31 October 2014

Review: MOSCOW BOUND, Adrian Churchward

 Synopsis (NetGalley)

Ekaterina Romanova, the estranged wife of Russia's wealthiest oligarch Konstantin Gravchenko, asks Scott Mitchell, an idealistic young English human rights lawyer who is being intimidated by the authorities, to find the father she's never met.

She believes he's been languishing for decades without trial in the Gulag system. Meanwhile, General Pravda of military intelligence, though an advocate of transparency, is determined to protect a covert operation that he's been running for years.

General Pravda hinders Ekaterina and Scott at every turn and lawyer and client are forced to go on the run for a murder they didn't commit. As they descend into the Hades that is the world of international realpolitik Scott is compelled to reconsider his own values, and Pravda's life's work disintegrates, when Scott uncovers a 50 year-old Cold War secret, which both the Russian and US governments are still trying to hide from the public domain.

'Moscow Bound' is the first book in The Puppet Meisters trilogy, dealing with state abuse of power.

My Take

I really struggled to get into this book. There just seemed to be too much going on right from the beginning and I couldn't work out what the connection was between the "missing father" plot and whatever General Pravda was up to. And then about half way through, there was a glimmer of light and I thought I knew where the story was going and what the possible connection was between the two main strands. That's quite a lot to ask of a reader. Perhaps other readers won't be as obtuse as me.

However, after my glimpse of where we were headed, the reading experience did not really improve much. There were just too many characters to keep track of, too many sub-plots, and in the long run, for me, it strained the bounds of credibility.

This book was not for me, but I am willing to believe that others might find it a fascinating read.

My rating: 2.5

About the author -
Adrian Churchward is an English solicitor who has worked in commercial law practices for over thirty years in London, Los Angeles and Eastern Europe. He holds an M.Phil. from Essex University in Comparative International Law. His hobbies include writing and film-making.

He first acquired a taste for Russian culture in his early teens when he immersed himself in the works of Dostoyevsky and Gogol, rather than the school’s curriculum of Shakespeare and Chaucer. A sight-seeing visit to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg)  followed in 1973 and laid the foundations of his life-long interest in the Russian people and language. For more see website

30 October 2014

Chronology for Hercule Poirot

Basically if we work backwards chronologically and look at the idea that Hercule was already retired  from the Belgian police force when he arrived in England as a Belgian refugee in 1916, then by the time of his death in 1975 (some 60 years later) he is a staggering age.
The documents below suggest he was born in 1864, so by 1975 he would have been 111 years old.

This is a compilation based on 4 documents

The Chronology of Hercule Poirot

by Brad Mengel

based on the biography by Anne Hart
All cases are by Agatha Christie, unless stated otherwise.
"Cases in Commas" denote a short story, CASES IN CAPS denote novels

1864 Hercule Poirot and his twin brother Achille are born (Two points here: 
1) There is some debate as to whether Achille is real or not, I am in favour of him being real; 
2) A number of dates have been put forward for the birth of Poirot 1839 - 44, 1849- 54, 1864, 1884. Symons suggested 1864 which I took)

1864 The Holmes Family on their second continental tour visit the Poirots, who may be related through the Vernets (Suggested by the passage in THE LABOURS OF HERCULES where Poirot's friend Dr Burton is wondering how Poirot got his name "Thinking of an imaginary conversation. Your Mother and the Late Mrs Holmes, sitting sewing little garments or knitting: Achille, Hercule, Sherlock, Mycroft." Burton may have based this on a comment from Poirot)

Circa 1893 Poirot Joins either the French or Belgian Secret Service

1901 "Did Sherlock Holmes Meet Hercule-?" Short Story by Julian Symons in ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE Mid Dec 1987 Sherlock Holmes meets Poirot who is posing as the Chef of a French Diplomat.

1904 Hercule Poirot joins the Belgian Police and immediately becomes involved in the Abercrombie Case with Inspector Japp.

1909 "The Chocolate Box" ( in early version of this adventure Poirot makes reference to a younger sister Yvette, Poirot also refers to this case as taking place in 1893)

1914 Poirot has completed his mission in the Belgian police and is "due to retire" when Germany invades neutral Belgium. Poirot joins the resistance and is at one point saved by a French General.

1916 Poirot leaves Belgium and becomes a refugee in England.


1918 "The Kidnapped Prime Minister"
"The Lemesurie Inheritance"
1919 "The Affair at the Victory Ball"
1920 "The Disappearance of Mr Davisheim"
"The Plymouth Express"
"The Adventure of the Cheap Flat"
"The Submarine Plans"
"The Adventure of the Chapham Cook"
1921 "The Cornish Mystery"
"The Tragedy at Marsden Manor"
"The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge"
"The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb"
"The Jewelry Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan"
"Double Sin"
1922 "The Market Basing Mystery"
"The King of Clubs"
"The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman"
"The Double Clue" (Poirot meets Countess Vera Rossakoff for the first time.)
"The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly"
"The Case of the Missing Will"
"The Million Dollar Bond"
1923 "The Veiled Lady"
"The Adventure of the Western Star"
"The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" (This case was expanded and updated as "The Theft of a Royal Ruby" in the 1950's)
1924 THE BIG FOUR (This adventure is the only appearance of Achille Poirot who dies at the end of this adventure. Countess Rossakoff aids Poirot, Poirot rescues the Countess' son Niki and is going to propose at the end of this adventure which has led to speculation that Poirot is Niki's father)

1925 Poirot is retired for a year

1929 "The Third Floor Flat"
"The Underdog"
"Wasp's Nest"
1930 BLACK COFFEE (play by Christie)
"The Second Gong" (Expanded with new ending as "Dead Man's Mirror")
"The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest" (expanded and updated as "The Mystery of the Spanish Chest" in the fifties)

Sept "About Maigret and the Stolen Papers" by Julian Symons in THE GREAT DETECTIVES Maigret meet Poirot

1933 THREE ACT TRAGEDY (Poirot meets Mr Satterthwaite the associate of Harley Quin)
1935 "How Does Your Garden Grow"
A CASE FOR THREE DETECTIVES by Leo Bruce (Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey and Father Brown are all beaten to the solution of this case by Sgt William Beef.

