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Thursday, August 15, 2019

'A Constant Hum' by Alice Bishop

From the BLURB:

It’ll all be okay, my mother said, and I remember the way her familiar face scrunched, afterwards – reflected back at me, in the fogged bathroom mirror, when she thought I couldn’t see. 

Before the fire – before the front of flames roars over the hills—the ridge is thick with gums. After the fire, all the birds have gone. There is only ash and melted metal, the blackened husks of cars. And the lost people: on the TV news in borrowed clothes, in temporary accommodation on the outskirts of the city, or remembered in small offerings outside the town hall. 

A Constant Hum grapples with the aftermath of bushfire with an eye for the telling detail. Some of these stories cut to the bone; others are empathetic tales of survival, even hope. All are gripping and stunningly written, heralding the arrival of a vital new voice in Australian fiction.

Well, that was a feast made from grief and completely, hauntingly, divine. ‘A Constant Hum’ by Alice Bishop is a Short Story Collection based on the aftermath of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. 

It features a variation of viewpoints and Short Story forms - everything from minisagas to microfiction, and microstory (of only a few words) interspersed with flash fiction and longer form short stories too. 

There were still reports, years later, of the horses that night: their coats matted and sweet from sweat in smoke-blurred headlights.  

The pace of them - longer and short form one after the other - makes it read like the waves and stages of grief. And sometimes we get the barest hint of an aspect of the tragedy, like it’s all we can handle of the whole. One line a character utters in a story hints at these fleeting moments: ‘It’s okay, Haze, sometimes things just disappear.’ 

It’s stunning, and unsurprising that Bishop herself grew up in Christmas Hills - one town devastated by the fires. This collection feels both assured and vulnerable, a hard and hurting reading but necessary and so very, very fulfilling. I loved it.

It’s also worth reading her acknowledgments at the back - and the very end, where Bishop lists all the places where many of the stories were previously published or recognised: journals and magazines, websites, and short story prizes ... it highlights how long Bishop has been writing and finessing this collection, and it’s proof-positive that building a writing resume (particularly of your short-story work) is well worth doing. It takes time, but the best things often do.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

'Pieces of Her' by Karin Slaughter

From the BLURB: 

What if the person you thought you knew best turned out to be someone you never knew at all? 

Andrea Oliver's mother, Laura, is the perfect small-town mum. Laura lives a quiet but happy life in sleepy beachside Belle Isle. She's a pillar of the community: a speech therapist, business owner and everybody's friend. And she's never kept a secret from anyone. Or so Andrea thinks. 

When Andrea is caught in a random violent attack at a shopping mall, Laura intervenes and acts in a way that is unrecognisable to her daughter. It's like Laura is a completely different person - and that's because she was. Thirty years ago. Before Andrea. Before Belle Isle. 

Laura is hailed as a hero for her actions at the mall but 24 hours later she is in hospital, shot by an intruder, who's spent decades trying to track her down. 

What is Andrea's mother trying to hide? As elements of the past return and put them both in danger, Andrea is left to piece together Laura's former identity and discover the truth - for better or worse - about her mother. Is the gentle, loving woman who raised her also a violent killer?

'Pieces of Her' is the new stand-alone crime/thriller novel from maestra, Karin Slaughter! 

Much as I adored Slaughter's 'Grant County' series (until it tore my heart out!) and am still loving her 'Will Trent' series, I've been absolutely enamoured of her stand-alone books of late. Her last one, 2017's 'The Good Daughter' was an absolute SMASH and I loved it, so I was super keen to dive into her next with 'Pieces of Her'. 

Andrea and her mother Laura find themselves at an impasse - Andrea moved back home after a failed stint in New York, ostensibly to help nurse her mother back to health after her cancer diagnosis. But Laura is in remission now, and Andrea is still spinning her wheels living at home and taking a crappy job as a police phone operator - and reluctant to let her successful speech-therapist mother know just how much she hated her old life in New York, and is unwilling to return to it. 

There's a great line in which Andrea comments that her mother is a woman "who knows where the lids to her Tupperware are kept" and it's just *chef's kiss* apt character description for a put-together older white lady from the South. 

