Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Book Review: Dead Heat by Bronwyn Parry

“National Parks Ranger Jo Lockwood is often alone in the wilderness, and she likes it that way – until she discovers the body of a man, brutally murdered.

Detective Nick Matheson’s new posting to the north-west of New South Wales is supposed to be an uneventful return to normal duties and a normal life.  He knows organised crime from the inside out and suspects that the victim in the camping ground is not an isolated murder.

Jo is committed to helping the investigation but she has seen the killer’s face and now she’s at risk.  Nick’s determined to protect her but as the body count starts mounting, his past and present collide, threatening the people he cares about most.

Trapped in rugged country in scorching summer heat, pursued by hunters who can’t afford to fall, Nick and Jo will need to trust each other completely, and use all their skills and knowledge if they want to survive.”

The Australian Outback – what an awesome and refreshingly different setting for romantic suspense.

Our heroine is Jo Lockwood who is employed as a National Parks Ranger in the New South Wales outback.  A newcomer to Goodabri, and after having suffered a tragic loss of her own five years before, she hasn’t yet had a chance to make many friends besides her work colleagues.  By no means a recluse or an introvert, she loves her job and prefers the tranquillity of the scrub.

That tranquil world is turned upside down when, on a routine inspection of one of the park camping grounds, she discovers that it has been well and truly trashed.  She alerts her boss to this fact and, promising that she’ll photograph and document the destruction while she waits for either him or the police to arrive, and along with the help of a lone dingo, she discovers the gruesome remains of a murdered man.

Nick Matheson, our hero, a man with great inner strength and discipline, arrives on the scene.  Called in to investigate this gruesome discovery, it is his first case since taking up “normal duties” in the little town of Goodabri.  Haunted by his own dark past and emotionally stretched by past events, for 10 years he has lived immersed in undercover roles and it appears that little else remains of the man he once knew.  A boy who grew into a man with the “docks” of Sydney as his playground, his past is about to dangerously collide with his present as Jo threatens to unravel his defences.

With the body count continuing to rise, we are drawn into a tale where danger lurks at every corner and there are some close encounters that will leave you breathless with anticipation as the killer and his brazen cohorts close in on Jo, making attempts on her life, but with Nick, who is determined to keep her safe, close behind.
As with all books in this genre, but without all the mushy, too-soon “I love you’s” that we so frequently see, there is bound to be a love scene.

Not detracting at all from the main storyline, where corruption, bush fires, violence, drugs and murder merge to form the basis for extreme suspense and intrigue, Bronwyn Parry has tastefully and tenderly written the bringing together of these two emotionally wounded characters.  Being a sucker for a good love scene where my characters’ emotions are laid bare for all to see, and after Ms Parry skilfully drew me in to these characters lives and deeply personal thoughts, this scene brought tears to my eyes.

With all her Australian colloquialisms, vivid descriptions of the outback - which I have not yet had the honour of visiting - and a smattering of symbolism which I thought was warranted, Bronwyn Parry has created a fast-paced, truly “‘stralian” novel with strong, resilient protagonists alive with character and a story with lots of intrigue and plenty of twists to keep the pages turning well into the night.

This is the first book by Bronwyn Parry that I have had the pleasure of reading, and I did so as part of a group reading challenge on Goodreads.  Boy am I glad I did, as I have just discovered another brilliant Aussie writer who has earned herself a place on my bookshelves.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Book Review: Dirty Weekend by Gabrielle Lord

“Jack’s back … and the dead are talking …

There is something about the presence of a dead body, especially a murdered one, that still touches me. Despite its silence, a dead body poses an immense question.  A murdered body even more so.

An early-morning phone call shatters Jack McCain’s sleep. As Chief Forensic Scientist for the Australian Federal Police, he knows a call at that hour is never good news.

