Book Jacket


rank  Editors Pick
word count 14405
date submitted 03.02.2012
date updated 09.03.2014
genres: Fiction, Crime
classification: adult

Strange Bodies

Tonia Marlowe

Tortured, murdered … the bodies of the Richardsons hang from a tree deep in the forests of the Blue Mountains..


Unaware of the couple's fate, Verity Burne researches their puzzling background for an exposé TV show.

With local police stymied, former Scotland Yard Commander, Nicholas Adams and his team, are called in. Recruited from London after losing his family in the Food Riots of 2064, Adams finds Australia scientifically advanced, though the price paid is monitoring by the central computer BigSys and the pervasive eyes of cameras that cover so much of the country. Petty crime may be obsolete but people will always find ways to commit murder.

But it will take more deaths before the links between eight murders are recognised, links that lead to the discovery of past injustices and a thirst for bloody vengeance. And Nick will need Verity's expertise to help unravel the twisted mind of a clever killer.

This is Australia of 2067, an oasis in a world which has barely survived climate change, terrorism and food wars. Our future? Perhaps.


AUTHOR'S NOTE. Strange Bodies has been published by NSN Books (UK). It is available on Amazon for an amazingly low price!

rate the book

to rate this book please Register or Login



abduction, artificial intelligence, australia, blackmail, cairns, computers, corruption, detectives, end of oil, england, famine, floods, futuristic, ...

on 3 watchlists



To leave comments on this or any book please Register or Login

subscribe to comments for this book
HarperCollins Wrote


Plot Summary (based on 18 chapters of 23 supplied; final 12 with author):
Australia, 2067. A world in the aftermath of ecological disaster, terrorism and food wars. Australia is now scientifically advanced but the price paid is monitoring by the central computer BigSys and restrictions on public freedom. A man walking his dog in a secluded wooded area makes a gruesome discovery – the bodies of a wealthy couple are hanging from a tree, murdered and showing signs of sadistic torture. As the police start to unpick the case it appears that the couple may not have been all that they seem. Nicholas Adams and his team are recruited from London to help DCI Kerry Jacobsen solve the case whilst Verity Burne researches the couple for an exposé TV show. Is this the work of a serial killer?

Genres & Similar Authors: From the premise, gritty crime with a post-apocalyptic edge (though this isn’t quite where we end up).

First Impressions: The opening chapters of this novel draw the reader in immediately with a shocking opening scene and good descriptive writing.

Where would this sit in the market?: Mass market modern crime.

There are several things that I struggled within this novel:

1) The futuristic setting

I am not entirely sure why this novel has been set in the future. From the excerpt that I have read, setting this story 50-60 years in the future brings little to the plot itself, apart from the opportunity to introduce high-tech gadgets. In fact, the advances in technology in 2067 seem to be solely to personal gadgetry. Verity has a computerized home security system that she can instruct to program different levels of protection, make her coffee and give her the day’s weather report. Police officers have a tiny personal computer capable of having holographic conference calls and projecting crime scene photos to screens all over the room. Cars can be set to drive themselves or hover over difficult terrain. In contrast, a full autopsy report takes over two weeks and is still incomplete – toxins in the blood can’t be identified, there is no information on the type of weapon used to stab the victims, there is uncertainty about whether the female victim has been raped or not. There are references to the prevalence of cameras and the high levels of surveillance by BigSys and yet the police are reliant on an elderly man’s old computer system and land maps to find an access road to an abandoned house where they believe the murders may have been carried out. There is also little to indicate that daily life has been or is being affected by the ecological disasters that are mentioned as backdrop to this story. Indeed, I was left wondering HOW all of these advances had been made, if the world is meant to be in recovery from the devastation of climate change, terrorism and food riots.

From what I have read, I think the novel could work just as well if it were set in the present day. Alternatively, the author could look at ways to really ramp up the tech side – if a woman can program a house to protect and feed her, what advances would have been made in the technology used to fight and solve crimes? What is the impact on daily life of the disasters of the previous years?

2) The treatment of female characters

I found the treatment of female characters to be very sexist. Each female character is appraised physically by the male characters as soon as she is introduced, informing the reader if she is regarded as attractive or not before anything else. The contribution of Holly Vaughan and Dr Rainbird, a police woman and medical examiner, at the crime scene, is a discussion about a woman’s glossy magazine where the Richardsons were discussed. The body of Adelaide Browne, the TV presenter due to interview the Richardsons, is mentioned repeatedly (almost every time she is in a scene) and Verity, set up as a protagonist at the start of the novel, is soon referenced only through the eyes of the police officers who are attracted to her. The roles of the female characters are also reductive – for example, Mrs Halifax, Nicholas’s long-term work partner, is repeatedly referred to as brilliantly intelligent, diligent and indispensible, but her primary task seems to be providing the men with hot coffee and homemade cakes and biscuits whenever the police chief requests it. When she speaks to a man it is assumed that she is attracted to him and her potential romantic liaisons are giggled over by the male officers repeatedly throughout the novel. By chapter 18 the constant references to how attractive the male characters found the women and the lack of value placed on the contribution of the women to the case really starts to grate and, seeing as surveys in the last couple of years have revealed women to be the primary readers of crime fiction, I think this is an area that needs work. What is the author trying to bring to the story by doing this and is there another way to do it?

