13 July 2020

Review: DEAR CHILD, Romy Hausmann

  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • Published in German Feb 2019
  • Translated from German by Jamie Bulloch
Synopsis (Amazon)

YOU ESCAPED. BUT YOUR NIGHTMARE HAS JUST BEGUN.

A windowless shack in the woods. Lena's life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.

One day Lena manages to flee - but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called 'Lena', who disappeared without a trace over thirteen years ago. The police and Lena's family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn't quite seem to fit.

My Take

Lena Beck went missing in Munich when she was 23 and her father Matthias, and Karin, his wife of 40 years, have always believed she will turn up sometime, alive.

In a sense the novel begins almost at the end. An ambulance is called to a road accident where a woman has been hit by a car. A child tells them her name is Lena and her own name is Hannah, but she doesn't know their surname and she doesn't know how to contact her father. She says she has a younger brother and that he will be in their cabin in the woods.

Matthias gets a phone call from a policeman in charge of the case that investigation into Lena's original disappearance to say that a person has been found that they think might be Lena. He rushes to the hospital only to find that the injured person is not his daughter. Then he and Karin see Hannah who looks like a younger version of their daughter.

A very intriguing plot with plenty of twists. On one level it is a hideous tale about obsession, on another a warming one about Matthias' search for the truth. The identity of "the husband" came as a complete surprise. It is the author's debut title.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Romy Hausmann was born in the former GDR in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son Romy has been working as a freelancer in TV. DEAR CHILD is her thriller debut. Romy lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart.

8 July 2020

Review: THE CAKEMAKER'S WISH, Josephine Moon

Synopsis (publisher)

When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.

The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.

For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.

After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options she didn’t even know she was craving.

My take

Please note - this is not crime fiction

When her final family link in Tasmania dies, Olivia decides to go back to the Cotswolds to become part of a project designed to attract those whose families came from there. Not everyone is pleased with having "imports" in their village, as Olivia realises when someone releases a rat in her cake shop. But she and her young son Darcy quickly make new friends and begin to feel at home.

Olivia hopes too to discover why her grandmother originally left the village and meets some residents who were Ma's contemporaries.

I found this a "comfort" read, with an interesting scenario, and believable characters.

Book groups will enjoy the questions at the back of the book aimed at increasing their enjoyment.

My  rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.2, THREE GOLD COINS 

6 July 2020

Review: TIME FOR THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

  • this book published 2019
  • #14 in the Rhona MacLeod series
  • source: my local library - Libby
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Time for the Dead ..sees forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod investigate a brutal series of killings on Scotland's Isle of Skye.

When forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod returns to her roots on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, a chance encounter in the woods behind a nearby activities centre leads her to what seems to be a crime scene, but without a victim. Could this be linked to a group of army medics, who visited the centre while on leave from Afghanistan and can no longer be located on the island?

Enlisting the help of local tracker dog Blaze, Rhona starts searching for a connection.

Two days later a body is found at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock, face and identity obliterated by the fall, which leads Rhona to suspect the missing medics may be on the island for reasons other than relaxation. Furthermore, elements of the case suggests a link with an ongoing operation in Glasgow, which draws DS Michael McNab into the investigation.

As the island’s unforgiving conditions close in, Rhona must find out what really happened to the group in Afghanistan, as the consequences may be being played out in brutal killings on Skye . . .

My Take

Reading this novel immediately after the previous title in the series definitely paid off. The events of SINS OF THE DEAD were very fresh in my memory and there were many references to that novel which would have otherwise left me very puzzled. My conclusion is that this really is a series where the author does not hold back from references to previous events.

Based on this experience, if you have never read any in this series, my advice would be to start at the beginning if you can, as I am sure part of the pleasure comes from the accumulation of knowledge about characters and what has happened to them.

I do really like the central character Rhona MacLeod and those other characters who are linked to her. The scenarios are very believable.

My Rating: 4.7

I have also read 4.6, SINS OF THE DEAD

3 July 2020

Review: SINS OF THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

  • this book published in 2018
  • #13 in the Rhona MacLeod series
  • source: my local library - e-book on Libby
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The sins of the dead are all consuming . . .

While illegally street racing in the underground tunnels of Glasgow, four Harley-Davidson riders make a horrifying discovery: a dead man left in the darkness, hands together on his chest as if peacefully laid to rest. The cause of death is unclear, the only clues being a half glass of red wine and a partially eaten chunk of bread by his side that echo the ancient religious practice of sin-eating.

Called to the scene, forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod is perplexed by the lack of evidence. But when another body is found near her own flat, laid out in a similar manner, she fears a forensically aware killer stalks the city and is marking the victims with their unique signature. Even more worryingly, the killer appears to be using skills they may have learned while attending her forensic science lectures at Glasgow University.

There are signs that Rhona is being targeted, that the killer is playing with her and the police, drawing them into a deadly race against time, before the sin-eater’s next victim is chosen . .

My Take

I have paid the penalty of not starting on this series early enough, and I'll certainly be reading some more. I spent quite a bit of my reading time working out who the main characters are and what the relationships between them are.

The plot was intriguing and full of red herrings, and it wasn't until the final chapters that the identity of the killer becomes clear. Before that there were plenty of suspects.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Lin Anderson was born in Greenock of Scottish and Irish parents. A graduate of both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, she has lived in many different parts of Scotland and also spent five years working in the African bush. A teacher of Mathematics and Computing, she began her writing career in 2003. Her first film, Small Love, which was broadcast on STV, was nominated for TAPS writer of the year award 2001. Her African short stories have been published in the 10th Anniversary Macallan collection and broadcast on BBC Radio Four.

She is the founding member of the crime writing festival of Scotland- ‘Bloody Scotland’. The festival has encouraged many crime writers from all across Scotland to take part in it and display their views and ideas on how to use the Tartan Noir form at its best.

