Three Things #7

THING ONE  Reading—The Chain by Adrian McKinty
THING TWO  Looking—A Lemon in Disguise
THING THREE  Thinking—Don’t Rush the Little Wild Ramblers


THING ONE—READING—The Chain by Adrian McKinty—

The Chain took me by surprise.  I had no idea what the title referred to until nice normal cancer patient Rachel O’Neill turns into a desperate, frenzied, tigress of a woman ready to kill to protect her cub Kylie.

Adrian McKinty has written 14 books and I’ve read them all, so I know he can write ‘other stuff’.  Guns, cops, drugs and tricky, desperate situations.  But never with the strong emotion which The Chain evoked in me.

The sequence of events is based on real bandits who kidnap people and hold them to ransom until their families pay to have them released.  Not very nice, and neither is what happens to Rachel and Kylie.  This sophisticated version of The Chain involves snatching a child and holding them prisoner to save your own child who has been captured and the next person snatches a child and holds them prisoner until their child is released, etc…with brutal consequences for broken links.

IMG_20190813_161920
Hachette Australia bookcover 2019

The winners in all of this are The Chain initiators who demand that huge sums of money be paid into their off-shore account otherwise they will force the family to kill your child.  The fear, panic and high stress levels are well realised and the pressure applied to Rachel and her ex-army drug addicted brother-in-law Pete (he goes into Bruce Willis mode) never lets up.

Half way through the plot, things take a sharp u-turn (Australian version is chuck-a-youie) but the reader has to trust the writer to follow-through.  Trust him I did.  And the result was definitely worth it.  As always, McKinty writes in his own unique style.  There are warnings of social media over-exposure which ring true and even though this suspense thriller is set well and truly on American soil, it holds a universal truth ‘Watch over your children’.

A poetic excerpt from The Chain, Chapter 40, Sunday 11.59 p.m.
“She merges with the traffic.
The highway hums.  The highway sings.  The highway luminesces.
It is an adder moving south.
Diesel and gasoline.
Water and light.
Sodium filament and neon.
Interstate 95 at midnight. America’s spinal cord, splicing lifelines and destinies and unrelated narratives.
The highway drifts.  The highway dreams.  The highway examines itself.
All those threads of fate weaving together on this cold midnight.”
Author Adrian McKinty 2019

WordPress link to my previous post reviewing McKinty’s Rain Dogs.
I am currently wrestling with a Goodreads book review.


THING TWOLOOKING—A Lemon in Disguise—

IMG_20190806_160745
Saw this lemon doing undercover surveillance in an abandoned fruit bowl. He looked a bit out of place with his onion skin hair.

THING THREETHINKING—Don’t Rush the Little Wild Ramblers—

This beautiful quote from Wilder Child Nicolette Gowder struck a cord with me.  I thought about young family members who were forever picking up small objects and bringing them home after school.  Everything was of interest when out walking, items had to be investigated for smoothness, brightness, weight or lightness.  The best treasures were those which once were alive, like a crab claw, rat skull or insect exoskeleton.

I thought about my mother who used to point out the delicate things in nature, things which tend to get overlooked.  I inherited her spy-eye for detail especially seed pods.  She was more of a beachcomber…but always putting those glistening seashells back where she found them Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wilder Child The Dawdlers The Inquisitive Ones
Nicolette Gowder nature-connected parenting https://wilderchild.com/ and blog Sweet Breathing https://sweetbreathing.com/blog/

Wales Readathon Dewithon 2019 08One post in three parts, Reading Looking Thinking, a neat idea started by blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley. Check out Book Jotter her informative, interesting and book-related website!

Review ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ by Maria Donovan

The plot twists and turns over many months as I follow the lives of three families jolted sideways after two untimely deaths.

Michael’s friend Janey has lost her dad to cancer and Michael understands this, but the other person who died?  Nextdoor neighbour and dear friend Irma.  Was it a heart condition, an accident or murder?

The safe, cosy world of young Michael and his Nan changes dramatically.  Michael also has to cope with George, a bully, who moves into Irma’s house with his father Shawn prior to her death.

IMG_20190427_151647The sudden loss of Irma is deeply felt by Michael.  As the saying goes he has “an old head on young shoulders” but is confused over what actually happened and gets no help from the adults.  Strong opinions and conflicting advice are tossed his way.

Deep down Michael believes Irma was murdered and is determined to convince Nan and the gatekeepers.  There are complexities to face and he over-reaches in the hope of finding justice.  Anxiety joins his grief, he challenges his homelife and raises old questions.  Why does he live with his grandmother?  Where are his parents?

During a bad night, Michael’s old teddy bear comes down off the shelf for support as he works on his theory of Irma’s demise.  He thinks she may have been poisoned.  The chicken soup in question was homemade by Irma and well loved by Michael, his favourite panacea for cold symptoms.  In fact, he is sniffling when she goes off to make him chicken soup and disaster strikes.

At one stage, Michael suspects his Nan – she’s my favourite character! – and while out walking he dashes away and hides.  Quote “Michael?” calls Nan.  I don’t move.  “Michael”.  “He’s fallen in the bloody moat,” says the man who isn’t Grandad.  “Good job there’s no water in it.”  “Feeder canal,” says Nan.  “This is no time to be right about everything,” he growls.  I’ve never heard anyone tell Nan off like that before. Unquote.

IMG_20190427_131423
Real clue? Fake clue?

Author Maria Donovan portrays well-rounded, believable characters and each brings small yet highly significant details to the story.  Bully and his father are thorns in Michael’s side but nothing distracts him from the hunt for clues.  Janey has her own family problems.  To relieve her frustration she gets a box of golf balls and stands in The Middle, a green opposite the houses, and slogs each white ball as hard as she can…

Being of a nosey disposition myself, I empathise with Michael’s underlying emotions and the need for resolution.  Unfortunately this drive consumes him to the point of performing an ill-advised concert song.  Tension escalates and stoic Nan marches towards a showdown.  Maria Donovan’s tightly written finale comes at a penultimate time of year for everyone.

IMG_20190427_152828Skillfully woven through the story are school holidays, the seaside, and events on telly like Wimbledon, Test Cricket and 2012 Paralympics.  Halloween high jinks are followed by a traditional Guy Fawkes bonfire night.  Occasionally the zeitgeist side-tracks Michael’s quest yet adds a kaleidoscope of nostalgia for me.

Michael’s journey isn’t for children although young adult readers would identify with the youthful side.  Part mystery, part coming-of-age, I think adults will enjoy the unique elements of the plot, and appreciate less gore than currently found in mystery novels.

Maria Donovan’s book walks a fine line between innocence and adult behaviour and succeeds in capturing the mood beautifully.  It demands to be read again.  Seek out those clever clues!

My star rating star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY:

Maria Donovan Book Launch

‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ is Maria Donovan’s debut novel and was a finalist for the Dundee International Book Prize.  Apart from this book, Maria has many literary credits to her name including her flash fiction story ‘Chess’ which won the Dorset Award in the Bridport Prize 2015.

Maria is a native of Dorset UK and has strong connections with Wales (also in the book) and Holland.  Her past careers include training as a nurse in the Netherlands, busking with music and fire around Europe and nine years lecturing in Creative Writing at the University of Glamorgan, South Wales.

Visit Maria Donovan online www.mariadonovan.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/mariadonovanwri
Facebook http://facebook.com/mariadonovanauthor

I can highly recommend the informative Chicken Soup Murder Q&A with Maria Donovan and Shauna Gilligan.

Peter Corris Crime Writer Cliff Hardy Crime Fighter

Peter Corris 01
The final Peter Corris crime novel featuring PI Cliff Hardy.

A few years ago I was going through a rough patch in my professional and personal life.  I wanted to close the door and read, read, read myself back to normality.

Search and ye shall read

The trouble was I hadn’t seriously knuckled down and read a well-written book for a long time.  I felt distanced from northern hemisphere writers (what’s snow?) and never really got the whole Scandi-noir buzz.  Several genres, including the ambiguous literary fiction, didn’t hold my interest.  I felt I needed comedy, something I could relate to and laugh at.  Also I wanted characters and places I understood, and possibly had visited.

Readers of my blog will know I like quirky writing so, rather than reach for self-help books, I began to search for way-out humour on the library shelves.  Unfortunately back then humorous Australian writers were thin on the ground so I hung around the bookshops until the next Thursday Next dilemma or Ankh-Morpork debacle was published.  Yes, Messrs Fforde and Pratchett saved my sanity with their insane books.

From comedy to crime

After trial and error, and iffy recommendations from friends, I discovered Australian crime writers.  The good old Aussie turn-of-phrase drags me in every time.  I know the cities, the vast distances between those cities, the weather, the beaches, the Great Dividing Range, the smell of gum trees and especially the food.  Our food is a mish-mash of many cultures but in there somewhere is real Aussie tucker and nobody does a Chiko Roll or TimTam like we do.  And our criminals are a bit special too.

I read in no particular order (and by no means all our contemporary crime writers) Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, Peter Temple, Leigh Redhead, Geoffrey McGeachin, Jane Harper, Robert G. Barrett, Honey Brown, Matthew Condon, Emma Viskic, Adrian McKinty (adopted Irishman) Candice Fox, Shane Maloney, Barry Maitland, Michael Robotham and my absolute all-time favourite, the iconic Peter Corris.

Peter Corris 04And Peter Corris came with Sydney private investigator Cliff Hardy

Peter Robert Corris (8 May 1942 – 30 August 2018) was an Australian academic, historian, journalist, biographer and novelist of historical and crime fiction.  As a crime fiction writer, he was described as “the Godfather of contemporary Australian crime-writing”.  After writing 42 books in his PI Cliff Hardy series, from 1980 to 2017, Corris announced in January 2017 that he would no longer be writing novels owing to “creeping blindness” because of type-1 diabetes and passed away the next year.

