BOOK CLUB: The Madness Locker

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The Madness Locker by Australian author Eddie Russel is his debut historical fiction novel inspired by a true crime.

On Christmas morning 1986, an elderly widow’s body is discovered inside a wheelie bin in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. The police began a long and intensive investigation but failed to find clear witnesses, suspects, and evidence. Without these factors, it was declared a cold case. 

In 1941, the Nazi party ruled Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, and although Jews were the main target other individuals and groups were considered undesirable and enemies of the state were being captured. As part of the evacuation, one young girl escaped to freedom while another was arrested along with her parents. On her arrival at Auschwitz, she is separated from her parents — never to see them again.

After years of suffering forced hard labour, starvation, and punishments the young girl is freed six years later when Soviet troops liberate Auschwitz.  She begins her journey and travels to Australia, is it freedom and a new life she seeks or is she in search of someone for justice?  

The story takes readers on a voyage through various landscapes and periods, creating a rich tapestry of interconnected lives. We visit the most harrowing time of WWII and the aftermath of war to the backdrop of Sydney in the eighties. 

The author utilised suspense to great effect with all the twists and turns, but I found the numerous times shifts to be demanding at times.  As much as I love a good challenge of reading a book that has them it was difficult to feel thoroughly grounded in the story. 

There are a lot of characters in the narrative, some are well-drawn, but I found it hard to make a deep connection with them especially when they changed names. I feel no matter how interesting an episode from a character’s past may be, if it doesn’t colour the current story in some important way, it will not evoke the greatest response from a reader. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the account of WWII and the Holocaust in the narrative, it is a powerful tool to engage the reader’s awareness.  Whether it be fiction or non-fiction it is a part of history we should be reminded of and not forgotten. 

There is so much power in the haunting cover. You want to see what is behind the doors and if you were to open them there is a silent scream you can’t turn away from. It has a beautiful colour palette that will stand out on a bookshelf making you want to pick it up with intrigue. 

The Madness Locker is a tale of love and loyalty, of unravelling secrets and confronting the ghosts of the past.  It will appeal to fans of the genre and anyone who enjoys a good crime mystery set against a richly detailed historical backdrop.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Madness Locker by Eddie Russel. You can read their comments below, or leave your own review.

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6 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Madness Locker

  1. I never did History in School but have seen documentaries and read in magazines of the years of Hitler and the crimes and what happened there in Auschwitz.

    Wow this book was such a powerful storyline of true historical crime that captured my attention. For me it was a real eye opener for the days of the Germans and the Jews with the Hitler Nazi regime.

    It’s one of these story lines that tend go to back and forth in years and seasons and characters so once you get into reading and getting to know who is who, it all works out perfectly. I found myself reverting back a page to see what year I had just read and where I was now.

    The book starts with Winter 1941 and I got interested in the character of Ruth who is 10 years old and is Jewish. At that age, you are not sure of what is happening around you. Her loving parents made sure she was sheltered from it all. Ruth had a best friend Anna and their lives are told throughout the book as they grow older.

    Another character is Friedrich and Emma, more characters that you follow and see where they fit within the story.

    Just reading this book I was reduced to sadness of hearing a character and her family being squashed in a boxer train thinking they were heading to some safe place. My heart actually broke reading this and I could feel their pain and frustration and sadness. Then for the train journey to finish and then this girl called Helga who has to endure being separated from family, harsh labour in different ways, being starved and deprived, being raped, seeing people being killed or people just dying from starvation or disease. This made me think back to all the people that did die in Auschwitz.

    It certainly is a page turner as you need to know what happens. I was captivated with all the characters in the story and some more so than others but then the story of Helga who really has been through so much, has this vision of revenge and her journey takes her to Australia.

    As I finished the book, I felt the tears roll down for the people that died, for the people that got away from true crimes and for the people that lost so much.

    I see this is a true debut crime book by Eddie Russell the author. An exceptional read which I am so glad I was able to read. It is such a powerful read and certainly had me gripping my pillow as I read. Eddie says on the front of the very haunting cover that it is inspired by true events.

    Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Big Sky Publishing for sending me this book to read. I think it will be a great best seller for sure. To Big Sky, I do want to say that I have now read such a huge genre side of books from you and even now if I see a book published by you, I will certainly get to read it as you really are great characters of authors out there. Just want to congratulate you.

    At the end of the book there are more authors that have written their stories and of course published by Big Sky Publishers.

  2. The Madness Locker by Australian author Eddie Russell falls into both the crime and mystery and historical fiction categories and is certainly an unforgettable read. While history was not my strong point in High School I was thoroughly interested in the Hitler, Jewish and Holocaust components of this novel.
    The Madness Locker was inspired by the true story of an elderly widow found in a wheelie bin (her body treated no more than common garbage) in the eastern suburbs of Sydney on Christmas Day 1986. The story takes us back to the days of Hitler and the concentration camps where the Jewish were held prisoner. The Jewish prisoners suffered at the hands of the Germans who were devoid of empathy and conscience. The Germans were violent, showing no remorse. While reading this novel I learned that The Madness Locker is described as being where you compartmentalise the daily horrors and humiliation either endured by an individual or witnessing others suffering to help oneself remain sane. Prisoners witness others being killed – the bodies either dumped in mass graves or incinerated. The story presents us with characters the then small child Ruth, Fredrich and Emma, innocent Helga who is not only separated from her family but forced into a life of hard labour, suffering and witnessing the destruction of others She was taken, and her friend Ruth was spared. Helga finds herself seeking revenge and tracking Ruth to Sydney. Ruths Sydney neighbour is actually Friedrich who masquerades as “Sam” portraying a Jewish Holocaust survivor who Police initially suspected was Ruths murderer. We soon learn who is the true murderer.
    A huge thank you must go to Beauty and Lace book club and Big Sky Publishing for my copy of The Madness Locker – a truly unforgettable read.

