The Lost Girls by Ava Benny-Morrison

Australian True Crime- non fiction

Library Ebook Copy- 2019

Snip20190616_2I had a hold on this book from the library and it finally popped up on my Libby app as I was about to fly home from Morocco to Tasmania.  I was happy to see it as I find movies on flights are notoriously hard to hear with engine noise and flight attendant interruptions so I settled down for the long haul and finished this book in record time.

In 2010 Dirt Bike riders came across a body in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales. As most Australian people will remember this was the state park that serial killer Ivan Millat buried the backpacker victims that he was convicted of killing and now serves terms of life in prison.  It was determined that the victim discovered in 2010 was not a part of this crime.

Five years later a young child was found in South Australia, in a suitcase alongside a highway near Adelaide.  Australians may also remember the “body in a suitcase” case at that time.

The author follows this crime from the beginning of the discovery of the woman’s body in 2010 until the end of 2018. The crime is uncovered early in the book. The story is not so much about the crime but about how people’s lives can change in an instant or over time due to the experiences they have  in life or the people they meet and worse, might fall in love with.  I found the psychology behind the characters in this story to be fascinating. Of course drug abuse enters the picture and makes it even worse.

Domestic violence, jealousy, loyalty, betrayal, poverty are all themes in this book. As a result of these issues and how they combine equals a very tragic tale indeed.

The journalistic writing of this story and the lives of these two people is excellent. The story is revealed in a very straight forward way without sensationalism.  The author and the reader really cares about these people. It is interesting to see how a murderer is made in this instance. It begins with negligent parents and abuse of a small boy and leads to tragedy and misery that involves many families over the course of a couple of generations.

Ava Benny-Morrison is a crime reporter for The Daily Telegraph covering New South Wales and Queensland. This is her first book.

I kept thinking as I read it, “What if the parents had been loving and understanding” to this young boy….. Would it have happened?  Many people do suffer traumatic childhoods and never go near committing a murder but it isn’t unreasonable to see how the various experiences of all the characters in this book end up with the results of their lives.

The book doesn’t go into gory detail over the cases until the wrap up at the end during the trial. Of course all the details must be revealed during the trial.  This is not a book for those who don’t want to know specific details.  The first 90% of the book is about the lives of everyone around the victims in this case. But the last 10% does bring it all into focus as the conclusion and repercussions are reached.

When we often hear so many stories of corrupt police officers and justice gone astray because of it, the story is also a tribute to the officers who did their job and the really good communication between authorities in four states that culminated in the solving of this case.

If this is a genre you find interesting then I can recommend it. If you prefer a more gentle read don’t pick it up. I must say though I barely noticed the extreme turbulence of my flight while this book was in my hand. I read and read and read. I could not put it down. Snip20181111_4

Sunday Salon…16 June

Snip20190515_3I have noticed quite a few book blogs participate in Sunday Salon.  I’m sorry but I don’t know who it originated with. It’s not my idea though.  It is a recap of the week of the blogger where they get a chance to sit with friends, maybe have a coffee in hand and chat about how their week went regarding their interests, mainly books, but also life. I have thought of adding it to my blog so today is the day I begin…

I arrived home from Morocco on Thursday night very jet lagged.  It is a long haul flying to Australia from that part of the world.  I slept off and on for three days and have now emerged quite refreshed. Going from a very high heat to a wintry Tasmania hasn’t helped either.

I will post photos up in the coming weeks but wanted to touch base with people who are interested in life in Tassie.

I managed to read two books during my 25 day tour. I finished off The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan in audio version, mainly on long bus rides as we toured Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I enjoyed this book but if you are one of the few that haven’t read it yet I suggest you read a copy of it and not listen to the audible version.  The audio version uses quite cartoon like character voices in the narration of this story and it grated on my nerves at times. I noticed later on, when reading reviews on Good Reads the same comments were made regarding audible. I should have listened to the sample reading first. I will in future.

Author Amy Tan

It is the story of four generations of women from China as their lives evolved and followed the youngest generation as she ends up in the United States. It was mainly depicted realistically I thought most of the time. Living in multi-cultural Australia, it is obvious to see how a new generation finds it easier as they have the English language to assimilate more easily. The first generation in a new country has many obstacles to overcome but future generations are the ones who learn the language and cultural ways of the new country. This can create difficulties between the parents and their children as each learn to understand the cultural differences within their own family as this growth develops.

Magda Szubanski highlights this as well in her book Reckoning as her family get used to Australian life  having immigrated from Poland.

The other difficulty I had with the book is the way the narration jumps around. I found it very distracting. I would be well and truly involved in one character’s life then it would switch to another person in another time in another country.  It was difficult at times, especially with an audio book, where I couldn’t flip back through pages to determine whose story was being told.  The great grandmother? The grandmother? The mother?  I would have preferred a narrative from one generation to the next in sequence but after rewinding the book a few times I was able to determine who was speaking.

I don’t think it is a great book as many on Good Reads seem to think but it was an interesting story that held my attention most of the time when I wasn’t being distracted by travel. I may have rated it higher if I were at home, reading comfortably in a chair for a prolonged period of time on a rainy day.

I’ll write about the second book I read on the flight home in a day or so. I enjoyed it much more but it was a completely different type of book. More to come on that soon.

I am happy to be home and it was fun to see my dogs explode in place when they realised I was back.  Even our cats followed me around for a couple of days.  It is now time to enjoy the winter months of Tasmania and look forward to the next journey the end of September. Hope this finds everyone doing well. Camera Penguin

Street Scenes from a Bus in Lisbon, Portugal

I like taking phone photos from a bus or train when travelling. I thought I’d share a few here.