For Tianna Richardson it is ‘very’ bad news. She’s dead. But hers isn’t the only case that Jack has to deal with. Is her death linked with a casual sex-swapping group? Using all his forensic knowledge, Jack needs to find out how the ex-wife of a cop is connected with a beautiful research scientist and a frail old man … besides the fact that they were all brutally murdered.
Jack McCain is determined to link the pieces. But the killer has expertly covered their tracks and Jack has only trace evidence from a rare native orchid and a whole lot of unanswered questions about the Terminator Rabbit research project to work with. And is the cost to Jack’s personal life worth it, even if he does find the answers …”

This novel follows recovered alcoholic Jack McCain, son of an alcoholic mother, divorced father of two grown children (one of which is a recovered heroine addict) and Chief Forensic Scientist with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), along with the complexities of forensic investigation. Being a Chief Forensic Scientist, Jack should be doing a lot more laboratory and administrative work for the cases coming through the AFP, but unfortunately he just can’t say no and frequently takes on the persona of a private investigator, feeling "obligated" to the victims.

It’s therefore no surprise then that when Jack receives an early morning call from Earl Richardson, an ex-colleague, informing him that his (Earl’s) ex-wife has been murdered, Jack is all but ready, willing and able and finds himself drawn into the murder investigation. Everything snowballs from there when a second call comes in, this time from Dallas Baxter, Chief Scientist at the Agricultural Research Station requesting Jack to attend the Ag Station to assess an incident that has occurred. Of course, this doesn’t appear to be enough for Jack and a third call comes in from Brian Kruger, one of Jack’s team members, requesting Jack to do him a favour by going to see a woman in Ginnindera about a neighbor whom she hasn’t seen for a day or so. And then of course, just to add a further twist to the plot, there’s a cold case that emerges!

Jack is a man with workaholic tendencies and it becomes quite apparent that he works like this in order not to ponder the guilt, anger and difficulties he experiences in both his past and current life – guilt at not being able to help his mother and sister along with a seemingly false accusation leveled at a suspect many years before which had dire consequences and anger at his own childhood suffering. We get to hear first-hand about those feelings as they become entwined with his life with Iona who has moved from Sydney to live with him.

With detrimental consequences to his personal life, he finds himself caught up in all three murder investigations with not many clues except that they all feature traces of a rare native orchid. Finally a suspect is taken into custody, but something is not sitting well with Jack and he is further bothered by the fact that the recently reconstructed skull and facial features of the bones from the cold case bear a striking resemblance to someone he has encountered either in the past or the present – he’s not quite sure. Little does he know that the killer has been right in front of him all along and has been muddying the waters. Everything finally ties up in the final few chapters and we realise what a tightly wound plot Gabrielle Lord has created.

I like the way that Ms Lord has taken Jack’s personal life, particularly his relationship with Iona and his somewhat poignant thoughts on his life, to form a back-story to the main plot. She has created very real, believable characters touching upon social issues such as alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence. Having been brought up with an alcoholic father myself (also the son of an alcoholic mother), alcoholism is a social issue which resonates strongly with me - there were some thought-provoking moments which had me wondering whether my own father, like Jack McCain, suffered guilt-ridden periods in his life.

Admittedly the title of the novel bothered me every time I picked it up – personally, I felt it alluded to a book containing large amounts of sexual content – however, nothing could be farther from that. So, for those of you who are not keen on erotica, you can safely pick up this book knowing that there are only a few references to sex and the casual sex-swapping group mentioned in the blurb, with only one particularly daring scene in a hotel room.

This is the first book I have read by Gabrielle Lord but I am given to understand that it is the third book in the Jack McCain series.

Written in the first-person narrative from Jack's perspective, I found Dirty Weekend to be well researched and, Ms Lord an author who appears to be well-versed in matters of criminological procedures.  Not being from a scientific background at all, I was amazed at all the new words I learned.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Short Story Review: Intuition by Jayne Fordham

"Canan Jones turns twenty-five and wants nothing more than to bury his painful past and enjoy his birthday celebrations. But when Canan receives an intimidating phone call from a man who knows his secret demanding he work for an underground government agency in Sydney, Canan fears his skill will be exploited. Canan has the ability to tune into the emotions of other people and his skill increases in strength daily. 

Initially refusing to accept the job offer, Canan realises it may be the only chance he has to obtain answers to his past. To what lengths will Canan go to to piece together the fragments of his traumatic childhood?"

A brilliant short story which can be read either stand-alone or as a prequel to Jayne Fordham's latest book, Intuition.

This story introduces us to Canan Jones who has the unique gift of being able to tune into other people's emotions. Whilst enjoying his 25th birthday celebrations, he receives a telephone call from a person who has contacted him in the past with regard to his "gift" and requesting that he join a team whose members have similar skills to him.