What changes everything is an incident in a diner, when Andrea and her mother find themselves bystanders in a gun attack. Except Laura isn't a bystander for long - she confronts the young gunman, and turns tables - killing him in a most violent, professional manner ... that multiple people capture on phone-camera, so she makes the nightly news. 

Suddenly Laura's world starts unravelling, and Andrea along with it. 

This set-up is VERY 'A History of Violence' meets the Geena Davis classic 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' ... or so I thought. I was kind of hoping that with this set-up, 'Pieces of Her' would become a mother-daughter cover-operative spy-thriller - but sadly, it becomes Laura sending Andrea off for her own safety, and having to uncover the truth of her mother's past by herself on the road, while Laura stays home and answers to the authorities. 

There are inter-cut flashbacks to Laura's past that keeps readers guessing as to *which* player she is in an unfolding Patty Hearst-esque saga from decades ago ... and I found these interchanges to be quite dull, and the backstory not nearly as thrilling as I'd hoped. Even as I also appreciated Slaughter portraying a nuanced though extreme form of domestic violence, of both physical, emotional and psychological abuse. 

I guess my disappointment came from Slaughter keeping this story relatively grounded, when I kept hoping/expecting it to take off into Jason Bourne type territory. I was also really gunning for a Mother/Daughter "buddy cop" recipe, because the book was most fun when Andrea and Laura were together - and I felt like the second Andrea went solo, the present-day storyline also became dull. I was especially disappointed when a potential relationship with a guy is dangled before Andrea, but it's stalled from really building by having them not team up ... and then that the entire thing ends with an almost Hannibal/Clarice talking scene, that after so little action felt like yet another lull in what should have been a more action-packed finale. 

There's a lot of similarities between 'Pieces of Her' and the (I think) more successful 'The Good Daughter' - namely in both books pivoting around a relationship from the past that's been buried, and re-triggered by a violent tragedy in the present. But 'The Good Daughter' was so pacey and violent, a deeply torturous psychological read that kept me guessing ... where I feel like 'Pieces of Her' kept stalling and never *quite* reaching its full potential. The story just never went the way I wanted it to, and remained sedate instead of kicking pace and characters up a notch. 

It was just 'okay' when I've come to expect 'spectacular' from Slaughter.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

'The Bride Test' by Helen Hoang

From the BLURB:

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions - like grief. And love. He thinks he's defective. 

Khai's family, however, understand that his autism means he processes emotions differently. As he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride. 

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can't turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn't go as planned. Esme's lessons in love seem to be working...but only on herself. She's hopelessly smitten with a man who's convinced he can never return her affection. 

With Esme's time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he's been wrong all along. And there's more than one way to love.

'The Bride Test' is the second book in what has become Helen Hoang's family saga, that started with last year's 'The Kiss Quotient'.

'The Bride Test' is focused on youngest brother/cousin Khai Diep, who is on the autism-spectrum and certain that he is incapable of love and destined to never have a family of his own. His mother has other plans however, and travels to Việt Nam to find him a bride - which she does, in the form of cleaner Esme Tran. 

Khai agrees to his mother's condition of pretending like he and Esme are already engaged for one month - after which she will either marry Khai for real, or return home. Khai is sure though, that he is only doing this to placate his mother - and after a month of attending family weddings with Esme purely platonically, she will be on her way and he'll be left alone and free of meddling women. 

Except fate has other plans ... like Esme falling head-over-heels in love with Khai, even as she's keeping a big secret from him. Khai likewise wasn't planning on becoming so attached to Esme, even as he remains certain that he's incapable of the emotion she most needs from him. 

I LOVED this book! I enjoyed it as much as 'The Kiss Quotient', though I probably prefer that story just a *little* bit more. I particularly loved Helen Hoang's authors note at the back of the book, in which she reveals that Esme is largely based on her own mother - who came to America from Việt Nam as a refugee after the war, and who rose from poverty to be a successful business-owner ... Helen admits that when she first conceived this story, Esme was only going to be the third-wheel in a love triangle between Khai and an American love-interest, but as she started writing, Esme started shining. She questioned why she felt the need to write a "Westernised" love-interest, and why she couldn't in fact have a heroine whose first language was not English, who came from poverty and had little formal education ... all of these are what make Esme a truly unique heroine in the modern romance genre, and also what made her character so fascinating and her story-arc so compelling. She's clever and determined, kind and hard-working and an utterly wonderful love-interest to play off of Khai. 

