Tag Archives: mystery

Mark of the Leopard by Kathy Stewart, Authors’ Ally, 2015

Mark of the Leopard by Kathy Stewart, Authors’ Ally, 2015

Author’s Blurb

From the author of Chameleon comes this historical fiction novel, Mark of the Leopard, the second in the African history series, a story of romance, mystery, danger and betrayal set against a backdrop of wild lands and raging seas.

In 1703 Sabrina Barrington and her children are shipwrecked and presumed drowned off the Cape of Good Hope, the site of the present-day city of Cape Town. Fourteen years later, an investigator tells Sabrina’s brother, Lucien Castle, that one of his sister’s children has been seen on the island of Madagascar, off Africa’s east coast. It is imperative to return the youngster to England before his twenty-fifth birthday, otherwise his grandfather, the corrupt and detested Robert Barrington, will usurp his rightful inheritance. Castle is the only one who can confirm the young man is not an impostor. In order to do this he must leave the comfort of Amsterdam in Holland and embark on a journey into the unknown.

Will Castle be able to overcome his demons and find his nephew in time? Or will he succumb to the perils that beset his epic expedition every step of the way?

In a voyage that takes them from the untamed island of Madagascar to the storm-tossed Dutch outpost at the Cape of Good Hope, Castle and his companion must face innumerable dangers and battle not only rival investigators but also each other.

Review by Hazel Barker

Mark of the Leopard by Kathy Stewart is a fast-moving story that is difficult to put down. It is a novel rich in history and laden with suspense. The author has clearly done extensive research and woven it seamlessly into the novel. She uses her skills as an historian to write a gripping yarn.

The characters, and in particular, Lucien Castle, who goes in search of his nephew, Tom Barrington, spring from the page. A sense of guilt regarding his wife and children, stirs Lucien to help his sister’s son. He fears the sea and faces his fear time and time again, in order to save the boy.

Kathy Stewart is a versatile writer and is the author of children’s books as well as several books of non-fiction.

Mark of the Leopard is her second novel. Her debut novel, Chameleon was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award in 2010.




Filed under Auhor, Australian author, Australian literature, author, Book Reviews, Books, Hazel Barker, Hazel Barker author, Uncategorized

Review of Old Sins Cast Long Shadows


Old Sins Cast Long Shadows by Frances Bodley, 2015.

Author’s Blurb

To take another’s life is a heinous crime. When it happens in a small village and destroys its tranquil lifestyle the inhabitants rightly feel deep anger. A young woman’s body is found in Smugglers Wood. The annual country festival is about to begin and the Writers’ Competition judge is a senior police officer and successful crime writer from London. He arrives in the seemingly peaceful village but behind closed doors are the smugglers and drug dealers….

Review by Hazel Barker

Old Sins Cast Long Shadows is a cleverly crafted crime fiction novel with a compelling opening which draws the reader in. The author does a solid job with setting, pacing and plotting. Family secrets hover like shadows of the story. The sense of menace runs through the chapters and keeps the tension humming through the writing. Filled with mystery and intrigue, the reader is driven to turn page after page until the end.

The book has a lively cast of characters, each possessing its own voice and characteristics.

The lack of thorough editing, however, distracts from the reading. The editing has let the author down, but the story is good. I would not fail to recommend Old Sins Cast Long Shadows to all those who love a good mystery, if this is remedied.

I would like to thank the author for sending me an advanced copy, and look forward to the publication of its sequel.



Filed under Uncategorized

Review of Cicadas In Summer by Sara Delaval

Cicadas In Summer by Sara Delaval FeedARead.com Publishing, 2014

Author’s Blurb
In Brisbane, single parent Kate Anderson, 34, drops her two youngsters at school before a routine visit to Lisa, an emergency housing client. A Queenslander, social worker Kate has rebuilt her life after divorce and enjoys her work supporting disadvantaged people. After being first to witness the gory scene following the brutal murder of Lisa and her children, Kate turns to her close-knit family for support. She meets Jack, her brother’s solicitor friend and gratefully accepts his help, as the horrors multiply to engulf her. Suddenly and inexplicably, as she tries to piece the mystery together, Kate becomes the target of a prowler and telephone threats. Determined to find out why this is happening and feeling that the police are missing something, she ignores all warnings of risk to herself. Jack’s assistance becomes increasingly important and although romantic entanglements are out of the question, Kate finds herself strongly attracted to him. Events escalate with another killing and when Kate’s own precious children are kidnapped the stakes reach a new level. With the help of the police the children are rescued. Then when Prue, a work colleague disappears, Kate becomes bait to catch the killer.

