31 December 2018

On the stroke of midnight..

Welcome in the new year

Happy 2019 everyone and lots of lovely reading!

Review: KINGDOM OF THE BLIND, Louise Penny

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3777 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (November 27, 2018)
  • Publication Date: November 27, 2018
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07DCXRRRS
  • #14 in the Armand Gamache series
Synopsis  (Amazon)

When Armand Gamache receives a letter inviting him to an abandoned farmhouse outside of Three Pines, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him as an executor of her will.

Armand never knew the elderly woman, and the bequests are so wildly unlikely that he suspects the woman must have been delusional - until a body is found, and the terms of the bizarre document suddenly seem far more menacing.

But it isn't the only menace Gamache is facing. The investigation into the events that led to his suspension has dragged on, and Armand is taking increasingly desperate measures to rectify previous actions. As he does, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots - and the terrible things hiding there . . .

My Take

What better way to end my year's reading than with an excellent novel in a much loved series by a much loved author? I was worried that I wouldn't remember enough of what happened in the previous title in the series, which had brought Armand Gamache to his current situation, suspended from his position of head of the Sûreté du Québec. But the author takes such good care of the reader, with gentle reminders and subtle re-capping.

As with so many books in the series, we have a dual headed plot. At the end of the previous novel Gamache had taken the decision not to prevent the release of a new drug into North America and Canada. The cartel which has possession of the drug has not yet released it and Gamache has been suspended and is undergoing investigation. Most of the drug shipment has been recaptured but there is still some in Montreal still to be found. Its release will have disastrous consequences.

Almost a light relief, the second main plot sees Gamache and two others named as "liquidators" (executors) in the will of a woman whom he is convinced he has never met. "Baroness", Bertha Baumgartner, has left a bizarre will, based on a family legend that involves millions, some property, and a title, none of which seem to exist.  In the process of investigating the background to the will, Gamache uncovers embezzlement and corruption at breathtaking levels.


An excellent read. I'm not sure whether there will be another in this series. If not, what a fitting conclusion!

As you'll see from the list below, I have read all the novels in this series.
My recommendation - read them in order! You won't regret it.
My average rating is just under 5.0.

Part of what has kept me reading the series is the excellent characterisation. Each of the characters has been built up carefully with wonderful descriptions, not hte least Gamache himslef.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read
1. Still Life (2005)
2. Dead Cold (2006)
The above were read before this blog was begun
 
4.8, THE CRUELLEST MONTH
4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER
4.9, THE BRUTAL TELLING
5.0, BURY YOUR DEAD
5.0,  A TRICK OF THE LIGHT
4.5, THE HANGMAN - a novella
4.9, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY
5.0, HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN
4.9, THE LONG WAY HOME
4.9, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
5.0, A GREAT RECKONING
4.9, GLASS HOUSES 

29 December 2018

Review: THE VIRGIN IN THE ICE, Ellis Peters - audio book

  • audio book from Audible
  •  Narrated by: Vanessa Benjamin
  • Series: Brother Cadfael, Book 6
  • Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 01-24-12
  • first published 1983
Synopsis ( Audible)

The winter of 1139 will disrupt Brother Cadfael's tranquil life in Shrewsbury with the most disturbing events. Raging civil war has sent refugees fleeing north from Worcester. Among them are two orphans from a noble family, a boy of thirteen and an 18-year-old girl of great beauty, and their companion, a young Benedictine nun. But the trio, never reaching Shrewsbury, have disappeared somewhere in the wild countryside.

Cadfael feels afraid these three lost lambs, but another call for help sends him to the Church of Saint Mary. A wounded monk, found naked and bleeding by the roadside, will surely die without Cadfael's healing arts. Why this holy man has been attacked and what his fevered ravings reveal soon give Brother Cadfael a clue to the fate of the missing travelers. Now Cadfael sets out on a dangerous quest to find them. The road will lead him to a chill and terrible murder and a tale of passion gone awry. And at journey's end awaits a vision of what is best, and worst, in humankind...in Ellis Peters's most stunning depiction yet of love and war.

My Take

If you've not yet embarked on these historical mysteries, take my advice and read them as far as possible in publication order. That way you will be aware of political developments on the larger canvas of the Maude/Stephen civil war, and also of character development within the novels themselves.

A group of three has disappeared on the way from Worcester to Shrewsbury and there is an alert out for them. To make matters worse the weather is getting cold and the snows are coming. Bands of brigands are roaming the countryside, and travellers are not safe.

My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed
THE PILGRIM OF HATE
4.3, A MORBID TASTE FOR BONES
4.6, A CORPSE TOO MANY 
4.6, MONK'S-HOOD 
4.4, THE LEPER OF SAINT GILES 

28 December 2018

Review: THE BOTANIST'S DAUGHTER, Kayte Nunn

Synopsis (publisher)

Discovery. Desire. Deception. A wondrously imagined tale of two female botanists, separated by more than a century, in a race to discover a life-saving flower . . .

In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father's quest for a rare, miraculous plant. She faces a perilous sea voyage, unforeseen dangers and treachery that threatens her entire family.

In present-day Australia, Anna finds a mysterious metal box containing a sketchbook of dazzling watercolours, a photograph inscribed 'Spring 1886' and a small bag of seeds. It sets her on a path far from her safe, carefully ordered life, and on a journey that will force her to face her own demons.

In this spellbinding botanical odyssey of discovery, desire and deception, Kayte Nunn has so exquisitely researched nineteenth-century Cornwall and Chile you can almost smell the fragrance of the flowers, the touch of the flora on your fingertips . . .

My Take

The novel is a romantic mystery, not my usual fare of crime fiction: written with a dual time frame, with over a century between them.

Anna is renovating a house in Paddington in Sydney, left to her by her grandmother when the builders find some intriguing objects sealed up in the wall. Anna has a gardening business, and has a "botanical" background. Intrigued by what she has found she tries to find out something about their provenance. As she reaches back in history, so the other narrative in the story reaches forward.

