24 July 2021

Review: THE MARLOW MURDER CLUB, Robert Thorogood

  • This edition published by Harper Collins UK 2021
  • ISBN 9-78008-43590-5
  • 338 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

To solve an impossible murder, you need an impossible hero…

Judith Potts is seventy-seven years old and blissfully happy. She lives on her own in a faded mansion just outside Marlow, there’s no man in her life to tell her what to do or how much whisky to drink, and to keep herself busy she sets crosswords for The Times newspaper.

One evening, while out swimming in the Thames, Judith witnesses a brutal murder. The local police don’t believe her story, so she decides to investigate for herself, and is soon joined in her quest by Suzie, a salt-of-the-earth dog-walker, and Becks, the prim and proper wife of the local Vicar.

Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club.

When another body turns up, they realise they have a real-life serial killer on their hands. And the puzzle they set out to solve has become a trap from which they might never escape…

My Take

I have categorised this novel as "geezer lit" - a sub-genre of mystery crime fiction in which "old geezers" are the principal characters, usually as amateur sleuths. (see this link for further examples). The authors themselves often fall into the "old geezer" category too.

Judith, Suzie and Becks work with a local police woman to find the murderer first of Judith's "neighbour" and then of the two subsequent murders that take place in the small Thames village of Marlow.

The reading audience is probably those who are "of an age" and like their cozies. I found the story entertaining. Under the leadership of Judith, a 77 year old who likes swimming in the Thames naked on a summer's night, the trio investigate a number of suspects and commit some very audacious acts. I enjoyed participating vicariously with them.

My rating: 4.4

About the author 

Robert Thorogood is the creator of the hit BBC One TV series DEATH IN PARADISE.He was born in Colchester, Essex, in 1972. When he was 10-years old, he read his first proper novel – Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House – and he’s been in love with the genre ever since.He now lives in Marlow in Buckinghamshire with his wife, children and an increasingly cranky Bengal cat called Daniel.

20 July 2021

Review: THE COFFINMAKER'S GARDEN, Stuart MacBride

  • this edition an e-book through Libby, through my local library
  • #4 in the Oldcastle Novels
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins (January 7, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 7, 2021
  • length: 494 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

A house of secrets…
As a massive storm batters the Scottish coast, Gordon Smith’s home is falling into the sea. The trouble is: that’s where he’s been hiding the bodies.

A killer on the run…
It’s too dangerous to go near the place, so there’s no way of knowing how many people he’s murdered. Or how many more he’ll kill before he’s caught.

An investigator with nothing to lose…
As more horrors are discovered, ex-detective Ash Henderson is done playing nice. He’s got a killer to catch, and God help anyone who gets in his way.

My Take

It is years (before I began this blog) since I have read any Stuart MacBride novels. This one is particularly macabre. 

The headland that Gordon Smith's house is sitting on begins to disintegrate and fall into the sea. As the land breaks away bones buried under the house and in the surrounding land become visible. 

Gordon Smith himself has disappeared but in his basement are before and after photos of his victims.

Nobody wants this case and it is assigned to the "Misfit Mob". Henderson is actually working as a private consultant for Police Scotland alongside his friend and housemate Dr Alice McDonald, a clinical psychologist. Their team is in pursuit of one serial killer, who is taking and abusing children.

Alice continues to profile the child killer while Ash is drafted to work on the second case, alongside DS Franklin of the Misfit Mob.

There is a lot going on in this novel, a huge cast of characters, and not everyone is a squeaky clean policeman.

My rating: 4.4 

I have previously read

COLD GRANITE, Stuart Macbride, my rating 4.8
Aberdeen, oil capital of Europe … Christmas is coming, cold, dark and wet, bringing death with it.
It's DS Logan McRae's first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and it couldn't get much worse. Four-year-old David Reid's body is discovered in a ditch, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. There's a killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood.
If that wasn't enough, Logan also has to contend with a new boss, DI Insch, who doesn't suffer fools gladly and thinks everyone's a fool, and his own ex-girlfriend, the beautiful but chilly Isobel MacAlister, who also happens to be the chief pathologist. The only good news is WPC 'Ball Breaker' Watson, Logan's new guardian angel.
The dead are piling up in the morgue almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going missing. More are going to die. If Logan isn't careful, he's going to end up joining them.
Very readable. Black humour mixed in with the serious stuff about the world of crime and child abuse. Interesting thread about how Colin Miller from the press is getting his information and the effect that the press can have on an investigation.

17 July 2021

Review: THE LAST GIRL, Jane Casey

  • This edition an e-book on my Kindle  (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B007W1BVM6
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 24, 2012
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1468 KB
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 484 pages 
  • #3 in the Maeve Kerrigan series

Synopsis (Amazon)

The teenage girl was the first victim.

