31 December 2012

Farewelling 2012

My annual post to ring out the old year and welcome the new.
Where does time go?

This year my post comes from North America where the landscape is covered with snow.  We have another 10 days here before we return to Australia.

MiP (MYSTERIES in PARADISE) will have been around for just on 5 years in a couple of days time. I created it as the result of a resolution on New Year's Eve 2007.

Some statistical reflections.
  • I've read 142 books this year, not quite as many as I had hoped, but still a respectable number. This brings my total since I have begun to keep records (1975) to an even 3302 in the last 38 years.
  • I've written 350 blog posts on MiP this year, an decrease of 100 on last year. I reached some milestones: 643 book reviews added in 5 years, 2400 blog posts, and over 8000 comments.
  • According to my main counter about 100,000 visitors have come to my blog this year, an increase of about 1,000 a month.
  • I have participated in a number of reading challenges this year and am still thinking about which ones I will participate in next year. I hosted the 2012 Global Reading Challenge (and will run it again in 2013) and ran the Crime Fiction Alphabet.
  • I also continued with my Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and the monthly Agatha Christie Blog Carnival 
So if you are a visitor to my blog, regular or not, thanks for coming; and if you've left comments, thanks for the encouragement. I hope to hear again from you in the new year.

So farewell the old year with gusto, and think about those New Year's resolutions!

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

28 December 2012

Review: DEATH LIES BENEATH, Pauline Rowson

  • Format: Kindle - from an e-book ARC kindly suppled by the author
  • published November 2012
  • #8 in the DI Andy Horton series
  • File Size: 396 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Severn House Digital (November 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009G6R0G6
Synopsis (Amazon)

When ex-con Daryl Woodley is found dead on the marshes bordering Langstone Harbour, the Intelligence Directorate believe his murder is linked to big-time crook Marty Stapleton, currently serving time in prison.

Detective Inspector Horton is not so sure, and is thrown into a complex and frustrating investigation when a body is found on a rotting boat being salvaged in Portsmouth Harbour.

As the pressure to solve the case increases, Horton receives a chilling personal message; time, it seems, is also running out for him . . .

My Take

If you've not met this British police procedural series based around Portsmouth Harbour and the Isle of Wight, allow me to recommend them. DEATH LIES BENEATH is #8 in the series and probably not a good place to start, simply because sequential character and setting development connects all the novels in a sort of linear fashion.

The sequence (from Fantastic Fiction) is
1. Tide of Death (2006)
2. Deadly Waters (2007)
3. The Suffocating Sea (2008)
4. Dead Man's Wharf (2009)
5. Blood on the Sand (2010)
6. Footsteps on the Shore (2011)
7. A Killing Coast (2012)
8. Death Lies Beneath (2012)
9. Undercurrent (2013)
and so by #8 we've come quite a long way in Andy Horton's story.

Horton's personal story includes a failed marriage, the fight for access to his young daughter, and a search for the truth about why his own mother disappeared when he was very young. In each novel the author balances these factors against a mystery, and usually at least one murder.

Pauline Rowson is an excellent constructor of false trails and DEATH LIES BENEATH is no exception. Ex-con Darryl Woodley's death results in a funeral which Horton and a photographer attend just to see who else turns up, in an effort to solve the crime of Woodley's murder. A woman whom Horton can't identify appears at the funeral but before 24 hours have passed, her body is found at Portsmouth Harbour. The diving team looking for her handbag finds another body that has been on one of the wrecks for a number of years. Three bodies seems a huge coincidence and Horton doesn't believe in them, but are the three murders connected?

At the same time a bit more evidence seems connected to Horton's missing mother, Jennifer, but it doesn't seem he is much closer to knowing what happened to her.

I really enjoy these books. They are carefully plotted and Andy Horton is a likeable if flawed character.

My rating: 4.6

I've also reviewed

About the author

Pauline Rowson is the author of the DI Andy Horton Marine Mystery series of crime novels and thrillers.
Visit http://www.rowmark.co.uk for more information.
Follow Pauline Rowson on Twitter http://twitter.com/PaulineRowson
Or visit the Marine Mysteries Face Book Page
Member of the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain, and The Society of Authors

25 December 2012


  •  format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 543 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 043402144X
  • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (April 7, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004SOZ6H6
  • Source: I bought it
  • #20 in the Guido Brunetti series

Synopsis (Amazon)

A young woman returns from holiday to find her elderly neighbour dead on the floor. A heart attack seems the likely cause, but Commissario Brunetti is not so sure and decides to take a closer look. Soon he discovers that she was part of an organization that cares for abused women and that her apartment was a safe-house. Convinced that this is the lead he has been looking for, Brunetti begins his search for answers. But as he sets out to discover the truth behind her death, he is drawn into a decades-old story of lies and deceit that has blighted love and ruined lives - and has claimed this innocent woman as its newest victim.

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Late one night, Brunetti is suffering through a dinner with Vice Questore Patta and his nasty Lieutenant Scarpa when his telefonino rings. A old woman's body has been found in a Spartan apartment on Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio. Her neighbor discovered it when she went to pick up her mail, after having been away in Palermo. Brunetti sees some signs of force on the old woman--the obvious wound on her head, what could be a bruise near her collarbone--but they could just as easily have been from the radiator near where she fell. When the medical examiner rules that the woman died of a heart attack, it seems there is nothing for Brunetti to investigate. But he can't shake the feeling that something may have created conditions that led to her heart attack, that perhaps the woman was threatened.

Brunetti meets with the woman's son, called into the city from the mainland to identify the body, her upstairs neighbor, and the nun in charge of the old age home where she volunteered. None of these quiet his suspicions. If anything, the son's distraught, perhaps cagey behavior, a scene witnessed by the neighbor, and the nun's reluctance to tell anything, as well as her comments about the deceased's "terrible honesty,' only heighten Brunetti's notion.

With the help of Inspector Lorenzo Vianello and the ever-resourceful Signorina Elettra Zorzi, perhaps Brunetti can get to the truth, and find some measure of justice.

My Take

The two synopses above will give you a good idea of the story outline for DRAWING CONCLUSIONS.  I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read, Donna Leon at her best: raising social issues such as how we handle the abuse of women.

We are reminded too of Brunetti's social conscience. He has become a little uncomfortable with how Signorina Elettra acquires her information. He know that she uses her formidable computer skills, but suspects that she also poses as a police investigator, or at least leads people to think that she is.

The investigation into the death of the elderly lady has a surprising end, revealing another crime committed some time before.

As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed this.  My rating: 4.8

 Already reviewed

24 December 2012

Merry Christmas all

Even though we'll be having a northern hemisphere White Christmas this year..

22 December 2012

Review: THE EDGE OF NOWHERE, Elizabeth George

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 544 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder (September 13, 2012)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008HTQ208
  • source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

Becca King and her mother are on the run from her stepfather who has used Becca's talent for hearing 'whispers' to make a large and illegal sum of money.
Now their options for safety are running out.

In the town of Langley on Whidbey Island, Becca finds refuge in the home of her mother's childhood friend while her mother continues on to Canada in search of safety.

 But on her first day in town Becca meets sixteen years old Derric Nyombe Matheson a Ugandan orphan who was adopted as a ten-year-old by the town's Deputy Sheriff. Derric has a secret that no one on Whidbey Island knows.

 Derric and Becca form an un-severable bond. Becca is convinced that she's the only person who can truly help him, and just maybe Derric can convince Becca that life is too short to live on the run.

My Take

Amazon lists THE EDGE OF NOWHERE as a young adult novel and Elizabeth George's own site tells us it is the beginning of a 4 book series located on Whidbey Island (where the author lives). The blurb there describes it as " a compelling coming-of-age" story.

I think it will appeal in particular to teenage female readers who will enjoy the various mysteries and will look for the main story to continue in the next book. They'll also like the relationships and conflicts that make up the main part of the action. This story does not contain a murder investigation, or any forensic details, so it is really new ground for the author, who does fairly well, although I felt at times she was struggling to make the content of interest to teenagers (but I could be wrong).

Followers of the Lynley series are promised the 18th in the series, JUST ONE EVIL ACT, sometime in 2013.

My rating: 3.9

I've also reviewed


19 December 2012

2012 Nordic Reading Challenge completed

I seem to have read an awful lot of Swedish crime fiction this year.

First of all 1 in 7 of the books that I have read have been Nordic, and then of that 20, nearly half have been Swedish., and looking from another perspective, half have been new-to-me authors (marked **).

The 2012 Nordic Challenge was hosted by Notes from the North and I aimed to read 11-20 books.

Among my selection were some old favourites too.
  1. 4.7, PHANTOM, Jo Nesbo (Norway)
  2. 5.0, THE CALLER, Karin Fossum (Norway)
  3. 4.8, THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE, Lena Kaarbol & Agnete Friis (Denmark) **
  4. 4.4, NIGHT ROUNDS, Helene Tursten (Sweden)
  5. 4.8, 1222, Anne Holt (Norway) **
  6. 4.7, HEADHUNTERS, Jo Nesbo (Norway)
  7. 4.5, MURDER AT THE SAVOY, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (Sweden)
  8. 4.7, THE ABOMINABLE MAN, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (Sweden)
  9. 4.5, THE FLATEY ENIGMA, Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson (Iceland) **
  10. 4.7, DREGS, Jon Lier Horst (Norway) **
  11. 4.5, THE FINAL MURDER, Anne Holt (Norway)
  12. 4.6, NEXT OF KIN, Elsebeth Egholm (Denmark) **
  13. 5.0, THE QUARRY, Johan Theorin (Norway)
  14. 4.6, THE MIND'S EYE, Hakan Nesser (??)
  15. 4.5, THE STONE-CUTTER, Camilla Lackberg (Sweden) **
  16. 4.5, THE BLACK PATH, Asa Larsson (Sweden)
  17. 4.3, MIDWINTER SACRIFICE, Mons Kallentoft (Sweden) ** 
  18. 4.7, DEATH OF A CARPET DEALER, Karin Wahlberg (Sweden) **
  19. 4.5, THE BOMBER, Lisa Marklund (Sweden) **
  20. 4.5, LETHAL INVESTMENTS, K.O. Dahl (Sweden) **

Maxine (Petrona) will be sorely missed

News came through yesterday of the passing of Maxine Clarke (Petrona).

My own blog was just begun, nearly 5 years ago, when I noticed regular comments, always encouraging, particularly on my book reviews, by Petrona.
My learning curve about blogging became steeper as Maxine gave advice and pointed to new reading paths.

I never had the good fortune to meet Maxine in real life but I counted her as one of my blogging friends and was delighted when she invited me to join the Crime and Mystery Fiction Friend Feed.

There she gathered bloggers and crime fiction readers from around the world.
Maxine was always a sympathetic ear, a great encourager of new projects, and when you read a new book, her reviews were always the first to look out for.

We will all miss her and our thoughts are with her family at this sad time.

Other tributes to read

18 December 2012

Review: LETHAL INVESTMENTS, Kjell Ola Dahl

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 547 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber Crime (September 1, 2011) - first published in Swedish 1993
  • Translated from Swedish by Don Bartlett
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005CG8IA6
  • Source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

An apartment building. A woman clearing up the mess her three-year-old son has made on the stairway. A child staring into an open doorway. The naked leg of a woman sticking out of that doorway. Blood. A woman's scream.

Reidun Rosendal's murder presents Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frolich with their most intriguing case yet. And the mystery deepens when the chief suspect, Reidun's lover, is also found murdered.

As the investigation proceeds the focus shifts to Reidun's place of work, Software Partners, where the business and the private lives of the characters intermesh in ways that become lethal.

K. O. Dahl's stories are propelled by compelling narratives where the final twist is always satisfying.

My take

LETHAL INVESTMENTS published nearly 20 years ago (1993) and has only recently been published in English. The first of the Frohlich series, it introduces Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frolich. Gunnarstranda is the older man, a bit of a bulldog once he has his teeth into a case, but also the one who worries at the evidence, trying to work out the sequence of events. The duo reminded me a bit of Dalziel and Pascoe from P.D. James, or A.C. Baantjer's DeKok and Vledder.

Once Gunnarstranda, recently widowed, is on the trail he seems to persist beyond above the call of duty:
    Frank [Frohlich] stared at him. The older policeman with the cigarette and coffee cup had blue bags under his eyes. The thread-like hair lay in unruly tufts across his balding head, his coat was creased and his face sallow under the grey stubble.
So here is another Swedish police procedural and you are probably thinking you don't need to read another. I really enjoyed the way the reader is made privy to the detectives' deductive processes. Gunnarstranda forces Frohlich to explore with him possible scenarios to fit the evidence, putting themselves in the roles of victim and perpetrator, thinking their way through how and why things have happened as they did.

Another of things I really liked about the style of this novel is the almost shorthand descriptive passages:
    The light from the windows fell on two other desks. On one there was a white strip of paper taped to the side of the telephone. Reidun Rosendal’s. Her name in neat blue writing. Small flattened loops between the curves. Her place, he thought, and sat down. Opened the drawers. Examined them without finding anything of interest. They were empty. No engagement diary. No personal papers. Just loose pens, a coloured ribbon for a printer and some files. An empty Coke bottle rolling around in the bottom drawer when he opened it. On top, under glass, a passport-size photograph. He lifted the sheet of glass, coaxed the picture out and studied it. Black and white photograph. Face in half-profile. A blonde leaning back, tossing her hair while looking in the mirror. Self-satisfied expression. A woman who liked what she saw in the mirror. But she was young.
The novel gives us yet another view of Swedish society at the end of the twentieth century. LETHAL INVESTMENTS is in part about the sort of get-rich-quick schemes that characterised that time.

My rating: 4.5

See another review by Laura Root at EuroCrime

About the Author
Kjell Ola Dahl was born in Norway in 1958 and lives with his wife and children in Feirng, near Oslo. His first novel, Dødens investeringer (Lethal Investments), was published in Norway in 1993. The Fourth Man marked his first publication in English in 2007.  

By the Same Author


17 December 2012

MiP will host Global Reading Challenge for 2013

In answer to a couple of emails I've had, MYSTERIES in PARADISE will host a Global Reading Challenge for 2013.

So does anybody have any suggestions for changes in the structure or rules?
Does the Mr Linky set up for each "continent" work ok for you or would you rather a monthly reporting system?

Please leave suggestions in comments.

I might not get a "sign up" post with a suitable image up until mid January as I don't return to Australia until then, but feel free to commit via a comment on this post.

16 December 2012

Some reading challenges will go uncompleted this year

Each year reading challenges give me something to aim for, as well as a method of getting some balance into my reading diet.

Regretfully this year I can see that some challenges will go unfinished, but I guess that is a good thing otherwise we would simply keep raising the bar until we got to impossible heights.

I've already completed most of my reading challenges - see the list below- but I can already tell that I am not going to read as many books this year as I did last.
Perhaps 3 more for the year, which gives me 141. This is the main target I'm not going to meet.
The fact that my e-books total is down is linked to the fact that I've read fewer books for the year too.

I am currently reading LETHAL INVESTMENTS by Kjell Ola Dahl which will let me complete the Nordic Reading Challenge target of 20.

I won't finish the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge, might add 1 more to the list, and I've got a couple more American author books to read, so I'm down on my target there. I am ashamed that I haven't got around to reading more New Zealand authors.

I am a failure at reading non-crime fiction too.
But generally the reading challenges have given me some direction.

If you want to check which books I've read for which challenge you can see the lists on my 2012 Reading Challenges Update.

So will I take on some more reading challenges in 2013? The answer is "yes". Currently thinking about which ones. The list will probably look a bit like the 2012 ones.

  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge - ongoing - 14 /12 this year
  • 2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge: aiming for 166+ currently: 138
  • 2012 e-book challenge currently 61/75
  • Nordic Challenge 2012 currently 19/20
  • Aussie Author Challenge 20/12 - completed
  • 2012 Global Reading Challenge currently 21/21 - completed
  • Canadian Book Challenge 2011-2012 13/13 - completed
  • Canadian Book Challenge 2012-2013 - 3/13
  • Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge 10/16
  • Historical Fiction Challenge at Historical Tapestry 20/10- completed - have decided to go to 20 books.
  • British Books Challenge 58/12- completed, now just tracking

  • Personal reading challenges
    • American authors: currently 14/20
    • translated, currently 26 - last year 20
    • New Zealand, currently 1/4
    • new to me: currently 47 - last year 60
    • not crime fiction: currently 1

    13 December 2012

    Review: THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, Louise Penny

    • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
    • File Size: 684 KB
    • Print Length: 384 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0312655460
    • Publisher: Minotaur Books (August 28, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0071VURHW
    • Source: I bought it

    Synopsis (Amazon)

    No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”

    But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.

