31 May 2009

Sunday Salon, 31 May 2009

Glorious day here for the last day of autumn- I know, for most of you nearly the beginning of summer. I've already seen posts from the northern hemisphere crowing about the beginning of summer holidays. Here it is the season of heaters, electric blankets, warming soups, short days, and supposedly rain, although we are not doing all that well in that department as usual.

I've been thinking this week about how I keep up-to-date with news about the crime fiction world that I'm interested in. I spend a lot of time keeping the unread bits under control with constant daily doses.
I have "news" coming in from so many quarters like the Yahoo groups that I belong to:
and I try to add to the noise there too, by contributing as well.
I also belong to a number of "projects" like this Sunday Salon one.
And then there are the RSS feeds from about 100 blogs which I monitor via RSS Reader, and share with you on Crime Fiction Journeys.
Recently I joined Twitter and now follow 134 people. I've begun to get a bit selective there though, and I've removed fopm my list a few people who seem to have a lot of conversations that don't really relate to reading.
And finally there's the Friendfeed room: Crime and Mystery Fiction where some "real" conversations occur with a smaller number of people.

All of that takes some keeping up with and a day or two away from my computer can engender a real feeling of crisis.

I use all of these sources to find out what I could/should be reading, who has been listed for what award and so on.

This week's posts
Breaking News:
This week's poll asked:
15 people participated and for a while I thought THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was going to be the only one people would pick. The poll result does point out the problem with many awards, that very rarely are all those on the short list universally well known.
I should have asked if anyone had read them all - but no-one commented that they had.

This week's poll: How many writer/reader conventions will you attend this year?
Do pop over, vote, and leave a comment on why you voted as you did. Tell us where you will found.

Currently Reading
  • now - SILENT IN THE GRAVE, Deanna Raybourn
  • then - RITUAL, Mo Hayder
  • after that - THE MYSTERIOUS MR QUIN, Agatha Christie
  • in the car - WATERLOO SUNSET, Martin Edwards

Will you attend a writer/reader "convention" this year?

Earlier this year I attended Left Coast Crime on Big Island in Hawaii. It wasn't the first such event that I have attended, but it was the first "residential" one and I would imagine in that it was fairly unusual.

All the others I have been at have been called "writer's festival" or "writer's week" or similar, but in fact most of the attendees are readers, although those on the panels are mainly writers.
So I have attended Adelaide Writer's Week a couple of times (they happen every two years) and Melbourne Writers Festival, an annual event, for the last 2 years and hope to be there for a couple of days this year, providing there is a good selection of crime fiction offerings on the days I can attend.

So I'm interested at where you have been this year, and whether you will be going to any others.
With all the online potential, does any one know of any conventions being conducted entirely online?

Anyway, there is a small poll How many writer/reader conventions will you attend this year? running over in the right hand column this week, to get a snapshot, but do leave a comment too. You might like to say where you have been, what others you hope to attend, and what you get out of going to them.

30 May 2009

Completed in May 2009

As you can see from the list below, I've had a pretty good month.
I should point out that 3 of the books were audio. ****

4.7, UNSEEN, Mari Jungstedt (30 May)
4.9, SEARCH THE DARK, Charles Todd (28 May)****
4.2, THE BAD POLICEMAN, Helen Hodgman (24 May)
3.8, PUBLISH OR PERISH, Margot Kinberg (22 May)
4.3, THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY, Agatha Christie (18 May)
4.5, THE POISONING IN THE PUB, Simon Brett (15 May)
4.2, THE WRITING CLASS, Jincy Willett (11 May)
0, THE SHACK, William P. Young (DNF - 9 May)****
4.9, A PALE HORSE, Charles Todd (4 May)****

My ratings

* 5.0 Excellent
* 4.0 Very Good
* 3.0 Average
* 2.0 Poor
* 1.0 Did Not Like
* 0 Did Not Finish

So far this year I've read 50 books which looks pretty good for my aim of exceeding 100 by the end of the year.

If you'd like to see what I've read this year and how they rated, then check Smik's Reviews.

Review: UNSEEN, Mari Jungstedt

translated from the Swedish by Tiina Nunnally 2005, Doubleday Press 2007, originally published 2003, ISBN 978-0-61119-0, 244 pages.

Gotland is an island off the coast of Sweden that blooms with summer visitors. It is a sought-after holiday destination with cabins, holiday shacks, and a few permanent residents. Visitors come by ferry from Stockholm for weekend getaways and short holidays. It is the sort of place the young generally leave to find work.

Summer is just beginning when Helena, Per and their friends gather in the limestone cottage for a Whitsun weekend holiday. Helena has brought together people they haven't seen for a while, but unfortunately Per's jealousy destroys the evening. Within a matter of hours Helena is dead, killed in the nearby sand dunes by an axe wielding murderer.

At first Per is the obvious suspect, but there are a couple of other possibilities among the guests. Within days there is a second murder, a woman of similar age, same "calling card."

The investigation is handled by Inspector Anders Knutas and his team fromVisby, while an investigative journalist, Johan Berg, from Stockholm conducts a parallel inquiry, which seems at times more successful than the police one. Knutas is a methodical investigator, but there are tensions in his team, and he is under pressure to find the murderer before it impacts on Gotland's fragile tourist industry. On the other hand, Berg's mind is not always on the job as he falls in love with a woman linked to the case, but he seems to be able to get people to open up to him in a way that the police can't.

