Mystery and crime books from Australia. News, views, reviews, releases and author appearances - crime fiction in Australia. Crime novels, mystery novels, detective stories, police procedural books, thrillers and soft-boiled mysteries

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Review : All Those Bright Crosses by Ross Duncan

Title : All Those Bright Crosses
Author: Ross Duncan
Publisher: Picador
Date Published: 2007
ISBN-13: 97803304253250
Sub-Genre: Modern Contemporary

Hell and back. It's a long hard journey and one that often has to be made alone. It's a savagely emotional trip that may be dealt with any number of ways. All Those Bright Crosses, the debut novel by Ross Duncan introduces us to Martin Flint who is half-way through his trip. He's been to hell and this is the story of his attempt to get back.

The story begins in Fiji with Martin drinking kava with the proprietor of the Twilight Homestay guesthouse and a Fijian stranger. The man enquires how Flint came to be in Fiji and the sad tale of his past comes pouring out. He tells of his gambling addiction and the debt that he put himself and his wife into thanks to long sessions playing poker machines. After the accidental death of his 4 year old daughter he had become detached and in need of a distraction and it was to the flashing lights and promise of a big pay-out that he was drawn.

It was only after he realised just how hopelessly in debt he had placed them that he confessed his addiction to his wife. The inevitable separation hit him hard, numbing him into inaction, leaving him to mope around the house, seeking help from Gamblers Anonymous and lurching desperately for some kind of distraction.

The distraction comes in the form of an old newspaper article that tells about a shipwreck off a Fijian island and of a treasure that may have been on board. He initially began searching for references to the shipwreck merely as a means of escaping the problems he was facing. But as his research grew, so did the possibility that the story had merit and that much of the treasure may still not be recovered.

The death of his father leaves him a small inheritance and he uses it to follow his research to Fiji, not really knowing where it will lead him but willing to chase it nonetheless.

Tinged with regret yet still tainted by the gambling compulsion that grips him, Martin tells his story straight, acknowledging his mistakes and weaknesses frankly. His nature, which is happy to embrace risk, even thrives on it, means that he is going to follow the research that brought him to Fiji despite the occasional person who tries to dissuade him from attempting to find the treasure.

But the treasure really only ever sits as a partially formed idea on the edge of our consciousness, never really solidifying into reality. Instead, it is the motivation for keeping him in Fiji while he encounters others who are similarly trying to get a grasp on their own lives. As his rehabilitation progresses, the importance of the treasure diminishes and the friendships he has formed strengthen and grow. Chief among these is a young Fijian woman named Tabua whom he meets in a nightclub. Tabua is a poor woman who has resorted to prostitution in the past to survive. The self-inflicted cigarette burns on her arms speak of the self-loathing she battles. Their deepening friendship forms the pivotal point to the story with Martin learning much about himself though her.

When searching for a few words that might effectively describe All Those Bright Crosses I considered mystery, and there is a hint of a mystery within, but more definitively this is a psychological struggle reminiscent of that which is seen in a noir novel. It is a contemporary story of hope and forgiveness found after a battle with the compulsions that threaten to consume you.

The plot unfolds in a sedate, unhurried fashion finding a comfortable rhythm as we are taken back via a flashback to the circumstances that led to Martin Flint to be drinking kava in a dingy Fiji guesthouse.

The only moment of disquiet for me came at the end of the novel which is left wide open, and while that had me grasping for a meaningful sense of closure, it also emphasised the fact that Martin's journey was ongoing. When I closed the book on the final page I couldn't help but wonder whether he was going to make it. One thing is for certain, All Those Bright Crosses is a richly rewarding story of growth and renewal that smoothly deals with addiction, grief and senseless loss.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

2007 Ned Kelly Award Short Lists

The short lists for the CWAA 2007 Ned Kelly Awards have been released. They will be announced and the awards presented at the Melbourne Writers Festival on 29 August from 6:00 at the Festival Marquee. Entry will be $5.00 and the MC will be Jane Clifton. The MWF web-site also promises that Graeme Blundell and Leigh Redhead will also be attending.

The word is that the competition is particularly tight this year with the True Crime category exceedingly difficult.

Best Crime Novel

Chain of Evidence – Gary Disher (Text)
The Night Ferry – Michael Robotham (Little Brown)
The Unknown Terrorist – Richard Flanagan (Macmillan)
The Cleaner – Paul Cleave (Random House)
Undertow – Peter Corris (Allen & Unwin)
Spider Trap - Barry Maitland (Allen & Unwin)

Best First Crime Novel

The Betrayal of Bindi Mackenzie – Jaclyn Moriaty (Macmillan)
Diamond Dove – Adrian Hyland (Text)
Better Dead Than Never – Laurent Boulanger (C& C International Media Group)
Behind the Night Bazaar – Angela Savage (Text)

Best True Crime

Justice For The Dead – Malcolm Dodd and Beverly Knight (Hachette Livre)
Overboard: The Stories Cruise Ships Don’t Want Told – Gywn Topham (Random House)
Intractable – Bernie Matthews (Macmillan)
Written On The Skin – Liz Porter (Macmillan)
Silent Death – Karen Kissane (Hachette Livre)
Australian Outlaw – Derek Pedley (Sly Ink)
Killing For Pleasure: The Definitive Story of the Snowtown Murders - Debi Marshall (Random House)
The Dodger – Duncan McNab (Macmillan)
Things A Killer Would Know – Paula Doneman (Allen & Unwin)

Naturally, good luck to all those shortlisted.

Another July Release

My attention was diverted elsewhere for half a sec and by the time I looked back I discovered that there has been another new release for the month of July.