3) The love stories

This point leads on from the previous one, really. The novel starts off as a hard-hitting crime novel but, by the end of chapter 18, it resembles more of a rom com, with the crime/future aspects sidelined in favour of prolonged discussions between the male characters (hard boiled cops!) about which woman they are most attracted to and who they think their friends fancy. I am not sure why the sexual attraction element moves so far into centre stage – indeed, there are whole periods during meetings that are meant to be about progressing the case (such as when Nicholas meets Adelaide, Verity and co at Adelaide’s house to discuss the story they had planned about the Richardsons) when the story turns firmly away from the crime narrative and focuses on Nicholas being unable to control his infatuation with Verity (who he has only just met). Equally, at the same meeting, his partner spends the entire time catching up with an ex-girlfriend. How important are these love stories to the plot? Do they require such prominence? In this current draft they are in real danger of diluting the seriousness of the crime storyline, which in turn could make it difficult to target this at a specific audience.

4) ‘Interludes’

These excerpts provide backgrounds to characters and background information about the world that the story is set in but currently they feel a bit clunky. Is there a better way to communicate this information? Could it be set up as reports or newspaper articles? Or could it be worked into the main text? For example, before we are introduced to Nicholas Adams in London, there is an ‘interlude’ that describes the ecological and manmade disasters that have occurred across the globe in the last 30 years and the impact that this has had on the present day. Could this narrative perhaps be weaved into Nicholas’s own story and communicated to the reader that way?

There are some really promising things in this work:

1) Descriptive writing

The opening chapters of this novel really are very well written. The reader is instantly drawn in by the crime scene and the author quickly builds the world around the crime, particularly as we move to Verity’s house and follow her journey to work. The writing is tight and visual.

2) Characterisation

There are also some well written characters here. Jim Lawrence, the bumbling old boy with his dog, who finds the bodies, is wonderfully believable and his voice is well crafted. The character of Adelaide Browne is brilliantly observed – the media monster, flamboyant and driven, barely stopping for breath and dragging everyone around her into mini-dramas. There is huge potential for the character of Verity – the opening chapters set her up as a complex character with a mysterious history and the reader will want to know more about her. If she could be reinstated in the novel as a driving character with depth this could help to redress the balance between the male and female characters.

3) The Richardsons

Delving into the story of the murdered couple and the search to uncover the truth has the potential to be truly compelling. The author has already set up some tantalizing clues – the fact that Mrs Richardson may have been faking her mixed race heritage and that the couple have had to flee another country; the sterile, characterless home of the couple and their lack of social contact; the murder taking place before they are due to appear in television together for the first time. This is the story I would like to see taking centre stage and drive the novel.

4) Futuristic element and state of the world post-2067

There are some strong visual ideas in the parts of the novel that focus on what the world might be like in the future, post disaster. The issues of surveillance and the advances in technology have plenty of scope for development. Verity’s modern home is imaginative yet believable, as are devices like the VersaTyle computer that the police officers use. This is clearly an area that the author is passionate about and there is plenty to build on here.


I think there is potential for this novel as the author is clearly imaginative and has good writing skills. However, the novel needs to commit to a direction – is this a futuristic, hard-nosed crime novel? Or a more suburban one and, if so, is the post-apocalyptic storyline and gadget-heavy set pieces really necessary? At times this very much felt like a much more traditional crime story: softer, with tea and cake, technology delays and emotional entanglement and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – there is an element of that working here.

grahamwhittaker wrote 415 days ago

This is a book I have supported for as long as I've been on authonomy. (Well, nearly anyway.) In spite of it's medal I'm going to keep plugging away until some publisher decides to give it some attention. It SHOULD be available on Amazon and all the other selling sites, and it SHOULD be available as a POD print book. If it was, I would buy it, and just for good measure I'd stick it squarely in the middle of the rack of JD Robb Roarke and Eve books, just to remind me that Nora has a rival despite her 60 million copies of the JD Robb books sold.
I would encourage everyone to keep coming back, read the book and leave comments! It's a helluva good read!

Connie King wrote 523 days ago

Strange Bodies
Antonia, I couldn't put this down - what an impressive page-turner you have written! Full of duplicity and intrigue. this is one of the best murder mystery's I've read here. Meticulous plotting, well - drawn characters and an immaculate sense of place. . .plus an enormously satisfying number of twists and shocks along the way.
6 stars . . . but it's worth a lot more.
Streets Apart

grahamwhittaker wrote 643 days ago

Having already read this book in it's completeness I'm leaving a second comment. Not for Tonia's shell-like ears, but for those who are reading this book now. Factoid: It's been stuck on 23 for ages because there are some really crappy books higher than this that don't deserve to be there. (Not all by any means, just some.) You see, I want to be able to go into Big W and whip it off the bookshelf. I don't want to download it, or shove it on my ebook reader. I want an actual physical copy. I buy books I like on real paper (so sue me for killing trees), I'm a bloke, but I still read Norah Roberts (writing as J.D.Robb). Tonia Marlowe is an Australian J.D.Robb and I say that with great respect to both of them. My personal view is that Sceptre the Hodder imprint for new and promising authors would be mad not to pick this up. Sure they only do 20 titles a year but this fits right in with their ethos and I would expect any scout from Hodder trolling this site to pick this up and go with it.

kenny hill wrote 708 days ago

Chapter 6 -

Click...whirr....the machine moves effortlessly, efficiently. Ms Marlowe is brisk, business like, the writing reflecting the instinctive reactions of D I Jacobson and his team. Competence is attractive in an individual. By describing the way Jacobson performs, Ms Marlowe gives us a picture, an insight into someone who is skilled, resourceful, tough as nails. And compassionate ? Perhaps.

