Friday, January 3, 2014

The Holiday Murders: Robert Gott

As the title indicates, this book is set around the Christmas to New Year's holidays. I read it shortly after Christmas for that reason and I am glad I pushed this to the top of the stack, although I had just purchased it.

This book combines a good plot with great characters and has an exciting ending. That pretty well covers the elements I look for in a mystery. And on top of that, it is set during World War II, in Australia, and revealed a lot to me about events that occurred in Australia during that war.

The events in the book revolve around what appears to be a murder/suicide in East Melbourne. Soon it is obvious that there is more to this crime, and further crimes are committed. The question is, are the crimes related? All the crimes are gruesome and horrifying, but they could be unrelated acts of violence.

The team investigating the crime are Inspector Titus Lambert and his Detective, Joe Sable. Lambert soon adds a new member, Constable Helen Lord. She is eager to get out of the desk job she has been relegated to, and prove her worth in the new homicide squad, where she only has the opportunity because of World War II and the shortage of men available. Lambert is not only happily married, but he often shares information about cases with his wife and seeks her opinion. Sable is Jewish. He is not a practicing Jew, but the word of persecutions of Jews in Europe have made him more aware of his heritage.


It isn't long before Military Intelligence shows up and attempts to take over the investigation. They have good reason to believe the deaths may be related to an extremist group called Australia First. Joe Sable begins working with Military Intelligence on this investigation. Before it is all over, it gets very complicated.

The book not only has a police team we like and empathize with, there are well-defined villains and secondary characters. This book is not that long. My copy had 307 pages, but it packs a lot of plot and characters into those pages.

The book begins with a series of very unappealing crimes, but they were not dwelled upon, so I had less problem with them. Towards the end, the violence does get more graphic and grisly. I include that only as a warning, not a criticism.

Some other reviews: At In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel and at Fair Dinkum Crime. Margot put this novel In the Spotlight at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist.

12 comments:

  1. Tracy - Thank you very much for the kind mention. I'm so glad you enjoyed this novel. As you say, it's brutal here and there, especially at the end, but it has truly appealing characters and a solid set of plot threads.

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    1. Margot, always glad to point readers toward your blog and posts. Yes, this is a very good novel and I was glad to discover it.

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  2. Thanks for the warning about the violence TracyK - I do find that a book has to really earn the right to do that to not stop me reading it!

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    1. Sergio, I am still trying to decide why one book with violence bothers me and I can accept violence in another. I guess it has to do with context, and some readers have a higher threshold.

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  3. I liked this book, but thought the violence overdone, The first murders did not need such graphic violence to show the anger and sociopathic qualities of the murderer. I knew who the culprits were due to the brutality.

    I liked the book because I liked the Sable and Lord characters and their thoughts,

    I hope there are more books featuring themm and including Maude Lambert.

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    1. I agree, Kathy, the later violence was convincing but could have been handled better, for my tastes. I too hope there will be a series with these characters.

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  4. I think that as the book presents itself as a realistic historical thriller - like, for example, the Bernie Gunther novels from Philip Kerr - that lends a realism to the violence, which, in some cases here, is over the top. In a book where the whole book has a level of unreality, such as a Jeffery Deaver thriller, such violence might not stand out as much. Great review, by the way, and thanks for the link to mine.

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    1. Thanks, Puzzle Doctor, and that is an interesting take on why perception of violence differs book to book.

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  5. Tracy, I have only skimmed this because I have a copy on the way. Hopefully I can include this in my Australian challenge.

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    1. Col, I think you will like this book. I hope so.

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  6. Can't decide on this one - I like the idea of the setting, both historical and geographical, but the violence is off-putting....

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    1. True, Moira, I could have done without the violence. Still glad I read it though, especially getting a sense of Australia during WWII.

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