Searching for answers from his own haunted past, Canan finally accepts the job offer and makes his way to Sydney, where he meets the members of his new team.

Fantastically written, this is a short story that will grab at your emotions and leave you begging for more.

This e-book can currently be downloaded for free at Smashwords.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Book Review: Mastermind by Helen Goltz

This book was kindly provided to me by the author for review.

"A website inviting game players to mastermind the perfect crime is more than a game, much more!
It is the façade for billionaire Lawrence Hackett’s real-life invitation-only competition to see who can perform the perfect heist. Only a select few are invited to play for the bounty at stake.
Special Agent Mitchell Parker and his Washington D.C. based team span the globe trying to prevent the real-life crimes before they happen!
Washington, Paris, London … the clock is on!"

The book is broken up into two parts and Part 1 follows Mitchell Parker (Mitch), Special Agent with the Washington DC-based Trans-National Crime Unit as he acts on a tip-off and, along with his team, carries out a reconnaissance to pilfer security tapes from the University. Those tapes contain important images which will assist Mitch and his team in identifying the key players of the game.

After watching the footage and through various investigations and surveillance, most of the players are identified and with a plan in place, Mitch and his team trail the suspects in an attempt to figure out how they all connect and to uncover the identity of the Mastermind.

There are some nail-biting scenes, for instance when Mitch, during surveillance, comes face to face with one of his oldest friends whom he has just discovered is playing for the other side as well as a heart-stopping mid-air battle between Mitch and a member of his team who has double-crossed them.

In Part 2, the countdown begins as we see Mitch and the team widen their search for the Mastermind and the final contestants in order to bring the whole operation down before any real damage is done. The clues are few and far between but Mitch and his team do a great job of anticipating what the next move is going to be.

I really liked this book, although it had me a bit confused in the beginning as it jumped around quite a bit. Mitch’s character comes across as a bit anal, especially in relation to his work and the actions of his team members, which is not a bad trait at all for an investigator, but personally, I would have liked a bit more information on his past which would have afforded me a deeper connection to him. There are, of course, some glimpses, such as him struggling with bad memories and nightmares of a childhood with an abusive alcoholic father, but these are rare and I feel this back-story could have been expanded upon.

Aside from that fact though, for a first novel, Helen Goltz has produced an engrossingly compelling thriller which is well-written and action-packed. An elaborate and complicated plot makes this book one which is bound to keep you interested. I certainly will be looking out for the next one in this series.

Helen Goltz has worked as a journalist, marketer and producer for print and television in Australia for more than twenty years.  Mastermind is the first in a series of novels featuring Mitchell Parker and his crime-fighting team.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Book Review - Death by Sugar, by Helen Goltz

"Really, Sugar!  It always seemed such a friendly substance."
As a teenager, I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew and a good mystery has always drawn me.  So, on reading the blurb, I was all for detecting how sugar could play such a huge role in death.

Jesse Clarke, the protagonist, is fresh out of Detective School – well, almost – she’s had one previous case.  A publicist by profession, she is really keen to get a few more clients on board for her PI business.  Only thing is, she’s not too good at self-promotion and hasn’t quite gained her self-confidence!

Sitting inside her favourite coffee shop one Sunday morning, she is witness to a car explosion that occurs right outside.  Her boyfriend, Dom, arrives soon thereafter to join her for breakfast and, in trying to drum up some more business for her, hands one of her business cards to the owner of the sports car, Renzo (“Ren”) Leonardo.

Ren pays her a visit at her office the following morning and after a brief meeting, she agrees to take on his case and do her best to track down the perpetrator.

One thing leads to another, and before she knows it, she’s juggling two different cases – one in the past and one in the present.  The characters Helen Goltz introduces in Ren’s case all connect, but the how and the why aren’t obvious until the final chapters of the book.

This is a “who-dunnit” style mystery which I found to be a very enjoyable read without any of the gruesome scenes we see so often in books these days.  Helen has done a good job of creating a somewhat quirky protagonist that I could easily relate to (and which I couldn’t help but feel was loosely based on Helen’s own character) as well as wrapping suspense and humour into a story with both likeable and fallible characters.

