22 November 2015

Review: ASHES TO DUST, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 923 KB
  • Print Length: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (July 22, 2010)
  • Publication Date: July 22, 2010
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003Y3BLO4
  • translated from Icelandic by Philip Roughton
  • #3 in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series
Synopsis (Amazon)

The third crime novel from international bestseller Yrsa Sigurdardottir, ASHES TO DUST is tense, taut and terrifying - not to be missed for fans of Nordic Noir.

Thora peered at the floor, but couldn't see anything that could have frightened Markus that much, only three mounds of dust. She moved the light of her torch over them. It took her some time to realize what she was seeing-- and then it was all she could do not to let the torch slip from her hand. 'Good God,' she said. She ran the light over the three faces, one after another. Sunken cheeks, empty eye-sockets, gaping mouths; they reminded her of photographs of mummies she'd once seen in National Geographic. 'Who are these people?'

'I don't know,' said Markus . . . 

Bodies are discovered in one of the excavated houses at a volcanic tourist attraction dubbed 'The Pompeii of the North'.
Markus Magnusson, who was only a teenager when the volcano erupted, falls under suspicion and hires attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir to defend him - but when his childhood sweetheart is murdered his case starts to look more difficult, and the locals seem oddly reluctant to back him up . . .

My take

This novel is #3 in the author's Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series and so I caused myself a bit of confusion because I had read the latest two. I always advise readers to tackle a series in order of publication if at all possible and in this case, things have moved on in Thora's life by the later two novels (so I had memories of events that hadn't yet happened).

The historic element of the story is based around a volcanic eruption which began on the eastern side of Heimaey in the Westman Islands on 23 January 1973 and resulted in the evacuation of the island with some houses buried by lava and others by ash. More information on Wikipedia.
Now, over three decades later, archaeologists are excavating some of the houses and Thora's client Markus Magnusson wants to retrieve a box from the basement of his parent's house. The subsequent discoveryof three long dead bodies and a box containing the head of another is totally unexpected.

Thora's investigation is made more complicated by the bizarre murder of a woman Marcus was once in love with, and complications with a rape case.

The whole story is indeed complicated and very noir, but I'm happy to report that the author gave me just enough hints so I was able to piece the chain of events together just before Thora managed to,

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed

List from Fantastic Fiction
1. Last Rituals (2007)
2. My Soul to Take (2009)
3. Ashes to Dust (2010)
4. The Day is Dark (2011)
5. Someone to Watch Over Me (2013)
6. The Silence of the Sea (2014)

21 November 2015

Review: VINTAGE MURDER, Ngaio Marsh - audio book

  • available from Audible.com
  • first published in 1937
  • Narrated by: James Saxon
  • Length: 7 hrs and 34 mins 
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • #5 in the Roderick Alleyn series
Synopsis (Audible.com)

A touring theatre company in New Zealand forms the basis of one of Marsh’s most ambitious and innovative novels.

New Zealand theatrical manager Alfred Meyer wanted to celebrate his wife’s birthday in style. The piece de résistance would be the jeroboam of champagne which would descend gently into a nest of fern and coloured lights on the table, set up onstage after the performance.

But something went horribly wrong. Chief Detective Inspector Alleyn witnessed it himself. Was Meyer’s death the product of Maori superstitions? Or something much more down to earth?

My Take

The action takes place in 1936. Many of the characters talk about the impact of the previous world war, and there is a sense of another war to come.

Ngaio Marsh drew heavily on her theatrical background for this plot. Roderick Alleyn has come to New Zealand for a holiday, and finds himself travelling on a train with a British touring theatre company. He finds he actually knows two of the female actors. The manager tells everyone that someone has tried to push him off the train.

The company gets off the train and Alleyn stays with them and so is there when the murder takes place. Although he has been travelling incognito he joins forces with the local detectives to investigate the crime.

Marsh also uses this novel to talk extensively about Maori culture and the tensions between natives and whites. Roderick Alleyn is very much taken with New Zealand.

