“The Widow” and “Recipes For Love & Mur­der” are both hard to put down

Dubbo Photo News - - Books. - BY KATE WHITING THE BOOKCASE


The Widow by Fiona Bar­ton is pub­lished in hard­back by Ban­tam Press. HOTLY tipped as 2016’s The Girl On The Train, The Widow cer­tainly comes with great ex­pec­ta­tions as this year’s un­put­down­able psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller. Fiona Bar­ton’s crime de­but is an emo­tional roller­coaster from the get-go. The tit­u­lar char­ac­ter is Jean Tay­lor and the novel maps her jour­ney as the lov­ing and de­voted wife of ac­cused mur­derer, Glen.

Each chap­ter is told from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of those in­volved in the case, in­clud­ing the scep­ti­cal de­tec­tive, the savvy reporter and the worn-down widow. Bar­ton ex­pertly jumps back and forth be­tween time frames from the orig­i­nal date that ‘Baby Bella’ van­ished from her front gar­den, to the present day where Jean Tay­lor is deal­ing with the reper­cus­sions of her hus­band’s sud­den death.

As the story un­folds, Bar­ton sheds light on the tur­moil that Jean faces, des­per­ate to pro­tect the man she loves, but each day grow­ing more con­cerned for the truth about Bella’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

The reader soon dis­cov­ers that Jean and Glen’s re­la­tion­ship was rid­dled with its own prob­lems; Glen’s se­crecy, Jean’s ob­ses­sion with chil­dren and the fact the cou­ple were never able to re­pro­duce. The char­ac­ter of Kate, the hard­nosed reporter is also fas­ci­nat­ing as she man­ages to gain the trust of many of the key play­ers within the case.

As the story de­vel­ops, it is ex­tra­or­di­nary to watch the changes in each char­ac­ter, as new pieces of in­for­ma­tion are re­vealed from past and present. This pro­gres­sion is beau­ti­fully crafted and we soon start to ques­tion the hon­esty of Jean’s per­spec­tive and she trans­forms into the ul­ti­mate un­re­li­able nar­ra­tor.

As an ex-jour­nal­ist, Bar­ton writes with con­vic­tion, clar­ity and a shrewd un­der­stand­ing of the ruth­less­ness of the UK me­dia. The per­me­at­ing sense of am­bi­gu­ity that runs through the novel keeps the reader guess­ing at ev­ery turn and al­lows us to un­der­stand how hard it must be to cope when your hus­band is branded as a mon­ster. A fast-paced, rel­e­vant and grip­ping read, The Widow isn’t one to be missed. 9/10 (Re­view by Heather Doughty)

Recipes For Love & Mur­der by Sally An­drew is pub­lished in pa­per­back by Canon­gate. THE colour­ful back­drop for this de­but novel is South Africa’s beau­ti­ful but un­for­giv­ing semidesert re­gion, Klein Karoo.

Meet Tan­nie Maria, still bear­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal scars of her late hus­band’s bru­tal­ity.

Al­though she lives alone, with just her chick­ens and lo­cal wildlife for com­pany, she bakes cakes, milk tarts, rusks, jams and stews to dole out to friends and those who need them most.

Ev­ery­thing changes when she be­comes an agony aunt for the lo­cal news­pa­per and be­gins her unique brand of res­cuerecipes – mouth-wa­ter­ing dishes tailored to solve the prob­lem.

But when she re­ceives a cry for help from a bat­tered wife who is found dead shortly af­ter­wards, she be­comes em­broiled in a dan­ger­ous mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Au­thor Sally An­drew, who lives in a mud­brick house on a na­ture re­serve and camps in the wilder­ness, was an en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist and it shines through in her pas­sion for the land.

Bravo for a funny, poignant cel­e­bra­tion of life, love and food, which hand­ily con­tains Tante Maria’s de­li­cious recipes at the back.

9/10 (Re­view by Gill Oliver)


Strictly Be­tween Us by Jane Fal­lon is pub­lished in pa­per­back by Pen­guin. THIS lively and witty novel from best­selling nov­el­ist Jane Fal­lon fol­lows the suc­cess of her pre­vi­ous page-turn­ers such as Get­ting Rid Of Matthew, The Ugly Sis­ter and Skele­tons. It tells the story of Tam­sin and Michelle, who have been in­sep­a­ra­ble since child­hood and have shared ev­ery­thing to­gether.

When sin­gle­ton Tam­sin hears ru­mours that Michelle’s hus­band is cheat­ing on her, she sets her trusted as­sis­tant Bea on a mis­sion to se­duce him as a test. Bea, who is re­luc­tant at first, even­tu­ally agrees, but as the story moves on, it seems she has her own agenda...

This is a fan­tas­tic ex­plo­ration of friend­ship, in­fi­delity and trust and is pacey, orig­i­nal and re­ally en­joy­able. Fal­lon’s char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion is al­ways spot-on and this book is no dif­fer­ent, with well drawn out char­ac­ters and a tight plot that bar­rels along to­wards a bril­liant cli­max.