Fast-paced, with a story line that asks no more of the reader than to follow it as it moves along to its ultimate conclusion, this is bound to get all those armchair detectives wanting to find out how on earth sugar can be involved in death!

Helen Goltz has worked as a journalist, marketer and producer for print and television in Australia for more than twenty years.  Postgraduate degree qualified with majors in Literature, Media and Communications, Death by Sugar" is her second novel.  She lives in Brisbane with her partner and her beloved furry kid, Atlas.

Monday, 8 October 2012

A Muse - Seriously? A Crossroads?

Something I never considered would happen to me!

I was introduced to books from the very tender age of 2-years old by my beloved Mother - yes Enid Blyton’s stories took me on some wonderful adventures.

As I progressed along the journey of life I frequently had aspirations of becoming a journalist or novelist, but regrettably, those dreams remained just that.

Reading has continued to be one of life’s most pleasurable experiences for me.

So, now I’m wondering if perhaps it’s too late, as per the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – which I seriously must refute, after having taught my late Maltese poodle, Cuddles, then 8 years of age, to use a doggie door.  And so, in having said that, and at the tender age of 39 (or maybe not so tender) after joining and having recently started writing my own amateur book reviews and creating a Blog, my love for creative writing has returned with a vengeance.

Thus, my own personal Crossroads.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a wife (of almost 13 years) to my wonderful, selfless husband and being a full-time working mother to a very strong-willed 10 year old daughter and an extremely lively 7 year old son, but after giving this careful consideration, what have I really done with my God-given life?  Besides traipsing half-way across the world and our humble beginnings in a country which welcomed us with open arms and where we have absolutely thrived (albeit with sadness at not having our family around us), I feel that I have not achieved anything life changing and constructive.

So, after doing a lot of “Googling” (gotta love Google) and pounding the pages of numerous websites offering Creative Writing Courses, a request for information from a friend at (whom I’ve never met but is a kindred-spirit with her love of reading and similar personality traits), as well as a recent post by an amazing Australian author to her FB page requesting information on courses being offered (thank you Brenda and Helene – I’m forever indebted to you), it’s really rekindled my desire in wanting to pursue creative writing with a sense of embarking on an adventure into the realms of the written word.

Not being one of the most patient people around (I am born under the sign of the Bull) – I’m one of those people who expects immediate results - is this a Crossroads that will allow me to finally discover what it is I was meant to do?  And will I also rediscover the dreams of that young girl drifting into slumber whilst riding on the wings of yet another grand adventure!

