Your Preview Verdict: Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

Your Preview Verdict: Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

Renovations are hell. And that’s before you find the body beneath the floorboards. An intriguing mystery from a stylish new voice in crime fiction, for readers of Kerry Greenwood and Holly Throsby.

When your builder finds bones under the floor of your heritage home, what do you do? For TV researcher Poppy McGowan, the first step is to find out if the bones are human (which means calling in the cops and delaying her renovations) or animal (which doesn’t).

Unfortunately, ‘help’ comes in the form of Dr Julieanne Weaver, archaeologist, political hopeful, and Poppy’s old enemy. She declares the bones evidence of a rare breed of fat-tailed sheep, and slaps a heritage order on the site. The resultant archaeological dig introduces Poppy to Tol Lang, the best-looking archaeologist she’s ever met – and also Julieanne’s boyfriend.

When Julieanne is found murdered in Poppy’s house, both she and the increasingly attractive Tol are considered suspects – and so Poppy uses her media contacts and news savvy to investigate other suspects. Did Julieanne have enemies in the right-wing Australian Family Party, for which she was seeking preselection, or in the affiliated Radiant Joy Church? Or at the Museum of New South Wales, among her rivals and ex-boyfriends? And who was her secret lover?

Can Poppy save herself, and Tol … and finally get her house back?

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

What a great modern-day Aussie crime novel, based in the here and now, with Covid19 rating a mention. I loved Poppy’s character and the way I could relate to the thoughts in her mind, she was lots of fun to travel with throughout this story, all the highs, lows and in-between! The storytelling was smooth and before you know it you’re hooked along for the ride through the everyday moments of her day to day life and romance. I would highly recommend this book as it is an easy read with a great story and really lovely characters that feel like home when you read about them. Jodi, QLD, 5 Stars

A very easy, enjoyable read. The characters were believable and the setting (Sydney) had a sense of familiarity about it that made me feel I could settle in for a good read. It’s distinctly Australian, humorous in parts and it kept my attention the whole time. Well done! Donna, VIC, 5 Stars

Keeps the reader attentive from the start. Well researched to make the story believable. Jim, WA, 5 Stars

Wow what a great read. Poppy McGowan is the main character in this great mystery read. She was a delight to get to know as the reader was taken along the journey throughout this story. Poppy buys an old house in Annandale in Sydney, and as the renovations starts so does the mystery. Bones are discovered under the house which turns into an archaeological dig as it isn’t sure if they are of historical significance. But that is only the start of the drama, a murder follows and of course the questions are asked “who could have done it ?” The ensuing trail to find out who, why and how takes the reader along a journey, discovering many suspects, some nice and not so nice characters appear along the way. A lovely easy read that had me hooked right from the start. You won’t want to put this book down! Christine, QLD, 5 Stars

Digging Up Dirt is both daring and wholesome. In a quirky case of “who done it?” we follow the story of Poppy, a young woman who just wants to renovate her home, solve a true crime murder, fall in love and she wants to do it all with a cuppa tea in her hands! This was a wonderful and quick read as it was incredibly difficult to put down! Mercury, NSW, 5 Stars

Thoroughly enjoyed preview reading Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart. The story is a modern murder mystery set in an old home, being renovated in Sydney. The book will appeal to anyone who has renovated, dealt with local council and tradesmen, worked with quirky colleagues, moved in with their parents or enjoys a great whodunit! Many laugh out loud moments thanks to the black comedy, relieving some of the tension as suspicions arise and are replaced with yet another suspect. There is a little romance thrown in for good measure. The characters come alive on the page with a feeling I’ve met them before. The story is fast paced and hard to put down, I highly recommend this book by Pamela Hart. I’d love to read a sequel, so many possibilities. Thank you to Better Reading for this opportunity. Margaret, NSW, 5 Stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and consumed it in a day. I was hooked from the beginning and just could not put it down. It had a touch of everything from crime, romance, politics and humour. And it was very Australian to boot! I loved reading about places I have been to as I can see them in my mind as I am reading, as well as including stories that have recently been in the news, the Luna Park fire. I really enjoyed each of the characters in the story with them reminding me of many friends with their quirky behaviours. The writing style was super easy to read and I really hope the author comes out with a sequel. I want to know what happens between Poppy and Tol and if Poppy will finally get her house sorted!! A real cracker of a book that kept me guessing until the end. Five stars from me! Jodie, VIC, 5 Stars

