Prom Mom by Laura Lippman

While our pals in the States ditched the Royal Family long ago, if there were to be monarchs of modern US crime writing, Baltimore author Laura Lippman would surely be among them. After planting her flag with the terrific ‘Tess Monaghan’ series, in recent years Lippman has challenged herself with a string of diverse standalones, from the multiple historic narrators of Lady in the Lake to the claustrophobic Dream Girl.

In Prom Mom she plunges us into a slow-burn thriller that digs into a ‘whatever happened to?’ scenario. Amber Glass fears she’ll always carry her tabloid moniker like a scarlet letter; the teen who gave birth on Prom Night then allegedly killed her newborn after her date abandoned her for another girl. Baltimore’s the last place she wants to be, until circumstances draw her home and rekindle a strange connection to Joe – now a commercial developer married to a surgeon – who was Amber’s date that fateful night. As the world grappled with pandemic uncertainty, Amber and Joe cross lines.

Lippman lures readers in and takes us on a suspenseful ride that flows as smoothly as a brilliant musician performing onstage; making the difficult look deceptively easy. Prom Mom is another jewel in the crown of a modern-day Empress of the crime genre.

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Lippman was a reporter for 20 years, including 12 years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association.

Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Heraldand the San Antonio Light.

Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since. She is the daughter of Theo Lippman Jr., a Sun editorial writer who retired in 1995 but continues to freelance for several newspapers, and Madeline Mabry Lippman, a former Baltimore City school librarian. Her sister, Susan, is a local bookseller.

Visit Laura Lippman’s website

Shake Some Action by Stuart Coupe

Well … it might be easier to list the things Stuart Coupe hasn’t done, or who in the music industry he hasn’t met. He’s the everywhere man of music. Oh, and literature, as if he wasn’t busy enough. Always keen to spread word of great music, he began a local music magazine during his university days, then went on to write record and gig reviews for bigger magazines and newspapers (RAM, The Sun Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald). Careers as a publicist, DJ, artist manager, writer, book reviewer, promoter, music producer, record store owner and radio announcer have followed. If there’s anything happening in music that he doesn’t know about today, he’ll be all over it by tomorrow.

The small-town sprat from Launceston was an activist small fry in Adelaide and grew to be a big fish in Sydney and beyond. His first record purchase annoyed his mother and disgusted his father. Coupe’s attraction to punk and the Marxist politics of his university days would have dismayed them further. His mother was later mollified by his procurement of a signed record by Tiny Tim.

His writing attracted interest from bigger players in Sydney (Anthony O’Grady at RAM and David Dale at SMH). Another influence came unexpectedly from Lisa Wilkinson, then editor of Dolly. His writing credits are as eclectic as his music tastes: from interviews with Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen to fun facts on Twisties packets. (As a one-time freelancer, he wrote whatever would garner him an income.) His promotional work for local and international artists was heartfelt but costly. His biographies of Michael Gudinski and Paul Kelly are more profitable.

Shake Some Action is a roller-coaster tale of sex (presumably, but tastefully omitted), drugs (way too much and candidly explored) and rock’n’roll (never enough). The characters he writes of within the industry often live up to our clichéd assumptions – Coupe initially thought Spinal Tap was a documentary. There’ll be familiar musicians and industry heavyweights within this book but, more importantly, you’ll discover obscure artists where Coupe’s enthusiasm will make you want to search them out. This is outstanding, no-holds-barred writing.

Reviewed by Bob Moore

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stuart Coupe has worked as a journalist, author, editor, manager, record label director, radio presenter, publicist and tour promoter.

After growing up in Launceston, Tasmania he attended Flinders University in Adelaide where he became editor of the university magazine, Empire Times, and founded the music magazine Roadrunner. In late 1978 he was poached by Rock Australia Magazine (RAM) and moved to Sydney. After 18 months at RAM he became the music writer for the Sun Herald for the next decade. Stuart is the only Australian to interview Bob Dylan twice and has conducted thousands of conversations with musicians from around the globe. He estimates that he has had in excess of eight million words published over the years.

Stuart also managed the Hoodoo Gurus, and then Paul Kelly.

As a tour promoter Stuart was responsible for Australian tours by musicians Lucinda Williams, Link Wray, Dick Dale, Harry Dean Stanton, Rosanne Cash, Mary-Chapin Carpenter and others. He also promoted events and tours with authors James Ellroy, Ed McBain, Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard and PJ O’Rourke.

After a stint co-presenting the album show on 2MMM in the 1980s, Stuart has spent the past 15 years presenting a weekly show on FBi radio in Sydney. For five years he has also presented the nationally syndicated radio show entitled ‘Dirt Music’ on radio 2SER and ‘Wildcard’ on FBI radio. He is also a frequent commentator on radio, TV and in print media on matters relating to music and popular culture.

Stuart has frequently worked as a publicist, starting with The Clash, The Cramps and other international artists. He currently runs Stuart Coupe Publicity with a wide range of clients from the independent music world in Australia as well as international touring artists. He was a founder and director of Laughing Outlaw Records which released music from predominantly new and emerging Australian artists.

For 17 years Stuart was the crime fiction book reviewer of the Sydney Morning Herald. He also founded and edited Mean Streets magazine, co-edited three crime fiction anthologies and co-founded the Ned Kelly Awards. In 2005 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Ned Kelly Award for his contribution to the crime fiction genre.