The second chapter takes us to Cornwall in 1886, where, at Trebithick Hall, Elizabeth's dying father requests that she goes to Chile, to carry out a task that he had intended to do himself.

The two narratives are interlaced throughout and gradually Anna pieces together a family history that she had no idea about.

A good read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author (website)

Kayte Nunn is a former book and magazine editor, and the author of two contemporary novels, ROSE'S VINTAGE and ANGEL'S SHARE. THE BOTANIST'S DAUGHTER was Kayte's first novel of transporting historical fiction, followed by THE FORGOTTEN LETTERS OF ESTHER DURRANT, set largely in the atmospheric Isles of Scilly.

I now live in the Northern Rivers of NSW and am also a mother to two girls. When not writing, reading or ferrying them around I can be found in the kitchen, procrasti-baking.

I love nothing more than a generous slice of warm cake, a cup of tea, a comfortable place to sit and a good book to read!

24 December 2018

Review: THE SHADOW SISTER, Lucinda Riley

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3048 KB
  • Print Length: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; Air Iri OME edition (October 25, 2016)
  • Publication Date: October 25, 2016
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01KLO2Z4S
  • The Seven Sisters #3
Synopsis (Amazon)

Following on from the bestselling The Seven Sisters and The Storm Sister, The Shadow Sister is the third book in Lucinda Riley's spellbinding series, loosely based on the mythology of the Seven Sisters star cluster.

Star D'Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father – the elusive billionaire, named Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted by him from the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to their true heritage, but Star – the most enigmatic of the sisters – is hesitant to step out of the safety of the close relationship she shares with her sister CeCe. In desperation, she decides to follow the first clue she has been left, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world . . .

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in the Lake District, living close to her idol, Beatrix Potter, when machinations outside of her control lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society's most notorious players, Alice Keppel. Flora is pulled between passionate love and duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a game – the rules of which are only known to others, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life . . .

As Star learns more of Flora's incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.

My Take

The plot pattern of this book is very similar to the earlier two in the series: a work of fiction set in a historical background, embedded in an enormous amount of research. The reader time travels from Star's current life to the past. Once Star decides to follow the clues that Pa Salt has left her about where she was born and her familial history, then her life is changed forever.

Other people in my reading group who have been progressing through this series seem to have been able to move on from one book to another almost straight away. But, as at the end of the previous two, I now feel that I need a little bit of a rest. THE SHADOW SISTER is a long book and demanded concentration so that I got all of the plot elements in place. One of the disadvantages of not going on to the next book in the series will be, as I have found with the earlier two, that some of the finer details will drop out of my memory.

Having said that, I found this a compulsive read. I read it on my Kindle, which helpfully told me how much further to the end of the chapter, and I found myself reluctant to put the book aside with a chapter unfinished.

If you are contemplating beginning, then you must read the series in order!
You will note also that I have labelled it "not crime fiction."
There is an interesting blend of historical detail in the story, but not really political history.

My rating: 4.5


I've also read
4.5, THE SEVEN SISTERS #1
4.5, THE STORM SISTER  #2

Merry Christmas to all


20 December 2018

Review: MURDER AT THE FITZWILLIAM, Jim Eldridge

  • this edition published by Allison & Busby 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-7490-2366-9
  • 316 pages
  • #1 in the Museum series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

1894. After rising to prominence for his role investigating the case of Jack the Ripper alongside the formidable Inspector Abberline, Daniel Wilson has retired from the force and now works as a private enquiry agent. Having built a reputation for intelligence and integrity, Wilson is the natural choice for the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which finds itself in need of urgent assistance.

The remains of an ancient princess and her entourage are to be unveiled as the centerpiece of the museum's new Egyptian collection, but strange occurrences have followed their arrival in Britain: a dead body is discovered in a previously empty sarcophagus, one of the mummified bodyguards seemingly goes 'walkabout' and another man is found strangled to death with three-thousand-year-old bandages. Aided by the talented resident archaeologist Abigail Fenton but hindered by the dismissive local police force, can Wilson unravel the mystery and preserve the reputation of the museum ahead of its public launch?

My Take


There is a comfortable almost old-fashioned feel about this book set in Cambridge at the end of the nineteenth century. A body has been found, recently murdered, in a sarcophagus in the Egyptian room at the famous Fitzwilliam museum.

The manager of the Museum decides to use a private enquiry agent, Daniel Wilson, a young man who became famous as part of Scotland Yard's Abberline team who solved the Ripper case. (There is some back story here as the principal members of that team have now left Scotland yard and are all working as private detectives). The investigation into the murder brings Daniel into contact with Abigail Fenton who discovers the body.

The story proceeds at a good pace, another two murders occur, but I found it a relatively unchallenging read. Perhaps attractive to those who look with nostalgia at the Golden Age who-dunnits.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Jim Eldridge has had ninety-five books published, which have sold over three million copies. He is also a radio, TV and movie scriptwriter who has had 250 TV scripts broadcast in the UK and internationally. He lives in Sevenoaks, Kent.

Author's Website: www.jimeldridge.com

Jim Eldridge has had a long writing career but this appears to be the beginning of a new detection series, with two more titles promised in 2019. 

19 December 2018

Review: PRESERVATION, Jock Serong

Synopsis (publisher)

Preservation, based on the true story of the wreck of the Sydney Cove, sees master storyteller Jock Serong turn his talents to historical narrative.

On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features—and inhabitants—they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive.

It is Lieutenant Joshua Grayling’s task to investigate the story. He comes to realise that those fourteen deaths were contrived by one calculating mind and, as the full horror of the men’s journey emerges, he begins to wonder whether the ruthless killer poses a danger to his own family.

