8 June 2023

Review: SO SHALL YOU REAP, Donna Leon

  • This edition made available by my local library
  • published by Hutchinson Heinemann UK 2023
  • ISBN 978152153323
  • 262 pages
  • #32 in Commissario Brunetti series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

On a cold November evening, Guido Brunetti and Paola are up late when a call from his colleague Ispettore Vianello arrives, alerting the Commissario that a hand has been seen in one of Venice's canals. The body is soon found, and Brunetti is assigned to investigate the murder of an undocumented Sri Lankan immigrant. Because no official record of the man's presence in Venice exists, Brunetti is forced to use the city's far richer sources of information: gossip and the memories of people who knew the victim. Curiously, he had been living in a garden house on the grounds of a palazzo owned by a university professor, in which Brunetti discovers books revealing the victim's interest in Buddhism, the revolutionary Tamil Tigers, and the last crop of Italian political terrorists, active in the 1980s.

As the investigation expands, Brunetti, Vianello, Commissario Griffoni, and Signorina Elettra each assemble pieces of a puzzle-random information about real estate and land use, books, university friendships-that appear to have little in common. Until Brunetti stumbles over something that transports him back to his own student days, causing him to reflect on lost ideals and the errors of youth, on Italian politics and history, and on the accidents that sometimes lead to revelation.

My Take

Looking over The Fantastic Fiction list of the Brunetti series, I was surprised to see how many I have missed. The first in the series was published in 1992 and have continued at the rate of about one per year. That makes it a rather daunting list to read if you have never read any, as I am going to assert that you should read them in order. Not only do the books focus on contemporary Venetian social and political problems, there is also a very nice development of Brunetti and his family over time.

I've got to the stage where reading a Brunetti is rather like catching up with an old friend.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

4.5, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS, Donna Leon - abridged audio version

4.6, TRANSIENT DESIRES - #30     

Commissario Brunetti Mysteries (Fantastic Fiction)
1. Death at La Fenice (1992)
2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
3. The Anonymous Venetian (1994)
4. Death and Judgment (1995)
5. Acqua Alta (1996)
6. Quietly in Their Sleep (1997)
7. A Noble Radiance (1998)
8. Fatal Remedies (1999)
9. Friends in High Places (2000)
10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)
11. Willful Behaviour (2002)
12. Uniform Justice (2003)
13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)
16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
18. About Face (2009)
19. A Question of Belief (2010)
20. Drawing Conclusions (2011)
21. Beastly Things (2012)
22. The Golden Egg (2012)
23. By Its Cover (2014)
24. Falling in Love (2015)
25. The Waters of Eternal Youth (2016)
26. Earthly Remains (2017)
27. The Temptation of Forgiveness (2018)
28. Unto Us a Son Is Given (2019)
29. Trace Elements (2020)
30. Transient Desires (2021)
31. Give Unto Others (2021)
32. So Shall You Reap (2023)

Review: DEATH IN THE SUNSHINE, Steph Broadribb

  • This edition available as an e-book on Amazon (Kindle)
  • Book #1, The Retired Detectives Club
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B094JMFJNK
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas & Mercer (March 1, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 319 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Four ex-cops in a retirement paradise. Sure they’ll rest…when the killer is caught.

After a long career as a police officer, Moira hopes a move to a luxury retirement community will mean she can finally leave the detective work to the youngsters and focus on a quieter life. But it turns out The Homestead is far from paradise. When she discovers the body of a young woman floating in one of the pools, surrounded by thousands of dollar bills, her crime-fighting instinct kicks back in and she joins up with fellow ex-cops—and new neighbours—Philip, Lizzie and Rick to investigate the murder.

With the case officers dropping ball after ball, Moira and the gang take matters into their own hands, turning into undercover homicide investigators. But the killer is desperate to destroy all the evidence and Moira, Philip, Lizzie and Rick soon find themselves getting in the way—of the murderer and the police.

Just when they think they can finally relax, they discover that someone has infiltrated their ‘safe’ community. Can they hunt down the murderer and get back to retiring in peace? And after all the excitement, will they want to?