This is a highly complex scene, multi-layered, involving a number of important characters, each jostling for the readers attention. Ms Marlowe paints a beautifully even picture. No one individual intrudes, yet each is distinctive and memorable. And wonderful snippets, sprinkled in the mix like seasoning - the oblique connection to Verity, Marino's speculation, the Ice Queen Diamond, the connection with al.

The mind is working. A murderer hovers, and as each character is introduced, Ms Marlowe compels us to ask - victim ? predator ?

The chapter bristles ; tension builds ; the writer plays us with a gifted hand.

Again, you have captured us Ms Marlowe.

Jorre wrote 47 days ago

Read this because saw it had a medal ;) and read a couple of chapters. I thought it is great deserving of that ranking, clearly. Curious, did you publish this? I try to read al, the HC reviews, informative and helpful, not always in agreement though...


CMWoods wrote 201 days ago

Hello Ms Marlowe,
I'm new to Authonomy and was browsing the various places. I began reading Strange Bodies with the intent of just doing a few chapters. Next thing I know, I ran out of book. Very good story and it pulled me right in. I see this one in print if it isn't already published. If not I wish you the best of luck, it is a good read.

Christopher Woods

kenbehr wrote 244 days ago

This seems to be the only way to reach you. My name is Kenbehr and I'm jealous. Everywhere I look all my friends and all their friends have you on their friends list, except me. I see that blond head and those gigantic glasses and think, 'I have no blond friends in Queensland. Wouldn't she make an excellent candidate.' Let me make you a couple of promises right off the top. I promise not to ask you to swap reads. You have my complete permission to read 'Disassembled' with no obligation on my part to return read anything. How can you pass up a deal like that? But read or no read, lets still be friends. If you agree, I'll tell you my funniest blond joke.

g6ypk wrote 339 days ago

Wonderfully original story, young lady.Sort out the punctuation and you might just have a winner here.

HauntedWasabe wrote 377 days ago


Read up to the end of chapter 7 so far. I am enjoying it but I would like to know more about what has been happening in the future. You give little away. Hopefully details will keep emerging as the story progresses. I notice your HC review wonders if the book had to be set in the future at all, and up to where I am I agree as well.

There are points where I feel HC have been overly critical though. I'd imaging female characters getting appraised by male characters more often than not. Use of personal gadgets seems a decent choice for futuristic technology also. That's where a lot of advancements can be found and what people are interested in.

Please give my story, Valence, a try when you can. It involves a murder mystery as well.

ChrisKirbyRyan wrote 384 days ago

I finished this book. I thought it was great. Very good crime thriller set in the late 21st century. I loved the way Tonia didn't go all madly over-the-top futuristic but invented some very believable advancements, particularly with computer technology, which were really easy to accept and may very well happen. Very well written, easy to keep turning the pages and very involving. I'll give it six stars and wish Tonia all the best.

Sharahzade wrote 385 days ago

Antonia Marlowe

I have read this novel in its entireity and kept it on my shelf during the entire time up to the moment when it finally reached the editor desk and got that long awaited review. In addition, I spent many posts on the forums about this wonderful story. Antonia has won the critique from Authonomy by patience and diligence. Although I did not agree with some of the thoughts in the overview, I am pleased to see the more positive comments. It just proves to me that there are all kinds of readers who may or may not appreciate the way a novel is written. I loved the diversity of the various elements in Strange Bodies. One certainly does not feel impatient or bored during any of it.

Good job, Antonia. Best of luck with it.

Mary Enck

stearn37 wrote 392 days ago

Congratulations on the good review.
Good luck with it and i hope to see it on the shelves in the very near future.
John Stearn
Author of Derilium

grahamwhittaker wrote 415 days ago

This is a book I have supported for as long as I've been on authonomy. (Well, nearly anyway.) In spite of it's medal I'm going to keep plugging away until some publisher decides to give it some attention. It SHOULD be available on Amazon and all the other selling sites, and it SHOULD be available as a POD print book. If it was, I would buy it, and just for good measure I'd stick it squarely in the middle of the rack of JD Robb Roarke and Eve books, just to remind me that Nora has a rival despite her 60 million copies of the JD Robb books sold.
I would encourage everyone to keep coming back, read the book and leave comments! It's a helluva good read!

Davidvan wrote 466 days ago

Love it- particularly the characters. You have a good style too. my only comment is the earlier raised matter of the unseen voice of the author detracting from the story progression. 5 stars.

