Allen & Unwin

With a stepmother she hates and a father who’s barely there, sixteen-year-old Danby Armstrong knew Christmas Day would be bad, but she wasn’t expecting the apocalypse. While families tear the wrapping off the latest iGadgets and share excited status updates, something strange happens. Suddenly, people are not just reading each other’s thoughts in their news feeds; they’re actually in each other’s heads. Everything from a neighbour’s affair to a planned terrorist attack is suddenly known; ‘the elephants in every room had been set loose to stampede’. Sydney erupts in violence as people seek revenge or just a place to shut out all those voices. But while Danby can hear them, they can’t hear her, and that makes her almost invisible.

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In The Baby Farmers, legal scholar Annie Cossins revisits a bizarre episode in Australian criminal history. Her text focuses on a pair of baby killers who operated in Sydney during the nineteenth century. In October 1892, Sarah and John Makin were arrested after a baby’s corpse was found buried on their farm. An investigation revealed the bodies of twelve more babies, all buried in properties that had been inhabited by the Makins. The couple’s crimes stemmed largely from their poverty. Purchasing babies provided them with an (albeit limited) income. These babies had often been born out of wedlock, and their mothers relinquished them to avoid the stigma surrounding ‘illegitimate’ children.

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Killing Fairfax by Pamela Williams & Rupert Murdoch by David McKnight

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November 2013, no. 356

With James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch grinning smugly on its cover, Killing Fairfax: Packer, Murdoch and the Ultimate Revenge projects a strong message that they are indeed the company’s smiling assassins. Pamela Williams mounts a case that these scions of Australia’s traditional media families ...

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My Mother, My Father edited by Susan Wyndham

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November 2013, no. 356

In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), novelist Dave Eggers recounts the horror of losing both his parents within one year, leaving him and his sister as sole carers of their young brother. Eggers recalls the intense pain of being orphaned at the age of twenty-one, but also the frustration and acute resentment at having to grow up too fast ...

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Jacqueline Kent – Julia Gillard’s first biographer – reviews journalist Kerry-Anne Walsh’s highly partisan account of Gillard’s ill-fated prime ministership and the ceaseless hospitality of the Rudd camp. ... (read more)

Many people have heard of Gerald Ridsdale, defrocked Catholic priest of the diocese of Ballarat and a notorious convicted paedophile. But comparatively few people have heard of Ridsdale’s contemporary John Day. A priest in the same diocese, he too preyed upon many hundreds of children ...

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Like the best examples of true crime books, Every Parent’s Nightmare goes far beyond the tragedy at its centre and places it in its socio-economic context. Belinda Hawkins details how a death in Bulgaria back in 2007 became a highly politicised incident, and offers a convincing explanation as to why the trial was so sloppy and one-sided ...

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Known in certain quarters as ‘the godfather of Australian crime fiction’, Peter Corris is certainly persistent. Prior to this, he has written thirty-seven novels involving the wily, irrepressible Cliff Hardy. The Dunbar Case showcases an older but still sprightly Hardy, who deals with maritime mysteries, amorous women, and a notorious crime family.

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The 2013 Voiceless Anthology edited by J.M. Coetzee et al.

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March 2013, no. 349

‘Death has a dual character,’ Zadie Smith writes in her novel The Autograph Man (2002); ‘it seems to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time’. Popular culture is currently awash with cookery programs and diet fads, yet the lives of animals, and the industries that deal in their deaths, have never been more absent from city life. It seems reasonable, therefore, that all ten stories shortlisted for the Voiceless Writing Prize – judged by J.M. Coetzee, Ondine Sherman, Wendy Were, and Susan Wyndham – animate the lives of animals in, or on the fringes of, rural Australia.

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The second in the Ship Kings series has a cinematic feel and shares the first-rate quality of the first book. Set in a fantasy world where island folk live in unsettled peace under the ruling mariner class, it continues the tale of Dow Amber as he sets off on a sailing adventure aboard the battleship Chloe. He and the unusual scapegoat girl Ignella are the only outsiders aboard the Ship Kings’ vessel as it embarks on a voyage into the northern icy seas, seeking the lost son of the Sea Lord.

 

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