The Heartwood Hotel by Kerry McGinnis

Cynthia Heartwood Hotel

An Australian story with the small rural town of Tewinga at its heart. There is a lot to like here – family, community life, mystery and drama. The storyline was a little bit predictable, but it was a great story to pass time with on a long train journey.

You never know what goes on in a small country town!

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Amy GoldstoneAnother beautiful, sad, complex and moving film about Indigenous policeman, Jay Swan, solving a mystery in an outback town. Jay Swan, burdened with grief, is struggling to keep himself together as he searches for a missing girl, and meaning for his life. The cast is stellar, the scenery is stunning, and the story is about human trafficking, land rights, racism, corruption, and a place to belong.

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Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Cynthia ScrublandsThis is a brutal story set in the brutal landscape of a drought Riverina town on the Hay Plains. A journalist comes to town to report on the annivesary of a mass murder and discovers so much more about the town and himself. Murders, lies, drugs and the relentless heat feature. An enjoyable story with not a lot of niceness. Great to read an Australian gritty crime story.

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The lost dog by Michelle de Kretser

Amy The Lost DogAn English lecturer, Tom, is staying in the Victorian bush, trying to finish the book he is writing, when his dog goes missing. From that starting point we go back and forth, to India and Melbourne, to the past and the present, exploring Tom’s life and relationships. There is mystery, but it’s not about what happens, but about place, love, relationships with parents and lovers, art, poetry, and belonging. The language is beautiful, and it’s full of thoughtful insights on things like ageing, and consumerism.

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Mystery Road

Amy Mystery RoadThis is the movie that came before the television series. Having recently watched the television series, I was keen to find out Jay Swan’s back story. Recently returned to his home town after time in the big city, Jay doesn’t fit in with the other policemen, all white, or his own community. He is estranged from his wife and daughter, and seems to be the only one who cares about the murder of a young black girl. The cinematography is striking, capturing the starkly beautiful countryside. The story is bleak and violent, but the film is somehow quiet and contemplative, reflecting the complexity of the issues that face outback towns and Australia as a whole. The mystery itself may not be neatly tied up at the end, but the performances and thoughtful story make it a very satisfying film.

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Border districts by Gerald Murnane

Amy Border DistrictsAn older man makes his last move, from a capital city (not named, but Melbourne) to a small town on the border, and ponders. This short book is a report of his thoughts; reflections on light and mental images, with lots of references to coloured glass, being Catholic, and horse racing. There is little emotion, some coherence and no actual plot, so it was just some quality in the writing that kept me going.

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The lost flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

Cynthia Lost Flowers of Alice HartThis story was full of sadness and beauty. Australia’s landscape is told in beautiful detail which balances out the horor of abuse. Characters are either running from their story or embracing it. The language of native flowers are used to great effect, used in the introduction of each chapter, matching Alice’s story. It was easy to become involved in the story and Alice’s journey.

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Lillian Armfield : how Australia’s first female detective took on Tilly Devine and the Razor Gangs and changed the face of the force by Leigh Straw

Cynthia Lillian ArmfieldThis was an interesting look at the development of women’s policing in Australia, focusing on Lillian Armfield. Imagine being a police officer with no uniform or weapon and no power of arrest? The huge amount of research that went into this book is evident. It did fall down for me as it was a bit repetitive in places.

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We that are left by Lisa Bigelow

Cynthia We that are leftMae’s husband has been posted to serve on the HMAS Sydney leaving her to cope with their newborn child. This is not going to end well. Grace has just fallen head over heels in love, and her journalist boyfriend leaves to cover the war in Singapore – more tragedy to come. There is a lot of emotion in this story and it is handled beautifully. The women’s grief, hope and ambitions along with coping with everyday life are explored. War effects everyone and this story brings it to life.

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