13 July 2020

Review: DEAR CHILD, Romy Hausmann

  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • Published in German Feb 2019
  • Translated from German by Jamie Bulloch
Synopsis (Amazon)

YOU ESCAPED. BUT YOUR NIGHTMARE HAS JUST BEGUN.

A windowless shack in the woods. Lena's life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.

One day Lena manages to flee - but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called 'Lena', who disappeared without a trace over thirteen years ago. The police and Lena's family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn't quite seem to fit.

My Take

Lena Beck went missing in Munich when she was 23 and her father Matthias, and Karin, his wife of 40 years, have always believed she will turn up sometime, alive.

In a sense the novel begins almost at the end. An ambulance is called to a road accident where a woman has been hit by a car. A child tells them her name is Lena and her own name is Hannah, but she doesn't know their surname and she doesn't know how to contact her father. She says she has a younger brother and that he will be in their cabin in the woods.

Matthias gets a phone call from a policeman in charge of the case that investigation into Lena's original disappearance to say that a person has been found that they think might be Lena. He rushes to the hospital only to find that the injured person is not his daughter. Then he and Karin see Hannah who looks like a younger version of their daughter.

A very intriguing plot with plenty of twists. On one level it is a hideous tale about obsession, on another a warming one about Matthias' search for the truth. The identity of "the husband" came as a complete surprise. It is the author's debut title.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Romy Hausmann was born in the former GDR in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son Romy has been working as a freelancer in TV. DEAR CHILD is her thriller debut. Romy lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart.

8 July 2020

Review: THE CAKEMAKER'S WISH, Josephine Moon

Synopsis (publisher)

When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.

The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.

For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.

After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options she didn’t even know she was craving.

My take

Please note - this is not crime fiction

When her final family link in Tasmania dies, Olivia decides to go back to the Cotswolds to become part of a project designed to attract those whose families came from there. Not everyone is pleased with having "imports" in their village, as Olivia realises when someone releases a rat in her cake shop. But she and her young son Darcy quickly make new friends and begin to feel at home.

Olivia hopes too to discover why her grandmother originally left the village and meets some residents who were Ma's contemporaries.

I found this a "comfort" read, with an interesting scenario, and believable characters.

Book groups will enjoy the questions at the back of the book aimed at increasing their enjoyment.

My  rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.2, THREE GOLD COINS 

6 July 2020

Review: TIME FOR THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

  • this book published 2019
  • #14 in the Rhona MacLeod series
  • source: my local library - Libby
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Time for the Dead ..sees forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod investigate a brutal series of killings on Scotland's Isle of Skye.

When forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod returns to her roots on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, a chance encounter in the woods behind a nearby activities centre leads her to what seems to be a crime scene, but without a victim. Could this be linked to a group of army medics, who visited the centre while on leave from Afghanistan and can no longer be located on the island?

Enlisting the help of local tracker dog Blaze, Rhona starts searching for a connection.

Two days later a body is found at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock, face and identity obliterated by the fall, which leads Rhona to suspect the missing medics may be on the island for reasons other than relaxation. Furthermore, elements of the case suggests a link with an ongoing operation in Glasgow, which draws DS Michael McNab into the investigation.

As the island’s unforgiving conditions close in, Rhona must find out what really happened to the group in Afghanistan, as the consequences may be being played out in brutal killings on Skye . . .

My Take

Reading this novel immediately after the previous title in the series definitely paid off. The events of SINS OF THE DEAD were very fresh in my memory and there were many references to that novel which would have otherwise left me very puzzled. My conclusion is that this really is a series where the author does not hold back from references to previous events.

Based on this experience, if you have never read any in this series, my advice would be to start at the beginning if you can, as I am sure part of the pleasure comes from the accumulation of knowledge about characters and what has happened to them.

I do really like the central character Rhona MacLeod and those other characters who are linked to her. The scenarios are very believable.

My Rating: 4.7

I have also read 4.6, SINS OF THE DEAD

3 July 2020

Review: SINS OF THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

  • this book published in 2018
  • #13 in the Rhona MacLeod series
  • source: my local library - e-book on Libby
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The sins of the dead are all consuming . . .

While illegally street racing in the underground tunnels of Glasgow, four Harley-Davidson riders make a horrifying discovery: a dead man left in the darkness, hands together on his chest as if peacefully laid to rest. The cause of death is unclear, the only clues being a half glass of red wine and a partially eaten chunk of bread by his side that echo the ancient religious practice of sin-eating.

Called to the scene, forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod is perplexed by the lack of evidence. But when another body is found near her own flat, laid out in a similar manner, she fears a forensically aware killer stalks the city and is marking the victims with their unique signature. Even more worryingly, the killer appears to be using skills they may have learned while attending her forensic science lectures at Glasgow University.

There are signs that Rhona is being targeted, that the killer is playing with her and the police, drawing them into a deadly race against time, before the sin-eater’s next victim is chosen . .

My Take

I have paid the penalty of not starting on this series early enough, and I'll certainly be reading some more. I spent quite a bit of my reading time working out who the main characters are and what the relationships between them are.

The plot was intriguing and full of red herrings, and it wasn't until the final chapters that the identity of the killer becomes clear. Before that there were plenty of suspects.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Lin Anderson was born in Greenock of Scottish and Irish parents. A graduate of both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, she has lived in many different parts of Scotland and also spent five years working in the African bush. A teacher of Mathematics and Computing, she began her writing career in 2003. Her first film, Small Love, which was broadcast on STV, was nominated for TAPS writer of the year award 2001. Her African short stories have been published in the 10th Anniversary Macallan collection and broadcast on BBC Radio Four.

