31 December 2009

Farewelling 2009

You'll have to forgive me for recycling some images I found last year but I'm quite taken with these.

Tonight we are off to town with friends for dinner and to see Adelaide's fireworks show.

I thought I'd indulge in a little reflection on 2009.
  • I haven't read quite as many books as last year - just 104, which makes my total since I have begun to keep records (1975) of 2,864 in the last 35 years - an average of 82 a year.
  • I've written 546 blog posts on MiP this year, an increase of nearly 100 on last year, after thinking I had written too many then. That's nearly 3 every 2 days! I need to exercise some restraint!
  • According to my main counter nearly 91,000 people have visited this blog - that's over 65,000 this year - but I suspect that one counts if your finger even twitches on the keyboard.
  • This year I created the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival, and we also had the Agatha Christie Blog Tour, with lots of generous and knowledgeable participants in both. I'll keep that up next year.
  • I played around with various memes and the most successful has been the Crime Fiction Alphabet which has a coterie of about 10 bloggers contributing. That has been great fun and we are just halfway through the alphabet with some challenging letters to come.
  • In mid year Bernadette, Sunnie and I created a new blog called Fair Dinkum Book Reviews where we post copies of our reviews. That seems to have been quite successful and has attracted a small following.
It has been a great year, emphasising for me the value of networking in the blogosphere. I enjoy writing my blog, and visiting the blogs of others. I'm sure it all adds to my appreciation of crime fiction.

So if you are a visitor to my blog, regular or not, thanks for coming; and if you've left comments, thanks for the encouragement. I hope to hear again from you in the new year.

So farewell the old year with gusto, and think about those new year resolutions!

But please, if you drink, don't drive!

30 December 2009

Post 1001!

I nearly let the occasion slip!
The last post I published was number 1000.

29 December 2009

Review: PUNTER'S LUCK, Peter Klein

New Holland Publishers, 2007, ISBN 9781741105711, 304 pages

Finding Wombat's sister Judy dead was the last thing Punter had expected when Judy phoned him about his old surfing pal Wombat's apparent disappearance. Judy usually saw her brother Vinnie (aka Wombat) at least a couple of times a week, but he hadn't been around for at least a week, and when he failed to turn for a regular Friday night hook up she had got worried.

John Punter, former strapper and son of a well known trainer, makes his living by betting at the races, and to a large extent can do as he pleases. Through a racecourse detective Punter learnt that there were some heavies looking for Wombat. Rumour said that Wombat had been betting big and losing heavy and that the loan sharks were after him. Wombat was employed as a strapper and his room at the stables had been trashed and it looked very much like he'd done a runner.

The search for Wombat leads Punter and his friend Kate, an investigative journalist at the Age, from Melbourne up the coastal road as far north as Brisbane, uncovering connections with big money and illegal drugs.

PUNTER'S LUCK is Peter Klein's debut crime fiction entry. (I read and reviewed the second, PUNTER'S TURF a month or so ago). Klein is certainly an Australian writer to watch.
There are many characters in PUNTER'S LUCK who reappear in the second novel: Kate the journalist, Punter's father DJ and his brother David, Beering the racecourse detective, Punter's cat Chan, even a reference to big Oakie White who is a central character in PUNTER'S TURF

There's an Australian flavour to this novel that comes from the settings, places, and colloquialisms. You come away feeling that Klein has laid an excellent foundation on which to build a series. His writing is polished and assured, and story flows easily. A satisfying read.

My rating 4.4

Review: THE SERPENT POOL, Martin Edwards

I read an ARC copy of THE SERPENT POOL on my Kindle. The copy came to me via Net Galley.
Publisher Name: Poisoned Pen Press
Imprint: Poisoned Pen Press
Pub Date: 1 Feb 2010
ISBN: 9781590585931

One of the unsolved crimes that always worried DCI Hannah Scarlett's former boss Ben Kind was the drowning of Bethany Friend in the Serpent Pool, a shallow lake not very far from where Hannah and her partner second hand bookseller Marc Amos now live. Bethany's death went down on the books as suicide, but Ben Kind always thought she had been murdered.

DCI Hannah Scarlett is head of Cumbria's Cold Case Review Team, but as so often happens, cold cases may have links to current ones, although these are not be obvious at first.

The shocking death of one of Marc's best customers, burned to death in a converted boathouse filled with priceless books, reveals connections between Marc and Bethany Friend, and Hannah wonders why he has never told her that he knew Bethany. The seed of mistrust, ever present in long term relationships, grows when Marc turns to an attractive colleague for solace. Just to complicate matters, Daniel Kind, Hannah's historian friend (and son of Ben) returns from overseas and gets in touch with Hannah.