Naturally I was saddened to learn of his death but it hit me in another way.  I never wrote and told him how his Cliff Hardy books lead me into the badlands and showed me that my life was all right.  Well, in comparison to the criminal underworld Hardy inhabited.  Despite the sleaze, the drugs, the murder, Hardy had his own set of morals, he was a good judge of character and played fair.  However, he knew how to defend himself and fought hard when necessary.  Forget that it’s fiction.  Compared to his daily grind, I had nothing to worry about.

As Bowie said Ch-ch-ch-Changes

These Corris crime novels also documented a changing way of life through Hardy, especially the Sydney cityscape and his beloved Newtown.  For nearly 40 years, semi-permanent characters came and went, and mobile phones and laptops took hold.  High tech digital devices and spyware increased; electronic locks, security cameras and internet surveillance replaced skeleton keys and good old shoulder-to-the-door.  I feel the loss of a metal filing cabinet, its papers viewed by torchlight in the middle of the night.

But through it all, Corris always managed to side-step technology, keeping Hardy real, doing the leg work, nailing the bad guy.  His astute observations of human nature, and how he wrote plausible characters, made me feel I’d just met a crooked barrister or a smarmy crime baron.

Peter Corris 02

The book on the right is one of my favourites.  Recognise the bridge?  These days I do read more widely but I’m missing my yearly dose of hard-boiled Hardy—to use Corris’ own description.

Below I have listed all the Cliff Hardy books even though it doesn’t have the visual appeal of the bookcovers.  If you wish to check out more about each story, please visit Allen & Unwin Publishers website:

https://www.allenandunwin.com/authors/c/peter-corris

But—do authors and their books really die?

There could be reprints, anniversary issue, possible screenplay, theatre adaptation, prequel, or Grandson of Hardy for younger readers.  I won’t give away the ending of the last book because I expect you to BINGE READ the complete oeuvre, then see for yourself whether or not you like Cliff Hardy’s final installment.

My sincere condolences to Jean Bedford, wife of Peter Corris, and his family.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


PI Cliff Hardy book series

The Dying Trade        (1980)
White Meat                 (1981)
The Marvelous Boy   (1982)
The Empty Beach      (1983)
Heroin Annie and Other Cliff Hardy Stories (1984)
The Big Drop and Other Cliff Hardy Stories  (1985)
Make Me Rich             (1985)
The Greenwich Apartments (1986)
Deal Me Out                (1986)
The January Zone      (1987)
The Man in the Shadows: Cliff Hardy Omnibus (1988)
O’Fear                          (1990)
Wet Graves                 (1991)
Aftershock                  (1992)
Beware of the Dog    (1992)
Burn and Other Stories (1993)
Matrimonial Causes (1993)
Casino                          (1994)
The Reward                (1997)
The Washington Club (1997)
Forget Me If You Can  (1997)
The Black Prince         (1998)
The Other Side of Sorrow (1999)
Lugarno                        (2001)
Salt and Blood             (2002)
Master’s Mates            (2003)
Taking Care of Business (2004)
The Coast Road           (2004)
Saving Billie                (2005)
The Undertow             (2007)
Appeal Denied            (2008)
The Big Score: Cliff Hardy Cases (2008)
Open File                      (2009)
Deep Water                  (2009)
Torn Apart                   (2010)
Follow the Money       (2011)
Comeback                     (2012)
The Dunbar Case         (2013)
Silent Kill                      (2014)
Gun Control                 (2015)
That Empty Feeling    (2016)
Win, Lose or Draw     (2017)

NOTE: “See You at the Toxteth” Published by Allen & Unwin August 2019
https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/See-You-at-the-Toxteth-Peter-Corris-9781760875633
A selection of stories compiled by Jean Bedford featuring Australia’s favourite PI, plus unpublished writing by Peter Corris on crime.

Peter Corris 03
The first Peter Corris crime novel featuring PI Cliff Hardy.

Garry Disher ‘Kill Shot’ Book Review

Wyatt is almost spectral as he shifts unseen through a corrupt world, an inscrutable villain doing what he does best––stinging the stingers.

No qualms from Wyatt as he tracks ruthless, avaricious people and their hidden treasures, taking back what is not rightfully theirs and passing it on.

Wyatt was doing specialist break-and-enter jobs when his friend and fixer Sam Kramer contacted him.  Currently incarcerated and relying on prison networks and outside contact from his daughter Phoebe, Kramer gets a message through to Wyatt offering him a lucrative job.  Lucrative yes, easy no.

After some quick research, Wyatt learns his target is corporate financier Jack Tremayne who is being investigated by the Probity Commission and facing jail time for a Ponzi scheme which ripped off innocent people and made him rich.  Tremayne appears likely to abscond with the lot.  Before he escapes the country, Wyatt’s task is to find the assets he’s hidden, a million in cash, shares and bonds.

gun 02The trouble is several other felonious characters are interested in the hidden million, working just as hard as Wyatt to find it.  And we know there will be inescapable violence along the way.

Author Garry Disher is adept at getting inside the morally deficient minds of the criminal fraternity Wyatt encounters, tearing down their respectable facades, releasing their foibles bit by bit until cruel, cunning personalities emerge––those who will fight hard to steal a valuable prize.  And fight even harder when they find out Wyatt is closing in.

There is plenty of action in this thriller and as the tension builds, the main players emerge.  Trophy wife Lynx Tremayne; Will DeLacey the Tremayne lawyer; Mark Impey nervous investor; prison gofer Brad Salter; Kramer’s sleazy son Josh: ex-commando Nick Lazar; none are particularly agreeable.  Apart from the incomparable Wyatt, my other favourite person is Property Crimes DS Greg Muecke who gets in the way of Robbery & Serious Crimes division as he relentlessly follows Wyatt’s trail.  A knowing man but usually one step behind.

merewether beach newcastle nswThe drama starts in Sydney and unfolds around the beachside homes in Newcastle before progressing through to yachting marinas and beyond.  Wyatt has various identities and travels in understated disguises as he tracks his target.  No slang but unashamedly Australian with place names and businesses, author tributes e.g. Corris, Throsby, and an atmosphere so evocative you can smell the eucalyptus and fresh sea air.

Full of plot twists, ‘Kill Shot’ is number 9 of this tightly written series.  The ending is not what I expected which makes the story all the more enthralling and earns my Five-Star rating.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Wyatt Crime Series

Kickback             (1991)
Paydirt                (1992)
Deathdeal           (1993)
Crosskill              (1994)
Port Vila Blues   (1995)
The Fallout         (1997)
Wyatt                   (2010)
The Heat              (2015)
Kill Shot               (2018)

Stats
kill shot garry disher 03

Title: Kill Shot
Author: Garry Disher
Pages: 320
Publisher: Text Publishing Company
Publish Date: 3-Dec-2018
Country of Publication: Australia
https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/kill-shot-a-wyatt-thriller

garry disher bookcover 02garry disher bookcover 01bitter wash road garry disherthe divine wind garry disher

In addition to the Wyatt series, Garry Disher has written a variety of books
https://www.garrydisher.com/

Ready to Read ‘Lethal White’

Just received a brand new copy of ‘Lethal White’ the fourth volume in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike detective series.  We all know that J K Rowling actually writes it but what I didn’t know was that this hardback edition is large and heavy!

The cover has a nice grungy look and, no, I did not skid it across the tarmac.

It was difficult to photograph because the bronze lettering flared but I wanted to illustrate the interesting trend of books getting bigger again.

I can’t help wondering how it will compare to previous adventures.  The book blurb reads “The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, ‘Lethal White’ is both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.”

I will post a review when I’ve ploughed my way through 647 pages.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

IMG_20181019_174150

Link to my book review https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/11/09/review-lethal-white-by-robert-galbraith/

Elly Griffiths Forensic Archaeology Series

IMG_20180816_162457
Sample of this 10-book series with book 11 The Stone Circle due 2019.

I love binge-reading!  When I discover a good author like Elly Griffiths who has ten books in her crime oeuvre, I am ready, willing and able to read all.  The archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway mystery series fits the bill nicely.  To quote the Independent ‘The perfect ratio of anticipation, shock and surprise’.

Elly Griffiths is the pen name of Domenica de Rosa; she has written other novels under her real name.  I like the historical and archaeological authenticity of this series which could be due to the fact that she’s married to Andrew Maxted, curator of archaeology at Brighton Museum.

I enjoyed the earlier books and then the later ones shown above.  I loved ‘The Ghost Fields’ WWII story and found award-winning ‘The Chalk Pit’ quite fascinating.  I struggled with ‘The Outcast Dead’ subject matter although it is fitting.  I must mention the clever yet sneaky outcome of ‘The Dying Fall’ which has a touch of Hollywood about it.

The stories mainly revolve around Norfolk UK, tidal marshlands, excavations (with an occasional nod to ‘Time Team’) coastal regions and fictional University of North Norfolk where Ruth Galloway works.  She is also a police adviser.  The relationships of the key players are intriguingly tricky because of love triangles, children, 21st century parenting, murder and mystical goings-on.