It is Emma, Helena's best friend, one of the guests at the Whitsun weekend, who eventually realises what connects the murders, by then numbering 3, and then the tension really builds.

This was an excellent read. Apart from the murder mystery aspect, it is really a story about relationships on a number of levels, and a tale that points out how our actions from our days of innocence can reach out into the present.

My rating: 4.7

Read the first chapter online

Other reviews:
UNSEEN was Mari Jungstedt's debut novel, and the first in a series set on the island of Gotland.
Euro Crime lists 3 books in the series
The Inner Circle (apa Unknown)20083
and I look forward to tracking the other two down.

What does it take to stay in the top 100?

I've been monitoring Amazon UK's Crime fiction top 10 for a long time now. This morning I noticed that C.J. Sansom's DISSOLUTION has been in the top 100 for 738 days - that's over 2 years.

I've written about the list a few times now.

The top 100 list also contains books not yet published which I find a rather odd feature, so obviously when Dan Brown's THE LOST SYMBOL which has already racked up 23 days in the top 100 and is not due for publication for another 90 days, will have a head start.

It is an interesting list to watch because it keeps you informed about what is gaining in popularity and perhaps who you should consider reading. My jury is out on Dan Brown although I have to admit I quite liked THE DA VINCI CODE and DIGITAL FORTRESS was ok.

You start to think though, when an author appears in that top 10 list with 2 titles, and Sansom was right up there early last year; A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS, R.J. Ellory was on top for a long time last year particularly after he came to the notice of Richard and Judy; and Alexander McCall Smith, at around the time of the filming of the No. 1 Ladies detective Agency, had 3 books in the top 10!

The top 10 list this morning is
  1. THE LOST SYMBOL, Dan Brown
  2. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Stieg Larsson, rated 4.8 by me
  4. THE SHACK, William P. Young, rated 0 by me -so that's how I came to read it! My review talks about why it should NOT be listed as crime fiction.
  5. MIDNIGHT FUGUE, Reginald Hill - I want to read this!
  6. GONE TOMORROW, Lee Child
  7. ASSEGAI, Wilbur Smith
  8. THE SCARECROW, Michael Connolly
  9. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, Steieg Larsson - on the shelves, waiting its turn
  10. GIRL MISSING, Tess Gerritsen
If you want to follow the list be RSS use the link is http://www.amazon.co.uk/rss/bestsellers/books/72/ref=pd_ts_rss_link

So what influences people to buy a book from Amazon UK and thus help it on its way into the top 100? You might have your own opinions. I think lists like this tend to be self perpetuating, and of course there are other influences like discounting wars, advertising hype and the like.

28 May 2009

Review, SEARCH THE DARK, Charles Todd

Audio book, 11 hour 45 min, narrated by Samuel Gillies.
The book was published in 1999, this version audible.com in 2000.

This is the third in the Ian Rutledge series, and the second I have listened to. It is a "village mystery", with quite a confined setting. A returned soldier travelling south by train to find work looks out of the window as the train passes through a small village and sees a woman and two children on the platform with a man. The soldier, Mowbray, believes his wife and children were killed in the bombing of London in 1915, and yet there they are on the platform.

He frantically tries to get off the train, but is not put off until the next stop. By the time he gets back to the station, the woman and children have gone. Distraught he searches the town, threatening his wife harm when he finds her. The next day a woman's body is found, face battered, some miles away in the countryside and the local police inspector assumes it is Mowbray's wife. But there is no sign of the children.

Ian Rutledge from Scotland Yard is brought in to find the children, but there are too many things that don't add up, and he is not convinced it is Mrs Mowbray. When another young woman is discovered to be missing, it seems Rutledge may be right. However the local policeman is not so easily convinced.

What I found as I listened is that I really cared about what happened to these characters. Rutledge is a bit pedantic about getting things right, and more than once I found myself saying " get on with it man!" but then I find he has thought of something that didn't even cross my horizon. And just when you think you've got it all worked out, the plot takes another turn, another body is found, or whatever, and off we go again.

The war is a recent memory and Rutledge is not the only one damaged by it. Several of the characters in the book, including the unfortunate Mowbray, have been deeply affected by the war. Rutledge himself is constantly reminded of the war by the ever present voice of Hamish MacLeod.

For me this time, the voice of "Hamish in his head" is much stronger in this early novel, the conversations Rutledge has with Hamish are more like dialogue between the detective and his offsider. I commented on this in my Sleuths and Foils post. By A PALE HORSE, which is #10 in the series, and set a year or two later than SEARCH THE DARK, Rutledge is learning how to control Hamish to an extent, and to respond less automatically to his voice.

I am "hooked" on these stories, but next time I really must read a book, not listen to one.

My rating: 4.9

From Fantastic Fiction:

Charles Todd is a pen name used by the American authors Caroline and Charles Todd. This mother-and-son writing team lives in the eastern United States, in North Carolina and Delaware, respectively. The pseudonymous mystery authors are best known for a series of novels, set in post World War I England. These intelligent and literate books deal with the cases of Inspector Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the European campaigns who is attempting to pick up the pieces of his Scotland Yard career. However, he must keep his greatest burden a secret. Suffering from shell shock, he lives with the constant cynical, taunting voice of Hamish MacLeod....

