31 May 2014

Review: BURIAL OF GHOSTS, Ann Cleeves

  • first published in 2003, republished by Pan books 2013
  • ISBN 9-781447-241300
  • 343 pages
  • library book
Synopsis (Author website)

For Lizzie Bartholomew, a holiday in Morocco will change life forever. But not in the way she had hoped...

Lizzie had planned her trip to Marrakech as the perfect escape from her life - and her nightmares - in Northumberland.
Abandoned as a baby, and having spent her childhood moving between foster homes, Lizzie certainly has much to escape from. And for Lizzie, Morocco is the exotic paradise that she had imagined. Especially when she finds herself on a bus sitting next to a fellow tourist, who is also travelling to fulfil his dreams.

After a brief affair, Lizzie returns to England. In the days that follow, she is distracted by thoughts of her mysterious lover, hoping against hope that Philip might come and find her. But suddenly she receives a letter from a firm of solicitors. Philip Samson has died. In his will, he has left Lizzie a gift of £15,000. But there are conditions attached to this unexpected legacy, conditions that will alter the course of Lizzie's life forever..

My Take

Ann Cleeves has drawn quite heavily on her own experience as a probation officer in this stand-alone story and that lends the tale an air of authenticity although several aspects of it do stretch the bounds of credibility.

Award winning Cleeves has become known for her Shetland novels and her Vera Stanhope series, and so it is nice to come across a non-series title occasionally. There are Gothic qualities to this novel which remind me of books I read in an earlier life. Nevertheless an enjoyable read.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed
RED BONES
TELLING TALES (Vera Stanhope)
WHITE NIGHTS
5.0, BLUE LIGHTNING
4.3, MURDER IN PARADISE
4.8, SILENT VOICES, (Vera Stanhope)
5.0, THE GLASS ROOM (Vera Stanhope)
5.0, DEAD WATER

27 May 2014

Review: two Agatha Christie Short Stories

  • from Agatha Christie: the collected short stories, published 2002
  • ISBN 0-00-713681-1
Fresh from the disappointment of reading Agatha Christie's last standalone novel, PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT,  written in 1970, I decided to catch up on a couple of short stories that I found I hadn't read.
I enjoyed both of these stories.

The problem with the Agatha Christie short stories is that they have often been published in a number of collections, sometimes even by revised titles. So far I have read 141 of them and so it is beginning to get quite hard to pick whether I have read one or not. My record of them is here.

The Dressmaker's Doll was first published in the December 1958 issue of Woman's Journal..
It was first published in a collection called Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories  in the UK by Collins Crime Club in October 1979

The doll is a Puppet Doll, who seems to have found her way into the dressmaker's fitting room. Nobody is quite sure how she got there, where she came from, but she seems to move from place to place at will. They become convinced that the doll is evil.

In a Glass Darkly was also published in the collection called Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories  in the UK by Collins Crime Club in October 1979. It was first published in 1934 in Colliers Weekly in the US, and is set just before and after World War One.

It begins when the unnamed narrator is visiting his friend Neil Carslake's house and meets Sylvia. In the mirror in his room he glimpses Neil's sister Sylvia being strangled by a man with a scar on his face. As Sylvia appears unscathed at dinner, the narrator presumes he has glimpsed the future and warns Sylvia of the impending danger. She promptly breaks off her current engagement.


Review: PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT, Agatha Christie

  • originally published in 1970
  • this edition the Hamlyn Agatha Christie Crime Collection, published 1971
  • 174 pages
  • source: from my own shelves
Synopsis (Amazon)

A middle-aged diplomat is accosted in an airport lounge and his identity stolen…
Sir Stafford Nye’s journey home from Malaya to London takes an unexpected twist in the passenger lounges at Frankfurt – a young woman confides in him that someone is trying to kill her.

Yet their paths are to cross again and again – and each time the mystery woman is introduced as a different person. Equally at home in any guise in any society she draws Sir Stafford into a game of political intrigue more dangerous than he could possibly imagine.

