31 December 2015

Meme: New to Me Authors, October to December 2015

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 October to December 2015, 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 March 2016

New to Me authors, October to December 2015

I continued to read quite a number of new to me authors this quarter, bringing my total for the quarter to 10 and my total for the year to 53, about 40% of all the books I've read this year.

30 December 2015

Review: FALL FROM GRACE, David Ashton

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 510 KB
  • Print Length: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn (May 1, 2011)
    Originally published in 2007
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006WB2B7Q
  • #2 in the Inspector McLevy Mystery series
Synopsis  (Amazon)

The second in a new series of McLevy books, Fall from Grace revolves around the terrible Tay Bridge disaster. The story begins with a break-in and murder at the Edinburgh home of Sir Thomas Bouch, the enigmatic, egotistical builder of the Tay Bridge. McLevy is brought in to investigate. With the help of brothel madam Jean Brash, McLevy finds the murderer, but there is much, much more to unfold: murder, arson, sexual obsession and suicide.

My take

The book begins in Edinburgh in 1880 with the closure of a case that began with the murder of a butler nearly a year before. The story is told with the narration flitting between current events and those that had taken place in the previous year. Occasionally we also get a glimpse of McLevy's childhood for one of the characters in the current tale is Herkie, his childhood nemesis.

McLevy's sergeant, Martin Mullholland, is in love, and he has bought the ring, but his beloved, Emily is well below him in social status, and as luck would have it, her father is an unbending and unsympathetic man.

A warehouse fire has resulted in the contents of the warehouse being incinerated and in the middle of the ashes, a very charred corpse. The warehouse owner is filing an insurance claim and the insurance assessor is Robert Forbes, Emily's father. McLevy believes the fire is arson, and that the warehouse owner is involved in fraud. However Forbes, a former policeman, decides to approve the claim.

This is a multi-stranded plot, and it took me a time to grab hold of the individual strands, so to speak. They are cleverly manipulated towards a conclusion, but things do not always go well for Inspector McLevy. Along the way we have time to consider how policing methods have changed.

My rating: 4.4
I've also reviewed

2015 Aussie Female Writers Challenge - completed

2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge

I initially set myself a target of 20 titles, all crime fiction, and finished only recently. The challenge was hosted at Australian Women Writers website.
The challenge runs again in 2016.

Completed reading: 21

  1.  4.3, MASTERMIND, Helen Goltz
  2. 4.7, WEB OF DECEIT, Katherine Howell 
  3. 5.0, HADES, Candice Fox  
  4. 4.7 MEDEA'S CURSE, Anne Buist
  5. 4.5, DARK HORSE, Honey Brown  
  6. 4.3, TRACKING NORTH, Kerry McGinnis
  7. 4.4, THE LOST SWIMMER, Ann Turner 
  8. 4.2, THE BLUE ROSES OF ORROROO, Margaret Visciglio  
  9. 4.9, TELL THE TRUTH, Katherine Howell
  10. 4.6, THE INSANITY OF MURDER, Felicity Young
  11. 4.0, A TRIFLE DEAD, Livia Day   
  12. 4.5, THE SECRET CHORD, Geraldine Brooks - not crime fiction
  13. 4.3, THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF, Helen Garner - not crime fiction 
  14. 4.5, BLOOD REDEMPTION, Alex Palmer 
  15. 4.5,  A TIME TO RUN, J. M. Peace 
  16. 4.7, PAVING THE NEW ROAD, Sulari Gentil 
  18. 4.3, EDEN, Candice Fox 
  19. 3.9, THE POPEYE MURDER, Sandra Winter-Dewhirst 
  20. 4.3, ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US, Sarah Foster 

29 December 2015

Aussie Author Challenge 2015, completed

The Aussie Author Challenge 2015 was hosted at Booklover Book Reviews

I was aiming initially at Kangaroo (12 titles) but the reality is that I read many more than that in an effort to meet requirements in all categories. It took me until just recently to finish.

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 2014 or 2015. 

