30 June 2008

Barry Maitland's books

Barry Maitland is one of those authors who may slip beneath the radar.
I'm not sure whether we can really claim him as an Australian author: Barry Maitland was born in Scotland and brought up in London. After studying architecture at Cambridge, he practised and taught in the UK before moving to Australia where he is Professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle.

I have 3 Maitland books in my database of books read in the last 40 months. There are lots of gaps in my reading but I have no hesitation in recommending you search him out.

ALL MY ENEMIES is the third in Barry Maitland's Brock and Kolla series. Detective Sgt. Kathy Kolla has been successful in her ambition to become one of the officers of the Serious Crime Squad, working with DCI David Brock as her superior, after her stint working with the County police. She is gratified to be called upon by Brock to help in the investigation of a murder one day prior to her official start on his team. A young girl, seemingly without an enemy to her name, has been discovered by her parents, brutally murdered and mutilated, Brock's team sets out to interview her friends, fiancé and workmates in an attempt to find the criminal. Kathy's investigations, aided by the presence of her aunt who has arrived unannounced on her doorstep, lead her to investigate an amateur theatre group. Kolla is put, as is Maitland's wont, into dire physical danger when she encounters as nasty a villain as the author has yet created. #3 in the series.
My rating: 4.7

In this work Maitland turns his focus on an artistic community where one of the leading artists, Gabriel Rudd, has won England’s most controversial art awards, the Turner Prize, with a painting he completed after the death of his wife. Now his daughter has disappeared, and two other young girls have also gone missing at the same time. Rudd begins to work on an art installation based on the grief he is experiencing for his lost daughter Tracey.
Within a disturbingly unconventional artists' neighbourhood in London, Detective Sergeant Kathy Kolla and Detective Inspector David Brock engage in their most passionate case yet. They need to find six-year-old Tracey Rudd. Tracey is the third child to be abducted in similar circumstances over the past few weeks. Her father, Gabriel, is an infamous artist known best for a work called 'Dead Puppies', and her mother, Jane, committed suicide five years earlier. Jane's parents have accused the self-absorbed Gabriel of neglecting Tracey with much the same abandon as he neglected his wife. Gabriel uses his daughter's disappearance as artistic inspiration to embark on a major controversial artwork - one painting for each day that brings no trace of Tracey. In the meantime, Brock and Kolla's investigations unearth the abductors of the first two girls, but there are still no leads to Tracey. These kidnappers, however, are connected to one of the artists in the neighbourhood, and in turn, everyone in the community falls under suspicion with grotesque consequences. As Kathy tries desperately to understand what motivates Gabriel, Brock's attention is turned necessarily to a new police enquiry, one that targets him. #8 in the series.
My rating: 5

Spider Roach, his very name a combination of the insect pests that we all hate, is the perfect illustration of the adage that evil breeds evil. Back in the 1980s he controlled the hotbed of gangster land around Cockpit Lane. Now an old man, 20 years on he still controls it - his 3 sons are evil and always have been, and they seem to have married and begotten evil too. Brock had dealings with Roach back in the 1980s and he emerges from retirement in SPIDER TRAP to warn Brock off from his current investigation into the spider's web of evil he has built up over the decades. Two young girls have been found shot dead in Cockpit Lane, a boy is electrocuted as he tries to cross the electrified rail line to get to the nearby waste land where "brown bread" is rumoured to be hidden, and then the police begin to dig up 20 year old skeletons buried in the waste ground. #9 in the Brock and Kolla series.
My rating: 4.7

29 June 2008

Sunday Salon #15 - 29 June 2008

This week I reached 53 books for the year - about 10 books less than this time last year, but nevertheless very satisfying.

My postings for this week:
    Burke obviously feels very strongly about what happened to New Orleans both as a consequence of the hurricane, but also the human and physical degradation that he witnessed. He does a pretty good job of bridging the story of what he wanted to say about Hurricane Katrina with elements of a thriller. I think perhaps the thriller bit didn't work as well as he wanted, but followers of Dave Robicheaux will no doubt have read of his role in the re-establishment of law and order in post-hurricane New Orleans with interest.
  • Reading the Mind in the Eyes
    Are fiction readers more insightful? A test tells you whether you are or not. I'm obviously not!
  • It's True - Well, Almost
    This posting was provoked by the fact that I was reading THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN and having trouble in distinguishing fact from fiction. It made me think of Truman Capote and "fictionalised fact".
  • Macavity Award 2008 Nominees announced
    Lots of readers say whether a book has won an award makes no difference to them at all. And often when the award is announced we lose sight of the other nominees. I find the lists really interesting and they do influence my choice of what to read.
    A quick read. A set of short stories starting with one when Dalziel & Pasoe first met.
  • REVIEW: EVIL INTENT, Kate Charles
    I've been listening to this in the car, finally got the 12 CDs finished. I'll miss Annie Aldington's excellent reading to and from work.
Breaking News this week:
What I am reading:
  • now - GALLOWS LANE, Brian McGilloway
  • next - THE DARKEST HOUR, Katherine Howell
  • audio book - APPEAL DENIED, Peter Corris


Simon & Schuster, 2007, 373 pages, ISBN 978-1-4165-4848-5
A Dave Robicheaux Novel

New Iberia, the home of both author James Lee Burke, and his detective Dave Robicheaux, is just 200 km west of New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans at the end of August 2005, then people from lesser affected New Iberia were amongst the first on the scene.

Burke obviously feels very strongly about what happened to New Orleans both as a consequence of the hurricane, but also the human and physical degradation that he witnessed. He says New Orleans was a song that went under the waves... Category 5 hurricanes don't take prisoners... New Orleans was systematically destroyed and that destruction begin in the early 1980s.. one of the most beautiful cities in the Western Hemisphere was killed three times, and not just by the forces of nature.

It is against the background of what happened during and after hurricane Katrina that Burke sets THE TIN ROOF BLOW DOWN. The opening chapters introduce characters who run like threads through the rest of the book: Catholic priest Jude LeBlanc dying from cancer and a drug addict; Otis Baylor an insurance agent who loves his job and whose daughter Thelma has been raped by some black youths; Tom Claggart, Otis' neighbour, an export-import man; Clete Purcel, Dave Robicheaux's partner hunting for bail skips and drug pushers; the Melancon brothers and Andre Rochon, low life flotsam of New Orleans, connected to and symbolic of an underworld that thrives.

As Hurricane Katrina advances on New Orleans, those who can take heed official warnings and evacuate or move into public buildings such as churches, the Convention Center and the Superdome. Those who can't are at the mercy of the rising waters from the tidal surge. And the low life turn to looting. The streets in every town in south west Louisiana become clogged with evacuation traffic seeking temporary shelter. No-one is prepared for the destructive force, five times greater than the bomb that hit Hiroshima, that strikes New Orleans.

Dave Robicheaux begins to search for his friend Jude Le Blanc who appears to have disappeared while assisting people trapped in the attic of St. Mary Magdalene in the Lower Nine. Otis Baylor lives in uptown New Orleans and although his street is flooded, his house is on higher ground and is powered by its own generators. Four young black men in a boat are systematically working their way up his street entering the unoccupied houses and looting them. The looters leave and the crisis seems averted. The next day the boat comes back and someone is killed. The Otis Baylor case becomes just one of a number of investigations that Dave and Clete pursue.

