29 June 2011

Review: MORTAL REMAINS, Kathy Reichs - audio

Published 2010
#13 in the Temperance Brennan series
Audio version released on Audible.com 2010
This edition (Abridged) narrated by Linda Emond 
Length: 6 hrs 20 mins
Source: won at CrimeFest 2011

Publisher's Blurb:

When Tempe is called to the scene of an autoerotic death, she has little idea of the tangled chain of events that will follow. Because the man whose body she is examines apparently died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam 40 years before. So who is buried in the soldier's grave?

Tempe's investigations take her to Honolulu, where she is caught up not only in the mystery of the unidentified body in the soldier's grave, but also dragged into investigating who, or what, killed the young men whose body parts have floated up onto a popular Hawaiian beach.

And as Tempe gradually unravels the tangled threads of the mystery, it becomes clear that there are some who would rather the past stays dead and buried. And when Tempe proves difficult to frighten, they turn their attention to the person who means more to her than anyone else in the world.

My take:

Kathy Reichs' work has a considerable following, increased by the fact that her titles are the basis of the popular television series Bones.

The forensic and medical detail that makes the Bones series popular is probably the aspect that I liked least about MORTAL REMAINS, and at times felt overwhelming and a little too graphic. Underneath is a good story line: the victim of a helicopter crash in Vietnam in 1968 is buried with military honours in his hometown in North Carolina. Four decades later Tempe Brennan is called to a drowning in Quebec. The fingerprints say this victim is the man who died in Vietnam. When Brennan goes to Honolulu to solve this puzzle, she learns that this is not the only ID mixup caused by inadequate forensic procedures in the 1960s.

As you will have noticed, this audio book was an abridged version. So I am not sure what was left out. I'm not sure either why it was abridged. The "full length" recording is barely 2 hours longer. The abridged version of MORTAL REMAINS was shortlisted for a Crime Fest 2011 audio award.

MORTAL REMAINS is #13 in the Temperance Brennan series and I can really only be said to have dabbled in the series. Although it appears that each book can stand on its own, there are obviously continuing threads, particularly in personal relationships between Dr. Temperance Brennan and other characters - lovers, her daughter, colleagues - that will add more meaning.

My rating: 4.1

Reviews of other titles by Kathy Reichs on this blog:

Mini-review BREAK NO BONES, rated at 4.3
Dr Temperance Brennan is filling a vacancy as a supervisor of an archaeology dig for students from the University of North Carolina. The dig site on Dewees Island on contains sixteen prehistoric graves, a pre-Colombian burial ground. Dewees Island is largely a conservation easement, but the rest is ripe for development. On the penultimate day of the dig, just when they are well on the way to wrapping everything up on schedule, Tempe has a couple of visitors: local freelance journalist Homer Winborne, and Dickie Dupree, land developer and entrepreneur. As if on cue, an intrusive articulated skeleton is discovered in one of the graves. Tempe quickly realises that this body is not prehistoric.

Kathy Reichs' website

Temperance Brennan makes ‘Top 10 female detectives’ The Guardian newspaper has named Temperance Brennan one of their top 10 female detectives. This puts Temperance alongside such classics as Nancy Drew and Miss Marple. The Guardian says of Temperance that she is “spiky and socially awkward… brilliant at everything except interacting with other humans.” See Guardian article

Review: THE KILLER'S ART, Mari Jungstedt

Publisher: Transworld Publishers (Random House) 2010
Translated from Swedish into English by Tiina Nunnally
Length: 305 pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-61707-9
Source: my local library

Read an extract here

This is #4 in Mari Jungstedt's Anders Knutas series set in Gotland, Sweden.

Publisher's Blurb
It is a cold wintry morning in the picturesque port town of Visby when art dealer Egon Wallin’s battered and naked body is found hanging from a gate in the town’s old city walls. His was a very public death, but who killed him and why?

As Inspector Knutas begins his investigation, Egon’s secrets quickly begin to come to the surface. He died on the eve of leaving his wife. Is his death a spurned lover’s revenge? And when a painting by a new cause-célèbre artist is stolen from his gallery, more questions are raised.

Another theft and another death, this time in Stockholm, widens the search for the killer. As the police piece together the clues, one scandal is followed by another and Inspector Knutas will discover that beneath the patina of glamour, the high-society world of art collecting hides many secrets – some worth killing for.

My take:

I found THE KILLER'S ART just a little "flatter" than previous titles in the series, although I will still keep Mari Jungstedt on my list of Swedish authors to follow, and Gotland on my list of places to avoid.