In an arena where no-one can be sure of anyone, Nye must do battle with a well-armed, well-financed, well-trained – and invisible – enemy…

My take

Written late in Agatha Christie's career, this story begins with an introduction from the author in which she talks about where her ideas come from. If you click on the image above you will be taken to Amazon where you can read it for yourself.

It gives an interesting insight into the way Agatha Christie thought. She says that the ideas for the story and the characters are her own, but that the setting is usually real, somewhere she has been, and the action for the story may come from something she has observed or read in a newspaper.

In her own words - Introduction: The Author Speaks

PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT was the last of Agatha Christie's stand-alone novels, written when she was 80, six years before her death. I think her readers at the time would mainly have been very disappointed in the novel, not so much in the standard of the writing, but in her preoccupation with the idea that evil powers are taking over the world. Of course she prepares us in a way in the Introduction, by saying "it is not an impossible story - it is only a fantastic one". She seems to be saying that if we look for the sort of events we find in the novel we will also find similar ones reported in our daily newspapers. What she has done is bring instances of them together.

However the sort of paranoia she displays here has surfaced before in her "espionage" novels and in the preoccupation she showed with a controlling evil force behind European economies, or the idea of a master criminal who was controlling world events. So these fears are not new to Christie.

I think she probably is reflecting what people of her age must have been thinking in the late 1960s - is this what we won the Second World War for? A society of unrest, political upheaval, student protest, permissiveness, the collapse of the old social order, the rise of neo-Nazism?

However Agatha Christie is not Ian Fleming and she does not carry this sort of novel off at all well. It seems to degenerate into political polemic but the reader is not even really sure what side some of the characters are on. And then at the end there is a touch of romance!

It is the only one of her novels that I have nearly not finished. I was tempted to put it down several times, and from what I have read of other reviews, I am not on my own.

My rating: 2.0

I read PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT as part of my commitment to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge: to read the novels of Agatha Christie in order of publication. By my calculation I've now read 62 novels and have 5 to go.

26 May 2014

Review: THE AMBER FURY, Natalie Haynes

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 535 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Corvus (February 6, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GW5DYA0
Synopsis (Amazon)

When you open up, who will you let in?

When Alex Morris loses her fiancé in dreadful circumstances, she moves from London to Edinburgh to make a break with the past. Alex takes a job at a Pupil Referral Unit, which accepts the students excluded from other schools in the city. These are troubled, difficult kids and Alex is terrified of what she's taken on.

There is one class - a group of five teenagers - who intimidate Alex and every other teacher on The Unit. But with the help of the Greek tragedies she teaches, Alex gradually develops a rapport with them. Finding them enthralled by tales of cruel fate and bloody revenge, she even begins to worry that they are taking her lessons to heart, and that a whole new tragedy is being performed, right in front of her...

My Take

This book was chosen by a group member for our next read in our face to face group. It is not hard to understand why she chose it. The group is composed mostly of retired teacher librarians and English teachers, and I guess some of us have even taught drama at times. I guess we have even had challenging classes like the one Alex teaches at The Unit.

There are two murders in this story, the second in particular surrounded by mystery which the author maintains to the point that the reader doesn't even find out much about what has happened until about three quarters of the way through the book. In telling you that, I hope I am not revealing too much.

For our particular reading group there will be a number of interesting discussion points: the dynamics of the class and the problems of teaching students who have been excluded from other schools; the appropriateness of teaching violent Greek plays to teenagers; the problems of being stalked by one of your students; and inclusivity in the classroom and the problems of teaching a student who has a physical disability.

So I don't think this book will be everyone's cup of tea, but it was mine. There are few flat patches in the novel but the level of tension remains fairly high throughout. There is just enough of a puzzle about what has happened to keep the reader sorting facts and putting things in order.

My rating: 4.5

About the author (Fantastic Fiction)

Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster. She appears on BBC Radio 4 as a presenter of documentaries and she is a reviewer of books, films, plays, television and art on Saturday Review and Front Row. She has judged the 2012 Orange Prize (now the Baileys Womens Prize for Fiction) and  judged the 2013 Man Booker Prize. She judged Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel in 2010.

Her first non-fiction book, The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, was serialised by The Times in 2010. It has also been sold in the US, and translated into Greek, Spanish and Portuguese. Among many other favourable reviews, The Financial Times suggested you shouldn't read AC Grayling's The Good Book without reading The Ancient Guide first.Natalie was also a stand-up comedian for 12 years, and was the first woman ever to be nominated for the prestigious Perrier Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She retired in 2009 to spend more time writing. She delivered the Voltaire Lecture at Conway Hall in March 2011.

22 May 2014

Review: SILENT KILL, Peter Corris

  • #39 in the Cliff Hardy series which began in 1980 with THE DYING TRADE
  • Published 2014 by Allen & Unwin Australia
  • available in Amazon Kindle
  • ISBN 978-1-74331-637-5
  • 255 pages
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

Politics, murder and sex push Hardy to the limit.

When Cliff Hardy signs on as a bodyguard for charismatic populist Rory O’Hara, who is about to embark on a campaign of social and political renewal, it looks like a tricky job - O’Hara has enemies. A murder and a kidnapping soon cause the campaign to fall apart.

Hired to investigate the murder, Hardy uncovers hidden agendas among O’Hara’s staff as well as powerful political and commercial forces at work. His investigation takes him from the pubs and brothels of Sydney to the heart of power in Canberra and the outskirts of Darwin. There he teams up with a resourceful indigenous private detective and forms an uneasy alliance with the beautiful Penelope Marinos, formerly O’Hara’s PA.

A rogue intelligence agent becomes his target and Hardy stumbles upon a terrible secret that draws them into a violent - and disturbing - confrontation.

My Take

Peter Corris' latest episode in the Cliff Hardy series SILENT KILL shows clearly he hasn't lost his touch. He certainly is in the ranks of excellent writers of crime fiction internationally as well as on the Australian stage. As the blurb says, he is "the godfather of Australian crime fiction."

In Rory O'Hara's quest to launch a new Australian political party, Australian readers will recognise references to Clive Palmer's recent, and more successful, bid for Parliament. But someone doesn't want Rory O'Hara to succeed, and after he is injured when he is run down in the street, Cliff Hardy is employed by a backer to join the campaign and seemingly to protect Rory. Then things get really serious, and not even Cliff Hardy can prevent a murder.

So, a few thousand kilometers later, Cliff Hardy closes in on his quarry. The original financial backer of Rory's tour has dropped out, but new money from a surprising source has employed Cliff to track down a killer. And it seems Cliff is not the only one on the trail. He will probably be doing someone else a favour.

I haven't read all the Cliff Hardy series, but I am sure fans will be glad to see that Peter Corris is still hard at work.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed
APPEAL DENIED
DEEP WATER

19 May 2014

Review: DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY, Donna Leon

  • # 2/23 in the Guido Brunetti series
  • first published in 1993, republished in 2004 and 2009
  • ISBN 978-0-0995-3659-8
  • 373 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The second novel to feature Guido Brunetti, Commissario of the Venice Police. Brunetti confronts the grisly sight of the body of an American soldier in a canal. He becomes suspicious and discovers toxic waste-dumping and a high-level cover-up that extends from the Mafia to the US Army.

My Take

I was delighted to find a Brunetti novel that I hadn't read. Very early in this long standing series, the author is just establishing the characters of Guido Brunetti and his wife Paola. Their children are in their early teens. Vice-Questore Patta tries in vain to mould Brunetti, and Signora Elektra, Patta's computer literate assistant is yet to come on the scene. For those who have visited Venice there are evocative descriptions.

Already too there are signs of Donna Leon's intense interest in corruption in high places, and the roles that both Italy and America are playing in global waste and pollution.

Not to be missed. If you haven't yet read any Donna Leon, this is a series you shouldn't miss - one certainly worth reading in order.

My rating: 4.6


I've also reviewed
ABOUT FACE
THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
4.4, A QUESTION OF BELIEF
4.5, BEASTLY THINGS
4.4, QUIETLY IN THEIR SLEEP
3.9, THE JEWELS OF PARADISE
4.8, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS

Guido Brunetti
1. Death At La Fenice (1992)
2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
3. The Anonymous Venetian (1994)
     aka Dressed for Death
4. A Venetian Reckoning (1995)
     aka Death And Judgment
5. Acqua Alta (1996)
     aka Death in High Water
6. The Death of Faith (1997)
     aka Quietly in Their Sleep
7. A Noble Radiance (1997)
8. Fatal Remedies (1998)
9. Friends in High Places (1999)
10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)
11. Wilful Behaviour (2002)
12. Uniform Justice (2003)
13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)
16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
18. About Face (2009)
19. A Question of Belief (2010)
20. Drawing Conclusions (2011)
21. Beastly Things (2012)
22. The Golden Egg (2013)
23. By Its Cover (2014)

18 May 2014

Review: GIDEON'S MONTH, John Creasey writing as J. J. Marric - audio book

Synopsis (Publisher)

The month of May seemed to be starting quietly enough for Inspector Gideon of Scotland Yard. But no sooner had he begun to relax in the sunny weather than things started happening all over the great metropolis… From an army of children seemingly led by a modern Fagin to a homicidal housekeeper, Gideon has to solve the crimes before the month--and his job--are history. 

My Take

If you like your British police procedurals particularly in audio book form, and very well narrated, then these may suit. GIDEON'S MONTH follows the pattern of the earlier titles (see below) - George Gideon, Commander of Scotland Yard, managing an extraordinarily heavy case load, with the attitude that nothing is too small for his attention. The complexity of his job is well illustrated: murders, disappearances, abductions, and thefts. Gideon likes to keep close control of all those who work for him. In addition the author explores relationships within his team and also the support GG gets from his family.

Highly recommendable, and expect to find me listening to some more.

My rating: 4.4

I've also listened to
4.4, GIDEON'S DAY
4.4, GIDEON'S WEEK
4.3, GIDEON'S NIGHT   

Review: REDEMPTION, Jussi Adler-Olsen

  • REDEMPTION is UK market title
  • apa A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH (US Market) or MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE (Danish title)
  • #3 in the Carl Morck series
  • first published 2009
  • translated from Danish into English by Martin Aitken
  • published by Penguin Books 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-141-39999-7
  • 632 pages
  • source: my local library
  • Author website: www.jussiadlerolsen.com
Synopsis (author website)

In a far corner of Scotland, at the police station in Wick, a bottle was forgotten in a windowsill for a long, long time. Inside the bottle was a barely readable note; the only two things that were certain were that the first word was the Danish word for HELP and that it was written in blood.

When the horrifying message in the bottle finally makes its way to the desk of Carl Mørck at Department Q - the Danish department for "cases of special focus" - terrible events begin to unfold. Carl Mørck and his assistant Assad find themselves drawn into a scary case of cults and disappearing siblings, whose parents have never reported them missing. They suddenly realise that time is running short.

From the author
Jussi, can you give us a hint about what the main themes of Message in a Bottle are - what are we to expect?

Well, what to expect? Hopefully, that Carl Mørck and Assad will keep moving in their own strange ways, while a horrible case is turned upside down. They have a lot on their plate in Message in a Bottle. Not least when a new personage, who was definitely not invited, shows up in the basement. At the same time, terrible things happen in Denmark, which... well as you may have guessed by now, I am not going to say anything at all ... Message in a Bottle is a case for Department Q. And as you may well know, they keep it to themselves.

My Take

Department Q are in the middle of researching arson cases, and looking for connections with more recent examples of arson, when the hand written message in the bottle turns up. Transcribing the message is just the sort of thing that Department Q, and in particular Morck's oddball assistant Rose, and her sister Yrsa, are good at. The more letters that Rose manages to decipher from the note, the more Morck recognises that this is a piteous plea for help.

To say that this is a long and rather involved plot is probably an understatement. By the time I'd got about half way through though the length had ceased to matter and I was caught up in the mounting suspense of whether Department Q could locate another more recent pair of victims in time.

I missed reading #2 in the series, which meant that I was in the dark about how some circumstances in REDEMPTION had occurred. So my recommendation is that you tackle the books in order (see below), although I think I managed to piece things together pretty well.