I will say that the *very* last few pages go a little off-kilter, with a secondary-storyline bursting in at the very end in the most unlikely and needlessly schmaltzy way I could have done without. My only other complaint was that since Hoang is making a family saga of this series (Quan's book is next, and I cannot wait!) I would have loved a little more scene-time of Michael and Stella from 'The Kiss Quotient'. We get a little of them, and it is happy - but Stella especially had no lines, I don't think? I totally understand wanting to write these books so they can be read as stand-alone, but for those readers who are checking back in with these characters it'd be nice to show us how they're continuing on in the universe ... 

I so thoroughly enjoyed 'The Bride Test', and still feel like Helen Hoang is one of the most exciting romance authors writing in the contemporary genre today. I am ridiculously keen on older brother Quan's book, because I do think he's going to be my favourite hero. 2020 better hurry!


Friday, July 12, 2019

I am being published!

Hello Darling Readers, 

It has been a big couple of weeks, and in all the hubbub I completely forgot to update this corner of the internet - 'my solo book club' - with some *pretty* big news. 

I sold a book. 

I've actually sold two books. 

Here's the official write-up from trade magazine, Books+Publishing

Hachette Australia has acquired ANZ rights to a middle-grade novel, The Year the Maps Changed, and a yet to be titled YA novel by literary agent Danielle Binks. The two-book deal was negotiated by Binks’ employer, Jacinta di Mase Management. 
The Year the Maps Changed, Binks’ debut middle-grade novel, is set in the Victorian coastal town of Sorrento in 1999 during the events of ‘Operation Safe Haven’, when the Australian government welcomed some 6000 Kosovar refugees into ‘safe havens’ around the country, including the Quarantine Station on Point Nepean, on the Mornington Peninsula. The novel takes place over one year in 12-year-old Winifred’s life ‘when everything’s already changing at home, and then the outside world seems to come crashing in’. 
Commissioning editor Kate Stevens said, ‘I’m absolutely delighted to be working with Danielle, who is not only a brilliant writer but also has an acute understanding of her audience and a whole lot of love for the #LoveOzYA and #LoveOzMG movements. The Year the Maps Changed is about the bonds of family and the power of compassion … I can’t wait to get it into the hands of readers around the country, I know they’re going to love it like I do.’ 
The Year the Maps Changed will be published in June 2020 and Binks’ YA novel is tentatively set for 2021.

So yeah - that happened! 
And one reason updating the blog with the news slipped my mind, was probably because for the last two-weeks I have been in the thick of my first round of structural edits ... which is a thing that is happening now, because I have a book coming out next year!
And also because between structural edits, I've been brainstorming and writing in fits & bursts for this other idea of mine ... the YA novel. Which is also going to be an actual thing you can buy and sit on your bookshelf one day or read on your e-reader or - I dunno! - listen to on audiobook, *maybe*! 
This all blows my mind. 
Because - here's the thing ... 
Last week I stumbled across this old interview with me, from 2012 over at The Writer's Burrow. I talk about how coming runner-up in the John Marsden Prize the year before, kinda changed my whole life. I didn't know how true that was, until I connected a few dots. Like how the John Marsden Prize is now called the The John Marsden & Hachette Australia Prize (still with Express Media!) and I have just signed a two-book deal with Hachette Children's. 
Back in 2011 I didn't win a writing-award. But I got runner-up and received praise for one of the first short-stories I ever wrote and shared with the wider world - beyond anonymous FanFiction or a private Word Doc on my computer. I got to tell John Marsden - one of my all-time favourite Australian YA authors - that Checkers changed my life and was my favourite book of his. And he told me that I'd come *so close* to winning, and that he hoped I'd keep writing. 
I did. And now here we are. 
You can buy my book next year, and the next one the year after that!
What a world. What a funny, old world. 