    My Take

    This is a hard book to review without revealing too much more of the story than is disclosed in the synopsis. This book is not set in the village of Three Pines (as most of the earlier ones in the Gamache series are) although there are references to earlier plots.

    In some senses it is a locked room mystery because the murder takes place in a gated community of 24 members so when Gamache arrives the murderer must still be present. It soon becomes apparent that identifying the murderer will be difficult - there are several who seem to have a motive. The monastery isn't the harmonious enclave that one might expect, divisions have been building for some time.

    Gamache is struck by the fact that the Gilbertine order was founded by a supporter of Thomas a Becket and he keeps thinking of the line from Murder in the Cathedral: Will no one rid  me of this meddlesome priest?

    There is danger for Gamache too which becomes obvious when his boss, the head of Quebec Surete arrives with some documents Gamache needs including the results of the post mortem on the body. But Francouer obviously has a hidden agenda.

    Once again a most enjoyable offering from Louise Penny. Although I eventually guessed who the murderer was, I don't think it was obvious.

    My rating: 4.9

    I've also reviewed
    4.5, THE HANGMAN - a novella 

    11 December 2012

    Collecting your best crime fiction for 2012

    This is just an advance warning that I will be collecting your best crime fiction reading for 2012 early in the new year.

    I will provide a Mr Linky for those of you who blog, so that you can write a post at the end of the year, and come back and leave a link. If you don't have a blog, or if you prefer to do it that way, then you will be able to leave a list of books (with authors) as a comment on the post. The post will appear on January 2.

    The titles can have been published any time, but must be crime fiction.
    It would be great if you could add the year first published into your list

    The collection time will run from early to mid January and then I'll do some collation of the suggestions.

    9 December 2012

    Review: THE BOMBER, Lisa Marklund

    • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
    • File Size: 743 KB
    • Print Length: 528 pages
    • Publisher: Transworld Digital (November 24, 2011)
    • Originally published in 2005
    • translated by Neil Smith
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B005LPE4CE
    Synopsis (Amazon)

    Seven days. Three killings. And one woman who knows too much...Crime reporter Annika Bengtzon is woken by a phonecall in the early hours of a wintry December morning.

    An explosion has ripped apart the Olympic Stadium. And a victim has been blown to pieces. As Annika delves into the details of the bombing and the background of the victim, there is a second explosion.

     These chilling crimes could be her biggest news story yet. When her police source reveals they are hot on the heels of the bomber, Annika is guaranteed an exclusive with her name on it. But she is uncovering too much, and soon finds herself the target of a deranged serial killer...

    My Take

    The suspense level in THE BOMBER is enhanced by the fact that the action, the bomb blast at the newly constructed Olympic stadium in Stockholm, takes place just a week before Christmas. This has the effect of a sort of count down, can the police or the journalists solve the mystery before Christmas Day?

    Once the identity of the bomb victim has been established, there are many, including journalists, who believe that it is a threat by terrorists against the Olympics being held in Stockholm. Others, police included, believe it is an inside job, directed personally against the head of Sweden's Olympic Committee Bid. The first point of view seems reinforced when a second bombing occurs at another Olympic venue.

    For Annika Bengtzon, head of a newspaper's crime section, reporting the bombings brings it's own challenges. She has spent a number of years establishing a relationship with a police "deep throat" but much of what he tells her can't be released to the public. Members of her own team begin to challenge Annika's authority when she refuses to use the terrorism line.

    Annika is also a young mother whose husband has a stressful job too, and Marklund explores the strains of their relationship particularly when Annika's job puts her family in danger. It is clear that the author is also using the novel to explore what happens when a woman works in a male-dominated profession.

    Another issue that surfaces from the author's journalism background is that of the steps print newspapers have to take to survive in a world of technological change. I thought there was maybe a little too much about marketing strategies but the bits about the tough decisions that chief editors have to make to ensure that their papers survive was well done.

    The novel comes with its own puzzle too: there are seven chapters with headings: Existence, Love, Humanity etc. The reader is never clearly told until the end whose life story these chapters describe.

    My rating: 4.5

    Other Reviews:
    EuroCrime: - Karen Meek
    EuroCrime: - Lynn Harvey

    This edition of the novel comes with an afterword by Lisa Marklund explaining the inspiration for the novel. There Marklund reveals that THE BOMBER was intended to be title #4 in a contracted series  on Annika Bengzton but in fact the series has turned out differently:

    Annika Bengtzon (Fantastic Fiction)1. Paradise (2000)
    aka Vanished
    2. The Bomber (2001)
    3. Prime Time (2002)
    4. Studio Sex (2002)
    aka Studio 69 / Exposed
    5. Red Wolf (2003)
    6. Last Will (2012)
    7. Lifetime (2013)

    6 December 2012

    Review: HICKORY, DICKORY, DOCK, Agatha Christie

    • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
    • first published 1955
    • File Size: 390 KB
    • Print Length: 307 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007120990
    • Publisher: HarperCollins; Masterpiece ed edition (October 14, 2010)
    • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B004APA4UM
    Synopsis (Amazon)

    There’s more than petty theft going on in a London youth hostel…

    An outbreak of kleptomania at a student hostel was not normally the sort of crime that aroused Hercule Poirot’s interest. But when he saw the list of stolen and vandalized items – including a stethoscope, some old flannel trousers, a box of chocolates, a slashed rucksack and a diamond ring found in a bowl of soup – he congratulated the warden, Mrs Hubbard, on a ‘unique and beautiful problem’.

    The list made absolutely no sense at all. But, reasoned Poirot, if this was merely a petty thief at work, why was everyone at the hostel so frightened?

    My Take

    This novel begins with a lovely description of Hercule Poirot's very efficient secretary Miss Lemon.

    She is very much disturbed with a problem her sister Mrs Hubbard, who runs a student hostel in London, is facing.
      Hercule Poirot frowned. ‘Miss Lemon,’ he said.
      ‘Yes, M. Poirot?’
      ‘There are three mistakes in this letter.’

      His voice held incredulity. For Miss Lemon, that hideous and efficient woman, never made mistakes. She was never ill, never tired, never upset, never inaccurate.
      For all practical purposes, that is to say, she was not a woman at all. She was a machine – the perfect secretary. She knew everything, she coped with everything. She ran Hercule Poirot’s life for him, so that it, too, functioned like a machine.

      Order and method had been Hercule Poirot’s watchwords from many years ago. With George, his perfect manservant, and Miss Lemon, his perfect secretary, order and method ruled supreme in his life.
      Now that crumpets were baked square as well as round, he had nothing about which to complain.
    It is always interesting with these "nursey rhyme" novels to work out what is the connection between the title and the nursery rhyme. In this case, the student hostel is in Hickory Road but that is not the only connection:
      ‘Hickory, dickory, dock,’ said Nigel, ‘the mouse ran up the clock. The police said “Boo”, I wonder who, will eventually stand in the Dock?’
    There are two murders in the time frame of this novel and eventually a revelation about an earlier murder committed by the same person. The author cleverly moves the finger of suspicion from one person to another over the course of Poirot's investigation. The sad thing is that the two more recent murders could have been prevented if the opportunity had been taken earlier to report the murderer to the police.

    At the end Miss Lemon is returned to her usual efficient self by Hercule Poirot and the police discovering the identity of the murderer.

    I think that Agatha Christie was struggling with this story to create and maintain the nursery rhyme connection, and really didn't do it all that successfully.

    I read this as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. and this is my 47th novel read mainly in order of publication.

    My  rating: 4.2

    I did some research into the origins of the nursery rhyme. Here is the most interesting one:
      Hickory Dickory Dock, is the Anglicisation of 8,9,10 in Cumbric ( North West England- the lake district) and devolved from the ancient Gaelic.. It was a language used by shepherds for their daily sheep count.
    I don't think that adds much in this case though.

    2012 Aussie Author Challenge - 20 books read

    I have just completed my 20th Australian crime fiction read for the year.
    I still think I should be reading even more, and may get through a couple more by the end of the year, but here is my list so far.

    I am happy to report that good crime fiction is alive and well here in Oz.

    Many thanks to Book Lover Reviews who hosted the 2012 Aussie Author Challenge.
    1. 4.8, MILES OFF COURSE, Sulari Gentill
    2. 4.5, SCARED YET? Jaye Ford
    3. 4.4, BEYOND FEAR, Jaye Ford
    4. 4.8, THE SECRET RIVER, Kate Grenville
    5. 4.8, A DECLINE IN PROPHETS, Sulari Gentill
    6. 4.8, SAY YOU'RE SORRY, Michael Robotham
    7. 3.2, MURDER AT THE ROCKS, Jill Paterson
    8. 4.8, THE PRECIPICE, Virginia Duigan
    9. 4.6, THE MISSING, PD Martin
    10. 4.6, DEATH MASK, Kathryn Fox
    11. 4.4, COOKING THE BOOKS, Kerry Greenwood
    12. 4.7, A DISSECTION OF MURDER, Felicity Young
    13. 4.8, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Wendy James
    14. 5.0, A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN, Sulari Gentill
    15. 4.8, SILENT FEAR, Katherine Howell
    16. 4.7, BLOOD MOON, Garry Disher
    17. 5.0, THE BROTHERHOOD, Y.A. Erskine
    18. 4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND, Adrian McKinty
    19. 4.6, WINTER CHILL, Jon Cleary
    20. 4.4, SISTERS OF MERCY, Caroline Overington

    5 December 2012

    Review: SISTERS OF MERCY, Caroline Overington

    • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
    • File Size: 614 KB
    • Print Length: 213 pages
    • Publisher: Random House Australia (October 24, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B008NEZXG6
    • source: I bought it
    Synopsis (Amazon)

    Sisters of Mercy by Caroline Overington is the haunting story of two sisters - one has vanished, the other is behind bars...Snow Delaney was born a generation and a world away from her sister, Agnes.

    Until recently, neither even knew of the other's existence. They came together only for the reading of their father's will - when Snow discovered, to her horror, that she was not the sole beneficiary of his large estate.

    Now Snow is in prison and Agnes is missing, disappeared in the eerie red dust that blanketed Sydney from dawn on September 23, 2009. With no other family left, Snow turns to crime journalist Jack Fawcett, protesting her innocence in a series of defiant letters from prison. Has she been unfairly judged? Or will Jack's own research reveal a story even more shocking than the one Snow wants to tell?

    With Sisters of Mercy Caroline Overington once again proves she is one of the most exciting new novelists of recent years.

    My Take - I may not have been able to avoid spoilers here

    This book has an interesting structure: the main narration is by Jack "Tap" Fawcett, a journalist who has been following the disappearance of Agnes Moore, a British visitor to Sydney, and the trial of her sister Snow Delaney for cruelty to the disabled children in her care.

    Through letters from prison to Jack, Snow recounts her life story to the point where her father dies and she discovers through the lawyer who is the executor of her estate that she has an older sister to whom she must offer half of her considerable inheritance.

    The author uses world and Australian events such as "the dismissal" of Gough Whitlam in 1975 to place the novel in time. Agnes Moore, born in London in 1940, was evacuated to Australia during the war and spent her childhood in Western Australia before returning to Britain as a young woman. I did wonder at the time of reading how effective this historical setting technique would be for non- Australian readers.

    Because of the recounting of Snow's life the novel takes a long time to get to the disappearance of Agnes, Snow's older sister who has come from England to Sydney to meet her. I'm not sure we really needed all that back story. Snow's life is described through her letters to Jack, and in the light of later revelations, we do have to question her reliability as a narrator.

    Although an afterword tells us SISTERS OF MERCY is entirely a work of fiction, I couldn't help wondering how much of the truly horrific things that Snow Delaney does have come from cases the author has come across as a journalist.

    At the end of the novel there is a set of questions for reading groups intended to help them get more out of the novel by considering some aspects and incidents in depth. I read SISTERS OF MERCY for my face to face reading group and unfortunately I'll be absent for the discussion. I'd love to be a fly on the wall because there is really plenty to talk about. It is a novel that frustrated, horrified, and captivated me all at the same time.

    This is the first book I've read by this Australian author.

    My rating: 4.4

    Review by Bernadette.

    Review: DEATH OF A CARPET DEALER, Karin Wahlberg

    • format: Kindle (Amazon)
    • File Size: 636 KB
    • Print Length: 394 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 9187173212
    • Publisher: Stockholm Text Publishing AB (May 22, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • translated by Neil Betteridge 
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0085HXLCY
    • Source: I bought it
    Synopsis: Amazon

    The brutal murder of a Swedish carpet dealer on a business trip to Turkey is the start of a story about an unknown daughter, an exclusive carpet and – as always when Karin Wahlberg writes – the everyday life and dreams of the people we meet in her stories.

    My Take

    Carl-Ivar Olssson, the carpet dealer, lives in the small Swedish town of Oskarshamm. He is happily married to Birgitta, a nurse at the local hospital. His carpet business is highly respected and he frequently goes to Istanbul for business and holidays. On this occasion he and Birgitta, married for something like 40 years, went to Istanbul: he for a conference and she for a holiday. Birgitta returns home ahead of Carl-Ivar, and two days later he is dead, brutally murdered on a Bosphorus ferry.

    DEATH OF A CARPET DEALER combines plot elements we have seen many times before like the revelation that Carl-Ivar has a secret life, with a fairly traditional police procedural, and a carefully plotted many-layered story, that reminded me a little of a flower opening. Oskershamm is one of those relatively small places it seems, where people's lives overlap rather in the manner of a Venn diagram. So the author is able to bring new threads into the novel, each one a separate story.

    Wahlberg has peopled this novel with some very well drawn characters and believable scenarios. For example the carpet dealer is murdered just at the wrong time for Chief Inspector Claes Claesson who is about to take paternity leave. This will be his second daughter with wife Veronika Lundborg, doctor at the local hospital, under some sort of cloud with a "Doctor Death" reputation. It isn't just the murder that connects Claes and Veronika to the carpet dealer though. Claes has inherited a very old carpet that is currently with the carpet dealer for repair. This scenario is just one example of the delightful webbing that connects this community.

    Some of the action of the novel takes place in Istanbul where Claesson and a Turkish speaking colleague go to collaborate with the Istanbul police in tracking down the murderer of the carpet dealer. I enjoyed revisiting the city which I have explored at least twice in the flesh.

    I am wondering whether DEATH OF A CARPET DEALER is actually the debut of the series. It is characterised by that careful and detailed creation of characters that we often see at the beginning of a police procedural series. I for one will be very happy to read another.

    My rating: 4.7

    Read another review by Petrona.

    About the author (from Amazon)

    Read by every doctor and nurse in Sweden and often compared to New York Times bestselling author of medical thrillers, Tess Gerritsen, Death of a Carpet Dealer is one of seven in Wahlberg’s series featuring Police Commissioner Claes Claesson and his wife Veronika Lundborg, doctor at Oskarshamn hospital. Her books have sold over 1.5 million total copies worldwide.

    Karin Wahlberg’s crime novels both entertain and inspire readers to make the world a better place. Karin Wahlberg works as a gynecologist and obstetrician in Lund, Sweden, when she is not writing books; books that are more like exciting literary works than traditional mysteries. Her style allows her to create rich stories with profund storylines that highlight the seemingly ordinary lives of her characters. Wahlberg excels at bringing these characters to life – people who have found themselves at a critical turning point and must act both for themselves and for their environment. Karin Wahlberg says this about her writing: “There is just one deadline, death, and therefore there is all reason in the world to write about those things one finds are important.”

    DEATH OF A CARPET DEALER appears to be her first title available in English although there are 7 titles in her Claes Claesson series. Hopefully we will see more in English.

    2 December 2012

    Travelling again

    Today we leave for the USA, for Indianapolis to be precise, so posts on my blog may be a bit erratic for the next 6 weeks.

    I have my Kindle loaded with books so reading won't be a problem, but writing up the reviews maybe.

    1 December 2012

    Crime Fiction Pick of the Month November 2012 - a meme

    Crime Fiction 2012
    Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

    This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
    It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for November 2012, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
    If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

    You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

    That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
    ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

    You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.

    Check out Pick of the Month contributions for previous months in 2012:
    January   February   March   April   May  June  July  August  September  October

    30 November 2012

    What I've read in November 2012

    Nearly at the end of the month, and I won't finish any more books this month.

    I read 12 books this month - nearly all on my Kindle. My choice of books was largely determined by the fact that I wanted to complete the Global Reading Challenge for 2012 which I did.

    There are 4 books by Australian authors, means I am close to completing  self-imposed target of 20 books for the 2012 Aussie author challenge- just one to go.

    Last month my pick of the month was A DECLINE IN PROPHETS by Australian author Sulari Gentill - this was the winner of Davitt Award for Best Adult Crime Fiction 2012 (Australian Sisters in Crime)

    This month my choice is the next book in Sulari Gentill's Rowland Sinclair series:  MILES OFF COURSE  If you haven't caught up with this series, make time to do so.
    A close second was PERFECT HATRED by Leighton Gage
    1. 3.9, THE JEWELS OF PARADISE, Donna Leon  - Kindle
    2. 4.6, WINTER CHILL, Jon Cleary  - Aussie author, audio book
    3. 4.4, SUICIDE RUN, Michael Connelly - Kindle 
    4. 4.7, PERFECT HATRED, Leighton Gage  - Kindle
    5. 4.5, ALL YOURS, Claudia Pineiro  - Kindle
    6. 4.4, WHO KILLED PALOMINO MOLERO?, Mario Vargas Llosa  - Kindle
    7. 4.4, A POCKET FULL OF RYE, Agatha Christie  - Kindle
    8. 4.4, FAULT LINE, Robert Goddard  - British author, audio book
    9. 4.8, MILES OFF COURSE, Sulari Gentill  - Australian author, historical setting, library book
    10. 4.5, SCARED YET? Jaye Ford  - Australian author, review copy
    11. 4.4, BEYOND FEAR, Jaye Ford  - Australian author, library book

    See what others have chosen for their Pick of the Month for November.

    29 November 2012

    Review: THE JEWELS OF PARADISE, Donna Leon

    • published Grove Atlantic 2012
    • Format: Kindle e-book
    • File Size: 399 KB
    • Print Length: 292 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0434022284
    • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (October 4, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B009IJZD9C
    • source:  review copy supplied by publisher through NetGalley.com
    Synopsis (NetGalley)

    Donna Leon has won heaps of critical praise and legions of fans for her best-selling mystery series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, one of contemporary crime fiction’s most beloved characters. Over twenty-one books this sharp, kind-hearted native Venetian {??] has exposed read­ers to contemporary Venice in all its aspects: its arts and architecture, food and family life, but also its crime and insidious corruption. With The Jewels of Paradise, Leon takes readers beyond the world of the Venetian Questura in her first stand-alone novel.

    Caterina Pellegrini is a native Venetian, and like so many of them, she’s had to leave home to pursue her career elsewhere, mostly abroad. With a doctorate in baroque opera from Vienna, she lands in Birmingham, England, as a research fellow and assistant professor. Birmingham, however, is no Venice, so when she gets word of a position back home, Caterina jumps at the opportunity.

    The job is an unusual one. After nearly three centuries, two locked trunks, believed to contain the papers of a once-famous, now largely forgotten baroque composer, have been discovered. The composer was deeply connected in religious and political circles, but he died childless, and now two Venetian men, descendants of his cousins, each claim inheritance. With rumors of a treasure, they aren’t about to share the possible fortune. Caterina has been hired to attend the opening of the trunks and examine any enclosed papers to discover the “testamentary disposition” of the composer. But when her research takes her in unexpected directions and a silent man follows her through the streets, she begins to wonder just what secrets these trunks may hold. From a masterful writer, The Jewels of Paradise is a superb novel, a grip­ping tale of intrigue, music, history, and greed.

    My Take

    While there will be some who love this book, I'm afraid I am not one of them. I think I love the Guido Brunetti series (see my reviews below) too much.

    THE JEWELS OF PARADISE felt a bit bloated to me. I couldn't fault the research and accepted that the author had a few things she needed to get off her chest, but there were times when I felt myself losing interest.

    Part of (my) trouble is probably that it barely falls into the crime fiction category. Sure there is a possible murder that took place some 400 years ago when a prominent man simply disappeared, and then in the current setting there is some fraud and deception happening. But the author felt too compelled to give me the benefit of her research and I also got impatient with Caterina humming over baroque music in her head.

    I found the final denouement barely satisfactory. I could understand why the "cousins" were interested in the possible treasure but couldn't get a handle on what the lawyer was trying to do. Although there is some irony at the end that made me chuckle. It tied in well with the discussion in the story about people seeing things differently because they are viewing them from different perspectives.

    My rating: 3.9

    I've also reviewed

    25 November 2012

    Review: WINTER CHILL, John Cleary - audio book

    • originally published 1995
    • audio book published by Chivers 2011
    • playing time 9 hours 40 mins
    • Narrator Christian Rodska
    • ISBN 978-1-4458-1306-6
    • source: my local library
    Synopsis (Audible.com)

    It is 3.30 a.m. The Sydney monorail performs its endless circuit like a pale metal caterpillar - all for the benefit of one dead passenger.

    Elsewhere in the city’s bleak midwinter, Darling Harbour buzzes to the sound of 1,000 American lawyers attending an international conference. And that means 1,000 opinions as to who killed their president. Two bodies later, and the more Scobie Malone fillets the heart of the city’s legal profession, the more he cuts into an intrigue of international proportions.... 

    My Take

    #12 in Jon Cleary's Scobie Malone series, CID police procedurals set in Sydney, that reflect current events such as the building of the Sydney Opera House and the holding of the Sydney Olympics.

    Against the background of  an international conference for lawyers being held in Sydney, an American lawyer who turns out to have been born in Australia is killed. His body is discovered on the monorail and then the security guard who discovered the body is murdered.

    There's quite a bit of human interest in the story too. Scobie Malone has two teenage children and his wife discovers she has breast cancer. Scobie Malone is a principled detective who believes in thorough investigative techniques.

    A good story made even better by the excellent narration of Christian Rodska.Quite an intricate plot.

    My rating: 4.6

    In 2004 Cleary (1917-2010) won a Ned Kelly Award for best novel for the last of the Scobie Malone books DEGREES OF CONNECTION. He also won an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1975 for a non Malone novel PETER'S PENCE.

    Jon Cleary was probably better known for the fact that he wrote THE SUNDOWNERS.

    Wikipedia has a good listing of the Scobie Malone books with single sentence plot outlines.
      Cleary once stated that, "There's more than a bit of me in Scobie. We both come from fighting Irish stock, we're both from Erskineville, the wrong side of the tracks, and both of us slugged our way up." Malone was a Catholic family man with rigid principles who mostly worked in Sydney, although his adventures occasionally took him overseas.
      Other regular characters in the series included:
      • Malone's Dutch wife Lisa, who he first met working as Sir James Quentin's secretary in The High Commissioner. She was based on Cleary's wife Joy.
      • Malone's partner Sergeant Russ Clements, who eventually became head of Homicide.
      • Inspector Leeds, Malone's superior.
      • His father Con and mother Brigid (based on Cleary's parents).
      • His children Tom and Maureen (based on Cleary's grandchildren).
    Scobie Malone (Fantastic Fiction)
    1. The High Commissioner (1966)
    2. Helga's Web (1970)
    3. Ransom (1973)
    4. Dragons at the Party (1987)
    5. Now and Then, Amen (1988)
    6. Babylon South (1989)
    7. Murder Song (1990)
    8. Pride's Harvest (1991)
    9. Dark Summer (1991)
    10. Bleak Spring (1993)
    11. Autumn Maze (1994)
    12. Winter Chill (1995)
    13. A Different Turf (1996)
    14. Endpeace (1997)
    15. Five Ring Circus (1998)
    16. Dilemma (1999)
    17. The Bear Pit (2000)
    18. Yesterday's Shadow (2001)
    19. The Easy Sin (2002)
    20. Degrees of Connection (2005)

    Sadly I have only one or two of this series, and that really is something I should correct.

    2012 Global Reading Challenge completed

    2012 Global Reading Challenge: 21/21 - -  

    Completed at Expert Level.

    I committed myself to reading 21 titles, all crime fiction, 3 titles each from 7 "continents". My 7th continent - historical crime fiction.
    Blog site: 2012 Global Reading Challenge

     Africa - completed

    1. 4.5, THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION, Alexander McCall Smith (Botswana)
    2. 5.0, DEATH OF THE MANTIS, Michael Stanley (Botswana)
    3. 4.6, TRUE MURDER, Yaba Badoe   (Ghanaian author)
    Asia - completed
    1. 4.5, A BALI CONSPIRACY MOST FOUL, Shamini Flint (Indonesia)
    2. 4.5, THE THIEF, Fuminori Nakamura (Japan)
    3. 4.2, ASIA HAND, Christopher G. Moore (Thailand)
    Australasia/Oceania (my modification) - completed

    1. 5.0, THE BROTHERHOOD, Y.A. Erskine (Tasmania)
    2. 4.7, BLOOD MOON, Garry Disher (Victoria)
    3. 4.0, BODY ON THE STAGE, Bev Robitai (New Zealand)
    An extra hurdle for Australasia - at least one from New Zealand.
    I can count separate Australian states.

    Europe - completed
    1. 4.7, HEADHUNTERS, Jo Nesbo (Norway)
    2. 3.5, OUR KIND OF TRAITOR, John Le Carre (Britain)
    3. 4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND, Adrian McKinty (N. Ireland)
    North America - completed
    1. 5.0,  A TRICK OF THE LIGHT, Louise Penny (Canada)
    2. 4.5, THE END OF EVERYTHING, Megan Abbott  (North America)
    3. 4.4, SUICIDE RUN, Michael Connelly (North America)
    South America - completed
    1. 4.4, WHO KILLED PALOMINO MOLERO?, Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru)
    2. 4.5, ALL YOURS, Claudia Pineiro (Argentina) 
    3. 4.7, PERFECT HATRED, Leighton Gage (Brazil)
    7th Continent: Historical crime fiction - completed
    1. 4.5, MURDER AT THE SAVOY, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (Sweden in 1960s)
    2. 4.4, THE RESURRECTION MEN, Sara Fraser (England 1826)  
    3. 4.7, DEATH COMES AS AN END, Agatha Christie  (Egypt 2000 BC


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