31 October 2013

People have made a start...

State by State in 2014
A number of people have already joined up to the USA Fiction Reading Challenge and quite a number of reviews have been recorded.

Ever thought you would like to read your way across America?
The USA Fiction Challenge asks you to do just that.
Read just one novel from each state - you choose whether the link is the setting or the author.
You choose whether you confine yourself to a particular genre or not.

The challenge has its own blog site:
USA Fiction Challenge - state by state in 2014
I decided to include books that I have read this year that are either set in the USA or the author either resides/works in an American State or was born in the USA. My books will most probably be all crime fiction, simply because I rarely read outside the genre. But yours might be a much broader selection.

I have created a page on my blog for keeping track of my reading in a state by state list, and I have also created a map showing the states I have "visited". Here is what it currently looks like.

create your own personalized map of the USA

So why not join us? No pressure to read all 50+ books and on the site there are some suggested mini-challenges with groups of states such as MidWest, Northeast or South Atlantic.

Take as long as you like too. Although the blurb says "state by state in 2014" you can start now and and continue for as long as you are still interested.

Sign up here.

29 October 2013

Review; MURDER AND MENDELSSOHN, Kerry Greenwood

Synopsis (Allen & Unwin)

The divine and fearless Miss Phryne Fisher returns in her 20th adventure in a vastly entertaining tale of murder, spies, mathematics and music.

To the accompaniment of heavenly choirs singing, the fearless Miss Phryne Fisher returns in her 20th adventure with musical score in hand.

An orchestral conductor has been found dead and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson needs the delightfully incisive and sophisticated Miss Fisher's assistance to enter a world in which he is at sea. Hugh Tregennis, not much liked by anyone, has been murdered in a most flamboyant mode by a killer with a point to prove. But how many killers is Phryne really stalking?

At the same time, the dark curls, disdainful air and the lavender eyes of mathematician and code-breaker Rupert Sheffield are taking Melbourne by storm. They've certainly taken the heart of Phryne's old friend from the trenches of WW1, John Wilson. Phryne recognises Sheffield as a man who attracts danger and is determined to protect John from harm.

Even with the faithful Dot, Mr and Mrs Butler, and all in her household ready to pull their weight, Phryne's task is complex. While Mendelssohn's Elijah, memories of the Great War, and the science of deduction ring in her head, Phryne's past must also play its part as MI6 become involved in the tangled web of murders.

A vastly entertaining tale of murder, spies, mathematics and music.

My Take

Followers of my blog will realise that it has taken me a bit longer to read this novel than is usual for me. Part of the reason is that I spent the weekend at a crime fiction convention, but it is also true to say that I found MURDER & MENDELSSOHN a little more challenging to read.

It was partly due to the setting that surrounds the murder of the orchestral conductor of the Harmony Choir. The author uses her own experiences of singing choral music to explore how the conductor and choristers feel about Mendelssohn, including some scripts in detail.

There are many possible murderers when first one conductor, then another is murdered. Neither of the conductors has many friends in the choir or the orchestra but murder seems rather extreme.

There is also a sideplot where it appears someone is trying to kill ex-code-breaker Rupert Sheffield. We learn a few never-revealed-before facts about Phryne's role in intelligence gathering, and particularly about her connections with MI6.

Greenwood also uses the novel as an opportunity to explore homosexuality and this side plot takes up quite a bit of space, detracting a little from the main murder plot. Phryne herself also seems a little more promiscuous, while her lover Lin Chung is overseas.

I did enjoy the glimpses of the splendour of Melbourne's grand old dame, the Windsor Hotel, where some of the characters are staying, and where I have also stayed a couple of times.

So this, the 20th in the Phryne Fisher series, didn't delight me as much as #19 UNNATURAL HABITS.
But I'll be still lined up for #21.

My Rating: 4.3

Also reviewed on this blog

26 October 2013

25 October 2013

Forgotten Book: NO MAN'S LAND, Reginald Hill

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.

I read NO MAN'S LAND, published in 1985, at about this time in October 1993.
It is one of Reginald Hill's historical stand-alone novels, not a Dalziel and Pascoe for which he is better known.
For me it would have had the twin marks of history and thriller.

Synopsis (Amazon)

Set in the aftermath of the Battle of Somme, 1916, this offbeat, intriguing tale is based upon the legend of armed and dangerous Allied deserters who supposedly roamed the ruined countryside, "no man's land," that existed between the British and German lines.

Known to the British as Viney's Volunteers, the deserters are commanded by Arthur Aloysius Viney, an Australian army sergeant gone mad. Viney's chief British nemesis is Captain Jack Denial, commander of the military police and peacetime Scotland Yard detective.

Viney, it seems, is responsible for the death of Denial's lover, an Army nurse. By the author of several well-received mystery novels, this present work is carefully researched and thoughtfully written. Its strengths include vivid background detail, an intricate but believable plot, and solid development of innumerable major and minor characters. 

