30 September 2012

Review: ROUNDING THE MARK, Andrea Camilleri - audio book

  • Published 2010
  • translated from Italian by Stephen Sartarelli
  • audio version from Blackstone Audio
  • Narrated by Grover Gardner
  • Length: approximately 6 hours
  • #7 in the the Salvo Montalbano series
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

In Rounding the Mark, Inspector Montalbano discovers a corpse while swimming along the Sicilian shore. His pursuit of the cause of death intersects with the inquiry into a hit-and-run accident that claimed the life of a young boy who may have been victimized by human traffickers.

The buying and selling of immigrant children, for slave labor, sex, and as a source of illegal organ transplants, is part of the evil underside of the opening of Europe's borders. That, combined with frustration with his department's repressive handling of security for the G8 summit in Genoa and the corruption among his superiors and the politicians behind them, makes setting anything right seem like an exercise in futility.

Montalbano alternates between despair and steely resolve. When he realizes that he may have inadvertently aided the boy's victimizers, his internal turmoil intensifies.

My Take

This novel is a strange mixture of the humorous and the serious. The serious comes from two themes: corruption in the Italian police force particularly at the upper levels, and the increasing trade in human trafficking. At least twice, in the face of his inability to stop the growth in either of these two issues, Montalbano reaches a point of resignation.

He takes delight in small victories though like the solving of mysteries such as identity of the floating corpse that he bumps into on his morning swim. The humour is bound up in Montalbano's personality and the actions he takes such as his decision to tow the corpse to shore using his own swimming trunks, and his tendency to neigh like a horse when he is delighted.

Montalbano comes through as an intuitive detective seeing patterns and connections where others don't, and possessing an ability to replay and freeze-frame events in his own mind, looking for things that don't fit.

The narration by Grover Gardner took some getting used to. He used a variety of Bronx intonations for members of Montalbano's team. It was almost enough to put me off right at the beginning.

My rating: 4.2

Other reviews to check
I've also reviewed AUGUST HEAT
I have a number of the titles sitting on my shelves and on my Kindle and really must make the effort to catch up with Salvo Montalbano more.

A Journey 2/3 over - Agatha Christie Reading Challenge

I began with THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES just 4 years ago, 26 September 2008, and here I am  44 novels and 12 collections of short stories later.

I had resolved to read the works of Agatha Christie more or less in order of publication to see what the experience could teach me about Agatha Christie's own journey as a novelist.

I've estimated that there are about 87 titles in all but at this stage I'm not really sure whether that is correct. Time will tell I guess.

Once I started blogging about this personal challenge others asked to join me on the journey, some to read Agatha Christie titles in order like me, and some to read as they came to hand.

At the beginning of 2009 the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival was born with its own blog site and since then many have joined me on my journey and also contributed to the carnival.

So with 56 titles down I'm nearly 2/3 of the way through my journey. At a title a month I think I have another 3 years of reading and reflecting to go. I feel far from an authority on Agatha Christie but she and I have now been through 25 years of British and world history.

29 September 2012

My local library joins the big world

One of the terrific things about my local library has been its membership of a group of seven, the SWAP network, which gave us access to books from a group of local libraries.
This has provided a terrific service.

But now the Campbelltown Library has become one of the early joiners of One Card, an initiative to network all South Australian Public Libraries.

These libraries are generally funded by their local councils and provide services free of cost.

How lucky are we?

And what a tribute to NYOR 2012, Australia's National Year of Reading. 

Our libraries are vibrant places providing wonderful service.

Find out more about the One Card rollout here. It began 6 months ago and will take approximately 3 years. It will give users access to millions of items.

The Campbelltown Public Library provides books for all ages, including an amazing children's section, magazines and newspapers, books in a variety of languages reflecting the multicultural nature of the council area, videos, audio books, CDS etc., a toy library, computers for individual use and a computer lab, children's sessions, after school clubs, a JP service, quiet reading areas, and small meeting spaces.

27 September 2012

Forgotten Book: SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY, Ngaio Marsh

This week and next, Friday's Forgotten Books is being hosted by Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom.

Like most of my featured forgotten books this year, today's book comes from my list of books read in1992.

Synopsis (Amazon)

High in mountains stands the magnificent Saracen fortress, home of the mysterious Mr Oberon, leader of a coven of witches. It is not the historic castle, however, that intrigues Roderick Alleyn, on holiday with his family, but the suspicion that a huge drugs ring operates from within its ancient portals. But before the holiday is over, someone else has stumbled upon the secret. And Mr Oberon decides his strange and terrible rituals require a human sacrifice.

SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY was Marsh's 17th Roderick Alleyn novel, published in 1954 and then as The Bride of Death in the United States in 1955.

Marsh (1895-1982) published another 15 titles before her death, making a total of 32 Roderick Alleyn titles in all. See Wikipedia for a list.

These days Dame Ngaio Marsh is remembered through the Ngaio Marsh awards, given to acknowledge the best in New Zealand crime fiction.
This year's winner was Neil Cross with LUTHER: THE CALLING.
(you may know of the stories from the BBC TV series)

See Crime Watch blog post: Have you read Ngaio Marsh?

Review: BLACK OUT, John Lawton

  • first published 1995
  • this edition, Large Print, Chivers Press 1996
  • 442 pages
  • ISBN 0-7451-7963
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

BLACK OUT is an outstanding debut thriller from a major new talent, featuring an original new detective, Sgt Frederick Troy, the son of a distinguished Russian emigre.

