El­iz­a­beth Ge­orge, Hod­der & Stoughton, $29.99 Sprawled across 600 pages, Ge­orge’s most re­cent Lyn­ley/havers mys­tery sets up a sit­u­a­tion in Lud­low, Shrop­shire. Break­ing up the brood­ing evil are bird­song and but­ter­cups; the English coun­try­side at its most be­guil­ing. A sui­cide thrusts De­tec­tive Sergeant Havers in the fir­ing line of her en­dur­ing neme­sis De­tec­tive Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Isabelle Ardery, who can see a way to re­move Havers from the Met once and for all. As ever, In­spec­tor (Lord) Lyn­ley is pa­tro­n­is­ing and elu­sive, the prod­uct of a screech­ingly priv­i­leged ed­u­ca­tion, yet you can see why Havers yearns to be em­broiled.


Taryn Brum­fitt, Pen­guin Life, $34.99 As a mat­ter of in­ter­est, I won­der how many read­ers strip off in front of their part­ners in broad day­light. The last time I was pub­licly naked was way back when en­counter groups were all the rage. Many peo­ple don’t feel com­fort­able in their own skin and this book is all about lov­ing your body in any shape or size. Brum­fitt’s book is joy­ful. Even if pru­dence holds you back, chap­ters like Viva la Vulva shake loose a lot of an­cient awk­ward­ness. Di­ets are for when your doc­tor says, “Oth­er­wise I give you six months.” Think Rubens and Rem­brandt — do those nudes look as though they say no to a koek­sis­ter (deep-fried pas­try soaked in syrup)?


Mal­lika Basu, Blooms­bury, $45 Basu grew up in Kolkata but now lives in Lon­don, where you can source ab­so­lutely ev­ery in­gre­di­ent but there’s no space to cook. The food writer de­scribes the kitchen in her apart­ment as ‘min­i­mal­ist’. So she’s prac­ti­cal; she uses pack­ets and gad­gets, takes a few short­cuts, even uses su­per­mar­ket meat­balls for Pu­d­ina Kofta. There are 10 chap­ters ex­tend­ing from cur­ries made from chuck, which seethe overnight, to Quick Fixes and Small Bites. The fish cakes are a real dis­cov­ery and pop­si­cles made from mango, car­damom and saf­fron are the per­fect sneaky mid­night snack.


Aoife Clif­ford, Si­mon & Schus­ter, $29.99

Eliza Car­mody es­caped from a small coun­try town but now she’s back there as the lit­i­gant lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the large cor­po­ra­tion, which may or may not have been to blame for a fire that crushed Kin­sale psy­cho­log­i­cally as well as in cold, hard ma­te­rial terms. She skulks hop­ing not to be recog­nised. Her own sis­ter is less than wel­com­ing. Scenes from her teenage years flood back, para­noid, poignant. Then there’s the pos­si­bil­ity that a mur­derer is at large. With nerves jan­gled, no-one’s look­ing en­tirely in­no­cent. Clif­ford con­tin­ues to scoop lit­er­ary prizes for All These Per­fect Strangers. Her new novel does not dis­ap­point.


John Pur­cell, 4th Es­tate, $32.99 There’s more to Amy than ram­pant nympho­ma­nia. Go deeper into Pur­cell’s scathing satire about pub­lish­ing in the UK and you’ll find he’s pulled off quite a feat. At the cen­tre of the novel He­len, a revered and el­derly author, is in cri­sis — she can’t de­liver on her con­tract, has spent the two mil­lion pounds ad­vanced

to her and so must sub­mit to an ed­i­tor (Amy), who will help her ‘put to­gether’ some­thing com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful (i.e. with vi­o­lence, sex and shopping in amongst He­len’s grander themes). The two bond de­light­fully de­spite their widely dif­fer­ent life­styles. How­ever, He­len’s hus­band Mal­colm freaks out. Yet Pur­cell has slyly in­cor­po­rated those im­posed el­e­ments, which He­len and Mal­colm ab­hor, into what is truly a su­perbly or­ches­trated and im­por­tant novel. There they are: sex (Amy), vi­o­lence (self-harm) and shopping — Amy and He­len in New Bond Street look­ing for some­thing for Amy to wear to the Booker Prize din­ner. Amy spends more than 10,000 pounds on her out­fit. How does she af­ford it? She can name her price be­cause she’s the ghost be­hind sev­eral best­selling au­thors. Hmm. Pur­cell spent 10 years in a sec­ond-hand book­shop in Mos­man and now is direc­tor of on­line book­seller Book­topia. He’s tuned in.


