22 August 2019

Review: SISTERS, Gabrielle Lord

Synopsis (publisher)

Sydney screenwriter Greta Maitland’s life crashes at the arrival of the postcard from Crete:

‘Sorry to tell you this, but your sister Xanthe has been missing since May. Police have found no trace….’

Greta immediately flies to Crete to continue the stalled investigation, but there, runs into deceit; the Cretan police officer deliberately mistranslates her questions; Xanthe’s lover lies … more and more disturbing facts emerge about her sister and Greta’s growing suspicions about her husband seem confirmed.

In the ancient house inherited by the sisters, where Xanthe had first been living, Greta notices a faintly penciled phone number surrounded by a love heart, missed by the police and this leads her to the beautiful Etz Hayyim synagogue in Chania, and to her sister’s secret lover.

Using only Xanthe’s damaged artist’s journal and paintings as possible leads, and with earthquakes threatening, Greta must uncover the extraordinary events that have led to her sister’s disappearance. But can her marriage survive such betrayal? And can Greta herself survive the earthquakes in Crete, both emotional and physical, and their shattering consequences?

My Take

While there is plenty of mystery in this story, it is not crime fiction.

Greta's husband Magnus tells her that he has arranged a holiday for them on the French Riviera and almost immediately two things happen which throw those plans aside. First of all her mother, in the last stage of Alzheimers' dies; and then a postcard arrives telling her that her sister Xanthe who has been in Crete for three years is missing. Immmediately after her mother's funeral Greta flies out to Crete to look for her sister.

Almost immediately things back in Australia go awry. Magnus' career as Assistant Police Commissioner in New South Wales goes into jeopardy, he is unable to cope with his teenage daughter and young son, and Greta's publisher wants her next script.

In Crete Greta manages to find out what the police know about her sister's disappearance and she starts to look for clues about where she might be.  On the phone from Australia her husband Magnus becomes increasingly angry and at the same time very distant.

So this is a mystery rather than crime fiction. I found it a difficult read sometimes, a bit too philosophical, and several times was on the verge of giving up.

In March this year Gabrielle Lord wrote
Sisters is finally making its way into the shops.  It's been a long process, held up by unforeseen circumstances but now I'm hoping it goes out into the world and is well received.  This is the worry time for writers.  Will people like it?  Will it be well reviewed? Will it sell?  I'm hopeful that such a good story, well-researched --I lived in Crete for months in the northwest town of Kissamos where the story is set in order to get things right -- well, as right as a non-resident is able, with strong characters, facing difficult choices and often in some danger, create a novel which has been described as 'unputdownable'.  Wilkinson publishing has been very supportive (thank you Jess!) and although it's been a 'difficult birth', the result makes me happy.  I hope it'll bring the same satisfaction to all my readers.

I think maybe it was the depth of research that got in the way of my enjoyment. At times it read like a travelogue. But read it for yourself.

My rating: 4.2

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18 August 2019

Review: SNAP, Belinda Bauer

  • this edition published by Penguin UK 2018
  • ISBN 9781784160852
  • 434 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)


On a stifling summer's day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack's in charge, she'd said. I won't be long.
But she doesn't come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge - of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they're alone in the house, and - quite suddenly - of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

My Take

August 1998. The broken down car is parked on the side of the highway and Jack's pregnant mother has walked to the emergency phone to get help. But when Jack takes his sisters to find his mother, she is not there.

Three years later Jack's devastated father has walked out and Jack is trying to feed his sisters by stealing from local houses. The children are no longer going to school and he and his sisters are barely surviving.

A new neighbour has moved in next door. Her son is a policeman and she is a bit nosy.

Detective Chief Inspector John Marvel has been newly appointed to the West Country because of various failures when he was in London investigating murders. He feels he has been demoted, out in the cold, and now he is expected to take charge of the investigation of burglaries.

But there is much more to this case than he anticipated.

I enjoyed the development of the characters in this story and the way the storyline progressed.
I wonder if we will see more of John Marvel?

My rating: 4.8

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15 August 2019

Review: FORGET MY NAME, J S Monroe

  • this edition published by Head of Zeus, 2018
  • ISBN 9-781786-698056
  • 419 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)
She arrived into Heathrow after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen. Her whole life was in there - passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn't remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she is at the door of Tony and Laura, a young couple living in Wiltshire. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before. One of them is lying. But which one?

My Take

Tony and Laura feel sorry for the young woman standing on their doorstep and invite her to stay overnight in the hope that her memory will return. Tony says she looks like a Jemma, so that is the name they call her by. Jemma is carrying a small suitcase but there is no clue about who she is.

They take her to see a local doctor who thinks she recognises her. Jemma is diagnosed with a form of amnesia. Susie, the doctor, messages Laura warning her that she should be very careful about their house guest. At the local pub a man called Luke thinks he also recognises Jemma but is not sure from where.

After the doctor's message Laura becomes less comfortable with Jemma staying in the house.

An engrossing read where the tension builds as more clues accumulate about Jemma's possible identity.

I thought there was a bit of a hitch about midway through the book, and wasn't entirely happy with the final plot resolution.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

J.S.Monroe is the pen name of Jon Stock, author of five acclaimed spy novels and 'To Snare a Spy', a spy novella.