What made it seem "flatter"? To start with, Detective Anders Knutas didn't seem as sharp as he should have been. He has a rather ambivalent attitude to journalists - on the one hand he regards them as a threat to his investigation and on the other hand he wants to maintain a good relationship with Johan Berg from Swedish television in particular. Knutas regards himself as a good judge of character and at least twice in THE KILLER'S ART his judgements receive a bit of a knocking

I thought perhaps Jungstedt tried to incorporate too many story lines in the plot. There is the main murder of Egon Wallin and the spider's threads branching out from there. Then there are the developments in the relationship between Johan Berg and Emma, the mother of his child. This is a relationship that began in the first of the series UNSEEN.The third main story line is the relationship between Knutas and one of his detectives Karen Jacobsson, who is ambitious and wants a more authoritative position. This was in many ways the weakest part of the plot and I felt it detracted from the main story. The decision that Knutas makes is a divisive one that deflects his team from their main focus on the murder for a while.

The resolution of the puzzle of who killed Egon Waller and why takes a long time and a lot of police resources because the original crime scene held so few clues. If the murderer hadn't been so obsessed by the idea of "unfinished business" then the original crime may have gone unsolved.

My rating: 4.4

Other Jungstedt titles reviewed on this blog:

Other reviews of THE KILLER'S ART to check:
Crime Scraps,
International Noir Fiction

Inspector Anders Knutas, Gotland, Sweden (courtesy EuroCrime)
The Inner Circle (apa Unknown)20083
The Killer's Art20104
The Dead of Summer20115

28 June 2011

Crime Fiction Alphabet - Suspect X

I'm being a bit liberal with the rules of the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme this time.

X always causes a problem, so this time I am pointing you to a review where the title contains the letter X.

THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X by Keigo Higashino was an audio book I reviewed here.

Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor.
Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step.
When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko’s manufactured alibi and yet is still sure that there’s something wrong.
Kusanagi brings in Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and college friend who frequently consults with the police. Yukawa, known to the police by the nickname Professor Galileo, went to college with Ishigami. After meeting up with him again, Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami had something to do with the murder. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet. 

The book is translated from Japanese. The author is very popular in Japan but there is something about the construction of the story that marks it as having quite a different approach to European/Western crime fiction.

Check my full review.

27 June 2011

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2011 - Letter X - week begins 27 June 2011

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

It is never too late to join in on this meme and you don't have to post each week if reading (or life) gets in the way. And it is so easy!

The books and authors being suggested are a great way of learning about books you haven't read, or authors you haven't yet met.
We have participants from all over the globe too. Do take the time to check the entries towards the end of the week. Like me, you'll find yourself adding "must read" titles to your TBR.

Letters already covered: A B C  D  E F G  H  I  J  K  L  M N  O P Q R S T  U  V  W  

Now we really are coming to the sticky end of the alphabet: X, Y, and Z

This week's letter is the letter X 

Here are the rules

By Friday of each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
[Those who intend to participate regularly have signed up here.]

Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname.
So you see you have lots of choice.
You could write a review, or a bio of an author, or even maybe cover a crime fiction "topic", so long as it fits the rules somehow.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)

Please link your post for the week back to this page. (a letter image is supplied that you can use in your post as well as the meme icon if you wish).

After your post is published, put a link to your actual blog post in the Mr Linky that appears below.
(leave a comment if Mr Linky has disappeared)

Then come back at the end of the week to check to see who else has posted and visit their blog (and leave a comment if you can).

Please check each Monday for the letter of the week

Letters already covered: A B C  D  E F G  H  I  J  K  L  M N  O P Q R S T  U  V  W

Thanks for participating.

26 June 2011

Sunday Salon: 26 June 2011, a new Crime Fiction Reading Challenge

Good morning fellow Sunday Saloners.

MYSTERIES in PARADISE is the home of the Crime Fiction Alphabet Reading Challenge.
The 2011 edition of this popular meme is entering its final letters: X, Y, and Z.
It has been very successful with an average of 15 or so participants each week suggesting books to read and authors to find.

I have decided to follow it up this year with a new challenge: Crime Fiction on a EuroPass
These challenges don't necessarily involve participants in new reading for the challenge itself (although a list of books that you'd like to read could be a result), but allow you to point to books you've already read, or reviews you've already written, or to dabble in a bit of research.

Although the challenge relates to crime fiction reading, you don't have to be a crime fiction addict like I am to participate. Crime Fiction on a EuroPass begins on August 1. The blog post has a Mr Linky where you can sign up.

Check out the countries we'll visit in the 12 week schedule.

As we approach the middle of the year begin thinking about your best crime fiction reads so far for 2011.
I'll be collecting lists here on MYSTERIES in PARADISE from July 1. I'll put up a special post about it and several reminders.

Other posts this week:
News & Headlines
TBRN (To Be Read Next)
  • next - THE KILLER'S ART, Maria Jungstedt
  • next on Kindle - VIOLENT EXPOSURE, Katherine Howell
  • now on audio - STIFF UPPER LIP, P.G. Wodehouse
  • next Agatha Christie: ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE

Challenge: Crime Fiction on a EuroPass

I have been thinking about what some of us might do when the current Crime Fiction Alphabet, coming up to its last 3 letters for 2011, comes to an end.

My answer is Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass

The idea of this challenge is to embark on a 12 stage European Journey in Eurail Pass style.

