11 January 2019

Review: LAST BREATH, Robert Bryndza

  • this edition published by Bookouture 2017
  • #4 in the Erika Foster series
  • ISBN 978-1-78681-145-5
  • 357 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

He’s your perfect date. You’re his next victim.

When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case.

While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery.

Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist?

Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.

My Take

Another bold and breathtaking entry into this gripping series - it did not disappoint.

At the end of the last story (DARK WATER) Erika Foster stormed out when a colleague was promoted above her, thus denying her the credit for solving the case. However she finds herself in an office, pen-pushing, and she realises that she needs to eat humble pie to get herself back playing an active role in Murder Investigation.

She comes across a report about the resolution of a missing persons case and realises that it could have connections to a current murder investigation. She takes her intuition to Sparks, who got the Superintendent job she felt was rightfully hers, and he agrees to let her back into the team if she toes the line.

The reader finds out quite early on who is committing the abductions/murders and the investigation gets closer, partly through careful policing, and partly through Erika's intuition. Despite her promises to the contrary, Erika remains a loose cannon, who doesn't always look before she acts.

Erika's relationships with members of her small team are further cemented and explored, so it pays to read this series from the beginning in order to get the full character development.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.6, DARK WATER #3  

Review: KILL SHOT, Garry Disher

  • this edition published by Text Publishing 2018
  • ISBN 9-781925-773224
  • 242 pages
  • Wyatt #9
  • source: my local library
  • for US readers: available on Kindle
Synopsis (Good Reads)

The latest gripping story in the popular Wyatt thriller series kicks off in Sydney and then unfolds on the beaches of Newcastle.

Some people just work better alone. Wyatt’s one of them. He’s been getting by on nice quiet little burglaries—one-man jobs—when he gets wind of something bigger.

A corporate crook, notorious Ponzi schemer, set to face court and certain jail time. He’s about to skip bail the old-fashioned way: on a luxury yacht with a million dollars in cash.

Wyatt thinks it sounds like something he should get into.

He’s not alone.

My Take

Most of Wyatt's recent jobs have been brokered by a day-release prisoner named Sam Kramer. Through his daughter Kramer passes on information he has gleaned from other prison inmates.  As a result Wyatt relieves people of their valuables, mainly through burglary, passes them on to a fence, and puts a commission into an safety deposit box for Kramer, keeping the remainder for himself. Periodically Kramer's daughter contacts him to let him know the family needs some money. It works well.

Wyatt is a cautious, yet confident man, careful to remain anonymous, leaving nothing his victims can identify him by, and watchful for signs that he has been noticed. He thinks back over what he's done, looking for errors.

The weak link in the scheme is Kramer's son who passes Wyatt's name on to someone else who like to cash in on the jobs that Wyatt is doing.

There are a couple of linked stories in this novel: a Ponzi scheme operator planning to skip the country with about a million dollars, and a couple from South Australia who've stolen a luxury boat.
Wyatt gets information about the first from Kramer. Looks like it might be easy pickings if he can work out where the Ponzi scheme money is.

There definitely an Australian flavour to this novel. And some how you forget that Wyatt is on the wrong side of the law.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read (not all are Wyatt series novels)
4.7, WYATT
4.7, HER

8 January 2019

review: THE NIGHT STALKER, Robert Bryndza

  • this edition published by Sphere 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-7147-9
  • 370 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #2 in the Erika Foster series
Synopsis (publisher)

In the dead of a swelteringly hot summer's night, Detective Erika Foster is called to a murder scene. The victim, a doctor, is found suffocated in bed. His wrists are bound and his eyes bulging through a clear plastic bag tied tight over his head.

A few days later, another victim is found dead, in exactly the same circumstances. As Erika and her team start digging deeper, they discover a calculated serial killer - stalking their victims before choosing the right moment to strike.

The victims are all single men, with very private lives. Why are their pasts shrouded in secrecy? And what links them to the killer?

As a heat wave descends upon London, Erika will do everything to stop the Night Stalker before the body count rises, even if it means risking her job. But the victims might not be the only ones being watched... Erika's own life could be on the line.

My take

I have to admit being hooked on this series which I discovered last year.
The crimes in it are very noir (warning) and Detective Erika Foster thinks outside the square, loyal to those she leads, antagonises those supervising her (although they recognise that she is brilliant), and likely to be sidelined by her superiors at crucial times.

But again this was one of those books that just compels you to read on.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

4.6, DARK WATER  #3

6 January 2019

Review: TWISTED, Lynda La Plante

  • this edition published by Simon & Schuster 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-47112-588-1
  • 500 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Marcus and Lena Fulford are the envy of their friends. Wealthy, attractive and successful, the couple, with their strikingly beautiful teenage daughter Amy, seem settled and content. But appearances mask a strained relationship almost at breaking point. Marcus's latest business venture has failed, draining Lena, the major breadwinner, dry. Putting Amy into weekly boarding school and striving to get her own career back on its feet, Lena remains alone in the luxurious family house as her marriage heads towards as amicable a divorce as she and Marcus can muster, and joint custody of their only child.

So when Amy arranges a sleepover with a school friend one weekend, neither parent sees the need to be in touch with her. It is only when Amy is reported missing from school and her friend's mother reveals that, instead of staying with them, Amy was visiting her father - a fact vehemently denied by Marcus - that Lena contacts the police.

DI Victor Reid, in charge of the case, fears the worst - abduction or murder. A family under constant police and press scrutiny, a father who has seemingly lied about his alibi for the weekend, a mother whose perfect world is crumbling beneath her feet, a detective under pressure from his impatient superiors to deliver a result, the length of time that Amy has been missing gathering speed… all conspire to make Lynda La Plante's latest thriller her most tense and terrifying yet.

My Take

Marcus and Lena Fulford are going through what they both insist is an amicable divorce process, after a separation of two years, when Marcus decides to accelerate things by bringing their lawyers together to discuss the terms of the divorce settlement.

Almost immediately Amy goes missing during a weekend when she is supposed to be having a sleepover at a friend's house. Lena reports her daughter's disappearance to the police and they launch an investigation. Amy is not found and Di Victor Reid suspects that her father may have had something to do with her disappearance. The misper investigation drags on and is handed over to a murder squad and that is when things get interesting.

This is quite a long novel and I changed my mind several times about what the ending would be, but not once did I really get it right!
My rating: 4.5

I've also read

5 January 2019

Successes and failures in crime fiction reading in 2018

Although I exceeded my planned total of books for 2018 it was a year when some things just slipped off my radar, and other categories bloomed.

Early in the year my good friend and collaborator Bernadette on Fair Dinkum Crime passed away unexpectedly. Our little reading group has missed her acid wit and I have missed her inspiration.
I have kept Fair Dinkum Crime going but in reality she was the energy and guiding light behind it.
If you read Australian crime fiction and would like to contribute to Fair Dinkum Crime let me know. 

So here is what I managed this year - you can check the details here if you like.
  • 2018 Good Reads Reading Challenge. I set my challenge at 110 and read 123
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Completed in 2014, titles read in 2018: 4
  • 2018 Global Reading Challenge currently 10
  • USA Fiction Challenge So far 21/51, this year: 19
  • 2018 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 25
  • 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 14
  • British Books Challenge 2018 currently 67
  • 2018 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 28
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently 49
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge currently 9
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge, currently 2
  • New Zealand reading challenge -again a personal challenge. currently 0
  • Translated crime fiction - a personal challenge that will overlap with many of the other reading challenges that I have undertaken. currently 5
  • Snagged at the Library currently: 60
  • Audio books: currently: 23
  • 2018 Historical Reading Challenge. Currently: 16
The Global Reading Challenge failed to capture me and I won't run it again this year.
I am horrified that I only read 2 books for the Nordic challenge, and absolutely gutted that my total of New Zealand crime fiction reading is 0.
My e-book reading dropped off a little and the low number of translated novels is probably linked to that.

However - the up-side
  • I rarely read outside the genre - only 9 non-crime fiction titles, 3 of those are in a series, and have a heavy "mystery" theme. But then reading friends will tell you that I can see mystery in almost every book.
  • 1 book in 6 was set in America
  • 1 book in 6 was an audio book
  • 1 book in 5 is by an Australian author
  • 40% of the authors that I read are "new-to-me". Doesn't mean they are new on the scene, just that I haven't reviewed one of their titles on this blog in 11 years.
  • Over 50% of the crime fiction I read is British, and most of that is newly published.
  • About 50% of the books I read are provided by my local library, 25% from Kindle, and 20% from Audible.

3 January 2019

meme: New to me authors October to December 2018

I ended 2018 having read 49 titles altogether by "new-to-me authors".
There were 10 books in the last quarter of the year, five of them by Australian authors (A), and, at least 2 of them, authors I will look out for in the future.
While a number of these titles are recently published, I stress that all "new-to-me" means is that I haven't written about this title during to 10 years of this blog.
  1. 4.4, THE FRENCH GIRL, Lexie Elliott 
  2. 4.3, IN THE SHADOW OF AGATHA CHRISTIE, Leslie S. Klinger
  3. 4.7, SCRUBLANDS, Chis Hammer  A
  4. 4.5, A SPARK OF LIGHT, Jodi Picoult 
  5. 4.0, MURDER IN MURLOO, Brigid George A
  6. 3.5, THE HONOURABLE THIEF, Meaghan Wilson Anastasios A
  7. 4.4, THE MURDER WALL, Mari Hannah
  8. 4.9. MAN AT THE WINDOW, Robert Jeffreys A
  9. 4.3, MURDER AT THE FITZWILLIAM, Jim Eldridge 
  10. 4.5, THE BOTANIST'S DAUGHTER, Kayte Nunn  A 
Check what others have found.

2 January 2019

review: THE MARMALADE MURDERS, Elizabeth J. Duncan

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • Series: A Penny Brannigan Mystery (Book 9)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (April 24, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250101492
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250101495
Synopsis (Amazon)

The Marmalade Murders is the ninth book in Elizabeth J. Duncan's award-winning mystery series, celebrated for its small-town charm and picturesque Welsh setting and starring amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan.

The competition is friendly and just a little fierce at the annual Llanelen agricultural show as town and country folk gather for the outdoor judging of farm animals and indoor judging of cakes, pies, pastries, chutneys, jams and jellies, along with vegetables, fruit and flowers. But this year, there’s a new show category: murder.

Local artist, Spa owner, and amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan agrees to help with the intake of the domestic arts entries and to judge the children’s pet competition on show day. When the president of the Welsh Women's Guild isn’t on hand to see her granddaughter and pet pug win a prize, the family becomes concerned. When a carrot cake entered in the competition goes missing, something is clearly amiss.

A black Labrador Retriever belonging to the agricultural show’s president discovers the body of the missing woman under the baked goods table. A newcomer to town, a transgender woman, is suspected, but amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan believes her to be innocent. She sets out to find the real killer, but when a second body is discovered days later, the case is thrown into confusion, and Penny knows it’s up to her to figure out what happened―and why.

My take

This a well plotted cozy set in Wales with a scenario that many a country woman would be familiar with. As Penny Brannigan says later, who could guess that a simple cake and jams competition could engender such violence?

Penny and her colleague Victoria are roped into monitoring the cakes, jams and marmalades as the local women bring them in to the competition. Later Penny also has to jusge the children's pets competition.

One of the competitors arrives late to hand her marmalade in, then disappears overnight, and then turns up dead under one of the trestle tables.

Very readable.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read 4.3, MURDER ON THE HOUR 

About this author
Elizabeth J. Duncan has worked as a writer and editor for some of Canada's largest newspapers, including the Ottawa Citizen and Hamilton Spectator. She lives with her dog, Dolly, in Toronto where she teaches in the public relations program at Humber College. She enjoys spending time each year in North Wales and is the first Canadian writer to win the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. The Cold Light of Mourning, her first novel, is also the winner of the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant and was shortlisted for an Agatha and an Arthur Ellis Award.

Penny Brannigan Mystery (Fantastic Fiction list)
1. The Cold Light of Mourning (2009)
2. A Brush with Death (2010)
3. A Killer's Christmas in Wales (2011)
4. A Small Hill to Die On (2012)
5. Never Laugh As a Hearse Goes By (2013)
6. Slated for Death (2015)
7. Murder on the Hour (2016)
8. Murder Is for Keeps (2017)
9. The Marmalade Murders (2018) 


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