Punter's Luck by Peter Klein (pub. New Holland) is now out in Australia. I've been searching around the place for a few more details but they are fairly scarce at this stage. A look at the brief overview tells us that the story is set in the Australian horse-racing industry - fertile ground indeed for a crime novel.

Punter's Luck is Klein's first novel, although he has also published 'A Strapper's Tale : Recollections of Kingston Town's Strapper'.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Crime Reader's Plan at the Byron Bay Writers Festival

The 2007 Byron Bay Writers Festival will be held 27 - 29 July and casting my eye over the program it promises to be a beauty. All ticketing details can be found on the BBWF website as well as accommodation details and a full program so you can plan your stay.

I've had a good look at the program myself and have picked out the highlights that the crime reading fan will be interested in. This listing is but a small selection of the huge array of sessions, workshops and interviews on offer.

Friday 27th
the panels for crime fans start almost immediately with the 2nd session in the Petrac Marquee being held from 9:45 - 10:45am. The Thrill of It All: The Art of Keeping the Reader Hooked will feature Barry Maitland, Michael Robotham and Gabrielle Lord.

From 1:45 - 2:45pm there will be a chat with Richard Flanagan (An Accidental Terrorist) in the Macquarie Marquee. You can then slip back to the Petrac Marquee where Barry Maitland will be joined by Gideon Haigh and Helen Greenwood for How I Write: Writers across genres talk about their process. This session goes from 3:00 - 4:00pm.

Saturday 28th
Garry Disher will be taking part in a panel titled Home and away: what succeeds in a global market along with Nury Vittachi, Laksmi Pamuntjak and chaired by Deepika Shetty. This session will go from 10:30 - 11:30 am and is held in the Macquarie Marquee.

You can then hang around until 12:30 at the same location because Michael Robotham (The Night Ferry) and Gabrielle Lord (Shattered) will be telling us how My protagonist kicks butt: writing characters larger than life. This session will be chaired by James Phelan (Fox Hunt, Patriot Act).

To make it a complete Macquarie Marquee day, the session to follow that one - beginning at 1:45 will feature Garry Disher and Marele Day (the Claudia Valentine series) along with Sarah Armstrong and Eva Sallis in what sounds to be a very interesting talk titled Prize writers: what does winning prizes mean to writers.

Sunday 29th
From 9:30 - 10:30am in the East Marquee you can kick the last day of the festival off with Gabrielle Lord, Richard Flanagan, Carrie Tiffany, Garry Disher and Irina Dunn at a panel titled Research for fiction: we don’t just make stuff up - a session that sounds as though it will be extremely instructive.

A choice of two very interesting panels in the afternoon should just about see you out. At the SCU Marquee Richard Flanagan, Gideon Haigh, Alice Garner and Susan Bradley Smith will be talking about Why I write: writers of fiction and non fiction reveal what inspires them while over at the Maquarie Marquee Garry Disher and Alexis Wright (Carpentaria) will be telling us all about Everything in its place: how landscape, natural and built, informs writing.

Somehow after all of this you will have to try to recover. Fortunately you will be in one of the most beautiful settings in Australia to do so.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Someone Stole the Ending To The Butcherbird - and I'm not happy about it.

I’ve just come back from a quick visit to Borders where I checked out every copy of The Butcherbird and to my dismay I found that they all end on page 274 with Popsie (yeah, I know…crap name) about to board the boat. See this previous post for details.

If it’s not a mistake, and it’s beginning to look more and more as though it’s not, then the only thing I can think of is that there will be a sequel that will pick up from this point. If that’s the case then this would have to be one of the clumsiest attempts at leaving readers in suspense that I have ever come across. As things stand, The Butcherbird has no ending. Nothing is resolved, all the open mysteries remain open…and a mystery.

I’m actually having trouble moving on to the next book because of this and that’s really annoying because the book I’ve moved onto is In The Woods by Irish author Tana French and it is shaping up to be a cracker.

TDF - Cadel Watch Stage 11

The Stage

The Tour has reached the Mediterrenean and the city of Marseille is the starting point for the 11th stage of the race. Another flat stage lies ahead for the field of 171 remaining riders with a distance of 182.5 km to be covered. There's only a category 4 bump at the 38km mark and this won't bother anyone. It all depends on how seriously the peloton wants to cover any breakaway, but I suspect we're going to see another day for the opportunists.

The Highlights

There were plenty of attempted breaks early on and one that looked as though it was going to succeed but it turned out to be another day for the sprinters in the end.

At around the 84km to go mark a break away was established that was initially made up of Gilbert (FDJ), Wegmann (GST), Fofonov (C.A) and Florencio (BTL) before David Millar (Saunier Duval) bridged the gap to join them. They worked together to get a lead of up to around 7'30".

And then Astana put the foot down at the head of the peloton and the easy ride for the bunch was over - and how. The peloton split to pieces under the extreme pressure from the increased pace with the biggest loser being Christophe Moreau (AG2R). Within around 30km the break had been captured and the gap between the 1st peloton and the 2nd peloton had opened to around 1'35".

The strong pace and flat terrain set up a hotly contested bunch sprint and with a crash inside the final kilometre it was down to South Africa's Robert Hunter (Barloworld) to outpace Fabian Cancellara with Murilo Fischer in 3rd. The win makes him the first South African ever to win a stage of the Tour de France.

Stage 11 recap.

Cadel Watch
The big danger today was getting caught out by the big Astana move but Cadel was right there at the front of the peloton working like buggery to ensure he was in no danger of being dropped. the end result for him today was to finish with the lead peloton and remain unchanged in 4th place on the GC. (Officially he finished the stage in 22nd place). Of his rivals Christophe Moreau has dropped from 6th to 14th place going from 3'18" behind Rasmussen to 6'38".

