17 February 2019

Review: AS THE CROW FLIES, Damien Boyd

  • this edition published 2015 by Thomas & Mercer (first published 2015)
  • ISBN 978-14778210239
  • 160 pages
  • #1 in the DI Nick Dixon series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Rock climbers can't afford to make careless mistakes. But Detective Inspector Nick Dixon's former climbing partner, Jake Fayter, died doing just that. Or so it seems. Dixon suspects foul play, but his only leads are unreliable accounts of something odd happening in Cheddar Gorge seconds before Jake fell.

The more Dixon learns about Jake's life, the more he realises that Jake hadn't been quite the man he remembered...and a lot of people could have wanted him dead. Once Dixon gets too close to the truth, those people will emerge from the shadows and kill to protect their secrets.

As the body count rises, Dixon bends the rules to breaking point to lure out a killer and unravel a conspiracy of silence that will rock the sleepy town of Burnham-on-Sea to its core.

As the Crow Flies is the electrifying first novel in the DI Nick Dixon Crime Series.

My take

In the Prologue we are there when Jake Fayter falls from the Crow climb at Cheddar Gorge. The fall is so uncharacteristic of Jake who is Nick Dixon's former climbing partner that Jake's father John contacts Nick to ensure that the police carry out an investigation into whether this really was an accident.

The book nearly lost me right at the very beginning: the details about climbing felt so very technical that I wondered whether I would persist.

Dixon is newly appointed to the Avon & Somerset police and is currently involved in a case where funeral notices appear to be leading to burglaries. Nevertheless, on a Sunday, when he gets Jake's father's call, he heads over to Cheddar Gorge to see the scene of the accident himself. He decides that, for his own peace of mind, there is something to investigate.

This is one of those novels firmly bedded in the 21st century: FaceBook, Twitter, mobile phones and the tracing of calls etc. I understood most of that but it did add to the technicality of the plot, and wouldn't suit every reader.

There are now 9 titles in the series, and it will be interesting to read another to see what direction the author has taken. Here is the list from Fantastic Fiction.
1. As The Crow Flies (2013)
2. Head In The Sand (2013)
3. Kickback (2014)
4. Swansong (2015)
5. Dead Level (2016)
6. Death Sentence (2016)
7. Heads or Tails (2017)
8. Dead Lock (2018)
9. Beyond the Point (2019)

My rating: 4.2

About the author
Damien Boyd is a solicitor and crime fiction writer.

Drawing on extensive experience of criminal law as well as several years in the Crown Prosecution Service, Damien writes fast paced crime novels featuring Detective Inspector Nick Dixon. 

12 February 2019

Review: THE TURN OF MIDNIGHT, Minette Walters

  • this edition published by Allen & Unwin 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-76029-587-5
  • 448 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

As the year 1349 approaches, the Black Death continues its devastating course across England. In Dorseteshire, the quarantined people of Develish question whether they are the only survivors.

Guided by their beloved young mistress, Lady Anne, they wait, knowing that when their dwindling stores are finally gone they will have no choice but to leave. But where will they find safety in the desolate wasteland outside?

One man has the courage to find out.

Thaddeus Thurkell, a free-thinking, educated serf, strikes out in search of supplies and news. A compelling leader, he and his companions quickly throw off the shackles of serfdom and set their minds to ensuring Develish's future - and freedom for its people.

But what use is freedom that cannot be gained lawfully? When Lady Anne and Thaddeus conceive an audacious plan to secure her people's independence, neither foresees the life-threatening struggle over power, money and religion that follows ...

My Take

This is the sequel of  THE LAST HOURS

It is some time since Lady Anne's husband died outside the walls of his estate from the Black Death. Since then no one has been allowed to enter the walls of Develish without a long quarantine period outside the moat and Lady Anne has come to an understanding of how the pestilence has been transmitted.

However the continuing survival of those inside the walls is now putting pressure of remaining food supplies and Thaddeus Thurkell has taken men to explore the neighbouring towns to see how they've fared. In most cases nearly all the population has died and Thurkell is able to take sheep and grain as well as hoards of gold. He deals with the pestilence by burning the houses and the bodies which are often lying in the open, thus eliminating the rats and the fleas that have carried the plague. In only a few places are there survivors, often as few as 10% of the former population. In nearly all places the nobility and their entourage have fled and not been heard from for some time.

As the winter of 1348 comes closer it appears that the Black Death may have moved on.

This is a fascinating exploration of what the priests and others though had brought the Black Death about, and an enthralling story of a couple's vision in re-establishing the social framework of the county.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
4.6, THE LAST HOURS

10 February 2019

Review: ILLUSION OF DEATH, Brian Kavanagh

Synopsis (publisher)

Power. Envy. Greed. Lies. All surround amateur sleuths Belinda Lawrence and Hazel Whitby in this maze of personalities.

An invitation to a private screening at a film group involves them in more than the cinematic arts.

