Tag Archives: Hachette


This is a terrific book, with a distinctive Australian voice from the opening page. It is at times witty and sarcastic, terrifically written. The characters are delineated superbly. The book features shrewd, ingenious prose and dialogue. It captures life during the Covid pandemic and its repercussions – we see Simon battling his troubles. It is divided into 44 short chapters and a prologue. Set right now in Melbourne, it is all described from Simon’s point of view.

Once a rather successful architect who ran a small firm, Simon is now unemployed, and has turned into a depressed house husband couch potato. Everything is a blur. He seeks fulfilment but this particular week’s events derail everything. We feel much sympathy for Simon’s predicament.

He is uxorious, glorying in his wife Tansy, and absolutely loves his children, Mia and Lachie. He attempts to develop a deeper relationship with his children now Tansy is the one working and earning. Forced to sell and move from their own much loved home to a squashed rented flat, we see how contemporary life has affected the Larsens. Is their marriage unravelling? And is Tansy hiding secrets from him ? Who can he trust? Themes running throughout the book include sibling rivalry, tensions within a marriage and parental competency.

The eponymous Schnabels are his in-laws, Tansy’s family- her annoying siblings Nick, a mummy’s boy and a handsome footy star, and Kylie, uncivil, forthright and power hungry, her overwhelming, controlling, outspoken mother, Gloria, and a totally unexpected half-sister, Moira, whose sudden appearance for David’s (Gloria’s ex husband , father of Nick , Kylie and Tansy’s) memorial service creates massive disruption.

Simon has a task to complete – he has a week to landscape Naveen’s , a friend’s, garden for the memorial service. Can he do it? What can go wrong?

DINNER WITH THE SCHNABELS is warm and quintessentially Australian yet extensively engaging. Enjoy!


Featured image : Australian novelist Toni Jordan



‘Welcome to a story of greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.’

No , don’t cue the musical Chicago rather this is an absorbing but shocking and bloodthirsty book about the world’s first superpower , a scholarly depiction of life and times under the Achaemenid kings of Persia ( now Iran) who were absolute ,autocratic kings. The empire was huge , including Egypt , Pakistan , Ethiopia and Libya as well as the Steppes of  Asia .The pulsating centre of the Empire was the almost mythical city and palace of Persepolis , where the  Achaemenid monarchs opulently , ruthlessly ruled and controlled. It is divided into three parts of 22 chapters, with a Prologue , Introduction and Epilogue It has a list of dramatis personae and further reading , both black and white and colour illustrations and there is an extensive index .The wonderful book covers roughly 700 years , up to 323 BCE .Famous names includes Darius, Xerxes ,Cyrus and Alexander the Great .

Llewellyn-Jones tries to tell the story giving us the ‘Persian Version ‘of  history where possible , using Persian tablets, notes, stone carvings , sealing rings ,inscriptions, cuneiform tablets, art, the Cyrus Cylinder and archaeology as an alternative to the ‘ accepted’ Western biased version , because until now for centuries Western understanding of the ancient Persian kings has always been heavily influenced by histories written by Greek scholars such as Herodotus . What actually happened ?.Is Herodotus wrong ? What Persian sources ( if any ) still exist ?

He also at various times shows how the history of Persia is linked to various books of the Bible (eg the Books of Esther and Malachi, and prophets Jeremiah Ezra and Nehemiah ) .Judah became a province of Persia and the rebuilding of Jerusalem is mentioned .


Llewellyn-Jones looks at the bloodthirsty rise of the assorted kings and the establishment of the huge empire. He also looks at art , the building of temples and so on. We also learn about finance, coinage and tribute from the various areas they governed .He also considers the postal service of the time , the mountains of administration documents produced . As well, he examines life at court and social etiquette, What was life like when one was a woman at court ? And if you were a eunuch ? Or a slave from a conquered region? The author also discusses medical and religious practices and what languages were used (giving rise to an ancient version of today’s Farsi ) .

Huge inscriptions at Mount Bisitun are mentioned, recording Darius 1” s ascension to the throne. Much is made of excavations at Persepolis and the cities of Babylon and Susa for example .

Life at court could be deadly as the Achaemenids were a largely maladjusted family. As in ancient Egypt, (which at one point was part of the Persian Empire) ,rulers married nieces , daughters or widows of brothers. But there was fratricide high ranking wives and concubines surreptitiously schemed to ensure that their son became king, and courtiers and eunuchs also struggled for prominence and control.The interlinking family relationships can be quite complicated and perhaps confusing .Murder, revenge , betrayal , treason and poisoning are discussed as are some of the gruesome and gory punishments meted out ( sometimes to poor innocent people) . The Persian kings were ruthless and we learn of the various war crimes committed – killing numerous civilians, destruction of various temples and major cities ..

And then there are all the major battles listed, particularly with the conquering of Egypt and Greece for example – just to mention the battles of Pasargardae, Cunaxa ,Salamis , Platea ,Thermopylae ,etc

Later in the book Llewellyn-Jones discusses the rise of Greece and Macedon , with Philip and then Alexander the Great who died in 353 BCE . In 651 the ruling Sasanian Empire fell and Iran became Islamic.

The Epilogue of the book takes us through to 2016 .IN 1971 the Shah of Iran launched the Year of Cyrus the Great , but Llewyn-Jones points out how much of the celebrations , numbers of VIPS etc were Western!  Then in 1979 came the Iranian Islamic Revolution , which attempted to obliterate all this ancient Persian history and concludes with the 2016 protests against the Islamic enforcement and the rise of the use of the image of Cyrus , very popular in particular with younger people .

‘Antiquity is not dead it is vital ‘

ISBN: 9781472277299
ISBN-10: 1472277295
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: 12th April 2022
Publisher: Headline
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.4  x 3.6
Weight (kg): 0.58
Edition Number: 1






Set in Paris in 2015 and 2016 , this  excellent book by Amanda Bestor-Siegal opens grittily like a sudden TV news alert with the mysterious death of a nine year old French boy, Julien. The family’s American au pair Alena is accused , but is she falsely arraigned – so what really happened?

The book is set in the world of young American au pairs working for rich French families in Paris, in particular the posh , wealthy suburb of Maisons-Larue, before, during and just after the 2016 terrorist attacks.

There are six main character ‘voices ‘we meet, learning about their lives before the incident. The au pairs slip away to the clubs and cafes of the city centre while the rich, embittered wives seek notice from their aloof, seemingly always away husbands and sample revenge. Continue reading THE CARETAKERS : A GRIPPING, ATMOSPHERIC READ



A sad story about love, loss, regret, guilt, a long strained marriage, what it takes to be a writer and the fluidity of time and memories. This is all blended in with a ghostly tale …

This excellently written book by Elisabeth Lowry is set in 1912. One day in November 1912 the famous aging author Thomas Hardy, (Tess of the D’Urbervilles , Jude the obscure ) progressively and bitterly becoming alienated from his wife Emma, discovers her dying in her bedroom. By the time he calls her name and holds her, she has passed .

Hardy, buried in the rhythm of his writing , books and papers , is totally crushed and in shock .He has been unable to write anything for his publishers , and is already suffering writer’s block. The book follows Hardy’s suffering and despair which is exacerbated by his discovery of Emma’s journal, which turns out to be a portrait of a most unhappy marriage. Continue reading THE CHOSEN : A SAD, SOMBRE TALE


A breathless, captivating art heist thriller that is also about the purpose of art and the sense of identity . Who owns art stolen by conquerors? This book deals with Chinese art but the same applies here in Australia with art by the First Peoples as an example. It is divided into three ‘Acts’ and written in short gulps of the 68 chapters with each of the five main character’s voices .

It all begins when Harvard art history student Will Chen observes an audacious smash-and-grab at the University’s museum; the thieves disappear with objects that were stolen from China centuries before. In the tumult Will appropriates a small jade figure. One of the thieves observes this, calling it a “nice lift,” and slips him the business card of a Chinese business mogul and billionaire, Wang Yuling, of shadowy mega company China Poly, who later enlists Will into the world of art theft. Continue reading PORTRAIT OF A THIEF : A CAPTIVATING ART HEIST THRILLER



More fodder for the Kennedy conspiracy canon as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of JFK in Dallas, November 22, 1963.

Former Australian detective, Colin McLaren, takes up the conspiracy cudgel in the cold case of the century and presents the provocatively titled JFK THE SMOKING GUN (Hachette).

Spurred on by the remainder binned MORTAL ERROR by Bonar Menninger based on research by ballistics boffin Howard Donahue, McLaren was appalled by the lack of basic police procedural displayed on that dastardly day and the glaring omissions that make the Warren Commission Report the work of fiction that Woody Allen has attributed it as.

Five little words that had remained unchallenged for forty five years – There has been an accident – were reportedly uttered by Secret Service Agent Hill to Bobby Kennedy on the day Jack was shot. Certainly Lee Harvey Oswald was not an accidental path that day in Dealy Plaza – he was out to kill the president.

Those five words, together with fellow Secret Service Agent Kellerman’s complete disregard for forensic science, left in their wake a host of unanswered questions and the lingering stench of a cover-up.

McLaren serves up a suet of incompetence pertaining to the squad tasked with the protection of the President. He paints a picture reminiscent of James Elroy’s description of booze and sex addled bozos not so secret in their irresponsible service of body guarding their Commander in Chief.

The evidence is compelling that a good many of the contingent motorcade protectors were nursing severe hangovers as Lee Harvey unleashed a confusion that culminated in the killing of Kennedy.

Their individual headaches shrunk into insignificance compared to the headache endured by JFK that day, an unimaginable mortal migraine as his skull was smashed and his brain decimated and disseminated over Jacquie’s pink pillbox and suit.

Jackie is also attributed with “Oh, my God, they have killed my husband.”

JFK THE SMOKING GUN is a well researched, well documented book, if a tad padded, and gives a credible conclusion to what may have happened that dastardly day in Dallas half a century ago. It’s as much a vindication of Donahue’s work and Menninger’s book as a bone pointing exercise. And, see you later, litigator, the agent named died in 2011.

Whether you buy into the theory or not, the book gives cause to reflect what has gone down in the past fifty years and what might have been different had Kennedy not been killed.