Nhu “Ned” Kelly – P.M. Newton’s novels

PMnewtonjI’d been wanting to read P.M. Newton’s The Old School for a very long time. Ever since it came out in 2010, actually.

My buddy, Rodney, who is quite the afficionado of Australian crime fiction, had mentioned it to me and I was immediately taken with the idea of a Vietnamese Australian detective in 1990s Sydney.

It took me till 2013 to read The Old School (thanks, @oanh_1)and I included it as part of my AWW 2013 listing. The impending publication of Newton’s second novel with the same lead character – Nhu “Ned” Kelly – spurred me to get a hold of the first. I inhaled the book, with its fast-paced narrative and tough, adeptly attuned characterisations. Then I eagerly awaited the second.

Beams Falling sat on a library shelf one weekend, tempting me with its new-bookish allure. I snatched it up immediately.

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AWW 2013 REVIEW – Behind the Night Bazaar (Angela Savage)

Behind the Night Bazaar (Angela Savage)I’m a latecomer to Angela Savage’s books, which is part of the joy of discovering them because there are now three novels to relish in the Jayne Keeney series.

The latest, The Dying Beach, launched only recently (mid-July). Here’s Angela’s take on that book’s launch.

The blurb for the first novel goes like this:

“Investigating murder, child prostitution, and corruption—all in a day’s work for kickass PI Jayne Keeney. The first in a series of funny, gripping crime novels set in Thailand, Behind the Night Bazaar introduces us to this likeable thirty-something private investigator, working undercover in a place where she can do anything but blend in.”

I really liked the book.

The narrative pacing, characters, and setting were all well tailored and clever. Jayne, in particular, was presented as engagingly human, complete with the damaging emotional choices she has made in her past and present.

The Thai setting was also given centre-stage in a credible and effective way. It worked well beyond the ‘exotic backdrop’ mode of so many novels set in Asia, where local colour doesn’t impinge on the unfolding narrative. I really appreciated the way Savage’s writing gave texture to everyday life and tension in Thailand, particularly the ways in which the story presented a society that was responding (or not) to fast change and urban drift. The motivations of the characters, embedded with these tensions, are engaging and effective. Sometimes, this was a little too effective and I had to take moments out of the novel because the emotional weight of the issues it deals with got to me.

The thing about this novel that I liked the best was its ability to surprise me. I would be reading along, expecting something that wouldn’t come to pass. A lot of this was due to Jayne being very smart and savvy; perhaps I’m too used to protagonists who get caught out, or exposed? That said, she’s no superhero, nor does she turn out to be a virtuous crusader. And this is all to the good.

I would definitely recommend this book to those who like clever crime, strong female leads (really, what worthwhile person doesn’t?), and immersion in a context fraught with politics and race tensions.

I’m definitely looking forward to spending time with The Half-Child, Savage’s second novel in the Keeney series!

AWW 2013 REVIEW – Antidote to Murder (Felicity Young)

Antidote to Murder (Felicity Young)As you can probably tell from my review of Felicity Young’s first novel in the Dody McCleland series, Dissection of Murder, I’m a fan.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this second novel, and it didn’t disappoint.

Well, except that it ended.

Within a few pages, I was back in Young’s evocation of noisome, overheated, early twentieth-century London. As well as the crush and noise, the second-class citizen status of women was immediately clear in Dody’s interactions with hospital staff.

The notoriety of her profession is well layered into the narrative, as is her difficult and often derided role as the first woman in it. Dody is always met with distinct reactions to her chosen lifestyle.

The intrigue starts early with Dody’s beau, police-officer Matthew Pike, doing a runner from the hospital where he was slated for surgery.

We’re quickly into the thick of undercover investigations, illicit drugs, and criminal medical activities. Dody’s sister, Florence, is once again stirring things up, sometimes without realising it. Dody herself is causing more unease than usual by becoming a zealot about sex education and birth control, and who can blame her after the extreme situations that she has to deal with in the impoverished alleyways of Whitechapel.

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REVIEW – Ghost Money (Andrew Nette)

Ghost Money (Andrew Nette)

I must admit to being initially interested in reading this novel because Andrew Nette and I follow each other on Twitter, and I’ve always appreciated, and been curious about, his obsession with pulp culture.

I knew he wrote crime fic and I am a total sucker for many shades of crime fic.

It was when I read one of the first reviews of the book (by Fair Dinkum Crime’s bernadetteinoz), however, that I dashed off straight away to buy a copy.

The triggers that set me off in bernadetteinoz’s review?

A Vietnamese Australian protagonist, the Cambodian setting – all bundled together as a noir crime thriller. It ticked a lot of boxes for me.

Kicking off with a dead body in Thailand, we find ourselves quickly in Cambodia as Max Quinlan, a fresh private investigator, traces Charles Avery’s whereabouts. Avery’s sister had made the initial approach to Quinlan, and offered him a conversational snapshot of her brother as an ambitious and morally grey character.

Of course, all is not as it seems, and the increasingly complicated figure of Avery is nicely unpacked as the narrative rolls out.

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