17 July 2024

In Conversation with Michael Robotham

Last night I attended a session in Adelaide at the Howling Owl Cafe to meet up with my favourite author Michael Robotham. The occasion was to launch his new book STORM CHILD, #4 in the Cyrus Haven series.

I reviewed it here. It was also a celebration of the fact that Michael has been publishing crime fiction now for 20 years. In that time he has published 18 books and I have reviewed all of them.

His new website is here

Events where you can meet Michael

16 July 2024

Review: PAST LYING, Val McDermid

  • this edition published by Sphere 2023
  • ISBN 978-1-4087-2908-3
  • 452 pages
  • #7 in the Karen Pirie series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Edinburgh, haunted by the ghosts of its many writers, is also the cold case beat of DCI Karen Pirie. So she shouldn't be surprised when an author's manuscript appears to be a blueprint for an actual crime.

Karen can't ignore the plot's chilling similarities to the unsolved case of an Edinburgh University student who vanished from her own doorstep. The manuscript seems to be the key to unlocking what happened to Lara Hardie, but there's a problem: the author died before he finished it.

As Karen digs deeper, she uncovers a spiralling game of betrayal and revenge, where lies are indistinguishable from the truth and with more than one unexpected twist . . .

The Queen of Crime Val McDermid is at the top of her game in her most gripping and fiendishly clever case yet.

My Take

I really should read more by Val McDermid. As you can see from my list below I always enjoy her books. I don't think I have read any others featuring DCI Karen Pirie. I usually favour reading a series in order to pick up on character development etc. But in this case I don't think it makes much difference. McDermid has done a lovely job of filling in the bits from the past that I needed to know. 

The novel is set in Edinburgh in April 2020, the beginning of the Covid lockdown with all sorts of regulations and restrictions that placed limitations on "normal" life including where we could go, what we could do etc. In fact, so well is this setting described in the novel, I had to remind myself as I set the novel down for a breather that we are not now in isolation.

The plot twists and turns as DCI Pirie and her team attempt to work out the correlations between the unexplained disappearance of student in Edinburgh a year before and a manuscript donated to the National Archives which seems to describe what happened to her. About half way through the novel, as my mind played with what DCI Pirie had uncovered so far, I came up with a "what if" which in fact was close to the final resolution. Now, it is not often that happens, but it didn't prevent me from reading the rest of the book, nor did it remove the pleasure of finding out that I was "nearly right".

Somebody wiser than me remarked a year or two ago that just as World War One, and World War Two, and the assassination of JFK, have provided time markers for us where we say pre-war or post-war, so Covid 19 will provide a similar time marker for us. I really haven't read too many books that have done that so far, but here is one that reminds of the impact Covid 19 had on our daily lives. Here in Australia variants of Covid are still having an impact. For example, there are still thousands in hospital. There are still people in our communities who disappear for a week or two with it. We are raising a whole generation of young people whose schooling has been disrupted by Covid. So much is different to what it was 4 years ago.

My rating: 4.8

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13 July 2024

Review: STORM CHILD, Michael Robotham

  • This edition available from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C7RPW5K1
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Scribner (July 2, 2024)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 333 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1668030993
  • #4 in the Cyrus Haven series

Synopsis (Amazon)

The mystery of Evie Cormac’s background has followed her into adulthood. As a child, she was discovered hiding in a secret room where a man had been tortured to death. Many of her captors and abusers escaped justice, unseen but not forgotten. Now, on a hot summer’s day, the past drags Evie back as she watches the bodies of seventeen migrants wash up on a Lincolnshire beach.

There is only one survivor, a teenage boy, who tells police their small boat was deliberately rammed and sunk. Psychologist Cyrus Haven is recruited by the police to investigate the murders—but recognizes immediately that Evie has some link to the tragedy. By solving this crime, he could finally unlock the secrets of her past. But what dark forces will he set loose? And who will pay the price? 

My Take

In his "acknowledgements" at the end of the novel, Michael reminds us that he has now been publishing for 20 years and in that time has published 18 novels. Most of them are listed at the bottom of this review. And I have been reading his offerings with great delight for all that time.