Nel wrote 467 days ago

I really enjoyed this. It is very clever in that though it set in the future, it is still easily identifiable and the plot is very clever. I've only delved into the first 5 chapters but plan to come back and read more.

fictionguy8 wrote 468 days ago

Grizzly, cold blooded and merciless. In other words, the kind of book people like today. I like the pace and the stye. This is obviously not your first book. I'm giving it five stars. Good luck. Let us know when it is published.

Cathy Hardy wrote 473 days ago

Just finished it. Compelling, page turning stuff. Flawlessly written.

Cathy x

made wrote 473 days ago

I absoloutely loved this

Cait wrote 482 days ago


I'm not great at reviewing books, but the prologue is so well writing and vivid it was like watching an opening scene on the big screen. I’ve just read the first five chapters and I like the way you go back and forth with Verity and Jim. Very good writing throuout, and I definitely want to read more. Also looking forward to reading this in paperback form. And I'll be eager to read HC’s review also.

I've made a few notes on just the first chapter for now, and would like to email them to you if you'd like them.

On my shelf and highly starred.

All the best,

Cáit :o)

Argh-me-hearty wrote 487 days ago

I’m usually pressed for time when navigating this site so I tend to read books based on what is in the weekly top spots. Today yours has caught my attention. Firstly - I don’t like the title. Sorry, now, I know that was blunt but I immediately conjured up an image of an out of shape so-and-so with a saggy butt or something, not at all the image you want to send up. Now, my little moan aside I should tell you that I thought this was very good indeed. The opening is as tense as any of the blockbusters at there at the moment. I’d dare Lee child to chill a reader more what such gripping opening sentences. Some of your description left me feeling sick - how wonderful that you can write with such solid imagery.

Ok, now I’ve read on. I have concern with your point of veiw. No bouncing around from one character to another or any of that nonsense, so it’s nothing too major bothering me. It’s just here is a little too much author intrusion for my liking. You are telling the story but you have such great characters why not let them tell it for you. It’s the mistake many authors make and although it’s not an earth shattering mistake it can be bloody annoying when you have a class act story with some juicy characters, but the author is butting in too often to tell me what the characters are thinking. Let me see for myself by their actions, thoughts etc.

Come on, I know you can do it. You’re a good writer. Iron out these small details and you will be a great one!

Jaclyn Aurore wrote 488 days ago

Sorry it took so long... I'm more apologizing to myself here - this is a fabulous read and I'm upset with myself for not reading it sooner.

Glad I got to before it reaches desk, so i can tell you that i've given it six stars... for what it's worth x

It Never Happened

**Melissa** wrote 490 days ago

Hi Tonia,

I think this is a great story, although it's quite different to what I usually read.

What drew me in from your pitch was that it was set in futuristic Australia. Being Australian, it made me really want to read on.

I think that you've evoked the feel of the country as well as adding in futuristic details (like in Chapter 3 about Canberra being radioactive).

On my watchlist and lots of stars your way.



Nigel Fields wrote 493 days ago

I really enjoyed chapter 12. Halifax, York and Gold are great characters. And Adams, of course. Dialog is lively and real. The flow is great. You have the ability to hold the reader's interest well.
John Campbell

Seringapatam wrote 493 days ago

Yes this certainly got me hooked. Such a deep story, But told so well. I couldnt put it down and had to remind myself that I am on a strict two to three chapter policy or I cant get to read ten a day. Well done for this and I think other than a couple of editing typos, this is a wonderful book.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage.

TobyC wrote 494 days ago

Strange Bodies by Tonia Marlowe

The intro is alive with vivid imagery.
• Entrails that dangle like long juicy worms
• Bodies that twist and sway together
• A hungry kookaburra
You’ve set the stage for a strong murder mystery in an unusual setting.

Who’s Terry? There’s nothing like teasing the reader with unanswered questions to keep them reading.
Fast paced, action packed, you do a great job of showing rather than telling. This puts your writing well above the rest.

Chapter two continues the vivid imagery.
• The entire paragraph about the two bodies

This definitely deserves some shelf time, as well as reading a few more chapters. It’s too good to stop after two. Onward. This story evokes strong emotive responses.

Another chapter that’s a pleasure to read. Strong dialogue. Excellent cliff hanger.

Things to consider for publication:
Include Celsius when talking about temps. Thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit is cold.
The leap between chapters 1 & 2 is sharp.
A pommy?

riantorr wrote 494 days ago

Nice opening lines, love Sydney.
Rian Torr
In French's Forest

alcook wrote 497 days ago

Hi Tonia,

I should probably be doing return reads right now, but I decided to go ahead and read this instead.

This is good, for the most part. The action flows nicely and the bodies are very intriguing. The sort of "big brother is watching" feeling that I get in the third chapter helps draw me in more. However, I wasn't really hooked by the first chapter. I decided to keep reading in the hope that I would be hooked. The second chapter was much better. There was a lot more description and it felt clearer.