THE SERPENT POOL is one of those stories is characterised by careful groundwork that then gathers breathtaking pace in the second half. I enjoyed the book very much. My rating: 4.8.

It is #4 in Edwards' Lake District Mysteries series, and while for those who have read earlier titles it is another very satisfying instalment, those who have not read earlier ones need not worry about whether they have missed too much of the backstory. I think Martin Edwards treads that fine line marvellously well. Those new to this series will find themselves hunting for the earlier titles. Among good news relayed earlier this year was that the first, COFFIN TRAIL, is being re-issued.

The titles to look for: Lake District Mystery
1. The Coffin Trail (2004)
2. The Cipher Garden (2005)
3. The Arsenic Labyrinth (2007)
4. The Serpent Pool (2010)

Links on my blog:
Martin Edwards' Blog: Do You Write Under Your Own Name

28 December 2009

A blog to marvel at

Many thanks to Margot at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist who has given me this award.

I 'discovered' Margot as a novelist when I reviewed her novel PUBLISH OR PERISH earlier this year. [I should perhaps really say that Margot 'discovered' me and asked me if I'd review PUBLISH OR PERISH if she sent me a copy. ]

Margot has been writing her Confessions blog just since August this year. In it she shows an incredible knowledge of the crime fiction genre, in particular Agatha Christie. Everyday she comes up with a new thought provoking idea. I've often thought how I'd love to sit in on her lectures. In case you think my blog topic today is about my blog, it isn't - the blog to marvel at is Margot's.

Do visit Margot's blog and see the list of other bloggers she has given this award to. They are well worth visiting and adding to your growing list.

One of the comments Margot makes is that she has learnt so much from other bloggers and I couldn't let the occasion go past without reinforcing that too. In the 2 years (almost) that I have been blogging I have gravitated into a supportive group of crime fiction enthusiasts (Crime and mystery fiction on FriendFeed) who add so much to each other's delight in reading and discovering new authors and titles.

One of Margot's other awardees, Martin Edwards, commented in a post the other day how "the online community can exert an influence over the creative process that is completely unexpected by all concerned."He was commenting how a blog post by Nan from Letters from a Hill Farm had supplied the exact thing he was looking for to solve a problem he was having in writing his new novel THE SERPENT POOL. Nan contributes to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival too, so blogging really does bring the world closer doesn't it?

27 December 2009

Sunday Salon, 27 December 2009

Just a quick post today. I hope you had a good Christmas, plenty of books in the Christmas stocking, and lots of lovely catching up with family and friends.

The period between Christmas and New Year always feels a bit limbo-like doesn't it? A good time for reflection, reading, doing some more social catch-up, reading, eating the leftovers, reading, making lists, reading.....

The main activity you can participate in on my blog for the next week or so is Best Crime Fiction Reads for 2009. What I want is your best 10 crime fiction titles read in 2009, regardless of when they were published. This is something you can contribute to even if your read far more widely than crime fiction. Leave a comment on the blog post with your suggestions.

In the Crime Fiction Alphabet we are currently collecting titles for the letter L - we are having a break until January 11, so if you have still got a letter L to add, then you are not too late.

Posted in the last 7 days:
Currently reading:
  • audio (in the car) - THE DEVIL'S PEAK, Deon Myer
  • Kindle - THE SERPENT POOL, Martin Edwards (ARC)
  • PUNTER'S LUCK - Peter Klein
Headlines & News:

26 December 2009

Your Best Crime Fiction reads in 2009

Lots of people are publishing their "best reads" for 2009.
Mine are easy to find.

For the second year running readers of this blog have the opportunity to give me their top 10 crime fiction reads for 2009 via a comment, and then in about 2 week's time I will collate the lists with mine and give a definitive list.

O.K. So the rules are
  1. it is about crime fiction you've read in 2009. Year of publication doesn't matter.
  2. about 10 titles in the format of title, author (no need for description etc).
  3. any order will do. If you think one was so much better than the others, you might like to put it in your list twice.
  4. You have until Jan 7 to do it.
  5. You can help on your own blog by writing about what I am doing and pointing people to this post, so they can come here and contribute their list.
I'm looking forward to seeing what the final list looks like.

Last year we came up with a very interesting list from 42 crime fiction bloggers. If you've written a post with your own personalised list in it, then feel free to use the Mr Linky below to link to your post. But please leave your list in a comment too because they are the ones that I will count (unless you email them to me).

Last year I also produced lists of the most popular authors and the top 20 books.

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

I hope your presents contained plenty of books.

24 December 2009

Review: DEATH WORE WHITE, Jim Kelly

Michael Joseph, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7181-4951-2, 390 pages.

A line of eight cars is trapped in a blizzard on a Norfolk coast road in the intriguingly named Siberia Belt between Cromer and King's Lynn. They've been diverted into this by-road by an AA road works sign that mysteriously disappears. The passage of the truck at the head of the line is blocked by a fallen tree, showing all the signs of having been deliberately chopped down. And three hours after the blizzard began Harvey Ellis, the driver of the truck, is dead. And no-one saw anything. But Harvey Ellis has been murdered.

Two bodies are separately found at low tide in the coastal cockle pits. As these bodies are identified DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine discover they have connections with people in the line of stranded cars.

Jim Kelly is an established author with 5 novels already under the belt (the Philip Dryden series), and in 2006 he won the 2006 CWA Dagger in the Library for the series. DEATH WORE WHITE is the beginning of a new series, with a second title promised for 2010.

Not only has Kelly created an interesting puzzle in DEATH WORE WHITE - who kills Harvey Ellis if no-one saw anything - but he has created a fascinating new detective duo in Shaw and Valentine. These two already have a history. Valentine worked with Shaw's father Jack, on a case which spelled the end of Jack Shaw's career, and saw Valentine demoted. Peter Shaw comes into the series already fully fledged as it were - the new style of detective, careful, determined not to make his father's mistakes, but an artist who can draw his own identikit pictures, and a boatie with a hovercraft licence.

You've probably detected that I found this a very enjoyable read, and I'll certainly now try to get hold of the Philip Dryden titles, as well as look out for the next in the Shaw and Valentine series: DEATH WATCH.

My rating: 4.9

Lists courtesy Fantastic Fiction:

DI Peter Shaw and DS George Valentine
1. Death Wore White (2009)
2. Death Watch (2010)

Other Reviews to check:

Agatha Christie Blog Carnival #12 now posted

The 12th edition of the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival has been posted.
It contains 18 contributions from 11 bloggers many of whom are taking part in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

In keeping with the season, three participants review HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS and one reviewer talks about her favourite 10 Agatha Christie movies. I'm featuring an image from Nan's review.

There's also a tip on how you can generate a graphic that shows how many books you've read in a particular challenge.

This edition features the addition of a couple of new categories: Running Updates for those who want to report how they are going in the Challenge, and News & Headlines for those newsy bit of interest to lovers of Agatha Christie trivia.

If you read Agatha Christie novels, write reviews or summaries on your blog, then you might like to consider submitting articles to the Carnival, and joining the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

It is never too late to join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
See information about the Challenge here.
Join the Challenge here, and by all means use the Challenge image on your blog with a link back to our Blog Carnival site.

Each month the Carnival closes on the 22nd of the month, and is then published on the 23rd of the month. Your contributions are very welcome.
You can submit a link to any postings you have made that review Agatha Christie books to the Agatha Christie monthly Blog Carnival by going to the Carnival collecting space and putting in the URL, your details, and a comment about the post. We are also interested in any interesting online articles that you come across.

In my right hand column there is a widget you can add to your blog.

23 December 2009

Review: THE DOG WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, Alexander McCall Smith

The Dog Who Came In From The Cold is a Corduroy Mansions novel by Alexander McCall Smith. Yesterday I completed listening to the final chapter, number 78 - at least I think it was the last chapter.

To be quite honest I'm not sure I really know what the novel was about. I'm a bit stuck to string more than a few words together about it. It had an air of having been written on the fly, and for me some of the story lines feel a bit unfinished - or did I just miss them being rounded off? Sometimes I think it was just AMS exploring an idea or having a small pontificate.

I don't think Alexander McCall Smith could really count it as one of his great successes. I certainly didn't engage with it in the way I can see The Telegraph hoped I would. I didn't join the FaceBook club, or follow Freddie de lay Hay on Twitter, or ask questions in the forum. Oh yes, I kept going back, listening to the next chapter, then the next, but I have only a hazy idea of how they all meshed together. If you have the time and inclination, you might like to start listening to them.

If I had a suggestion, perhaps next time the producers could consider making it possible for me to listen to Andrew Sachs reading the text while my eyes follow along. Each chapter is about 7 -8 minutes long, just long enough for my mind to wander and even lose track of the narration. Even Andrew Sachs can be a bit soporific at times. I think it would certainly help me remember events from one day to the next - bearing in mind that sometimes I listened to 3 or 4 chapters consecutively, and then often left it for a week - just long enough to develop great holes in my memory!

22 December 2009

ACRC Update - 22 December 2009

It is over 2 months since my last update.

My intent in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge is to read her books in order, so that I can get some idea of what she is doing, problems she is attempting to solve, and her development as a writer. If you look at some of my reviews you will see that I have been able to undertake some of this reflection.

Currently I am managing about a book a month.
I've read 15 books and 5 collections of short stories.