Rhona MacLeod
   1. Driftnet (2003)
   2. Torch (2004)
   3. Deadly Code (2005)
   4. Dark Flight (2007)
   5. Easy Kill (2008)
   6. Final Cut (2009)
   7. The Reborn (2010)
   8. Picture Her Dead (2011)
   9. Paths of the Dead (2014)
   10. The Special Dead (2015)
   11. None but the Dead (2016)
   12. Follow the Dead (2017)
   13. Sins of the Dead (2018)
   14. Time for the Dead (2019)
   15. The Innocent Dead (2020)
   Blood Red Roses (2005)

1 July 2020

What I read in June 2020

Another good reading month
My pick of the month is shared between
CALL ME EVIE, J. P. Pomare and
4.8, RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS, Peter Swanson
  1. 4.3, COLD CASE, Quentin Jardine
  2. 4.4, THE DARKNESS GATHERS, Lisa Unger
  3. 4.4, UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SKY, Anna Romer  
  4. 4.5, THE WEEKEND, Charlotte Wood - NOT crime fiction 
  5. 4.4, YOU DON'T KNOW ME, Sara Foster 
  6. 4.4, LONG WAY HOME, Eva Dolan
  7. 4.7, BRING OUT THE BODIES, Hilary Mantel - audio book  
  8. 4.8, CALL ME EVIE, J. P. Pomare
  9. 4.8, RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS, Peter Swanson  
  10. 4.4, THE PERFECT ROOMMATE, Minka Kent
  11. 4.5, GREENWOOD, Michael Christie - NOT crime fiction

6 months of reading

I have read 72 novels in the first 6 months of 2020
50% of the books have come through the library system,
one third are new-to-me authors,
40 % are British,
35 % are Australian authors,
40% are e-books


See reading challenges summary.
If you want to check the books see my reviews so far 
  • 2020 Good Reads Reading Challenge. I have set my challenge at 120. Currently:72
  • Good Reads A-Z of titles: Currently: 19
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Completed in 2014, titles read in 2020: 1
  • USA Fiction Challenge So far 29/51, this year: 7
  • 2020 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 27
  • 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 19
  • Read Around the World 2020: currently: 72
  • British Books Challenge 2020 currently 30
  • 2020 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 31 - these are read on Kindle and Libby
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently  24
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge currently 4
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge, currently 4
  • 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 4
  • Snagged at the Library currently: 38
  • Audio books: currently: 5
  • 2020 Historical Reading Challenge. Currently: 6

30 June 2020

Review: GREENWOOD, Michael Christie

  • this edition an e-book on Libby
  • Length:512pp
  • ISBN (13):9781925713855
  • Pub date:4 Feb 2020
  • source: my local library
  • 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize - Long-listed
Synopsis

‘The truth is that all family lines, from the highest to the lowest, originate somewhere, on some particular day. Even the grandest trees must’ve once been seeds spun helpless on the wind, and then just meek saplings nosing up from the soil.’

2038. On a remote island off the Pacific coast of British Columbia stands the Greenwood Arboreal Cathedral, one of the world’s last forests. Wealthy tourists flock from all corners of the dust-choked globe to see the spectacle and remember what once was. But even as they breathe in the fresh air and pose for photographs amidst the greenery, guide Jake knows that the forest is dying, though her bosses won’t admit it.

1908. Two passenger locomotives meet head-on. The only survivors are two young boys, who take refuge in a trapper’s cabin in a forest on the edge of town. In twenty-six years, one of them, now a recluse, will find an abandoned baby — another child of Greenwood — setting off a series of events that will change the course of his life, and the lives of those around him.

Structured like the rings of a tree, this remarkable novel moves from the future to the present to the past, and back again, to tell the story of one family and their enduring connection to the place that brought them together.

My Take

First of all, blog-followers, this is not crime fiction, although there are mysteries to be untangled.

In four generations, a family moves from tree fellers to tree preservers, and around their family the world begins to show the effects of this long term destruction of the world's resources.  Dust that results from the baring of the earth brings first great dust storms, then the Withering, and then finally a fungus that will destroy the last forests.

The story begins in 2038, on the outer ring, as it were, when planet Earth appears to be almost in its death throes, at an exclusive arboreal resort, a remote forested island in British Columbia where Pilgrims come to reconnect with an almost forgotten past.  From there the story jumps back 30 years, then back another 40, until we reach the centre of the family "tree", when the name Greenwood is born. Eventually story comes out through the rings and we come "full circle" and back to where we started. Little mysteries are solved, and the family saga takes on an almost linear aspect.

The novel is challenging to read, in that there is so much we are told, and so much we need to remember. The dystopian part, our future, is not pleasant to behold.

Rating: 4.5

About the author
Michael Christie is the author of the novel If I Fall, If I Die, which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Kirkus Prize, was selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and was on numerous best of 2015 lists. His linked collection of stories, The Beggar's Garden, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and won the Vancouver Book Award. His essays and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Globe and Mail. A former carpenter and homeless shelter worker, he divides his time between Victoria, British Columbia, and Galiano Island, where he lives with his wife and two sons in a timber-frame house that he built himself.

25 June 2020

Review: THE PERFECT ROOMMATE, Minka Kent

  • this edition published in 2018
  • ISBN 9-781983-487644
  • 197 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

She’s my roommate.

I know how she takes her tea, how she organizes her closet.

I know when she goes to bed each night, what she eats for breakfast, the passcode on her phone.

I know she calls her mother on Mondays, takes barre on Thursdays, and meets her friends for drinks on Fridays.

But more important than any of that … I know what she did.

My take

Meadow is a literature student looking for a cheap room to rent and when she moves in with Lauren Wiedenfeld she gets a lot more than she expects. Lauren is generous with her clothes, her friends and her money and Meadow feels unexpectedly welcome.

What she doesn't know is that Lauren and her friends have just been waiting for someone like her.

This is a pretty quick read, but an interesting plot. I'll be reading another by Minka Kent.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Minka Kent has been crafting stories since before she could scribble her name. With a love of the literary dark and twisted, Minka cut her teeth on Goosebumps and Fear Street, graduated to Stephen King as a teenager, and now counts Gillian Flynn, Chevy Stevens, and Caroline Kepnes amongst her favorite authors and biggest influences. Minka has always been curious about good people who do bad things and loves to explore what happens when larger-than-life characters are placed in fascinating situations.

23 June 2020

Review: RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS, Peter Swanson

  • format: e-book (Libby)
  • ISBN: 9780571342358
  • Publisher: Faber
  • Pub Date: March 2020
  • Page Extent: 320
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Eight classic murders.
A single crime obsessive.
Countless thrilling twists.

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie similarity to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled 'My Eight Favourite Murders,' and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list - which includes Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

My Take

This novel is presented as a memoir by the narrator, a record of things that have happened, but with names and identifying "characteristics ... changed to protect the innocent."

In the opening scene FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey enters the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston. She has rung to ensure that owner Malcolm Kershaw will be there as she wants to discuss with him. Some murders she is investigating remind her of the plot of Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders. She has found Mal Kershaw through a blog post he wrote some years earlier, a list titles "Eight Perfect Murders".
The books he listed were
The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
Malice Aforethought by Anthony Berkeley Cox
The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie
Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
Strangers on a Train By Patricia Highsmith
The Drowner by John D. MacDonald
Deathtrap by Ira Levin
The Secret History by Donna Tarrt

Now it appears that someone may be trying to reproduce the methodology that the list is based on.
Mulvey questions him about why each book was chosen, and they agree between them to re-read the books.
She leaves, saying she will be in touch.

