Why MYSTERIES? Because that is the genre I read.
Why PARADISE? Because that is where I live.
Among other things, this blog, the result of a 2008 New Year's resolution,
will act as a record of books that I've read, and random thoughts.
30 April 2008
CITY OF LIES, R. J. Ellory
Orion Books, 2006, ISBN, 0-75287-367-9
Until a week before Christmas John Harper living in Miami had thought he was an orphan. That was when he got a phone call from his Aunt Evelyn stressing that it was important he get to New York city as soon as he could. It has been 17 years since he left New York and now he learns that Lenny Bernstein, the father he had thought dead for 30 years, is lying in a Manhattan hospital critically wounded in a liquor store hold up. At the hospital Harper meets up with an old family friend whom he had always thought of as Uncle Walt.
A little faster than John, the reader learns that things are not what they seem. There is a vortex of evil that slowly begins to suck John Harper in as he struggles to understand who his father actually is, and the events rush towards a climax that will mean death for many. I liked the pace at which this book moved, but I did have a problem in seeing John Harper as a real person. In my opinion too there were a couple of improbabilities, and a couple of loose ends- but I am not going to spoil your reading by talkng about them here.
My rating: 4.3
29 April 2008
How about this story?: source; A variation here
At the turn of the last century, Belle Gunness was in the market for a third husband. And many suitors visited from Wisconsin, from Missouri, from South Dakota, some from as far as Norway. They met her at her farm house and many never left. What happened after she courted some of these gentlemen was revealed after a fire ravaged the house one hundred years ago today. The flames consumed Gunness and her three young children, leaving nothing but charred remains. But this is just where the tragic story begins. As police sifted through the ruins they found eleven butchered bodies buried beneath the farm’s hog pen. Reports estimate Belle Gunness may have killed up to 33 people in her lifetime. But did her death end her killing spree? The body thought to be Gunness’s had no head, and that fueled rumors that she’d faked her death, and escaped. Now a new investigation into this century-old mystery has begun. Andrea Simmons is a forensic anthropologist who grew up in LaPorte, Indiana. She says that like all the children there, she was very familiar with the grisly legend of Belle Gunness.
This past Saturday, Simmons and several decedents of Gunness’s victims got together to commemorate the hundred year anniversary of the fire. They placed headstones on the victims’ graves that have been unmarked since 1908
Or what about the Smiley Face murder mystery?
Chris Jenkins was a popular student at the University of Minnesota who disappeared one night in 2003. Four months later, he was found dead in the Mississippi River. At first police thought Jenkins was just a drunk college kid who accidentally fell into the river and drowned after a night on the town.
But for two retired New York City Police detectives, Jenkins' death became the link that connected the drowning deaths of 40 young men — usually high-achieving college students — in 25 cities in 11 different states.
More on the site
28 April 2008
Weekly Geek: Week 1
It was harder than I imagined it would be. I trawled about a hundred Sunday Salon blogs looking for new crime fiction ones - not much joy - so I had to go further afield.
I decided not to include any seemingly "un-loved" ones whose authors seem to rarely, and not recently, update.
So here is where I've been
- Melody's Reading Corner. I'm not sure what a sticky post is but Mel has one. She's giving away some books
- Ex Libris: the blog has a huge list of other blogs, and great list of challenges too
- My Journey through Reading: We share a common interest in listening to Ken Follett's WORLD WITHOUT END. Richard E. Grant's reading was magical.
- Material Witness- a blog for the criminally inclined. We shared opinions on the last Donna Leon novel
- Welcome to Planet Tess: nothing to do with crime fiction, but has a lot of wonderful recipes.
27 April 2008
Sunday Salon #6 - 27 April 2008
Summary for the week's postings (reverse order of posting)
- Weekly Geeks
A sort of challenge site I've joined. There will be a weekly task/theme. This week the challenge is to find 5 new blogs and comment on them. I think I have really already done that but need to keep better records.
- Six very random things - a meme
Crime Scraps tagged me - for 6 random thoughts - and then I had to select 6 victims. I tried to avoid those I had already nominated earlier in the week - also of Uriah Robinson's making.
- THE OVERLOOK, Michael Connelly
A review of Michael Connelly's latest book. For me a quick read that I gave 4.6 to. None of my 30 top finds for 2008 have scored less than 4.0
- MURDER ON THE APRICOT COAST, Marion Halligan
This one didn't make it into my top 30, took me ages to read, and annoyed me to the point of nearly splatting it on the nearest wall. My rating 2.5
- Historic Anzac Day dawn service at Villers Bretonneux
The first time an ANZAC Dawn service has taken place on the Western Front, 90 years on from the recapture of the town by the ANZACS. The television coverage brought back memories of our trip to the Somme a couple of years ago.
- Theakstons Old Peculier long list for 2008
The Harrogate festival long list of notable British crime fiction offerings, but, as Petrona points out, only 4 female writers in a list of 20, and a lot of exclusions. Still a good list to sail off to the library with.
- How important are awards?
The Amazon Breakthrough Novel award - yet another of those that must write sales cheques for authors.
- Anzac Day
The importance of Anzac Day in the Australian calendar, and a few books to look out for.
- 2008 Gumshoe Awards announced
Mystery Ink gave their Mystery award to THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN by James Lee Burke, its setting Hurricane Katrina. Haven't read it yet but it has made it here from the library.All the awards and nominees are worth looking at.
- 123 Tagged
The page 123 tag game. Two of my taggees are still ignoring my overtures. Choosing my victims wasn't easy. If you want me to include you in one of these tagging exercises just let me know.
- THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK, Fred Vargas
Review of an excellent read
- THE SAVAGE ALTAR, Asa Larsson
Another excellent book. I'll be looking for the sequel.
- The footy team won last night for the second week in a row
- Off to lunch to celebrate nephew's 40+ birthday
- It rained here last night - more promised - very welcome in this drought-ridden state
- 4 day working week this week was bliss, but too much blogging...both reading and writing
Here is what it says on the site
1. Every week there’ll be a different theme. One week might be “catch up on your library books” week and the next might be “redecorate your blog week” or “organize your challenges” week or “catch up on your reviews” week. It’ll be fairly bookblogcentric, but not exclusively.
2. Everyone who joins agrees that they will try to check each week to see what the theme is, although they DO NOT have to participate each week, only when they feel like it.
3. Everyone who joins is welcome (encouraged, begged!) to send me ideas for weekly themes via email, comments, whatever. The more ideas, the better.
4. I will post the weekly theme each Saturday, but you can check in any time it’s convenient to find out what the theme is.
5. If you post about your progress with that week’s theme in your blog (whether you were wildly successful or didn’t get around to any of it) then you can come back and leave a link to that post in the comments for that theme.
6. The next week, when I announce the new theme, I will also post a mini-carnival-like blurb, with links to everyone’s progress posts. Either way, you’ll have a link to your blog every week you participate, which will hopefully help other participants find their way to your posts.
7. In order to motivate participants to spread the word, anyone who posts promoting this challenge is guaranteed to be able to choose the theme for one of the weeks this year (their choice of week, first come first served). No need to pick a week now; just let me know when you have a theme idea and you can pick your week then. In addition, each participant who writes a promotional post by the end of April will have their name entered in a drawing for this chocolate monkey. If any of your readers sign up and leave a comment saying they heard about it from you, you get two entries for the chocolate monkey. You may never again have the chance to say to your friends and family, “Yeah, the internet gave me this chocolate monkey.”This week's challenge is to visit 5 new blogs and leave comments.
Six very random things - a meme
I guess this meme business is really the blogging equivalent of the chain letter.
The secret is to not become persona non grata with your newly found friends at the same time as identifying people who have not been tagged to death. I'm getting to the stage where I will have to ask for volunteers!
The latest tagging by Crime Scraps (Uriah Robinson) asks me to
- Link to the person who tagged you
- Post the rules on your blog
- Write six random things about you in a blog post
- Tag six people in your post
- Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog
- Let the tagger know your entry is up.
- I am a true baby boomer, having been born in the year following the war
- At the end of primary school I was the tallest girl in my class, and then stayed more or less the same height so that when I left secondary school I was the second shortest.
- I flew out of Darwin on the day before Cyclone Tracy hit. It was pouring with rain, and the airline weighed us and our baggage so they could calculate the amount of fuel to load.
- I love travel and in 1975 travelled from Kathmandu to London in a large bus called Fat Albert. On Facebook I have been able to identify 273 cities that I have visited then and later, and I am sure there are more.
- I bought a Commodore 128D in 1985 and the cyber world hooked me.
- 5 years ago I created oz_mystery_readers so that Australian readers of murder mysteries and crime fiction would have a place of their very own to discuss books. Growth has been slow but we now have 130 members, including quite a number from overseas.
- My good friend SouthOzSue
- Heather at The Library Ladder
- New-to-blogging Ali at All in Bits and Pieces
- Percy at Matilda whose gone off for a week's holiday
- Lourdes at Lost in Books
- Mack over on Mack Pitches Up
26 April 2008
THE OVERLOOK, Michael Connelly
If I needed it, the ease and speed with which I read THE OVERLOOK is really confirmation that crime fiction, police procedural bordering on thriller is absolutely my genre of preference.
Harry Bosch has recently moved from LAPD's Open Unsolved Unit to the prestigious Homicide Special squad. He has a new partner, a youngster Ignacio Ferras, who regards him as a bit of a dinosaur, and this is their first case. A body has been found at the overlook above the Mulholland Dam, and it's rather obviously a murder. The victim is a medical physicist who supplies a radio active substance called cesium for use in medical procedures that use radioactive therapy.
Alarm bells go off for Harry when FBI agent Rachel Walling turns up at the scene of the crime. Rachel is attached to one of the FBI's Homeland Security operations called the Tactical Intelligence Unit. The body is easily identified and once the fact that a large quantity of cesium is found to be missing, the case becomes a tussle between the LAPD and the FBI. The FBI are saying this is a possible terrorist killing.
For Harry, the involvement of Rachel is fraught with all sorts of hurdles, given a previous relationship. The FBI involvement spell danger for Harry in a number of other ways, including some he can't forsee. His new partner Iggy Farras causes other problems for Harry, not the least because Harry likes to be the alpha dog, works on hunches, rarely discusses anything, and doesn't do partnerships at all well.
THE OVERLOOK was originally serialised in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, and Connelly says this gave him a chance to re-visit the book prior to publication as a book, although he did not make substantial changes.
I haven't read all of the Harry Bosch series, 13 books since BLACK ECHO in 1992, but I have enjoyed all that I have read. This one was no exception.
My rating 4.6
Michael Connelly's website is at http://www.michaelconnelly.com/index.html
His next novel is called THE BRASS VERDICT.
Here's the blurb from the website page:
Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller and LAPD Detective Harry Bosch team up in this new novel by Michael Connelly.
Things are finally looking up for defense attorney Mickey Haller. After two years of wrong turns, Haller is back in the courtroom. When Hollywood lawyer Jerry Vincent is murdered, Haller inherits his biggest case yet: the defense of Walter Elliott, a prominent studio executive accused of murdering his wife and her lover. But as Haller prepares for the case that could launch him into the big time, he learns that Vincent's killer may be coming for him next.
Enter Harry Bosch. Determined to find Vincent's killer, he is not opposed to using Haller as bait. But as danger mounts and the stakes rise, these two loners realize their only choice is to work together.