This latest one has delighted me as well.

Evie's past, which she rarely talks about, comes back to her as she watches bodies wash up on a Lincolnshire beach. Evie is now 22. She came to England with people smugglers when she was 9. She was the sole survivor of that circumstance and for a number of years has been sharing a house with Cyrus Haven, a forensic psychologist, a former pupil of Joe O'Loughlin, who featured in earlier Robotham novels. Cyrus becomes involved in investigating this latest case of people smuggling through its single survivor, and through Evie's glimpses of her past.

This one deserves your attention, but is probably best read in sequence with the earlier Cyrus Haven novels so you get the full story, and appreciate the character development and serious thought Robotham has put into it.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 5.0

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9 July 2024

Review: ASSASSIN EIGHTEEEN, John Brownlow

  • This edition an e-book read on my Kindle from Amazon
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C1SYK85Q
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hanover Square Press (April 23, 2024)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 468 pages
  • #2 in the series 

Synopsis ( Amazon)

I am waiting for someone to kill me. Tonight would be a good night for it.

Agent Seventeen, the most infamous hit man in the world, has quit. But whoever wants to become Assassin Eighteen must track him down and kill him first. So when a bullet hits the glass inches from his face, he knows who fired it—doesn't he?

It turns out that the sniper isn't the hardened killer he was expecting. It's Mireille—a mysterious silent child abandoned in the woods with instructions to pull the trigger. Reuniting with his spiky lover, Kat, Seventeen has to protect Mireille and discover who sent her to kill him and why. But the road he must travel is littered with bodies. And the answer, when it comes, will blow apart everything Seventeen thought he knew.

My Take

Seventeen is now living in Sixteen's house and has decided to retire. His handler thinks he has lost what it takes to be an assassin. Every night he shows himself to the world, inviting them to take him out. And then one night someone tries. 

But that is when Seventeen discovers he has a daughter who has been set up to shoot him. And he discovers he is maybe human after all. Not as tough as he thought he was.

In answer to your question: this is the sequel to SEVENTEEN and, yes, you should read them in order.   

A spy thriller, rather than a mystery,

My rating: 4.5

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4.5, SEVENTEEN: Last Man Standing - #1

Review: SEVENTEEN: Last Man Standing, John Brownlow

  • This edition an e-book read on my Kindle from Amazon
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09FZJ4B1X
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hanover Square Press (November 1, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 425 pages
  • *Winner of the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller*
  • *A Financial Times Best Thriller Book of 2022*

Synopsis (Amazon

You'll never know my name.

But you won't forget my number.

Behind the events you know are the killers you don’t. When diplomacy fails, we're the ones who gear up. Officially we don’t exist, but every government in the world uses our services. We’ve been saving the world, and your ass, for one hundred years.

 Sixteen people have done this job before me. I am Seventeen. The most feared assassin in the world. But to be the best, you must beat the best. My next target is Sixteen, just as one day Eighteen will hunt me down. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and it gets lonely at the top. Nobody gets to stay for long. But while we're here, all that matters is that we win.

Visceral, cinematic and wildly addictive, Seventeen will keep you on the edge of your seat and live long in the memory. Until Eighteen comes along…

My Take

Seventeen is part of a line of assassins, which began with Reilly, the Ace of Spies, and included 007 and others. They seem to be mostly, but not all, British. They simplify government, performing the dirtiest of tasks, quietly and efficiently. The resolution of major events in recent world history can be traced back to them.  Most recently there was Sixteen, but he is still to be properly eliminated by his successor. And that is Seventeen's task - locate and remove Sixteen.  

Mr Jones, as Seventeen is generally known, has located Sixteen but is having trouble eliminating him. He seems to those watching out for him, and, in retirement, is leading a rather odd life, almost offering himself up to his successor.