The series:
1. A Test of Wills (1996)
2. Wings of Fire (1998)
3. Search the Dark (1999)
4. Legacy of the Dead (2000)
5. Watchers of Time (2001)
6. A Fearsome Doubt (2002)
7. A Cold Treachery (2005)
8. A Long Shadow (2006)
9. A False Mirror (2007)
10. A Pale Horse (2008)
11. A Matter of Justice (2009)

27 May 2009

3 Acts of Murder coming to ABC TV

In 1928 Arthur Upfield, Australia’s premier crime writer, plotted the perfect murder for his novel THE SANDS OF WINDEE.

Meanwhile, one of his friends, stockman Snowy Rowles, put the scheme into deadly effect, even before the book was published. This true story resulted in one of Australia’s most sensational murder trials of the 1930’s and catapulted Upfield’s name onto the world stage.

The ABC are screening a 95 minute telemovie on June 14. Check the website.

Here is the first of 5 short Youtube snippets about the making of 3 Acts of Murder.

If that link doesn't work for you then try this.

My top 5 reads so far in 2009

My list of top 5 reads so far this year contains 3 new-to-me authors, 2 of which I have read in translation.

The links go to my reviews.
5.0, PLAY DEAD, Richard Montanari -new to me
4.9, ECHOES FROM THE DEAD, Johan Theorin - new to me, translated from Swedish.
4.9, A PALE HORSE, Charles Todd - new to me
4.8, ARCTIC CHILL, Arnaldur Indridason - translated from Icelandic
4.8, THE CRUELLEST MONTH, Louise Penny

25 May 2009

Review: THE BAD POLICEMAN, Helen Hodgman

Allen and Unwin 2001, ISBN 1-86508-435-2, 173 pages

THE BAD POLICEMAN begins with a day in the life of Australian Police Constable Marcus Blainey. In fact the book recounts many such days. Blainey tells us right from the beginning that he has "done bad things". He is only too conscious of what a contrast he is to his patrol car partner Steve, ever eager, always ambitious.

In truth life has dealt Mark Blainey many blows. His marriage has collapsed - what policeman's hasn't? - and the job doesn't always allow him to dispense the sort of justice he would like to see. But then he often takes the easy way out. The poet in him is ever conscious of a burden of human misery and stupidity. Mark Blainey is disillusioned by the job, often ready to take advantage when it is on offer, but one thing really gets to him - young children caught up in the nightmare worlds of adult predators.

I changed my mind a number of times while reading THE BAD POLICEMAN. It is not a novel in the conventional sense of the word, more a series of connected incidents occurring in Marcus Blainey's world. And yet there are story threads, in the way that things that happen to us in our everyday lives are often connected to other things that have happened to us.

In the long run, I decided it was an interesting book, not because it is crime fiction in the usual sense of a murder mystery or a thriller, but there are crimes. The structure allows it to be almost stream of consciousness, with Marcus Blainey using the reader as a confessional, a way to vent his frustrations at his inability to right wrongs.

I didn't like it quite as much as Sunnie, and a bit more than Sally. Despite the fact that it is relatively short, I didn't find it a particularly quick read. And it's not a cheerful book - you have been warned! At times the language may offend as well.

My rating 4.2

The National Library of Australia lists 13 books by Helen Hodgman, the first JACK AND JILL written in 1978, and THE BAD POLICEMAN the most recent (2001), but I can find almost no other information about her.

Considering Award Nominees

It is hard not to be impressed by the lists of books being nominated for various awards at this time of the year.

I know some people will say that they ignore the lists, but I always watch to see which books crop up again and again on various lists.

The Anthony Awards are decided at Bouchercon.
Here are the short lists for the 3 main awards.

Best Novel
TRIGGER CITY by Sean Chercover [William Morrow]
THE BRASS VERDICT by Michael Connelly [Little, Brown and Company]
RED KNIFE by William Kent Krueger [Atria]
THE CRUELLEST MONTH by Louise Penny [Minotaur]

Best First Novel
PUSHING UP DAISIES by Rosemary Harris [Minotaur]
STALKING SUSAN by Julie Kramer [Doubleday]
DEATH OF A COZY WRITER by G. M. Malliet [Midnight Ink]
CHILD 44 by Tom Rob Smith [Grand Central]

Best Paperback Original
THE FIRST QUARRY by Max Allan Collins [Hard Case Crime]
MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust [Hard Case Crime]
STATE OF THE ONION by Julie Hyzy [Berkley]
IN A DARK SEASON by Vicki Lane [Dell]
SOUTH OF HELL by P. J. Parrish [Pocket Star]

So far I've read only 2 as you can see, but I do intend to remedy that.
There is currently a poll running in the sidebar where you can record which of the Best Novel nominees you've read at this stage.

The Macavity Awards are also decided at Bouchercon.

Here are the short lists

Best Mystery Novel:

  • Sean Chercover: Trigger City (Wm. Morrow)
  • Deborah Crombie: Where Memories Lie (Wm. Morrow)
  • Declan Hughes: The Dying Breed (UK) / The Price of Blood (US) (John Murray/ Wm. Morrow)
  • Arnaldur Indridason: The Draining Lake (Minotaur)
  • Lisa Lutz: Curse of the Spellmans (Simon & Schuster)
  • Louise Penny: The Cruelest Month (Minotaur)
  • Louise Ure: The Fault Tree (Minotaur)

Best First Mystery:

  • Zoe Ferraris: Finding Nouf (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Knopf)
  • G.M. Malliet: Death of a Cozy Writer (Midnight Ink)
  • Charlie Newton: Calumet City (Simon & Schuster)
  • Scott Pratt: An Innocent Client (Onyx)
  • Michael Stanley: A Carrion Death (Harper; Headline)
  • Dan Waddell: The Blood Detective (Minotaur)

So which of the nominees have you read? And which do you favour?

24 May 2009

Sunday Salon - 24 May 2009

Good morning fellow Sunday Saloners - all 380 of you!

I was struck this week as I compiled the 5th edition of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival, how a specifically focussed community can develop around a blogging project. There are a dozen or so regular contributors to the monthly carnival and I look forward to seeing which Agatha Christie novel they have recently blogged about.

Apart from Sunday Salon, which also is a great community, I belong to a number of others (have a look in my side bar).
What these communities have in common is that their members blog about the books they are reading. Like me, many began their blog in order to write about the book they are reading. And that's my message to you to today - if you are not using your blog to reflect on your reading, then you should. Try to do a bit more than say "today I finished XXXX. It was great/dreadful/boring/motivating". Tell another reader just a little about the book (no spoilers please!), and then what you got out of it, or what you felt about it. There are heaps of guidelines about writing book reviews around on other blogs, but mine are readily available here.

This week's posts
Breaking News
Last week's poll had 33 participants.

Most pointed out through comments that they didn't consciously choose a book by the gender of the author, but it was suggested more than once that if you mainly read particular genres, then you have a greater chance of reading female rather than male authors. But we can all think of examples that are the exception to the rule.

To think about this in terms of my original post Is Writing Still a Man's World? then the answer is No.
If you play around with the poll results, then 33 people read 165 books. Of those, 83 were written by female authors which is just over 50%. What does that prove? I'm not sure..

This week's poll: Which of the 2009 Anthony Award Nominees for Best Novel have you read? Do check the list of novels. Even if you don't generally read crime fiction you may have read one or more of them.

Currently reading
  • now - THE BAD POLICEMAN, Helen Hodgman
  • next - RITUAL, Mo Hayder
  • after that - THE MYSTERIOUS MR QUIN, Agatha Christie
  • in the car - SEARCH THE DARK, Charles Todd (#3)
If you are looking for some crime fiction recommendations, check Smik's Reviews
If you are looking for some crime fiction blogs to follow then check Crime Fiction Journeys for over 100 blogs that I can recommend.

Happy reading!

And the Winner Is!

The winner of the competition to win a copy this book, from 5 participants, drawn by the Cat's Paw, was Sunnie from Tasmania.

Thank you to all participants.

Keep on the lookout for another competition for a free give away in about 3 weeks time.

23 May 2009

Review: PUBLISH OR PERISH, Margot Kinberg

Strategic Book Publishing, 2008, ISBN 9781606937471, 211 pages

For Nick Merrill, a third-year graduate student at Tilton University, it really looks as if the world is his oyster. He has two women on a string, teaches a class he enjoys, is participating in an effective teaching project he finds stimulating, has a piece of software about to be accepted for publication, and then he wins a fellowship he was sure would go to a colleague.

But within a matter of days his world begins to fall apart. Not only does his girlfriend find out about his other relationship, his tutor steals his software, the colleague who did not win the fellowship is determined to have him disqualified for unethical behaviour, and there is a strong possibility his contract will be terminated. But, as the reader learns, this is not the worst that can happen.

By a third of the way in, PUBLISH OR PERISH becomes a carefully crafted murder mystery. The murders are solved by a very likeable former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams. Now there is a protagonist I would like to see more of. Although there are a couple of police detectives who have been assigned to the case, and they do the hack work, it is Williams' intuition and powers of observation that make the breakthrough.

It was obvious to me, as one who doesn't know the American university system at all well, that Margot Kinberg knows her setting backwards. As far as debut novels go, this is a solid effort. I don't mean that in a derogatory sense. If I have one criticism it is that it took, for me, a little too long to draw the threads finally together. PUBLISH OR PERISH is an entertaining crime fiction read, and I'm certainly willing to read Margot Kinberg's next book.

My rating: 3.8

Read the first chapter online through Amazon.

Margot interviewed on Melissa's Bookshelf
Review on Melissa's Bookshelf

Margot Kinberg was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where she graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and later, received her Master's Degree from LaSalle University. After teaching at the University of Delaware for several years and earning her Ph.D. there, Kinberg moved west. She taught at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, and is currently an Associate Professor at National University in Carlsbad, California. Kinberg currently lives in southern California with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

22 May 2009

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival #5 now posted

Blog Carnival #5 is posted at http://acrccarnival.blogspot.com/2009/05/acrc-carnival-5.html
There were 16 contributions, and 10 separate Agatha Christie titles reviewed.
Thank you both for your contributions and, in anticipation, for your assistance in promoting the blog and the project.

Feel free to use the logo in your blog post.
You can now sign up to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge too.
See the post at http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/2009/05/join-agatha-christie-reading-challenge.html

Submit your next posts at http://blogcarnival.com/bc/submit_6057.html and happy reading.