"Problem at Sea"
"Triangle at Rhodes'
"Murder in the Mews"
1937 CARDS ON THE TABLE (Poirot meets Mrs Oliver, Superintendent Battle and Col. Race)

1938 Summer "The Adventure of the Orient Express" by August Derleth (Poirot meet Solar Pons, the Saint and Ashenden)
1939 "Yellow Iris"
"The Dream"
Late 1939 - Late 1940 THE LABOURS OF HERCULES
"Four and Twenty Black Birds"

1943 "Poirot and the Regatta Mystery" (Fellow Christie Investigator Parker Pyne earlier investigated a similar case called "The Regatta Mystery")

1945 Sept THE HOLLOW


1951 October MURDER IN PASTICHE by Marion Mainwaring (Poirot under the name of Atlas Poireau meets Trajan Beare (Nero Wolfe), Spike Bludgeon (Mike Hammer), Mallory King (Ellery Queen), Sir John Nappleby (Sir John Appleby), Jerry Pason (Perry Mason), Lord Simon Quinsey (Lord Peter Wimsey), Miss Fan Sliver (Maud Silver) Broderick Tournier (Roderick Alleyn))

1952 MRS MCGINTY'S DEAD (Mrs Oliver)



1955 DEAD MAN'S FOLLY (Mrs Oliver)


1962 THE CLOCKS (Poirot meets Colin Lamb the son of Superintendent Battle)

1963 THIRD GIRL (Mrs Oliver)

1968 HALLOWE'EN PARTY (Mrs Oliver)


1972 MAFIA FIX by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy (Poirot works with James Bond and Mr Moto and meets Remo Williams the Destroyer)

1973 THE STRANGE CASE OF THE END OF CIVILISATION AS WE KNOW IT (Poirot attends the Great Detective Conference held Arthur Sherlock Holmes as well as Columbo, Miles Messervy, Steve McGarrett, Sam Spade, Ironside and McCloud. The version seen of this was highly fictionalized as a spoof but it appears the Spade met his demise here and Poirot sustained injuries that caused him to be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life)

1974 CURTAIN (The Death of Poirot)

Poirot's Timeline:

 1904--Poirot retires from Belgian police force as detective
Has own practice in Europe, meets Inspector James Japp; later Captain Arthur Hastings
 1916--Arrives to England as a Belgian refugee from WWI
Aided by Mrs. Inglethorpe of Styles Court, meets Hastings again
Solves murder at Styles Court with Hastings and Japp
Sets up practice in England, moves to 14 Farraway Street, London, with Hastings
 1923--Poirot and Hastings solve murder in France, Hastings marries Dulcie and moves to Argentina
 1925?--Poirot solves jewel theft, meets the Russian Countess Vera Rossakoff for first time
 1926--Poirot unmasks member of the "Big Four" with Hastings, meets with Countess Rossakoff again
Retires and goes to King's Abbot to grow vegetable marrows for a year, solves the murder of Mr. Ackroyd
 1928--While in France, Poirot solves a jewel theft and murder of American heiress, hires Georges as valet
 1932--Poirot and Hastings (back from Argentina) are vacationing in St. Loo and uncover murder attempts
 1934?--Poirot moves to 28 Whitehaven Mansions
 1935--Poirot travels in airplane to England where a French moneylender is murdered, Japp helps
Poirot solves ABC Murders with Hastings (visits from Argentina) and Japp
 1936--Poirot and fellow sleuths Colonel Race, Battle, and Ariadne Oliver solve murder of dinner host
 1937--Poirot meets Colonel Race again and solves murder on the Nile River
Hastings helps Poirot solve case about "accident" of old lady
Poirot and Inspector Japp investigate a girl's suicide/murder
 1939?--Felicity Lemon is hired by Poirot to be his secretary
 1941--Poirot goes to the Jolly Roger Hotel and solves crime there
 1946--Poirot unexpectedly sees Countess Rossakoff years later, now as a proprietor of a nightclub
 1948--Poirot travels to Warmsley Vale to solve murder of young wife
 1952--Poirot, Mrs. Oliver, Spence join to solve old lady's murder and clear an innocent man
 1955--Miss Lemon's sister comes to Poirot asking for help at youth hostel
 1956--Mrs. Oliver asks Poirot to help in a real murder hunt of a young girl
 1963--Colin Lamb asks Poirot for help in murder of an unknown man
 1969--Poirot joins forces with Spence (and Mrs. Oliver) in a Halloween Party murder
 1972--Poirot helps Mrs. Oliver and Spence solve a decades-old murder/suicide
 1975--Georges leaves employ of Poirot, Poirot goes to Styles Court
Poirot and Hastings track down murderer in Poirot's last case at Styles
Hercule Poirot, Belgian detective, dies at Styles Court

29 October 2014

Aussie Author Challenge 2014 completed

The Aussie Author Challenge 2014 is being hosted at Booklover Book Reviews

I'm aiming initially at Kangaroo (12 titles) but the reality is that I will read many more than that.
- Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 4 of those authors are female, at least 4 of those authors are male, and at least 4 of those authors are new to you;
- At least 6 fiction and at least 2 non-fiction, and at least 3 titles first published in 2013 or 2014.

Completing this challenge actually involved a bit more reading than I had thought at first.
The challenge required 12 titles and initially I thought it would take no time at all, and then I realised that I couldn't just use any old 12 Australia titles - there were criteria, although some of them could overlap.
Today I am able to claim completion although I will continue reading Australian authors.

