12 November 2019

Review: THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR, Liz Byrski

  • this edition published in 2016 by Pan Macmillan (Read How you Want)
  • ISBN 978-1-52522-793-6
  • 530 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

Over the years, the residents of Emerald Street have become more than just neighbours, they have built lasting friendships over a drink and chat on their back verandahs.

Now a new chapter begins with the children having left home. Helen and Dennis have moved from their high maintenance family property to an apartment by the river with all the mod cons. For Joyce and Mac, the empty nest has Joyce craving a new challenge, while Mac fancies retirement on the south coast.

Meanwhile Polly embarks on a surprising long-distance relationship. But she worries about her friend next door. Stella’s erratic behaviour is starting to resemble something much more serious than endearing eccentricity…

My Take

First of all, blog follower, let me point out that this is not crime fiction.

It is in fact the second novel I've read by this remarkable writer who just seems to hit the spot for me. So many of the scenarios that she uses in this novel resonate with me.

I think when I was young, the people that I knew in their 60s and 70s all seemed at the end of their lives. I never thought of them as embarking on the next stage of life. They had had hard lives, compared with us, and I don't suppose many of them had so many years to go. Things are different now.

Our street, indeed our suburb, is going through something similar to what happens in Emerald Street. People are moving out, houses are being demolished, blocks sub-divided, apartments being built. Those of us left are well into retirement and things have changed for good, and not necessarily for the better.

This is a well constructed, well written book. To use the words of one of the characters, the scenarios feel very "authentic."

I have enjoyed it very much.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

9 November 2019

What I read in October 2019

A number of good reads without any being outstanding
October 2019

See what others have read this month.

Review: SILVER, Chris Hammer

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1958 KB
  • Print Length: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (October 1, 2019)
  • Publication Date: October 1, 2019
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping.

He'd vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won't come again.

Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

He's making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting.

Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever present.

My Take

Set in a fictional seaside town on the New South Wales northern coast, this novel seems to have a bit of everything. An undeveloped coastal retreat with a number of people with big ideas on how to make money, a swami taking advantage of the secludedness, others who enjoy the backwater nature of their home town. It starts with a murder and then follows with something even worse.

The plot has a number of complex threads and the book is definitely a sequel to the first Martin Scarsden novel, SCRUBLANDS for which the author recently won a CWA Dagger. However I felt my reading of SILVER was hampered by the fact that I seem to have forgotten some of the lesser threads of SCRUBLANDS. So, if you are wondering if you can read SILVER as a stand-alone, then the answer is probably no.

But Chris Hammer is obviously a writer to follow. The setting has a strong Australian flavour, and the main character Martin Scarsden is nicely flawed.

And will there be a sequel to SILVER? I'm not sure, unless Martin Scarsden becomes involved in an entirely new case. In this novel we learnt a lot about his past, his relationship with Mandy Blonde definitely went through some rocky times, so where now?

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

2 November 2019

Pick of the Month - October 2019

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2019
Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for October 2019, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.

31 October 2019

Review: THE CHILD'S CHILD, Barbara Vine

  • this edition published by Scribner 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4516-9489-5
  • 302 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

From three-time Edgar Award–winning mystery writer Ruth Rendell, writing here under her Barbara Vine pseudonym, an ingenious novel-within-a-novel about brothers and sisters and the violence lurking behind our society’s taboos.

When their grandmother dies, Grace and Andrew Easton inherit her sprawling, book-filled London home, Dinmont House. Rather than sell it, the adult siblings move in together, splitting the numerous bedrooms and studies. The arrangement is unusual, but ideal for the affectionate pair—until the day Andrew brings home a new boyfriend. A devilishly handsome novelist, James Derain resembles Cary Grant, but his strident comments about Grace’s doctoral thesis soon puncture the house’s idyllic atmosphere. When he and Andrew witness their friend’s murder outside a London nightclub, James begins to unravel, and what happens next will change the lives of everyone in the house. Just as turmoil sets in at Dinmont House, Grace escapes into reading a manuscript—a long-lost novel from 1951 called The Child’s Child—never published because of its frank depictions of an unwed mother and a homosexual relationship. The book is the story of two siblings born a few years after World War One. This brother and sister, John and Maud, mirror the present-day Andrew and Grace: a homosexual brother and a sister carrying an illegitimate child. Acts of violence and sex will reverberate through their stories.