Some headlines of interest:

21 May 2009

Forgotten Book: THE LITTLE WORLD OF DON CAMILLO, Giovanni Guareschi

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

You may think it takes a very determined addict to see the Don Camillo books as crime fiction!
But they were certainly among the reading I did in my formative years. And some of them were big on mystery, and there were even crimes, and murders.

Courtesy of Wikipedia:

In the United Kingdom, the United States of America and possibly other English-speaking territories, the books were translated and published by Victor Gollancz Ltd as the following:

  • The Little World of Don Camillo (published 1950; translated by Vincenzo Troubridge)
  • Don Camillo and the Prodigal Son (published 1952; translated by Frances Frenaye)
  • Don Camillo's Dilemma (published 1954; translated by Frances Frenaye)
  • Don Camillo and the Devil (published 1957; the only book not translated but written in English by Guareschi himself)
  • Comrade Don Camillo (published 1964; translated by Frances Frenaye)
  • Don Camillo Meets Hell's Angels (published 1969)
Each book consisted of loosely connected short stories, focussing on the conflict and friendship of the village priest Don Camillo and the communist Mayor Peppone.

The books were the basis of a series of black and white films 1952-1965, and then a BBC television series in 1980, in which Brian Blessed played Peppone.

In my research I found a delightful site, that lists the short stories in the first collection (with a little description). It also gave me the following publication details which attest to the popularity of this book.
The Little World of Don Camillo, by Giovanni Guareschi. Copyright © Giovanni Guareschi, 1950. Translated by Una Vincenzo Troubridge. NEW YORK: Pellegrini and Cudahy, 1950.
Published simultaneously in Canada by George J. MacLeod, Ltd., Toronto.
First published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz, Ltd.; 1951.
Published (UK) by Penguin Books, 1962.
Reprinted (UK) 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1977.

20 May 2009

Join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge

For some time now people have suggested/requested an "official" Agatha Christie Reading Challenge signing up page.

See information about the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge here.

So here it is: Just add yourself. Once you have done that please leave a comment.
A "Mr Linky" should appear just below here. If it doesn't leave a comment anyway and I will add you when it reappears.

ACRC Update - 20 May 2009

I've just finished the 11th novel, THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY. Last week I bought second hand at a library sale, a large number of omnibus volumes, for about $1 each, accounting between them for about 55 novels, and I can see many of the next titles on their spines, so hopefully I'll be right for a while.

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.

Up until now I have been mainly borrowing the books from my local library but with my new acquisitions, this will be cut down quite a bit.

What I've read so far
  2. 1922, THE SECRET ADVERSARY- finished
  3. 1923, THE MURDER ON THE LINKS - finished
  4. 1924, THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT - finished
    1924, POIROT INVESTIGATES (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US) - finished
  5. 1925, THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS - finished
  6. 1926, THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD - finished
  7. 1927, THE BIG FOUR - finished
  8. 1928, THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN - finished
  9. 1929, THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY - finished
    1929 Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence) - now on my shelves
  10. 1930, THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE - finished
    1930 The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin) - waiting on the shelves (from library)
  12. 1932, PERIL AT END HOUSE - requested from the library.
    1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders in the US) - now on my shelves
  13. 1933, LORD EDGEWARE DIES (aka THIRTEEN AT DINNER) - - now on my shelves
  14. 1934, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (aka MURDER IN THE CALAIS COACH) - now on my shelves
  15. 1934, WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVANS? (aka THE BOOMERANG CLUE) - now on my shelves
Check the opening blog post of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge 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.

19 May 2009

Why you shouldn't read crime fiction late at night!

You might find a body in your library!

Have you tried watching YouTube videos? Here is one to get you started.
After you've watched this one, look for the next 17 parts - it could get addictive!

Here are some links to get you started
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
There are another 11 parts on Youtube

18 May 2009

Review: THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY, Agatha Christie

The copy of THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY I read was an Agatha Christie Signature Edition published in 2002. ISBN 0-00-713684-6, 348 pages.
The original was published in 1931. The cover of the book I read was a lot tamer than the one I have used here.

THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY was actually first published in the US under the title of THE MURDER AT HAZELMOOR.

Christmas is approaching. Snow has fallen in England over the last four days and the landscape on the fringe of Dartmoor at Sittaford House is several feet deep in snow. To all intents and purposes the tiny village of Sittaford is almost completely cut off.
The winter tenants of Sittaford House, Mrs Willett and her daughter Violet, are entertaining the residents of the nearby estate cottages to afternoon tea. To pass the time the group tries a spot of table turning. When the table spells out the message "Captain Trevelyan ... dead... murder", one of the party, Trevelyan's lifelong friend Major Burnaby decides to make the six mile trek into the village on foot, just to check his friend's welfare.

Christie still appears to be searching for a protagonist, although by this time, her 11th novel, Hercule Poirot has appeared 5 times, Superintendent Battle twice, and Miss Marple made her debut in the previous novel THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE.
I don't think the new protagonist, Inspector Narracott is a success. In fact we never really get to know him. He is rather colourless, uninspiring, as well as secretive, and Christie only lets him loose once more, many years later in a play.

Narracott shares the limelight of the investigation with Emily Trefusis, engaged to be married to young man accused of Captain Trevelyan's murder, and a journalist by the name of Charles Enderby. This couple are much more interesting and through them Christie brings in a romantic element, to add to the rather supernatural one of the table turning.

All of the people who were in Sittaford House that afternoon have something to hide, and so the story is rather liberally sprinkled with red herrings, and with sub-plots, including a breakout from a nearby prison on Dartmoor which reminded me a bit of the plot from Dickens' GREAT EXPECTATIONS. There is a basic assumption that the murderer had either to be from Sittaford House itself or from one of the cottages. Christie plays a little with the reader through the dual investigations, and it means that we don't actually have all of the facts at our disposal.

My rating: 4.3

I read this as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, in which I am aiming to read the Agatha Christie novels in the order of publication.

Why do I blog?

I came across this yesterday via a Twitter link.
My AP Literature and Composition students are working on their senior presentations. I have promised them that I too will complete a research project. This blog has been a huge part of my project, as I am researching why people blog. I have read several articles pertaining to my topic, but I would love to gather as much information from “real live bloggers”, if at all possible. So, if you are willing to participate, I have a few questions I would love to ask you. Perhaps we could make this a meme and you could post in on your on blog and just leave a link under my comments…..
The blog is at http://stateofdenmark2.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/senior-project-meme/

I have decided to write my responses both here and on my "work" blog.

1. How long have you been blogging?

I began this blog at the beginning of 2008, but had already had 14 months experience on my work blog.

2. Why did you start blogging?

I was already writing book reviews and storing them in a couple of places, but I didn't have control over what happened in either of those places. I decided that it would be nice to post my own book reviews, and perhaps write about other book-related issues. I made the decision to write a review of every book that I read, not just those submitted to me by authors and publishers for reviewing.

3. What have you found to be the benefits of blogging?

In the first place, deciding to write a blog post containing the book reviews gave me a chance to reflect on what I had read. Then I realised that there are others doing the same, and that I am actually part of a community of bloggers who were also reviewing books.
I now see blogging as the beginning of a conversation, but also the opportunity to connect with people in other interactive ways such as polls, competitions, and comments.

4. How many times a week do you post an entry?

My aim is daily, but in fact it is probably more like 10 times a week now.

5. How many different blogs do you read on a regular basis?

I keep track of a number of other similar crime fiction blogs through a separate site I have set up called Crime Fiction Journeys. There I keep track of roughly 100 other blogs. But I also run an RSS reader on my computer and there I track another 50 or so on a daily basis. The RSS reader delivers in most cases the entire post and I can read them on my computer. I belong to a couple of projects like Sunday Salon and Weekly Geeks which between them account for quite a number more.

6. Do you comment on other people's blogs?

I regularly comment on a dozen or so blogs, but with the "projects" I will often make an effort to comment on all the Weekly Geeks postings (about 30 or so of them), and on all Sunday Salon ones who have a crime fiction interest. I like people to comment on my posts so I believe in doing the same.

7. Do you keep track of how many visitors you have? Is so, are you satisfied with your numbers?

I have an "amazing" counter running on my blog, and I also use Sitemeter to monitor my daily count of visitors. I now regularly get over 100 visitors a day, and although that is not huge, it makes me feel my blog posts are worthwhile. I also use Feedjit as that tells me what posts draw people in, and I run Clustrmaps although that doesn't show me much more than locations.

8. Do you ever regret a post that you wrote?

Not yet.

9. Do you think your audience has a true sense of who you are based on your blog?

In the banner at the top of my blog I describe how MYSTERIES IN PARADISE came into being, and then I have a block in the side panel that tells people more.

10. Do you blog under your real name?

Yes, but I use an avatar image rather than my real photo. I use this avatar also on Twitter and FriendFeed so it has sort of become synonymous with me. In my "work" digital footprints I use my "real" photo.

11. Are there topics that you would never blog about?

My posts are almost always related to crime fiction. I would never use my blog for political comment or for commercial purposes.

12. What is the theme/topic of your blog?

It began as a place to post crime fiction reviews, but has expanded into other topics, but always related to crime fiction topics.

13. Do you have more than one blog? If so, why?

I have a number actually
On another blogging platform, I might actually have set these up in a "tabbed" interface rather than as separate blogs. But each blogging platform allows you to do different things, and not others, and for most things Blogger suits me quite well.
  • Smik's Learning Space is a blog I use occasionally when I am doing professional development for teachers. In it I store resources for my presentations.
  • You Are Never Alone is my "work" blog and its focus is very different, as is its content.
So ultimately I blog because I enjoy it, it enhances my sense of being in a community, and it allows me to exercise some creativity and even use my research skills in a satisfying and purposeful fashion. I never seem to be at a loss for a topic,a nd indeed have had to find some other strategies to keep the number of posts I write down to a sensible number.

The questions if you want to take this meme and run with it for yourself.
1. How long have you been blogging?
2. Why did you start blogging?
3. What have you found to be the benefits of blogging?
4. How many times a week do you post an entry?
5. How many different blogs do you read on a regular basis?
6. Do you comment on other people's blogs?
7. Do you keep track of how many visitors you have? Is so, are you satisfied with your numbers?
8. Do you ever regret a post that you wrote?
9. Do you think your audience has a true sense of who you are based on your blog?
10. Do you blog under your real name?
11. Are there topics that you would never blog about?
12. What is the theme/topic of your blog?
13. Do you have more than one blog? If so, why?

17 May 2009

Weekly Geeks: 2009-18, Home Town tour

This week's Weekly Geek Challenge is to take a home town literary tour.

Paradise is a suburb of Adelaide, the home of , so let me begin there.
AWW happens every second year, and the next one is in 2010, 28 Feb - 5 March. Most of the sessions in Writers' Week, which is held outside in 2 large marquees, are free.
AWW usually caters very well for crime fiction readers too.

Last year I attended sessions by the following writers: and Peter Corris.

I've blogged before about what a good place Adelaide is to live, home of the Adelaide Festival of Arts, Adelaide Fringe Festival, and even the Tour Down Under.

Adelaide has had a crop of crime writers too, some well known, others not.
Adelaide's Wakefield Press has printed a series called Wakefield Crime Classics which reprinted the work of authors such Patricia Carlon (The Whispering Wall), A.E. Martin, and Charlotte Jay.

Other writers to look for
  • Garry Disher was South Australian born and bred although he is now a Victorian (sadly). South Australia gets an occasional reference in the Challis and Destry books. There's a good list of his books and a bit of biography here. Recently Lesa Holstene recommended his most recent Hal Challis book BLOOD MOON.
  • Kirsty Brooks is a successful young writer. Her website is a bit out of date. Her first book was published in 1995. She has a blog but not much reference to her books there. Aust Crime Fiction lists 4 books in the Cassidy Blair series. They are just a bit too chick-lit for me.
  • Nobel prize winner John Coetzee now lives in Adelaide.
  • Nicholas Jose, author of ORIGINAL FACE, is a lecturer at Adelaide University. That seems to be his one journey into crime fiction, although he has written 7 books and been listed for a number of awards.
  • most recently Fiona McIntosh, known internationally for her fantasy novels, ventured into crime fiction with BYE BYE BABY (written under the pseudonym of Lauren Crow) and now I believe a new crime fiction title will be published later this year.
  • and of course Adelaide has had it's fair share of true crime with the unsolved case of the Beaumont Children, and the "bodies in the barrels" case just to name a couple. In recent years we have become a bit notorious too with child abduction cases, serial murders, including recently the "body in the barrels" case. I reviewed Debbie Marshall's book KILLING FOR PLEASURE.
    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. KILLING FOR PLEASURE 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 investigations.

    Alan J Whiticker wrote in IN SEARCH OF THE BEAUMONT CHILDREN, about our most notorious child abduction/disappearance case, one which successful Australian author Kathryn Fox says has a big impact on her upbringing.

Need some more reasons to visit Adelaide?
Well, there's the Christmas Pageant, various Christmas lights, the Schutzenfest, The Barossa Band Festival, the Old Gum Tree, and the O'Bahn, just to name a few attractions.
And of course you could meet me or Bernadette!

Sunday Salon - 17 May 2009

Greetings fellow Sunday Saloners.

Things to do on my crime fiction focussed blog today: participate in a poll, enter a competition for a free book, add to my knowledge of detective pairs.

Submissions for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival close on May 22. Get your blog post in if you have recently written any posts about Agatha Christie books. New participants very welcome (submit your past posts too). Check the April Carnival to see what it is all about.

This week's posts
Last fortnight's poll: How often do you write a blog post? had 26 participants

As you can see most who participated are in the more-or-less-daily routine, but some admitted to posting-creep. The comments were really varied though. If you want to read them they are still available.

This week's poll:
Of the last 5 books you read, how many authors were female?
It is connected to the post at Is writing novels still a man's world?
Your participation in the poll and comment would be very welcome.

Breaking News
Currently reading
  • now - THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY, Agatha Christie
  • next - RITUAL, Mo Hayder
  • in the car - SEARCH THE DARK, Charles Todd (#3)
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This year: 202 posts.
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16 May 2009

Collaborations in Paradise - the final story

The Story was born just on a month ago and has had a rather checkered career. With no contributions now for a week, I think it has finally run its course and I am no longer going to update it in my blog. However you can still continue writing if you like at http://todaysmeet.com/murder_paradise

Find out about the project here. Check all the posts through collaborative writing.

The opening lines were written by Ned Kelly winner Michael Robotham.

Contributors so far (apart from me)

Michael Robotham
Rik Shepherd
Robin Thomas
Felicity Young
Rhubarb Whine
Sally from Oz
Timothy Hallinan
Anything Art
Mr. O. Monkey

The complete (as far as I'm concerned anyway) Story

You can't rush a man who's committed murder. Condemned men always shuffle. And you need to know a man's history before you storm his house.

But Victor, who was well aware of this advice, ignored it entirely, and barged up the cracked driveway, fuming. This was rich! Such a nerve!

Danny watched Victor through the window. He figured soon or later he would turn up. Danny had things in place. Victor was going to be in for a real shock in more ways than one.

Danny was sick of being bullied by Victor. He just wanted to be left alone, but Victor was too full of himself to understand.

It took Victor just two kicks to find out that front door was unlocked. Danny waited until he was inside before taking off the handbrake.

Suddenly, a shot rang out. And a second, and a third. Victor and Danny both paused - neither of them had a gun.

Danny came to his senses first, hit the ground hard, dragging Victor down with him. Danny looked up at his pet turtle. Marshall Thomas Amos Bountiful Ramirez was hiding in his shell. He was safer right now than Danny and Victor.