My take

Told by 5 main narrators, with the reader often having to determine the identity of the narrator through the content, and written as part of a PhD in Creative Writing, Jock Serong brings to life a little known episode in the early history of the colony of New South Wales.

The Sydney Cove has come from India via a route that takes her around the western most tip of the continent, down the western side of Van Diemen's Land, and then up the eastern coast of the island, only to be wrecked in what would become known as Bass Strait. The boat has a valuable cargo of rum and tea which are stored on Preservation Island when the crew takes to the long boat only to be wrecked again on the southern coast of New South Wales.  (A lovely set of maps has been provided to orientate the reader)

Those from the wrecked long boat, 17 of them, begin the walk to Sydney Harbour, over 500 miles to the north, but only 3 arrive. One of the Europeans keeps a journal but it is obvious from the re-telling of the tale once they reach Sydney Harbour that each of the survivors has seen the events very differently.

An interesting story, graphically told.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
5.0, THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET
5.0, ON THE JAVA RIDGE

16 December 2018

Review: THE GIRL IN THE ICE, Robert Bryndza

  • this edition published by bookoutre 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-910751-77-0
  • 391 pages
  • #1 in the Erika Foster series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice...She is not the only one.

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound, and dumped in water around London.

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding?

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong...resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she's faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

A pause-resisting thriller packed with suspense. If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, and Karin Slaughter, discover Rob Bryndza's new series today.

My Take

This is the debut novel in what is quite a long series (see below). I read DARK WATER first and that made me determined to follow this author, and indeed I plan to read all the series.

This debut novel begins with Detective Erika Foster returning to work, so there is quite a bit of back story to catch up on.

In some ways it is typical police procedural with plenty of noir thrown in. At one stage Erika crosses her boss who is having strings pulled by some influential people, and she is taken off the case.  Erika feels an obligation to the victims she has discovered and continues her investigation unofficially, putting herself in great danger.

My rating: 4.8

I've also reviewed
4.6, DARK WATER

Detective Erika Foster
1. The Girl in the Ice (2016)
2. The Night Stalker (2016)
3. Dark Water (2016)
4. Last Breath (2017)
5. Cold Blood (2017)
6. Deadly Secrets (2018)

About the author
Robert Bryndza was born in the UK and lived in America and Canada before settling in Slovakia with his Slovak husband Ján. His debut novel The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard became an Amazon bestseller.

When he's not writing Rob is learning Slovak, trying to train two crazy dogs, or watching Grand Designs all in the hope that he'll be able to understand his mother-in-law, build his dream house, and get the dogs to listen.

Review: THE LEPER OF SAINT GILES, Ellis Peters - audio book

  • source: audio book from Audible
  • Narrated by: Joanna Ward
  • Series: Brother Cadfael, Book 5
  • Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 06-21-01 (originally published 1981)
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc. 
Synopsis (Audible)

Setting out for the Saint Giles leper colony outside Shrewsbury, Brother Cadfael has more pressing matters on his mind than the grand wedding coming to his abbey. Yet as fate would have it, Cadfael arrives at Saint Giles just as the nuptial party passes the colony's gates. He sees the fragile bride looking like a prisoner between her two stern guardians and the bridegroom, an arrogant, fleshy aristocrat old enough to be her grandfather. And he quickly discerns this union may be more damned than blessed.

Indeed, a savage murder will interrupt the May-December marriage and leave Brother Cadfael with a dark, terrible mystery to solve. For the key to the killing - and a secret - are hid among the lepers of Saint Giles.

Now Brother Cadfael's skills must ferret out a sickness, not of the body, but of a twisted soul - in the fifth Brother Cadfael Chronicle, a work that displays Ellis Peters' special genius at her best.

My take

The war between Maude and Stephen fades into the background and other social elements absorb our attention: the presence of leprosy in England, the legacy of the Crusades, and the convention of marrying young women to elderly men.

The plot was a bit predictable although when the murder occurred the identity of the murderer was not obvious. Cadfael uses both his skills of deduction and a little intuition to solve the case.

The narration was a good solid effort but at times the voice was a bit soporific.


My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed
THE PILGRIM OF HATE
4.3, A MORBID TASTE FOR BONES
4.6, A CORPSE TOO MANY 
4.6, MONK'S-HOOD 

10 December 2018

Review: MAN AT THE WINDOW, Robert Jeffreys

Synopsis (publisher)

When a boarding master at an exclusive boys’ school is shot dead, it is deemed accidental. A lazy and usually drunk detective is sent to write up the report. Cardilini unexpectedly does not cooperate, as he becomes riled by the privileged arrogance of those at the school. He used to have instincts. Perhaps he should follow them now…

With no real evidence he declares the shooting a murder and puts himself on a collision course with the powerful and elite of Perth. As he peels back layers, the school’s dark secrets being to emerge. But is his dogged pursuit of justice helpful or harmful to those most affected by the man’s death?

Man at the Window is the first in the Detective Cardilini series, set in 1960s Western Australia.

My Take

It is 12 months since Detective Cardilini's wife died and he has well and truly dropped his bundle. Before Betty's death he had the reputation of hard bitten excellent detective but no more. Even his son Paul can't keep him sober and on track.

St. Nicholas school has supplied Perth with many fine citizens, upstanding and successful businessmen, and it is the school that the police hierarchy attended. But the way in which they try to push any investigation of the death of the boarding master late one night, shot as he stands at the window of his room, does not sit well with Cardilini. Is it perversity or gut instinct that makes him declare he thinks the death is murder?

There are threats to the continuance of Cardilini's career, already on the rocks, but he continues to follow tiny threads and eventually thinks he has worked out who did the shooting. Meanwhile his personal life appears to be getting back on track as he works on the garden that he has neglected for 12 months. Eventually his discoveries lead to an understanding of what caused the shooting, but also a dilemma about who to punish.