A spy thriller rather than a mystery

My rating: 4.5

About the author

John Brownlow is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. Born in Lincoln, UK, after studying maths and English at Oxford he produced and directed more than a dozen documentaries for British TV. In the early 2000s he turned to screenwriting, and wrote the film SYLVIA about Sylvia Plath, starring Gwynneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig. He also wrote the TV series FLEMING, about Ian Fleming's work in wartime intelligence, and the TV adaptation of Jessie Burton's best-selling novel THE MINIATURIST. His debut novel, SEVENTEEN, was published in 2022, and the sequel is due to be published in 2023.

John holds British and Canadian citizenship and lives in Ontario, Canada.

5 July 2024

Review: THE WOMAN ON THE LEDGE, Ruth Mancini

  • this edition published by Penguin Random House 2024
  • ISBN 97815299098
  • 405 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Obsession, intrigue - and revenge. Get ready for an all-night read with one of the twistiest thrillers of 2024.

A woman falls to her death from a London bank's twenty-fifth-floor roof terrace.

You're arrested for her murder.

You tell the police that you only met the victim the previous night at your office party. She was threatening to jump from the roof, but you talked her down.

You've got nothing to do with tragedy.

You're clearly being framed.

So why do the police keep picking holes in your story? Even your lawyer doesn't seem to believe you.

It soon becomes obvious that you're keeping secrets. 

My Take

The structure of this novel will take readers by surprise, so I will try not to spoil it for you. 

Tate Kinsella is in bed when the police bang on her door. They are arresting her on the suspicion of murder, for a death that happened 10 days earlier. We get our first taste of Tate's story when she is at the police station, and relating events to the lawyer who has been assigned to her.

This psychological thriller will keep your brain working overtime.

I'm not sure there weren't some credibility glitches in the narration, but I will let you make up your mind about that.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Ruth Mancini was born in south-west London and started her career as a marketing executive for a publisher before undertaking a post-graduate diploma in law and retraining as a solicitor.

Ruth has spent the past twenty-five years in and out of courts and police stations, representing those accused of crimes. She still practises as a lawyer for a large criminal law firm with offices in London, conducting advocacy in the courts and defending people arrested at the police station.

She also reviews trial files across the firm and juggles her legal work with writing crime and psychological fiction.

She can be found on Twitter @RuthMancini1 and Facebook at www.facebook.com/ruth.mancini.author.

4 July 2024

Review: A WORLD OF CURIOSITIES, Louise Penny

  •  this edition from my local library
  • originally published 2022 by St. Martin's Publishing
  • large print edition
  • 645 pages
  • #18 in Chief Inspector Gamache series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

It's spring and Three Pines is re-emerging after the harsh winter. But not everything buried should come alive again. Not everything lying dormant should return.

But something has.

As the villagers prepare for a special celebration, Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir find themselves increasingly worried. A young man and woman have reappeared in the Sûreté du Québec investigators' lives after many years. The two were young children when their troubled mother was murdered, leaving them damaged, shattered. Now they've arrived in the village of Three Pines.

But to what end?

Gamache and Beauvoir's memories of that tragic case, the one that first brought them together, come rushing back. Did their mother's murder hurt them beyond repair? Have those terrible wounds, buried for decades, festered and are now about to erupt?

As Chief Inspector Gamache works to uncover answers, his alarm grows when a letter written by a long dead stone mason is discovered. In it the man describes his terror when bricking up an attic room somewhere in the village. Every word of the 150-year-old letter is filled with dread. When the room is found, the villagers decide to open it up.

As the bricks are removed, Gamache, Beauvoir and the villagers discover a world of curiosities. But the head of homicide soon realizes there's more in that room than meets the eye. There are puzzles within puzzles, and hidden messages warning of mayhem and revenge.

In unsealing that room, an old enemy is released into their world. Into their lives. And into the very heart of Armand Gamache's home.

My Take

As usual an engrossing read. Built solidly on the Armande Gamache saga, but also including some events in the past that we haven't heard about before. There are also references to true facts like the Montreal Massacre and The Paston Treasure. I liked the way the author  blended these into her fiction.

Although there are some things that strain the bounds of credibility, the threat to Gamache and his family feels very real. 

So now I'm up to date and ready for the next in the series THE GREY WOLF, to be published later this year.

My rating: 4.9

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