Australian Backyard Birds by Myke Mollard 

If you have a young twitcher in your home then Australian Backyard Birds will be right up their alley.

Myke Mollard is passionate about teaching young people the importance of nature. Whether that be creatures who live under the sea or in the bush, the extinct dinosaurs of our lands, or, with his latest book, our native bird life.

The endpapers of this book feature a map of Australia highlighting the regions and migratory routes birds take to come to, and leave, Australia. We even learn about beak design as well. This is just the beginning of 64 pages absolutely packed full of information.

Myke takes us on a tour through Australian States and Territories, showing us what birds live where in our urban backyards, from noisy miners to the red wattlebird and rufous whistler. Throughout the book he highlights specific birds, like the elusive and endangered cassowary, so we can learn more. My favourites are the owls, with their fascinating names such as Rufous Boobook and Barking Owl. Myke draws them all congregated together on a branch.

There are pages on the art of birdwatching and how to attract birds to our gardens. He shows us the different types of bird’s feet and how they help the bird to catch prey or dig. He briefly looks at tail structures and bird silhouettes so you can identify a bird in flight. There is so much to learn about Australia’s backyard birds in this book and Myke’s writing style and gorgeous illustrations make it easy and absorbing reading.

Reviewed by Jane Stephens
Age Guide 6+ 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Myke Mollard is a children’s educator, illustrator, author and designer. He began his career in graphic design, branding management and producing commercials for TV. He later found outlets for his passion for educating kids about the world around them, both in person in classroom and online settings, and via his books which he fully writes and illustrates himself.

One of his first books, in 2008, was the bestselling A-Z of Australian Bush Creatures.

Visit Myke Mollard’s website 

 

The Secret Hours by Mick Herron

For fans like me, the release of a new Mick Herron book is a big treat. This one doesn’t disappoint! Herron’s take on a post-Brexit post-COVID UK, where the ruling class is in thrall to private money, even if it could threaten national security, is scathing and cynical, but one that feels close to the truth.

In London, the toothless Monochrome inquiry, set up by a vindictive prime minister to expose Secret Service misdeeds, is about to wrap up, rendered powerless by the Service’s First Desk. But the game is changed when a file falls into the inquiry’s hands, threatening to expose long-buried secrets.

A long-retired spy, living a quiet life in Devon, realises his true identity has been exposed when intruders break into his house. Someone is desperate to appear before Monochrome and talk about what happened in Berlin in the days when it was newly unified. Others are equally keen to keep the past buried. But this battle involves not just the past, but also the future of the Service.

Billed as a standalone novel, The Secret Hours can be enjoyed by readers new to Herron’s work. However, fans of the ‘Slow Horses’ series will love the back story development for several key figures.

Reviewed by Melinda Woledge

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mick Herron is a bestselling and award-winning novelist and short story writer, best known for his Slough House thrillers. The series has been adapted into a TV series starring Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb.

In 2008, inspired by world events, Mick began writing the Slough House series, featuring MI5 agents who have been exiled from the mainstream for various offences. The first novel, Slow Horses, was published in 2010. Some years later, it was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as one of “the twenty greatest spy novels of all time”.

The Slough House novels have been published in 20 languages; have won both the CWA Steel and Gold daggers; have been shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year four times; and have won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz prize. Mick is also the author of the highly acclaimed novels Reconstruction, This is What Happened and Nobody Walks.

Visit Mick Herron’s website

After That Night by Karin Slaughter

After That Night is the 11th in the ‘Will Trent’ series although it can be read as a standalone. Sarah Linton is a paediatrician relieving in Emergency when a car accident victim named Dani is wheeled in. She works on a young woman who has injuries well beyond what she would have expected in a slow-speed collision and, before she dies of those injuries, she tells Sarah that she was brutally attacked and raped.

Three years later, a young man from a very wealthy family is being sued by the dead woman’s parents in a civil suit, and Sarah is the star witness. She expects the lawyer for the young man will bring up her own brutal attack and rape many years ago, arguing that she is biased and out for revenge. That surprisingly doesn’t happen. What else surprises her, is that the alleged rapist’s mother, who is known to Sarah, tells her in the court bathroom, ‘What happened to you. What happened to Dani. It’s all connected.’

Sarah, who identified her rapist all those years ago and suffered through a trial, decides to work with her fiancé, Will Trent, and his partner, Faith Mitchell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, to dig deeper into these memories and other unsolved rape cases.

They seek to determine which medical student attended that fateful party all those years ago. Is it possible they are behind the assault on Dani and many others?

Although the subject is gruelling, pitiless and can be hard going, the author writes compassionately towards rape victims. Slaughter writes well and this latest outing in the series is pacey and certainly keeps your attention.

Reviewed by Lesley West

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers.

She is the author of more than twenty instant New York Times bestselling novels, including the Edgar–nominated Cop Town and standalone novels Pretty GirlsThe Good Daughter, and Pieces of Her.

She is published in 120 countries with more than 40 million copies sold across the globe. Pieces of Her is a #1 Netflix original series starring Toni Collette, and WILL TRENT, based on her Will Trent series, is on ABC. False Witness and The Good Daughter are in development for television. A native of Georgia, she lives in Atlanta.

Visit Karin Slaughter’s website