Vale Bernadette

My world is colder and emptier today. There is no better way to describe it. Yesterday I learned of the passing of Bernadette, of Reactions to Reading, and co-host of Fair Dinkum Crime. She was not just a friend to crime fiction, but was also, I’m privileged to say, a personal friend.

Anyone who ever read her blog will know that her reviews were thoughtful, candid, and intelligent. I learned every single time I visited. And part of the reason I did is that she didn’t confine herself to just bestsellers or ‘the book everyone’s talking about.’ She read books from ‘no-names,’ too, and if they were well-written, she said so, and encouraged other people to read them, too. Her blog was a rich resource of reviews, opinions, rants, charts, and really helpful information about crime fiction.

Bernadette was a champion of Australian and New Zealand crime fiction, and she introduced me to a number of authors from that part of the world that I would never have tried otherwise. You might not know this, but she also did a lot behind the scenes to promote crime fiction by Australians (especially Australian women) and New Zealanders. She was on award panels (not an easy job) and committees, and never missed an opportunity to be a voice for the genre.

I am also proud to say that Bernadette was a personal friend. In fact, if I may, let me share a memory. It was a chilly June evening. I’d gone to Australia for a conference, and Bernadette was kind enough to host me for the few days I was in that part of the country. We got to chatting that evening over a glass of good wine. We talked about books, about culture, and about a lot of other things. The conversation was fun, but it was also fascinating, and I learned a lot. At one point, we got into a really interesting debate about language. I don’t know that either of us convinced the other. I do know that I cherish the memory of laughing, joking, and taking apart ideas with her.

I will miss Bernadette sorely as a friend and fellow book lover. She was generous, funny, smart, incisive, and insightful. She welcomed me when I first joined the online crime fiction community and was supportive of both my blogging and my writing. I am a better person and writer because of her.

And the world is a better place because she was in it. Bernadette was a passionate advocate for reading, for literacy, and for speaking up against injustice. Far from being complacent, she did what she could to support libraries, independent bookshops, and easy access to books for everyone, regardless of income.

It’s in that spirit that I’d like to extend an invitation. Bernadette wasn’t one to spend a lot of time wringing her hands. She rolled up her sleeves and did what needed to be done. So, let’s do something to commemorate that.

One of her top causes was Books in Homes Australia, which is dedicated to providing books of choice to all children, including those who live remotely and/or can’t afford to pay. As a way of remembering Bernadette and paying tribute to her passion for reading and for volunteering, I invite you to consider donating to Books in Homes Australia. I’d like to think that Bernadette would be pleased to know that we were doing some good.

I know I’m going to donate. As soon as I dry my tears.  We’ll miss you more than you could know, Bernadette.


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80 responses to “Vale Bernadette

  1. A lovely tribute, Margot. Bernadette was very kind to me over the years and I’ll miss her.

  2. Very touching words, Margot. I’ll miss Bernadette a lot.

  3. I didn’t know Bernadette, even from a blogging point of view, but I feel you have written a really heartfelt and worthy tribute to your friend.

  4. So very sad to hear this. Thank you Margot for your tribute. There are many writers, myself included, who owe a great deal to Bernardette’s advocacy. I valued her a opinion very much.

    • So did I, Sulari. And you’re right about Bernadette’s support for writers. She was very helpful to me, too, and I always respected what she had to say. And she did all she could to promote quality writing, whether the author was a ‘household word’ or not. Her loss is quite a blow.

  5. I am so sorry to hear she is gone – thanks for the update Margot. What a shame.

  6. Margot, I am deeply shocked by this news, and terribly saddened. I also considered her a friend, although we never met in person. I am sorry for your loss and extend my sincere condolences to Bernadette’s family and all who loved her.

    • Thanks, Angela. It is a hard loss, and I know it’s all the harder for Bernadette’s loved ones. She was a good friend to the genre, and a fine person. I’m glad you got the chance to get to know her a bit, even if you never met in person. She will be much missed.

  7. Lindy Cameron

    what a lovely tribute, Margot

  8. Col

    I don’t think I knew her quite as well as some, because our reading paths crossed infrequently, but I did enjoy those occasions when we exchanged views. Sorry for your loss.

  9. I read your post, and I realized that for the past two years of my having been a blogger, my posts have been studded with comments from “berndetteinoz”. She validated my writing, and she always continued the conversation in insightful ways. How lucky you were to meet her and be her friend, Margot.

    • I do feel lucky in that, Brad. Bernadette was always really supportive of bloggers, and took the time to make some thoughtful, helpful comments. And she was a real friend to the genre, so she had a lot of good insights to share. She’ll be much missed.

  10. Patti Abbott

    I, too am shocked. I read her blog faithfully and was impressed by the thoroughness of her reviews. First Bill, now this.