Rather than a book review, I thought I’d do a quick character overview:

  • Dr Ruth Galloway lives on the Saltmarsh, lectures in forensic archeology, makes ground-breaking discoveries, and likes old bones and her cat Flint.
  • Fast-driving policeman DCI Harry Nelson moved with his family from Blackpool to Norfolk and doesn’t really like the place but he’s a born copper.
  • Two glamorous women, Michelle Nelson is wife of DCI Nelson, and Shona MacLean is Ruth’s bestie.
  • Michael Malone (aka Cathbad) brings enjoyable highlights to each plot with his spiritual insights, Druid instincts and flowing cloak.
  • Part of Nelson’s team are police officers DS David Clough ‘old school’ and DS Judy Johnson ‘graduate’ who don’t always share the same views.
  • Phil Trent, professor of archaeology at UNN, worries about funding but loves TV cameras, publicity and himself.

As I dug and sifted through the series, I noticed less archeology and gradual changes to the main characters but that’s the grit which makes these books human and relatable.  There’s drama in their lives; a rocky layer or two over a conspiracy waiting to be uncovered.

Elly Griffiths has a nice knack of getting you up-to-speed with each book while revealing a ‘fresh’ crime involving the living and the desiccated.  At one stage I quibbled over her use of Anglo male names like Max, Dan, Tim, Tom, Ted, Bob, well, you get my drift…but this has improved and the VIP reviews keep on coming:

"I refuse to apologise for being in love with Dr Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson, one of my favourite current crime series . . . a pleasure from start to finish"
Val McDermid.

"I adore the Elly Griffiths series and have eagerly read each book. I love seeing how the recurring characters are living and working out their relationships"
Joyce of joycesmysteryandfictionbookreviews

I’m waiting for book 11 ‘The Stone Circle’ but don’t you hang around, start reading!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Elly Griffiths UK Author
Elly Griffiths ‘The Chalk Pit’ and something evil is waiting in the dark tunnels under Norwich – forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway had better watch her step https://www.hachette.com.au/elly-griffiths/the-chalk-pit

Sisters in Crime 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards

The 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards have been launched – with a body or two in the library – and I have reblogged the exciting news:

Sisters in Crime Australia’s 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards were launched by Dr Angela Savage at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Library on 27 April, 2018. Almost $10,000 is on offer in prize money.

The event included dramatic readings of three winning “body in the library” stories – “Jane” by Narrelle M Harris (read by Jane Clifton), “Caught on Camera” by Jenny Spence (read by Susanna Lobez) and “Brought to Book” by Kath Harper (read by Leigh Redhead).

Dr Savage (below), the 2011 shoe winner and now Director of Writers’ Victoria, declared the awards “a milestone for Australian crime – at least of the literary persuasion”.

The awards, she said, had “spring-boarded the careers of many writers, including myself. To date, 3084 stories have been entered with 23 Scarlet Stiletto Award winners –including category winners – going on to have novels published.

“Like many of Sisters in Crime’s best ideas, it sprang from a well-lubricated meeting in St Kilda when the convenors debated how they could unearth the female criminal talent they were convinced was lurking everywhere.

“Once a competition was settled on, it didn’t take long to settle on a name – the scarlet stiletto, a feminist play on the traditions of the genre. The stiletto is both a weapon and a shoe worn by women. And of course, the colour scarlet has a special association for us as women. And they were right – talent is lurking everywhere, sometimes in the most unlikely places!”

MASTER-175-LOGO

The success and longevity of the Awards have been hugely dependent on the generosity of Australian publishers, booksellers, the film and television industry, authors and other parties.

Sisters in Crime had been uncertain that the launch would go ahead because, at the eleventh hour, the First Prize Sponsor, Bonnier/Echo Publishing, was closed down by its overseas arm. Luckily, Swinburne University and the ever-resourceful Dr Carolyn Beasley, Acting Chair of the Department of Media and Communication, stepped into the breach.

Sisters in Crime spokesperson, Carmel Shute, said, “We were also lacking a Young Writer Award sponsor because Allen & Unwin pulled out last year after more than 20 years of sponsorship. We were chuffed to get support at the last minute from Fleurieu Consult run by South Australian member Jessie Byrne, who is researching her creative PhD exegesis on Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards for best books.”

There are two brand-new awards on offer this year: Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award ($660) for the story with the most satisfying retribution (the winner gets a three-month spell in prison in the guise of a studio residency at Old Melbourne Gaol) and the International Association of Forensic Linguistics (IALF) Award for Best Forensic Linguistics Story ($1000).

IALF President, Dr Georgina Heydon (left) from RMIT, told the crowd that the award was designed to foster understanding of forensic linguistics which uses a scientific approach to language analysis in legal and criminal investigations.

“Typically, a forensic linguist is engaged to analyse the authorship of an anonymous document, to determine what was said and by whom in a covert recording, to identify coercive or oppressive questioning by police, or to determine the need for an interpreter. It’s not to be confused with the analysis of hand-writing styles.”

The full list of awards is:

  • The Swinburne University Award: 1st Prize: $1500
  • The Simon & Schuster Award: 2nd prize: $1000
  • The Sun Bookshop Award: 3rd Prize: $500
  • The Fleurieu Consult Award for Best Young Writer (18 and under): $500
  • The Athenaeum Library ‘Body in the Library’ Award: $1000 ($500 runner-up)
  • International Association of Forensic Linguists Award: $1000 for Best Forensic Linguistics Story
  • The Every Cloud Award for Best Mystery with History Story: $750
  • Kerry Greenwood Award for Best Malice Domestic Story: $750
  • Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award: $660 (studio residency, Old Melbourne Gaol) for the Story with the Most Satisfying Retribution
  • HarperCollins Publishers Award for Best Romantic Suspense Story: $500
  • Scarlet Stiletto Award for Best Financial Crime Story: $500
  • Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross-genre Story: $500
  • Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist Award: $400
  • ScriptWorks Award for a Great Film Idea: $200

Nine collections of winning stories are available from Clan Destine Press.

Closing date for the awards is 31 August 2018. Entry fee is $20 (Sisters in Crime members) or $25 (others). Maximum length is 5000 words. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Melbourne in late November.

To download an entry form, pay the entry fee and read the FAQs, click here

Sisters in Crime Awards Judith Rossell 01
Recent winners of the affiliated Davitt Women’s Crime Book Awards https://www.sistersincrime.org.au/the-davitt-awards/

Media comment: Carmel Shute, Secretary and National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia:
0412 569 356 or
admin@sistersincrime.org.au

Visit the Sisters in Crime website and sign up for their newsletter.
It would be criminal to miss out on this great opportunity!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Ioan Gruffudd Stars in ‘Harrow’ Forensic Drama Series

ABCTV Harrow Ioan Gruffudd
Image courtesy of The Australian newspaper

Actor Ioan Gruffudd stars as the boat-dwelling Dr Daniel Harrow in the new TV forensic drama series ‘Harrow’ filmed in Brisbane, Australia.  The goal for this intellectual forensic drama, featuring an unorthodox and edgy forensic pathologist who lives aboard an untidy boat on the Brisbane River, was achieved by the combined talents of ABC Studios International and Hoodlum Entertainment.

Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd, whose recent screen credits include movie ‘Fantastic Four’, TV series ‘Liar’, ‘Forever’ and earlier ‘Hornblower’, is now 44 and says he has more life experience to get under the skin of somebody like the flawed, smart and sarcastic Dr Harrow.  Ioan, who also filmed ‘San Andreas’ in Queensland, fell in love with Brisbane, swimming with dolphins, attending theatre productions and an Ashes test cricket match at the Gabba stadium which unfortunately ended with treatment in hospital for heat stroke.

Leigh McGrath, executive producer of the 10-episode season of ‘Harrow’, says “Brisbane has got the tropical heat and humidity which I think adds a different feel to this forensic drama.  Normally they are cold, they are Scandi noir, whereas we went the opposite.”

To quote The Australian newspaper journalist Justin Burke “The pilot episode presents an exquisite personal test for Harrow: does he quit his career and sail to Bora Bora as promised with his troubled, thieving, drug-addicted daughter? Or does he heed the professional challenge of grieving father Bruce Reimers (Gary Sweet), who is begging Harrow to reopen the investigation into his daughter Olivia’s death?”
and
“In addition to the procedural, crime-of-the-week element of the show, there is an overarching mystery that we are presented with in the opening scenes. Someone is seen dusting a body with concrete and throwing it off a small boat into the Brisbane River in the middle of the night. Who and why will be revealed in good time.”

ABCTV Harrow Ioan Gruffudd 02

If you click Ioan’s name (further on) you will see video footage of ‘Harrow’ filmed around inner Brisbane.  Dr Harrow, a senior medical examiner, is based in the Queensland Institute of Forensic Medicine which in real life is the heritage-listed Brisbane Dental College near City Hall.  Postmortems are not as easy on the eye as handsome Ioan Gruffudd.

This series is like reading a crime book with my home town in the background, I love picking out familiar landmarks and wondering how the film crew recreated a gruesome scene.  The Brisbane River (Maiwar) stars but there are several familiar supporting actors to spice things up, e.g. Anna Lise Phillips, Remy Hii and Robyn Malcolm.

Keri Lee, boss of Disney’s ABC Studios Intl, is negotiating with global networks so hopefully this major drama series will be made internationally available.  Meanwhile Australian viewers can watch ‘Harrow’ on ABC1 on Fridays 8.30pm 2018 or all complete episodes on iView.

ABCTV iView LogoABCTV LogoHarrow ABCTV Crime Series 2019 02

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/harrow/
https://iview.abc.net.au/collection/harrow

Well worth watching!  And Season Two hit Australian screens in May 2019.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Why, Sue Grafton, Why?

