Tag Archives: crime

Review: Inheritance of Secrets by Sonya Bates

Inheritance of Secrets opens with its narrator, Juliet, in the Adelaide morgue to identify the bodies of her viciously murdered grandparents, Karl and Grete Weiss. It’s the great and terrible blow that cracks her life wide and fills it with doubt, grief, fear and danger. 

As she and her estranged sister Lily try to understand what’s happened, and to disprove the accusation that their beloved grandfather was a secret Nazi, they uncover answers to some of puzzles surrounding their family trauma.  

Through a series of flashbacks, the reader gets to see what actually happened when Karl Weiss travelled to Australia as a migrant on the Fairsea, and subsequent events that lay in wait for 60 years until a killer came to call. The two storylines eventually converge, but only when both young Karl and present-day Juliet have faced some serious threats.

Threat hangs heavy in the air throughout Inheritance of Secrets – the elusive Lily is clearly involved in some very shady dealings which leave her fearful and furtive, though her instincts may help her and Juliet in the long term. Juliet’s journalist friend Ellis has fingers in multiple pies. Things aren’t helped by Juliet’s ambitious fiancé, Jason, who is less interested in helping Juliet than in making partner at his firm.

Sonya Bates leads us through carefully the morass of accusation, confusion and threats, leaving us to doubt until late in the piece about Karl’s real history. Juliet is frequently rather hapless, as we all would be under the same conditions, but when the crisis reaches a peak, she’s resourceful. Her complex relationship with her Lily, Ellis and Jason add texture and complications to what’s already a fraught time for her, and you easily get as enmeshed in her private life as in the investigation.

The prose zips along and the reader has the pleasure of watching Juliet reconnect with Lily, realise some important things in her life and come to a renewed sense of herself by the conclusion.

A very satisfying read with a conclusion that fits Juliet’s character and the book’s themes of inherited secrets.

Buy Inheritance of Secrets

Review: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

It’s 1922 and Perveen Mistry, a lawyer from Bombay, has been called to the kingdom of Satapur to help resolve a conflict about an underage maharajah’s education. Jiva Rao’s mother and grandmother disagree bitterly on the best choice and as they’re observing purdah, Perveen, a woman, is the only lawyer who can visit them.

Along with trying to understand everyone’s perspectives so that a fair decision can be reached, Perveen soon learns that the circumstances of how Jiva Rao’s father and older brother died are dodgy, to say the least.  Other factors add complexity to what should be a simple legal consultation – including the relationship between colonial British influence in what is nominally an independent kingdom and the royal household; Perveen’s unexpected attraction to the local agent of the British Raj; and the complex layers of social behaviours when the characters populating the story are from a huge variety of religious, cultural, social and class backgrounds.

Sujata Massey’s Perveen is the perfect guide through this complicated landscape. Educated in England, politically aware, articulate and thoughtful, Perveen explores the layers and facets of 1920s India. She’s an outsider in more ways than one – a woman, a lawyer, a Parsi with personal history she’s not in a hurry to share, a quiet supporter of Ghandi, and an ordinary citizen trying to negotiate with a royal household conscious of its status but also how that status is peculiarly beholden to British powers.

The Satapur Moonstone is wonderfully textured in its characters and their interactions. It shows off India’s multiplicity as a nation without getting heavy handed or lecturing, because we see it all through Perveen’s eyes, and for her, it’s all India too. Descriptions of the Agent’s station and its staff and the social circle surround it, are as vivid as those of the other locals, the jungle and the palace.

The mystery evolves at a good pace – slowly at first, while we (through Perveen) grow to understand all the players and to realise that everyone has secrets.  As these get untangled, the pace of the plot picks up and dashes us towards a satisfying conclusion.

I’d finished The Satapur Moonstone before I realised that Perveen had first appeared in A Murder at Malabar Hill. Not having read it is no barrier to enjoying this book – but I’ll certainly be picking it up now!

Buy The Satapur Moonstone

The Songs of Duo Ex Machina

The five novellas of the Duo Ex Machina series are full of song lyrics I wrote to go with the stories.

Some are by the two-man band Duo Ex Machina (comprising the two lead characters, Frank Capriano and Milo Bertolone, who are also boyfriends). Others are by their friend, Gabriella Valli, and yet others are songs on the radio or that are played during Milo’s time as a contestant on an ice dancing show (in DeM 4: Kiss and Cry).