Books read: 26 - completed

  1.    4.3, MASTERMIND, Helen Goltz - female, published 2014, N
  2. 4.7, WEB OF DECEIT, Katherine Howell  - female, published 2013
  3. 5.0, HADES, Candice Fox - publ 2014, female, N
  4. 4.7 MEDEA'S CURSE, Anne Buist - published 2015, female, N
  5. 4.5, DARK HORSE, Honey Brown - published 2013, N
  6. 4.3, TRACKING NORTH, Kerry McGinnis - female, published 2013, N
  7. 4.4, THE LOST SWIMMER, Ann Turner - female, published 2015
  8. 4.2, THE BLUE ROSES OF ORROROO, Margaret Visciglio published 2011, female, N
  9. 4.9, TELL THE TRUTH, Katherine Howell
  10. 4.4, THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS, Robert Gott, publ 2015, male 
  11. 4.8, THE BANK INSPECTOR, Roger Monk, publ. 2014, male
  12. 4.6, THE INSANITY OF MURDER, Felicity Young, publ 2015, female
  13. 4.0, A TRIFLE DEAD, Livia Day , publ 2013, female 
  14. 4.5, THE SECRET CHORD, Geraldine Brooks , publ. 2015, female, not crime fiction
  15. 4.3, THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF, Helen Garner, publ. 2014, female, not crime fiction 
  16. 4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES, Michael Robotham, publ. 2015, male 
  17. 4.5, BLOOD REDEMPTION, Alex Palmer, published 2002, female
  18. 4.5,  A TIME TO RUN, J. M. Peace - published 2015, female
  19. 4.7, PAVING THE NEW ROAD, Sulari Gentil, publ 2012, female 
  21. 4.3, EDEN, Candice Fox 
  22. 4.3, MURDER ON THE ISLAND, Brian Kavanagh - male, 2015
  23. 4.7, CRUCIFIXION CREEK, Barry Maitland - male, 2015
  24. 3.9, THE POPEYE MURDER, Sandra Winter-Dewhirst - female 2015
  25. 4.3, ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US, Sarah Foster - female, 2016 
  26. 4.4, RUNNING AGAINST THE TIDE, AMANDA Ortlepp - female, 2016 

28 December 2015

In South Australia I was born...

I have been very pleased to read three novels this year (four if you count border town Broken Hill in SA where it has been on occasion over the years) set in South Australia where I live. Three of them have a historical flavour.

Click on my links for my reviews


The perfect crime! One Monday morning, a bank branch is robbed. No one hurt or threatened. Not a hold-up. Not a tunnel into the vault. A three minutes robbery and the robber drives away. Not followed. Not caught. A perfect, flawless crime.
Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw hardly knows where to start, especially as he is distracted by an attempted murder in a nearby street. A story of greed, treachery and a heart-breaking family feud.

4.4, ODDFELLOWS, Nicolas Shakespeare

On 1 January 1915, ramifications from the First World War, raging half a world away, were felt in Broken Hill, Australia, when in a guerrilla-style military operation, four citizens were killed and seven wounded. It was the annual picnic day in Broken Hill and a thousand citizens were dressed for fun when the only enemy attack to occur on Australian soil during World War I, took them by surprise. Nicholas Shakespeare has turned this little known piece of Australian history into a story for our time.


Erin Travers is running away from her life and taking her two sons with her to a small town on the ruggedly beautiful Eyre Peninsula. The close-knit township is full of happy childhood memories for Erin, but the past never stays the same and she is bringing a whole lot of baggage with her.

When the peaceful community is disrupted by arson and theft, everyone has different ideas about who is responsible. In a small town where lives are tangled too closely together, old grudges flare, fingers are pointed and secrets are unmasked. 

4.2, THE BLUE ROSES OF ORROROO, Margaret Visciglio

In the summer of 1928, the body of Michael Walsh is brought home to Norwood from Mount Gambier, where he died on a train. That night his wife, Rose, attacks his coffin with an axe. Rose's estranged daughter, Mary, returns for the funeral. Mother and daughter are reconciled but as Michael is buried, dark secrets are resurrected. The Blue Roses of Orroroo is a humorous account of rape, incest and Stolen Generations related by Rose Walsh, a not always reliable witness, as she strives to rescue her family from destitution and, fuelled by kerosene and roses, to restore her own self-esteem.

27 December 2015

Review: RUNNING AGAINST THE TIDE, Amanda Ortlepp

Synopsis (NetGalley)

Erin Travers is running away from her life and taking her two sons with her to a small town on the ruggedly beautiful Eyre Peninsula. The close-knit township is full of happy childhood memories for Erin, but the past never stays the same and she is bringing a whole lot of baggage with her.