A cleverly written book, in which we are not at all sure about Kershaw's reliability as the narrator.

My rating: 4.7

Author bio:

Peter Swanson's novels include The Girl With a Clock for a Heart, nominated for an LA Times book award, The Kind Worth Killing, a Richard and Judy pick and the iBooks store's thriller of the year in 2015, and, most recently, Before She Knew Him. He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts.

22 June 2020

Review: CALL ME EVIE, J. P. Pomare

  • this large print edition published by Hachette Australia 2018
  • ISBN 9-781525-299040
  • 467 pages
  • source: my local library
  • WINNER OF THE NGAIO MARSH AWARD BEST FIRST NOVEL 2019
    SHORTLISTED FOR THE ABIA MATT RICHELL AWARD 2020
    SHORTLISTED FOR THE NGAIO MARSH AWARD BEST NOVEL 2019
    LONGLISTED FOR THE NED KELLY AWARD BEST FIRST FICTION 2019
    LONGLISTED FOR THE ABIA GENERAL FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2020
Synopsis (publisher)

DON'T TRUST HIM. IT WASN'T ME. IT COULDN'T HAVE BEEN ME.

Meet Evie, a young woman held captive by a man named Jim in the isolated New Zealand beach town of Maketu. Jim says he's hiding Evie to protect her, that she did something terrible back home in Melbourne.

In a house that creaks against the wind, Evie begins to piece together her fractured memories of the events that led her here.

Jim says he's keeping her safe. Evie's not sure she can trust Jim, but can she trust her own memories?

My Take

This novel is written in two time frames, before and after. There are also two narrators. Which is the reliable one? We see things mainly from Evie's eyes and tend to trust her, but is that right? Is Jim really the untrustworthy, unreliable one?

Evie is not her real name, Jim is her uncle. or is he?

Early on, we piece together that they have come from Melbourne as a result of a traumatic event, that they are "on the run", that people are looking for them, that it is possibly her fault.

This was an incredible debut novel, one that will keep you trying to piece together what has really happened.

At the end of the novel interesting questions are provided for discussion in book groups.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.6, IN THE CLEARING 

19 June 2020

Review: BRING UP THE BODIES, Hilary Mantel - audio book

  • format: an audible book 
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Series: Wolf Hall Trilogy, Book 2
  • Length: 14 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 05-21-12
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks 
  • Costa Book of the Year, 2012
  • UK Author of the Year - Specsavers National Book Awards, 2012
  • Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2012
Synopsis (publisher)

By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith's son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church.

In Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn. This new novel is an audacious vision of Tudor England that sheds its light on the modern world.

My Take

This really is one of those books you could read again and again (as I have done) because there is always something "new" to absorb.

Henry VIII has an almost insurmountable problem: he is aging, and he does not have a legitimate male heir. Most of us know this story well but probably haven't realised that it played out over such a long period of time. Henry ruled England from 1509 to 1547. He was married to Katherine of Aragon for 20 years and Mary was their only legitimate child. By 1533, after 24 years of marriage, Katherine was unlikely to produce any more surviving children, so Henry had their marriage annulled, so he could marry Anne Boleyn. He married Anne in 1533 and had her beheaded for adultery and treason in 1536 after she had produced just one surviving child, a female, Elizabeth.

This book is the story of Anne's struggle for survival and the steps Henry took to secure a male heir.

My rating: 4.7

 I had reviewed this previously: 4.7, BRING UP THE BODIES

Thomas Cromwell Trilogy
   1. Wolf Hall (2009)
   2. Bring up the Bodies (2012)
   3. The Mirror And The Light (2020)

18 June 2020

Review: LONG WAY HOME, Eva Dolan

  • Published: 15 July 2014
  • ISBN: 9780099584391
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • #1  Zigic & Ferreira series
  • 400 pages
  • source: my local library as an e-book - Libby
Synopsis (publisher)

SILENCE HIDES THE WORST CRIMES

A man is burnt alive in a shed.
No witnesses, no fingerprints - only a positive ID of the victim as an immigrant with a long list of enemies.

Detectives Zigic and Ferreira are called in from the Hate Crimes Unit to track the killer, and are met with silence in a Fenland community ruled by slum racketeers, people-trafficking gangs and fear.

Tensions rise.
The clock is ticking.
But nobody wants to talk.

My Take:

This story is set in the Fenlands city of Peterborough where migrant workers have flooded into jobs in the town, in the factories, the building industry, the factories, and the pubs.

The newly created Hate Crimes Unit is called when a body is found to have been burnt in a garden shed doubling as accommodation. DI Zigic has a Serbian background, and DS Ferreira has Portuguese background.

Then the body is identified and is found to be related to another body discovered near some railway tracks, cut into pieces by a suburban train.

The investigative net gets wider and branches out into the migrant community where workers, some legal, some illegal, are being treated like slaves, and at the mercy racketeers, among simmering racial tension.

There are several authentic voices in the narration: the police, the owners of the shed, building site workers, and local petty criminals.

The final truth comes as a surprise.

This is the first title in a series that now has 5 titles:
   1. Long Way Home (2014)
   2. Tell No Tales (2015)
   3. After You Die (2016)
   4. Watch Her Disappear (2017)
   5. Between Two Evils (2020)

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Eva Dolan is an Essex-based copywriter and intermittently successful poker player. Shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger for unpublished authors when she was just a teenager, the first novels in her series starring two detectives from the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit, Long Way Home and Tell No Tales were published to widespread critical acclaim. Tell No Tales was shortlisted for the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year and the third in the series, After You Die, was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger.

14 June 2020

Review: YOU DON'T KNOW ME, Sara Foster

Synopsis (publisher)

Who killed Lizzie Burdett?

Lizzie Burdett was eighteen when she vanished, and Noah Carruso has never forgotten her. She was his first crush, his unrequited love. She was also his brother’s girlfriend.

Tom Carruso hasn’t been home in over a decade. He left soon after Lizzie disappeared under a darkening cloud of suspicion, and now he’s back for the inquest into Lizzie’s death – intent on telling his side of the story. As the inquest looms, Noah meets Alice Pryce on  holiday. They fall for each other fast and hard, but Noah can’t bear to tell Alice his deepest fears. And Alice is equally stricken – she carries a terrible secret of her own. Is the truth worth telling if it will destroy everything?

A stunning new thriller about the burden of shame from blockbuster author Sara Foster.

