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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Book talk: 5 books to put under the tree this Christmas

Jeff Popple recommends five books to put under the tree this Christmas. More of Jeff’s reviews can be found on his blog: murdermayhemandlongdogs.com

The Sentinel by Lee Child and Andrew Child

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Bantam, $32.99

Jack Reacher is the classic action figure. A former military policeman who roams America like a modern-day Western hero, Reacher appeals to a wide range of readers and the novels by Lee Child are regularly found on the top of bestseller lists. The Sentinel is the first co-written effort by Child and his brother, Andrew, who will be taking over sole responsibility for the series from next year.  The story involves a cyber-attack on a small American town and is a briskly paced, action-filled tale that hurtles to an exciting climax. A good, light holiday read that is a must for the Reacher aficionado in your family.

Australian Women Pilots by Kathy Mexted

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Newsouth, $34.99

Stories about male aviators, such as Kingsford-Smith and Bert Hinkler, have dominated Australia’s history, but as Kathy Mexted shows in this excellent book, there have also been some extraordinary female pilots who have been largely overlooked. Mexted shares the stories of 10 trailblazing women pilots who delivered Spitfires during World War II, tackled the temperamental New Guinea weather in a small plane, flew solo around the world and saved lives with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She also recounts the story of Deborah Wardley, who took on Ansett in the courts for the right to become a commercial pilot. A fascinating and inspiring book.

Best Australian Political Cartoons edited by Russ Radcliffe

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Scribe, $32.99

Those after some light humour to finish off a dreadful 2020 will appreciate this annual collection by Russ Radcliffe of the best Australian political cartoons of the year. From climate change and the devastating bushfires to the impact of COVID-19 to the tantrums of Trump and the assault on the ABC by the Government, the cartoons cover all the highs, and lows, of the political year. They range from the very funny to the bitingly satirical to the nicely poignant, as in Andrew Weldon’s COVID-inspired The Kiss 2020. A great gift and an amusing reminder of a bad year.

Together by Christmas by Karen Swan

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Macmillan, $32.99

Also containing some amusing moments is the latest seasonal romance by Karen Swan, Together by Christmas. Set in a vividly described Amsterdam with snow falling and the ice thickening on the canals, it tells the story of British celebrity photographer Lee who is trying to establish a new life with her young son. When someone leaves a book and a message in the basket of her bicycle, she finds old secrets resurfacing as she tries to track down the book’s author. Is it the chance for new love or will her world come tumbling down? A nice present for romantics and those after a pleasant, engaging read.

Christmas Is Murder by Val McDermid

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Sphere, $24.99

Finally, Britain’s Queen of Crime, Val McDermid, provides a darker view of Christmas with this enjoyable collection of short stories. Selected from across the breadth of her career, the stories deal with murder, revenge, poisoning and a kidnapped Santa Claus. Her popular pairing of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan features in the opening story about a seasonal serial killer and there is also a very good tribute to Holmes and Watson with the clever Holmes For Christmas, that builds to a dark and unexpected conclusion. All the stories are well written and very enjoyable, making it an ideal book to dip into over the Christmas holidays.

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