Sue Grafton Bookstack

American author Sue Grafton passed away in Santa Barbara on 28 December 2017 after a two-year battle with cancer.  On hearing the sad news, millions of readers, writers and fans must have screamed “Noooo” and fallen to the ground, arms raised to the sky, wailing “Why, Sue Grafton, why?”  Well, at least I did, and that’s no lie.

Famous for her 25-book Alphabet crime series, Sue Grafton’s last Kinsey Millhone book Z will remain unwritten.  To quote her family “The alphabet stops at Y” and this has been echoed around the world.

Sue Grafton single-handedly brought me back into reading and showed me the joys of a good detective novel.  I was floundering in a bad ten years of my life where I’d lost my father and was struggling with the care of my ailing mother while battling my own ill-health when, quite out of the blue, I was given a second-hand paperback of Grafton’s book “K is for Killer”.

PI Kinsey Millhone walked into my life.  Grafton’s detective series – “H is for Homicide”, “N is for Noose”, “V is for Vengeance” and so on – transported me into a place I understood, 1980s an era I knew, yet detailed the life of a woman in a job which was so foreign, so far removed from my own experiences that I was immediately entranced.  Or as my father would have said “Caught, hook, line and sinker.”

This fortuitous state of affairs meant I had many books to read before I was up-to-date with the current publications.  Here I would like to thank my cousin Laurie who willingly sent me several paperbacks to feed my addiction.  So I read one and moved straight onto the next, graduating from that first battered paperback to hardcovers and finally e-book editions.

The major characters are unchanging; Kinsey is a private detective in California who joined the police force then left to acquire her detective licence; landlord Henry Pitts is now forever in his kitchen; gregarious Rosie; love interest Cheney Phillips and Robert Dietz.  It was fascinating watching Kinsey evolve, if that’s the right word, because in all she only advanced a couple of years and is destined to remain immortalised in her thirties.

It seems Sue Grafton did not even draft a copy of her final book.  The old adage “Leave them wanting more” is true but not the case.  Her family is adamant that although Grafton had a working title (prophetically) “Zero”, there will be no final book, no ghost writer, no movie and no happy ending – just a blank space on the bookshelf.

My condolences to her family.  The final chapter has ended for Sue Grafton and Kinsey Millhone RIP.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Sue Grafton Alphabet Crime Series Featuring Kinsey Millhone

  1. A is for Alibi (1982)
  2. B Is for Burglar (1985)
  3. C Is for Corpse (1985)
  4. D Is for Deadbeat (1987)
  5. E Is for Evidence (1988)
  6. F Is for Fugitive (1989)
  7. G Is for Gumshoe (1989)
  8. H Is for Homicide (1991)
  9. I Is for Innocent (1992)
  10. J Is for Judgement (1993)
  11. K Is for Killer (1994)
  12. L Is for Lawless (1995)
  13. M Is for Malice (1996)
  14. N Is for Noose (1998)
  15. O Is for Outlaw (1999)
  16. P Is for Peril (2001)
  17. Q Is for Quarry (2002)
  18. R Is for Ricochet (2004)
  19. S Is for Silence (2005)
  20. T Is for Trespass (2007)
  21. U Is for Undertow (2009)
  22. V Is for Vengeance (2011)
  23. W is for Wasted (2013)
  24. X (2015)
  25. Y is for Yesterday (2017)

Feathered Fraudster or Duped Duck

Duck KSSS 02
Duck No: 4938

As I left the local gym, a rat scampered towards me waving a crumpled envelope.

“You’re Bertha East, right?” he squeaked. I started to explain I was Bertha West but he let the envelope flutter to the footpath and raced off. I scooped it up and saw on the back that it was from Duck No. 4938, a nodding acquaintance at the gym. The letter had been scribbled with a quill and Duck No. 4938 explained that she was currently behind bars at Critters Incarcerated. According to her letter, she was blameless of the charges levelled against her, while remaining tight-billed about her true intentions.

I was puzzled until next day the story became public knowledge. This had prompted her lawyer Henny McCluck to state that her client Duck No. 4938 was nowhere near The Duck Pond on the afternoon in question.

Apprehended with a plastic bag of crumbs under her wing, proceedings are currently underway to determine if Duck No. 4938 gobbled all the dry bread crusts before other ducks had a chance to exit the water. The Duck Pond is a popular picnic spot, a prominent sign warns Do Not Feed The Birds, and investigators are urging the child who dropped the bread crusts to come forward.

“My client pleads not guilty and hopes for early release,” said McCluck. She added that the Duckolympic champion held the coveted title of Paddling Fury and should be respected for her sporting prowess. I realised that this would not help her cause. In a photograph released today, Duck No. 4938 appeared rather haunted, her feathers askew. Lawyer McCluck can be seen loitering in the background.

Meanwhile, the letter I received from Duck No. 4938 hinted that she believes lawyer McCluck is pecking through what little grain savings she has left and asks for my support. I decided against sending a 2kg bag of cracked corn to the address she nominated and considered the letter to be some sort of scam.

The arrest had caused a flurry in the catering industry and representatives were standing in readiness to take stomach content samples.

By now social media tweets were going viral, ruffling large flocks of the feathered fraternity with #stuffedduck #duckdiving and #whatsitallaboutduckie.  Television news coverage focused on the issue of slim pickings for underprivileged water birds. Dramatic press headlines read “Feathered Fraudster” and “Dead in the Water” with an inflammatory byline from an angry drake.

“She snatched it right out from under my webbed feet!”

A shiver ran up my spine. The drake has engaged the services of Paulo Dingo, known in legal circles as ‘Hungry’.

Undisclosed sources close to The Duck Pond were striving to gain access to security camera videos which could prove Duck No. 4938 was not in the vicinity of the water’s edge at the time of the incident.

“Video footage won’t prove a thing,” said ‘Hungry’ Dingo in his scathing report on the inadequacy of the wildlife penal system. “Judge Cassowary wouldn’t know one duck from another,” he howled.

My after-lunch doze was unsettled by thoughts that blackmail and swamp weed may be at the root of the allegations. At the very least Duck No. 4938 may have been duped and become ensnared in a network of fowl crime. But why come to me? Why doesn’t she tell the truth?

The phone rang and I discovered that local Constable Steve Brolga was conducting enquiries. He said he would be undertaking a nest-to-nest search and interviewing anyone who may have seen or heard Duck No. 4938 acting suspiciously in the surrounding area.

“Keep your ears tuned for me, Bertha,” he said.

My ears twitched and I pondered the fact that Duck No. 4938 may have a secret hiding place. Unexpectedly I had the answer. A clutch of ducklings, safely hidden from the likes of ‘Hungry’ Dingo.

A guilty verdict would certainly hinder her parental responsibilities. She had to plan, she needed someone on the outside, someone who lived nearby and could go to the address in the letter. Someone she could trust to protect her family.

I confided my swirling thoughts to young Joey.
“I guess I can help,” I mused, “What’s 2kg of cracked corn anyway?”
He was dubious and thought it may have been a trap. “Or we might be followed.”

But the more we talked, the more I thought about food relief. “Maybe we could scrounge some stale bread rolls from the back of the supermarket?”

This proved to be a difficult task and I scrambled over enough plastic bags and wasted food to last me a lifetime. A couple of crows helped by flicking slices of bread out of a half-opened skip but maintained their image by cawing loudly every time one hit me on the head. Joey laughed until a mouldy slice hit him.

Next day I alerted Constable Brolga and planned to meet him at the location specified by Duck No. 4938. Joey and I set off mid-morning and arrived earlier than intended. I stopped at a rusty wire gate to confirm the address.

“This is it.” The only noise was the rustling of eucalyptus leaves.

Before I could stop him, Joey bounced out with the bulky package and pushed through the gate.
“Let’s blow this case wide open!”
I sighed and shoved the letter back in my pouch.

We hopped up a set of shallow steps to the wooden door of an old shed. Heat radiated from the corrugated iron cladding and we strained to hear any sound of ducklings from within. Flies buzzed around us, the smell was overpowering and Joey wrinkled his nose. I knocked forcefully, rattling the door.

There was scuffling and very slowly and carefully the door slid open. Suddenly we were engulfed in a tide of fluffy yellow pinfeathers and eagerly quacking bills. Joey moved forward as bright little eyes scanned our food parcel.

He held up his paw. “Who wants to be first in line?”

I felt comfortable with our decision. Whatever truths the trial may reveal, the innocent must not suffer.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Stolen Jewellery Anger and Sorrow

ANGRY THOUGHTS BECOME WORDS:
A cathartic rant penned soon after the burglary of my home.  The break-and-enter and subsequent robbery took place on the evening of 15 September between 6pm and 11pm.  Here are my raw observations—

OUT FOR THE EVENING:
My family and I went to a live theatre production for the first time in several years and when we arrived home that night we felt that all was not well.  We quickly turned on all internal lights throughout the house.  It wasn’t until we entered our bedrooms that we saw small things dropped haphazardly on the floor.  A notebook, a spectacles case, a shirt flipped off the hanger onto the floor and drawers slightly open.  Nothing spectacular, no broken objects, but obviously all our rooms had been searched.

Crime Scene Sticker 05

 

SHOCK AND DISBELIEF:
At first my feeling was one of shocked disbelief, we ran between bedrooms trying to find where the intruder had entered.  Nothing was immediately visible and my daughter slammed the bathroom door shut with the thought that someone may still be in the house.  As our report was phoned through to the police, my anger was slowly building until I kicked the bathroom door open, shrieking foul words of murder and mayhem.  Behind me, my daughter screamed in fright at my violent action but we were both relieved that nobody was lurking there.