Digging Up Dirt was gripping from the beginning. The world of archaeology doesn’t appear in many books but Digging Up Dirt brings it to the forefront. Poppy McGowan is renovating her newly purchased house in Sydney when her builder finds bones under the floorboards… But that’s not the worst of their worries. The descriptions of Australian landmarks and Sydney streets makes you feel closer to the story. Poppy is a character we can all relate to… She wants to get her life sorted but undesirable outcomes are continually thrown at her. But all credit to the author and the character, Poppy makes you feel like you can push past all of the undesirables to find your own happiness. I loved this book from start to finish!! It was a pleasure to read. Melissa, QLD, 5 Stars

Thank you to Harlequin for the opportunity to read Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart. This is another great Australian author who knows how to keep the mystery going till the end of the book. The main character Poppy McGowan works at the ABC in Sydney. Whilst she is renovating her house, bones are found under the flooring and the story goes on from there. Poppy is a likeable character that you want to follow through this eventful, funny and romantic story. There are enough suspects to keep you guessing the whole way through the book. I’m now looking forward to reading another of Pamela’s books. Louise, NSW, 5 Stars

A fun and fabulous read. A murder mystery that kept you guessing until the end. Right amount of mystery and romance that kept you drawn in. The characters are memorable and well thought out, there are lots of complicated relationships with a splash of scandal. There are a diverse range of suspects that you keep you guessing until the end. Funny and clever, humorous and witty, a fantastic murder mystery. Andreea, ACT, 5 Stars

Digging Up Dirt is easily one of my favourite reads in 2021. A modern crime novel that keeps you hooked till the very end to see where it leads. This book possesses a familiarity I haven’t felt before. The characters and contemporary issues were so relatable I even wondered if I knew the author. You can’t help but love the sassy Poppy McGowan as she navigates her way through a renovation derailed, the demands of work, her personal life and the looming threat of being a murder suspect. We could all do with a Poppy in our lives. Emma, QLD, 5 Stars

Please take a bow, Pamela Hart! I only received this Poppy McGowan murder mystery a week ago and have managed to binge read it in 1.5 days (while trying so hard to delay the ending!) with a craving (and withdrawal symptoms!) for a follow up sequel/new murder mystery. The story is captivating and funny and fun… but no spoilers! Surely its because Pamela had fun writing this novel! I love stories based in Australia, and Sydney is one of my favourite locations. Thank you for a well written, upbeat and fun murder mystery that I will thoroughly recommend to anyone I meet! Preeya, QLD, 5 Stars

Pamela Hart’s Digging Up Dirt leads the reader into the realms of behind the scenes TV reporting and archeological digs. The renovation of her heritage home becomes more of a problem for Poppy when a body is discovered in her recently dug up living room. Becoming a suspect in the murder adds to her troubles as well as being attracted to the victim’s boyfriend. The Radiant Joy Church leaders and families become entwined in the mystery of who had a motive to kill the beautiful but many faceted Julianne. A page turner till the end and a excellent rainy day read. Wendy, SA, 5 Stars

The cover sets the tone for the book perfectly. A wonderful blend of humour, colour and murder. Throughout there is a delicious rippling undertow of menace. A diverse range of suspects to keep you guessing. The behind the scenes glimpse into television programming and heritage investigations was very interesting. I totally loved the involvement of the accumulated cast of characters for the denouement. A fun, fabulous read. Mary, QLD, 5 Stars

I really enjoy Murder Mysteries and this book sure didn’t disappoint. Also liked the fact that it was set in Australia and could relate to the areas mentioned, as I have family in those areas, particularly Marrickville. The characters were aptly described and I was grateful that Poppy got a happy ending. Another book I would highly recommend to others. Annette, NSW, 4 Stars

Poppy McGowan is having her dream cottage renovated. Naturally, this means things are about to go awry. For Poppy, the worst happens in the form of the discovery of bones of suspected historical significance, an impromptu archaeological dig in her living room headed by her nemesis, and an inconvenient murder. Poppy and her smoking hot archaeologist crush Tol are now prime suspects. Digging Up Dirt is a lighter, brighter read than some of the gritty crime and noir currently on the market (making it perfect for devouring on a lazy Sunday). This is a read that rewards those who want a pacey, unpredictable, fun mystery. Lisa, SA, 4 Stars