My Take

A crime fiction that is not quite a cozy, and not quite geezer lit. Moira, married couple Philip and Lizzie, are British cops who have, for various reasons, decided to retire to Florida in the USA. Philip and Lizzie have been retired at The Homestead for about 10 years while Moira is recently arrived. Rick, on the other hand, is American, recently widowed. Moira is trying to maintain a low profile and seems to have a lot to hide. She is cautious not to reveal too much about herself to her new neighbours.

All four feel that they have been either forced into retirement or have retired too early, that they still have a lot to give. So when Moira discovers a body in the lap pool they slip into old ways. They all know what ought to be done in terms of an investigation, and find it hard to understand while the local police are slow to react.

A reasonably satisfying read with plenty of room for a sequel or two.

My rating: 4.5 

About the author
Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego - Crime Thriller Girl - she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at www.crimethrillergirl.com
Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.


4 June 2023

Review: HERMIT, S.R. White

  • This edition made available from my local library
  • Headline Publishing 2020
  • ISBN 978-1-4722-6844-0
  • 375 pages
  • #1 in Dana Russo series

Synopsis (publisher

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just 12 hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

Compulsive, atmospheric and stunningly accomplished, HERMIT introduces a thrilling new voice in Australian crime fiction, perfect for fans of Jane Harper’s THE DRY and Chris Hammer’s SCRUBLANDS.

My Take

Three main mystery threads run through this novel. 

First of all how is it that "the hermit" has been "off the radar" for the last 15 years. Why did he become a hermit? How has he lived? 

Secondly, did he kill the person he was found standing over? Why? If he didn't, then who did?

Thirdly, why does Detective Dana Russo avoid contact with people on this day in particular? 

I have never quite met a detective like Dana Russo. Her main aim is to get to know the suspect, to get him to trust her, and to find out what has happened to him in the past. She interviews him in short bursts, on her own, although under observation by her boss and colleagues. She compiles questions that she wants her team to find the answers to, to give her ammunition for her questions to the suspect. She gets him to see her as his only friend, so eventually he will reveal his innermost secrets.

All the time though Dana is comparing their experiences. Asking him questions without revealing too much of what has happened to her in the past.

A fascinating novel, and a compelling read.

My Rating: 4.6

About the author
S. R. White’s debut novel, HERMIT, was a top ten bestseller in Australia and nominated for the Crime Writers’ Association award for the best crime novel by a first-time author. He now lives in Queensland, having worked for a UK police force for twelve years before taking an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.

28 May 2023

Review: AN A-LIST FOR DEATH, Pamela Hart

  • this edition published 2022, made available by my local library
  • published by HQ Fiction
  • ISBN 978-1-8672-0189-2
  • 353 pages
  • Author website
  • #2 in the Poppy McGowan series

Synopsis (author website)

Shooting for fame could end your career … and your life. A sparkling mystery from a stylish new voice in crime fiction, in a book that will delight fans of Richard Osman and Kerry Greenwood.

TV researcher Poppy McGowan has never sought the spotlight and is none too happy to be photographed with rock god Nathan Castle. When the photo pops up on celebrity gossip sites, it sparks a media feeding frenzy, forcing Poppy to go to ground, don a wig, and pull some nifty moves to escape a tailing car. And she cops abuse from Nathan’s outraged fans.

None of this would have happened if Poppy had not found Nathan’s mother Daisy, one-time glamour girl and elderly best friend of her Aunty Mary, bleeding and unconscious in her bathroom. The police dismiss the case as an accident, but Poppy is sure there are questions to be answered. Who attacked Daisy, and why? Will she come out of her coma? What secrets are her gathering family hiding? What happens to Daisy’s money if she dies?

When a murder occurs outside Daisy’s flat, the police step in at last. Unfortunately, they finger Poppy’s boyfriend, Tol, for the crime – after all, he had bad blood with the victim. As Daisy’s money-hungry family circle, amid hints of poisoning, bribery and blackmail, Poppy must find a way to clear Tol’s name and ensure Daisy’s safety.  