Crime Scene Sticker 06

 

THE POINT OF ENTRY:
I went slowly into the living room and turned towards the dining room which led into the kitchen.  At first glance I could see that the windows were intact and the back door was undamaged.  Suddenly I noticed that the lounge chair in front of the French doors had been moved forward.  I peered over and saw that the flyscreen had been damaged in one corner but the blinds were still closed.  I unlocked the back door and went outside onto the patio.  I had a vile afterthought that the burglar was probably watching me from the shrubbery, sniggering.  The French doors were slightly ajar and moving closer I could see that they had been forced open, classic B&E.  The top and bottom bolts were smashed out, splintering the wood, and the middle locks were broken off.

Crime Scene Gloved Hand 02

 

A MINOR OBSTACLE:
Back inside and time to have a closer look behind that lounge chair.  The sliding flyscreen doors had given the burglar trouble, they were jammed with metal rods.  I believe the burglar took off his glove (there is evidence inside and outside the house that gloves were worn) in order to flip the metal rod out of the runner.  This rod was then discarded, to be found in our garden weeks later.  It had been though rain and handled which was unfortunate because the forensic officer who attended the scene would have liked to have dusted it.

Crime Scene Sticker 03

 

THE POLICE ARRIVE:
After a lengthy telephone call to CrimeStoppers, and a sleepless night, we awaited the arrival of the police next morning.  Two officers arrived early with a forensic sergeant.  They had a look around and were surprised to see no broken glass and our electronic devices and certain objects still in place. This is something which we have never understood but do believe we were done over by a specialist thief who targeted gold.  I use the word “he” because I was later informed that two similar crimes had occurred over a three-day period and on the third day he was seen in a hallway and escaped by jumping out a window.

Crime Scene Magnifier

 

FORENSIC WORK:
Regrettably I do not have the name of the forensic officer who was called in but she was very informative and helpful and took samples of gloved finger prints from the broken French doors, walls and throughout the house.  She took clear photographs and checked items like the front of the jewellery chest-of-draws which she dusted for prints but which were on wood so not very useful.  If I had been in a less shocked mood, it was a good example of police work.

Jewellery Gold 01

 

FAMILY INHERITANCE LOST:
This thieving criminal stole gold items relating to my family history, small pieces from my great grandparents, finely crafted and lovingly engraved.  An inheritance lost, no proof of ownership, not clear photos, only verbal descriptions.  Special items, sentimental items kept in the third drawer down in my mother’s large pine chest-of-drawers.  Yes, this is where the old jewellery was kept, all in original boxes, all quite obviously family treasures.  Sure, silly place to put them but they were not worn often, too fine for general wear, and not my generation’s style.

Jewellery Gold 04

 

ANGER, SORROW AND TAKING THE BLAME:
I am deeply sad and angry and wholly blame myself for the loss because I took our jewellery for granted.  It was part of the family but I did not respect its uniqueness or irreplaceable value enough to make sure these precious objects were kept safe.  My engraved wedding bracelet was worn, not hidden away.  Gone now.  Should we love and wear our meaningful possessions or lock them up?  We run great risks with many things.  There is insurance available but no matter what premium fees we pay, it will never ever replace our true possessions.  I have steeled myself never to see those familiar pieces again.  I know my family members are safe but I feel this loss like an ache.

Crime Scene Melted Gold

 

MELTED DOWN OR SOLD AT AUCTION:
A shockwave went through me when I realised our jewellery may be melted down for its gold.  But, according to a Melbourne jeweller I spoke to a week later, old gold is highly prized on the stolen goods market.  Holding value, easily transported from thief to fence to crooked jewellery store to people out there who don’t care if it has been stolen.  Sold as “deceased estate” jewellery, people will buy it, wear it, and lie about its provenance.  Either way, I hope they rot in hell for all eternity.

Jewellery Gold 02

 

SIFTING THROUGH THE RUINS:
The small sad broken little jewellery boxes are still in the chest-of-drawers.  Initially I couldn’t delved too far, it was traumatic enough sitting on the bed to open each box from its jumble in the bottom of the drawer.  I had to do an inventory.  Instinctively I knew which pieces of jewellery would be gone – and they were.  My gold rings were taken but everyday accessories were still there because they are average stuff.  Of course there’s always the horror of the thief passing on details to other cronies who may be interested in what is left behind.  Huh, nothin’ here now, mate.

Crime Scene Finger Prints 03

 

TOUCHY FEELY KINDA GUY:
It was obvious the intruder had touched everything and anything in our house.  The classic cat burglar, in most instances hardly moving objects, but perceptible just the same.  The rough gloves worn to jemmy open the double doors were replaced by smaller, possibly surgical gloves, but they still left small dents in the dust on our bookcases and side tables.  Three-prong finger prints where he had rested his middle fingers to reach up or pull an item forward.  Those small gloved finger marks tell the story of a thorough search.  Every framed picture, every ornament on every shelf had been moved.  Anything which might conceivably contain cash or jewellery was opened and closed roughly or otherwise.  Yes, even my t-shirts and undies drawer had been shuffled through.  Various drawers had been almost closed as to be unnoticeable.  But he had wanted them to be noticed.

Crime Scene Break In

 

EXTERNAL DAMAGE REPAIRED:
The locksmith was calm and professional and he showed me the methods used to break-and-enter as he repaired the damage.  The door was pried in ten places to snap the barrel bolts and break off the locks.  You could see where the thief had rested his grip-gloved hand while he worked.  Also, explained the locksmith, marks were on window sills at the back of the house where windows had been probed, the security screen lock on the back door was loose, too.

FORCE USED ON INTERNAL DOORS:
Inside, where this felon could not easily open a storage cupboard, force was used.  Fortunately we never keep any cash on the premises but the bending of hinges and buckling of locks is easy to see.  Door handle screws were loosened, the bottom door on an old metal filing cabinet (never locked anyway) is damaged, the locked door between our garage and hallway held firm but had been jemmied and now rattles in the frame.

Crime Scene Shoe Print 02

 

INSULT TO INJURY:
My emotions seesawed from sadness to annoyance to outrage.  One particular thing which made me fume and cry “How dare he!” was when I discovered the hinged bracket on my stepladder had been damaged.  During his unlawful search, the thief had broken my stepladder!

IMG_3661

 

ANOTHER MISSING ITEM:
When I had a thought about something, say a trinket box or unused cupboard, I would look to see if anything inside had been moved, sure enough, it had.  Days later I realised a small insignificant brooch was missing.  And everywhere those chilling little gloved fingerprints.  The thing which surprised me was the opening of food packets in our kitchen.  No mess but dry goods were rifled.  Even foodstuff in the refrigerator had been rearranged.  I thought that only happened in movies.

IN THE TIME WE WERE AWAY:
On the crucial night of the burglary, he certainly had a field day and didn’t have to worry about the length of time we would be away, seeing as our calendars advertised the start and finish time of the show we attended.  We were away for approximately five hours. Basically, our lives were overturned in that time.  As mentioned, he’d worked throughout the house and over the following days we discovered more tamper-evident details.

Crime Scene Tape 03

 

TAMPERING WITH ELECTRICITY SUPPLY:
The switchboard power box at the side of the house has been damaged because it had a jammed clasp which squeaked when pulled open and shut.  I checked it and could see the screws have been slacked off so the lock was useless.  I remembered waking up one morning and the clocks were flashing, showing the power had gone off at approximately 2am.  Someone checking the switches?  An outdoor floodlight had been broken during the burglary and was subsequently replaced.  Another cunning trick is to turn off the water supply to gauge if the householder is at home.

Crime Scene Sticker 01

 

WATCHING AND WAITING:
It is my strong belief that the thief was watching our house for at least a week or two before we were robbed.  My spider senses were working but I forced them down, I knew something was “out there” and chose to rationalise, ignoring my tiny twinges.  I did get a scare when I went down to the rubbish bin after dark one night.  Glancing up I thought I saw a shadow dive around the corner of the narrow walkway at the back of the empty house next door.  Nah, just imagination, right?  Never happened before…out-of-character for our quiet street…

NEVER IGNORE YOUR SUSPICIONS:
I do know I heard “things” several days beforehand and tried to dismiss them.  I shouldn’t have, they were significant sounds.  Once or twice the wind chimes tinkled when there wasn’t a breath of air.  Another time I heard our loose paving step rattle, a bin lid drop, the door shake.  Why was I aware of this?  Familiar sounds, yet unusual at those times.  I turned on the outdoor lights.  Maybe that was the night I scared a sneak thief, testing, checking points of entry.

Crime Scene Abandoned House 02

 

POOR CONDITIONS FOR US:
On the night of the burglary, the house on our left was unoccupied (owners out to dinner), the house on the right was a vacant rental and the house immediately behind us was also an empty rental.  Perfect conditions for a would-be thief; means, motive and opportunity!  We no longer own a dog and, ironically, one week after the break and enter, the house on the right was rented and the new tenants have two teenagers, two dogs and one cat.  Then the house behind us was occupied by a young family also with two dogs.  Always plenty of activity now which would have been useful just one week earlier.  C’est la vie.

Crime Scene Sticker 02

 

BE VIGILANT WITHOUT BEING PARANOID:
Things worth watching for – I had noticed a shiny black motor cycle with a rider clad in black leathers cruising up and down our street a couple of times.  In our average middle-class street, he was not a regular nor a neighbour.  I heard him in the next street over, cruising up and away.  A week later I was chatting to a friend at the front gate and a dark sports car with blackened windows cruised slowly up our street.  No headlights on, it was dusk, so the number plate was not visible.  I always pray that our scrutiny scared off that driver.  Both these occasions, I am certain, were “patrols” by the criminal fraternity.