Book Review - What Remains by Denise Leith

“Vivid and heartrending, a novel as memoir of a journalist needing love to weigh against her horror and dismay at massacre and genocide by a writer who closely understands frontline reporting” – John Bryson, Chairman of the Literature Board of the Australia Council
Initially, I picked this novel up at the library as the beautiful cover art caught my attention, but on reading the synopsis at the back, my curiosity was even more aroused when I saw that my former homeland – South Africa – was mentioned.
I finished it yesterday, and whilst many books leave my thoughts as soon as I reach for the next one, What Remains has left me with images that will continue to haunt me for some time.  This story is one of epic proportions and one which will leave you asking the same question as Kate Price – “do you think that evil really exists?”
And, whilst we all sit in our mostly safe homes in this beautiful country Australia, reading about war in the newspaper and hoping to gain some understanding and insight to all the madness, we in fact have no idea – the press editors attempt to keep us from seeing the true images of mostly innocent casualties of war and the unnecessary atrocities that all war inflicts on its victims.
Told in the first-person through the eyes of an inexperienced and naïve young war correspondent, Kate Price, this book gives an in-depth view of what our journalists face on the front line every day.  Denise Leith takes us on an intrepid, eye-opening journey, one in which she vividly describes the carnage witnessed by these war correspondents.
Beginning in Riyadh in 1991, and whilst covering her first assignment, Kate meets Pete McDermott, a renowned photo journalist, for the first time.  An idealist who would like to change the world (and which idealism sometimes gets her into a wealth of trouble), Kate is determined to get her first big break and prove her editor wrong, so she approaches Pete to ask if she can join his crew.  Whilst on their journey towards Kuwait, they traverse the “Highway of Death” which refers to a six-lane highway between Kuwait and Iraq in which an attack by American aircraft and ground forces resulted in the destruction of hundreds of vehicles and the deaths of many of the occupants.  June 1992 brings with it Johannesburg where she covers a story on the unrest between two of the country’s largest black political parties, and finds herself in one of the biggest, most dangerous townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg and witnesses for the first time the act of necklacing - Kate thinks she has seen it all.
Rwanda during April 1994 finally sees Kate and Pete attempting to let their guards down, but unfortunately after witnessing the diabolical genocide committed in Nyarubuye (a gruesome and heartbreaking scene) where Kate’s emotions begin to close down on her and she is left unable to process the savage reality, we are left wondering whether she will ever be able to return to the point where visions and dreams of this gruesome and heart-breaking scene she bears witness to, no longer trouble her.  The picture she paints of Rwanda is graphic and describes the abject ravages of war that in our minds as civilians we cannot begin to comprehend - Rwanda was too much for the mind to take in.  Something in her was dying … her hope.”
Ultimately this is a story of love and hope, one that spans 14 years, where both Kate and Pete meet up from time to time on their assignments and one where they attempt to overcome all the battle scars and devastation of war.  By no means soppy and scripted in such a way that their story folds seamlessly into the heart of the book, their relationship is a complex one, but Denise has captured some extremely tender and poignant moments between them, as well as the people they come into contact with and the friendships they build.
I was quite taken by the nostalgia that the author invoked in me on Kate and Pete’s visit to my home Province of KwaZulu-Natal in 2002 where they are called to make a documentary at an AIDS Hospital in Tugela Ferry.  Denise Leith has captured the essence of life in rural KwaZulu-Natal perfectly and Kate’s uninhibited actions with the children at both the hospital and in the village left my heart aching.
In the last few heart-wrenching chapters, Kate’s thoughts are deep and profound and saw me reaching for the tissues as the tears rolled down my cheeks and I sobbed my way through to the very last page.  Will those haunting words “you only regret the things you didn’t do” enable her to see what remains?
In my opinion, Denise Leith has produced a well researched, confronting, deeply compelling and thought-provoking novel bringing to life characters with personality and humaneness and which will leave you haunted long after the final page is turned.  A love story that is “subsumed in the rush to keep working and to stay alive”, but which grows in the most unlikeliest of places - this is a story that everyone should read.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Book Review - Trouble in High Heels by Christina Dodd

Being a trophy wife comes at a cost, as Brandi finds out at the tender age of 11 - a very impressionable age for a young girl – when the door slams on her father’s final departure from his life with her and Tiffany.  Brandi determines from then on that she will need to do more with her life than just being like her mother – in that instant, even though she has no real clue as to what a Lawyer does, she decides that’s what she’d like to be when she grows up.

Fourteen years later, a strong-willed and intelligent woman has emerged - she’s exactly where she wants to be – or not.  Albeit a bit disdainful of the male sex after her fiancé dumps her and marries his girlfriend in Vegas, she is not to be deterred by this turn of events and sets out on a mission – she pawns her engagement ring, buys herself a sexy outfit and goes out to a party where she hopes to capture the attention of a man with whom she can have a one-night stand, absolutely “no strings”.

Enter “sex in an Armani suit” aka Roberto Bartolini, and Brandi’s scheme is put into action, little knowing that her life plan is about to go seriously awry, spiralling her into a sequence of events fraught with intrigue and perhaps, a second chance at love.

I always try to find the positive in a book, so although this one didn’t quite capture my attention as much as I was hoping it would, and whilst not the most gripping romantic suspense I have read, Christina Dodd still managed to keep me entertained with her sharp, quick wit (and many clichés) which at times had me laughing out loud that even the kids looked at me sceptically.

Not really for me, but if you’re looking for a light, entertaining read that doesn’t require a lot of brain power, then this one’s for you.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Book Review - Edge of Midnight by Leslie Tentler

Wow, now this is why I read romantic suspense.

Leslie Tentler has woven an intense story in which she brings together two almost broken, but not quite defeated, characters.

