22 August 2014

Review: IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE, Adrian McKinty

  • first published in 2014
  • This edition published by Serpent's Tail 2014
  • ISBN 978-1846688201
  • 326 pages
  • #3 in the Sean Duffy Trilogy
  • borrowed from my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

The third book in the Sean Duffy thriller series.A spectacular escape and a man-hunt that could change the future of a nation - and lay one man's past to rest.

Sean Duffy's got nothing. And when you've got nothing to lose, you have everything to gain. So when MI5 come knocking, Sean knows exactly what they want, and what he'll want in return, but he hasn't got the first idea how to get it.Of course he's heard about the spectacular escape of IRA man Dermot McCann from Her Majesty's Maze prison. And he knew, with chilly certainty, that their paths would cross.

But finding Dermot leads Sean to an old locked room mystery, and into the kind of danger where you can lose as easily as winning.From old betrayals and ancient history to 1984's most infamous crime, Sean tries not to fall behind in the race to annihilation. Can he outrun the most skilled terrorist the IRA ever created? And will the past catch him first?

 My Take

This story focusses on events in 1983 and 1984: first of all the breakout of a number of IRA terrorists from the Maze prison and then the subsequent IRA bombings of 1984.

And along the way, under the guise of investigating cold cases, Sean Duffy begins to investigate the accidental death of Lizzie Fitzpatrick. This is a locked room mystery, but the coroner had not been satisfied that the death was accidental and returned an open verdict. Mary Fitzpatrick has always been convinced it was murder but no one could envisage how it happened. But why was Lizzie changing a light bulb in the dark, balancing precariously on the bar?

The locked room mystery adds an extra filip to this story. In his teens Sean Duffy had been at school with Dermot McCann, and had known the Fitzpatrick family. I also liked the way McKinty has definitely established a setting and time frame.

Sean Duffy will do almost anything to regain his place in CID but how much is he controlling his destiny?

This probably is the best of the Sean Duffy trilogy, but only by a hair's whisker.

My rating: 4.9

I've also reviewed
FIFTY GRAND
4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND - Sean Duffy #1
4.8, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET - Sean Duffy #2
4.6, FALLING GLASS

About the author
Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He studied politics and philosophy at Oxford University and then emigrated to New York in 1993. He lived in Harlem for seven years working at various jobs, with various degrees of legality, and in 2000 he moved to Denver, Colorado to become a high school English teacher.

In 2008 he emigrated again this time to Melbourne, Australia with his wife and kids. Adrian’s first crime novel, Dead I Well May Be, was shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. The sequel to that book, The Dead Yard, was picked as one of the 10 best books of the year by Booklist and won the Audie Award for best crime fiction novel. 

The first book in the Sean Duffy series, The Cold Cold Ground, won the 2013 Spinetingler Award for best novel. The second Sean Duffy book, I Hear The Sirens In The Street was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award.

18 August 2014

Review: CHRISTINE FALLS, Benjamin Black

  • first published by Picador 2006
  • #1 in the Quirke mystery series
  • ISBN 978-1-4472-3731-0
  • 390 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

In the Pathology Department it was always night. This was one of the things Quirke liked about his job...it was restful, cosy, one might almost say, down in these depths nearly two floors beneath the city's busy pavements. There was too a sense here of being part of the continuance of ancient practices, secret skills, of work too dark to be carried on up in the light.

But one night, late after a party, Quirke stumbles across a body that shouldn't have been there...and his brother-in-law, eminent paediatrician Malachy Griffin - a rare sight in Quirke's gloomy domain - altering a file to cover up the corpse's cause of death. It is the first time Quirke encounters Christine Falls, but the investigation he decides to lead into the way she lived - and the reason she died - disturbs a dark secret that has been festering at the core of Dublin's high Catholic society, a secret ready to destabilize the very heart and soul of Quirke's own family...

See author website.

My Take

I like to read a series in order but recently I read the latest in the Quirke series, HOLY ORDERS, just because it came to hand. While that title stood quite well as a stand alone, some puzzling fragments that I came away with were made clearer in CHRISTINE FALLS.

This first novel in the series is set in Dublin (Ireland) and Boston (Massachusetts) in the early 1950s and emphasises the strong ties between the two. Wealthy Josh Crawford, living in Boston, has come up with a scheme to guarantee a reward for him in heaven. He is also the father of Quirke's former wife and there are those in Dublin who assist in his scheme. When Quirke begins to investigate the puzzle of what happened to Christine Falls he finds that there are people in Dublin who will go to extraordinary lengths to stop him.

This novel gives the reader a lot of Quirke's background from the previous twenty or so years.
It is also a commentary on the practice of sending Irish orphans to Boston for "adoption" in the 1940s and 1950s. See this newspaper article.

