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Ted Fox reviews recent thrillers.
Malin Persson Giolito
Simon & Schuster Australia
Giolito's fourth novel, her first to be translated into English, is not so much a whodunnit as a Swedish whydunnit and courtroom drama.
It opens with a shooting in a school classroom. Five people lie dead on the floor including the teacher, a Ugandan foster child, Samir, a schoolgirl, Amanda, and Sebastian, son of Middle Eastern immigrants. Alive, unscathed and blood spattered is 18-year-old Maja Norberg.
Several pages later and after being held in custody for nine months, Maja Norberg is on trial for her involvement in the school shooting instigated by her boyfriend, Sebastian.
While Maja admits shooting her close friend Amanda and Sebastian, the question is, was Maja complicit in the school shooting perpetrated by her boyfriend, Sebastian Fagerman. Maja's narrative is an unsettling account of how she arrived at her predicament and her subsequent trial by judge and media.
The second in a trilogy that began with Maestra, this thriller features the anti-heroine, Judith Rashleigh, who is by turns conniving, manipulative and cheeky.
Allen & Unwin
Domina opens with our anti-heroine running a gallery in Venice under the name Elisabeth Teerlinc. Invited to assess a Russian oligarch's art collection, Judith, now Elisabeth, becomes entangled in an elaborate scheme to track down an alleged Caravaggio drawing. Alleged in that Caravaggio never did any sketches.
Judith/Elisabeth's quest takes her on a European tour through Ibiza, Paris, Belgrade and St Moritz. Not so many sexual escapades this time around, but enough to stir up those of a delicate disposition.
While Domina has an almost incomprehensible plot line, it's still a rollicking tale of murder, sex and Old Masters.
THE CHINESE PROVERB
The second novel from Tina Clough, who earlier gave us Running Towards Danger (Vanguard 2015), this story is about Aucklander Hunter Grant, a New Zealand Army veteran mentally scarred by his Afghanistan experiences, who has a getaway cabin deep in the bush. While out walking early one morning, his dog detects a barely visible boy's body in the scrub.
Only it's not a boy, as Grant rapidly discovers. "He'' is an Asian she, barely alive, exhausted, cold, starving, terrified and suffering from prior abuse. Of indeterminate age, she's been enslaved for most of her life. Dao, as she is known, had believed she was on an island with no escape and knew her captor only as "Master''.
The Chinese proverb, "If you save somebody's life, you are responsible for them forever'', becomes a reality for Grant. Along with the three women in life, his two sisters Willow and Plum and his best friend, Charlie, a former Afghanistan helicopter pilot, they gradually assist Dao to a better life.
During 15 days Grant and Dao spend hunting down the "Master'' and his boss, Grant learns more and his life and Dao's become more entangled. This is a story full of energy that draws the reader in.
THE HIDDEN HOURS
Simon and Schuster
Foster's last book, All That is Lost Between Us, was a psychological thriller about secrets set in the English Lake District. The Hidden Hours is another pacy effort.
On a frosty winter's morning after an office Christmas party, Arabella Lane, senior executive at children's publishers Parker and Lane, is found dead in the Thames. Was it an accident or was she pushed?
Only the newest employee publisher, office temp Eleanor knows, but her memory of the evening is missing. She remembers nothing of the crucial hours after the party, having woken in her own bed afterwards, half dressed in wet clothes and with a piece of evidence in her possession.
All Eleanor has, are the memories she fled Australia to forget. Past and present converge as she urgently tries to escape accusation, distrust and guilt before the murderer is finally exposed.
A United Kingdom undercover police operation in Sunderland that turns sour, sees Nick Chester escaping to work in New Zealand as a sergeant for the Havelock police in the Marlborough Sounds.
Not that he's really escaped, as he, his wife and his son are the targets of the man he helped put in prison. And his new identity is no protection from those who know how to hack the internet.
While Chester and junior officer Constable Latifa Rapata patrol the highway apprehending errant motorists, invasive hunters and shoplifters "lifting'' cooked chickens from the local supermarket, Chester waits for his past to catch up.
But all is not well in this stretch of paradise; sandflies aside, two local boys have vanished. With their bodies found, the local media dub the unknown perpetrator "The Pied Piper''.
A well written, tension-filled and accurate portrait of a man struggling with his past, dealing with the effects on his marriage and his efforts to settle into a small New Zealand community.
Ted Fox is an online marketing and social media consultant.