The Contenders

1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) 2' 35"
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) 2' 39"
4 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) 2' 41"
5 Alberto Contador (Discovery) 3' 08"
6 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 3' 39"
7 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3'50''
8 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 3' 53"
14 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 3' 18"
15 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 6' 36"
16 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 6' 42"
18 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 7' 10"
19 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 8' 05"

The Jerseys

Yellow (Leader's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Green (Sprinter's) Jersey : Tom Boonen (Quickstep)
Polka Dot (Climber's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen
White (Youth) Jersey : Alberto Contador (Discovery)

Team Leaders : CSC

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ending Trouble - The Butcherbird

I have just finished reading The Butcherbird by Geoffrey Cousins. That is to say, I finished reading all of the pages that were bound between the covers of the book, but I am extremely perplexed and am after confirmation about whether a few pages have been accidentally left out of my copy.

My book ends on page 274 but when I checked on the Allen & Unwin website it is listed as containing 280 pages. This sounds about right because if the book were to end the way it does in my copy there are going to be some very dissatisfied customers! I was beginning to breathe a little easier but I couldn't leave well enough alone, could I? Digging further I have visited the National Libraries of Australia site and found that it’s listed there as 274 pages. *gulp*

Here’s how my copy of The Butcherbird ends:

The tender, her charming tender, she’d grown to love the word, eased back into the water as it approached the shadow of the great ship in its path. Crew persons were scurrying back and forth over its innumerable decks and she could just make out a group of guests under a long canopy at the stern. She must be the last to arrive. Excellent. She loved making an entrance. She checked her clothing and stroked her pearls for luck. Somehow stepping on board this boat could take her into a new life. She could feel it. You’d sell your soul for this.
And then, as they pulled alongside, a familiar voice drifted down from above.
‘Come aboard, dear lady, come aboard.’
That’s it! Fin. The end.

That this is the true final ending of the book is almost unthinkable. The way it has been left, nothing at all has been resolved and it felt as though we were on the very brink of getting the whole thing tied together. For me, it means the difference between rating the book 3 and a half to 4 stars or 1 and a half to 2 stars.

Now, it could simply be that my review copy was simply short a page or six. If there's anyone out there who has a copy of the book handy could they please check whether the above quote ends your book too...plee-ee-ase.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

TDF - Cadel Watch Stage 10

After the action of the Alps, I'm expecting things to settle down for the first transitional stage, the 10th stage, with the most likely scenario being some sort of break away succeeding. I wouldn't expect much, if any, change in the GC contenders during the day's stage.

The Stage
Beginning at Tallard, the course is a 229km journey over fairly flat terrain with a couple of 4th category climbs and a couple of 3rd category climbs before reaching Marseille. It's the kind of route that will be a relief to the field who struggled over the mountains and will give the opportunists the chance to try to break away and steal a stage win.

The Highlights
As expected today featured a breakaway of 11 riders who stayed around 10 minutes clear of the peloton just about all day. The winner of the day was super domestique for Quickstep Cedric Vasseur (finally, a Frenchman wins a stage) with a close sprint over Sandy Casar (Francaise de Jeux) and Michael Albasini (Liquigas) in 3rd. It was Vasseur's second win with his first coming way back in 1997.

In the bunch sprint for the minor green jersey points, Sebastien Chavanel edged out Tom Boonen leaving Boonen with a 16 point lead over Erik Zabel.

Cadel Watch
Today was a day to stay out of trouble and recover from the rigours of the past few stages. No news is good news and that's what Cadel delivered today.

The Contenders

1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) 2' 35"
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) 2' 39"
4 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) 2' 41"
5 Alberto Contador (Discovery) 3' 08"
6 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 3' 18"
7 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 3' 39"
8 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3'50''
9 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 3' 53"
15 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 6' 36"
16 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 6' 42"
18 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 7' 10"
21 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 8' 05"

The Jerseys

Yellow (Leader's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Green (Sprinter's) Jersey : Tom Boonen (Quickstep)
Polka Dot (Climber's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen
White (Youth) Jersey : Alberto Contador (Discovery)

Team Leaders : CSC

TDF - Cadel Watch Stage 9

Well, I've been able to get a decent night's sleep thanks to a much needed rest day - it was nice of the TDF organisers to think of the viewers in far-flung locations. I have absorbed the shock of Mick Rogers and Stuart O'Grady crashing out and have filled my mind with positive thoughts over Cadel Evans' chances over the next couple of weeks. It's time to bring on Stage 9.

The Stage

The final day in the Alps begins at Val d'Isere and the riders are immediately confronted with a Hors Categorie climb and then a steadying downhill run before a 36km climb that includes a Category 1 climb followed by another Hors Categorie climb. Its then a 38km drop to Briançon where the stage ends - a total of 159.5km.

The Climbs - Right from the starting flag the route heads up the 15km climb to the Col de l'Iseran. They then ride to St-Michel-de-Maurienne at the 86.5km mark and the start of the climb up the Col du Telegraphe (all 13.5km of it) and then round things off with an 18km climb to the top of the Col du Galibier.

The Highlights

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) was first over the 1st hors categorie climb of the day Col de l'Iseran, 30" ahead of Laurent Lefevre and Juan Mauricio Soler and the rest of the peloton hard on their back wheels. They now have around 70km of downhill riding to get to the second climb.

The prelude to the main climb was the Col du Telegraphe and Mikel Astarloza (Eukatel) made the early attack and went over the top in front.

But it was always going to be the Col du Galibier where the big moves were going to be made and that's exactly what happened. But it came from an unexpected rider in Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez (Barloworld) who put the gas down and tore up the mountain.

