Good News, Bad News by Maggie Groff

Author: Maggie Groff
Publisher: MacMillan
Copyright Year: 2013
ISBN: 9781742611938
Review By: Sue Turnbull
Book Synopsis:
Intrepid investigative journalist Scout Davis has given herself a holiday, but when Hermione Longfellow accosts her in the supermarket, she stops to listen.
Most people in Byron Bay are aware of the eccentric Anemone sisters. Always dressed in black, they rarely leave their home nestled in the hills – but Scout is sure that the drinking of chicken blood is just idle gossip. When Hermione asks Scout to track down her sister Nemony’s AWOL husband, believed to have died at sea thirty years ago but recently popped up again on the Great Barrier Reef, Scout jumps at the opportunity.
Another source of intrigue falls close to home when Scout’s sister Harper despairs over her husband’s odd behaviour. And as if that wasn’t enough, Scout’s journalist boyfriend is finally coming home from Afghanistan. Trouble is, Scout thinks she may be falling in love with irresistible local cop Rafe – who coincidentally is also Toby’s best friend…
Delightfully witty and addictively fast-paced, this is the second hilarious outing for unforgettable sleuth Scout Davis.

How do you like your crime? Dark and broody or cheerful and chirpy?

If the latter, then Maggie Groff may have concocted just the right genre cocktail for you. Here’s the recipe: take two parts spunky female heroine of a ‘certain’ age (with or without a cat) who is still up for ‘it’ whatever ‘it’ might involve. Add one part ‘quirky’ regional setting studded with charming and eccentric odd balls. Finish with twist of plot and a dash of peril and serve in the bath, on the beach or any place where entertaining reading matter is required.

Good News Bad News is the sequel to Mad Men, Bad Girls and the Guerilla Knitters Institute which introduced us to diabetic investigative journalist Scout Davis, Chairman Meow, her Russian Blue feline, and a walk-on cast of extras including a squad of unlikely guerrilla knitters. Once again, the latter out-do themselves with an inspired but sadly incidental yarn-bombing manoeuvre during the course of Scout’s latest sleuthing adventure.

Scout’s major preoccupation (apart from dealing with sister Harper’s marital crisis, that is) involves the three ‘Anemone’ sisters, as they have been nick-named by the locals. Hermione, Amelia and Nemony dwell in the Byron Bay hinterland, wear black clothes and, according to local legend, drink chickens’ blood as they go about their nefarious business of seeking retributive justice for minor injustices using spells. The truth, as Scout finds out when she is approached by the intimidating Hermione in the local supermarket, is both more banal and more intriguing than local superstition might ever have supposed.

On the domestic front, Scout, in post Janet Evanovitch rom-com crime mode, is transitioning between lovers; the largely absent Reuters journalist boyfriend who comes home and the impossibly attractive stud of a local cop with whom the sex is the stuff of fantasy. Fortunately Groff has the nous not only to draw a veil over the ‘brilliant’ sex, but also to (temporarily?) pull the plug on Scout’s erotic dalliances. It’s hard to like a heroine who is having too much of a good time.

What is likeable is Groff’s amusing way with words. As narrator, Scout comes across as the kind of witty and perceptive friend with whom one might like to share a few cocktails after a tough week. And I bet Cass Tuplin, the proprietor of Rusty Bore’s only take away joint, would be up for a couple of drinks too given what she’s had to deal with recently.
A version of this review first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.