Review by Hazel Barker
Cicadas in Summer is an excellent debut crime fiction set in the Redlands, Queensland. The author tells of a shocking tragedy in an otherwise idyllic suburb. Cicadas in Summer is a dark story with likeable investigators and a bumbling though well-meaning protagonist. It is deftly plotted and fast paced with a blend of mystery and romance, and possesses all the elements of a good crime novel, not forgetting the foreshadowing.
The dénouement packs a punch with a satisfactory ending.
I read Cicadas in Summer as I was intrigued by its title. I haven’t indulged in this genre since my childhood, and often wonder why women love them—not only its cosy, sanitised version, but explicit accounts of murder, rape and torture. This story is more of the former type of mystery. It may not result in nightmares for the reader, but could cause one to keep on reading late into the night.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Past Imperfect by Winfreda Donald

Publisher: FeedARead.com.Publishing

Author’s Overview
Freya is the middle child and odd-one-out in the close but dislocated Dunbar family in Australia. When Freya meets soul mate Alexander Marcou at High School in 1976 her thwarted efforts to forge an identity amid secrets and gaps in the family history lose their urgency. Fate intervenes and the pair are suddenly oceans apart – Freya helping Gramma in Scotland. They make the best of a lengthening separation by studying to prepare for their travel adventures around nursing, teaching and flying. But destiny hasn’t finished with them. Malevolent forces swirl under their radar to part them permanently. Bewildered and betrayed, both grieve deeply in disbelief. Eventually Alexander marries. Scarred by her experience with Alexander, Freya shies clear of commitments. Superficially serene, the questions simmer and identity issues trouble her again. Immersion in work is a forlorn but effective way to suppress dreams of a lost future. In the 1990s while undertaking nursing research, Freya meets Reg Prentiss an Australian IT expert. After their professional friendship transforms to a whirlwind courtship, they marry and head for a new life DownUnder. Determined to set the past aside, Freya commits to this marriage and the children she and Reg plan to have.

Review by Hazel Barker
Past Imperfect is the first book in the Long Shadows Series. It is a brilliantly conceived plot, which lets the action unfold, and culminates in an unexpected climax.

The author intersperses action with dialogue, and every now and then waxes into a lyrical style. Although written with clarity, the book tends to have too much detail at times, and pace slows down a bit.

The warm and wonderful letters between the two parted lovers are a delight to read. Like Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, romance lovers will be kept biting their nails, wondering when the twain will meet.

I recommend Past Imperfect to all who are anxious to follow the characters and witness the mystery and suspense unfold with each successive book.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Year in India

Clarence, a conscientious objector during World War Two, is stranded in India. He has volunteered to work for the Friends’ Ambulance Unit in China, but dysentery holds him back. A year passes before he can fly over the ‘Hump’ via Japanese-occupied territory into China. Meanwhile, he experiences the changing seasons in India.

Calcutta 1943At first Clarence was dismayed at the sight of countless cesspools, drains teeming with rats, cow dung and human faeces on the roads. In time, however, he saw beyond the wretchedness and lost himself in a world of mystery where snake charmers kissed cobras, fire-eaters swallowed flames and sadus walked on live coals.
Around March, at the Hindu festival of Holi, Hindus in white clothes with bright red stains, danced and sang in a spirit of abandon. They threw coloured powder or water on others – their hair and clothes a mottled red.
As the year progressed, Clarence experienced the seasonal cycles within the vast continent. In March, a bank of dark clouds appeared. Violent winds tore up and tossed giant trees to the ground, stripping and carrying off top soil. Dust seeped through closed shutters, assaulting his eyes and mouth. His skin shrivelled and eyelids grew paper-thin. The earth became a breathless furnace. Perspiration beaded his forehead and ran in rivulets down his face. He consumed copious amounts of water with a teaspoon of salt, surprisingly refreshing on a hot day.
Even late in the evenings, the heat was stifling. Fans whirred above but he tossed in bed at nights. He slept beneath the fan and threw off his sheets. Perspiration drenched his pillow.
He found the dirt, dust and lust unbearable.
During the Unit’s first medical check in India, the doctor had warned, ‘Whatever you do, don’t get the clap,’ but needs outstripped caution and latent carnal cravings grew uncontrollable.
Some members of the unit visited the marketplace where pimps accosted likely customers.
‘You want boy? You want girl?’ the pimps asked. ‘Very beautiful. Very clean.’
Young Indian girls made themselves available.
At the end of the month, the sky turned to a pewter grey and trees appeared dark and solemn. Then a flash of lightning zigzagged across, followed by a clap of thunder. The first few raindrops sank into the dust, devoured by the thirsty earth.
‘Indra, the god of thunder, has loosened his arrows,’ Indians said.
The weather remained hot between bursts of rain, with humidity even more unbearable than the dry heat. The thermometer crept up and prickly heat covered everyone like a hair shirt. Soon, a dank odour arose in houses, shoes gathered mould overnight, and, in cupboards, clothes turned a mossy green.
One morning, a gale battered the windows and rain poured down in sheets during a coffee break at the office of the Friends’ Ambulance Unit. Angus, a member of the unit, entered the room, holding a soggy newspaper. Wind swept papers off the desk, and his mackintosh shed pools of water on the floor.
‘The streets are like a torrent, and the basement has flooded,’ he explained, handing Clarence the mushy mess. ‘We’ll have to dry this before we can read it.’
Clarence relieved him of the papers. Painstakingly, he peeled off each page, laid them out on the carpet and, falling on his knees, he read the headlines:
Gusts of wind over a hundred and ten miles per hour tear down trees. Tidal waves break Hooghly River banks. Rice fields flood. Seawater flows into dams and rotting carcasses pollute them.
‘Well. Well. Get ready for emergencies, lads,’ Angus said. ‘We may soon be back on to ambulance duties doing the job we’ve been trained for.’

Nearly fifteen thousand people and two hundred thousand head of cattle perished in the floods and cholera epidemic that followed. India had already been short of rice when Japan occupied Burma. Soon after, the price doubled from its pre-war level and, by the middle of 1943, famine gripped the State of Bengal. The starving population moved from rural areas to urban centres, increasing the multitude of beggars already clamouring for aid.
His heart sinking at the sight of such suffering, Clarence joined four others from the Friends’ Ambulance Unit. They boarded a launch with medical supplies for the sick, and sped down the Hooghly River, hoping to bring some relief to the starving.
Normally half a mile broad, the river had broken its banks and flooded low-lying fields and villages. Families had taken shelter on the roofs but even these could be covered if the water continued to rise. Villagers shouted and clasped their hands together, begging for succour.
With a little toot in reply, the launch swept past.
A wave of pity overcame Clarence, but he realised that he was powerless to help. Stocked as they were with essentials, there was no room for anything or anyone else.
Corpses of cattle and men drifted towards the ocean. Flocks of vultures tore at the carrion. ‘They won’t starve from the famine,’ Angus said.
Clarence’s mind went back to his journey on SS Strategist, when bodies of his fellow countrymen had floated among the debris of torpedoed ships.

In October, when the golden hues of autumn turned into a fairyland of falling leaves in shades of red, orange and yellow, the famine was over. His thoughts flew home. It pained him to think of how well he ate while his family lived on meagre rations. A sense of guilt overcame him at first, but in his heart he knew his mother would never begrudge him the luxuries he could obtain.
He posted home some tins of butter and a dozen eggs that had been preserved in lime to prevent them from going off in transit.

At Ramadan, Muslims kept the strict Ramadan fast. Winter ushered in Dewali, the Hindu Festival of Lights dedicated to the goddess Kali. Clarence and his friends visited her temple, curious to know more about Hinduism. He marvelled at the differences between the two major religions. No wonder Muslims and Hindus often fought among themselves.
The atmosphere in the temple reeked with the stench of blood from animal sacrifices. Pilgrims queued before a half-naked sadu who held a bowl containing saffron-coloured powder and imprinted their foreheads with it.
Clarence paused before the black-faced deity who held a severed human head dripping with blood.
‘It’s not uncommon for humans to be sacrificed to Kali, even though the practise has been banned,’ his friend informed him. He’d been stationed in India for several years.
Clarence shuddered and turned green. ‘Their god is more like a devil, with her bloated tongue and ravenous mouth. This place gives me the creeps. Let’s get out of here.’
They left, revolted by the stench of blood.
That evening, Clarence only had a bowl of soup for dinner. The sight and smell of blood had made him lose every vestige of appetite.
At nights, during the five-day festival, buildings were illuminated, firecrackers spluttered, rockets streaked across the night sky and Hindus celebrated. They devoured rosgullas, a speciality of the city. Mixed with milk, wheat and lentils, the dessert was shaped into balls and fried, then drenched in sweet syrup.
Clarence indulged his palate and developed an instant liking for them. They slid down his throat. He loved the cloying sweetness of the reddish brown balls. As he bit into them, he recalled the high teas he had enjoyed on a visit to Scotland.
Would England ever return to normal?

Excerpt from The Chocolate Soldier:story of a conchie by Hazel Barker
Published in Carindale Writers’ Group ‘Seasons Anthology’ 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Chameleon by Kathy Stewart

Chameleon by Kathy Stewart

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Publisher’s Summary

It’s 1914. Troops mass for war in Europe, and even at a remote trading store in Transkei, South Africa, the Moss family and their sometimes-guest Richard feel the impact on their lives. Then Richard enlists, taking fifteen-year-old Fred with him. Albert and Martha are furious and afraid for Fred, but fourteen-year-old Eve is shattered, her hopes of eloping with Richard dashed. All she has to remember him by is a strange wooden mannikin … Chameleon was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award in the UK in 2010.

Review by Hazel Barker

Chameleon is a debut novel. Set in South Africa during the two World Wars, the author deftly weaves a story from intensive research, and gives an authentic feel to the characters and situations. Written in the style of Wilbur Smith, the author explains historical events crucial to the story with clarity and verve.

The book grabs the reader from the start, and the pace quickens as the story enfolds. The stories of two families—one black and the other white—run parallel to each other, giving a sense of deep loyalties and hostilities held by each character.

Chameleon has many twists and turns, which leave the reader guessing until the final chapters. I recommend the book to all those who love mystery, history and romance.

Link to: http://www.goldcoastwritersworkshops.com


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized