20 November 2020

Review: SILENT KILL, Jane Casey

  • Format: kindle e-book (Amazon)
  • File size : 796 KB
  • Publication date : August 6, 2020
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Print length : 100 pages
  • Publisher : HarperCollins (August 6, 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • A novella between #8 and #9 of the Maeve Kerrigan series

Synopsis (Amazon

A murder in broad daylight…
A teenage girl is killed on a London bus. The case should be simple. The bus was full of witnesses, and there are cameras everywhere.
A hunt for a killer…
But the more DC Georgia Shaw and her colleagues Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent delve into the crime, the more elusive the answers become.
A case that spirals out of control…
It seems impossible that no one saw anything, but soon the leads run cold. Will they uncover what really happened, or will the killer get away with murder?
For fans of the Maeve Kerrigan series, this is a story with a difference. Told from Georgia’s point of view, we see Maeve and Josh from the outside…like you’ve never seen them before.

My Take

A quick read, this has the feeling of a full-fledged novel, a strong plot, an investigation, lots of suspects, strong characters, the victim an unpleasant school girl, the murderer a person who has just had enough, a murder that was never meant to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

19 November 2020

Review: THE SILENCE, Susan Allott

  • e-book made available through Libby through my local library
  • Publisher : The Borough Press (1 May 2020)
  • ASIN : B07ZG7ZT2V
  • Language: : English
  • Print length : 304 pages 


It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, Joe, phoning from Sydney.  

30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. Joe claims he thought she had gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and he’s under suspicion of murder.

Back home in Sydney, Isla's search for the truth takes her back to 1967, when two couples lived side by side on a quiet street by the sea. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

Deftly exploring the deterioration of relationships and the devastating truths we keep from those we love, The Silence is a stunning debut from a rising literary star.

My Take

It is very rare for me to read a book within 24 hours. But I have, so let that fact be testament to how much I enjoyed this book.

On the surface this mystery is about the disappearance of a young woman, essentially a cold case that a police officer hushed up, brought on by the nature of her husband's shameful job.  

This book is one of those rare combinations: crime fiction and a poke at Australia's history.  I'd love to be able to claim Susan Allott as an Australian writer, but she is British. But she has been able to bring to this novel a very significant understanding of something in Australian history that for decades people tried to gloss over.

My rating: 4.8 

About the author

Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. In 2016 she completed the Faber Academy course, during which she started writing this novel. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.

18 November 2020

Review: THE HOUSE ON FRIPP ISLAND, Rebecca Kauffman

  • this edition published in Great Britain 2020
  • by www.serpentstail.com
  • ISBN 9-781788-165204
  • 319 pages 
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

A taut, page-turning novel of secrets and strife. When two families - one rich, one not - holiday together off the coast of South Carolina, little do they know that someone won't be returning home.
Fripp Island, South Carolina, is the perfect destination for the wealthy Daly family: Lisa, Scott, and their two girls. For Lisa's childhood friend, Poppy Ford, the resort island is a world away from the one she and Lisa grew up in -and when Lisa invites Poppy's family to join them, how can she turn down an all-expenses paid vacation for her husband and children?

But everyone brings secrets to the island, distorting what should be a convivial, relaxing summer on the beach. Lisa sees danger everywhere, while Poppy watches over her husband John and his routines with a sharp eye. It's a summer of change for all of the children too, who are exposed to new ideas and different ways of life as they forge a bond of their own.

While revelations from the past and present unfold, the book builds to a shocking event that will shake your sense of justice and leave you wanting to talk about crime and retribution. 

My Take

We know from the very beginning that someone has drowned, but not until near the end just who the victim is. We even know that it is murder, but not who is responsible. 

But even so, the murder really comes out of left-field. 

The build up consists of an exploration of the relationships within and between the two families. Each of the adults in particular have secrets, and a sinister element intrudes when Lisa recognises the name of someone on a sex-predator list. There is an indication that neither sets of parents knows their children as well as they think they do. One is a secret drinker, another grows pot, but their parents have no idea.

There is a sense of a ghost watching over things from on-high.

I didn't particularly like the ending of the book. It posed problems that weren't all that well re-solved.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Rebecca Kauffman is originally from rural Ohio. She studied Classical Violin Performance at the Manhattan School of Music before receiving an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU. Her previous novels are Another Place You've Never Been and The Gunners. She currently lives in Virginia. 

15 November 2020

Review: A ROOM MADE OF LEAVES, Kate Grenville

  • this edition published by textpublishing 2020
  • 322 pages
  • ISBN 9781922330024
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (textpublishing)

What if Elizabeth Macarthur—wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in the earliest days of Sydney—had written a shockingly frank secret memoir? And what if novelist Kate Grenville had miraculously found and published it? That’s the starting point for A Room Made of Leaves, a playful dance of possibilities between the real and the invented.

Marriage to a ruthless bully, the impulses of her heart, the search for power in a society that gave women none: this Elizabeth Macarthur manages her complicated life with spirit and passion, cunning and sly wit. Her memoir lets us hear—at last!—what one of those seemingly demure women from history might really have thought.

At the centre of A Room Made of Leaves is one of the most toxic issues of our own age: the seductive appeal of false stories. This book may be set in the past, but it’s just as much about the present, where secrets and lies have the dangerous power to shape reality.

Kate Grenville’s return to the territory of The Secret River is historical fiction turned inside out, a stunning sleight of hand by one of our most original writers.

My Take

It is very tempting to regard this book as definitive history of life in the early colony of New SouthWales, but both the author and the narrator remind us that it is "faction", a fiction that is a possible interpretation of the rather skimpy evidence available. However it serves to remind us of us difficult life in those times was, nothing like the life we live now. How did women like Elizabeth Macarthur survive and how much of the male legacy from those times is actually due to the women who accompanied them?

