First Published 2011 by Pan Macmillan Australia
After the brain-rearranging Brenda Walker book I was crying out for something that wasn’t literary. And for personal reasons I have chosen a Tara Moss book, because Moss is the author I love to hate, much the way Miles Franklin loved to hate Mary Gilmore. Now while I am in no way comparing my writing with Franklin’s, I can definitely compare my professional envy.
I was 27 and had only recently gotten my first rejection for my first book, when this model turned author (gak! gak! gak!) first became famous. At that time she was still working on Fetish, which I did read some years later, once I’d put aside most of the envy. The rest of it disappeared on reading the book, which while competent, was not something that was so good I wanted to read another. (I did not have the desire to read another Phryne Fisher book either). There was also a realisation that Moss, having had a few marketing advantages, would have had to work harder to earn her place as an author.
And worked she has. She has now put out nine novels, has a daughter with her second husband and still does the odd photo-shoot. And, from her blog, which was a finalist in the Best Australian Blogs 2013 Competition, “She has earned her private investigator credentials (Cert III) from the Australian Security Academy and is currently undertaking a Doctorate of Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.” And “has been an ambassador for the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children since 2000, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2007 and UNICEF Patron for Breastfeeding for the Baby Friendly Heath Initiative (BFHI) since 2011, advocating for better support for breastfeeding mothers in hospital, the workforce and general community.” At this rate she might end up on a ten dollar note too!
In the meantime I have done little more than breastfeed for a number of years and advance a few levels in a few Facebook games. I did finally self-publish my little book electronically last year, and have begun several other books, but nothing is quite ready for the public yet. When I’m not making excuses I tell myself I am letting my writing mature, as if it were wine or cheese. At this rate I’m on track to be an old cheese by the time I have gotten somewhere.
Oh, the book. Yes. And that reminds me that Tara Moss was also the catalyst that inspired Elizabeth Lhuede to start the Australian Women Writers Challenge, so I wouldn’t even be writing all this if it weren’t for Moss. Sigh.
Anyhoo, I decided to try one of her supernatural novels, a genre I don’t read, in fact I am quite unsettled by the way supernatural stuff has infiltrated the lives of young children, with Monster High, Poison Apple books etc, vampires and their ilk seem to be everywhere. (Never mind the fact that I’ve quite happily read a paranormal book from my own childhood to my children at least a dozen times – remember The Bump in the Night by Anne Rockwell?)
The central character of the series is a young woman named Pandora English, who has recently moved to New York to live with her eccentric great-aunt who lives in a big house full of ghosts and vampires, in a suburb that regular people can’t even find. Pandora has the unusual gift of being able to perceive the undead, a rather unsettling gift, but she is stuck with it whether she likes it or not. The aunt also hints that it is Pandora herself who is stirring up things in the spiritual realm, as there is something rather special about her. In the real world though, Pandora is just a dogsbody working for a fashion magazine named Pandora.
After reading a few lines of this book in the car, I knew I had to close it and go to my favourite place to read, bed, bringing along a cup of tea, which was a good sign. I liked Pandora and how down to earth she was, having no delusions about her station in life.
In every cosy mystery or adventure series, I have always liked the bits at the start and end of the book, before and after the action takes place. As a kid I liked these parts of the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton, and later on in the Harry Potters and the Agatha Raisins by MC Beaton. What keeps me reading the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books is the many cups of red bush tea drunk by Mma Ramotswe. So Moss has done well in prolonging her character’s everyday life for as long as possible before the action goes up a notch.
I was also glad to find that Moss hasn’t overdone the sexual tension thing, which can get very boring after a few books – the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is a good example. And let’s face it, I adored Lieutenant Luke, and wouldn’t mind someone like him in my life. Of course my dead hubby is out there somewhere, and he did visit me a few times after he died, but the problem with real life and death is that after the early months have passed the visitations seem to dry up, and you are left as bereft as ever.
But Lieutenant Luke looks like he is in the series to stay which is good, because I got a feeling of safety when his character was with Pandora, not like the scatty witchy aunt who had the annoying habit of always being out whenever there was danger about.
And yet, and yet. Two thirds of the way through I found I was looking at the thickness of the pages left to read, which is neither here or there if you don’t want a book to end, but I found that I did. And giving it a couple of weeks before typing all this up, I must say once again that I am in no hurry to read another. The writer may have improved over the years, but there is still not enough magic here. Now that’s not to say that everyone will have the same reaction as I did, but like Marianne in Sense and Sensibility, I require so much!