FIND THE TIME TO TACKLE THESE BOOKS SLOWLY, SAVOURING THE WRITERS’ CHUTZPAH AND WELL-PLOTTED SURPRISES.
TWO NIGHTS Kathy Reichs, William Heinemann, $32.99 Police officer Sunnie Night has retired due to injuries sustained in the line of duty. She still hankers for the adrenaline rush so she accepts a private assignment. As her own bizarre story seeps into the ongoing hunt for a kidnapped teenager, we understand why this particular case is so compelling for her. My favourite character is Crage, the attorney, who can make bad things go away — or not. With him in your corner, or at least hired to help you, the baddies are at a serious disadvantage. Superb. THE FABULOUS FLYING MRS MILLER Carol Baxter, Allen and Unwin, $32.99 Who was the first woman to fly from Britain to Australia? No, it wasn’t Amy Johnson in 1930. It was Jessie ‘Chubbie’ Miller, an Australian housewife. It’s a trick question because Chubbie wasn’t the pilot when she made the journey in 1927, she was the passenger. Within a year she qualifified to flfly light aircraft and the life she found so boring back home metamorphosed into a daredevil career as an aviatrix. For Americans, she was the femme fatale at the centre of an infamous murder trial in 1932. Her young lover was found dead and everything pointed to the man who had flflown with her for fifive tumultuous years. Long before the herding and cramming that constitute modern air travel, there was this brief period of derring-do, captured to perfection by Baxter’s well-researched biography. THE GULF Anna Spargo-ryan, Picador, $29.99 With a mother like Linda, the poster girl for sleaze, 16-year-old Skye has to be the adult in the room and shield her young brother from the bully, Jason, who has bedazzled poor Linda. The South Australian Department of Child Protection comes out rather well in this all-too-convincing novel. However, they are a lot more effffective in Adelaide than in the Gulf region, to which Jason takes the hapless trio. The author’s impressive evocation of power and weakness within the family and within government is a cry for action. ALL BY MYSELF, ALONE Mary Higgins Clark, Simon and Schuster, $32.99 Although a luxury cruise offers every imaginable taste treat and recreation, combined with high-end decor and grovelling staffffff, the commodity that pulls the punters in is the opportunity to bring the hectic tempo of everyday life to a standstill. Celia, a renowned gemologist, has merely to present two lectures, then she can hunker down and hide from the notoriety that dogs her in Manhattan. Alas, a murder yanks her into an inquiry, with suspicion rife. However, stress proves to be therapeutic. If you’re looking for respite from dark themes, the caviar and ball gown atmosphere aboard the Queen Charlotte might be just what you need. WORK STRIFE BALANCE Mia Freedman, Macmillan, $34.99 Freedman tells young and youngish women what most over-70s already know: do less, no-one will give a damn or, if they do, they’ll eventually get over it. After a spate of books on how to keep house, raise children, work effifficiently and retain the interest of a partner why not, says Freedman, simply fail? ‘Balance’ is an unhelpful concept. Lurching along life’s path is just fifine. THE GAMEKEEPER Portia Simpson, Simon and Schuster, $35.99 Until Babe came along, I looked on Simpson’s job as one of the worst on the planet. Simpson was the fifirst woman to qualify as a gamekeeper and wildlife manager. Imagine setting up a kill for a client, swiftly disembowelling and ‘dressing’ a carcase, and then hanging it neatly on a pole for the huntsman’s portrait. Knee injuries eventually put an end to gamekeeping. Today she’s happy protecting red squirrels. And Babe? I’ll leave you to fifind out for yourselves. Simpson’s autobiography is words doing what only words can do. A triumph.