A very good read, with a touch of mystery and a little spice to keep the interest level up.

My Rating: 4.8

I've also read


Review: THE SECOND SLEEP, Robert Harris - audio book

  • format: audiobook from Audible
  • Narrated by: Roy McMillan
  • Length: 9 hrs and 21 mins
  • Release date: 08-22-19 
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio
  • Language: English
  • Unabridged Audiobook


The latest novel from Robert Harris: chosen as a Book of the Year by The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, and Express.

What if your future lies in the past?

Dusk is gathering as a young priest, Christopher Fairfax, rides across a silent land.

It’s a crime to be out after dark and Fairfax knows he must arrive at his destination – a remote village in the wilds of Exmoor – before night falls and curfew is imposed.

He’s lost and he’s becoming anxious as he slowly picks his way across a countryside strewn with the ancient artefacts of a civilisation that seems to have ended in cataclysm.

What Fairfax cannot know is that, in the days and weeks to come, everything he believes in will be tested to destruction, as he uncovers a secret that is as dangerous as it is terrifying....

My Take

You might want to challenge some of my categories for this book. I've said it is not crime fiction although crimes have been committed. And I've said it is historical although it is set in the future.

The first challenge for the reader is to work when this novel is actually set. Dates are given that challenge our ideas of chronology.  How can a book that is set in future feel so much like it is set in medieval times? What has happened to "our world"?

I saw some reviews that said this book went nowhere - that the initial idea was good but the result was disappointing. I actually thought it gave us a lot to think about.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


8 November 2020

Review: THOSE PEOPLE, Louise Candlish

  • format: e-book made available through Libby
  • File size : 7763 KB
  • Print length : 386 pages
  • Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK (27 June 2019)
  • Language: : English 

Synopsis (Amazon)


Until Darren and Jodie move in, Lowland Way is a suburban paradise. Beautiful homes. Friendly neighbours. Kids playing out in the street. But Darren and Jodie don't follow the rules and soon disputes over loud music and parking rights escalate to threats of violence.

Then, early one Sunday, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone's story is the same: They did it.

But there's a problem. The police don't agree. And the door they're knocking on next is yours. 

My take

The middle class neighbours in Lowland Way are living life their way, and have even won an award for their community ideas. But now one of the elderly owners has died and someone else has moved in. They don't share the same ideals, play loud music all the time, don't have kids, and couldn't care less about the community.

Things go from bad to worse and the original community leaders come up with plans to get rid of Darren and Jodie. The plan back-fires and someone is accidentally killed.

The police seem to be constantly around and the death is called a homicide. 

A very believable, if at the same time improbable, story of what can happen when ordinary people are taken to the brink. Families fall apart and the most unlikely come up with wicked schemes.

A great read.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

1 November 2020

What I read in October 2020

 My reading appears to have slowed down a bit this month, not helped by the length of a couple of books

  1. 4.4, THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS, Sophie Hannah - audio book 
  2. 4.8, TROUBLED BLOOD, Robert Galbraith
  3. 4.7, OUR HOUSE, Louise Candlish
  4. 4.8, THE SURVIVORS, Jane Harper - Australian author  
  5. 4.4, THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL, Sophie Hannah - audio book
  6. 4.5, FOLLOW THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

Review: FAIR WARNING, Michael Connelly

  • format: e-book made available through my local library on Libby
  • File size : 1088 KB
  • Publication date : May 26, 2020
  • Print length : 325 pages
  • Publisher : Allen & Unwin (May 26, 2020)
  • ASIN : B081ZR4TYF (Amazon)
  • Jack McEvoy #3

Synopsis (Amazon

Jack McEvoy has taken down killers before, but when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered in a particularly brutal way, he realises he might be facing a criminal mind unlike any he's ever encountered.

Jack investigates against the warnings of the police and his own editor, walking a thin line between investigation and obsession, and makes a shocking discovery, connecting the crime to other mysterious deaths across the country. But then he himself becomes a suspect, and as he races to clear his name, Jack's findings point to a serial killer who uses personal data shared by the victims themselves to select and hunt his targets.

My Take

Jack McEvoy originally appeared in THE POET in 1996. Now, over 20 years on, he is an investigative journalist for a website called Fair Warning. (The author tells us that this site actually exists, https://www.fairwarning.org/, and that he is on its board. Myron Levin, the founder and editor of the site also appears in this book)

Jack is interviewed by FBI agents about the death of a woman that he dated once. When they tell him that they have DNA from the scene he voluntarily gives his own DNA to prove that it wasn't him. The woman died from AOD (internal decapitation) and Jack discovers that she is one of a number of cases with similar deaths. He also discovers that all of the victims had recently sent their DNA to a cheap DNA research company, who pass anonymous DNA results out into the community to fund their work.
Jack works with colleagues at the Fair Warning website to investigate these cases and then pulls in Rachel Walling, ex-FBI, to assist. Rachel is also a character from THE POET.

There are a number of issues of concern raised in the novel such as how much control there is over how DNA results are used, who gets access to them, and the political implications of the novel have not suited all readers.
I was reminded of a novel that I read last year THE ONE, by John Marrs where DNA is used to find people's life-long partners. And then there have been other crime fiction DNA-based novels such as WICKER by Kevin Guilfoyle, DIRTY LITTLE LIES by John Macken and JAR CITY by Arnaldur Indridason (see more )

What interested me in particular in FAIR WARNING was Connelly's revival of the original investigative duo of Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling after such a long gap. That in itself was unusual. And it seems likely that we will meet them again in the future.

Plenty to think about in this book.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


29 October 2020

Review: FOLLOW THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

  • e-book acquired through local library and Libby
  • File Size : 935 KB
  • Publication Date : March 27, 2018
  • Print Length : 363 pages
  • Publisher : Macmillan (March 27, 2018)
  • Language: : English
  • ASIN : B078WJQVD7 (kindle)
  • #12 in Rhona MacLeod series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Shortlisted for the 2018 McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

FOLLOW THE DEAD is the thrilling twelfth book in Lin Anderson's forensic crime series featuring Rhona MacLeod.

On holiday in the Scottish Highlands, forensic scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod joins a mountain rescue team on Cairngorm summit, where a mysterious plane has crash-landed on the frozen Loch A’an. Added to that, a nearby climbing expedition has left three young people dead, with a fourth still missing.

Meanwhile in Glasgow, DS McNab’s raid on the Delta Club produces far more than just a massive haul of cocaine. Questioning one of the underage girls found partying with the city’s elite reveals she was smuggled into Scotland via Norway, and it seems the crashed plane in the Cairngorms may be linked to the club. But before McNab can discover more, the girl is abducted.

Joined by Norwegian detective Alvis Olsen, who harbours disturbing theories about how the two cases are connected with his homeland, Rhona searches for the missing link. What she uncovers is a dark underworld populated by ruthless people willing to do anything to ensure the investigation dies in the frozen wasteland of the Cairngorms . . . 

My Take:

Although this title precedes the two in the series that I read earlier, I felt that it operated better as a stand-alone, although perhaps that was because I was already familiar with Rhona MacLeod and DS Michael McNab. 

The story emphasises the connections between Scotland and Norway, not just the geographic one of the North Sea, but also the tough conditions, and the shared crimes.

This is certainly a series that I will return to again.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

25 October 2020

100 Books read so far in 2020

Each year I set myself a reading target and among them I set a number of books to strive for.

This year my target is 120, and yesterday I got to 100, which always feels special.

This is what the summary so far looks like (you will note that in some cases I am exceeding my targets):

Last updated 25 October 2020

  • 2020 Good Reads Reading Challenge. I have set my challenge at 120. Currently: 100
  • Good Reads A-Z of titles: Currently: 22
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Completed in 2014, titles read in 2020: 3
  • USA Fiction Challenge So far 29/51, this year: 9
  • 2020 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 35
  • 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 25
  • Read Around the World 2020: currently: 100
  • British Books Challenge 2020 currently 42
  • 2020 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 45
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently  35
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge currently 6
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge, currently 5
  • New Zealand reading challenge -again a personal challenge. currently 2
  • Translated crime fiction - a personal challenge that will overlap with many of the other reading challenges that I have undertaken. currently 7
  • Snagged through the Library currently: 56
  • Audio books: currently: 8
  • 2020 Historical Reading Challenge. Currently: 9

You can find my summary page in full at https://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_55.html

Review: THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL, Sophie Hannah - audio book

  • From audible
  • Narrated by: Julian Rhind-Tutt
  • Series: New Hercule Poirot Mysteries, Book 4
  • Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 08-20-20
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: HarperCollins

Synopsis (audible)

The world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot - legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile - returns to solve a fiendish new mystery.

Hercule Poirot is travelling by luxury passenger coach from London to the exclusive Kingfisher Hill estate. Richard Devonport has summoned him to prove that his fiancée, Helen, is innocent of the murder of his brother, Frank. There is one strange condition attached to this request: Poirot must conceal his true reason for being there from the rest of the Devonport family.

On the coach, a distressed woman leaps up, demanding to disembark. She insists that if she stays in her seat, she will be murdered. A seat-swap is arranged and the rest of the journey passes without incident. But Poirot has a bad feeling about it, and his fears are later confirmed when a body is discovered in the Devonports' home with a note that refers to ‘the seat that you shouldn’t have sat in’.

Could this new murder and the peculiar incident on the coach be clues to solving the mystery of who killed Frank Devonport? And can Poirot find the real murderer in time to save an innocent woman from the gallows?  

My take

There has been considerable discussion about whether Sophie Hannah has quite captured Hercule Poirot, whether her characterisation of him rings true. My feeling is that while she has captured the essence of the great detective, she hasn't quite got it with the plotting. The plots to me become trivial, too much detail, and lacking in Agatha Christie's economy of words.  I think this is partly because the books are longer than Agatha Christie's were.

In the long run the author manages to bring the plot threads together and even to introduce a a couple of elements that we didn't see coming, to bring an element of surprise to the final denouement.

I must add also that the narration is superb.

I've also read

4.4, CLOSED CASKET - audio book
4.4, THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS -audio book   - #3

22 October 2020

Review: THE SURVIVORS, Jane Harper

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size : 3035 KB
  • Print Length : 343 pages
  • Publisher : Macmillan Australia (22 September 2020)
  • ASIN : B087WP479H  

Synopsis (Amazon Australia)

Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away.

My Take

Twelve years on from when his older brother died in the sea in a storm in a small coastal town in Tasmania, there is another death.  Kieran Elliott has carried the guilt of his brother's death all that time, and now his father may be accused of the latest death, so clearly a murder.

Kieran's father has dementia and he has come home to help his mother pack up the house. It was Kieran that his brother was rescuing twelve years ago and he has always felt that his mother has blamed him for his brother's death. A local girl disappeared without trace that day too, but now it appears there were facts that were never revealed.