For some readers there will be too many coincidences (see the review on Reactions to Reading.) and certainly the main plot is rather fantastical, but every now and then it hits the level of the possible, and that is what kept me reading.

My rating: 4.5

I have also reviewed
4.8, KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES 

The series (Fantastic Fiction)
Department Q
1. Mercy (2011)
     aka The Keeper of Lost Causes
2. Disgrace (2012)
     aka The Absent One
3. Redemption (2013)
     aka A Conspiracy of Faith
4. The Purity of Vengeance (2013)
     aka Guilt
5. The Marco Effect (2014)

Wikipedia article about the author.

12 May 2014

Get your Aussie crime fiction as Amazon e-books

In the last few months I've reviewed some new Australian crime fiction and readers of my blog have commented on their unavailability outside Australia at reasonable prices.

Be assured that those of us who live here in Oz pay in the order of $32.95 AUS for trade paperbacks. If I converted that to US dollars it comes to about $35 US on our current exchange rate - nothing like what US citizens would expect to pay for a home grown title..

However sometimes reading on your Kindle (if you have one) gives welcome price relief.

Here are some US prices - at least that is the price I think you will see on Amazon US.
The regional price war may kick in, and the US price that you can see may be more. Please comment if it is.

FATAL IMPACT by Kathryn Fox
Published early 2014. Kindle price currently $13.93 US

BLOOD SECRET by Jaye Ford
Published 2013, Kindle price currently $8.93 US
 
DEATH BY BEAUTY by Gabrielle Lord
Published 2012. Kindle price currently $11.12 US

PRESENT DARKNESS by Malla Nunn
Not yet available for US but prices for earlier titles are $9.26 US

ST KILDA BLUES by Geoffrey McGeachin
publication date 1 June 2014, Kindle price currently $9.26 US

Don't have a Kindle?
It strikes me that with Kindle currently selling for $69 US, you've still got to be ahead.
The alternative of course would be to put the free Kindle App on your iPad, or even install it on your laptop/computer.

These Kindle prices for Australian authors are more or less in line with what I would expect to pay for Kindle prices of non- Australian crime fiction.

11 May 2014

Review: THE ALAMUT AMBUSH, Anthony Price - audio book

Synopsis (Publisher)

A brilliant young electronics expert is killed by a car bomb seemingly meant for the head of the Foreign Office's Middle-Eastern Section. Intelligence officer Hugh Roskill is sent by David Audley on an investigation that takes him from London club-land to the Hampshire countryside, and deep into the complexities of Middle Eastern politics, to find the answer to two questions: who was the real target of the bomb?

And what is Alamut? Against the backdrop of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the period before the Camp David Accords, Dr Audley and Colonel Butler are confronted with an assassin capable of turning the Middle Eastern conflict into Armageddon.

My Take

THE ALAMUT AMBUSH is probably not best read episodically as an audio book where you can't easily turn back the pages to check details.

Like the first in the series, THE LABYRINTH MAKERS, the plot starts off simply enough but soon drops into complexities involving British, European, and Middle Eastern espionage agents. The background is the apparent resolution of the Arab- Israeli conflict (1967) with a peace that appears to resolve nothing and suit nobody.

I did not particularly enjoy this novel as it, too quickly for me, became a mixture of fact and fiction, and my knowledge of the period was really too shaky for me to be able to separate the two. For an audio version of the book there are really too many foreign sounding names, and the main British manipulator David Audley does not appeal as a character.

So for me, not a satisfactory read, because far too often I was totally out of my depth. But I can understand that readers looking for espionage style fiction along the lines of John Le Carre would have found the hard print versions of this series very appealing.

My rating: 3.6

About the author

Anthony Price was born in England in 1928. He became a captain in the British Army before studying at Oxford University, then became a journalist on the Westminster Press and Oxford Times. Price is the author of nineteen novels featuring Dr David Audley and Colonel Jack Butler, which focus on a group of counter-intelligence agents.
Approximately twenty years elapse between the first and last novel in the series, and most of the plots are connected with one or more important events in military history. The first three novels were adapted into a six-part BBC TV drama in the 1980s, and THE LABYRINTH MAKERS (for which he won a CWA Silver Dagger) and Other Paths to Glory have both been produced as BBC radio dramas.