I am your travel agent and I have chosen 12 destinations for your journey over 12 weeks starting on Monday 1 August.

The challenge is simple really.
You have to connect us to a blog post on your site that relates to crime fiction in the country we are visiting. The meme will enable us to share our knowledge and perhaps point out new reading opportunities to each other.

You can choose one of the following (or something more imaginative)
  • a book review (create a new one or revive an old one)
  • an author profile
  • a reading syllabus for crime fiction either set in this country, or written by authors from this country.
You may vary your choice from week to week, or set your own limitations.
It is ok to miss a week if life intervenes.

Sign up for the challenge now with Mr Linky - see the end of this post.

Please advertise the challenge with a post on your own site after you've joined up on Mr Linky.
Feel free to use the logo.

The stops on our journey will be
  1. Monday 1 August - England - this is our starting point, and as with all the countries we visit, you can choose exactly where your post takes us.
  2. Monday 8 August - Spain/Portugal
  3. Monday 15 August - France
  4. Monday 22 August - Holland/Belgium
  5. Monday 29 August - Denmark
  6. Monday 5 September - Germany
  7. Monday 12 September Austria
  8. Monday 19 September - Switzerland
  9. Monday 26 September - the Czech republic
  10. Monday 3 October - Italy
  11. Monday 10 October - Greece
  12. Monday 17 October - Turkey
Each week, please come back to MYSTERIES in PARADISE and use Mr Linky to connect to your post for that country.

25 June 2011

CrimeFest 2011 in retrospect

It has taken me a while to get myself organised to post a few photos from CrimeFest but here they are.

Karen and Dorte
Kerrie and Dorte
Kerrie, Dorte and Karen

Martin in action
The winning Quiz team
The excess luggage weighing 20 kg!

24 June 2011

Review: HEARTSTONE, C.J. Sansom - audio

Published in 2010
Audio version (abridged) published in 2010 by Pan Macmillan(available from Audible.com)
Running time: 7 hours
Narrator: Anton Lesser
Source: gift copy acquired at CrimeFest 2011

Publisher's summary  (from Audible)
Summer, 1545. England is at war. Henry VIII’s invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel. As the English fleet gathers at Portsmouth, the country raises the largest militia army it has ever seen. The King has debased the currency to pay for the war, and England is in the grip of soaring inflation and economic crisis.

Meanwhile Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr. Asked to investigate claims of “monstrous wrongs” committed against a young ward of the court, which have already involved one mysterious death, Shardlake and his assistant Barak journey to Portsmouth.

Once arrived, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing to become a war zone; and Shardlake takes the opportunity to also investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettipace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam. The emerging mysteries around the young ward, and the events that destroyed Ellen’s family 19 years before, involve Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Events will converge on board one of the King’s great warships, primed for battle in Portsmouth harbour....

My take

This is #5 in Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series. In 2009 I reviewed DISSOLUTION, the first in the series which I had actually read a year or two earlier. I've been meaning to read more in this series ever since. But I haven't and the fact that I have enjoyed reading this "out of order" is perhaps proof that you can dip into the series wherever you can. (Or perhaps I just don't know what I've been missing?)  I regret too that this review is of the abridged version of the novel, but you know what they say about gift horses.
HEARTSTONE has strengthened my resolve to read some of the intervening titles.

In DISSOLUTION Matthew Shardlake, a hunch-back lawyer, was doing the work of Thomas Cromwell. Eight years have passed and it is now 1545. Henry VIII has been through a few wives, and the current one is his last, Catherine Parr, who asks Shardlake to undertake an investigation for her.  She warns him however that when push comes to shove she may be unable to acknowledge that he is working for her. Thomas Cromwell is long gone and his successor Sir Richard Rich poses a great threat to Shardlake. Defending Shardlake in matters which interest Richard Rich may put the Queen in danger.

Narrator Anton Lesser does an excellent job in bring HEARTSTONE to life. His voice variations help the listener distinguish easily between characters.

While you "know" that this is historical fiction at the same time Sansom manages to embed historical details with great authenticity. I have a passing familiarity with this historical period and the details felt reliable. .

HEARTSTONE came a close second in the 2010 Ellis Peters Award for Historical Crime Fiction.

My rating: 4.7
Highly recommended

Check C.J. Sansom's own website

Review: DEAD TOMORROW, Peter James

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 901 KB
  • Print Length: 500 pages
  • Publisher: Pan Macmillan UK (June 11, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004S49YRY
  • Source: I bought it
Product description (Amazon
Lynn Barrett is a single mother, trying to cope with life after divorce. And her life becomes an even bigger nightmare when daughter Caitlin is diagnosed with terminal liver disease. She is put on the transplant waiting list, but there is a world shortage and most patients will die while waiting. In desperation, Lynn turns to the internet and discovers an organ broker who can provide her with a liver but it will cost Lynn £250,000. To save her daughter she mortgages her home and borrows from family and friends to raise the money. A few days later the organ broker tells Lynn she has found a young woman, a perfect match for Caitlin, who is in a coma following a car smash in Italy. Meanwhile Roy Grace is working on the case of the remains of three young people recovered from the seabed off the coast of Brighton. These remains lead him to a Romanian trafficking organization of street kids from the Eastern bloc for the UK sex trade; some of them are also traded as organ donors . . .

