Most mentioned this week

Sherlock Holmes expert Anthony Horowitz brings the great man to life for a new generation of readers in The House of Silk (Orion), which sits at first place on the most mentioned chart. The following three titles received equal mentions this week. Peter FitzSimons provides a portrait of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 100 years ago inMawson and the Ice Men of the Heroic Age (William Heinemann). Cold Light (Vintage) is the final volume of Frank Moorhouse’s ‘Edith Trilogy’ set in 1950s Canberra among the murky politics of multi-national diplomacy. Pride and Prejudice fans should keep an eye out for P D James’ Death Comes to Pemberley (Faber): the year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years, when Lydia Wickham, an uninvited guest at their annual ball, arrives screaming that her husband has been murdered–Media Extra.

BOOK REVIEW: Batavia (Peter FitzSimons, Random House)

Most Australians only know the vaguest details of the Dutch East India Company’s Batavia, shipwrecked off the coast of WA in 1629. The astounding tale of slavery and wanton murder which ensued is a sorry chapter in our history, and one that is brought to life in a pacy, entertaining, informative and chilly narrative by Peter FitzSimons—in his own inimitable style. Moving between the various groups of survivors, the narrative is gripping—almost like a good thriller movie. The actions of Jeronimus Cornelisz, the self-proclaimed leader (i.e. dictator) of the survivor colony are truly shocking. Cornelisz oversaw the murder by his fellow mutineers of at least 110 men, women and children in his care. Drawing on the extensive journals of the ‘Commandeur’ of the fleet as well as other surviving letters and documents, FitzSimons has reconstructed dialogue, personalities and scenes which complement the facts and give the narrative a life and pace which would otherwise be lacking. As with previous historical episodes getting ‘the Fitzy treatment’, history purists will likely frown upon his methods—no matter how well-researched and deliberate they may be. Due to this chatty and accessible style, however, many more readers will be educated about the incredible story of the Batavia and booksellers will enjoy a bestseller sure to outsell any academic treatment limited to provable history.

Scott Whitmont is the owner of Lindfield Bookshop & Children’s Bookshop in Sydney. This review first appeared in the March issue of Bookseller+Publisher.