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on 21 February 2013
Rosanne Dingli never disappoints. With Camera Obscura she has again produced a novel that must rank among the best of mystery thrillers. As is typical of this extraordinary writer there are several different tales, both compelling in different ways. These are interwoven in a complex network of links held together by mystery, intrigue, skulduggery of the highest order and two compelling love stories which draw the reader ever onward.
Starting with a crash, when the glass roof of a café in Freemantle collapses injuring a pretty girl, the element of mystery takes hold from the beginning as a press photographer who witnessed the event comes to the rescue. He discovers an immediate and intense attraction, which he cannot ignore, for the girl he rescues. Before he can find out more about her the girl vanishes, leaving him bereft and unsettled. When, out of the ether, she contacts him clearly needing help but offering no explanation of what or why she vanished, he feels compelled to respond. With his domestic life in turmoil, Bart abandons everything and sets off in pursuit to find Minnie, but she keeps vanishing after only the most fleeting of contacts. Mystery and threat begin to intensify as on each occasion Bart becomes aware of a shadowy figure in a van who is always nearby when he catches up with Minnie.
Into all this Dingli introduces another story about Bart's father who vanished when he was seven. His mother, Iris, with whom his relationship has always been uncomfortable, has told him too many conflicting tales and he needs to find the truth. A letter from a mysterious woman in Malta announcing his father's demise leaves Bart torn between following this lead to solve the greatest mystery of his life and responding to another appeal for help form the mysterious and alluring Minnie.
His decision moves the action across the globe from Western Australia to France. Landing in Paris in the aftermath of a dramatic plane crash, he is drawn onward to the dingy commercial port of Le Havre. Rough action mixes with tender and intense love scenes as Bart and Minnie finally get together. But the pressure is always there and they are soon driven onwards, landing in Malta where the plot becomes even more entangled. With moving and philosophical flashbacks when Bart is given his late father's journals, he begins to discover his past and build the missing relationship with his father. All the time the mystery of Minnie keeps revealing tantalising scraps of unsettling intrigue and possibly criminal activity. Other fascinating characters join the dramatis personae, embellishing the whole thing and racking up the tension with murder, mystery and missing artworks.
The way Dingli builds her players is so compelling one feels they could be people one knows. At the same time she has a capacity for mystery that compels the attention as she wraps each element in a web of artistic interest and cultural detail. The villages and social life of Malta come alive through her descriptions, such that one can almost feel the warm breeze off the Mediterranean, smell the scent of flowers in the gardens and hear the clamour of people going about their daily lives in the narrow streets. Besides delivering beautifully told mysteries, and her trademark car chase, this book is descriptive writing at its best. Her attention to detail, insights into human behaviour and the emotional turmoil felt by her characters put Dingli in the forefront of modern mystery writing.
As a reader you have to apply your brain with this book, but it is so very well worth the effort. Camera Obscura is a must read book.
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on 21 February 2013
Rosanne Dingli never disappoints. With Camera Obscura she has again produced a novel that must rank among the best of mystery thrillers. As is typical of this extraordinary writer there are several different tales, both compelling in different ways. These are interwoven in a complex network of links held together by mystery, intrigue, skulduggery of the highest order and two compelling love stories which draw the reader ever onward.
Starting with a crash, when the glass roof of a café in Freemantle collapses injuring a pretty girl, the element of mystery takes hold from the beginning as a press photographer who witnessed the event comes to the rescue. He discovers an immediate and intense attraction, which he cannot ignore, for the girl he rescues. Before he can find out more about her the girl vanishes, leaving him bereft and unsettled. When, out of the ether, she contacts him clearly needing help but offering no explanation of what or why she vanished, he feels compelled to respond. With his domestic life in turmoil, Bart abandons everything and sets off in pursuit to find Minnie, but she keeps vanishing after only the most fleeting of contacts. Mystery and threat begin to intensify as on each occasion Bart becomes aware of a shadowy figure in a van who is always nearby when he catches up with Minnie.
Into all this Dingli introduces another story about Bart's father who vanished when he was seven. His mother, Iris, with whom his relationship has always been uncomfortable, has told him too many conflicting tales and he needs to find the truth. A letter from a mysterious woman in Malta announcing his father's demise leaves Bart torn between following this lead to solve the greatest mystery of his life and responding to another appeal for help form the mysterious and alluring Minnie.
His decision moves the action across the globe from Western Australia to France. Landing in Paris in the aftermath of a dramatic plane crash, he is drawn onward to the dingy commercial port of Le Havre. Rough action mixes with tender and intense love scenes as Bart and Minnie finally get together. But the pressure is always there and they are soon driven onwards, landing in Malta where the plot becomes even more entangled. With moving and philosophical flashbacks when Bart is given his late father's journals, he begins to discover his past and build the missing relationship with his father. All the time the mystery of Minnie keeps revealing tantalising scraps of unsettling intrigue and possibly criminal activity. Other fascinating characters join the dramatis personae, embellishing the whole thing and racking up the tension with murder, mystery and missing artworks.
The way Dingli builds her players is so compelling one feels they could be people one knows. At the same time she has a capacity for mystery that compels the attention as she wraps each element in a web of artistic interest and cultural detail. The villages and social life of Malta come alive through her descriptions, such that one can almost feel the warm breeze off the Mediterranean, smell the scent of flowers in the gardens and hear the clamour of people going about their daily lives in the narrow streets. Besides delivering beautifully told mysteries, and her trademark car chase, this book is descriptive writing at its best. Her attention to detail, insights into human behaviour and the emotional turmoil felt by her characters put Dingli in the forefront of modern mystery writing.
As a reader you have to apply your brain with this book, but it is so very well worth the effort. Camera Obscura is a must read book.
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on 12 September 2012
This is the second book that I have read by this author and I found it to be equally well crafted and compelling! Dingli proves once again that she is capable of producing well researched and detailed storylines which hook you from the off and pull you along at a fast pace until a conclusion is reached in epic proportions.

