All the fun of abduction
Children deliver the goods in three novels that are all satisfying grown-up reads.
Christchurch writer Felicity Price has made her name as a spokesperson for older women, a frequently ignored or demeaned demographic. GONE TOMORROW ($30, Blackjack Publishing) follows Penny Rushmore, heroine of
Price’s previous novels, single again in her early sixties, and juggling demands that do nothing for her flagging selfesteem. Her agent expects her to deliver a novel she hasn’t begun writing, daughter Charlotte wants a wedding to rival a lesser monarch’s, and son Adam’s dodgy wife has run off with an even dodgier bloke, meaning Penny is forced to mind her four-year-old granddaughter, Rosie. Then Rosie is abducted, and Penny must somehow find the courage to fight the battle of her life. Price does a creditable job of adding suspense into what is primarily a humorous novel. The characters of all ages are deftly observed, and Penny’s struggles will be many readers’ own. The writing is polished and the pace cracking. Great fun.
A vision of the Virgin Mary changes forever the small New South Wales town of Coongohoola, home to 11-year-old Gracie and her family. It brings the Believers, a cult looking for recruits, and it triggers an unknown person to start murdering the town’s River Children, assorted offspring of a community picnic that turned X-rated. Gracie thinks she has enough to manage with an adolescent crush, her parents’ love-hate relationship and her three younger siblings. But then she learns the identity of the murderer, and her problems become life-threatening. Set in the mid-1980s, ALL OUR SECRETS
($30, Rosa Mira Books) is the debut novel of Wellington author Jennifer Lane, who pulls off two ambitious feats: creating a child narrator who is authentically pre-teen but who can hold adult reader interest and integrating a well-plotted mystery that keeps tension high and readers guessing. The star of the book is brave, funny Gracie, who carries the story on her often-embarrassed shoulders. Highly recommended.
Finn and Bridget Brennan have moved with their sons, 16-year-old Jarrah and three-year-old Toby, to coastal New
South Wales for a fresh start after a rocky patch in their marriage. But during one busy morning, Toby slips out of the house unobserved and drowns in the Brennans’ pool, leaving each surviving member of the family unprepared for the repercussions of grief and blame, both personal and legal. Having lost her toddler sister in an accidental drowning 40 years ago, author Jesse Blackadder treats the subject with sympathy and clarity. We rotate through the points of view of Finn, Bridget and Jarrah, and each character’s response is personal, believable and inextricably tied to his or her sense of who they are and what they fear they ought to be instead. The only part of SIXTY SECONDS
($35, Harper Collins) that jars is Blackadder’s distracting choice of using first-, secondand third-person viewpoints. Ignore that and it’s a satisfying read. l
Lane has created a child narrator who can hold adult-reader interest in a well-plotted mystery.
Felicity Price: successfully mixes humour and suspense.