I did have a problem early in my reading of THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN with the amount of information that Burke was pumping out. Even as the plot developed it did make it difficult to distinguish what is now historical fact from crime fiction. The dilemma diminished as I read on, but for the first 100 pages or so I kept thinking of Truman Capote's "fictionalised facts" - hence yesterday's blog posting.

My main problem probably stemmed from the fact that I haven't read all the Dave Robicheaux series, in fact very few, so this novel was almost a stand-alone read. While the plot is complete in itself, there is back-story I have missed. A second problem was the consequence of my poor knowledge of US geography: that I didn't have a vision of where New Iberia is in relation to New Orleans.

However James Lee Burke does a pretty good job of bridging the story of what he wanted to say about Hurricane Katrina with elements of a thriller. I think perhaps the thriller bit didn't work as well as he wanted, but followers of Dave Robicheaux will no doubt have read of his role in the re-establishment of law and order in post-hurricane New Orleans with interest.

I visited New Orleans over 35 years ago and it's sad to think that what I saw then has gone.

My rating: 4.3

Dave Robicheaux's New Iberia (map)
James Lee Burke's website
James Lee Burke- The Tin Roof Blow Down
Wikipedia Biography
The Man Behind Dave Rochibeaux

Reading the Mind in the Eyes

Amazing what happens when you just look at the eyes!
The image to the right is a good friend. Would you say he was frowning, smiling, grinning, or perhaps just thinking?
Just capturing his eyes really changed my perception of what the rest of his face was doing!

The test which you can get to through the link below is from an experiment which reported that readers of fiction are more insightful, have highly developed empathy and understand the social manners that the world works to, compared to non-readers and readers who read non-fiction only.


I scored a measly 18, so don't feel embarrassed about commenting on what you scored.

If you are interested in reading further background on the above visit An Eye on Fiction from January Magazine, which describes the whole thing.

If you want to analyse yourself further, which I don't, there are more tests here.

28 June 2008

It's True - Well, Almost

I'm not a great fan of the "true crime" genre and that is probably reflected in the ratings I have given the books I've listed here. However I also concede that many crime fiction authors get their ideas and even a considerable part of their content from true crime files. What I generally dislike about the true crime accounts that I have read is what seems to me the unacknowledged fictionalisation that occurs as the content is padded out and interpreted. The lines between fiction and fact become blurred to the point where the reader is likely to accept everything as "the truth."

This posting is prompted by the fact I am currently half way through THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN by James Lee Burke which is crime fiction based on the crime wave caused in Louisiana by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This posting will give me some reflective background for my eventual review.

The author at whose door the blurred line accusation can be laid is Truman Capote and so my first mini-review is about IN COLD BLOOD, which is generally recognised as founding a new style of writing.

IN COLD BLOOD, Truman Capote, published 1966
This reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and their two children by 2 amoral young killers. The book presents the true-fact story almost as if it were fiction with descriptive passages where truth and journalism are inextricably intertwined. The structure that Capote chose for the book gave him the leeway to use the facts to explore the circumstances surrounding the murders, and to consider why they happened, and what the effects were on those who not only remained but investigated the crime.
My Rating: 4.2

True crime story that traces the case of a young woman murdered in Sydney late in 1991. Her body remained unidentified for a number of months and was referred to in the press and publicity as Jane Doe. It was to be a case crucial to the career of a young detective senior constable handling his first homicide investigation. The book recounts the story of the discovery of the body, the steps taken to identify it, the final break-through, and then the eventual tracing of the murderer and his extradition back to Australia. Written by two Sydney journalists, the book also contains an epilogue by the detective, now a detective superintendent. The final chapter is the judge's summing up as he delivered his verdict. A rather "no-frills" account, it will be popular with those who look for something that is easy to read and yet factually accurate.
My rating: 4.2

Author Stacy Horn spent two years working with New York City’s Cold Case Squad. THE RESTLESS SLEEP in written in the true crime genre pioneered by Truman Capote. It follows four main cases that began as far ago as 1951, and brings them through to the present day. Horn focuses on the methodology of cold case investigations, reconstructing investigations and interviews from dusty archival boxes and public record. In each of the cases Horn had access to the Cold Case Squad detective who worked the case, the commanding officer of their unit, and commanding officer of the Cold Case Squad.
My rating: 3.2

Do you really know your neighbours? What happens in their house? In their backyard? Would you be living next door to people like this anyway? In 'Killing for Pleasure' Australian journalist Debi Marshall tells the stories behind the grisly Snowtown "bodies-in-the barrels" serial killings, carried out over seven years in South Australia by three killers and their accomplices, both knowing and unwitting. The book took Marshall five years to write, synthesising thousands of hours of interviews with the families of the victims, with neighbours, and with close members of the families of the murderers. What she describes pushes the boundaries of credibility, both in relation to the nature of the murders, and in the slowness of the South Australian police system to begin an investigation into the disappearance of the victims.
My rating: 4.5

DONE LIKE A DINNER, Jennifer Cooke & Sandra Harvey.
The authors tell us in the preface that DONE LIKE A DINNER “is the result of ten years of eating at bistros, brasseries, cafes, pizzerias, coffee shops, clubs, pubs and restaurants, all in the name of research.” The focus of these stories is particularly on gangland wars in Sydney and Melbourne from the 1980s to the first decade of the twenty first century. The ten stories are pieced together from newspaper reports, trial proceedings and through talking to family and other people who remember the incidents. Each chapter begins with an identification of the restaurant, night club or bar and includes in the first pages a recipe that might once have been served there. A Very Fishy Murder, the first story, describes how Andrew Kalajzich of K’s Snapper Inn at Manly came to put a price on his wife’s head and eventually to kill her. In Chapter 2 Ducky O’Connor is killed in a crowded Sydney restaurant by mobster Lennie McPherson. McPherson re-appears in later stories. Chapter 3, Siege at the Spaghetti Speak-Easy, recounts how aboriginal juvenile delinquent Amos Atkinson, panics and holds thirty people hostage at Melbourne’s Italian Waiters’ Club. Finally in the last two stories we see Melbourne at the mercy of extended gangland wars culminating in the cold-blooded murder of Lewis Moran in 2004, and the impact of two decades of bikie gang vendettas in Sydney.
My rating: 3.8

25 June 2008

Macavity Award 2008 Nominees announced

Macavity Awards for 2008

The Macavity Award is named for the "mystery cat" of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats). Each year the members of Mystery Readers International nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in four categories.

The year listed is the year of the award, for books published in the previous year.

Best Mystery Novel:

  • Reed Farrel Coleman: Soul Patch (Bleak House)
  • John Connolly: The Unquiet (Hodder & Stoughton*/Atria)
  • David Corbett: Blood of Paradise (Ballantine Mortalis)
  • Deborah Crombie: Water Like a Stone (Morrow)
  • Laura Lippman: What the Dead Know (Morrow)

Best First Mystery:

  • Tana French: In the Woods (Hodder & Stoughton*/Viking)
  • Joe Hill: Heart-Shaped Box (William Morrow)
  • Lisa Lutz: The Spellman Files (Simon & Schuster)
  • Tim Maleeny: Stealing the Dragon (Midnight Ink)
  • Matt Beynon Rees: The Collaborator of Bethlehem (Soho)

Best Mystery Short Story:

  • Donna Andrews: "A Rat's Tale" (EQMM, Sep-Oct 2007)
  • Rhys Bowen: "Please Watch Your Step" (The Strand Magazine, Spring 2007)
  • Jon L. Breen: "The Missing Elevator Puzzle" (EQMM, Feb 2007)
  • Beverle Graves Myers: "Brimstone P.I." (AHMM, May 2007)
  • Gillian Roberts: "The Old Wife's Tale" (EQMM, Mar-Apr 2007)

Best Mystery Non-Fiction:

  • Barry Forshaw: Rough Guide to Crime Fiction (Penguin Rough Guides)
  • Jean Gould O'Connell: Chester Gould: A Daughter's Biography of the Creator of Dick Tracy (McFarland & Company)
  • Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley, editors: Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (HarperPress*/Penguin)
  • Lee Lofland: Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers (Howdunit Series, Writers Digest Books)
  • Roger Sobin, editor/compiler: The Essential Mystery Lists: For Readers, Collectors, and Librarians (Poisoned Pen Press)

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery:

  • Rhys Bowen: Her Royal Spyness (Penguin)
  • Ariana Franklin: Mistress of the Art of Death (Putnam)
  • Jason Goodwin: The Snake Stone (Faber & Faber*/ Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Clare Langley-Hawthorne: Consequences of Sin (Viking*/Penguin)
  • Joyce Carol Oates: The Gravedigger's Daughter (HarperCollins Ecco)
The awards will be presented during opening ceremonies at Bouchercon, which is the largest mystery writers conference.

This year's Bouchercon, Charmed to Death, will be Oct. 9-13 in Baltimore.

Guests of Honor

Lawrence Block, Distinguished Contribution to the Genre
Laura Lippman, American Guest of Honor
John Harvey, International Guest of Honor
Mark Billingham, Toastmaster
Robert Rosenwald & Barbara Peters, Lifetime Achievement Award
Thalia Proctor, Fan Guest of Honor


Collins Crime 1996, 272 pages, ISBN 0-00-2325128

A collection of 4 short stories published 1979-1994.
Many thanks to Peter Beyond Borders for recommending I read them. Well worth hunting them down.

The Last National Serviceman (1994)
Reginald Hill takes us back two decades and tells us how Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe first met. When Andy is abducted by a man known as "the last national serviceman", a bond is forged between him and Constable Peter Pascoe.

Pascoe's Ghost (1979)
The chapter headings in this novella are all from the poetical works of Edgar Allan Poe. Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe is investigating a missing person case, rather reminiscent of Golden Age village mysteries. Kate Swithenback disappeared just on a year ago and it seems likely that she was murdered, although her body has never been found. Dalziel makes only small cameo appearances as Pascoe investigates anonymous claims that the husband, now playing the field, has a case to answer.

Dalziel's Ghost (1979)
Dalziel and Pascoe end up staying the night in a haunted house belonging to Pascoe's accountant. But nothing is ever as it seems and Fat Andy's reasons for doing anything are always devious.

One Small Step (1990)
In my opinion this is the pick of the crop and interesting to read in the light of what we know the 21st century has held for the duo.
The year is 2010 and Peter Pascoe is now the UK Commissioner in the Eurofed Justice Department. Andy Dalziel is retired, and, in his own words, he's "a pensioned-off bobby, suffering from gout, distiller's droop, and the monstrous regiment of visiting nurses". In front of 227 million television witnesses including Fat Andy, the first man murdered on the moon spectacularly falls off the ladder connecting his module to moon's surface, and dies. Pascoe has to solve the crime and he whisks Dalziel away from his gout bed to the moon to assist in his investigation.
Andy Dalziel gets the chance to see how far his protege has come, but is he still the upright, play-it-by-the-book man he was?
The gem in this story lies in the Foreword where Hill recounts a conversation between himself and his characters on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of them "being together". He writes this story as a birthday present.

My rating: 4.5

24 June 2008


I wrote my progress report on this 12 CD reading of the novel almost a month ago. It is read very well by Annie Aldington, and I must confess that I will miss listening to her as I drive to and from work.

I had not read any Kate Charles novels before and originally wondered whether I was going to like the novel, so far from my usual reading was it. In fact in my report I wrote "Things had better look up soon. I can feel things moving towards the first climax but there is a limit to how much of the day to day routine of church life that I can stand."

Well, I adapted to the setting and began to enjoy it. Here is the blurb again, because I really can't do much better:

Life in the clergy is quiet, respectful, peaceful or so Callie Anson believes when she begins her new job as curate to the Reverend Brian Stanford at All Saints Church in Paddington. Little does she realise how wrong she could be.

After the traumatic end of her relationship with fiancé Adam, the last thing Callie needs is any more emotional turmoil. But it seems she is not destined for a quiet life just yet. Knowing that women in the clergy are still disapproved of in certain quarters, Callie is prepared to face some criticism. But the deep-seated hatred shown by some of her respected male colleagues takes her by surprise, particularly the spiteful attack made by Father Jonah Adimola, a hard-line conservative Nigerian priest. Luckily, however, her good friend and mentor Frances Cherry is on hand to jump to her defence. But when Father Adimola is found strangled to death the next day and Frances is suspected of the crime, Callie must call upon her faith to steer her through the troubling and violent times ahead and help prove her friend's innocence. With DI Neville Stewart heading the investigation, it is not long before the ecclesiastical façade is chipped away to reveal the ugly truth of the hidden secrets of the clergy.

There's a lot in this story about relationships, the need to feel connection with another. As the mystery unfolded I enjoyed the exploration of emotional entanglements. I'd read or listen to another.

My rating: 4.2

22 June 2008

Sunday Salon #14 - 22 June 2008

What is your purpose in blogging?

I began my blog basically as a place where I can publish reviews of the books I've read. I'm a relative newbie to consistent blogging, having dabbled a bit last year, but I resolved this year to try to blog almost everyday. I've just worked out today that I've done more than that. This is my 208th post in 173 days. I know that I sometimes post twice a day - a book review, and some other cogitations.

The thing is I do find blogging cathartic. I often publish a "progress report" about the book I am reading. It helps me clarify my ideas about what is going on, and is often the starting paragraphs for my eventual review. I am also finding, I think, that the extra writing practice is having a beneficial effect on my reviews.