Jon lives in Wiltshire with his wife and three children. After reading English at Cambridge University, he worked as a freelance journalist in London, writing features for most of Britain's national newspapers, as well as contributing regularly to BBC Radio 4. He was also chosen for Carlton TV's acclaimed screenwriters course. Between 1998 and 2000, he was Delhi correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, and he also wrote the Last Word column in The Week Magazine (India) from 1995, when he lived in Cochin, South India, to 2012.

12 August 2019

Review: 55, James Delargy

  • this edition published by Simon and Schuster UK 2019
  • ISBN: 978-14-7118-463-5
  • 423 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

There were 54 victims before this. Who is number 55? A thriller with a killer hook, and an ending that will make you gasp!

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.
He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

James Delargy has written one of the most exciting debuts of 2019. He masterfully paints the picture of a remote Western Australian town and its people, swallowed whole by the hunt for a serial killer.

My Take

Two stories are told in tandem. One from the present and one from ten years ago.

In the story from ten years ago a young man is missing in the bush and two very new policemen are heading the search party in the rough country near Wilbrook.

Now, ten years on, one of the policemen is the Sergeant at the Wilbrook station when a an injured man arrives, claiming to have been captured and imprisoned by a serial killer. Two days later another man turns up with the same story.

The second policeman is now the Inspector at the Port Headland station and he and his officers turn up to take on the investigation at Wilbrook. There is a lot of animosity between the two, largely stemming from their experiences ten years before.

This novel reads as if the author is Australian and I was surprised to realise that he is not.
A good read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives. He incorporates this diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. 55 is his first novel.

11 August 2019

Review: CLOSED CASKET, Sophie Hannah - audio book

  • audio book - unabridged,
  • narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt
  • source: my local library
  • length: 10 hours
  • publisher: www.harperaudio.com 
  • published 2016
Synopsis:  Audible.com

Hercule Poirot returns in another brilliant murder mystery that can be solved only by the eponymous Belgian detective and his 'little grey cells'.

'What I intend to say to you will come as a shock....'

Lady Athelinda Playford has planned a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering. As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will - one she intends to announce at dinner that night. She has decided to cut off her two children without a penny and leave her fortune to someone who has only weeks to live....

Among Lady Playford's guests are two men she has never met - the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited...until Poirot starts to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike. But why does she seem so determined to provoke in the presence of a possible killer?

When the crime is committed in spite of Poirot's best efforts to stop it, and the victim is not who he expected it to be, will he be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery?

Following the phenomenal global success of The Monogram Murders, which was published to critical acclaim following a coordinated international launch in September 2014, international best-selling crime writer Sophie Hannah has been commissioned by Agatha Christie Limited to pen a second fully authorised Poirot novel. The new audiobook marks the centenary of the creation of Christie's world-famous detective, Hercule Poirot, introduced in her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles

My Take

I have been a bit staggered to work out that I actually read the printed version of this novel 3 years ago. That didn't occur to me at all during this excellent rendition, so maybe it didn't make much of an impact on me.

The novel is a bit long winded, with an almost impenetrable mystery, lots of reasons why people would murder the victim, lots of red herrings.

I've given up thinking about whether Sophie Hannah writes well in the vein of Agatha Christie or not. I think this novel has a few questionable things: for example Hercule Poirot cheerfully crosses the Irish Sea - when we all know that Christie's detective suffered atrociously from "mal de mer".

It does have one characteristic of a Christie novel: a very long meeting between Poirot and all the other characters in which he reveals who the murderer is and how it was done.
The emphasis in the novel is on Poirot's interest in psychology and the "why' rather than the "how."

Nevertheless perfectly acceptable listening if you have 10 hours or so to spare.

My Rating: 4.4

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4.2, CLOSED CASKET (printed version)

8 August 2019

Review: TRANSCRIPTION, Kate Atkinson

  • this edition published by Little, Brown and Company (large print) 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-316-45331-8
  • 445 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

'Think of it as an adventure, Perry had said right at the beginning of all this.And it had seemed like one. A bit of a lark, she had thought. A Girls' Own adventure.'

In 1940, 18-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realise that there is no action without consequence.

Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of this country's most exceptional writers.

My Take

It is fascinating how many books recently published relate to World War II and are set at the start of the war.

This novel really has 3 points in time: 1940, 1950 and 1981. I will leave you to discover for yourself how those dates fit in, but it is most written from the point of view of 1950, after the War when Juliet is employed by the BBC and thinks she sees someone from her MI5 past, someone she thought she knew well, but he tells her she is mistaken.

In 1940 Juliet thinks her job of transcribing conversations from recordings is pretty boring and lacking in importance. However she does at times act in an undercover role, sometimes as a decoy, and while some of her colleagues know what is going on, Juliet seems blissfully ignorant. Nasty things happen in 1940 but then that period passes and then the war ends. After the war Juliet passes from MI5 to work st the BBC but occasionally MI5 ask favours of her.

There is a touch of "Red Joan" about this story.
Very readable, if at times a little confusing.

My rating: 4.4

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