My biggest note is about Verity's POV so far. I don't feel like I'm getting much of a grasp on her as a character. I don't feel her emotions, her reactions, or her thoughts. Most of the time, if she thinks something, you tell us that she thought it. It's very detached. I think it would be stronger for you to be more inside of her head. Help us to empathize with her. This happened more in the second chapter, but not with Verity. In the third chapter, the information and dialogue was very interesting, but I didn't get much of a sense of either character's reactions. More description would help this. The description is very sparse. I would like to feel Verity's curiosity as she talks to Oscar, not be told later that she was getting curious. Right now it's mostly dialogue, and not much else. I think this could use a lot more.

That being said, the story seems interesting. I think this still needs work though. These first chapters don't give me any sense of urgency, suspicion, or mystery that a thriller should give. The second chapter begins to give that, but then we get right back to Verity and her tech. The gadgets distract from the thriller aspect. This is a mystery, I should feel like there's something amiss. I get the idea, occasionally, that Verity is suspicious of something, but only because you tell me that. I don't get that feeling on my own.

Here are my notes I took while reading:

I read the prologue and the first chapter, intending not to make any detailed critical comments. By the time I’d finished them, I’d decided I needed to go back through and reread for critiques. So here are the crits.

Chapter 1:
- I’m skipping the prologue on this reread
- All of your first three sentences start with an introductory clause. “At six in the morning” “When it hit forty-five” and “Awakened far too early” – There’s no distinct problem with this, but as a reader it makes me feel like things are falling into a rhythm. I don’t want to feel a rhythm to your writing only three sentences in. I still want it to be varied an exciting. It should be varied the whole way, but especially at the start. Make everything fresh. So, I’d start one of these sentences with the subject.
- Then you have a string of sentences that begin in succession “She imagined” “She considered” She didn’t recall” “She decided” – This is repetitious. Yet another place where I’m already feeling you falling into a rhythm for how you begin sentences. The other problem with this is that you should be in her head. That doesn’t mean first person, but still planted enough in her head that you don’t need to tell me that these emotions, decisions, feelings, thoughts are hers. I should just know. I’d try reworking these sentences so that you don’t have to tell me that she’s the one having these internal dialogues or decisions. Just show me the decisions and let me realize through the POV that they are hers. Like “Maybe she should darken the room” instead of “She considered darkening the room”
- “chat show this Friday night” “this” feels like present tense. I’d cut it and say “chat show Friday night”
- “diamond intrigued her” again, this is a place where you’re telling me that she thought something instead of just showing me the thought. Just tell me that the info is intriguing and I’ll pick up that she’s the one who thinks so.
- You should have a comma before “but she was having trouble confirming that”
- “greenhouse entry is unlocked” should be a new sentence or should have a semicolon before it
- Visually this is another rhythm that looks unpleasing. You have five paragraphs in a row that start “She rummaged” “She never” “She liked” “She slid” “She headed” – This needs variation.
- The paragraph that starts “She never gave much thought to her looks” is really weird. The first sentence feels like it should be with the material in the paragraph before, and so it’s a natural transition, but the second sentence is out of left field. It doesn’t go with the first sentence at all. It’s quite jarring. I was expecting you to make some comment in regards to her looks and her work, like “As a feature writer for Circe magazine, she didn’t have to worry about being in front of the camera” or something like that, so the rest of the sentence was shocking. It has nothing to do with the previous sentence.
- “all served as part of” should be “both served” since there’s only two things mentioned. Two does not equal “all”
- “recycling system, her own design” I think this comma would work better as a dash
- “Finished them, she poured” this feels like it’s missing a word. Maybe “Finished [with] them”
- Here’s what I got from this chapter: She’s a writer for a magazine who’s doing a piece on a couple and the information on them is mysteriously unavailable. Other than that there were a lot of references to the technology and what I can assume is world-building. Those are good and necessary, but they get to be a bit much. I’m glad I read through this twice because it was much more enjoyable the second time. When I knew what to expect with the futuristic stuff, it didn’t slow me down. However the first time through, this was a lot of information to wade through. Too much, I’d say. I think you should try spreading this information out. None of it is an info-dump. It’s nicely spread through the narrative, but it’s just a lot of information to process. World-building is good, but it shouldn’t happen too quickly. You don’t want to confuse the reader.
- Second…I don’t feel like I got to know the character much from this chapter. I added this note after reading the top of the second chapter. I feel that if you’re going to switch POV so quickly at the top of the book, then the first character you introduce needs to be solidly in my mind before you move on. The chapter didn’t do that. I got to know her house and her gadgets more than her. I’d say expand the narrative a bit. Walk me through things so that I know her a little bit more. Not just the things he uses or what she does, but something that gives me a feel for who she is.

