28 February 2013

Forgotten Book: SHROUD FOR A NIGHTINGALE, P.D. James

My little green book
My plan this year for my contributions to Friday's Forgotten Books hosted by Pattinase is to feature books I read 20 years ago - in 1993- from the records I have in my "little green book", which I started in 1975. In 1993 I read 111 books and was pretty well addicted to crime fiction by then.

My choice this week is SHROUD FOR A NIGHTINGALE by P. D. James, published in 1971.

This is #4 in James's Adam Dalgliesh series.

Synopsis (Amazon)

The young women of Nightingale House are there to learn to nurse and comfort the suffering. But when one of the students plays patient in a demonstration of nursing skills, she is horribly, brutally killed.

Another student dies equally mysteriously, and it is up to Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard to unmask a killer who has decided to prescribe murder as the cure for all ills.

Inspector Adam Dalgliesh series (Fantastic Fiction)
1. Cover Her Face (1962)
2. A Mind to Murder (1963)
3. Unnatural Causes (1967)
4. Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)
5. The Black Tower (1975)
6. Death of an Expert Witness (1977)
7. A Taste for Death (1986)
8. Devices and Desires (1989)
9. Original Sin (1994)
10. A Certain Justice (1997)
11. Death in Holy Orders (2001)
12. The Murder Room (2003)
13. The Lighthouse (2005)
14. The Private Patient (2008)

P.D. James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL, is now 92, just a little younger than my mother, and has not added to the Dalgliesh series for about 5 years and we must assume that there will be no more. The Dalgliesh series was published over a period of 46 years, with the first COVER HER FACE  appearing just over 50 years ago.

Her two most recent publications were Death Comes to Pemberley (2011) and Talking about Detective Fiction (2009), both remarkable achievements when you consider her age.

Review: THE BAT, Jo Nesbo - audio book

  • Format: audio book from Audible.com, narrated by Sean Barrett
  • Length: 10 hours 43 minutes
  • series: Harry Hole Book 1
  • published in audio 2012
  • Published in Norway 1997
  • translated into English 2012 by Don Bartlett

Publishers Summary (Audible.com)

The thrilling first book in the best-selling Harry Hole series, never before published in English.

Harry is out of his depth.
Detective Harry Hole is meant to keep out of trouble. A young Norwegian girl taking a gap year in Sydney has been murdered, and Harry has been sent to Australia to assist in any way he can.
He's not supposed to get too involved.
When the team unearths a string of unsolved murders and disappearances, nothing will stop Harry from finding out the truth. The hunt for a serial killer is on, but the murderer will talk only to Harry.
He might just be the next victim.

Appearing in English for the first time, The Bat is the legendary first novel from the worldwide phenomenon Jo Nesbo.

My Take

Jo Nesbo was almost coy at Adelaide Writer's Week last year when he told us THE BAT would be released in English during 2012. It's setting alone, Harry Hole in Sydney investigating the murder of a Norwegian tourist, ensures that it is of interest to Australian crime fiction addicts, especially those who have followed Harry's progress in the later novels in the series. 

I wondered at the time whether his coyness was related to the Australian setting, whether he thought that Australian readers would be supercritical about comments made about our home by an "outsider". Or was he embarrassed because he thought we would find the story unpolished?

But how could that be? THE BAT was awarded with the most prestigious crime writing award in Norway, The Riverton Prize (Rivertonprisen) 1997 for Best Norwegian Crime Novel of the Year, as well as the premier crime writing award in Scandinavia, The Glass Key (Glasnyckeln) 1998 for Best Nordic Crime Novel of the Year.

Nesbo himself says
“Written in beginner’s euphoria. A story which bears the marks of where it was written, both in terms of geography and my life. Just recently I read it on the radio, and to some extent I was dreading all the mistakes new writers make, but what struck me was how fresh and bold it is.”

Most reviews point out how much THE BAT fills in Harry Hole's back story.
Maxine Clarke said "THE BAT is a serviceable, tense crime novel with intriguing hints of what is to come".
But reviewers are divided about whether they like this book as much as later titles, whether delaying its availability in English was a good idea or not.

For me, the Harry Hole we meet in THE BAT isn't really the same person as we meet in later titles, although the signs are there.
In addition there's a lot more evidence of research into the setting than we get in later titles, possibly because Nesbo felt he had to explain the setting more to his Norwegian readers. At times it reads as if he has picked up a book of Aboriginal legends, studied the map of Sydney very carefully, and read a few travelogues.
I had trouble accepting that the Sydney Police would give Harry Hole such powers in directing action in a crime investigation.

Nevertheless an enjoyable and worthwhile read for me.

My rating: 4.7

Other Reviews to consider

Reviews on MiP of other books in the Harry Hole series
4.7, HEADHUNTERS - not a Harry Hole
4.7, PHANTOM  

27 February 2013


  • Published by Allen & Unwin Australia 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-74331-287-2
  • 374 pages
  • Source: my local library

  • Synopsis (Amazon)

    Mrs Queen Takes the Train wittily imagines the kerfuffle that transpires when a bored Queen Elizabeth strolls out of the palace in search of a little fun, leaving behind a desperate team of courtiers who must find the missing Windsor before a national scandal erupts.

    Reminiscent of Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, this lively, wonderfully inventive romp takes readers into the mind of the grand matriarch of Britain’s Royal Family, bringing us an endearing runaway Queen Elizabeth on the town—and leading us behind the Buckingham Palace walls and into the upstairs/downstairs spaces of England’s monarchy.

    She could recall Nanny taking her on the train to Sandringham all by herself one Christmas. What a treat that was! (Photo by Edward G. Malindine/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images) Copyright: Getty Images

    My Take

    This might be my sole venture in 2013 outside of the crime fiction genre. It proved to be a delightful romp, witty and at the same time poignant.  Spending the weekend on her own at Windsor Castle, the Queen becomes, dare she admit it?, just a little bit depressed and wonders what she can do to cheer herself up. Back at BP she decides to visit the Mews to see Elizabeth, the horse born on her own birthday. And her adventure begins. The Queen, in an effective although unwitting disguise, on her way to visit Britannia, (where she knows she has been happy) sees herself as her subjects see her. Worried that she is "not quite herself" members of her household set out in search for her to prevent scandal erupting.

    Meanwhile "Little Bit" is enjoying herself buying cheese and making new friends. Her personal skills stand her in good stead, making conversations with strangers, many of whom think she reminds them of "someone", but can't quite put a finger on it. Perhaps Helen Mirren? one thinks.

    The central story is surrounded by insights into the royal household and the problems they face as the Queen ages.

    My rating: 4.2

    Author's website includes some discussion questions for book groups and some of the pictures from the book.

    Read an Excerpt

    My review of Alan Bennett's THE UNCOMMON READER

    24 February 2013

    Review: SHADOW OF THE ROCK, Thomas Mogford

    • Hardcover: 272 pages
    • Publisher: Walker & Company; 1 edition (August 7, 2012)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0802779999
    • ISBN-13: 978-0802779991
    • Source: my local library
     Synopsis (Amazon)

    On a humid summer night in Gibraltar, lawyer Spike Sanguinetti finds Solomon Hassan, an old school friend, waiting on his doorstep. Accused of murdering a Spanish girl in Tangiers, Solomon swears his innocence. He has managed to skip across the Straits, but the Moroccan authorities demand his return. Spike travels to Tangiers in the hope of delaying the extradition.

    Solomon's boss, Nadeer-the founder of a renewable-energy company called Dunetech that is on the verge of financing an enormous solar-powered site in the Sahara-suggests that if Spike can delay Solomon's trial until after the deal is signed, he will persuade the governor of Tangiers to bury the extradition demand. Complicating this offer, Spike encounters a Bedouin girl who insists that Dunetech is engaged in a nefarious scheme linked to the disappearance of her father. As Spike uncovers the truth, he finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into a world of secrets, corruption, and murderous lies.

    My Take

    This is a gritty story played out on unfamiliar territory for most of us - Gibraltar and Tangiers. It promises to be the beginning of a series, with the second, SIGN OF THE CROSS, already published. Spike Sanguinetti, lawyer specializing in taxation, is an interesting character but I am not sure whether I really like him.

    What I did like about SHADOW OF THE ROCK were the evocative descriptions, and the sense of the meeting of cultures on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar.

    It's a plot that would only work for these modern times, with a focus on a renewable energy company building a solar powered site in the Sahara.

    It is also a plot with some lovely twists. While it is a murder mystery - who really killed the girl whom Solomon Hassan is accused of murdering? - it is essentially a thriller.

    My rating: 4.4

    Other reviews to check
    About the author
    Thomas Mogford has worked as a journalist for Time Out and as a translator for the UEFA Champions League. His first novel in the Spike Sanguinetti series, Shadow of the Rock, was published by Bloomsbury in 2012. It received a starred review from Library Journal, which described it as a 'breathtaking debut ... Mogford's exotic locales, gorgeous prose, and closing twist make this debut a showstopper'. Thomas Mogford is married and lives with his family in London.

    21 February 2013

    Forgotten Book: THE GRASS WIDOW'S TALE, Ellis Peters

    I've been neglecting Friday's Forgotten Books hosted by Pattinase so far this year but hope to be a regular contributor from now on.

    My little green book
    My plan this year is to feature books I read 20 years ago - in 1993- from the records I have in my "little green book", which I started in 1975.

    In 1993 I read 111 books and was pretty well addicted to crime fiction by then.

    THE GRASS WIDOW'S TALE by Ellis Peters was the third book I read for the year.
    It is the 7th title in the Felse series, published in 1968..

    When George Felse finds himself called away to London on urgent police business, his wife Bunty is left alone feeling depressed on the eve of her 41st birthday. To shake off her black mood she goes out to the local pub where a chance meeting places her in deadly danger. 

    For me Ellis Peters made her name with her brother Cadfael series and of course her contributions to crime fiction are memorialised in the CWA Ellis Peters award for historical crime fiction.

    Felse (series list from Fantastic Fiction)
    1. Fallen into the Pit (1951)
    2. Death and the Joyful Woman (1961)
    3. Flight of a Witch (1964)
    4. A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs (1965)
    5. The Piper on the Mountain (1966)
    6. Black is the Colour of My True Love's Heart (1967)
    7. The Grass Widow's Tale (1968)
    8. The House of Green Turf (1969)
    9. Mourning Raga (1969)
    10. The Knocker on Death's Door (1970)
    11. Death to the Landlords (1972)
    12. City of Gold and Shadows (1973)
    13. Rainbow's End (1978)
    The Dominic Felse Omnibus (omnibus) (1991)
    The George Felse Omnibus (omnibus) (1994)
    The Second George Felse Omnibus (omnibus) (1995)

    Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013 takes off in April

    The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

    CFA 2013 begins Monday 8 April

    The Crime Fiction Alphabet has become an annual event on this blog, having run before in 2009-10, 2011, and 2012. 
    Check out contributions from previous events here.

    Sign up below for Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013

    Here are the rules

    By Friday of each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.

    Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname, or even maybe a crime fiction "topic".
    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.).
    In the past participants have shown considerable creativity with extra rules imposed on themselves: e.g. authors only, crime fiction from a particular country only etc.

    Here is the 2013 schedule: showing the date that the week's page will be posted and the letter of the week.

    Letter    A    :    week beginning    Monday, 8 April 2013
    Letter    B    :    week beginning    Monday, 15 April 2013
    Letter    C    :    week beginning    Monday, 22 April 2013
    Letter    D    :    week beginning    Monday, 29 April 2013
    Letter    E    :    week beginning    Monday, 6 May 2013
    Letter    F    :    week beginning    Monday, 13 May 2013
    Letter    G    :    week beginning    Monday, 20 May 2013
    Letter    H    :    week beginning    Monday, 27 May 2013
    Letter    I    :    week beginning    Monday, 3 June 2013
    Letter    J    :    week beginning    Monday, 10 June 2013
    Letter    K    :    week beginning    Monday, 17 June 2013
    Letter    L    :    week beginning    Monday, 24 June 2013
    Letter    M    :    week beginning    Monday, 1 July 2013
    Letter    N    :    week beginning    Monday, 8 July 2013
    Letter    O    :    week beginning    Monday, 15 July 2013
    Letter    P    :    week beginning    Monday, 22 July 2013
    Letter    Q    :    week beginning    Monday, 29 July 2013
    Letter    R    :    week beginning    Monday, 5 August 2013
    Letter    S    :    week beginning    Monday, 12 August 2013
    Letter    T    :    week beginning    Monday, 19 August 2013
    Letter    U    :    week beginning    Monday, 26 August 2013
    Letter    V    :    week beginning    Monday, 2 September 2013
    Letter    W    :    week beginning    Monday, 9 September 2013
    Letter    X    :    week beginning    Monday, 16 September 2013
    Letter    Y    :    week beginning    Monday, 23 September 2013
    Letter    Z    :    week beginning    Monday, 30 September 2013

    Review: THE BETRAYAL, Y.A. Erskine

    • Bantam book published by Random House Australia 2012 
    • ISBN 978-1-74275-018-7
    • 416 pages
    • source: my local library
    • Available from Amazon
    Synopsis (Random House Australia)

    An engrossing novel of corruption and injustice at the heart of the police system, from the author of The Brotherhood.

    Tasmania is in the grip of one of the longest, bleakest winters on record and it's particularly icy at the Hobart Police Station. Of the many golden rules in policing, one is especially sacred: what happens at work stays at work.

    So when a naive young constable, Lucy Howard, makes an allegation of sexual assault against a respected colleague, the rule is well and truly broken.

    Soon the station is divided. From Lucy's fellow rookies right up to the commissioner himself - everyone must take a side. With grudges, prejudices and hidden agendas coming into play, support arrives from the unlikeliest of corners.

    But so too does betrayal ...

    My Take

    When she realises she has been sexually assaulted by a colleague, Lucy Howard decides to make a stand and to see that the perpetrator gets what he deserves. At twenty two years of age she can't imagine what effect this will have on her work life.

    Lucy's story is played out against the backdrop of sexual promiscuity among her colleagues, of corruption in the police force and the even larger backdrop of corruption in Tasmanian politics. The story in THE BETRAYAL is told from not only Lucy's point of view but from twelve others. This was a structure that worked well in Erskine's 2011 debut THE BROTHERHOOD. It works well here.

    THE BETRAYAL exudes authenticity and realism, and can't help but make the reader consider what he/she would do in these circumstances. Would you report the rape regardless of the consequences for yourself? Where would you stand if a colleague reported she had been raped? Would you side with her or would you check the lie of the land?

    A very strong sequel to Erskine's 2011 debut THE BROTHERHOOD. (A Davitt Readers Choice Award winner in 2012) There are some links to the earlier novel, also available through Amazon. Story threads left hanging in that novel are tied off.  Y.A. Erskine is certainly one to put on your list of Australian authors to note and read.

    My rating: 4.7

    See also Bernadette's review

    About the Author

    Y.A. Erskine spent eleven years in the Tasmania Police Service. She was active in front-line policing and served as a detective in the CIB. She is also an historian with an honours degree in early modern history. Y.A. Erskine lives in Melbourne and is happily married with two dogs. 

    17 February 2013

    Review: THE PRICE OF FAME, R. C. Daniells

    • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
    • File Size: 630 KB
    • Print Length: 521 pages
    • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
    • Publisher: Clan Destine Press (August 26, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0092II5YO
    Synopsis (Author's site)

    Sex, drugs and rock music: the demons of youth – until fame demands its price

    Documentary maker Antonia Carlyle uncovers dark secrets when she researches the cult ’80s band, The Tough Romantics, and its doomed singer Genevieve James. The iconic band’s rise to international fame had as much to do with their cutting edge sound as their history of tragedy, betrayal and murder.

    The deeper Antonia digs, the stranger the circumstances surrounding Genevieve’s death seem. Was the wrong man charged with murder? Do the surviving band members know more than they’ve revealed? How far will they go to hide the truth?

    Antonia must face her own demons and those that haunt the St Kilda terraced house where the band tore itself apart decades before. As the past spills into the present, Antonia’s growing psychic link with the dead girl feeds her obsession to find the truth.

    But will it be enough to lay Genevieve’s ghost to rest?.

    My Take

    THE PRICE OF FAME primarily uses two voices to tell the story: documentary film maker Antonia Carlyle who is living in the house in St.Kilda where The Tough Romantics, 80s punk band lived for a few months in the 1980s and where Genevieve James was killed; and a voice from the past, a manuscript transcribed by "missing witness" Joe Walenski from tapes he recorded of an account given by the cab driver in whose arms Genevieve actually died.

    Walenski is revising the manuscript before handing it over chapter by chapter to Antonia. This has the effect of dragging Genevieve's story out as well as giving the author time to develop the paranormal aspects to the story.

    This is a debut paranormal crime novel by Australian author Rowena Cory Daniells. The story is firmly set in St. Kilda, a Melbourne beachside suburb, but for me there wasn't much Australian about the context, despite the constant reminders of the suburb's name. It gives a seamier picture of the suburb with prostitutes and rent boys, drug selling and a gang underbelly.

    Suggestions of paranormal aspects to the story begins with the house hosting a poltergeist, with perhaps the spirit of the dead Genevieve James crying out to be heard, but more supernatural elements are added in during the latter half. Add into that Antonia's own backstory, with an ex-husband out for revenge. And then individuals from the band re-surface, all wanting to control what Antonia's documentary, by now to be a film about Genevieve's murder, will reveal.

    For me there were too many of these threads, too many red herrings, with the author struggling to bring it all together by the end. The result was an extra long novel, with the length detracting from the quality of the story.

    My rating: 3.9

    See other reviews

    13 February 2013

    Review: GHOST MONEY, Andrew Nette

    • format: Kindle (Amazon)
    • File Size: 476 KB
    • Print Length: 227 pages
    • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
    • Publisher: Snubnose Press (August 20, 2012)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0090O0KFC
    Synopsis (Amazon)

    Cambodia, 1996, the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency is fragmenting, competing factions of an unstable coalition government scrambling to gain the upper hand. Missing in the chaos is businessman Charles Avery. Hired to find him is Vietnamese Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan.

    But Avery has made dangerous enemies and Quinlan is not the only one looking. Teaming up with Heng Sarin, a local journalist, Quinlan’s search takes him from the freewheeling capital Phnom Penh to the battle scarred western borderlands. As the political temperature soars, he is slowly drawn into a mystery that plunges him into the heart of Cambodia’s bloody past.

    Ghost Money is a crime novel, but it’s also about Cambodia in the mid-nineties, a broken country, and what happens to people who are trapped in the cracks between two periods of history, locals and foreigners, the choices they make, what they do to survive.

    My Take

    The thing that struck me most about GHOST MONEY was the feeling of authenticity and detail about a period in Cambodian/Vietnamese history that I have lived through but am sadly ignorant about, despite Australia's involvement in the so-called Vietnam War. Andrew Nette uses his principal characters and those whom they meet, to deliver a series of mini-history lessons, starting with Australian/Vietnamese Max Quinlan's own background.
      In a strange way, Quinlan and Cambodia had history. Memories of his father shouting at their black and white television, on the screen, Asian soldiers, terrified faces under steel helmets too large for their heads, running from an invisible enemy, the sky behind them full of fire and smoke. 
      It was 1975; Max was nine years old. Phnom Penh was about to fall to the Khmer Rouge. His father Lester Quinlan was stationed in neighbouring Vietnam as an Australian army advisor in the mid-sixties and images of the war had been commonplace in the lounge room of their house in North Melbourne. 
      The images fascinated Quinlan as a child, only becoming menacing with his father’s growing agitation over the course of the conflict. When Saigon had fallen a month earlier, Lester Quinlan had yelled at the newsreader like an irate football fan castigating an umpire for a bad decision. Maxwell Quinlan had been born in the port town of Vung Tau in 1965. Three months later his Vietnamese mother was killed when a bomb exploded in the local market where she was shopping. Lester brought the boy home – his last act of bravery before drink and bitterness consumed him.
    Quinlan's search for missing businessman Charles Avery takes him, and the reader of course, from Thailand to Phnom Penh.  Despite the slabs of historical detail, or maybe because of the vividness of it, we remain engaged in the realism of the search for Avery and an understanding of what he is up to.

    An impressive debut novel hardly surprising given Nette's own journalistic experience, and interest in pulp fiction.

    My rating: 4.5

    For a related novel, not quite as noir in its approach, see also Shamini Flint's INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES: A DEADLY CAMBODIAN CRIME SPREE

    See other reviews at
     About the author

    Andrew Nette is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia, with a fascination for crime fiction and film, obscure pulp novels and all things Asian.

    He lived in Southeast Asia for six years in the nineties, based in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. During that time he worked as a journalist, and as a communications consultant for the United Nations and a number of non-government organisations.

    He has since travelled frequently in Asia and lived in Phnom Penh with his family for a year in 2008, where he wrote for the international news wire, Inter Press Service, and worked on a European television documentary on the international tribunal into the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.

    Andrew is also one of the founders of Crime Factory Publications, a Melbourne-based small press specialising in crime fiction, and helps edit Crime Factory, its on-line magazine, which appears four times a year. He is also one of the editors of Crime Factory Publication’s second book, Crime Factory: Hard Labour, an anthology of short Australian crime fiction, released in 2012.

    11 February 2013

    Two Projects: Remembering Maxine Clarke

    The crime fiction reading, blogging, and reviewing community lost a valued member lasr December with the death of Maxine Clarke.

    Within weeks of her death an online memorial was created with outpourings from people who knew Maxine only online accompanied by a gallery of pictures.

    In recent days two projects in rememebrance of Maxine's contribution to all of us have emerged.

    9 February 2013

    Review: DARK CITY BLUE, Luke Preston

    • format: Kindle (Amazon)
    • File Size: 313 KB
    • Print Length: 226 pages
    • Publisher: Momentum (November 1, 2012)
    • Sold by: Macmillan
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B009DF1IBI
    Synopsis (Amazon)

    If there's one thing worse than a crooked cop on your heels then it's a whole unit of them.

    A fistful of people are murdered, fifteen million dollars is stolen and detective Tom Bishop is stuck in the middle. When he hits the street, every clue points in the same direction - his colleagues in a police department demoralised by cutbacks and scandals. Hunted, alone and with no place left to turn, Bishop embarks on a hellish journey down into the gutters where right and wrong quickly become twisted and problems are solved with gunfire and bloodshed.

    Over the next two days, Tom Bishop will be cornered. He will be beaten. He will bust into prison. He will shoot at police. He will team up with violent criminals. He will become one of them. He will break every rule in the book, chasing a lead nobody else will go near down a rabbit hole of corruption, murder and buried secrets.

    Will Bishop become the very monster he set out to destroy?

    A modern hard-boiled tale that unfolds at a relentless pace, Dark City Blue is Serpico, if Serpico snorted a fistful of cocaine and hung out with Lee Marvin.

    My Take

    Forty year old Tom Bishop is a rare beast in VPD (The Victoria Police Department) - he is an honest cop. But honesty has come at a price.
      Patterson leant back in his chair. Picked up Bishop’s personnel file. It was three inches thick. 
      ‘I read this and I see two things. I see a career detective who’s brought down some heavy hitters. Benny Eastwell, Rob Black – Jesus, you hunted Terry Vass halfway across the country and copped two bullets in the back for your trouble, and you still brought him in. 
      I look at this and see a hero cop with more commendations than twenty cops put together.
      Then I read between the lines and do you know what else I see?’ Bishop shook his head.
       ‘I see bruised suspects and others in body bags. I see corners cut and laws bent—’ 
      ‘I never broke the law.’
      ‘You’ve skimmed the edges of it. The question I ask myself is, who is the real Tom Bishop?
      The hero cop on these pages or the violent man hidden between the lines?’ 
      He put the lid on his pen and the pen in his pocket.
    The VPD plays host to a network of corrupt police, from the top to the bottom. The head of this network is called Justice, his identity unknown, although his minions in the police force are more obvious.  When the takings from Melbourne's Casino are hijacked, and an innocent sex worker is killed in cold blood, Tom Bishop decides to hunt the villains even if it means he has to work on his own. And worse than working on his own is not knowing who his enemies are.

    The author raises an interesting issue in asking whether Tom Bishop, who leaves behind him a trail of death and destruction, is any better than those he is hunting down.

    DARK CITY BLUE is very topical for Australian readers. Investigations into police corruption and connections between the police and organised crime have received considerable publicity both in investigative journalism and television semi-fiction.

    Most readers will find the violence in DARK CITY BLUE confronting, and I think there were a few issues with the jigsawed time frame the author uses. But there can be no doubt that Luke Preston is a writer to watch, this being his debut novel.

    My rating: 4.4

    Other reviews to check

    8 February 2013

    Review: THE MISTAKE, Wendy James

    • Published by the Penguin Group Australia 2012
    • ISBN 978-1-921901-04-1
    • 280 pages
    • Source: my local library
    Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

    We all have secrets . . . 

    Jodie Garrow is a teenager from the wrong side of the tracks when she falls pregnant. Scared, alone and desperate to make something of her life, she adopts out the baby illegally – and tells nobody.

    Twenty-five years on, Jodie has built a new life and a new family. But when a chance meeting brings the adoption to the notice of the authorities, Jodie becomes caught in a nationwide police investigation, and the centre of a media witch hunt.

    What happened to Jodie's baby? And where is she now? The fallout from Jodie's past puts her whole family under the microscope, and her husband and daughter must re-examine everything they believed to be true.

    My Take

    This is another fascinating read from Australian author Wendy James. (I read WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? last year).

    Jodie Garrow kept a secret about her first baby, Elsa Mary, for twenty four years. When her teenage daughter Hannah breaks her leg on a school excursion she is hospitalised by chance at the very hospital where Jodie gave birth to her first child. Hannah shares a genetic characteristic with the earlier baby, and by chance a nurse at the hospital recognises this and then recognises Jodie. Thus begins the chain of events that leads to the investigation of what happened to baby Elsa Mary Evans.

    Wendy James really enables the reader to see events from Jodie's point of view. When the hospital nurse searches the records for Elsa Mary's birth certificate and fails to find it, she notifies the authorities and then it becomes a police matter.  Jodie and her husband take the step of publicly searching for the baby and so Jodie's story becomes public knowledge. What happens to Jodie and her family is frequently compared to what happened in real life to Lindy Chamberlain in the disappearance of Azaria.

    As I said earlier, a fascinating read, well worth your attention.

    My rating: 4.8

    See Bernadette's review

    6 February 2013

    Review: REVENGE OF THE TIDE, Elizabeth Haynes

    • Published Text Publishing Melbourne 2012
    • ISBN 978-1-921922-55-8
    • 344 pages
    • source: my local library
    Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

    Following her bestselling debut Into the Darkest Corner - Amazon's Best Book of 2011 and winner of Rising Stars - Elizabeth Haynes' second novel is a taught and gripping murder mystery introducing a compelling new heroine, Genevieve - office worker by day and pole dancer by night - who finds herself implicated on a mob underworld of murder, corruption and betrayal.

    Genevieve has finally escaped the stressful demands of her sales job and achieved her dream: to leave London behind and start a new life aboard a houseboat in Kent. But on the night of her boat-warming party the dream is shattered when a body washes up beside the boat, and she recognises the victim.

    As the sanctuary of the boatyard is threatened, and her life is increasingly at risk, the story of how Genevieve came to be so out of her depth unfolds, and she learns the real cost of mixing business with pleasure.

    My Take

    It is rare for me to dislike a character as much as I did Genevieve, the central character of REVENGE OF THE TIDE. At first I was on Genevieve's side, sympathetic to her desire to escape the London rat race by buying a river barge in Kent. Where we came unstuck was when Genevieve revealed that, in her second job as a pole dancer in an exclusive men's club, she would do almost anything to raise money to buy a houseboat.The club where she is working has gangland and drug connections but Genevieve is really gullible when she thinks that she can escape.

    She leaves a trail which brings criminals into the boatyard community where her boat is moored. This also diminished my empathy with her.

    I tried to put those plot elements aside and I admired the way the author has skilfully woven two plot time lines together. 

    So, for those who like to know if I enjoyed a book - well, no, I didn't enjoy this one although I did read it to the very end just to get the complete story.

    My rating: 4.0

    5 February 2013

    Ratings to stay!

    In the post to Rate or Not to Rate? I recently asked the question about whether readers/followers found my ratings helpful.
    Many thanks to the people who contributed to both the poll and to the comments.

    In the light of the fact that some fellow bloggers have decided not to give ratings to the books they read, I was considering following.

    But is obvious that many people find my ratings helpful and so they will stay.

    Some people commented they found the finer granularity of my ratings scheme a bit of a puzzle, and a couple of contributors thought my ratings were a bit inflated.
    Others said they took less interest in the rating than in whether I liked the book.
    So I thought I would try to be a bit stricter with my selection of ratings, but I have been rating with this scheme for about 10 years now, and I think the granularity (e.g. the differentiation between say 4.6 and 4.4) does mean something to me.

    My ratings in 2013 ranged from 5.0 to 3.1 on 142 books.
    57 books scored more than 4.5
    Another 77 scored more than 4.0
    And there were 7 that scored under 4.
    The average score was 4.48

    My rating system

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

    The final answer is that I will continue to think, at the sae times as making sure that my ratings don't feel inflated to me.

    3 February 2013

    Review: DEGREES OF CONNECTION, Jon Cleary - audio book

    • book published in 2003 by Harper Collins
    • #20 in the Scobie Malone series (the last)
    • audio version narrated by Brian Hewlett, and published by Sundowner Productions in 2003
    • length: approx 8 hrs 30 mins
    • source: my local library
    Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

    Marilyn Hyx, loyal private secretary to Natalie Shipwood, the dynamo behind the Orlando Development Company, is found murdered in her home. Is it simply coincidence that she had in her possession some very sensitive Orlando documents? This is a Scobie Malone mystery, set in the world of shady financial deals and desperate dreams.

    My Take

    A year or two has passed since the events covered in WINTER CHILL which I read last year.

    It is now 2001 and Scobie Malone as been promoted from inspector to superintendent, while Russ Clements is now head of Homicide. Malone's son, Tom, seems to have impregnated a girlfriend who is subsequently murdered and his daughter Maureen is an ABC journalist covering the Securities Commission investigation into Orlando. Both Scobie and Russ are having trouble in adjusting to their new roles and responsibilities.

    If there is a focus in this novel it is greed and how Australia fared during the financial collapse of the early 21st century. There are references to the New York Twin Towers tragedy and the rise of terrorism as a global fear factor. There's also a sub-theme of families, loyalties, and friendship.

    We really enjoyed the Australian ambience and cricket lovers will enjoy the likening of interrogation techniques to changing the bowling.

    Brian Hewlett does a brilliant job of the narration. 

    DEGREES OF CONNECTION demonstrates what a master writer Jon Cleary was. It won the 2004 Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel. It was not only Cleary's last Scobie Malone title but also his last crime fiction.  He declared he was getting "stale" and that he nothing more to write about.

    Jon Cleary, well known outside this genre as the writer of THE SUNDOWNERS, was the winner of the inaugural Lifetime Contribution Ned Kelly Award in 1996.
    DEGREES OF CONNECTION was so enjoyable that I am very regretful that I have read only two in the series. They are very faithful to their Australian (New South Wales) setting, refer to contemporary events, and are characterised by their empathetic portrayal of Malone, Clements and their families.

    My rating: 4.7

    2 February 2013

    Review: BABYLON, Camilla Ceder

    • published in Swedish 2010
    • translated by Marlaine Delargy 2012
    • this edition in English published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2013
    • ISBN 978-0-297-86669-5
    • 293 pages
    • source: my local library
    Synopsis ( Google Books)

    Inspector Christian Tell and his team are called to the scene of a double murder. University lecturer Anne-Marie Karpov lies dead in her home, alongside her student and lover, Henrik.
    The crime appears straightforward: Henrik's girlfriend Rebecca, a woman in therapy for her violent jealousy, had been spotted outside Karpov's flat, and her fingerprints are found on the door.

    My Take

    #2 in a police procedural series with central character Inspector Christian Tell. I reviewed the first, FROZEN MOMENT, in March 2011.

    While this was a very readable book, it is not a stand-out for me, sharing many characteristics with the current batch of translated police procedurals: a middle aged police inspector who is a bit of a loner and whose team solves crimes more by intuition than by method. There's a new superintendent who puts the team offside right from the start and Inspector Tell feels challenged by him. Part of the book focusses on Tell's relationship with his younger girlfriend and a little of that went a long way.

    The structure of the story is clever. At first the solution to the crime looks very straightforward but then the investigation turns up new evidence and it becomes obvious that the suspect could not have killed them. Other solutions are proposed and seem very plausible but don't quite fit the facts. Rebecca's flat is burgled, so then it seems that her dead partner Henrik holds the key.

    For me, while I enjoyed the book, I had the feeling of being patiently led to the right answer.

    My rating: 4.3

    See a EuroCrime review by the later Maxine Clarke.

    1 February 2013

    Adelaide Writers Week 2013 - March 2 - 7

    Adelaide Writers Week March 2 - 7 is a highlight of the Adelaide Festival of Arts for readers, and it is mostly FREE.

    This year, I am glad to report, crime fiction readers look pretty well served, with 6 writers, among them a couple of long standing favourites:
    Kerry Greenwood (Thurs 7 Mar 10.45 am), Zane Lovitt, Jamal Mahjoub, Michael Robotham (Wed 6 March 10.45 am), Emily St. John Mandel, and Adrian McKinty (Sat 2 Mar 5 pm)

    Program available in hard copy for $10 from book shops.

    However online you can find.....
    Full schedule: http://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/wp-content/uploads/AF_Writers_Week_Schedule.pdf
    Daily schedule : http://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/2013/writers_week/days
    Authors http://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/2013/writers_week/authors

    March 2-7, 2013

    Crime Fiction Pick of the Month January 2013

    Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2013

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

    This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
    It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for January 2013, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
    If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

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

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

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


    Blog Widget by LinkWithin