A terrific atmospheric novel, some very interesting characters and many tensions.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

4.7, THE DRY

17 October 2020

review: OUR HOUSE, Louise Candlish

  • this large print edition published in UK 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-52888-676-5
  • 489 pages


On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she's sure there's been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird's nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona's children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram's not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

My Take

There are two main sources of narration in this novel: combined they present not only an unusual story but an unusual plot structure.

When Fiona Lawson arrives at her house to discover it has been sold and is actually in the process of being moved into, her estranged husband is already in Europe. And so his story begins, presented as his real-time thoughts and a word document saved on his computer.

Fiona's story is presented as a podcast script via the website of The Victim, in a series that begins six weeks after she has lost her home. Each episode comes complete with followers who, at the end of each episode, add their tweets and predictions of what will happen.

It is Bram who must bear the bulk of the guilt for what happens, but Fiona is not innocent either. 

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read


9 October 2020

Review: TROUBLED BLOOD, Robert Galbraith

  • Format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size : 11931 KB
  • Print Length : 888 pages
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • X-Ray : Enabled
  • ASIN : B084VPR3N2
  • Publisher : Sphere; 01 Edition (15 September 2020)
  • Cormoran Strike #5

Synopsis (Amazon)

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough - who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.

As Strike and Robin investigate Margot's disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly . . .

My Take

I thought this novel owed quite a lot to the fact that Galbraith (J. K. Rowling) is the extremely successful author of the Harry Potter novels. Certainly as far as crime fiction goes, it is a very long and complex novel, with an amazing number of plot threads, and a huge array of interesting characters. I wasn't so taken with the sections that owed so much to interpretation of tarot cards, and reading it on my kindle meant that I didn't get the most out of the full page illustrations that had been created by the first detective who had investigated the disappearance of Margot Bamborough forty years earlier. 

In the background are the other investigations that the Strike/Ellacott firm have running simultaneously, their rising success, Strike's relationships with his family, and his relationship with Robin. All of that gives the novel a depth that is unusual in modern crime fiction, and yet it provides an interest that keeps the reader going, despite the length of the novel.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.7, LETHAL WHITE - #4  

8 October 2020

New to me authors - July to September 2020

I've read 35 new-to-me authors in 2020 (out of a total of 96 books).
In some cases I have gone on to read a second book by this author.
I should point out here that the titles are not necessarily recently published although most are.

Here is the list for July to September. There are some very good reads amongst them and none have been a waste of time.

  1. 4.6, SINS OF THE DEAD, Lin Anderson 
  2. 4.5, DEAR CHILD, Romy Hausmann 
  3. 4.7, INHERITANCE OF SECRETS, Sonya Bates - Australian
  4. 5.0, THE OTHER PASSENGER, Louise Candlish 
  5. 4.5, THE PUPPET SHOW, M. W. Craven  
  6. 4.4, MEDDLING AND MURDER, Ovidia Yu
  7. 4.5, THIRST, L. A. Larkin - Australian
  8. 4.6, WE BEGIN AT THE END, Chris Whitaker 
  9. 4.5, THE HOLIDAY, T.M. Logan
  10. 4.4, THE BRISBANE LINE, J.P. Powell - Australian
  11. 4.5, THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS, Amy Myerson

4 October 2020

Review: THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS, Sophie Hannah - audio book

  • audio book available from Audible
  • By: Sophie Hannah, Agatha Christie
  • Narrated by: Julian Rhind-Tutt
  • Series: New Hercule Poirot Mysteries, Book 3
  • Length: 9 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 08-23-18

Synopsis (Audible)

The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot - the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket - returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in 1930s London.

Returning home after lunch one day, Hercule Poirot finds an angry woman waiting outside his front door. She demands to know why Poirot has sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met.

Poirot has also never heard of a Barnabas Pandy and has accused nobody of murder. Shaken, he goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him - a man who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy....

Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger?

My Take:

When you read the book you will understand why I have included an image of a Battenberg cake here. It is a motif that Poirot uses with great effect in the novel, as he speculates about the relationship between the squares in the cake. Why were there 4 letters sent to people accusing them of murdering Barnabas Pandy when they did not know each other? Or is there some other connection?

And is one of those four a murderer or not, or just waiting in the wings, ready to commit a murder? Poirot works with Scotland Yard's Inspector Catchpoole to work out the motive behind the letters.

There were times when I thought the plot was unnecessarily devious and long winded but the audio production is excellent.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read

4.4, CLOSED CASKET - audio

What I read in September 2020

 Surprisingly, a smaller number of books this month, but I'm still doing well for the year (so far 95)

  1. 4.5, THE POET, Michael Connelly
  2. 5.0, THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, Hilary Mantel - audio book 
  3. 4.6, WE BEGIN AT THE END, Chris Whitaker
  4. 4.5, THE HOLIDAY, T. M. Logan
  5. 4.4, THE BRISBANE LINE, J.P. Powell - Australian author  
  6. 4.2, AUNTY LEE'S DELIGHTS, Ovidia Yu
  7. 4.5, THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS, Amy Myerson 

24 September 2020


  • this edition available as an e-book through Libby
  • published 2018
  • Hardcover : 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0778319849
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0778319849 

Synopsis (Amazon)

A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.

Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy's bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda's twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda's life. 

She doesn't hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy--and one final scavenger hunt.When Miranda returns home to Los Angeles and to Prospero Books--now as its owner--she finds clues that Billy has hidden for her inside novels on the store's shelves, in locked drawers of his apartment upstairs, in the name of the store itself. 