My postings for this week:
  • REVIEW: CARELESS IN RED, Elizabeth George
    Just what it says, my review of the book. Much awaited by Lynley & Havers fans. Some people have already found the review and commented.
  • Watching You, Watching Me
    A description of the way in which I keep track of the blogs of others. I'd love your comments about what you do.
  • Never visit Midsomer during a Festival
    I love watching the TV series Midsomer Murders but my advice is to keep well away in real life. I found out where to check on whose been in the 60 episodes etc.
  • Spending all day online
    In reality I spend most of every day online. I work online to a large extent. But last Tuesday was special because we ran a series of workshop sessions online for the first time. To the right, me at work.
  • Suffering from Big-Book-itis
    Just recently I seem to have chosen big big books to read. Often they are well over 400 pages, even over 500 pages. They do affect where I have to sit to read them. Lying in bed holding the book in one hand is really challenging!
  • On a recommendation of a friend I have just begun reading ASKING FOR THE MOON by Reginald Hill, a collection of 4 novellas, beginning with The Last National Service Man, which divulges how Dalziel and Pascoe met.
  • I saw a really good Word Press plugin over on ClareS's Blue Archipelago this week called Comment Luv. You'll see it in action here. When you add a comment to the blog posting, then it displays the title of your last blog posting. Very nifty, but I don't think Blogger has an equivalent unfortunately. The closest widget is probably what I have running in my blog roll. (51 Blogs I am watching)
If you visit my blog, please leave a comment, and let me know that you dropped by! I'll try to visit your blog too - at least I'll know where it is.

21 June 2008


Hatchette Live Australia, 2008, 530 pages
ISBN 0340922974(978-034-092297-2)

As has become my custom, particularly with a book that is taking some time to read, and this one took over 10 days, I wrote a progress report, which I subtitled Will Thomas Lynley please stand up?

Here is a bit of what I wrote there:
Elizabeth George fans have been waiting a while for this new novel.
WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS in which Lynley's wife Helen was murdered was published in 2005, and WHAT CAME BEFORE HE SHOT HER, which explained how she came to be murdered, in 2006.
In terms of modern day publishing, the wait, for the next Lynley & Havers case, has been quite long. But in fact the "virtual time" lapse between novels is nowhere near that long.

The blurb on the back of the book begins "It is barely three months since the murder of his wife and Thomas Lynley has taken to the South-West Coast Path in Cornwall, determined to walk its length in an attempt to recover from his loss..."
Six weeks into the walk he finds the body of a young man who appears to have fallen down a cliff to the beach and Lynley's inbuilt knowledge of what to do about a crime scene kicks in.

But Lynley is obviously not ready to return to work. Not only has he been sleeping rough for 6 weeks, he is bearded, unwashed, and he smells. He tries to get away without identifying himself but someone recognises his name. As the person who reports the discovery of the body, he also finds himself at first as a suspect.

Lynley is co-opted into the investigation by D.I. Bea Hannaford into whose lap it has fallen because she is short staffed. Her gut feeling is that, despite appearances, he is not a suspect but that she can use him to find out more about other suspects, for example Daidre Trehair who owns the cottage closest to where Lynley discovers the body. First investigations indicate that Trehair is hiding something, but is she guilty of murder?

There is no getting away from the fact that this is a complex, many stranded book, with an almost bewildering cast of characters, and an array of sub-plots, some of which turn out to have little to do with the main murder investigation. But what most of the sub-plots do have in common with the main story are the themes of loss, the love of parents for their children, the need for children to break away eventually, and what makes a marriage.

The length of the book comes directly from George's exploration of these themes in sub-plots that are really stories on their own. Many of the reviews that I have seen have criticised its length, even said that George is attempting to take her writing to the level of literature, as if that was a bad thing. In reality she couldn't have done what she has done in less.

This case is part of the rehabilitation process for Thomas Lynley. Helen is only 3 months dead, and with her died his unborn child. He has been unable to imagine a meaningful life without her, and in CARELESS IN RED, you can see meaning being re-born.

I am very much taken with the character of Bea Hannaford and would like to see more of her in a future book. Her marriage to the Assistant Chief Commissioner has been in limbo for 14 years and an exploration of the causes of this and its effect on her life is one of the enjoyable sub-plots in CARELESS IN RED. I couldn't help comparing her to Helen Tursten's Irene Huss, Aline Templeton's Marjorie Fleming, and Cath Staincliffe's Janine Lewis.

So, even though this took me a long time to get through, it was a quality read. I kept thinking "I must remember to mention that in my review" when I read one thing or another. And of course I haven't mentioned everything. How could I and not spoil the experience for you? But if you find it long reading like I did, I'd like to tell you that this morning I found the final 70 pages totally gripping.

My rating: 4.8

Watching You, Watching Me

Just a few jottings about how I watch the rest of the crime/murder/mystery fiction genre.
  • I have already identified a number of interesting blogs that relate to the genre and monitor these through an RSS reader, a piece of software available free at http://www.rssreader.com
    After installing it on your computer all you do is add the URLs of the RSS feeds that you want to monitor. If you are generally on your computer frequently then it works pretty well. The RSS reader checks for new items once you are online.
    I've included my own blogs on this so I can see what others are getting. Helps with picking up mistakes, problems and typos.
    My installed version of RSS reader is getting a bit long in the tooth and perhaps I should look at upgrading it. I'm a bit put off by the fact that the instructions say I have to remove the old version first and I don't want to lose the content I currently have.

  • Recently I have added 50 or so of those blog URLs to the widget you can see running in the side bar currently called 51 blogs I am watching. If the RSS feed from the blog I've linked to is working properly (and in 90% of the cases it does) what you should see is the name of the blog (sometimes altered in my list for clarity) and the title of the latest posting there. As something new is posted so that link gravitates to the top of the list. I'm actually finding it a useful tool myself because I can see at a glance what is new, pop over to the person's blog (it opens in a new window) without having to look at my RSS reader. This widget is supplied by blogger.

  • I also have a number of Google Alerts coming in, that I've set up at Google. They scour new internet and blog pages for set terms like crime fiction, murder mystery and "mysteries in paradise", and new alerts arrive in my email on a daily basis. You'd think that perhaps I'd find few blogs that I don't know about but in fact in only the last week I've found another 4 like minds to monitor.
My guess is that there is a critical mass to the number of ways in which I can keep this "watching" going. I was away from home recently and when I finally got to run it my RSS reader was bulging at the seams with unread items, but I eventually got through them.

I like to let people know that I have seen postings of interest and so I try to leave comments, but with the number of blogs that I monitor, this is obviously not always possible. However I do enjoy getting comments myself and so if you've read this posting and have found it interesting/useful or just downright appalling, please comment.

Never visit Midsomer during a Festival!

The British Television series Midsomer Murders to which I am incurably addicted is based on characters and settings created by Caroline Graham in a relatively short series begun in 1987 with the publication of THE KILLINGS AT BADGER'S DRIFT.
1. The Killings at Badger's Drift (1987)
2. Death of a Hollow Man (1989)
3. Death in Disguise (1992)
4. Written in Blood (1994)
5. Faithful Unto Death (1996)
6. A Place of Safety (1999)
7. A Ghost in the Machine (2004)

The central character is Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby played throughout the TV series which began in 1997 by John Nettles. Other characters such as his wife Joyce, his daughter Cully, the forensic pathologist George have all been played by the same actors, while Barnaby has had 3 DSs. See the following from Wikipedia.
Wikipedia tells me also that sixty episodes have been aired on TV so far, the 11th series is currently being aired and that there is a series 12 to come. I have no idea which ones I have watched, and I find that even if I have seen an episode before, I can easily watch it again- which I take as a sign of true addiction.