When the peaceful community is disrupted by arson and theft, everyone has different ideas about who is responsible. In a small town where lives are tangled too closely together, old grudges flare, fingers are pointed and secrets are unmasked.

Brimming with malice and threat, Running Against the Tide is about long-held prejudices and fractured relationships, and cements Amanda Ortlepp as one of Australia's most compelling storytellers.

My Take

I'm in heaven. Another crime fiction title set in authentically in South Australia.
For most of this story you might think this book is on the very outer edge of the crime fiction genre, but its place is firmly established by the end.

Erin Travers takes her two sons away from Sydney and her abusive gambling addict husband to the fictitious town on Mallee Bay on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula.  Her older son needs to find a job and teenaged Ryan will go to school. Ryan in particular finds the move away from his father hard and turns in on himself.

They move into a rented dilapidated weather board house next door to elderly oyster fisherman Jono and his wife Helen. Their friendship makes life bearable for Erin and through Helen she enters a painting in the local art competition, and Jono gives Mick some part time work on the oyster farm.

Then someone plants some iceberg roses in Erin's back yard and things take a slightly sinister turn. Oysters go missing from the oyster farm and Ryan has a tough time settling in at school.

Another very readable story, and South Australian readers will love the setting.

My rating: 4.4

About the author.
RUNNING AGAINST THE TIDE is Amanada Ortlepp's second novel.
Amanda Ortlepp is a marketing and communications professional who lives in Sydney. She was signed by Simon & Schuster Australia in a two-book deal. She lives in the Inner West of Sydney. Her first novel was CLAIMING NOAH.

24 December 2015


Synopsis (Publisher)

Seventeen-year-old Georgia has a secret – one that is isolating her from everyone she loves. She is desperate to tell her best friend, but Sophia is ignoring her, and she doesn’t know why. And before she can find out, Sophia is left fighting for her life after a hit and run, with Georgia a traumatised witness.

As a school psychologist, Georgia’s mother Anya should be used to dealing with scared adolescents. However, it’s very different when the girl who needs help is your own child. Meanwhile, Georgia’s father is wracked with a guilt he can’t share; and when Zac, Georgia’s younger brother, stumbles on an unlikely truth, the family relationships really begin to unravel.

Georgia’s secret is about to go viral. And yet, it will be the stranger heading for the family home who will leave her running through the countryside into terrible danger. Can the Turner family rise above the lies they have told to betray or protect one another, in order to fight for what matters most of all?

Set against the stark, rugged beauty of England’s Lake District, All That is Lost Between Us is a timeless thriller with a modern twist.

My Take

While crimes are committed in this novel, not the least the hit and run that puts Georgia's cousin Sophia into  hospital in a coma, crime really isn't the central point of this novel. It is more about the gaps that grows between members of a family: between husband and wife, mother and daughter, when life is too busy, when you just don't talk.

Georgia finds someone who loves running just as much as she does, but she keeps her new relationship hidden from her family and friends, and then her world falls apart when she realises who he is. She has got herself into a situation she doesn't know how to get out of.

A very readable novel, with considerable appeal to young women, who will empathise with Georgia's situation.

My rating:  4.3

About the author

Sara Foster is the critically acclaimed author of three bestselling psychological suspense novels. Come Back to Me was published in Australia in 2010 and reached the Sydney Morning Herald top ten Australian bestsellers list. Her second book, Beneath the Shadows, reached No. 4 on the Australian Sunday Telegraph bestsellers list, and rights were sold in the USA and Germany. Shallow Breath, Sara’s latest release, featured in the Australian Women’s Weekly, was chosen as Book of the Week in the Sydney Morning Herald, and was longlisted for a Davitt Award. Sara lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and two young daughters. In addition to her novels, she has written for travel website HolidayGoddess.com, and was one of the contributors to their Handbag Guide on New York, Paris, London, and Rome. She has published independent short fiction alongside Hugh Howey in From the Indie Side, and contributed to the Dear Mum charity anthology published by Random House Australia. She is also very proud to have been one of the original editors of the bestselling Kids’ Night In series, which has been raising money for the charity War Child since 2003. 

22 December 2015

Review: THE POPEYE MURDER, Sandra Winter-Dewhirst

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 573 KB
  • Print Length: 252 pages
  • Publication Date: August 25, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B014GP4Y0Q
  • source: I bought it
Synopsis (Amazon)

Rebecca Keith is the editor of “Taste”, the food and wine supplement in Adelaide’s daily newspaper.
Joining a throng of reporters and chefs aboard a local ferryboat called The Popeye to mark the launch of the Australian Food Festival, the gathered crowd is shocked when one of the city’s top chefs is found murdered in a macabre way. Rebecca and the other guests are immediately tagged as suspects to the crime, but in a strange twist of fate, Rebecca is also assigned by her newspaper to cover the murder. Faced with this strange ethical dilemma, she soon finds herself wrapped up in interviews and investigations that put her face-to-face with a host of suspects—and grave mortal danger.

For fans of Kerry Greenwood’s Phyrne Fisher Murder Series and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot, The Popeye Murder: A Rebecca Keith Mystery is a lighthearted tale set against the backdrop of the quirky, yet rich culture of one of Australia’s most beloved coastal cities.

My Take

For me the main attraction of this novel was the setting in my home town. I was hooked right from the start, particularly when I discovered the initial murder victim was based on a "real" chef (my brain kept wanting to use his real name). So, like other locals who will read this, I played "spot the place" and "spot the person" all the way through. I don't think it will even matter if you are not normally a crime fiction reader. The story is a bit of a hoot.  I'm sure there were a lot of "in jokes" that I missed, but that didn't matter really either. It is a story that will sync more with Adelaide readers too.

The novel uses a broad canvas of Adelaide culture: food and wine festivals, Popeye boats, olive groves in the parklands, greyhound racing, wineries, the Advertiser newspaper, the Central Market, and much more. Against this background a cozy murder mystery which begins with a grisly discovery in congenial surroundings, and a central character that every female reader with easily relate to.

I thought the author lost her way a bit towards the end, wasn't quite sure how to draw all the final threads together, and the last few pages felt a bit rushed. But I enjoyed it.

My rating: 3.9

About the author
A journalist for more than 30 years, Sandra spent 10 years as the state director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in South Australia, overseeing a branch of 350 people across television, radio, and online production. Educated at Adelaide University and the University of South Australia and graduating with degrees in the arts and journalism, she has sat on a range of arts boards and advisory councils within the media industry. In 2008 she was named one of South Australia’s 50 most influential people by Adelaide’s daily paper, The Advertiser. Sandra has a passion for food and wine and all things Adelaide and South Australian. For more information, visit http://www.myadelaidehome.blogspot.com.au and https://www.facebook.com/myadelaidehome.

20 December 2015

Review: CRUCIFIXION CREEK, Barry Maitland

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 689 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Text Publishing (September 23, 2015)
  • Publication Date: September 23, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00LZ1U6IY
  • Source: I bought it 
  • #1 in the Bell Tree Trilogy
Synopsis  (Amazon)

Homicide detective Harry Belltree wouldn't usually be looking too hard at an elderly couple's suicide pact. Especially now, when his brother-in-law Greg has just been stabbed to death. But it seems Greg and the old couple had ties to the same man, a bent moneylender with friends in high places - and low.

Harry can't get officially involved in Greg's murder, but he suspects a link with two other mysterious deaths: his parents'. And when he goes off-grid to investigate, that's when things start to get dangerous
Set in Sydney, this dark, morally ambiguous and adrenaline-charged new series is a triumphant change of direction for Barry Maitland.

My Take

Readers may be familiar with Maitland's Brock and Kolla series set in London. He has also dabbled with the stand-alones set in Australia. So this trilogy is quite a new direction for him.

Harry Belltree is the son of a prominent solicitor who killed three years earlier in the same road crash that left his wife Jenny blind. Harry is an ex SAS soldier with experience in Afghanistan. He doesn't reject using violence if he thinks it is necessary. He and his wife Jenny, a computer expert, make a formidable investigative team even though she is blind.

So Harry doesn't always play by the rules, and that tendency combined with corruption in high places in New South Wales, links between bikies and a loan shark, and between them and politicians, makes for a very noir novel, darker than others I have read by Maitland. The cover also tells us that this is the first in a trilogy, so there is more to look forward to.

Very very readable.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

mini reviews

4.7, DARK MIRROR - #10
4.7, THE RAVEN'S EYE -  #12

About the author
Barry Maitland was born in Scotland, studied architecture at Cambridge University and went on to work as an architect and urban design expert. In 1984 he moved to Australia to head the architecture school at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales. In 1994 The Marx Sisters, the first in his Brock and Kolla crime series, was published. Barry now writes fiction full time. He is published throughout the English-speaking world and in translation in a number of other countries, including Germany, Italy, France and Japan. He lives in the Hunter Valley.

17 December 2015

Review: THE SHUT EYE, Belinda Bauer

  • first published in UK by Bantam Press 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-593-07287-5
  • 302 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Publisher)

Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.

Yesterday they were a family just like any other: Anna and James, and their little boy, Daniel.

But in one careless moment everything changed.

A front door accidentally left ajar . . . and Daniel was gone.

Now they are a pair of strangers who can't even look each other in the eye.

Distrust and unspoken words fill the void where their son used to be.

Anna will go to any lengths to find Daniel - a four-year-old doesn't just vanish into thin air. But how far will this desperate search push her?

Right to the brink.

And beyond.

My Take

DCI John Marvel has one of those cases that just won't let you go: the disappearance of twelve year old Edie Evans on her way to school. At the time of her disappearance over twelve months before he even used the services of a medium, with no result. Edie's mother thinks she is still alive, but twelve months is a long time.

Now his boss wants him to find Mitzi, his wife's missing dog. And Marvel discovers that Mrs Clyde has been attending sessions held by the same medium.

John Marvel is far from the flavour of the month with Superintendent Clyde, and he really doesn't get on too well with the rest of the team either. He hopes that discovering what has happened to Mitzi will give him a leg up, but things don't go entirely to plan.

This is a mesmerising read with lots of twists and turns.  The resolution of the mystery is at once credible and incredible.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

16 December 2015

Review: MURDER ON THE ISLAND, Brian Kavanagh

  • Format Kindle: (Amazon)
  • File Size: 899 KB
  • Print Length: 125 pages
  • Publisher: Fontaine Publishing Group (December 9, 2015)
  • Publication Date: December 9, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0195U68LU
  • source: review copy provided by the author 
  • #6 in the Belinda Lawrence series
Synopsis (Amazon)

Belinda and Hazel find themselves on the island of Guernsey where they are invited by Sir Mark’s mother, Melba, Lady Sallinger. Other house guests include her parents, a handsome interior designer, a slovenly bookseller, a Jesuit priest, and Catherine, a mysterious woman writer. Soon after, the residents of the old Tudor mansion are thrown into confusion with the discovery of human remains buried in the garden.

The priest tells of the Guernsey Martyrs, burned alive in 1556 for theft, and he believes a silver cup from that theft, is hidden in the house. One murder and a second mysterious death lead to revelations of past crimes that resonate to the present day and result in an exciting resolution tinged by the island’s history of Nazi occupation. 

My Take

Belinda Lawrence travels to Guernsey to meet up with her fiance Mark Sallinger at his mother's house to make arrangements for her wedding. Her parents are already there. She soon finds that her future mother-in-law is planning a society wedding, and then, to cap it all, Mark is called away suddenly on business. This leaves Belinda in an impossible situation.

There are several other house guests including Belinda's parents, a housekeeper with a dark past, a woman researching the German occupation, an architect who specialises in house renovations, and a Jesuit priest. Belinda and her friend Hazel suspect not all are as they seem. An overnight storm cuts the power and with it their communication with the outside world. Wild winds lash the house, trees come down, and a murder occurs.

So here is a quick read, a satisfying cozy, that pulls in some Guernsey history, stories coming from the time of Bloody Mary, and then a little bit of recent history.

My Rating: 4.3

I've also read

13 December 2015

Review: DARK CORNERS, Ruth Rendell

  • available from Amazon for Kindle
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 27, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501119427
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501119422
Synopsis (Amazon)

When his father dies, Carl Martin inherits a house in an increasingly rich and trendy London neighborhood. Carl needs cash, however, so he rents the upstairs room and kitchen to the first person he interviews, Dermot McKinnon. That was colossal mistake number one. Mistake number two was keeping his father’s bizarre collection of homeopathic “cures” that he found in the medicine cabinet, including a stash of controversial diet pills. Mistake number three was selling fifty of those diet pills to a friend, who is then found dead.

