Book Review ‘Trust’ by Chris Hammer

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“Millie the Money Box” from Westpac Bank in conjunction with Sydney Olympic Games 2000. Used for illustration purposes only. My tie-in with the crime novel “Trust” which involves a bank and lost millions. Millie is not only memorabilia, she once held pocket money in the form of 50cent pieces. I wonder if coins, pocket money and piggy banks will exist in the future? © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

—Review—

Martin Scarsden is the central character but in “Trust” he shared the limelight.  His girlfriend Mandalay Blonde’s story was just as valid as Martin’s but I found events lacked drama when it came to poor-girl-makes-good-gets-stuck.  She did get her act together when a group discussion propelled her into action.  Unbeknown to Mandy she would soon face major problems from an old-boy network, creepy co-worker, money laundering and large scale corruption.  Two major questions swirled around Mandy regarding her former fiancé and her place of employment, viz, “What was Tarquin Molloy playing at?” and “Where are Mollisons missing millions?”

Backstory is not the story and I started to lose interest in author Chris Hammer’s exposé on Mandalay and her stressful life.  She arrived in Sydney and quote “She wants to flee, to get back to her son, to protect him.  And yet the past is coming, it’s here, she can’t carry it back to Port Silver; she can’t risk it getting a trace of her boy…”  The ship had sailed on that one.  In previous books, she and Martin were in the media, the talk of the town, easily found by adversary Zelda Forshaw.

Halfway in, I wanted to shake up the action and indirectly Mandy obliged even though she was on an emotional rollercoaster.  She met a dodgy cop in a dingy café in a tunnel under Central Railway station without a companion, without telling anyone where she was going.  I said “Organised crime, Mandy, people were being murdered!”  Thus the script-writing elements showed with Chris Hammer’s talking heads and scene-setting rather than people who moved through their surroundings.  Ancillary characters were great, from the homeless to corporate high-flyers, a computer geek to a retro assassin and, of course, ruthless newspaper men. 

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Anomalies were Australian judge Elizabeth Torbett with Tory politics; Martin, a seasoned journo who relied on technology and a laptop but made novice mistakes; Mandy did not regularly check on son Liam in Port Silver; Martin had coffee with Montifore in Chapter 33 but “Goffing returns with the drinks…” Oops.

“Trust” the perfect title, and Chapter 28 and Chapter 29 alone were worth the price of the book.  Martin visited Justice Clarence O’Toole of the New South Wales Land and Environment Court and asked him a few questions.  The old judge was very ill but talked at length about his membership with The Mess, a private club, and the sudden death of Martin’s mentor and friend.  Afterwards Martin thought about his journalistic career and the slow agonising demise of print newspapers.  I went straight out and bought an edition of The Courier Mail.

Chris Hammer future-proofed his crime novel with coronavirus, and mentioned the pandemic several times, but it flopped for me.  Covid-19 was not over when I read the book.  At this point in time, Sydney still has coronavirus outbreaks and restrictions.  “Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance”.

Martin and Mandy’s ordeal took place over seven days and I would not have enjoyed being in their shoes, but I enjoyed the Australian setting and frontispiece map of Sydney.  There was a wonderful iffy, dicey feel to the plot which at times stretched tropes and credibility, like the ASIO meet-up, or the dance of death, however a clever twist enhanced the story and the ending was unexpected.  On the whole, I liked this third instalment, quote “some huge story, some grand conspiracy” so cheers to more books and great reading in 2021 New Year.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

“Smartphones on and life-cancelling earbuds in”

From Trust Martin Scarsden crime series
by Chris Hammer 2020

Can Listicles Rot Your Brain?

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Is a listicle clickbait, fun facts written for readers with short attention spans, or an orderly way to write information?

First of all, the word listicle is comprised of two words, list and article, and features numbered sentences.  The salient content is brief, frequently light on facts, often humorous and has an almost hypnotic quality.  There is a compulsion to read a listicle to the end but this can leave a feeling of dissatisfaction.  Yet, as time and the internet marches on, readers can’t get enough of them.  Accordingly, listicles have transcended dot points and editorial shortcuts to become the layout of choice for everyday writers and bloggers needing a quick and easy-to-read solution.