My Take

Alice Pryce reminds Noah Carruso of his brother's girlfriend Lizzie Burdett who vanished one night twelve years before. Alice is in Thailand teaching English and Noah is having a holiday before attending an inquest back in Australia called to finally resolve what happened to Lizzie.
They fall in love as if their lives depend on it. Both have secrets about what has happened to them in Australia, and Alice is planning never to return.

Noah puts off his return to Australia as long as he can, but eventually he must return to Australia for the inquest and to face his brother Tom. After Noah has left for home Alice gets a visit from the Australian High Commission which means she has to return too.

I kept wondering if this is really crime fiction, but in reality at least one crime needs to be resolved. But on another level it is a romance, but also an attempt to by the main characters to come to terms with shame and guilt.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.3, ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US

About the author
Sara Foster has written five critically acclaimed novels: Come Back to Me, Beneath the Shadows, Shallow Breath, All That is Lost Between Us and The Hidden Hours. She was born and raised in England, and moved to Australia in 2004. She lives in Perth with her husband and two children.

Find out more at:
www.sarafoster.com.au
www.facebook.com/sarafosterauthor
www.instagram.com/sarafosterauthor
www.twitter.com/sarajfoster


11 June 2020

Review: THE WEEKEND, Charlotte Wood

  • this edition sourced through my local library on Libby
  • published by Allen & Unwin, 2019
  • 272 pages
  • ISBN  9781760292010
  • Shortlisted ALS Gold Medal 2020 AU;
    Longlisted Miles Franklin Award 2020 AU;
    Shortlisted Stella Prize 2020 AU;
    Winner Literary Fiction Book of the Year, ABIA Awards 2020 AU;
    Shortlisted Best Fiction, Indie Book Awards 2020 AU
Synopsis (publisher)

People went on about death bringing friends together, but it wasn't true. The graveyard, the stony dirt - that's what it was like now . . . Despite the three women knowing each other better than their own siblings, Sylvie's death had opened up strange caverns of distance between them.

Four older women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three. Can they survive together without her?

They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur, Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual, and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they've remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for Christmas at Sylvie's old beach house - not for festivities, but to clean the place out before it is sold.

Without Sylvie to maintain the group's delicate equilibrium, frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface - and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good.

The Weekend explores growing old and growing up, and what happens when we're forced to uncover the lies we tell ourselves. Sharply observed and excruciatingly funny, this is a jewel of a book: a celebration of tenderness and friendship that is nothing short of a masterpiece.

My Take

First of all, this is NOT crime fiction (for those who follow my blog).

Four friends, now in their seventies, have met for years at Christmas at a beach house on the New South Wales coast. Now there are just three of them, and they are meeting to clean out the beach house in preparation for sale.
It becomes obvious that the glue that has held them together over the years is the owner of the beach house, the friend who has recently died.  And perhaps the things that separate them are bigger than the things that bind.
We find out rather a lot about their current situations, and also a lot about what has happened in their lives over the years.

A thought provoking read.

My rating:4.6

About the author
Charlotte Wood has been described as 'one of our most original and provocative writers'. She is the author of six novels and two books of non-fiction. Her bestselling novel, The Natural Way of Things, won the 2016 Stella Prize, the Indie Book of the Year and Indie Book Award for Fiction, was joint winner of the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction, and was published throughout Europe, the United Kingdom and North America. She has been twice shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, as well as many others for this and previous works. Her non-fiction books include The Writer's Room, a collection of interviews with authors about the creative process, and Love & Hunger, a book about cooking. She lives in Sydney with her husband.

8 June 2020

Review: UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SKY, Anna Romer

  • this large print edition published by Read How You Want
  • first published in Australia by Simon and Schuster 2019
  • 485 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-36932-454-2
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Chilling secrets buried deep in wild bushland drive this thrilling new novel from bestseller Anna Romer

When an injured teenager goes missing at a remote bushland campground, local journalist Abby Bardot is determined to expose the area’s dark history. The girl bears a striking resemblance to the victims of three brutal murders that occurred twenty years ago and Abby fears the killer is still on the loose.

But the newspaper Abby works for wants to suppress the story for fear it will scare off tourists to the struggling township. Haunted by her own turbulent memories, Abby is desperate to learn the truth and enlists the help of Tom Gabriel, a reclusive crime writer. At first resentful of Abby’s intrusion, Tom’s reluctance vanishes when they discover a hidden attic room in his house that shows evidence of imprisonment from half a century before.

As Abby and Tom sift through the attic room and discover its tragic history, they become convinced it holds the key to solving the bushland murders and finding the missing girl alive.

But their quest has drawn out a killer, someone with a shocking secret who will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

My Take

There are many mysteries to be solved in this novel with several story lines and the stories coming from several time frames. There are secrets to be uncovered. Abby Bardot has a history that she doesn't talk about, and there are several people who have hidden pasts. There is a man in jail for a murder he says he didn't commit. It all makes for a great tangle.

Underneath it all Abby the journalist wants to write about the secrets of Deep Water, about the girls who've disappeared, those who've died, and those who survived.

This book makes the reader work hard as the author changes the voice of the narrator almost at whim. There is little warning that this is going to happen and the narration can swap from third person to first person between paragraphs. There are at least four main narrators and several minor ones. I guess the intent is to make the reader aware of what particular characters are thinking, but it is not a device that I particularly like. In the earlier parts of the book I found it confusing.

Despite all that, an intriguing story, and one that kept me guessing.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Anna Romer was born in Australia to a family of booklovers. She led a nomadic life for many years, travelling around Europe and Britain in an ancient Kombi van where she discovered a passion for history.

These days she lives in a little old cottage surrounded by bushland, writing stories about dark family secrets, rambling houses, characters haunted by the past, and settings that feature the uniquely beautiful Australian landscape. Anna’s debut bestselling novel was Thornwood House, followed by Lyrebird Hill and Beyond the Orchard. See AnnaRomer.com.au

5 June 2020

Review: THE DARKNESS GATHERS, Lisa Unger

  • Release Date: 2003
  • Series: Lydia Strong #2
  • source my local library via Libby
  • author web site
Synopsis (author web site)

Fresh from a tour promoting her last case, reclusive true crime writer Lydia Strong receives an anonymous cry for help, begging her to find and protect Tatiana Quinn, "and all the other girls in need of rescue." Maybe the plea strikes close to her heart; maybe her investigator's intuition starts buzzing. She takes it on.

But this simple case of a missing teenager soon becomes much more. Someone wants Lydia to drop the case, someone powerful, someone anxious enough to engineer the re-appearance of one of Lydia's first--and most dangerous--adversaries. Now, in addition to tracing the roots of Tatiana's disappearance on a trail across the country and eventually overseas, Lydia must find the man who wants her dead, his unfinished business from years ago.

