26 February 2014

Review: DYING FALL, Elly Griffiths - audio book

  • Book 5 in the Ruth Galloway series
  • published 2012
  • format - audio book available through Audible
  • narrator Clare Corbett
  • Length: 10 hours 26 mins
Synopsis (Audible)

Ruth Galloway receives a phone call that bears shocking news. A friend of hers from college, Dan Golding, has been killed in a fire at his Lancashire home. Her shock turns to alarm when she gets a letter from Dan. He has made a discovery that will change archaeology forever but he needs Ruth's advice. Even more alarming, he sounds vulnerable and frightened.

DCI Harry Nelson is also rediscovering his past. Up north for a holiday, he meets his former colleague Sandy MacLeod, now at Blackpool CID. Sandy tells him there are strange circumstances surrounding Dan Golding's death. Many of those who worked with Dan seem to be afraid.

Many have secrets to hide. Ruth is drawn deep into the mystery, and where she goes, so does her toddler daughter, Kate. This time, it's not just Ruth's life at risk.

My take

This book ticked all the boxes for me. It wasn't just that Clare Corbett's narration was excellent, but so was the plotting.

Ruth's friend Dan, whom she hasn't seen since they were students together, contacts her because he wants her to help him to verify the most significant archaeological find of his life. By the time Ruth decides she will go to Blackpool to see what he is talking about, Dan is dead. She goes to Blackpool taking Druid friend Cathbad and her daughter Kate with her. And then she starts to get messages of discouragement, even threats to her welfare.

I like the way the author manages to keep Ruth and Kate's father Harry Nelson meeting up. Their paths     in Blackpool inevitably cross when Dan's death is verified as a murder. There is high degree of tension and suspense in the later stages of the novel.

Excellent reading.
My rating : 4.8

I've also reviewed


23 February 2014

Review: THE RIVER, Cheryl Kaye Tardif

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 507 KB
  • Print Length: 223 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1926997174
  • Publisher: Imajin Books; 1 edition (March 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003BLPH6C
  • Source: review copy from author
Synopsis (Amazon)


The South Nahanni River area of Canada's Northwest Territories has a history of mysterious deaths, disappearances and headless corpses, but it may also hold the key to humanity’s survival―or its destruction.

Del thought her father was long dead. But someone from her past says otherwise. Now she and a group of near strangers embark on a perilous mission...

Seven years ago, Del Hawthorne’s father and three of his friends disappeared near the Nahanni River and were presumed dead. When one of the missing men stumbles onto the University grounds, alive but barely recognizable and aging before her eyes, Del is shocked. Especially when the man tells her something inconceivable. Her father is still alive!

Gathering a group of volunteers, Del travels to the Nahanni River to rescue her father. There, she finds a secret river that plunges her into a technologically advanced world of nanobots and painful serums. Del uncovers a conspiracy of unimaginable horror, a plot that threatens to destroy us all. Will humanity be sacrificed for the taste of eternal life?

At what point have we become...God?

My take

This book won't be everyone's cup of tea: it is a cross between science fiction and Indiana Jones. Not my usual fare, but I enjoyed it. The author does a good job of making the implausible seem plausible, and the tension ramps up nicely.

It also raises some interesting issues, like where we are headed with stem cell research, what are the possibilities with nano bot technology?

My rating: 4.0

Review: A Selection of Short Stories by Agatha Christie

I read this collection of eight short stories on my Kindle.
What follows are not so much reviews as records for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

1. The Case of the Missing Lady

A Tommy and Tuppence story originally published in 1924. A tribute to Sherlock Holmes.
The Beresfords are working together as a private detective agency, in which Tommy is the detective and Tuppence is his secretary.
An Arctic explorer returns from an expedition to find that the lady he became engaged to prior to his departure two years before has disappeared.
Tommy and Tuppence eventually track her down but neither of them foresaw the reason for her disappearance.
I thought Christie was struggling to make this interesting and the ending was a bit trite.

2. The Dead Harlequin

First published in 1929. A Mr Satterthwaite story.
A slightly longer story that's begins when Mr Satterthwaite comes across a painting of a dead harlequin. He recognizes the location and is reminded of his friend Mr Harley Quin.
He invites the artist and a friend to dinner and the conversation gravitates to the setting of the painting, and to the story of the suicide of Lord Charnley at the house just as his guests arrived. There are a number of legends associated with Charnley House.
At some some stage they are joined by Mr Quin who assists in solving the mystery of the suicide and then disappears again. 
There were elements of this story that were similar to The Second Gong.

3. The Dream

First published in 1938.
A wealthy eccentric Benedict Farley requests Hercule Poirot to call on him. He recounts the tale of a recurrent dream in which he eventually shoots himself. After he wakes up, he feels sure that one dayhe will actually do it.
Poirot comes away from the meeting feeling vaguely dissatisfied, feeling he has been talking to a mountebank. A week later he learns that Farley has actually killed himself and is invited to see the scene for himself.