Okay, moving forward…

Chapter 2:
- “small bush reserve hidden away off a secluded mountain road deep in the Blue Mountains” Hold the phone that is a lengthy and description that is really confusing. Parts you don’t need, and why: “away off a secluded” if it’s hidden, then we’ll assume that it’s secluded, and “away” just sounds awkward, “mountain road” you tell us next that it’s “deep in the Blue Mountains” so I’m going to assume that it’s hiding place is off a mountain road without you telling me. So if we cut all that out, we’re left with “hidden in the Blue Mountains” which is so much clearer and easier to read.
- Comma before “but he checked to make sure”
- “Little used these days was a picnic area” the word order of this is super awkward. I’d rearrange to “The picnic area near a giant fig which his family had visited in the past was little used these days” – this is another wordy description. I think you’d get the same info across by cutting this down to: “The picnic area his family had visited in the past was little used these days. His late wife had loved the sense of tranquility, and his daughter, the old fig tree.”
- “incline, a nice spot” I think this comma would work better as a dash
- “the dog trotted beside him as they walked” the dog is trotting, not walking. Should be “as he walked”
- Okay that got exciting. Very nice. I was assuming he’d find the bodies, but this was well done. One minor note: I wouldn’t call Rolf “the dog” so much. I’ve never known a dog owner refer to their dog that way - very impersonal. Since you’re in his head, you should stick to what he would call his dog, which is probably “his dog” or “Rolf”
- This lives up the title so far…strange bodies…

Chapter 3:
- “above the garages” you can just say “above” and avoid repeating “the garages”
- “workout tonight before her” I’d cut “tonight” – it’s unnecessary and makes it feel like present tense
- Comma before “and she touched her sensor wand”
- Comma after “She got out”
- Comma after “As she reached the trees” – it’s confusing to have “Verity” right after “trees” without a comma. I had to read it twice.
- “Glad of the distraction” you can cut this phrase. It tells us information you just showed nicely with “sit and unwind”
- I don’t know what ANU is, so you might want to spell it out
- “in the soft grass, sighed contentedly” should be “sighing”
- Oh ok, now I get why you didn’t spell out ANU. Maybe show her confusion earlier. Have a thought or something so that we know that we’re not supposed to know what it is.
- Comma before “so I’m a bit hazy”
- You need an end quotation mark after “including that terrible event.”
- “shook his head sadly at that’ This is nice, but I’d cut “at that” as it takes away from the nice flow of the sentence and is unnecessary
- Comma before “but I was in hospital”
- Another after “but I ended up with almost”
- “I was ninety-one this year” It feels more natural for someone to say “I am ninety-one this year” or “I turned ninety-one this year”
- “Curious now she asked” You can cut “curious now” – it’s over-telling. The questions show us her curiosity. You do this a bit, over-tell. Watch out for times when you show something and tell it too. You only need to show.
- It would be clearer if you added a comma after “Louise Brooks”
- “but his kindliness” “kindness” would sound better than “kindliness” I think

All the best of luck with this, and with reaching the ED. Keep editing. This has a lot of promise. If you keep slipping in rank, then I'll probably come back you. I hate sock armies, so I'm always willing to help something legitimate make it to the top, and this is good.

How to Knight Your Way Through Gunfire

VioletWednesday21 wrote 500 days ago

This is so amazing! I love reading novels by Tess Gerritsen and this is very much like her novels. Your description is gripping and, for lack of a better word, amazing. I truly enjoy how thorough it is. Your narrative is wonderful as well. Definitely worth high marks and will be adding to my WL for further reading. :)

authordonna wrote 501 days ago

I'm hooked!

Debbie R wrote 501 days ago

I have been meaning to read this for a while now. Two chapters in and I am impressed by the quality of the writing and the seemingly effortless knack you have of dropping hints about your characters pasts - Verity in particular.
The Prologue works well with a vividly, grizzly image of the two bodies rotting in mid-air.
I like the references that remind us that this is set in the future - 'filtering sky shields', 'charing of cars' and 'recycling system' to name a few. That said, there is plenty that is current so the reader is able to relate to the characters and their surroundings.
Wonderful introduction to Verity - 'her nightmares not having lasted long after Terry was murdered' and 'the scars barely showed now'. This is the kind of thing that is forever being brought up at my writing group - Show, Don't Tell'. Wish I were as good at it as you obviously are!
These hints at Verity's past immediately make me want to know more about her and act as a strong hook into subsquent chapters.
In chapter two Jim Lawrence finds the bodies. Although I already knew that was what was going to happen the description of what he discovers does not disappoint.
This is a highly-polished read and I can see why it is at number two. When time allows I shall certainly be back to read more of this gripping murder mystery.

Six well-deserved stars and keeping on my w/l.

'Speedy McCready'

Roy Batty wrote 501 days ago

Think of something other than nakedly and cloudless sky to describe the impact of the sun in a way which encompasses the entire book. That would be a killer.

amyblack wrote 503 days ago

Your writers voice shines through in this novel. I was intrigued from the get go and would love to find this on my living room bookshelf. Best of luck to you, thanks for sharing your talent. :)

faith rose wrote 506 days ago

Dear Tonia,

Three chapters in, and I can certainly see why this is on the ED. Congratulations!

Even though I am usually pretty squeamish, I found so much to appreciate about your writing. Your story is highly addictive right from the start, and it is clear why you have so many fans. You have such a powerful way with words, hooking the reader all the way through, not just at the beginning. I also loved your intense imagery, even though I found myself cringing a bit. :) Your strong verbs were my favorite..."zapped," "perched," "snaked"... wow! Great stuff.

I have no doubt this book will be a huge success. Wishing you all the very best!