8 May 2014

Review: ST KILDA BLUES, Geoffrey McGeachin

Synopsis (Publisher)

Melbourne's first serial killer is at work and only one man can stop him.

It's 1967, the summer of love, and in swinging Melbourne Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin has been hauled out of exile in the Fraud Squad to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl, the daughter of a powerful and politically connected property developer. As Berlin's inquiries uncover more missing girls he gets an uneasy feeling he may be dealing with the city's first serial killer.

Berlin's investigation leads him through inner-city discothèques, hip photographic studios, the emerging drug culture and into the seedy back streets of St Kilda. The investigation also brings up ghosts of Berlin's past, disturbing memories of the casual murder of a young woman he witnessed in dying days of WW11.

As in war, some victories come at a terrible cost and Berlin will have to face an awful truth and endure an unimaginable loss before his investigation is over.

ST KILDA BLUES is the third novel in the Charlie Berlin series. Both previous novels, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL and BLACKWATTLE CREEK, won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction in 2011 and 2013 respectively.


My Take

There is such an assured hand behind these crime fiction novels from Australian author Geoffrey McGeachin. There are plenty of historical details to place this novel in 1967, and to anchor it firmly in Melbourne. 

It is twenty years since the first novel in the series and Charlie's son Peter has gone into the army, and his daughter Sarah has gone to Israel to learn more of her Jewish past. Charlie's wife Rebecca has become a well known photographer with her own studio in the CBD. There's plenty in the novel to fill in the details of what has happened in the Berlin family in that twenty years.

While there are those who recognise Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin's value to the Victorian Police force, there are also those who would love to see him fall flat on his face.

It appears that nine teenage girls have gone have gone missing in Melbourne in the last year. When number 3 was reported Charlie was taken off the case and sidetracked to the Fraud squad. Now somebody has decided that he should take over the investigation again, but on the quiet. The State Premier is Sir Henry Bolte, his own position on a knife edge, and he wants all stops pulled out. Only one of the girls who have gone missing has turned and she was found dead on the shores of the Albert Lake. An observant copper gives Charlie and his offsider Bob Roberts their first clue. 

There is a side story that surfaces in the first half of the novel about a boy who was sent to Australia from the UK shortly after the Second World War, as part of a child emigration scheme. He arrives in Adelaide and is then taken north to a mission station. This is an interesting plot line because the treatment of such children has been the focus of recent investigations, worldwide, into the way children were treated in orphanages. In Australia the investigation has provoked a Royal Commission into Child Abuse.

So there is plenty in this novel for the reader to think about. The historical validity owes a lot to meticulous research, while the principal characters come through loud and clear. There's also a distinctively Australian flavour to the novel.

My rating: 4.9


I've also reviewed
4.4, D-E-D DEAD!
4.8, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL
4.9, BLACKWATER CREEK 

5 May 2014

Review: PRESENT DARKNESS, Malla Nunn

  • US publication date June 3, 2014
  • Publisher Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN 9781451616965
  • review copy made available through publisher via Net Galley
  • #4 in the Detective Emmanuel Cooper series
Synopsis (publisher)

Five days before Christmas (1953), Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper sits at his desk at the Johannesburg major crimes squad, ready for his holiday in Mozambique. A call comes in: a respectable white couple has been assaulted and left for dead in their bedroom. The couple’s teenage daughter identifies the attacker as Aaron Shabalala— the youngest son of Zulu Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala—Cooper’s best friend and a man to whom he owes his life.

The Detective Branch isn’t interested in evidence that might contradict their star witness’s story, especially so close to the holidays. Determined to ensure justice for Aaron, Cooper, Shabalala, and their trusted friend Dr. Daniel Zweigman hunt for the truth. Their investigation uncovers a violent world of Sophiatown gangs, thieves, and corrupt government officials who will do anything to keep their dark world intact.