Excerpt

"The voice on the tape was thin and quavering. Lydia Strong had to rewind the tape and turn up the volume. In the background, she could hear the wet whisper of cars passing on rain-slicked roads and, once, the loud sharp blast of a semi's air horn. "It's Tatiana," the message began, followed by a nervous little noise that was somewhere between a giggle and a sob. "Are you there...please? I can't believe she's doing this to me." She went on in another language, something throaty and harsh, Eastern European-sounding. Then she switched back to English. "I'm not supposed to call anyone. I don't have much time. I'm somewhere in—" The connection was broken."

My Take

Tatiana Quinn, rebellious teenager, has disappeared from Miami and her billionaire father Nathan Quinn is anxious to get her back. So far attempts to find her have been unsuccessful. Crime writer Lydia Strong is contacted first of all by a message on her phone and then by a Florida detective who says he has something for her. Lydia doesn't usually take this sort of case on but this one appeals to her.

Once in Miami Lydia becomes convinced that the appeal and the subsequent tape recording have been sent to her by the Quinn's home help. Lydia is about to quiz her when a black Mercedes mows her down and kills her. Actions like this tend to make Lydia all the more convinced to continue her investigation. One of the police investigators disappears and then is found dead. Then the remaining investigator becomes unwilling to talk and advises Lydia and her partner Jeffrey Mark to drop the investigation and return to New York. It is obvious that there is much more to this case and to top it all Lydia becomes convinced that one or both of Tatiana's parents are involved.

Quite a long read, with a number of twisted plot strands.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.3, BLACKOUT
4.7, BEAUTIFUL LIES

2 June 2020

Review: COLD CASE, Quintin Jardine

  • this edition published by Headline Publishing Group 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-4722-3893-1
  • 370 pages
  • #30 in the Bob Skinner series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Is a killer still on the loose?

The thirtieth gritty mystery in Quintin Jardine's bestselling Bob Skinner series, not to be missed by readers of Ian Rankin and Peter May. Praise for Quintin Jardine's gripping novels: 'Well constructed, fast-paced, Jardine's narrative has many an ingenious twist and turn' Observer

When a murder investigation that's been closed for thirty years is suddenly re-opened, former Chief Constable Bob Skinner is quickly drawn into the action.

The story of the Body in the Quarry was well-known around Edinburgh all those years ago: a popular priest found dead in a frozen quarry; a suspect with a clear motive charged; a guilty verdict. But with a journalist uncovering new evidence, the cold case has come back to haunt Skinner's old mentor Jimmy Proud - and only one man can help him.

Skinner is long out of the police force, but he can't say no. With the clock ticking, and his friend's reputation at stake, he must uncover the truth to find out if an innocent man was convicted for murder. And if a killer is still on the loose . . .

My Take

I think I paid the penalty here of starting with #30 in a series. I was new to the characters and the relationships between them, and I had a hard time in particular with building a picture of ex-Chief Constable (Sir) Robert Skinner. He has started a new career as the director of a media company, has a family of varying ages, a wife who is the local pathologist, and still has a finger in many pies. He is held in high regard by the community and is immediately recognisable by members of the public.

The Bob Skinner series has produced 32 books since 1993 so I can only imagine the amount of background material that I have missed out on. The cold case in this book pre-dates Skinner's own career and new implicates the two men whom he regarded in high esteem and who were in fact his mentors. The man charged with killing the priest Matthew Ampersand actually took his own life in gaol but his family always regarded him as guilty. Skinner comes into the case as an investigator and tracks down both members of the dead man's family and members of the family of the convicted man. When the journalist who initiates the investigation first of all goes missing and then is found dead, the cold case coincides with the new one, and more resources are thrown at it, Skinner becomes the mentor of the senior policemen involved, and at the same time tries to protect the reputations of his own former members.

My rating probably reflects my lack of knowledge of the series rather than any shortcomings in the plot, but I was left wondering about the credibility of the scenario.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
4.2, INHUMAN REMAINS Primavera Blackstone #2

1 June 2020

What I read in April and May 2020

Like many people I have spent the isolation time of the Covid-19 virus catching up with my reading.
There are lots of good crime fiction reads around, and even when access to the library was restricted, I had some good reads from books already on my shelves or already on my Kindle.

April 2020
My pick of the month for April was
PEACE by Australian author Garry Disher along with
SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME by Craig Sisterson.
  1. 5.0, PEACE, Garry Disher  - Australian author & setting
  2. 4.7, RIGHT BEHIND YOU, Rachel Abbott  
  3. 4.5, THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN, Katherine Kovacic - Australian author & setting
  4. 4.8, THE GOOD TURN, Dervla McTiernan - Australian author
  5. 4.5, BOXED, Richard Anderson - Australian author & setting 
  6. 4.6, IN THE CLEARING, J. P. Pomare - Australian author & setting
  7. 4.3, THE BEEKEEPER, Stewart Giles
  8. 4.3, RETRIBUTION, Richard Anderson - Australian author & setting 
  9. 5.0, SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, Craig Sisterson - Australian and New Zealand crime fiction
  10. 4.5, THE SHIFTING LANDSCAPE, Katherine Kovacic - Australian author & setting 
  11. 4.4, TRUE WEST, David Whish-Wilson -  Australian author & setting,
  12. 4.8, WHAT LIES BETWEEN US, John Marrs 
May 2020
The good reads continued, with my pick going to MEMORY MAN by David Baldacci
 ( audio book was THE REMORSEFUL DAY by Colin Dexter, the last book in the Morse series)
  1. 4.1, GREY MASK, Patricia Wentworth
  2. 4.3, ELLY, Maike Wetzel
  3. 4.4, THE CASE IS CLOSED, Patricia Wentworth  
  4. 4.6, PAINTING IN THE SHADOWS, Katherine Kovacic
  5. 4.5, LONESOME ROAD, Patricia Wentworth 
  6. 4.4, THE GREAT DIVIDE, L. J. M. Owen - Australian author & setting
  7. 5.0, THE REMORSEFUL DAY, Colin Dexter - audio book 
  8. 4.4, THE APARTMENT, K.L. Slater
  9. 4.8, MEMORY MAN, David Baldacci  
  10. 4.4, DEATH IN OSLO, Anne Holt  - translated from Norwegian
  11. 4.4, LYCKE, Mikaela Bley - translated from Norwegian
  12. 4.4, HERCULE POIROT AND THE GREENSHORE FOLLY, Agatha Christie
See what others have read in these two months.

Pick of the Month April/May 2020

Some how I never got around to running this meme for April, so here it is for April and May.
I have been considering not doing it any more, mainly because so few people are contributing.
But here it is for another month.