From the big names the move came from Alberto Contador who took off 9km from the top with Cadel Evans the only one to cover the move. After a brief recovery from the explosive first effort, it was obvious that Evans wasn't going to be able to help in the break, so Contador simply said "arrivaderci" and tore off up the road. It was all part of a well-planned move by Discovery with Contador timing the move to perfection and caught his team mate Yaroslav Popovych right at the top of the climb 2'05" behind Soler. Evans was in 4th place another 15 seconds behind. Once again Vinokourov couldn't cover the move from the rest of the main contenders and and fell over a minute behind the group that contained the yellow jersey as well as his team mate Andreas Kloden.

Through Briançon and a group of 13 were hunting down the escapee Soler with a downhill run until the final 1.2km at which point the road kicked up to a final hill. It looked touch and go for a while there but Soler managed to hold on in a very exciting finish to win by 38 seconds from Alejandro Valverde with Cadel Evans digging deep to finish the stage in 3rd place with the same time. Contador, Mayo, Rasmussen, Leipheimer, Kirchen, Kloden and Sastre made up the top 10.

Cadel Watch

A bold effort to cover Alberto Contador's move up the Col du Galibier renews hope for his GC chances even though he didn't have the legs to go with him a second time when Contador put in his second effort. Still, the signs are positive that Evans was prepared to move clear of the rest of the main contenders.

Cadel was caught on the descent and then, inexplicably, allowed a gap of around 12 seconds to form when a group of 5 that included Valverde and Rasmussen got away. Fortunately they closed it up with around 3km to go and over the final kilometer it was Evans and Valverde who looked the strongest.

A big effort by Cadel has been rewarded with a move up the GC to 4th place.

The Contenders

1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) 2' 35"
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) 2' 39"
4 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) 2' 53"
5 Alberto Contador (Discovery) 3' 08"
6 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 3' 18"
7 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 3' 39"
8 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3'50''
9 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 3' 53"
15 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 6' 36"
16 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 6' 42"
18 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 7' 10"
21 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 8' 05"

The Jerseys

Yellow (Leader's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Green (Sprinter's) Jersey : Tom Boonen (Quickstep)
Polka Dot (Climber's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen
White (Youth) Jersey : Alberto Contador (Discovery)

Team Leaders : Caisse D'Espargne

A wonderful day for Cadel, especially seeing as he was much more attacking today. Noted in Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's commentary were the comments that Sastre and Leipheimer were supposedly saving themselves for the Pyrenees. With a few days of flat racing and then a time trial before the Pyrenees we should see a few escapes over the next few days with the GC contenders lying low and (hopefully) out of trouble.

Just one more thing much potential does Contador have??? Talk about having future Tour de France winner written all over him. Very impressive.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Butcherbird - A New Release, A Review, A Recent Read

Philip Rennie of The Bulletin casts his eye over The Butcherbird, the debut novel by Geoffrey Cousins. Now, Cousins is a familiar name in Australia's corporate industry having been CEO of such public companies as George Patterson and Optus as well as holding positions on the boards of 10 companies such as PBL and Telstra. So when his first novel is about corporate greed and corruption and filled with big, greedy, corrupt CEOs and board members it gets people thinking.

Actually, it has Rennie speculating on who the villains might be based on, whether Cousins had a particular person in mind or if he just crammed as many people together to form one (or two) evil corporate leader(s).

I'm reading this book right now and the same thoughts were shooting through my mind, particularly when the giant fictional company in Cousins' book is called HOA Insurance (HIH anyone?) From the outside looking in it's a corporate thriller but apparently Cousins considers the book a satire.

I'm sure there'll be more than 1 CEO eager to read The Butchbird (pub. Allen & Unwin) hoping to spot someone they recognise or at least, like to think they recognise...

Reading: All Those Bright Crosses by Ross Duncan

Yet another high quality debut novel has passed rapidly before my eyes and, yes, I've added All Those Bright Crosses by Ross Duncan to the Australian Crime Fiction Database but, in all honesty it probably doesn't belong there 'cause I wouldn't class it as a crime novel. (It does contain trace elements of a mystery, though - and that's what I'm hanging my hat on).

What I would class it as is one heck of a compelling story that touches briefly (perhaps too briefly) on problem gambling and dealing with all manner of personal crises. It's about rebuilding oneself from the ground up. It's about Fiji and the fact that adversity stares everyone in the face no matter where on the planet they live. It's also about hope and reaching your goals.

Martin Flint has separated from his wife years after the accidental death of their 4 year old daughter. Their separation was sparked by his admission of a gambling addiction, putting well over $20,000 through poker machines. Alone with his grief and guilt he finally finds himself a distraction in the form of a newspaper clipping about a 19th century shipwreck off the coast of Fiji and a missing treasure that was reportedly on board. With vague ideas about gathering enough first-hand information to write a book and funded by a small inheritance, he travels to Fiji.

It's here that his journey of self discovery takes place crossing paths with a range of people, many of whom seem to be similar to himself - in Fiji to escape their former lives.

This is a thought-provoking novel that is all about the reconstruction of the life of one man. Added interest is given by the mystery surrounding the missing treasure and the unsolicited attempts of scammers and conmen to muscle their way in.

Good reading lies ahead that leaves you wondering whether Martin Flint will pull his life back together again.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

TDF - Cadel Watch Stage 8

The Stage

Well the 8th stage promises to be a brutal one with a distance of 165km from LeGrand-Bornand to the ski town of Tignes. But it's not the horizontal profile that's the killer, it's the vertical with 3 category 1 climbs - Cormet de Roseland (19.9km @ 6%), Montee d’Hauteville (15.3km @ 4.7%) and Montee de Tignes (18km @ 5.4%). Yikes the legs are trembling just thinking about it. Chuck in a Cat 2, 3 and 4 for good measure and we should get a good shaking out from this stage leading into tomorrow's rest day.