WHAT A GREAT MURDER MYSTERY READ… Even though I felt it started a little slow the further I ventured into the book the more I couldn’t put it down. Poppy McGowan is a TV researcher/presenter on a children’s TV show and she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery that happened in her house as she is renovating it. The body of someone known to her, Archaeologist Dr Julieanne Weaver, is found in the digging site in the middle of her house. This leaves the police with her and Tol, boyfriend of Julieanne, as prime suspects. Poppy takes it upon herself to find out what has happened and prove her innocence. Throw in some memorable characters from a political party, a little romance and a policewoman who is determined to get to the truth and this is an easy fun read for all to enjoy. Looking forward to more of Poppy McGowan. Dianne, QLD, 4 Stars

Murder mystery lovers need to check this book out! I read it over 2 days and what a fabulous way it was to spend my weekend! Digging Up Dirt is so much fun. I really couldn’t put it down. I was completely caught up in the intrigue, the cast of characters and the mounting drama. Digging Up Dirt was an absolute delight to read! This is a fabulous, cosy, murder mystery with some great comedic moments. As a protagonist, Poppy is excellent – smart, funny, relatable and with a voice that propels you easily into the story. There were several things I really loved about this book: Red herrings and clues galore which allowed me to play detective. All the references to Sydney suburbs and locations (love a hometown novel!). Working in media, I loved all the familiar mentions of media tactics, broadcast and interview techniques, the news cycle, government and politics. If Digging Up Dirt is the first in a series, it’s off to a great start! I look forward to reading more of Poppy’s adventures. Jessica, NSW, 4 Stars

Digging Up Dirt was an enjoyable and fun mystery read set in Sydney, with just the right touch of romance thrown in. I was very interested in the author’s behind the scenes knowledge of recording programs and news reports for the ABC. She has been a scriptwriter at ABC Kids and I enjoyed this aspect of Poppy’s character. I also loved the way we were drawn into the tangled web of the Australian Family Party and the affiliated Radiant Joy Church. I have to wonder how close this is to the real political party, it certainly provided food for thought. Pamela Hart writes her characters with such a deep empathy and attention to detail. I loved Poppy, especially her tenacity and courage once she started to unravel the puzzles that this mystery presented. She was also such an amazingly well rounded character with a wonderfully written family and work life, but also her own anxieties and insecurities which made her all the more relatable. It looks like this is going to be a series and I’m very interested to read more about Poppy in the next instalment. I hope it’s not too far away. Brooke, VIC, 4 Stars

I am a first time reader of Pamela Hart’s novels, and it’s safe to say, I was not disappointed with Digging Up Dirt. Poppy’s life was on track. She has a successful career, loving family and friends and has just purchased her first house and is ready to renovate and create her dream home. Little did she know that when renovations began, they would dig up a whole lot of complications. From finding discarded bones (which could possibly be of historical significance) to a murder in her home. Poppy has had to use her journalistic background to get to the bottom of what has happened in her life and how she can get back on track. Digging Up Dirt had me laughing, shocked, sad and just wanting more. Definitely recommend this read. Nicole, VIC, 4 Stars

Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart introduces us to Poppy McGowan, a researcher and scriptwriter for the Children’s and Education Dept of the ABC. Although a slow beginning, the development of Poppy’s character keeps you wanting to read more. When bones are found during renovations of her home, her long time friend Annie sends an archaeologist to examine and authenticate them. Julieanne, is a past associate and not one of Poppy’s favourite people. Two days later Julieanne is found dead in the pit at Poppy’s house. Poppy and Julieanne’s boyfriend become suspects. The story begins to move along as Poppy uses her skills as a TV interviewer to clear both their names. The more Poppy learns about Julieanne the more she becomes involved with the family of a minority political party leader and his connection to a religious sect that practices the domination of women. Hart takes us on a trip of twists and turns as Poppy works to find the real murderer. I enjoyed Pamela’s style of writing and the deviation from regular murder stories. I look forward to reading more about Poppy McGowan. Karen, VIC, 4 Stars