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month
April & May 2020
Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for April and May 2020, 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.



29 May 2020

Review: HERCULE POIROT AND THE GREENSHORE FOLLY, Agatha Christie

  • this edition published by Harper Collins 2014
  • written but not published in 1954
  • see DEAD MAN'S FOLLY (1956)
  • ISBN 978-0-00-754639-8
  • source: my local library
  • 160 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

As a favour to an old friend, Hercule Poirot finds himself at a summer fete in Devon, taking part not in a Treasure Hunt, but a Murder Hunt, in this never-before-published novella version of Dead Man's Folly. Now released for the first time in print in this illustrated collector's edition.

Sir George and Lady Stubbs, the hosts of a village fĂȘte, hit upon the novel idea of staging a mock murder mystery. In good faith, Ariadne Oliver, the well known crime writer, agrees to organise their murder hunt. But at the last minute Ariadne calls her friend Hercule Poirot for his expert assistance. Instinctively, she senses that something sinister is about to happen…

In 1954, Agatha Christie wrote this novella with the intention of donating the proceeds to a fund set up to buy stained glass windows for her local church at Churston Ferrers, and she filled the story with references to local places, including her own home of Greenway. But having completed it, she decided instead to expand the story into a full-length novel, Dead Man's Folly, which was published two years later, and donated a Miss Marple story (Greenshaw's Folly) to the church fund instead.

Unseen for sixty years, Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly is finally published in this collector's hardback edition. The book includes a jacket painting, illustrations and exclusive introduction by Tom Adams, Agatha Christie's most famous cover artist, who is back illustrating Agatha Christie for the first time in more than 30 years.

My take

This edition was made all the more fascinating by the foreword from Tom Adams who illustrated the covers of so many Agatha Christie novels, a preface by her grandson Matthew Prichard, and an afterword by Christie apologist John Curran. These extras allow the reader to have an insight into the creation of this novella.

At the village fete Lady Hattie Stubbs, the hostess, disappears when she should have been doing something official. At the same time Ariadne Oliver's worst fears are realised when the victim of her mock murder mystery at the fete is found strangled. Later the gardener's father, who'd dropped a few cryptic lines into Hercule Poirot's ear, also dies. Lady Stubbs is never found and it is finally Hercule Poirot who works out what has happened to her, and just who Sir George Stubbs is.

This is longer than a short story, and about half the size of a full length novel.

My rating: 4.4

27 May 2020

Review: LYCKE, Mikaela Bley

  • this edition published by Scribe 2017
  • translated by Paul Norlen from Norwegian
  • ISBN 978-1-925322-06-4
  • source: review book from publisher
  • 336 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

Death, death, death,’ she whispered to herself. But it was already too late. The panic was growing inside her.

On a cold and stormy Friday in May, a young girl disappears without a trace from outside Stockholm’s Royal Tennis Hall.

The missing girl is Lycke, and assigned to report on her story is TV4’s hot-headed crime reporter Ellen Tamm. As the police begin their search, Ellen starts her own investigation, delving into Lycke’s life: her family, the nanny, the kids who taunted her at school.

As Ellen is drawn deeper into a tangle of secrets, lies, and betrayals — and frustrated by the odd behaviour of Lycke’s family, as well as corrupt police, her upstart new boss, and the disturbing threats being made against her — she becomes more and more possessed by the task she has been given, tortured by the echoes of her own past, of the darkness that haunts her.

Will she find Lycke before it is too late for either of them?

Mikaela Bley’s debut, Lycke, is the haunting first novel in the Ellen Tamm thriller series, and is an exciting new voice in Swedish crime writing.

My Take

Ellen's mother thinks she should never have taken on this assignment. It will remind her too much of the tragedy in her own life when she was the same age as the missing child.  Ellen is the crime reporter for a TV station and a missing child is not really a crime story - not, that is, until a body is found or an abduction suspected.

For Ellen though finding the child becomes personal. She feels that the police are not taking the situation seriously enough. She has her own paid source within the police but even he at times gets it wrong. Ellen works extraordinary hours, trying to come up with new angles to follow up.

As Ellen interviews the mother, the father, the stepmother and the nanny, she gets uncomfortable vibes. This is not a child who experienced a lot of love. But she is only 8 years old, from a middle class family, and already she has been the object of a custody battle.

As the investigation continues Ellen herself becomes to object of hate email, and a vendetta by viewers commenting on her presentations. Her own past is thrown in her face.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Sweden’s new Queen of Crime. Mikaela Bley is a new star among the Swedish crime stars, and with her debut, Lycke, she sweeps the floor with many of them.’
Mikaela Bley was born in 1979 and lives in Stockholm with her husband and two children.

25 May 2020

Review: WHAT LIES BETWEEN US, John Marrs

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2528 KB
  • Print Length: 371 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1542017025
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (May 15, 2020)
  • Publication Date: May 15, 2020
  • Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07XDVHDH4
Synopsis (Amazon)

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

My Take

This was a well deserved Amazon Best Book of the Month: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.
There is plenty of mystery and hints at some dreadful events.

Maggie is the mother. She has access to the top room in the house and the bathroom and dining room below. Nina has rooms on the first floor, the kitchen and the basement.  It is the house that Nina has lived in all her life and she remembers fondly when her father was with them, before he left.

The construction is clever: chapters separately narrated by Maggie and Nina, at the present time and about 25 years ago. The first puzzle though is who is the narrator in the prologue? I have just read it again, and I think I know.

When Nina was at school Maggie worked at a local clinic as a midwifery nurse. Now she is retired and Nina works at the local library. Maggie is invisible to the world. No-one knows that she lives in the house because Nina has told them she has dementia and is living with her sister in the country.

Like the other books I have read by this author, a very good and highly recommended read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.6, THE ONE
4.8, THE PASSENGERS

21 May 2020

Review: DEATH IN OSLO, Anne Holt

  • this edition published by Corvus 2016
  • Originally published in Norwegian in 2006
  • translated by Kari Dickson
  • setting Oslo January 2005
  • ISBN 978-1-7823909-5-4
  • #3 in the Vik & Stubo series 
Synopsis (publisher)

The gripping third instalment in Anne Holt's Vik/Stubo series. When the first female US president is kidnapped on a state visit to Norway, Johanne Vik and Adam Stubo must race against time to prevent a national security crisis.
Can the US president really just disappear into thin air...?

Helen Barclay, the first female of the United States, has been kidnapped on a state visit to Norway: it is up to the FBI and the Norwegian police to work together to find her. But their enemy is far more powerful than they could ever imagine.

