A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid

A Study in Drowning opens with one of the most mystical first lines I’ve ever read, and it only gets better from there.

Effy Sayre is a student commissioned to work on architectural plans for the late, great Emrys Myrddin, the national writer of Llyr. When she journeys to his family home, she meets Preston Héloury, a literature major searching for undiscovered material for his dissertation on Myrddin. Effy is protective of her favourite writer, whose book Angharad she loves, and although Preston is from the rival nation of Argant, she agrees to work with him. 

Ava Reid’s writing is melancholy and beautiful. There is constant imagery of water, drowning and decay, with Effy and Preston wandering around the crumbling house filled with damp rooms and the blustery cliffs of the seaside town. It’s atmospheric, and the plot grabs you from the very first chapter. 

Effy and Preston are engaging leads buoyed by some great supporting characters. I especially liked Effy’s passionate devotion to Myrddin’s writing. However, the absolute BEST part of the book is the story-within-a-story: Angharad. So much time was spent on this fictional novel, with Reid creating excerpts, early drafts, biography pages, literary essays, and cultural criticism, and none of it feels inconsequential to the story. In fact, I hope Reid decides to write it for real. 

This fictional narrative felt like a mix of The Cruel Prince and The Haunting of Hill House, which was a great addition to an overall incredible book. 

Reviewed by Rachel Denham-White

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ava Reid AuthorAva Reid was born in Manhattan and raised right across the Hudson River in Hoboken, but currently lives in Palo Alto, where the weather is too sunny and the people are too friendly. She has a degree in political science from Barnard College, focusing on religion and ethnonationalism.

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The Professor by Lauren Nossett

The Professor is a mystery novel that takes place on a college campus where the students know everything (via social media) and their professors know nothing.

Ethan Haddock, a promising student is found dead in his apartment from an apparent suicide. There are rumours he was having an affair with his professor who becomes a person of interest and is suspended while being subjected to a media crusade.

Marlitt Kaplan, a former detective, is living at home while she recovers from burns she sustained during her last case. She is currently working as a research assistant and is totally bored, longing for the action from her previous life. Her mother, a college professor, recruits Marlitt to put her detective skills to use as she believes her colleague has been wrongly accused. Marlitt is happy to help out. Her skills are put to the test though, as she tries to prove something happened that goes against what’s being said by witnesses, the police and the students.

Write what you know, is so important when authors are writing believable narratives. Lauren Nossett is a professor-turned-novelist with a PhD in German Literature. She uses this knowledge to flesh out her characters’ lives with interesting factoids about the German language and its literature. 

There are many layers to solving this mystery but Nossett keeps control of all these elements to deliver a satisfying end. A really good campus novel to curl up with at the end of a long day. 

Reviewed by Teresa Lewis

 

Read a book review of The Resemblance by Lauren Nossett

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Nossett is a professor turned novelist with a Ph.D. in German literature. The Resemblance is her fiction debut. Her second novel,The Professor, will be released in November 2023. She currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Described as ‘elegant and thoughtful’ by The New York Times and ‘impossible to put down’ by Paste Magazine, The Resemblance won the ITW Thriller Award for Best First Novel and was selected by The Georgia Center for the Book as one of 10 ‘Books All Georgians Should Read’ for 2023.

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Tumblagooda: The Story of a Strange Lost Thing by Suzanne Ingelbrecht

In a small coastal town in Western Australia, 10-year-old George lives a peaceful life with Seamus (her Dad) until a cyclone hits Mirmouth and uncovers a strange creature. George and her friend Mac stumble upon this creature and try to communicate with it. They try to hide the creature from the rest of Mirmouth.

I could not stop reading The Story of a Strange Lost Thing. It was so interesting and I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. 

I cannot wait for Suzanne Ingelbrecht to publish book two. And I really wish that I was allowed to go to the beach on my own!

Reviewed by Avani, Year 3, Brunswick South Primary School, Brunswick Vic

Age Guide 8+

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suzanne Ingelbrecht is an author, professional playwright, director and performance-maker based in Perth, Western Australia.

She has been entertaining others since the tender age of nine when she wrote a play to cheer up her classmates during their sewing lessons…Always the drama queen, Suzanne has enjoyed honing her skills and techniques in dramatic storytelling through her plays, and now loves to pass this passion on to the next generations of storytellers and fabulous imaginers of wonder.

Now penned Tumblagooda for eight-to-10-year-olds (as well as all those who like to think they have never really grown up). And she is busy thinking about and penning books two and three in the ‘Tumblagooda’ trilogy from her custom-made Toyota Hiace Commuter van, affectionately known as Van Go, as well as other fantastical wonders of imagination. It’s all a far cry from teaching into the Creative Writing program at Curtin University, and inspiring artists with disability to follow their dreams.