My database contains only one record of a book that I have read in the last 3 or so years and that is for THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE. And it seems from my rating of 3.5 that I wasn't all that impressed.
I think the bit in italics probably came from the blurb of the book (which used to be what I did in my database before I became more confident about writing my own abstracts)
In the village of Forbes Abbot, Dennis Brinkley is the subject of much local gossip as he collects replicas of old war-weapons and torture devices of varying sizes. Paradoxically, one of the collector's war machines crushes him to death. The villagers believe that a freak accident occurred, but his best friend Benny thinks someone is getting away with a homicide. The locals believe that Benny's contention is substantiated when psychic Ava Garrett insists she will ask Dennis to identify his killer at a séance she is hosting. However, before she can call on Dennis, an unknown assailant kills the psychic. Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby and Detective Sergeant Gavin Troy investigate the two homicides.
This took too long to get to the bit where Barnaby and Troy were involved (nearly half the book) and there were too many side plots. Barnaby is getting ready for retirement in 6 months, is Graham too? As usual with Graham, the last chapter gives you a future view, and this gave the impression of having been written in a hurry. I think the editor should have got ruthless with the first half of the book and made her work harder in the second half.

Anyway, review aside, my advice is never to visit the area of Midsomer during a festival! Because that is when murders occur. The probability of being caught up somehow in a murder as victim, witness, or even perpetrator is incredibly high. Besides all they seem to do in Midsomer villages is have festivals. It must be a positive mecca for tourism although sometimes the attendees seem to be very sparse. Just recently I watched one where there was a Literary Festival (Sins of Commission), and it was not really something you or I, dear reader, would have attended. A few rag taggle stalls, the occasional speaker, some fireworks, and of course a murder!

The other thing I have enjoyed about this series is the panoply of actors, some very new to the game, but others well known, very recognisable, who make appearances. The listing at Wikipedia gives lots of lovely detail. The first screen writer was Anthony Horowitz, then Caroline Graham had a dabble herself, and then there have been a variety of them.

There is a Midsomer News page run by a fan too.

18 June 2008

Spending all day online

Well, I actually usually spend all day online as part of my job, answering emails, supporting moodle Groups etc. but today was a ground breaking day, with our very first online conference.
We began with a breakfast session about me.edu.au and used this wonderful photo which is is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License

We followed that up with 3 more sessions on digital literacy, locating resources for use in multimedia, and learning without borders, in a Wimba Live Classroom and tonight I have been in a Second Life session.

Here are a couple of images from that.

That's me in the blue edna shirt :-)

And we do it all again next Tuesday!

16 June 2008

Suffering from Big-Book-itis

I have decided that I must be suffering from the syndrome of the big book. Certainly it is amazing I am not suffering from RSI!

Currently I'm reading Elizabeth George's CARELESS IN RED. I've been reading it for most of the last week - unusual for me. The format is trade paperback, and it weighs in at 532 pages.

Before that SHATTER by Michael Robotham was a mere 466 pages.
A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES by Reginald Hill, 533 pages
NEMESIS by Jo Nesbo, 474 pages

Waiting in the wings:
ALIBI by Sydney Bauer, 504 pages
Admittedly the latter in is large print format.

They all make the next I intend reading, Jame Lee Burke's THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN, look positively thin at a mere 373 pages. I'm tempted to ignore them all and read MURDER ON THE EIFFEL TOWER by Claude Izner just because it's got less than 300 pages!

One of the things that I've noticed with these "big" books: they are usually what I would call multi-plot books. There's a main plot and lots of sub-plots all of which eventually converge more or less together. Neither does the author confine himself/herself to the minimum of description. It's as if, having settled on writing a big book, they now no longer feel confined to being economical with words. I wonder too how much has been edited out? The mind boggles at how big it could have been.
Has the time of the slim novel passed? The smallest I can remember reading recently was a Donna Leon. They always seem to come in at about 250 pages.

Anyway, this is not getting the reading done. Back to CARELESS IN RED!

15 June 2008

Sunday Salon #13 - 15 June 2008

I've been fighting jet lag all week. At work we've been discussing which direction of travel is worst for jet lag - going west or going east.
Going west from Adelaide to Abu Dhabi you actually gain about 7 hours of actual time. I didn't notice a jet lag.
But coming back, travelling to the east, you are actually travelling with the earth's rotation and in reality you lose about 7 hours of actual body time. That's probably a very unscientific explanation.
We worked out that by the time we went to bed last Sunday night we'd actually been vertical for about 36 hours, so I guess that didn't help. So as a result, I've been a bit tired at odd times through the day, and then waking up at odd times in the night.

Posts this week (in reverse order):
  • You Never Know Where You'll Appear
    Google Alerts help me discover a spot where my blog postings appear
  • New Element on my blog
    Blogger has come up with a new blogroll element that lets visitors to your site to see (and visit) the latest posting on blogs that you watch.
    This was my 200th post on my blog!
  • Locked-Off Murders
    Looks at locked-room style crime fiction set on islands, in snow, and on trains
  • Elizabeth George novels
    Over the last 21 years there have been 13 Inspector Lynley novels. Elizabeth George won the Anthony Award, the Agatha Award, and France's Le Grand Prix de Literature Policiere for her first novel A GREAT DELIVERANCE, for which she was also nominated for the Edgar and the Macavity Awards.
  • CARELESS IN RED, Progress Report
    I've been reading this all week, and Thomas Lynley has been playing a very low key role. I'm still waiting for Barbara Havers to make an appearance.
  • Weekly Geeks 6 and 7- Reviews and Photos
    I caught up with some Weekly Geek challenges, but I am having troubling working out what the new challenge is each week.
  • Dangers of being a genre novelist
    Reflections on the way we mentally categorise a novelist, how publishers and booksellers like to be able to market their books as a certain genre. Once writing in a particular genre, what chance does a novelist have of breaking into another genre? How many crime fiction authors do you know who have been ghost writers?
  • Last week the beloved footy team again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. At home we watched with disbelief. Their chances of getting into finals are blown, even though the season is only half way through.
  • On oz_mystery_readers we have begun discussing Reginald Hill's A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES. I'm the QM this time (Question Maker). I'll list some of the questions below.
  1. Question #1 - the Dedication
    ** How did you interpret the dedication "To Janeites everywhere"?
    (here is the full dedication
    To Janeites everywhere and in particular to those who ten years ago in San Francisco made me so very welcome at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s GM, of which the theme was Sanditon – a new direction? And during which the seeds of this present novel were sown. I hope that my fellow Janeites will approve the direction in which I have moved her unfinished story;)
    If you haven't thought about that yet, you might like to look at these weblinks
    ** So what has Reginald Hill done?
  2. Question #2 - was this plagiarism?
    Wikipedia defines plagiarism
    Plagiarism is the practice of claiming or implying original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else's written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one's own without adequate acknowledgement. (there's more if you want to check it out)
    So is Reginald Hill guilty of plagiarism?
    How would you argue for or against it?
    Do you know of other authors who have done something similar?
    In 2007 R.N. Morris published A GENTLE AXE
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/m/r-n-morris/gentle-axe.htm tells you what he did. Is that plagiarism?
    What about people who include famous characters/authors like Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, or Eleanor Roosevelt
    What other examples can you think of?
  3. Question#3 - a long series
    Did you realise this is #23 in the Dalziel & Pascoe series?
    Have you read many of them?
    There are issues and questions that many authors grapple with as they write a series over an extended period.
    how do their characters age? in real time?
    I am thinking here of Ian Rankin who recently retired John Rebus, Ruth Rendell who is definitely now portraying Reg Wexford as a man close to retirement, Michael Robotham who has retired Vincent Ruiz, and Colin Dexter who killed Morse off. Perhaps you can think of other examples.
    Reginald Hill began with his first novel, A CLUBBABLE WOMAN, being published in 1970, that was 38 years ago!
    If you check the list above you will also find 2 chapbooks (Wikipedia says that's a booklet) and one novella
    How old do you think Dalziel & Pascoe are in A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES?
    Does anybody know how old they were in the first, A CLUBBABLE WOMAN?
    What issues do you think Hill is trying to test in this (and recent novels)?
    You might like to consider this: Dalziel: “twang” – the sound on an umbilical cord snapping p. 457
    What do you think he is referring to?
So that's what I've been up to.