(Image credit: Janis House, Janis House Photography)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

'The Kiss Quotient' by Helen Hoang

From the BLURB: 

Stella Lane thinks mathematics is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases?a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with and far less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. 

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice?with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. Gorgeous and conflicted, Michael can't afford to turn down Stella's offer and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan, from foreplay to more-than-missionary position. 

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses but to crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic . . .

'The Kiss Quotient' was the debut romance novel from Helen Hoang, in what has now become a mini family-saga that continues with 'The Bride Test' and will likely conclude with 'The Heart Principle' out in 2020. 

So, I really loved this book and can't believe I didn't write a review after I finished reading! Though I will say that having read it ages ago (July 2018) and now seeing more reviews of it, it's interesting to step back and see how divisive this book is. It's very much a love or hate, but not much of in-between it would seem ...

The story follows successful algorithm-whiz Stella Lane as she tries to overcome her intimacy anxieties and please her disappointed parents by "practicing" having a relationship ... with an escort. That escort ends up being Michael Phan - who is more than he appears, and more patient than Stella could have hoped for and also too close to being the perfect guy she could actually fall for. 

A large part of what made 'The Kiss Quotient' a stand-out romance title of 2018 was two-fold: it featured a racially diverse couple, and neuro-diverse heroine. Stella is on the autism-spectrum, and since autism is under-diagnosed in women and girls, this in itself was a welcome bit of representation, and particularly in the romance genre. 

I thought Stella's autism was handled well, and that it was integral to the romance sparking and evolving was, I thought, genuinely lovely and a unique angle I'd never really seen played for female characters before. 

I see quite a few reviewers who found the sex to be ... distasteful in the book. And, look - different strokes for different folks but also: in Australia and the nature of our market, 'The Kiss Quotient' was publicised and positioned as much more of a Women's Fiction title, when in actuality I'd say it's an out and out romance. As such the sex and romance *does* take up a fair chunk of the story and does a lot of heavy-lifting in the characterisation - which I fully welcomed and expected, given that I'm a romance reader and pretty quickly adjusted to this being firmly of that genre. For others though, I can imagine if they went in looking for more ... exposition, and less "sex-position" - then they'd be thrown. It's definitely a gear-switch if you're not prepared to welcome it. 

All in all; I was totally delighted by 'The Kiss Quotient' - from its representation, to the titillation - it ALL worked for me, and I was glad to find a new favourite author in Hoang.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

'Raising Readers: How to nurture a child’s love of books' by Megan Daley

From the BLURB: 

Some kids refuse to read, others won’t stop – not even at the dinner table! Either way, many parents question the best way to support their child’s literacy journey. When can you start reading to your child? How do you find that special book to inspire a reluctant reader? How can you tell if a book is age appropriate? What can you do to keep your tween reading into their adolescent years? 

Award-winning teacher librarian Megan Daley has the answersto all these questions and more. She unpacks her fifteen years of experience into this personable and accessible guide, enhanced with up-to-date research and first-hand accounts from well-known Australian children’s authors. It also contains practical tips, such as suggested reading lists and instructions on how to run book-themed activities.

Raising Readers is a must-have guide for parents and educators to help the children in their lives fall in love with books.

'Raising Readers: How to nurture a child’s love of books' is the non-fiction how-to book that the Australian publishing industry needed - written by teacher librarian, 'Queensland Teacher Librarian of the Year' and recipient of the national Dromken Librarians Award AND blogger over at 'Children's Books Daily' - Megan Daley (phew!) 

This book was not written specifically for authors, but in my role as a literary agent, editor, author and youth-literature advocate that was the way I came to view this resource ... and though it was not intended as such, I found it to also be a great stockpile of info for new and emerging authors; so that's the point from which I'm reviewing it. 

Straight up in the introduction, Daley explains the purpose and usefulness of the book; 

'Raising Readers' is a guide for parents and a resource for educators. Like all good non-fiction books (my teacher librarian hat is on now), you can dip into this book as needed or you can read it from start to finish. I will walk you through each stage of a child's literacy development - from birth to adolescence - and offer advice, connect you with the right books at the right times, share pieces of wisdom from my literary friends, as well as some tips and tricks to ensure your family's or classroom's reading journeys are as memorable and as engaging as they can be.