In this audio version, read by a very British actor, there is an attempt to give each character a very distinctive voice. I felt that sometimes it was a bit over the top, but in general was well done, because I really did get to "know" each character by the voice used.

My rating: 4.1

I've also reviewed

16 November 2015

Review: FATAL CATCH, Pauline Rowson

  • format: Kindle (ARC from Net Galley)
  • Series: A DI Andy Horton Mystery (Book 12)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Severn House Publishers; First World Publication edition (January 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0727884972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0727884978
Synopsis ( Net Galley)

Trust no one. Believe nothing . . .

DI Andy Horton is called out to examine a gruesome catch by two fishermen: a human hand. Is it that of missing violent criminal, Alfie Wright – or is he the killer? And where is the rest of the corpse?

Soon Horton finds himself immersed in a complex case where everyone has a reason to lie and no one is who they seem. Assailed by doubts both in his personal and professional life, Horton desperately tries to keep his emotional feelings under control and his focus on his work. His instincts tell him to trust no one and believe nothing; he’s not sure, though, whether this time he’ll succeed . . .

My take

Andy Horton is still very much pre-occupied with what happened to his mother Jennifer when she disappeared twenty years earlier. This theme alone would make it difficult to read these novels as stand alones although considerable detail is repeated from one novel to the next. Andy is gradually piecing his mother's story together and now he is contacted by a woman who says she is conducting university research into missing persons who choose not to resurface. Jennifer Horton is one of the people she is interested in.

Each novel is based around a current case, this time a severed hand which some fishermen haul in. The hand is identified from its fingerprints, and then Andy's team is told to back off - the man is purported to be a police informant, but Andy thinks this is most unlikely and out of character.

Meanwhile one of the fishermen who found the hand goes missing and then turns up dead.

This is #12 in the Andy Horton series and I would like Andy to hurry up and solve the mystery about his mother. While I have been enjoying the ride, and there is no doubt that each novel is well written, I am ready for something else to occupy Andy's attention. Surely the end of this plot line is in sight?

11 November 2015

Review: EVIL GAMES, Angela Marsons

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3425 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bookouture (May 29, 2015)
  • Publication Date: May 29, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00U7K5F4O
Synopsis (Amazon)

The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time - it’s personal. 

My Take

Angela Marsons is one of my finds of the year. Her Detective Inspector Kim Stone is a very interesting character but then so are the various members of her team. The setting is England's Black Country, and these are police procedurals with a real edge.

If you are wondering whether you should read these books in order, then the answer is definitely yes, and this is #2 in the series. 

As in SILENT SCREAM Kim Stone shows herself as a defender of those who have been damaged or manipulated by others, particularly by those who have no conscience. Her own past makes her well aware of the forms that psychological damage can take. She herself is still suffering from her past, and this makes it difficult for her to make friends or let others into her life.

Someone is playing mind games and Kim herself comes close to being broken.

An outstanding read.

My rating: 4.8

I also reviewed 4.7, SILENT SCREAM

10 November 2015

Review: THE NATURE OF THE BEAST, Louise Penny

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1881 KB
  • Print Length: 385 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1250022088
  • Publisher: Sphere (August 25, 2015)
  • Publication Date: August 25, 2015
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

Hardly a day goes by when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage doesn't cry wolf. His boundless sense of adventure and vivid imagination mean he has a tendency to concoct stories so extraordinary and so far-fetched that no one can possibly believe him.

But when Laurent disappears, former Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is faced with the possibility that one of his tall tales might have been true.

So begins a frantic search for the boy and the truth. And what Gamache uncovers deep in the forest leads back to crimes of the past, betrayal and murder, with more sinister consequences than anyone could have possibly imagined . . .

My Take

Armand Gamache has recently retired from the Surete but he is yet to decide whether he is satisfied with the tranquility of Three Pines Village. When the offer comes for his return as Superintendent he is tempted. And then he meets two new agents, recruited when corruption was the name of the game, who have no respect for him.