Two more shots rang out - the turtle with the embarrassingly long name retreated further into his shell. But Victor pulled himself free. "We can lie here hating each other or we can do something about this." He reached out and grabbed the turtle.

Another shot grazed the wall behind them. It was clear that this could only be the work of one man. A man who was the most despised in the county. And possibly the craziest as well.

That man was... Masked. And running full tilt away from them both guns blazing.
Danny meanwhile was trying desperately to wrench the turtle from Victor so neither was really paying any attention to the gunman. Masked gunmen generally hate being ignored, even when they are lousy shots.

Also ignored since Danny had pursued Victor indoors to claim Marlowe McGuffin III was Danny's car, which started to roll down the drive just at a gentle pace at first, backwards, into the path of the No. 9 bus to Paradise. Out of the corner of his eye Danny saw it moving, but Victor suddenly let go of the turtle, completely unbalancing Danny.

The masked gunman paused at the end of drive and carefully took aim at the prostrate Danny - or was the turtle the target?

The driver of the No. 9 saw Danny's car rolling towards him on the wrong side of the road, panicked and swerved, crushing the turtle under it's wheel. This was all it took to detonate the explosive device deviously hidden under the turtle's shell. What no one knew was that this wasn't any ordinary exploding turtle: this turtle was from the Galapagos Islands. For millions of years it had endured Komodo dragons and David Attenborough film crews: it wasn't ready to turn "turtle" just yet.

Not even Danny had known about the explosive device attached by his agency to the turtle's shell. All he knew was that he had been told, "when you are in trouble, just throw Marshall Thomas Amos Bountiful Ramirez (the turtle's ridiculously long name) at your opponents. He will do the rest."
Danny had assumed the turtle would take a bite and latch on, or something similar.

Leaving the carnage on the road for the moment Danny turned his attention back to what was going on in the house.


Victor was still cowering on the lounge room floor just inside the front door and Marlowe McGuffin III was trying to get out of the back door which he had found dead latched.

Using his full body weight, he hurled himself against it. Hard. With a resounding 'POP' he dislocated his shoulder. It was only then that he remembered he had the keys in his jacket, having deftly snaffled them from Danny when they'd met that memorable night in the club under the railway arches. He fished in his and realised that's not a clever thing to do with a dislocated shoulder. So he screeched instead, then stopped, took a deep breath, and gathered his thoughts. So much to do, so little time. "Prioritise", he thought. "What is the first thing I must do?"


Meanwhile, back at HQ, Danny's boss, Lolita Montoya de Valasquez O'Hara gazed at the video of the destruction and sighed.
It was a long-suffering sigh. In all her born days she had never come across anyone with such a penchant for trouble. After all Danny was an accountant, not a secret agent. And a tax accountant at that. About the only thing he had going for him was a cute bum -God what a fool she'd been!

She wrote a short note on her To Do Pad - Never employ agents because of their arse quality - and started trying to think of a way of improving the day. Preferably a way that caused pain to Danny, Victor and Marlowe. The masked gunman was somewhere under the bus, covered with exploded turtle and didn't need her help in the pain department.
She added another memo - Get new exploding creature. Maybe a puppy this time.

[editor's note: we seem to have 4 (5?) characters now. I'm having trouble with the characters - but then I'm only the editor!]

Danny stood up, and considered his situation. The sound of sirens indicated that his neighbours were the sort of whingers who'd call the authorities just because of a few gunshots, and an explosion and a crashed bus.
His original plan had been quite simple - lure Victor into breaking into the house, then take off down the road to call the cops and let Victor be found with the stuff in the front bedroom. Nice simple plan, slightly foiled by lunatic gunmen. Then again, Victor *was* inside the house with the thing upstairs, and the police were on their way. Result! He smiled, wiped a smear of blood from the side of his mouth and limped off as nonchalantly as he could.

Victor looked down the hall and saw that there was someone in front of the back door. Was Danny smart enough to have back up muscle? Running away is the better part of fighting another day, and he who goes out the back window, down the drain pipe and over the garden wall.

I can punch Danny tomorrow, thought Victor, tiptoeing up the stairs.

Is writing still a man's world? - poll available

Feast on Books raised such an interesting question this week, that I thought I'd run a poll on it.

Peter was commenting on the fact that the "Orange Prize for Fiction, an annual British award given to the best novel of the year by a woman." He seemed to think that sort of pro-activism was a bit dated.

His research came up with the following:
    Nobel Prize for Literature: 5 of the last 20 were women
    Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: 7 of the last 20
    National Book Award for Fiction: 7 of the last 20
    Man Booker Prize for Fiction: 5 of the last 20
    National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction: 7 of the last 20
In Australia the Davitt Awards won last year by Katherine Howell for FRANTIC are presented annually by Sisters in Crime Australia for the best crime novel by an Australian woman published in the previous year. In 2008 there were 41 nominees in three categories, adult, young adult and true crime, as well as a readers' choice award. Check my post for the lists.

Anyway, I've created a poll (see the right hand column) titled Of the last 5 books you read, how many authors were female?
Just check your last 5 books. I had a bit of a quandary because one of my last "authors" is a mother and son team, so I counted them in my numbers.
I'll run the poll for a week, and then report back.

What about you, do you look for books by women?
Dop you think there should be prizes based on gender? Are there any specific prizes for male writers or do you think some genres exclude women anyway?


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