Her throat cut to the bone, she didn’t stand a chance.

Her mother was the second.

She, at least, had time to fight back. Briefly.

Called to the South London crime scene, Maeve Kerrigan’s first thought is that this is a domestic dispute gone bad. But the husband – found bloody and unconscious in an upstairs room – insists he’s the third victim not the killer. However, the only witness is his young daughter. And she’s not talking...

My take

Their boss Superintendent Godley is waiting for DI Josh Derwent and DC Maeve Kerrigan when they arrive at the murder scene, for the husband, who was not killed is a well known QC, Philip Kennford. Right from the beginning Maeve feels they are not being told all there is to know. A mother and one of her 15 year old twin daughters have been killed and the other twin is not talking. The father is abrasive, waiting for the police to make wrong moves.

It turns out to be a very complex case and Superintendent Godley is also managing a second case related to conflict between rival gangs. Maeve is managing her new relationships with her misogynistic DI as well as a new live in partner.

As you can see from my list below I have missed out on reading some of the titles in the series, so I'm trying to catch up, but it is playing around with my sense of continuity, although in the major sense each title can be read as a stand-alone.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

6 July 2021

Review: WHEN YOU ARE MINE, Michael Robotham

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08BWVTNCQ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Sphere (24 June 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1021 KB
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 375 pages
  • Best Sellers Rank: 4 in Kindle Store

Synopsis (Amazon)

From the multi-million-copy bestselling author behind THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, a major BBC series, comes a gripping new standalone thriller

Philomena McCarthy has defied the odds and become a promising young officer with the Metropolitan Police despite being the daughter of a notorious London gangster. Called to the scene of a domestic assault, she rescues a young woman, Tempe Brown, the girlfriend of a decorated detective. The incident is hushed up, but Phil has unwittingly made a dangerous enemy with powerful friends.

Determined to protect each other, the two women strike up a tentative friendship. Tempe is thoughtful and sweet and makes herself indispensable to Phil, but sinister things keep happening and something isn't quite right about the stories Tempe tells. When a journalist with links to Phil's father and to the detective is found floating in the Thames, Phil doesn't know where to turn, who to blame or who she can trust.

My take

In the Acknowledgements at the end of this novel, Robotham, after reminding us he has been publishing crime fiction for twenty years, talks about what keeps him writing. 

With each subsequent novel, I have always strived to push myself as a writer, using different tenses, new voices, and dual narratives. This is also one of the reasons that I write occasional standalone novels like WHEN YOU ARE MINE because it challenges me to come up with new characters and to explore new lives.

This is a novel about domestic abuse, toxic friendships and the baggage that all families carry with them.

 And those words so perfectly sum up what keeps me reading his novels too. I know he will always come up with something fresh, even when other writers are touching on the same topics. (I seem recently to have been read a number of novels about toxic friendships for example: GREENWICH PARK by Katherine Faulkner, THE OTHER PASSENGER by Louise Candlish) But there is much more to this novel.

A great read! Well done Michael.

After winning the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel in 2015 for LIFE OR DEATH and then in 2020 for GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL, Michael Robotham has this year (2021) won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller for WHEN SHE WAS GOOD.

If you haven't yet begun reading him, now is the time to start!

My Rating: 5.0

I've also read

BOMBPROOF
SHATTER #3
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME #4
5.0, THE WRECKAGE #5
4.8, SAY YOU'RE SORRY #6
5.0, WATCHING YOU #7
4.8, IF I TELL YOU... I'LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger
4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES
5.0, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS
5.0, THE SUSPECT #1 (audio)
4.8, LOST #2 (audio)
5.0, THE OTHER WIFE

4.8, GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL -#1
4.8, WHEN SHE WAS GOOD -#2  

 

1 July 2021

Review: MURDER AT THE VICARAGE, Agatha Christie

  • This edition a kindle e-book (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0046H95N6
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins; Masterpiece Ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • First published 1930
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 305 pages
  • #1 in the Miss Marple series

Synopsis  (Amazon)

Agatha Christie’s first ever Miss Marple mystery, reissued with a striking cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

’Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a service!’

It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later. From seven potential murderers, Miss Marple must seek out the suspect who has both motive and opportunity.

My take

This is the first time I have read this title in 12 years and I was a little surprised at how much I have forgotten or perhaps mis-remembered. I think my memory is a little clouded by the fact that I have probably seen about 3 television versions of the story in that time, and each one of those has tampered with or embellished the story.

This is the first Miss Marple novel although she had been introduced to readers in short story in 1927. Basically she is an elderly spinster living in St. Mary Mead, with apparently little experience of life outside the village. She has already figured in solving small village mysteries in the past, but the Vicar and his wife both regard her as a busy body, although more astute than most.