Miranda becomes determined to save Prospero Books and to solve Billy's last scavenger hunt. She soon finds herself drawn into a journey where she meets people from Billy's past, people whose stories reveal a history that Miranda's mother has kept hidden--and the terrible secret that tore her family apart.Bighearted and trenchantly observant, The Bookshop of Yesterdays is a lyrical story of family, love and the healing power of community. It's a love letter to reading and bookstores, and a testament to how our histories shape who we become.

My Take

Not crime fiction but plenty of mystery in this novel when Miranda Brooks finds out her estranged uncle has died and has left her his book shop. As he did when she was younger, Billy has left her a scavenger hunt to solve. Miranda could have just walked away, but Billy has really thrown down the gauntlet, appealing to Miranda's love of solving a puzzle. And the more she finds out, the deeper the puzzle becomes.

And there is more - stories about the effects of cataclysmic events on family, on events that shape our lives. A very enjoyable read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Amy Meyerson teaches in the writing department at the University of Southern California, where she completed her graduate work in creative writing. She has been published in Reed Magazine, The Manhattanville Review, The Bloomsbury Review, The Fanzine and Obit Magazine, and was a finalist in Open City's RRofihe Trophy Short Story Contest and in Summer Literary Seminars's Unified Literary Contest. She currently lives in Los Angeles. The Bookshop of Yesterdays is her first novel. 

23 September 2020


  •  this edition published by William Morrow 2013

  • ISBN 978-0-06-222715-7
  • 257 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #1 in the Aunty Lee series


This delectable and witty mystery introduces Rosie "Aunty" Lee, feisty widow, amateur sleuth, and proprietor of Singapore's best-loved home-cooking restaurant

After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could have become one of Singapore's "tai tai," an idle rich lady. Instead she is building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean meals are graciously served to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore's tourist havens and one of her guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two events are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson, Mark, his social-climbing wife, Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder are Police Commissioner Raja and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, who quickly discover that Aunty Lee's sharp nose for intrigue can sniff out clues that elude law enforcers.

Wise, witty, and charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship, and food in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities coexist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly consequences.

My take

This was my second venture into the Aunty Lee series, an enjoyable, not overly complex cosy. It gives good background for the later novel that I had already read. Apart from the murder mystery there is interesting commentary on life in Singapore. In style it reminded me just a little of Alexander McCall Smith's No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. 

My book group have suggested I also try the Crown Colony series.

Listings from Fantastic Fiction

Singaporean Mystery
   1. Aunty Lee's Delights (2013)
   2. Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials (2014)
   3. Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge (2016)
   4. Meddling and Murder (2017)

Crown Colony
   1. The Frangipani Tree Mystery (2017)
   2. The Betel Nut Tree Mystery (2018)
   3. The Paper Bark Tree Mystery (2019)
   4. The Mimosa Tree Mystery (2020)
   5. The Cannonball Tree Mystery (2021)

My rating: 4.2

I've also read

4.4, MEDDLING AND MURDER #4  in the Aunty Lee series

16 September 2020

Review: THE BRISBANE LINE, J.P. Powell

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • Print Length : 242 pages
  • Language: : English
  • ASIN : B086HL63Y8
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Publisher : Xoum (27 March 2020)
  • File Size : 1358 KB
Synopsis  (Amazon)

As WWII ravages the world and the Japanese Empire has set its sights on Australia, the Americans have come to save us. But not all soldiers are heroes and not all heroes are soldiers.

Sergeant Joe Washington, a US Military Police, loves music and photography but spends his days delving into the sordid and petty crimes committed by the thousands of American troops passing through town.

While trying to find stolen gasoline stores, he is sent to investigate the body of an American soldier found dumped in a cemetery. Suddenly Joe is up against notorious detective Frank Bischof.

Although ordered to leave the investigation alone, Joe fears that Bischof is protecting the most likely suspect while trying to pin the crime on an innocent – and intriguing – young woman, Rose. A woman who seems to walk between the parallel worlds of black market deals and Brisbane’s high society.

My Take

This novel gives readers a snapshot of life in Brisbane in a period of approximately 10 days (Friday 8 October 1943 - Sunday 17 October 1943.) Brisbane is home to thousands of American soldiers, committing the usual range of crimes found in Western society, complicated by crimes, corruption,  and conventions typical of Brisbane itself. The book is populated with real life characters as well as fictional one.

While there are a range of crimes committed, I felt that the novel is historical "faction" rather than crime fiction. Two murders have been committed, the investigation shared uncomfortably by an American MP and a detective from the Brisbane police force.

My rating: 4.4

About the Author
JP Powell is an archaeologist and historian with a passion for bringing the past to life. She has worked as a high school teacher, an academic, a National Parks officer, a museum administrator and has excavated in Jordan, Cyprus and Greece as well as leading historical archaeology projects in Australia. Her previous writing includes school textbooks, academic publications, government reports and a biography of the first person to teach archaeology in Australia (Love’s Obsession. The lives and archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart. Wakefield Press. 2013). In 2017 she was awarded a QANZAC Fellowship by the State Library of Queensland to pursue research into, and writing of, a series of crime novels set in Brisbane during World War II. She lives outside Brisbane

13 September 2020

review: THE HOLIDAY, T.M. Logan

  • format: e-book available from Libby
  • published 2019
  • 380 pages
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

It was supposed to be the perfect getaway: Kate and her three best friends, spending a week with their families in a luxurious villa in the south of France. Through the decades they’ve stayed closer than ever, and seven days of drinking crisp French wine and laying out under the dazzling Mediterranean sun is the perfect celebration of their friendship. But soon after arriving, Kate discovers an incriminating text on her husband’s cell phone.