Her style of prose, layers of interesting characters and plot complexity sit comfortably with-in the vibrantly colourful depictions of her chosen European destinations making this psychological thriller an action packed read which will totally engross you.

Bart Zacharin, Australian Photo-journalist, is the main character who seems to be going through the motions in his every day life; no clear direction, settling for whatever comes his way. That is until an odd accident provides a chance encounter with a mysterious computer programmer named Minnie Cuff. From then on Bart's life completely changes as he unknowingly becomes tangled in a web of international intrigue, deception and black market dealings where the stakes are as high as the artifact values and danger is lurking around every corner. The trail he follows leads him on a wild goose chase for the elusive Minnie taking him from Australia to France and then finally to Malta where elements of both Minnie's identity and indeed his own start to unravel.

Throughout there are references to the `Camera Obscura', where light inherently dictates what the image is to become but the individual mentally interprets what it wishes it to be: this theme is mirrored by its two main characters where we are not sure for example if Minnie is an image of Bart's heart or his head. There's also an underlying subtext which makes some interesting observations about the influence absent fathers have on the characters, motivations and ambitions of their offspring.

It's a gripping read - I thoroughly recommend this author, her attention to detail and knowledge of exotic and historical locations will have you visualizing the scenes from each page; I am a huge fan!

Andria Saxelby for the Kindle Book Review
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on 2 November 2012
`A camera obscura is a darkened boxlike device used for photographic purposes, sketching, and visual exhibitions. ...' This explanation of the title precedes the novel and I'm grateful to the author for providing it because the term is used several times in the story in relation to how characters and situations are perceived. The explanation obviated the necessity for me to pick up a dictionary.

Bart Zacharin's life changes in a moment. A newspaper photographer, he arrives home in Fremantle earlier than expected and is drinking coffee in a local cafe when a young woman (Minnie Cuff by name) sitting at the next table is injured in a freak accident. Minnie becomes Bart's obsession.

The story poses several meaningful questions: one being the influence that parents exert on their children, another raises nurture versus nature--are we doomed to repeat our parents' mistakes and life decisions--a third is how far and in what direction we allow love to lead us. And finally there's the big one of how we come to terms with what life deals us.

I have only one criticism to make and that is there is not a lot of dialogue. My preference is for a story rich with dialogue. But that's just my preference.

Be that as it may, the author has given us another well written and beautifully atmospheric story, this one set mostly in Malta and wrapped around international art theft. Each chapter is begun with apt quotes that add to the atmospherics and the sense of expectation of what that chapter will bring us.

The characters do the story justice: Bart, whose thoughts and feelings we share; Minnie, who we aren't allowed to know until the end; and Charles, who we meet only through journals after his death but who makes his presence well and truly felt.
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