All of which is true, and means this book is for *anyone* who cares about children becoming readers for life, and having their imaginations constantly expanded and nurtured. 

But there are ways that the book can be used as a call-to-arms and a guiding-light in lateral ways too, which I am sure Daley was also aware of when writing. Like how she constantly highlights throughout, the overwhelming importance of teacher librarians in schools and what a well-managed and cared-for library does to a school community, especially in improving literacy (something that literally *all* of the studies and science show correlates too). 

Coming from a family of mostly primary-school teachers from the public-schools sector, I know that not every school has a funded library, and not every child has access to what is essential learning and living in books. 'Raising Readers' has some great guides and how-to's in talking about the need for thoughtful library collections and teacher librarians to manage them, should any parent reading this want help in appealing to a school board or funding committee. While a chapter on 'Acknowledging and Reflecting Diversity' can even be used by those school communities for whom funding and access is *not* the issue, but broadening horizons and being mindful of inclusion *is.* 

Likewise for any educators and librarians struggling on ever-tightening budgets, Daley's words will be both balm and lightning-rod for talking-points and back-up! 

As Daley mentioned, the ability to dip in and out of the book is there, or even flick through and look for breakout-boxes offering lists of recommended-reads and activities, etc. Though I will say that some of the books listed did run a little old, dating from the 90s and early-00s ... but I guess this was an attempt to actually *not* date the book by only listing current "hot-reads" that may not stand the test of time like many "classics" Daley mentions. And, look, if you actually want to keep up-to-date on YouthLit trends (which you SHOULD, if Daley's messaging leaves any mark on you!) then use the ever-evolving and vital resource of her: Children's Books Daily blog - and the focus on #LoveOzYA and #LoveOzMG recs is truly fabulous! 

'Raising Readers' as I said,  is also an invaluable resource for new and emerging authors. I'd say that on the writing and creativity front, 'Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers' by Mary Kole (my FAVE!) is one-half of the conversation for the just-getting-started side, and Megan Daley's 'Raising Readers' is perfect for the next phase of an author's life, when they have to work and monetise their writing career. In this the final chapter of 'How-To Guides' is brilliant, particularly the section on 'How to host an author or illustrator visit'. 

In this, Daley will give authors some idea of what is expected of them (how to talk about their books in terms of curriculum, what kids get out of visits with creators etc.) but more importantly, Daley having shown "the stakes" as they are for teacher librarians and schools, gives authors an appreciation of how *on-point* their presentations and interactions have to be; how rehearsed (but not *too* rehearsed) fun, engaging, educational, and above all - worthwhile. Because schools and libraries work to tight-budgets, and sometimes they're even battling against wider communities and adults who don't yet understand the value and importance of investing in nurturing a love of reading in children, at all ages. 

Highly-highly recommend 'Raising Readers' for everyone and anyone who thinks that a world full of well-read kids engaged with their imagination and empathy is in everyone's best interests! 


Sunday, June 23, 2019

'The Last Widow' Will Trent #9 by Karin Slaughter

From the BLURB:

The routine of a family shopping trip is shattered when Michelle Spivey is snatched as she leaves the mall with her young daughter. The police search for her, her partner pleads for her release, but it's as if she disappeared into thin air.

A month later, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, medical examiner Sara Linton is at lunch with her boyfriend Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But the serenity of the summer's day is broken by the wail of sirens.

Sara and Will are trained to run towards an emergency, not away from it. But on this one terrible day that instinct betrays them. Within hours the situation has spiralled out of control. And the fallout will lead them into the Appalachian mountains, to the terrible truth about really happened to Michelle, and to a remote compound where a radical group has murder in mind ...

‘The Last Widow’ is the ninth book in Karin Slaughter’s ongoing crime-thriller series, ‘Will Trent’.

It has been three years since we got a new ‘Will Trent’ instalment – and truth be told, last book ‘The Kept Woman’ didn’t quite tide me over satisfactorily. It read like a filler-book in the series, with little progress or advancement for the characters and their relationships – which is the whole reason I keep coming back to Slaughter, for the relationship of Will Trent and ‘Grant County’ expat, Sara Linton.