A pleasant, enjoyable read from this author. A likeable main character, that had you barracking for her to solve this murder mystery in her own house. The plot had me turning the pages to the very end and had me guessing who the murderer was the whole time, up until the last few pages, and even then it was not anyone I had suspected! Melissa, VIC, 4 Stars

Poppy McGowan is living with her parents while renovating her historic Sydney home, when the builder discovers bones under the floorboards – are they animal or human? A children’s TV researcher, Poppy seeks help from her contacts at the Museum of New South Wales, who send Julieanne and Tol. Poppy and Julieanne are former colleagues but not friends, however when Julieanne is found murdered in Poppy’s house and she is a suspect, Poppy is determined to find out the truth. The mystery involves suspects from the fictional right-wing Australian Family Party and Radiant Joy Church, as well as Julieanne’s boyfriend Tol, and staff from the Museum itself. I enjoyed this intelligent and satisfying mystery. Poppy’s voice and inner monologue are considered and fair, empathetic of the characters and institutions she encounters throughout the story, and there are enough plot twists and intriguing characters to keep the reader involved until the end. Louise, VIC, 4 Stars

I know I’m going to like a crime novel when a character exclaims: “There’s a body in your living room!” Pleasingly, Digging Up Dirt does not disappoint. As an Australian who loves the ABC, I immediately warm to the main character, Poppy McGowan, a kids’ producer for the national broadcaster. Pamela Hart creates a raft of amusing characters, all with dubious back stories. Most of them soon become murder suspects as motives emerge and alibis are disproven. Poppy is forced to become an amateur sleuth as Detective Sergeant Chloe Prudhomme points the finger at Poppy and her love interest. Pamela Hart cleverly combines Poppy’s role as a TV producer with that of crime investigator, making this combination both plausible and often funny. This all happens against the backdrop of Poppy’s major home renovation which is also central to the plot. The novel is fast moving with lots of twists and red herrings and plenty of suspense. Roger, VIC, 4 Stars

I just flew through this cosy mystery, set in inner suburban Sydney. Our amateur detective is the wonderful Poppy, a television researcher who inadvertently becomes a part of a murder mystery when a body is found in the house that she is renovating. She has a knack for asking the right people the right questions, this keeps her one step ahead of the police. Poppy is fun and funny, and her determination to uncover the truth keeps this story moving along at a cracking pace. Great characters, fast moving plot and a very satisfying ending, I highly recommend this very enjoyable read. Lisa, QLD, 4 Stars

For those who would have loved to be a detective, this one’s about you. While Poppy’s house is being renovated, old bones are discovered, putting a halt to the renovations until they can determine whether the bones are human or not. Dr Julianne Weaver, an archaeologist and an old enemy of Poppy’s, is brought in to detail the bones and declares they are that of an old fat tailed sheep and places the house under a Heritage order. When Dr Weaver is found murdered in the house, Poppy is the number one suspect. This is when Poppy uses her contacts and all round investigation skills to uncover who the actual murderer is. The Sydney setting, romance, politics and twists made for a wonderful read. Nicole, VIC, 4 Stars

This was a fun read, but a bit too heavy on the details of work at the ABC and at a museum (both which would otherwise be interesting in their own right). The actual story didn’t really take off until the last third of the book, and when it did, it was riveting, but there was just so much confusing (and fairly unnecessary) “how I do my job” details at the start that tended to let this book down, and distract from the otherwise intriguing murder mystery. It’s also another Australian book set in Sydney, that assumes people outside of Sydney will just know what and where they’re talking about. I found the main character likeable, but a bit confusing – much like the book in itself. I really wanted to like it more, but it was so bogged down in details about filming that the story took a long time to get going, and by the time I’d finished I felt like I’d read a really brief murder mystery but an awful lot about setting up scenes for filming! Katrina, TAS, 3 Stars

Digging Up Dirt is set in contemporary inner Sydney with unearthed bones, an archaeological dig, murder, politics, the ABC and a little romance thrown into the mix for good measure. Poppy McGowan just wants to finish the renovations and move into her little worker’s cottage in Annandale but suddenly she finds herself not only a suspect in a rather grisly murder but also falling in love with the victim’s boyfriend. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the making of television news and children’s programs as well as the familiar Sydney settings. The story is well paced with some nicely timed wry humour and enough red herrings, sub-plots and an interesting mix of characters to hold the reader’s attention to the last page. Dianne, QLD, 3 Stars