Now, in partnership with Joshua King of Golden Hour Studios, some of those lyrics are becoming actual songs, released on Apple Music, Spotify and other services!

Listen to our first single – Hymn/Him, from Duo Ex Machina 4: Kiss and Cry on:

You can help us make more music by buying or streaming the Duo Ex Machina songs from Apple, Spotify or Amazon Music: sales proceeds go towards new music.

You can also support the project by:

Or subscribe to the Duo Ex Machina YouTube channel for songs as they’re released.

Lockdown Fiction: Party Trick

This story was inspired by the 26 May Clandestine Press story prompt.

Party Trick

“Never have I ever been late for a date!” declared Mira with a grin. Of the four others playing the game, only Alec took a drink with her.

“Unholy demon of punctuality,” Daisy said, making a wobbly sign of the cross.

“Courtesy costs nothing,” replied Mira primly, then roared with laughter because she was punctual for sure but nothing like prim.

“Never have I ever,” said Alec, taking his turn, “kissed a girl.”

Alec and his boyfriend Chris gulped a mouthful of beer.

“This is a bit wishy washy, isn’t it?” said Daisy. “Let’s get down and dirty. Let’s talk about crime!”

She flashed a grin at Hannah. They were exes, but amicable. Hence tonight’s drinking game with all their mutual buddies who had seen them through the transition from lovers-to-enemies-to-friends. Alec and Chris, who’d been so supportive of Hannah through the brief burst of fighting and had so kindly and patiently reasoned with Daisy about her inability to let it go. Mira, who had given Hannah a place to stay when she’d fled Daisy’s desperate entreaties of “we can work it out! Don’t go!”

The whole mess had taken weeks to sort out, but there were no hard feelings, none at all. Hannah wanted to go, Daisy couldn’t make her stay, but that was all water under the relationship bridge. Just because they couldn’t be lovers, that didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends. Pride had been dented but not smashed.

“Crime, eh?” Mira raised an eyebrow. “Is there something you want to tell us?”

“Not me. Are you scared of spilling your secrets?” Daisy countered.

“I’m the one who did time in juvenile detention,” pointed out Chris. It was an open secret. A month for attempted arson. He still wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t meant to burn down the family house, and he still wasn’t entirely sure he was sorry, but at least setting fire to the Californian bungalows of homophobes to whom he was related had not become a habit.

“Why don’t you start, Daisy,” Chris prompted. “Since it was your idea.”

“Okay. Never have I ever robbed a bank!”

All five of them swigged their beer.

“My turn!” shouted Alex, boozy and eager. “Never have I ever sold drugs!”

Gulps all round, except for Mira, who shrugged. “A bit of weed, but it counts. My turn. Never have I ever stabbed someone, even if they deserved it.”

Chris didn’t drink that time. “Don’t judge me. It was a tough month in juvie. The dude only needed four stitches and they didn’t try to gang up on me in the showers again after that.”

The general consensus was that the bastard deserved it and was lucky he hadn’t had anything actually chopped off. Chris took his turn next. “Never have I ever stolen anyone’s wallet.”

Five drinks all round and then the glasses were empty.

“Refill!” called out Daisy. She ran to the table to get a fresh bottle. It took some effort to get it open and she had to fiddle with it a bit. Finally, she sloshed it freely into glass after glass. “Hannah, your turn! Hey, hey, Hannah, hey, remember that thing we talked about last Christmas? About my gross Uncle Glen?”

Hannah, flushed pink with drink and fun, giggled and nodded. “Your awful Uncle Glen! Ew! Okay. Never have I ever spiked someone’s drink!”

Hannah, Alex, Chris and Mira drank heartily.

Daisy just smiled while all her friends gulped their beer and belched and turned glassy eyed. And one by one they clutched their throats and swooned and dropped like flies. Hannah fell sideways into the remains of the party pavlova. The crunch of the meringue sounded like someone breaking to shards inside. The strawberries and jam and cream smeared on her shirt like blood.

“Never have I ever,” Daisy whispered at the dying light in their eyes, “been murdered for petty revenge.”

She took a sip of beer. “Feels pretty good, actually.”

Daisy drank her beer to the bottom of the glass and waited.