Laurent Lepage discovers something very nasty in the woods quite close to the village but as usual goes over the top in the way he describes it. Nobody, even Armand Gamache, believes him, and no one goes to look at his discovery. Nobody that is except the person who has been looking for this object for thirty years.

For Gamache it brings back the time when a serial killer who was pure evil was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. But he recognizes that hand here. How can that be?

And how could this object have been built in the woods without others knowing? Who amongst his neighbours knew about it? Who can he trust?

Some interesting features to this story. The investigation into Laurent's disappearance is led by Isabel Lacoste, Gamache's protege and successor, and he really has no official role, but continues to call in favors and controls the play. He also uses his wife's considerable research skills. There is also the fact that there is historical truth to the story about the object in the woods.

I had heard a lot about this novel, all favorable, and I am happy to report those reviewers were right. This is another one that just sweeps the reader along.

9 November 2015

Blogging while Travelling

Blogging while you are away from home is not easy.
My blog posts these days are almost totally book reviews with the occasional meme thrown in.

I decided this time not to bring my laptop with me and so my blog posts are created on my iPad.
I use the Blogger App mainly, but my iPad is a few years old and there are a few features of the App that I suspect might be there if  my iPad had a newer operating system.

So what I have done is set up the basic format of each review on my computer at home before I left: book details, cover, synopsis, titles I have read before by this author etc, plus the headings like My Take and Rating. Then I just fill in the details after I have finished reading.

That has worked pretty well although the iPad really only allows one fingered typing.

There are things I can't do like update my summary pages like Latest Additions and Author lists because I can't work out how to cut and paste URLs or images.

So a mountain of maintenance work is building up for me to do after I get home in just over a week's time. I haven't been able to keep my records up on GoodReads, LibraryThing, and NetGalley. Being "behind" in things like that is not a feeling I enjoy.

4 November 2015

Review: BRYANT & MAY: THE BLEEDING HEART, Christopher Fowler

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • ARC from NetGalley
  • #11 in the Bryant & May series
  • File Size: 1305 KB
  • Print Length: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (March 27, 2014)
  • Publication Date: March 27, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H51SZO0
Synopsis (Amazon)

It’s a fresh start for the Met's oddest investigation team, the Peculiar Crimes Unit.

Their first case involves two teenagers who see a dead man rising from his grave in a London park. And if that's not alarming enough, one of them is killed in a hit and run accident. Stranger still, in the moments between when he was last seen alive and found dead on the pavement, someone has changed his shirt...
Much to his frustration, Arthur Bryant is not allowed to investigate. Instead, he has been tasked with finding out how someone could have stolen the ravens from the Tower of London. All seven birds have vanished from one of the most secure fortresses in the city. And, as the legend has it, when the ravens leave, the nation falls…

Soon it seems death is all around and Bryant and May must confront a group of latter-day bodysnatchers, explore an eerie funeral parlour and unearth the gruesome legend of Bleeding Heart Yard. More graves are desecrated, further deaths occur, and the symbol of the Bleeding Heart seems to turn up everywhere - it’s even discovered hidden in the PCU’s offices. And when Bryant is blindfolded and taken to the headquarters of a secret society, he realises that this case is more complex than even he had imagined, and that everyone is hiding something. The Grim Reaper walks abroad and seems to be stalking him, playing on his fears of premature burial.

Rich in strange characters and steeped in London’s true history, this is Bryant & May’s most peculiar and disturbing case of all.

My Take

Once again Christopher Fowler delivers! Littered with quirky facts about London, this was again a delightful read. As always the PCU is under threat, this time mainly because their methods don't conform with those of 'modern' policing.

The novel was a "back number" for me, #11 in the series. The crimes are peculiar: a corpse apparently rising from its coffin despite being buried two days earlier, a young man of promise is killed in a hit and run, and someone has stolen the ravens from the  Tower of London.

Excellent characterization and fascinating threads to the story. 


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