Colonel Protheroe, an extremely unpleasant and unpopular character,  is found murdered in the same vicar's study, and two different people confess to the crime. The investigation is handed locally to Inspector Slack, who has a great belief in fingerprints, and expects to be able to solve the murder quickly and easily. There are a number of red herrings. At firts Miss Marple who lives next door to the Vicarage doesn't seem to take much part in the novel, but then she seems to hover in the background.

The novel really sets a pattern for what we can expect in future novels and there are a range of characters who will crop up again in the future.

The vicar and his wife, Leonard and Griselda Clement respectively, who made their first appearance in this novel, continue to show up in Miss Marple stories: notably, in The Body in the Library (1942) and 4.50 from Paddington (1957)  

The Chief Constable, Colonel Melchett becomes involved, as does Sir Henry Clithering, a friend of Miss Marple's and a former head of Scotland Yard. He will feature in a number of Miss Marple stories. We are also introduced to Raymond West, Miss Marple's nephew, who is an author and will also feature in a number of future plots.

Agatha Christie uses the narrator device which she relied on so much in the Poirot novels. we see the story through the eyes of the vicar Leonard Clement. However it is really us seeing things as the vicar does, hearing conversations he is part of, and so on, rather than the impression of a written journal.

The other thing I have noticed in this novel is that Christie uses numbered chapters, without giving each chapter a number and a title as she did in the Poirot novels.

There are still references to the impact of the first world war on English society.

There are a number of side-plots which flesh out the setting: among them the parentage of Lettice Protheroe, and a love interest in the marriage of Leonard and Griselda Clement, the vicar and his wife.

My rating: 4.5

My original review in 2009 (I gave it 4.7)

The Agatha Christie Novels

Useful Link at Fandom

24 June 2021

review: THE BABY-SNATCHER, Ann Cleeves

  •  this edition an e-book made available through my local library on Libby
  • Originally published 1997
  • #6 in the Inspector Ramsay series
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bello (May 9, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 635 KB
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 240 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

When fifteen-year-old Marilyn Howe turns up alone and frightened on Inspector Ramsay's doorstep he has little choice but to invite her in. 

Marilyn and her mother, Kathleen, are a familiar sight around Heppleburn, a strangely inseparable couple. But Kathleen has unaccountably failed to return home that evening, and Marilyn is fearful for her mother's safety. Ramsay takes the young girl home, to the isolated coastal community known as the Headland. And in the Howes' dark and cluttered kitchen they find Kathleen safe and apparently well, though acting rather mysteriously. 

Six months later, Ramsay has more or less forgotten the strange incident, busy as he is on the trail of a local child abductor. Until he receives news that Mrs Howe has disappeared once more. And for the second time he is drawn into the strange relationships of the families living on the lonely Headland. Then a woman's body is washed up on the beach . 

My Take

I've rather reluctantly come to the end of this series which I thoroughly recommend. I also recommend reading them in the order of publication. They have all recently be re-published as e-books.

The final solution in this particular novel caught me by surprise, so perhaps there weren't enough clues as to the identity of the murderer. There are some fascinatingly dysfunctional characters.

I've enjoyed watching the development of the character of Stephen Ramsay and the increasingly complex plots. From here the author went on to develop the character of Vera Stanhope.

My rating: 4.6. 

I've also read

21 June 2021

Review: THE TRESPASSER, Tana French

  • This edition a Kindle e-book (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B016IOF3O4
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hodder & Stoughton (September 22, 2016)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 481 pages 
  • Dublin Murder Squad #6

Synopsis (Amazon)

Being on the Murder Squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.
 
Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed-to-a-shine, and dead in her catalog-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.
 
And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette╩╝s road. Aislinn╩╝s friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.
 
Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface? 

My Take

I nearly stopped reading this novel several times, and ended up being glad that I persisted, and finished it. The book took me well over a week to read - very unusual for me. It is a very long book too, but I solved the problem of the size by resorting to a Kindle edition.

Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran are struggling to work out why they were assigned this case. Perhaps it was because they were early to work. What does their boss have in mind? Antoinette suspects that it is her last chance to prove herself. Neither she nor Stephen have been popular with other members of the Murder Squad, and others seem to take great delight in sabotaging her work. And why did the boss insist they take Detective Breslin on their team? He seems to barely tolerate them.

On the surface this seems as if it could be a lovers' tiff gone wrong, but then the suspect seems wrong, and he insists that he has never entered the dead woman's flat. Gradually a different slant on the scenario emerges.

The detail in this plot is incredible, as is the insight into how detectives work.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

4.3, THE LIKENESS
4.8, THE SECRET PLACE
4.5, THE WYCH ELM 

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