A text revealing that he’s having an affair.

And that the other woman is one of her best friends.

But which one?

Trapped in paradise with no one to trust, Kate is determined to find out who has put her marriage — and a lifelong friendship — in jeopardy. But as she closes in on the truth, she realizes that the stakes are higher than she ever imagined. Everyone on the trip has secrets…and someone may be prepared to kill to keep theirs hidden.

My Take:

I will certainly be looking for another from this author.

There were several elements of mystery. Each family has secrets, and then Kate is trying to work out which of her friends is having an affair with her husband. Some times relationships become fraught and the tensions come over well.

A good read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author:
TM Logan (aka Tim Utton) was born in Berkshire to an English father and a German mother. He studied at Queen Mary and Cardiff universities before becoming a national newspaper journalist. He currently works in communications and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children.

8 September 2020

Review: WE BEGIN AT THE END, Chris Whitaker

  • format: e-book through my local library through Libby
  • ISBN: 9781785769627
  • Published April 2020
  • 464 pages
Synopsis (Allen & Unwin)

A blistering story of murder, revenge and retribution, set under the Californian sun.  As nuanced as it is intense, We Begin at the End is a thriller of exceptional psychological flair, filled with characters who will get under your skin – and might never leave.

This is a story about good and evil and how life is lived somewhere in between.

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer. Now, he's been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star's thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin - and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution. How far can we run from the past, when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?

My Take

A layered novel full of mysteries. Like peeling a never-ending onion - the final solution is staggering and unexpected. Duchess Radley seems to have missed out on having a childhood, torn between looking after her mother and ensuring the safety of her young brother. She has an old head on very young shoulders.

Things come to a head when Vincent King returns to the town, and Walk, the Sheriff of Cape Haven, becomes determined that his childhood friend will lead a "normal" life.

There is little that I can tell you about what happens after that, without spoiling the narrative for you. I found it a challenging read, full of interesting characters, and mind-boggling scenarios.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Chris Whitaker's debut novel, Tall Oaks, was published in 2016. It was a Guardian crime book of the month as well as featuring in Crime Time's top 100 books of 2016 and BuzzFeed's incredible summer reads. It won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award, and was shortlisted for the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award. All the Wicked Girls, Chris's second novel, was described by Look magazine as 'the next Gone Girl'. Chris lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons. 

6 September 2020

Review: THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, Hilary Mantel - audio book

  • audio book from Audible
  • Narrated by: Ben Miles
  • Series: The Wolf Hall Trilogy, Book 3
  • Length: 38 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 03-05-20
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
  • Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020
    Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020
Synopsis (Audible)

The long-awaited sequel to Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the stunning conclusion to Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

‘If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?’

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

My take

We listened to this in the car over a number of weekends (38 hours of it) and were very regretful when it finished, not just because the recording came to an end, but because it was almost as if a well-known friend had died.

The story of Henry VIII and his six wives is one that all history lovers are familiar with, and so we have a broad idea of the content of this book. Where THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT excels is in bringing the times, characters and issues to light both through the text and the excellent verbal rendition.

An excellent series.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read 4.7, BRING UP THE BODIES

2 September 2020

Review: THE POET, Michael Connelly

  • this book first published in 1996
  • this edition: e-book, made available through Libby
  • source: my local library
  • #1 in Jack McEvoy novels
  • Awards in 1997:
    Anthony Awards Best Novel,
    Dilys Awards Best Book
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The apparent suicide of his policeman brother sets Denver crime reporter Jack McEvoy on edge. Surprise at the circumstances of his brother's death prompts Jack to look into a whole series of police suicides and puts him on the trail of a cop killer whose victims are selected all too carefully. Not only that, but they all leave suicide notes drawn from the poems of writer Edgar Allan Poe in their wake. More frightening still the killer appears to know that Jack is getting nearer and nearer. An investigation that looks like being the story of a lifetime, might also be Jack's ticket to a lonely end.

My Take:

I was mainly prompted to read this because firstly, I have never read it before; and secondly, because there is a new title in this series, FAIR WARNING, recently published.  My Connelly reading has mainly been Harry Bosch.

Apparently before reading FAIR WARNING, I should also read THE NARROWS (2004) and THE SCARECROW (2009)

THE POET is one of those novels when you've just worked it all out, there is another twist, and you realised you've missed something major or there was something that you didn't know. It all makes for very engrossing reading.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

1 September 2020

What I read in August 2020

Things seem to have slowed down a bit this month, as a couple of books took me longer than 3 or 4 days to read.
Nevertheless I have read 3 books by Australian authors and been introduced to 3 new-to-me authors.

My best read was Michael Robotham's latest:
  1. 4.5, THE PUPPET SHOW, M. W. Craven
  2. 4.5, BLACK SUMMER, M. W. Craven
  3. 4.7, THE GUEST LIST, Lucy Foley  
  4. 4.8, WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, Michael Robotham - Australian author 
  5. 4.3, GATHERING DARK, Candice Fox - Australian author
  6. 4.4, MEDDLING AND MURDER, Ovidia Yu
  7. 4.5, THIRST, L. A. Larkin - Australian author 

28 August 2020

review: THIRST, L. A. Larkin

  • this edition published by Pier9 2012
  • 336 pages
  • ISBN 978-1741967890
  • source: my local library
  • author website: read an extract, see some discussion questions
Synopsis (author website)

Antarctica is the coldest, most isolated place on earth. Luke Searle, maverick glaciologist, has made it his home. But soon his survival skills will be tested to the limit by a ruthless mercenary who must win at any cost.

