Tag Archives: crime

GaryView: The Blood Countess by Tara Moss

Gary and LissaLissa: Given your usual misgivings about how vampire books are nothing like actual vampires, what’s the verdict

Gary: It was okay.

Lissa: I really liked Pandora English. She’s smart, capable, funny and I liked that she wanted to be an investigative journalist, not just write fluff pieces about fashion. Her Aunt Celia was a good character, and I liked her friendly Civil War ghost. Luke was a sweetie.

Gary: The ghost was okay.

Lissa: It was pretty funny in parts, and the mystery was good. It’s that Hitchcockian theory of suspense, when you know more that the protagonist.

Gary: I suppose that was okay.

Lissa: The writing style flowed really nicely too. It was fun and easy to read, which I like sometimes.

Gary: It was a fast read, yes.

Lissa: …You didn’t really like it, did you?

Gary: It was fine, for a light read. I did like the writing style, really. It’s very cinematic. It’s easy to see how it would look as a film.

Lissa: What didn’t you like about it?

Gary: I didn’t not like it. It just… had a lot in it about clothes. And shoes. What’s a Mary Jane shoe anyway?

Lissa: Sort of like what I’m wearing now, but with a chunkier heel.

Gary: And that’s what Pandora was excited about?

Lissa: Mary Janes are comfortable but still pretty.

Gary: …oooookay.

Lissa: Actually, the scenes with the vintage fashion dress-ups were some of my favourites! It would be nice to have an exotic former designer of a great-aunt giving me tips and nice shoes to make my way in New York.

Gary: You would?

Lissa: Yeah. That Chanel outfit sounded nice. The black pants suit.

Gary: I didn’t think you were very interested in clothes.

Lissa: I’m not obsessive about them…

Gary: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Lissa: What do you mean?

Gary: I mean that I didn’t think you were into shoes and stuff that much.

Lissa: Why?

Gary: Well…

Lissa: Just because I don’t go on and on about fashion, it doesn’t mean I don’t like nice things.  I like nice clothes. I have my own style.

Gary: (nods vigorously, like he’s understood) Yes. Your librarian style.

Lisa: What’s that supposed to mean?

Gary: (uncertain) Ah….

Lissa: Sartorial criticism coming from a man who wears the Hawaiian shirts his mother bought for him in a job lot at a fire sale in the early 80s isn’t really my idea of expert comment.

Gary: I’ve said something wrong and I don’t know what it is.

Lissa: What does ‘librarian style’ even mean?

Gary: I just meant… you’re a librarian and… that’s how… you dress…? Should I have said Lissa style? You dress like you. Is that… how is that a bad thing?

Lissa: It’s…ah… not.

Gary: Would it help if I said sorry?

Lissa: You don’t know what you’re apologising for, do you?

Gary: … no…

Lissa: (sighs) Don’t worry. It’s nothing. It’s just… someone at work yesterday said I dressed like a hippy.

Gary: I knew hippies at uni in the 1960s. You don’t dress like them. Anyway, I like what you wear. I like the colours.

Lissa: You don’t think it’s too… old fashioned?

Gary: I think you look nice.

Lissa: Oh. Well. Thank you.

Gary: You’re welcome. (pause) What’s wrong with my Hawaiian shirts?

*For newcomers, the GaryView is a review of books/films/TV/entertainment carried out as a conversation between Lissa Wilson (librarian) and Gary Hooper (vampire) , characters from my book ‘The Opposite of Life’. Visit my website for more information.

Review: Scarlet Stiletto The Second Cut (AWW Challenge #1)

Late last year I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for the Natoinal Year of Reading 2012. This is my first book and first review for the challenge!

I picked up Scarlet Stiletto The Second Cut at last year’s SheKilda convention. It contains a selection of prize-winning entries from Sisters In Crime‘s Scarlet Stiletto awards. It turns out to be a terrific collection of crime writing from twenty new (or newish) women writers in the genre.

Some of the stories are less polished than others. I initially thought The Key Suspect was too straightforward (and not gruesome enough) for my tastes, until I realised that the author, Jane Blechyden’s story had taken out  the 2007 Young Writer’s Award when she was only 10.  This wasn’t even her first writing prize. Clearly, Ms Blechyden has a great future ahead of her.

Badge designed by Book'dout (Shelleyrae)

On the whole, the writing from these women is assured and full of deft observations and intriguing darkness. The narrator is sometimes the investigator, sometimes a witness, sometimes a killer. Each has a distinct voice and many stories incorporate unique elements of women’s lives into the character and even plot. Motherhood, the role of carer, and sexual and domestic abuse all inform the writing. Some stories are incredibly funny, others are poignant or chilling. Contemporary, historical and futuristic; urban and rural – it’s a smorgasbord of styles and settings.

Each of the 22 stories is enjoyable, but the following tales were the standouts for me.

Smoke by Aoife Clifford. I’m a sucker for a combination of crime stories and the Labor party. Move over, Shane Maloney. Aoife Clifford is gunning for your spot.

Persia Bloom by Amanda Wrangles. Amanda sent me this story to read a year or so ago, and I was just as impressed on re-reading it. Funny, fresh and uncomfortable, this story of a hairdresser with psychic skills and a need to solve her clients’ unhappiness is full of surprises.

Cold Comfort by Sarah Evans. Evans has just the right lightness of touch for this macabare and hilarious story of a woman helping her grandfather out of an awkard situation.

Poppies by Kylie Fox. This one is a poem which begins with embroidery and ends with someone stitched up. It’s melancholic and moving with just the right touch of acidity to be thoroughly satisfying.

Undeceive by Evelyn Tsitas. Another prose poem, this one reads like a series of moving images, very visual and again, a satisfying story of getting even. Tsitas’s science fiction crime story, Xenos, is also excellent and unexpected. I’d love to read more in this universe.

Death World by Eleanor Marney. This story and Marney’s other, Tallow, are both standouts. In Death World, a heavily pregnant profiler is persuaded to work on one more set of unsolved murders before her baby is born. In Tallow, a woman writes to her twins to explain a shocking truth about their family. Both stories are superbly crafted with strong, engaging protagonists.

These are my highlights in a book filled to the brim with gory goodness. Several of the writers have gone on to become published novelists too, so you can’t fault the award’s eye for talent.

Scarlet Stiletto The Second Cut is published by Clan Destine Press. You can get the book from them directly. The Book House also sells the paperback, and you can get Scarlet Stiletto – The Second Cut for Kindle from Amazon.com.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.