The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis

The Unbelieved Cover

Publisher: Allen & Unwin Australia (Trade Paperback – 2 August 2022)

Series: Standalone/Book One

Length: 373 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

Debuting author Vikki Petraitis delivers an impressive and deeply moving Australian thriller skilfully set around the powerful subject of sexual violence with The Unbelieved.  This is Petraitis’s first novel, which has been receiving a large amount of buzz, including some awards.  As such, I was very interested in checking it out, especially as it had a very interesting plot, and this ended up being one of the most compelling and memorable Australian debuts of 2022.

Senior Detective Antigone Pollard has spent many years investigating terrible and destructive crimes in Melbourne.  After one case goes horribly wrong, Antigone decides to seek the quieter life and moves to her grandmother’s house in the Victorian coastal town of Deception Bay, where she was raised.  However, her attempts at finding peaceful policing quickly go up in smoke when a series of drug assisted sexual attacks occur throughout Deception Bay and the neighbouring towns.

After a sting operation at the local pub reveals a suspect who attempts to drug her, Antigone believes that they have perpetrator dead to rights.  However, they are soon forced to let him go when the male witnesses to the event refuse to cooperate and her superior attempts to brush the case under the rug.  Reaching out to the community, she finds a wall of silence and shame surrounding sexual crimes in Deception Bay, which has failed to lead to any convictions in the town.

Determined to stop the attacks no matter what, Antigone continues her investigation against her superior’s wishes, and uncovers a series of attacks across town.  Attempting to break through the fears of the women of Deception Bay, Antigone and her partner begin closing on the information they need.  However, Antigone also finds herself under threat from all corners and must work swiftly before she is shut down for good.  But can she succeed before another girl is attacked, and what happens when the darkness from her past rears its ugly head again?

Wow, I was not prepared for just how good and moving The Unbelieved was going to be.  Vikki Petraitis has really shown off her skill and talented as a writer with her first book, presenting a powerful read on an extremely relevant subject that strikes the reader hard.  Featuring an exciting and very clever mystery storyline that also intensely examines violence against women in Australia, The Unbelieved is an outstanding novel that gets a full five-star rating from me.

At its centre The Unbelieved has an exceptional multifaceted narrative that follows detective Antigone Pollard as she finds herself investigating terrible events occurring around Deception Bay.  Detective Pollard initially attempts to stop a series of sexual attacks, but she soon becomes involved in several other cases while trying to fit in to the community, despite opposition from some of its male residents.  As her case develops and more victims come forward, Pollard also finds herself investigating a suspicious death, a historical murder-suicide, a series of domestic violence cases, and more.  These investigations are often hampered by her superior and problematic members of the community, and Pollard also finds herself being threatened or attacked as she attempts to do her duties.  At the same time, elements from her past in Melbourne are revealed through a series of well-crafted flashbacks that expand on her motivations and begin to bleed into her current cases, especially once a prior suspect is brought back into the light.

Petraitis takes the story in some interesting directions throughout the course of The Unbelieved, and I loved the fantastic combination of the compelling yet heartbreaking cases that are explored throughout.  This investigation angle is well balanced with the character development of the protagonist, as well as the emotional exploration of several interesting supporting characters, and you really get involved in the narrative and the character’s fates as The Unbelieved continues.  The story becomes more complex as the book unfolds, and the protagonist finds herself caught up in a devious local conspiracy that seeks to take her down at the same time.  There are some brilliant twists and reveals throughout the plot, and I loved how several of the storylines developed.  The entire book was very well paced out, and I found myself getting really absorbed in so many key elements of the plot, especially as the author blends compelling investigations with dark, emotional examinations of the victims.  This all leads to up to a moving, thought-provoking and extremely satisfying conclusion that will leave every reader caught up in the plot happy.  I particularly enjoyed the final twist that Petraitis left the story on, and the way it was hinted at through the rest of the novel was extremely clever.  I honestly had such a remarkable time reading this great narrative, and there are so many excellent story elements to enjoy within it.