25 April 2008
MURDER ON THE APRICOT COAST, Marion Halligan
Recently married to Al, the "apricot colonel", Cassandra Travers is a freelance editor living in Canberra. At a local newsagent, Cassandra meets up with Briony, a pal from university days. When they meet up again a few days later Briony tells Cassandra about her new lover, the love of her life, who just happens to be a married man. He is the father of one of the girls that Briony teaches. And then the girl attempts to blackmail Briony, threatening to tell the headmistress of her father and Briony's affair, unless Briony gives her good grades. And then - you've guessed it - the girl is found dead of a drugs overdose, which begins to look like murder.
I nearly didn't finish reading this. Just when I was on the point of giving it the heave-ho, the plot would take a little turn for the better. The improvements turned out to be illusory, and in the long run I hated it. However if you like chick-lit it may be just your cup of tea. And Marion Halligan has apparently published over 20 books, so I'm prepared to concede that her writing may well be justifiably beloved by others. Perhaps I just missed the whole point of this book.
Near the end Cassandra says " I have this theory, about reading books, it's all to do with rhythm. Sometimes you find yourself in prose that has a rhythm that sometimes suits yours and so you are carried along with your reading of it, it chimes beautifully with your own sensibility. It's like what they call chemistry with a lover. It explains why some people love books that others can't stand." She's so right! - that must be the reason I hated this one. I just don't march to the same drum that Marion Halligan does.
The frustrating thing is that at times, Halligan makes some really insightful comments, mainly of the philosophical kind, that I heartily concur with.
But what in particular did I not like?
- there were side stories that made almost no sense to me. Some were very trivial and added almost nothing to the plot.
- new husband Al likes cross-dressing, passing himself off as woman
- I got sick of the Al loves me and I love him stuff.
- the writing had a gossipy, "I'm telling you a secret", tone to it
- the "apricot colonel", "apricot coast" thing feels like an in-joke - perhaps I would understand if I had started with the first book THE APRICOT COLONEL, which I haven't read, and now have no intention of reading.
- Somewhere along the track Marion Halligan decided to do away with the punctuation conventions of dialogue. You know, those little " things which give you the clue that someone is actually speaking. I don't know whether it is something she has recently decided to do or whether she has been practising it for a long time. But it annoyed the hell out of me and made distinguishing speech from inner thoughts almost impossible.
My rating: 2.5
Historic Anzac Day dawn service at Villers Bretonneux
Today a special Anzac Day dawn service was held at Australian War Memorial (above) at Villers Bretonneux. This is the first time an Anzac day Dawn service has been held on this site.
Since 1919, the memory of the Australian contribution to Villers–Bretonneux has indeed been ‘kept alive’. The town was adopted by the City of Melbourne and funds collected to help with its reconstruction. Victorian schoolchildren raised money towards the rebuilding of the local school which has ever since been known as the ‘L’Ecole Victoria’ (Victoria School). In the school building is the ‘Franco–Australian Museum’ which houses a range of materials dealing with the Australian connection with the town both during the war and into more recent times. And, since 1919, the men and women of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, on behalf of Australia and all the other countries of the old British Empire and Commonwealth who lost soldiers and airmen in the battles around Villers–Bretonneux, have carefully tended and looked after the war cemeteries and memorials which dot the region.
Husband Bob and I visited both these places at the end of 2006 when we visited the Somme for about a week, so watching the television footage of the ceremony this morning has raised some memories for us. In addition Bob's father was at the 2nd landing at Gallipoli in 1915, and later on the Somme in 1916, at Bullecourt and Moquet Farm where he was awarded the Military medal.
We are never very far from memories of what happened here, whether it is through Bob's father's medals given an annual airing when every Anzac day, the Enfield brass band participates in a dawn service or marches in the Anzac Day parade in Adelaide, or simply through the name Dernancourt given to a neighbouring suburb.
Theakstons Old Peculier long list for 2008
The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year runs in conjunction with the Harrogate Festival and is usually an interesting list and this year's is no exception. The Harrogate Festival call it a great mix of heavyweights and rising stars. The short list is decided by the public and anybody can vote. You must vote for only one book, so I wonder which you will choose? Go to the voting page, select the book of your choice, enter your email address. If you are a resident of UK or Ireland there is a competition you can enter for a chance to win tickets to the festival, with accommodation included. The shortlist is announced at the end of June. Last year's winner was Alan Guthrie with Two-Way Split.
The 2008 longlist
|Blue Shoes & Happiness |
Alexander McCall Smith
|Christine Falls |
|A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil |
|Shifting Skin |
|One Under |
|Darkness and Light |
|The Savage Garden |
|Corn Dolls |
|Not Dead Enough |
|Piece of My Heart |
|The Death of Dalziel |
|The Chemistry of Death |
|Hurting Distance |
|The Tenderness of Wolves |
|Dying Light |
|The Risk of Darkness |
|The Grave Tattoo|
It makes, if nothing else, a nice checklist of what to read in British crime fiction.
24 April 2008
How important are awards?
So I popped over to Amazon (USA) to see what it was all about:
The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is an opportunity for emerging fiction writers to join a community of authors on Amazon.com, showcase their work, and compete for a chance to get published.
Sponsored in partnership with Penguin Group (USA) and HP, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award launched in October 2007 and received more than 5,000 initial entries. Of those, excerpts from over 800 fiction entries were eligible for Amazon.com customers to read, rate, and review, beginning in January 2008. Editors at Penguin Group (USA) reviewed the Top 100 semifinalists based on early customer reads and full manuscript reviews provided by Publishers' Weekly. In March 2008, the leading Top 10 finalists were selected for the customers' vote. A panel of experts--including a bestselling author, editor and publisher, literary critic, and literary agent--also weighed in with their reviews for each of the top 10 novels. The top three finalists--Dwight Okita (The Prospect of My Arrival), Harry Dolan (Bad Things Happen), and Bill Loehfelm (Fresh Kills) traveled to New York City for the first weekend in April, where Bill Loehfelm was revealed as the winner.There's also:
Celebrating the Top Three
So do you think an award like this "makes" an author? I suspect it may well set them up for some time.
23 April 2008
25 April 1915 is the day regarded Australia's "baptism of fire", the first day Australian troops went into battle on behalf of their country. It commemorates the landing of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand troops) at dawn at Gallipoli, at the place now known as Anzac Cove. It also commemorates a defeat.
It has become a day when nationally we remember those who have participated in wars on our behalf, who gave their lives to protect and promote democracy. Increasingly both young and old Australians pilgrimage to Anzac Cove to see the dawn rise there.
Check out the Australian War Museum site.
I thought I'd point you to some books, plays, and films to look out for.
Books in my database:
THE FIRST CASUALTY by Ben Elton. My rating 4.6
The setting is 1917 and the Great War grinds on, with the youth of the British Empire and Germany being sacrificed on the Somme. Douglas Kingsley, an inspector in His Majesty's Metropolitan Police in London, finds himself in gaol when he declares that the war offends his sense of logic. Rejected by his wife and condemned as a conscientious objector, Kingsley is sent to Flanders to investigate the murder of a British officer, also renowned as a poet. The setting in the war allows the author to ask questions about the importance of investigating the murder of one man when so much bloodshed is occurring all the time.
MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE by Kerry Greenwood. My rating 4.6
A Phryne Fisher Mystery read by Julia Davis. At the end of World War 1 in Paris, Bert, Cec and 5 other Australian soldiers witness a murder when a man is pushed under a Paris train. Now, in Australia in 1928, two are very recently dead and Bert and Cec believe they are being targetted. Phryne was in Paris in 1918 and remembers the train incident. It also brings back memories of the man she was infatuated with then. Now she learns that he has recently arrived in Melbourne.
THE SHIFTING FOG (aka THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON) by Kate Morton. My rating 4.7
Set mainly during World War I and immediately after it. Six months before the war starts young Grace Bradley, 14, takes up a position as a housemaid at Riverton Manor. Eighty four years on, she is contacted by a young female filmmaker who is making a romance film about the death of Robbie Harrison, a young poet, who suicided at the house during a mid summer's eve party in 1924. Many will argue this is not a murder mystery, but you'll have to decide for yourself.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER by Jacqueline Winspear. My rating 4.6
This novel is set some time after the first in the Maisie Dobbs series. Maisie is now an established detective with rooms of her own and an assistant. It's now the early Spring of 1930. Her friend Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad is investigating a murder case in Coulsden, while Maisie has been summoned to Dulwich to find a runaway heiress. The woman is the daughter of Joseph Waite, a wealthy self-made man who has lavished her with privilege but kept her in a gilded cage. His domineering ways have driven her off before, and now she∂'s bolted again. Waite's instructions are to find his daughter and bring her home. When Maisie looks into the disappearance she finds a chilling link to Stratton's murder case, and to the terrible legacy of The Great War.
PARDONABLE LIES by Jacqueline Winspear. My rating 4.6
A deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs to confirm that his son, an aviator in the Great War, did actually die when his plane crashed in France. It was something his wife never accepted and it was a torment that drove her mad. Lawton believes his son is dead and is expecting Maisie to confirm just that. Maisie was in France during the War herself as a nurse and it is where her friend Simon was wounded and brain-damaged, so going back to France is no easy thing for Maisie. She takes on an extra mission - to find out for her friend Priscilla Evernden what happened to one of her three brothers who were also killed there. I would call this book a comfortable, rather old-fashioned read, which are the qualities that I liked in the first book in the series, and which led others to dislike the book.
Films to look out for
Gallipoli (the following courtesy of Wikipedia)
Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian film, directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, about several young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the Australian Army during the First World War. They are sent to Turkey, where they take part in the Battle of Gallipoli. During the course of the movie, the young men slowly lose their innocence about the purpose of war. The climax of the movie occurs on the Anzac battlefield at Gallipoli and depicts the brutal attack at the Nek. Gallipoli provides a faithful portrayal of life in Australia in the 1910s — reminiscent of Weir's 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock set in 1900 — and captures the ideals and character of the Australians who joined up to fight, and the conditions they endured on the battlefield. It does, however, modify events for dramatic purposes.The screenplay is by David Williamson and original music was provided by Australian composer Brian May (who had also scored Mad Max).
1915 (film)- available now on DVD
A classic Australian World War I saga, 1915 captures the hopes and heartaches of innocent country boys as they embark on the greatest and worst adventure of their lives, when they face the filthy deprivations and shocking savagery of trench warfare.
Best mates Billy and Walter have forged their friendship fighting over girls, racing each other on horseback and dreaming of excitement - but their biggest challenge awaits them in a war unfolding on the other side of a changing world. Caught up in the glamour of soldiering and the naïve enthusiasm to defend God, King and Country, the young men enlist in the army to prove themselves glorious heroes in the "war to end all wars." Instead, the grotesque, bloody horror will scar them for the rest of their lives, haunting them to ponder, "What did we achieve?"
Starring: Scott McGregor, Scott Burgess, Sigrid Thornton, Bill Hunter, Lorraine Bayly, Arna Maria Winchester, Serge Lazareff, Richard Moir, Ilona Rodgers, Martin Vaughan, Gerard Kennedy, Diana Benedetto, Graham Rouse, Adrian Wright.
Play to read
A controversial look at how Anzac Day is remembered in Australia. Central to Alan Seymour's modern Australian classic is the paradoxical nature of Anzac Day. We chose as our venerated, inescapable symbol of military remembrance a campaign that was both a tactical fiasco and a defeat. There is an article in Sydney Morning Herald worth reading. Find a copy of the play if you can. It was banned from the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1960.
2008 Gumshoe Awards announced
The 7th Annual Gumshoe Awards are given by Mystery Ink to recognize the best achievements in crime fiction. This year's nominees were chosen from books first published in the United States in 2007.
