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NOEL MURPHY reviews some page-turners for holiday downtime.

CAREER OF EVIL
By Robert Galbraith

She’s back again, JK Rowling as her fictional author Galbraith, along with his fictional amputee gumshoe hero Cormoran Strike. This time round, Strike’s PA has been sent a box with a woman’s severed leg inside, throwing the pair of them into a tither.
Strike has four fiends in mind, at least one of them way too close to his personal life. As more parts appear, it becomes clear the killer, an especially nasty piece of work, is targetting Strike’s PA, Robin.
The pair’s awkward relationship, they like one another better than their partners, is front and centre throughout but the chase is as slippery and surprising as anything Rowling’s created. Ripper read.

GHOST EMPIRE
By Richard Fidler

And you thought the Roman Empire all came to a close when the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410?
Thing is, the empire had been ruled from both Rome and Constantinople for years – the latter was the actual capital from 330. True, Latin gave way to Greek, but the Roman Empire survived, as the Byzantine Empire, for another millennium after Emperor Romulus’s abdication in 476.
And Constantinople was the richest, most magnificent, city in the world for the entirety of that time. But war, turmoil, intrigues and staggering brutality were bywords for the empire, and the times.
Mighty effort by author Fidler to synthesise this staggering tale into just 453 pages.

HAMILTON HUME
By Robert Macklin

How Hume ever found his way to Geelong with Hovell navigating – he’d already sunk one ship and run another aground – is a testament to the explorer’s bush skills. But as a native-born Australian, the Brit hierarchy was reluctant to credit him ahead of Hovell.
Hume, however, had plenty of friends in high places and Hovell was stunned to find he couldn’t bluster his way out of his lacklustre performance in the great trailblazing 1824-25 overland trip from Sydney to Port Phillip.
Hume’s place in early Australian, long overlooked, is at long last redressed in this rivetting account.

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