Easily the most distinctive part of The Unbelieved is the author’s detailed and powerful examination of the current situation of sexual and domestic violence in Australia.  Most of the book’s plot revolves around the investigation and attempted conviction of multiple sexual predators, and the author does not hold back in showcasing just how dark and damaging these sorts of cases can be.  Multiple viewpoints of the impacts of these crimes are examined throughout The Unbelieved, and readers are in for some emotionally devastating moments as you see so many of the different aspects of them.  There is a particularly good and dramatic look at how police investigating sexual crimes are impacted, especially when they are unable to get justice for the victims.  More importantly, Petraitis spends a lot of time exploring how Australian society perceives sexual crimes, and the book is loaded up with characters who don’t see them as a big deal or attempt to blame the victim.  There are multiple interludes within The Unbelieved that show short transcripts of interviews with people involved with these crimes, either as a witness or the accused, and the unguarded and unsupportive comments they make are both enlightening and a little infuriating.  Throw in some comments and interviews by the author’s accurate depiction of a typical Australian radio shock jock, which really boil the blood, and you have an excellent depiction of some of the main issues and attitudes towards sexual crimes, such as victim blaming.  These issues become a key part of the book’s plot, especially when the system fails so many victims, and it leads to some extremely emotional and painful moments.  I felt that Petraitis did a spectacular job working this confronting subject into the plot of her novel, and it certainly gave The Unbelieved a powerful edge that is hard to ignore.

I also really appreciated Petraitis’s examination of regional towns in Australia, which proves to be a great setting for this compelling book.  Rural and remote settings are always an excellent feature of Australian fiction, and I think that Petraitis used it extremely well in The Unbelieved.  The transfer of a big-city cop to the small town she grew up in results in a great change of pace for the protagonist, and the change in priorities and issues helps to add to the narrative complexity of The Unbelieved.  The use of this small-town setting comes into play throughout The Unbelieved in multiple intriguing ways, from the constant spread of rumours, the lack of secrets, and the fact everyone knows each other, and I liked how this affected several aspects of the police investigation plot line.  However, the most important part of this setting is the wall of silence that springs up during the book.  Many people know about the sexual and domestic violence going in in Deception Bay, but are unwilling to talk for various reasons, often keeping secrets from the police.  This becomes a key complication in the investigation, and it was fascinating and moving to see the protagonist attempt to overcome it.  As such, I felt that this small-town setting worked extremely well for The Unbelieved’s plot, especially with its specific criminal focus, and it definitely enhanced the story for me.

The final thing that I need to highlight is the excellent protagonist that Petraitis works the story around in Detective Antigone Pollard.  Pollard is an emotionally charged badass who has returned to her hometown after a devastating case in Melbourne, and now finds herself amid all manner of dark criminal activity.  While she is raw from the impacts of her last case and there are some dramatic moments surrounding here, the author portrays her as a practical and very capable cop, who takes charge and starts to clean up Deception Bay.  I really do think that Petraitis hit the right balance of vulnerable and determined in Pollard, and you grow quite attached to her as the book continues, especially once you learn the full extent of her last case.  Combine Pollard with several other fantastic characters in The Unbelieved, such as her partner, Detective Senior Constable Warren “Wozza” Harvey, and her loyal dog, Waffles, as well as some slimy villains, and you have a great cast for The Unbelieved that really add to the overall quality of this remarkable book.

With her impressive debut novel, The Unbelieved, Vikki Petraitis has set herself up as an exceptional talent in the Australian crime fiction game and she is a major new author to watch out for.  The Unbelieved has an outstanding crime fiction narrative to it that does an amazing job balancing a compelling mystery storyline with powerful dive into a sensitive and highly relevant subject.  Thanks to its well-written plot, clever mystery, distinctive setting and great characters, The Unbelieved comes together perfectly, and it proves to be extremely hard to put down.  While this book might be best avoided by those readers triggered by depictions of sexual violence, I cannot recommend this powerful novel enough, and it stands as one of the better Australian crime fiction books and debuts of 2022 so far.

Amazon     Book Depository

WWW Wednesday – 24 August 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Blowback by James Patterson and Brendan Dubois (Trade Paperback)

Blowback Cover

I just started reading a particularly fun and captivating novel with the impressive Blowback.  Written by the team of the legendary James Patterson (author of such great recent books as 2 Sisters Detective Agency and Death of the Black Widow) and Brendan Dubois, Blowback is a very fun read that sees two CIA agents attempt to stop the evil machinations of an insane and brilliant American president.  I am about 50 pages into Blowback and the moment and so far I am deeply enjoying its intriguing and elaborate spy thriller plot.  I am extremely curious to see how this story develops, but this is already turning out to be a particularly awesome read.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Glacier’s Edge by R. A. Salvatore (Audiobook)

Glacier's Edge Cover

I also recently started the new fantasy epic from the iconic R. A. Salvatore, Glacier’s Edge.  The sequel to last year’s excellent Starlight Enclave, Glacier’s Edge is the second book in The Way of the Drow series, which falls into Salvatore’s larger collection of Drizzt Do’Urden books.  Glacier’s Edge follows on from the previous book which ended with several of the protagonists in mortal danger, with help very far away.  Now it will fall to their one surviving member to recruit a new force of adventurers to rescue them, while a civil war brews deep underground in the Drow home city.  I haven’t made a lot of progress with Glacier’s Edge yet, but it is shaping up to be a pretty classic Salvatore fantasy adventure.  I am deeply intrigued to see what happens to the long-running characters in this book and I am expecting some amazing things from this cool book.