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Anna O by Matthew Blake

This debut delves into the complex question of whether a person should be culpable for what they might do while sleepwalking. Could you really murder someone while asleep and not remember a thing? 

This is what happened to Anna Ogilvy. At a retreat called The Farm the 25-year-old stabs to death her two best friends Indira and Douglas, then falls asleep. Anna has resignation syndrome, where someone falls asleep and never wakes up. That was four years ago.

Dr Ben Prince, forensic psychologist, specialising in sleep related crimes, has been asked to take on the task of waking the infamous Anna O. Anna needs to stand trial for the murders. She has been held at a secure hospital for the past four years, now she is secretly transferred to the exclusive Harley Street sleep clinic, The Abbey. 

Ben has a theory about waking someone with resignation syndrome. Using stimuli from childhood memories brings hope to a patient. But as he becomes increasingly invested in waking Anna he feels compelled to discover if she is innocent or a cold-hearted murderer.  

What is the link with a similar murder exactly 20 years before. Sally Turner, dubbed the Stockwell Monster, had murdered her two stepsons while sleepwalking. By waking Anna up, is Ben curing her or condemning her? Ben’s quest to uncover the truth might just get him and those closest to him killed. 

Anna O is a unique psychological thriller with some jaw-dropping twists and turns. 

Reviewed by Joanna Brewer

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After discovering that the average person spends thirty-three years of their life asleep, Matthew Blake felt the pull of a story. He began extensive research into sleep-related crimes and into the mystery illness known as resignation syndrome, research that sparked a thrilling question: if someone commits murder while sleepwalking, are they innocent or guilty? And so his novel Anna O was born.

Before writing fiction, Matthew worked as a researcher and speechwriter at the Palace of Westminster. He studied English at Durham University and Merton College, Oxford and now lives in London.

Visit Matthew Blake’s website

The Search Party by Hannah Richell

University friends, Max, Annie, Dominic, Kira and Jim have stayed friends for 20 years, each of them taking different paths, but always keeping in touch. 

Max and Annie married and developed a highly successful London architect firm. On a sudden whim they changed course and moved to Cornwall to set up a glamping business, giving themselves and their adopted son a quieter way of life. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, with permits held up and angry farming neighbours, but the day finally arrived when they were ready to open for business. 

They invite varsity friends they had not seen for a couple of years with their families down to Cornwall for a relaxing reunion to test run the glamping facilities. What follows is a well-crafted story that manages to illustrate life with children, teenage children, newborn and every age in between, including Kip, a 12-year-old boy who is damaged and troubled, who Annie and Max adopted. 

It also depicts friendship groups, no matter how long standing, always have secrets and failures, bullies and well-meaning, and often judgemental conversations that fester and ferment.

Throw into the mix a Cornish local with a dangerous agenda of his own, a lost six-year-old girl, the troubled young boy who appears back at camp with her blood-soaked teddy bear and four sets of parents turning on each other, and the blame game begins. The raging storm and the craggy coastline exacerbates the drama, and you are set for a wild read filled with long hidden jealousies and aggression.  

Reviewed by Alison Logie

 

Read a book review of The River Home by Hannah Richell

Read a book review of The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I inherited my love for the written word from my parents, who read to me and my siblings as young children and took us on frequent trips to our local library and bookshop.

Since university, my career has been grounded in storytelling, first in book publishing in London, then later, transitioning from written tales to visual stories, when I worked for a film distributor in Sydney.

I wrote my debut novel, Secrets of the Tides, around the time my first child was born. Since then, I’ve written four novels, with my fifth, The Search Party, to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2024.

While each of my novels is a stand-alone story, what connects them all is my fascination with families and secrets, my desire to dive below the surface and explore the darker recesses of the human experience, the weight of grief and the echoes of loss, the light and resilience that can be found in unexpected places, combined with my ambition to tell you a cracking story that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.

I have written fiction and non-fiction pieces for various media outlets in both the UK and Australia and am a judge on the annual Richell Prize, established in 2014 by Hachette and the Emerging Writers’ Festival in memory of my late husband, Matt Richell. It’s an incredible privilege to be invited to read a writer’s first pages and to support new authors as they take the next steps in their career.

I am a dual citizen of the UK and Australia and currently live just outside Bath in England with my two children, my partner, three step-children, a fluffy cat and a crazy Cocker Spaniel.

Visit Hannah Richell’s website