Fishcalledwanda wrote 506 days ago

I immediately put this book on my shelf, as having read the pitch, I would have bought it in a shop. I was not disappointed, as it is beautifully crafted and grabbed my attention from the first line. I don't have much to add the the raft of positive comments people have already made, except that I hope that I can write as well one day.

My only niggle (probably because I work in IT), relates to the mention of technologies that are out of date today. This made the futuristic setting much less plausible for me,

High stars. This book should be in print.

Louisa (Fishcalledwanda)
The Birdcage Shoes

Emma B wrote 507 days ago

Hey, i read all before and chapter 6.

Some seriously good, even through the gruesome, images going on in this story. I can see the bodies swinging in my head and easily imagine the onlookers in all their horror.
The characters are beginning to intrigue me, and i love the finishing touch to Chapter 6.
I was already hooked by the first paragraph, so very gripping, and have been moved on into another time, with future wars already waged and new technology easily used. A really interesting read.
Great plot, i'm desperate to know why, why and how.
All the best, Emma

Nigel Fields wrote 510 days ago

Chapter 13
Fantastic dialogue here, as always. It's natural and the pace is just right. You keep us immersed in the scene. Great hook. Not Bob Fraser! She kept a straight face as they headed for home.

Sneaky Long wrote 512 days ago

Hi Tonia,

Promised nit-pics: Prologue you write "...incessant buzz of a thousand or more blowflies..." giving a hard number of blowflies (minimum one thousand) suggests someone counted them until they reached a thousand. Maybe instead "...incessant buzz of perhaps a thousand or more blowflies..."

Chapter 1 : "temperature reaching thirty-five degrees already" Perhaps "temperature already reaching thirty-five degrees" or simply drop 'already'. You wrote "She decided to make an early start, catch up on some work." Perhaps, "She decided to get an early start and catch up on some work." You wrote "Finished them, she poured..." Perhaps, "Finishing them, she poured..." You wrote "The lap-pool and the trickling water wall all served as part of the filtration, aeration and cooling and recycling system. her own design. Perhaps, "She had designed a lap-pool and trickling water wall, which served as part of the filtration, aeration, cooling and recycling system. Same paragraph you wrote, ..."down the curving staircase, then looked..." Perhaps "...down the curving staircase and looked..." You wrote "She'd been a bit cavalier there, unfortunately." Perhaps "Unfortunately, she had been a bit cavalier." You wrote, "Someone extremely accomplished had hidden all but the most superficial data, hidden it many layers deep." Perhaps, "Someone extremely accomplished had hidden, under many layers, all but the most superficial data."

I will remove these nit-pics whenever you let me know.

Hope this is helpful. Like I said, mostly subjective.


Sneaky Long wrote 512 days ago

Hi Antonia,

Just read the first four chapters of "Strange Bodies". It was very enjoyable. You have a wonderfully fluid style, which keeps the reader engaged. In the first two chapters you are telling two different stories but you make the transition so easy to follow that the reader does not get confused, as happens many times with writers who attempt this type of opening.

You develop the setup masterfully and load it with plenty of suspense and mystery. You have successfully avoided info dumping and your descriptions are very well put together without being over dramatized. All in all this is a very well written story which keeps the reader reading.

I had a couple of nit-pics, but mostly subjective. If you like, I will point them out in a separate message. I got so carried away in your story, I only made mental notes and will have to review again to pick them out correctly.

I give this very high stars, watch list and will get you on my shelf. If you don't make it to the ED this month, you surly will next month. This deserves to be reviewed and published.

All the best,

Sneaky Long
"Trophy Wives"

Beta wrote 513 days ago

Tania I'm new to this site so haven't settled down yet. I read your chapter 1 and like it. The chapter is full of tension , which I enjoyed but full of back story. It is all those bits about Verity that you as the writer feel the reader ought to know. Because this is chapter 1 it is necessary to de-clutter and smack the reader towards chapter 2 and the rest of the book as quickly as possible.
There exists a prologue. IMP. It is too long. Four or five lines is enough and then the reader is into chapter 1 wondering what has happened with the Richardsons and why they have been hanged..Showing is fine but don't tell the reason why. Curiosity is all about drawing the reader in in seconds. That way they don't have time to think yet they want to know.
I think you've stretched out the having a shower bit. It could be shorter. IMO. In that way the reader knows the writer is sticking to the plot without unneeded detail. Aim to achieve a balance if possible.
To pass on info or contribute backstory it is possible to use a pet or even a lucky soft toy.IMO. At the moment there are plenty of Verity's thoughts racing around, and if somebody different looked down from above how might they know what is happening? The same technique can be used to lay leads down early in the story and it's then normal for that to happen. IMO.
Best wishes
House of the Skull Drum

Phone Me wrote 513 days ago

I honestly wasn't expecting this to be as good as it is. Sorry if that sounds rude, it's just your cover is a bit iffy, but, hey, you're a writer not an artist and boy are you some writer. This is utterly gripping. What a murder mystery you have here. I enjoy that is twisted and gritty from the very start. Opening with the scene you do (won't say what and spoil it on other readers) but that was it, I was hooked. So very pleased this is posted in its entirity as I plan to put the kettle on, sit back and spend a few hours enjoying more of this. A pleasure to read.

superostah wrote 521 days ago

Checking for Dude Lit qualifications:

Passed! Read through your first chapter (and prologue) and although I didn't see any explosions, I can tell this has got the makings for something that definitely fits the genre. Thanks for the heads up on this work. For now, high marks, for later, will read more.