 
 My take


Australian author Malla Nunn continues to write very credible stories in the Emmanuel Cooper series, full of atmosphere. A white school principal and his wife who invite coloured students to their home for meals are attacked one night after dinner. Their shocked daughter identifies the two students who were at dinner that night as the culprits. One has an unshakeable alibi but the other one, the son of Cooper's best friend, refuses to say where he was.

Parallel with this investigation is Cooper's uncomfortable relationship with the sergeant at the Johannesburg Detective Branch. Running in the background, chapter by chapter, is also the story of a prostitute who has been taken prisoner and is being held on a remote farm.

Cooper's own relationship with Davida, the mixed race mother of his baby daughter Rebekah, reflects the knife edge that is South African apartheid. Exposure would mean the loss of his job and probably imprisonment. 

An excellent read.  My rating: 4.8.

I've already reviewed

5.0, A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE
4.5, LET THE DEAD LIE
4.9, SILENT VALLEY 

4 May 2014

Review: THE DOCTOR OF THESSALY, Anne Zouroudi

  • originally published in 2009
  • now available as an e-book, published 2012
  • ISBN 9780316217859
  • review copy made available from NetGalley by publisher Little Brown & Company
  • #3 in the Hermes Diaktoros series: aka the Seven Deadly Sins Mystery series (Envy)
Synopsis

A jilted bride weeps on an empty beach. A local doctor is attacked in an isolated churchyard. Trouble arrives at a bad time to the backwater village of Morfi, just as the community is making headlines with a visit from a high-ranking government minister. Fortunately, where there's trouble, there's Hermes Diaktoros, the mysterious fat man whose tennis shoes are always pristine and whose investigative methods are always unorthodox.

Hermes must investigate a brutal crime, thwart the petty machinations of the town's ex-mayor and his cronies, and try to settle the troubled waters of two sisters' relationship. But how can he unravel a mystery that not even the victim wants solved?

My take

I'm still as intrigued by the character and origins of the central character in this series, Hermes Diaktoros as I was when I read the first in this series a couple of years ago. He introduces himself as coming from Athens, not a policeman, but responsible to "higher authorities". He shares characteristics with Agatha Christie's Mr Harley Quin as he seems to mysteriously appear from nowhere to see that justice is done. But he also reminds me both of Hercule Poirot of the immaculate patent leather shoes, and Shamini Flint's Inspector Singh who also wears rather incongruous white sandshoes.

It is easy to accept Hermes Diaktoros, always referred to as "the fat man", as a messenger of the gods. He arrives on Thessaly driving his cousin's immaculately kept vintage car, and he interferes willy nilly in the machinations of local politicians who want to bring the downfall of the newly elected young Mayor. The sort of justice he brings to bear would not be found acceptable by the police and yet it seems what the perpetrators deserve. His methods of investigation involve him listening and observing the locals.

If you are looking for a cosy that is just a little different this may be just the trick. It may also set you hunting for others in the series.

My rating: 4.5

About the author (from Fantastic Fiction)

Born in rural Lincolnshire in 1959, Anne moved to South Yorkshire at the age of two. Following her education at Sheffield High School for Girls, she went into the IT industry, a career which took her to both New York's Wall Street and Denver, Colorado. In America she began to take seriously her ambition to write fiction, and bought a typewriter for her first short stories.

On returning to the UK, she booked a summer holiday with her sister. The location they chose was a tiny island in southern Greece. Anne spent a number of years living in the islands; she married a Greek, and her son was born there.

Returning again to the UK, she was still writing, but the short stories had grown into novels.Anne currently lives with her son in Derbyshire's beautiful Peak District, where she's working on the next book in the Greek Detective series.