This is a very topical story, considering the moral dilemma that has recently faced our society, particularly related to institutionalised sexual abuse.

A very engaging start to what promises to be an excellent classic noir series.

My rating: 4.9

About the author

Robert Jeffreys has worked as an actor, teacher, builder, labourer, cleaner, real estate agent, personal security agent and playwright of the professionally produced stage plays Cox Four, Covert, The Simple Truth, and The Messenger. ABC Radio National featured his radio plays, Covert, which received an AWGIE award, and Bodily Harm. He has also published a poetry anthology, Frame of Mind. Robert's debut novel, Man at the Window, is the first in the Detective Cardilini series, set in 1960s Western Australia.

9 December 2018

What I read in November 2018

A fairly light reading month mainly because of a couple of longish reads
The stand out was THE LOST MAN by Jane Harper
See what others have read

review: THE MURDER WALL, Mari Hannah

  • this large print edition published by AudioGo through PanMacmillan 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4458-9299-3
  • 415 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #1 in the Kate Daniels series
Synopsis

Eleven months after discovering a brutal double murder in a sleepy Northumbrian town, Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels is still haunted by her failure to solve the case.

Then the brutal killing of a man on Newcastle's Quayside gives Daniels another chance to get it right, and her first case as Senior Investigating Officer.

When Daniels recognises the corpse, but fails to disclose the fact, her personal life swerves dangerously into her professional life.
 But much worse, she is now being watched.

As Daniels steps closer to finding a killer, a killer is only a breath away from claiming his next victim...

My Take

Being appointed as SIO on this murder case gives DCI Kate Daniels an opportunity to give her reputation a boost after her failure to solve a double murder case from 11 months earlier. But her boss seems very reluctant to let her loose, besides which he has problems of his own.

In addition Kate recognises the victim and should report that it, but she is afraid that will take her off the case. As time goes on more murders occur and it seems there must be a connection and the team desperately searches for it.

The reader is made privy to the mind of the murderer so we work desperately too to discover his identity.

A police procedural with a few twists.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Mari Hannah, author of the Kate Daniels series and the Matthew Ryan series, has won the CWA 2017 Dagger in the Library.

Mari was declared the winner at a reception at the British Library on Saturday 17 June by Martin Edwards, Chair of the CWA. Martin said:
At a time when the CWA is expanding its support for public and independent libraries, I am delighted to congratulate Mari. Her DCI Kate Daniels books, set in the North East, are tremendously popular and we know they’re eagerly devoured by library goers and book groups. 

Series
DCI Kate Daniels
1. The Murder Wall (2012)
2. Settled Blood (2012)
3. Deadly Deceit (2013)
4. Monument to Murder (2013)
     aka Fatal Games
5. Killing For Keeps (2014)
6. Gallows Drop (2016)

Matthew Ryan
1. The Silent Room (2015)
2. The Death Messenger (2017)

Stone and Oliver
1. The Lost (2018)
2. The Insider (2018)
3. The Scandal (2019)

2 December 2018

Review: THE HONOURABLE THIEF, Meaghan Wilson Anastasios

Synopsis (publisher)

'Achilles? Because...?'
'Obsession of mine. Half man, half god - and his own worst enemy.

My kind of man.' He laughed.

Istanbul, Turkey 1955

Benedict Hitchens, once a world-renowned archaeologist, is now a discredited - but still rather charming - shell of his former self.

Once full of optimism and adventure, his determination to prove that Achilles was a real historical figure led him to his greatest love, Karina, on the island of Crete and to his greatest downfall, following the disappearance of an enigmatic stranger, Eris.

He has one last chance to restore his reputation, solve the mystery of Eris and prove his Achilles theory. But it is full of risk, and possibly fatal consequences...

In her breakout novel, Meaghan Wilson Anastasios weaves an action-packed tale of honour, passion, heroes and thieves across an epic backdrop of history.

My Take

The structure of this novel turns it into demanding reading. It chops backwards and forwards across multiple time frames, designed to show the reader how Benedict Hitchens is brought low, but in actual fact disrupting the flow of the story. The time frames bring with them a number of plot strands with issues that did not always resolve.

The final chapters of the novel read like an episode from an Indiana Jones movie and for me did not sit comfortably with the Benedict Hitchens I met in the first part of the novel. And then the final element of where Achilles' shield ends up is just pure foolishness.

My rating: 3.5

About the author
Meaghan Wilson Anastasios spent her formative years in Melbourne before travelling and working as an archaeologist in the Mediterranean and Middle East. She holds a PhD in art history and cultural economics, has been a lecturer at the University of Melbourne and was a fine art auctioneer. Meaghan now uses her expertise to write and research for film and TV. She lives in inner-city Melbourne with her husband and their two children. The Water Diviner was her first novel, which she co-wrote with her husband Andrew. The Honourable Thief is her first solo novel.

Review: MONK'S-HOOD, Ellis Peters - audio book

  • source: audible.com
  •  Narrated by: Stephen Thorne
  • Series: Brother Cadfael, Book 3
  • Length: 7 hrs and 52 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 12-01-11
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio UK
  • Book originally published 1980
Synopsis (audible.com)

Gervase Bonel, with his wife and servants, is a guest of Shrewsbury Abbey of Saint Peter and Saint Paul when he is suddenly taken ill. Luckily, the Abbey boasts the services of clever and kindly Brother Cadfael, a skilled herbalist. Cadfael hurries to the man's bedside, only to be confronted by two very different surprises.

In Master Bonel's wife, the good monk recognises Richildis, whom he loved many years ago before he took his vows. And Master Bonel has been fatally poisoned by a dose of deadly monk's-hood oil from Cadfael's herbarium. The Sheriff is convinced that the murderer is Richildis' son Edwin, who had reasons aplenty to hate his stepfather. But Cadfael, guided in part by his tender concern for a woman to whom he was once betrothed, is certain of her son's innocence. Using his knowledge of both herbs and the human heart, Cadfael deciphers a deadly recipe for murder.... 