4. The House of Lurking Death.

Another Tommy and Tuppence story, published in 1924.
Lois Hargreaves comes to consult Mr Blunt (Tommy's agency name) as she believes someone is trying  to kill her.
She recently turned 21 and inherited a fortune.
Tommy and Tuppence decide to investigate but are too slow off the. Mark to prevent Lois' death by poisoning. This time it is Tuppence who solves the mystery.
In this story you can see Agatha Christie making use if her knowledge of chemicals and poisons. 

5. The Man in the Mist

Another Tommy and Tuppence story, also published in 1924.  A tribute to G. K. Chesterton.
The Beresfords investigate the murder of a young actress whom they had seen alive not five minutes before.
The murderer is the very last person we would suspect.

6. The Second Gong

This was originally published in 1932 and then expanded into Dead Man's Mirror in 1937 for inclusion in Murder in the Mews. Basically the story is the same, although the characters have different names, and the murderer is a different character. 
I think Dead Man's Mirror was a lot more polished.

7. Triangle at Rhodes

This was originally published in 1936, and then republished as a novella in 1937 for inclusion in Murder in the Mews. It is a Hercule Poirot story, and there are no discernible differences between the two.

8. Witness for the Prosecution.

First published in 1925 as Traitor Hands. 
I think this is the pick of the bunch, and you've probably seen the film which starred Marlene Deitrich.
A young man, Leonard Vole is accused of having murdered a rich eccentric old woman who befriended him. You will undoubtedly remember how cleverly the story was plotted and the role that Vole's wife played in securing his acquittal.
The story does not feature any of Christie's sleuths.

22 February 2014

Review: BRUNO and LE PERE NOEL: a Christmas Short Story, Martin Walker

Read on my Kindle
An e-story published by Quercus 2012
ISBN 978-1-84866-241-4

A delightful "feel good" short story set in St. Denis.

A Lebanese Christian Miriam and her young son Richard have recently moved to St. Denis. Richard has already joined Bruno's rugby squad and Miriam sings at the church. Their background is a mystery to most, but Miriam carries a sadness with her. Bruno learns that her husband is a prisoner on parole who has recently absconded from his job.

It is a couple of days before Christmas and Jean-Pierre Bonnevale makes a rather dramatic entrance when he steals a small charity collection. 
The whole scenario gives Bruno the chance to play Father Christmas in more ways than one.

If you have met Bruno yet, I can't recommend these stories enough.

Review: GETTING WARMER, Alan Carter

  • kindle edition
  • published 2013, Fremantle Press
  • ISBN 9781922089205
Synopsis (Fremantle Press)

Cato Kwong is back. Back in Boom Town and back on a real case – the unsolved mystery of a missing fifteen-year-old girl. 

But it’s midsummer in the city of millionaires and it’s not just the heat that stinks. A pig corpse, peppered with nails, is uncovered in a shallow grave and a body, with its throat cut, turns up in the local nightclub. 

As a series of blunders by Cato’s colleague brings the squad under intense scrutiny, Cato’s own sympathy for a suspect threatens to derail his case and his career.

My Take

The "hook" in this novel is a Prologue describing a conversation between a serial killer and a female Psychology student who has a lot to learn about listening.

Cato Kwong has returned to Fremantle from the "stock squad", but he knows it would be easy to put a foot wrong and be sent bush again. The novel opens with Cato accompanying a police squad and a murderer, presumably the one in the Prologue, to a desiccated lake, looking for a body. Gordon Francis Wellard is already serving a sentence for murder: they are looking for the body of a previous victim.

Corruption is rife in the police force particularly amongst detectives who are looking for the information that will give them the edge in a case. Deals done with criminals are often long lasting, and even the cleanest cops can find themselves doing something they know they shouldn't.

This is #2 in Carter's Cato Kwong series and he has fleshed out more background for Cato, and I think the novel is written in a grittier style. The new setting in Fremantle brings with it new characters, some of whom Cato has apparently worked with before, some he knows by reputation. Current social issues surface, such as territorial wars between bikie gangs, and Vietnamese protection gangs. 

Cato's family circumstances play a greater role too, and put the dangers of the sort of police work he does into greater perspective.

Carter's first novel PRIME CUT won him a Ned Kelly Award for best first novel, and GETTING WARMER affirms that he is a writer to watch.

My Rating: 4.7

Also Reviewed

18 February 2014

Review: MURDER IN THE MEWS, Agatha Christie

Read on my Kindle
First published in 1937
A collection of four novellas all featuring Hercule Poirot
Published as e-book in 2010, ISBN 978-0-00-742251-7

Synopsis (Agatha Christie site)

How did a woman holding a pistol in her right hand manage to shoot herself in the left temple? What was the link between a ghost sighting and the disappearance of top secret military plans? How did the bullet that killed Sir Gervase shatter a mirror in another part of the room? And who destroyed the ‘eternal triangle’ of love involving renowned beauty, Valentine Chantry? Hercule Poirot is faced with four mystifying cases - Murder in the MewsThe Incredible TheftDead Man's Mirror and Triangle at Rhodes - each a miniature classic of characterisation, incident and suspense.

My Take

Murder in the Mews
This novella gives the collection it's name.
The investigation of suspicious suicide that begins with Hercule Poirot and his friend Inspector Japp from Scotland Yard walking home on Guy Fawkes Night after meeting for dinner. They speculate that all the noise of firecrackers could disguise the report of a gun, and that a murder could easily go undetected.
Next morning a young lady is found dead in her flat, shot, apparently suicide. Japp invites Poirot to join him on the investigation.

The Incredible Theft
The disappearance of top secret military plans.
A honey trap to ensnare an espionage agent who is a house guest apparently backfires when plans disappear from a study moments before top level discussions of them are to take place. Hercule Poirot is brought in to investigate before the news leaks out.

Dead Man's Mirror
The bullet that kills Gervase Chevenix-Gore shatters a mirror.
Hercule Poirot receives an urgent summons from "the last baronet", Gervase Chevenix-Gore and catches up with his old friend Mr Satterthwaite to learn what he can about the baronet. He learns that Chevenix-Gore is extremely wealthy, very arrogant, very eccentric and the last of his line.
When Hercule Poirot arrives for dinner and Sir Gervase does not appear when the dinner gong is sounded, he realizes he is already too late. Sir Gervase is dead.
It looks like suicide but the shattered mirror points in another direction.

Triangle at Rhodes
Hercule Poirot is sitting on the beach watching the byplay between the sunbathers.mValentine Chantry, recently married for the fifth time, flirts with a new arrival, Douglas Gold, while sending her own husband off on petty tasks. 
As his holiday progresses, Poirot finds what is happening rather distressing.
When Valentine Chantry dies his interpretation of the crime show that others have seen what they wanted to see, not the way he saw it.

I suspected I had already read these novellas, perhaps not as this collection, and perhaps seen a television version of at least one of them. They all show how acutely Hercule Poirot observes others, and how he often interprets things very differently.

I read this as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

My rating: 4.4

Review: BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS, Agatha Christie

First published 1968
ISBN 978 0007 111 497
This version published for Kindle (Amazon) 2010

Synopsis (Agatha Christie site)

‘By the pricking of my thumbs Something wicked this way comes.’ When Tommy and Tuppence visit an elderly aunt in her gothic nursing home, they think nothing of her mistrust of the doctors; after all, Ada is a very difficult old lady. But when Mrs. Lockett mentions a poisoned mushroom stew, and Mrs. Lancaster talks about ‘something behind the fireplace’, Tommy and Tuppence find themselves caught in an unexpected adventure involving a strange inheritance, a mysterious house, black magic, and a missing tombstone.

My Take

This is Tommy and Tuppence Beresford's last "outing". Tommy has worked in "intelligence" all of his life, Tuppence has raised a family, and now they are retired. Tommy still gives lectures and consults in the intelligence field, and is about to go off to a conference for a few days, leaving Tuppence at a loose end.

The story begins when they visit Tommy's Aunt Ada in a geriatric nursing home and Tuppence, rejected by Aunt Ad! Spends her time with a Mrs Lancaster who makes a strange reference to a child in the chimney. Mrs Lancaster subsequently disappears, Aunt Ada dies, and Tuppence is not satisfied with explanations of where Mrs Lancaster has gone. And so the case begins.  Tommy returns home from his conference to find that Tuppence has gone off sleuthing and has disappeared.

What I find interesting about these later Christie novels is how she has returned to each of her major characters and updated what has happened to them. (Although in the case of both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot these novels were written well ahead of when they were needed.) 

Unlike Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot though, the Beresfords have aged in "real" time. While the Secret Service became Tommy's career, Tuppence has only been allowed "out of the house", so to speak, occasionally, apart from some active service in intelligence in World War II, and here you get a sense of wasted talent. A bit of feminism from Christie?

Another of the quirky things about this novel is that Christie seems to be exploring the nature of senility and dementia. For example some of the residents of Sunny Ridge where Aunt Ada lives are downright cranky at times, and many get their memories muddled up, and some even believe at times they are someone famous. At other times they clearly remember events from decades before, and recognize faces from the past.

What creates a serial killer? You could say that the last few pages of the novel focus on that issue.
An elderly woman  believes that she has been chosen, but that at the same time she is suffering retribution.
"What I'd done was murder, wasn't it, and you can only atone for murder with other murders, because the other murders wouldn't really be murders, they would be sacrifices."

At the end of the novel Tommy tells Tuppence "Don't ever do it again." and she agrees. "I'm too old."
This indeed is their swan song.

I've been looking for signs that Christie's own mental powers were diminishing at this stage of her life, and I've come away feeling that she still had a lot to say. True, this is an unlikely tale, an escapist cozy, but I found it impressive.

My rating: 4.5

I've read this for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

15 February 2014

Review: I CAME TO SAY GOODBYE, Caroline Overington

  • Format: Kindle
  • File Size: 381 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (September 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00D48BT1E

Synopsis (Amazon)

It was a crime that shocked the world.

The CCTV footage shows a young woman pushing through the hospital doors.

She walks into the nursery, picks up a baby and places her carefully in a shopping bag.