James Lee Burke - The Tin Roof Blowdown (Simon & Schuster)
John Connolly - The Unquiet (Atria)
Ariana Franklin - Mistress of the Art of Death (Putnam)
Charlie Huston - The Shotgun Rule (Ballantine)
Laura Lippman - What the Dead Know (William Morrow)
Robert Crais - The Watchman (Simon & Schuster)
Joseph Finder - Power Play (St. Martin's Press)
Michael Gruber - The Book of Air and Shadows (William Morrow)
Richard K. Morgan - Thirteen (Del Rey)
Lee Child - Bad Luck and Trouble (Delacorte)
Best First Novel:
Sean Chercover - Big City, Bad Blood (William Morrow)
Philip Hawley, Jr. - Stigma (Harper)
Lisa Lutz - The Spellman Files (Simon & Schuster)
Craig McDonald - Head Games (Bleak House Books)
Nick Stone - Mr. Clarinet (HarperCollins)
Donald E. Westlake
Donald E. Westlake is one of the most prolific authors in the crime genre, having written books of nearly every conceivable type, ranging from comic capers to thrillers to noir. He's written private eye novels, cop novels, historical novels, even erotic novels. More impressively, most of them are pretty damn good, and some of them are great. For maintaining a tradition of writing excellence for nearly 50 years, Westlake is a most deserving winner of the award for Lifetime Achievement. (Read the tribute essay to Donald E. Westlake.)
Best Crime Fiction Website:
The Thrilling Detective Web Site
Edited by Kevin Burton Smith, The Thrilling Detective Web Site has been a comprehensive resource on private eye fiction, and the crime genre more generally, for over a decade. A one-stop destination with a wealth of information, The Thrilling Detective includes author and book guides, reviews, news, information on film and TV, original fiction and more. It is an essential guide for fans of PI novels or anyone looking to learn more about detective fiction.
22 April 2008
I've been tagged on CRIME SCRAPS (Uriah Robinson).
The challenge is
1. Pick up the nearest book.
So off Mt. TBR I picked THE HEADHUNTERS, the latest by Peter Lovesey
By the time they'd driven to Selsey he was in control, calm, and resigned. He knew what to expect because he's texted the police to tell them he was coming in.
She's remembered his words that evening in the Lifeboat Inn after he'd been released from custody: "They're sure I did it.
So who am I tagging? Lillian Porter at Bloodstained Book Reviews, Marg at Reading Adventures, Sally at Books and Musings from Downunder, Barbara Fister who hosts Carnival of Criminal Minds, and Debra Hamel at The-DEB-Log.com
20 April 2008
THIS NIGHT'S FOUL WORK, Fred Vargas
What a lot of disparate elements come together in the plot of THIS NIGHT’S FOUL WORK by Fred Vargas. An ancient recipe for eternal life. One elderly district nurse who just happens to be a serial killer, recently escaped from gaol. Two men murdered, their throats cut in what looks like a drugs-related killing. Stags found dead in Normandy with their hearts cut out. Someone who polishes the soles of his shoes. Snowball the station cat so devoted to a policewoman that he’ll travel over thirty kilometres in search of her.
Someone close to the inquiry into the drug-related killings is manipulating the investigation.
Commissaire Jean Baptiste Adamsberg has recently returned from enforced leave and finds himself working with a pathologist whose apple cart he upset two decades ago. He has moved into a new house haunted by the Wicked Silent Sister, Saint Clarisse, a serial killer of gullible women, before the Revolution.
To add to the feast for the reader there are some odd, vividly drawn, characters in Adamsberg’s team: Veyrenc, the new lieutenant who spouts Racine constantly, and is assigned to guarding Camille, the mother of Adamsberg’s baby son Tom; his colleague Commandant Dangland who works ceaselessly to eliminate Unsolved Questions; Estalere who has a knack and passion for memorising trivial detail; and Retancourt, devoted to protecting Adamsberg with her own life, to name just a few.
THIS NIGHT’S FOULS WORK showcases Adamsberg at his best, sifting and sorting a smorgasbord of information. Adamsberg is equally at home in the country and in the city. His methods are eccentric but his team recognises that eventually they will solve the case. There is an eclectic mix of folklore, history, mystery and just plain human interest. I wouldn’t classify this as a pacey novel. In some ways it lurches from one crisis point to another. It abounds in red herrings and the way forward can be hard to see. Tension builds, then climaxes, only to build again as a new element is included. As in other Vargas novels, at times the plot strains the bounds of plausibility and some readers may find this a leap too far. For me this didn’t matter.
THIS NIGHT’S FOUL WORK, translated from the French by Sian Reynolds, is #4 in the Adamsberg series. It was first published as Dans les bois eternels in 2006. The second in the series, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR, was a finalist for a Dagger Award in 2005. Vargas went on to win the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger twice with THE THREE EVANGELISTS (2006) and WASH THIS BLOOD CLEAN FROM MY HAND (2007)
My rating: 4.6
Author website: http://www.eurocrime.co.uk/books/books_by_fred_vargas.html
THE SAVAGE ALTAR, Asa Larsson
Translated by Marlaine Delargy, 2007, 307 pages
Originally published as SUN STORM in the USA
A body lies on the floor of the Crystal Church in Kiruna in Northern Sweden. The church is the home of the pentecostal cult The Source of All Our Strength, and the handless, sightless body is that of its principal inspiration, the Paradise Boy, Viktor Strandgard.
Stockholm tax lawyer Rebecka Martinsson gets a pleading phone call from the victim's sister Sanna, and she hurries home to Kiruna. Rebecka is very familiar with The Source of All Our Strength: she was once a member, and knew Viktor well. Rebecka's boss is not best pleased by her decision to fly to Sanna's help, but she has misunderstood his motives.
The police investigating team consists of the newly appointed Inspector Sven-Erik Stalnacke, the woman he is replacing, the very heavily pregnant, near-term Anna-Maria Mella, and pompous Assistant Chief Prosecutor Carl van Post.
Rebecka Martinnson left Kiruna under a cloud, the reasons for which are gradually revealed as the investigation unfolds. The management of the pentecostal church is not all it should be, and the dynamics that brought it growth and fame are also part of the factors undermining it.