Amazon     Book Depository

What did you recently finish reading?

The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis (Trade Paperback)

The Unbelieved Cover

Wow, I finished off The Unbelieved a little while ago and I am still impressed with how amazing and moving it turned out to be. Featuring an extremely powerful and addictive crime thriller narrative, The Unbelieved was one of the best Australian novels I have read this year, as well as being one of the most distinctive and captivating debuts of 2022. Vikki Petraitis wrote something particularly special with The Unbelieved and it comes very highly recommended.  Review to follow soon.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Death Masks by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Death Masks Cover

I finished Death Masks very quickly last week and it turned out to be just as epic and fun as I thought it would be.  An essential early entry in Jim Butcher’s iconic Dresden Files (check out my reviews for Storm FrontFool MoonGrave PerilSummer KnightBattle Ground and The Law), I had an absolute blast with Death Masks‘ outstanding and compelling story that saw wizard protagonist Harry Dresden caught between demons, vampires, holy knights, gangsters and more as he attempts to recover a holy artifact.  I have already reviewed this epic book (check out the link above) and ended up giving a full five-star review.  A must read for all fantasy readers and fans of this exceptional series!

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Blood Rite Cover

I was having such an incredible time with the Dresden Files series last week that the moment I finished Death Masks I immediately started listening to the next book in the series, Blood RitesBlood Rites was another outstanding entry in this great series and featured an amazing and layered narrative I had an exceptional time getting through.  This time the protagonist has to investigate a dangerous curse on an adult movie set while also opposing the machinations of two deadly groups of vampires, all the while dealing with some major family issues.  This was another ultra-impressive Dresden Files book and I swiftly got sucked into its epic tale.  Another book that is going to get a full five-star rating from me, Blood Rites is a fantastic and clever read that I cannot hype up enough.

Amazon     Book Depository

What do you think you’ll read next?

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Upgrade Cover

The next book I am planning to read is the intriguing science fiction thriller, Upgrade, by acclaimed science fiction author Blake Crouch.  Following a man who is genetically modified against his will, Upgrade has an awesome story behind it, and I am extremely eager to see how it unfolds.  I already know that Crouch is an exceptional author, and I am exceedingly curious to find out what happens in his latest book.  I have a feeling that Upgrade is going to be one of the better books of 2022 and I am very excited to get into it.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 17 August 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis (Trade Paperback)

The Unbelieved Cover

I haven’t made a lot of progress with The Unbelieved since last week, although that’s mainly because I’ve been too busy to get much reading done.  Despite that, I am still enjoying this intense Australian thriller, which has an amazing and powerful story to it.  Petraitis is achieving a lot with her debut novel, and I am getting really drawn into this intense tale about sexual violence in smalltown Australia.  I will hopefully finish The Unbelieved off in the next couple of days and I am intrigued to see how it ends.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Death Masks by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Death Masks Cover

I was in the mood for something fun and exciting this week, so I naturally dived back into Jim Butcher’s iconic Dresden Files series by finally checking out the fifth book, Death Masks.  I have been having such a good time getting into this series over the last couple of years (check out my reviews for Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Battle Ground and The Law), and I knew I would enjoy Death Masks a lot.  This outstanding read sees wizard protagonist Harry Dresden caught between demons, vampires, holy knights, gangsters and more as he attempts to recover a holy artifact.  I have actually made quite a bit of progress with this audiobook, and I am currently about halfway through it.  Death Masks is an extremely good read and I love its complex and entertaining narrative and the cool new fantasy elements it introduces.  I will probably finish this off by the end of the week, but I can already tell you it is going to get a full five-star rating from me.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

What did you recently finish reading?

Hide by Kiersten White (Audiobook)

Hide Cover

I managed to finish off one book this week, and that was the intriguing Hide by Kiersten White.  A horror thriller that sees a group of competitors attempt to survive a bizarre game of hide and seek in an abandoned amusement park, Hide was an exciting read that I rather enjoyed.  An excellent book to check out, make sure to read the linked review above.

Amazon     Book Depository

What do you think you’ll read next?

