, although obviously the more plot you throw at your characters the more they grow and change, so it cuts both ways.

10. What’s a question about your writing/work that you’ve never been asked before and you’ve always wanted to be asked? Now answer it.

The question would be, “Marnie Rome is a strong female lead. Have you always written strong women?” And my answer would be No. All my early attempts at novels had heroes not heroines. I found it really difficult to write a female lead, partly I think because I was anxious about messing up, and partly because growing up, all my favourite books had heroes not heroines. But I’m over that now; I absolutely love writing Marnie. I love writing Noah and Ed too, but it’s all about Marnie for me.

Sarah Hilary lives in Bath, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. She’s also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin, will be published in February 2014 by Headline in the UK and Penguin in the US. A second book in the series will be published a year later. Set in London, both books feature DI Marnie Rome, a woman with a tragic past and a unique insight into domestic violence.

You can find her at her blog Crawl Space, or on twitter Sarah_Hilary

Crime Fiction in the Spotlight: A Trifle Dead by Livia Day

Crime Fiction in the Spotlight: A Trifle Dead by Livia Day

A Trifle Dead, Livia Day, Twelfth Planet Press, 2013. RRP: $19.95 In my other reading life, I do enjoy a good armchair crime novel. For a week’s holiday last year, some friends and I went to Tasmania and travelled around for a few days living…