5 August 2015

Review: A SIEGE OF BITTERNS, Steve Burrows

  • format: Amazon (Kindle)
  • File Size: 1025 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Dundurn (March 31, 2014)
  • Publication Date: March 31, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CMPEXVI
  • Globe and Mail 100: Best Books of 2014 
  • 2015 Arthur Ellis Award — Winner, Best First Novel 
  • 2015 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize — Shortlisted, Best Mystery
Synopsis  (Kindle)

Newly appointed police inspector Domenic Jejeune doesn’t mind ruffling a few feathers to flush out suspects in the brutal murder of a renowned ecological activist.

Inspector Domenic Jejeune’s success has made him a poster boy for the U.K. police service. The problem is Jejeune doesn’t really want to be a detective at all; he much prefers watching birds.

Recently reassigned to the small Norfolk town of Saltmarsh, located in the heart of Britain’s premier birding country, Jejeune’s two worlds collide when he investigates the grisly murder of a prominent ecological activist. His ambitious police superintendent foresees a blaze of welcome publicity, but she begins to have her doubts when Jejeune’s most promising theory involves a feud over birdwatching lists. A second murder only complicates matters.

To unravel this mystery, Jejeune must deal with unwelcome public acclaim, the mistrust of colleagues, and his own insecurities. In the case of the Saltmarsh birder murders, the victims may not be the only casualties.

My Take

Many thanks to the blog reader who recommended this title, the winner of the 2015 Arthur Ellis award for best first novel.

Although this is the debut novel in a series, it tries to give the impression that it isn't: there is some history about why Domenic Jejeune has accepted this appointment in the marshlands of North Norfolk. The story is hinted at, never fully revealed in one place.

And the reader's curiosity is piqued on two levels: Jejeune is Canadian, so what is he doing in the British police force? And the author is Canadian - what is he doing setting his novel in England?

And then there is the character of Jejeune himself. We are told he has risen rapidly through the ranks, that he is a clever detective. But we are also told by Jejeune himself that it is case of what he is good at rather than a case of what he enjoys doing. He hates the need to be meticulous, to dot the i's and cross the t's. He would much rather be bird watching. 

And then that brings us to the plot and the setting: the heart of bird watching in Britain, the competition between bird watchers to be the best there is, to record the biggest personal totals. Can any of this possibly be related to the hanging of an outspoken ecological activist or is the perpetrator much closer to home?

I have concluded that this is certainly an author worth following. The plot of A SIEGE OF BITTERNS was satisfyingly complex, full of twists and turns, as well as red herrings. 

My rating: 4.7

About the Author (see website)

Steve Burrows has pursued his birdwatching hobby on five continents. He is a former editor of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society Magazine and a contributing field editor for Asian Geographic. Steve now lives in Oshawa, Ontario.

Burrows has three titles in the Birder series, not all published yet
1. A Siege of Bitterns (2014)
2. A Pitying of Doves (2015)
3. A Cast of Falcons (2016)






1 August 2015

Review: THE BURNING MAN, Christopher Fowler - audio book

  • source: audible.com
  • Narrated by: Tim Goodman
  • Length: 13 hrs and 3 mins 
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • published 2015
  • #12 in the Bryant & May series  
 Synopsis (audible)

A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and a young homeless man burns to death after being caught between rioters and the police.

But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge. Arthur Bryant and John May soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, punishment, and the legend of Guy Fawkes.

My Take

To say I'm hooked on this series, and in particular the audio versions, is probably an understatement, although I haven't read them all.  I love Tim Goodman's narration and I love the antiquarian details of London that the author blends into the story.

And the aged detective duo, Bryant and May are getting older. Arthur Bryant in particular is showing serious signs of wear and tear, even perhaps Alzheimer's, and it seems his working days may end soon. But it is his background knowledge that pieces together the puzzle of the deaths by fire that are happening in London. As always the Peculier Crimes Unit is under threat by those wanting to make economic revisions, and Arthur's oddities seem to be damaging its reputation.

Just engrossing! A series worthy of your attention, particularly if you are interested in London and its history.

