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Saturday, 27 November 2021

Mentone Public Library Proudly Zooms for its Grand Finale with George Ivanoff Presenting: "The Supernatural Survival Guide" - 11am, Saturday, 11 December 2021


Mentone Public Library's

An Author for All Seasons:

Series Eleven

Proudly Presents
The Grand Finale  


From Beyond 

The North Pole 

Solar System...

Pre-Order Copies 

Ahead of Zoom Event 

Scheduled for:


Saturday, 11 December 2021


Beaumaris Books

by clicking on the image below:



 Entry: $5

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(Option Available until end

Wednesday, 8 December 2021)


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(03) 9005 6300*

Don't let the British Skype lady deter you...

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 Venue: Online:

Mentone Public Library 

Zoom Room



Zoom Link released

two days 

before event 

to all who have booked.

Time: 11am-12.30pm 

(Melbourne time)



Saturday, 11 December 2021



Friday, 10 December 2021 


Zoom Room 

can welcome a 

collective of 100

to this online event.





Also featuring 

guest appearances from:


 George's presentation

will be followed by an 

Author Appreciation Ceremony  

to pay tribute to all our talented

local writers & authors 

who formed our 

Series Eleven 



"An Author for All Seasons

for 2021.

Please join us for our 

Grand Finale...

it'll be out of this world!


Mentone Public Library

Venue Update:


Exhibit A Unmasked: Laraine Stephens Unites Local History & Crime Fiction to a Riveting Cliffhanger: Zoom Review - 11am, Saturday, 20 November 2021

Zoom Review

 Exhibit A Unmasked:

 Laraine Stephens 

Unites Local History 

Crime Fiction 

to a Riveting Cliffhanger




 Sharni Brazier 

All of us were bracing ourselves, 

waiting with bated breath 

for a jarring account of murder.


Peter Ratcliff, Secretary of 

Mordialloc & District Historical Society Inc

(M&DH Society), 

lulled us into a false sense of calm 

in vividly describing the genteel, 

 historical origins of the Bayside municipality

his organisation serves:  

Mentone, Parkdale and Mordialloc.


M&DH Society is dedicated to 

meticulously preserving and representing 

the cultural heritage 

of the municipality’s  past.


 Mentone in itself was originally planned 

as a refreshing beachside holiday escape 

from the teeming bustle of overcrowded 

inner “Marvellous Melbourne”. 


Its architecture is an echo of this initial vision,

with historic buildings

dating from the 1880s to the 1920s.


Credit: Andrew Owens - 2007

One of the most prominent being

 Kilbreda College;

the former coffee palace that 

M&DH Society rallied to successfully gain 

state heritage protection for in 2020.

Left to Right: Peter Ratcliff, George Fagin, David Dodd

Peter Ratcliff’s brief would be
the calm before the storm....


Suddenly, we were thrust from Mentone

to a crime scene in neighbouring Cheltenham.

 The date: 15 January 1902.


“Collective Detective” 

David Dodd

regaled to us a torrid crime of passion...or was it?


A George Fagan fatally wounded his wife Jane

upon discovery of a letter revealing

her affair with another man.


George Fagan, however,

was nonchalant in the aftermath.

There was no passionate display

 of mourning for his wife,

 nor for himself in the death sentence 

handed down to him.


Sign of a true psychopath, perhaps?


Detective Dodd, 

a veritable raconteur,

delivered this macabre story 

with distinct relish. 


The tone was set for the

dastardly and gruesome deeds

to follow in the nearby municipality

of Sandringham & District...


Death Masks Image Credit: Joy of Museums Virtual Tours - 2017



 Nathaniel Davies


Experience working as a Volunteer Guide 

at the Old Melbourne Gaol

serving in secondary schools 

as Head Librarian 

and possessing a 

Diploma in Education,

well-equipped Laraine with 

an admirable skills-base 

for writing 

The Death Mask Murders



I have read the odd mystery novel,

but not as many as Laraine Stephens.