The Highlights

An early breakaway of 18 riders was established during the 2nd category climb up the Col de Tamie at around the 36km mark. Among them were Mick Rogers (T-Mobile) and Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) who are the leaders for their respective teams.

Cormet de Roseland

The first shudder put through the field was on the climb up the Cormet de Roseland with the irrepressible Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) exploding away from the peloton to join Michael Rogers' group and completely shattering it leaving just Rogers, Berhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner), David Arroyo (Caisse D'Epargne), Antonio Colom (Astana), Stefan Goubert (AG2R) in the lead. They would end up going over the top of Roseland 1 min 16 secs ahed of the second group of 7 containing George Hincapie (Discovery), and 5 min 06 secs ahead of what was left of the main peloton.

So even though there are 3 big names ahead of them, none of the GC riders have blinked at this stage preferring to hang tough with the safety in numbers strategy.

But, as we know, going uphill is only half the battle, you also have to go down the other side and this can be fraught with danger. Just ask David Arroyo and Mick Rogers who crashed on the descent with Arroyo disappearing into the trees on the side of the road. Fortunately both were unhurt and were able to rejoin the race pretty quickly.

Montee d’Hauteville

Sadly for Mick Rogers the earlier crash has seriously hampered his climbing effectiveness thanks to an injury to his right wrist and when Michael Rasmussen said GO, only Colom and Arroyo were able to go with him. Rogers looks at this point as though he will be lucky to survive the day...and sure enough, a few kilometers later he abandons the Tour de France in tears. (bugger) He's gone from being the virtual leader of the race to out with one misjudged corner.

Montee de Tignes

Hitting the final climb and Rasmussen puts the blowtorch to Colom and Arroyo and they crack in quick succession leaving him to ride on alone. We've seen this in past Tours but it never fails to impress.

Back down the road and the attack from the peloton finally comes, but it's Christophe Moreau that makes the move, taking with him Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne), Frank Schleck (CSC), Alberto Contador (Discovery), Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) and Cadel Evans.

Cadel Watch

Although Cadel covered moves today, like last year, he simply refuses to initiate any attacks himself. At some stage if he's going to be any chance he's going to have to try to put others into difficulty in stead of just reacting.

You could see that Christophe Moreau was getting very frustrated at the lack of help as he was trying to put a big gap on Vino and Kloden. I'm just hoping that Evans is racing to a plan that includes covering moves in the Alps and then attacking in the Pyrenees (I've got to hang my hat on something).

In a disastrous day for the Aussies, Mick Rogers abandoned, Stuart O'Grady also crashed and was taken to hospital and Robbie McEwen didn't make the time cut-off and is also gone for this year. Which prompts me to add the comment I made earlier...BUGGER!

As it was he managed to finish in 6th place for the stage, with the top 10 looking like this.

  1. Michael Rasmussen
  2. Iban Mayo
  3. Alejandro Valverde
  4. Christophe Moreau
  5. Frank Schleck
  6. Cadel Evans
  7. Andrey Kashechkin
  8. Alberto Contador
  9. Denis Menchov
  10. Carlos Sastre

The Contenders

1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) 2' 39"
5 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) 2' 52"
6 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) 2' 53"
7 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 3' 06"
8 Alberto Contador (Discovery) 3' 10"
11 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 3' 35"
12 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3'46''
13 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 3' 53"
14 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 3' 54"
15 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 4' 00"
17 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 3' 19"
22 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 5' 23"
37 Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) 4' 32"

I've added Rasmussen and Alberto Contador to the list of contenders after this stage. Even though Rasmussen isn't a noted time-triallist he may do enough in the Alps and the Pyrenees to make that a moot point. As for Contador, wow, how much speed has he got going up those climbs? Except for a flat tyre late he would have been right up there in the top 2 or 3 for the stage. I would think he'll be the Discovery leader from here on out with George Hincapie cracking big time on the last climb and dropping right out of contention.

The Jerseys

Yellow (Leader's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
Green (Sprinter's) Jersey : Tom Boonen (Quickstep)
Polka Dot (Climber's) Jersey : Michael Rasmussen
White (Youth) Jersey : Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile)

Team Leader : Rabobank

Saturday, July 14, 2007

TDF - Cadel Watch Stage 7

It's Bastille Day and the first day in the Alps, although it's expected to be more of a feeling out day than a make or break defining stage of the Tour. The course for the stage includes just the one Category 1 climb over the Col de la Columbiere which comes around 14km from the end of the 197.5km stage.

The Highlights

As pretty much expected an early breakaway was made with a group of 15 riders (probably a little bigger than would normally be comfortable) getting as much as 8'10'' in front.

The composition of the breakaway was Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse D’Epargne) Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) Martin Elmiger (AG2R) Inigo Landaluze and Ruben Perez (Euskaltel) Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) Dmitriy Fofonov (Credit Agricole) Egoi Martinez (Dicovery Channel) Laurent Lefevre and Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) Benoit Vaugrenard (Francais De Jeux) Bram Tankink (Quickstep) Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval).

Interestingly it was down to the Predictor Lotto to initiate the chase. Obviously with no-one in the break and thinking of Evans' chances in the GC they are being very attentive to the big moves. Here's what the directeur sportif of the Predictor-Lotto squad had to say when the chase began : “Today we have a decent size lead group and although there are no real top riders present, we can’t let them take 15 minutes, that’s why, together with CSC, we have decided to control the peloton because neither team has anyone in the escape. The idea is to try and get the leaders to within about four or five minutes before the start of the Col de la Colombiere and then we’ll let Cadel show what he’s got."

Out of the breakaway emerged Linus Gerdemann, Inigo Landaluze and David de la Fuente who all attacked on the early slopes of the Col de la Columbiere. Guerdermann then marked himself as a real talent to which reaching the top of the Cat. 1 climb 23 seconds ahead of Landaluze and then descended brilliantly to extend the lead to win the stage by 40 seconds from Landaluze and de la Fuente held on for 3rd at 1'39.