The Hermes Diaktoros series (Fantastic Fiction)
1. The Messenger of Athens (2007)
2. The Taint of Midas (2008)
3. The Doctor of Thessaly (2009)
4. The Lady of Sorrows (2010)
5. The Whispers of Nemesis (2011)
6. The Bull of Mithros (2012)
7. Feast of Artemis (2013)

I've also reviewed
4.5, THE MESSENGER OF ATHENS

2 May 2014

Review: THE SILVERSMITH'S WIFE, Sophia Tobin

  • published by Simon & Schuster 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-47112-808-0
  • 420 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The year is 1792 and it's winter in Berkeley Square. As the city sleeps, the night-watchman keeps a cautious eye over the streets, and another eye in the back doors of the great and the good. Then one fateful night he comes across the body of Pierre Renard, the eponymous silversmith, lying dead, his throat cut and his valuables missing. It could be common theft, committed by one of the many villains who stalk the square, but as news of the murder spreads, it soon becomes clear that Renard had more than a few enemies, all with their own secrets to hide.

At the centre of this web is Mary, the silversmith's wife. Ostensibly theirs was an excellent pairing, but behind closed doors their relationship was a dark and at times sadistic one and when we meet her, Mary is withdrawn and weak, haunted by her past and near-mad with guilt. Will she attain the redemption she seeks and what, exactly, does she need redemption for...? Rich, intricate and beautifully told, this is a story of murder, love and buried secrets.

My Take

The year is 1792, there is Revolution in France, King Louis XVI is beheaded, and in Berkeley Square London the French silversmith, Pierre Renard, is found with his throat slit. The London middle class is expecting Republicanism to skip over the English Channel at any moment.

The narrative is told in two streams. The immediate present is actually 1793 and Pierre Renard has been dead a number of months. His will reveals a vindictive side to his nature that was not obvious during his life. Each chapter begins with an extract from a secret diary that Pierre Renard kept from April to October 1792. In it the reader learns of his disdain for his wife Mary, and of his passion for the wife of one of his clients. The remainder of each chapter relates to the main plot strand which is the search for the truth about who killed Pierre Renard.

With a historical novel, I always look to see how well the novel tells us of the historical background. There was much more that THE SILVERSMITH'S WIFE could have done. I felt that it relied very heavily on knowledge I already had, while there were rather oblique references to the period, which will leave some readers puzzled. I was more comfortable with the sense of social history that it conveyed.

So the novel does well enough as a murder mystery, but not so well in an historical sense.

My rating: 4.4

What I read in April 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2014
Lots of very satisfying reading this month, mainly British authors, including a couple of new-to-me ones.**
  1. 4.3, THE STRANGLING ON THE STAGE, Simon Brett
  2. 4.8, THE WHITE CORRIDOR, Christopher Fowler  - audio book
  3. 4.5, HALLOWE'EN PARTY, Agatha Christie 
  4. 4.5, THE FIRE DANCE, Helene Tursten - translated 
  5. 4.7, THE DISCOURTESY OF DEATH, William Brodrick **
  6. 4.5, THE INSPECTOR BARLACH MYSTERIES, Friedrich Durrenmatt - translated, Vintage crime fiction 
  7. 4.9, A WHISPERED NAME, William Brodrick **
  8. 4.7, HUNTING SHADOWS, Charles Todd - audio book
  9. 4.4, THE LABYRINTH MAKERS, Anthony Price -audio book **
  10. 4.4, THE GHOST RUNNER, Parker Bilal
My pick of the month is A WHISPERED NAME by William Brodrick
This is #3 in the Father Anselm series.

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

'To keep quiet about something so important ...well, it's almost a lie, wouldn't you say?' When Father Anselm meets Kate Seymour in the cemetery at Larkwood, he is dismayed to hear her allegation. Herbert Moore had been one of the founding fathers of the Priory, revered by all who met him, a man who'd shaped Anselm's own vocation.

The idea that someone could look on his grave and speak of a lie is inconceivable. But Anselm soon learns that Herbert did indeed have secrets in his past that he kept hidden all his life.

In 1917, during the terrible slaughter of the Passchendale campaign, a soldier faced a court martial for desertion. Herbert, charged with a responsibility that would change the course of his life, sat upon the panel that judged him. In coming to understand the court martial, Anselm discovers its true significance: a secret victory that transformed the young Captain Moore and shone a light upon the horror of war.

See what I thought of it.

See what others have chosen for their Pick of the Month

1 May 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month April 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2014

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 April 2014, 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.


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