Laraine professed to 

knowing every single title 

in her school library growing up.

Recounting her love of novels by

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle,

Laraine even visited Sherlock Holmes

fictitious house in 221b Baker Street.


Credit: Graham Tiller - 2017


I have been to the area and 221b Baker Street, 

dedicated to Sherlock Holmes fans. 

It has many relics from the books and decor 

set out like his apartment would have been furbished.

It was a fun place to visit when in London.



It intrigued me hearing 

the true local history of  

Brighton Victoria

where Laraine's crime story unfolds,

which I knew little about. 


Credit: Brighton Historical Society

This included the devastating 

1918 cyclone in Brighton

which wiped out many houses and bungalows.

The “Brighton Tornado”, 

remains the worst recorded cyclone 

in Victoria on record.


Credit: Graeme Johnstone ("Friday Magazine" : 

88.3 Southern FM Radio): Aired - Friday, 12 November 2021


Laraine’s writing process 

was most interesting to me. 

A working methodology comprised of 

20% “plotter” and 80% “pantser”,

with great emphasis on character development. 



Credit: National Archives of Australia: "Treatment of Returned Soldiers Suffering Shell Shock"


Laraine’s exploration and portrayal of 

shell shock” 

and doctors’ responses to it 

during the period of 

The Great War 

and its aftermath, 

demonstrated the length of 

research undertaken 

by Laraine to propel with 

credible conviction,

a spectacular recipe 

for a fascinating murder mystery.







Laraine demonstrated with 

moulding hand gestures 

the process of 

creating death masks at 

The Dead House of the

Old Melbourne Gaol

for all zoomers to envisage the stark image. 


Death Mask - Female - "Stranger of the Sciene" - Germany - Circa 1900

We could sense Laraine's incredulity 

as she explained that it was thought 

improper to cut a dead woman’s hair, 

but perfectly fine to shave 

a dead man’s hair and beard.


Laraine went on to explain that death masks were

initially created to serve as mementos, 

but by and throughout the nineteenth century 

were considered valuable aides for  

analysing criminal minds via

 the no longer practiced science;




On that note,

despite the dark subject matter,

Laraine’s humour shone through 

as she introduced us to her own 

phrenology bust 

aptly named Phred;

a fully-fledged 

Melbourne Demons 

supporter like herself!



Phrenology was considered to have legitimacy 

up until the end of the nineteenth century.

 It was based on the belief 

that the shape or contours of a person's head 

provided an indication of their character.


Different parts of the brain 

controlled different parts 

of a person’s personality.


If one part was used more, 

it was believed it would form 

a lump in that part of the skull.


If it was used less, 

it would show a depression in the skull.


It was believed this could detect 

a person’s predisposition to criminality.


She cheekily suggested that 

we were probably all 

now checking our own skulls.



 We were treated to a story, 

which she told us was a “secret”. 

In 1929 the Old Melbourne Gaol 

was undergoing renovations.

As a consequence, the graveyard was dug up.


A group of schoolboys 

escaped with its bones, 

thinking they were the remains of 

Ned Kelly.


ABC Australia: "The Strange Case of Ned Kelly's Head" - 25 August 2015


 The big secret and reveal?

 ...Laraine’s dad was one of the schoolboys!


Almost tongue-in-cheek, 

Laraine said she had

only told about 30 000 people”,

so we were sworn to secrecy.


Laraine informed us that much 

of her research was via 

National Library of Australia’s



Via studying its repository of scanned 

original news articles, advertisements 

and photographs 

Laraine was able to piece together 

her compelling historical crime-fiction story.


In the climactic conclusion 

to an enthralling, insightful presentation,

Laraine was met with a rousing response of applause.



Discover Laraine's Writing for Yourself:

Visit: Website 



Explore: Facebook 



Level Best Book Publishers 


Dames of Detection 


Source a Copy:  

The Death Mask Murders