Eight books to read in July
This is Cass Tuplin’s fourth book, and readers familiar with this comedy Australian crime series will need no introduction to its dry humor and frenetic charms. Cass moonlights as an amateur detective, though her main game is running a greasy spoon in the small country town of Rusty Bore. Between frying fries and flipping burgers, she does more detective work than her detective son, Dean. This time, Cass finds herself in hot water thanks to her wayward sister, Helen. Helen has always been in trouble, and when her boyfriend is pushed off a rooftop terrace in Fitzroy, she asks Cass to break into the crime scene to retrieve a valuable book from her apartment. This dodgy caper could fall for the police, or worse, attract the attention of a killer desperate to keep a deadly secret. The plot can be telegraphic and there’s questionable punctuation (bordering on semicolon cancer), but with its breakneck pace, larger-than-life characters, and laughing wit on the page, it’s a criminally fun adventure that Janet Evanovich fans should swallow.
NON FICTION CHOICE OF THE WEEK
Apollo and Thelma
Jon Faine, Hardy Grant, $45
In 1981, when former ABC radio presenter Jon Faine was a young lawyer, Paul Anderson and his three sons hired him to settle the estate of his late sister, Thelma. Faine didn’t know it at the time, but the father was the phenom known as ‘The Mighty Apollo’, a strongman who in his pre- and post-war career had survived an elephant. standing on top of him and had pulled a tram with his teeth. Apollo’s story, in this intriguing and entertaining mix of biography, memoir and social commentary, intertwines with that of his sister and with that of Faine as she leads him to the Northern Territory, a strange police theft involving a frog, aboriginal history and larger-than-life crossover characters. Not just a living salvage act to bring Apollo back to life, but a salvage of an almost extinct Australia.
Secrets beyond the screen
Anita Jacoby, Ventura, $32.99
When TV producer Anita Jacoby attended a birthday dinner at her half-sister’s house in 2013, she had no idea a flippant remark about wishing her dad, Phillip Jacoby, was “always there would lead her to years of research into the hitherto hidden life of her father. and ask the question: how well do we know our parents? It’s a confusing and fascinating story that stretches back to Nazi Germany and her father’s emigration to Australia in 1936, marriages she knew nothing about, a tragic extra-marital love affair that ended ended in suicide (his second wife committed suicide in the same manner), a very public divorce trial in the 1950s that ended his third marriage, not to mention wartime internment as a “foreign”. Still, as she puts it, a “daddy’s girl,” it’s an affectionate, often confrontational portrait of a tumultuous life in tumultuous times.
We were dreamers
Simu Liu, William Collins, $34.99
Simu Liu, best known for his starring role in the Marvel movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, wrote his migrant memoirs to tell his own story, but also for his fellow immigrants who share the “immigrant dream (and)…fight every day for their happy ending.” His story has a cinematic ending, but there was also struggle. Born in Harbin, China, in 1989, his parents left him in the care of his grandparents while studying in the United States and Canada – a time he describes fondly, while challenging simplistic portrayals of China in the Western media. His parents were foreigners when they brought him to Canada and very tough masters. He tried to please them, but in the end he had to please himself. Which ultimately led to taking action and reconciling with his parents. An easy, fluent and engaging read.
Family Court Murders
Debi Marshall, Ebury Press, $34.99
The family court murders in New South Wales between 1980 and 1986 shook not only the courts, but the whole country. Revolving around an extremely tense custody battle for the family, there were four murders: a brother-in-law, a judge, a judge’s wife, and a Kingdom Hall Jehovah’s Witness priest who apparently offered to help the wife, Andrea Blanchard. Two shootings, four bombings, severe collateral damage, but for many years there were no convictions, despite the presence of a prime suspect: Andrea’s husband, Leonard Warwick. TV presenter Debi Marshall tackles the case in depth, a combination of dramatically reconstructed TV doco, with shades of In cold blood. After years of being a cold case, in 2020 Leonard Warwick was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Highly sought after and atmospheric, re-released to coincide with the ABC TV series.
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