All the fun of ab­duc­tion

Chil­dren de­liver the goods in three nov­els that are all sat­is­fy­ing grown-up reads.

New Zealand Listener - - BOOKS & CULTURE - By CATHER­INE ROBERTSON

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.

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