Picture You Dead Book Review

Picture you dead by Peter James

Summary

Harry and Freya, an ordinary couple, dreamed for years of finding something priceless buried amongst the tat in a car boot sale.

It was a dream they knew in their hearts would never come true – until the day it did…

They buy the drab portrait for a few pounds, for its beautiful frame, planning to cut the painting out. Then studying it back at home there seems to be another picture beneath, of a stunning landscape. Could it be a long-lost masterpiece from 1770? If genuine, it could be worth millions.

One collector is certain it is genuine. Someone who uses any method he can to get want he wants and will stop at nothing.

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace finds himself plunged into an unfamiliar and rarefied world of fine art. Outwardly it appears respectable, gentlemanly, above reproach. But beneath the veneer, he rapidly finds that greed, deception and violence walk hand-in-hand. And Harry and Freya Kipling are about to discover that their dream is turning into their worst nightmare. . .

Comments

This is a well plotted story with a range of interesting characters. As this is the 18th book in the Roy Grace series, some of the characters were familiar to those who had read previous titles in the series and whilst this was not essential to reading this story, it seemed to make a difference to understanding the existing relationships between many of the police.

A missing art masterpiece, which could be worth millions, is found by chance at a car boot sale. This sets off a wild ride into the art world where we meet a master forger, a reclusive art collector and some very unsavoury characters who are dealing in the darkest corners of the art world.

Detective Roy Grace and his team become engaged in tracking down the miscreants in the convoluted plot and ultimately, things are tidily brought together.

The writing has a ‘televisual’ style but some of us found it to be a very long read which we felt could have been condensed.

6.5/10

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Book Review Code Name Helene

Code name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

About the book

A rollercoaster ride full of danger and intrigue based on the extraordinary true story of Australia’s most beloved war heroine, Nancy Wake, now optioned for a television series starring Elizabeth Debicki.

In 1936 intrepid young Australian journalist Nancy Wake is living in Paris after witnessing firsthand the terror of Hitler’s rise in Europe, firing her resolve to join the fight to defeat the Nazis. When Nancy falls in love with a handsome French industrialist, no sooner has she become Mrs Henri Fiocca than the Germans invade and Nancy adopts another name, a codename – the first of many.

As the elusive Lucienne Carlier she smuggles people across borders and earns the nickname ‘The White Mouse’, along with a five million franc bounty on her head courtesy of the Gestapo. Forced to flee France for England, Nancy is trained by an elite espionage group under the codename Hélène. Finally, with mission in hand, she is airdropped back into France as the deadly Madame Andrée.

But the closer to liberation France gets, the more exposed Nancy – and the people she loves – will become.

Based on the true story of a woman who saved countless lives, Code Name Hélène is a thrilling tale of unfaltering courage, remarkable sacrifice – and love.

Comments

This novel is based on the life and exploits of Australian woman Nancy Wake during WW11. It is a long, well written and researched book beginning with Nancy leaving home at sixteen and finding work in France before the outbreak of the war in Europe. She develops a hatred of the German army even before war is declared. This story is a combination of adventure, suspense and romance about a remarkable woman who was possessed of great courage and capability.

Most of us enjoyed reading her story but found the alternating chapters being set in different time frames confusing to follow and this detracted from our reading experience. For several of us, this was the first time we had read of Nancy’s contribution to the war effort and we enjoyed reading it as historical fiction. 6.5/10

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Book Review Jessica

Jessica by Bryce Courtenay

About the book

Jessica is based on the inspiring true story of a young girl’s fight for justice against tremendous odds.
A tomboy, Jessica is the pride of her father, as they work together on the struggling family farm. One quiet day, the peace of the bush is devastated by a terrible murder. Only Jessica is able to save the killer from the lynch mob – but will justice prevail in the courts?

Nine months later, a baby is born … with Jessica determined to guard the secret of the father’s identity. The rivalry of Jessica and her beautiful sister for the love of the same man will echo throughout their lives – until finally the truth must be told.