Dermot seizes a nefarious opportunity and begins to blackmail Carl, refusing to pay rent, and creepily invading Carl’s space. Ingeniously weaving together two storylines that finally merge in one shocking turn, Ruth Rendell describes one man’s spiral into darkness—and murder—as he falls victim to a diabolical foe he cannot escape.

My take

Ruth Rendell died earlier this year at the age of 85. So this stand-alone is the very last of her books, and of course as a long time avid reader of her books (there have been 60 of them in the last 50 years) I had to read it.

While I wouldn't rate it in her best 10, it still demonstrates what a remarkable story teller she was, and how she was able to get into the mind of her principal characters.

There is no doubt here who the "murderer" is, even though Carl caused his friend's death unwittingly. But it preys constantly on his mind and he becomes unable to work, to eat, to sleep. And Rendell asks the reader whether we would react in the same way. Or would we get it over and done with, and front up to the police with an admission that we were the source of the tablets that in all probability killed Stacey. Carl chooses not to and thus becomes the victim of Dermot, his upstairs tenant, who blackmails him by refusing to pay any rent. With no income, and unable to work, Carl sinks lower and lower, to the point where his girlfriend leaves him, and Dermot preys on his mind.

The story just misses out on creating enough tension although there is a second murder, and also another attempted one.

There is a second story thread running alongside the first: Lizzie Milsom, a friend of the dead girl Stacey, who moves into her flat, wears her clothes, and finally gets kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity. When Lizzie's father Tom gets a free bus card when he turns 60, he takes up a new hobby: travelling on buses. After being beaten up at one bus stop, he then has a nasty experience when a passenger gets off a bus, leaving his rucksack behind.

So a good if not brilliant final outing for an author who has left an indelible mark on British crime fiction.
For those who do not know, Ruth Rendell was the creator of Inspector Wexford, and also wrote under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.5, A NEW LEASE OF DEATH- Wexford #2
4.6, THE BEST MAN TO DIE - Wexford #4
4.3, A SLEEPING LIFE, Ruth Rendell  - Wexford #10 
4.7, PUT ON BY CUNNING - Wexford #11
4.6, THE VAULT- Wexford #23 
4.5, NO MAN'S NIGHTINGALE- Wexford #24   

Barbara Vine

10 December 2015

Review: TEN STAR CLUES, E.R Punshon

  • first published 1941
  • #15 in the Bobby Owen series
  • File Size: 862 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Dean Street Press (December 7, 2015)
  • Publication Date: December 7, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

“I’ll have breakfast ready before you’re dressed,” Olive said, her mind full of bacon and eggs, tea, toast.

“Can’t stop,” Bobby told her. “I’ve to be at Castle Wych at once.”

“What’s happened there?”

“Murder,” Bobby answered as he made for the door.

Bobby Owen has left London and is now a policeman in the bucolic county of Wychshire. The local community is stunned when a missing heir returns to Castle Wych, determined to claim his inheritance. But following the ensuing dispute over his identity, Castle Wych plays host to murder. There are ten “star clues” investigated by the resourceful Bobby, with help from his wife Olive, in this delightful and classic example of the golden age mystery novel.

Ten Star Clues, originally published in 1941, is the fifteenth novel in the Bobby Owen mystery series. This new edition features an introduction by crime fiction historian Curtis Evans.

My Take

I read this novel as part of my participation in a meme at the blog Past Offences where the books read for December 2015 were all published in 1941.

The setting is England in 1940, preparing for a war that most think will never happen. Earl Wych lost three heirs one after another in the First World War, and then came the news that his grandson who had gone rather hurriedly to the United States was also dead. The current heir is a great nephew. Then a man visits the family solicitors with the claim that he is the dead grandson. The immediate family all thinks he is an impostor but Earl Wych and his wife the Countess surprise everyone by acknowledging the arrival as Bertram, the lost grandson.

This is a nice mystery for those who like a puzzle. Detective Inspector Bobby Owen works methodically with the Chief Constable on an astonishing array of suspects, assessing their opportunity and motive. 

