Inspiration From The Distant Past

Inspiration From The Distant Past
Found note in an old book... warms the cockles of my bookish heart...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Who killed Bianca?

Book bath time is a luxury in my house. The stars have to align with kids in bed, kitchen tidied, everything organized for tomorrow, nothing important on TV, the right book and, most difficult of all, a clean tub.

About the book, I clearly cannot read someone else's, in case it gets water damaged, so loaners and library tomes are out. It must be a paperback—for some reason I just can't carry a hardback to the bath. And it must be easily enjoyable without being a permanent keeper. So, I am looking for a good, but disposable read. To date I have not damaged any book, but I just can't take that risk with a treasured tome.

A few nights ago the stars were right and I settled into a tub with the perfect paperback, Who Killed Bianca? I was hooked, and ended up staying until the water cooled and I risked hypothermia. I was awake until midnight and back into it (the book, not the tub) the next morning. I just had to know who killed Bianca.

Emma Darcy is the pen name of Australian couple Wendy and the late Frank Brennan. After his death Wendy continued to write on her own, branching out from the romance novels they had been known for. This novel is, obviously, about Bianca being bumped off, second in a series that started with Anne's assassination and continued with Camille carking it. In this story some other people get killed, but not alphabetically.

This is absolutely an Australian book: at times it even reads like a travel brochure, listing the names and detailed descriptions of landmarks, transportation, accommodation, shows and attractions. The bumping off takes place on the Ghan, a famous train trip through the Outback, and the suspects continue to tour the area, bumping into one another and bumping one another off. I found the exposition a bit exasperating at times, but couldn't stop reading. I really did want to know who killed Bianca, and was surprised enough in the end to make it all worthwhile.

The origins as a romance writer are evident in strings of sentences starting with variations of 'but' and 'however'. The air of mystery is supported by collections of questions such as the succession of, 'Had he seen her…? But why? What had distressed her..? Had a frustrated Bianca..? Did they share a past..?' This string occurred within a page, start to finish. It's a cheap way to build suspense, but I fell for it completely: I wasn't even aware of this clumsiness and the cold water until later. The book was even a finalist for the Ned Kelly Award for outstanding crime writing, so maybe I am just being critical.

If you are an Aussie reader your cover will look like the grey one I picked up in Big W, and UK or US readers will have the colourful version. I wonder why? But, no matter which cover you end up with, draw yourself a bath and head to the dry Outback without leaving the comfort of your own tub.

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