My take:

One of the aspects of writing crime fiction that is obviously very important to Peter James, indeed one of the issues that he emphasised in panel sessions and during an in depth interview at CrimeFest 2011, is the depth and accuracy of his research. This is borne out in his novels.

DEAD TOMORROW shows James is an authority not only on British police procedures but also on the several topics that the novel touches on. Minute details add authority to his writing, to the point where the reader thinks "I am learning something important here."

James uses all this background detail to create another world for us to temporarily to become part of: one where we get to know a complement of characters to the point where we actually care what happens to them.

DEAD TOMORROW is #5  in Peter James' Roy Grace series set in Brighton. (#7 has just been published). Grace's wife Sandy disappeared nearly 10 years ago and until now Grace has wanted to believe she is still alive. Her has searched assiduously and even consulted seances. There has been a supposed sighting in Germany but his search has continued throughout the series. But now he has a new love in his life, Cleo, and he wants to move on.

I'd like to comment too on a couple of characteristics of James' writing that i find both unusual and well done.
The author often reveals that he has fore-knowledge of future events that will embroil a character. There are several
    As he headed jauntily along the quay, towards her black hull and orange superstructure, he was happily unaware of the cargo that would accompany them back from his next voyage, scheduled to start in just a couple of hours’ time, and the trauma it would bring to his own life.
Peter James seems to introduce each character rather systematically. He devotes quite a bit of space to background details for each, but once characters have been introduced, the reader knows their paths will converge somewhere sooner or later.

As a detective Roy Grace has some defining characteristics.  For example one of the tricks he has taught members of his team is to watch what a person's eyes do during an interview. They refer to it as a lie detection test.
Here is another extract I found interesting. [Roy Grace believes in occasionally going back to the basics, by referring to a definitive tome on his shelves called the Murder Investigation Manual.]
    Updated regularly, it contained every procedure for every aspect of a murder investigation, including a well-mapped-out Murder Investigation Model, which he turned to now. The Fast Track Menu, which he read through again now to refresh himself, contained ten points which were ingrained in every homicide detective’s brain – and precisely because they were so familiar, some of them could easily be overlooked.

Grace uses the manual as a personal check list to ensure that he is covering all aspects the investigation should encompass.

DEAD TOMORROW is a long novel, one in which the reader certainly gets their money's worth. Partly the length is generated by the fact that there are a large number of characters, and part it comes through detailed descriptive passages. But it is held together by a strong narrative, and the length does not grate.
Highly recommended.

My rating 5.0

Other Reviews to check:

Other Peter James titles reviewed on MiP:

June 2011 edition of Agatha Christie Blog Carnival

The June 2011 edition of the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival has just been posted.
As ever there is plenty of variety: 16 contributors have posted 22 items.

The number of contributors is slowly growing, although not everybody is able to contribute each month. Some are doing as I am, reading Agatha Christie titles in order, while others are reading books as they locate them.

So this month's contributions range from reviews of books about Christie, reviews of Christie titles, to novel/film comparisons, book covers over the years, and recipes for cakes and drinks mentioned in Christie books. Something for everybody!

Find out more about the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and the accompanying Blog Carnival here.

23 June 2011

Forgotten Book: THE BENEVENT TREASURE, Patricia Wentworth

This week's Friday's Forgotten book for the meme hosted by Patti Abbott on Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books appears in my records for 1993.

Publisher's Blurb
Taken in by her two great-aunts, Candida Sayle fears she may become the next victim of the Benevent Treasure, which is said to bring death to anyone who touches it, while Miss Silver investigates the death of a former Benevent employee.

According to Fantastic Fiction THE BENEVENT TREASURE (publ. 1954) is #26 in the author's extensive and popular Miss Silver series.
The first in the series was published in 1928, and the last (#32) was published in the year of the author's death in 1961.
Miss Silver is sometimes compared to Agatha Christie's Jane Marple.Miss Silver is a retired governess who becomes a private detective. She works closely with Scotland Yard, especially Inspector Frank Abbott.

Review: THE SALTON KILLINGS, Sally Spencer

Published: 1998
This edition: Dales Large Print Books
Length: 333 pages
ISBN 9-781853-899249
Source: my local library

Publisher's blurb

Drafted in from London to investigate the strangling of a teenager, Chief Inspector Woodend is an outspoken Northerner who does his policing the old-fashioned way: local knowledge and a healthy pinch of intuition. He is convinced that Margie Poole, daughter of the local landlady and the teenager's best friend, knows more about Dian Thorburn's last movements than she is prepared to tell. Woodend's enquiry turns up the death of another girl a generation before and the similarities look sinister. Is there a serial killer on the loose.

