Six Degrees of Separation: from The Dry to The Song of Troy

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. But for this chain the books are all connected in that they are all books on my TBR shelves.

The Dry

This month the chain begins with The Dry by Jane Harper, crime fiction set in a small country town in Australia, where the Hadler family were brutally murdered. I have had this book on my TBR shelves for quite some time now and I really want to read it as I loved Force of Nature and The Lost Man. I was thinking of linking to one of these books but decided to go for another book, one that I bought on the same day as The Dry. It’s Longbourn by Jo Baker, a story about the Bennet’s servants in a re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Another book that is a re-imagining is Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman, a companion novel to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. It is set 20 years after the death of Rebecca and the burning of Manderley. I’m hoping I’ll  love it as much as I loved Rebecca and Hitchcock’s 1940 film of the book. Sally Beauman was a journalist before she became an author. She wrote Rebecca’s Tale after writing an article about the work of Daphne du Maurier in The New Yorker magazine.

My next link is through the author’s first name – Sally – to  another author called Sally,  Sally Gunning and her book, The Widow’s War. It’s historical fiction set in Cape Cod, Massachusetts during the years prior to the War of Independence. After Lyddie Berry’s husband of 20 years dies in a whaling accident she has to fight a ‘war’ for control of her own destiny. Under the laws of the colony widows had the use of only one third of their husbands’ real estate, and did not inherit the ownership.

A different type of war is the subject of Small Wars by Sadie Jones. This is historical fiction set in  Cyprus in the 1950s as the EOKA terrorists are fighting for independence from Britain and union with Greece.

Another book set on an island is The Island by Victoria Hislop.  Alexis Fielding discovers the story of her mother’s family on the island of Spinalonga, a tiny, deserted island off the coast of Crete – Greece’s former leper colony.  Victoria Hislop was also a journalist before she became an author.

As was Colleen McCullough, the author of numerous books including the Masters of Rome series. So, my final link is to one of her books – The Song of Troy in  which she recounts the tale of Helen and Paris, sparking the Trojan War. Colleen McCullough was also an Australian author so it links back to the first book, The Dry by Jane Harper, also an Australian author, who I’m delighted to see was also a journalist before becoming an author!

In addition to all the books being TBRs, four of the authors were journalists before becoming authors and two are Australian authors.

The chain moves through time from the present day back to late classical Antiquity, beginning in Australia and passing through England, America, Cyprus, Crete to Anatolia in modern Turkey.

Next month (June 1, 2019), the chain will begin with the winner of the 2019 Wellcome Prize, Murmur by Will Eaves.

The Lost Man by Jane Harper: Blog Tour Review

He had started to remove his clothes as logic had deserted him, and his skin was cracked. Whatever had been going through Cameron’s mind when he was alive, he didn’t look peaceful in death.

The Lost Man

Little, Brown|7 February 2019 |384 pages|e-book |Review copy|4.5*

As I loved Force of Nature by Jane Harper I was absolutely delighted when Caollin Douglas at Little, Brown Publishing asked me if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for Jane Harper’s latest book, The Lost Man. I wasn’t disappointed – I loved it.

Blurb:

Did Cameron walk to his death under the unrelenting sun of the Australian Outback? If not, what happened? Set in the unfamiliar, isolating and disorientating landscape of the Outback, The Lost Man combines intrigue, surprise and intellect to create a gripping and thrilling narrative.

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

My thoughts:

This is essentially a family drama and is very much character-driven, set in an isolated part of Australia hundreds of miles from anywhere and revolving around the death of Cameron Bright. There are three Bright brothers – Nathan the oldest, then Cameron and the youngest brother, Bub. They have a vast cattle ranch in the Queensland outback. 

The book begins with the discovery of Cameron’s body lying at the the base of the headstone of the stockman’s grave – a headstone standing alone, a metre high, facing west, towards the desert, in a land of mirages. It provides the only bit of shade for miles around. He had obviously died an agonising death in the intense forty-five degrees of heat, crawling round the headstone in search of its shade as the earth rotated around the sun. Nathan and Bub meet at the site and can’t understand why he was there – his car was found several kilometres away and at first they assumed he had just walked away to end his life, but that didn’t seem to make sense. Nathan just can’t believe Cameron would do that. There is little actual police investigation and so Nathan delves into the past on his own looking for answers. He is astonished at what he finds.

Nathan is a solitary man, divorced and living alone, a three hours’ drive from the rest of the family. There is a mystery surrounding his isolation not just from his family but also from the small town, three hours drive away. Whereas, Cameron, who took over the ranch after his father died, is well liked, married with two little girls. The youngest brother, Bub, meanwhile is an angry young man, resentful of the way Cameron runs the business, mainly because he thinks his views are being ignored. As Nathan tries to fathom what had happened hidden passions and resentments begin to surface and it becomes clear that this is a dysfunctional family. He realises there was a lot about his family he had never known.

Throughout the book the Australian outback looms large, a huge and isolated territory, red earth stretching for hundreds of miles, with its unbearable heat, dust and, at times, the threat of flood. But it’s the characters, as their past history and relationships are exposed and they became real personalities, that made the book such compelling reading for me. I liked the storytelling, the details of the legends surrounding the stockman, the drama of the family grieving over Cameron’s death – and the mystery of his death – was it suicide or murder, and if it was murder who had killed him and why?

It’s a powerful and absorbing book and after I finished it I wondered about the title – just which one of the men was the ‘Lost Man‘. I’m still not sure, maybe they all were …

Blog tour banners

Source: Review copy as part of The Lost Man blog tour, via NetGalley– Thank you.

About the Author

Australian Jane Harper, author of The Lost Man, The Dry and Force of Nature

Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry and Force of Nature.

Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and now lives in Melbourne.

You can find out more by visiting Jane’s website and finding her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter @janeharperautho.

Challenges:

Force of Nature by Jane Harper: Blog Tour

I was delighted when Kimberley from Little, Brown Book Group UK asked me to be part of the blog tour for the hardback release of Force of Nature by Jane Harper.

Little, Brown Book Group UK |8 February 2018 |Review copy |4*

Blurb (Publishers):

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.

My thoughts:

I’ve never been on a team building exercise like this one in Force of Nature – thank goodness! This one for employees of an accountancy firm, BaileyTennants is a really bad one – two groups, five men and five women with no experience of hiking are sent out into the outback, on their own, for a few days. The only training they were given was a half-day course in navigation for one member of each team. And they weren’t allowed to take their phones with them. Inevitably the worst happened – the women’s group got lost and when they eventually returned one person, Alice Russell, was missing.

Once I had got over my disbelief that such a terrible team building exercise would actually happen, this is fiction after all, I found that I loved this book, set in the fictional Giralang Ranges in Australia, seeing the Mirror Falls roaring down from a cliff edge into the pool fifteen metres below, the eucalyptus trees and the dense bush, and the breathtaking views of rolling hills and valleys as the gum trees give way,  with the sun hanging low in the distance.

In fact I soon became completely absorbed in the mystery of what happened to Alice. The narrative moves between two different time periods that gradually merge into one. The descriptions of both the locations and the characters are wholly convincing – it was as though I was there in the bush, with the women struggling to get back on course and find their way back to the rendezvous point. I could feel their frustration and fear of the elements and whatever danger was out there in the bush, as their food and water ran out and they struggled desperately to survive. Their relationships, not good at the start, rapidly deteriorate as underlying jealousies and resentments come out into the open and results in violence.

Equally convincing is the search party, with Federal Agent Aaron Falk and his colleague Carmen Cooper from the financial investigation unit in Melbourne. They were involved in the search because Alice, the missing woman, was a whistle blower, helping them to uncover an elaborate money-laundering scheme run by BaileyTennants, the company that employs her and the other women.

It’s as much a character study as it is a mystery. Alice is a very unpopular person and any one of the other women could have been responsible for her disappearance. The tension and suspense is carried through to the end – an end that I thought I’d worked out, but of course I hadn’t got it right.

This is the second of Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk’s novels. The first is The Dry, which I haven’t read yet. So I was pleased to find that Force of Nature works very well as a standalone book. There are a few references to what I think must have happened in The Dry, but nothing that gave away the plot of that  book. I’ll definitely read The Dry as soon as possible now.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my review copy.

Amazon UK link

About the Author

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year and the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne. Force of Nature is Jane’s second novel. Janeharper.com.au.

And do check out the other blogs taking part in this tour today:

Force of Nature

My Week in Books: 31 January 2018

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

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A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Now:

Victoria: A Life

I’m still reading Victoria: a Life by A N Wilson (I began reading it last October!) and am now in Part 7 – I hope to finish it today, just 72 pages left. I’ve just read about the wedding of George, Duke of York to Princess May of Teck (later King George VI and Queen Mary) and this is Archbishop Benson’s description of Victoria. Just picture the scene:

I could scarcely believe my eyes when the Queen entered the Chapel by the lower end. There she was alone and began to walk up alone. … On she came, looking most pleasant, slightly amused, bowing most gracefully to either side as she came, her black silk almost covered with wonderful lace, and lace and a little crown with chains of diamonds on her head, walking lame and with a tallish stick. She looked Empire, gracious Empire … (page 503)

I’m also reading The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale, to be published on 8th February 2018. So far I’m completely taken with this fascinating and imaginative novel.

Blurb:

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.

The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.

But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own…

Then:

The last book I finished is Force of Nature by Jane Harper, which  will be published on 8 February 2018. I loved it and will post my review on 12 February 2018 as part of the blog tour .

Blurb:

FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.

Next:

I’d like a change from non-fiction and crime fiction, so I’m thinking of reading Loitering with Intent by Muriel Spark. Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of her birth – so it seems appropriate to read one of her books.

Loitering With Intent

Blurb (Goodreads):

Would-be novelist Fleur Talbot works for the snooty Sir Quentin Oliver at the Autobiographical Association, whose members are at work on their memoirs. When her employer gets his hands on Fleur’s novel-in-progress, mayhem ensues when its scenes begin coming true.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Dry

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

This week’s first paragraph is from The Dry  by Jane Harper, her debut novel, which has received many accolades and is shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger award. The Gold Dagger is awarded to the best crime novel of the year.

The Dry

Prologue

It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blow flies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.

The drought had left the flies spoiled for choice that summer. They sought out unblinking eyes and sticky wounds as the farmers of Kierwarra levelled their rifles at skinny livestock. No rain meant no feed. And no feed made for difficult decisions as the tiny town shimmered under day after day of burning blue sky.

Chapter One

Even those who didn’t darken the door of the church from one Christmas to the next could tell there would be more mourners than there were seats. A bottleneck of black and grey was already forming at the entrance as Aaron Falk drove up, trailing a cloud of dust and cracked leaves.

Blurb:

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can’t understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

It’s not only shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger it has also received:

  • The Gold Australian Book Industry Award for Book of the Year
  • Australian Book Industry Award for Fiction Book of the Year
  • Waterstones Thriller of the Month
  • The Simon Mayo Radio 2 Book Club Choice
  • Sunday Times Crime Thriller of the Month

What do you think?  Would you continue reading? 

When a book receives so much praise I’m sometimes sceptical and avoid a book for a while at least. But with The Dry I think that I’d just be sticking my head in the sand. I’ll be reading it very soon.