Read & reviewed so far
    1924, POIROT INVESTIGATES (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US)
  7. 1927, THE BIG FOUR
    1929, Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence)
    1930, The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin)
  12. 1932, PERIL AT END HOUSE
    1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders in the US)
    1991, Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991 (Two of them feature Hercule Poirot, two Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Harley Quin, and two Mr Parker Pyne.)

    Reading schedule

    1933, The Hound of Death - 12 short stories, UK only
    1934, The Listerdale Mystery - 12 short stories, UK only
    1934, Parker Pyne Investigates - 12 stories introducing Parker Pyne and Ariadne Oliver
  20. 1936, CARDS ON THE TABLE
  22. 1937, DEATH ON THE NILE
  25. 1939, MURDER IS EASY (aka EASY TO KILL)
  27. 1940, SAD CYPRESS
Check the opening blog post of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge here.
If you'd like to join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge click here.

I am using the list at Wikipedia of novels and collections of short stories. I will interlace the short story collections into the list where I can, but may have to read them out of order. I have decided on a method for reporting on the short stories.

Please feel free to join in my challenge, comment on my reviews etc.

I have set up a block over in the right hand column called Agatha Christie Reading Challenge (with the same logo as this post) where I am listing the books I'm currently reading and those I've finished.
The challenge is called ACRC so each review will be preceded by those letters.

If you want to follow my progress through your RSS reader, then the RSS URL is
Just save that in your bookmarks or RSS reader and you will be notified when I have written a new post.
Alternatively you could subscribe to the feed through FeedMyInbox. Just copy the RSS URL, click on the FeedMyInbox link and paste the URL in there.
You will need to confirm your subscription by email.

Contribute your blog postings about any Agatha Christie novels to the monthly carnival. Make an agreement with yourself that whenever you complete reading an Aggie you will write a blog posting about it and then submit the posting to the carnival.
If you are participating in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge then write updates like this one and submit them to the Carnival. Let us know what progress you are making.

ACRC: Short Stories, Update #5

In ACRC: Short Stories, I explained how I'm going to keep records of the reading of Agatha Christie's short stories.

As I read another collection, I'll add the stories to the list that I've created and publish a new posting headed ACRC: Short Stories, Update #x, and also link to ACRC: Short Stories which will show my gradual conquering of the short story mountain.

Short Story Collections read so far
The updates will show the short stories read, listed in the order in which they were written, and the collection(s) in which they were published.
  1. 1923, The Adventure of the Western Star - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  2. 1923, Tragedy at Marsdon Manor - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  3. 1923, The Adventure of the Cheap Flat - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  4. 1923, The Mystery of Hunters Lodge - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  5. 1923, The Million Dollar Bond Robbery - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  6. 1923, The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  7. 1923, The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  8. 1923, The Kidnapped Prime Minister - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  9. 1923, The Disappearance of Davenheim - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  10. 1923, The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ.1924
  11. 1923, The Case of the Missing Will - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
  12. 1923, The First Wish - Tommy and Tuppence, became The Clergyman's Daughter / The Red House in Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  13. 1924, Publicity - Tommy and Tuppence, became A Fairy in the Flat / A Pot of Tea in Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  14. 1924, The Affair of the Pink Pearl - Tommy and Tuppence - Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  15. 1924, Finessing the King - Tommy and Tuppence - became Finessing the King / The Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper in Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  16. 1924, The Case of the Missing Lady - Tommy and Tuppence - Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  17. 1924, The Case of the Sinister Stranger - Tommy and Tuppence - became The Adventure of the Sinister Stranger in Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  18. 1924, The Sunninghall Mystery - Tommy and Tuppence - became The Sunningdale Mystery inPartners in Crime publ. 1929
  19. 1924, The House of Lurking Death - Tommy and Tuppence - Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  20. 1924, The Matter of the Ambassador's Boots - Tommy and Tuppence - became The Ambassador's Boots in Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  21. 1924, The Affair of the Forged Notes - Tommy and Tuppence - became The Crackler inPartners in Crime publ. 1929
  22. 1924, Blindman's Buff - Tommy and Tuppence - Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  23. 1924, The Man in the Mist - Tommy and Tuppence - Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  24. 1924, The man who was Number Sixteen - Tommy and Tuppence - Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  25. 1926, Magnolia Blossom - romance - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
  26. 1926, The Love Detectives - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
  27. 1927, The Tuesday Night Club - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  28. 1928, The Idol House of Astarte - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  29. 1928, Ingots of Gold - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  30. 1928, The Bloodstained Pavement - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  31. 1928, Motive & Opportunity - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  32. 1928, The Unbreakable Alibi - Tommy and Tuppence - Partners in Crime publ. 1929
  33. 1929, The Thumb Mark of St. Peter - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  34. 1929, Next to a Dog - romance - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
  35. 1929, The Blue Geranium - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  36. 1930, The Companion - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  37. 1930, The Four Suspects - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  38. 1930, A Christmas Tragedy - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  39. 1930, The Herb of Death - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  40. 1930, The Affair of the Bungalow - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  41. 1930, The Coming of Mr. Quin - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  42. 1930, The Shadow on the Glass - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  43. 1930, At the "Bells and Motley" - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  44. 1930, The Sign in the Sky - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  45. 1930, The Soul of the Croupier - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  46. 1930, The Man from the Sea - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  47. 1930, The Voice in the Dark - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  48. 1930, The Face of Helen - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  49. 1930, The Dead Harlequin - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  50. 1930, The Bird with the Broken Wing - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  51. 1930, The World's End - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  52. 1930, Harlequin's Lane - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
  53. 1931, Death by Drowning - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
  54. 1932, The Second Gong - Hercule Poirot - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
  55. 1935, Problem at Pollensa Bay - Parker Pyne - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
  56. 1936, The Regatta Mystery - Parker Pyne - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
  57. 1937, Yellow Iris - Hercule Poirot - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
  58. 1971, The Harlequin Tea Set - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991

21 December 2009

Review: PARTNERS IN CRIME, Agatha Christie

Published by Collins in Great Britain in 1929. The edition I read was an Agatha Christie Signature Edition published in 2001, ISBN 0-00-711150-9, 347 pages.


Six years have passed since the Beresfords began their sleuthing partnership in THE SECRET ADVERSARY. Tommy now has a desk job with the British Secret Service, and Tuppence, much to her displeasure is at home, though when the Chief of British Intelligence asks them to take over the International Detective Agency, both jump at the chance of new adventures.

The fifteen stories contain parodies of fictional detectives who were well-known to readers of the 1920s. In each story Tommy and Tuppence assume the mannerisms and methods of a different detective or detective team, including Sherlock Holmes.

I am told the stories contain parodies of Sherlock Holmes, John Thorndyke, Father Brown, and Hercule Poirot, but not being a reader from the 1920s I did have trouble in some stories in working out who the "original" sleuth was. There are quite good synopses of the individual stories both on the Agatha Christie site and on Wikipedia, so I won't repeat them here. The Wikipedia one in particular identifies whose methods each story is a a parody of.

Interestingly, all of the short stories had been published individually between 1923 and 1928 and were then arranged in a slightly different order for the 1929 collection.

I think I preferred the characterisation of Tuppence and Tommy in these stories to their first appearance in THE SECRET ADVERSARY. Tuppence in particular comes over with a mind of her own and a good sense of intuition, even if occasionally the stories are a little "twee". I also quite like her Scotland Yard detective Inspector Marriot. The stories are bound together with an overall theme of a rather vague Russian plot.

They fit also with my idea that Christie often set herself tasks to achieve- in this case her challenge was to see if she could adopt the styles of other popular crime fiction writers, and to use the icons they used.

I regret that I did not manage to read these stories in the correct time frame, that is in the 1929 slot, between THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY and THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE.

My rating: 4.1

Mini-review: LOOKING GOOD DEAD, Peter James

My selection this week in the Crime Fiction Alphabet is the second in the D.S. Roy Grace series, published in 2006.

Tom Bryce picks up a CD left behind on the train by a fellow passenger. Later at home he investigates the CD on his laptop and finds himself on the internet viewing a snuff murder. Meanwhile Roy Grace is called to the discovery of a decapitated female corpse near the seaside resort of Brighton which he lives near.

In viewing the snuff movie Tom Bryce has put himself and his family in danger. And Roy Grace is in hot water too - already in trouble for taking a piece of evidence to a medium, he needs "a result" quickly.

There are plenty of threads that connect LOOKING GOOD DEAD to the earlier book in the series, but readers should not find it difficult to start with this novel if they haven't read the earlier one. Excellently crafted.

There are now 5 in this terrific series ( and one more promised for 2010)
1. Dead Simple (2005)
2. Looking Good Dead (2006)
3. Not Dead Enough (2007)
4. Dead Man's Footsteps (2008)
5. Dead Tomorrow (2009)
6. Dead Like You (2010)

DEAD SIMPLE (2005). My rating 4.8
Four bodies, one suspect, no trace. The first case for Detective superintendent Roy Grace. It was meant to be a harmless stag night prank. A few hours later four of his best friends are dead and Michael Harrison has disappeared. With only three days to the wedding, Detective Superintendent Grace - a man haunted by the shadow of his own missing wife - is contacted by Michael's beautiful, distraught fiancée, Ashley Harper. Grace discovers that the one man who ought to know Michael Harrison's whereabouts is saying nothing. But then he has a lot to gain - more than anyone realizes. For one man's disaster is another man's fortune...Dead simple...

My review of NOT DEAD ENOUGH (2007) which I also gave 4.8 to.

Peter James' own website is at http://www.peterjames.com/ and contains many of the interviews he has given, articles he has written, his blog, a newsletters, blurbs about all of his books, and extracts from Roy Grace novels.

If you check Fantastic Fiction for Peter James you will notice that in the period 1981-2000 he wrote 17 novels and then came a period without publications until the first of the DEAD novels was published in 2005. In this article Peter talks about what made him return to writing.

Crime Fiction Alphabet Letter L - week beginning 21 December

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

Here are the rules

Each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname.

So you see you have lots of choice. You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow.

Please check each Monday for the letter of the week, and then link your post back to the page. Also come back and put the link to your blog post in Mr. Linky below.
Then come and check to see who else has posted and visit their blog.
You have until the end of the week to complete your mission.

After this week we will have a strength gathering break, so letter M will be the week beginning January 11, when hopefully we are all back into the swing of things. There are some challenging letters to come!

NB - if Mr Linky is unavailable, I hope it is temporary - leave a link in a comment

This week's letter:

See other letters: A B C D E F G H I J K

20 December 2009

Sunday Salon, 20 December 2009

As we gallop towards Christmas celebrations with the shopping only half done, reading seems to have gone a bit onto the backburner, although this week I did manage to finish (and review) my 100th book for the year.

Last week I reported that I had joined J Kaye's 100+ Reading Challenge for 2010. and this week I have another challenge to bring to your notice.

Dorte from DJs krimiblog is organising a global challenge in which you try to read up to 14 books set all over the world. The books can be from any genre but there is a maximum of 2 per continent which will be challenging for some of us. Check it out!

How have you gone with giving books for Christmas? I must admit I haven't done all that well, although with Christmas shopping on the agenda for later today, perhaps I will be able to add a few more.

Things to check on my Blog
  • The Frappr map experiment was a great success and I will use it next year. Check the results: there are 21 entries. The way I want to use it in the future is for people to add book images by location.
  • The Suggest a Christmas title activity has also been a great success. So far there are nearly 40 entries. They are not restricted to crime fiction and it is not too late to be part of it.
  • In the Crime Fiction Alphabet we suggested titles for the letter K this week. Tomorrow we start the letter L. It is not too late to join in if you are a crime fiction blogger - or crime fiction is just one of the genres you read. We are having a mini-break after Christmas and re-commencing the last 14 letters of the alphabet with M on January 11.
  • Do you read Agatha Christie? Do you write about her novels on your blog? Then join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, participate in the monthly Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival. The next one will be posted on December 23.
Posted in the last 7 days:
Currently reading:
  • PARTNERS IN CRIME, Agatha Christie
  • audio (in the car) - THE DEVIL'S PEAK, Deon Myer
  • on line - THE DOG WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, Alexander McCall Smith chapt 70
Headlines & News:

Crime Fiction Alphabet - summarising the letter K

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

The letter for the week beginning 14 December was the Letter K

This week we have had 11 contributors, and no overlaps of books or authors.
The resultant list caters for all tastes from cozy to noir.
This week we welcomed Mysteries and My Musings as a participant.

Tomorrow we move to the 12th letter: L
How about you? Will you join in? It is really very easy - just write a post on your blog about a crime fiction writer or book where the author's first or last name or the title of the book begins with the letter L, and then come in to tomorrow's post and put the URL of your post into Mr Linky.

This week's contributions
After this week we will have a strength gathering break, so letter M will be the week beginning January 11, when hopefully we are all back into the swing of things. There are some challenging letters to come!

19 December 2009

Contribute to Suggest a Christmas Title

We've all read books set at Christmas time or related to Christmas in some way.
The aim of this meme is to allow bloggers to link back to posts on their site that relate to books about Christmas.
To make it easier for readers to locate books in their preferred genre, please include that in your link below.
  1. Suggested format
    BOOK TITLE, author name - crime fiction
    BOOK TITLE, author name - romance
  2. Please link to the actual post on your blog, not just the blog itself.
  3. In your post, please link back to this page, and feel free to use the image I've created.
  4. You may link to more than one blog post if you wish
  5. Links not complying with the above will be edited or removed altogether.
Thanks for your participation

18 December 2009

the 100 milestone

With yesterday's completed review, I reached 100 books for the year.
A bit less than last year but my excuse is that I've read some chunksters!
So I'll probably get to 103 or 104.
My list of books is on Smik's Reviews.

17 December 2009

Forgotten Book: DEATH IS A RED ROSE, Dorothy Eden

This week's contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books.

Sometimes these books that I have listed in my little green book are well and truly forgotten, not just by me, but also by the publishing world.

This one dates from my reading in 1978, but I have been able to find out very little about it. I'm hoping that someone who reads this blog post will know this book.

I remember that back then I read a lot of Dorothy Eden. DEATH IS A RED ROSE was published in 1956.

Dorothy Eden (1912-1982) was born in New Zealand and moved to England in 1954. She was a prolific writer of novels and short stories, and generally wrote mystery, suspense and Gothic novels.
By the time she published DEATH IS A RED ROSE she had already published 12 novels, so you could say she was well-established. She would write over 40 novels.
There is a comprehensive list on Wikipedia and an impressive array of covers on Fantastic Fiction. Dorothy Eden wrote two books under the pseudonym of Mary Paradise.

My memory is that she set her novels all over the globe, even in Australia.

So who has a copy of DEATH IS A RED ROSE on their shelves, and can contribute the blurb from the back cover?

The blurb (many thanks to Deb who found the book in her local library):
When Cressida Lucy Barclay decided to take the vacant flat on the ground floor of the large decaying London house, she knew the terms of her tenancy were odd, the other occupants distinctly unusual, and the landlady the strangest of all. With her parrot, her tarnished finery and her passion for camels, Arabia Bolton was the kind of person one could only describe as fabulous. Flamboyant and impulsively generous, she remained unpredictable, especially in her obsession with the memory of her long-dead daughter.

There was a story here, thought Cressida, so in spite of the strangeness of the house and its residents she decided to stay. But the more she delved ito the past, the more she became involved with them all.

Cressida gradually began to feel as though a net were closing round her, a net whose strands were closely interwoven with the mystery of a dead girl whose name was also Cressida Lucy and of a room where the scent of red roses hung heavy in the air.

Thanks also to Margot who copied this blurb from another edition:

When Cressida Barclay rented a flat in a large decaying London house she got more than she bargained for. Her fellow tenants were an eerie lot and her landlady a strange old widow, who identified her new lodger with her long-dead daughter also named Cressida. Someone else in the house also felt that way and, afraid for her life, Cressida was further weakened by the overpowering scent of roses associated with a long-dead girl.

Review: IF THE DEAD RISE NOT, Philip Kerr

Quercus, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84724-942-5, 455 pages

Set in Berlin in 1934,in a Germany preparing to host the Olympic Games in 1936. An American Olympic committee is in Berlin supposedly assessing whether there should be a US boycott of the Games because of racial practices in Nazi Germany. Hitler's determination to show Aryan supremacy is already having effect - Jews are being excluded from public office, sporting clubs, and even those who seem most German are having to take steps to hide their Jewish bloodlines.
Because Germany is prepared to spend vast sums on the construction of the venues for the Games, it is also a golden opportunity for overseas entrepreneurs to make money.
Ex-homicide detective with the Berlin Criminal Police, Bernie Gunther, works at the Adlon Hotel as a house detective. The discovery of the body of a German businessman connected with the construction industry sparks an investigative trail for Bernie, and the final resolution will not happen for another twenty years, nor will it take place in Berlin.

The main story reminded me of THE IRON HEART by Australian author Marshall Browne which I read earlier this year. Admittedly THE IRON HEART is set in Berlin 5 years later, but the danger of being Jewish in Nazi Germany is well described there too.

If I have a bone to pick with IF THE DEAD RISE NOT it is with Philip Kerr's decision to set the tying up of the threads in Cuba twenty years later. IF THE DEAD RISE NOT is the sixth in the Bernie Gunther series but I haven't read any others. The series has been published over a period of twenty years. From my research I believe the first, MARCH VIOLETS, was set in Berlin in 1936. It seems to me that what Kerr has done is weave threads in Bernie Gunther's life from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s through each of the books. (Perhaps someone reading this post will tell me how correct I am).

For me, the technique didn't quite work. When we got to Cuba, I just wanted it all to finish, to finally see how he would round it off. I was much happier back in Germany in 1934. As I read the latter part of the book I became aware of things I might have missed out on by not reading other books in the series. There were allusions and quickly told snippets of Bernie's history, which I thought were there to fill me in on the "back story".

My rating: 4.4

Reviews by others:
  • Crime Scraps wrote "'If The Dead Rise Not' must be one of the front runners on this year's Ellis Peters shortlist."
  • Mystery Fanfare pays tribute ot the fact that the book won the RBA International Award for Crime Writing.
  • Euro Crime confirms that it did indeed win the Ellis Peters Award.

16 December 2009

Progress Report: THE DEVIL'S PEAK, Deon Myer

In the car I'm listening to THE DEVIL'S PEAK by Deon Meyer. I'm only just about half way through the 15 hours of the book, and with holidays coming up, I'm not going to finish it any time soon, most probably not this year.

I'm sharing the Audible blurb with you, but in reading it I realised that I've found out something that I didn't know even though I'm well into the book.

Here is the blurb from Deon Meyer's own site:

About the book

My name is Benny Griessel and I am an alcoholic.

"Hello, Benny," said thirty-two voices in a happy chorus.

"Last night I drank a whole bottle of Jack Daniels and I hit my wife. This morning she kicked me out the house. I have gone one day without drinking. I am here because I can't control my drinking. I am here because I want my wife and children and my life back."

But getting his life back won't be easy for Detective Inspector Benny Griessel of Cape Town's Serious and Violent Crimes Unit, because there is a vigilante killer on the loose - a ruthless executioner with a personal vendetta against the scum committing crimes against children.

With the media screaming, politicians turning up the heat, his young, inexperienced colleagues bumbling, and the body count rising, Griessel has to resort to the desperate measure of setting a trap.

But his brilliant plan does not quite take into account the love of a sex worker for her child, the ruthlessness of the deadly Sangrenegra drug cartel or his own passion for the healing powers of the bottle.

Karen Meek of EuroCrime has a nice review of the audio version that I am listening to.

I've also learnt tonight that the novel was originally published in Afrikaans (2004) and then translated into English in 2007.

Want to find out more about the novel?
You're going to have to wait a few weeks for my review though. Am I enjoying it? yes!

14 December 2009

Crime Fiction Alphabet: K is Kavanagh, Brian

For this week's Crime Fiction Alphabet I've chosen someone whose work in film you may have seen without realising it.

After many years experience in the Australian Film Industry in areas of production, direction, editing and writing, Brian Kavanagh turned to writing cozies.
He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Australian Screen Editors Guild and is an accredited member. He won an Australian Film Institute award for Best Editing for FROG DREAMING (USA title THE QUEST). His first feature film which he produced and directed, A CITY'S CHILD, won an AFI award for actress Monica Maughan and was screened at the London Film Festival as well as Edinburgh, Montreal, Chicago and Adelaide, where it won the Gold Southern Cross Advertiser Award for Best Australian Film.

Brian's first novel CAPABLE OF MURDER was published in 2005
Young Australian living in London, Belinda Lawrence, is contacted by her great aunt who lives near Bath. The old lady has something important that she wants to tell her. Belinda finds her aunt's decaying body at the foot of the stairs in her cottage but appearances seem to indicate that she has had an accidental fall. Various events and coincidences convince Belinda that her aunt was in fact murdered. Belinda decides to live in the cottage she has inherited from her aunt, more people die, and she is not sure who to trust. The book takes a lot from the tradition of English village ""cosies"" and reminded me a little of books I used to read decades ago - Victoria Holt, Susan Howatch and similar "gothic" style novelists. For me it was just a little old-fashioned, but it was a quick read, and plot content was interesting enough. My rating 3.9

#2 in the Belinda Lawrence series. Set about 2 years after the first (CAPABLE OF MURDER), Belinda now has her inherited cottage set up with its re-constructed Capability Brown garden. Antique collector Hazel Whitby has furnished it with appropriate furniture and it is now on the tourist bus routes, bringing in a small income. Real estate agent Mark Sallinger completes the investigative trio as wll as providing the romance interest. On their way back from an antiques fair at Castle Howard, Belinda and Hazel call in at Kidbrooke House and are shown a framed piece of tapestry by its elderly owner. It reminds Belinda of the Bayeux tapestry and she decides she wants to see the Bayeux replica at Reading. Just after their visit to Kidbrooke House its elderly owner is murdered. Hazel buys some furniture from his deceased estate and accidentally becomes the owner of the tapestry which she gives to Belinda. This book is a delightful romp somewhat in the vein of Margaret Rutherford's interpretation of Miss Marple. I suspect Brian Kavanagh is rather enjoying writing these stories with their mixture of murder, mayhem and romance. THE EMBROIDERED CORPSE has indications that he is constantly honing his craft, and I think they would be popular with YA female readers. Try to read them in order (CAPABLE OF MURDER, then THE EMBROIDERED CORPSE). My rating 4.1

I haven't yet read the 3rd in the series BLOODY HAM but you can try a sample online

Brian's website
has various trailers and extracts for your enjoyment.

Check other contributions to the letter K:

Crime Fiction Alphabet Letter K- week beginning 14 December

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

Here are the rules

Each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname.

So you see you have lots of choice. You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow.

Please check each Monday for the letter of the week, and then link your post back to the page. Also come back and put the link to your blog post in Mr. Linky below.
Then come and check to see who else has posted and visit their blog.
You have until the end of the week to complete your mission.

NB - if Mr Linky is unavailable, I hope it is temporary - leave a link in a comment

This week's letter:

See other letters: A B C D E F G H I J


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