14 June 2008

You Never Know Where You'll Appear

I have a number of Google Alerts set. They scour new internet and blog pages for set terms like crime fiction, murder mystery and "mysteries in paradise", and new alerts arrive in my email on a daily basis.
Check Google Alerts out here

Anyway today my Google Alert for mysteries in paradise referred to me twice.
Once was for my recent posting headed Locked-Off Murders. I was pleased about that because just recently I seemed to have slipped off the Google Alert radar and it's been telling me about every body else's blog except mine.

The other one I investigated more, because this said
Giles Blunt: The Delicate Storm Bookblog @ the Writer's Cafe
by MYSTERIES in PARADISE. ( 2008-05-24 14:30:00 GMT/2008-01-14 09:20:43 GMT ) [ rss ]. When a copy of Giles Blunt's THE DELICATE STORM arrived, ...

Now what seems to have happened is that a blog called the Writer's Cafe has incorporated a technorati RSS feed in a page about Giles Blunt's THE DELICATE STORM.
You can see the end result here:
You will see a link to a couple of my blog postings in the body of the page, and then over in the right hand column another reference, and also one to my friend Sally's blog. These have come in via Google Blog Search, and then there are even more from the loose cyber clan that I belong to: Peter Beyond Borders to name one. The Google Blog Search page offers to create an email alert, a blog search gadget, and a blog search feed on this topic for me.

I investigated the Writer's Cafe further and found that I also part of a similarly constructed page about Ian Rankin's FLESHMARKET CLOSE.

Can anybody explain to me how Technorati works? Is it like Google, busily scraping stuff from new web pages and blogs? I've seen a couple of other references in the Google Alerts to Technorati. I've visited the site, but don't feel a lot wiser.

Anyway, as I said once you have published on the web, you never know where your words will be found. Gives you something to think about doesn't it?

New Element on my blog

Yesterday I implemented a new blog roll element on my blog. You'll see it in the lower half of the page- it is called Blogs I am Watching.
I had a sort of manually created one there before which was really just an html list.
What this new element does, is it draws in the title of the latest post of the blogs in my list. The list order seems to have the most recent posting at the top and so it will change as the page is accessed by a new person.
I monitor all these blogs through an RSS reader but this now makes what "my friends" do accessible to my readers. Perhaps my "friends" will notice new visitors to their blogs. I hope so. There are an additional couple of settings I could implement, which are "Snippet of most recent item" and date. I decided against this because I thought it would make the list very long.
There are already 41 blogs on the list, and I have no doubt I will find more to add.

13 June 2008

Locked-Off Murders

Inspired by fellow blogger Petrona whose latest posting is about "island novels", I decided to investigate my mini-reviews for different sorts of isolation. I've come up with 11 murder mysteries that I've read in the last 3 years or so, that are really variations on the "locked-room" scenario.

On an island

THE LIGHTHOUSE, P.D. James, my rating 5.0
Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed men and women in positions of high authority who require privacy and guaranteed security. But the peace of Combe is violated when one of the distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered.

PIG ISLAND, Mo Hayder, my rating 4.8
Journalist Joe Oakes makes his living exposing supernatural hoaxes. The video of the 'the devil of Pig Island' has been around for a couple of years and Joe is absolutely sure that it is a hoax. Rumours of Satanic rituals taking place on Pig Island still proliferate, particularly among the mainland locals who resent the fact that the island is no longer open to them. The secretive religious group that lives on the island invites Joe to stay with them on the island for a week to see how the community lives. That dreadful events occur on Pig Island seems confirmed by two pieces of evidence that Joe can check for himself: a dreadful smell apparent when the wind blows from that quarter, and decaying chunks of flesh that constantly drift from the island to the mainland.

RAVEN BLACK, Ann Cleeves, my rating 4.6
Set on Shetland. Magnus Tait, an elderly man living on his own, mentally slow, and once dominated by his mother, was thought by the islanders to have been responsible when a little girl disappeared a few years ago. Her body was never found. But now when Magnus's teenage neighbour Catherine Ross is found strangled, there are those who say that Tait must be the prime suspect, and that the police need look no further. The detective is Jimmy Perez, an islander himself, now living on Fair Isle, but he went to school on Shetland. A carefully constructed satisfying read. 4.6

THE RECKONING, Sue Walker, my rating 4.4
They buried three girls. They buried the killer. But did they bury the truth? In June 1973 the bodies of three missing teenagers were found on the tiny Scottish island of Fidra. And when his father was arrested for the murders, 11-year-old Miller McAllister's life fell apart.

Isolated by snow

RENDEZVOUS AT KAMAKURA INN, Marshall Browne, my rating 4.3
Just when things really can't get any worse, Aoki is sent by his superintendent to the Kamakura Inn, a ryokan in Hokkaido, to recuperate.The detective in Aoki is revived as he realises that the other guests at the ryokan have secrets to hide, and he wonders if he has been sent there intentionally. He remembers an unsolved mystery of the disappearance of a woman 7 years earlier, and realises that at least two of the other guests have connections to that case. When the ryokan is cut off from the world in a snow storm, this tale becomes a classic locked room mystery. The ryokan is a house of many secrets, built to hide as well as accommodate, and the tension grows as first of all the telephone, and then the lights fail.

THE SACRED CUT, David Hewson, my rating 4.8
For the first time in two decades, Rome is paralysed by a blizzard. And a gruesome discovery is made in the Pantheon, one of the city's most ancient and revered architectural treasures. Covered by soft snow is the body of an American tourist - her back horribly mutilated.

DISTURBED EARTH, Reggie Nadelsen, my rating 4.2
Winter 2003. War is looming and New York is paralysed by the worst blizzard in years. Artie Cohen is called in to investigate a case: a pile of blood-soaked children's clothes have been found on the beach in Brooklyn. Almost against his will, Artie finds himself drawn into a case that involves the death of a child and the unaccountable disappearance of another, all against the background of a city already stricken by fear.