The President's abduction represents the biggest threat to homeland security since 9/11. However, as Johanne Vik assists on the investigation she learns that the private life of President Barclay is also under attack. There are those who would stop at nothing to destroy the leader of the free world. And in a twist of fate, secrets from Johanne's own past are at risk of being revealed, jeopardising all she has worked for and endangering the lives of those she loves most...

My take

There are a few editing and plotting slips in this novel, not the least that between the covers the US President is Helen Bentley (not Barclay as stated on the dustjacket).

I had already "met" Joahnne Vik and Adam Stubo in a previous title in the series, and also Hanne Wilhelmson who becomes important in the second half of the novel in 1222.

The plot is an interesting one- the disappearance/kidnapping of the American President while on her first overseas state visit. Norway had been chosen because it was "friendly" and relatively small, but the President had chosen to come on Norway's National Day. In retrospect the visit was low key and the President was not accompanied by the huge entourage that had been expected. When she disappeared overnight from her hotel, the investigation becomes a struggle for power and control by the Oslo police, the FBI and the CIA.  Sightings of the President are at first numerous and then she disappears completely.

Despite some plot threads that for me were not sufficiently resolved, an engrossing read.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.8, 1222 - #8 in Hanne Wilhelmson series
4.5, THE FINAL MURDER- #2 in the Vik & Stubo series
4.5, A GRAVE FOR TWO -#1 in the Selma Falck series 

19 May 2020

review: MEMORY MAN, David Baldacci

  • originally published by Grand Central Publishing 2015
  • available through by local library as an e-book in Libby
  • 550 pages
  • #1 in the Amos Decker series
Synopsis (library)

Amos Decker would forever remember all three of their violent deaths in the most paralyzing shade of blue. It would cut into him at unpredictable moments, like a gutting knife made of colored light. He would never be free from it. When Amos Decker returned home eighteen months ago to find the bodies of his wife and only daughter, he didn't think he could carry on living. Overwhelmed with grief, he saw his life spiral out of control, losing his job as a detective, his house and his self-respect.

But when his former partner in the police, Mary Lancaster, visits to tell him that someone has confessed to the murder of his family, he knows he owes it to his wife and child to seek justice for them. As Decker comes to terms with the news, tragedy strikes at the local school. Thirteen teenagers are gunned down, and the killer is at large.

Following the serious brain injury Amos suffered as a professional footballer, he gained a remarkable gift - and the police believe that this unusual skill will assist in the hunt for the killer. Amos must endure the memories he would rather forget, and when new evidence links the murders, he is left with only one option...

My take

In the 18 months since his brother in law, wife, and daughter were murdered Amos Decker has let himself go. He was a detective in the police at the time, but eventually they had to let him go.

This novel begins with someone confessing to his family's murder, and his former detective partner from Burlington C.I.D contacting him with the news. Later this person retracts his confession, but by then Amos has been seconded as a consultant when a gunman has killed 13 people at the local high school. For Amos Decker is a man with special qualities: he is a detective who get results. He asks the questions who asks the questions no-one else seems to think of asking.

The turning point comes when the police discover that the gun used in the high school massacre is the gun that was used to shoot his wife eighteen months earlier. Amos realises that the shooting at the school is somehow about him.

An engrossing read, despite the fact that it is a very long book.Well plotted and believable, well almost.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
THE WHOLE TRUTH
4.4, THE FIX - Amos Decker #3 

17 May 2020

review: THE APARTMENT, K. L. Slater

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3750 KB
  • Print Length: 266 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1542023912
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 28, 2020)
  • Publication Date: April 28, 2020
  • Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B082HRWHG8
Synopsis  (Amazon)

It’s an opportunity she can’t refuse. The woman before her tried…

Freya Miller needs a miracle. In the fallout of her husband’s betrayal, she’s about to lose her family home, and with it the security she craves for her five-year-old daughter, Skye. Adrift and alone, she’s on the verge of despair until a chance meeting with the charismatic Dr Marsden changes everything. He’s seeking a new tenant for a shockingly affordable flat in a fashionable area of London.

Adder House sounds too good to be true… But Freya really can’t afford to be cynical, and Dr Marsden is adamant she and Skye will be a perfect fit with the other residents.

But Adder House has secrets. Even behind a locked front door, Freya feels as if she’s being watched: objects moving, unfamiliar smells, the blinking light of a concealed camera… and it’s not long before she begins to suspect that her dream home is hiding a nightmarish reality. Was it really chance that led her here—or something unthinkably dark?

As the truth about Adder House starts to unravel, can Freya and Skye get out—or will they be locked in forever?

My take

Freya Miller, in desperate need of somewhere to live, meets Dr Michael Marsden in a coffee shop when he is ostensibly there to pin up a notice about an apartment he has on offer. As we quickly find out, although she is not aware of it, he is there to meet Freya and make her an offer she can't refuse.

Taking the apartment means a change of schools for Skye, which the little girl is not happy with, but there seem to be so many advantages. Dr Marsden and his wife are overwhelming with their generosity, and they quickly make friends with a couple of other residents. But from the beginning there are things that make Freya uncomfortable. A times she wonders if she is losing her mind, and then she learns of Sofia, the person who lived in the apartment before her.

There are some truly creepy parts of the story: noises at night, furniture in Skye's room being moved around, someone taking photos of Skye over the school fence. But it just falls short of hitting the spot. About two thirds of the way through, I picked who the person not to be trusted was, but not the reason why. Nor had I figured out the reason behind the occasionally inserted journal entries by Beatrice.

However the book remained very readable to the end.

When I read the blurb for this book, I was struck by the idea that it might resemble a book I read last year: LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager. But really there was no real similarity in the plot.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
K. L. Slater is the million-copy bestselling author of nine standalone psychological crime thrillers. Kim is a full-time writer. She lives with her husband in Nottingham.

16 May 2020

review: THE REMORSEFUL DAY, Colin Dexter - audio book

  • format: audio book from Audible
  • Narrated by: Samuel West
  • Series: Inspector Morse Mysteries, Book 13
  • Originally published 1999
  • Length: 10 hrs and 5 mins
    Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 12-14-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio
Synopsis (Audible)

'Where does this all leave us, sir?'

'Things are moving fast.'

'We're getting near the end, you mean?'

'We were always near the end.'

The murder of Yvonne Harrison had left Thames Valley CID baffled. A year after the dreadful crime they are still no nearer to making an arrest. But one man has yet to tackle the case - and it is just the sort of puzzle at which Chief Inspector Morse excels.

So why is he adamant that he will not lead the re-investigation, despite the entreaties of Chief Superintendent Strange and dark hints of some new evidence? And why, if he refuses to take on the case officially, does he seem to be carrying out his own private enquiries?