My Take

Another excellent narration by Stephen Thorne who brings Cadfael to life. Unfortunately it appears that he has only narrated three of the Cadfael series, so this is the last.

A little more of Cadfael's past is revealed and there is a lovely assessment of the impact of the civil war on the Abbey as Father Heribert goes off to find out whether he will keep his position or whether Prior Robert will take over.

Cadfael discovers who was responsible for the poisoning of Gervase Bonel and eventually administers his own form of justice.

What an excellent writer Ellis Peters was, bringing this periods of English history to life.

My rating: 4.6

I've also reviewed
THE PILGRIM OF HATE
4.3, A MORBID TASTE FOR BONES
4.6, A CORPSE TOO MANY

1 December 2018

PICK OF THE MONTH, November 2018

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2018
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 November 2018, 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.


27 November 2018

Review: THE STORM SISTER, Lucinda Riley

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2225 KB
  • Print Length: 513 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1476759928
  • Publisher: Macmillan; Main Market edition (November 1, 2015)
  • Publication Date: October 27, 2015
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B014CQGCV8
  • series: THE SEVEN SISTERS, #2
Synopsis (Amazon)

Ally D'Aplièse is about to compete in one of the world's most perilous yacht races, when she hears the news of her adoptive father's sudden, mysterious death. Rushing back to meet her five sisters at their family home, she discovers that her father - an elusive billionaire affectionately known to his daughters as Pa Salt - has left each of them a tantalising clue to their true heritage.

Ally has also recently embarked on a deeply passionate love affair that will change her destiny forever. But with her life now turned upside down, Ally decides to leave the open seas and follow the trail that her father left her, which leads her to the icy beauty of Norway . . .

There, Ally begins to discover her roots - and how her story is inextricably bound to that of a young unknown singer, Anna Landvik, who lived there over a hundred years before, and sang in the first performance of Grieg's iconic music set to Ibsen's play 'Peer Gynt'. As Ally learns more about Anna, she also begins to question who her father, Pa Salt, really was. And why is the seventh sister missing?

My Take

The format of this story is pretty predictable.
Ally is the second of the Seven Sisters to take on the challenge of discovering their birth place and heritage, a challenge left by their deceased adoptive father Pa Salt. He left each of them a letter, and the coordinates of the geographical location where they could start. In Ally's case he left her also a book to read and a little green frog.

At first Ally has no intention of following the clues through, but her circumstances change and she feels the need to know who she is.

The fact that I knew that the plot was to be Ally's present-day story and an investigation of her past, with all the mystery that contained, did not deter me. I have given it the label of "not crime fiction", but there is certainly plenty of mystery and a touch of romance.

I must confess that I first of all borrowed the book from my local library but then, daunted by the size, I bought it for my kindle.

But I'm now hooked. I want to read the next one, THE SHADOW SISTER, and I've bought it for my kindle. 

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.5, THE SEVEN SISTERS

22 November 2018

Review: INTO THE LIGHT, Sarah Bailey

Synopsis (publisher)

Sarah Bailey's acclaimed debut novel The Dark Lake was a bestseller around the world and Bailey's taut and suspenseful storytelling earned her fitting comparisons with Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.

Into the Night is her stunning new crime novel featuring the troubled and brilliant Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock. This time Gemma finds herself lost and alone in the city, broken-hearted by the decisions she's had to make. Her new workplace is a minefield and the partner she has been assigned is uncommunicative and often hostile. When a homeless man is murdered and Gemma is put on the case, she can't help feeling a connection with the victim and the lonely and isolated life he led despite being in the middle of a bustling city.

Then a movie star is killed in bizarre circumstances on the set of a major film shoot, and Gemma and her partner Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet have to put aside their differences to unravel the mysteries surrounding the actor's life and death. Who could commit such a brazen crime and who stands to profit from it? Far too many people, she soon discovers - and none of them can be trusted. But it's when Gemma realises that she also can't trust the people closest to her that her world starts closing in...

My Take

DS Gemma Woodstock has decided in a sense to put her career before her family. Leaving her young  son with his father, Gemma has moved to Melbourne to straighten her life out and to put her career back on track.

This is a far from standard Australian police procedural becoming extremely complex when a popular young tv star is murdered during the shoot for a zombie movie filmed in Spring St. Melbourne. There is literally a cast of thousands, and although they have the film footage it is very difficult to see exactly when Sterling Wade was stabbed and exactly who stabbed him.

This is Gemma's second case in her new posting. The first was the murder of a homeless man, also stabbed, in a laneway.The pathologist's report suggests that the two murders are surprisingly similar but the investigating team can't connect the two victims.

The action moves at a good pace, and the stresses in Gemma's new life are well described.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.7, THE DARK LAKE

13 November 2018

Review: THE DEATH OF MRS WESTAWAY, Ruth Ware

  • this edition published by Thorndike Press, 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-4328-5127-9
  • 593 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author's website
Synopsis (author's website)

Dear Miss Westaway,

Your grandmother, Hester Mary Westaway of Trepassen House, St Piran, passed away on 22nd November, at her home. I appreciate that this news may well come as a shock to you; please accept my sincere condolences on your loss.

In accordance with the wishes of your late grandmother, I am instructed to inform beneficiaries of the details of her funeral. As local accommodation is very limited, family members are invited to stay at Trepassen House where a wake will also be held.

Yours truly,

Robert Treswick
Treswick, Nantes and Dean, Penzance


When Harriet Westaway – better known as Hal – receives a letter from the blue informing her of a substantial inheritance, it seems like the answer to her prayers. The loan shark she borrowed from is becoming increasingly aggressive, and there is no way that her job as a seaside fortune-teller can clear her debts.