Punshon, the author, was apparently a great admirer of Agatha Christie, but this novel is stylistically quite different to hers.

It is a carefully plotted Golden Age police procedural which left me feeling that I wouldn't mind trying another in the series, perhaps an earlier one, at some stage. I found the references to the impending war interesting, especially the lack of any idea by the characters that this was going to be very different style of warfare.

My rating: 4.2

About the author
Ernest Robertson Punshon (1872–1956) was an English novelist and literary critic of the early 20th century. He also wrote under the pseudonym Robertson Halket.[1] Primarily writing on crime and deduction, he enjoyed some literary success in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, he is remembered, in the main, as the creator of Police Constable Bobby Owen, the protagonist of many of Punshon's novels. He reviewed many of Agatha Christie's novels for The Guardian on their first publication.[2] Punshon was also a prolific writer of short stories, and a selection of his crime and horror fiction has recently been collected together.

9 December 2015

Review: THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER, Stuart Palmer - audio book

Synopsis  (Audible.com)

Although the Stock Market had crashed recently, it was too early for most people to predict that the Great Depression was about to get underway.

For 39-year-old spinster schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers, it’s business as usual. And part of her usual business is taking her class for an outing to the aquarium to see the penguins. Instead, she spots the floating corpse of Wall Street broker Gerald Lester and quickly realizes that Inspector Oscar Piper of NYPD Homicide isn’t up to solving this tricky case, especially when he appears ready to accept he confession of an obviously innocent young man. Red herrings, not penguins, abound.

Miss Withers has a number of questions that need answers before she’s willing to reel in the real murderer: Who did Lester’s wife meet behind the stairs? What did the pickpocket see? Who was the man in the fedora? And just how did Miss Withers’ hatpin turn into a lethal weapon?

First published in 1931, The Penguin Pool Murder was as big a hit with book lovers as it was with moviegoers when it was filmed the following year starring Edna May Oliver as Miss Withers and James Gleason as Inspector Piper.

My take:

Great pains have been taken in the production of this audio book through accents and the like to emphasise both the New York setting of this story and the period in which it is set, just after the Wall street crash.

I found the premise of an NYPD detective in investigative partnership with a spinster school teacher rather unlikely but the plot is an intriguing one, and despite the early arrest of the victim's wife's lover, there are a number of possible candidates, all of whom are explored as the plot unfolds. The truth, when it "outed", came as a surprise, because I had not considered that particular possibility, indeed did not think that particular person had any motive. But perhaps I should have asked myself why he was at the Aquarium that particular morning.

You will have noted that this is #1 in the Hildegarde Withers series. Will I read another? I'm not sure. In some ways this novel was a bit dated, but then again a number of titles in the series have recently been released in audio format, so I might.

It will be one of the last Golden Age titles I will read this year for the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge.

My rating: 4.2

About the author
Stuart Palmer (1905-1968) was a popular American mystery novel author and screenwriter, best known for his character Hildegarde Withers. He also wrote under the names Theodore Orchards and Jay Stewart.

8 December 2015

Review: DAMAGE, Felix Francis

  • first published Penguin Books 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-7181-7883-3
  • 437 pages
  • source: My TBR pile
Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

Jeff Hinkley, undercover investigator for the British Horseracing Authority, is looking into the shady activities of a racehorse trainer. But as he's tailing his quarry through the Cheltenham Racing Festival, the last thing he expects to witness is a gruesome murder. Could it have something to do with the reason the trainer was banned in the first place - the administration of illegal drugs to his horses?

Days later, it's discovered that many more horses test positive for prohibited stimulants, a scandal that could throw horse-racing into disrepute. It's no surprise when the BHA receives a demand - pay up or face the consequences. In order to limit the damage to the sport, it's critical that Jeff find the perpetrator . . . but he'll soon learn he's up against someone who will stop at nothing to prevail. Jeff's mental and physical well-being is tested to the very limit, even his life is put on the line.

My Take

I was a long time reader of Dick Francis' thrillers, and don't mind saying that, even though I knew he was a collaborator in his father's final books, that I did not really believe that his son Felix would amount to much. But DAMAGE proves that Felix Francis has made it on his own.