Mia Hale is a crime reporter with a local newspaper.  Both fierce and fragile, Mia grew up being tossed between the foster care system and her unstable mother.  She is a survivor and has risen above her circumstances by creating a solid life for herself.  However, that is all about to change.  When she doesn’t arrive at work one morning, her editor reports her missing.  She is found hiding on the beach by two police officers after they discover an abandoned stolen vehicle nearby – Mia is alive but badly battered and bloody.

On closer medical examination it is discovered that she has no memory of how she got there, why she was abducted or who the perpetrator was, due to a potent mixture of drugs found in her blood system.

FBI Special Agent Eric Macfarlane, based in Washington with the FBI’s Violent Crimes Unit is drawn into the case when a close friend of his calls him in to assist in the investigation.  On reading a copy of the detailed incident report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department, the similarities to another case close to his heart chill his blood - the wounds inflicted on the victim are not the work of an ordinary killer.  With this playing on his mind, Eric immediately heads to Jacksonville in pursuit of a suspected killer whose modus operandi bears the same horrendous resemblance to “The Collector”, a sadistic serial killer who appears to have resumed his grim hobby of abducting women and taking gruesome souvenirs before dumping their bodies.

The question is - why is Mia still alive?  None of “The Collector’s” victims has ever managed to escape.

Both Eric and Mia are drawn into the investigation, with Mia risking everything to regain her memory.  As the body count continues to rise Eric, who has been in self-imposed exile for the last 3 years, is torn between his feelings of guilt for the past, which is beyond his control, and his deepening feelings for Mia.

With absolutely no clues or DNA left at any of the crime scenes, the FBI is at a loose end, but a cleverly constructed press conference sends the killer into a frenzy – exactly the reaction the FBI was hoping for.

A psychological pathology begins to emerge when the killer is identified.  Quite obviously having a dysfunctional relationship with women, Eric has an aggressively narcissistic psychopath on his hands who revels in the false sense of power he has over his victims.  

What follows is a riveting, nail-biting build-up to a climax fraught with danger and fresh fear.  The perverse pleasure "The Collector" gains whilst putting his final two victims through hellish torture is graphic.

I seem to have been on a bit of a serial killer “spree” with the books that I have chosen lately but let me just say that I found this novel emotionally gripping with both characters pulling at my heartstrings - Eric so much that I just wanted to crawl into his arms and never leave.

Leslie Tentler has a really smooth prose style and has found a perfect balance between suspense, danger and romance.  I am also in absolute awe of any author who is able to give such depth of emotion to their characters - Leslie is one of those and I am so pleased to have discovered her.

This is her third book in the Chasing Evil Trilogy.  Her first, Midnight Caller, was released in February 2011 and the second, Midnight Fear, close on its heels in August 2011.

I highly recommend this read which has been written by a refreshing new author to the romantic suspense scene.

Book Review - Shattered Sky by Helene Young

Suspense, murder and love in the Australian tropics.

On a routine surveillance flight in North Queensland, and in the midst of a fast approaching storm with the threat of a Cyclone (which hopefully stays far away from New Zealand), Captain Lauren Bennett and her Border Watch crew pick up a mayday call from a yacht in distress.  In collaboration with the naval ship HMAS Atherton, of which Callam Granger is the newly promoted CO, the yacht’s crew are rescued.  At first it appears that the yacht has merely encountered some difficulties and drifted into the storm, but once the crew are rescued and questioned, it is discovered that there could be something more sinister at work.

Lauren, the protagonist in this story, was one of the sub-characters in Wings of Fear.  Now a Captain, she is still in the throes of trying to come to terms with the role she feels she played in her best friend Gavin’s death.  After a bitter encounter with Callam in a pub about two months after Gavin’s demise, crossing paths with him is the last thing she wants to do.

Unfortunately, the rescue of the yacht’s crew members throws them back into each others lives when they both visit at the hospital.  Even though she wants to despise him, his genuine concern, understanding and empathy for her make it difficult.

Shortly after the rescue of the yacht’s crew members, Lauren receives a telephone call from her friend Mel who advises her that she’s had a tip from a member of an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG) about a suspected human-trafficking operation.  Armed with this information, she undertakes to find out as much as she can.

With the telephone call and Mel’s request playing on her mind, and whilst out on yet another patrol, Lauren and her Border Watch air crew are called in to maintain forward air support for the HMAS Atherton which has come across some seemingly suspicious activity in the water involving two vessels.  Callam, following instructions from his Rear-Admiral, instructs his naval crew to pursue the larger tanker which enables the smaller boat to escape.  In the ensuing mêlée between the naval officers and the fishing vessel, Callam is shot, resulting in their mission being aborted.

Are international smugglers really operating below the radar of the navy and Border Watch?

After doing all they can to support the naval vessel, Lauren’s flight crew turn around to head back in.  Movement on land draws their attention and they see a ute making its way through the scrub.  Using high-tech camera surveillance equipment they are able to obtain photos of the ute and its occupants.

Jack is one of those occupants.  (Now, I know that he is one of the villains in the story, but I really felt that he deserved a special mention in my review.)

When Lauren sees a photo of Jack, she describes him as “a man who’d endured and survived, a man who knew his limits, a man who regarded the world with a sardonic smile”.  An accurate description of him, Jack has suffered the pain of losing his wife and has two daughters to look out for.  It appears he went into this operation with his eyes closed and is now in a quandary over his involvement with the OMG and their illegal activities.  Will he be able to extract himself from this situation without dire consequences?

Back on land, the tensions between Callam and Lauren increase – and not always in a bad way.  Callam appears to have “snuck under Lauren’s defences”.

Callam, of course, is a man after my own heart (hubba hubba).  Unbeknownst to Lauren, he has been in love with her for 3 years.  Originally having hidden his thoughts of Lauren with “wayward cynicism” he has come to realise that he has misjudged her and throughout the story attempts to make up for it.  He feels that the uncomplimentary encounter with her in a pub two months after Gavin’s death, which created all the hostility between them, was unjustified and done in the heat of the moment.

Lauren, not wanting to dwell on her growing feelings for Callam which she feels could consume her, decides to retrace the steps of the last camping trip she took with Gavin and some friends and takes a few weeks leave over the first anniversary of his death - this, in order to try and “say goodbye” to Gavin and re-evaluate her life.

However, travelling back home from her camping trip, Lauren takes a wrong turn and finds herself near the property that Mel mentioned in her phone call, and her curiosity gets the better of her.  What follows is a nail-biting climax from which I wasn’t sure the characters would extricate themselves.

On a journey which takes you from Cairns to the outback region of Cape York, will Callam and Lauren be able to overcome their old animosities to outwit, outrun and ultimately out-fly the traffickers?

Being a South African living in Australia, I have found it so refreshing to read books by authors of my adopted country.  With all the “Aussie lingo” and scenic descriptions, especially with this one being based in Queensland, author Helene Young makes me feel right at home.

In my personal opinion, Helene is a really talented author and one who appears to have grown since the writing of Wings of Fear.  She has the creative ability of balancing the right amount of intrigue, suspense and romance in her writing - and a fabulous sense of humour to boot – a True Blue Aussie.

The descriptive manner in which Helene conveys the characters’ surroundings ensures that you will feel like you are actually at the scene.  The characters thoughts, too, draw you in, making way for a deep, personal and long-lasting connection.  Of course, one of the many things I loved about this novel was the fact that Helene weaves in the true meaning of “mateship”.

All in all, I found this to be a riveting and incredibly entertaining page-turner with a cleverly crafted plot.  The revelation of the true identity of one of the OMG members is going to leave you wanting to race out and get your hands on the next book in the trilogy, Burning Lies – I know I am.

A Muse - Exploring the Intricacies of Setting up a New Blog

Hmmm, well, I've been sitting for probably the last half an hour trying to figure this all out - without much success I might add.

Truly, I'll never understand all the intricacies of techonology.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to do this the correct way, please let me know - your advice and assistance will go a long way to easing my mind.

A Muse - Exploring the Unexplored

So, after having written a few book reviews I've decided that I'd like to try my hand at a course in Creative Writing - I'm excited to say the least.  Sent a request for an information pack to Australian College of Journalism last night, now I can't wait to receive it - hurry up already.

Yes, I'm impatient - probably not a good trait for someone who would one day like to (maybe) write her own book.

I haven't studied since I left school, way back in 1990 so this is going to be an absolute challenge - one that I hope I can win.

So, I'm very new to all of this, including this blog, so please be patient while I try and find my bearings.