There is just one problem: Hester Westaway is not Hal’s grandmother. The letter has been sent to the wrong person.

But Hal is a cold reader, practised in mining her clients for secrets about their lives. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a strange woman’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.

With only one way out of her problems, Hal boards a train for Cornwall, and prepares for the con of her life. But something is very, very wrong at Trepassen House.  Hal is not the only person with a secret, and it seems that someone may be prepared to do almost anything to keep theirs hidden…

My Take

This was an engrossing read with an almost Gothic feel to it.

The Westaway family are not very welcoming to Harriet at the funeral, and even less so later when they learn that she has inherited a considerable part of the estate. They had not even been aware of her existence. But then Harriet sees photographs which make her question where she fits into this family after all. She had only hoped for a small legacy.

The dead Mrs Westaway looms over this family - her will has unleashed issues that have to be resolved.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.8, IN A DARK, DARK WOOD
4.4, THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10

11 November 2018

Review: ONE CORPSE TOO MANY - audio book

  • available from audible.com
  •  Narrated by: Stephen Thorne
  • Series: Brother Cadfael, Book 2
  • Length: 8 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 11-04-11
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio UK
  • book originally published in 1979
Synopsis (publisher)

In the summer of 1138, war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud takes Brother Cadfael from the quiet world of his garden to the bloody battlefield. Not far from the safety of the Abbey walls, Shrewsbury Castle falls, leaving its 94 defenders loyal to the empress to hang as traitors. With a heavy heart, Brother Cadfael agrees to bury the dead, only to make a grisly discovery: 95 bodies lie in a row, and the extra corpse tells Cadfael that the killer is both clever and ruthless.

But one death among so many seems unimportant to all but the good Benedictine. He vows to find the truth behind disparate clues: a girl in boys' clothing, a missing treasure, and a single broken flower - the tiny bit of evidence that Cadfael believes can most easily expose a murderer's black heart....

My Take

Stephen Thorne does such an excellent job of the narration of this story.
It is the first book in which we meet Hugh Berengar and Brother Cadfael's character is fleshed out.

We also meet King Stephen in the flesh as he takes Shrewsbury Castle and prepares to move further into England. Ellis Peters feeds just enough historical detail into the story to bring the period to life.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
THE PILGRIM OF HATE
4.3, A MORBID TASTE FOR BONES

Review: MURDER IN MURLOO, Brigid George

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • Series: Dusty Kent Mysteries (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (March 25, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781508739258
  • ISBN-13: 978-1508739258
  • ASIN: 1508739250
Synopsis (Amazon)

When a popular young woman is strangled in her home in the seaside village of Murloo, the residents are sure an itinerant surfer who disappeared after the murder is the killer. However, one year later the surfer is still missing and the killer’s identity remains a mystery.

The victim’s family call in investigative journalist Dusty Kent who has an impeccable record in solving the cold cases she writes about. Dusty’s determination to investigate unresolved crime is fuelled by a personal connection through her own family tragedy.

However, this case tests Dusty to the limit and she despairs of ever catching the callous killer who seems to be lurking nearby and yet...A gripping mystery imbued with the ambience of Australia—from the mysterious wood carving found with the body, the captivating characters of a small town, to the coastal splendour of the Southern Ocean.


 Murder in Murloo is a classic who-dun-it introducing Dusty Kent written by JB Rowley and published under the pseudonym Brigid George.


My Take

Journalist Dusty Kent is investigating the unsolved murder of Gabby Peters one year after the event, telling everyone she is writing a book. Together with recent arrival from Ireland Sean O'Kelly who is a super "online" hacker and sleuth, she interviews the entire town, trying to find out where everybody was when Gabby was killed.  The method produces an overwhelming amount of information including some which the residents did not reveal to the police at the time when they were first interviewed.
 The local police warn Dusty off, telling her she is stirring up trouble, muddying their own investigation. But Dusty has a contact in the police force who she talks to from time to time.

Dusty's methodology also has the effect of giving the reader a bewildering amount of data to sift through.
The setting is close to a surfing beach on the southern coast of Victoria.
In classic Poirot style Dusty holds a gathering where she reveals the murderer, and other surprising facts come to light too.

An interesting start to what is now a series of 4 novels, in which O'Kelly appears to act as Dusty's Watson, recording the cases in his diary.


I read this book on my Kindle but now can't find the Kindle version on Amazon.com.

My rating: 4.0

About the author

Brigid George is the pseudonym of JB Rowley; author of Amazon #1 Bestsellers 'Whisper My Secret' and 'Mother of Ten'. JB also writes children’s stories such as 'Wilhelmina Woylie' and writes the Dusty Kent Murder Mystery series (starting with 'Murder in Murloo') under the pen name Brigid George.

1 November 2018

Review: THE LOST MAN, Jane Harper

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 574 KB
    Print Length: 352 pages
    Publisher: Macmillan Australia (October 23, 2018)
    Publication Date: October 23, 2018
    Sold by: Macmillan
    Language: English
    ASIN: B07CST7DYT
  • author website
Synopsis (Amazon)

The man lay still in the centre of a dusty grave under a monstrous sky.

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland.

They are at the stockman's grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last chance for their middle brother, Cameron.

The Bright family's quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn't, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects...

For readers who loved The Dry and Force of Nature, Jane Harper has once again created a powerful story of suspense, set against a dazzling landscape.

My take

Here really is an Australian author to keep your eye on.

In this novel she has captured so well the harshness of the Australian outback. The challenges of life on an outback station. The way that in a small community where everyone knows everything, some small incident, that might get lost in the city, damages reputations and blights life for decades. The way that genetics and the harsh environment create character traits that are passed on from one generation to another.

It is a book with lots of little mysteries, because in this fractured family no-one really says what they think, because they are afraid. Why is Nathan Bright living in isolation on a small hopeless holding which is never going to amount to anything? Why hasn't he spoken to his younger brothers for over six months? Did someone kill Cameron or did he die of natural causes? Why is his car 9 km away from his body?

