How creepy are those nightmares about everyday life? Great fodder for a crime thriller. Speaking of, a whodunit set in the world of true crime podcasting is surprisingly effective, and a new book about the pursuers of our most famous larrikan outlaw (Ned Kelly, that is) sheds new light on the period. Plenty of offer on this week's books pages.
And I welcome your thoughts and feedback on what we've been reading. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the world of Nicci French, the most vulnerable characters - the ones most likely to find themselves a protagonist in one of their stylish crime thrillers - are women who are otherwise competent, professional and in control of their lives. It's people like this who have the most to lose when life unravels, say the husband-and-wife duo. The British pair are promoting their 27th novel together, The Favour, and it's very much along the lines of many of the scenarios that make for such queasy dread.
"We both feel nobody is that safe. Life is very fragile. Nobody is that normal, life is very strange and we take characters and we crack open their life," they tell Sally Pryor.
"And in so doing, they kind of crack open themselves. And then they can discover hidden parts of themselves they never knew existed, which is quite scary, but also quite exhilarating, I think, that you can't get to the end of yourself."
There's a lot of conflict and tension to be had in the aftermath of someone's death, when those left behind are dividing up the assets.
This scenario is the useful starting point for Canberra author Alison Booth's latest novel, Bellevue, in which a woman moves into a beautiful old house in the Blue Mountains, left to her by her aunt.
Reviewer Karen Viggers says Booth's "warm, easy style" is a good foil.
"She expertly builds an undercurrent of tension and uncertainty, while simultaneously constructing a strong sense of community," she writes.
Will we ever tire of finding new angles to pursue around the infamous Kelly gang, and the man at its centre who has come to represent - for better or worse - so much about our history?
Lachlan Strahan doesn't think so, and by the sounds of his latest book, Justice In Kelly Country, he's definitely right.
The historian takes up the story from the perspective of one of his own ancestors, his great-great grandfather, a police constable who was "bitterly hostile to the Kelly gang who doggedly pursued Ned through North East Victoria".
In his review, Mark Thomas suggests the book, while gripping, could have been a novel on par with The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.
"Other segments of the narrative could have been expanded and embroidered if treated as a novel rather than a work of history," he writes.
What did we do before the epic rise of true crime in our lives? Before all those podcasts? We may never crack the answer to whether such podcasts are good or bad - think of the cases that have been solved, or reappraised, by them in recent times - but author Rebecca Makkai does ask a number of questions about the impact of these podcasts in her novel I Have Some Questions For You.
Our crime reviewer Anna Creer is impressed.
"I Have Some Questions for You is clever, complicated and engrossing, combining a boarding school mystery with a classic whodunit, while exploring the impact of the MeToo movement and the populist power of social media."
Human drama can really have a trickle-down effect, can't it? Take Pegasus, for example, the world's most sophisticated cybersurveillance system (that we know of). It really only came to light in the wake of a messy divorce between Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, and his then wife, Princess Haya bint Hussein.
Pegasus, by Laurent Richard and Sandrine Rigaud, sets out how mobile phones belonging to the princess were hacked by Pegasus during the bitter custody battle, with the sheik's authority.
Reviewer T.J. Collins says the book "reads like a fine piece of longform journalism (as opposed to a book that only a diehard cybersecurity nerd could enjoy)", which is more than faint praise for the story of such a dense and, yes, nerdy subject.
Feel like a bit of light reading? You may not find it immediately in J.R. Burgmann's new novel, Children of Tomorrow, which uses this all-encompassing emergency as the setting for this "family saga that sprawls across the first century of this millennium as the world as we know it collapses".
"There are passages of this kind where it seems Burgmann is throwing words at the indescribable vastness of the climate problem, seeing what will stick," writes Jasper Lindell in an admiring review.
"There is a hopeful note at the end of this sensibly pessimistic novel, too."
Not enough people will have heard of the subject of this fascinating book - the French archaeologist Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt who became one of the world's foremost experts on ancient Egypt.
In Empress of the Nile, Lynne Olson details how Desroches - small in stature and a woman to boot - was willing to take on any number of powerful men in her field.
"Egyptologists are certainly familiar with her legacy, but since not all of her many books are translated into English, author Lynne Olson has written an engrossing biography that makes Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt's life and work accessible to a broader audience," writes Star Tribune reviewer Laura McCallum.
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