For Sergeant Lewis this is yet another example of the unsettling behaviour his chief has been displaying of late....

My Take

This is the last of the Morse series and again another excellent novel, and another excellent narration by Samuel West.

Morse met Yvonne Harrison when he was in hospital last and he fell for her, and she for him.
Her murder comes when he is involved in another case and he initially won't take on the case and is fully aware of a conflict of interest. But he continues to take an interest in it, and when a second murder happens he agrees to become involved.

Lewis finds Morse's attitude hard to fathom and he worries about how involved Morse actually was with Yvonne Harrison, particularly after he discovers part of a letter that Morse sent to her.

This was also virtually the last of Colin Dexter's novels although he remained involved in the television series Lewis and Endeavour. Like the earlier novels in the series, it gave Dexter the chance to display his erudite knowledge and literary skills. These are not just police procedurals but display complicated interweaving of plot threads and character development.

Colin Dexter died in 2017. He won many awards for his novels and in 1997 was presented with a well deserved CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature. I think he raised crime fiction writing to a real literary level.

My rating: 4.9

I've also read
4.3, INSPECTOR MORSE: BBB Radio Collection
4.5, THE SECRET OF ANNEXE THREE - #7
4.6, THE WENCH IS DEAD -#8
4.3, SERVICE OF ALL THE DEAD - #4
4.4, LAST SEEN WEARING - #2
4.6, THE RIDDLE OF THE THIRD MILE - #6
4.6, THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS - #9
4.8. THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS - #10
4.7, THE DAUGHTERS OF CAIN - #11,
4.7, DEATH IS NOW MY NEIGHBOUR - #12 

Review: THE GREAT DIVIDE, L.M.J. Owen

  • this edition published by Echo Publishing 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-76068-582-9
  • 295 pages
  • source: review book from publisher
Synopsis (Allen & Unwin)

A city detective hunts a killer through a fog of lies in small town Tasmania.
Twisted Secrets. Hidden Victims. Monstrous Crimes.

In the rural Tasmanian town of Dunton, the body of a former headmistress of a children's home is discovered, revealing a tortured life and death.

Detective Jake Hunter, newly arrived, searches for her killer among past residents of the home. He unearths pain, secrets and broken adults. Pushing aside memories of his own treacherous past, Jake focuses all his energy on the investigation. Why are some of the children untraceable? What caused such damage among the survivors?

The identity of her murderer seems hidden from Jake by Dunton's fog of prejudice and lies, until he is forced to confront not only the town's history but his own nature...

My Take

Detective Jake Hunter has the dual disadvantages of being a city boy, and of being from the mainland. He senses, as he begins the investigation into the murder of Ava O'Brien, that the local residents of Dunton have a lot they could tell him, but they are not going to.

The story begins with the disappearance of a 10 year old boy from a local camping ground. When he  is found he tells Jake Hunter that he saw a monster. This is Jake's first case in Dunton and not at all what he was expecting. He is saddled with a local counsellor representing victims of crime, who just happens to be the daughter of his new station head, Aiden Kelly.

When he eventually comes across the body of Ava O'Brien in a derelict orchard, he finds that she has horrific injuries including genital mutilation. He learns that she was in charge of the local home for "bad girls" and that there are at least two girls who used to live there who have been adopted by locals.

Eventually Jake solves the crime, but the story is grisly, almost unbelievable, of corruption and exploitation all centred on the girls home that Ava O'Brien ran.

This novel represents a change of direction for Australian author L.J.M. Owen, and presumably the start of a new series. Jake Hunter has come to Tasmania to make a new start, to leave behind in Melbourne a life that just became too complicated. He was looking forward to a new, quiet, role as a country copper, but that isn't what he got.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.4, OLMEC OBITUARY

About the author
Dr L.J.M. Owen has degrees in archaeology, forensic science and librarianship. She speaks five languages and has travelled extensively through Europe and Asia. L.J. was inspired to write the Dr Pimms series by the neglected women's stories she discovered between the cracks of popular archaeology. Three books in this series have been published by Echo Publishing. L.J.'s new novel, The Great Divide, introduces a new story world and characters. L.J. is also the Festival Director of the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival, a celebration of literature and literacy in southern Tasmania, and divides her time between Canberra and southern Tasmania.

11 May 2020

Review: LONESOME ROAD, Patricia Wentworth

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 466 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; New Ed edition (December 13, 2007)
  • originally published 1939
  • Publication Date: December 13, 2007
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004GKMTPY
  • #3 Miss Silver series
Synopsis (Amazon)

There were times when Rachel Treherne fervently wished that her beloved father had left his fortune to somebody else, so overburdened did she feel with the administration of her estate. And never more so than now for, although she was surrounded by relatives who depended on her, whom she loved and who must surely love her, there was no doubt in her mind that somebody was trying to kill her. Threatening letters could be ignored, odd tasting chocolates can be rejected, but when snakes are left in her bed, Rachel is convinced that someone means her terrible harm. Her only chance of a future life lay with Miss Silver, and Miss Silver was well on the way to unmasking the murderer when they struck again.

A terrified young woman asks Miss Silver for help unmasking someone who has threatened her life. Rachel Traherne has been receiving menacing letters about her deceased father’s fortune. The first two letters were vague; the third said simply, “Get ready to die".


My Take

This was the third in the Miss Silver mysteries, published just 2 years after THE CASE IS CLOSED.
Rachel Treherne has been given Miss Silver's contact details by Hilary Carew who was at the centre of that case.

Miss Silver agrees to visit Rachel at home and to see the situation for herself. They bring the date of Miss Silver's visit forward by a day when snakes are left in Rachel's bed. And, in case there was any doubt her life was under threat, someone attempts to kill her on the very night Miss Silver arrives.

Miss Silver ends up being no mere observer in this case, often taking a very active role in the investigation. Rachel has a number of people very heavily dependent on her, some harbouring a grievance that they did not do better under her father's will, and some resenting that Rachel has been left in charge of so much wealth.

A very readable story, that keeps the reader going with the desire to understand what is actually happening.

For those looking for a comparison between Miss Silver and Agatha Christie's Miss Marple: the similarities end with the grey hair and the knitting in the lap. Miss Silver is a much more organised and systematic detective, free with her advice, and willing to take active steps to follow the investigation through. Miss Marple is more an observer after events have occurred, always comparing her observations with her memories of village life. While Miss Marple often predicts outcomes, she rarely takes active interventive steps (although I am sure you can think of exceptions here)

My rating: 4.5

I have also read
4.4, THE TRAVELLER'S RETURN
4.2, WEEKEND WITH DEATH
4.1, GREY MASK
4.4, THE CASE IS CLOSED 

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