April Picks

Clifford, Aoife (2022) When We Fall. Ultimo Press.

When Alex and her mother make a grizzly find on the beach barrister Alex does not accept the police explanation of accidental death. Then there is a second death. Bella is found dead at the bottom of a ravine drowned in salt water, whilst Maxine is pulled from the ocean with no water in her lungs! Both bodies are found with black feathers. Alex seeks to honour the lives of the two talented young women by discovering the truth behind their murders, meanwhile her mother’s dark history threatens to spill a coastal town’s deep dark secrets. Twisty with lots of characters, however lacked any real energy.

Rating: 8/10

Groff, Lauren (2021) Matrix. Random House.

In a freely reimagined tale of Marie de France, possibly the Abbess of Shaftesbury and half-sister to Henry II, Lauren Groff has turned her attention to the life of medieval English nuns. Marie is exiled from court by Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and sent to be prioress at a remote royal abbey. When she arrives she finds the sisters sick and starving in a land “mud-fouled”. Over the next five decades she builds an affluent female haven, as the women ambitiously hove a commune through hard work and creativity, ignoring patriarchal mandates. Veneration of feminine power and greatness.

Rating: 8.5/10

Foley, Lucy (2022) The Paris Apartment. W. Morrow.

Jess, down and out, has invited herself to stay with brother Ben at his apartment in Paris, but when she arrives he is missing. Jess starts investigating her brother’s whereabouts and is not only confused about how he could afford such an elegant upmarket place but also by the hostile attitude of the other residents. Ben’s neighbours appear to know more than they are telling. The short chapters are narrated by the primary protagonists slowly exposing dark secrets and the sinister story of Number Twelve Rue des Amants. Action-packed but found wanting.

Rating: 8/10

Tyler, Anne (2022) French Braid. Chatto & Windus.

The Garretts’ family life is a cluster of turbulent moments covering six decades, starting with a family holiday by a Maryland lake in 1959. The largely dysfunctional nature of this family holiday, the only one they will ever take, has repercussions over the generations. As Tyler’s multigenerational saga mines the tensions and small moments of family life, told in eight individually crafted third-person vignettes, we witness each family member’s search for independence and autonomy. Insular, precise and very human. Tyler at her best.

Rating: 9/10

Keefe, Patrick Radden (2021) Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. Picador.

The Sackler family were the owners of Purdue Pharma, the developers and marketers of OxyContin. OxyContin was the drug prescribed for pain that has created millions of addicts, and millions of dollars for the Anglo-American Sackler dynasty. Keefe’s saga relentlessly chronicles the machinations, greed, and philanthropy alongside the human misery wrought by of three generations of one of the world’s richest families. Whilst constantly denying any claims of wrong-doing this exposé reveals how the super-elite can live their lives with impunity. Damning.

Rating: 9/10

Feito, Virginia (2021) Mrs March. Liveright.

Mrs March is a woman of fastidiousness and decorum who is shocked out of her complacency when her local pâtissier asserts that she is her novelist husband’s latest protagonist – a rather unflattering portrait of “a whore no one wants to sleep with”. Feeling humiliated and violated she becomes increasingly unstable, convinced her husband is betraying her in fiction, or something worse! As she begins to decipher her husband’s secrets she see cockroaches in her pristine apartment. And, as her paranoia grows – so does ours, in this gothic Du Maurier inspired psychological study. Subtly dark birds-eye view of a woman on the brink.

Rating: 8.5/10

McKenzie, Dinuka (2022) The Torrent. Harper Collins.

A new detective is joining the ranks of Australian crime fiction. In Northern NSW DS Kate Miles is days away from going on maternity leave when two cases are handed to her – a violent holdup at a local fast-food restaurant and a request to review a high-profile drowning case. These two seemingly unconnected cases will challenge Kate and her team in this very robust police procedural, with heart. Pacy, original and highly enjoyable debut. Looking forward to the next Kate Miles whodunnit in 2023.

Rating: 8.5/10

Goldstone, Nancy (2021) In the Shadow of the Empress: The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Empress Maria Theresa is one of the extraordinary women of eighteenth century Europe. The only woman to inherit the vast Habsburg Empire in her own name she defied her mortal enemy Frederick the Great, battled for her lands against immeasurable odds, gave birth to sixteen children, and created a remarkable female dynasty. She and three of her daughters, the infamous Marie Antoinette of France, Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and Marie Christina, governor-general of the Austrian Netherlands, are the stars of this family saga, traversing time and the map of Europe. The biography illuminates the military, political, and social complexities that each woman faced, as well as their personal challenges. Very readable vivid portraits.

Rating: 8.5/10

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