Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Michael Robotham’

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

I’ve been enjoying working my way through Australian author Michael Robotham’s older works, many of which form part of a series, so was delighted to come across The Secrets She Keeps which is a stand-alone story.

The Secrets She Keeps is told in alternate chapters by the two main characters, Agatha and Meghan. Both women are pregnant with their babies and are due within a few days of each other, but their similarities end there. Agatha is a loner who works in a menial, low-paid job. The reader is aware from the beginning that Agatha is mentally unhinged, an unreliable narrator who is obsessed with Meghan.

As the story unfolds it turns out that Agatha has had children in the past, all of whom have either died or been removed from her care.

Meghan’s chapters show how comparatively lucky she is compared to Agatha’s, but her life is not as perfect as Agatha believes it to be. Meghan and her husband Jack, an ambitious sporting commentator, have lost their connection with each other, and Meghan doubts that Jack is faithful to her. Meghan is also struggling with the knowledge that this, her third baby might not be Jack’s, after she had a drunken (and instantly regretted) fling with Jack’s best friend.

As a thriller, The Secrets She Keeps was more than a little predictable. The cover art, with a greyed out background and a red pram should have been my first clue, after the recent trend for stories with unreliable narrators which feature cover art showing red umbrellas or red raincoats. I guessed each twist in the story without being surprised by any, which was doubly disappointing as the writing itself was good and the story well told. However, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by this author in the past, so won’t let my disappointment with this story put me off reading other of their works.

Watching You by Michael Robotham


Watching You is another fast and enjoyable read by Michael Robotham, although I wasn’t as tempted to stay up all night reading this as I have been with some of his other books.

The story follows a single mother of two, Marnie Logan, whose husband Daniel mysteriously disappeared a year ago. Marnie is working as an escort to pay off a gambling debt incurred by Daniel before his disappearance. When a gangster who pimps for Marnie dies, she is investigated by the police.

Marnie is a heroine who we like and feel sorry for, and as the story unfolds, become concerned for her wellbeing. She is under the care of a clinical psychologist, Doctor Joe O’Loughlin for depression, but Joe is also interested in learning more about Marnie’s complicated past. Historically, people who have done the wrong thing by Marnie have been punished in extraordinarily vindictive ways although it is unclear if Marnie is the perpetrator, or if someone else is acting on her behalf.

The plot is complicated with plenty of twists. During the first few chapters I suspected someone and something and felt very clever until I realised that the author had been playing me! It turns out that I believed what the author wanted me to all along! When I figured out exactly who to be worried about – once the author was ready for me to know, I then had the worry of watching if everyone would be okay…

Most of Michael Robotham’s earlier books feature Joe and another character, Vincent Ruiz, but I’ve been reading them out of order. Watching You worked as a stand-alone, but I intend to read the rest of the series in order.


Life or Death by Michael Robotham


I started reading Life or Death by Australian author Michael Robothamon on the train to work, and on arriving at Flinders Street Station seriously considered calling in sick to ride the trains all day while I finished the story. Because I am a responsible member of society I went to work, but read at lunchtime, again on the train home, and then sat up in bed half the night until I finished.

Life or Death won the 2015 Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award, and I liked this story even better than The Wreckage, which I read last year.

The big mystery of Life or Death is why Audie Palmer, who has been in jail in Texas for over ten years for armed robbery, would escape from prison the day before he was due to be released. The story starts with a flashback to Audie’s childhood, when Audie was fishing and learning life lessons from his father. As a result, the reader is on Audie’s side of the story from the beginning, even though we soon learn that as well as him being a criminal on the run, four innocent people died during the armed robbery.

Audie is helped by some kind-hearted people who probably would have reported him for the reward had they realised who he was, as he makes his way to Houston with a posse of police, FBI agents and gangsters on his tail.

The combination of wondering where the missing seven million dollars from the armed robbery got to, and why Audie, who seems to have selfless and kind nature but was involved in a crime which killed four people was driving me crazy with curiosity, and the more I read, the more questions I had.

Audie is the biggest underdog I’ve ever come across in a story, but time and time again he scraped out of dire situations.

He was regularly beaten in prison by people who wanted to get their hands on the money, he had a no-hoper brother who led him into disaster and tarnished his reputation and he fell in love with a gangster’s moll and she with him. Not to mention that he was shot in the head during the armed robbery. Things didn’t improve much for Audie after he escaped from prison, but as the plot unravels, all of my questions were answered, although right up until the very last few pages, I could not see how this story would work out.

Each of the characters in this book become real to me in just a few sentences. Besides Audie, there is another prisoner called Moss, whose name would have been Moses except that his mother didn’t know how to spell his name, Special Agent Desiree Furness, who is fantastic at her job but patronised by the whole world because she is female and five foot nothing, a politician who is doing his best to avoid former associates, a police officer and his family and a single mother who is living in her car with her daughter.

Believable characters, exciting plot and good writing have made me a big fan of this author’s works. While I’m hanging out for the next Michael Robotham book, in the meantime, I can always go back to some of his earlier works which feature the same characters as The Wreckage, although it might be best if I save them to read on the weekends.






The Wreckage by Michael Robotham


The Wreckage is the first book I’ve read by Australian writer Michael Robotham, but it probably won’t be the last. This thriller kept me up all night, racing between a series of events in Baghdad and London, which eventually joined together in an exciting conclusion.

“Follow the money,” is the advice journalist Luca Terracini adheres to while working on a story in Baghdad, the most dangerous place on earth. Iraq is a war-zone and foreigners, including Luca’s colleagues, are just as likely to die as locals in shootings, bombings and other commonplace atrocities. Luca, who has already won a Pulitzer Prize, is chasing a story about a series of bank robberies. Enormous amounts of US dollars are regularly being stolen, but no one except Luca is interested in finding out where the money is disappearing to .

In London, a retired detective named Vincent Ruiz is robbed in a scam by a young woman named Holly Knight. Ruiz goes looking for Holly with the intentions of recovering his property. When he finds Holly, he learns that her boyfriend has mysteriously been killed and that someone else with murderous intentions is also looking for her. Ruiz becomes Holly’s protector and very soon is deeply involved in the mystery.

The story features governments with secrets, bank scandals, terrorism, blackmail and a hired assassin known only as The Courier, as well as crooked pawnbrokers and loads of other unsavoury characters. The plot is quite intricate, and I’m not sure I kept up with all of the ins and outs of the story, but it didn’t matter. I just keep racing along, trying my best to keep up.

There was a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming, but since I never manage to figure anything out until the author tells me, don’t take my word on this. Regular readers of thrillers might guess at the twist better than I can.

Michael Robotham’s writing style features loads of conversation, which I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed the fast pace and the intricacies of The Wreckage. I would have liked to learn more about one of the character’s ability to know when someone is lying to her, as this seems to me to be a handy skill, (although it could detract from my ability to enjoy a book without wondering if the plot is actually credible).

I will definitely be reading more books in the future by Michael Robotham, at least once I’ve had a bit of a lie-down and caught my breath back.



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