Tag Archives: crime

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.

GaryView: Death and the Spanish Lady by Carolyn Morwood

Gary and LissaLissa: That was a bit of a history lesson. I remember reading about a flu epidemic after the First World War, but I had no idea that it was so bad, or that it shut Melbourne down like that.

Gary: Yeah. I think one of my dad’s uncles died of the flu around when this book is set.

Lissa: This book really brings it home, doesn’t it? The historical setting really works, and I liked Eleanor as well. She’s working through all this grief, but she really wants justice, whether or not the dead guy deserves it.  I like it that the truth was more important to her than staying comfortably out of it.

Gary: You don’t think she should have left the murder for someone else to investigate?

Lissa: I think I have amply demonstrated that keeping out of things isn’t always an option.

Gary: I guess you have. I liked Sister Jones too, though that might be because she reminded me of my mum. Mum was a nurse too.

Lissa: A nurse detective?

Gary: Not that I know of, but I wouldn’t have put it past her. My mum was pretty cool in a crisis. That’s how she met Dad, actually. During the war, she was stationed in Greece. Dad had been wounded and she looked after him on the ship during the evacuation from Crete. They kept writing after he was shipped home, and when she got back to Australia they got married.

Lissa: That must have been hard for him, waiting for her.

Gary: They never talked about it much. Not to me, anyway. Dad had got shot in the leg, though, and they wouldn’t let him stay in the army. He went home and did his teaching degree instead, so he’d have a steady job for when Mum got back.

Lissa: Every time you tell me about your folks I think how awesome they were.

Gary: This book made me think of both of them. They both went through a lot. For years as a kid, whenever I saw someone my dad’s age, or my grandad’s, I wondered whether they had bullet scars too. My mum kept on nursing, too. She used to say the only thing worse than the old air raids was working on the children’s wards.

Lissa: I bet.

Gary: Yeah.

Lissa:. So. Death and the Spanish Lady. Did you work out the killer before the end?

Gary: No. I never do, though. Not even when I was alive. I used to try making notes as I read to see if I could work it out, but I never could. Mum said it was because I wasn’t devious enough.

Lissa: I guess crime stories aren’t really like maths equations. Otherwise all crimes would get solved by the scientists.

Gary: All crimes are solved by the scientists on some TV shows.

Lissa: I like this kind of murder mystery better. And it’s not as gritty and realistic as all those Underbelly-type stories, so I like that better too. I have enough gritty realism in my life. But this has a different kind of realism. That sometimes you succeed in something but it’s not necessarily a triumph.

Gary: I know all about that, too.

Lissa: You and me both. Hey, how about we cheer ourselves up with a musical. <grins at the look on his face> Or a werewolf movie.

Gary: Can I vote for a werewolf movie?

Lissa: Only if it’s the original Teen Wolf.

Gary: Teen Wolf it is.

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You can get Death and the Spanish Lady in paperback from Readings, or as an ebook from Booki.sh or Amazon.com.