My rating: 4.5

Review: FATAL LIAISON, Vicki Tyley - audio book

  • audible book available from Audible.com
  • review copy courtesy the author
  • Narrated by: Larissa Gallagher
  • Length: 8 hrs and 33 mins 
  • Format: Unabridged 
  • Release date May 2014, from Crossroad Press 
Synopsis (Publisher)

The lives of two strangers, Greg Jenkins and Megan Brighton, become inextricably entangled when they each sign up for a dinner dating agency. Greg's reason for joining has nothing to do with looking for love. His recently divorced sister, Sam, has disappeared and Greg is convinced that Dinner for Twelve, or at least one of its clients, may be responsible.

Neither is Megan looking for love. Although single, she only joined at her best friend Brenda De Luca's insistence. When a client of the dating agency is murdered, suspicion falls on several of the members. Then Megan's friend Brenda disappears without trace, and Megan and Greg join forces. Will they find Sam and Brenda? Or are they about to step into the same inescapable snare?

My Take

The dating agency Dinner for Twelve looks innocuous enough, but it certainly attracts its share of oddball characters. Its clients though don't expect murder to be on the menu, but one of the guests at the first dinner that Brenda, Megan, and Greg attends disappears and is then found dead.

Greg Jenkins employs a rather comic private investigator to assist him in the search for his missing sister. And when her friend Brenda disappears he and Megan become a sleuthing "item".  Greg is pretty sure he knows which of the other Dinner for Twelve clients is guilty, and is exultant when the police detain this person to assist in their enquiries, but bewildered when he is released.

This is a story with many twists and turns, with one that I didn't expect right at the end.

My rating: 4.4

***** I have one copy of the audio version of the book to give away through Audible.com. If you'd like it, let me know through a comment and give me an email address to contact you on. The first person to say they want the audio copy will be the one who gets it. *****

I've also reviewed 4.3, THIN BLOOD - an Amazon 2010 Customer Favorite

About the author
From her website

Mid 2002, I quit my high-pressure management job and moved with my husband to a farm about ninety minutes north-east of Melbourne to write fulltime. Since then, I’ve written five (six if you count my first one, now banished to the bottom drawer never to see the light again) standalone contemporary murder mysteries.

Outside of writing and reading, my main interests are design and photography. I like to laugh, drink coffee, spend time alone, spend time in company, and get close to nature. I dislike crowds, hospitals and offal.

I write fast-paced mystery and suspense novels in contemporary Australian settings. All my books are quick, easy reads with no gratuitous sex or violence – the type of books I enjoy as a reader. However, my characters occasionally swear.

14 August 2014

Review: BUNDORI, Laura Joh Rowland

  • first published in 1996, this edition published by Constable Robinson 2009
  • ISBN 978-1-84529-902-6
  • 409 pages
  • #2 in the Sano Ichiro series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author site)

In the misty streets and alleys of Edo, Japan's feudal capital, a serial killer lurks. Each victim is rendered up as a severed head, nailed to a plank, offered for public display as a bundori: a war trophy in samurai military tradition.

Detective Sano Ichiro, newly promoted to the new position as the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator, tries valiantly to follow Bushido—the Way of the Warrior—as he strives to bring the killer to justice. Will his attempts be foiled by the villainous Chamberlain Yanagisawa? Or will he succeed through the help of the beautiful and mysterious Aoi, a mystic trained in the ninja arts?

As it becomes obvious that the killer is one of three powerful men, Sano must reconcile his noble heritage with his duty to the shogun. Will trapping the murderer lead to prestige and glory for Sano...or disgrace and forced ritual suicide?

My Take

The setting of this book is historical, and one that I am familiar with: the Tokugawa Shogunate at Edo in Japan, 1689. There are now (2014) 18 titles in this popular series spanning 1689 to 1709. The historical and cultural setting is richly and authentically described. I began with the second in the series as my library does not have the first available. There are references in this title to the events in the first book.

As the number of victims of the Bundori Killer mounts various districts of the capital go into panic and there are fires and vigilantes and the Shogun gives Sano four days to find the killer or face exile himself. Sano constantly reminds himself of the promise he made to his dying father to bring the family name into a position of honour, but for a while it looks as if he will only achieve disgrace.

The Shogun, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, relies heavily on his Chamberlain Yanagisawa who seems determined to point out Sano's failures. Readers of modern day police procedurals may well reflect that nothing much has changed.

An enjoyable and satisfying read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Laura Joh Rowland is a detective/mystery author best known for her series of historical mystery novels set in the late days of feudal Japan, mostly in Edo during the late 17th century. Her main protagonist is Sano IchirĊ.

See author website

9 August 2014

Review: SWIMMING IN THE DARK, Paddy Richardson

  • first published in New Zealand and Australia (Pan Macmillan Australia) in 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-74353-120-4
  • 287 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Four women
Four secrets
One promise

In a small New Zealand town, four women find their lives inextricably linked by a secret that could bring about their undoing... or set them free.

Serena Freeman, a once-promising high school student, has started to retreat from life and one night does not return home. Her sister, Lynnie Freeman, is carving out a successful career and is desperate to distance herself from her troubled past. But on hearing of Serena's disappearance, Lynnie is forced to return to the town of Alexandra to look for her.

The only link to Serena's disappearance is Ilse Klein, a quietly dedicated English teacher who longs for her lost childhood in Germany and the sense of belonging it gave her. She lives with her mother, Gerda Klein, who is beset by a devastating depression each winter and plagued by memories of Stasi Germany. The Kleins learned long ago that there is safety in silence, can they break a lifelong habit?

My Take

This really is among the best books I have read this year. I think it is one of those rare ones, where the literary merges with crime fiction. For much of the book you wonder what "the crime" is going to be, although in reality there are many.

The Freeman family is one of those small country town families blighted from the beginning by poverty and social circumstances. Lynnie, the eldest of five, escapes early and heads for the city, eventually making a better life for herself. Serena is the youngest, brighter, but still not protected by her mother, the school, and the authorities in the way they should. And then her mother contacts Lynnie to tell her that Serena has been missing for three weeks. Lynnie comes home.

Serena's favourite teacher is Miss Klein. She and her mother are immigrants from East Germany. Richardson does a wonderful job of describing their background and, for me, sheds light on what life in Leipzig under the Stasi was like.

The plots merge in the present in the small New Zealand town of Alexandra, but the story moves the reader effortlessly through time and location.

A fabulous read.

My rating: 5.0

About the author
Paddy Richardson is the author of six novels and two short story collections. Her fiction has been a finalist for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and short-listed for the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards. She has been the recipient of the University of Otago Burns Fellowship, the Beatson Fellowship, and the James Wallace Arts Trust Residency Award. Four of her novels have been translated and published in Germany. Paddy has lectured and tutored English Literature at university level and taught many creative writing courses. She lives on the Otago Peninsula in New Zealand.

I've also reviewed
5.0, TRACES OF RED

7 August 2014

2014 Mystery Author Challenge A-Z

This is the first of many updated pages and posts.
I'm doing quite well on this challenge but I can already see some problem letters like Q, X, and Z. 
Page first begun on 3 March 2014

I really am a bit of a sucker for challenges aren't I, but this one appeals to me, and will overlap my existing reading and challenges quite well.

It is really is a bit of a variant of the Crime Fiction Alphabet challenge that I have run for the last few years (and I may well do that again some time in 2014)

The A-Z Mystery Challenge is being run at Red Headed Book Child for the calendar year of 2014.

The rules
  • A-Z represents the LAST name of the author in the mystery, thriller, suspense, cozy, noir, etc. genre. 
  • Read as many or as little as you want. 
  • Post your links here for your Challenge post and your reviews! 
  • Challenge Runs January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014 
  • Have fun! 
I am going to use this page as my record page too.

Last updated 7 August 2014

Number of letters achieved: 22/26

Review: DOG WILL HAVE HIS DAY, Fred Vargas

  • published by Harvill Secker 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-846-55820-7
  • translated from French by Sian Reynolds
  • source: my local library
  • The Three Evangelists #2
Synopsis (Random House Australia)

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A MURDER WITHOUT A BODY?

Keeping watch under the windows of the Paris flat belonging to a politician's nephew, ex-special investigator Louis Kehlweiler catches sight of something odd on the pavement. A tiny piece of bone. Human bone, in fact.

When Kehlweiler takes his find to the nearest police station, he faces ridicule. Obsessed by the fragment, he follows the trail to the tiny Breton fishing village of Port-Nicolas – in search of a dog. But when he recruits ‘evangelists' Marc and Mathias to help, they find themselves facing even bigger game.

My Take

I really did find this Fred Vargas novel a most peculiar read. That was probably I have never read the first in The Three Evangelists series and kept expecting her usual sleuth, Inspector Adamsberg, to make an appearance.

The little piece of human bone that Louis Kehlweiler finds convinces him that a murder has taken place. But his contacts tell him that no murder of an elderly woman has been reported. After a week he decides the murder has not taken place in Paris but in the country. By watching the dogs that visit a particular tree in Paris, he identifies one that has come from the country and that leads him to a fishing village in Breton.

A review in The Independent called it a "bizarre tale" with "surreal touches" and it certainly is, but at the same time as stretching the bounds of credibility, there is something compelling about reading it.
Keihlweiler ends up not only identifying a multiple murderer, and tracking down a former lover, but also solving a puzzle related to his own family history. Throw in too an Incredible Machine that performs the role of a modern oracle, with the whole story delivered with patches of quirky humour.

My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed
SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR
THE CHALK CIRCLE MAN
THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK
WASH THIS BLOOD CLEAN FROM MY HAND
4.8, AN UNCERTAIN PLACE
5.0, THE GHOST RIDERS OF ORDEBEC 

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