Murder and the search for a long-lost film, involve them in more hair-raising adventures as they begin to investigate each member of the group, all of whom could be potential murderers.

Belinda’s skills are tested as she faces the greatest danger in her sleuthing life.

My Take

In the previous 5 novels of the series Australian Belinda Lawrence has been overseas, mainly in England. In title #6 author Brian Kavanagh has brought Belinda and her friend Hazel Whitby home to Melbourne.

Belinda visits the ACMI ( Australian Centre for the Moving Image) at Federation Square in Melbourne. She is standing in a display area waiting for Hazel who is out shopping when she is recognised by a former school friend. Bridie invites Belinda and Hazel to join her at a private screening of a pre-digital film being held by a small film society at the suburban home of a retired projectionist. Bridie is teaching film studies at the school that she and Belinda attended, and the film screenings are held weekly. Against Hazel's better judgement Belinda accepts the invitation.
Just as the screening of the film gets underway the group is interrupted by a member who bursts in to announce that the host, "Old Max" has been murdered.

Together with all the others present that night Belinda and Hazel become murder suspects, and they decide to conduct their own investigation of each of the members of the society, to find out why "old Max" was murdered, rather appropriately with a film splicing tool, and who the murderer is.

There is an almost cinematographic quality to the structure of this novel - each of the characters is introduced at the beginning with a sort of spotlight approach, almost as if they are on stage, and the spotlight moves from one to the other, capturing them in a moment of time.

Underlying the plot is a pioneering film/multimedia work produced by the Australian Salvation Army Soldiers of the Cross, and first screened in Melbourne in 1900. The National Film and Sound Archive has elements of the work in their archives but no full film is known to exist.

Very readable.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read

4.2, BLOODY HAM
4.3, A CANTERBURY CRIME
4.3, A WICKED DESIGN
4.3, MURDER ON THE ISLAND

About the author
Brian Kavanagh lives in Melbourne, the capital of the State of Victoria, in Australia. Brian is an an accredited life member of the Australian Film Editors Guild & a member of the Australian Society of Authors. He has many years experience in the Australian Film Industry in areas of production, direction, editing and writing.

His editing credits include THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH, ODD ANGRY SHOT, THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND, LONG WEEKEND, SEX IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD and the recent comedy, DAGS.

He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Australian Screen Editors Guild and is an accredited member. An Australian Film Institute award for Best Editing for FROG DREAMING (USA title THE QUEST).

His first feature film which he produced and directed, A CITY'S CHILD, won an AFI award for actress Monica Maughan and was screened at the London Film Festival as well as Edinburgh, Montreal, Chicago and Adelaide, where it won the Gold Southern Cross Advertiser Award for Best Australian Film.

8 February 2019

Review: WEEPING WATERS, Karin Brynard

format: Kindle (Amazon)
File Size: 1520 KB
Print Length: 512 pages
Publisher: World Noir (April 3, 2018)
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B0788ZTXY9
Text-to-Speech: Enabled

Translated from Afrikaans by Maya Fowler and Isobel Dixon

Synopsis

Inspector Albertus Beeslaar is a traumatized cop who has abandoned tough city policing and a broken relationship in Johannesburg for a backwater post on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. But his dream of rural peace is soon shattered by the repeated attacks of a brutally efficient crime syndicate, as he struggles to train and connect with rookie local cops, Ghaap and Pyl, who resent his brusqueness and his old-school ways.

A beautiful and eccentric artist and her four-year-old adopted daughter are murdered on a local farm, and angry white farmers point to her enigmatic Bushman farm manager as a key suspect. Along with Ghaap and Pyl, Beeslaar is plunged into the intrigue and racial tensions of the community and finds that violence knows no geographical or ethnic boundaries.

Weeping Waters marks the beginning of a great new series with a striking new setting, a strong ensemble cast of characters and suspenseful storylines.

My take

There have been a number of farm killings in the area, over recent times, blamed on stock thieves. Two farm workers had been brutally murdered just a fortnight before, their bodies discovered underneath the carcasses of sheep.

But this killing appeared to be different: a woman and a 4 year old girl, the bedroom chaotic as if someone had been searching for something.

Inspector Beeslaar has failed to find any clues about the stock thieves so far and local whites are asking for the reinstatement of commandos and acting as vigilantes themselves, convinced that they intent is to drive them from their land.

Huilwater Farm is isolated and the murders have been discovered by a neighbour calling in to pass the time of day.

The threads of the story focus on land rights, inheritance, and racial undertones, as well as the pressures on Inspector Beeslaar to "perform".

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Karin Brynard is a former political and investigative journalist and uses her research skills and eye for detail to fascinating effect in Weeping Waters. She is, today, one of Penguin South Africa’s biggest authors.