9/10 (Re­view by Georgina Rodgers)

The Prom­ise by Robert Crais is pub­lished in hard­back by Orion. THE Prom­ise is the 16th novel in Robert Crais’ se­ries of books fol­low­ing LA de­tec­tives Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. But this time they are joined by LAPD of­fi­cer Scott James and his faith­ful pa­trol dog Mag­gie, the he­roes of his stand-alone novel Sus­pect.

The two worlds start to col­lide right from the open­ing chap­ters, when Cole’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the dis­ap­pear­ance of a griev­ing mother leads him to the same house that James is chas­ing an armed thief into. What James dis­cov­ers in­side the build­ing im­me­di­ately throws his life into dan­ger, and it is soon in all their best in­ter­ests that the woman is found.

Flit­ting be­tween nar­ra­tives, the ten­sion is held taut and the ac­tion doesn’t stop. The in­clu­sion of chap­ters from Mag­gie’s point of view are a bit ridicu­lous, and Crais’ love of dogs is maybe pushed too hard. How­ever, with themes of ter­ror­ism, war and the dev­as­tat­ing na­ture of loss run­ning through­out, this is a clever tale that is much more than just an­other cheesy thriller.

The Prom­ise is a far-fetched adrenaline ride that will pro­vide some un­ex­pected twists for loyal Crais fans, as well as those who are just dis­cov­er­ing him. 8/10 (Re­view by Har­riet Shep­hard)

I’m Trav­el­ling Alone by Sa­muel Bjork is pub­lished in hard­back by Dou­ble­day. AS an­other Nordic novel trans­lated into English, this de­but of­fer­ing from Sa­muel Bjork has a lot to live up to. Inevitably it’s go­ing to be com­pared to the likes of Jo Nesbo and Stieg Lars­son. The novel is al­ready a best­seller across Europe, and UK TV rights have been sold, so does it live up to the hype?

The story cen­tres around ex-de­tec­tive Mia Kruger and vet­eran po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tor Hol­ger Munch as they come to­gether to solve one of the most ter­ri­fy­ing cases of their ca­reers. A young child is found hang­ing from a tree, with an air­line tag around her neck which reads ‘I’m trav­el­ling alone’. She won’t be the only one...

Whilst the story is well writ­ten, and the plot twists along nicely to keep the reader guess­ing, it is all rather for­mu­laic with a cou­ple of crime thriller cliches thrown in for good mea­sure. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, be­cause it is very en­joy­able and will keep the reader hooked to the very last page.

7/10 (Re­view by Rachael Dunn)

The Ex­pa­tri­ates by Jan­ice YK Lee is pub­lished in hard­back by Lit­tle, Brown. THIS new novel, by the au­thor of the best­selling The Pi­ano Teacher, is an­other story of love and loss set in Hong Kong, but this time in the present day. It re­volves around three Amer­i­can women who, be­tween them, drama­tise the pol­i­tics and pro­to­cols of this highly strat­i­fied ex­pat com­mu­nity.

Hi­lary is a wealthy lady who lunches, and de­spairs of ever con­ceiv­ing a child with the cor­po­rate-lawyer hus­band she never sees. Hap­pily-mar­ried mother of three Mar­garet, an­other wealthy ex­pat, looks to have it all. And then there’s Mercy, a re­cent Columbia grad­u­ate who’s short of funds and strug­gling to find a last­ing job or re­la­tion­ship.

Slowly and sub­tly, the novel weaves to­gether the lives of th­ese three peo­ple in poignant and tragic ways. Mar­garet’s youngest child is ab­ducted in Korea when in the care of Mercy, whom she had hired as a nanny. Then Hi­lary’s hus­band David de­cides to quit his mar­riage, and has a feck­less af­fair with Mercy, who be­comes preg­nant.

The writ­ing is crisp, ten­der and melan­cholic. And though the ab­duc­tion el­e­ment did not en­tirely con­vince me and the end­ing seemed a tad pat, the de­lin­eation of this painfully hi­er­ar­chi­cal and oddly ar­ti­fi­cial so­ci­ety – a world of westerners in cor­po­rate aspic, haunt­ing the same old haunts, their ev­ery need served by Asians they don’t even no­tice they are pa­tro­n­is­ing, is fleshed out in sub­tly damn­ing de­tail.

7.5/10 (Re­view by Dan Brotzel)

The Long Room by Francesca Kay is pub­lished in hard­back by Faber & Faber. THE Long Room is where Govern­ment “lis­tener” Stephen Don­ald­son spends his work­ing day tak­ing notes from bugged phone calls. He was re­cruited for the se­cret ser­vice hop­ing to be a spy but is stuck – an eaves­drop­per des­per­ate for field­work. He’s a naive loner who of­ten drifts off into a fan­tasy world and imag­ines se­duc­ing the woman of his dreams, He­len Green­wood.