  3. The Madness Locker by Eddie Russell. What a powerful and sad story about a period in history, the Jewish Holocaust under Hitler’s reign, that should never have happened. The story of two families lives intwined by a cruel twist of fate and misguided choices. The lives of two innocent girls, one a Jewish daughter of a neighbour and one of a niece living with her aunt and uncle. This story traces how the lives of each of these girls is changed forever when they are switched and the German girl is sent to the holocaust camps with the parents of the Jewish girl. The story of friendship so strong that the uncle was willing to swap his niece with his neighbours daughter and save her life while his niece was sent to the camps.

    The story of Helga (the German girl) and how after being sent to the camps, how she survived, her misery of a life and how she vowed to seek revenge for a life taken from her. Ruth the Jewish little girl who lived her life and was not physically harmed by the camps as her life was saved. The story also engages about a boy named Frederick and Anna a Jewish girl. Frederick, this boy who was studying medicine and in a relationship with Anna, his story of how he voluntarily returned to Germany and joined the SS Army as a way of pleasing his parents and hoping to be able to one day escape Germany and return to Anna.

    The paths of Helga and Frederick would also cross in the early days of Helga arriving at the camps this was also burnt into her memory for revenge. The end of the holocaust came and with it bought freedom for those still in the Holocaust camps, of which Helga survived. She travelled back to her aunts house to confront them with the accusations that they sent her to the camps and saved Ruth. Frederick who had found his way back to Anna, to only now be a widower was in a new relationship with Ruth. The story tangles its way to how Helga managed to track Ruth down to Australia and find her and Frederick and how this leads to the final part of her revenge. The turn of events and revenge that led to the body of Anna being dumped in the wheelie bin on Christmas Day in 1986.

    This story will take you through the lives of these characters there trials and tribulations, the sadness the happiness and the revenge that will be felt by each of them. A truly amazing story and well written of a sad time in our history. A huge thank you must go to Beauty and Lace book club and Big Sky Publishing for my copy of The Madness Locker.

  4. The MADNESS LOCKER by Eddie Russell.
    I like reading historical crime and thank goodness that I was not around to witness all the horrible crimes to hummanity by the Nazi’s and Hitler.
    The story is based on true events.
    The story has a timeline starting in 1941 telling the story of two young lives one of them a ten year old child named Ruth who loved school and learning only to be told one morning by the principal that she could no longer attend classes at the school but never new why.
    Ruth soon had a tutor who was allowed to teach her from home but she missed walking to school with her best friend Anna.
    Ruth was allowed to visit Anna after her homework to play. But Anna and her school friends could not play at Ruths house because of the troubles.
    Then Helga came to stay with her friend Ruth for a week then the trouble begins.
    Such a sad story of the ups and downs spent in the nazi camps Helga suffers the most ,witnessing horrible things a child should never be subjected too starvation, hard labour rapes .
    40 years on in Sydney Australia this is were revenge happens Anna is murdered and found in a wheelie bin on Christmas morning in 1986 . Who murdered Anna was it sweet revenge by one of her friends from the nazi camps .
    It is a bit of a surprise who is the culprit.
    What a horrible life ending in such tragedy.
    My view on this story is heart wrenching and true to life of learning about what happened to the Jews when Hitler ruled .
    Thankyou for letting me read this gripping suspenseful story .

  5. Than you Beauty and Lace for the offer to review The Madness Locker by Eddie Russell.

    On Christmas day 1986 the body of a 70 year old widow is discovered in a wheelie bin in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. Even though it was investigated, because of a lack of clues it becomes a cold case.

    Around five decades earlier the Third Reich is arresting and deporting to the East what the Nazi Regime labels undesireables. Amongst many a young girl and her Mum and Dad are arrested. They travel by train on a distressing three day journey. When they finally arrive their destination is Auschwitz. When they get there the young girl is set apart from her Mum and Dad who she happens to never see again. While there she endures agony for many years including hard labour and nearly being starved to death and many acts of brutality.

    Six years later she is let free because the Russian army invades Poland and gives freedom to Auschwitz.
    She travels to Australia to find the person she feels accountable for her time in Auschwitz.
    I enjoyed reading this true crime book it brought tears to my eyes and was a real page turner. I like that it is written by an Australian author and inspired by a true story.

  6. The Madness Locker is an absolutely brilliant book. Superb writing, riveting storyline, complex characters … kept me intrigued from start to finish.

    Whilst it deals with the very confronting subject of the holocaust and the reign of Hitler during WWII, the story just draws you in and you can’t help but wonder how it will end.

    Starting in pre-war Europe and ending in 80’s Sydney, ‘The Madness Locker’s is a true masterpiece.

    One of my favourites of the last year.

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