On a train

THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN, Agatha Christie, my rating 4.5
When Ruth Van Aldin Kettering is found murdered on the Blue Train en route to her annual winter trip to the French Riviera, it is up to Hercule Poirot to discover if she was murdered because the famous jewel was in her possession or was she murdered by her husband or his mistress or was there yet another sinister motive.

THE EXCURSION TRAIN, Edward Marston, my rating 4.0
London 1852. A trainful of excited fans are delivered to the illegal prize fight between Mad Isaac and the Bargeman near Twyford. But one second class passenger does not leave the train. He has been garrotted en route. Inspector Robert Colbeck of the Detective Department of the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard, now known as the Railway Detective, after his success in the previous year, takes up the case.

THE VICTIM IN VICTORIA STATION, Jeanne M. Dams, my rating 3.9
American Dorothy Martin broke her ankle shortly after her second marriage. Her British husband is ex-policeman Alan Nesbitt much in demand by police forces around the world as a consultant, and in this book he is only a voice at the other end of the phone. Dorothy has to travel to London by train to see her specialist, and during the journey she talks to the young man in the opposite seat, who is the CEO of a software company. When they arrive at Victoria Station he appears to have fallen asleep, and when Dorothy tries to wake him she finds that he is very dead.

NEVER GO BACK, Robert Goddard, my rating 4.5
An old mate from Harry Barnett's RAF days is organising a 50th anniversary reunion in Scotland at Kilveen Castle where as young men they had taken part in a psychological experiment. But even before they arrive at the castle one of their group has disappeared and soon after they arrive another dies in strange circumstances.

11 June 2008

Elizabeth George novels

While I think I have read most if not all Elizabeth George novels, there are only 2 records in my database, meaning I have only read 2 in the last 4 years or so.

Over the last 21 years there have been 13 Inspector Lynley novels:

1. A Great Deliverance (1988)
2. Payment In Blood (1989)
3. Well-Schooled In Murder (1990)
4. A Suitable Vengeance (1990)
5. For The Sake of Elena (1992)
6. Missing Joseph (1993)
7. Playing For The Ashes (1994)
8. In The Presence Of The Enemy (1996)
9. Deception On His Mind (1997)
10. In Pursuit Of The Proper Sinner (1999)
11. A Traitor To Memory (2001)
12. With No One as Witness (2005)
13. What Came Before He Shot Her (2006)
14. Careless in Red (2008)

She won
the Anthony Award, the Agatha Award, and France's Le Grand Prix de Literature Policiere for her first novel A GREAT DELIVERANCE, for which she was also nominated for the Edgar and the Macavity Awards. She has also been awarded Germany's MIMI for her novel WELL-SCHOOLED IN MURDER.

Here are my mini- reviews for the 2 most recently read. These two novels got a mixed reception from Lynley fans.

When the Metropolitan Police fail to realise a serial killer is at work, London ignites over the fact that the killer’s victims are young black and mixed-race boys. Institutionalised prejudice is claimed by the community’s activists and tabloids alike. Acting Superintendent Thomas Lynley is given the case, and his Scotland Yard task force is soon handling more killings and a looming tragedy.
Here, Lynley is looking forward to the birth of his first son as his wife, Lady Helen, tries to defuse a potential family feud over the choice of christening clothes. Havers and Lynley live in different worlds a few kilometres apart in the multi-ethnic class-riven stew that is contemporary London.
But they are allies, not only in the fight against crime but also in the struggle with the bureaucracy of New Scotland Yard, as embodied by their assistant commissioner, Sir David Hillier, whose constant meddling hinders rather than helps them on this case.
When the body of an adolescent transvestite is discovered in a park, a connection is finally made to the deaths of three boys found in similar circumstances. Hillier's problem is that the three earlier murders - involving black or mixed-race children - went all but unnoticed. It is only with the demise of a white boy that the connections are finally made, leaving the police open to accusations of institutionalised racism.
My rating: 5.0

The opening line "Joel Campbell began his descent towards murder…" says it all. Nearly 500 pages traces the downward spiral of Joel and his family in the underbelly of suburban London. This is the twelfth title in the Lynley series which explains how the events in the 11th title came about. Almost a stand-alone, because Lynley never makes an appearance. When their grandmother Glory decides to return to Jamaica she has no intention of taking her grandchildren Joel, Toby and Vanessa with her. Instead she dumps them on her daughter, their aunt Kendra, who is just managing to hold her own life together. In many ways these children are already damaged goods: their father was killed in a case of mistaken identity, Toby was born intellectually different, their mother is in a psychiatric institution, Ness is an angst ridden teenager, and Joel is already feeling the effects of his mixed racial parentage. Despite its depressing story, this book is hard to put down.
My Rating: 4.5

Elizabeth George's website is at http://www.elizabethgeorgeonline.com/
She is often thought to be a British writer mainly because of both the setting and the language/style of her novels. She was in fact born in Ohio, lives in California, but is a frequent visitor to London

CARELESS IN RED, Progress Report

This could almost be titled Will Thomas Lynley please stand up?

Elizabeth George fans have been waiting a while for this new novel.
WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS in which Lynley's wife Helen was murdered was published in 2005, and WHAT CAME BEFORE HE SHOT HER, which explained how she came to be murdered, in 2006.
In terms of modern day publishing, the wait, for the next Lynley & Havers case, has been quite long. But in fact the "virtual time" lapse between novels is nowhere near that long.

The blurb on the back of the book begins "It is barely three months since the murder of his wife and Thomas Lynley has taken to the South-West Coast Path in Cornwall, determined to walk its length in an attempt to recover from his loss..."
Six weeks into the walk he finds the body of a young man who appears to have fallen down a cliff to the beach and Lynley's inbuilt knowledge of what to do about a crime scene kicks in.

But Lynley is obviously not ready to return to work. Not only has he been sleeping rough for 6 weeks, he is bearded, unwashed, and he smells. He tries to get away without identifying himself but someone recognises his name. As the person who reports the discovery of the body, he also finds himself at first as a suspect.

Elizabeth George appears to be following a blueprint that I've noticed before. Let me explain.
In Reginald Hill's A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES that I reviewed recently, the "real investigation" didn't get underway until page 177 of the novel's 535 pages. I had begun to wonder whether Peter Pascoe would ever make an appearance.
Something similar happened in one of Anne Cleeves' Vera Stanhope novels, HIDDEN DEPTHS I think, but it may have been CROW TRAP. I kept checking the blurb because Vera took so long to make an appearance.
Now I'm at page 144 of 532 pages of CARELESS IN RED, and Thomas Lynley is almost lying low, and there is neither hide nor hair of Barbara Havers, although the blurb assures me that the "case brings Barbara Havers from London".

At this stage CARELESS IN RED feels a bit as if it is developing complexities, a spider weaving a many threaded web, and perhaps on the brink of something about to "break". I'll write again about it when I've finished it.

9 June 2008

Weekly Geeks 6 and 7- Reviews and Photos

Catching up with Marg's Reading Adventures blog, I realised I have missed out on a couple of Weekly Geeks entries.