Woman opening shop for the day
Town Square
Red plus shadow
Empty building, bathtub full of stuffed toy sardines. Portugal famous for sardines
Iconic scene of clothes hanging from buildings
Tram lines.
Church side of monastery
City streets lined with trees


Best custard tarts on earth.

Book Fair in Lisbon with the Penguin and friends.

Driving into Lisbon on our tour bus we noticed a very large exhibition happening in a park. Turns out that park is five minutes from our hotel and the exhibition is a book fair. There were tents and stalls set up everywhere surrounded by beautiful Jacaranda trees in full bloom. After our morning city tour and a tour through the monastery and eating the best cream tarts in the world three of us headed out to look at what it is all about. I might add it is 36 degrees C outside and feels hotter.

This book fair has been held for 89 consecutive years in Lisbon without fail. Thank goodness that most books are in Portuguese so I was not tempted to buy any. Most stalls featired new books but we did see a couple of places selling antiquarian books. Many educational resources also for school children. We spent close to an hour looking at everything but without much shade and too much cement ground cover the intense mid afternoon heat won out and we headed back to the hotel about 15 to 20 minutes away. It was certainly a fun experience. I enjoyed seeing the different covers on familiar titles. Here are the photos. The fair goes from mid May to mid June. One month of books!

Walking across the park to fair
The setup


Interesting cover
Cute poster
Book seller
Another different cover
More covers
Children being read to and practising language lesson
More books
Another poster
One book seller liked the Penguin and pulled out books with a penguin for him. I had to laugh.
Games and books
Another penguin book for guess who.
Yes, he’s on a roll.
Welcome cold beer back at the hotel.

Coimbra, Portugal

As  expected this trip has been full on and not much time to post anything. Also very tired at end of today. We are at Coimbra, Portugal on the way to Lisbon. You will need to google it if inerested. Today we had free time from 12 :30 through the evening. I actually got to sleep 2 hours this afternoon so feel good enough to pop up a post.

We did a city tour this morning. There is an old (1700s) university here and we got to visitt the library. So fascinating. A couple of floors of very old books but no photos allowed on upper floor but could take some on the lower floor.

They have a first edition Shakespeare copy of Hamlet. The walls are 2 meters thick and to get rid of silverfish eating these old tomes they have a couple of openings in the wall to let in tiny bats that live here. I saw them flying around my hotel window last night. The bats fly into the library and eat the silverfish. All the old wooden tables are covered up nightly and a cleaner comes in each morning to clean up bat droppings. The library is still used by researchers and PhD students.

After that we walked around the touristy area of the city, heading down hill towards the river and back to our hotel. Here are a set of miscellaneous photos.

Knick knacks
Man at the table next to us at cafe
Loved my hot chocolate cup.
Street art.
Street entertainer. He was hilarious.
Founder of university. Didn’t catch his name but like his scholarly look.
Penguin found some stationery at the university
Library where photos were allowed.





Barcelona..Travellin’ with the Penguin

Sunday 19th May

This morning I met Glynnis, ftom Perth, who was at breakfast and participating in our small tour. Our meeting drinks are tonight when we meet the others and the guide.

I woke at 4:00 am as young people poured out of clubs, drunk,  singing sporting songs as loud as they could, fully lubed. Sporting songs sound the same in any language.

I fell asleep very early last night and felt rested. Once it got light, around 5:45 I walked around the block and took photos. Several people with their well oiled mates stopped and posed for me. It was very funny.

After breakfast my Florida friend and my new friend, Glynnis and I set out to explore Las Ramblas street. A popular tourist destination. We walked a long ways down the street until we hit water. Overall I walked 10 kms today. I will leave you with some of the photos.

Markets, families, tourists, balloons
Colourful cafes
Art and statues
Street entertainer, Don Quixote
Penguin and I share a beer.
When Mr P and I travel I always take a photo of his first beer of the trip. He’s home with pets so I had to do it for him. Here’s to Mr Penguin.


Have Arrived in Barcelona

Those who live in Australia will understand the no man’s land that is “travelling to Europe”. One hour from Hobart to Melbourne, 14 hours to Abu Dhabi, a couple more airport hours then seven hours to Barcelona. It does seem never ending but I did watch three movies, read some of The Joy Luck Club and dozed a bit.

My bags stayed right with me and Penguin jumped out completely unscathed.

I met up with my Florida friend who arrived a couple of hours after I did and waited in my room while the hotel got her room ready.

We were a bit hungry so walked across the street and found a nice bakery with beautiful pastries, sandwiches and pizza. They also had nice coffee. It feels like it should be midnight but is only around noon.

Next door to the bakery is a beautiful book store. We noticed it immediately. No flies onnus. We headed straight into it. Too tired and flaky to notice the name of it but we are in this hotel until Wednesday so might remember to look at it. Our tour group of no more than 20 people begins Sunday night with a welcome drink. I’m having fun teasing my American friend who joined us from Florida who will be amongst all the Australians.

I will put photos at the end of my posts as I’m using my tablet and it doesn’t seem possible to configure images. You might have giant images with little writing. Here are a couple of photos.

The camera bag and home for Penguin are ready
Hobart airport
Leaving Abu Dhabi
The beautiful little journals I found in the book store. Penguin got right onto them.
Yes, this photo is fuzzy. It’s how we are seeing things at the moment.

Don’t believe all those glossy, glorious photos you see of people travelling on Instagram. The reality is not that fresh. Until later…