This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
It is a stand-alone so you don't have to read her earlier books, but I guarantee you will look for them.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read
4.7, THE DRY
5.0, FORCE OF NATURE

About the author (author website)

Jane Harper is the author of international bestsellers The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man. Her books are published in more than 35 territories worldwide.

Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year. Film rights for The Dry  have been acquired by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Jane was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight. She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.

Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Times in County Durham.Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008.

She worked first on the Geelong Advertiser, and in 2011 took up a role with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

In 2014, Jane submitted a short story which was one of 12 chosen for the Big Issue's annual Fiction Edition.That inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously, breaking through with The Dry at the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards in 2015.

Jane lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.

Pick of the month October 2018

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2018
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 October 2018, 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.


27 October 2018

Review: A SPARK OF LIGHT, Jodi Picoult

  • this edition published 2018 Allen & Unwin Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-76011-051-2
  • 369 pages
  • author website: www.jodipicoult.com 
Synopsis (author website)

 The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic —its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

My Take

Probably not really a crime fiction title, or at the very boundaries of the genre.

This is so obviously a book with a message. It comes through the narration and the characters as well as in the "Author's Note", the bibliography, and the blurb.
one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

I found the narrative structure a challenge and was tempted at times to read the chapters in reverse order so that I could get the events in the right order. In the long run I continued to read in the order as published. The structure did give the author considerable flexibility in the presentation of background detail on every character that we met.

There were a couple of twists to the story that I was not expecting and they were cleverly done. A worthwhile read.

During the 10 year life of this blog I have not reviewed a novel by this author even though she has written a massive number of books - that is why I have used the "new to me" label.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Jodi Picoult, 52 , is the bestselling author of twenty-four novels: Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992), Harvesting the Heart (1994), Picture Perfect (1995), Mercy (1996), The Pact (1998), Keeping Faith (1999), Plain Truth (2000), Salem Falls (2001), Perfect Match (2002), Second Glance (2003), My Sister's Keeper (2004), Vanishing Acts (2005), The Tenth Circle (2006), Nineteen Minutes (2007), Change of Heart (2008), Handle With Care (2009), House Rules (2010), Sing You Home (2011), Lone Wolf (2012), The Storyteller (2013), Leaving Time (2014), and the YA novels Between The Lines (2012), and Off The Page (2015), co-written with her daughter Samantha van Leer. Her last ten novels including her highly acclaimed novel, Small Great Things (2016), have debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Her twenty-fifth novel, A Spark of Light, will be published October, 2018.

Review: A MORBID TASTE FOR BONES, Ellis Peter - audio book

Synopsis (audible.com)

In 1137 the ambitious head of Shrewsbury Abbey has decided to acquire the remains of Saint Winifred for his Benedictine order. Brother Cadfael is part of the expedition sent to her final resting place in Wales, where they find the villagers passionately divided by the Benedictines' offer for the saint's relics.

Canny, wise and all too worldly, Cadfael isn't surprised when this taste for bones leads to bloody murder. The leading opponent to moving the grave has been shot dead with a mysterious arrow, and some say Winifred herself dealt the blow. Brother Cadfael knows that a carnal hand did the killings, but he doesn't know that his plan to unearth a murderer may dig up a case of love and justice, where the wages of sin may be scandal - or his own ruin.

My Take

I chose this book because it is the first of the series. My fellow listener and I are already familiar with the Brother Cadfael character, having watched the TV series with Derek Jacobi playing the leading role, decades ago. We have also been to Shrewsbury on one of our trips to the UK.

These novels are a lovely reminder of a historical period which was a turbulent time at the end of the Middle Ages. Brother Cadfael lives in Shrewsbury, returned from the Crusades, and now a monk and a herbalist. In some senses his mysteries are very ordinary investigations, but they are imbued with a strong sense of history, and sometimes with a touch of romance.

In this story Brother Cadfael is part of an expedition to his native Wales to "liberate" St Winifred's bones which apparently have been neglected by the people who live in the village near where she is buried. The locals are understandably upset at the incoming Englishmen who have come to steal the bones and take them back to England.

The first in quite a long series of books, there is a lot of introductory material about Cadfael, his background, and those who live with him in the Shrewsbury monastery. 

At just over 7 hours this is a good title to be listened to over a couple of travelling weeks.

My rating: 4.3

The only other Brother Cadfael title that I have reviewed since beginning this blog is THE PILGRIM OF HATE
The title was #10 in the series, I listened to it back in 2010, with the same narrator.

See more about Ellis Peters titles that I had read before beginning this blog.

22 October 2018

Review: THE ONES YOU TRUST, Caroline Overington

Synopsis (publisher)

Emma Cardwell, celebrity mum and host of top-rating morning TV show Cuppa, seems to have it all: fame, money and a gorgeous family. But when her little girl disappears from day-care - captured on CCTV footage at a nearby shopping centre leaving with someone Emma has never seen before - her world is turned upside down.

As the minutes tick by, and pressure mounts, every part of Emma's life comes under examination. Is this a kidnapping, the work of a crazed stalker, or an obsessed fan? Is somebody out for revenge or is this something closer to home?

And there is the aching question: how much do we really know about those who care for our children . . . and about the people we love?

My Take

When Emma arrives home after a long day she finds that her husband has forgotten to collect their young daughter from child care. But it is now 8 pm so where is Fox? Why hasn't anybody from the child care centre contacted her?

The police are called in and despite their best efforts to keep the news low key the television station that Emma works for takes over the management of the publicity. Fox's disappearance turns out to be a publicity bonanza as PJ, Emma's colleague on the morning show, head up a live presentation that focusses on Fox's recovery.

The book has the reader guessing who has been responsible for the kidnapping, perhaps even Emma herself, and the story twists and turns almost unpredictably. I certainly didn't forsee the final explanation.