#6 was Catching up on Reviews week - and I am already up to date with them on my blog but still have to copy them into my database.
I usually do it the other way around- record the details in my database, copy them into my blog, and finally create them in Library Thing. Being away and not having access to my desktop computer meant I had to put them in my blog and Library Thing first.
My 9 most recent reviews (all the books I took with me on my 2 week holiday):
#7 was Photos

If you browse back through my postings you'll see that I've been adding photos rather liberally in the last 2 weeks. I'm a bit worried about what size (in kb) the photos should be- whether I should optimise them for web viewing or not.

I do worry about whether they take longer for the posting to load at the reader's end.

I've found that putting images into blogspot is not always simple, because all images open up at the top and then then you've got to drag them into where you want them and it's not always as simple as it should be. You only get 3 choices left, centre, and right, and if you choose the wrong one when you upload the image then you'll have to delete the image, you can't just move it!
If you look at Last Day in Abu Dhabi you'll see a posting where I had all sorts of problems getting them placed!

Dangers of being a genre novelist

I was struck by a comment by Irish novelist John Connolly today in an article titled Reaping Chills with John Connolly.

When I sit down to write a book it’s because it’s something I really want to write. Sometimes it’s something that’s led me away from crime fiction altogether. There is a difficulty in being a genre novelist; as you achieve an amount of success, there’s pressure to repeat that success, to do pretty much the same thing. ...... I recognize this dependence I have on a certain readership, and sometimes that comes into conflict with the desire to take chances.
The preamble to the article said

Dublin, Ireland-based author John Connolly is best known for his series of crime thrillers starring eternally haunted private eye Charlie “Bird” Parker. Filled with tensely quiet, isolated
settings and distinctive, spooky antagonists, Connolly’s novels increasingly flirt with the supernatural—a realm explored in more depth in standalone works “The Book of Lost Things” and the story collection “Nocturnes.” Those elements aren’t as prevalent in his latest book, “The Reapers,” which focuses on Louis, a former hired killer whose past threatens to catch up to him with deadly results.
I discovered that the only Connolly novel in my database is BLACK ANGEL (I gave it a rating of 4.7)
The rebel angels fell, garlanded with fire…. Charlie Parker has got his life back together, and is settled with a new girlfriend and a new daughter, Sam. But in New York City Martha is looking for her daughter Alice and when she doesn't find her, she calls in a favour from Louis, Charlie Parker's right hand man. Martha turns up at Sam's christening party. As he investigates, Charlie realises that Alice's disappearance goes further than the streets of New York, and is linked to events as old as time itself. In fact to the fall of the angels.. Read the prologue at http://www.johnconnollybooks.com/novels_ba.php
This book would appeal to those of you who like a bit of woo-woo with your mystery/thriller

The reason that the book made such an impression on me, and I think the reason I read it, was that Bob and I were going to Europe for a holiday and were visiting Prague where much of the novel is set. In fact we went on a tour of the old silver mining town of Kutna Hora with its ossiary (see picture), which made BLACK ANGEL seem just that much more "real".

Susan Hill has copped a bit of flack recently with her Simon Serrailler novels for venturing into a new genre - she seems to feel the criticism is coming from publishers and book sellers - she says publishers "panic" because they don't know how to "brand" the books - but I'm also sure I have seen criticism from readers and reviewers who thought she was almost "trespassing". She, like Australian crime fiction author Kerry Greenwood, also writes for children and adolescents.

I must admit, that when I go into a book store, I gravitate to the crime fiction shelves, expecting that is where I will find my favourite authors. RJ Ellory is another who seems to be a bit cross-genre and whose books may be on other shelves.

Speaking of genres though, how many crime fiction authors do you know who have been ghost writers? Can't think of one? Here is one who has been the voice of Lulu, Rolfe Harris, and Toni Bullimore.

8 June 2008

Sunday Salon #12 - 8 June 2008

Well, we are back home again after 2 weeks in Abu Dhabi. It's 14.5 Celsius here in good old Adelaide today- quite a change after 40+ in AD for the last 2 weeks.

Some good books for the crime fiction lovers amongst you to look for this week.

My postings for the last week:
  • Over on oz_mystery_readers we begin discussing Reginald Hill's A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES this week. In July 1-10 we discuss DEAD LOVELY by Helen Fitzgerald.
  • Maddy Van Hertbruggen has been shortlisted for an Anthony Award for Special Services. The Yahoo Group 4MA (For Mystery Addicts) owes its existence to Maddy. 4MA is a very strong discussion group of just over 1000 members. It is very active so if you join, be prepared for lots of emails. This is not Maddy's first nomination for an award for special services to the industry. Last year she was nominated for a Spine Tingler Award.

SHATTER, Michael Robotham

Sphere, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84744-178-2. 466 pages

Why would a woman leave her house naked, except for a raincoat and red high heeled shoes, walk for 2 hours, take off the raincoat, climb, in drenching rain, over the safety rail on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and then jump?

Professor Joe O'Loughlin is already asking himself these questions when the woman's 16 year old daughter turns up at his house seeking help.

At the time Christine Wheeler jumped, Joe was a matter of inches from her, trying to persuade her not to, but he was no match for the voice on the mobile phone that she was weeping into.

Joe and his family have left London and moved to the West Country, to provide a better environment for their two daughters, Charlie and Emma. But if anything things have got worse. Joe, in the first stages of Parkinson's, isn't really coping too well with his wife's almost constant absences through work, and they have advertised for a nanny. Joe has taken a part-time job lecturing in behavioural psychology at the University of Bath.

Joe's involvement in investigating a probable suicide isn't really what he needs to do. But when a second apparent suicide involves Christine Wheeler's business partner, there is no turning back.

SHATTER IS Michael Robotham's 4th novel. We first met Joe O'Loughlin in SUSPECT, where he was the main character, the subject of an investigation by Detective Vincent Ruiz. In SHATTER Ruiz is retired from the police force and Joe turns to him for help in working out what made Christine Wheeler jump.

SHATTER explores what it takes to break the human spirit, whether when you know what is actually happening, you can still stay strong. In it Joe O'Loughlin, he who specialises in mending minds, faces an enormous personal test. There's a striking bit at the front of the book, that is echoed later on.

There is a moment when all hope disappears, all pride is gone, all expectation, all faith, all desire. I own that moment. It belongs to me. That's when I hear the sound.

The sound of a mind breaking.

It's not a loud crack like when bones shatter or a spine fractures of a skull collapses. And it's not something soft and wet like a heart breaking. It's a sound that makes you wonder how much pain a person can endure; a sound that shatters memories and lets the past leak into the present; a sound so high that only the hounds of hell can hear it.

Can you hear it? Someone is curled up in a tiny ball crying softly into an endless night.

Joe O'Loughlin and Vincent Ruiz make a great team. I also enjoyed meeting DI Ronnie Cray, a bluff no-nonsense female detective. She reminded me a bit of Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope.

I have already listed Michael Robotham as one of my favourite authors and this book I think is probably his best. I expect to see it win many awards or at least be short listed for them. SHATTER has been shortlisted for the 2008 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Michael's website at http://www.michaelrobotham.com/aus/shatter.htm includes an excerpt from SHATTER.

My rating: 5.0

If you haven't read the other 3 novels in this "series" then I recommend that you do. However I think SHATTER stands alone quite nicely.


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