My rating: 4.7

I've also reviewed
THE VICTORIA VANISHES
4.6, TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE
4.5, BRYANT & MAY AND THE INVISIBLE CODE
4.7, FULL DARK HOUSE
4.8, THE WHITE CORRIDOR, Christopher Fowler

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month July 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2015
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 July  2015, 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 -
e.g.
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.


30 July 2015

Review: THE SILENCE OF THE SEA, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

  • first published in Icelandic in 2011
  • translated into English by Victoria Cribb 2014
  • this edition published by Hodder & Stoughton 
  • ISBN 978-1-444-73446-1
  • source: my local library
  • #6 in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series
 Synopsis (publisher)

An abandoned yacht, a young family missing - chilling crime from the queen of Nordic Noir.
 
WINNER OF THE 2015 PETRONA AWARD

The most chilling novel yet from Yrsa Sigurdardottir, an international bestseller at the height of her powers.

'Mummy dead.' The child's pure treble was uncomfortably clear. It was the last thing Brynjar - and doubtless the others - wanted to hear at that moment. 'Daddy dead.' It got worse. 'Adda dead. Bygga dead.' The child sighed and clutched her grandmother's leg. 'All dead.' 

A luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbour with nobody on board. What has happened to the crew, and to the family who were on board when it left Lisbon?

Thora Gudmundsdottir is hired by the young father's parents to investigate, and is soon drawn deeper into the mystery. What should she make of the rumours saying that the vessel was cursed, especially given that when she boards the yacht she thinks she sees one of the missing twins? Where is Karitas, the glamorous young wife of the yacht's former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore?

My Take

This is an amazing novel, told on two planes.

The opening scene is of a fabulous yacht, several decks high, coming into Reykjavik harbour. On the wharf waiting for it are an old couple with a young granddaughter, a man with his leg in a cast, and the harbour master. Something is wrong. The yacht makes no attempt to slow down and it crashes into the wharf. No one appears on deck and it becomes apparent that there is nobody aboard. The incident makes the headlines of Reykjavik news.

Thora Gundmundsottir comes into the story when the elderly parents of the young father who should have been on board employ her to deal with the paperwork of proving their son must be dead, and with claiming his life insurance. Thora gets in touch with the various authorities including the police, and so one plane of the story is narrated from the standpoint of after the event, trying to work out what happened.

The second narration comes from those who are on board the yacht as the events unfold. What should have been an adventure for the young family, passengers on the yacht being sailed from Lisbon to Reykjavik, turns to horror as a body is discovered stored in a freezer and an elusive perfume convinces them that there is somebody else on board.

There is plenty of mystery for the reader to work out, and in the long run, I'm sure you will agree with the judges of the 2015 Petrona Award, given annually in memory of Maxine Clarke, that this is one not to be missed.

My rating: 5.0

I've also reviewed 4.8, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME
I certainly have a few titles to catch up with.

The series (list from EuroCrime)
Thora Gudmundsdottir, Lawyer
Last Rituals20071
My Soul to Take20092
Ashes to Dust20103
The Day is Dark20114
• Someone to Watch Over Me20135
• The Silence of the Sea20146

Look also for
I Remember You2012
• The Undesired2015

26 July 2015

Review: STRANGER CHILD, Rachel Abbott

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3303 KB
  • Print Length: 364 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0957652240
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Black Dot Publishing Ltd (February 24, 2015)
  • Publication Date: February 24, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00T6MDXA2
  • #4 in the Tom Douglas series 
Synopsis (Amazon)

One Dark Secret. One act of revenge.

When Emma Joseph met her husband David, he was a man shattered by grief. His first wife had been killed outright when her car veered off the road. Just as tragically, their six-year-old daughter mysteriously vanished from the scene of the accident.

Now, six years later, Emma believes the painful years are behind them. She and David have built a new life together and have a beautiful baby son, Ollie.

Then a stranger walks into their lives, and their world tilts on its axis.

Emma's life no longer feels secure. Does she know what really happened all those years ago? And why does she feel so frightened for herself and for her baby?

When a desperate Emma reaches out to her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, she puts all their lives in jeopardy. Before long, a web of deceit is revealed that shocks both Emma and Tom to the core.

They say you should never trust a stranger. Maybe they're right.

My Take

Once again  Rachel Abbott has produced another page turner. There is quite a lot of improbability in this plot, but that doesn't seem to matter: you read on because you just want to find out what happens.