She walks out to the car park, towards an old Ford Corolla. For a moment, she holds the child gently against her breast and, with her eyes closed, she smells her.

Then she clips the baby into the car, gets in and drives off. This is where the footage ends.

What happens next will leave a mother devastated, and a little boy adrift in a world he will never understand.

My Take

This is another novel by Caroline Overington that sits on the perimeter of crime fiction. Certainly a crime is committed, probably more the one, but the primary focus of the novel is social issues: parents who fail their children, community services that fail their users, bureaucracy that gets in the way of understanding, systems that leave families and their members in limbo.

Two primary narrators, Med and his daughter Kat, tell the reader about the tragedies that have overtaken their family through letters to a Family Court judge who is to give a ruling about the custody of a child. We learn of Med's struggle to raise his family on his own after his wife walks out when his youngest child is just two. Med does a pretty good job, but, in his own judgement, just not good enough.

The setting is a small coastal town in rural New South Wales. Med's two older children leave, leaving him to raise the younger daughter on his own. 

Underpinning the story, and giving it a biting edge, is criticism of Australian services that should be providing support for families. Clearly bureaucracy gets in the way of empathy, and cost cutting means that services are reduced. And above all, this novel is well constructed, and a really good read.

There are plenty of things to discuss with this novel, and the author provides some further discussion questions after the text.

My rating: 4.7

11 February 2014

Review: BITTER WATER, Gordon Ferris

  • ZFormat: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 675 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Corvus; First Edition edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006VSP8GG
Synopsis (Amazon)

Glasgow's melting. The temperature is rising and so is the murder rate. Douglas Brodie, ex-policeman, ex-soldier and now newest reporter on the Glasgow Gazette, has no shortage of material for his crime column.

But even Brodie baulks at his latest subject: a rapist who has been tarred and feathered by a balaclava-clad group. Brodie soon discovers a link between this horrific act and a series of brutal beatings.

As violence spreads and the body count rises, Brodie and advocate Samantha Campbell are entangled in a web of deception and savagery. Brodie is swamped with stories for the Gazette. But how long before he and Sam become the headline?

My Take

#2 in the Douglas Brodie series takes place a couple of years after the first. The years following World War II are not the golden days everyone had hoped for. Large areas of Glasgow are scheduled for regeneration but with the plans and the money comes corruption at city hall. 

Many returned soldiers have been unable to find jobs and indeed have been treated badly. Not only that, they can see others profiting by crime. Cases go to court and burglars, murderers, and others are being acquitted for lack of evidence, or through sloppy policing. The result is the rise of vigilantes taking matters into their own hands, and dispensing their own form of justice.

Douglas Brodie, working for The Gazette, becomes the target for one of these groups, The Marshall's, to get their message across.

I think I enjoyed this novel every bit as much as the first in the series. The main characters are strong, the settings feel historically authentic, and the tension ramps up as the story progresses.

My rating: 4.8

I have also reviewed 4.8, THE HANGING SHED

About the author
Gordon Ferris is an ex-techy in the Ministry of Defence and an ex-partner in one of the Big Four accountancy firms. Maybe that's where he gets his interest in spies and crooks. He writes about the important things in life: conflicted heroes and headstring women embroiled in tangled tales of life, love and death. He is the author of the No. 1 bestselling eBook The Hanging Shed. 

Review:ENDLESS NIGHT, Agatha Christie

Kindle copy (Amazon)

  • File Size: 705 KB
  • Print Length: 259 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0062073516
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reissue edition (February 10, 2010)

Synopsis (Christie site)

A young man falls in love and insists on building his family home on cursed gypsy land.

Some are born to sweet delight,Some are born to endless night.
Sadly, many who trespass upon Gipsy’s Acre are condemned to ‘endless night’ – usually due to an ‘accident’. For newly-weds Michael and Ellie Rogers, however, Gipsy’s Acre appears to be the perfect place to build a house and begin their married life.
True, Ellie badly sprains her ankle, and a rock is thrown through the window at dinner one evening – but that’s just inconvenient, not a curse.
Then, one day, she goes out riding and doesn’t come back…
Love and evil collide on cursed ground. The title Endless Night was taken from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence and describes Christie’s favourite theme in the novel: a “twisted” character, who always chooses evil over good.

Christie finished Endless Night in six weeks, as opposed to the three-four months that most of her other novels took. Despite being in her seventies while writing it, she told an interviewer that being Michael, the twenty-something narrator, “wasn’t difficult. After all, you hear people like him talking all the time.”
The story was adapted for film in 1972, starring Hayley Mills and Britt Ekland, however Christie felt the added sexual scenes were unnecessary. It was adapted for BBC Radio 4 in 2008 and a graphic novel version of the story was released later that year. Endless Night was also adapted for TV in 2013 with the added character of Miss Marple played by Julia McKenzie.
The book is dedicated to Christie's relative Nora Prichard, who first mentioned a field called 'Gipsy's Acre' on the Welsh moors.
My Take
This is one of the Christie titles that I really don't think I have read before.  I've certainly seen at least one TV or film version, even the one that recently introduced Miss Marple as an extra character.  I thought poor Miss Marple was put in extraordinary danger and had her physical powers fully tested in that one. As a general rule I don't like these plot modifications.
ENDLESS NIGHT was however written as a stand-alone and in it Agatha Christie returns to the writing exercises of the unreliable narrator, and exploring the mind of the psychotic killer.
The author does not really play fair with the reader, because we don't ever get the full picture all at once. Little bits are left unexplained. Ellie's American relatives are portrayed to us by the narrator, Ellie's husband Michael Rogers, as predatory and untrustworthy, and there are characters like Michael's mother, who could have explained so much, who remain elusive and shadowy,  because Michael does not want us to meet them.
Divided into four books, the novel takes quite a long time to build up to Ellie's death, and then the events that follow. There is an almost Gothic quality to the story: American heiress, quick marriage in defiance of her advisor's wishes, cursed land, gypsy woman who tries to scare the heiress.
An enjoyable read, part of my quest to complete the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
My rating: 4.4

8 February 2014

Review: NOWHERE TO GO, Iain Rowan

  • Kindle (Amazon)
  • Print Length: 124 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: infinity plus (March 23, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • Source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

Shortlisted for Spinetingler magazine's award for Best Short Story Collection of 2011.

An ordinary man who finds himself caught up in a bank raid gone wrong. A murder caught on security camera where the victim doesn't exist. A man with just months to live, who is already living in hell but decides to take on the devil. A mob accountant babysitting a hired killer on a trip to the countryside, and a burglar on an easy job who finds it might not be so easy after all. A con-artist conned, and what a man will do when in the grip of an obsession more important to him than his own life.

Eleven crime stories first published in Alfred Hitchcock's, Ellery Queen's, and elsewhere by award-winning writer Iain Rowan. Eleven stories of what people do when there is nowhere left to go.

Iain's short fiction has been reprinted in Year's Best anthologies, won a Derringer Award, and been the basis for a novel shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers' Association's Debut Dagger award.

My Take

This certainly is a very readable collection of short stories, each with a twist that I didn't see coming. 
What I mainly like about short stories is the completeness of their plots and Iain Rowan is certainly a master of that.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

I've written both novels and short stories, mostly crime fiction.
ONE OF US is my debut crime novel. It started as a short story published in Hitchcock's Magazine, became a novel, and ended up being shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger award for best unpublished novel.
I've also had over thirty short stories published. Some of those stories have been reprinted in Year's Best anthologies, won a Derringer Award, been voted into readers' top ten of the year, or been in anthologies nominated for awards..
NOWHERE TO GO is a collection of eleven of my previously published crime stories, many of which appeared first in print in magazines like Hitchcock's and Ellery Queen's.
ICE AGE is a collection of eight stories of the strange and the chilling that have been published in various places over the last few years.
And last, but not least, SEA CHANGE is something different again: a young adult novel like those I loved as a child by writers like Alan Garner and Susan Cooper, about haunted, folklore-ridden England.

Review: IRREPARABLE HARM, Melissa F. Miller

  • Format Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 498 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0983492700
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Brown Street Books (April 19, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004XDACV2
  • Source: review copy supplied by publisher/author
  • Setting: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Synopsis (Amazon)

After eight long years, attorney Sasha McCandless is about to make partner at a prestigious law firm. All she has to do is keep her head down and her billable hours up.
When a plane operated by her client slams into the side of a mountain, killing everyone aboard, Sasha gears up to defend the inevitable civil lawsuits.  She soon realizes the crash was no accident: a developer has created an application that can control a commercial plane's onboard computer from a smartphone.  

Sasha joins forces with a federal air marshal, and they race to prevent another airline disaster. But when people close to the matter start turning up dead, Sasha must rely on both her legal skills and her Krav Maga training to stop the madman before he kills her.  

My take

We are in no doubt about who or what caused the crash of Hemisphere Air Flight 1667 for we are there when Angelo Calvaruso hits SEND on his smart phone. But who is behind it, and what does he/they hope to get out of it?

The race to avert another disaster is nicely paced, and and I enjoyed the tight plotting. An excellent read - I'm just sorry it took me a while to get around toreading it.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed DARK BLOOMS

7 February 2014

Review: THIN BLOOD, Vicki Tyley

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 343 KB
  • Print Length: 220 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003JTHBL0
  • source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

Craig Edmonds, a successful stockbroker, reports the disappearance of his wife, Kirsty. What starts as a typical missing person's case soon evolves into a full-blown homicide investigation when forensics uncover blood traces and dark-blonde hairs in the boot of the missing woman's car. Added to this, is Craig's adulterous affair with the victim's younger sister, Narelle Croswell, compounded further by a recently acquired $1,000,000 insurance policy on his wife's life. He is charged with murder but, with no body and only circumstantial evidence, he walks free when two trials resulting in hung juries fail to convict him.

Ten years later, Jacinta Deller, a newspaper journalist is retrenched. Working on a freelance story about missing persons, she comes across the all but forgotten Edmonds case. When she discovers her boyfriend, Brett Rhodes, works with Narelle Croswell, who is not only the victim's sister but is now married to the prime suspect, her sister's husband, she thinks she has found the perfect angle for her article. Instead, her life is turned upside down, as befriending the woman, she becomes embroiled in a warped game of delusion and murder.

My take

I've been meaning to read this novel by Australian author Vicki Tyley for some time now and I found it a satisfying read. The plot is well thought out, perhaps a little unlikely, and I liked the main character Jacinta Deller. 

The setting is suburban Melbourne but I didn't think the novel had a particularly Australian flavour, apart occasional bits of the dialogue.

I must admit that I had the final solution worked about about two thirds of the way through, and was pleased to find that I was right.

I believe Vicki Tyley's books might only be available as self-published e-books, but perhaps someone could leave more information via a comment. If you are looking for a light but satisfying read, then this might hit the spot.

My rating: 4.3

Review: LIQUID FEAR, Scott Nicholson

  • Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 526 KB
  • Print Length: 281 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612182070
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (December 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005VIA9JS
  • Source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

When Roland Doyle wakes up in an unfamiliar motel room with a strange man’s wallet in his pocket and a woman’s dead body in the bathroom, he fears the worst…and that’s before he finds the vial of pills labeled "take one every 4 hrs or else." Or else what?

Ten years ago, Dr. Sebastian Briggs’s clinical drug trial for a cutting-edge fear-response drug went horribly wrong — or did it? It’s true that one trial participant died and five others were left with no memory of what happened to them. But now several interested parties, including a major pharmaceutical company and an ambitious U.S. senator, are willing to back Briggs’s continued research. All he has to do is recall his five surviving "volunteers," whose addiction to a mysterious drug has left them largely at his disposal. They will do anything necessary to keep the pills coming and to stave off the creeping phobias, intense sexual impulses, and all-consuming madness that lurk on the edges of their minds. It’s easy enough for the good doctor to lure the survivors back to the remote Monkey House, where the original trials took place. But when the pills finally run out…that’s when the real show begins.

My take

This edge-of-the-seat thriller keeps the reader guessing as the author plays with the idea of drugs that can predispose a person to violence when adrenalin is released into the blood stream. And worse than that, the drug can lay dormant for years. The antidote makes the "user" forget what they've done, but once you start taking them, you need to keep them up to keep the demons at bay.

Is this the future path for chemical warfare? Soldiers pop pills to make them violent? The scenario is horrifying and what if it was a gas not a pill?

The author does a good job of imagining possibilities.

My rating: 3.8

I've also reviewed: DISINTEGRATION

6 February 2014

Review: DEATH SURGE, Pauline Rowson

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 554 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Severn House Digital; First World Publication edition (December 20, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H9DOLE2
  • #10 in the Andy Horton series

Synopsis (author site)

A telephone call from a frantic Sergeant Cantelli to say that his nephew, Johnnie Oslow, is missing cuts short Detective Inspector Horton’s sailing trip to France. Summoned back to the Isle of Wight, Horton learns that Johnnie has not shown up for racing during Cowes Week, as previously arranged.

The investigation is ranked low priority by Horton’s boss, Detective Chief Inspector Lorraine Bliss, who like others believes Johnnie has probably gone off with a woman. But events take a very different turn when the charred remains of a body are discovered in one of the disused tunnels at the Hilsea Lines in Portsmouth.

With the arrival of Detective Chief Superintendent Sawyer of the Intelligence Directorate and Agent Harriet Eames of Europol, what began as the hunt for a missing man becomes the search for a ruthless killer . . .

My take

One strand of this novel, as always in this series, is the continuing story of Detective Inspector Andy Horton's life, and his ongoing search for the truth about his mother Jennifer, who vanished when he was 10 years old. In each novel he collects more clues to what happened to her, but can't quite get there.

The other strand of the novel, as always, is the current case, a local event, a murder, a disappearance, a mystery. This time the nephew of Horton's sergeant, Barney Cantelli, has gone missing at the beginning of Cowes Week. It seems he may have disappeared en route from London to Cowes. Johnnie Oslow, an experienced sailor, has been missing for 3 days.

I haven't read all of this series but I have enjoyed those I have. Rowson does a good job with all aspects of the novels: the plots are engaging, the setting feels authentic, and character development is excellent.

My rating: 4.5

5 February 2014

Review: THE DIVIDED CHILD, Ekaterine Nikas

  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 686 KB
  • Publisher: Little Fox (March 18, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

Sunny Greece turns deadly....

All Christine Stewart wants is a relaxing vacation on the beautiful Greek island of Corfu. Then she meets nine-year-old Michael Redfield and saves him from being crushed by a falling piece of Byzantine stone.

Invited to spend the rest of her holiday at the luxurious villa where Michael is staying with his family, Christine soon realizes something is wrong with the Redfield clan.

Michael's stepmother is openly hostile, her brother is charmingly seductive, and Michael's handsome uncle seems obsessed with the death of his brother--Michael's father.

Christine has no desire to become even more deeply embroiled in the family's problems, but how can she abandon Michael when she learns he is the pawn in a nasty custody battle...and the target of a killer?

My Take

There is an old-fashioned feel to this plot: it reminded me of those romantic thrillers of the 1950s and 1960s by Mary Stewart.

After she makes the decision to stay at Ithake because she is convinced that Michael Redfield's life is in danger, Christine Stewart is no longer sure who she can trust. Is Michael's uncle Geoffrey really trying to keep his nephew safe or does he have an eye on Michael's inheritance? Yet another attempt appears to be made on Michael's life, and then someone takes a potshot at Christine. Just what is going on?

A well constructed thriller but, as I said a little earlier, with the feel that it belongs to earlier days, although events actually set it in the 21st century. Christine for example is a computer graphic designer. The plot has an improbable feel: for example Michael's mother is presumed to have died when he was two but actually agreed to disappear from his life.

I've found it difficult to find out anything about the author, although THE DIVIDED CHILD feels like a debut novel, and I'm assuming it has been translated from Greek. Perhaps someone can give me more information.

My rating: 4.1

4 February 2014

Review: BLOODLAND, Alan Glynn

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 639 KB
  • Print Length: 382 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0312621280
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber Crime (September 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005GDZJ7U
  • Source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

A tabloid star is killed in a helicopter crash and three years later a young journalist is warned off the story.

A private security contractor loses it in the Congo, with deadly consequences.

In Ireland an ex-prime minister struggles to contain a dark secret from his time in office.

A dramatic news story breaks in Paris just as a US senator begins his campaign to run for office.

With echoes of John Le Carre, 24 and James Ellroy, Alan Glynn's follow-up to Winterland is another crime novel of and for our times -- a ferocious, paranoid thriller that moves from Dublin to New York via Central Africa, and thrillingly explores the legacy of corruption in big business, the West's fear of China, the role of back room political players and the question of who controls what we know.

My take

When out of work journalist Jim Gilroy is approached to write a biography of dead model Susie Monaghan strange things begin to happen. Gilroy was caught up some time earlier by the downsizing of Ireland's press industry, lost his job, and this is his first chance to earn for some time. So when he is contacted by a former mentor and advised to drop the job, he can't help wondering why. 

Then a drunken former prime minister tells him that "it was never about Susie. She was just collateral damage." So, Gilroy asks himself, who is it "it" really about? And what exactly is "it"? Threads begin to converge as Gilroy persists.

This was a very tight read. The style is a little disconcerting as the narrative changes point-of-view rather abruptly and I found myself searching the text for clues to whose voice it was. There was a similar situation with settings as we bounce from Dublin to London to Paris, New York, Washington, and The Congo.

The blurb is right: this is about corruption in high places, and in big business, but it is also about the subtleties of economic multinationalism, and the webs that connect us all wherever we live.

My rating: 4.6

I have also reviewed WINTERLAND

Review: THE DONOR, Helen Fitzgerald

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 410 KB
  • Print Length: 323 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0571254373
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber Fiction (July 21, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005685ELQ
  • Source: I bought it
 Synopsis (Amazon)

Will Marion has two perfect kidneys.

His daughters aren't so lucky. Question is: which one should he save?

Will's 47. His wife bailed out when the twins were in nappies and hasn't been seen since. He coped OK by himself at first, giving Georgie and Kay all the love he could, working in a boring admin job to support them. Just after the twins turn sixteen, Georgie suffers kidney failure and is placed on dialysis. Her type is rare, and Will immediately offers to donate an organ. Without a transplant, she would probably never see adulthood. So far so good. But then Kay gets sick. She's also sixteen. Just as precious. Her kidney type just as rare.

Time is critical, and he has to make a decision.

Should he buy a kidney - be an organ tourist?
Should he save one child? If so, which one?
Should he sacrifice himself?

Or is there a fourth solution - one so terrible it has never even crossed his mind?

 My Take

Helen Fitzgerald is one of those authors able to take the reader out of their own world to thinking through the options surrounding a particular issue. Twin teenage daughters both needing a kidney transplant forces Will to look for his wife Cynthia for the first time in 13 years. If it was just one daughter needing a kidney then he would willingly donate one of his. But two kidneys means two donors.

Will employs an agency to search for his wife and this story branches out into Preston's story too, for Preston is also a teenager. And then there is Cynthia's story. She originally ran away to live with Heath a childhood sweetheart who has spent most of his life in jail.

There is a lot of pathos in this story, missed chances, lives that haven't turned out right, but there's a lot of humor as well. I thought the characters were well drawn even down to Will's parents, apologetic because they are old and because their kidneys are not suitable for donation. 

How does it become crime fiction?  I think THE DONOR Is really only on the fringes of crime fiction although murders are committed. But they are not really the focus of the story. The central issue is how to resolve this problem of needing two kidneys.

A good read.
My rating: 4.5

I have also reviewed DEAD LOVELY

Review: THE DYING BEACH, Angela Savage

  • MFormat: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 417 KB
  • Print Length: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Text Publishing (June 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

A new case for expat private investigator Jayne Keeney.

As Jayne and Rajiv holiday in Krabi, Jayne can't stop her mind straying to thoughts of the future: a successful business, perhaps even a honeymoon. Who would have thought she could be so content?
But then their tour guide's body is found floating in the shallows and no one can explain the marks around her neck.

Jayne and Rajiv are pulled into a case that the police have already decided isn't one: a case that will pull at the seams of their fledgling relationships and lead Jayne into grave danger.

Angela Savage is a Melbourne-based crime writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her first novel, Behind the Night Bazaar, won the 2004 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. She is a winner of the Scarlett Stiletto Award and has twice been shortlisted for Ned Kelly awards.

My Take

Jayne and Rajiv's newly formed partnership of Keeney and Patel, private investigators, is severely tested when they agree to investigate the suspicious death of their tour guide. Jayne is really too used to making decisions without reference to others. Rajiv on the other hand believes Jayne is far too impulsive and doesn't take into account the costs of the time she spends investigating. Jayne is only too willing to admit that she has made almost no profit as a private investigator so far.

The novel is set against economic and social issues besetting modern Thailand, particularly foreign and Thai businessmen trying to make quick profits without due consideration of the environmental impacts of their schemes. Villagers too are losing traditional rights when incomers seize on land that appears to belong to no-one. Others are worried by Thai locals becoming so heavily reliant on tourist income, and by the almost automatic degradation of the local way of life.

I was impressed in this novel by the author's empathetic depiction of village life and of Thai customs, of the responsibility felt by village elders, as well as the detailed explanation of the social and economic issues surrounding the murders. Angela Savage takes us a little away from the beaten track, out of Bangkok, to areas that have tourist potential, but where change/modernisation will come at a price.

I've included this novel in my list for the 2014 Global Reading Challenge in Asia (Thailand).

My rating: 4.5

I also reviewed  4.5, THE HALF-CHILD


  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 323 KB
  • Print Length: 78 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

"Kubu" Bengu is a detective in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. A large man with big appetites - his nickname Kubu means hippo in the Setswana language. He is happily married and lives in the capital, Gaborone.

Twenty-first century Botswana is a country with real issues and real murders. In this collection of stories - one never previously published - Kubu investigates three mysterious deaths. A man is stabbed outside a bar. Is it just a jealous fight or is there something much more sinister behind it? A man suffers a gruesome death in a country town. Is it the result of witchcraft, or could there be another cause? A policeman is shot dead at close range in his own home. Is it the colleagues of a man he killed who was resisting arrest? And what of his wife's alibi?

In the last story of the collection, The Haunting, a very unusual detective in South Africa solves a strange disappearance and fraud in a most unconventional way.

Finally, author Michael Stanley interviews Detective Kubu himself in Gaborone until Kubu amusingly turns the tables!

This entertaining collection of Kubu's shorter adventures is not to be missed by his many fans. And if you haven't met Kubu yet, then a treat is in store for you.

Michael Stanley is the pen name of two South Africans - Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip - who write fiction together. Their novels - all featuring Detective Kubu - are A CARRION DEATH, THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU (A DEADY TRADE in the UK), DEATH OF THE MANTIS, and DEADLY HARVEST. The books have been shortlisted for a variety of awards, and DEATH OF THE MANTIS won the BARRY AWARD for best paperback original in 2012.

My Take

I enjoyed this collection of short stories. They involved Kubu to varying extents. For example in Death of a Policeman Kubu is home on sick leave, having developed pneumonia, and he basically solves the puzzle from his bed although he does sneak out to confront the wife.

In An Issue of Women and Money and also Neighbours he is called in only at end.

It is a nice collection of short stories, very readable, and informative about Kubu's character.

My rating: 4.5

I've already reviewed

3 February 2014

Postings may be intermittent

Today I have begun a one month cruise from Los Angeles to Adelaide, and while the reading will probably continue unabated, I am not sure about how often I will have internet connection.

2 February 2014

What I read in January 2014

I have made good use of my Kindle and also some vintage publications from Wakefield Crime Classics.
14 books in all, reflecting the fact that some are short, I have been travelling and also that I do tend to read faster on my Kindle.
My Pick of the Month is

Goodluck Tinubu, an ex-Zimbabwean who has taught in Botswana for many years, is viciously murdered in his tent at the Jackalberry bush camp, situated on an isolated peninsula in northern Botswana. Peter Sithole, allegedly a tourist from South Africa and a second guest at the camp, is found bludgeoned to death a few hours later. Detective “Kubu” Bengu is sent from Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, to assist the local Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in solving the crime.

Another guest at the camp – Ishmael Zondo - departed unexpectedly at dawn the morning after the murders. Now Zondo has completely disappeared, and the Zimbabwe police are unable – or unwilling – to trace him. Reports surface that he is wanted as a dissident in Zimbabwe. And, as a final enigma, matching fingerprint records reveal that Goodluck Tinubu was killed in the Rhodesian civil war thirty years earlier

1 February 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month January 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2014

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 2014, 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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