I enjoyed this book immensely. There are many things that I could mention: excellent characterisation, and feeling of place; the human interest element provided by Mella's approaching confinement; a skilful interlacing of back-story and story advancement.
My rating: 4.6
Read an extract and an interview on the Penguin site.
On the final page of the book the author promises that "Rebecka Martinsson will be back, she's not that easy to get rid of. Just give her time." THE SAVAGE ALTAR has been announced as the first of a series of six, featuring Martinsson.
Due out on 1 May 2008 THE BLOOD SPILT.
Synopsis from the Penguin site:
It is midsummer in Sweden - when the light lingers through dawn and the long winter comes to an end. Now, in this magical time, a brutal killer has chosen to strike, and the murder of a female priest sends shockwaves through the community. It has been almost two years since attorney Rebecka Martinsson returned to her birthplace, Kiruna, in order to stop an eerily similar murder spree. Now she is back in Kiruna, where a determined policewoman works on the case and the people who loved or loathed the victim mourn or revel in her demise. As Rebecka is drawn into a mystery that soon will claim another victim, the dead woman's world consumes her: a world of hurt and healing, sin and sexuality, and above all, of lethal sacrifice.
I'll be looking for it.
Sunday Salon #5 - 20 April 2008
I've worked out that, apart from postings to Sunday Salon, I monitor in my RSS reader the postings of about 50 bloggers, many of whom post on a daily basis like I do.
I've written 8 postings this week, so I hope I haven't driven too many people mad.
I have discovered that if you edit your post at any stage after the original publishing, then people who get it as a feed get a new copy with almost no indication of what the changes are. Probably they are correcting small imperfections that I didn't actually notice in the first place. So I try to get it right the first time - proof read carefully, catch typos, preview before posting - all that but of course some dreadful errors get through. Then you just have to decide if you let your readership think you are a dill, or whether you really do have to edit and post again.
Posting Summary for the last week (in reverse chronological order of posting)
- The UK Amazon list - new "stars"
The latest Amazon UK list top 10 features 3 authors with 2 books each, and R. J. Ellory is still on top
- Who should be on THAT list?
My comments on omissions and what appear to be influential factors of the Times Online list of the 50 Greatest Crime Writers blogged about yesterday
- Another attempt to list the best in crime fiction
A provocative list has been posted by Times Online. I captured the list (and probably breached some copyright guidelines, but I linked all the links back to their site)
- Why do you read - tell me!
This posting was a failure. :-(
I created a voicethread inviting people to tell me in audio or text why they read. Nobody has used it, so I've had no feedback on whether it works or not. I can't test it because it recognises my computer IP. I don't know whether people have to register with voicethread before they can add their comments.
- An update on LCC2009
Finally did my room booking for LCC2009 in Hawaii next March. There are 8 Australians that we know of attending. Have invited any one attending to let me know by commenting on the post.
- What not to borrow, buy or steal
My comments on dreadful CD set based on a series by one of my favourite authors.
- WORLD WITHOUT END, Ken Follett
My review of this 14 hour 12 CD set - an abridged reading of the novel
- Flattery will get you everywhere
Barbara Fister, host of Carnival of Criminal Minds, tagged me
- Jane Goodall, author to look for
What's in a name? Jane Goodall, Australian crime fiction author, is well worth looking for, but don't muddle her up with the lady of chimpanzee fame.
- The daughter and son-in-law who live in Abu Dhabi pay a flying visit this week to be part of a wedding
- The footy team have a remote chance of winning their first match for the season this afternoon. I keep picking them in the footy pool competition in the hope that my faith in them will push them over the line.
- This week is also Anzac Day (25th April) so its a 4 day working week.
- At the end of next week I'm off to Brisbane for a couple of days.
The UK Amazon list - new "stars"
Today I have noticed that the top 10 now contains
- 2 titles (no.2. and 3 on the list) by Harlan Coben: HOLD TIGHT, and THE WOODS
- still 2 by Mc Call Smith: THE GOOD HUSBAND OF ZEBRA DRIVE (at no. 4), BLUE SHOES AND HAPPINESS (at no. 9). The first in the series is just off top 10 at no. 11
- 2 by C. J. Sansom: DISSOLUTION (#1 in the series, at no. 6), and DARK FIRE (#2 in the series at no. 10)
- others on the list: No. 5 NOTHING TO LOSE by Lee Child, No. 7 FRIEND OF THE DEVIL by Peter Robinson, No. 8 T IS FOR TRESPASS by Sue Grafton.
The other thing I find interesting on this Amazon list is the prices given.
It seems that there is a lot of discounting of prices, that make those of us in Oz who invariably pay $AU32.95 for a "trade" paperback, and at least $AU19.95 for the smaller paperback, absolutely wince. The Amazon list says you can get a new copy of A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS for £3.86 Ouch!!!
Still the weather's lovely here :-)
Who should be on THAT list?
For example, at Crime Scraps there is a pondering of who has been left out; Petrona thinks 90% of the authors listed deserve to be there, but there are some unfortunate omissions; others on my blog roll have been very quiet about it; but on a couple of the online groups I belong to, there has been some desultory conversation, once again mainly on the theme of other authors who should be included.
Over on the Times Online site itself there has been much less comment than I would have expected, and they may be a bit disappointed. Among the suggestions for inclusion are Michael Connolly, Peter Robinson, John Creasey, Donald E. Westlake, Martha Grimes, Robert Crais, Kathy Reichs, Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child. Ignore my own gormless whine there, repeated twice, that Ruth Rendell was missing - she wasn't - oh for a delete button!
I find such lists quite exciting because they make you re-assess what/who you read. I decided for example that I can't have read enough Highsmith (I thought I had read some, but perhaps not), and tracked THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY down at the local library on a 4MA member's recommendation.