  11. How sad for you and the community of writers and bloggers. She sounds like a wonderful person who will surely be missed. My sincere condolences, Margot.

  12. I didn’t know Bernadette but now I feel that I did. Thank you for making her presence felt.

  13. So sorry for your loss, what a lovely tribute.

  14. Laura Root

    It’s so sad. Bernadette’s blog was one of my favourites, she was a lady of impeccable taste and principles.

  15. I am beyond words, Margot. This was a lovely, lovely post. You put it very well, she was “thoughtful, candid, and intelligent.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

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  17. What a beautiful tribute Margot and in absolute keeping with the woman that shone through her words on her blog.

  18. Sad news, indeed. A lovely tribute, Margot – thank you!

  19. Margot: Thanks for a fine tribute to Bernadette. Her death is a great loss.

    You did leave out one aspect of her review writing. She could go on the most amazing, always entertaining, rants if there was a subject about which she was unhappy. There would be not the slightest doubt where she stood on issues. At the same time I never saw her mean spirited or spiteful.

    Her strong, even fierce opinions, enlivened the blogging world.

    God bless, Bernadette.

    • You’re quite right, Bill. Bernadette left no doubt what she thought and where she stood. It was a mark of her integrity, I think. And yet, as you say, she wasn’t mean-spirited. She also was very clear about what was fact and what was her opinion. I respected her very much for that. She will be sorely missed.

  20. I’m so shocked. I always enjoyed her book reviews & anything else she cared to post. We’ll all miss her deeply.
    Thank you for a beautiful memorial Margot 😢

    • It was a really sudden shock, Anne. I know I’m still reeling. I enjoyed Bernadette’s posts, too, and always learned from them. She will, indeed, be sorely missed.

  21. A terrible loss to us all, Margot, and you put it so well in your post. How lucky you were to meet her. I considered her very much a friend, but an online one. She had such a distinctive and individual voice, and even right now, when I am devastated by the news, I am smiling to think of her great turns of phrase, her funny rants, her incisive views. I laughed out loud sometimes on visiting her blog – but if she liked a book that meant I was going to add it to my list… She will be much missed. Thank you for sharing the news with us, and I’m sure you’ll pass it on if you hear any more.

    • I will, indeed, Moira. As I read your comment, I had to smile at the point you made about the quality of Bernadette’s posts. They could make me laugh out loud, too, even as they made me think. That’s not easy to do. And you’re right; she did have a distinctive, individual voice, and that made her and her blog all the more interesting. I do feel very fortunate to have met her in person. She was at least as lovely in person as on her blog, and I feel privileged to have known her.

  22. What sad news! I enjoyed Bernadette’s reviews and chatting about great and not-so great books even as my blogging has flagged. And her love of year-end reading charts was contagious. Thanks for writing a lovely tribute to her, Margot.

    • I’m glad you thought the post worked, Rebecca. I really enjoyed Bernadette’s reviews and other posts, too. It was a real pleasure to chat books (and just about anything else really) with her. It is sad news, and I think we will all miss her.

  23. Sue

    What a thoughtful and generous tribute.

    Bernadette was an incisive and perceptive reader and her reviews were not to be missed. Through her blog she introduced me to several writers including Elly Griffiths, Sulari Gentill, Cath Staincliff and Angela Savage.

    Her vitality, intellect and sense of fun will be remembered.


    • Thanks for the kind words, Sue. Bernadette introduced me to many new-to-me authors, too. And plenty of them are now among my top, must-read authors/series. She really was perceptive and incisive, and I always learned from her. I think you put it beautifully: she did have vitality, intellect and sense of fun. I will miss her presence greatly.

  24. Kathy D.

    Thank you for the lovely tribute to outstanding blogger, Bernadette.
    I’m so sad about the loss of Bernadette to all of us, a crime-writing and -reading community who read and commented at her blog. And another thing to mourn is her passing at too young an age.
    I will miss her. Every day when I make my round of reading blogs, hers was always one of the first. I enjoyed her incisive and intelligent book reviews, her charts and graphs — and her terrific wit. How many times I laughed out loud as I read a review of a book she disliked. Wow! She took no prisoners.
    But also, I could always tell from her reviews if I should read a book or skip it. And she was always on target with my reading taste. So, I read many good books from heeding her recommendations.
    But also, we emailed each other at times and she was a friend. She also was generous enough to send me books by Australian authors and would not accept my offer to send her books published in the U.S. It’s because of her that I have read so many books published in Australia, especially written by women — and also, that I’ve been introduced to so many good books.
    Will miss you Beradette, but I will continue to look at your blog for book reviews and to reread your terrific writing and appreciate your wit.

    • Bernadette’s blog was one of my first stops, too, Kathy – always. And I know just what you mean about her reviews. They were intelligent, thoughtful, witty, and insightful. I learned with every visit to her blog. And sometimes I laughed, too, at the way she wrote about books she didn’t like. Bernadette left no doubt as to what she thought of what she read, and that made her and her blog all the more special. We will all miss her terribly, and you’re right; she left us much too soon.

  25. Nice piece. I never met Bernadatte in person but I corresponded with her and liked her website & her reviews. We also frequently bonded over our shared love of Bryan Brown. Bernadette was supportive of so many Australian & New Zealand crime writers, myself included. Australia does not have a very strong & vibrant culture of crime fiction reviewing, in the sense that we don’t have a lot of websites run by people who review books regularly & are knowledgeable about the history of our genre. It’s one of the things the US & UK do so much better than us. Anyway, with today’s news, that culture is even weaker.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Andrew. I’m glad you had the chance to correspond with Bernadette. She really was informed and insightful, and did a lot, as you say, to promote Australian crime fiction. Her efforts helped spread the word to other countries, too. I know she introduced me to several Australian crime writers I’d never have read otherwise. Her passing is a big loss to us all.

  26. Margot: Just found the following notice in the online edition of The Advertiser:

    BEAN, Bernadette. Bernadette left us suddenly on Saturday, February 17, 2018. Beloved daughter of Bill and Maureen, sister of Damien and his wife Karen and doting aunt of Celeste and Alyssa. She also graced and impacted the lives of so many and will be missed by dear friends Trish and Fran. There will be a Celebration of Bernadette’s Life at her home on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 2:00pm. In lieu of flowers Bernadette would appreciate support of the Norwood Public Library.

  27. Your tribute to Bernadette is unique and very much appreciative, I felt this was very emotional and touching post about a special lady.

  28. mudpuddle

    a star is missing in the firmament and the cosmos will not be the same… i feel your pain, Margot… so sorry…

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  30. Emma

    Margot, I’m so very sad to hear this. Bernadette was a wonderful supporter of crime writing, but obviously also a very caring and thoughtful person. She will be missed by many and I’m so sad I never got to meet her in person. I’m very sorry for your loss.

    • Thank you, Emma. She really was a staunch supporter of the genre, wasn’t she? And in person, she was delightful. She’ll be greatly missed indeed. I was lucky to have known her.

  31. So very sad reading this. Condolences Margot to you, her friends and family and her followers and readers. Lovely tribute. xx

  32. Damien Bean

    Margot, this is Damien Bean – Bernadette’s brother. I just wanted to make the point to acknowledge your kindness in posting this tribute to Bernadette. It is greatly appreciated by our family. Thank you.

    • Thank you for visiting, Damien, especially at this awful time. I wish you and your family well as you get through this. I’m glad you saw the post. I hope it’s at least a bit of comfort to know that your sister was well-liked and well-respected by people all over the world. We will miss her very much, and we are all better for knowing her.

    • Helen Shaw

      Damien this is Helen Shaw, my family sends their sincere condolences on the loss of Bern. Please contact me via if possible as Mum would love to attend the celebration. Thank you.

  33. Well that’s a lovely idea. Will donate too. I knew Bernadette through being on the AWW challenge team with her. She only pulled out of that this year. Now we know why. Such sad news.

    • Thank you, WG. Bernadette’s passing is a sad loss to us all. You were lucky to have worked with her on AWW. Thanks, also, for your plan to help Books in Homes. It’s a great group, I think, that does important work.

  34. Karen Bean

    On behalf of my family, I want to thank all of you for the very kind words you’ve all written about my sister-in-law, Bernadette. Although as her literary friends and colleagues, you interacted with her for different reasons, you have done a brilliant job of capturing her spirit – funny, sincere, sarcastic, occasionally profane, always brutally honest, but never, ever unkind. Kindly raise a glass of something while enjoying a good book in her honor ~ Karen Bean

    • Thank you for visiting, Karen, especially at such a difficult time. I’m glad you got the chance to see how many lives Bernadette touched in such a positive way. I hope it helps a little to know that she was so well-liked and well-respected. We will miss her very much, and, yes, we’ll raise a glass to her.

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  36. Kathy D.

    OK. I confess that I miss Bernadette’s wit and sarcasm. Last night I went to her blog and read her review of Fiona Barton’s “The Widow,” which she threatened to throw against a wall a few times. I love to read that. I also agreed with her.
    I hope her family will keep up her blog so we can read reviews and commentary and still find good titles to read.

  37. Keishon

    OMG I did know she passed away! I am heartbroken. Was she ill? Does anyone know what happened?

  38. neeru

    Shocked to her about her death. Like many others, who have commented above, I’d miss her acerbic wit.

    A lovely tribute, Margot.

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