30 June 2014

Review: GIDEON'S RIDE, J. J. Marric (John Creasey) -audio book

Synopsis (Audible)

A gang is at work robbing any passenger they find travelling alone on the top deck of London's buses. One night they strike too hard and murder results, followed by another killing of the bus conductress who could have indentified them. This is just one of several cases laden with human interest and suspense which came Gideon's way in another busy week at Scotland Yard.

My Take

I've been working my way through these pioneering police procedurals and I've probably read enough for now. There is a sameness to them all as we are presented with the daily working of the London Police force, George Gideon's determination that only the best is acceptable, and the wide range of cases that he has to deal with.

They do make very acceptable short journey listening but they seem to follow a formula. There is little doubt that Gideon will eventually catch up with the crims although some suspense is created by whether he will do it in time to prevent another murder etc. As the blurb says, each book has several cases in it, and there is also some human interest in the form of Gideon's family life, and a picture of London life in the 1960s. In their day they would have made engrossing reading as they forged a pattern for police procedurals.

In GIDEON'S RIDE the cases are quite varied and Gideon is dissatisfied at the end because one murderer has got away for the time being.

My rating:4.3

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26 June 2014

Review: I WILL HAVE VENGEANCE, Maurizio de Giovanni

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 324 KB
  • Print Length: 216 pages
  • Publisher: First published in Italian 2007, this English edition by Hersilia Press (February 13, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00793NHSI
  • Translated by Anne Milano Appel 
Synopsis (Amazon)

Naples, March 1931: a bitter wind stalks the city’s streets, and murder lies at its chilled heart.

As one of the world’s greatest tenors, Maestro Vezzi, is found brutally murdered in his dressing room at Naples’ famous San Carlo Theatre, the enigmatic and aloof Commissario Ricciardi is called in to investigate. Arrogant and bad-tempered, Vezzi was hated by many, but with the livelihoods of the opera at stake, who would have committed this callous act?

Ricciardi, along with his loyal colleague, Maione, is determined to discover the truth. But Ricciardi carries his own secret: will it help him solve this murder?

My Take

This is the first in a series featuring an enigmatic Naples detective, Commissario Ricciardi,  and set during the Fascist 1930s. Ricciardi inherited an interesting trait from his mother - the dead talk to him, appealing for justice. Sometime after their death, the images fade and they haunt him no longer. But just after they have died they pose puzzles about their death. You would think this might be advantageous for a homicide detective like Ricciardi but in fact the murder victim rarely tells him straight out who committed the deed. In the case of the murdered tenor Vezzi, Ricciardi picks up hints rather than proof.

So Ricciardi insists that he enter a murder scene alone for a few minutes at first, to see what the dead person has to "say". In the case of Vezzi there are things that just don't make sense. As always those higher up the order are pressing for a quick apprehension of the murderer. Vezzi is a house-hold word with even Il Duce's office taking an interest. When a young man confesses to the murder the Vice-Questore pressures Ricciardi to charge him quickly but he still feels that there are things that don't add up. Ricciardi's superiors find him prickly, rather uncompromising, and at times downright uncooperative. It is not secret that only his assistant Brigadier Maione will work with him.

While the series is set in Naples at the beginning of the 1930s I don't feel that the historical details are particularly influential. They really provide setting only. You are not going to learn much Italian history from reading this book. There is an interesting section at the end of the e-book where the translator explains some of the historical references. But after all de Giovanni's primary audience is Italian readers who know a lot about their own history, not non-Italians who know little. So the Italian reader will mentally fill in a lot of supplementary detail from a simple reference to, for example, the hairnet that Ricciardi wears to bed.

Overall though, a good read, and I will look forward to another.

My rating: 4.7

The others in the series:

See a review at Crime Scraps

23 June 2014

Review: GREY MASK, Patricia Wentworth - audio book

  • first published 1928
  • #1 in the Miss Silver series
  • Narrated by: Diana Bishop
  • Length: 7 hrs and 34 mins 
  • Format: Unabridged
  • audio book from Audible.com
Synopsis (Publisher)

The first of the classic mysteries featuring governess-turned-detective Miss Silver, who investigates a deadly conspiratorial ring.

Charles Moray has come home to England to collect his inheritance. After four years wandering the jungles of India and South America, the hardy young man returns to the manor of his birth, where generations of Morays have lived and died. Strangely, he finds the house unlocked, and sees a light on in one of its abandoned rooms. Eavesdropping, he learns of a conspiracy to commit a fearsome crime.

Never one for the heroic, Charles’ first instinct is to let the police settle it. But then he hears her voice. Margaret, his long-lost love, is part of the gang. To unravel their diabolical plot, he contacts Miss Silver, a onetime governess who applies her reason to solve crimes and face the dangers of London’s underworld.

My Take

I've read this as part of the 2014 Vintage Mystery Challenge. I'm sure I have read a Miss Silver novel before, maybe even several (see these posts about forgotten books), but have not reviewed any on this blog, so a long time ago. Although the first in the Miss Silver series, this was far from Patricia Wentworth's first novel. There would eventually be over 30 titles in this series, which she kept publishing until 1961. However the second title in the series does not appear for another nine years.

It is probably inevitable that readers compare Miss Silver with Agatha Christie's Jane Marple, who made her first appearance in 1927. In contrast to Miss Marple, Miss Silver had had a previous career as a governess, and seems to be more experienced in the ways of the world, whereas Miss Marple is mainly experienced in village life. While Miss Silver appears to be attempting to be make a living as a private detective and sleuth, Miss Marple gets her cases from the things that happen around her.

Miss Silver does not appear to be as old as Miss Marple, but at the same time is rather more non-descript. Both are spinsters, and both seem rather small and harmless. Both do a lot of knitting. The author stresses how colourless and drab Miss Silver is. In fact the plot seems to bear that out for there are long passages between her appearances, and the reader could be forgiven for forgetting that she is "on the job" at all. But she has the knack of turning up when you least expect her, and she certainly is a shrewd observer. And in the long run it is Miss Silver who initiates the decisive action that brings everything to a satisfactory resolution and saves the day.

So how well has GREY MASK weathered? The plot is passable but I think perhaps the language of the novel is a bit dated. It seems set in a world of inheritances and a social structure that even by 1929 was rapidly disappearing.

My rating: 4.1

Review: CINDERELLA GIRL, Carin Gerhardsen

  • this edition published by Penguin Group Australia in 2014
  • first published in Sweden as Mamma, pappa, barn in 2008
  • translated from Swedish into English by Paul Norlen 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4059-1786-5
  • 361 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #2 in the Hammarby series
Synopsis (Publisher)

Three-year-old Hanna wakes up to find she has been abandoned.  Her family is gone.  The house is locked.  She is trapped.

Meanwhile, a teenage girl has been found murdered aboard the Cinderella, a cruise ship that sails between Sweden and Finland.

Detective Chief Inspector Conny Sjöberg visits the girl's home to deliver the tragic news.  But as he investigates it becomes chillingly clear that the girl's younger sister will meet a similar fate - unless the police can crack the case and trap this elusive and vicious killer.

And all this time, somewhere in Stockholm, a little girl waits to be found and rescued. . .

My Take

I recently read the first in this series, THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE, and if anything CINDERELLA GIRL makes better reading. This is certainly shaping up to be a good police procedural series. I read somewhere that Gerhardsen has been working on #7 so I hope we get a few more translated into English.

There are three main strands in the plot: the murder of a teenager on an overnight ferry from Sweden to Finland; the apparent abandonment of a three year old in the flat where she lives with her parents; and the rape of one of the female members of the police team.

The reader knows why Hanna's mother has not returned to the flat, but the police are not aware of Hanna's existence. Hanna herself begins to make random phone calls and contacts an elderly lady called Barbro who initiates her own search for her.

As the blurb says, this book makes compulsive reading. Will Barbro find Hanna in time? Who murdered the girl on the boat and why? And who is Bjorn who rings Hanna and promises to visit her with food?

The internal workings and relationships in the police team get a lot of focus too, and things are not as harmonious as they seem. There is some overlap from the first in the series and I think these are books that should be read in order. Certainly at the end of CINDERELLA GIRL things are not neatly tied off, and so reading this one will be important for best appreciation of the next.

My rating: 4.8

The next in the series is THE LAST LULLABY - blurb from Fantastic Fiction
Inspector Conny Sjöberg and his police colleagues are perplexed by the brutal killing of a family in their Stockholm apartment.

With no clues, the murder inquiry starts with working out how was it possible for the mother, who worked as a cleaner, to afford a multi-million dollar property?

Despite a heavily reduced team, with experienced officers ill, injured or mysteriously missing, Sjöberg struggles to keep the investigation on the rails. But Conny has problems of his own - from a woman he cannot get out of his head, to a shocking revelation about his own past - all of which threaten to compromise the hunt for this heartless killer...

19 June 2014

Review: THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE, Carin Gerhardsen

  • first published in 2008
  • This edition published in 2012 by Stockholm Text Publishing
  • translated from Swedish into English by Paul Norlen
  • Also available from Penguin Australia and Amazon (Kindle)
  • ISBN 978-9-1871-7330-1
  • first title in the Hammarby series
  • 305 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

Ingrid Olsson returns home from a Stockholm hospital to discover a man in her kitchen. She's never seen the intruder before. But he's no threat - he's dead.

Criminal Investigator Conny Sjöberg takes the call, abandoning his wife Åsa and their five children for the night. His team identify the body as that of a middle-aged family man. But why was he there? And who bludgeoned him to death?

Lacking suspect and motive, Sjoberg's team struggle until they link the case to another - apparently random - killing. And discover they face a serial killer on a terrible vendetta . . .

My Take

A reading friend introduced me very enthusiastically to this author. Our local library has the first two titles in the series, and I'll be reading the second.

The reader sees the story not only from the angle of the police investigators who identify the body of the 44 year old man on the kitchen floor, but also from the point of view of one of his victims. As the bodies of other 44 year olds turn up, the police team tries to identify the thread that connects them. But we, the readers, already know what that thread is.

There is quite a lot of background about members of the police team, as we would expect at the beginning of a new series. A female member of the team is drugged and raped and undertakes an investigation of her own into the perpetrator. That thread provides an interesting second story.

The byline on the front cover of the edition I read says "published by the same team that brought you THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO", and I did think "Oh no, someone else riding on Stieg Larsson's coat-tails". The writing in THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE is not as complex as Larsson's nor the story quite as deep, but the blurb is right when it says "dark, suspenseful, and deep".

So here is a new name in Scandinavian crime fiction for you to track down. The next in the series is CINDERELLA GIRL which I gather may have had the working title of PLAYING HOUSE.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Carin Gerhardsen was born in 1962 in Katrineholm, Sweden. Originally a mathematician, she enjoyed a successful career as an IT consultant before turning her hand to writing crime fiction. Cinderella Girl is the second novel in The Hammarby Series, novels following Detective Inspector Conny Sjoberg and his murder investigation team. Carin now lives in Stockholm with her husband and their two children. She is currently working on the seventh title in the series.

16 June 2014


  • review copy provided as an e-book by Net Galley
  • e-book version released May 2014
  • #1 in the Enzo Files series
  • originally published in 2006, aka DRY BONES
 Synopsis (Publisher)

An old mystery
As midnight strikes, a man desperately seeking sanctuary flees into a church. The next day, his sudden disappearance will make him famous throughout France.
A new science
Forensic expert Enzo Macleod takes a wager to solve the seven most notorious French murders using modern technology - and a total disregard for the justice system.
A fresh trail
Deep in the catacombs below the city, he unearths dark clues deliberately set – and as he draws closer to the killer, discovers that he is to be the next victim. 

Fantastic Fiction

What has happened to Jacques Gaillard? The brilliant teacher who trained some of France's best and brightest at the Ecole Nationale d'Administration as future Prime Ministers and Presidents vanished ten years ago, presumably from Paris. Talk about your cold case.

My Take

Enzo Macleod undertakes the quest to find out what happened to Peter Gaillard as the result of a bet that modern methods applied to an old cold case will result in new evidence, and eventually to the solving of the case. Formerly employed in Scotland as a forensics expert, Enzo is working at Toulouse university teaching biology. His "modern methods" involve a lot of internet usage, and investigation of DNA, both of which would not have been possible ten years earlier.

The search for Peter Gaillard leads him into conflict with some very senior forces who definitely do not want the truth unearthed, and there are several attempts on Enzo's life.The story gives us a lot of family background for Enzo: why he came to France from Scotland, abandoning brilliant career prospects; and his two daughters who do not know each other.

The title is taken from Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and refers to people who regard themselves as above or outside the law. There is even a touch of that about Enzo himself.

It did strike me fleetingly that EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE might have been Peter May's answer to Dan Brown's DA VINCI CODE. My second thought was a regret that I do not know the streets and arondissements of Paris better because they feel so important to the plot of this novel. The reader is at a bit of a disadvantage in interpreting the clues that surface every time Enzo discovers something new about Peter Gaillard.

Very readable, and I'll probably now look for the next in the series.

My Rating: 4.5

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9 June 2014

Review: APPLE TREE YARD, Louise Doughty

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 530 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Fiction (June 6, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

Synopsis (Amazon)

Yvonne Carmichael has worked hard to achieve the life she always wanted: a high-flying career in genetics, a beautiful home, a good relationship with her husband and their two grown-up children.
Then one day she meets a stranger at the Houses of Parliament and, on impulse, begins a passionate affair with him - a decision that will put everything she values at risk.

At first she believes she can keep the relationship separate from the rest of her life, but she can't control what happens next. All of her careful plans spiral into greater deceit and, eventually, a life-changing act of violence.

Apple Tree Yard is a psychological thriller about one woman's adultery and an insightful examination of the values we live by and the choices we make, from an acclaimed writer at the height of her powers.

My Take

Although Louise Doughty is a well-established novelist, this is my first outing with her.

The scenario of the novel is interesting, and I surmise that most female readers in their 50s or older have actually "been there", although we may not have taken the action that Yvonne Carmichael does. Yvonne finds that her well-ordered life has become a bit predictable and a tad boring. Her husband has become sexually undemanding and their relationship is complacent. It makes her a surprisingly willing partner to a serial predator.

But things go seriously wrong when another man whom she doesn't find attractive decides to get in on the act.

Much of the novel is concerned with the trial that Yvonne becomes embroiled in, and the tension mounts as she tries to conceal damning truth from the court. Much of the focus is on whether she can actually recognise what has happened to her.

My rating: 4.5

About the author (Fantastic Fiction)

Louise Doughty is a novelist, playwright and cultural commentator. She is the author of seven books. Her first novel, Crazy Paving was published in 1995 and shortlisted for four awards including the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Her fourth novel Fires in the Dark, published in 2003 to international critical acclaim, was the first of two historical novels about Romany history and set in central Europe during the Second World War. It was followed by Stone Cradle in 2006, which was about her own English Romanichal ancestors.

 Her most recent novel is Whatever You Love. The Observer newspaper described it as 'a brilliant and brutal novel that continues to unsettle long after the final page has been turned.' She has also written one work of non-fiction, A Novel in a Year, a how-to-write book based on her highly popular newspaper column. Doughty has also published short stories and written five plays for radio, the first of which, Maybe, won a Radio Times Drama Award. She has worked widely as a critic and broadcaster in the UK, including a spell as the presenter of Radio 4's A Good Read, and was a judge for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction.

Review: FALLING GLASS by Adrian McKinty - audio book

Synopsis (Audible.com)

Richard Coulter is a man who has everything. His beautiful new wife is pregnant, his upstart airline is undercutting the competition and moving from strength to strength, his diversification into the casino business in Macau has been successful, and his fabulous Art Deco house on an Irish cliff top has just been featured in Architectural Digest. 

But then, for some reason, his ex-wife Rachel doesn’t keep her side of the custody agreement and vanishes off the face of the earth with Richard’s two daughters. Richard hires Killian, a formidable ex-enforcer for the IRA, to track her down before Rachel, a recovering drug addict, harms herself or the girls.

My Take

This makes very good listening.

Killian comes out of retirement to find Richard Coulter's wife - the money on offer is far too good. Half a million dollars seems a lot of money for dealing with a custody case. At first Rachel Coulter alone knows why her ex-husband is having her hunted down. There's a lot more at stake than two little girls.

The tension rises as Coulter pours more resources into the hunt. Killian realises that he himself is being tracked.

This is a difficult book to review without revealing too much of the story and so I'm not going to tell you much more. Despite his background as an IRA enforcer Killian comes over as a likeable character, but his willingness to be ruthless also comes in handy. The story is based mainly in Ireland.

My rating: 4.6

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5 June 2014

Review: ELEMENTAL, Amanda Curtin

  • first published in 2013 by UWA Publishing
  • ISBN 978-1-74258-506-2
  • 436 pages
  • source: library book
Synopsis  (Publisher)

It has taken a lifetime for me to see that the more afraid people are of the darkness, the further into it they will flee.

Nearing the end of her life, Meggie Tulloch takes up her pen to write a story for her granddaughter. It begins in the first years of the twentieth century, in a place where howling winds spin salt and sleet sucked up from icefloes.
A place where lives are ruled by men, and men by the witchy sea. A place where the only thing lower than a girl in the order of things is a clever girl with accursed red hair. A place schooled in keeping secrets.
Moving from the north-east of Scotland to the Shetland Isles to Fremantle, Australia, Elemental is a novel about the life you make from the life you are given.

Book Club Notes are available for this title.
Click here to read an extract from Elemental.

My Take 

First of all I need to tell you that this is not crime-fiction. It is part of my challenge to myself to occasionally read outside my comfort zone. I am grateful to Bernadette at Reactions to Reading for recommending it to me.

Fish Meggie sets out to give a 21st birthday present to her grand daughter Laura - the story of her life, so that Laura will know her origins. She describes people and places that Laura has never heard of and a life so tough that it would be beyond Laura's wildest imaginings. It is a life that brings Meggie Tulloch from Scotland's northern islands to Fremantle in Western Australia.

Laura doesn't get to read her Grunnie's journals, written in exercise books in a variety of coloured pens, until she is facing a crisis herself, and at last she understands things about Meggie, and her own mother Kathryn, that have always been a puzzle. Her grandfather, known only to her through photographs, comes to life.

This story is a reminder of what those who lived through the 20th century went through, and how much life has been changed by technology, migration, and wars.

My rating : 4.6

About the author

Amanda Curtin is a writer and book editor, who lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband and cat in a house that used to be a general store selling milk and bread, newspapers and petrol, and phone calls for ‘tuppence’.

Her first novel, The Sinkings, was published in 2008 to critical acclaim and her award-winning short stories have been widely published in literary journals and anthologies, before being collected in Inherited to further acclaim in 2011. Amanda’s new novel, Elemental, was released to critical acclaim in 2013.

Amanda has been granted writing residencies in Australia, Scotland, Ireland and the United States. She also lectures in writing and editing at Edith Cowan University, and presents workshops for writers.

2 June 2014

What I read in May 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2014
Lots of very satisfying reading this month, a couple of Australian authors (A) and some new to me authors (*)
  1. 4.5, BURIAL OF GHOSTS, Ann Cleeves
  2. 2.0, PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT, Agatha Christie
  3. 4.5, THE AMBER FURY, Natalie Haynes *
  4. 4.5, SILENT KILL, Peter Corris A
  5. 4.6, DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY, Donna Leon
  6. 4.5, GIDEON'S MONTH, J.J. Marric
  7. 4.5, REDEMPTION, Jussi Adler-Olsen - translated 
  8. 3.6, THE ALAMUT AMBUSH, Anthony Price
  9. 4.9, ST KILDA BLUES - Geoffrey McGeachin
  10. 4.8, PRESENT DARKNESS, Malla Nunn
  11. 4.4, THE SILVERSMITH'S WIFE, Sophia Tobin *
  12. 4.5, THE DOCTOR OF THESSALY, Anne Zouroudi
My pick of the month is ST KILDA BLUES by Geoffrey McGeachin

Synopsis (Publisher)

Melbourne's first serial killer is at work and only one man can stop him.

It's 1967, the summer of love, and in swinging Melbourne Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin has been hauled out of exile in the Fraud Squad to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl, the daughter of a powerful and politically connected property developer. As Berlin's inquiries uncover more missing girls he gets an uneasy feeling he may be dealing with the city's first serial killer.

Berlin's investigation leads him through inner-city discothèques, hip photographic studios, the emerging drug culture and into the seedy back streets of St Kilda. The investigation also brings up ghosts of Berlin's past, disturbing memories of the casual murder of a young woman he witnessed in dying days of WW11.

As in war, some victories come at a terrible cost and Berlin will have to face an awful truth and endure an unimaginable loss before his investigation is over.

ST KILDA BLUES is the third novel in the Charlie Berlin series. Both previous novels, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL and BLACKWATTLE CREEK, won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction in 2011 and 2013 respectively

See what I thought of it.

See what others have chosen for their Pick of the Month

1 June 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month May 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 May 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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