31 January 2010

Do you have an e-book reader?

Please see the poll in the right hand column.

If you are a reader of my blog you will know that I bought a 6" Kindle towards the end of last year.

Since then I've read 6 books on the Kindle which I suppose is not so many, but I am really looking forward to taking it with me when I have some long plane journeys at the end of February.

There's been quite a bit written this week about the release of promotional stuff about the Apple iPod which I think is designed to rival the Kindle DX released on January 19.

And then today there has been quite a bit of discussion on one of the mystery lists I belong to of  the implications of this headline in the New York Times.
Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement
The disagreement appears to be over Amazon's desire to set the price of an e-book at considerably lower than that of the paper version.

I must admit I was taken aback yesterday when I looked at buying a particular an e-Book, and found the price was the same as a paper copy. I've since found the Amazon version is much cheaper

So what about you - are you reading e-books?
If you are, what have you chosen?
If not, will you ever buy an e-book reader do you think?

Here are some of my e-book and Kindle posts

How many books do you aim to read this year? - poll result

I've been running a poll for the last 2 weeks and as you can see most respondents have plumped for 1 to 2 books a week.

In fact some of those who took part in the poll left comments to that effect in the post that accompanied the poll.

I thought I might aim for about 110, based on averages of previous years. If what I have managed to read so far this year, 12, is any indication, then I might get to many more than that.

I guess the next question is how you actually choose the books: Craig has an intersting post on just that over at Crime Scraps.

I've actually commented on this in an earlier post or two: in a sense the books choose me.
I never seem to lack for a book to read and I do have lists here and there of books to consider: wishlists at the library, at Audible, as well has a very mountainous TBR that is a challenge in its own right.

Crime Fiction Alphabet - Summarising the letter O

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

The letter for the week beginning 25 January was the Letter O

11 wonderful contributors again this week, and again a great range of terrific titles, including one not to read!

Tomorrow, 1 February, we will be featuring the letter P and what possibilities there are!
And then we have 10 more letters with some really challenging ones like Q, X, and Z to contemplate

If you read and write about crime fiction, we'd love to have your contribution. 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 N, and then come in to tomorrow's post and put the URL of your post into Mr Linky.

Contributions for the letter O:
See other letters: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O

30 January 2010

Review: CONSEQUENCES OF SIN, Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Penguin Books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-14-311293-8, 262 pages,

Ursula Marlowe is the only daughter of one of the richest industrialists in England. Her father is a self-made man and has seen to it that his daughter has had a excellent education, including a degree at Oxford. Disconcertingly this has made her very politically aware, taking part in the suffragette movement, and socialist protests that seem to cut at the very heart of her father's operations. Robert Marlowe does not approve of some of the friends Ursula has made, and so when she gets an urgent phone call from one of them early in the morning she leaves the house quickly and quietly.

Her friend, Winifred Stanford-Jones, a fellow suffragette, has woken in bed to find her lover lying next to her, murdered. Freddie has absolutely no memory of how she got to bed, and certainly none of the murder. Ursula calls a close family friend, a Kings Counsel, Lord Wrotham, who quickly takes charge of the situation. He sends Ursula away saying that her involvement in a scandal of this sort will do great harm to her father's business.

Time passes and Ursula becomes convinced that the police regard Winifred as the murderer, and are determined to charge her. When the father of the dead girl commits suicide, Ursula comes across evidence that links her father to the dead girl's family.

The plot of CONSEQUENCES OF SIN is mainly played out against the background of London in 1910-1911, but also takes Ursula and Lord Wrotham to the Orinoco River in Venezuela. There were times when I struggled to hold on to this branch of the plot, despite what I'm sure were great efforts by the author to make it tight. Suffragette London felt very authentic, with evidence of considerable research. Social customs and mores of the period are well explained, and there is an understated romantic element that adds interest.

CONSEQUENCES OF SIN may remind some readers of the early Jacqueline Winspear (Maisie Dobbs) books although these are set a little later. It reminded me of a semi-gothic (that's probably the wrong descriptor) style of novel that I read a lot in the 1970s by authors like Dorothy Eden and  Victoria Holt. More recently Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher books come to mind.

My rating: 4.3

Other links to check:

Clare Langely-Hawthorne was raised in England and Australia. She was an attorney in Melbourne before moving to the United States where she began her career as a writer. She lives in Oakland, California, with her family. CONSEQUENCES OF SIN is her first novel and has been followed up by The Serpent and the Scorpion (2008).
I met Clare in Hawaii in March 2009 at LCC and remember that she still has her love of Vegemite - the mark of a true Aussie!

29 January 2010

2010 Global Reading Challenge: Update #4

I am restricting my participation in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge to crime fiction titles, but participants can use books of any genre of their choosing.
Join the challenge here.

create your own visited country map

The Expert Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:


North America (incl Central America)
South America


Select novels from fourteen different countries or states.: My count so far: 6

Review: BLOOD OF THE WICKED, Leighton Gage

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (January 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • ASIN: B001E0KW62
The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

Psalms 58:10

The Bishop of Presidente Vargas, Dom Felipe Antunes, wanted to treat the people of the small agricultural town of Cascatas do Pontal to a  rare sight - he was arriving to open the brand-new church of Nossa Senhora dos Milagros from the skies, like an angel of old - he was arriving by helicopter. The Great Window of the new church was almost five metres in diameter, had cost over 200,000 reais, and gleamed in the sunlight. On the ground the reception party of seven came under the crowd barrier, the  children's choir sang a passage from the Messiah, and then Dom Felipe's head exploded.

The helicopter had been provided by Fertilbras, Brazil's largest fertiliser company, who had employed a photographer to capture the moments of Dom Filipe's arrival, and so he caught the moment of the assassination in glorious colour.

The investigation of the murder of a prelate can't be left to the local police, particularly when they have a reputation for slipshod work and even corruption.

Mario Silva, Chief Inspector for Criminal Matters, is sent to head the investigation Cascatas by his boss the Director of the Brazilian Federal Police. The Pope has phoned the President of Brazil to ensure that the investigation will be given highest priority. Dom Filipe was not just any bishop - he was on a fast track for promotion to cardinal. Brazil's reputation as a civilised country is at stake. The Director has his own eye on the Presidency and so success is of the utmost importance.

Just recently Cascatas do Pontal had seen another murder - that of an agricultural worker, his wife and their two kids. It has also been the scene of land wars, activities by the Landless Workers' League, attempting to wrest unused land from wealthy landowners and restore it to the hands of the people.

When Mario Silva and his nephew Delegado Hector Costa arrive in Cascatas to begin the federal investigation they find that the assassination of Dom Philipe is just the lid of the can of worms.

This was a most enjoyable read, but one with a serious message behind it. Just in case you miss that message, Leighton Gage spells it out in the last pages of the book. BLOOD OF THE WICKED is the first in the Mario Silva series. There is plenty of background about Silva and his nephew, and I would think that makes it imperative that you read the series in order.

My rating: 4.9

Chief Inspector Mario Silva
1. Blood of the Wicked (2007)
2. Buried Strangers (2009)
3. Dying Gasp (2010)

Read Chapter One
Leighton Gage's website

28 January 2010

Forgotten Book:THE DEATH OF A JOYCE SCHOLAR, Barth Gill

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

These days it is not unusual for me to read a book in the year in which it is published. But 20 years ago, that didn't often happen.

THE DEATH OF A JOYCE SCHOLAR(1989) was not long published when I read it in 1990.

Blurb (courtesy Fantastic Fiction):
Trinity professor and Joycean scholar Kevin Coyle was one of Dublin's most colorful - and controversial - characters, until someone stabbed him through the heart on Bloomsday, the annual citywide celebration honoring Ireland's most beloved literary light. The poetic irony is not lost on Chief Superintendent Peter McGarr: one of the foremost experts on the works of James Joyce was slain on the so-called "Murderers' Ground" made famous in the author's magnum opus Ulysses. But the connection does not end there. And the deeper the intrepid McGarr digs, the more startling truths he uncovers about a victim's dark, licentious history, a list of suspects as vast and varied as the characters in a great novel...and a motive for murder that can hide as easily in the pages of a classic book as in the twisted passions of a human heart.

THE DEATH OF A JOYCE SCHOLAR was the eighth book in the Peter McGarr series, written by Bartholomew Gill, the pen name of Mark McGarrity (1943-2002). The book was a nominee for an Edgar Award in 1990 for Best Novel.

The Peter MGarr list makes interesting reading. Note what happens to the titles as you read down the list.
1. McGarr and the Politician's Wife (1977)
     aka The Death of an Irish Politician
2. McGarr and the Sienese Conspiracy (1977)
     aka The Death of an Irish Consul
3. McGarr and the Cliffs of Moher (1978)
     aka The Death of an Irish Lass
4. McGarr and the Dublin Horse Show (1979)
     aka The Death of an Irish Tradition
5. McGarr and the P.M. of Belgrave Square (1983)
6. McGarr and the Method of Descartes (1984)
7. McGarr and the Legacy of a Woman Scorned (1986)
8. The Death of A Joyce Scholar (1989)
9. The Death of Love (1992)
10. Death on A Cold, Wild River (1993)
11. The Death of An Ardent Bibliophile (1995)
12. The Death of An Irish Sea Wolf (1996)
13. The Death of An Irish Tinker (1997)
     aka Death of a Busker King
14. Death of An Irish Lover (2000)
15. Death of An Irish Sinner (2001)
16. Death in Dublin (2002)

27 January 2010

Kreative Blogger Award

Many thanks to Margot at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist for this lovely award. I must pay tribute to Margot's whose blog and knowledge of crime fiction is truly inspiration. Every day she posts on a new facet of crime fiction, that she indeed personifies creativity.

The award seems to have 2 conditions:
* first of all I have to reveal 7 hitherto unknown "facts" about myself.
* secondly I have to hand the award on to 7 other bloggers.

7 unknown facts about me (well, you may not know them)
  1. I have crossed several continents by bus, train, or car: Australia from Adelaide to Darwin and return; Great Britain (I know, not a continent!) from Lands End to John of Groats by bus and train; USA from San Francisco to New Orleans by Greyhound Bus; USA from New York to Los Angeles by car; Asia from Kathmandu to Istanbul by bus; Europe from Constantinople to London by bus.
  2. I flew out of Darwin to Bali the day before Cyclone Tracy hit in 1974
  3. I am the proud owner of an Australian Centenary medal for services to sport.
  4. I was once a passionate stamp collector
  5. I have a little green book that records all the books I have read since the beginning of 1975.
  6. Over the years I have been a competitive swimmer, and played tennis, squash, netball, and hockey.
  7. I have been to Hell (Norway) and have a passport stamp to prove it. I've also kissed the Blarney Stone - I guess that helps in blogging.
My Awardees (with apologies to those I have not chosen - please don't feel rejected.)
  1. My good friend Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, whom I admire greatly for her ability to incisively say what she likes and doesn't like. Bernadette is also my partner in Fair Dinkum Reviews.
  2. Biblibio who approached me today with a very creative survey about book bloggers.
  3. Elizabeth Frengel who blogs at Miss Lemon's Mysteries - she writes wonderful "in character" posts.
  4. Nan at Letters from a Hill Farm who writes a wonderfully varied blog. I love today's post Mrs Bale reporting on the January Thaw.
  5. Margaret at Books Please who writes an entertaining and yet very gentle blog.
  6. Patti Abbott who blogs at Pattinase with energy and variety.
  7. Jennifer at Reading with Tequila who always seems to have a new venture.

26 January 2010

Celebrating Australia Day with Crime Fiction

Among other things, this blog is proudly Australian, and often celebrates crime fiction written by Australian authors.

Today is Australia Day, 26 January 2010, and my blog has come a long way since the post I wrote on Australia Day 2008 and even Australia Day 2009. Both those posts will give you a lot of cultural directions, where to find out some Australian history, and even a quiz to test your knowledge of Australia.Throughout the blog I've used the tags Australian author, Australian crime fiction, and I've talked about Australian awards such as the Davitt Award, and the Ned Kelly Award.

I thought today I'd just highlight reviews I've written of 19 excellent Australian crime fiction titles in the last year. The number at the front is my rating.
Here is a map to help you orient yourself. Adelaide is at centre south.

25 January 2010

Adelaide Writers Week 28 Feb - 5 March 2010

I've noticed a number of people arriving at my website after searching for the 2010 Programme for Adelaide Writers Week, so thought I'd better have a post directing them to where to locate details.
(I have had it in my headlines for a week or so now)

Check the details here.
Lists of the attending authors, both Australian and international .
The calendar is online here.

Crime Fiction Alphabet - O is for Overkill

I thought for my Crime Fiction Alphabet post this week that I would re-run a review I wrote in 2008 of OVERKILL by New Zealand writer Vanda Symon. If Vanda isn't on your bookshop list, she should be.

Penguin Books New Zealand, 2007, 331 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-300665-7

Unsuspecting, Gabriella Knowes invited death into her house. The reader knows that from the first paragraph of the prologue in Vanda Symon's debut novel. What we learn too in the first few pages is that this is a targeted kill.

To the lone young police constable in Mataura, Sam Shepherd, it first of all looks as if Gabriella may have committed suicide. But Sam is no fool, and she realises that there are things that just don't fit that scenario. But who would want to kill Gabriella, a young housewife, and why?

The investigation quickly passess out of Sam's hands. Within hours, the Mataura Elderly Citizens Centre becomes the centre of operations, a collection of CIB detectives from as far afield as Invercargill and Dunedin are called in, and a forensics team has been flown in from Dunedin. And then the investigators learn that Sam once had a live-in relationship with Gaby's husband. Sam is suspended.

It is rare that a book captures me for a whole afternoon, or that I read it in one sitting as I did this one. OVERKILL is a wonderful page-turner. Sam Shepherd is a gritty character, persistent, intuitive, a lateral thinker, a police constable who has always wanted to be a detective. Despite her suspension from duty she can't leave things alone and it is her persistence that finally solves the why and the who. In OVERKILL Vanda Symon has given Sam a sounding board in Maggie her flatmate. I liked her so much that I hope we see her in another novel.

The setting for OVERKILL, the southern part of the South Island of New Zealand is important for two reasons. The first is that it explains Sam's position as lone constable in charge of a small town police station. The second relates more closely to explaining why some one decides to "deal with" Gabriella Knowes. It is a setting that feels very authentic to me.

Well, I bought a copy of the next book, THE RINGMASTER, when I bought OVERKILL. There's an extract from RINGMASTER at the end of OVERKILL. It is also a Sam Shepherd title.
Since writing the review of OVERKILL I've also reviewed THE RINGMASTER and I really must read CONTAINMENT which was recently number 4 in the New Zealand Fiction for Adults Best Seller List.

My rating: 4.8

From Vanda's blog:
When I'm not writing Crime novels I'm busy being a Domestic Goddess and queen of my household in Dunedin. The first in my Sam Shephard detective series, Overkill, was published by Penguin New Zealand in 2007. The Ringmaster was released in August 2008. The German translation of Overkill, Ein Harmloser Mord was published by Blanvalet in October.

Explore Vanda's blog and her website for yourself..

Crime Fiction Alphabet - Week beginning 25 January 2010 - the letter O

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 (O):

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

24 January 2010

Sunday Salon - 24 January 2010

Good morning fellow Sunday Saloners. A beautiful day here in Adelaide, one of our milder summer ones. The last day of the Tour DownUnder, and the Sunday before Australia Day.

I hope your reading has been good so far this year. Mine appears to be going great guns with 10 books already read, and 4 of those rating at my maximum 5. Two great Australian books (5.0, TRUTH, Peter Temple and 4.6, BLOOD BORN, Kathryn Fox among them too)

If you are still looking for some challenges to participate in during 2010 then check the ones I'm in:
To do on my blog this week:
Posted in the last 7 days:
Currently reading:
  • now- CONSEQUENCES OF SIN, Clare Langley-Hawthorne
  • next - KILLING HANDS, PD Martin
  • audio (in the car) - THE SPY'S WIFE, Reginald Hill
  • Kindle - BLOOD OF THE WICKED, Leighton Gage
Headlines & News:

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Summarising the letter N

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

The letter for the week beginning 18 January was the Letter N

This week we had 11 contributors who again suggested a great variety of titles although NEMESIS cropped up 3 times.

Tomorrow, 25 January, we will be featuring the letter O.
If you read and write about crime fiction, we'd love to have your contribution. 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 N, and then come in to tomorrow's post and put the URL of your post into Mr Linky.

Contributions for the letter N:
See other letters: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N

23 January 2010

Agatha Christie Blog Carnival 2010 #1 now posted

The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival has got off to a great start in 2010 with a new look, and 14 contributions from 10 bloggers. Posts range from reviews to comments on short stories, audio books, and television productions.

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

Review: THE BRASS VERDICT, Michael Connelly

Allen & Unwin, 2008, ISBN 978-1-74175-544-2, 422 pages

The murder of his old colleague Jerry Vincent is a stroke of luck for defense lawyer Mickey Haller. Jerry has left instructions that Mickey should take over all his clients. There are over 30 cases on Jerry's books including a very high profile murder case: a Hollywood film mogul accused of the double murder of his wife and her lover.

After a bout of drug addiction and 12 months rehabilitation and slow recovery Mickey has been considering whether he is ready to go back to work, but now he has to hit the ground running. As he takes up the reins, he finds LAPD Harry Bosch sniffing around the edges. But is he interested in Jerry Vincent or Walter Elliot, the movie mogul?

This is a book full of twists and turns. There is no doubt that Mickey Haller is a clever lawyer. A slight complaint I have is that though it is written from Mickey's point of view, the reader is not entirely in his confidence. Connelly uses Harry Bosch to sling a few other arrows into the mix, and so right until the end you don't really know the full story.

THE BRASS VERDICT is #14 in the Harry Bosch series (even though for the most part Harry's role seems minor) and #2 in the Mickey Haller series. #1 was THE LINCOLN LAWYER, and my mini-review is below. The pair will meet again in NINE DRAGONS.

In 2009 THE BRASS VERDICT won the Anthony Award for Best Novel, and all I can say is that I can really see why: interesting story tightly plotted, good characters, keeps the reader interested right to the end.

My rating: 5

Check Michael Connelly's own site for complete lists, blurbs etc.

Other reviews to check:
  • Caribou's Mum: fast-paced and gripping, with twist and turns that will keep the reader guessing until the end.
  • Petrona: a superb novel. It is Michael Connelly’s nineteenth, displaying all the hallmarks of an author at the peak of his powers.
  • Crime Scraps: a very well constructed not too complicated legal thriller ... an excellent holiday read
My mini-reviews of other Connelly titles

THE CLOSERS (2005) my rating: 5
After 3 years of retirement, Detective Harry Bosch is once again on active duty with the LAPD, this time assigned to the newly formed Open-Unsolved Unit. His former partner Kizman Rider and he are charged with using new technologies to find the answers to previously unsolved murder cases. A DNA hit has found a link between a weapon used to kill a beautiful mixed-race teenage girl seventeen years earlier and a man with White Supremacy ties. Although there were too few clues to solve the murder when it occurred, Bosch and Rider, using modern police resources, now uncover evidence that leads them to suspect and pursue several potential murderers before they arrive at the truth.

ECHO PARK (2006) my rating: 4.9
#12 in the Harry Bosch series. For 13 years Harry has kept in mind the disappearance of Marie Gesto. Marie disappeared when she left a supermarket. Harry has kept in touch with her parents but they all long ago gave up hope that they would ever see Maria alive. Now in the LAPD Open Unsolved Unit, Harry gets a phone call from the District Attorney: a man accused of killing two other people has put his hand up to Maria's murder. Since then he has murdered 9 others. Apparently the killer contacted Harry's partner at the time and they missed making the connection to Maria's murder. Harry does not like the guilt being laid on him. An excellent read. Just when you think you have it all worked out, the plot takes another turn. I'll certainly be looking for the next one (due out May 2007)

THE LINCOLN LAWYER (audio CD) (2006) my rating: 4.5
Los Angeles defence lawyer Mickey Haller gets his first high-paying client in years when a Beverly Hills rich boy is arrested for brutally beating a woman. His case quickly falls apart and Mickey is under personal pressure which makes him dangerous to work for. The CD case says this is an abridged version. The gravelly voice of the reader Michael Brandon took a bit of getting used to.

THE OVERLOOK (2007) my rating: 4.6
Harry Bosch has recently moved from LAPD's Open Unsolved Unit to the prestigious Homicide Special squad. He has a new partner, a youngster Ignacio Ferras, who regards him as a bit of a dinosaur, and this is their first case. A body has been found at the overlook above the Mulholland Dam, and it's rather obviously a murder. The victim is a medical physicist who supplies a radio active substance called cesium for use in medical procedures that use radioactive therapy.
Alarm bells go off for Harry when FBI agent Rachel Walling turns up at the scene of the crime. Rachel is attached to one of the FBI's Homeland Security operations called the Tactical Intelligence Unit. The body is easily identified and once the fact that a large quantity of cesium is found to be missing, the case becomes a tussle between the LAPD and the FBI. The FBI are saying this is a possible terrorist killing.
My full review: THE OVERLOOK

22 January 2010

Audio Book Challenge #3

Audio Book Challenge hosted at Royal Reviews.
I listen to books to and from work every day so hopefully this will be relatively easy to achieve.

I'm trying for Addicted: 12 books

My progress so far...


The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum & Other Tales of Mystery and Imagination, read by William Roberts. Offer available to customers worldwide, October 21-31, 2009 Only, courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks.
Length: 4 hrs and 54 min
Available at Audible.com and Amazon
ISBN: 978-9626342831

This collection contains some of the nineteenth-century author’s most popular and well-known stories. Master of the “grotesque and arabesque,” Poe wrote many stories that reflected his worst personal nightmare--premature burial. Those who thought only Basil Rathbone could narrate Poe are in for a surprise and a treat. The no-nonsense William Roberts narrates a production mercifully free of frills. No unnecessary music or sound effects interfere with the brilliance of the writing or the purity of the performance.

Included in this collection: 10 novellas and short stories:
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
  • The Tell Tale Heart
  • The Masque of the Red Death
  • Ligeia
  • The Raven
  • The Cask of Amontillado
  • The Fall of the House of Usher
  • The Black Cat
  • The Premature Burial
  • The facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
Some interesting common themes seem to emerge in this collection: premature burial; murders where bodies are walled up; murders committed by the narrator who is then betrayed by his own imagination or by spirits coming from the world of the dead.

The readings are well done. There is suitably spooky music between stories.
I hadn't realised The Raven was actually poetry (basically rhyming couplets). The stories I liked the best were The Tell-Tale Heart in which the beating of the heart comes back to haunt a murderer; The Masque of the Red Death (which sound s a bit like the modern ebola virus); and The Black Cat.

It is a long time since I have read any Poe. The language of the stories is a bit dated. However the article in Wikipedia says: Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre.

My rating 4.1

I couldn't help being reminded of Linda Fairstein's tribute to Poe: ENTOMBED - to which by the way I gave rating of 5.
My mini-review:
Workers demolishing a nineteenth-century brownstone where Edgar Allan Poe once lived discover a human skeleton entombed -- standing -- behind a brick wall. When sex crimes prosecutor Alexandra Cooper hears about the case, it strikes her as a classic Poe scene...except that forensic evidence shows that this young woman died within the last twenty-five years. Meanwhile, Alex's old nemesis the Silk Stocking Rapist is once again terrorizing Manhattan's Upper East Side. The attacks soon escalate to murder, and the search leads Alex and detectives Mercer Wallace and Mike Chapman to the city's stunning Bronx Botanical Gardens. There, an enigmatic librarian presides over the Raven Society, a group devoted to the work of Poe.
This was an engrossing read. There's a lot of detail about Poe (and who knows if it is correct) but certainly we have all read some Poe at some time. I can believe too the claim made in the book that Poe was the originator of the detective novel. . There were parts of the novel which were very Poe-ish in their macabre-ness and suspense. At the same time it moves at a smart pace and there are lots of little weblike links binding it all together.

21 January 2010

Forgotten Books: THE STRANGE STORY OF LINDA LEE, Dennis Wheatley

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

Ok. Hands Up! Who read Dennis Wheatley?
My records show that I read this one back in 1978, and of course I have little recollection of it.

The blurb that I've found is tantalising enough:
' When Linda boarded the train that would take her to London and freedom, she was penniless and alone. A polite offer of help from the stranger in the seat opposite was the last thing she expected.
Life with Rowley Frobisher was everything she had ever dreamed of: fast, sophisticated - and expensive. In a few months the rough country girl had changed beyond recognition.
But then Rowley has a fatal heart attack - and once again Linda must take desperate action to survive.....'

I'm not sure at this stage that it was crime fiction.

THE STRANGE STORY OF LINDA LEE was published in 1971 by Arrow Books.

This is what Fantastic Fiction says about Dennis Wheatley 1897-1977:
Dennis Yates Wheatley was born in London, the son of a wine merchant. In 1926 his father died, leaving him as the sole owner of the family wine business. In the early thirties he had to sell the business and became nearly bankrupt. His first published novel The Forbidden Territory was an immediate success. It was translated in many languages and the film rights were bought by Alfred Hitchcock. His prolific output of stylish thrillers and occult novels made him one of the world's best-selling authors in the 1950s and 1960s.

He was certainly a prolific author, and more than one title on the Fantastic Fiction list looks familiar.
First edition Wheatley's apparently fetch a high price. If you want to know more about him visit here. For even more visit Wikipedia.

Australia Post honours Australian writers

Australian readers will be pleased to see the new stamps being issued by Australia Post this year.
They should make Australian stamp users think about why these people are on the stamp.
They are, from left to right: Peter Carey, Tom Kenneally, David Malouf, Colleen McCullough, Bryce Courtenay, and Tim Winton,

Apparently there will be 2 stamps for each: one "grey-haired", and another with a younger image.

Read more here.

The Australian Legends is an annual series of commemorative postage stamps issued by Australia Post since 1997. The stamps commemorate living Australians who have made lifetime contributions to the development of the Commonwealth's national identity and character. Prior to 1997, the only living persons who could appear on Australian stamps were members of the British Royal Family.

Check the list 1997-2009 on Wikipedia.

19 January 2010

Book Reviews: How much to reveal?

I've written about my book review guidelines before but I just thought I'd raise a few points about them.

I am always concerned about how much of a book's story to reveal. My general policy of describing only the beginning of the story, that is, what is revealed in about the first 50 pages, sometimes means that I have a difficult time in writing a review.
In particular, some authors who are writing a multi-plot book, begin the second or third strand only as late as after page 100. Sometimes I decide not to even mention that plot twist.

I actually like to write my own "blurb" in the first couple of paragraphs of my review. I think this will give the reader a different "take" on the book, see it through my eyes as it were. However when I consider what my blurb reveals about the plot, and what the official one reveals, there is no doubt that sometimes the blurb on the back of a book gives far more of the plot away.

I like also to try to tell the reader what I liked, or didn't like about the book. This will, to an extent, explain my rating of the book.
I try to adhere very strongly to the "no spoilers" principle. I believe that my own reading of the book was a voyage of discovery, and part of what I enjoyed about the book was that feeling of discovery. So I am careful not to take that enjoyment away from another reader.

I think you can see book reviews from two points of view:
  • there are those that try to persuade the reader to read the book.
  • there are those that the reader will come to after reading the book, and compare their experience, what they liked and disliked with those of the reviewer.
My reviews are the first sort. I am really saying to the reader, if you generally like the sort of books that I read, then you will probably like this one. But in the long run, the review is my opinion and you may well disagree with me, or not enjoy the book as much as I did.
I know some readers who will not read a review of a book until after reading it, because they don't want their reading experience spoiled.

There are probably those who will criticise the sort of reviews that I write as lacking depth. If you come to my book reviews to find out about how the story ended, who killed who at the end, then you will be disappointed. I may tell you about some of the themes the author chose to explore, and I will usually try to tell you more about the author.

What are your really strong principles in reviewing a book?

Review: UR by Stephen King

UR is an Amazon Kindle exclusive apparently published nearly a year ago, but I have only just come across it.

It is not a long work, more of a novella really, and designed to tickle the fancy of the Kindle owner.

Provoked by his girl friend, and by a student in his Modern American Fiction class, mild mannered college professor Wesley Smith orders a Kindle, out of spite. One of his colleagues tells Wesley that the Kindle comes only in white, but when Wesley's is delivered within 24 hours, he un-boxes it to find his is pink.

When he explores his Kindle Wesley discovers that the Menu button presents him with a number of choices. Right near the bottom is something called EXPERIMENTAL - there are choices here for basic web, music download, text-to-speech, and UR FUNCTIONS. And so Wesley enters the worlds of UR BOOKS where he finds hitherto unknown books by great writers like Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare and others.

This is really not a work that is meant to be taken seriously, but I can see on the Amazon site comments by Stephen King fans who express their disappointment in this book. I'm not a reader of Stephen King otherwise I gather that I too might have been a bit miffed at his tongue in cheek homage to the Kindle.

Here's a thought though: we are all used to the idea of the power of a book to transport us to a different reality, but what if there were millions of different realities where events that have happened in our world don't occur, where authors are born earlier, die later, and write books we don't have available to us here?

I enjoyed this very quick read. My rating 4.3

18 January 2010

review: NIGHT WORK, Steve Hamilton

This review is my contribution to the Crime Fiction Alphabet: letter N.

Thomas Dunne Books, Sep 2007

Joe Trumbull lives and works in Kingston, New York State, the town he was born in. Joe is a probation officer, not a parole officer, as he hastens to tell you. As a probation officer he works for the court, advising the judge on a sentence that will keep the offender out of prison. If an offender is given a probation period, then Joe tries to help them from re-offending. His best friend is Howie, going back all the way to elementary school. Howie is a detective on the Kingston police force and usually the connection is useful.

Howie and his wife Elaine have always been there for Joe, and never more so since the unsolved murder of his fiancée Laurel three days before their wedding. Two years since the murder, Joe goes on a blind date, feeling that he is ready for a new social life. The date with Marlene goes well, or at least Joe thinks it does, but the next day she doesn’t answer his phone calls. Late that night Howie comes to collect Joe and his worst fears are realised. The nightmare starts again.

It took me a little while to get into this story, but once I did I was caught up in Joe’s own disbelief that this could be happening to him again. Are women being killed because they have a connection to him? Or, is he, as the detectives investigating the case seem determined to prove, actually the murderer? When a third woman is murdered it seems that there really is a case against Joe. We see events through Joe’s eyes and this adds to the puzzle. I didn’t pick the way this book would end and the tension built well.

I enjoyed the back-stories that Steve Hamilton was able to weave around the main thread of this book. There are lots of little stories about probationers and their families that Joe has dealt with, the successes and the failures. The “good cop, bad cop” scenario of the investigating team was done well too.

NIGHT WORK is Steve Hamilton’s first stand-alone novel. His series featuring Alex McKnight has seven titles. His first novel A COLD DAY IN PARADISE won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin's Press Award for Best First Mystery by an Unpublished Writer. Once published, it went on to win the MWA Edgar and the PWA Shamus Awards for Best First Novel, and was short-listed for the Anthony and Barry Awards. In 2006 he won the Michigan Author Award. His website at http://www.authorstevehamilton.com/ contains extensive information about all his books, and includes a multi-media tour of NIGHT WORK’s Kingston locations.

My rating 4.3

This was a review originally posted elsewhere of a book I read back in November 2007.

Crime Fiction Alphabet - Week beginning 18 January 2010 - the letter N

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 (N):

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

17 January 2010

Sunday Salon - 17 January 2010

In case you haven't been to my blog before - I read and review almost exclusively crime fiction.
So if you too are a crime fiction enthusiast, you are in the right place.
If you aren't, well maybe I can persuade you to give reading crime fiction a try.

I am a great believer that a blog post can be the beginning of a conversation.
Blogging is the beginning of a Conversation
This blog, if you explore, can introduce you to a whole community of crime fiction bloggers that you were previously not aware of.
Of course the conversation really only happens if you leave a comment or take part in other activities that the blog offers.

I'm also writing from a part of the world you may never have visited - Adelaide in South Australia.
Adelaide stages a Writers' Week every 2 years, that is almost free. It is happening this year 28 February - 5 March. I won't be around this year but if you are interested you can find details here.

In the last week I've published a number of lists for the best crime fiction books we read in 2009.
These are not necessarily books published in 2009, so many of them will be available from your local library. The lists make a good starting point for your reading.
If you are still looking for some challenges to participate in during 2010 then check the ones I'm in:
To do on my blog this week:
Posted in the last 7 days:
Currently reading:
  • now - THE BRASS VERDICT - Michael Connelly
  • next - KILLING HANDS, PD Martin
  • audio (in the car) - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER - Edgar Allan Poe
Headlines & News:


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