30 December 2013

Review: THE RAVEN'S EYE, Barry Maitland

  • published 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-74331-350-3
  • 377 pages
  • #12 in the Bork & Kolla series
  • borrowed from local library
Synopsis (author site)

First published : 2013 Allen & Unwin, Australia; 2013 St Martin’s Press / Minotaur

A woman dies in her sleep in a houseboat on the Thames; the apparent cause of death, an unflued gas heater. It all seems straightforward, but DI Kathy Kolla isn't convinced.

Unfortunately both Kathy and DCI Brock are up against an aggressive new Commander who seems to have a different agenda, opposing their investigation in favour of emerging technologies over the traditional policing methods. Coppers like Brock and Kolla who have reservations are being squeezed out.

To make matters worse, there's a new Task Force moving in on their patch, and a brutal killer, Butcher Jack Bragg, to be tracked down and caught. It's one of Brock and Kolla's bloodiest investigations yet.
In this heart-thumping new novel Brock and Kolla are under pressure; it's a clash between the menacing ever-present eye of computer surveillance versus the explosive threat of a man with a meat cleaver and a grudge.

The Raven's Eye is published in Australia by Allen and Unwin, http://www.allenandunwin.com, and in the USA by St Martin's Press / Minotaur, http://us.macmillan.com/minotaur.aspx.

My Take

If I wasn't convinced of it before, this title firmly sets Barry Maitland in my mind as an Australian crime fiction author up there with the best. His writing is quietly assured, and although there are elements of the plot that strain the bounds of credibility, Maitland is very persuasive. Poor Kathy Kolla seems to be in the firing line in more ways than one in THE RAVEN'S EYE, and both she and David Brock are very plausible and likeable characters.

If you share my tastes, then you'll enjoy this thriller written by an Australian author but set mainly in London.If you haven't yet met this pair of sleuths then you have a manageable series of 12 titles to tackle. And you know what I will say: read them in order! Although to be honest there is not much overlap from title to title so you can read them as stand alones.

My rating: 4.7

Check out my other reviews:

The series list from Fantastic Fiction
Brock And Kolla
1. The Marx Sisters (1994)
2. The Malcontenta (1995)
3. All My Enemies (1996)
4. The Chalon Heads (1999)
5. Silvermeadow (2000)
6. Babel (2002)
7. The Verge Practice (2003)
8. No Trace (2006)
9. Spider Trap (2006)
10. Dark Mirror (2009)
11. Chelsea Mansions (2011)
12. Raven's Eye (2013)

27 December 2013

Review: NO PLACE LIKE HOME, Caroline Overington

  • format: Amazon (Kindle)
  • File Size: 434 KB
  • Print Length: 203 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Australia (September 25, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

From bestselling author and award-winning journalist Caroline Overington comes another thought-provoking and heart-rending story, that reaches from the heart of Bondi to a small village in Tanzania.

Shortly after 9.30 in the morning, a young man walks into Surf City, Bondi's newest shopping complex. He's wearing a dark grey hoodie - and a bomb around his neck.

Just a few minutes later he is locked in a shop on the upper floor. And trapped with him are four innocent bystanders.

For police chaplain Paul Doherty, called to the scene by Senior Sergeant Boehm, it's a story that will end as tragically as it began. For this is clearly no ordinary siege. The boy, known as Ali Khan, seems as frightened as his hostages and has yet to utter a single word.

The seconds tick by for the five in the shop: Mitchell, the talented schoolboy; Mouse, the shop assistant; Kimmi, the nail-bar technician; and Roger Callaghan, the real estate agent whose reason for being in Bondi that day is far from innocent.

And of course there's Ali Khan. Is he the embodiment of evil, as the villagers in his Tanzanian birthplace believe? Or just an innocent boy, betrayed at every turn, who just wants a place to call home?

My Take

The story takes readers through the background of all the people who are locked in the shop with Tanzaniaan refugee Ali Khan. The narrator is former Catholic priest, police chaplain Paul Doherty, who contacts each of the people locked in the shop after the event for trauma counselling.We benefit from the research he has done about each of these people.

Part of what each reader must ask herself is how you would react in this situation. The shopping centre is in lock down with the voice of Senior Sergeant Boehm booming instructions over a loud speaker system. And yet Ali Khan is showing no sign of understanding.

The book also broaches issues with which Australians are familiar, or are we? Do we really know how refugees are treated under the Australian border protection systems? What are the detention centres housing refugees and asylum seekers really like? Why was Ali Khan, a genuine refugee who has an Australian passport, in Baxter and Villawood for four years?  This is a book that will make you think.

And Paul Doherty has his own problems too, his own crisis of faith, which perhaps does not make him the best narrator.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME is written as a thriller, and, true to form, we do not find out what happened in the last minutes of the siege until the very end.

A good read by an Australian author to look for.
My rating: 4.5

I have also read 4.4, SISTERS OF MERCY

20 December 2013

Review: A WICKED DESIGN, Brian Kavanagh

  • Published by Vivid Publishing 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-925086-06-5
  • #5 in the Belinda Lawrence series
  • 190 pages
  • source: complementary copy from the author
Synopsis (Vivid Publishing)

Belinda Lawrence returns to her home town of Melbourne, to discover a murder that's close to her heart.

A murder which leads to the seat of political power, Parliament House.

The various threads of deceit and intrigue are gradually unravelled and, with Hazel Whitby at her side, Belinda is confronted by warring political factions.

The mystery deepens with the discovery of a priceless historical item, of value to both political powers, and which places Belinda's life in jeopardy.

The gregarious Major;
An enigmatic university Professor;
Two colourful antique sellers;
Eccentric retired music-hall entertainers;
And Belinda's partner, Mark Sallinger...
...all immersed in the scheming and covert encounters besieging Belinda as she solves her most challenging mystery.
Book Five in the Belinda Lawrence mystery series.

My Take

I think the author's decision to base this novel in his, and Belinda Lawrence's, home town of Melbourne is a very successful one, as is his basing one of the plot lines on a piece of Melbourne's colourful history. It also considers the ever present Republican debate, a very real Australian political divide.

A WICKED DESIGN is a well constructed cozy with a heroine who has grown in stature with every outing in this series. Belinda Lawrence and her antique dealer friend Hazel Whitby are very realistically drawn, as is Belinda's fiance Mark Sallinger.

I have also reviewed

I think each one has seen Brian's writing become more assured.
All the books are available in print and as e-books.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Brian Kavanagh (b. 1935) is an accredited life member of the Australian Film Editors Guild & a member of the Australian Society of Authors. He has many years experience in the Australian Film Industry in areas of production, direction, editing and writing.


He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Australian Screen Editors Guild and is an accredited member. An Australian Film Institute award for Best Editing for FROG DREAMING (USA title THE QUEST).

His website 

19 December 2013

Review: FULL DARK HOUSE, Christopher Fowler - audio book

  • available from Audible
  • unabridged version
  • narrator: Tim Goodman
  • #1 in the Bryant & May series
  • length: 13 hrs, 24 mins 
Synopsis (Audible)

In Full Dark House, Christopher Fowler tells the story of both the first and last case of an unlikely pair of crime fighters - and how along the way they changed the face of detection.

A present-day bombing rips through London and claims the life of 80-year-old detective Arthur Bryant. For his partner John May, it means the end of a partnership that lasted over half a century and an eerie echo back to the Blitz of World War II when they first met. Desperately searching for clues to the killer’s identity, May finds his old friend’s notes of their very first case and becomes convinced that the past has returned ... with a killing vengeance.

 It begins when a dancer in a risqué new production of Orpheus in Hell is found without her feet. Suddenly, the young detectives are plunged in a bizarre gothic mystery that will push them to their limits - and beyond. For in a city shaken by war, a faceless killer is stalking London’s theaters, creating his own kind of sinister drama. And it will take Arthur Bryant’s unorthodox techniques and John May’s dogged police work to catch a criminal whose ability to escape detection seems almost supernatural - a murderer who even decades later seems to have claimed the life of one of them ... and is ready to claim the other.

Filled with startling twists, unforgettable characters, and a mystery that will keep you guessing, Full Dark House is a witty, heartbreaking, and all-too-human thriller about the hunt for an inhuman killer.

My take

World War II served  Arthur Bryant and John May very well. It meant that when they were barely out of their teens these two became the principal investigators of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. It is the crimes that are peculiar but one could be forgiven for thinking that Arthur Bryant in particular is a little peculiar. As Bryant ruffles feathers with the gaucheness of youth some of the victims of the crimes wonder if the police force might not have more senior investigators available.

The narrative flits effortlessly between the events during the Blitz and the current day when John May tries to work out whose nerve Bryant touched that resulted in his apparent death from a suitcase bomb when he was researching their first case for his memoirs.

I have enjoyed all that I have read from this series, the narrator in the audio books, Tim Goodman, has become for me the voice of Arthur Bryant. Christopher Fowler uses quite quirky historical settings and this case the main action is set in a West End theatre. The production is Offenbach's Orpheus,  designed to be a morale booster in bombed London. A succession of deaths threaten the closure of the theatre, while the Peculiar Crimes Unit faces imminent disbanding as the death toll mounts.

An excellent read. My rating: 4.7

I have also reviewed:

Bryant and May (series list from Fantastic Fiction)
1. Full Dark House (2003)
2. The Water Room (2004)
3. Seventy-Seven Clocks (2005)
4. Ten Second Staircase (2006)
5. White Corridor (2007)
6. The Victoria Vanishes (2008)
7. Bryant and May on the Loose (2009)
8. Off the Rails (2010)
9. The Memory of Blood (2011)
10. The Invisible Code (2012)
11. Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart (2014)
Bryant & May's Mystery Tour (2011)

On my predilection for British crime fiction

I don't suppose that I should have been surprised that, out 133 books read so far this year, 50 of them are by British authors. After all, last year it was 60 out of 142.
I'll have a couple more to add to my list by year's end. (I'm currently enjoying an audio version of Christopher Fowler's FULL DARK HOUSE, the beginning of the Bryant & May series.)

Of course each year the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge accounts for 12 titles.
And I have to admit that I have still more unread British titles on my shelves and on my Kindle.
Nevertheless I join a British reading challenge each year, really just as an excuse to record what I read.

Here is my list for this year.
You'll see there are many excellent reads among them.
  1. 4.4, NO MERCY, Wendy Cartmell
  2. 4.5, TUESDAY'S GONE, Nicci French
  3. 4.2, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie
  4. 4.9, THE DARK WINTER, David Mark 
  5. 4.5, THE OFFICE OF THE DEAD, Andrew Taylor 
  6. 4.3, AN ARTISTIC WAY TO GO, Roderic Jeffries
  7. 4.0, REVENGE OF THE TIDE, Elizabeth Haynes 
  8. 4.4, SHADOW OF THE ROCK, Thomas Mogford 
  9. 4.2, MRS QUEEN TAKES THE TRAIN, William Kuhn - NOT crime fiction
  10. 4.1, DEAD MAN'S FOLLY, Agatha Christie 
  11. 4.3, TRIAL BY FIRE, Frances Fyfield 
  12. 4.4. AGENT 6, Tom Rob Smith 
  13. 4.3, SO MUCH BLOOD, Simon Brett 
  14. 5.0, DEAD WATER, Ann Cleeves 
  15. 4.4, 4.50 FROM PADDINGTON, Agatha Christie 
  16. 4.4, THE CARRIER, Sophie Hannah 
  17. 4.8, THE HIGHLAND WITCH (aka CORRAG), Susan Fletcher 
  18. 4.5, BRYANT & MAY AND THE INVISIBLE CODE, Christopher Fowler
  19. 4.1, THE BAGHDAD RAILWAY CLUB, Andrew Martin
  20. 4.7, THE EARTH HUMS IN B FLAT, Mari Strachan 
  21. 4.5, ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE, Agatha Christie 
  23. 4.4, THE LOST LIBRARY, A.M. Dean 
  24. 4.7, BRING UP THE BODIES, Hilary Mantel 
  25. 4.8, THE TOOTH TATTOO, Peter Lovesey 
  26. 5.0, THE LEWIS MAN, Peter May 
  27. 4.6, THE FROZEN SHROUD, Martin Edwards
  28. 4.2, A DECENT INTERVAL, Simon Brett 
  29. 4.3, CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS, Agatha Christie 
  30. 4.4, THE PALE HORSE, Agatha Christie 
  31. 4.5, BONES UNDER THE BEACH HUT, Simon Brett 
  32. 4.2, GUNS IN THE GALLERY, Simon Brett 
  33. 4.6, THE CORPSE ON THE COURT, Simon Brett 
  34. 4.4, SHORT SENTENCE: 10 stories of dastardly deeds, Parker Bilal et al 
  35. 4.7, THE MIRROR CRACK'D FROM SIDE TO SIDE, Agatha Christie 
  36. 4.7, GODS AND BEASTS, Denise Mina 
  37. 4.8, A DARK ADAPTED EYE, Barbara Vine
  39. 3.8, THE DEVIL'S MOON, Peter Guttridge 
  40. 4.2, THE CLOCKS, Agatha Christie 
  41. 4.7, WAITING FOR WEDNESDAY, Nicci French 
  42. 4.5, MISS MARPLE STORIES: SOLVING SIX, Agatha Christie 
  43. 4.6, THE MASTER OF THE MOOR, Ruth Rendell
  44. 4.5, M.O. CRIMES OF PRACTICE, Martin Edwards (edit) 
  45. 4.4, A CARIBBEAN MYSTERY, Agatha Christie 
  46. 4.5, REFUSAL, Felix Francis
  47. 5.0, THE CUCKOO'S CALLING, J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith 
  48. 4.5, NO MAN'S NIGHTINGALE, Ruth Rendell 
  49. 4.3, SHADOW OF THE SERPENT, David Ashton 
  50. 4.3, AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL, Agatha Christie 

18 December 2013

Review: AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL, Agatha Christie

  • first released November 1965, serialised in Woman's Own, UK
  • this edition in Paul Hamlyn Agatha Christie Collection 1972
  • Miss Marple
Synopsis (Agatha Christie site)

“Even at Bertram’s, thought Miss Marple, interesting things could happen...” Impeccable service and grandeur at the hotel, but Miss Marple didn’t anticipate the eccentric guest who went to the airport on the wrong day…

One of Miss Marple’s few outings from St Mary Mead, this time she’s holidaying in London, when a certain eccentric guest sets off a violent chain of events.

Bertram’s, the fictional hotel featured in the story, is thought to have been inspired by Brown’s Hotel in London, a favourite haunt of Agatha Christie, but could also have been based on the Mayfair Hotel, Fleming’s.

The story was adapted for TV starring Joan Hickson in 1987. BBC Radio 4 dramatised the story in 2004 and it was adapted again for TV in 2007, this time featuring Geraldine McEwan as the elderly sleuth, and included substantial changes from the novel.

My Take

I have seen the TV versions of the novel several times and in fact did wonder whether it was worth my while reading the book, it being next in my list for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

I hadn't realised how much the story had been modified for television, with characters left out, and others inserted. There are a number of plot changes.

The main import of the novel is that nothing at Bertram's Hotel in 1955 is as its seems: all is a facade, from the appearance of the hotel, to the people who visit it, to the people who run it. Miss Marple realises that it is a mistake to try to step back to pre-war days. In fact the Bertram's Hotel she remembers is much older than that, a memory from her childhood.

The story also illustrates Agatha Christie's conviction of the prevalence of organised crime rings that underpinned facades of normality. The police inspector who carries out the investigation into Bertram's shady dealings and the disappearance of Canon Pennyfather is an avuncular old chap who has seen it all, but he is not the same as the bouncing lad of the television production. Nor is there the romantic element that TV gave us for public consumption.

I don't think Miss Marple comes out of thebook particularly well - Christie portrays her as an old busybody who eavesdrops on people's conversations when she can. On the other hand she does recognise evil when she sees it and she demonstrates an understanding of the foibles of the elderly. For example she knows that Canon Pennyfather had mistaken the day he should be flying to Lucerne, and when he returns to Bertram's Hotel, she instantly knows he is not the person she  saw descending the stairs at 3 am.

So an interesting read. Perhaps not Christie's best.

My rating: 4.3

Check the review on Christie in a Year and the one at BooksPlease.

This completes my reading for Agatha Christie Reading Challenge for 2013.
I have now read 57 novels and I think I have about 10 to go, and also some short story collections.
  1. 1966, THIRD GIRL
  2. 1967, ENDLESS NIGHT
  6. 1971, NEMESIS
  8. 1973, POSTERN OF FATE (Last novel Christie ever wrote)
  9. 1975, CURTAIN (Poirot's last case, written about 35 years earlier)
  10. 1976, SLEEPING MURDER (Miss Marple's last case, written about 35 years earlier)

17 December 2013

Review: SHADOW OF THE SERPENT, David Ashton

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 572 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn; Reprint edition (May 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006WB2BDU
Synopsis (Amazon)

Known as the father of forensics and a likely influence on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, real-life police inspector James McLevy is here reinvented by David Ashton in a thrilling mystery, Shadow of the Serpent.

1880, Edinburgh, Election fever grips the city. But while the rich and educated argue about politics, in the dank wynds of the docks it's a struggle just to stay alive. When a prostitute is brutally murdered, disturbing memories from thirty years ago are stirred in McLevy who is soon lured into a murky world of politics, perversion and deception - and the shadow of the serpent.

My Take

A Financial Times review wrote 'McLevy is a sort of Victorian Morse with a heart, prowling the mean wynds and tenements of the endless fascinating city. David Ashton impeccably evokes Edinburgh so vividly that you can feel the cold in your bones and the menace of the Old Town's steep cobbles and dark corners'.

I'm not sure I would go as far as the Victorian Morse bit, but James McLevy as recreated by David Ashton is certainly an interesting character. Ashton's recreation of Victorian Edinburgh makes me glad those times have passed. The plot of SHADOW OF A SERPENT is a complex one and contains some authentic-feeling portrayals of Disraeli, Gladstone and Queen Victoria. Someone is out to prevent William Gladstone from becoming Prime Minister at any cost. Ripper-like murders of prostitutes have begun on Edinburgh streets.

This is the debut title of a series that looks as if it will be popular particularly with those who enjoy crime fiction with a historical setting.
Fantastic Fiction lists
Inspector McLevy Mystery
1. The Shadow of the Serpent (2006)
2. Fall from Grace (2007)
3. A Trick of the Light (2009)
4. Nor Will He Sleep (2013)
5. The Painted Lady (2013)
End of the Line (2011)

I think SHADOW OF THE SERPENT has some of the problems of debut title: the plot is at times too tortuous and a little dark. The historical details at times take over, putting the crime fiction into the background. There a few threads that seem to me to go unresolved.

My rating: 4.3

15 December 2013

Read Australian authors - join a challenge or two

It will probably come as no surprise to blog followers that over 25% of the titles that I have read this year have been by Australian authors.
Many of the titles listed below are set in Australia too.
And most of them are crime fiction.

I actually joined two challenges:

Australian Women Writers Challenge

In reading nearly 40 Australian titles this year I really had no trouble in meeting the challenges.
I'll certainly be continuing both challenges in 2014.

Here is my list for 2013 - although I think I may even read a couple more by the end of the year.

14 December 2013

Belated: Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival for November

My apologies to ACRC Blog Carnival participants.
This summary just slipped off the radar.
Once again there is an interesting mix of reviews and news items.

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Participants
1. Notes on WHILE THE LIGHT LASTS @ Christie in a Year
2. David Suchet - My Final Curtain
3. UK Kindle - Hercule Poirot and THE GREENSHORE FOLLY
4. Notes on PROBLEM AT POLLENSA BAY @ Christie in a Year
5. Notes on THE HOUND OF DEATH @ Christie in a Year
6. Martin Edwards - Agatha Christie, Poirot and The Labours of Hercules
7. CWA WhoWunnit - Best Ever Novel: THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD
8. Clothes in Books - THE LABOURS OF HERCULES
9. Suchet and the Poirot Walk
10. Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain, Poirot's Last Case - ITV - Martin Edwards
11. Clothes in Books - POIROT'S LAST CASE
12. Notes on POSTERN OF FATE @ Chriistie in a Year
13. Notes on POIROT INVESTIGATES @ Chriistie in a Year
14. Devon village to be sold for £10 million
15. Notes on POIROT'S EARLY CASES @Christie in a Year
16. Review: APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH @NjKinny's World of Books
17. Official Agatha Christie Newsletter - November
18. Notes on CARDS ON THE TABLE @ Christie in a Year
19. Notes on AT BERTRAM'S HOTEL @ Christie in a Year

And of course you can make your own contribution to the monthly carnival here.

13 December 2013

Review: POLICE, Jo Nesbo

  • published by Harvill Secker London 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-84655597-98
  • 518 pages
  • translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett
  • #8 in the Oslo sequence
  • from my local library
Synopsis (Random House Australia)

The police urgently need Harry Hole
A killer is stalking Oslo's streets. Police officers are being slain at the scenes of crimes they once investigated, but failed to solve. The murders are brutal, the media reaction hysterical.

But this time, Harry can't help anyone

For years, detective Harry Hole has been at the centre of every major criminal investigation in Oslo. His dedication to his job and his brilliant insights have saved the lives of countless people. But now, with those he loves most facing terrible danger, Harry can't protect anyone.

Least of all himself.

My Take

A Jo Nesbo novel is never a light read, and at 518 pages POLICE bears this out. It has taken me over a week to read, partly because I didn't seem to be able to digest more than about 50 pages at a time.

This is not a novel you can read as a stand-alone either. There are references to Harry's earlier cases, and indeed remembering a little about some of them seems crucial to making sense of POLICE. There are characters such as the Chief of Police Mikael Bellmann and Harry Hole's lover Rakel who provide a thread of continuity from one novel to another.

Harry Hole's clear up rate is legendary in the Oslo Police and so we know that if he can't work out who the Cop Killer is, no one can. But Harry is no longer officially part of the police force, which is a conundrum. And for about a third of the novel we are wondering exactly where Harry is.

I came away from POLICE wondering if every thread had been satisfactorily tied off. Certainly corruption is not confined to the criminals and the official version of events is not always what actually happened. Underneath is Harry Hole's version of justice.

My rating: 4.7

Reviews to check
Karen @ EuroCrime
Marilyn Stasio @ New York Times

Did you see this news? (from Jo Nesbo's site)

We are delighted to announce two new novels from Jo Nesbø writing under the pen name Tom Johansen. The first book, Blood on Snow, will be published in autumn 2014 with the second, Blood On Snow 2 (working title), to follow in spring 2015. Further information about both books and Tom Johansen will be revealed in early 2014.

It seems also that, though translated as #8 in "the Oslo sequence" POLICE is actually #10 in the series.

I also saw this among the site's news items.

30 September 2013

Jo has four titles on the bestseller lists in Norway this week. Doctor Proctor and the Great Gold Robbery (Doctor Proctor #4, published in 2012) is No. 1 and Police is No. 8 on the official list for fiction.
Phantom (Harry Hole #9, published in 2011) is No. 11 and Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder (Doctor Proctor #1, published in 2007) is No. 14 on the official paperback list .

For me it reinforces how little I actually know about Jo Nesbo although I have read all of the following
4.7, THE BAT

10 December 2013

Global Reading Challenge 2014 launched

There have been a number of requests that the Global Reading Challenge continue next year.

I am pleased to announce that GRC 2014 will have its own blog site next year and can be found listed as Global Reading Challenge 2014.

The rules are the same as for 2013, and participants are invited to register for one of 3 levels:
Easy, Medium and Expert.

9 December 2013

Report : Vintage Mystery Challenge 2013

With not many vintage mystery books on the immediate horizon, I'm declaring myself "finished" for 2013.
I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't really get much variety into my reading as you'll see from the list below.

All books must have been written before 1960 and be from the mystery category (crime fiction, detective fiction, espionage, etc.).  
The challenge was hosted by Bev at MY READER'S BLOCK

There are a number of categories and each book can only count for one category. 
I aimed for 8 or 16 categories and read 8

1. Colorful Crime: a book with a color or reference to color in the title
 4.4, THE PALE HORSE, Agatha Christie

2. Murder by the Numbers: a book with a number, quantity in the title

4.4, 4.50 FROM PADDINGTON, Agatha Christie

4. Leave It to the Professionals: a book featuring cops, private eyes, secret service, professional spies, etc.

4.2, DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie 

6. Yankee Doodle Dandy: one mystery set in the United States

4.2, THE BIG SLEEP, Raymond Chandler- 1939  

7. World Traveler: one mystery set in any country except the US or Britain

4.3, PIETR THE LATVIAN, Georges Simenon 1930 - France 

8. Dangerous Beasts: a book with an animal in the title (The Case of the Grinning Gorilla; The Canary Murder Case; etc.)

4.3, CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS, Agatha Christie 

11. Malicious Men: a book with a man in the title--either by name (Maigret & the Yellow Dog) or by reference (The Case of the Haunted Husband)
4.1, DEAD MAN'S FOLLY, Agatha Christie

16. Locked Rooms: a locked-room mystery

 4.5, ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE, Agatha Christie 

Bev has a really interesting looking challenge running next year called
Vintage Mystery BINGO 2014: Silver & Gold Edition 
with two levels to the challenge:  
Golden Vintage - books written before 1960


 and Silver Vintage: books written 1960 - 1989

I must admit I'm tempted. I do read a lot of the Silver category and the idea of being a bit more organised always appeals to me..

7 December 2013

Give Crime Fiction for Christmas in 2013, Part One

If you are looking for books to give for Christmas here are a few suggestions from my best reads for 2013.
There are some Australian and New Zealand authors among them.
Many are available from Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
  1. 5.0, BITTER WASH ROAD, Garry Disher- Aus
  2. 5.0, THE ROBBERS, Paul Anderson- Aus
  3. 5.0, DEAD WATER, Ann Cleeves  
  4. 5.0, TRUST YOUR EYES, Linwood Barclay
  5. 5.0, THE LEWIS MAN, Peter May 
  6. 5.0, THE LAST POLICEMAN, Ben H. Winters
  7. 5.0, TRACES OF RED, Paddy Richardson - NZ
  8. 5.0, DEADLY HARVEST, Michael Stanley 
  9. 5.0, CLOUDSTREET, Tim Winton - Aus 
  10. 5.0, THE GHOST RIDERS OF ORDEBEC, Fred Vargas
  11. 5.0, ALEX, Pierre Lemaitre
  12. 5.0, THE CUCKOO'S CALLING, J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith 
  13. 4.9, BLACKWATERCREEK, Geoffrey McGeachin -Aus
  14. 4.9, SILENT VALLEY, Malla Nunn- Aus
  15. 4.9, CAPTURED, Neil Cross - NZ
  16. 4.9, BLACK SKIES, Arnaldur Indridason
  17. 4.9, THE DARK WINTER, David Mark
  18. 4.8, THE TOOTH TATTOO, Peter Lovesey
  19. 4.8, THE MISTAKE, Wendy James - Aus
  20. 4.8, ROTTEN GODS, Greg Barron - Aus
  21. 4.8, UNNATURAL HABITS, Kerry Greenwood - Aus
  23. 4.8, SUFFICIENT GRACE, Amy Espeseth- Aus
  24. 4.8, THE MARMALADE FILES, Steve Lewis & Chris Uhlmann- Aus
  25. 4.8, PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, Geraldine Brooks- Aus
  26. 4.8, A DARK ADAPTED EYE, Barbara Vine 
  27. 4.8, ICE COLD, Tess Gerritsen 
  28. 4.8, IF I TELL YOU... I'LL HAVE TO KILL YOU, Michael Robotham (edit) - Aus
  29. 4.8, THE HIGHLAND WITCH (aka CORRAG), Susan Fletcher
  30. 4.7, IN HER BLOOD, Annie Hauxwell- Aus
Check all my 2013 reviews.

5 December 2013

Review: THE MIDNIGHT DRESS, Karen Foxlee

My Take

Had this book not been chosen by my face-to-face reading group, I probably wouldn't have come across it, but I'm glad I did. Karen Foxlee is a new-to-me Australian author.

Apart from anything else, the structure of the book is unusual and interesting. After the annual Harvest Parade in which they both participated, two girls are missing in a coastal sugar cane town in mid-northern Queensland.

Each of the chapters is headed with the name of a stitch used in tailoring or embroidery.
Anchor Stitch
Oyster Stitch
Catch Stitch
Straight Stitch
Binding Stitch
Spider Web Stitch etc. etc. (I didn't know there were so many stitches)

And the reader's attention is captured straight away in the opening of the first chapter, Anchor Stitch:
    Will you forgive me if I tell you the ending? There’s a girl. She’s standing where the park outgrows itself and the manicured lawn gives way to longer grass and the stubble of rocks. She is standing in no-man’s-land, between the park and the place where the mill yards begin. 
    It’s night and the cane trains are still. 
    It is unbearably humid and she feels the sweat sliding down her back and she presses her hands there into the fabric to stop the sensation that is ticklishly unpleasant. She lifts up the midnight dress to fan her legs. It’s true, the dress is a magical thing, it makes her look so heavenly.
After a couple of pages from this narrator, the chapter continues with the story from the beginning. Rose Lovell arrives in town with her father at the Paradise caravan park where they will live for the next few months. She meets Pearl Kelly in the next day or so when she goes to school. They will be the central characters of the story, but there is also Edie Baker, an eccentric dressmaker with a history, Rose's alcoholic father, and Paul Rendell who runs a Book Exchange in the back of his mother's shop.

The first chapter sets the pattern for the rest. There is always a preface from the narrator, helpfully written in italics, and then the continuing story. There's the feeling of two paths, with the main story slowly catching up to the point where the narrator's brief snippets begin.

The two teenage girls are trying to establish their identities. Rose has been on the move with her father for a number of years after the apparent drowning suicide of her mother. She has had little chance to establish friends, and she connects surprisingly well with both Pearl and Edie, who agrees to help her make her dress for the Harvest Parade. Pearl is trying to work out who she is too, looking for her Russian father, by writing to men surnamed Orlov in Moscow. As Rose and Edie make the dress, so the tragedies of Edie's life emerge.

After a stuttering start, the book gathers pace. The author drops information all over the place and there are many little stories for the reader to piece together. It is a very effective technique.

So for me, Karen Foxlee is a new author to watch out for. A great book, not just a coming of age novel, but a well constructed mystery on many levels.

My rating: 4.7

The author's debut title, THE ANATOMY OF WINGS, published in 2009 looks interesting too. (My local library lists it as teen fiction).
    Ten-year-old Jennifer Day lives in a small mining town full of secrets. Trying to make sense of the sudden death of her teenage sister, Beth, she looks to the adult world around her for answers.

    As she recounts the final months of Beth’s life, Jennifer sifts through the lies and the truth, but what she finds are mysteries, miracles, and more questions. Was Beth’s death an accident? Why couldn’t Jennifer—or anyone else—save her?

1 December 2013

Review: THE RIDERS, Tim Winton - audio book

  • first published in 1994
  • audio book published in 2008 at Audible
  • Narrator Stanley McGeagh
  • Length: 10 hours 9 mins
 Synopsis (Audible)

 Fred Scully waits at the arrival gate of an international airport, anxious to see his wife and seven-year-old daughter. After two years in Europe they are finally settling down.
He sees a new life before them, a stable outlook, a cottage in the Irish countryside that he's renovated by hand.
He's waited, sweated on this reunion. He does not like to be alone - he's that kind of man. The flight lands, the glass doors hiss open, and Scully's life begins to go down in flames.

My Take

This may not have been the best book to read as an audio book, because there were many passages that, had it been a paper publication, I would have re-read.

Stanley McGeagh's Irish accent, as the voice of an Australian character, took a bit of getting used to.

After Scully's wife fails to turn up on the flight, and Billie gets off the flight alone, the book is mainly about trying to locate Jennifer and to work out why she has seemingly deserted him. Billie is withdrawn and won't utter a word about where her mother is.
In the manner of the Shiralee, Scully drags his daughter through Europe looking for Jennifer, returning to places that as a family they have visited before. Some former friends rather mysteriously won't talk to him.

Circumstances dictated that we listened to THE RIDERS over a long period of time, nearly two months in fact, probably missing the significance of some events, and certainly not understanding some references. For example, it was hard to work out where the title came from. There was a passage at the very beginning about riders that I would have liked to check although I did get a little help from Wikipedia.
    The novel deals with ideas of architecture, Australia, Europe, masculinity and trust. It also asks the question of self-identity, and how well you can ever truly know someone else.

    The book draws on the European mythology of the Wild Hunt, hence "The Riders".
I also checked what Percy Middlemiss had to say in his review.

So I've come away a bit disappointed by this book, but it is probably related to the fact that we "read" it as an audio book over far too long a passage of time.
It was after all a nominee for the Man Booker Prize in 1995.

My rating: 4.2

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month November 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 November 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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