The Child’s Child is an enormously clever, brilliantly constructed novel-within-a-novel about family, betrayal, and disgrace. A master of psychological suspense, Ruth Rendell, in her newest work under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, takes us where violence and social taboos collide. She shows how society’s treatment of those it once considered undesirable has changed—and how sometimes it hasn’t.

My take

Two fairly parallel stories, history repeating itself. Also a novel about how social conventions have changed over a century. For example our attitudes to homosexuality have changed, as they have to unmarried mothers. There is a suggestion made that the attitudes changed around the same time.

The structure is a book within a book, a challenge for any author. We begin in the modern day and are then transported to a plot within the plot. In my opinion the "inner book", the manuscript that Grace is reading, is just a bit long, and almost turns into a family saga. But just in time we emerge back into the modern day.

Is it crime fiction? Well yes, there is a murder: the culprit is brought to trial and executed. But, by the laws of the day, there are other crimes for which penalties are not applied.

It wasn't my favourite Barbara Vine book, and I don't seem to have found it as fascinating as other reviewers but it is certainly clever.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read

26 October 2019

Review: LAST SEEN WEARING, Colin Dexter - audio book

  • audio book from audible.com
  • Narrated by: Samuel West
  • Series: Inspector Morse Mysteries, Book 2
  • Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-05-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio
  • originally published 1976
Synopsis (audible)

Morse was beset by a nagging feeling. Most of his fanciful notions about the Taylor girl had evaporated, and he had begun to suspect that further investigation into Valerie's disappearance would involve little more than sober and tedious routine....

The statements before Inspector Morse appeared to confirm the bald, simple truth.

After leaving home to return to school, teenager Valerie Taylor had completely vanished, and the trail had gone cold.

Until two years, three months and two days after Valerie's disappearance, somebody decides to supply some surprising new evidence for the case....

My Take

I read most of the Morse novels over 30 years ago and then followed them up by watching the Morse TV series. I really hadn't realised, until I listened to this particular book, the extent of differences between the original books and what was done for television.

I got a little confused towards the end (or did I momentarily drop off to sleep?) with the result that I had to listen to the last hour again to be sure that I knew the way it all finished up.

LAST SEEN WEARING is #2 in the series and is full of red herrings and false threads. Morse leaps from one idea to another, often operating on a few dodgy facts, and drawing some shaky conclusions from them. He becomes very despondent after one theory after another bites the dust, but in the end he does get it right. It is a very wasteful way of doing detective work, and there is not much logic to it. All of this does make reading the novel a very academic exercise, and I guess that's what sets Colin Dexter apart from the rest.

But don't go away thinking that this Morse is the one you've seen John Thaw play.
He is a much coarser person, but I think by the time we get to later in the series some of these cruder bits have been toned down.

If you want to follow up on the differences between Morse's character in the books and in the TV series, you might like check here.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.3, INSPECTOR MORSE: BBB Radio Collection
4.5, THE SECRET OF ANNEXE THREE -audio book -#7
4.6, THE WENCH IS DEAD, Colin Dexter - audio book - #8
4.3, SERVICE OF ALL THE DEAD, Colin Dexter - audio book  - #4

The books in publication order
1. Last Bus to Woodstock (1975)
2. Last Seen Wearing (1976)
3. The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)
4. Service of All the Dead (1979)
5. The Dead of Jericho (1981)
6. The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983)
7. The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986)
8. The Wench Is Dead (1989)
9. The Jewel That Was Ours (1991)
10. The Way Through the Woods (1992)
11. The Daughters of Cain (1994)
12. Death Is Now My Neighbour (1996)
13. The Remorseful Day (1999)

23 October 2019

I've reached 100! - books that is

It always gives me a little boost when I finish my 100th book for the year!

My target this year is 120 and I think I will make that easily, but not perhaps some of my individual reading challenges.

Check out my reading this year here.

  • 2019 Good Reads Reading Challenge.
       I have set my challenge at 120. Currently: 100
  • Good Reads A-Z of titles: Currently: 20
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge
        Completed in 2014, titles read in 2019: 1
  • USA Fiction Challenge
        So far 21/51, this year: 13
  • 2019 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 23
  • 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 10
  • British Books Challenge 2019 currently  57
  • 2018 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 17
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently  38
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge currently 10
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge, currently 1
  • 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 21
  • Snagged at the Library currently: 67
  • Audio books: currently: 12
  • 2019 Historical Reading Challenge. Currently: 17
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