My take:

THE SALTON KILLINGS is set in a small salt mining village in Cheshire in the mid 50s. Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend, "Cloggin'- it Charlie", is a northerner, a bit of a misfit at Scotland Yard. He has a reputation of wearing out sergeants faster than you can get through shoe leather.
    Rutter [Charlie's assigned sergeant for this case] finally caught sight of the DCI, a man in his middle forties, wearing a baggy check sports coat over a zipped knitted cardigan. ... Hair - light brown, no Brylcreem, unruly. Nose - nearly, but not quite, hooked. Mouth - wide. Jaw - square without being brutish. All in all, a pleasant but unremarkable face. Except for the eyes. They were dark, almost black, and the lids were like camera shutters, constantly clicking and registering.
If you are looking for a well constructed British police procedural then THE SALTON KILLINGS, the debut novel in Spencer's Woodend series, might hit the spot. It did for me. An almost undemanding and quick read, with many of the hall marks of a cozy. But Charlie Woodend is an interesting character. THE SALTON KILLINGS is written retrospectively. The Epilogue takes us to Woodend in retirement and looks back at the case. An interesting technique.

I decided to track down the first in the series after I had read (and liked) the last on the list (see below) and then the second in Spencer's series that followed - the DCI Monika Paniatowski series.

I'll be reading more of the Woodend series.
My rating: 4.4

Inspector Woodend (list from Fantastic Fiction)
1. The Salton Killings (1998)
2. Murder at Swann's Lake (1999)
3. Death of a Cave Dweller (2000)
4. The Dark Lady (2000)
5. The Golden Mile to Murder (2000)
6. Dead On Cue (2001)
7. Death of an Innocent (2002)
8. The Red Herring (2002)
9. The Enemy Within (2003)
10. A Death Left Hanging (2003)
11. The Witch Maker (2004)
12. The Butcher Beyond (2004)
13. Dying in the Dark (2005)
14. Stone Killer (2005)
15. A Long Time Dead (2006)
16. Sins of the Fathers (2006)
17. Dangerous Games (2007)
18. Death Watch (2007)
19. A Dying Fall (2008)
20. Fatal Quest: Woodend's First Case (2008)

22 June 2011

Review: AN UNCERTAIN PLACE, Fred Vargas

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (May 2, 2011)
  • Language: English. Translated from French by Sian Reynolds.
  • ISBN-10: 9781846554452
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846554452
  • ASIN: 1846554454
  • Source: my local library
Note AN UNCERTAIN PLACE is also available for Kindle.

Product Description (Amazon)

Adamsberg travels to London, where a routine conference draws him into a disturbing investigation.

Commissaire Adamsberg leaves Paris for a three-day conference in London. With him are a young sergeant, Estalère, and Commandant Danglard, who is terrified at the idea of travelling beneath the Channel. It is the break they all need, until a macabre and brutal case comes to the attention of their colleague Radstock from New Scotland Yard.

Just outside the baroque and romantic old Highgate cemetery a pile of shoes is found. Not so strange in itself, but the shoes contain severed feet. As Scotland Yard's investigation begins, Adamsberg and his colleagues return home and are confronted with a massacre in a suburban home. Adamsberg and Danglard are drawn in to a trail of vampires and vampire-hunters that leads them all the way to Serbia, a place where the old certainties no longer apply.

My take:

As Chief of the Serious Crimes Squad in Paris, Commissaire Adamsberg is obliged to attend the 3 day conference in London about controlling migratory flows in Europe. As he doesn't speak English, he is rather hoping to be able to tune out of most of the discussion. He knows his deputy Commandant Danglard, who has an excellent grasp of English, will tell him the most important bits anyway.

Danglard makes several friends at the conference and through one of them, DCI Radstock of New Scotland Yard, he and Adamsberg are treated to the amazing sight of a collection of pairs of shoes (containing feet) at the entrance to Highgate Cemetery. Some of the shoes are ancient, while others more modern, and to his dismay Danglard thinks he recognises one of the pairs. It certainly seems as if most of the shoes may be of European origin.

When Adamsberg and his team return to Paris they are confronted with the very grisly case in which a body has been
    "chopped up, pulverised, scattered. Wherever you look, you see parts of it, and when you see it all, you can't see any of it. There's nothing but the body, but the body isn't there.
    ...This old man wasn't just killed, he was reduced to nothingness. He didn't have his life taken, he was literally demolished, wiped out."
Adamsberg's team's hunt for the killer sends them looking for relatives of the victim, to trying to understand why the victim did not leave his estate to his own son but to his part-time gardener, and then by chance, to the discovery that a distant relative has been killed in a similar fashion. Adamsberg himself eventually ends up in Serbia, in a village, where nearly 3 centuries before, at least two families were thought to be vampires. And there too he unearths the connection with Highgate Cemetery.

But there is something else going on too. Someone in high places is calling in favours, and a member of his own team is subverted in an attempt to have Adamsberg discredited and dismissed, and his investigation cancelled. So Adamsberg know he is getting too close to the truth. But which truth and just who is it that is pulling the strings?

