IF YOU WERE ENTHRALLED BY THE WHO THE HELL IS HAMISH? PODCAST, CHECK OUT THE LATEST READ ON WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE IN LOVE WITH A LIAR
ALLEGRA IN THREE PARTS Suzanne Daniel MACMILLAN, $30
In the tradition of Aussie classic Looking For Alibrandi comes a stunning coming-of-age debut by Aussie Suzanne Daniel. It’s 1970s Australia, a time of crocheted pants suits, dragster bikes and the burgeoning women’s liberation movement. For pre-teen Allegra, it’s also a confusing and challenging time, juggling life without a mother, the undisguised hatred between her two grandmothers living in neighbouring houses, and lack of attention from her largely absent father. Hence the book’s title, as Allegra tries to split herself between the three most important people in her life. One grandmother is a Holocaust survivor bearing the scars of that life while dreaming of Allegra becoming a doctor. Other gran is a free-spirited, emotional leader in the movement against domestic violence. And her dad seems to just like surfing. For Allegra, it’s a life littered with questions and untold secrets that inevitably come to an explosive head. An Aussie story to cherish.
CARINA BRUCE VERDICT: Smiles and tears
FAKE Stephanie Wood VINTAGE, $35
Journalist Stephanie Wood is used to telling stories about others but this time she’s revealing her own sad tale. Meeting the man of your dreams and living happily ever after is what most women want and she thought she’d met the man she was going to spend the rest of her life with. Turns out he wasn’t who he said he was — in fact, far from it. He has serious form in manipulating women into believing his web of lies. There are some red flags along the way but Wood holds hope they’re just hiccups and this man does care deeply for her. But after plenty of no-shows and odd excuses, Wood realises he is a compulsive liar. When the relationship ends, she investigates who he really is and discovers how she was sucked into believing his tall stories. Similar to the Who the Hell is Hamish? podcast about a narcissistic conman who rips off millions from innocent people, Wood’s journey is sadly one many other women, and men, have experienced.
SOPHIE ELSWORTH VERDICT: Captivating
THE ROADHOUSE Kerry Mcginnis PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, $33
The Australian Outback makes a terrific setting for local crime mysteries and Kerry Mcginnis’s latest book could suit readers wanting a softer introduction to the genre. The action happens east of Alice Springs in desolate terrain, in a remote roadhouse with a family harbouring quite a few skeletons in the closet. Wannabe actor Charlie returns home after her cousin Annabelle commits suicide. Charlie’s mother Molly runs the struggling roadhouse but as a health issue unfolds, she has to let her daughter take charge. The discovery of a woman’s body at an old mine site has everyone asking questions and, for a few seconds, the spotlight is on some of the main characters. Well-hidden secrets find light as the search for the truth about Annabelle’s death leads Charlie and her comrades down a perilous track of life and death. The past often explains the present and in the end a daughter finally learns from her mother that not all choices are easy to make, or live with.
WENDY MASON VERDICT: Modest crime
SHOOT THROUGH J.M. Green SCRIBE, $30
Stella Hardy has a knack of getting herself into trouble. The cynical and wisecracking social worker makes an unlikely main character but she is a truly fascinating and funny Aussie hero. Although this is the third book in the Stella Hardy series, it could just as easily be the first, as the story stands alone as a great read. This time Melbourne author J.M. Green has us following Hardy through the maze of the Victorian private prison system, the big bucks of cattle theft and the usual family roadblocks. Hardy is, however, persistent and capable in true “hard-boiled” detective tradition despite her desk job status. Hardy’s plans for a romantic weekend quickly turn murderous when she is given a lethal deadline while juggling her jailbird brother, his pregnant girlfriend, narcissistic sister and murder threats. At the same time, our law-abiding social worker is desperately trying to hide a $400,000 illegal “shoot through” stash from her best friend police officer.
KARINA BARRYMORE VERDICT: Wisecracking fun