My Take

To me, this novel feels a cross between chick-lit, geezer-lit, and a cozy.

If none of those terms are familiar to you, then perhaps the closest is cozy, although there are a couple of nasty deaths and a couple of close calls.

The narrator is the heroine, Poppy McGowan herself, a youngish woman who works for the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) on producing research material for children's programs. This role gets Poppy into Museums and other places which might be difficult to crack. So an Australian writer, using Australian settings.

The novel is tightly plotted although I found the main plot a little implausible. However the characters are strong and believable.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Pamela Hart is my married name and The Soldier’s Wife was my first book under that name, inspired by my grandfather’s service as an ANZAC at Gallipoli (see The Story behind The Soldier’s Wife). Since then, I’ve enjoyed working with other true stories set in and after WWI. Each book has given rise to the next, as I stumble over wonderful stories while doing the research for the current book. As Pamela Freeman, I’ve written children’s fiction, epic fantasy, crime fiction and children’s poetry. You can find out more about my other books here.

I became seriously interested in historical fiction when I wrote The Black Dress, a fictional account of the childhood of Mary MacKillop in the Australia of the 1840s-1860s.

I have a Doctor of Creative Arts in Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney, and I teach writing (face-to-face and online) at the Australian Writers’ Centre.

My writing started when I was a children’s scriptwriter for ABC Kids, which was where I began to write children’s stories. But then I found that I wanted to tell stories for adults, too, and particularly stories about women’s lives, loves, tears and joys.

I live in Sydney with my husband and son and many musical instruments. (I’m a drummer – or at least I’m learning to be one!)

I love to keep in touch with my readers, so follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!


    The Black Dress, NSW Premier’s History Prize, 2006
    Victor’s Challenge, Aurealis Award, 2009
    Ember and Ash, Aurealis Award, 2011
    Desert Lake, ASO Librarian’s Choice Award, 2017
    Shortlistings: NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Romantic Book of the Year Australia (the Ruby), Romantic Book of the Year UK (the Rona), Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards, Koala Awards, Wilderness Society Environment Award, Speech Pathology Awards.

Review: MRS McGINTY'S DEAD, Agatha Christie

  • This edition available from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0046RE5EK
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins (October 14, 2010)
  •  Print length ‏ : ‎ 289 pages
  •  Originally published 1952,aka BLOOD WILL TELL
  • My previous review (2012)

Synopsis (Amazon)

An old widow is brutally killed in the parlour of her cottage…

Mrs McGinty died from a brutal blow to the back of her head. Suspicion fell immediately on her shifty lodger, James Bentley, whose clothes revealed traces of the victim’s blood and hair. Yet something was amiss: Bentley just didn’t look like a murderer.

Poirot believed he could save the man from the gallows – what he didn’t realise was that his own life was now in great danger…

My Take

First published in 1952, the novel was adapted by MGM in 1964, and released as 'Murder Most Foul'. The character of Hercule Poirot was replaced by Jane Marple, played by Margaret Rutherford. In 2008 David Suchet starred as Poirt and Zoƫ Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver in the ITV production.

After our discussion we will watch the David Suchet ITV production.

I am re-reading this for my U3A Agatha Christie Group, so the main feature of this review are the discussion questions I have written.