The white continent is under attack. The Australian team is being hunted down. Can Luke stay alive long enough to raise the alarm?

The countdown has begun. T minus 5 days, 2 hours and 53 minutes …

My take

THIRST is about climate change catastrophe. We all know about the effects of global warming and the impact on the polar caps and the glaciers in them. But what if someone decided to harvest the resources in Antarctica, like the rare minerals, and even the water?

This is a fast paced thriller, firmly based on solid research, presenting a scenario that strains the bounds of credibility at first.


My rating: 4.5

About the author
L.A. Larkin divides her time between writing topical thrillers and her work for one of Australia's leading climate change consultancies.

27 August 2020

Review: MEDDLING & MURDER, Ovidia Yu

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 847 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: One More Chapter (April 28, 2017)
  • Publication Date: April 28, 2017
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

A delightfully warm and witty mystery from one of Singapore's best-known and most acclaimed writers, perfect for fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY.

Aunty Lee is on the case!

There is nothing Rosie ‘Aunty’ Lee, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved restaurant, loves more than solving other people’s problems. So when Beth Kwuan, an ambitious businesswoman, tells Aunty Lee her maid has disappeared, Aunty Lee is happy to let her own maid, Nina, help.

Only as the weeks go by, little clues make Aunty Lee worry. And as she digs into what is really going on behind the closed doors of Beth’s grand house, she starts to wonder—did Beth’s maid just run away, or did she meet a darker fate?

Now the race is on for Aunty Lee to get to the bottom of the mystery…and save Nina before it’s too late!

My Take

Although this is #4 in the Aunty Lee mystery series, I really didn't feel that I had missed much from not reading earlier titles. I would categorise the novel as a cozy, but there are also embedded some quite serious comments on the development of Singapore, and the impact of things like immigration of groups from China and India. There were references to earlier books in the series.

In style it reminded me a little of the Inspector Singh novels by Shamini Flint - also a Singaporean author. Although of course while Inspector Singh is a policeman, usually on an "official case", Aunty Lee is a "noseyparker".

Anyway, a fairly quiet sort of read, although some serious events do occur.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore's best-known and most acclaimed writers. As well as award winning short stories and a children's book, she has had over thirty plays performed and is author of the Aunty Lee books, featuring a crime solving Tai Tai, and the Colonial Crime series set in Colonial Singapore.

21 August 2020

review: GATHERING DARK, Candice Fox

  • this edition published by Bantam 2020
  • ISBN 978-0-14-378917-8
  • 408 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

From Australia's most exciting and original crime writer comes another electrifying thriller, set in Los Angeles, introducing a new – and decidedly unconventional – team of 'detectives'.

A convicted killer. A gifted thief. A vicious crime boss. A disillusioned cop. Together they’re a missing girl's only hope.

Blair Harbour, once a wealthy, respected surgeon in Los Angeles, is now an ex-con down on her luck. She’s determined to keep her nose clean to win back custody of her son.

But when her former cellmate, Sneak Lawlor, begs for help to find her missing daughter, Blair is compelled to put her new-found freedom on the line. Joined by LA’s most feared underworld figure, Ada Maverick, the crew of criminals bring outlaw tactics to the search for Dayly.

Detective Jessica Sanchez has always had a difficult relationship with the LAPD. And her inheritance of a $7 million mansion as a reward for catching a killer has just made her police enemy number one.

It’s been ten years since Jessica arrested Blair for the cold-blooded murder of her neighbour. So when Jessica opens the door to the disgraced doctor and her friends early one morning she expects abuse, maybe even violence.

What comes instead is a plea for help.

My Take

A cleverly constructed story but not really my cup of tea. Candice Fox has certainly written a novel whose very grittiness will appeal to an American audience. It brings a number of very quirky, in some cases alarmingly evil, characters together.

Blair Harbour, once a popular paediatrician, has certainly paid an unjust penalty for her unthinking act of attempting to rescue a neighbour from domestic violence. For detective Jessica Sanchez it had been an open and shut case: Harbour was obviously unhinged and lying, but now Sanchez has to face the fact that she didn't work hard enough to get the story right.

And now Sanchez herself is the victim of an innocent act: a grateful father leaves her his million-dollar mansion, driving a wedge between herself and other cops in the LAPD.

Blair's former cellmate comes to her for help in locating her missing daughter. Blair and Sneak need help, and Blair decides to call a favour in. But Ada Maverick does nothing for free.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN
4.6, CRIMSON LAKE  (#1)

16 August 2020

Review: WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, Michael Robotham

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 651 KB
  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (July 28, 2020)
  • Publication Date: July 28, 2020
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • Read an excerpt
  • #2 in the Cyrus Haven series 
  • Interview with the author
Synopsis (Amazon)

She has secrets.

Six years ago, Evie Cormac was found hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a brutal murder. But nobody has ever discovered her real name or where she came from, because everybody who tries ends up dead.

He needs answers.

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven believes the truth will set Evie free. Ignoring her warnings, he begins to dig into her past, only to disturb a hornet's nest of corrupt and powerful people, who have been waiting to find Evie - the final witness to their crimes. Unbeknownst to him, Cyrus is leading them straight to Evie. The truth will not set her free. It will get them killed.

From internationally bestselling, award-winning author Michael Robotham, this is the second explosive novel featuring the gifted criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven, introduced in GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL.

My Take

You really need to read the first in this series (GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL) before reading this one.
Cyrus Haven is convinced that if he can work out who Evie Cormac really is, then they can work out who it was that treated her so badly. He teams with Sacha Hopewell, the ex-police woman who discovered where Evie was hiding 6 years before.