Currently: 28- Completed.
  1. 4.4, DEATH OF A SWAGMAN, Arthur Upfield -M
  2. 3.9, HANK OF HAIR, Charlotte Jay -F
  3. 4.5, ARMS FOR ADONIS, Charlotte Jay -F
  4. 4.5, THE DYING BEACH, Angela Savage -F
  5. 4.5, THE DONOR, Helen Fitzgerald -F, 2013
  6. 4.3, THIN BLOOD, Vicki Tyley - F, New to me
  7. 4.7, I CAME TO SAY GOODBYE, Caroline Overington - F, 2013
  8. 4.7, GETTING WARMER, Alan Carter -M, 2014
  9. 4.4, DRIVE BY, Michael Duffy - M, New to me, 2013
  10. 4.8, FATAL IMPACT, Kathryn Fox - F, 2014
  11. 4.4, DEATH BY BEAUTY, Gabrielle Lord - F,
  12. 4.5, BLOOD SECRET, Jaye Ford - F, 2013
  13. 4.8, PRESENT DARKNESS, Malla Nunn - F, 2014
  14. 4.9, ST KILDA BLUES - Geoffrey McGeachin - M, 2014
  15. 4.5, SILENT KILL, Peter Corris - M, 2014
  16. 4.6, ELEMENTAL, Amanda Curtin - F, new to me, 2013 
  17. 4.6, FALLING GLASS, Adrian McKinty - M, 2011 
  18. 5.0, LIFE OR DEATH, Michael Robotham - M, 2014
  19. 3.5, THE CARTOGRAPHER, Peter Twohig - M, 2011
  20. 4.7, THE LOST GIRLS, Wendy James - F
  21. 4.4, DANGEROUS LIAISON, Vicki Tyley - F, 2014 
  22. 4.9, IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE, Adrian McKinty - M, 2014 
  23. 4.5, QUICK, Steve Worland - M, New-to-me, 2014 
  24. 4.7, ALREADY DEAD, Jaye Ford - F, 2014
  25. 4.5, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?, Caroline Overington - F, 2014
  26. 4.5, MOTHERS WHO MURDER, Xanthe Mallett -F, 2014, non-fiction
  27. 4.7, THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH - Richard Flanagan - M, 2013, Not crime fiction/partly non-fiction
  28. 4.3, A FATAL TIDE, Steve Sailah - new to me

28 October 2014

Review: THE TOMB IN TURKEY, Simon Brett

  • source: e-book, review copy provided through NetGalley by Severn House
  • #16 in the Fethering series
  • published in 2014
  • ISBN 9781780290690
 Synopsis (NetGalley)

 Carole Seddon has never enjoyed holidays much. Nevertheless, she has allowed herself to be persuaded by her friend Jude to accept a fortnight’s free accommodation at a luxurious Turkish villa owned by Jude’s property developer friend Barney Willingdon.

But from the outset the holiday is marred by a series of menacing incidents: threatening messages daubed on the villa walls; and their host being accosted by a knife-wielding man at a local restaurant.

As Carole and Jude launch into what they do best - investigating - it becomes clear that Barney Willingdon has made plenty of enemies, with his ruthless business deals and complicated love life. Matters come to a head when Carole’s sightseeing trip to nearby Pinara is curtailed by the discovery of a body in one of the ancient Lycian tombs. And what really did happen to Barney’s first wife, Zoe?

My Take

It is no secret on this blog that the Fethering series is one of my favourite cozies. I enjoy the contrast between Carole, the prim and proper retired civil servant, and her neighbour Jude who has a rather laissez faire attitude to life and, from Carole's point of view, a rather murky past that doesn't bear thinking about.

One of the features of the plots is their unlikely nature, and this one particularly interested me because of its setting in Turkey, which I have visited at least twice, and because this is the first time that Simon Brett has taken his sleuthing busybodies outside of England.

This was perfect holiday reading, with the usual quirky humour as Brett pokes fun at his two main characters, from Jude being disconcerted by a neighbour who insists on staring at her cleavage, to Carole's need to find a purpose to having a holiday.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed

Review: A FATAL TIDE, Steve Sailah

 Synopsis (Net Galley)

A powerful novel set in Gallipoli, that's part war-story and part mystery.

'Amid Gallipoli's slaughter he hunted a murderer . . .'

It is 1915 and Thomas Clare rues the day he and his best friend Snow went to war to solve the murder of his father. The only clues - a hidden wartime document and the imprint of an army boot on the victim's face - have led the pair from the safety of Queensland to the blood-soaked hills of Gallipoli.

Now not only are Thomas's enemies on every side - from the Turkish troops bearing down on the Anzac lines, to the cold-blooded killer in his own trench - but as far away as London and Berlin.

For, unbeknown to Thomas, the path to murder began thirteen years earlier in Africa with the execution of Breaker Morant - and a secret that could change the course of history . . .

My Take

The scope of this novel is quite ambitious: its themes include the Australian soldiers at Gallipoli in 1915; the Boer War, particularly what led up to the execution of Breaker Morant; the relationships between Aborigines and whites in Australia in the early twentieth century; as well as a closely plotted murder mystery.

The novel also falls in with a pattern emerging in Australian fiction as the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing approaches, of novels set in the First World War that wrap fictitious plots in historical fact. Real historical characters such as Major General Harry Chauvel and Lord Kitchener make an appearance.It also explores what it was like at Anzac Cove and the role that trench warfare played there even before it became the dominant feature of the Western Front.

I did find parts of the murder plot a bit far fetched, particularly the idea that the murder of his father led Thomas Clare to enlist, and indeed the reason why his father was murdered.
Nevertheless the plot holds together fairly well and the background to the main story certainly added to my understanding of the times.

There seemed to be some unresolved strings at the end which could well be the platform into a sequel.

My Rating: 4.3

About the author
Steve Sailah is a former ABC foreign correspondent in New Delhi and Washington and the recipient of two prestigious Walkley Awards. He was a friend to several Gallipoli veterans, and returned to the battlefields with a number of them on the 75th anniversary of the first ANZAC landing. His ABC documentary, Stories from Gallipoli, was republished in April 2013.

Review: THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH, Richard Flanagan - audio book

 Synopsis (Audible)

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.
August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier.

Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

My Take

To be quite honest I didn't take too much to Richard Flanagan as a narrator. His voice tends to be a rather flat, perhaps deliberately so, and almost monotonous. Perhaps he felt a professional narrator would not do it justice, but I actually think he has done his book an injustice. However I guess in the final scheme of things that is quite minor.

This novel has recently won the Man Booker prize of 2014.
It has already won
2014 Western Australia Premier's Book Award
2014 WA Premier's Book Award - Fiction
2014 Independant Booksellers Award
- See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/richard-flanagan/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north-9781741666700.aspx#sthash.5bl5bHrC.dpuf
2014 Western Australia Premier's Book Award;
2014 WA Premier's Book Award - Fiction;
2014 Independent Booksellers Award;

There are many issues that will make this a perfect discussion book - the way Australian P.O.Ws and others were treated on the construction of the Burma Railway, the reluctance of Dorrigo Evans to see himself as a hero, the treatment of refugees, the nature of the relationship between Dorrigo Evans and the women in his life.
There is a set of questions on the publisher's site. There is also a chapter to whet your appetite, and an interview with Richard Flanagan.

Other reviews
For me the story was made more meaningful by my knowledge of World War II, but also because I have been to the Burma Railway, to Hellfire Pass, and the bridge over the River Kwai.

My rating: 4.7

I chose to read this book because it is not crime fiction, as part of my participation in the 2014 Aussie Author reading challenge. This completes for me the requirements of the challenge.

25 October 2014

Review: AFTER THE SILENCE, Jake Woodhouse

Synopsis (Penguin Australia)
A body is found hanging on a hook above the canals of Amsterdam's old town, a mobile phone forced into the victim's mouth.

In a remote coastal village, a doll lies in the ashes of a burnt-down house.  But the couple who died in the fire had no children of their own.  Did a little girl escape the blaze?  And, if so, who is she and where is she now?

Inspector Jaap Rykel knows that he's hunting a clever and brutal murderer.  Still grieving from the violent death of his last partner, Rykel must work alongside a junior out-of-town detective with her own demons to face, if he has any hope of stopping the killer from striking again.

Their investigation reveals two dark truths: everybody in this city harbours secrets - and hearing those secrets comes at a terrible price . . .
My Take
This is a well constructed thriller, particularly considering it is a debut novel. A police procedural set in Amsterdam, but by a new British writer, it clearly shows that there is a fine line between crime and fighting against it, that too often it is easy to cross that line, and that it is hard to know who to trust.

The novel brings together a trio of detectives whom I presume will be the core of the team for the next: all are flawed in their own way but each is well drawn.  I thought perhaps the action of the final pages was a bit rushed, but there are plenty of openings for the next in the series.

My Rating: 4.4
About the author
Jake Woodhouse has worked as a musician, winemaker and entrepreneur. He now lives in London with his wife and their young gundog. After the Silence is the first book in his Amsterdam Quartet.

23 October 2014


  • source: NetGalley review book, e-book (Kindle)
  • first published 1999 - available from Amazon
  • this edition published 2014 by Open Road Media.
  • #1 in the series
  • author website
Synopsis (NetGalley)

Solving puzzles can be murder when a PI and a crossword editor join forces to catch a killer in the first novel of Nero Blanc’s fiendishly clever crossword mystery series.

Playboy Thompson C. Briephs has just been found strangled in his bed. The police believe the Newcastle Herald crossword editor, a scion of a blue-blooded New England family, died from kinky sex gone wrong.

But cop-turned–private investigator Rosco Polycrates thinks there’s a six-letter word for what happened. Enlisting the help of Annabelle Graham, the crossword editor for a rival paper, Rosco unearths a crazy quilt of suspects who had it in for the victim—and one of them was blackmailing him. Belle is certain the answers lie in Briephs’s twisty puzzlers. Now she and Rosco will have to employ some dazzling wordplay of their own to stop a cunning killer from crossing paths with another victim.

Readers will delight in solving the crime, along with six crossword puzzles, which can be downloaded as PDFs, with answers in the back of the book. The Crossword Murder is a book to be savored by mystery lovers and crossword-puzzle enthusiasts alike.

My Take

Thompson Briephs, Newcastle playboy (Massachusetts) and crossword editor is found murdered in his bed in his Minoan-style mansion on his private island.

Briephs always works five days ahead of his deadline and he outwits his murderer by leaving five unpublished crosswords which reveal the murderer's identity. These will be published in the Newcastle Herald by his assistant on five consecutive days. The first two crosswords are published and then the other three go missing when Briephs' assistant is threatened over the phone and decides to post them to various people as insurance.

These crosswords are provided for the reader to play with both in the book and online, and so there is the opportunity to solve the mystery along with the sleuthing pair, cop-turned–private investigator Rosco Polycrates and Annabelle Graham, the crossword editor for a rival paper. Many of the crossword clues are cryptic, and Briephs also taunts some of the people he worked with by naming them in the crosswords. In the story these provide red herrings although the murderer is actually named (using a nickname) in the very first one.

The murder mystery is quite well plotted while the crossword clues are designed to further tantalise the reader.

This was the first in a series written by husband and wife team, Cordelia Frances Biddle and Steve Zettler who are serious crossword buffs.

Fantastic Fiction
1. The Crossword Murder (1999)
2. Two Down (2000)
3. The Crossword Connection (2001)
4. A Crossworder's Holiday (2002)
5. A Crossword to Die for (2002)
6. Corpus De Crossword (2003)
7. A Crossworder's Gift (2003)
8. Anatomy of a Crossword (2004)
9. Wrapped Up in Crosswords (2004)
10. Another Word for Murder (2005)
11. A Crossworder's Delight (2005)
12. Death on the Diagonal (2006)

My rating: 4.1

21 October 2014

Review: MOTHERS WHO MURDER, Xanthe Mallett

  • source: Net Galley review copy
  • File Size: 3100 KB
  • Print Length: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Australia (July 30, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IY5QK8O
Synopsis (Net Galley)

Child murder: A social taboo and one of the most abhorrent acts most of us can imagine. Meet the women found guilty of murdering their own children. They represent some of the most hated women in Australia. The infamous list includes psychologically damaged, sometimes deranged, women on the edge.

But, as we will see, accused doesn't always mean guilty. Among the cases covered is that of Kathleen Folbigg, accused and found guilty of killing four of her children, even with a lack of any forensic evidence proving her guilt; Rachel Pfitzner, who strangled her 2-year-old son and dumped his body in a duck pond; as well as Keli Lane, found guilty of child murder though no body has ever been found.

Dr Mallett goes back to the beginning of each case; death's ground zero. That might be the accused's childhood, were they abused? Or was their motivation greed, or fear of losing a partner? Were they just simply evil? Or did the media paint them as such, against the evidence and leading to a travesty of justice. Each case will be re-opened, the alternative suspects assessed, the possible motives reviewed.

Informed by her background as a forensic scientist, Xanthe will offer insight into aspects of the cases that may not have been explored previously. Taking you on her journey through the facts, and reaching her own conclusion as to whether she believes the evidence points to the women's guilt.

Hear their stories.

My Take

Those who follow my blog will know that true crime is not really my cup of tea, but each year I set myself a target to read a little outside the genre of crime fiction.

MOTHERS WHO MURDER looks at a number of Australian cases where the author feels there has been the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. She begins with the case of Lindy Chamberlain, where Lindy claimed a dingo had taken her baby when the family were camping at Uluru. The Northern Territory police decided that Lindy's story could not possibly be true and she was eventually convicted of the murder and disposal of baby Azaria although no body has ever been found. Then the conviction was quashed and an apology issued. But nothing can compensate for the thirty years of anguish suffered by Lindy and her family. For me this chapter acted as a sort of benchmark as I was familiar with the trial.

Seven individual cases are given individual chapters: mainly of mothers who appear to have been responsible for the deaths of multiple children over a number of years. In most cases there were two or even three children who were thought originally to have died of SIDS. The death of the fourth child raised a flag and sparked an investigation because authorities felt that the fourth death raised questions about the earlier three.

While the author began with these multiple death cases she also investigated the deaths of individual children, mainly interested in why they happened. These cases are dealt with in less detail, and include cases where a father has taken the life of his children, and sometimes his spouse.

The chapter on Lindy Chamberlain sets the pattern for those to follow: the background to the case, a description of the main events, why an investigation was conducted and how it panned out, the alternative who (who else might have committed the crime), the how (how the prosecutors behaved and why- their agenda), the role and influence of the expert witnesses, the inquests, the media influence, comparative cases, and the closure of the case. Each time the author identifies how expert witnesses had an influence outside their own area of expertise, often in response to the agenda of the prosecutors who were trying to make the facts fit the case they wanted to prove.

The author tried hard to be objective and detached in her descriptions and conclusions but she says she recognizes that she became emotionally involved, so horrified was she by what she saw that some children had suffered. She says too that "beyond the children who have been killed, there are many more victims": the police who have to investigate the cases, the social workers, neighbours and community. She does point out times where the responsible authorities, whether because of work overload, inexperience, or lack of follow up, did not take action that might have prevented the death of a child. 
She also considers the role of the media in raising community awareness, helping to identify perpetrators, or searching for missing children. She believes that in most cases, while some of the media has been sensational and wrong in their opinions, the media has acted responsibly.

The author sees herself as a "seasoned forensic scientist", with experience first of all in the UK and then in Australia, and draws on cases from both countries, believing there is much to be learnt by comparisons. She points out how some cases and their outcomes in the UK have actually led to precedents being set in legal procedures.

I found this book well presented, engrossing reading, guaranteed to make the reader think.

My rating: 4.5

Review: SHROUD OF EVIL, Pauline Rowson

  • source: review copy from Net Galley per Severn House
  • published 2014
  • available from Amazon
  • File Size: 1029 KB
  • Print Length: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Severn House Digital (August 1, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00L37DKS8
  • #11 in the Andy Horton series
Synopsis (Net Galley)

Rugged Detective Inspector Horton investigates a missing person in a case that has personal ramifications which could end his career...When a private investigator goes missing, Detective Inspector Horton of Portsmouth CID believes he's probably run off with a woman. But when the man's car turns up, and a shocking discovery is made, things turn serious, and Horton himself embroiled in an investigation that has major personal ramifications, and could potentially end his career.

from Amazon (extra detail)
Detective Inspector Horton of Portsmouth CID is assigned the case of a missing person: Jasper Kenton, a private investigator. Eunice Swallows, Kenton’s partner, seems reluctant to help them, and Horton concludes that she is probably relieved to be rid of him. He instructs Sergeant Cantelli and DC Walters to put out the usual alerts, believing Kenton has probably run off with another woman.

But when Kenton’s car turns up, and a shocking discovery is made, things turn serious. Immediately, Horton finds himself embroiled in an investigation that has major personal ramifications and one in which he has no choice but to withhold vital information. As he struggles to crack the case, he knows it is only a question of time before someone discovers he’s kept silent and when that’s revealed, his part in hindering a major investigation will end his career . . .

My Take

I have been a fan of Pauline Rowson's Andy Horton series for some time now and this one did not disappoint. The book will really work best if you have read earlier titles in the series, but even so, there are plenty of hints about details from earlier novels.

The story follows the pattern of earlier ones: a police investigation into a local case, in this case a missing person involving Portsmouth CID and progress in Andy Horton's personal investigation into what happened to his mother nearly three decades earlier.

Once again it is meticulously plotted and the central characters are well drawn. Horton is a maverick, and the tensions between himself and his superiors puts his actions on a knife edge. By the end of the book, you can't help feeling that knowledge of what happened to Andy's mother is just around the corner.

My rating 4.6

I have also reviewed

14 October 2014


  • source: review copy from Net Galley
  • File Size: 403 KB
  • Print Length: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Matador (June 22, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00L84Z2GO
Synopsis (Net Galley)

The first blow took Hugh Parsley by surprise. It fractured his right temporal bone and tore the middle meningeal artery. He stumbled and fell face down on the grass. A blow to the back of his neck cracked the occipital bone at the base of his skull. He was struck several times about the left temporal area. His brain ceased to function. Hugh Parsley was dead.

Murder on the Second Tee is the follow-up to the popular crime fiction novel Murder on Page One.

The directors of the niche Bucephalus Bank are meeting in a St Andrews hotel. One of them is found dead on the golf course. It is Flick Fortune’s first case as a detective inspector. As she struggles to uncover the murderer behind the bank’s respectable façade, she receives unexpected help from Detective Sergeant Bagawath Chandavarkar (Baggo), who is investigating a multi-million pound money laundering scam.

Another murder follows and Flick’s old boss and tormentor, ex-Inspector No, makes an unwelcome intrusion before the truth is revealed...

My Take

I think this novel suffered by being the second in a "series" where the author decided to change the central detective after the first novel. Flick Fortune appears to have been a detective sergeant in the first novel, and has been recently promoted into the position vacated when her old boss retired. Unfortunately for her the author has decided to give him a role as a private investigator on Flick's first case as a detective inspector.

The plot has a lot of potential:  the first murder takes place in Scotland on the second tee of the most famous golf course in the world; but the bank is that employs the victim is an English one that has already come to the attention of the English police for its money laundering activities. The board of the bank is having a weekend away at St. Andrew's to attempt to resolve a board vacancy and some irregularities. The murder victim is one of the directors.

But for me the writing didn't quite hit the mark. The business of money laundering becomes quite complex and involves a shady American bank and some gangster like figures. While Flick Fortune is in charge of the murder investigation, an under cover cop does what he likes with the money laundering investigation. There are some unlikely scenarios towards the end of the story.

My rating: 3.6

About the author (Net Galley)

Ian Simpson is inspired by a number of authors, including PG Wodehouse, John Mortimer and William Boyd. His writing style is comparable to Christopher Brookmyre. Murder on the Second Tee is a pacey whodunit, laced with the humour that drew glowing reviews for Ian’s first novel, Murder on Page One. website

11 October 2014

2014 Global Reading Challenge completed at Expert Level

I committed myself to reading 21 titles, all crime fiction, 3 titles each from 7 "continents".
My 7th continent - historical crime fiction.

Blog site: 2014 Global Reading Challenge

  1. 4.8, THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU, Michael Stanley Botswana
  2. 4.5, DETECTIVE KUBU INVESTIGATES, Michael Stanley: a collection of short stories
  3. 4.6, THE MINOR ADJUSTMENT BEAUTY SALON, Alexander McCall Smith - Botswana 
  2. 4.3, HOTEL BOSPHORUS, Esmahan Aykol - Turkey
  3. 4.5, ARMS FOR ADONIS, Charlotte Jay - Lebanon
Australasia/Oceania (my modification) - An extra hurdle for Australasia - at least one from New Zealand.
I can count separate Australian states
  1.  4.3, THE NURSING HOME MURDER, Ngaio Marsh- New Zealand
  2. 3.9, HANK OF HAIR, Charlotte Jay- Australia
  3. 4.7, GETTING WARMER, Alan Carter - Australian author
  1. 4.6, BLOOD FROM STONE, Frances Fyfield (UK) 
  2. 4.3, THE LATE MONSIEUR GALLET, Georges Simenon - France
  3. 4.4, THE GOLDEN CALF, Helene Tursten - Sweden 
North America -
  1. 4.0, THE RIVER, Cheryl Kaye Tardif - Canada
  2. 4.5, IRREPARABLE HARM, Melissa F. Miller
  3. 3.8, LIQUID FEAR, Scott Nicholson
South America -
  1. 3.7, HOTEL BRASIL, Frei Betto - Brazil
  2. 4.5, HAPPINESS IS EASY, Edney Silvestre - Brazil
  3. 4.7, THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING, Juan Gabriel Vasquez - Colombia 
7th Continent: Historical -
  1. 4.8, LIFE AFTER LIFE, Kate Atkinson - Britain
  2. 4.4, DEATH OF A SWAGMAN, Arthur Upfield - Australia 
  3. 4.4, THE SILVERSMITH'S WIFE, Sophia Tobin   - London 1792

10 October 2014

Review: THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLING, Juan Gabriel VÃsquez (Author)

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1338 KB
  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594487480
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; 1 edition (November 16, 2012)- originally published 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Translated by Anne McLean
  • ASIN: B0093K1ILS
Synopsis (Amazon)

No sooner does he get to know Ricardo Laverde in a seedy billiard hall in Bogota than Antonio Yammara realises that the ex-pilot has a secret.

Antonio's fascination with his new friend's life grows until the day Ricardo receives a mysterious, unmarked cassette. Shortly afterwards, he is shot dead on a street corner.

Yammara's investigation into what happened leads back to the early 1960s, marijuana smuggling and a time before the cocaine trade trapped Colombia in a living nightmare.

My take

The publisher's synopsis really gives the potential reader no indication of the nature of this novel.

When Ricardo Laverde is shot dead on a street corner of Bogota, Antonio Yammara is shot too. He survives the injury and eventually surfaces with a need to know why the murder took place.  He is eventually contacted by Laverde's daughter who has collected documents that fill in the gaps.

This is an engrossing read with some memorable episodes such as the time in 1938 when an aerial display goes horribly wrong. A military review involving a spectacular fly past results in the fiery deaths of over fifty spectators. Both this event and the crash of American Airlines 965 are significant in the story and are based on real events.

The story also provides an arresting commentary on the part played by members of the American Peace Corps in the establishment of the Colombian drug trade.

The novel goes beyond the bounds of crime fiction, into more literary and philosophical areas, into the history of Colombia, and into effects on the current generation of the events of the last 40 years.

I have read this for my final South American title for the 2014 Global Reading Challenge.
It is also my final title for the challenge.

My rating: 4.7

November 16, 2012
Winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2014
Winner of the Alfaguara Prize 2011

Winner of the Gregor von Rezzori Prize 2013
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, August 2013

About the author: see Wikipedia

9 October 2014

Review: HOTEL BRASIL, Frei Betto

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 670 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1908524278
  • Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press; Reprint edition (February 24, 2014), first published in Brazil 1999
  • translated by Jethro Soutar
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00APD9X50
Synopsis (Amazon)

According to the police, the victim was stabbed in the heart before the head was separated from the body. As the investigation continues other hotel clients are decapitated, usually with the head found delicately balanced on the knees of the sitting victim.

A witty, touching account of life at the edge of Brazilian society, dressed up as a murder mystery.

My Take

Published in 1999 and set in a boarding house/hotel in Rio de Janeiro, this paints a similar picture of life in urban Brazil (see my most recent review of HAPPINESS IS EASY set in Sao Paolo): residents frightened of being mugged or worse, richer residents who travel in bullet proof cars, everyone keeping off the streets at night, but we see things from the seamier side.

The first victim is a travelling salesman who deals mainly in gemstones. He was stabbed through the heart first, then beheaded, and at some stage his eyeballs were removed. We see the crime through the eyes of Professor Candido, one of the other hotel residents, who does casual editorial work and works with street children. The other residents are regarded by the police as sexual deviants: among them a journalist, a wanna-be actress, a procurer of young girls, a transvestite, and a government political aide who returned to Brazil from Paris during the political amnesty. Each of them is interviewed by the police. Delegado Del Bosco is convinced the murder was an outside job with the assistance of one of the residents.

At first the structure of the novel is almost pure Agatha Christie. There is a body, perhaps more gruesomely murdered than in a Christie. Initially the suspects are all the residents of the hotel including the caretaker and the owner. They are questioned in turn by the police, attempting to determine where they were when the crime was committed. Each is asked whom they suspect, the police officer hoping for a confession from someone. In the style of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE the residents begin to die, their deaths also featuring decapitation.

However the crimes at Hotel Brasil soon take second place to the activities of the delinquents that Candido is attempting save. Although there are further murders in the hotel and other deaths, in the long run I have to agree with the final line of the synopsis an "account of life at the edge of Brazilian society, dressed up as a murder mystery." To be honest I was disappointed.

My rating: 3.7

About the Author

Frei Betto: Frei Betto, born 1944, is a Brazilian writer, political activist, liberation theologian and Dominican friar. He was imprisoned for four years in the 1970s by the military dictatorship for smuggling people out of Brazil. In addition to work on eliminating hunger in Brazil, Frei Betto is involved in Brazilian politics. He worked for the government of President Lula da Silva as an advisor on prison policy and child hunger. This is his first novel.

Jethro Soutar: Jethro Soutar, born in Sheffield, lives in London and has recently published two works of non-fiction, 'Ronaldinho: Football's Flamboyant Maestro' and a part biography, part chronicle of a film movement, entitled 'Gael García Bernal and the Latin American New Wave', published in July 2008. Soutar translated Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo for Bitter Lemon Press.

6 October 2014

Review: HAPPINESS IS EASY, Edney Silvestre

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 828 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (July 31, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857521357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857521354
  • ASIN: B00J4SO424
Synopsis (Amazon)

Olavo Bettencourt is an important man, a man of spin. With Brazil adjusting to the new idea of democracy, his PR firm holds the balance of power in its hands. Which has also made Olavo very rich, if not very popular.

Loathed by his trophy wife and mired in a web of political corruption that spreads from Sao Paolo to Switzerland, Israel and New York, Olavo is an obvious target for extortion. And what better leverage can there be but the kidnapping of his only son.

Except that the child on his way home from school in Olavo’s armour-plated car, intent on his colouring book as the gang closes in . . .

He’s not Olavo’s son.

My Take

Basically set in Sao Paolo, Brazil, on a day in May 1990, this story cleverly nips in and out of time frames to give the reader the background to political corruption, and an economy based on inflation and constantly rising prices, where government issued media reports may or may not tell the truth.

For Olavo Bettencourt everything has possible spin, and even the assassination of his driver and the attempted abduction of his son has PR possibilities which will give the government more opportunity to demonstrate how well it looks after its people. A drug running cartel will be uncovered, criminals will be apprehended and shot, all in the name of justice, but how much will be true?

And all the time Bettancourt and others will be shoring up their overseas holdings, their apartments and bank accounts. 

I read this for the 2014 Global Reading Challenge and it certainly provided a cutting insight into the problems of Brazil, at the same time as exploring an unusual scenario.

My rating: 4.5

Review: CURTAIN CALL, Anthony Quinn

  • Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
  • Pub Date   Jan 8 2015
  • source: NetGalley
Synopsis (NetGalley)

On a sultry afternoon in the summer of 1936 a woman accidentally interrupts an attempted murder in a London hotel room. Nina Land, a West End actress, faces a dilemma: she’s not supposed to be at the hotel in the first place, and certainly not with a married man. But once it becomes apparent that she may have seen the face of the man the newspapers have dubbed ‘the Tie-Pin Killer’ she realises that another woman's life could be at stake.

Jimmy Erskine is the raffish doyen of theatre critics who fears that his star is fading: age and drink are catching up with him, and in his late-night escapades with young men he walks a tightrope that may snap at any moment. He has depended for years on his loyal and longsuffering secretary Tom, who has a secret of his own to protect. Tom’s chance encounter with Madeleine Farewell, a lost young woman haunted by premonitions of catastrophe, closes the circle: it was Madeleine who narrowly escaped the killer’s stranglehold that afternoon, and now walks the streets in terror of his finding her again.

Curtain Call is a comedy of manners, and a tragedy of mistaken intentions. From the glittering murk of Soho’s demi-monde to the grease paint and ghost-lights of theatreland, the story plunges on through smoky clubrooms, tawdry hotels and drag balls towards a denouement in which two women are stalked by the same killer. As bracing as a cold Martini and as bright as a new tie-pin, it is at once a deeply poignant love story, a murder mystery and an irresistible portrait of a society dancing towards the abyss.

My Take

The King died at the beginning of 1936 and so this crime thriller is set firmly against that year: not only is there the scandal of the king-to-be's affair with the American Woman, and lurking in the background a gruesome murderer who has already claimed three victims; but Hitler and Mussolini both menace on the European horizon. The popularity of Moseley and Fascism are growing apace throughout the country, anti-Semitic sentiment grows in London society, while other institutions cling to the old ways, homosexuality is condemned and punishable by gaol sentence when detected, and the Crystal Palace burns down.

The plot has at least three bases that feel their way towards each other. The historical background is wonderfully well done, without losing sight of the characters whose lives play out in the foreground.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.6

3 October 2014

New to me authors: July to September 2014

So far this year I have read 27 authors that I haven't reviewed on this blog before.
That is just over a quarter of the books I have read.
(My guess is that somewhere in the dim past I may have read a book by some of them like Georgette Heyer)
Some of them are the result of looking for books that fit the description vintage, but a large number are recent publications.
There are twelve on my list for July-September this year. Most of them are what I would call middling reads with a couple of stand-outs.
  1. 4.0, DEATH-WATCH, John Dickson-Carr
  2. 3.9, THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE, Mary Roberts Rinehart
  3. 3.7, THE FOOTPRINTS ON THE CEILING, Clayton Rawson 
  4. 4.7, ELIZABETH IS MISSING, Emma Healey
  5. 4.2, MURDER IN THE MONASTERY, Lesley Cookman 
  6. 4.8, HOLY ORDERS, Benjamin Black 
  7. 3.5, THE CARTOGRAPHER, Peter Twohig 
  8. 4.4, BUNDORI, Laura Joh Rowland 
  9. 3.8, A BLUNT INSTRUMENT, Georgette Heyer 
  10. 3.9, THE WALLS OF JERICHO, Jack Bunyan
  11. 4.6, THE MURDER BAG, Tony Parsons 
  12. 4.5, QUICK, Steve Worland   
Last year I read 59 new-to-me authors and I don't think I am going to get to that number this year.
Don't forget to check what others have been reading - see yesterday's post.

Review: THE SNACK THIEF, Andrea Camilleri

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 520 KB
  • Print Length: 308 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0330492977
  • Publisher: Picador; New Ed edition (October 1, 2005)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English, translated from Italian by Stephen Sartarelli.
  • ASIN: B006NV9C4K
Synopsis (Amazon)

The third novel in Camilleri's savagely witty and hauntingly atmospheric Sicilian mystery series featuring Inspector Montalbano.

Never has Inspector Montalbano's character-a unique blend of humour, cynicism, compassion, earthiness, and love of good food-been more compelling than in The Snack Thief.

When an elderly man is stabbed to death in an elevator and a crewman on an Italian fishing trawler is machine-gunned by a Tunisian patrol boat off Sicily's coast, only Inspector Montalbano suspects the link between the two incidents. His investigation leads to the beautiful Karima, an impoverished house cleaner and sometime prostitute, whose young son steals other school children's mid-morning snacks. But Karima disappears, and the young snack thief's life-as well as Montalbano's-is endangered when the inspector exposes a viper's nest of government corruption and international intrigue.

My Take

It is fascinating to watch the disparate strands of this novel come together. In many ways Inspector Montalbano is a maverick, a very cool investigator, whose instinct for the truth is remarkable.

Courageous in many ways connected to his job, Montalbano is unable to face his father's impending death.

There is a lot of black humor in THE SNACK THIEF but a lot of compassion too. An underlying all, Montalbano's love of good food, resulting mouth watering recipes.

My rating: 4.3

I've also reviewed

2 October 2014

Meme: New-to-me Authors July to September 2014

It's easy to join this meme.

Just write a post about the best new-to-you crime fiction authors (or all) you've read in the period of July to September 2014, put a link to this meme in your post, and even use the logo if you like.
The books don't necessarily need to be newly published.

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

This meme will run again at the end of January 2015

What I read in September 2014

This month has been a bit of a slower reading month although I did reach the 100 titles for 2014 milestone.
Some good Australian authors for you to check out.
Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2014
  1. 3.9, THE WALLS OF JERICHO, Jack Bunyan - British police procedural
  2. 4.6, THE MURDER BAG, Tony Parsons - British police procedural, audio book 
  3. 4.5, QUICK, Steve Worland - Australian author, kindle, NetGalley 
  4. 4.5, THE SILKWORM, Robert Galbraith - British (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)
  5. 4.7, ALREADY DEAD, Jaye Ford - Australian author, Kindle, NetGalley 
  6. 4.5, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?, Caroline Overington - Australian author, Kindle, Net Galley  
  7. 4.3, ELEPHANTS CAN REMEMBER, Agatha Christie
  8. 3.8, POSTERN OF FATE, Agatha Christie
  9. 4.5, THE CRITIC, Peter May
  10. 4.6, CURTAIN: POIROT'S LAST CASE, Agatha Christie
My Pick of the month is Jaye Ford's  ALREADY DEAD, although there were some others to consider too.

See what others have listed as their pick of the month.


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