The book opens with a hook in the form of a Prologue - an accident occurs where Caroline Joseph is killed and her six year old daughter Tasha, a passenger in the car, disappears.  The plot jumps six years and a body is found in the nearby woods. The police fear it may be Tasha, but the problem is that this girl is older, the age Tasha would be now, and she has only recently died.

Again this is a case where DCI Tom Douglas really has a conflict of interest because he knows one of the victims, but on the other hand it can be argued that this is an advantage, because it gives him a degree of inside knowledge. The novel also explores Tom's professional relationship with his second in command, and with the woman who has become his lover.

If you haven't caught up with this series, then it is time to make a start.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed
4.8, ONLY THE INNOCENT
4.9, THE BACK ROAD
4.6, SLEEP TIGHT

Review: BELFAST NOIR by Adrian McKinty (editor), Stuart Neville (editor) - audio book

Synopsis (publisher)

Reflecting a city still divided, Belfast Noir serves as a record of a city transitioning to normalcy, or perhaps as a warning that underneath the fragile peace darker forces still lurk. 

Featuring brand-new stories by: Glenn Patterson, Eoin McNamee, Garbhan Downey, Lee Child, Alex Barclay, Brian McGilloway, Ian McDonald, Arlene Hunt, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Claire McGowan, Steve Cavanagh, Lucy Caldwell, Sam Millar, and Gerard Brennan. 

From the introduction by Adrian McKinty & Stuart Neville: "Few European cities have had as disturbed and violent a history as Belfast over the last half-century. For much of that time the Troubles (1968–1998) dominated life in Ireland's second-biggest population centre, and during the darkest days of the conflict - in the 1970s and 1980s - riots, bombings, and indiscriminate shootings were tragically commonplace. The British army patrolled the streets in armoured vehicles and civilians were searched for guns and explosives before they were allowed entry into the shopping district of the city centre... Belfast is still a city divided... You can see Belfast's bloodstains up close and personal. This is the city that gave the world its worst ever maritime disaster, and turned it into a tourist attraction; similarly, we are perversely proud of our thousands of murders, our wounds constantly on display. You want noir? How about a painting the size of a house, a portrait of a man known to have murdered at least a dozen human beings in cold blood? Or a similar house-sized gable painting of a zombie marching across a post-apocalyptic wasteland with an AK-47 over the legend UVF: Prepared for Peace - Ready for War. As Lee Child has said, Belfast is still 'the most noir place on earth.'"

Part I: City of Ghosts
“The Undertaking” by Brian McGilloway (Roselawn)
“Poison” by Lucy Caldwell (Dundonald)
“Wet with Rain” by Lee Child (Great Victoria Street)
“Taking It Serious” by Ruth Dudley Edwards (Falls Road)
Part II: City of Walls
“Ligature” by Gerard Brennan (Hydebank)
“Belfast Punk REP” by Glenn Patterson (Ann Street)
“The Reservoir” by Ian McDonald (Holywood)
Part III: City of Commerce
“The Grey” by Steve Cavanagh (Laganside, Queens Island)
“Rosie Grant’s Finger” by Claire McGowan (Titanic Quarter)
“Out of Time” by Sam Millar (Hill Street)
“Die Like a Rat” by Garbhan Downey (Malone Road)
Part IV: Brave New City
“Corpse Flowers” by Eoin McNamee (Ormeau Embankment)
“Pure Game” by Arlene Hunt (Sydenham)
“The Reveller” by Alex Barclay (Shore Road)
 
My Take

Not a set of stories for the faint-hearted, most of these are truly noir.
As with most short story collections, there are some that are very good, clever, or amusing, but there are others that tempt you to skip to the next.
They do make the reader appreciate that Irish noir fiction is alive, well, and strong.
Surprisingly, apart from the introduction, there is not a contribution from either of the editors.

Read a feature on Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, and Lee Child at the Wall Street Journal.
Listen to an interview with editors Stuart Neville and Adrian McKinty at RTÉ Arts Radio.

My rating: 4.2

I've read and reviewed
McKinty, Adrian:
FIFTY GRAND
4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND
4.8, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET
4.6, FALLING GLASS
4.9, IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE

Neville, Stuart:
THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST
4.8, THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND

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