The peloton of favourites came in 3'38'' behind the winner with just about all the big names present.

But it's all about Gerdemann today who takes the yellow jersey with the win with Landaluze and de la Fuente taking up 2nd and 3rd (1'24'' and 2'45'' behind respectively).

Silvain Chavenal has kept the Polka Dot Jersey but Michael Rasmussen has begun to pick up points over the bigger climbs and I expect him to pick up a few more tomorrow. It should only be a matter of time before Rabobank has themselves that one.

Cadel Watch

Cadel Evans did everything that was expected of him today sticking with the main pack and has positioned himself nicely for the very hard stage tomorrow. His effort today has moved him up to 13th place overall 4 min 02 secs behind the leader. The big question will be who will be able to back up tomorrow for an even harder effort. The real race has begun...

The Contenders

6 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3'39''
14 Michael Rogers (Team Mobile) 4' 03"
15 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 4' 03"
16 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 4' 06"
17 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 4' 06"
18 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D'Epargne) 4' 09"
21 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 4' 15"
27 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 4' 22"
29 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 4' 23"
31 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) 4' 26"
37 Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) 4' 32"
44 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 5' 16
54 George Hincapie (Discovery) 7' 15"

Review : Gospel by Sydney Bauer

Title : Gospel
Author: Sydney Bauer
Publisher: Macmillan Australia
Date Published: 2007
ISBN-13 : 9781405038027
Sub-Genre: Legal / Political Thriller
Protagonist : David Cavanaugh

A daringly shocking conspiracy to murder an incredibly popular politician is the premise behind Sydney Bauer's second deeply compelling political / legal thriller Gospel. This is an ambitious thriller that tackles a crisis of monumental proportions and delivers an unforgettable story that is as unpredictable as it is enjoyable.

All that being said, it took me a little while to get into the flow of the story with plenty of preliminary ground to cover in setting up the various disparate threads. Once we are introduced (and reintroduced for those who've read Undertow) to the characters and caught up with their inter-relationships with each other, the story fairly races ahead.

David Cavanaugh is a Boston defence attorney and is asked to represent the man he considers he dislikes most in the world. Professor Stuart Montgomery has just been accused of murdering Vice President Tom Bradshaw and his wife has turned to Cavanaugh for help. Karin Montgomery hasn't spoken to David Cavanaugh since she walked out on their marriage without a word of explanation. Cavanaugh has to somehow put his personal feelings aside so that he can represent a man who he honestly believes is innocent. He also has to somehow break the fact that he has taken the case on to his girlfriend.

We know that the Vice-President has been murdered by a power-packed gang of 4. The conspirators have taken the codenames Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and have set themselves a dual-edged goal of gaining money and power in extreme proportions. Their meticulous planning looks as though at least 1 of them is destined to reach the most powerful position in the country.

Once a drug addict, the murder is made to look as though the Vice President has succumbed to his addiction again and has accidentally overdosed. But this is quickly discarded for the more damning possibility that his physician has administered a deadly dose of Oxycontin knowing it would kill him.

Despite a solid case against Montgomery put together by FBI Assistant Director in Charge Antonio Ramirez, detectives with the Boston Police Department have their doubts. Lieutenant Joe Mannix - friend of David Cavanaugh's - leads the doubters and is forced by his own peace of mind to open a parallel, secret inquiry.

The VP is only the first in a series of murders to take place around the country, all of which can be connected with his death and the plot of the Gospel IV as the conspirators have come to be known. Being seen to be connected to the case suddenly becomes dangerous to your health and no-one appreciates this more than David Cavanaugh.

Building from the shock of the opening murder we are given time to digest the fallout that is to come. Past relationships form an important part of the emotional turmoil surrounding the case and Bauer takes her time in impressing how difficult it is on all concerned. But the careful lead up pays huge dividends with a back half of monumental proportions that manages to take every idea that you've formed and turns it on its ear.

At times the dialogue struck me as overly melodramatic with turns of phrase scattered here and there that I simply couldn't imagine being used anywhere in the real world and this impacted enough to be annoyingly distracting. But the story is so well plotted and came together with such impeccable timing that it overshadows any of those small quibbles.

No legal thriller would be complete without its share of gripping courtroom scenes and, while the quantity of such scenes is not high, the quality most certainly is. One show-stopping witness follows the next in what turns out to be a very entertaining evidentiary hearing.

This is a legal thriller with a myriad pleasing aspects that makes it unique and fresh. The book is blessed with complex and interesting personal relationships, villains that are assholes just begging for a good kick in the teeth (lets face it, we all love to hate the bad guys and these bad guys make it easy to do). To top it all off, the ending is well worth waiting for with a series of ingenious twists thrown in for good measure.

TDF - Cadel Watch Stage 6

The Stage

The 6th stage is a relatively flat one that allowed the riders to get over the fun and games of the previous day and prepare for tomorrow's biggie. At 200km long they took off from Semur-en-Auxois, travelled through the Burgundy region and finished at Bourg-en-Bresse which is situated between Lyon and Geneva at the foothills of the Alps.

The Highlights

So, with 3 tortuous days through the Alps ahead of you, what would be the single most suicidal thing to try? Hmmm, perhaps a lone breakaway that would last the best part of 200km on the warmest day of the Tour so far. But surely there's no-one crazy enough to try that... Oh yes there is and his name is Bradley Wiggins.

Yes that's right Madly Wiggins took off, opened up a 17 minute break, picked up every sprint and mountain bonus and then was caught and spat out the back 7km from the finish line.