Set in the harsh Australian bush against the outbreak of World War I, this novel is heartbreaking in its innocence, and shattering in its brutality.

Comments

Our group was divided in their enjoyment of this book with some finding the story an enjoyable and informative read while others were very put off by the nastiness of some characters all throughout the book. So many morally bankrupt people.

The characters were found to be very one dimensional, either “Black or White” in their moral and ethical “goodness.”

Another criticism was about the story line which, to some, was very convoluted.

A few of our readers know the region this story was set in and found the author struggled to describe the Australian bush adequately.

However, those that liked the book really enjoyed it! 

There was agreement that the second half of the book was more enjoyable and informative than the first half of the book. The characters were more dimensional and the legal proceedings regarding stolen generation children and families were thought provoking and revealing. 

Some readers did not enjoy the first half of the book enough to continue on for the second half developments. They found this book depressing

We found this was definitely not a book for people who have inter-family traumas, and some found it to be a long read waiting for something good to happen.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review The Railwayman’s Wife

The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashely Hay

About the book

In a small town on the land’s edge, in the strange space at a war’s end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.

In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank Draper is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.

Comments

We found this to be a beautifully written book, very much enjoyed by the group. Some readers did say this was not a book that was for them or a book they would normally have chosen but they commended the lovely writing style of the author.

As a group we found the key characters were very likable.

The downside for our group was the focus on poetry all throughout the book. We found the poetry written in the story was not at all outstanding or enjoyable and to some readers it was bland and uninspiring.

There were many themes in this story discussed in detail by the group.

Anika, the main character in the book. Her transformation from a secure loving and loved wife and mother to a grieving widow, mother to a grieving child and thrust quickly, through necessity’ into working woman.

We found the grieving process for Anika and her daughter in the year after Macs death was a well detailed theme throughout the book.

Anikas relationship with Mac, her husband. Her reflections on their life after his death reveals some marital restrictions placed on her throughout their marriage that were not evident to her at the time during their marriage. 

This book was read by our group in April, the month of Anzac day. The post war traumas of Roy and Frank were very relevant at this time along with Australian society’s attitude to men who did not go to war for whatever reasons.

The character of Roy was also complex in his presentation. His romanticised view of Anika as his “muse” not one year after the violent death of her husband.

The ending of the story was also discussed at length with many differing opinions on interpretation of events and specific character responses to events.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review The woman in the Library

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

About the book

Hannah Tigone, bestselling Australian crime author, is crafting a new novel that begins in the Boston Public Library: four strangers; Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit are sitting at the same table when a bloodcurdling scream breaks the silence. A woman has been murdered. They are all suspects, and, as it turns out, each character has their own secrets and motivations – and one of them is a murderer.

 While crafting this new thriller, Hannah shares each chapter with her biggest fan and aspirational novelist, Leo. But Leo seems to know a lot about violence, motive, and how exactly to kill someone. Perhaps he is not all that he seems…

Comments

Four complete strangers, one of whom is a crime writer, are brought together in the Reading Room of Boston Public Library by the sound of a woman screaming. After learning that a young woman has been murdered, they become firm friends almost immediately! For the remainder of the novel we meet each of them; a law graduate who works as a journalist, a writer who has spent time in jail for murder, a Psychology student and our intrepid author.

The novel takes the form of a story within a story and as if that’s not confusing enough, each chapter ends with an email exchange between the actual author (who lives in Australia) and her friend in Boston. These emails involve suggestions about the developing story which become increasingly disturbing and violent. The style of writing where we learn various ‘bits’ about the four main characters as well as the email exchange is very disruptive of the flow of the story.

The narrative drags on from one improbable event to another involving these four naïve, self-obsessed and unrealistic characters. Everyone in our group felt the same about this book, which is quite unusual. We did not find it engaging, found the characters implausible and couldn’t wait for the story to end.

4/10

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