  • Who is the narrator? 
  • The book opens with Poirot reflecting on his previous investigations and the role that his good friend Hastings played in them as "the  stooge". What do you understand that to mean?
  • Why does Superintendent Spence come to Poirot?
  • Even though James Bentley has been convicted of the murder by a jury why does he doubt that he is guilty?
  • There seem to be conflicting descriptions of Bentley. He is said to have the mind of a 12 year old, to be a bit screwy, to be shy and awkward, daft, lacking in confidence, although others said he was educated. Which do you think is correct? Could he plead insanity?
  • Poirot contrasts himself with Inspector Spence. "he is a good and painstaking police officer.... But it should be different for me" Why? What disappoints him?
  • What was the significance of Mrs McGinty buying a bottle of ink?
  • Why did Mrs McGinty cut the picture out of the Sunday Comet? 
  • An interesting phrase: from him she takes the Greenwich time - what does it mean? (Shelagh Rendell is looking at her husband)
  • Why does Christie bring Mrs Oliver into the story?
  • What did her employers have to say about Mrs McGinty? There were a number of reasons why people disliked her.
  • An interesting comment on the effects of World War II on English communities:
    the war has complicated things. Records destroyed—endless opportunities for people who
    want to cover their traces doing so by means of other people’s identity cards, etc., especially after “incidents” when nobody could know which corpse was which! If we could concentrate on just one lot, but you’ve got so many possibles, M. Poirot.
    This is a comment that Christie has made elsewhere. What does it mean? What effect does it have on an investigation?
  • Who attempted to push Poirot under the train?
  • What is the irony of Mrs Upward ringing 3 women to come to visit her? What did she think she knew? What did she intend to do with her knowledge?
  • In the last pages Poirot gets the remaining characters together and says he knows what the motive for the murders was - money. Was he right? Can you explain the plot?
  • Why did Maude Williams get involved?
  • How was the identity of the murderer finally discovered?  
 I think this is an easy novel to underestimate. In fact the plot is quite complex. And there are comments about the social and economic effects of World War II that are valuable.

23 May 2023

Review: BITTER POISON, Margaret Mayhew

  • This edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • #5 in the Village Mysteries series
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08N6Z98LQ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Joffe Books cozy mysteries and crime (10 November 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 156 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)


An absorbing Christmas mystery

The Colonel (few people call him Hugh) is busier than ever this Christmas. The Frog End Players have enlisted his woodwork skills to build a set for their annual Christmas pantomime.

This year, it's Hans Christian Andersen's dark fairytale The Snow Queen. Local busybody Marjorie Cuthbertson is on the hunt for her leading lady — and who better to play the icy queen than beautiful new resident, ex-model Joan Dryden. But as interested as they are in their new neighbours, the residents of Frog End remain wary of the Dryden family, considering them snooty Londoners.

But tragedy strikes at the village party . . .

One moment, one of the guests is enjoying a festive mince pie. The next, they are on the floor, clawing at their throat.

A tragic allergic reaction or did someone mean to kill?

The Colonel must find out if this was just a terrible accident . . . or bitter revenge.


My Take

I've now finished this series although I read the last 2 books out of order.

If you take them on, do read them in order to get the best out of them. They are quick cozies and seem to capture village life as I imagine it to be.

I have enjoyed meeting the people living in the village of Frog End, and reading through the various scenarios. I did get a little tired of the re-capping of the plots that occurred before books 5 and 6.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read

Review: ENTRY ISLAND, Peter May

  • this edition provided by my local library
  • Published by Quercus UK 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-78206-221-9
  • 534 pages

Synopsis (Publisher)

A detective is haunted by the feeling he knows his murder suspect – despite the fact they have never met.


When Detective Sime Mackenzie is sent from Montreal to investigate a murder on the remote Entry Island, 850 miles from the Canadian mainland, he leaves behind him a life of sleeplessness and regret.


But what had initially seemed an open-and-shut case takes on a disturbing dimension when he meets the prime suspect, the victim’s wife, and is convinced that he knows her – even though they have never met.

And when his insomnia becomes punctuated by dreams of a distant Scottish past in another century, this murder in the Gulf of St. Lawrence leads him down a path he could never have foreseen, forcing him to face a conflict between his professional duty and his personal destiny. 

My Take

Sime  Mackenzie probably should have been given leave rather than assigned to this case. Insomnia combined with his marriage breakdown and then the fact that his wife is the CSI for the case should have been enough to excuse him. But he is chosen because he speaks English as do the inhabitants of Entry Island.

When he meets the wife of the dead man he is convinced he has met her before. He also wears a signet ring that she recognises. It turns out that there is a perfectly rational explanation, but I get ahead of myself. When the rest of the team become convinced of Kirsty's guilt, because all the evidence Sime accumulates points to her, Sime feels they are wrong.

Meanwhile the author takes the opportunity to go back to the Highland Clearances to prove to us that history can repeat itself.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read


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