22 October 2013

Review: THE CRY, Helen Fitzgerald

  • Published 2013, Faber & Faber UK
  • ISBN 978-0-571-28770-3
  • 307 pages
  • source: library book
Synopsis (Amazon)

He's gone. And telling the truth won't bring him back...

When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.

Lies, rumours and guilt snowball, causing the parents, Joanna and Alistair, to slowly turn against each other.

Finally Joanna starts thinking the unthinkable: could the truth be even more terrible than she suspected? And what will it take to make things right?

The Cry is a dark psychological thriller with a gripping moral dilemma at its heart and characters who will keep you guessing on every page.

My Take

Anybody who has flown a long flight, say Glasgow to Dubai, in the company of a small child, or been sitting near one, can empathise with the situation when the child constantly cries. That's where we start with Joanna and Alistair and their baby Noah. For Joanna this becomes the trip from hell, although Alistair seems to be able to sleep through it all. The second leg of the journey from Dubai to Melbourne is only a little better.

The journey starts badly at departure when airport security declares that the bottles that Joanna's antibiotics and Noah's Calpol are too big. That leads Joanna into making a crucial error.

The family is on its way to Melbourne so that Alistair can claim custody of his teenage daughter from his ex-wife who brought Chloe back to Australia illegally. When Noah goes missing from the car when they are driving to Geelong, the custody of Chloe still looms large for Alistair in particular. It becomes even more crucial when Noah remains missing.

This story twists in directions the reader just couldn't predict. The general public becomes involved in the search for Noah not only through media releases but also through social networking like Facebook and Twitter. Joanna and her reactions to her baby's disappearance come under public scrutiny, with the rumour mill coming perilously close to the truth.

Although firmly set in Australia (Joanna and Alistair land in Melbourne when small towns near Geelong are threatened by bushfires) the setting could almost be anywhere and Helen Fitzgerald has the reader asking how they would have reacted in similar circumstances.

A really good read, touching issues that go well beyond the disappearance of a baby.

My rating: 4.7

See other reviews
I've also reviewed

Novels by Helen Fitzgerald (from Fantastic Fiction)

Dead Lovely (2007)
My Last Confession (2009)
The Devil's Staircase (2009)
Bloody Women (2009)
Amelia O'Donohue Is So Not a Virgin (2010)
Hot Flush (2011)
The Donor (2011)
Deviant (2013)
The Cry (2013)

About the author (Fantastic Fiction)

Helen FitzGerald is one of thirteen children and grew up in Victoria, Australia. She nows lives in Glasgow with her husband and two children. Helen has worked as a parole officer and social worker for over ten years. Her first novel, Dead Lovely, was published in 2007.

See the author's blog.

20 October 2013

Review: A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY, Agatha Christie

  • first published 1964
  • A Miss Marple mystery
  • this edition Paul Hamlyn AC Crime Collection
  • pp7-151
  • Full plot on Wikipedia
Synopsis (Christie.com)

Jane Marple grapples with a murderous heat when a fellow hotel guest drops dead, just as he's about to share a most astonishing photograph.

Miss Marple finally takes a trip abroad, the only time she would leave her native shores to solve a murder. This novel introduced Jason Rafiel, who would strike up an unusual friendship with Miss Marple. The two couldn't be more different but develop a begrudging respect for each other. So much so that Rafiel would posthumously call on Miss Marple’s skills of detection in the novel Nemesis.

A Caribbean Mystery is dedicated to John Cruikshank Rose, "with happy memories of my visit to the West Indies". Agatha Christie and her second husband Max Mallowan's friendship with John Rose started back in 1928, at the archaeological site at Ur, the same site where they met each other.

My Take

This novel set in the late 1950s?? reflects how much things have changed in Britain since the Second World War. Not only are people travelling again, with even Miss Marple taking an overseas holiday, but young Brits are investing overseas (the Kendals have bought a boutique hotel) and business men like Mr Rafiel can conduct their businesses by telegram. [The author has been to the West Indies].

There is also some reflection on Britain's past as a leader of an Empire, as Major Palgrave refers to his experiences in both Africa and India. 

By today's standards this is also a short novel. One of the themes is the community rumopur mill. For example who was it that first said that Major Palgrave had blood pressure problems? Nobody can remember but everybody automatically thought of it when he was found dead. Another issue Miss Marple thinks about is how much we accept what people say either about themselves or those whom they are associated with. In a village like St. Mary Mead you actually know a person's history, but when you are on holiday you accept what fellow holiday makers says about themselves at face value because you have no means of checking it. So how much of what you learn is the truth?

Just as in the Hercule Poirot novels Agatha Christie began to introduce characters that he could confide in or test his ideas on, so she does the same thing in the Miss Marple novels. In St. Mary Mead Jane Marple uses someone she knows well, her friend Dolly, or the doctor, but in this novel she must assess which of her fellow holidaymakers is best. The doctor is inclined to treat her with some suspicion, the Canon's sister doesn't really have the depth of understanding, and so she uses an elderly man, Jason Rafiel, who is an invalid. Their's is an interesting relationship, after he comes to recognise Miss Marple's deductive powers.

My rating: 4.4

Check the review at Christie in a Year. (lots of depth)

I read this as the 56th novel in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
My calculation is that I probably have eleven novels to go, so I will finish sometime late next year.

18 October 2013

Forgotten Book: GIRL IN WAITING, Georges Simenon

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.

This week Friday's Forgotten Books is being hosted by George Kelley. 

My choice is Georges Simenon's GIRL IN WAITING aka CHIT OF A GIRL, originally published in 1938?. An English version (cover to the right) was published in Pan paperback in 1957. I read this book in October 1993.

A problem I have struck before with the early Simenon novels is that it is so hard to find a synopsis. The books are often out of print and have been for some time. It seems from what I have found that the publication may have contained two stories.

How is your French? Check a listing here.

The following synopsis (gleaned from Trove) actually comes from a review in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald in 1949.


CHIT OF A GIRL, by Georges Simenon. Trans, by Geoffrey Sainsbury.

The title story is Richardson's "Pamela, or Virtue Re- warded," in a modern French setting. Its companion piece, "Justice," is a crime story with a satiric flavour. Both are-very satisfying examples of Simenon's peculiar talent.

The Chit is Marie Le Flem, waitress in the cafe at the fishing village of Port-eñ-Bessin. Chateard, once a fisherman, now cafe and cinema owner at Cherbourg, first saw her when he drove her elder sister, Odile, his mistress, to her father's funeral. He was strongly attracted by her

Odile "was plump, pink and tender, with a delicate skin, decile and easy-going." - Marie was "hardly formed ... lean haunches .and hardly any bust She did not bother about other people .. . . looked at them sideways, and what she thought of them she kept to herself."

Chatelard's ardour and exasperation increase as Marie's apparent aversion grows. His brusque technique, successful with other women, fails here and the snaring of Don Juan is achieved amid the smiles and admiration' of the Port.

"Justice" Petit Louis, swindler and souteneur helped Gene and the Marseilles gang in a post-office job, but offended them by blabbing to Constance Ropiquet, on whom he was living in Nice. Returning after two- days' precautionary absence from her flat he found her murdered.


Review: M.O. CRIMES OF PRACTICE, Martin Edwards (edit)

  • This edition published by BBC Audio Books 2009
  • ISBN 978-1-4084-4180-0
  • The Crime Writers' Association Anthology (Brit) for 2009
  • 319 pages
  • library book
Synopsis (Comma Press)


A coroner reveals a body’s tell-tale clues to his students, as he unwittingly dissects his own relationship . . .

A breakdown driver turns his roadside routine into a quite different type of pick-up . . .

Two creative writing tutors discuss the merits of ‘hardboiled’ versus ‘cosy’ schools of crime writing, while a murderous student points out that it’s really procedure that counts . . .

The second in this series of anthologies from the CWA picks up the primary scent of any investigation: the modus operandi; the signature that identifies any repeat offender, the ‘how’ that supersedes the ‘why’. From the ex-doctor tenderly administering a final prescription to his victims, the party of finishing school debutantes exacting revenge on their lecherous host… these stories demonstrate that, even with the most despicable of crimes, there’s methodology in the madness.

My Take

Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy well written crime fiction short stories? And Martin Edwards, the editor of this collection, has not let me down in his selection.

An anthology of short stories by different authors really demonstrates how rich the genre can be. Each short story, while attempting to cling to a theme, brings with it a different flavour. Some are a bit more convoluted than others, but there wasn't one that disappointed. Brilliant bed time reading.

 My rating: 4.5

16 October 2013

Review: TRACES OF RED, Paddy Richardson

  • Published by Penguin Group NZ, 2011
  • ISBN 978-0143565765
  • 322 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

Rebecca Thorne is a successful television journalist, but her world is thrown into turmoil when her Saturday night programme is axed because of falling ratings. Not only will she lose her job but her big story on the convicted triple murderer Connor Bligh, whom Rebecca believes is innocent, has to be abandoned.

Rebecca's lover Joe, a married man and the barrister representing Bligh, also thinks Bligh is innocent – or does he? And if he loves Rebecca so much, why is he prepared to cast her off?

Meanwhile Bligh languishes in jail, convicted of three brutal murders and continuing to protest his innocence. He's clearly not a saint – but did he do it? Rebecca refuses to let the matter lie.

Paddy Richardson's fourth novel is psychological crime fiction at its best.

My Take

TV journalist Rebecca Thorne feels as if she is losing her edge. The ratings for Saturday Night have been dropping for some time and she feels that it needs to focus on stories with more bite. Her producer on the other hand believes the opposite - people already have enough doom and gloom in daily life, and the last thing they need is to be made to think on Saturday nights. They want entertainment and "nice" stories. So the answer is to ditch Rebecca's program and to try something else.

Rebecca successfully persuades a rival station to run with a documentary about convicted triple murderer Connor Bligh. She secures a three month contract and throws herself into the production. Connor agrees to meet her and she becomes convinced he is innocent, that he is the victim of injustice, and so she visits him in jail often.

Right from the beginning this is a story about whether Rebecca is able to maintain her objectivity, can she present both sides of the story, is she getting too close to Connor Bligh. But is also about how reliable he is, can she trust him? As she meets people who have known Connor so she realises that others who have talked about him at his trial have often had their own agendas, but does that make their versions of events any less true?

The structure of the novel is interesting. It begins with the discovery of the murders by the daughter of the family who has spent the weekend at a friend's house. The remainder of the book is divided between Rebecca's narration, and letters that Connor writes to her from jail. Rebecca's family of lawyers warn her that she is getting too close to Connor.

By the time this book wound to its end, I was hardly daring to breath. Paddy Richardson is obviously an author I should have tried before, if TRACES OF RED is any indication.

My rating: 5.0

Other reviews to check

15 October 2013

Launching a new USA Fiction Challenge - State by State in 2014

Ever thought you would like to read your way across America?

The USA Fiction Challenge asks you to do just that.

Read just one novel from each state - you choose whether the link is the setting or the author.

You choose whether you confine yourself to a particular genre or not.

Join the challenge using the Mr Linky provided on the site.

I'll be focussing my reading, as far as I can, on crime fiction titles.

This challenge is being managed by me and Col Keane from COL'S CRIMINAL LIBRARY.

We originally meant the challenge to run for the calendar year 2014, but there is really no reason why you can't sign up and get started now.
With 51 states trying to complete the challenge in 12 or 14 months will be some undertaking, and so you may prefer to regard it as an ongoing challenge to be completed when, and if, you can.

I have created a separate page for keeping my own challenge record, if you want to check how I'm going to do it.
I've decided to "backdate" my efforts to include the US books I've read this year.

11 October 2013

Review: SILENT VALLEY, Malla Nunn

  • Published by Pan Macmillan Australia 2012
  • Alternative title BLESSED ARE THE DEAD
  • ISBN 978-7426-1088-7
  • 311 pages
  • #3 in the Emmanuel Cooper series
  • source: review copy from publisher
Synopsis (publisher)

A remote town. A girl of rare and exquisite beauty. A murder that silences a whole community.
The body of a seventeen-year-old girl has been found covered in wildflowers on a hillside in the Drakensberg Mountains, near Durban. She is the daughter of a Zulu chief, destined to fetch a high bride price. Was Amahle as innocent as her family claims, or is her murder a sign that she lived a secret life?

Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is sent to investigate. He must enter the guarded worlds of a traditional Zulu clan and a white farming community to gather up the clues Amahle left behind and bring her murderer to justice. But the silence in the valley is deafening, and it seems that everyone - from the uncooperative local police officer, to the white farm boy who seems obsessed with the dead girl - has something to hide.

With no cause of death and no motive, Cooper's investigation is blocked at each turn. Can he tough it out, or will the small-town politics that stir up his feelings about the past be more than he can bear?
In this page-turning tale of murder and mystery, Nunn entangles us in a rich and complex web of witchcraft, tribalism, taboo relationships... and plain old-fashioned greed.

My Take

This novel is set in South Africa in October 1953. It is a world still divided by apartheid, blacks are always treated as "kaffirs", and white supremacy is assumed.

With Emmanuel Cooper comes his Zulu constable Shabalala. Apartheid means he can't stay in the same hotels as Cooper, or dine at the same tables, but he can get the "real" story from the servants, and he understands local Zulu customs.

SILENT VALLEY is a very atmospheric novel. Malla Nunn is able to transport 21st century readers to a very different culture, and help us to see the crime with very different eyes.

Life is not easy for Emmanuel Cooper. He is descended from Boers and is still not accepted in police circles dominated by whites even though he has the patronage of Colonel van Niekerk who is also an Afrikaaner. van Niekerk will take the credit for Cooper's successes, but will quickly disown him when he fails.

If you've never read any of this series before I would suggest you start at the beginning, so you get the full story (although of course you can read SILENT VALLEY as a stand alone). But there are characters who were created in the first and second novels who are important in the third and so you will understand more if you read them in order. They are available for Kindle.

My rating: 4.9

I've also reviewed


About the author

Malla Nunn grew up in Swaziland before moving with her parents to Perth in the 1970s. She attended uni in WA, and then the US. In New York, she worked on film sets, wrote her first screenplay before returning to Australia where she began writing and directing short films and corporate videos, three of which have won numerous awards and have been shown at international film festivals. Her debut novel A Beautiful Place to Die was published to international acclaim and won the 2009 Sisters in Crime Davitt Award for Best Adult Crime Novel by an Australian female author. Malla and her husband live in Sydney with their two children.

Forgotten Book: CHILDREN OF THE WIND, Kate Wilhelm

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

Kate Wilhelm is an author that I read in 1993, but I doubt that I have read any more although she continues to write, and some of her more recent offerings appear to fit the crime fiction genre.

In October 1993 I read CHILDREN OF THE WIND, which is not really crime fiction.

Synopsis from Amazon, where it is now available for Kindle

This collection assembles in one volume five works by Kate Wilhelm, masterful fantasist and one of science fiction's premier storytellers:
In 'Children of the Wind', identical twins J-1 and J-2 play subtle games with their parents' lives. Are the boys just precocious, or are they far more strange - and powerful? 'The Gorgon Field' finds Charlie and Constance caught in a mystery of mystical proportions in the Arizona desert. 'A Brother to Dragons, a Companion of Owls' depicts a future in which survival may not be merely enough - it may be too much, whilst 'The Blue Ladies' studies a disabled woman's abilities to share his vision. 'The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky', winner of the Nebula Award for best novelette, weaves a dreamy tale of love, death and an old piano amid the Kansas plains.
These five tales present luminous, absorbing visions of the world as it could be and as it is.

However, more recent titles like  THE PRICE OF SILENCE and SKELETONS do appear to be crime fiction.

See Kate Wilhelm's site.
Amazon links to her Barbara Holloway novels.

About Kate Wilhelm
Kate Wilhelm’s first novel was a mystery, published in 1963. She has recently returned to writing mysteries with her Barbara Holloway novels. Over the span of her career, her writing has crossed over the genres of Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, fantasy and magical realism; psychological suspense, mimetic, comic, and family sagas, a multimedia stage production, and radio plays. Her works have been adapted for television and movies in the United States, England, and Germany. Wilhelm’s novels and stories have been translated to more than a dozen languages. She has contributed to QuarkOrbitMagazine of Fantasy and Science FictionLocusAmazing StoriesAsimov’s Science FictionEllery Queen’s Mystery MagazineFantasticOmniAlfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Redbook, and Cosmopolitan.

9 October 2013

Review: NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT, Derek B. Miller

  • published by Scribe Publications Pty Ltd 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-921844-88-1
  • 305 pages
  • source: library book
Synopsis (Scribe Publications, Melbourne)

Sheldon Horowitz — 82 years old, impatient, and unreasonable — is staying with his granddaughter’s family in Norway when he disappears with a stranger’s child. Sheldon is an ex-Marine, and he feels responsible for his son’s death in Vietnam. Recently widowed and bereft, he talks to the ghosts of his past constantly.

To Norway’s cops, Sheldon is just an old man who is coming undone at the end of a long and hard life. But Sheldon is clear in his own mind. He’d heard the boy’s eastern European mother being murdered, and he’s determined to protect the child from the killer and his Balkan gang. With an endearing combination of dexterity and daring, Sheldon manages to elude the police in what is hostile, foreign territory for him. But what he doesn’t know is that the police and the gang both know where he’s heading.

Norwegian by Night is the last adventure of a man coming to terms with the tragedy of his own life as he tries to save another’s. It combines laconic, deadpan humour, moral seriousness, visceral grief, and narrative tension in a remarkable way. An extraordinary debut, featuring a memorable hero.

My Take

Sheldon Horowitz's wife Mabel kept telling him in her last months that he had dementia. He certainly often confuses the past with the present, and sometimes it is hard to work out whether snippets of the past really happened or whether Sheldon just wanted them to happen that way.

His trek through Norway to what he sees as safety with a seven year old whose language he can't speak has a really cinematic quality; by that I mean I think this story would make a great film.

Sheldon lives with a lot of guilt. He couldn't tell Mabel, or anyone else what he did in the Korean War. He told her he had a clerk's job in the Marines, and he hid from her the medals he brought back. Similarly he feels responsible for his son Saul's death in the Vietnam war, believing he goaded him into a second tour of duty.

There's a lot to like about NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT. There's humour, but also some pretty serious assessment of the impact of war on those who fight as well as those left behind.

My rating: 4.6

Other reviews to check

About the author
Derek B. Miller was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and has lived abroad for over fifteen years in Israel, England, Hungary, Switzerland, and Norway. His interest in fiction began a few years after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College.

Currently, Derek is the director of The Policy Lab and a senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. He has a PhD in international relations from the University of Geneva, and an MA in national security studies from Georgetown University, in cooperation with St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford. He lives in Oslo with his wife and children.

8 October 2013

7 October 2013

2013 Global Reading Challenge Completed

I committed myself to reading 21 titles, all crime fiction, 3 titles each from 7 "continents". My 7th continent - set on a small island.

Perhaps the only place I could have done "better" was in South America, where I have 2 novels from Brazil - one translated, and one in English.

Blog site: 2013 Global Reading Challenge

I've also created an image to show where I've travelled.

create your own visited country map

  1. 4.7, KINGDOM OF STRANGERS, Zoe Ferraris (Saudi Arabia) - not Africa, see comment below
  2. 4.4, SHADOW OF THE ROCK, Thomas Mogford (Tangiers) 
  3. 5.0, DEADLY HARVEST, Michael Stanley (Botswana) 
  4. 4.9, SILENT VALLEY, Malla Nunn (South Africa)
  2. 4.5, GHOST MONEY, Andrew Nette (Thailand, Cambodia)
  3. 3.7, BAMBOO AND BLOOD, James Church (Korea)
Australasia/Oceania (my modification) 
  1. 4.9, BLACKWATERCREEK, Geoffrey McGeachin (Australia)
  2. COLD GRAVE, Kathryn Fox (Australia - on cruise boat) 
  3. 4.9, CAPTURED, Neil Cross (New Zealand author)
An extra hurdle for Australasia - at least one from New Zealand.
I can count separate Australian states.

  1. 4.5, TUESDAY'S GONE, Nicci French (Britain)
  2. 4.4, ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER LIFE, Leif GW Persson  (Sweden)
  3. 4.3, ANNA MARKLIN'S FAMILY CHRONICLES, Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen (Denmark)
North America 
  1. 4.8, GONE GIRL, Gillian Flynn (America)
  2. 4.0, MURDER IN A BASKET, Amanda Flower (Ohio)
  3. 4.9, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY, Louise Penny (Canada) 
South America
  1. 4.6, BLACKOUT,  Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (Brazil)
  2. 4.6, THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES, Eduardo Sacheri (Argentina) 
  3. 4.5, EVERY BITTER THING, Leighton Gage (Brazil)
7th Continent: Set on a small island 
  1. 4.3, AN ARTISTIC WAY TO GO, Roderic Jeffries (Mallorca)
  2. 4.7, THE BETRAYAL, Y.A.Erskine (Tasmania)
  3. 4.3, PAGO PAGO TANGO, John Enright (Samoa)

Review: EVERY BITTER THING, Leighton Gage

  • published in 2010 by Soho Press
  • #4 in the Inspector Mario Silva series set in Brazil
  • 281 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-56947-845-6
  • library book
  • read an excerpt (author site)
Synopsis (Amazon)

The son of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister is murdered at his apartment in Brasilia. It appears, at first, to be an isolated crime of passion -- but then killings with exactly the same MO begin cropping up all over the country. Who’s doing it? And why?

My take

I've chosen the Amazon synopsis this time because I feel that some others, including the one at the publisher Soho Press tell the reader too much and therefore reduce the elements of mystery in the plot, and also the reader's chance of working some things out for themselves.

EVERY BITTER THING is essentially a police procedural, with members of local and Federal police in Brazil working with overseas contacts to establish connections between various deaths occurring with the same MO. There is a brilliant red herring, which of course I won't tell you anything about, that will prompt most readers to come initially to the wrong conclusion.

I didn't think the novel was far off the standard that Leighton usually achieved. (see the About the author note below) and it certainly expands our knowledge of how Inspector Mario Silva's team functions. I think there was less of the social assessment of Brazil's economy and politics than we find in other novels in the series, but it is nevertheless there.

Leighton Gage is a writer we will miss.

My rating: 4.5

I have also reviewed
BLOOD OF THE WICKED publ. 2007 - #1
4.7, DYING GASP publ. 2009 - #3
4.5, A VINE IN THE BLOOD publ. 2010 - #5
4.7, PERFECT HATRED publ 2013 - #6

The Mario Silva series (listed on Fantastic Fiction)
1. Blood of the Wicked (2007)
2. Buried Strangers (2009)
3. Dying Gasp (2009)
4. Every Bitter Thing (2010)
5. A Vine in the Blood (2011)
6. Perfect Hatred (2013)
7. The Ways of Evil Men (2014) - to be published post-mortem

About the author 1942-2013

Leighton Gage, a former advertising man from New Jersey who found a second career writing crime novels about a Brazilian police detective, died on July 26 2013 at his home in Ocala, Fla. He was 71. 

My personal contact with Leighton came when he contacted me about making his books available through Kindle to Australian readers. He alerted me when he had personally make copies available at very low cost on Kindle, as well a the occasional free review copy.

Read his obituary on Mystery Fanfare
New York Times obituary
Tribute by his publishers, Soho Press
Tribute on Reactions to Reading 

5 October 2013

New to me crime fiction authors read July to September 2013

I love reading the work of new crime fiction authors, particularly discovering someone whom I can follow over the years.

In 2012 I read 48, and in the year before I read 60, so I think I'm well on track to meet a target something like that.
By the end of June I had read 37 this year and now I'm up to 51, which is more than I read for the whole of 2012.

As my total list for 2013 is 109, this means that about one in every two books that I read is from a new-to-me author.

Included in the list here are some of not-crime-fiction books (NCF)
See what others have chose for their books in the new-to-me meme.

4 October 2013

Best new-to-me crime fiction authors: a meme: July to September 2013

It's easy to join this meme.

Just write a post about the best new-to-you crime fiction authors (or all) you've read in the period of April to June 2013, put a link to this meme in your post, and even use the logo if you like.
The books don't necessarily need to be newly published.

After writing your post, then come back to this post and add your link to Mr Linky below. (if Mr Linky does not appear - leave your URL in a comment and I will add to Mr Linky when it comes back up, or I'll add the link to the post)
Visit the links posted by other participants in the meme to discover even more books to read.

This meme will run again at the end of  December 2013

Click here for the lists for
January to March 2013
April to June 2013 

Review: MASTER OF THE MOOR, Ruth Rendell - audio book

  • this edition available from Audible, narrated by Michael Bryant
  • Unabridged
  • Length: 7 hours 6 mins
  • originally published 1982 
Synopsis (Audible)

The bleak expanse of Vangmoor was a dark, forbidding place. One victim had been found there, blonde, her face disfigured, her head shorn close to the scalp - killed without motive or mercy.

Then a second woman went missing on the moor, and a sense of utter dread gripped the fifty local men who searched for her. Someone watched them in that treacherous place. Was he a killer? Or was he merely angry that a killer had usurped him? For he, and only he, was the Master of the Moor.

From Wikipedia

Columnist Stephen Walby, known as the Voice of Vangmoor, often goes on long walks through the countryside that lies outside his window. However, events take on a sinister turn when he stumbles across the body of a young woman, whose face has been badly disfigured and her hair shaven.

After another corpse surfaces he finds himself under suspicion from the local police, and when he then goes on to discover that his wife has been having an affair, tragedy ensues..

My Take

This is a Ruth Rendell stand-alone published in 1982, before she began publishing this style of book under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine.

Like his grandfather before him, Stephen Walby has an obsession with Vangmoor. It came as a surprise to me that Stephen is a relatively young man, only in his early twenties. I thought Rendell made him seem much older than he is. He also seems to have the knack of turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time, eventually giving the police no alternative to taking him in for questioning, regarding him as a "person of interest" in the Vangmoor murder cases.

The story takes a savage twist about half way through, when Stephen reacts violently upon finding out that his wife has been having an affair. Is Stephen Walby a dormant psychotic? His comfortable world is constantly under challenge. The strings that anchor Stephen to reality are snapped when a childhood friend reappears.

And just when the reader thinks they have it all worked out, the book takes another twist, one that you could not have predicted, as the Master of the Moor claims his final victim.

Another of the characteristics of these early Rendell stand-alones, by comparison with the Wexford series, is that they are relatively short books. According to Amazon, it is only 218 pages long. For example THE VAULT, one of the later Wexfords, is more than 60 pages longer, as are many of her later books.

My rating: 4.6

I have reviewed the following Barbara Vine novels

And these by Ruth Rendell

3 October 2013

Review: Miss Marple short stories: The Solving Six, Agatha Christie

I have already reviewed the six short stories that I am going to talk about here in my review of the short story collection called THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS.

But when I read those I hadn't really understood that the first 6 stories in the collection were the first appearance of Miss Marple, and that when they were published in the USA some of them were re-titled to reflect their connection to "The Solving Six".

These six stories were all published 1927-1928 whereas Jane Marple's first appearance in a novel was in MURDER IN THE VICARAGE in 1930. The stories have recently been individually republished as e-books by Harper Collins, and it is these that I have read most recently.

Illustration by Gilbert Wilkinson of Miss Marple
(December 1927 issue of The Royal Magazine)
A group of friends are meeting at the house of Miss Marple in St Mary Mead. As well as the old lady herself, there is her nephew - the writer Raymond West - the artist Joyce Lemprière, Sir Henry Clithering (a former Scotland Yard commissioner), a clergyman called Dr. Pender, and Mr Petherick, a solicitor.

The conversation turns to unsolved mysteries; Raymond, Joyce, Pender, and Petherick all claim that their professions are ideal for solving crimes. Joyce suggests that they form a club; every Tuesday night, a member of the group must tell of a real mystery, and the others will attempt to solve it. Sir Henry agrees to participate, and Miss Marple brightly volunteers herself to round out the group.

At first only Sir Henry Clithering seems to have any intimation that Jane Marple might be the best sleuth amongst them.

The connecting thread of the 6 stories is laid out in The Tuesday Night Club, first published in the UK in December 1927, and in the USA as The Solving Six in 2 June 1928.

After the Tuesday Night Club is set up, the first story comes from Sir Henry Clithering.

Sir Henry, until recently Commissioner of Scotland Yard, tells a tale about tinned lobster that caused a fatal case of food poisoning.

 The second story The Idol House of Astarte was first published in the UK in January 1928 and in the USA as The Solving Six and the Evil Hour in 9 June 1928.

The story, told by the clergyman Dr Pender is a strange and tragic experience from his youth.

Years ago, a murder was committed on the night of a costume party thrown by Sir Richard Haydon, a man who was a rival of his cousin Eliot for the affections of the lovely Diana Ashley. Sir Richard’s estate contained the grove of Astarte, which held a mysterious stone summer house. The summer house was rumoured to have been the site of numerous sacred rites in years long past, and in a surprise act, Diana enacted the role of Astarte, startling Sir Richard who stumbled and fell. When the others reached him body, he was found dead of a knife wound to the heart.                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ingots of Gold, first published in the UK in February 1928, and in the USA in 16 June 1928 as The Solving Six and the Golden Grave, comes from Raymond West.

Raymond West approaches the Tuesday Night Club after his visit to John Newman, a friend who is searching for the Spanish ship Otranto which was shipwrecked off the coast of Cornwall. When John Newman disappears for days, upon his return he claims that he had been abducted by the thieves who had stripped the Otranto of its gold, and that the local pub landlord had worked with them.


The Blood-Stained Pavement was first published in the UK in March 1928 and in the USA as Drip! Drip! 23 June 1928.

I found it interesting that The Solving Six has disappeared from the US title.

The story is told by Joyce Lempriere. It is something that happened five years before and has haunted her ever since. She was vacationing at a small inn on the Cornish coast. She was painting a picture of the front of the inn, including details of wet bathing suits drying on the balcony of Denis and Margery Dacre, when she realised she had included blood stains on the pavement. A few days later Margery is found having drowned and the Club are called to solve the mystery.

 Motive v. Opportunity was first published in the UK in April 1928 and first appeared in the USA as Where's the Catch? on 30 June 1928. Again The Solving Six link is missing.

Attorney Mr Petherick relates an incident involving the late Simon Clode, a wealthy client. Obsessed by his granddaughter’s death, despite the presence of his young niece and nephew, Clode turns to spiritualist Eurydice Spragg to contact his granddaughter in the afterlife. Clode then decided to write a new will, leaving Eurydice as the benefactor excluding his family. To everyone’s surprise, when the envelope containing the will is opened, the paper is blank.

The final story is Miss Marple's.
The Thumb Mark of St. Peter was first published in the UK in May 1928 and then in the USA as The Thumb-Mark of St. Peter on 7 July 1928.

Fifteen years ago, Miss Marple’s niece, Mabel Denman was accused of murdering her husband. Mabel’s marriage had been an unhappy one, as Geoffrey had been abusive and violent. Can Miss Marple clear her niece’s name and reveal the true perpetrator?

So here are 6 very early Miss Marple stories. You can pick them up individually from Amazon or Harper Collins for your e-reader or look for a copy of THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS.

Well worth the hunt.

You might like to check The Thirteen Problems on Wikipedia.

My rating: 4.5.

2 October 2013


  • Published in 2003 by the Penguin Group (Australia)
  • ISBN 978-0-7181-5697-8
  • 499 pages
  • source: library book
  • #3 in the Freda Klein series
Synopsis (author website)

Ruth Lennox, beloved mother of three, is found by her daughter in a pool of her own blood. Who would want to murder an ordinary housewife? And why?

Psychotherapist Frieda Klein finds she has an unusually personal connection with DCI Karlsson’s latest case. She is no longer working with him in an official capacity, but when her niece befriends Ruth Lennox’s son, Ted, she finds herself in the awkward position of confidante to both Karlsson and Ted.

When it emerges that Ruth was leading a secret life, her family closes ranks and Karlsson finds he needs Frieda’s help more than ever before.

But Frieda is distracted. Having survived an attack on her life, she is struggling to stay in control and when a patient’s chance remark rings an alarm bell, she finds herself chasing down a path that seems to lead to a serial killer who has long escaped detection. Or is it merely a symptom of her own increasingly fragile mind?

Because, as Frieda knows, every step closer to a killer is one more step into a darkness from which there may be no return . . .

My take

For me this is a series that simply gets better, and if you've enjoyed the first two in the series, you'll love WAITING FOR WEDNESDAY.

For Frieda Klein the demons from her previous case just won't go away. She is still recovering from the injuries she received at the end of TUESDAY'S GONE and she longs for a quiet life. Around her are people who feel guilty about how they have treated her, and they are trying to make amends. She hasn't officially returned to work yet but fate and connections draw her into the Lennox case.

I found this an engrossing read despite the fact that it was incredibly long. Frieda doesn't need official work though to send her chasing threads and strange ideas. Neither will her own sense of compassion allow her to take things quietly when questions are unresolved and others are in need.
My rating: 4.7

I've also reviewed

Planned for 2014: THURSDAY'S CHILDREN

1 October 2013

What I read in September 2013

A good mixture of books this month, Australian authors, Kindle versions, audio books, and new-to-me authors.
My best read was not crime fiction.

My crime fiction pick of the month was shared by an Australian cozy and a British crime fiction classic.

UNNATURAL HABITS by Kerry Greenwood is the 2012 Phryne Fisher novel while A DARK ADAPTED EYE by Barbara Vine was the first of Ruth Rendell's novels published under this pseudonym.

See what others have chosen for their Pick of the Month

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month September 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 September 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.


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