One snag is she is the wife of his co-worker Jamie, whose calls Stephen is mon­i­tor­ing as he is a sus­pected dou­ble agent. As Stephen’s lust­ful day­dreams of He­len spiral, he takes risks to bring about Jamie’s down­fall. Can he cover his tracks and snare the woman he loves?

Francesca Kay’s third novel is an ex­cit­ing thriller that twists and turns to the last page. Her ob­ses­sive anti-hero is like­able but in­fu­ri­at­ing in equal mea­sure, as he’s in­tel­li­gent but has no com­mon sense. Pre­pare to throw the book in frus­tra­tion.

7/10 (Re­view by Caro­line Firth)


And Yet... Es­says by Christo­pher Hitchens is pub­lished in hard­back by At­lantic Books. HITCHENS’ death in 2011 robbed the world of one of its fore­most crit­ics of cant, tyranny and pu­ri­tanism. The es­says, ar­ti­cles and re­views here are pre­vi­ously un­col­lected (though not ‘un­pub­lished’ as the jacket claims – an omis­sion a liv­ing Hitchens would surely not have coun­te­nanced), per­haps be­cause, alas, they’re not al­ways among his best work.

A piece on GK Ch­ester­ton seems too fix­ated on Ch­ester­ton’s ide­o­log­i­cal sins to suf­fi­ciently ad­mit his skills as a writer; an aside else­where on the phrase ‘more heat than light’, whether disin­gen­u­ous or gen­uinely miss­ing the point, seems un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally wrong-headed.

Still, else­where the pen­e­trat­ing eye, pow­er­ful mind and ex­co­ri­at­ing wit are on typ­i­cally fine form. No­body agrees with ev­ery­thing Hitchens wrote, not even Hitchens (one of the anti-christ­mas es­says here is ad­mit­ted in its suc­ces­sor to be “strain­ing for ef­fect”), but even off-par, he re­minds us how di­min­ished our cul­tural sphere is by his pass­ing.

7/10 (Re­view by Alex Sarll)

Dark Mat­ter And The Di­nosaurs: The As­tound­ing In­ter­con­nect­ed­ness Of The Uni­verse by Lisa Ran­dall is pub­lished in hard­back by Bod­ley Head. IF you’ve been crav­ing a more sub­stan­tial read fol­low­ing a sea­son of stock­ing stuffers, renowned the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist Lisa Ran­dall’s lat­est book might be just what you’re look­ing for. In Dark Mat­ter And The Di­nosaurs, she sug­gests a wildly ex­cit­ing idea – that dark mat­ter could be re­spon­si­ble for in­flu­enc­ing the move­ment of

ce­les­tial bod­ies. As a re­sult, she sug­gests, the as­ter­oid or comet fall­ing to earth that brought about the ex­tinc­tion of the di­nosaurs could be down to this in­vis­i­ble force – and, in turn, have had a huge in­flu­ence over the de­vel­op­ment of our own species too.

Ran­dall is trans­par­ent from the off that this is a the­ory – not proven fact. So as a re­sult, you’re drawn on an ex­cit­ing jour­ney ex­plor­ing the depths of her ideas. What’s great is that Ran­dall’s style is plain, clear to un­der­stand and en­gag­ing, even when she’s ex­plor­ing the kinds of con­cepts that you’d usu­ally only find in­side a univer­sity’s physics depart­ment.

It helps, of course, that di­nosaurs have cap­tured our imag­i­na­tions since we were chil­dren. A great read for a lit­tle more per­spec­tive than usual.

8/10 (Re­view by Amy Ni­chol­son)

Why Fonts Mat­ter by Sarah Hyn­d­man is pub­lished in pa­per­back by Vir­gin Books. CAN fonts re­ally al­ter the taste of your food? Or even change what cer­tain words mean to you? One graphic de­signer cer­tainly thinks ty­pog­ra­phy plays a big in­flu­ence in our lives and that we re­spond emo­tion­ally to fonts – whether we know it or not.

Sarah Hyn­d­man, who has worked in the in­dus­try for over a decade, ex­plains how fonts have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties while point­ing out that there’s a sub­tle art be­hind how they elicit emo­tional re­sponses. Hyn­d­man uses the ex­am­ple of Amer­i­can clothes re­tailer Gap, who changed their logo five years ago to a new font, only to scrap its re­design and re­vert back to the orig­i­nal logo fol­low­ing protests from loyal cus­tomers.

The au­thor also makes an­other point about type­face, say­ing that re­search sug­gests fonts on food pack­ag­ing are “de­signed to stim­u­late a crav­ing or hunger”.

Bot­tom line, next time you come across fonts splashed on a can of baked beans, or pick up a mag­a­zine with beau­ti­ful cur­sive writ­ing, there’s a chance they are sub­tly speak­ing to you.

7/10 (Re­view by Nilima Mar­shall)

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