- no Australian authors - my suggestions Peter Temple, Fergus Hume, Patricia Carlon at least
- no Canadian authors - my suggestions Peter Robinson, Giles Blunt, Louise Penny
- a very 19th and 20th century list, with few authors who've actually made their mark in the 21st
- seems to have been influenced by whether the author has influenced another media say in film or TV. An over representation of those whose work was picked up in the 1990s by television in particular
- a good smattering of non-British authors, and from that point of view, a good attempt to be "fair"
- a bit of blurring of genres with some inclusion of authors I would consider writers of thrillers rather than crime fiction. I asked myself whether John Le Carre ought to be there.
19 April 2008
Another attempt to list the best in crime fiction
This is a very provocative list with a number of omissions. As you search for your favourite, I'm sure you'll pinpoint some. (Not an Australian author in the list for example.)
There are a number though that I cut my crime fiction teeth on.
And there are for me some surprise inclusions, and one or two I haven't read at all.
However I am pleased to see that I have at least a nodding acquaintance with about 45 out of the 50. And I enjoyed the pithy by-lines that attempts to capture the essence of each writer's achievement.
If anything I think the list is a bit light on with modern writers, particularly those who've made their mark in the 21st century.
You can leave a comment over on the main page to suggest others.
What is really great though is that every author listed is linked to another page of specific details: a justification for the choice, and then related articles, and sometimes audio and video files. They've certainly done their homework!
I find the order interesting too. I've read some Highsmith but never thought of putting her at the top of any list. Perhaps I need to read some more.
What do you think?
I've captured the list here, and each link should take you to the timesonline article on that author. To get to their main page click on the link on the heading above.
1. Patricia Highsmith:Rule-breaking master of amorality
2. Georges Simenon: The Trojan horse of foreign crime-writing
3. Agatha Christie: The original Queen of Crime
4. Raymond Chandler: The most profound of pulp writers
5. Elmore Leonard: The Dickens of Detroit
6. Arthur Conan Doyle:Creator of the ultimate hero-and-sidekick team
7. Ed McBain:Thrilling writer of snap-and-crackle dialogue
8. James M. Cain:Godfather of Noir
9. Ian Rankin: Edinburgh’s gritty crime laureate
10. James Lee Burke: American spinner of bleakly lyrical tales
11. Dennis Lehane: A tender craftsman with a tough centre
12. P.D. James:Prolific and cerebral grand dame of British crime
13. Dashiell Hammett:The man who dragged murder back into the alley
14. Jim Thompson:Revered creator of corrupt cops and sociopaths
15. Sjowall and Wahloo: The mother and father of Nordic crime
16. John Dickson Carr:King of the “locked room mystery”
17. Cornell Woolrich: Tortured pulp novelist known for Rear Window
18. Ruth Rendell: Criminal mastermind of unparalleled breadth and depth
19. Ross Macdonald: Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled heir
20. James Ellroy: The most literary of American crime writers
21. Charles Willeford:Aficianados’ favourite who is ripe for a break-through
22. Dorothy Sayers: Lord Peter Wimsey’s witty creator
23. John Harvey: The man behind the jazz-loving Nottingham cop Resnick
24. Wilkie Collins: Godfather of the detective novel
25. Francis Iles: Pseudonymous writer of radical plots
26. Manuel Vasquez Montalban:Intellectual gourmand whose fiction mapped Barcelona
27. Karin Fossum:Norway’s foremost cold-climate crime writer
28. Val McDermid:Influential author of high-grade “Tartan Noir”
29. Edgar Allan Poe:Mould-setter for the modern sleuth
30. Derek Raymond:Hard-drinking, hard-writing British crime legend
31. George Pelecanos:Energetic, music-loving social crusader
32. Margery Allingham:Golden Age sophisticate who can chill or charm
33. Minette Walters:Unflinching chronicler of humankind’s dark side
34. Carl Hiaasen:Rapid-fire satirist of Miami vices
35. Walter Mosley:A bold American voice, not afraid to tackle race
36. Reginald Hill:Playful creator of British favourites Dalziel and Pascoe
37. Michael Dibdin:Late, great ironist who investigated Italy’s corruption
38. Patricia Cornwell:Shrewd pioneer of gruesome pathology
39. Scott Turow:Legal thriller-writer famous for Presumed Innocent
40. Dick Francis:Former jockey and king of equestrian intrigue
41. Edmund Crispin:Elegant and accomplished Oxford plotter
42. Alexander McCall Smith: Scottish Professor whose Mma Ramotswe has won hearts and minds
43 Andrea Camilleri: Italy’s foremost crime export
44. Harlan Coben:Mature metroplitan stylist loved for his twisting plots
45. Donna Leon: American explorer of the Venetian underworld
46. Josephine Tey:Acute 1940s author whose books describe the danger of love
47. Colin Dexter: Former classics teacher who found fame with Morse
48. Nicholas Blake: C. Day Lewis’ crime-writing foil
49. Henning Mankell:Swedish novelist with a bleak take of modern life
50. Sara Paretsky: Spirited creator of feminist sleuth VI Warshawski
18 April 2008
Why do you read - tell me!
An update on LCC2009
Melbourne Writers Festival to held in central Melbourne in Federation Square, 22-31 August 2008.
And next year, Left Coast Crime being held in Hawaii 7-12 March 2009. Have booked the flights, paid the registration, and now have done the accommodation.
We worked out there are 8 of us that we know of, from downunder, including 3 spouses. Roughly we are Oz members of 4MA, and nearly all participants in oz_mystery_readers.
So if you happen to find this blog and are going to LCC2009, leave a comment so we can keep in touch.
There's a big list of participants so far, and authors among them include Donna Andrews, Deborah Atkinson, Brett Battles, Cara Black, Rhys Bowen, Barry Eisler, Dianne Emley, Denise Hamilton, Louise Penny, and Barbara Peters.
There's a blog at http://www.sayalohatomurder.com/ with an RSS feed at http://www.sayalohatomurder.com/feed/
What not to borrow, buy or steal
Hubby, bless his cotton socks, thought he was doing me a good turn when he borrowed from the library a BBC Audio Crime 2 CD set called FOR LOVE NOR MONEY: Dalziel and Pascoe. Now I love the Reginald Hill books, and throughly enjoy the TV series.
But I looked at this offering- 2 CDS, 2 hours - hrmph I said to meself, abridged!
Little did I know - worse than that!
Here is what the CD cover says: The original soundtrack from the BBC TV series, with linking narration by John Telfer. They didn't mention the wallpaper musak that ran in the background sometimes did they!
Nowhere does it say who wrote the linking narration, but all my instincts tell me it wasn't Reginald Hill. The whole thing is a travesty. Nowhere does it give any credit to Reginald Hill (for his intellectual property at least), but he wouldn't, I'm sure, be too upset at not being associated with this.
Bits of TV audio, Dalziel clumping down the corridor, slurping coffee, and conversation, are interspersed with connecting narration in the 3rd person, all carefully tailored to 1 hour per CD.
I think you will have gathered my opinion of it.
My rating: 2.0 (the lowest I've given this year)
16 April 2008
WORLD WITHOUT END, Ken Follett
A sequel to Follett's very successful book THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, WORLD WITHOUT END is set in the same cathedral town, Kingsbridge, two centuries later. The story begins just over two decades before the Black Death hit England in 1348. In some ways it is about how English towns emerged from the middle ages, from the dominance of people by the church, and the changes brought not only by pestilence, but also by European traders, and by war. On another level it traces the lives of four children who witness a murder in the forest in 1327, and how their lives interlace in the next 30 years. It gives a lovely insight to a very cataclysmic period of English history.
This is obviously not crime fiction, but my defence is that it has lots of little mysteries embedded in it. Besides Richard E. Grant's reading was magnificent!
Ken Follett's website
My rating: 4.7
Flattery will get you everywhere
Last week when she was guest blogger at Moments in Crime she posted Why I read and then tagged a few of us to comment. Reading is such a compulsion with me I refer to selling books second-hand as feeding my habit. Not that I sell many of the books that come my way. I usually pass them on, lend them out. Anyway you might like to read what I wrote and add your own comments, both here and there.
And the Carnival of Criminal Minds has come to Barbara's blog and she has created a wonderful catalogue of even more blogs for you to investigate. Thank goodness most of them are already on my RSS reader. Her blog is an excellent list of pointers. You'll never be without things to read if you follow just a few of them.
14 April 2008
Jane Goodall, author to look for
Jane tried to carve out a name for herself by calling herself Jane R. Goodall, and her second novel showed that on the cover, but by the third the R had gone again.
Jane Goodall has produced 3 very successful novels for you to look for.
* THE WALKER 2004
* THE VISITOR 2005
* THE CALLING 2007
I don't have a record for THE WALKER in my database but I remember being impressed.
Jane did a speaking/reading tour of Australia after THE WALKER was a featured book for the Australian Big Book Club and I heard her speak at a local library.
From the blurb on the cover of THE WALKER:
Plymouth 1967: Schoolgirl Nell Adams, all the newspapers reported, finds murder victim on train. And her photo covers the front pages. So he knew her name and her face. His face, or lack of it, filled her nightmares until she woke screaming...
London 1971: Nell is a university student in London, trying to put the past behind her. But as a series of murders reveals a killer obsessed with Jack the Ripper, she realises her nightmares might be coming true.
Detective Briony Williams, also just starting out on her life on London, is part of the team tracking down The Walker. The killer is a practised anatomist with a theatrical streak, arranging his victims' bodies in twisted parodies of Hogarth's engravings. He sends a perfectly extracted eye to the police in a Tupperware container, with a defiant message. He's planning a reunion with the schoolgirl who found his first victim.
Two young women, so full of hope and possibility, soon discover that new times mask age-old evil in this dark psychological thriller.
2005 THE VISITOR
Twin boys run away from their au pair on a trip to the Oxford countryside. They race into some woods where they see a man chopping. At first they think he is chopping wood, but what he is holding in his hand is not an axe, and the shape on the ground is not a tree. Their au pair, Sylvie, sets off to look for them... Briony Williams has moved to Oxford. The story begins as she speeds across the city to the murder site, where Sylvie Bec has been found dead—killed by a single blow that crushed her skull. The forensic pathologist says he has never seen anything like it.
With a fascination for all things terrifying, Jane Goodall takes readers into the dark, drug-filled world of 1970s Oxford, where we witness serial killings and a murderer with a fascination for ancient artefacts. Not even Detective Briony Williams is safe.
My rating: 4.7
2007 THE CALLING
Set in London 1976. Briony Williams has been promoted to Detective Inspector and relocated from Oxford to Chelsea. Her mentor Alexander Macready has been promoted to Commander. A leg, disconnected from the male body that it belongs to has turned up in the mud of the Chelsea Embankment. Briony's new patch is in the heartland of the newly emerging Punk movement, attracting all sorts of characters and bands, like Sudden Deff and the Sex Pistols. On Friday nights after dark Kings Road hosts "concerts" which are a strange mix of music, vaudeville and pyrotechnics. The squats around Kings Road are attracting teenagers particularly girls who have left home for a new life. And then a fanzine turns up featuring three portrait photographs: Briony, Macready and another policeman; with the caption DEFF ROW. Suddenly it seems they are all in deep water. In this, her third novel featuring Briony Williams, Australian author Jane Goodall shows a deft touch in building suspense. My recommendation: read the earlier novels, THE WALKER and THE VISITOR first if you can.
My rating: 4.8
I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
Jane Goodall is one of a number of successful Australian authors who have chosen to set their crime fiction novels overseas: Michael Robotham, Barry Maitland, PD Martin, Sydney Bauer, Marshall Browne, Brian Kavanagh, and Lauren Crow.