The novel is set in 2020, in a world where Covid-19 does not exist, mainly because it was written and dispatched to the printers before the virus hit us. (Chapter 1 where Cyrus tracks Sacha down is set in May 2020). Cyrus believes there were things not put in the police reports 6 years before that will help him give Evie her real name, although it is obvious that Evie knows who she is. He thinks these are details Sacha can help him with. Initially Sacha is reluctant to get involved, but inevitably she does.

Robotham uses mainly the two voices: Cyrus and Evie to progress the novel and the search for the truth. Evie has turned into a feisty character and is living in a correctional centre, ostensibly to protect her, but outside there are people who are trying to work out where she is, and eventually one of them does.

A good read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
SHATTER (audio)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger
5.0, THE SUSPECT #1 (audio)
4.8, LOST #2 (audio)


The Crime Writer's Association Gold Dagger (won) LIFE OR DEATH 2015 (shortlisted) SAY YOU'RE SORRY 2013.
The Australian Book Industry Association ABIA General Fiction Award 2018 for THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS
The Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel (won 2005 and 2008) LOST and SHATTER.
The Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel (shortlisted) 2016 LIFE OR DEATH (shortlisted) 2019 GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL)
The Crime Writer's Association Steel Dagger (shortlisted) THE NIGHT FERRY and SHATTER. 

GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL has been shortlisted for the UK Gold Dagger.
The winners of the 2020 Daggers will be announced at an awards ceremony, due to take place on 22 October.

10 August 2020

Review: THE GUEST LIST, Lucy Foley

  • this edition published by Harper Collins UK 2020
  • ISBN 978-0-00929717-6
  • 374 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

My Take

This is the thing about organising a wedding. I can put together a perfect day, as long as the guests play along, remember to stay within certain bounds. But if they don't, the repercussions can last longer than twenty-four hours. No one is capable of controlling that sort of fallout.

Sometimes we don't realise just how close we are to people.
We move "in the same circles" but don't see it.
The six degrees of separation theory states that any inhabitant of the Earth could meet anyone in the world with a maximum of six or fewer mutual connections between them and another person. Be it through acquaintances, friends, or members of their family.

Ostensibly what connects these wedding guests in the main is that they, the males at least, went to the same school, or knew each other from university days. And, in a sense they have never grown up. Several refer to what happened to them at school as being like something from The Lord of the Flies.
The female guests that we meet are mainly attached to the males. But there are some horrific threads lurking in the background, not acknowledged, all linked to one person, the one who ends up dead.

From the middle of this story, thread by thread is revealed, but the most horrendous one, the one that finally ends in murder, does not come out until the last few pages.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

9 August 2020

Review: BLACK SUMMER, M.W. Craven

  • this edition published by Constable in 2019
  • ISBN 9-781472-127471
  • 392 pages
  • #2 in Washington Poe series
Synopsis ( Fantastic Fiction)

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He's currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

And then Elizabeth goes missing again - and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.

My take

I initially started reading this novel, and then after about 50 pages, realised that it was #2 in a series, and so located a copy of #1 (THE PUPPET SHOW). That meant that when I came back to reading BLACK SUMMER, I had already met the main characters and had some understanding of the relationship between them.

Jared Keaton has been in gaol for 7 years for the murder of his daughter.  The appearance of a young woman claiming to be Elizabeth Keaton means that his lawyers appeal for his release, particularly after a DNA test seems to confirm her identity.

The novel opens with two puzzles: the first page begins My body is eating itself. So the first puzzle is to identify this person. Chapter One ends with the arrest of Washington Poe on suspicion of murder. So there is the second puzzle to be solved.

This is one of those novels where the reader needs to take notice of the time frame given at the beginning of each chapter.

The novel brings together the team we met in THE PUPPET SHOW: Washington Poe, Tilly Bradshaw, DS Gamble, and DI Flynn. Poe is convinced that he did not get it wrong when he originally arrested Jared Keaton for murder, so there is a race against time to try to prove his case.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.5, THE PUPPET SHOW, M. W. Craven

5 August 2020

Review: THE PUPPET SHOW, M.W. Craven

  • this edition published by Constable, 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-4721-2744-0
  • 344 pages
  • source: my local library
  • series: Washington Poe #1
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District's prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of . . .

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he's ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive ...

My Take

I always advocate that readers tackle a series in order of publication, but occasionally I don't obey my own rule.

I had in fact begun reading the sequel to this novel (which kept referring to events related to the Immolation Man) when I realised I needed to seek out and read this one.

Washington Poe, disgraced and demoted detective) and Tilly Bradshaw, mathematical genius, make an interesting investigative pair. Tilly loves data and can make it form patterns which no-one else can. She and Poe make a formidable pair, each appreciating what the other has to offer.

This case is one that the perpetrator intends Washington Poe will be the one to investigate. He wants Poe brought back from demotion, re-instated to help him wreak vengeance on a crime that is over a quarter of a century old. In desperation he carves Poe's name on the chest of one of the victims.

A good read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
aka Mike Craven

Although he was born in Cumbria, Mike Craven grew up in the North East before running away to join the army when he turned sixteen. After training as an armourer for two and a half years, he spent the next ten travelling the world having fun. In 1995 he left the army and completed a degree in social work, with specialisms in criminology, psychology and substance misuse. In 1999 he joined Cumbria Probation Service as a probation officer, working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later, he took the plunge and accepted redundancy to concentrate on writing. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Between leaving the army and securing his first publishing deal, Mike found time to keep a pet crocodile, breed snakes, survive cancer and get married. He lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne, and his springer spaniel, Bracken.


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