Handcuffs 01

 

NO ARREST IN SIGHT:
To date, the thieving scumbag is still at large.  No matter what I do from now on in, I will always be double checking the doors and locks and security lights.  He is obviously specific, neat and creepy in all his movements.  He could have family connections to a jeweller, he could have been groomed to thieve for the family firm.  Perhaps a drug or gambling addiction?  There could be a number of reasons why he does what he does but none of them is excusable or legal.  I hate this faceless nameless criminal who broke into my home.  I hate him with a passion and still haven’t recovered from the crushing of my security, my safety, my homelife.

Thanks a lot, you rat fink bastard.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Crime Scene Sticker 08

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N.B. Images used for illustration purposes only.

Maud Fitch Sticky Beak

Crime Scene Tape 07
Move along, folks

Maud Fitch was well-known to the local police.  While Maud would say she was recognised for her crime-busting phone calls and neighbourly good deeds, Sergeant Ron Tisdale on the front desk of Kingsgrove police station expressed the opinion that she was a nuisance caller.
“In fact,” he said in his rich baritone voice, “she’s a serial pest.”
Sergeant Tisdale had just hung up from her latest telephone call.
“It’s not as though Maud fits into the lonely old woman category,” he said generously. “She’s got a good family, a part-time job and plenty of hobbies.”
A junior officer asked what the problem was this time.  “An escaped nerd alert?”
“Don’t be too cheeky, lad,” said Tisdale, careful not to let his soft spot show. “This time Maud has been observing her retired neighbour across the road and she thinks he’s murdered his sister and disposed of the body.”
The younger officer laughed.  “Wasn’t that a storyline on TV last night?  She’s a sponge.  She absorbs everything she sees on television and translates it to her own life to spice things up.”
“That might be so but I’ll log the details just the same,” said the Sergeant.  He rubbed his chin. “I think I’ll drop by Ms Fitch’s place on my way home this afternoon.  Just a quick visit to check that everything is fine.”
Being the senior officer, he ignored the knowing wink from his subordinate.
Maud had made a comment about uncharacteristic behaviour which sounded an
alarm bell in his orderly mind.  At the very least, he wanted to see that sparkle in her eyes when she had a hunch about something.
* * *
Maud saw Angus McDowell draw the living room curtains again.  He seemed to open and close the floral curtains three or four times a day in a vain attempt to make it look like someone was at home.  That in itself was unusual in such a safe little town like Kingsgrove but it was always his sister, Felicity, who did the domestic work inside their home.  Angus was the outside type.  He trimmed the garden, attacked the weeds and planted flowers as orderly as a row of chairs at the movies.
“He’s been doing that curtain thing for several days now,” said Maud.  She shaded her eyes from the afternoon sunlight which gleamed down on her pale skin and auburn hair.  She turned and caught Sergeant Tisdale with a transfixed look on his face.  “And I haven’t seen Felicity for almost a week.”
The Sergeant cleared his throat and reached for his fourth helping of Maud’s homemade biscuits.
“Perhaps she’s gone on a holiday?” he suggested. “Has he told you anything specifically to the contrary to arouse your suspicions?”
Maud poured more hot water into his coffee cup and frowned.
“That’s just it, he’s cut himself off, Sergeant.”
“Please, call me Ron,” he said.
“Angus isn’t answering the phone or the door bell,” she added, “Ron.”
“Maybe Felicity is visiting family and he didn’t want to go with her.  Could be he’s home alone having a kind of bachelor break.”  Sergeant Tisdale muttered to himself, “Lord knows we all need one of those occasionally.”
Maud understood that his daughter was leaving the grandchildren with him more and more now that his divorce had come through, thinking that it would cheer him up.
“He’s not the type,” she said emphatically.  From her position as a twice-divorced woman with grown-up sons, Maud felt she could speak with authority on the slovenly ways of men when left to their own devices.  Angus was neither a loner nor a slob.
The Sergeant shrugged his broad shoulders.
To highlight her next words, she tapped her spoon on the side of her cup.
“He’s been doing everything under the cover of darkness.”
After she had outlined the nocturnal behaviour of her neighbour, Sergeant Tisdale said  “I don’t want to snuff out your theory with a fire blanket, Maud, but I hardly think getting the groceries delivered or taking out the rubbish and collecting the mail after dark constitutes a criminal case.”
Crumbs were starting to gather on the front of the Sergeant’s shirt and he automatically brushed them off.  Maud’s glare made him hang his head like a school boy.  He apologised as she hurried out of the room to find her hand-held vacuum cleaner.  When she came back she noticed he had taken the opportunity to stuff a savoury cheese sandwich in his mouth.
Over the suction noise of the vacuum, Maud said “I haven’t told you the clincher yet.”
“Clincher?” mumbled Sergeant Tisdale.  The look on his face indicate that he thought this was another word for Maud’s guesswork.  But she knew he was actually allowing himself enough time to swallow the sandwich.  It gave her the chance to air her next piece of evidence.
“Yesterday, when I dropped by, there was no flower bed in the back garden.  Now there’s one near their old jacaranda tree.”  Her voice rang with triumph.
Sergeant Tisdale smiled politely.  “The McDowell’s have a neat garden, they like gardening, I see nothing unusual with that.”
“But, Ron,” gasped Maud, “it was dug in the middle of the night.”
“Well?” said Sergeant Tisdale as he eyed the last biscuit.
Maud shoved the plate towards him.  “It’s the same size as a graveyard plot.”
Unimpressed, Sergeant Tisdale sighed. “And?”
“And there’s no flowers planted in it,” said Maud.  “The reason I think this is so significant is the fact that Angus has a bad back so all the hard work is carried out by a landscaper who arrives around ten o’clock in the morning.”
She waited for a rebuke, similar to the kind her family dished out, which usually ended with her being told she was a sticky beak.
Instead, Sergeant Tisdale asked “When did you last…?”
With a dramatic squeal, she cut him off and pointed out the window.  “Look!  He’s fussing at the curtains again.  I can see his gardening overalls.”
Sergeant Tisdale half rose from the armchair which caused a cushion to tumble to the floor and coffee to slop onto his trousers.  Maud gave a snort of annoyance but it was directed through the window.
“Too late,” she said. “He’s ducked out of sight.”
“Sorry about that,” said Sergeant Tisdale.  He sat back down and carefully reached for a paper serviette.
“Oh, don’t worry…” began Maud.
“No, I don’t mean spilling my coffee,” he said.  “I meant twitchy behaviour.  It happens a lot around policeman.  Police cars also have a way of making citizens nervous.”
He dabbed at his knee with the disintegrating paper and changed the course of the conversation.  “Maybe he’s worried about you, Maud.”
She rejected this idea with a wave of her hand.  “No, I think he knows we’re on to him.”  For emphasis, she punched a small fist into the palm of her hand.
“Let’s nail him,” she said.
“I’m shocked,” said the Sergeant and smiled. “You have a wonderful imagination.”
His comment was ignored because Maud remembered something else she’d forgotten to tell him.  “You know, I rang all the hospitals in Kingsgrove and none of them had a Felicity McDowell on their patient admissions list.”
By tilting his head to the side, Maud thought his interest was piqued but he dashed her hopes.
“What’s the motive, Maud?  From all reports, Angus and Felicity McDowell have got on very well over the years, considering they are brother and sister. No sibling rivalry there.  They’ve settled into retirement together after the death of their mother and have never put a foot wrong, so to speak.  Now, answer me this,” he said and leaned forward slightly. “Why do you think Angus has murdered his sister Felicity?”
His voice sent a shiver up Maud’s spine.  She sucked in a lungful of air and expelled it slowly.  “Well, dear Ron, I was saving the most incriminating evidence until last.”
Sergeant Tisdale put his cup aside, drew himself up in the armchair and displayed credible anticipation.
“The McDowells were arguing just before Felicity disappeared.”  Maud moistened her lips.  She believed this was the good part.  “Felicity was leaving the house and she shouted at him saying he was a boring old man and it showed.  She didn’t want to end up a wrinkled prune like him.  She said he was stuck in a rut and should live a little, move with the times.”
“How did you hear all that?” asked Sergeant Tisdale.
Maud felt guilty and knew it showed.  “I was watering the garden.”
With reluctance, Sergeant Tisdale rose from the comfort of the chair and said “Hurt feelings yes, murder no.  An argument like that doesn’t indicate Angus would have been angry enough to commit murder.”
Maud was crestfallen.  She had hoped Sergeant Tisdale would look into it for her.  However, his next words brightened her outlook.
“I’ll call on Angus tomorrow, just for a little man-to-man talk.  But I’m not promising anything.  I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for Felicity’s absence.”
As he walked towards the door, Maud followed him and voiced her main worry.  “I certainly hope Angus is not a serial killer or I may be next on his list.”
Sergeant Tisdale assured her that normal people don’t turn into serial killers overnight.  He thanked her for the afternoon tea and was just about to cross the threshold when he paused.  He asked Maud if she had seen or spoken to either of the McDowells in the past week.
“No, except for partially seeing Angus at the window,” she said.  “Why do you ask?”
“We don’t know if that person in the house across the road is actually a McDowell.  It could be anyone.”
As far as Maud was concerned, their conversation had taken a turn for the worst.  She was horrified to think that perhaps both McDowells were murder victims.
“Oh,” said Maud. “Both murdered.”
She opened and shut her mouth then managed to utter “Oh, Ron.”
Sergeant Tisdale told her how this particular thought had been niggling at the back of his mind.  Maud couldn’t tell if he was serious.  “Don’t worry,” he said and gave her elbow a squeeze. “Just speculating out loud.  Not a very plausible scenario.  Also, if someone was in there house-sitting, I’m sure you would have witnessed other comings and goings.”
“And surely they would have told me if they were going away?” said Maud.  She felt indignant at the very idea of being excluded from this information.
“Not necessarily,” said the Sergeant.  “For example, they might have been too embarrassed to say they were going to a nudist camp.”
Despite herself, Maud laughed.  It was an unlikely event as far as she was concerned.  She said if that was the case, she would never be tempted to join them.
“Shame,” said Sergeant Tisdale.
As she closed the front door, she was aware that the Sergeant’s look was one of interrupted longing.  She assumed he was disappointed he had not been invited to dinner.  With a final vacuum of the armchair, she dismissed the flaws of men because a plan of action had already germinated in her fertile mind.

Peeking 10
Sneak Peek

Dusk had melted into darkness and the clock numerals glowed towards midnight as Maud changed her clothes.  She put on her black slacks and a dark blue shirt which she buttoned to the top.  In the wardrobe she found a black cap her nephew had left behind.  Once it was firmly clamped on her head, she surveyed the effect and was satisfied she looked slinky enough to blend into the night.
“Now for a bit of sneak and peek,” she whispered to the mirror.
At first, Maud thought it would be a good idea to dig up the grave-like mound beside the McDowell’s jacaranda tree but visions of a gruesome discovery quickly ended that notion.  Now she wanted to see who was in the McDowell house.
She crossed the dimly lit road, opened the wooden gate and tiptoed across the springy lawn.  The act of trespass did not enter her mind.  She headed for the side of the house because, she reasoned, it was less visible from the road and more likely to have an open window.  Startled by a creature rustling in the shrubbery, she paused and held her breath.  It was then she heard another sound.  The sound of digging.  Maud was sure her heart skipped a beat.
“Caught in the act,” she thought.  Surprised at her bravery, she moved forward.  She wanted to see who was doing the dirty work.
“Maybe the body is being moved?”  This thought made her shudder.
Maud crept along paving stones as she followed the noise around the corner of the old house.  Dull light from an open doorway partially lit the back garden.  There, hunched over the newly-dug garden bed, was a shadowy figure wearing heavy grey overalls and thick gloves.  Although she only had a back view, Maud guessed it was Angus.  She could distinguish his movements and watched him dig at the soil with a small trowel.
Suddenly her bravado faded and Maud lost her nerve.  She couldn’t tackle him and she certainly couldn’t accuse him of anything.  It was too tricky, too dangerous even.  Inwardly she chastised herself for doing such a foolhardy thing.
As she cursed her impulsive behaviour, her innermost thoughts screamed in a high pitched voice “Run, run now,” but she willed herself to stay calm.
She started to back away.  As she moved slowly down the path, she felt for the stability of the wall.  Without warning, she stood on a loosely coiled water hose and staggered.  It twisted around her ankle.  The more she flayed, the more entangled she became until the hose wrapped around her leg.  Finally she fell backwards and plonked down in a puddle of water.
The silhouette jumped up and ran over to her.  Two sturdy boots halted in front of her downcast eyes.  Maud did not want to look up.  She did not want a confrontation.  She knew she was cured of sleuthing for life.  One steel capped boot tapped with intimidation as she forced herself to look upwards.
In the same instant she raised her eyes, the backlit figure spoke.
“Maud Fitch,” said a female voice. “What on earth are you doing spying on me in the middle of the night?”
“Felicity! You’re safe!” cried Maud, flooded with relief.
“Of course,” said Felicity. “Now answer my question.”
Maud gulped. “I thought you were dead.”
“Obviously not,” said Felicity.
“But, but,” stammered Maud, “why are you dressed in Angus’ clothes?”
“To do a spot of gardening,” said Felicity.
Maud felt bold enough to ask for some assistance.  Felicity helped her untangle the garden hose and she stood upright.  As she brushed at her damp slacks, Maud saw a line of potted plants waiting to be transplanted.
Unable to resist, she said “Why do it at this time of night?”
“Planting by the lunar cycle,” said Felicity.
“Angus does the gardening.  Where is he?”
“None of your business,” said Felicity.  She appeared about to add something, instead she pulled off the gardening gloves and shoving them into a plastic bucket.
“You didn’t…” Maud’s voice faded.
Felicity shot her a sly grin.  “You reckon I’ve bumped him off and buried him in the garden, don’t you?”
Maud nodded and wondered how fast she could run.
“I could easily do that to you,” said Felicity matter-of-factly, “and nobody would ever know.”
“Ron Tisdale would,” said Maud, then covered her mouth.
“Will the good Sergeant be arriving next?”
“Yes,” lied Maud.
Felicity appeared unfazed by this and Maud watched as she swiftly removed the stained overalls.  Unfortunately it was too shadowy for Maud to tell if the marks were made by grass or blood.  Felicity jammed the overalls into the plastic bucket and stood there wearing a pair of tight jeans and a flattering top.
To Maud’s dismay, Felicity then snatched up a pair of pruning shears and shook them menacingly at her.  “You’re a nosey old sticky beak,” she said.
Maud was relieved when Felicity dropped the shears into the overcrowded bucket.  She retorted “Tell me something I don’t know.”
Felicity chuckled.  She sat down on the door step in the pale glow from the kitchen beyond and ran her fingers through her newly-cropped hair.  It was almost a challenge.
Her attitude no longer threatened Maud but she was disconcerted when Felicity smiled and crossed her legs in a relaxed fashion.  Maud wondered why her image was so cool, so casual.  And, she noted with surprise, so young-looking.
She thought “If Felicity is older than me then she should look older.”
In fact, Felicity looked younger and more unlined than when she and Maud first met ten years ago.  It took Maud a few seconds to work it out.
“You’ve had Botox injections,” she accused.
“Yes, I have.  Got it done last week when I was in Sydney, only took a few hours.  And I’m loving it,” said Felicity with a girlish toss of her head.  “When do you think Sergeant Tisdale will get here?”
“I think you should be arrested,” Maud exploded.  “Obviously you wanted a new life, a carefree younger life.  You didn’t want Angus hanging around, poor old wrinkly Angus, so you killed him.  Clearly the treatment has addled your brain.”
“You’re the one who’s addled.” Felicity glared as much as the Botox treatment would allow.  “Angus got knifed.  It was no accident.”
She paused and straightened her sleeve.  “I persuaded him to go under the knife.  I’ve been covering for him while he recuperates from cosmetic surgery.”
Maud was dumbfounded.  “Angus, cosmetic surgery?  Never!”
“It’s true,” said Felicity. “It’s our little secret.  Please don’t give the game away.  He should be home tomorrow so you can check out the work for yourself.”
“I won’t be coming back, I couldn’t imagine anything more awful.  What a ludicrous thing to do,” shouted Maud.  She turned and stormed off before she realised her behaviour was excessive but she had gone too far to make amends.  As she rounded the corner, she yelled over her shoulder “You’re a couple of vain peacocks.”
She muttered all the way home about people who couldn’t grow old gracefully, who were image obsessed and wanted immortality through the process of body distortion.
“I love my wrinkles,” she said defiantly.  Then wondered if it was true.
* * *
Next day, Maud had driven home from work and cruised down the last familiar stretch of her own road when she saw Sergeant Tisdale’s police vehicle pull away from the kerb outside the McDowell residence.  For her own benefit, she needed to know what he had been told about her unseemly actions and started to formulate an excuse.
She flashed the headlights then flagged him down with windmill-like arm gestures.  The Sergeant appeared both annoyed and amused but pulled over good-naturedly and lowered his car window.
Maud was ready with her questions but he spoke first.
“I’ve solved the McDowell mystery,” he said.
Maud went to speak but he kept talking.  “Old Angus and Felicity are there.  He told me that both he and Felicity had each taken a short vacation.”
She gave a wary nod.
Sergeant Tisdale continued “The separation must have done them both the world of good.  They look ten years younger.”
Maud smiled.  At that moment, she experienced a revelation.  She decided that saving face was not as important as keeping a friend’s secret.
Sergeant Tisdale looked at her expectantly.
“Glad to hear it,” was all she said.
Maud accelerated sharply and left the Sergeant behind without a second glance.
She knew he wouldn’t give up on her that easily and she had biscuits to bake.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

(With my thanks to Maud Fitch, friend and fellow writer)

Win a Prize by Cheating

Reading Girl 43
Hmm…

Fleur was sick and tired of the competition rules, regulations and conditions which surround the submission of a manuscript.  She decided to cheat the system.  But one of the worst things is to think you are going to get caught, that you are double-dealing the system, that you’ve done something you shouldn’t have done.  Be self-assured?

“Sure, you justify it to yourself that you aren’t going to win a prize in that writers competition anyway so what the heck, give it your best shot, enter four competitions with the same short story under 3,000 words.”  Fleur finds her handbag and house keys.  “And who cares?  First world problems, right?  They can only disqualify me.  They’ll get an entry fee without the hard slog.  What hey, they will do the hard work first.  Judges will find out later that I’ve cheated.  Well, not exactly cheated, more bent the rules.”

Fleur submitted the exact same story to four different organisations in the hope that one would succeed.  Of course, deep down she knows that the story will not succeed.  But there’s that tiny little glimmering hope that one entry will win.  “Ha,” snaps Fleur’s psyche, ‘you’ll win first, second or third place in each competition and cause a furore.”  There will be a lot of huffing and puffing, but Fleur says “I don’t care!  Keep the entry fees, frankly I don’t care!”  There will be tedious emails pointing out her indiscretion and how naughty she’s been – she don’t care!  They can sort it out by themselves.  Go ahead, eliminate her, but questions sneak through before the front door closes.

Fleur’s shoes pound the pavement as her rant continues “At the time I think I said to myself that I had not submitted to another competition, however, by the last entry I had.  And I didn’t change a word.  But here’s two questions for you.  How come books and authors can win the Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize, Ned Kelly Award, Prix Goncourt, Man Booker Prize, etc, even though they have already won another prize?  Or magazine articles which have been reprinted elsewhere with author permission?  Like I said, I don’t care!”

“Please, please,” Fleur takes a breath “don’t let me win a place in any more than one competition.  I couldn’t stand the hassle.  As a matter of fact I don’t quite understand why I did it.  Well, in the case of the smaller organisation, I think I did it out of pity to bolster their entry numbers.  And in the case of the larger organisation, I think I did it out of spite to prick their egotistical speech bubbles.”

Fleur is expounding this tirade now because three of the organisations have announced their cut-off date, entries have closed.  The minor one is still struggling on.  “Oh,” she says, her pace slowing “I forgot to mention that I have submitted another manuscript, quite a different story but the same copy to two interstate writing competitions.  Their game plans are miles apart, one laidback and one stiff and starchy.  The story is rather laidback itself so I will be interested to see if it gets anywhere, I do like it.”

On the subject of slightly ignoring their instructions on the grounds of “get over yourselves, bloody gatekeepers” Fleur couldn’t help adding “If they don’t like it then that’s tough.  I don’t care!”  She knows she will have second thoughts after formal announcements are made in a few months’ time, and she voices the unsettling assumption that she may be victimised.  Fleur has heard tales of editors, indeed publishing houses, blacklisting people and the writing fraternity shunning one of their own for not following the guiding principle of “doing it the right way”.

Fleur stops walking.  “Publishers want unusual, they want different, but mostly they are just as rigid as the public service, any spark of individuality snuffed before it ignites.  Death to the formula!”  She hears her bulky envelope fall into the metal post-box and slams the flap shut.  The guidelines stated that all entries must be submitted by email attachment.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Reading Girl 42
Rubbish!

‘Rain Dogs’ by Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty 04
Ulster Riot

It’s 1987 and things are still nasty in riot-torn Northern Ireland.  The Troubles in Ulster won’t go away.  A dreaded mercury tilt bomb causes a fatality in the Royal Ulster Constabulary ranks when least expected. In fact, many things happen when least expected.  The old ‘dead body in the locked room’ scenario rears its ugly head again.  The unassailable Carrickfergus Castle location is picturesque but the freaky circumstances are not.  Pretty reporter Lily Bigelow’s body is found sprawled in the snowy courtyard at the base of the castle keep.  The castle is locked.  Nobody went in and nobody came out, so what’s the deal?  The facts don’t add up and it’s a case of did she fall or was she pushed?

Northern Ireland MapWithout much to go on, DI Sean Duffy of Carrickfergus RUC uses dogged police work, video tape footage, and many repeat suspect interviews, until small pieces slowly emerge.  There is an outline to this puzzle but can it be filled in?  Convincing evidence is hard to come by.  Much in all as I love Sean, I do think he took two matters at face value even though I was shouting at him to double check.  And he does appear to be maturing, perhaps a little bit more circumspect, managing to curb his anger when insulted by hostile Larne CID Chief Inspector Kennedy at a horrific crime scene.

We are left to wonder what part Sean’s old friend and ex-cop Tony McIlroy has to play in his role as protector of the visiting Finnish delegation Mr Laakso Mr Ek & Company.  They are on a tight schedule, which involves finding a suitable factory location to manufacture Lennätin mobile phones, so these dignitaries are unhappy when Mr Laakso’s wallet is stolen.  Sean is unhappy too.  More so later when he has to interview them on the ice-road island of Hailuoto near Oulu in Finland.

The series regulars appear, solid unattractive Sergeant McCrabban and intelligent handsome DC Lawson who steals the limelight with a couple of excellent ideas.  Some of my favourite cameos are from vague Chief Inspector McArthur and major irritant Sergeant Dalziel (gotta wonder about that name) and Sean’s lady love Beth plus the ever-delightful Mrs Campbell from nextdoor, married with kids but oh-so-smouldering.  The only thing which grated on me was the dead giveaway of the chapter titles.  I like them a bit more esoteric.

It seemed to be the year for paedophilia in crime fiction; the RUC Sex Crimes Unit at Newtownabbey gets involved and Jimmy Savile puts in an appearance.  On a different note, Belfast has a visit from world heavyweight boxer The Champ, Muhammed Ali.  I do enjoy Adrian McKinty’s diversions, these little re-writings of history.  I wouldn’t class Rain Dogs as a scary thriller but in a gripping scene, Sean knew he ‘was afraid and fear releases power.  Fear is the precursor of action’.  McKinty also writes the dread and tedium of everyday life in succinct wording (without me needing grim online images) and Sean’s days are peppered with music and references.  Which incidentally are where the titles of the books are derived.

Now living in Australia, Irish-born author Adrian McKinty has again worked his magic with Sean, maybe with a little help from St Michael (or St Francis de Sales) and no doubt book six in the Sean Duffy series Police At The Station And They Don’t Look Friendly is equally as good.  At least I hope so because I don’t think readers are ready to kiss this Carrickfergus detective goodbye just yet.  I can recommend Rain Dogs if you want to sink your canines into a distinctively styled crime novel.

Books in the Sean Duffy series:

  1. The Cold, Cold Ground 2012
  2. I Hear the Sirens in the Street 2013 – my first favourite
  3. In the Morning I’ll be Gone 2014
  4. Gun Street Girl 2015 – my second favourite
  5. Rain Dogs 2016
  6. Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly 2017

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Adrian McKinty 01
The Troubles
Adrian McKinty 02
More Troubles
Adrian McKinty 03
Big Troubles

‘The Empty Beach’ by Peter Corris

Peter Corris Cliff Hardy Banner 01
Author Peter Corris

“The Empty Beach” is about private investigator Cliff Hardy’s routine investigation into a supposed drowning.  Beautiful client Marion Singer wants to find out the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of her wealthy husband John Singer.

The truth about John Singer, illegal trader and poker machine guru, is hard to find among the drug addicts, alcoholics and ashrams of Bondi Beach in Sydney NSW.  Not to mention the hindrance of PhD rich girl Ann Winter and creepy jailer Mary Mahoud.  Hardy soon finds himself fighting for his life when his search for the truth involves some nasty venues controlled by an underworld of violent people and lead by kingpin Freddy Ward who does not appreciate his inquisitive nature.

Being an earlier novel, Hardy is ex-army, a law student dropout, insurance company investigator turned private eye who lives by a solid set of values.  And he’s seen many gruesome murders in his time.  Throughout Hardy shows understanding and tolerance of people from all walks of life, he embraces the city sprawl and the rural ethos, and doesn’t start a fight.  But he can be tough and not play nice when it comes to his own survival.  He has a habit, when in a tight situation, of jesting at the bad guy’s expense and consequently coping a beating.  This is well illustrated in the chapter where Hardy is imprisoned inside a squash court.

Crime Scene Tape 08

My suggestion is read “The Dying Trade” the first Cliff Hardy book in Peter Corris 42-book series even though a later book “The Empty Beach” was made into an Australian movie in 1985 and remains his archetypal crime story.  Based on Peter Corris 1983 novel of the same name, this movie starred Bryan Brown as Cliff Hardy and such notables as Belinda Giblin, Ray Barrett, John Wood, Joss McWilliam and Nick Tate as the ill-fated Henneberry.

While you may like to read the more current books like “Silent Kill” (above) the earlier ones are classic Australia in the 80s and 90s and my favourite is “Wet Graves”.  They have changed with the times, think internet and iPhones, and contain physical changes to Cliff Hardy at the same time they happened to the author.  For example, smoking habits or the triple bypass heart surgery Peter Corris underwent and kindly passed on to Cliff Hardy.  The relationship breakdowns do not appear to apply too much to real life.  Corris didn’t pass on his diabetes, however, the easy-going narrative speaks volumes, both men having a genuine affection for their family, the city of Sydney, and its diverse citizenry.

Now I’ve got that out of the way, let me say that one of the most enduring (and for me, best loved) of Australian crime fiction characters is Cliff Hardy.

Fast forward to future ‘Spoilers’ and Hardy is deregistered and operates on his own initiative but still maintains a rock-solid sense of fair play in the 21st century.  To date, Hardy’s longtime friend Frank Parker is now a retired senior police officer and married to Hilde, Hardy’s ex flatmate.  The reader watches this friendship evolve through a chain of novels and it’s just as interesting as following Hardy’s love life and family expansion.  Although he still holds a torch for his late ex-wife Cyn, there’s even grandchildren.  And there’s cameos from characters like tattooist Primo Tomasetti with his graphic artwork and sleazy patter.

Cliff Hardy represents the kind of bloke many law-abiding citizens would like to have on their side, a blemish yet dependable man who’d share a joke or reminisce over a cold beverage.  When it comes to Aussie mystery solving, Hardy gets my vote every time.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

POSTSCRIPT:  Peter Corris, journalist, historian and author of the best-selling Cliff Hardy detective series, died on 30 August 2018, aged 76.  Over 37 years, from 1980 to 2017, Corris wrote 42 Cliff Hardy novels making it the longest running series in Australia.  The final installment is titled ‘Win, Lose or Draw’.

Cliff Hardy booklist https://www.allenandunwin.com/authors/c/peter-corris
Author website http://www.petercorris.net/petercorris.net/Home.html

Empty Beach
Beachside – Vale Corris and Hardy.