Andrea Taylor wrote 522 days ago

Brilliant hook! And it moved smoothly on, so smoothly it took a moment to realise we were actually in the future. I like this very much and feel sure you'll have success with it. Excellent!
The De Amerley Affair

Connie King wrote 523 days ago

Strange Bodies
Antonia, I couldn't put this down - what an impressive page-turner you have written! Full of duplicity and intrigue. this is one of the best murder mystery's I've read here. Meticulous plotting, well - drawn characters and an immaculate sense of place. . .plus an enormously satisfying number of twists and shocks along the way.
6 stars . . . but it's worth a lot more.
Streets Apart

Tornbridge wrote 525 days ago

Hi Tonia, I started reading Strange Bodies a while ago but only got a few chapters in when I was hijacked by return reads - you know how it is - anyway I’m back and so glad I am. It’s very hard to write reality grounded sci-fi without either seeming like an episode of Tomorrow’s world or just generic and I think you’ve pulled it off here. The crime is timeless (although wonderfully creepy I have to say) but the techno stuff just adds a layer. I don’t read much in the way of crime fiction and after a few chapters of this I wondered why. I think you are genuinely (and I mean this) a very talented writer who has all the skills needed at your disposal and makes good use of them.
This is a well crafted, well written and well imagined book. The pace is near perfect and dialog silky smooth. In fact, I tried to scan back through the chapters I’d read to copy an example but it’s all good.
I’ve given you 5 stars so there’s room to add one more when you reach the ED. I’ll try and save some space on my shelf too when needed - by all means remind me of that promise.
Kind Regards
The Washington Adventure

levielm wrote 525 days ago

Fascinating. To other readers: if you like murder msyteries, this is the one to read. Like your use of imagery and word choices. Your dark descriptions of the macbre are so tight, they remind me a bit of EA Poe.

Great work. I am adding your book to my must read list of recommended reads: Dr K and his Zinger List.

Thanks for a good work of writing. JK

Serafina Violet wrote 526 days ago

Very good writing style. You had me hooked from the beginning. This is a type of story I love and I can tell you the way you described the details, especially of how the bodies just hung there, was superb. I can see myself buying this book off the shelves. Six stars!!

Serafina Violet "Along Came Mr. Right"

Phoenix*Rising wrote 529 days ago

Not my usual cup of reading and it turned my stomach a bit, but I guess that means you're writing it just the way it needs to be written. Since I've started I'll continue. Nice writing and interesting story so far.

David Best wrote 531 days ago


I've just read the first three chapters and this story is a winner - a very well crafted example of the genre

Well done


CharlieGreen wrote 533 days ago

Started reading this the other day, I'm so glad it's complete :) it's brilliant!


Charlie James wrote 534 days ago

Strange bodies

A murder mystery set in a near future following the collapse of much of the current first world. The murder of two people is investigated by Nick Adams and his crack investigation team. It is all based in Australia. I have had the benefit of reading the whole book.

It's really really good. My points are all fairly minor in the whole scheme of things.

[note - this is an abbreviated review - a full review has been emailed to the author]

You have created a complex world, perhaps there is too little explanation about some of the aspects of this world, but then there is too much detail and back story in others. In parts the reader is assumed to know things, in others spoon fed stuff that does not immediately seem to be relevant. Kudos on the realism of your world though, much of the tech is very believable, for eg the tyles etc.

The characters are well written and believable, apart from the fact they are all too pretty. Other than that, really well done and I'm perhaps just feeling bitter...

Sometimes this felt a bit like a YA novel, other times clearly not. I don't know why I think that, it is just an impression I get. I suspect if you could nail the pros and cons for adult and YA then you could cleanly edit and nail one or the other.

The mystery element: I think this was well done, and it did keep me guessing who the killer was. I kept guessing as I went through, and kept getting it wrong. A nice puzzle.

All in all, this is a very good piece and I enjoyed reading it. Well done! Highly rated.

Tweeting wrote 535 days ago

I found the early part read, to my mind, a little awkwardly, but once I got into the story I found myself absorbed with the story. Intriguing idea - old fashioned murder set in the future. I will be asking for the full manuscript to read.

Tonia Marlowe wrote 536 days ago

The mystery is solved!

Tonia Marlowe wrote 536 days ago

If you comment on your own book does it count as a comment? And in any case, do comments count for anything?
Just wondering.

PS No it doesn't count! I know this because I didn't get the usual email.

Nigel Fields wrote 539 days ago

Whoa! What a beginning you have here, Tonia! Why are we so fascinated by things like this--but we are. Your descriptions (prologue and chapter 2) of the bodies were perfect, and perfectly grotesque. I will have to read more of this. I can tell it's worthy of six stars. Will rate accordingly. But, first, chapter 3.
John B. Campbell (A Lark Ascending)