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You know what to expect by the heading of a listicle, usually important nonsense, so opinions are divided on their usefulness.  Are they ever meant to be taken seriously?  Many people think so, but that’s probably because they are writing a how-to manual.

Back when a listicle in a magazine was called a Guide or Questionnaire, and had titles like “Ten Ways To Find Out If Your Boyfriend Really Loves You”, the format was short, numbered sentences and had ten boxes to tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and ended with your score.  Listicles have morphed into a more sophisticated version of this ‘filler’ yet still pretend to be useful data, advice or handy hints to enhance your lifestyle.

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So, does this glossary format, this amusing fad with the cute name, continue on or can it be classed as nouveau 21st century literacy?

It doesn’t affect my reading ability (heck, I’ve re-blogged them myself) and I tend to treat a listicle as an expurgation, a beguiling and abridged version of real reading.  Just type in ‘listicle websites’ and have a look at the content.  Hardly literature at its finest even allowing for sentences stripped bare.

There are as many ‘for’ and ‘against’ stories as there are listicles.  Here are 3 of my favourite takes on listicles with apologies for not making it 10––

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(1)  Excerpt from “What Is A Listicle?”
https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-listicle-1691130
From Richard Nordquist comes this Garrison Keillor slice of the Darker Side Of Listicles, an interview with the writer who popularised listicles (or did he?) and asks him––

Q: Do you have any idea what damage you’ve done, Jim? You’ve made people more stupid. Some of your readers now find it hard to read paragraphs that aren’t numbered.
A: How many? A lot?

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(2)  Excerpt from Mark O’Connell “Ten Paragraphs About Lists You Need in Your Life Right Now” The New Yorker, August 29, 2013
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/10-paragraphs-about-lists-you-need-in-your-life-right-now
“The rise of the listicle obviously connects with the internet’s much-discussed effect on our ability (or desire) to sit still and concentrate on one thing for longer than ninety seconds. Contemporary media culture prioritises the smart take, the sound bite, the takeaway––and the list is the takeaway in its most convenient form. But even when the list, or the listicle, has nothing really to do with useful information, it still exerts an occult force on our attention––or on my attention, at any rate. (’34 Things That Will Make ’90s Girls Feel Old.’ ’19 Facts Only a Greek in the U.K. Can Understand.’ ’21 Kinds of Offal, Ranked By How Gross They Look.’) Like many of you, I am more inclined to click on links to articles that don’t reflect my interests if they happen to be in the form of countdowns. And I suspect my sheep-like behaviour has something to do with the passive construction of that last sentence. The list is an oddly submissive reading experience. You are, initially, sucked in by the promise of a neatly quantified serving of information or diversion….Once you’ve begun reading, a strange magnetism of the pointless asserts itself.”
Note how Mark O’Connell has numbered all his paragraphs.

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(3)  On the flip side, here is an excerpt from pro-listicle website “Five Reasons Listicles Are Here to Stay and Why That’s OK”
https://www.wired.com/2014/01/defense-listicle-list-article/
Rachel Edidin talks about ‘active progression’ and ‘lane-markers’ and her opening comment launches straight into battle “Lists are everywhere. They’re the bread and butter of sites like Cracked and BuzzFeed, and regular content or sporadic filler at dozens more. (Yes, even WIRED). From the multimedia gallery to the humble Top 10, list-format articles – listicles – are rapidly becoming the lingua franca of new-media journalism…” and later says “… listicles are just another tool in the box.”

Listicle

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If you are a listicle fan, you won’t be reading this blog post.
For those who have struggled this far, here is a bonus extra:

On a scrap of paper, I’ve just written my higgledy piggledy shopping list––or is it?

1.     Bread, flour.
2.     Milk, butter, cheese.
3.     Coffee, green tea.
4.     Apples, oranges, pears.
5.     Potatoes, carrots.
6.     Basil, thyme, rosemary.
7.     Eggs, chicken.
8.     Gnocchi, penne, ravioli.
9.     Tuna, salmon.
10.   Basmati, paella.

Did you read to the end?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward