The Soldier’s Curse

Meg and Tom Keneally

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

The novel’s extensive but never intrusive historical detail brings the penal colony to life, and contacts with the Birpai, the local Aboriginal people, demonstrate how arrogant Europeans took their lands without a second thought...The descriptions of the flora and fauna of nineteenth-century Australia also root the story in a very particular time and place. It is beautiful, but for many it is a prison nonetheless [Read more...] in Reviews


Liska Jacobs

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Elsa is back in California, where she grew up, after a short-ish, inglorious career in New York, working at MoMA and sleeping with her boss Eric. Still besotted with Eric, and too ashamed of her fall from the high pinnacle of escape and success to tell her old California friends, she takes refuge, initially, in a luxury hotel where life consists of getting high, getting drunk, getting laid and getting unconscious [Read more...] in Reviews

A Woman’s War

Frances Donaldson

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

Frankie has to care for her two small children, run the house and make sure there is enough to eat in spite of ever increasing shortages and ever more severe rationing. She must also keep their farm going. She works with recalcitrant men who don’t believe women could or should be in charge. They are also (with good reason) afraid that if they teach her how to do their jobs, she will take over and they will be sacked. But the farm belongs to Frankie and she is tough and determined. She gradually masters most farming skills, discovers that they are not as difficult as her workers made them seem and, one after another, the men she employs either leave, or learn to live with her as boss [Read more...] in Reviews

St Hilda’s Crime & Mystery Conference 17 -19 August, 2018

Several writers who have featured in N. J. Cooper’s monthly crime columns will be appearing at the 25th St Hilda’s Crime & Mystery Conference next August. Unlike every other crime festival, St Hilda’s has no panels or interviews. Instead speakers give 35-minute papers, with a discussion, after each two papers, between the audience, speakers and the chair, Andrew Taylor. This year the topic is to be politics and crime fiction. The guest of honour, Sara Paretsky, will give the conference lecture on Sunday morning. Lindsey Davis, who starred at the first St Hilda’s crime weekend (and several in between), will talk after dinner on Friday night, and the Saturday dinner will include a mystery playlet, written by N. J. Cooper and performed by members of the committee, which consists of: Val McDermid, Andrew Taylor, Jake Kerridge, Jean Harker, Triona Adams and N. J. Cooper. The full list of speakers is: Adam Brookes, Chris Brookmyre, Judith Flanders, Mick Herron, S. G. MacLean, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty, S. J. Parris, Manda Scott and Louise Welsh. Blackwells will provide the book stall, and more information can be found at . This is the friendliest of crime weekends and has provided much merriment over the years, as well as illuminating – and highly individual – insights into crime fiction.
Lee Child’s 2016 conference lecture was livestreamed and is still available on
St. Hilda’s

The Uncommon Reader

Helen Smith

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Garnett must have been quite a difficult man to live with. Neurasthenic, if not actually hypochondriac, he was happiest when surrounded by manuscripts and writers. The story goes that, at his regular lunches at the Mont Blanc restaurant, he would be reading the former while talking to the latter, and eating at the same time. One can understand this. He was living at a fascinating time, the transition between two centuries, when a reader’s choice could be between Galsworthy and Joyce, E.M. Forster and Henry Green, Stephen Crane and Jean Rhys

The Temptation to Be Happy

Lorenzo Marone

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

Cesare has too much time on his hands and, at 77, not enough time left. It’s a predicament that will be recognized by many readers in or near his age group. He is irritated and embarrassed by his grown-up children – his son is gay, his daughter a workaholic. He resents their interference in his life, yet feels entitled to their care and support. He loves his little grandson but doesn’t appreciate being expected to collect him from school in order to accommodate his daughter’s lifestyle [Read more...] in Reviews

The Red Beach Hut

Lynn Michell

Reviewed by Alison Coles

Lynn Michell captures the gentleness and purity of both characters, and their innocent yearning for something to fill their separate emotional vacuums. So far so good – we have been privy to the pure side of their relationship, their intentions, but it is not long before we view how the world sees them, and labels them, and impugns the worst of motives to them. For this is the theme of the novel, it is about how the world leaps with speed to judge [Read more...] in Reviews