Children playing on an East End bombsite during the Blitz find a severed arm. This is no ordinary murder and Troy is soon on the trail of a German espionage network leading through a labyrinth of conspiracy and betrayal. 

My Take

This is the first in Lawton's Frederick Troy series (see the list below), and yet it creates the impression that there is quite a bit of Troy back-story. Recently I read A LILY OF THE FIELD the beginning of which pre-dates BLACKOUT. I remembered a lot of Sergeant Troy's back story from that book, his  Russian emigre background in particular. Troy appears to have emerged in BLACK OUT a bit Venus like, fully formed. His boss regards him as Scotland Yard's "most intuitive detective", and he has certainly had a meteoric rise due to his ability to read and interpret a crime scene.

London in 1944 is a dangerous place. It is under heavy German bombardment and Troy is hit by bombs more than once. He is also shot, stabbed and coshed. He is a bit bulldog like in his sleuthing efforts. What matters to him is finally getting his man and he pursues that goal at all costs. There is a scene towards the end of BLACK OUT where Troy asks another character what she believes in. She responds that he doesn't have the right to ask anyone that question because his own beliefs are suspect. She says that he is unprincipled and will do anything to get to his final quarry.

I think what I didn't like about this book is that it is difficult to predict the chain of events. There are things that the reader can't possibly know and in fact the finally denouement really comes out of left field. I found it rather slow going in places, but some of the visual pictures were stunning.

What I liked about it too is the meticulous attention to historical detail and the feeling of authenticity of setting.  Having read only two in the series, as well as the synopses for the other five, I suspect that to get the full picture of Freddie Troy you do need to read them all, but I am not sure the order matters. Historically speaking RIPTIDE is set earlier in 1941, but A LILY OF THE FIELD begins even earlier in 1934. To me the overall impression is a bit like hopping about a patchwork quilt. There's a post at It’s a crime! (Or a mystery…) which gives a useful overview.

My rating: 4.3

Other reviews to check
The Game's Afoot
Crime Scraps

The View from the Blue House

Frederick Troy (courtesy Fantastic Fiction)
1. Black Out (1995)
2. Old Flames (1996)
3. A Little White Death (1998)
4. Riptide (2001)
     aka Bluffing Mr. Churchill
5. Blue Rondo (2005)
     aka Flesh Wounds
6. Second Violin (2007)
7. A Lily of the Field (2010)

26 September 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012: S is for Shamini Flint and Inspector Singh

This year for the Crime Fiction Alphabet Community meme I've decided to highlight titles that I've read this year.

I met Inspector Singh last year when I read the first in the series INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES, A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder.
Inspector Singh is a Singaporean policeman, known really as a bumbler, and someone whom his bosses are glad to send to faraway places, without much expectation that he will be successful.
Piatkus Books, 2009, ISBN 978-0-7499-2975-6, 295 pages.

I was just a little underwhelmed by this first offering but decided I would tackle the second, INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul.
This one is of particular interest to Australian readers because it is set at the time of the Bali bombings, in which a number of Australian tourists were killed.
I thought the setting and the murder mystery were handled very well.

There are now 3 more books in the series that I am watching out for.
3. Singapore School of Villainy (2010)
4. A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree (2011)
5. A Curious Indian Cadaver (2012)

24 September 2012

Review: THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS, Agatha Christie

  • first published 1952
  • a Miss Marple story
  • this edition published in the Hamlyn Agatha Christie Crime Collection, published 1969
  • Source: my own books
  • 138 pages
Synopsis (from Christie site)

“They said it was an accident, but I think it was just temper!”
Ruth Van Rydock – They Do it With Mirrors

Ruth Van Rydock is very concerned about her sister. Carrie-Louise is living in a vast house that is now a home for 'delinquent' boys and Ruth is worried that her other-worldly sister cannot cope or worse - will come to harm.

She persuades their old friend Jane Marple to go and stay just to keep an eye on things. When there is a murder and Carrie-Louise's life is also threatened can Miss Marple live up to Ruth's expectations and bring a murderer to light?

My Take

Set in the period immediately after World War Two, some families are still incredibly wealthy, but great houses are struggling to survive. The Gulbrandsen Institute built in the grounds of Stonygates, that has been the home of  Jane Marple's old friend Carrie Louise through three marriages, has been re-purposed as a sort of secure reformatory for delinquent boys.

There are a number of people living as Carrie Louise's dependents, for she is the one with the wealth, and none of them seem to like each other very much. Ruth Van Rydock spins a tale to her sister that their old friend Jane Marple is a bit hard up and so Jane is invited to Stonygates for an extended stay. As it turns out the murders happen pretty quickly and Jane's presence doesn't do much to stop them. She is "recognised" by the investigating police  who learns about her from a colleague.  Even so I think there are two murders she may have thwarted had she reported a discovery quickly instead of deciding to do it the next morning.

The title is a bit of a red herring itself because it sends the reader off looking for doubles but that isn't quite its meaning. I thought the final resolution, the identity of the murderer, and how he achieved his ends, was actually a bit far fetched. However, there were clues, particularly in the "parallels" that Miss Marple narrates from her store of St. Mary Mead happenings.

Still, it is a quick and enjoyable read, with a bit of mind stretching as one would expect.
It gives an interesting picture of post-war England. You also learn a bit more about Miss Marple's youth, although she also reveals that she is a bit deaf.

My rating: 4.2

I read THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
I have now read 44 novels and 12 collections of short stories.
I aim at one title a month and so I calculate that I probably have about 30 months to go.

I think reading the titles in order of publication is helping me appreciate the development of Christie's main sleuths, particularly her early search for a character that she liked, and also to appreciate her as a social commentator.
So far we have been through the aftermath of two World Wars and the subsequent economic and social change that hit Britain in that period. Probably at the time the novels were written, readers didn't see Christie as a social commentator as she was reflecting the things they were thinking and feeling.

Crime Fiction Alphabet: the letter S

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.

Many thanks to those who have participated so far this year. 

We have an average of about 14 participants a week.

Our journey so far
A   B    C    D    E    F   G  H  I   J   K  L  M  N O  P  Q  R   

Today we have the letter S, and so we are on the home stretch, although we have at least two challenging letters to come.

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.
Feel free to use either of the images provided in your blog.

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

By the end of this week  post your blog post title and URL in the Mr Linky below.
Please place a link in your blog post back to this page.
Visit other blogs and leave comments.

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

Thanks for participating.

23 September 2012

Fifty British Books - Crime Fiction

Last year I discovered that over one third of what I read was British crime fiction.
So I again joined a British books challenge, although reading British authors really isn't much of a challenge for me, as I do so much of it. The one I have joined is hosted by The Overflowing Library.
So far in 2012 it is closer to one in two.
So I am listing them here for you today.
You can tell from the ratings which ones I have enjoyed best.
The list is a mixture of current, published in 2012, favourite authors, and classics. Some are British by setting, rather than British-born author.
  1. 4.6, BELIEVING THE LIE, Elizabeth George
  2. 4.6, THE HOUSE AT SEA'S END, Elly Griffiths
  3. 4.8, THE HANGING SHED, Gordon Ferris
  4. 4.5, A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES, Ruth Rendell
  5. 4.5, THE FALLS, Ian Rankin
  6. 4.5, GRAVE STONES, Priscilla Masters
  7. 4.6, TAKEN AT THE FLOOD, Agatha Christie
  8. 4.6, WINGS OVER THE WATCHER, Priscilla Masters
  9. 4.6, LYING DEAD, Aline Templeton
  10. 4.6, THE HOLLOW, Agatha Christie
  11. 4.3, GIDEON'S NIGHT, John Creasey (aka J.J. Marric)
  13. 5.0, GONE, Mo Hayder 
  14. 4.3, A LILY OF THE FIELD, John Lawton
  15. 4.4, SPARKLING CYANIDE, Agatha Christie
  16. 4.4, WITCH HUNT, Ian Rankin
  17. 4.6, THE BEST MAN TO DIE, Ruth Rendell
  18. 4.4, INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS, Imogen Robertson
  20. 4.4, THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS, Eric Ambler
  21. 4.5, DEAD IN THE WATER, Aline Templeton
  22. 4.7, DEATH COMES AS AN END, Agatha Christie
  23. 4.3, THE CASE OF THE POISONED CHOCOLATES, Anthony Berkeley
  24. 4.4, BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, S.J. Watson
  25. 4.4, THE RESURRECTION MEN, Sara Fraser
  26. 4.6, THE VAULT, Ruth Rendell
  27. 4.2, STEPS TO HEAVEN, Wendy Cartmell
  28. 3.5, OUR KIND OF TRAITOR, John Le Carre
  29. 4.2, TOWARDS ZERO, Agatha Christie
  30. 4.2, THE ANATOMY OF GHOSTS, Andrew Taylor
  31. 4.0, Some Agatha Christie Short Stories
  32. 4.4, CROOKED HOUSE, Agatha Christie
  33. 4.8, CHELSEA MANSIONS, Barry Maitland
  34. 4.6, A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED, Agatha Christie 
  35. 4.6, LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, Aline Templeton
  36. 4.2, THEY CAME TO BAGHDAD, Agatha Christie
  37. 4.5, A ROOM FULL OF BONES, Elly Griffiths 
  38. 4.7, THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, Ian Rankin
  40. 4.1 THE KILLINGS ON JUBILEE TERRACE, Robert Barnard 
  41. 4.4, MRS McGINTY'S DEAD, Agatha Christie
  42. 5.0, COP TO CORPSE, Peter Lovesey
  43. 4.5, THE HOUSE OF SILK, Anthony Horowitz 
  44. 4.5, THE HEADHUNTERS, Peter Lovesey 
  45. 4.6, THE CROWDED GRAVE, Martin Walker 
  46. 4.5, THE CORONER, M.R. Hall 
  47. 4.2, DRY BONES, Margaret Mayhew 
  48. 3.7, CLASSIC DETECTIVE STORIES, read by Edward Hardwicke
  49. 4.5, LONG TIME COMING, Robert Goddard 
  50. 5.0, THE GLASS ROOM, Ann Cleeves

22 September 2012

Review: THE GLASS ROOM, Ann Cleeves

  • Published Macmillan 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-230-74582-7
  • 373 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • #5 in the Vera Stanhope series
Publisher's synopsis (from author's site)

DI Vera Stanhope is not one to make friends easily, but her hippy neighbours keep her well-supplied in homebrew and conversation, so she has more tolerance for them than most. When one of them goes missing she feels duty-bound to find out what happened. But her path leads her to more than a missing friend ...

It's an easy job to track the young woman down to the Writers' House, a country retreat where aspiring authors gather to workshop and work through their novels. It gets complicated when a body is discovered and Vera's neighbour is found with a knife in her hand. Calling in the team, Vera knows that she should hand the case over to someone else. She's too close to the main suspect. But the investigation is too tempting and she's never been one to follow the rules. Working with Sergeant Joe Ashworth, she starts the hunt for a murderer who is artistic as well as deadly.

There seems to be no motive. No meaning to the crime. Then another body is found, and Vera suspects that someone is playing games with her. Somewhere there is a killer who has taken murder off the page and is making it real...

My Take

This is #5 in the Vera Stanhope series and I've been thinking about what keeps bringing me back to these books. Partly it is that they are real mysteries in the Agatha Christie tradition.
In THE GLASS ROOM with 30 pages to go I was still guessing, although I have to admit the clues were there, and all seemed so obvious once you knew who the murderer was.

What keeps bringing me back too is the character of Vera herself and the interplay between herself and her offsider Joe. For him Vera doesn't always play by the book and the interplay between them is delightful, particularly when they try to score points off each other. Vera is a bit unpredictable, liable to lurch off on her own, following her own hunches. Joe isn't always as malleable and acquiescent as he should be and that's what Vera likes about him. Her management skills with the rest of her team sometimes leave a bit to be desired, and that's when she resorts to yelling at them. She's very human.

There's a quirky sense of humour that pokes through now and again too.

Should you read the Vera Stanhope novels in order? I would recommend that you do, not just because I have, but because Vera's character develops so well from novel to novel, and her circumstances change with each new case.

I've got reviews and mini-reviews of all of them on my blog.

My rating for THE GLASS ROOM: 5.0

18 September 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet: R is for Ruth Rendell

Continuing with my decision to feature books I've read this year, then my choice for the letter R is Ruth Rendell.

This year I've read THE VAULT which led me to search out and re-read an earlier book THE BEST MAN TO DIE.
I've also read A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES

Next time I use my Kindle, I plan to read her latest,  - THE SAINT ZITA SOCIETY.

Rendell has been a firm favourite ever since I "discovered" her 40 years ago.

In THE VAULT written in 2011, Reg Wexford has retired and at rather a loose end.  He decides to take up an offer of being an unpaid serious crimes adviser thinking it will add meaning to his life. See more, including reference to the connection with THE BEST MAN TO DIE. written in 1969. 

See what others have chosen for letter R.

17 September 2012

Review: LONG TIME COMING, Robert Goddard - audio book

  • audio version available at Audible.com
  • book published 2009
  • narrator: David Rintoul
  • length: 11 hours
  • source: I bought it

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

In Antwerp in 1939, a Jewish diamond trader flees Nazi Europe, leaving his priceless collection of Picasso paintings and diamonds with a friend who takes them to London. The boat he flees on sinks, leaving no survivors. Fast forward to 1976 when his penniless family tries to track down the missing paintings. A classic thriller with Goddard's trademark plot twists.

Synopsis (Audible.com)

Eldritch Swan is a dead man. Or at least that is what his nephew Stephen has always been told. Until one day Eldritch walks back into his life after 36 years in an Irish prison.

He won’t reveal any of the details of his incarceration, insisting only that he is innocent of any crime. His return should be of interest to no-one. But the visit of a solicitor with a mysterious request will take Eldritch and his sceptical nephew from sleepy seaside Paignton to London, where an exhibition of Picasso paintings from the prestigious Brownlow collection proves to be the starting point on a journey that will transport them back to the Second World War and the mystery behind Eldritch’s imprisonment.

My take

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this story. Once again it is a book that combines a number of time frames - Dublin in 1942, England in 1976, and then later 2008. It asks the reader to understand a little of IRA history particularly during the war years.

The narrator is Eldritch Swan's nephew Stephen who had always been told his uncle was dead. The uncle will not reveal why he has spent 36 years in an Irish prison, but shortly after his mysterious release he is contacted by a lawyer whose client wants Eldritch to find proof that the a collection of Picassos were fake. The search brings Eldritch and his nephew into touch with people who were involved in the painting swindle, as well as a very influential ex-public servant who knows exactly why Eldritch has spent 36 years in prison.

Robert Goddard's books nearly always combine the present with the past and I always seem to find them enjoyable, so much so that they are almost comfort reading. Most of them are stand-alones ans so can be picked up at any time in any order.

David Rintoul does an excellent job of the narration.

My rating: 4.5

See my review of NAME TO A FACE

My mini-reviews

On a summer’s day in 1981, a two-year-old girl, Tamsin Hall, was abducted during a picnic at the famous prehistoric site of Avebury in Wiltshire. Her seven-year-old sister Miranda was knocked down and killed by the abductor’s van. The girls were in the care of their nanny, Sally Wilkinson.
One of the witnesses to this tragic event was David Umber, a Ph.D student who was waiting at the village pub to keep an appointment with a man called Griffith who claimed he could help Umber with his researches into the letters of “Junius,” the pseudonymous eighteenth century polemicist who was his Ph.D subject. But Griffin failed to show up, and Umber never heard from him again. The two-year-old, Tamsin Hall, was never seen again either. The Hall family fell apart under the strain. Sally Wilkinson, the nanny, wound up living with Umber, whom she had met at the inquiry. But she never recovered from the incident, suffered increasingly from depression, and eventually committed suicide.
In the spring of 2004, retired Chief Inspector George Sharp receives a letter signed “Junius” reproaching him for botching the 1981 investigation. Sharp confronts Umber, whose explanation for being at the scene of the tragedy has always seemed dubious. Obliged to accept Umber’s denial of authorship of the letter, he nonetheless forces him to join in a search for the real culprit — and hence the long-concealed truth about what happened 23 years previously. It is a quest that both will later regret having embarked upon. Too late they come to understand that some mysteries are better left unsolved.
My rating: 4.5

Lance Bradley, living the quiet life in a shop in Glastonbury, has lost touch with his old friend Rupert Alder. Rupe’s siblings, Win, Mil, and Howard, all a good deal older than Rupe, are dependent on him for their income, and their income has mysteriously dried up. Rupe seems to have disappeared and Win asks Lance for help in tracking him down. This is not an easy task and leads Lance around the world and back to headline-making events that occurred in the year that he and Rupe were born, 1963. A thriller with some very unexpected twists and turns.
My rating: 4.3

INTO THE BLUE (unabridged audio CD)
Reading this required a bit of 'devotion'. There are 14 CDs with 17 hours 30 minutes on them. Harry Barnett lives on Rhodes caretaking a friend's villa and working in a local bar. Harry, British and middle-aged, has been a failure at most things he has turned his hand to. Heather Mallender, a young friend of the villa's owner, arrives to spend some time on holiday and re-cuperating from a recent illness. When she and Harry are climbing a mountain one afternoon, she goes on ahead and disappears. The local police at first suspect Harry of murdering her and disposing of her body. They have no evidence. Harry is released, and, convinced Heather is still alive. he begins to track her life. This story is full of twists and turns and is a complex web of strands. The reading is very well done and provided a very enjoyable experience. My rating: 4.7

#2 of Robert Goddard's Harry Barnett books. When Harry is informed that his son, David, is in a diabetic coma, he is certain there must be a mistake, since he does not have a son. But he soon discovers that he does and that other scientists employed like David have died in mysterious circumstances. Is David the victim of attempted murder? Once again this is a complex story, and just when you think there is a resolution, you come to another blind alley. The unabridged CD set is 10 CDs and almost 12 hours. Paul Shelley does an excellent job of all the different voices. Other characters from the earlier book INTO THE BLUE make a welcome re-appearance: Barry Chipchase, Zora, Mrs Tandy and Harry's mother, but there is enough background information if this is your first dip in the series.
My rating: 4.5

#3 in Goddard's Harry Barnett series and is set 10 years on from the second title OUT OF THE SUN. Harry is now living in Canada, but has returned to England to finalise his recently deceased mother's estate. An old mate from Harry's RAF days is organising a 50th anniversary reunion in Scotland at Kilveen Castle where as young men they had taken part in a psychological experiment. But even before they arrive at the castle one of their group has disappeared and soon after they arrive another dies in strange circumstances.
My rating: 4.5

Crime Fiction Alphabet: the letter R

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.

Many thanks to those who have participated so far this year. 

We have an average of about 14 participants a week.

Our journey so far
A   B    C    D    E    F   G  H  I   J   K  L  M  N O  P  Q   

Today we have the letter R, and after this week we have only 8 letters left.

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.
Feel free to use either of the images provided in your blog.

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

By the end of this week  post your blog post title and URL in the Mr Linky below.
Please place a link in your blog post back to this page.
Visit other blogs and leave comments.

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

Thanks for participating.

16 September 2012

Review: THE OTHER CHILD, Charlotte Link

  • first published in German 2009
  • English translation by Stefan Tobler 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4091-2338-5
  • 410 pages
  • Source: I borrowed it
Synopsis (Amazon)

In the northern seaside town of Scarborough, a student is found cruelly murdered. For months, the investigators are in the dark, until they are faced with a copy-cat crime. The investigation continues apace, yet they are still struggling to establish a connection between the two victims.

Ambitious detective Valerie Almond clings to the all too obvious: a rift within the family of the second victim. But there is far more to the case than first appears and Valerie is led towards a dark secret, inextricably linked to the evacuation of children to Scarborough during World War II.

Horrified at her last-minute discovery, Valerie realises that she may be too late for action...

My Take

THE OTHER CHILD is written in 3 time frames.
Chronologically they are
the evacuation of children from London to Yorkshire in 1940 because of the bombing, and the subsequent six or so years;
an event described in the first chapter, taking place in 1970;
the murder of a 17 year old babysitter on her way home in the early hours in mid 2008.

There is quite a cast of characters, too many I thought, loosely connected to a farm and a a school. In the style of modern British crime fiction the reader could reasonably expect the threads extending from the time frames to converge somehow. And they do, in a fashion but some of them don't.

The synopsis (above) makes you think this is going to be a police procedural with the detective playing a central role, but that isn't how this novel works. The police appear to have few resources at their disposal and to be always playing catch-up. The author plays around with p.o.v. putting the reader in the position of knowing almost more than any other person.

In my research I discovered that although writing in German, Charlotte Link has set many of her novels, a number of them saga-like, in Yorkshire or other British locations. As far as I can tell, THE OTHER CHILD, is her first venture into crime fiction, and from a crime-fiction lover's point of view, it is in need of a lot of editing and honing. For my taste there was altogether too much descriptive detail, but then I thought that maybe it illustrates the differences between what I expect and what a German reader expects. Towards the end I found myself skimming, trying to get to the resolution of the murder mystery.

However the final solution really comes out of left field and there are few hints in the earlier text apart from the worryings of one of the other characters.

I think perhaps I should have enjoyed THE OTHER CHILD more than I did. It combines historical with crime fiction and usually I enjoy that. The first chapter worried me, as I thought it would have significance, but it was a long time coming. The overall length of the book was vexing too.

My rating: 4.1

Other reviews to check

15 September 2012

Review: CLASSIC DETECTIVE STORIES, read by Edward Hardwicke - audio book

  • running time: 4 CDs, approximately 5 hours
  • ISBN 978-1-40742-901-4
  • Publisher: W.F. Howes Lt., a CSA Word Recording
  • source: my local library

1. The Green Mamba by Edgar Wallace, published 1925
2. The Poetical Policeman by Edgar Wallace, published 1925
3. The Dying Detective by Arthur Conan Doyle, published 1913
4. The Burglar by Colin Dexter, published 1994
5. The Man in the Passage by G.K. Chesterton, published 1914
6. The Assassin's Club by C. Day Lewis writing as Nicholas Blake, 1945?
This one has been published in a number of anthologies.
7. The Case of the Tragedies of the Greek Room by Sax Rohmer, published 1920
8. Chimes by Muriel Spark, 1995?

This collection was selected and published by CSA Word who claims that they are unabridged and that the running time is 5 Hours.

Narrator Edward Hardwicke played Dr. Watson from 1986 to 1994 on various British Sherlock Holmes TV series.

My take

This is a rather strange collection and I can't help wondering about how it was put together.
(I couldn't help wondering if they were stories without any copyright hindrances).
To start with, the blurb on the CD pack of 4 CDs says that there are 10 stories, but there are only 8.
I have found the original edition containing 10 stories here.

The only "modern" authors are Colin Dexter and Muriel Spark, and my listening companion remarked how old fashioned some of the other stories felt.

The stories do introduce detectives such as Edgar Wallace's J.G. Reeder and Sax Rhomer's Morris Klaw, whom modern readers would not be familiar with. But to bill these particular eight stories as "some of the best crime fiction ever written" is rather misleading.

From an audio point of view, there was a bit of variability in volume level and recording quality, which was annoying.

The Father Brown story, Chesterton's The Man in the Passage was probably the cleverest, but I think I enjoyed the crispness of Chimes by Muriel Spark the best.

My rating: 3.7

A contributions to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books

13 September 2012

Forgotten Book : PRELUDE TO TERROR, Helen MacInnes

For many of my contributions this year to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books I am focussing on the books I read 20 years ago in 1992.
By then my reading diet was almost exclusively crime fiction, with the occasional foray into thrillers.

So my recent posts for this meme have largely been about authors and books that I "discovered" in that year.
Helen MacInnes was an author I remember enjoying and this book is in my records for September 1992.

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The scene is Vienna, where an American art expert, Colin Grant, has been dispatched by a Texas millionaire to buy a painting by the Dutch master Ruysdael. He is instructed to get the painting "at any cost" but to keep his employer's name a secret. This seemingly simple assignment turns into a nightmare for Grant as he finds himself in the center of a conspiracy to unleash bloody international terrorism

The art world meets cloak-and-dagger intrigue in this Cold War thriller. A triumph of pacing from a veteran of the genre.

PRELUDE TO TERROR, published in 1978, was #1 in a series of 3 novels featuring Robert Renwick, written in the last years of the author's life, when she was already 70. She died shortly after the third was published.

About the author

Helen MacInnes (1907-1985) graduated from the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1928 with a degree in French and German. Working as a librarian, she married the classicist Gilbert Highet in 1932 and moved with her husband to New York in 1937.

11 September 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012: Q is for THE QUARRY

Continuing with my decision to feature books I've read this year, then my choice for the letter Q is  THE QUARRY by Johan Theorin which I gave 5.0 to.

Synopsis (Amazon)

As the last snow melts on the Swedish island of Ă–land, Per Morner is preparing for his children’s Easter visit. But his plans are disrupted when he receives a phone call from his estranged father, Jerry, begging for help.
Per finds Jerry close to death in his blazing woodland studio. He’s been stabbed, and two dead bodies are later discovered in the burnt-out building. The only suspect, Jerry’s work partner, is confirmed as one of the dead. But why does Jerry insist his colleague is still alive? And why does he think he’s still a threat to his life?

When Jerry dies in hospital a few days later, Per becomes determined to find out what really happened. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more danger he finds himself in. And nowhere is more dangerous than the nearby quarry...  more

See what others have chosen for the letter Q.

10 September 2012

Review: DRY BONES, Margaret Mayhew

  • Published Severn House 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-7278-8180-9
  • 151 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #3 in her "village mystery" series
Publisher's Blurb (Fantastic Fiction)

The Colonel returns, in an atmospheric village mystery from best-selling author Margaret Mayhew.

In his time living in the peaceful village of Frog's End, the Colonel has learned that although the place looks as lively as a stagnant pond, there is plenty going on. When he receives a letter from an old friend of his late wife, telling him that '-something horrible has happened' and asking for his help, he is intrigued and happy to assist her.

But when he travels up to see Cornelia, he is shocked by what he uncovers, and soon realizes that he must take the investigation into his own hands . . .

My take

From what I can see on Fantastic Fiction, Margaret Mayhew has been writing for over three decades, but she has generally produced books set in the second world war, gentle romances set against the the horrors of war. For the first 10 years of writing she seems to have produced Regency romances.

The Colonel who is the central character of DRY BONES emerged in 1999 in OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE. His wife Laura has recently died and he has been forced into retirement, and gone to live in the village of Frog's End. I haven't read this one, but I assume it is the first of her "village mystery" series. In DRY BONES, there is reference to another title, THREE SILENT THINGS in which an ageing actress was electrocuted in her bath on New Year's Eve. An interesting feature of the plot of DRY BONES is that in "real time" the Colonel has not moved on much: his wife Laura is still quite recently dead.

It is hardly surprising that someone with 22 novels under her belt, so to speak, has produced a passably readable cozy. Without revealing too much of the plot, the dry bones from which the book takes its title are discovered under the floor of a barn that Cornelia, his wife's friend, is having renovated, and they are not nearly as old as the locals hoped. There are plenty of suspects who might have put them there.

In short, a pretty easy, undemanding read with an interesting plot.

My rating: 4.2

Crime Fiction Alphabet: the letter Q

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.

Many thanks to those who have participated so far this year. 

We have an average of about 14 participants a week.

Our journey so far
A   B    C    D    E    F   G  H  I   J   K  L  M  N O  P   

Today we have the letter Q, which may cause a few problems (or result in the same book coming up several times)

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.
Feel free to use either of the images provided in your blog.

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

By the end of this week  post your blog post title and URL in the Mr Linky below.
Please place a link in your blog post back to this page.
Visit other blogs and leave comments.

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

Thanks for participating.

8 September 2012

Review: TRUE MURDER, Yaba Badoe

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 368 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0099523329
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (February 5, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031RS3RQ
  • Source: I bought it
 Synopsis (Amazon)

Eleven year old Ajuba has been abandoned at a Devon boarding school by her Ghanaian father.

Haunted by the circumstances of her mother's breakdown and the ghosts of the life she left behind in Ghana, she falls under the spell of new girl Polly Venus and her chaotic, glamorous family.

But all is not what it might seem in the Venus household and Ajuba struggles to make sense of things as they tear each other apart in front of her. One day the girls find what they think are a dead kittens wrapped up in an old coat in the attic of the Venus’ manor house… the bones turn out to be those of a dead baby.

Obsessed with the detectives of the American magazine serial True Murder, the girls set out to find out what happened to the baby. As the summer draws to a close, three tragedies conflate, with catastrophic results.In this assured debut, Yaba Badoe explores a passionate, if unlikely friendship between two troubled adolescent girls and the dysfunctional and ultimately destructive power of love.

My Take

Two pre-teens, Polly and Ajuba, become best friends, and take what seems to me to be a pretty normal interest in detective stories. Ajuba's life has already been touched by tragedy, the attempted suicide of her mother, but Polly claims to have seen a real dead body when her family was living in America.
    In this, her abiding passion, her fascination with violent death, I was a helpless accomplice. The pile of comics I had rummaged through on her first day at school, and continued to mull over whenever the opportunity presented itself, were the source of Polly's hold over us, especially me. She was an enthusiastic subscriber to True Murder, an American monthly made up of features and comic strips of the world's most sensational killings.
When they become best friends, Ajuba begins to be included in Polly's weekends home, and she finds Polly's family magical, and wonders that such love and happiness can exist. But there are hints that the happiness will not last.

One of the really interesting aspects of this book, apart from the various tragic events, is the use of Ghanaian folklore and beliefs, such as a belief in witchcraft, the fear of seeing the images of the dead in a mirror and so on.

The story is told from the p.o.v. of Ajuba at eighteen years of age, looking back to events that occurred seven years earlier. The voice is of a wiser person than the eleven year old to whom the events of the story happened, but nevertheless a person damaged by her encounters with death.

A rather startling read, a very strong debut.

My rating: 4.6

Other reviews: at EuroCrime by Maxine Clarke. Maxine's review last year prompted me to put this book on my reading list.

About the author

Yaba Badoe is a Ghanaian-British documentary filmmaker and journalist. A graduate of King's College Cambridge, she worked as a civil servant in Ghana before becoming a General Trainee with the BBC. She has taught in Spain and Jamaica and is, at present, a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, where she is completing a documentary film -The Witches of Gambaga.
Her short stories have been published in Critical Quarterly and in African Love Stories: an anthology edited by Ama Ata Aidoo.

7 September 2012

They just leapt off the shelf..

There's a very good reason, well two really, why I don't browse the actual shelves of my local library.

The first is that they have such a good crime fiction collection that I have become very adept at using the online catalogue.
Currently it combines the resources of 7 local libraries and on September 27 will join the state wide public libraries network. So basically I reserve the books online, they notify me when they are available, and I just toddle in to collect them. That way I avoid looking at shelves, spinners, and stacks.

I really have no need to buy books either, if I am prepared to wait for them to become available. But of course that doesn't stop me.

The second reason relates to the fact that I am just incapable of browsing shelves. For the same reason I can't go into a bookshop.
So I should have known better today. My husband was looking through the CD collection and I really should have  stayed where I was, sitting in a comfy seat waiting for him. I had collected one book I had reserved from the catalogue and picked up some board books for the granddaughter. But no, I had to wander off to look at the "new acquisitions" shelves. I'll just look, I promised myself.
And that's when it happened.

I found myself toting away 3 more books. I swear they just leapt off the shelf...

6 September 2012

Past a couple of milestones

Before the opportunity slips away I thought I'd just mention that this week I finished reading 100 books for the year (actually 102 now), but I'm a still a long way short of the 160 I am aiming for.

And I've also now posted over 600 reviews on my blog. If you add that to the 193 "forgotten book" posts, then there are nearly 800 descriptions of books here.

5 September 2012


  • Format: Amazon (Kindle)
  • File Size: 1110 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Speck Pr (March 31, 1993)
    first published in Dutch 1969
    translated from the Dutch into English by H.G. Smittenaar
    #6 in the De Cock series
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Source: I bought it.
Synopsis (Amazon)

This Baantjer mystery delves into a grotesque double murder in a well-known Amsterdam hotel.

In a surprising twist, Inspector DeKok has nightly conversations with the murderer and tries everything possible to prevent the man from giving himself up to the police.

Risking the anger of his superiors, DeKok goes so far as to disappear in order to prevent the perpetrator from being found. Meanwhile, two unexpected characters add to the web of confusion: a six-year-old girl who never sleeps and a respected accountant who seeks DeKok's advice on committing the perfect crime. With Dead Harlequin, Baantjer has created yet another intelligent, absorbing tale.

My Take

This was a story that engaged me right from the beginning, not just the story itself but the characters of the detective duo, De Kok (Kay oh kay) and his younger assistant Vledder, and the patches of humour that often coloured the text.

The style of the text reminded me a bit of Georges Simenon, and De Kok is a bit like Maigret in size and in the fact that he often keeps things to himself. Mrs De Kok makes a cameo appearance once or twice too, a bit like Madame Maigret, mainly used as a sounding board.

To De Kok's assistant the way forward is often frustratingly clear and his boss sees obstacles where Vledder sees none. The duo reminded me a bit also of Dalziel and Pascoe although Vledder is hardly an intellectual. Like Andy Dalziel and Peter Diamond, Jurriaan De Kok has his own way of doing things which his immediate boss finds frustrating.

The hook comes at the beginning of the novel:
    He had read the strange note several times. Each time he read it, he was as surprised as he had been the first time. 
    This was an entirely new wrinkle in a career of more than twenty years. A person contacts Homicide and details in a short, businesslike letter his intention to kill someone. DeKok felt he'd entered the theater of the absurd.
But it is the humourous descriptions that I really loved.
    A handsome man entered. He gave a confusing first impression. There was something unbalanced about his appearance. He looked something like a Calvinist church warden out on a weekday. He wore a long, somber dark coat, but the pearl gray scarf he wore outside the collar gave him an elegant, worldly appearance. The most noticeable feature, however, was his high forehead, which was accented by a receding hairline. A mocking grin played around his weak, thin-lipped mouth.
    Eyebrows rippling like woolly caterpillars, DeKok looked thoughtfully at his partner.
and the very human qualities of DeKok:
    DeKok felt his feet starting to hurt. It was a bad sign, he knew. His feet always hurt when a case did not progress satisfactorily.
Like many of the more "modern" detectives DeKok has his own sense of justice and plays by his own rules. He has great empathy with the victims of crime.

I'd love to be able to say that I will read a few more from this series, but Amazon appears to have only this title on Kindle, although my local library has 5 hard copies.

My rating: 4.4

About the Author

The De Cock novels were published from 1963 to 2008 and the "official" website (in Dutch) lists 79 of them.

The following comes from the last pages of the Kindle version of DEKOK AND THE DEAD HARLEQUIN.
A. C. Baantjer [1923-2010] is one of the most widely read authors in the  Netherlands. A former detective inspector of the Amsterdam  police, his fictional characters reflect the depth and personality  of individuals encountered during his nearly forty-year career  in law enforcement.
Baantjer was honored with the first-ever Master Prize of the  Society of Dutch-Language Crime Writers. He has also been  knighted by the Dutch monarchy for his lifetime achievements.

The sixty crime novels featuring Inspector DeKok  written by Baantjer have achieved a large following among  readers in the Netherlands. A television series based on these  novels reaches an even wider Dutch audience. Launched nearly  a decade ago, over 100 episodes of the Baantier series have aired  on Dutch channel RTL4.
Known as the "Dutch Conan Doyle," Baantjer's following  continues to grow and conquer new territory.

I'm making this a contribution to this week's edition of Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books.

Agatha Christie Blog Carnival for August is published

For the first time in ages I didn't read an Agatha Christie novel during August.

But there were 7 contributions to the ACRC Blog Carnival:

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Participants
1. Margaret @ BooksPlease - Lord Edgware Dies
2. Book vs Adaptation: Murder on the Orient Express (Bernadette)
3. News: Agatha Christie memorial for London
4. News: Agatha Christie Festival 9-16 Sept
5. Write by Writing - N or M?
6. Murder at Hazelmoor - Review by Sweet Marie
7. Mysterious Affair at Styles - the 1927 opinion

The Agatha Christie Blog Carnival for September is now open and awaits your contributions.

What I read in August 2012

August was a bit of a slow reading month for me. Books just took me a bit longer to read for some reason. Not because they were bad reads though.

  1. 4.5, THE STONE-CUTTER, Camilla Lackberg  - audio book
  2. 4.2, ASIA HAND, Christopher G. Moore  - Kindle
  3. 4.6, THE CROWDED GRAVE, Martin Walker  - library book
  4. 4.5, THE HEADHUNTERS, Peter Lovesey  - library book
  5. 4.5, THE HOUSE OF SILK, Anthony Horowitz  - audio book
  6. 4.8, SAY YOU'RE SORRY, Michael Robotham  - Australian author
I'm pleased to say that my Pick of the Month was  SAY YOU'RE SORRY by Michael Robotham which I received as a review copy from the publisher.
Michael is an Australian author who has won various awards including the Ned Kelly Award for best crime fiction.

It was the first book I read for the month and was published on August 14.

To whet your appetite......

My name is Piper Hadley and I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago.

When Piper and her friend Tash disappeared, there was a huge police search, but they were never found. Now Tash, reaching breaking point at the abuse their captor has inflicted on them, has escaped, promising to come back for Piper.

Clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin and his stalwart companion, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, force the police to re-open the case after Joe is called in to assess the possible killer of a couple in their own home and finds a connection to the missing girls. But they are racing against time to save Piper from someone with an evil, calculating and twisted mind...  Read more

Check what others have chosen as their Pick of the Month for August. 


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