It all came down to a final day for the sprinters before they go into hiding and Tom Boonen proved too strong winning the stage and the Green Jersey. He was too strong for Oscar Freire and Erik Zabel on the line.

Silvain Chavenal extended his lead for the Polka Dot Jersey a tad more -- but expect this competition to take on a whole different look over the next few days. No surprise that Mad Brad (Wiggins) was given the honour of sporting a nifty set of red numbers for his combativeness and the White Jersey for Best Young Rider has moved across to Romain Feillu of AG2R.

Cadel Watch

Cadel Evans was able to stay out of trouble today and chose the wise option of steering well clear of the final sprint - smart move. He's in 16th place, still 56 seconds behind the leader. So little change today but all the big guns would have been keeping their powder dry for stage 7. The Tour is about to go vertical!!!

The Contenders

2 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 33 secs
6 George Hincapie (Discovery) 43 secs
18 Michael Rogers (Team Mobile) 57 secs
19 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 57 secs
22 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 1 min
23 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 1 min
36 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 1 min 9 secs
47 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 1 min 16 secs
49 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 1 min 17 secs
53 Iban Mayo (Saunier) 1 min 20 secs
63 Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) 1 min 26
81 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 2 min 10 secs

Friday, July 13, 2007

TDF - Cadel Watch Stage 5

The eyes are bleary but once again I am lovin it, lovin it, lovin it. The Tour de France is well underway with Stage 5 completed and we’re only a couple of days away from the first mountain stage in the Alps.

Because I’m putting in the hard yards every night and things are just starting to get serious, I hope you will indulge me as I enthuse over each stage and track the progress of the leader of the Predictor Lotto team, Cadel Evans. My hope is that he can maybe, just maybe, improve on his 5th placing from last year.

The Stage

Stage 5 was a 182km bump-fest from Chablis to Autun. Along the way the field of 185 riders had to overcome 3 category 4 climbs, 3 category 3 climbs and a 2nd category climb. But it wasn’t the uphill riding that caused the major problems, it was the descending and simply surviving in the pelaton.

The Highlights

There were a few crashes that affected some of the GC riders, most of them overcame their mishaps with just a few cuts and bruises. One who didn’t though was Alexander Vinokourov who came down inside the 20km to go mark and despite the best efforts of his team ended up losing 1:21 to the pelaton. To make the news doubly worse for the Astana team, Andreas Kloden who was runner-up in 2004 also crashed and although he remounted and finished the stage has since been diagnosed with a hairline fracture of the coccyx…nasty.

The winner of the 5th stage was Filippo Pozzato of the Liquigas team who came with a strong burst to beat out Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Daniele Bennati (Lampre).

Fabian Cancellara retained the yellow jersey crossing the line in 12th place after a hair-raising final descent that saw him ride off the road behind one of the Discovery Channel riders.

Sylvain Chavenal (Cofidis) took maximum points in every climb until the last of the day to take a commanding lead in the King of the Mountain. This not surprisingly also earned him the Combativeness award for the stage and a set of red numbers for tomorrow.

The sprinters jersey has moved from the back of Tom Boonen across to the old man of the tour, Erik Zabel with Robbie McEwen hanging in for 3rd place.

Cadel Watch

All importantly, Cadel Evans looked to be riding comfortably at the front of the pelaton up the last 2 climbs when the pace really got going. There was a moment of madness at the end though when he must have begun channelling his team-mate Robbie McEwen and decided to contest the sprint. A brush with disaster when he brushed wheels with Daniele Bennati reminded him that he was there for the vertical, not the horizontal, racing.

Nevertheless, he picked up 11th place for the stage which has moved him from 21st to 15th overall, 56 seconds behind the maillot jeune. Just quietly, the other outside GC contender from Australia, Michael Rogers isn’t doing too badly at all sitting in 17th place just a second behind Evans.

The Contenders

2 Andreas Kloden (Astana) 33 secs
5 George Hincapie (Discovery) 43 secs
17 Michael Rogers (Team Mobile) 57 secs
18 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse D’Epargne) 57 secs
22 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) 1 min
23 Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 1 min
36 Christophe Moreau (AG2R) 1 min 9 secs
47 Carlos Sastre (CSC) 1 min 16 secs
49 Haimar Zulbeldia (Eukatel) 1 min 17 secs
53 Iban Mayo (Saunier) 1 min 20 secs
63 Juan Miguel Mercado (Agritubel) 1 min 26
81 Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) 2 min 10 secs

Around the Traps #6

Karen over at Aust Crime Fiction has given the thumbs up to Amongst the Dead by Robert Gott, revelling in the obnoxious failings of the books main character, William Power.

Over at the Page 99 Test, Appeal Denied by Peter Corris has been placed under the microscope.

Barry Maitland's Spider Trap is given a bit of a touch up at Euro Crime ahead of the US release next month.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Outpost - Issue 4 Released

A new issue of The Outpost has been released containing 8 new short stories. The Outpost features crime stories by Australian-based authors and is published quarterly.

Reading Issue 4 could very well leave you a little bit wary of your friends and family with half the stories involving the bumping off of loved ones.

A couple of comic farces help to lighten the mood a little before we experience the horrors of a bump in the wall of the family home. To round things off we visit Malaysia for a spot of drug trafficking.

All in all another edition in which there should be something for everyone.

Here's the rundown:

Wrigley PI and the Height of Fashion by Ken Cotterill
The Valentine Day Massager by Breanda Cross
The Other Woman by Kate-Lyn Therkelsen
Mobiles by Brian Rowell
Postcard From Malaysia by A.G. Bennett
The Best Man by Lee Bemrose
The Bump by Marion Steinmetz
A Natural Remedy by Ross Duffy

Friday, July 06, 2007

Around the Traps #5

As mentioned earlier today, Peter Temple has won the CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger for his novel The Broken Shore and has consequently been mentioned by crime blogs from all over the shop.