Well, I am happy to report that ‘The Last Widow’ left me a lot more satisfied – but also built my hunger and renewed my interest in this series overall, to the point where I know that I’m going to be painfully desperate for the tenth book  – which will probably be another three years coming!

Slaughter is very clever in how she sets up the parameters of this story – which hinges on an upcoming catastrophic event that none of our players know precisely what it is, only that it’s coming. There’s a countdown that the timeline hinges on, and from the get-go Slaughter uses it to set up the personal fractions and factions within the series world too.

We see a small window of time from both Sara and Will’s perspectives – the calm before the story – as they respectively deal with nuances in their relationship within an ordinary day. What’s brilliant is that we get the internals from both of them and see the same scene play out from both their perspectives – to realise that Will and Sara are currently out-of-step in their relationship, without even realising it. This is characterisation minutiae, and it’s Slaughter at her absolute best – because these small details will echo throughout the book, until they become loud as church-bells by the end.

From there, the book picks up a frenetic pace and a chilling whodunit – the crux of which I don’t want to give too much away, because it’s a great premise and plot for the entire book. You’d think a storyline like this when Will and Sara are on rocky ground, would further fracture them for readers but it actually does the opposite – solidifying their relationship, and what’s to come in the series.

I’ll only say that ‘The Last Widow’ is a book of the times. Slaughter has done her research – as always – but in doing so she’s looked into the dark-heart of the current American political and social climate, and it’s nor pretty. This book deals with Neo-Nazi’s, domestic terrorism and homebred militia. It’s honestly one of the most frightening scenarios and back-stories Slaughter has hit on in recently memory, for the very fact that it feels uncomfortable contemporary;

From what Faith could tell, most of the men were just looking for a reason to camp out, get away from their wives, and pretend they were more important than their actual lives as accountants or used car salesman would indicate. The more dangerous factions were steeped in the theories of the Posse Comitatus, who believed that the government should be violently overthrown and returned to white Christian men.
Apparently, they lacked access to photographs of the majority of the United States Congress, the president, the cabinet, and most of the judges packed onto state and federal courts.

Amidst all this are Sara and Will, caught up in these factions with far-right extremists – though I won’t say how. I will however, say that what Slaughter illuminates on the true-background of such groups is terrifying. And it essentially boils down to; war breeds home-grown terrorists. There is a direct correlation, in fact, between white nationalist domestic terrorists and those with US military-backgrounds; men who come home from war feeling disenfranchised, broken, and discarded by their government – who have seen up close how grassroots terrorist organisations work from their fighting abroad, then apply those “lessons” to their own disillusionment and anger. And the fact that the US Government knows about this correlation – a comprehensive report was gathered in 2009, but “conservative politicians and media outlets jumped on the report,” the backlash was so severe DHS publicly apologized for the report and dismantled the team responsible for tracking far-right threats.

This is the breeding ground for bad-guys in ‘The Last Widow’, and it sees Sara go toe-to-toe with a Neo-Nazi militiaman;

She asked, “You ever notice how George Clooney never goes around telling people how handsome he is?”
Dash raised his eyebrows, expectant.
“It makes me curious – if you’re really a patriot, do you have to put it in your name?”
Dash chuckled, shaking his head. “I wonder, Dr. Earnshaw, if I was a writer, how would I descrive you in a book?”
Sara had read books by men like Dash. He would list the colour of her hair, the size of her breasts and the shape of her ass.

There are so many little asides throughout this book, when Slaughter absolutely goes to town on the likes of khaki-clad Charlottesville Nazis, and media pundits who think racism should be given parity. It’s delicious, sinister, sometimes overwhelming but so very accurate as to be remarkable. This is Slaughter at the top of her game – taking the real world and distorting it with just enough truth to make the crime-thriller notes that most more astute.

‘The Last Widow’ was an absolute thrill from beginning to end – but the characterisations within are also bang on, and the best they’ve been in the ‘Will Trent’ series for a while now (certainly since Sara and Will solidified their romantic relationship.)

This is Karin Slaughter at her very best, and I just want more.