She is the founding member of the crime writing festival of Scotland- ‘Bloody Scotland’. The festival has encouraged many crime writers from all across Scotland to take part in it and display their views and ideas on how to use the Tartan Noir form at its best.

Rhona MacLeod
   1. Driftnet (2003)
   2. Torch (2004)
   3. Deadly Code (2005)
   4. Dark Flight (2007)
   5. Easy Kill (2008)
   6. Final Cut (2009)
   7. The Reborn (2010)
   8. Picture Her Dead (2011)
   9. Paths of the Dead (2014)
   10. The Special Dead (2015)
   11. None but the Dead (2016)
   12. Follow the Dead (2017)
   13. Sins of the Dead (2018)
   14. Time for the Dead (2019)
   15. The Innocent Dead (2020)
   Blood Red Roses (2005)

1 July 2020

What I read in June 2020

Another good reading month
My pick of the month is shared between
CALL ME EVIE, J. P. Pomare and
4.8, RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS, Peter Swanson
  1. 4.3, COLD CASE, Quentin Jardine
  2. 4.4, THE DARKNESS GATHERS, Lisa Unger
  3. 4.4, UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SKY, Anna Romer  
  4. 4.5, THE WEEKEND, Charlotte Wood - NOT crime fiction 
  5. 4.4, YOU DON'T KNOW ME, Sara Foster 
  6. 4.4, LONG WAY HOME, Eva Dolan
  7. 4.7, BRING OUT THE BODIES, Hilary Mantel - audio book  
  8. 4.8, CALL ME EVIE, J. P. Pomare
  9. 4.8, RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS, Peter Swanson  
  10. 4.4, THE PERFECT ROOMMATE, Minka Kent
  11. 4.5, GREENWOOD, Michael Christie - NOT crime fiction

6 months of reading

I have read 72 novels in the first 6 months of 2020
50% of the books have come through the library system,
one third are new-to-me authors,
40 % are British,
35 % are Australian authors,
40% are e-books


See reading challenges summary.
If you want to check the books see my reviews so far 
  • 2020 Good Reads Reading Challenge. I have set my challenge at 120. Currently:72
  • Good Reads A-Z of titles: Currently: 19
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Completed in 2014, titles read in 2020: 1
  • USA Fiction Challenge So far 29/51, this year: 7
  • 2020 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 27
  • 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 19
  • Read Around the World 2020: currently: 72
  • British Books Challenge 2020 currently 30
  • 2020 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 31 - these are read on Kindle and Libby
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently  24
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge currently 4
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge, currently 4
  • New Zealand reading challenge -again a personal challenge. currently 2
  • Translated crime fiction - a personal challenge that will overlap with many of the other reading challenges that I have undertaken. currently 4
  • Snagged at the Library currently: 38
  • Audio books: currently: 5
  • 2020 Historical Reading Challenge. Currently: 6

30 June 2020

Review: GREENWOOD, Michael Christie

  • this edition an e-book on Libby
  • Length:512pp
  • ISBN (13):9781925713855
  • Pub date:4 Feb 2020
  • source: my local library
  • 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize - Long-listed
Synopsis

‘The truth is that all family lines, from the highest to the lowest, originate somewhere, on some particular day. Even the grandest trees must’ve once been seeds spun helpless on the wind, and then just meek saplings nosing up from the soil.’

2038. On a remote island off the Pacific coast of British Columbia stands the Greenwood Arboreal Cathedral, one of the world’s last forests. Wealthy tourists flock from all corners of the dust-choked globe to see the spectacle and remember what once was. But even as they breathe in the fresh air and pose for photographs amidst the greenery, guide Jake knows that the forest is dying, though her bosses won’t admit it.

1908. Two passenger locomotives meet head-on. The only survivors are two young boys, who take refuge in a trapper’s cabin in a forest on the edge of town. In twenty-six years, one of them, now a recluse, will find an abandoned baby — another child of Greenwood — setting off a series of events that will change the course of his life, and the lives of those around him.

Structured like the rings of a tree, this remarkable novel moves from the future to the present to the past, and back again, to tell the story of one family and their enduring connection to the place that brought them together.

My Take

First of all, blog-followers, this is not crime fiction, although there are mysteries to be untangled.

In four generations, a family moves from tree fellers to tree preservers, and around their family the world begins to show the effects of this long term destruction of the world's resources.  Dust that results from the baring of the earth brings first great dust storms, then the Withering, and then finally a fungus that will destroy the last forests.

The story begins in 2038, on the outer ring, as it were, when planet Earth appears to be almost in its death throes, at an exclusive arboreal resort, a remote forested island in British Columbia where Pilgrims come to reconnect with an almost forgotten past.  From there the story jumps back 30 years, then back another 40, until we reach the centre of the family "tree", when the name Greenwood is born. Eventually story comes out through the rings and we come "full circle" and back to where we started. Little mysteries are solved, and the family saga takes on an almost linear aspect.

The novel is challenging to read, in that there is so much we are told, and so much we need to remember. The dystopian part, our future, is not pleasant to behold.

Rating: 4.5

About the author
Michael Christie is the author of the novel If I Fall, If I Die, which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Kirkus Prize, was selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and was on numerous best of 2015 lists. His linked collection of stories, The Beggar's Garden, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and won the Vancouver Book Award. His essays and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Globe and Mail. A former carpenter and homeless shelter worker, he divides his time between Victoria, British Columbia, and Galiano Island, where he lives with his wife and two sons in a timber-frame house that he built himself.

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