One of the tricks in a Vargas novel is to work out what is the really important information and to retain that so that eventually your brain will make the connections. I wondered several times where AN UNCERTAIN PLACE was headed, and whether either I or Vargas had "lost the plot".
As Norman says on Crime Scraps
    this novel is designed to be read slowly because you won't want it to end; the literary equivalent of slow cooking, or sipping a fine whisky or wine. A tasty French bouillabaisse of a novel to be enjoyed and savoured by gourmets of crime fiction.
Not everybody will enjoy AN UNCERTAIN PLACE. I did find myself wondering what had been the trigger for Vargas in writing this novel.
For some Adamsberg and his team will be just too peculiar, the idea that events in London, Paris and Serbia could be connected will be just too much of a stretch, and the murders themselves will be just too grisly.

But for me, in the end, Vargas pulled it off. It is a novel that just can't be finished and put aside. The reader needs to reflect to see how finely Vargas connected the threads.

My rating: 4.8

About the author
Fred Vargas is the pen name of Frederique Audoin-Rouzeau, a medieval historian and archaeologist, who has along with translator Sian Reynolds won the CWA International Dagger three times.

At CrimeFest on May 20 AN UNCERTAIN PLACE by Fred Vargas, translated by Siân Reynolds (Harvill Secker) was announced as one of the nominations for the shortlist for the Crime Writers’ Association’s International Dagger. (The winner of the CWA International Dagger will be announced at the CWA Daggers awards ceremony at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate on Friday, 22 July.)

Fred Vargas has won this particular award in 2006, 2007, and 2009, and must be a hot favourite again.
AN UNCERTAIN PLACE is a clear leader in the unofficial poll being held on EuroCrime. 

Check the links between Highgate Cemetery and vampires on Wikipedia.

Other Reviews to check

Other Vargas novels reviewed on this blog:

Review: MAD MONEY, Linda Richards

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 478 KB
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004SY5TLO
  • Source: I bought it
Blurb: from author's site
Mad Money is the first book featuring Madeline Carter, a stockbroker who quits her high-powered job in New York for a life of peace, quiet and day trading in the Malibu hills. Despite her best intentions, she finds herself enmeshed in a scheme that involves illegal trading, kidnapping and -- ultimately -- murder.

My take:

There's a lot to like about Madeline Carter, stockbroker, day trader, turned investigator.

The story opens dramatically with the killing of Madeline's stockbroking partner on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange by a crazed investor who, having already killed his mother, turns his gun on himself.

As a result Madeline decides the stock exchange, and New York, is the last place she wants to be. She sells up and moves to Los Angeles for a change of life.  A chance meeting with a lover she hasn't seen for a decade leads to him telling her that he is about to become the new CEO of a small LA company. He tells her to watch the share prices and Madeline decides to buy. When he is kidnapped on his first day in office, in fact before he had walked through the front door, and then share prices plummet, Madeline decides to investigate, rather predictably putting herself in danger.

A couple of sub-plots make MAD MONEY an interesting light read with an unusual amateur sleuth. It is Linda Richards' debut novel. Apparently we can expect two more Madeline Carter novels in e-book format, THE NEXT EX and CALCULATED LOSS, to make their appearance in the next few months.

My rating: 4.2

You can read an excerpt here.

21 June 2011

Review: THE WRECKAGE, Michael Robotham

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 762 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Digital (May 5, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004WJRT4K
  • Source: an ARC e-copy supplied by the publishers Mulholland Books to NetGalley.com.
Product Description (Amazon)

In London, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz rescues a young woman from a violent boyfriend but wakes next morning to find that he’s been set up and robbed. As he tracks down the thieves, he discovers the boyfriend’s tortured body and learns that powerful men are looking for the girl. What did Holly Knight steal that is so important to them?
Meanwhile in Baghdad, the bank robbery capital of the world, billions of dollars in reconstruction funds has gone missing and Pulitzer prize-winning Journalist Luca Terracini is trying to ‘follow the money’. The dangerous trail will lead him to London where he teams up with Vincent Ruiz and together they investigate the disappearance of an international banker and a mysterious ‘black hole’ in the bank’s accounts.

My take

THE WRECKAGE introduces a new character, investigative journalist Luca Terracini. In Baghdad Luca teams up with UN auditor Daniela Gardner. Someone is blowing up banks, the 18th so far for the year. Consignments of US dollars worth billions have disappeared.

In London our old friend Vincent Ruiz is mugged by a girl he took pity on in a bar. He wakes to find some of his things are gone - an iPod, his camera, his police medal, his passport, and some jewellery intended for his daughter Claire who is getting married on Saturday. His determination to locate the girl and retrieve his belongings has unexpected consequences that prove for us just how few degrees of separation there really are in modern Western society.

THE WRECKAGE is a contemporary thriller set against the background of both the world financial crisis and the attempts to build Iraq in the face of both greed and terrorism. It reflects both Robotham's meticulous research, and his ability to create great fictional characters. He describes the main characters in a way that makesd you really care about what happens to them.

