Bold. Adventurous. Life-changing.
  • Reckless
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Marele Day


Jean Kay, my skipper, fellow adventurer, my friend. My brother.
Jean Kay, soldier of fortune, opportunist, embezzler, hijacker.

In her youth, amidst the throes of a reckless grief, aspiring Australian writer Marele Day is caught up in a shipwreck adventure and forges an unlikely bond with an international fugitive travelling under a pseudonym. For the next thirty years they correspond before reuniting, both older and wiser, in France.

Marele is now an accomplished crime writer, and while she knew of her travel companion's previous reputation as 'the hijacker with a big heart' and 'brother to the poor', she is intrigued to discover his connection to the disappearance of eight million francs and a secret dossier that made global headlines. 

Brilliantly crafted, Reckless tells the story of how Marele uncovers the truth about Jean Kay's identity and motives by piecing together clues from their letters, her diaries and a stash of newspaper clippings, and how, in the process of telling his story, she ultimately makes peace with the reckless ghosts of her past.

About the Author

Marele Day's four-book Claudia Valentine series won her a Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award for crime writing. Her bestselling literary novel, Lambs of God, was published to acclaim in Australia and overseas, and became a multi-award winning miniseries. Other novels include Mrs Cook: The Real and Imagined Life of the Captain's Wife, and The Sea Bed. Marele has more than twenty years' experience as a mentor and teacher of Creative Writing. She has served as judge for literary competitions including The Australian/Vogel's Literary Award and the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. She lives on Bundjalung Country in northern New South Wales.


‘utterly compelling.’ The Guardian

‘a laudable success’ ― The Canberra Times

‘Often moving and occasionally profound.’ ― Herald Sun

‘True crime adventure, bold memoir and investigative masterclass, but above all a breathtakingly original story.' ― Robert Drewe, author of The Shark Net and The Bodysurfers

'A remarkable true story that reads like fiction because of the quality of the writing. Enthralling.' ― 
Michael Robotham, author of Lying Beside You and When She Was Good

‘Reading in parts like the crime fiction that made Marele Day so famous, 
Reckless is an extraordinary story of dramatic adventures spanning continents and decades: international fugitive and benevolent thief Jean Kay is as good a character as any a crime writer could invent. But Day also recounts her own need to escape and take risks, producing a touching memoir of grief and loss informed by a writer’s attentive curiosity, one that candidly explores every angle of a story, even that of the friendship of a lifetime.' ― Debra Adelaide, author of The Household Guide to Dying and The Women's Pages

Reckless is about a woman who transforms the paralysis of unexpected grief into an adventure so dazzling that readers may have to remind themselves to breathe. But that is only part of it. In later life, a profound exploration of her experience leads the author to France and Brazil and to unexplored territories of faith, trust, and friendship, revealing the differences between the charming stories we are told and the stories we have no choice but to believe.' ― Brenda Walker, author of Reading by Moonlight and The Wing of Night

‘Marele Day’s Reckless has the pace of a great thriller with the heart of the most beautifully crafted memoir. Both riveting and touching, Reckless is truly a gift. I feel so privileged to have read this gorgeous book.’  Mirandi Riwoe, author of Stone Sky Gold Mountain and The Burnished Sun

‘Little did I suspect that crime queen Marele Day had first hand experience of an international fugitive, part French Robin Hood, part
 Shantaram seeker. Every page of her crazy youthful adventure  at sea and her later attempt to follow the trail  of her mysterious mercenary-turned-champion-of-the-poor skipper bristles with danger and fizzes with tension as she  tries to unravel an international heist that made headlines in France. Fraud, glamour, friendship, loss and betrayal create a heady cocktail as the trail heats up from Australia to Brazil. Sometimes, fiction just can’t match fact, seems pale by comparison. This is one of those stories.’ ― Caroline Baum, author of Only

‘Not only the strangest true crime story you’ll read this year, 
Reckless is also the most beautifully told.’ ― Geordie Williamson, chief literary critic of The Australian

Reckless is a book that takes you on a journey with a writer at the top of her game, trying to piece together the story of a man, a friendship, and a crime that she’s been so inescapably linked to for a lifetime. Revealing and personal, I loved being let in to the journey of a writer who I’ve long admired, making peace with the ghosts of her past.’ ― Sarah Lambert, award-winning writer and producer

Reckless is an astonishing tour de force, a tale riven with so many unforgettable characters, exotic locations and plot-twists that it could have come from the novelist Day’s own electric imagination, but it’s all true. Day’s memoir is as gripping as any thriller. It’s also a brilliant meditation on love and loss, ageing, grief, memory, and the craft of writing itself.’ ― Matthew Condon, author of Three Crooked Kings and The Night Dragon 




Pub Date
May 2023




Memoir. Travel. Adventure.