Firstly, thank you to Better Reading for the preview copy of Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart for honest review. This was an interesting read for me – not a book that I would normally choose as I usually lean towards the grittier end of the crime genre! – but this cozy murder mystery was really enjoyable! I loved that it was set in Australia and there were so many Aussie places and references that I could identify with throughout the book. I really enjoyed the character of Poppy McGowan and look forward to seeing where the author takes her to next! Lisa, QLD, 3 Stars

Poppy, a researcher for a children’s television program is living with her parent’s whilst renovating her small house. Her plans are initially delayed when bones are discovered under the floorboards but when an old foe is murdered in the house, everything is totally disrupted. The setting of the story is important as the history of the city triggers the renovation problems and draws the main characters to the site. The author’s knowledge and love of Sydney plus the beauty of the harbour and its surroundings is accentuated through Poppy who lives and works in the inner city. The use of the first person is challenging and owning the murder site and being a media employee, Poppy is primed to develop into amateur-investigator. I felt Poppy appeared older than her age and the other characters seemed shallow and unnatural when described only from Poppy’s point of view. For example, her parents depicted as abnormally strict catholic and her description of Tol as the “hottest archaeologist” rather odd. Not quite a satire or social political/religious commentary, Digging Up Dirt does dip into contemporary topics such as the influence of popularist charismatic churches, and also considers how minority political parties handle the pre-selection of their candidates. The murder/mystery is well planned, and the actual killer not revealed until the end, making it quite enjoyable. Rosalie, ACT, 3 Stars

A fun light read, this whodunnit was quite enjoyable. A bit slow at times but the many suspects, twists and turns kept my interest to the end. Alice, NSW, 3 Stars

Reviews

The Perfect Cosy Mystery: Read an Extract from Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

Review | Extract

16 June 2021

The Perfect Cosy Mystery: Read an Extract from Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

    Nothing Stops Renovations Faster Than a Dead Body: Read our Review of Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

    Review | Our Review

    15 June 2021

    Nothing Stops Renovations Faster Than a Dead Body: Read our Review of Digging Up Dirt by Pamela Hart

      Related Articles

      Author Pamela Hart on Women in WWI and the books that influenced her work

      News

      20 April 2016

      Author Pamela Hart on Women in WWI and the books that influenced her work

        Mother's Day Pick

        News

        8 May 2015

        Mother's Day Pick

          Synopsis

          Renovations are hell. And that's before you find the body beneath the floorboards. An intriguing mystery from a stylish new voice in crime fiction, for readers of Kerry Greenwood and Holly Throsby. When your builder finds bones under the floor of your heritage home, what do you do? For TV researcher Poppy McGowan, the first step is to find out if the bones are human (which means calling in the cops and delaying her renovations) or animal (which doesn't). Unfortunately, 'help' comes in the form of Dr Julieanne Weaver, archaeologist, political hopeful, and Poppy's old enemy. She declares the bones evidence of a rare breed of fat-tailed sheep, and slaps a heritage order on the site. The resultant archaeological dig introduces Poppy to Tol Lang, the best-looking archaeologist she's ever met - and also Julieanne's boyfriend. When Julieanne is found murdered in Poppy's house, both she and the increasingly attractive Tol are considered suspects - and so Poppy uses her media contacts and news savvy to investigate other suspects. Did Julieanne have enemies in the right-wing Australian Family Party, for which she was seeking preselection, or in the affiliated Radiant Joy Church? Or at the Museum of New South Wales, among her rivals and ex-boyfriends? And who was her secret lover? Can Poppy save herself, and Tol ... and finally get her house back?
          Pamela Hart
          About the author

          Pamela Hart

          Pamela Hart is an award-winning author for both adults and children. She has a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney, where she has also lectured in creative writing. Writing under the name Pamela Freeman, she wrote the historical novel The Black Dress, which won the NSW Premier's History Prize for 2006 and is now in its third edition. Pamela is also well known for her fantasy novels for adults, published by Orbit worldwide, the Castings Trilogy and her Aurealis Award winning novel Ember And Ash. Pamela lives in Sydney with her husband and their son, and teaches at the Australian Writers' Centre.

          Books by Pamela Hart

          COMMENTS

          Leave a Reply

          Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *