29 March 2012

Review: THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE, Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

  • File Size: 831 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (November 8, 2011)
  • Translated from Danish
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is a compulsive do-gooder who can't say no when someone asks for help—even when she knows better. When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous project yet. Inside the locker is a suitcase, and inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive.

Read more by clicking on the Amazon link - too much of the story was revealed for my liking.

My take

From the start THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE is full of puzzles. In the Kindle edition that I read there was a sort of unannounced foreword which describes how Nina is manhandling a large suitcase from somewhere to where her car is parked, and her discovery of the boy inside the suitcase when she opens it. This passage is not repeated in the text of the book and I presume it serves the function of the "hook". There is a later related passage but the content of these few pages is not repeated. You can read this passage for yourself if you click on the book cover above and explore the extract on Amazon.

In the opening pages of the main part of the book the reader is introduced to a range of characters who seem to be unconnected, and gradually we piece together what seems to have happened. While we are pretty sure we know the identity of the boy, there is still the question of why he was taken, and how the situation will be resolved.

THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE focusses on two women of great strength: Nina Borg, Danish Red Cross nurse and compulsive do-gooder, and the Lithuanian mother whose 3 year old boy goes missing and who undertakes her own investigation into his disappearance. And there are the men almost without principles: the man who is commissioned to snatch the boy, and the one who pays for it to be done. We see the story from a number of points of view.

For me piecing together the elements of this puzzle became almost compulsive too. A great story, well written, plenty of clues, a few red herrings, and some issues to think about.There are several possible reasons for why the boy has been snatched and a small tidbit of information dropped casually about half way through the book pointed me down the right path. However that did not detract from my enjoyment as I had to stay on board to see if I was right.

My rating: 4.8

Other reviews to read:

About the authors (from Amazon)

Lene Kaaberbøl was born in Copenhagen in 1960 was 15 when her first two books were published, and since then she has written more than thirty novels and children's books. She has won several national and international awards for her fiction, and her work has been translated into more than 30 languages. At her recent nomination for the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the IBBY Committee wrote: "She is incredibly skilled at constructing universes and shows remarkable loyalty to her stories and her characters. Lene Kaaberbøl's writing captivates the reader; her worlds draw you in, move you, make you laugh and cry and give you ample food for thought. And it is our assessment that her works have not just national and international potential, but the potential to become classics."

While fantasy is her preferred genre when writing for children and YA, there is nothing remotely fairytale-like about her crime novels for adults. The Boy in the Suitcase, written in collaboration with Agnete Friis, was called a "first rate thriller" by Michelle Wiener of Associated Press: "Written in that sparse, uniquely Scandinavian style sure to draw comparisons with a certain blockbuster trilogy (this is better), this story packs plenty of emotional suspense and interpersonal friction without veering into melodrama."

26 March 2012

Review: GIDEON'S NIGHT, John Creasey (JJ Marric) - audio

  • first published in 1957
  • a sequel to GIDEON'S DAY and GIDEON'S WEEK
  • audio version narrated by Arthur Bash 
  • available from Audible.com 
  • Length 6 hours and 37 mins, unabridged

Another night, another shift for Commander George Gideon. Amidst the undertones of gang warfare, Gideon must deal with two psychopaths trailing pain and blood in their wake. One targets infants, and the other young women on London's foggy streets.

My take

George Gideon takes his role as Commander at New Scotland Yard very seriously. He believes that it is important that those in his charge see him as a worker, someone who cares what they do. That is why he decides to work at night for a week.

And this particular night it is one incident after another: someone is snatching baby boys; there is an active prowler targetting young women and it is only a matter of time before he kills; then two of the gangs in the docklands are sizing up for an outright battle; and a young woman is concerned because her husband has been missing for a few days.

It is worth reading the two earlier books
because you get a lot of background material for GIDEON'S NIGHT. These are of course police procedurals but in 1957 they were breaking new ground, personalising the job that the police do, and establishing the sort of pattern we see in later novels like Ruth Rendell's Wexford series.

Each of the cases that Gideon manages in GIDEON'S NIGHT could very well have been presented as short stories. The links between the cases are George Gideon himself and the cases themselves remain as stand-alones. In later police procedurals you would very likely find the cases linking up.

Despite the fact that this audio book was only released in 2010, technically it is not a particularly good production. The narrator tries to achieve voice differentiation, but he often sounds as if he is standing in a tin can, there are times when he knocks the microphone or the desk, and even times when he stumbles over words. These were not issues in the earlier two books that I listened to.

So my rating of 4.3 is for the book not the technical side.

About the author
John Creasey (1908-1973) published over 600 books under 20+ different pseudonyms. In 1969 he was given the Mystery Writers of America’s highest Honour, the Grand Master award.

Review: NIGHT ROUNDS, Helene Tursten

  • Originally published in Swedish as Nattrond in 1999. 
  • Published in English translation by Soho Press 2012, translated by Laura A. Wideburg
  • 326 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • ISBN 978-1-61695-006-4
Synopsis (Amazon)

Irene Huss is a former Ju-Jitsu champion, a mother of twin teenage girls, the wife of a successful chef, and a Detective Inspector with the Violent Crimes Unit in Goteborg, Sweden. And now she’s back with a gripping follow-up to Detective Inspector Huss.

One nurse lies dead and another vanishes after their hospital is hit by a blackout. The only witness claims to have seen Nurse Tekla doing her rounds, but Nurse Tekla died sixty years ago. Detective Inspector Irene Huss of the Violent Crimes Unit has the challenge of disentangling wandering ghosts and complex human relationships to get to the bottom of this intriguing case.

My take

This is #2 in the Irene Huss series, published out of order in English.

Criminal Inspector Irene Huss is a member of the Violent Crimes Unit in Goteborg, Sweden, so NIGHT ROUNDS is a police procedural with a Swedish flavour. 

The Lowander Hospital is a small private hospital run by Dr. Sverker Lowander, a family business inherited from his father. It has a very small number of rooms, although it has an operating room, but at nights and weekends is managed by only 2 or 3 staff. When the blackout occurs in the middle of the night there are 2 nurses on duty and one doctor. The blackout triggers the failure of a respirator in the ICU room and the generator fails to kick in. The ICU nurse is missing and is later found dead.

NIGHT ROUNDS has some interesting plot strands: the murder of one nurse on the blackout night, the disappearance of another, the appearance of a ghost, the relationships between members of the Violent Crimes Squad, and Irene's family which consists of twin 14 year old daughters and a chef husband. the Squad works in small teams, each focussing on particular enquiries and reporting back to the main group at the beginning and ending of the day.

I found the style a little unusual, and couldn't quite work out whether this was the result of Tursten's writing style or the translation. It is a very direct style of writing, not much adornment, and shortish sentences, with economy in description. There were some peculiarities of expression like the constant references to "morning prayers", the meeting of the Crimes Squad at the beginning of each day. I have seen this used in other crime fiction works, but not as commonly as this novel seems to imply.

And yet, I think NIGHT ROUNDS is good reading if you like police procedurals (which I do). The plot is inventive, well supplied with red herrings, and there feels to be plenty of local colour. And I do like the character of Irene Huss.

My rating: 4.4

The order of the series (courtesy EuroCrime)
Inspector Huss, Gothenburg
Detective Inspector Huss20031
• Night Rounds20122
The Torso20063
The Glass Devil20074

My review of THE GLASS DEVIL contains mini reviews of  DETECTIVE INSPECTOR HUSS and THE TORSO.

Other sites to check

DVDs available of the television movies made by Yellowbird of 6 stories based on Helene Tursten stories, with apparently more to come. These appear to be immensely popular in Sweden.

24 March 2012

Review: BEASTLY THINGS, Donna Leon

  • Publisher:         Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  •  Imprint:         Atlantic Monthly Press
  •  Pub Date:         April 17, 2012 (Amazon Kindle April 5)
  •  ISBN:         9780802120236
  • Source:      ARC copy from Net Galley

Synopsis (from NetGalley)

Donna Leon's best-selling Commissario Guido Brunetti series has won her legions of passionate fans, reams of critical acclaim, and a place among the top ranks of international crime writers. Brunetti, both a perceptive investigator and a warmhearted family man, is one of the treasured characters of contemporary mystery fiction. Through him, Leon has explored Venice in all its aspects: its history, beauty, food, and social life, but also the crime and corruption that seethe below the surface of La Serenissima.

When the body of a man is found in a canal, damaged by the tides, carrying no wallet, and wearing only one shoe, Brunetti has little to work with. No local has filed a missing-person report, and no hotel guests have disappeared. Where was the crime scene? And how can he identify the man when he can't show pictures of his face? The autopsy shows a way forward: it turns out the man was suffering from a rare, disfiguring disease. With Inspector Vianello, Brunetti canvasses shoe stores, and winds up on the mainland in Mestre, outside his usual sphere. From a shopkeeper, they learn that the man had a kindly way with animals.

At the same time, animal rights and meat consumption are quickly becoming preoccupying issues at the Venice Questura, and in Brunetti's home, where conversation at family meals offers a window into the joys and conflicts of Italian life. Perhaps with the help of Signorina Elettra, Brunetti and Vianello can identify the man and understand why someone wanted him dead. As subtle and engrossing as the other Commissario Brunetti tales, Leon's Beastly Things is immensely enjoyable, intriguing, and ultimately moving.

My Take

At the heart of BEASTLY THINGS is a murder mystery, the plot is tight, and the methods of detection inspirational, but for much of the novel other issues, not entirely Venetian, take centre stage. Guido Brunetti is pretty sure he recognises the man's face a farmers' protest the previous autumn and the wonderful Signorina Elettra manages to find his face in footage of the protest. But he is not a farmer. The search for his identity and the reason for his murder leads Brunetti and his team into a world of corruption.

Brunetti and Vianello pay a visit to an horrific slaughterhouse on the mainland at Mestre but in a sense what goes on in the management of this slaughterhouse and others in the near region is worse than the actual slaughter of the animals that they witness.
It evokes a deep feeling of melancholy in Brunetti about the state of things. He seems more bitter and disillusioned than has emerged in earlier novels.
    Before Brunetti could answer, they were disturbed by the appearance from the left of a enormous – did it have eight decks? Nine? Ten? – cruise ship. It trailed meekly behind a gallant tug, but the fact that the hawser connecting them dipped limply into the water gave the lie to the appearance of whose motors were being used to propel them and which boat decided the direction.
    What a perfect metaphor, Brunetti thought: it looked like the government was pulling the Mafia into port to decommission and destroy it, but the ship that appeared to be doing the pulling had by far the smaller motor, and any time the other one chose, it could give a yank on the hawser and remind the other boat of where the power lay.
    In no way deterred by the failure of the book to spin up a winning combination, Brunetti opened to Book Eleven. ‘No thief can steal your will.’ This time he closed the book and set it aside. Again, he gave his attention to the light in the window and the statement he had just read: neither provided illumination. 
    Government ministers were arrested with frightening frequency; the head of government himself boasted, in the middle of a deepening financial crisis, that he didn’t have financial worries and had nineteen houses; Parliament was reduced to an open sewer. And where were the angry mobs in the piazzas? 
    Who stood up in Parliament to discuss the bold-faced looting of the country? But let a young and virginal girl be killed, and the country went mad; slash a throat and the press was off and running for days. What will was left among the public that had not been destroyed by television and the penetrant vulgarity of the current administration? ‘Oh, yes, a thief can steal your will. And has,’ he heard himself say aloud.
    He had been curt; of course he had been curt, but he had not wanted to be sucked into yet another discussion of the crime. It troubled him that many people had so readily come to treat murder as a kind of savage joke, to which the only response was grotesque humour. Perhaps this reaction was no more than magic thinking, a manifestation of the hope that laughter would keep it from happening again, or from happening to the person who laughed.
Once again, BEASTLY THINGS comes into my category of crime fiction that makes you think. This is what we have come to expect from Donna Leon but from this novel you get the sense that in Italy corruption is winning the battle. How long can Guido Brunetti and his team fight the good fight?

My rating: 4.5

Other reviews of Donna Leon titles on MiP

22 March 2012

Announcing a new meme: best new-to-me crime fiction authors 2012

This meme has sprung out of a discussion on Margot Kinberg's blog post titled You Never Know Until You Try about trying new crime fiction authors.

We've had follow up discussion in Crime and mystery fiction on FriendFeed and so this meme is an attempt to share new-to-us authors who've excited us so far this year.

The first edition of this meme will appear on 4 April 2012 and it's really easy to participate.
There'll be a Mr Linky at the bottom of a post here on MiP that day.

Just write a post about the best new-to-you crime fiction authors you've read so far this year (end of March), 2012, put a link to this meme in your post, and even use the logo if you like.
The books don't necessarily need to be newly published and you can list all the new-to-you crime fiction authors if you wish. The best format would be to link in your post to the particular posts where you reviewed those titles.

After writing your summary post, then come back to MiP and add your link to Mr Linky.
Visit the links posted by other participants in the meme to discover even more books to read.

This meme will run at the end of June, September and December this year.

Forgotten Book: NO MORE DYING THEN, Ruth Rendell

For many of my contributions this year to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books  I am going to focus on the books I read 20 years ago in 1992. By then my reading diet was almost exclusively crime fiction.

I can see from my records that in the first three months of the year I was on a huge Ruth Rendell "kick".
I read
  • LIVE FLESH (1986)
  • A SLEEPING LIFE (1978) - Wexford
  • THE KILLING DOLL  (1984)
  • AN UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS (1985) - Wexford
  • THE VEILED ONE (1988) - Wexford
  • HEARTSTONES (1987)
  • NO MORE DYING THEN (1971) - Wexford
  • GOING WRONG (1990)
  • THE COPPER PEACOCK (1980) - short stories
all by the end of  March and then more later in the year.
I am surprised that so many of the titles I read were stand-alones.

NO MORE DYING THEN is #6 in the Inspector Wexford series.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

What kind of a person would kidnap two children?

That is the question that haunts Wexford when a five-year-old boy and a twelve-year-old girl disappear from the village of Kingsmarkham. When a child's body turns up at an abandoned country home one search turns into a murder investigation and the other turns into a race against time.  Filled with pathos and terror, passion, bitterness, and loss, No More Dying Then is Rendell at her most chillingly astute.

Read the first few pages.

21 March 2012

Balancing Books

Every 2 or 3 days comes the time to choose which book to read next.

I do make plans and in my little TBRN widget you'll see that I'm planning
  • next on Kindle - BEASTLY THINGS, Donna Leon
  • next library book - NIGHT ROUNDS, Helene Tursten
  • next Australian - RIP OFF, Kel Robertson
  • audio - THE FALLS, Ian Rankin
  • also on audio - GIDEON'S NIGHT, J.J. Marric
  • next Agatha Christie: THE HOLLOW (aka MURDER AFTER HOURS)
Sometimes though books stay listed there for some time, while others sneak into my hands.

I make a lot of use of my local library and often have a month's worth of library books here at home  and even more "suspended" requests at the library (these are books you have requested but the request doesn't activate for a month)

So here are the books I currently have out from the library, in order of their due date:
    NIGHT ROUNDS / Helene Tursten ; translation by Laura A. Wideburg. 
    A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES : a novel / Ruth Rendell. 
    WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? / Wendy James. ***
    THREE-DAY TOWN / Margaret Maron. ***
    TURN OF MIND / Alice LaPlante. 
    BACKLASH : a Monika Paniatowski mystery / Sally Spencer. 
    THE CALLER / Karin Fossum ; translated from the Norwegian by K. E. Semmel. 
    EXCURSION TO TINDARI/ Andrea Camilleri ; translated by Stephen Sartarelli. 
    FIELD GREY : a Bernie Gunther novel / by Philip Kerr. 
    THE CROWDED GRAVE : an investigation by Bruno, Chief of Police / Martin Walker. 
    THE BURNING SOUL : a thriller / John Connolly. 
    LYING DEAD / Aline Templeton. 
    LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER/ Aline Templeton.
Two of those titles *** are new to me authors so I know I will be tempted to read them out of order, but then there are also some authors on the list that I really enjoy so they will call to me as well.

Mind you, I usually only read one book at a time (with an exception to audio books which I "read" when I can only listen like when I'm driving) so while I'm reading a book on my Kindle I won't attempt to read one from the library.
And I alternate my library books with Kindle books and occasionally throw in another review book from my shelves.

20 March 2012


  • Published by Little Brown 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4087-0260-4
  • 261 pages
  • #13 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Random House)

Precious Ramotswe is haunted by a repeated dream: a vision of a tall, strange man who waits for her beneath an acacia tree. Odd as this is, she’s far too busy to worry about it.

The best apprentice at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors is in trouble with the law and stuck with the worst lawyer in Gaborone. Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti are building the house of their dreams, but their builder is not completely on the up and up. And, most shockingly, Mma Potokwane, defender of Botswana’s weak and downtrodden, has been dismissed from her post as matron at the orphan farm. Can the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency help restore the beloved matron to her rightful position?

As wealthy and powerful influences at the orphan farm become allied against their friend, help arrives from an unexpected visitor: the tall stranger from Mma Ramotswe’s dreams, who turns out to be none other than the estimable Clovis Andersen, author of the No. 1 Ladies’ prized manual, The Principles of Private Detection. Together, Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and their teacher-turned-colleague help right this injustice and in the process discover something new about being a good detective.

My take

When I watched the TV series just recently I was a little disappointed but I couldn't pinpoint just what was missing. It wasn't just that Jill Scott didn't quite fit my mental image of Precious Ramotswe. The content of the stories seemed rather thin and he-who-watches-TV-with-me read his paper because he thought the episodes were rather trite.

But now I know what was missing! What the books contain that I so much enjoy. I'm pretty sure that I have read the whole series, so I'm pretty well acquainted with all the characters. What the books contain is the carefully chosen language with that subtle touch of humour that conveys Mma Ramotswe's thoughts and feelings.

Followers of this series won't be disappointed in THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION. The stories feel fresh and while there's no murder there's plenty of everyday life, the stuff that makes these cozies so satisfying. There's no doubt about it - McCall Smith has created a cast of characters that we care about.

You'll notice that I have included THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION under Africa in the 2012 Global Reading Challenge.  The novels in this series are very firmly based in Botswana and frequently contain reflections on how Botswana is coping with the modern world. For example Clovis Andersen and Precious Ramotswe talk about how words are disappearing from the language and she often talks about the loss of traditional values. And on a deeper level the novels raise issues about how modern economics is destroying traditional and human structures.

My rating: 4.5

Other reviews of this series on MiP


18 March 2012

Announcing Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2012

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

This meme was run first on this blog in 2009-2010 and was re-run in 2011.

Here are the rules

By Friday of each week participants try 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, or even maybe a crime fiction "topic". But above all, it has to be crime fiction.
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.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)
You probably won't have to do a lot of extra reading in order to participate, but I warn you that your TBR  may grow as a result of the suggestions other participants make.

Your assistance in advertising this community meme in the next few weeks, and pointing people to this page, would be very much appreciated.

Each Friday I will post a Mr Linky so that participants can add their post title and URL.
If you'd like to sign up (this is optional) then use the Mr Linky at the bottom of this post.

Check the Crime Fiction Alphabet page for summaries of previous years.

Here is this year's schedule: showing
  • the date that the week's page will be posted and 
  • the letter of the week.
Monday, 21 May 2012    A
Monday, 28 May 2012    B
Monday, 4 June 2012    C
Monday, 11 June 2012    D
Monday, 18 June 2012    E
Monday, 25 June 2012    F
Monday, 2 July 2012    G
Monday, 9 July 2012    H
Monday, 16 July 2012    I
Monday, 23 July 2012    J
Monday, 30 July 2012    K
Monday, 6 August 2012    L
Monday, 13 August 2012    M
Monday, 20 August 2012    N
Monday, 27 August 2012    O
Monday, 3 September 2012    P
Monday, 10 September 2012    Q
Monday, 17 September 2012    R
Monday, 24 September 2012    S
Monday, 1 October 2012    T
Monday, 8 October 2012    U
Monday, 15 October 2012    V
Monday, 22 October 2012    W
Monday, 29 October 2012    X
Monday, 5 November 2012    Y
Monday, 12 November 2012    Z
Monday, 19 November 2012    summary

Thanks for participating.

17 March 2012

Review: GONE, Mo Hayder

  • Format: Kindle
  • File Size: 604 KB
  • Print Length: 415 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (March 2, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003ARUTQ0
  • Source: I bought it
  • #5 in the Jack Caffery series
 Synopsis (Amazon)

Night is falling as murder detective Jack Caffrey arrives to interview the distraught victim of a car-jacking. What he hears horrifies him. The car was taken by force, and on the back seat was a passenger. An eleven-year-old girl. Who is still missing. Before long the jacker starts to communicate with the police. And Caffrey becomes certain that he is planning to take another car. And another child. Who is the car-jacker? How is he choosing his targets? And - most urgent of all - can Caffrey find the child? Before it’s too late …

Jack Caffery (from Fantastic Fiction)
1. Birdman (1999)
2. The Treatment (2001)
3. Ritual (2008)
4. Skin (2009)
5. Gone (2010)

My take

This book had me on the edge of my seat as it raced towards its conclusion. There aren't many books that have done that to me recently.

I have read an earlier title in the series recently  (RITUAL) and I remember being gobsmacked by BIRDMAN long before I began blogging. Now I'm going to go looking for the two that I have missed reading, THE TREATMENT and SKIN.

Detective Inspector Jack Caffery of Bristol's Major Crime Investigation Unit is an impressive very believable character. He has spent 18 years with the Murder Squad and his investigations are marked with thoroughness. Unfortunately those who work for him don't always think outside the square. There are two other interesting characters in the series: police diver Sergeant Flea Marley and a vagrant whom the locals call the Walking Man. Caffery and the Walking Man are connected because both have a close relative who disappeared when young.

The kidnapping of a child is always a traumatic subject and we see the cases in GONE both from the police point of view as they desperately search for clues, and from the parent's points of view as they try to come to terms with what has happened. There's a little touch of the paranormal in a couple of places, but who knows where inspiration and intuition comes from?

This was an excellent read, one of my best so far this year.

My rating: 5.0

GONE has been shortlisted for Best Novel in this year's Edgar Awards.
Reviews of Mo Hayder titles in MiP

Monthly Agatha Christie Blog Carnival launches new format

For a few months now the monthly Agatha Christie Blog Carnival has been having item collection problems caused by the unreliability of the Blog Carnival collecting site.

Today we have converted over to using a Mr Linky similar to the one which I use for Crime Fiction Alphabet and Pick of the Month.

This means that the monthly blog carnival will be open all month.
You can see the March Blog Carnival here

16 March 2012

Forgotten Book: THE AMBASSADOR, Morris West

For many of my contributions this year to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books I am going to focus on the books I read 20 years ago in 1992. By then my reading diet was almost exclusively crime fiction.

But there are always exceptions to the rule and today's Forgotten Book is one of those. I remember West as being immensely popular. Wikipedia says that his books were published in 27 languages and sold more than 60 million copies worldwide.

THE AMBASSADOR is an illustration of the fact that 20 years ago many of my reading choices were thrillers.

Morris West (1916-1999) was an Australian author very well known for books that focussed on the Catholic Church like THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN which considered the effects of the election of a Slavic Pope.    The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) was made into a film starring Anthony Quinn, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud
West also wrote as Michael East and Julian Morris.
His books were often political in tone and a reflection on world events.

THE AMBASSADOR published 1965
Set against the military deadlock in South Vietnam and the crisis of Western diplomacy in the Far East, this novel traces the fortunes of a US ambassador who, in moral confusion and tortured by self-doubt, is made arbiter of his nation's fate, and of life and death for the ruling house of Vietnam.

Mix some History with your Crime Fiction

I've participated in the Historical Reading Challenge hosted this year
Historical Fiction Challenge at Historical Tapestry
for the last 3 years and have surprised myself with how many historical books I have read so far this year, to the point that I have actually already completed the challenge I set myself.

Struggling the Addiction: 10 books
my extra rule: all need to be crime fiction. I expected that my extra rule might limit my reading a bit, but there is some good quality historical crime fiction available.
Here are the ones I have read so far.
  1. 4.3, A LILY OF THE FIELD, John Lawton (World War Two)
  2. 4.4, INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS, Imogen Robertson (England 1780)
  3. 5.0, A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN, Sulari Gentill  (Australia 1930s)
  4. 4.4, THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, Eric Ambler (Europe 1930s)
  5. 4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND, Adrian McKinty (N. Ireland 1981)
  6. 4.7, DEATH COMES AS AN END, Agatha Christie  (Egypt 2000 BC)
  7. 4.4, THE RESURRECTION MEN, Sara Fraser (England 1826)
  8. 4.5, HAVOC IN ITS THIRD YEAR, Ronan Bennett (England in the 1630s)
  9. 4.2, THE ANATOMY OF GHOSTS, Andrew Taylor (England 1786)
  10. 4.5, MURDER AT THE SAVOY, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (Sweden in 1960s)
There are a further two levels to the challenge
Severe Bookaholism: 20 books
Undoubtedly Obsessed: 15 books

and I think I will now set my sights on 20 books, particularly as this challenge overlaps so much with another, the British Books Challenge at the Overflowing Library, and even at times with the Vintage Mystery Challenge.

15 March 2012

Review: A LILY OF THE FIELD, John Lawton

  • published Atlantic Monthly press, 2010
  • ISBN 978-0-8021-1956-8
  • 380 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #7 in published order of the Frederick Troy series, but #4 in chronological order.
Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction)

Vienna 1934. Ten-year-old Meret Voytek becomes a pupil of esteemed musician professor Viktor Rosen, a Jew in exile from Germany. Three years later, aware that the Nazis are advancing, Rosen tells his promising pupil that he must leave Vienna for London.

When Vienna quietly comes under Nazi rule, Meret witnesses the repercussions for the city's Jews, but when her orchestra becomes a division of the Hitler Youth, she complies and wears the uniform.

Meanwhile, across Europe, Dr. Karel Szabo, a Hungarian physicist, has been interned in a camp on the Isle of Man. Shortly thereafter, Szabo is transported to Canada and rescued by the Americans, who recruit him to join the team in New Mexico building an atomic bomb.

In his ninth book, Lawton moves seamlessly from Vienna and Auschwitz to the deserts of New Mexico to London, illustrating the fascinating parallels of the enemy alien, Szabo and gentile Voytek, as fate carries each across the distinct and untraditional battlefields of the destructive war to an unexpected intersection at the novel's close. The result, A Lily of the Field, is Lawton's best book yet, an historically accurate and remarkably written novel that explores the diaspora of two Europeans from the rise of Hitler to the postatomic age.

My take

"Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin"
Matthew 6:28
I think perhaps my reading of this book suffered from the fact that the series this is part of is already well underway. I definitely didn't enjoy it as much as my friend and fellow blogger at CRIME SCRAPS REVIEW.

In the first half of the book Lawton introduces us to a rich cavalcade of characters all affected by the rise of the Third Reich and the advance of Hitler's troops into Poland and Austria. Some, Jews, Gentiles, Viennese, Poles, flee to England as early as 1935 ahead of the advance. Others are snatched off the streets and put onto trains taking them to Auschwitz.

Some meet again in England when they are rounded up into internment camps and then shipped off to Canada. Others meet in Auschwitz. Some survive because of their talents, others because they sell their souls to the devil, some because they do both.