3 February 2019

Review: QUOTA, Jock Serong - audio book

  • audio book - source my local library
  •  Narrated by: Simon Harvey
  • Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-01-16
  • Originally published: 28 May 2014
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Wavesound Audio
  • Read it on Google Books
Synopsis (Audible)

Charlie Jardim has just trashed his legal career in a spectacular courtroom meltdown, and his girlfriend has finally left him. So when a colleague slings him a prosecution brief for the remote coastal town of Dauphin, Charlie reluctantly agrees to go.

The case is murder. The victim was involved in illegal abalone trading and even more illegal drug trafficking. And the witnesses aren't talking. As Dauphin closes ranks around him, Charlie finds his interest in the law powerfully reignited.

My Take

HIS HONOUR: Mr Jardim, withdraw that comment immediately.

MR JARDIM: Your Honour, I'm not withdrawing it because it's got nothing to do with the merits of this case, just as your small-minded treatment of my client has got nothing to do with the merits of the case. I mean, could you have cocked this thing up any worse? Bloody helpless kid and you know she's back out on the street now. You're known throughout the state as a heartless old prick and a drunk, and seeing I've gone this far, your daughter-in-law's appointment to the court is widely viewed as a grubby political payoff. Today's pretty much the lowest I've seen you stoop but it's been a rich field of excrem—

HIS HONOUR: Senior, will you have Mr Jardim removed?


QUOTA takes an unusual case, the murder of an abalone fisherman who is also dabbling in drug distribution.

Charlie Jardim is trying to put together a case to prosecute the victim's murderers. The account given of events by the victim's brother just does not hang together so Jardim travels to a small seaside Victorian town to see if he can get people to talk.

On the way to Dauphin he hits a kangaroo and wrecks his car. He is easily identified as a city man, and outsider, and before long every knows the Prosecutor is in town. Only the pub owner will talk to him.

Eventually he befriends the victim's brother and gets a different version of what occurred, and more importantly, gets him to agree to replace the original statement that the police have on record. But this is just the start of the plot.

There is a strong Australian flavour to this recording reinforced both by the language particularly the dialogue, but also by the narrator's voice. There are superb descriptions of the Victorian countryside, of the heat, of the declining nature of the town, of the way things are ruled by one family, and the way others have to take drastic measures to survive.

My rating: 4.6

I've also reviewed
5.0, THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET
5.0, ON THE JAVA RIDGE
4.8, PRESERVATION

QUOTA is Serong's first novel and didn't get the same attention and recognition that his later novels have. I think taht is possibly because his voice is so different to other Australian crime fiction writers.
He was a practising lawyer when he published QUOTA

1 February 2019

Review: THE THIN BLUE LINE, Christoffer Carlsson

  • this edition published by Scribe Publications 2018
  • translated from Swedish by Michael Gallager
  • series: Leo Junker #4
  • ISBN 978-1-925322-89-7
  • 328 pages
  • source: publisher
  • 2017 Best Crime Novel of the Year Award (Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy) - Short-listed
Synopsis

Detective Leo Junker thought he’d crossed his last line. But he’s never learned to say no.

So when an escaped criminal he knows all too well hands him a photo of a murdered prostitute, he reopens the cold case as a favour. Everyone’s busy and everyone’s got better things to do, but is there a darker reason that Angelica Reyes’ death has languished unsolved for five years? As Leo’s investigation pushes further into the past — Sweden’s, Angelica’s, his own — he’ll come face to face with the corruption at the heart of things.

Yet the reckoning may come too late — not only for Angelica Reyes, but for everyone.

My Take

At times I floundered a bit in putting the plot of this novel together -  mainly I think because I have not read the three earlier novels in the series and so am missing a bit of background information. Perhaps also too because I am not Swedish.

Detectives Leo Junker and Gabriel Birck are on overnight surveillance in Stockholm watching the comings and goings at a particular address, taking photographs and videos. Stockholm Police have been restructuring for a year, attempting to weed out corruption, and to streamline services.

Junker receives a letter in the post which contains a photo that he recognises - a prostitute who was murdered nearly 5 years before. On the back a phone number and the words "help me". The person who has contacted him is a friend from his adolescence and years ago they rescued this girl, saving her life. As a result of meeting with Grim, who is actually an escaped criminal, Leo gets permission to re-open the case into the girl's murder, for one last look at the evidence. It is the typical can of worms, involving corruption at the highest level.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.4, OCTOBER IS THE COLDEST MONTH

About the author
Christoffer Carlsson has a PhD in criminology, and is a university lecturer in the subject. He has written five crime novels, including the bestselling The Invisible Man from Salem and the Young Adult noir October is the Coldest Month.
In 2012, he was awarded the International European Society of Criminology's Young Criminologist Award. 

Series
Leo Junker
1. The Invisible Man From Salem (2015)
2. The Falling Detective (2016)
3. Master, Liar, Traitor, Friend (2017)
4. The Thin Blue Line (2018)

Pick of the Month January 2019

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2019
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 January 2019, 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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