Robotham seems to have begun using a crisper, more immediate, style of narrative that mostly uses the present tense. It gives a cinematic impression of events happening as you watch.

This is a great read, both for those who have been waiting for the next in this fractallated series featuring retired London detective Vincent Ruiz and clinical psychologist Professor Joe O'Loughlin, and for those new to Robotham's work.

My rating: 5.0

See Michael Robotham's site and download the first chapter.
Review by Bernadette (Reactions to Reading)

Reviews of other Robotham titles on MYSTERIES in PARADISE
SHATTER (audio)

20 June 2011

Review: TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE, Christopher Fowler - audio

This is #4 in Fowler's Bryant & May series. It's a crime tailor-made for the Peculiar Crimes Unit: a controversial artist is murdered and displayed as part of her own outrageous installation. No suspects, no motive, no evidence - it's business as usual for the Unit's cantankerous founding partners, Arthur Bryant and John May. But this time they have an eyewitness. According to twelve-year-old Luke Tripp, the killer was a cape-clad highwayman atop a black stallion.

As implausible as the boy's story sounds, Bryant and May take it seriously when “The Highwayman” is spotted again, striking a dramatic pose at the scene of his next outlandish murder. Whatever the killer's real identity, he seems intent on killing off a string of minor celebrities while becoming one himself.

As the tabloids look to make a quick bundle on “Highwayman Fever,” Bryant and May, along with the newest member of the Unit, May's agoraphobic granddaughter, April, find themselves sorting out a case involving an unlikely combination of artistic rivalries, sleazy sex affairs, the Knights Templars, and street gang feuds. To do it, they're going to have to use every orthodox - and unorthodox - means at their disposal, including myth, witchcraft, and the psychogeographic history of the city's “monsters,” past and present.

And if one unsolvable crime weren't enough, this case has disturbing links to a decades-old killing spree that nearly destroyed the partnership of Bryant and May once before…and may again. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is one murder away from being closed down for good - and that murder could be their own.

My take:

This was a great "read". I have been listening to it for the last 6 weeks or so, so it has taken me quite a while to get through it but I've never thought of abandoning it.

Christopher Fowler delights in giving the reader/listener intellectual puzzles to solve. He has set TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE against a background of London's history. For example what do Robin Hood, Dick Turpin, and Jack the Ripper have in common? After reading TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE you'll know.

Arthur Bryant is getting on, undoubtedly, like John May, coming to end of his career. He accepts an invitation to address boys at the local St. Crispin's College. He is meant to encourage them to be law-abiding and to be careful about what he says. He has a history of provoking people. He really doesn't understand why his audience, in essence privileged and moneyed adolescents, becomes angry and he has to be escorted from the school by teachers. So, in a sense, one of the themes of TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE is about the collision of values of the older generation with those of current adolescents.

Arthur Bryant in particular is an oddity with an antiquarian knowledge of a most peculiar kind. His pronouncements contribute to a level of humour in the Bryant & May series that is unusual in crime fiction of the generally serious kind. It part of what makes this book a delightful read.

My rating: 4.6

Other reviews to check

ACRC Update - 20 June 2011

My intent in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge is to read her books in order, so that I can get some idea of what she is doing, problems she is attempting to solve, and her development as a writer. If you look at some of my reviews you will see that I have been able to undertake some of this reflection.

Currently I am managing about a book a month.
I've read 28 books and 11 collections of short stories.

Read & reviewed so far
    1924, Poirot Investigates (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US)
  7. 1927, THE BIG FOUR
    1929, Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence)
    1930, The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin)
  12. 1932, PERIL AT END HOUSE
    1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders in the US)
    1991, Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991 (Two of them feature Hercule Poirot, two Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Harley Quin, and two Mr Parker Pyne.)
  16. 1935, THREE ACT TRAGEDY (aka MURDER IN THREE ACTS)- Hercule Poirot and Mr Satterthwaite.
    1933, The Hound of Death - 12 short stories, UK only
    1934, Parker Pyne Investigates - 12 stories introducing Parker Pyne and Ariadne Oliver
    1934, The Listerdale Mystery - 12 short stories, UK only
  17. 1935, DEATH IN THE CLOUDS (aka DEATH IN THE AIR) - Hercule Poirot
  18. 1936, THE A.B.C. MURDERS (aka THE ALPHABET MURDERS) - Hercule Poirot
    1947, The Labours of Hercules - Hercule Poirot - 12 short stories
  19. 1966, THE THIRD GIRL - Hercule Poirot and Ariadne Oliver
    1997, Miss Marple: complete short stories - Miss Marple - 20 short stories
    1997, While the Light Lasts - 9 short stories - incl. 2 Hercule Poirot
  20. 1936, MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA - Hercule Poirot
  21. 1936, CARDS ON THE TABLE - Hercule Poirot, Superintendent Battle, Colonel Race, Ariadne Oliver
  24. 1937, DEATH ON THE NILE - Hercule Poirot, Colonel Race
  25. 1938, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH - Hercule Poirot, Colonel Carbury
  26. 1939, MURDER IS EASY (aka EASY TO KILL) - Superintendent Battle
  28. 1940, SAD CYPRESS

    Reading schedule
  30. 1941, EVIL UNDER THE SUN
  31. 1941, N or M?
  35. 1944, TOWARDS ZERO
Check the opening blog post of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge here.
If you'd like to join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge click here.