The story takes an almost cynical look at what goes on in the television industry to keep programmes alive, presenters attractive and popular, and fresh stories coming.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
4.4, SISTERS OF MERCY
4.5, NO PLACE LIKE HOME
4.7, I CAME TO SAY GOODBYE
4.5, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?
4.5, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY

21 October 2018

Review: SCRUBLANDS, Chris Hammer

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2387 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (July 25, 2018)
  • Publication Date: July 25, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B079Z1VHZL
Synopsis (Amazon)

In an isolated (Australian) country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself.

A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don't fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can't ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest's deadly rampage.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town's secrets stay buried.

My Take:

This novel surprised me with the complexity of the plot.  It weaves a number of contemporary threads into the narrative. Some of these are revealed only as Martin Scarsend begins to investigate the ongoing impact of the tragic events that took place in Riversend nearly a year earlier.

Scarsend himself is "damaged goods" but his boss has sent him to write a human interest story which will perhaps help him get over the trauma he has suffered. Nothing prepares him for the heat of the drought stricken town and for the fact that no-one can tell him why the priest shot five locals.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Christopher Hammer lives in Australia and has been a journalist for over twenty-five years. He has been an international correspondent, the chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, and a senior political journalist for The Age.

15 October 2018

Review: GALLOWS COURT, Martin Edwards

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1094 KB
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (September 6, 2018)
  • Publication Date: September 6, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B079GXJPC8
Synopsis (publisher)

LONDON, 1930.

Sooty, sulphurous, and malign: no woman should be out on a night like this . A spate of violent deaths – the details too foul to print – has horrified the capital and the smog-bound streets are deserted. But Rachel Savernake – the enigmatic daughter of a notorious hanging judge – is no ordinary woman. To Scotland Yard's embarrassment, she solved the Chorus Girl Murder, and now she's on the trail of another killer.

Jacob Flint, a young newspaperman temporarily manning The Clarion's crime desk, is looking for the scoop that will make his name. He's certain there is more to the Miss Savernake's amateur sleuthing than meets the eye. He's not the only one. His predecessor on the crime desk was of a similar mind – not that Mr Betts is ever expected to regain consciousness after that unfortunate accident...

Flint's pursuit of Rachel Savernake will draw him ever- deeper into a labyrinth of deception and corruption. Murder-by-murder, he'll be swept ever-closer to its dark heart – to that ancient place of execution, where it all began and where it will finally end: Gallows Court.

My take

At the centre of this novel are two characters: Jacob Flint, a young newspaperman working for The Clarion, a sensationalist daily; and Rachel Savernake, an incredibly wealthy amateur sleuth, the daughter of a judge renowned for his severe punishment and reputed to be mad at the end.

We know there is some sort of mystery surrounding Rachel Savernake right from the beginning. We are told so in a journal entry written in 1919 by a Juliet Brentano recording the death of her parents. Subsequent diary entries crop up in the novel and we attempt to reconcile the Rachel Savernake she writes about with the one we meet through Jacob Flint.

Jacob has come to head the Clarion's crime desk rather earlier than expected because his boss has been run down by a car and is not expected to live. Jacob is convinced that what happened was no accident and he attempts to work out what Mr Betts was investigating. Everything seems to lead to Rachel Savernake.

This was a challenging read, and even at the end when I thought I had worked everything out, how wrong I was!

Fantastic Fiction suggests this novel is the first in a series centred on Jacob Flint.

My rating: 4.5

A review from Cross Examining Crime

I've also read
MYSTERIOUS PLEASURES
THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH
THE SERPENT POOL
WATERLOO SUNSET
DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN
4.8, THE HANGING WOOD
4.6, THE FROZEN SHROUD
4.5, M.O. CRIMES OF PRACTICE (edit)
4.3, TAKE MY BREATH AWAY
4.3, SERPENTS IN EDEN (edit)
4.5, MOTIVES FOR MURDER(edit) 

About the author

Martin Edwards is an Edgar award-winning crime writer whose seventh and most recent Lake District Mystery is The Dungeon House. Earlier books in the series are The Coffin Trail (short-listed for the Theakston's prize for best British crime novel of 2006), The Cipher Garden, The Arsenic Labyrinth (short-listed for the Lakeland Book of the Year award in 2008), The Serpent Pool, and The Hanging Wood.

Martin is a well-known crime fiction critic, and series consultant to the British Library's Crime Classics. His ground-breaking study of the genre between the wars, The Golden Age of Murder, has been warmly reviewed around the world. it has won the Edgar, Agatha and H.R.F. Keating awards, and is currently shortlisted for Anthony, Macavity, and CWA Dagger awards.

Martin has written eight novels about lawyer Harry Devlin, the first of which, All the Lonely People, was short-listed for the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger for the best first crime novel of the year, The early Devlin books are now enjoying a fresh life as ebooks, with new introductions by leading authors such as Val McDermid and Frances Fyfield, as well as other new material.

In addition Martin has written a stand-alone novel of psychological suspense, Take My Breath Away, and a much acclaimed novel featuring Dr Crippen, Dancing for the Hangman. The latest Devlin novel, Waterloo Sunset, appeared in 2008. He completed Bill Knox's last book, The Lazarus Widow. He has published many short stories, including the ebooks The New Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and Acknowledgments and other stories. 'Test Drive' was short-listed for the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2006, while 'The Bookbinder's Apprentice' won the same Dagger in 2008.

A well-known commentator on crime fiction, he has edited 28 anthologies and published diverse non-fiction books, including a study of homicide investigation, Urge to Kill.An expert on crime fiction history, he is archivist of both the Crime Writers' Association and the Detection Club. He was elected eighth President of the Detection Club in 2015, and posts regularly to his blog, 'Do You Write Under Your Own Name?

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