And then the war ends and we are back in England and the crime fiction part of the novel begins with the murder on a tube station platform of one of the refugees and the subsequent involvement of Freddie Troy of Scotland Yard, his own family Russian refugees just thirty years before.

I think the richness of the information in the first half of the novel made it hard for the reader to decide what was important and what wasn't, what did I need to remember for later reference? Looking at the two halves of the novel, I think perhaps the author had a problem in deciding what he was writing: a historical fiction about the dreadful events of the Holocaust, or a murder mystery set in a Britain still under rationing and full of very confused,damaged, and often eccentric people.

But where I am torn is that this is a novel that makes you think, and, as readers of this blog will know, this is something that I value highly in my reading. A LILY OF THE FIELD presents scenarios that were new to me, and situations that I have not given much thought to before. The historical detail is rich and authentic. I think perhaps it was because there was so much detail that I had a problem in achieving focus and I found myself wondering in the first half of the novel when the crime fiction was going to kick in. It seemed that in the face of such inhumanity an "ordinary" murder would be very low key.

Freddie Troy is an interesting and quirky character who really operates by his own rules and his own sense of justice. He's a maverick in a world that is trying to establish order.

My rating: 4.3

Tell me, have you read this book or any in the series? What would you recommend? Shall I read another? Do I have to start at the beginning?

Another review to check on Euro Crime

    10 March 2012

    Review: 1222 by Anne Holt

    • Format: Kindle Edition
    • File Size: 843 KB
    • Publisher: Corvus (December 25, 2010)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
    • Language: English (translated by Marlaine Delargy)
    • ASIN: B004G5YVSM
    • Source: I bought it
    Synopsis (Amazon)

    1222 metres above sea level, train 601 from Oslo to Bergen careens off iced rails as the worst snowstorm in Norwegian history gathers force around it. Marooned in the high mountains with night falling and the temperature plummeting, its 269 passengers are forced to abandon their snowbound train and decamp to a centuries-old mountain hotel. They ought to be safe from the storm here, but as dawn breaks one of them will be found dead, murdered.

    With the storm showing no sign of abating, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. But Hanne has no wish to get involved. She has learned the hard way that truth comes at a price and sometimes that price just isn’t worth paying. Her pursuit of truth and justice has cost her the love of her life, her career in the Oslo Police Department and her mobility: she is paralysed from the waist down by a bullet lodged in her spine.

    Trapped in a wheelchair, trapped by the killer within, trapped by the deadly storm outside, Hanne’s growing unease is shared by everyone in the hotel. Should she investigate, or should she just wait for help to arrive? And all the time rumours swirl about a secret cargo carried by train 601. Why was the last carriage sealed? Why is the top floor of the hotel locked down? Who or what is being concealed? And, of course, what if the killer strikes again?

    My take

    This is the first book by Anne Holt that I have read, and it certainly won't be the last.
    Perhaps one of the reasons that I enjoyed it so much is that it is in part a homage to Agatha Christie. Here are 269 train passengers with nowhere to go (169 of them in the hotel 1222), imprisoned by a snow storm, and with little hope of immediate rescue. So when the murder takes place, we have a classic "locked room" mystery.

    The central sleuth is wheel-chair bound,  retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen. After the first murder, that of a church minister, Hanne doesn't initiate an investigation as one might expect, but teams up with a doctor, a solicitor, and the hotel manager. Hanne expects their isolation on the highest mountain pass in Norway will be short-lived, but the storm grows in intensity and rescue is actually days away.
      ‘That’s what you said when you were in here earlier,’ he insisted. ‘You said this investigation would be incredibly simple. Or something along those lines. Is that what you think?’ 
      I nodded. ‘We have a very limited number of suspects, all of whom are trapped up here. A limited geographical area to examine, to put it mildly. I think the murder will be cleared up in a day or two. Once the police have taken over, of course. I mean, they have to make a start first.’
    There are some obvious parallels between this story and many of the "isolated location" novels of Agatha Christie. Hanne herself draws one:
      Twenty-four hours ago, there were 269 people on board a train. Then we became 196. When two men died, we were 194. Now there were only 118 of us left. I thought about Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. I immediately tried to dismiss the thought. And Then There Were None is a story that doesn’t exactly have a happy ending.
    The number of people resident in the hotel reduces and they become even more isolated as a connecting passage with another wing of the hotel collapses. And then there is another murder.

    Apart from the murder mystery, the story has a second element: who were the people in the last carriage of the train? Why have they taken up residence in the top floor of the hotel? Why do they have an armed guard?

    There are a number of details about Hanne's personal life and past history to be pieced together from the novel, and this does seem to take away from the main threads, although they are probably necessary.

    Holt does have one disconcerting narrative ploy, that you can see in action here:
      I didn’t know how right I was. Just a few weeks later, his business colleagues would be seized and placed under arrest in a major police operation in the Natal province of Brazil. They could look forward to a lengthy trial and an even longer prison sentence, all under conditions that made the prison at Ullersmo look like a five-star hotel.
    In more than one place Hanne looks ahead and tells us how something ends up.

    However, that aside, this is a good read. Anne Holt a good Norwegian author for you to look for.

    My rating: 4.8

    What a pity this is the only title in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series that has been translated into English so far. According to Fantastic Fiction, two more will appear this year:
    1. The Blind Goddess (2012)
    2. 1222 (2010)
    3. Blessed Are Those Who Thirst (2012)
    There are 4 titles in Holt's other series, Vik & Stubo, already available in English.

    Check another review
    1222 has been shortlisted for the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Novel

    About the author

    Anne Holt spent two years working for the Oslo Police Department before founding her own law firm and serving as Norway's Minister for Justice in 1996/97. Her first book was published in 1993 and she has subsequently developed two series: the Hanne Wilhelmsen series and the Vik/Stubo series. Both series will be published by Corvus.

    Edgar Nominees for Best Novel and First Novel

    The Edgar nominees for Best Novel have been announced. The winner will be announced on April 26.

    THE RANGER by Ace Atkins (Penguin Group USA - G.P. Putnam's Sons)
    GONE by Mo Hayder (Grove/Atlantic - Atlantic Monthly Press)
    THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X by Keigo Higashino (Minotaur Books)
    1222 by Anne Holt (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
    FIELD GREY by Philip Kerr (Penguin Group USA - G.P. Putnam's Sons - Marion Wood Books)

    As usual I am a long way from having read these.
    I have GONE on my Kindle, FIELD GRAY currently home from the library, and I'm now reading 1222.
    I have read THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X  and rated it at 4.5
    Looks like I'll have to track down THE RANGER.
    I find it a bit strange that 2 of them are translated novels.

    Which ones have you read? Which will win?

    And I've read none of the First Novel nominees.

    RED ON RED by Edward Conlon (Random House Publishing Group - Spiegel & Grau)
    LAST TO FOLD by David Duffy (Thomas Dunne Books)
    ALL CRY CHAOS by Leonard Rosen (The Permanent Press)
    BENT ROAD by Lori Roy (Penguin Group USA - Dutton)
    PURGATORY CHASM by Steve Ulfelder (Minotaur Books - Thomas Dunne Books)

    8 March 2012

    Review: SPARKLING CYANIDE, Agatha Christie

    • originally published 1945, aka REMEMBERED DEATH
    • This edition in a collection called SEVEN DEADLY SINS  published by Harper Collins in 2004, pp 353-513 
    • Source: my local library
    • sleuth: Colonel Race
    Synopsis (from Agatha Christie.com)

      Review: WITCH HUNT, Ian Rankin writing as Jack Harvey - audio

      • originally published in 1993
      • Audio version published 2005
      • Unabridged
      • Available at Audible.com
      • Length 11 hours 43 mins
      • Narrated by Peter Capaldi
      • Read the first chapter on Amazon

      Witch is a terrorist, one of the best, but this job is going to test even her to the very limit. This time her cold calculation may desert her just when she needs it most. On her tail are three very different detectives: one woman, two men. Two are at the beginning of their careers, while one is staking a lifetime's experience on tracking Witch down.

      from Fantastic Fiction

      Interpol have tried and failed to find her. Now the combined forces of Scotland Yard and MI5 must try the impossible to prevent a major international incident. Dominic Elder carries her autograph wherever he goes. Witch is his passion, his obsession. And being retired is no bar to his willingness to restart the hunt. MI5 know that the man who wrote the Witch file is the key to catching their quarry. But the truth isn't easy to spot. And it is only when an MI5 novice and his French counterpart piece together the smallest of clues, that Witch suddenly looks vulnerable . . .

      My take

      This venture by Ian Rankin (writing as Jack Harvey) was the first of 3 novels under that pseudonym. Rankin moves into the world of MI5, spies, and assassinations and WITCH HUNT feels as if it owes a lot to the style of John Le Carre. Certainly the gravelly voice of narrator Peter Capaldi contributes to that feeling. This is very different to his Rebus novels.

      The novel begins with a set of seemingly disconnected events: the scuppering of a fishing trawler in the English channel, the murder of a banker in a love nest in Scotland; but to Dominic Elder who took early retirement because of a terrorist incident, they point to one thing: Witch is back!

      The plotting in WITCH HUNT is intricate and the novel is part thriller and part police procedural.
      It makes very enjoyable listening.

      My rating: 4.4

      Other reviews of Ian Rankin titles on MiP
      HIDE & SEEK

      Review: THE BEST MAN TO DIE, Ruth Rendell

      • Published by Hutchinson in 1969
      • This edition republished by Arrow in2009
      • #4 in the Wexford series
      • 254 pages
      • ISBN 978-0-09-953483-9
      • Source: borrowed from a friend.
      My contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books this week.


      The fatal car accident involving the stockbroker Fanshawe couldn't possibly be connected with the murder of a cocky little lorry driver. But was it a coincidence that the latter died the day after Mrs Fanshawe regained consciousness?

      Who could have suspected that the exciting stag party for the groom would be the prelude to the murder of his close friend Charlie Hatton? And Charlie's death was only the first in a string of puzzling murders involving small-time gangsters, cheating husbands, and loose women. Now Chief Inspector Wexford and his assistant join forces with the groom to track down a killer . . .

      My take

      I'm never quite sure whether I have read an earlier Wexford or not. With 23 titles in the series I guess I can be forgiven. Anyway, I have no memory of this story.

      I was taken by the description of Wexford in the early pages, because it is so unlike my George Baker (TV) image. I've never thought of Reg Wexford as ugly.
        All he needed, he sometimes thought, was a trunk to make him look exactly like an elephant. His body was huge and ponderous, his skin pachydermatous, wrinkled and grey, and his three-cornered ears stuck out absurdly under the sparse fringe of colourless hair. When he went to the zoo he passed the elephant house quickly lest some irreverent onlooker should make comparisons.
      This is early in the Wexford series and I think Ruth Rendell is still finding her way, establishing her style. There are passages in THE BEST MAN TO DIE that are a bit floral, over-descriptive, and she still hasn't got to that economy of words that characterises her later books. There's a wry humour though, and what will become a typical ambiguity in the meaning of the title.

      Wexford is in his fifties, and already working with Mike Burden. His elder daughter is married and his younger one living at home, still happy to pass her dental bills and other responsibilities on to Pop. There are nice snippets of the tensions of family life.

      A lift is installed in the Kingsmarkham police station and Wexford, ever mistrustful of new gadgets, and very conscious of his weight, is of course in it on his own when it gets stuck between floors. Two hours in an airless lift nearly cuts short his career, but typically he sits on the floor and comes up with the solution to the crime.

      In this novel Rendell seems to be toying with the idea of expanding the detective duo. Wexford's doctor, Dr. Crocker is a childhood friend, although six years his junior, and Wexford makes use of him a couple of times. I don't remember Crocker having much of a role in other books.

      Altogether a nice read, proving for me that the early Rendell novels still have great appeal.

      My rating: 4.6

      Check this review on Howard's Bookend

      Other reviews of Rendell titles on MiP
      4.6, THE VAULT

      7 March 2012

      Agatha Christie's Seven Deadly Sins

      I brought a rather weighty tome home from the library today, 1158 pages, will my wrists be strong enough to hold it?

      What I actually want to read is SPARKLING CYANIDE (aka REMEMBERED DEATH), but this is the only format it is available in through my library.

      This anthology consists of
      seven of the best Agatha Christie crime thrillers, themed around the timeless motives of Sin!
      Some I have already read as you can see.
      But given the weight of the volume, I may just read SPARKLING CYANIDE this time.
      • THE A.B.C. MURDERS
        Pride is the excessive belief in one's own abilities. A murderer has the arrogance to challenge Hercule Poirot's detective prowess! 
        Envy is the desire for another's status and abilities. A mysterious joker is eager for Miss Blacklock's money -- and her death! 
        Lust is the craving for the pleasures of the body. Actress Arlena Stuart has the reputation of a 'man-eater' -- until her murder! 
        Sloth is the idle avoidance of work. Money doesn't need to be earned: it can be married, won or inherited -- so long as someone dies! 
        Avarice is the greed for material gain. Buy the perfect piece of land for your dream house -- but be wary of curses and psychopaths! 
        Gluttony is the appetite to consume more than you need. Miss Marple wonders if a series of robberies are for money -- or just the thrill! 
        Wrath is the fury when love is spurned. A woman is convicted of poisoning her adulterous husband -- but there are five other suspects!

      6 March 2012

      So It was all there after all!

      Well, I've managed to retrieve the blog seemingly intact.
      Seemingly it was all there after all, just lying under the surface.
      I'm off to create a back up and I'll try not to meddle too much with anything else.

      Disaster has befallen!

      Regular visitors to my blog will notice that much of my content has disappeared.
      I clicked on a "try the updated Blogger interface" invitation and my old template simply vanished.
      With it has gone many of my gadgets, my separate pages etc.

      My blog is 4 years old and this is without doubt the worst thing that Blogger has ever done to me.
      Please be patient while I try to re-establish at least some of it.

      If you are looking for Links I follow (aka Crime Fiction Journeys) they are here.

      Review: 8 POUNDS: Eight Tales of Crime, Horror and Suspense, Chris F. Holm

      • Format: Kindle Edition
      • File Size: 294 KB
      • Publisher: Poisonville Press (October 13, 2010)
      • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
      • Language: English
      • ASIN: B0047742P6
      • Source: I bought it 
      Synopsis (Amazon)

      These eight tales run the gamut from small-town horror to old-school, whiskey-slugging noir, with a touch of coming-of-age adventure thrown in for good measure. We're talking over a hundred print pages of pure pulp perfection that'll cost you less than the paper it ain't printed on.

      My take

      This little collection of pearls is available on Amazon for 99 cents. I bought it over 12 months ago and the title ensures that it lurks at the top of my Kindle library if I'm browsing by title. And they really are enjoyable gems. The beaut thing about short stories is that they are quick to read, almost fitting in the ad. breaks on TV, or just the thing when you are waiting at the dentist's or the doctor's.

      Each one of these eight tales is very different, although many of them are written in the first person.
      • Seven Days of Rain
      • A Better Life
      • A Simple Kindness
      • The Toll Collectors
      • Eight Pounds
      • The Well
      • The Big Score
      • The World Behind
      And I enjoyed them all. Often when you read an anthology you find some are better than others. I really couldn't rank these. Each had it's own little quirky twist. If you click on the cover image you should be transported to Amazon where you can sample the first Seven Days of Rain for yourself. The Well sticks in my mind as definitely the most gruesome.

      Chris Holm says these stories represent his output 2007 to 2009, and that sadly some of them are now out of print. You may have read some of them:
      • “Seven Days of Rain” first appeared in Demolition Magazine, September 2007. 
      • “A Better Life” first appeared in The Feral Pages, October 2009. 
      • “A Simple Kindness” first appeared in Spinetingler Magazine, January 2008. 
      • “The Toll Collectors” first appeared in Beat to a Pulp, February 2009. 
      • “Eight Pounds” first appeared in Thuglit, December 2009. 
      • “The Well” first appeared in Flashes in the Dark, February 2009. 
      • “The Big Score” first appeared in The Back Alley Webzine, July 2008. 
      • “The World Behind” first appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, June 2007.
      My rating: 4.3

      About the author
      Chris F. Holm wrote his first story at the age of six. It got him sent to the principal's office.
      He'd like to think that right then is when he decided to become a writer.
      Since then, Chris' stories have appeared in a slew of publications, including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Needle Magazine, and Thuglit.
      He's been a Derringer Award finalist and a Spinetingler Award winner, and he's also written a novel or two, which are currently out on submission.
      You can visit Chris on the web at www.chrisfholm.com.

        5 March 2012

        Review: ANTIQUES ROADKILL; A Trash 'n' Treasures Mystery, Barbara Allan

        • Format: Kindle Edition
        • File Size: 468 KB
        • Publisher: Kensington Books (July 1, 2007)
        • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
        • Language: English
        • ASIN: B004NNUZ3W
        • Source: I bought it.
        Synopsis (Amazon)

        Determined to make a new start in her quaint hometown on the banks of the Mississippi, Brandy Borne never dreams she'll become the prime suspect in a murder case. . .
        Moving back in with her eccentric, larger-than-life mother, Brandy Borne finds small-town Serenity anything but serene. It seems an unscrupulous antiques dealer has swindled Vivian out of the family's heirlooms. But when he is found run over in a country lane, Brandy becomes Murder Suspect Number One--with her mother coming in a very close second. . .
        The list of other suspects is impressive--the victim's business seems to have been based on bilking seniors out of their possessions. And when the Borne "girls" uncover a few very unsavory Serenity secrets, they become targets for a murderer whose favorite hobby seems to be collecting victims.

        My take

        The first title in a cozy series around the theme of antiques, ANTIQUES ROADKILL is really a light, fluffy, quick read. A bit of a no-brainer really, although with plenty of quirky humour, and a bit of mystery to stir the little grey cells.

        My rating: 3.8

        About the authors

        Barbara Allan is the joint pseudonym for husband-and-wife   mystery writers Max Allan and Barbara   Collins.
        Max Allan Collins, a five-time Mystery Writers of  America "Edgar" nominee in both fiction and nonfiction categories, has been hailed as "the Renaissance man of mystery fiction." He has earned an  unprecedented fourteen Private Eye Writers of  America "Shamus" nominations for his historical  thrillers, winning twice for his Nathan Heller novels,True Detective (1983) and Stolen Away (1991).
        His other credits include film criticism, short fiction,  songwriting, trading-card sets, and movie/TV  tie-in novels, including Air Force One, In the Line of  Fire, and the New York Times-best-selling Saving Private   Ryan.

        Barbara Collins is one of the most respected  short story writers in the mystery field, with appearances  in over a dozen top anthologies, including   Murder Most Delicious, Women on the Edge, and  the best-selling Cat Crimes series. She was the coeditor   (and a contributor) to the best-selling anthology   Lethal Ladies, and her stories were selected for  inclusion in the first three volumes of The Year's 25  Finest Crime and Mystery Stories.

         So far there 5 books in the series with a sixth to be published in May 2012.

        The list (courtesy Fantastic Fiction)
        1. Antiques Roadkill (2006)
        2. Antiques Maul (2007)
        3. Antiques Flee Market (2008)
        4. Antiques Bizarre (2010)
        5. Antiques Knock-Off (2011)
        6. Antiques Disposal (2012)

        4 March 2012

        Review: THE NOBODIES ALBUM, Carolyn Parkhurst

        • published Sceptre 2010
        • ISBN 978-0-340-97815-3
        • 312 pages
        • Source: my local library
        Synopsis (Amazon)

        Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book—a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago.

        On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia reads a news crawl in Times Square and learns that her rock-star son, Milo, has been arrested for murder. Though she and Milo haven’t spoken in years—an estrangement stemming from that tragic day—she drops everything to go to him.

        The “last chapters” of Octavia’s novel are layered throughout The Nobodies  Album—the scattered puzzle pieces to her and Milo’s dark and troubled past. Did she drive her son to murder? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning reveal, Octavia must consider how this story will come to a close.

        Universally praised for her candid explorations of the human psyche, Parkhurst delivers an emotionally gripping and resonant mystery about a mother and her son, and about the possibility that one can never truly know another person.

        My take

        This is a novel with an intriguing, quite literary structure. It is full of little stories, some of them arising from Octavia Frost's latest project, a book that will contain rewritten endings for each of her seven novels. Octavia just wishes it were so easy to rewrite some of the passages of her real life. The little stories in the novel endings tell us quite a bit about what has happened to Olivia in real life, and it seems that she has told the reader more than she really meant to reveal.

        And then there is the main thread that holds THE NOBODIES ALBUM together, the story of Octavia and her son Milo whom she hasn't spoken to in a number of years. Milo is popular rock musician whose lyrics contain lines which recreate for Octavia glimpses of the tragedy that they have shared. It seems that Milo too is revealing more of himself in his "published work" than he means to.

        When Milo is accused of the murder of his girl friend, Octavia decides to do what a mother should do - defend her offspring. At the very least she wants to make sure that he isn't wrongly convicted of the murder.

        As I've said, a novel with an intriguing structure. Many bits to make you think too.

        My rating: 4.9

        Many thanks to Petrona who chose THE NOBODIES ALBUM as her January Pick of the Month.

        2 March 2012

        Plans, plans, plans

        In general I tend to read as the mood takes me, from the books I have available.

        Every now and then though I take a look at the reading challenges I have signed up for and try to make plans for what I will read. I always have far more books than I can really cope with though.
        I do have lots to choose from on Mt TBR and on my Kindle
        I am managing about 12 to 14 books a month, and one of those has to be an Agatha Christie.

        Here is what I have done so far: 2012 Reading Challenges Update 

        Currently I'm reading
        THE NOBODIES ALBUM by Carolyn Parkhurst which will fit into my American author challenge
        I'm listening to WITCH HUNT by Ian Rankin and that will go into British books.
        And my next Agatha Christie is SPARKLING CYNANIDE to be read for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge in the next 3 weeks or so.

        I have to read 3 books to finish the Canadian Book Challenge 2011-2012 
        Probable choices:
        THE BURNING EDGE by Rick Mofina
        THE RIVER by Cheryl Kaye Tardif
        one of a number by Peter Robinson

        For the 2012 Global Reading Challenge
        I have already read 10 out of a required 21.
        So I have to read another 11
        • 3 from Africa
        • 3 from Asia
        • 1 from New Zealand
        • 1 from Cuba or Mexico
        • 3 from South America
        I have a collection on my Kindle including
        MIXED BLOOD by Roger Smith
        DEATH OF THE MANTIS by Michael Stanley
        WITNESS THE NIGHT by Kishwar Desai
        ASIA HAND by Christopher Moore
        CHINATOWN BEAT by Henry Chang
        NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK by Ernesto Mallo
        TREACHERY IN THE YARD by Adimchinma Ibe

        In my American author challenge I'm aiming for 20 titles but have only read 3 so far, with another nearly completed. I have so many American authors on Mt. TBR that I don't think that will be too difficult.

        In the Aussie Author Challenge I have read 5 out of the 20 I want to read.
        I have at least 20 Australian titles lying around including
        RIP OFF by Kel Robertson
        CHELSEA MANSIONS by Barry Maitland
        TORN APART by Peter Corris
        COOKING THE BOOKS by Kerry Greenwood
        WATCH OUT FOR ME by Sylvia Johnson
        KISS OF DEATH by PD Martin
        DEATH MASK by Kathryn Fox

        I really need to get cracking on the Nordic Challenge. I have read only 2 out of 20 so far.
        I have
        THE ABOMINABLE MAN by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo
        NIGHT ROUNDS by Helene Tursten
        DREGS by John Lier Horst
        THE FINAL MURDER by Anne Holt
        THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE by Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis
        NEXT OF KIN by Elsebeth Egholm
        THE QUARRY by Johan Theorin
        THE ICE PRINCESS by Camilla Lackberg
        THE TROUBLED MAN by Henning Mankell
        THE INSPECTOR AND SILENCE by Hakan Nesser
        BURNED by Thomas Enger
        RED WOLF by Liza Marklund

        But you know what they say about plans..
        And I haven't even thought about some of the other reading challenges....
        And then what of my resolve to read some non-crime-fiction?

        And then there are all the other books that just don't fit into the challenges. They'll get read too :-)

        Forgotten book: THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, Eric Ambler

        My contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books  this week is a book that I have only recently read but a title that I have seen referred to often in my crime fiction addiction years.

        If you would like to see what I thought of it visit here.

        1 March 2012

        Review: INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS, Imogen Robertson

        • Format: Kindle Edition
        • File Size: 520 KB
        • Publisher: Headline (April 1, 2010)
          first published 2009
        • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
        • Language: English
        • ASIN: B004KZONU4
        • Source: I bought it.
        Product Description (Amazon)

        Daphne du Maurier meets CSI in this exhilarating debut

        Thornleigh Hall, seat of the Earl of Sussex, dominates its surroundings. Its heir is missing, and the once vigorous family is reduced to a cripple, his whore and his alcoholic second son, but its power endures. Impulsive Harriet Westerman has felt the Hall’s menace long before she happens upon a dead man bearing the Thornleigh arms. The grim discovery cries out for justice, and she persuades reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther to her cause, much against his better judgement; he knows a dark path lies before those who stray from society’s expectations.

        That same day, Alexander Adams is killed in a London music shop, leaving his young children orphaned. His death will lead back to Sussex, and an explosive secret that has already destroyed one family and threatens many others.

        My Take

        Publisher's Weekly called this  "a period thriller, with complicated leads and informative details that illuminate 18th-century England for modern readers."

        Certainly INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS kept reminding me of the Gothic thrillers such as those written by Victoria Holt, Susan Howatch, and even Georgette Heyer, read in my younger days. There's murder, corruption,  a race against time, a grand house, secrets, a bit of far flung drama, and some historical settings thrown in for good measure.

        The historical setting is an unusual one as it is two pronged. The novel begins in 1780 in Sussex with the discovery of a murder. The master of the house is away at the American War and we learn of the second historical link: the battle for Concorde Massachusetts in 1775, the "shot that was heard around the world", that was the true beginning for the American War of Independence. However, while the historical details appear to be accurate, the settings are not really essential to the story. I suspect they will provide a bit of a puzzle to some readers. I wasn't aware of the extent of the rioting in London in 1780, so I've added to my knowledge there. (Gordon Riots)

        I found the sleuthing pair, Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther an interesting combination, if a little unlikely. Harriet is the wife of the sea captain away at the American War, recently arrived to the property next door to Thornleigh Hall. Her husband's absence gives her a leeway she certainly wouldn't have if he were at home. Gabriel Crowther is an anatomist, who studies dead bodies to learn what they can tell him. I found him interesting in the light of THE RESURRECTION MEN, Sara Fraser which I read early last month, although INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS (Crowther's anatomy tools) is set about 50 years earlier. Westerman and Crowther face a lot of opposition from the local Squire and the coroner whose methods are old fashioned.

        If you are looking for historical crime fiction set in a "different" period of English history, then this may hit the spot.

        My rating: 4.4

        Crowther and Westerman (Fantastic Fiction)
        1. Instruments of Darkness (2009)
        2. Anatomy of Murder (2010)
        3. Island of Bones (2011) - shortlisted for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger 2011
        4. Circle of Shadows (2012)

        Other reviews & sites to check


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