I am using the list at Wikipedia of novels and collections of short stories. I will interlace the short story collections into the list where I can, but may have to read them out of order. I have decided on a method for reporting on the short stories. Here is my latest short story update.

Please feel free to join in my challenge, comment on my reviews etc.

I have set up a block over in the right hand column called Agatha Christie Reading Challenge (with the same logo as this post) where I am listing the books I'm currently reading and those I've finished.
The challenge is called ACRC so each review will be preceded by those letters.

If you want to follow my progress through your RSS reader, then the RSS URL is
Just save that in your bookmarks or RSS reader and you will be notified when I have written a new post.
Alternatively you could subscribe to the feed through FeedMyInbox. Just copy the RSS URL, click on the FeedMyInbox link and paste the URL in there.
You will need to confirm your subscription by email.

Contribute your blog postings about any Agatha Christie novels to the monthly carnival. Make an agreement with yourself that whenever you complete reading an Aggie you will write a blog posting about it and then submit the posting to the carnival.
If you are participating in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge then write updates like this one and submit them to the Carnival. Let us know what progress you are making.

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2011 - Letter W - week begins 20 June 2011

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

It is never too late to join in on this meme and you don't have to post each week if reading (or life) gets in the way. And it is so easy!

The books and authors being suggested are a great way of learning about books you haven't read, or authors you haven't yet met.
We have participants from all over the globe too. Do take the time to check the entries towards the end of the week. Like me, you'll find yourself adding "must read" titles to your TBR.

Letters already covered: A B C  D  E F G  H  I  J  K  L  M N  O P Q R S T  U  V  

We are coming up to the end of the meme: 4 letters to go: W, X, Y, Z including some of the most difficult!

This week's letter is the letter W 

Here are the rules

By Friday of each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
[Those who intend to participate regularly have signed up here.]

Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname.
So you see you have lots of choice.
You could write a review, or a bio of an author, or even maybe cover a crime fiction "topic", so long as it fits the rules somehow.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)

Please link your post for the week back to this page. (a letter image is supplied that you can use in your post as well as the meme icon if you wish).

After your post is published, put a link to your actual blog post in the Mr Linky that appears below.
(leave a comment if Mr Linky has disappeared)

Then come back at the end of the week to check to see who else has posted and visit their blog (and leave a comment if you can).

Please check each Monday for the letter of the week

Letters already covered: A B C  D  E F G  H  I  J  K  L  M N  O P Q R S T  U  V

Thanks for participating.

19 June 2011

Sunday Salon - 19 June 2011 - an update

Was it only 10 days ago that we returned from our overseas trip? Feels like ages!

It has taken a while to get back into harness, catching up on emails, and typing up book reviews that I drafted on paper. And of course, life has changed too. I've retired and regular work has been replaced by lots of other things, like providing child care for our grand daughter.

I've read some great books recently. My pick of the month for May was THE WRECKAGE by Australian author Michael Robotham. 

Currently I've read 75 books for the year. I've already completed a number of challenges and you can read about my progress on my Reading Challenges Update

Blog posts since I got back
My reading for May
  1. 4.2, THE VANISHING OF KATHARINA LINDEN, Helen Grant  (29 May)
  2. 4.8, SILENT VOICES, Ann Cleeves (27 May)
  3. 5.0, THE WRECKAGE, Michael Robotham (25 May)
  4. 4.8, THE HANGING WOOD, Martin Edwards  (20 May)
  5. 4.6, SAD CYPRESS, Agatha Christie (15 May)
  6. 3.9, DIAMOND EYES, A. A. Bell (13 May)
  7. 3.5, WHAT WAS LOST, Catherine O'Flynn (9 May)
  8. 4.1, LIQUORICE TWISTS, Dorte Jakobsen (9 May)
  9. 4.7, WHITE SKY, BLACK ICE, Stan Jones (9 May)
  10. 4.8, KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES, Jussi Adler-Olsen (5 May)
  11. 4.5, VENGEANCE ROAD, Rick Mofina (4 May)
  12. 4.4, EYE OF THE RED TSAR, Sam Eastland (2 May)

TBRN (To Be Read Next)
  • next - AN UNCERTAIN PLACE, Fred Vargas
  • next on Kindle - VIOLENT EXPOSURE, Katherine Howell
  • now on audio - TEN-SECOND STAIRCASE, Christopher Fowler
  • next Agatha Christie: ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE
News & Headlines


Blog Widget by LinkWithin