Gre­gory P. Smith with Craig Hen­der­son, Wil­liam Heine­mann, $34.99 Dr Gre­gory Smith lec­tures in So­cial Sci­ences at South­ern Cross Univer­sity. The ti­tle of his the­sis was No­body’s Chil­dren: an ex­plo­ration into a sense of be­long­ing of adults who ex­pe­ri­enced in­sti­tu­tional out-of-home care as chil­dren. He be­gan this project shortly af­ter con­fronting his tu­tor Dr Richard Hil, a lec­turer from the UK who had writ­ten about Aus­tralia’s stolen gen­er­a­tion. “I think you’ve got no idea what you’re talk­ing about,” said Smith and handed him the Se­nate’s 2004 re­port, For­got­ten Aus­tralians. It re­viewed the lives of 500,000 adults who had ex­pe­ri­enced in­sti­tu­tional care as chil­dren. Hil had failed to con­tex­tu­alise the prob­lem in Smith’s opin­ion; it was far larger and more en­demic than he had imag­ined. The de­tails of his own child­hood are so grim that I’d ad­vise read­ers to start read­ing the mem­oir at Chap­ter 17 when he goes to live in the for­est. He’s so trau­ma­tised that when a kindly pro­fes­sor leaves him a note invit­ing him to live more com­fort­ably on his prop­erty Smith re­fuses. He’s afraid of ev­ery­one. Af­ter 10 years he ex­pe­ri­ences an epiphany and takes the Special Ter­tiary Ad­mis­sions Test and gets into univer­sity. As he gains an un­der­stand­ing of his abused psy­che and phys­i­cal degra­da­tion, the kind­ness of oth­ers be­comes grad­u­ally ac­cept­able. A must-read.


Robert Drewe, Hamish Hamil­ton, $29.99 Drewe does not waste words. “Your an­ces­tor ate my an­ces­tor,” says Dr Jen­nifer Horne Smith and Ge­orge Bo­gen­vanu replies, “Yes, you’re right. I want to talk to you about it.” Drewe clev­erly leads us up the gar­den path in that par­tic­u­lar short story. There are 11 of them. The oth­ers are no less el­lip­ti­cal. Sad­dest of all is A View of Mt Warn­ing where a whole­some guy with a crush on his mate’s wife dis­cov­ers that, de­spite be­ing mar­ried to an un­faith­ful boor, she is rea­son­ably con­tented with her lot.


Sheila O’flana­gan, Head­line, $29.99 As al­ways O’flana­gan de­liv­ers a fast read with sub­stance. In her new novel Juno has been dumped by Sean ‘not ready to com­mit’ who then mar­ried A.n.other. Af­ter that set­back her new love, Brad, was killed in an earth­quake and turned out to have a wife and two chil­dren. Feel­ing grief and not a lit­tle shame Juno leaves her job as a ra­dio­g­ra­pher in Dublin and goes to Spain where she rents a villa. Life be­comes less selfie and more in­te­grated. Two Span­ish brothers raise her view of men in gen­eral. Brad’s brother has some heart­en­ing ev­i­dence. Lovely.


Chris Ham­mer, Allen And Un­win, $32.99 This novel is ob­vi­ously go­ing to make a block­buster outback movie but noth­ing on screen will give you the in­tri­cate dance in the mind of Martin Scars­den. He’s a jour­nal­ist sent to a hamlet south-west of Hay in the NSW Rive­rina. His ed­i­tor wants him to cover the an­niver­sary of a bizarre quin­tu­ple killing, four of the vic­tims shot by the res­i­dent priest. Martin had a bad ex­pe­ri­ence in Gaza and his kindly ed­i­tor has handed him a thumb­suck. How­ever, layer upon layer of de­ceit and col­lu­sion come to light in the drought-stricken com­mu­nity. Along­side in­dis­putable evil there’s the need to sur­vive, to see ba­bies thrive and the min­i­mal busi­nesses re­cover. Just won­der­ful.


Rosie Walsh, Man­tle, $29.99 Walsh mis­leads read­ers mer­ci­lessly. We trot along her plot­lines mak­ing as­sump­tions then be­ing up­ended. It opens with a ro­mance and the tor­ture a smart­phone can in­flict, but swiftly Walsh moves on. There are sur­real back­wa­ters (clown doc­tors in Los An­ge­les ver­sus Bri­tain’s 70 years of Na­tional Health Ser­vice ex­per­tise), yet even­tu­ally a lurk­ing men­ace emerges, Ca­role Wal­lace, the mother who doesn’t love her son, she owns him. Quite a feat to raise what starts as a rip­ple to such thun­der­ous heights. Take this one slowly, if you can.

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