H-Q Fiction, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises, a subsidiary of HarperCollins, Australia, 2022
Cover illustration and design by George Saad
The second in Poppy McGowan crime fiction series is as entertaining and cleverly constructed as the first, Digging Up Dirt. It’s a romping, fast paced story of family, fame and money, with smart digs at trash media and references to several important social issues neatly woven in.
Once again, Poppy is thrust into her crime investigation role when Daisy, an old friend of Poppy’s Aunt Mary, is injured in her ritzy retirement village apartment. It soon appears obvious that this has been an attack not an accident. Daisy and Mary have a colourful past together when, as young women in the sixties, they did that Aussie thing and went adventuring to London.
Not only that, but it transpires that a big international rock star Nathan Castle, is Daisy’s son. And, he happens to be in Australia when the attack occurs.
When other members of Daisy’s family arrive from England, the story immediately gets deliciously complicated.
Meanwhile, Poppy’s love interest Tol is preparing for his trip to Jordan (raised in the previous novel) and Poppy is torn between wanting to join him there on the dig and nagging misgivings about the permanency of their relationship.
Poppy is busy with her day job, too, as an ABC Children’s TV researcher and in this capacity she comes across Esmerelda, a student of Tol’s and an aspiring photographer. Esmerelda is a bit of a loose cannon and this gets her into all sorts of trouble.
By this time the author has provided us with a considerable array of suspects and suspicions, a couple more crimes, police involvement, a distinctly dodgy apartment complex manager, a subplot with Patience Carter (also from the previous novel) and a twisted maze of family dramas. It’s the perfect recipe for the reader as we follow Poppy down many a false and dangerous path.
Poppy is a wonderful character, bold, bright and forthright, a crusader for justice, possessed of solid values taken from her family’s ethos, but still rebellious against some aspects of her Catholic upbringing. She’s just the sort of storybook heroine we aspire to be.
What makes this sort of cosy crime fiction so enjoyable is its relevance to contemporary life. Pamela Hart tackles important issues like the good and the bad manifestations of social media, the ugly and the ethical faces of regular big media, the pull of fame and its deficits, the plight of the severely disabled in seeking adequate lifelong care, the way we are formed by our family values, and love with all its compromises.
Pamela Hart writes with deceptively easy fluency. The dialogue is smart and acts as a plot advancer. Poppy’s musings do the same thing whilst often throwing the reader a red herring. The minor characters are not allowed to hide their lights under bushels either – Charlie the bodyguard is a particular favourite in this book.
This author is adept at plot twisting and we are holding our breath to the last for a solution. It’s very satisfying fiction and I can hardly wait for Poppy’s upcoming adventure in Jordan.
Thank you to HarperCollins for my review copy and Pamela for our fabulous book chat.