The NY Times has made brief mention of The Broken Shore by Peter Temple with Marilyn Stasio opining that it offers some provocative and painful views of Australia’s inner landscape.

Michael Robotham has been interviewed by Christopher Bantick in Brisbane's Courier Mail this week. The article covers Robotham's ghost-writing past, his popularity with overseas audiences, the fear (in retrospect) that Robotham has over the prospect of writing from the point of view of a woman and his dislike of the process of plotting a story.

Tim Rutten at the LA Times believes that The Night Ferry is an altogether superior thriller. I reckon I'd pay that.

Peter Temple Wins the Duncan Lawrie Dagger

The CWA Dagger Awards for 2007 were awarded last night and capping off what has been a stellar couple of years, Peter Temple has taken out the 2007 Duncan Lawrie Dagger for his superb novel The Broken Shore.

This has topped off an impressive run for the book, winning such awards as the Ned Kelly (joint winner) and the Colin Roderick Award and has been nominated for an the Australian Book Industry Award. Chuck in a longlisting for the 2006 Miles Franklin Award for good measure. As well as a nifty looking dagger, the prize also includes a cheque for £20,000 (converted to Aussie dollars - that's a bloody lot of money).

Heartfelt congratulations to Temple for the much deserved recognition and accolades.

Australia's other nominated book was The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham which was nominated for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. That award went to Gillian Flynn for Sharp Objects. Flynn also took out the New Blood Fiction Dagger - another very deserving winner for a book of profound depth of character.

The Duncan Lawrie International Dagger was won by Fred Vargas for Wash the Blood Clean From My Hand (tranlated by Sian Reynolds).

Stuart McBride won the Library Dagger as the author of crime fiction whose work is currently giving the greatest enjoyment to readers.

The Debut Dagger was awarded to Alan Bradley for The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie.

All the details of the fun of the fair can be found at the CWA website.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Reading : Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarratano

There possibly isn't a more provocative subject for a psychological thriller than that of paedophilia. It's confronting, it can be difficult to deal with and it can very well turn a large proportion of crime readers away. But this is the subject of Leah Giarratano's debut novel Vodka Doesn't Freeze.

Sergeant Jill Jackson and her partner Scott Hutchinson are called to the scene of a brutal bashing murder in the sandhills above Maroubra Beach. The victim is known to the police as a paedophile and it turns out his is the 3rd death in what looks like a series where the targets are paedophiles.

Mixed emotions begin here. It's the job of the police to find murderers but in this case they're not pushing terribly hard to find the killer before he strikes again. But ultimately, citizens can't take matters into their own hands and so the murders must be stopped.

This is an outstanding debut thriller featuring a "damaged" protagonist whose past is a complex mess that has manifested itself into a ritual of defensive techniques. Starting as a murder case, it inevitably becomes an investigation into an organised paedophilia ring and ultimately a terrifying fight for survival.

There is barely time to draw breath as the action is piled on thick and fast. Thought provoking commentary on the psychological trauma experienced by the victims of child abuse as well as the sobering message that all sorts of depraved souls hunt our streets.

Leah Giarratano writes from a position of vast experience having worked for years as a clinical psychologist specialising in trauma, sex offences and psychopathology. When she takes us into the minds of sexual and violent offenders you can be sure that she is drawing on all of that experience.

I can happily recommend this book highly to fans of psychological thriller readers.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Reading : Gospel by Sydney Bauer

And so I'm coming to the end of Gospel by Sydney Bauer which was released this week. It's the second book by Bauer following Undertow, her debut, and again features Boston attorney David Cavanaugh the rugby playing, icy imported beer-loving defender with the steel-trap mind.

It took me a little while to get into this one as it felt as though I cruised along with a totally predictable plot that was going to flow to a standard ending. But ha-hah, silly me...with a series of killer plot twists that sends us spinning out out control we find ourselves in the middle of the evidentiary hearing to end all hearings.
The is a legal thriller with a myriad pleasing aspects that makes it unique and fresh, personal relationships that are complex, villains that are arse-holes just begging for a good kick in the teeth and an amazing ending.

Quickie plot summary.

The Vice-President of the United States has been murdered by a power-packed gang of 4. The conspirators have taken the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and have set themselves a dual-edged goal of money and power in extreme proportions. Their meticulous planning looks as though at least 1 of them is destined to reach the most powerful position in the country. The man who has been set up to take the fall for the assassination happens to be the husband of David Cavanaugh's ex-wife and she has dropped a massive bombshell by asking him to defend her husband. Now he's got to work out whether he wants to defend the man he has hated for years and how to break it to his girlfriend.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Another July New Release

After a severe mental glitch a couple of days ago, I realise I've left out one of the forthcoming releases for the month of July.

So I shall just set things to right and make this late addition for the new month.

The Butcherbird by Geoffrey Cousins (pub. Allen & Unwin) - Cousins is best known in the business community having held the position of CEO at George Patterson and Optus as well as chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Starlight Foundation. Writing what he knows his debut novel is about the goings on at the top of Australian business and the corruption that undermines all. That all sounds pretty vague, so I'll add the publisher's synopsis to chew on: Geoffrey Cousins has called upon his own insider experience at the highest levels of Australian business to conjure a darkly comic, suspense-filled tale of intrigue peopled by a tantalisingly familiar cast of A-list sharks.

Jack Beaumont, architect turned property developer, is as surprised as the next person when he is approached by insurance tycoon Mac Biddulph to become the new CEO of the largest home-insurer in Australia. Seduced at first by the lure of power, Jack soon finds that beneath the glamorous facade of the Sydney business elite lies a convoluted network of corruption.