Blowback by James Patterson and Brendan Dubois (Trade Paperback)

Blowback Cover

I’ve received a ton of epic books in the last week or so, but the one I just have to read next is Blowback.  Written by the team of James Patterson and Brendan Dubois, Blowback is a very fun read that sees two CIA agents attempt to stop the evil machinations of an insane and brilliant American president.  I love the sound of this impressive thriller plot and I know that I am going to have an amazing time with it.  I have been really getting into some of Patterson’s latest books, such as 2 Sisters Detective Agency and Death of the Black Widow, and I cannot wait to see how Patterson’s collaboration with Dubois turns out.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 10 August 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis (Trade Paperback)

The Unbelieved Cover

 

Hide by Kiersten White (Audiobook)

Hide Cover

What did you recently finish reading?

The Darkening by Sunya Mara (Trade Paperback)

The Darkening Cover

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon by Daniel Jose Older (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Midnight Horizon Cover

 

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin (Trade Paperback)

Stay Awake Cover

 

Warhammer 40:000: Catachan Devil by Justin Woolley (Audiobook)

Catachan Devil Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Upgrade Cover

 

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – 18 July 2022

I have been having an absolutely fantastic couple of week for books, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time.  I am extremely keen to check out all of the books below and they should make for some amazing reads.

The Accomplice by Steve Cavanagh

The Accomplice Cover

I just received the cool new entry in Steve Cavanagh’s awesome Eddie Flynn legal thriller series, The Accomplice, which sees conman lawyer Eddie Flynn defending the wife of a notorious serial killer. I have already read this book (see review above) and it was extremely good.  Highly recommended!

 

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Stay Awake Cover

I am pretty happy to have received an advance copy of the new book from fast-rising Australian author, Megan Goldin, Stay Awake.  I have been looking forward to Stay Awake for a while, especially after enjoying Goldin’s last two novels, The Escape Room and The Night Swim, and this new book sounds particularly impressive. Featuring a trippy thriller narrative about a woman who wakes up without her memory, Stay Awake has so much potential and it is sure to be an excellent and fantastic read.

 

The Crimson Thread by Kate Forsyth

The Crimson Thread Cover

I have already started reading the next book in the haul with the powerful historical drama, The Crimson Thread by Australian author Kate Forsyth.  Set in Crete during World War II, The Crimson Thread follows two Australian soldiers and a young Cretan woman as they attempt to weather the Nazi invasion while also dealing with their own dangerous love triangle.  I am rather enjoying this books so far and I should probably finish it off in the next day or so.

 

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Upgrade Cover

I was particularly excited to receive a copy of Upgrade by the always impressive Blake Crouch, who has produced some outstanding and trippy science fiction novels recently.  This latest science fiction thriller looks at illegal genetic engineering and follows a man who has been “upgraded” into something more than human.  I already know that this book is going to be pretty damn epic and I will try and read Upgrade as soon as I can.

 

The Orphans by Fiona McIntosh

The Orphans Cover

I also received an advance copy of the new historical drama from Fiona McIntosh, who has another impressive sounding Australian novel coming out soon with The Orphans.  I have had a good time with some of McIntosh’s previous historical dramas, including The Champagne Wars, The Diamond Hunter, The Pearl Thief and The Spy’s Wife, and this new book has an interesting and moving narrative to it that will great to check out.

 

Dark Rooms by Lynda La Plante

Dark Rooms Cover

Another awesome book I just received is Dark Rooms, the new Tennison novel from the leading lady of crime fiction, Lynda La Plante.  Serving as a prequel to the Prime Suspect television series, the Tennison series has featured some amazing books so far, including Good Friday, Murder Mile, The Dirty Dozen, Blunt Force and Unholy Murder, all of which have made me a pretty major fan.  This new novel, Dark Rooms, features another intriguing murder mystery, that will not only see Tennison investigate a wealthy London family over a series of bodies, but will also feature a visit to Australia.  I am very excited to check Dark Rooms out and it is sure to be an outstanding read.

 

The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis

The Unbelieved Cover

I also received a copy of the powerful and intense debut thriller from Vikki Petraitis, The Unbelieved.  This intriguing book will follow a female detective who transfers to a small Australian town, only to discover that a dark and shocking secret waits for her there.  The Unbelieved is probably going to be the grimmest novel on this list and I am very certain it is going to be a gripping and moving read.

 

Picture You Dead by Peter James

Picture You Dead Cover

The final book on this list is the latest thriller from bestselling author Peter James, Picture You Dead.  The latest book in his Ray Grace series, Picture You Dead will see the protagonist dive into the world of fine art when a couple find a rare masterpiece and are subsequently targeted by a dangerous criminal. I haven’t had much chance to read many of James’ novels before (except his standalone book Absolute Proof), but I might try and check out Picture You Dead as it has a fascinating story to it.

 

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.