This novel continues in the tradition of tight thriller, with a believable plot, and clues for the reader to work on.  Management of the British racing industry by an independent authority comes under threat as the BHA discovers that at one particular carnival 66 out of 69 horses have tested positive to a banned substance. Blackmail demands for five million pounds arrive with an injunction that the police are to be kept in the dark.

Tightly plotted, believable, and well written.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
Francis, Dick & Felix

5 December 2015

Books on the Go - an update

It seems to be some time since I did one of these but there are some books that have been on my list for a few months.

TBRN - To Be Read Next - lists to give me direction, but I often ignore them :-)

Library Book
  • THE SHUT EYE, Belinda Bauer
from Net Galley
  • KING OF THE ROAD, Nigel Bartlett
  • PAINTED BLACK, Greg Kihn
from my TBR
  • DAMAGE, Felix Francis
audio books on the go
from my Kindle
  • KILLER'S ISLAND, Anna Jannson
  • THE DYNAMITE ROOM, Jason Hewitt
  • THE RESISTANCE MAN, Martin Walker
  • THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB, David Lagercrantz
  • DARK CORNERS, Ruth Rendell
  • CRUCIFIXION CREEK, Barry Maitland
  • IN THE DARK, Chris Patchell
  • THE SECRET ARTS, Azmar Dar
  • IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT, Charles Norris Williams
review books
  • THE GOLDILOCKS PLANET, Paula Bernstein
  • GOOD MONEY, J.M. Green
  • ONE TOO MANY, Maureen Jennings
  • THE FOURTH REICH, Helen Goltz
  • DEATH BY DISGUISE,, Helen Goltz

Review: THE ANCIENT CURSE, Valerio Massimo Manfredi

  • first published 2001
  • translated from Italian by Christine Fedderson-Manfredi 2010
  • 247 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-230-74422-6
Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australai)

In the middle of the night at the Museum of Volterra, young archeologist Fabrizio Castellani is immersed in his work – research into the famous Etruscan statue known as "The Night Shadow". Completely engrossed, he is startled by the phone ringing. An icy female voice warns him to abandon his work at once.

A series of gruesome killings shortly follow, throwing the people of Volterra into a panic. The victims – all involved in the desecration of an unexplored tomb – have been torn to pieces by a beast of unimaginable size. Fabrizio is in charge of excavating this Etruscan tomb.

Fabrizio is joined in his fearless investigation of the past by Francesca Dionisi, a vivacious young researcher, and foremost by Lieutenant Reggiani, a brilliant carabinieri officer assigned to the case. Fabrizio is convinced that a single event has set off the entire chain of events.

What is hiding inside the enigmatic statue? What lies behind the bloodthirsty rage that has lain in wait for all these centuries? What tragedy is hidden behind the inscription? Will Fabrizio manage to unravel these secrets without being sucked into the spiral of violence himself?

My Take

Through archaeology the setting of this novel takes the reader back twenty four centuries to a dreadful massacre. Seemingly triggered by an investigation being carried out by Fabrizio Castellani a long dead monster comes to life and begins ravaging the countryside, attacking people out late at night. But which of his investigations has triggered this? The bronze statue of the young boy, the Phersu tomb he has excavated, or the tablet inscriptions his boss is translating in secret?

Fabrizio is a loose cannon who likes to do his own thing, so while he cooperates with the local police chief, he also keeps secret some of what he is doing.

There are Gothic overtones to this novel and a reliance on the supernatural. The story got me so enthralled that I had to get up in the middle of the night to finish off the last thirty pages because my mind would not give it a rest. Looking back on the novel I think the author changed his mind several times about where the story was going and I detected a number of threads that looked interesting at the time, but actually went nowhere.

Nevertheless it was quite a good read and I could see it making a good basis for a scary thriller movie.

My rating: 4.2

About the author

Valerio Massimo Manfredi is professor of classical archaeology at Luigi Bocconi University in Milan. Further to numerous academic publications, he has published thirteen works of fiction, including the Alexander trilogy which has been translated into thirty-four languages in fifty-five countries. His novel The Last Legion was released as a major motion picture. He has written and hosted documentaries on the ancient world and has penned screenplays for cinema and television. 

3 December 2015

Review: THE GOLDEN EGG, Donna Leon

  • published 2013 Atlantic Monthly Press
  • ISBN 978-0-8021-2101-1
  • 276 pages
  • #22  in the Brunetti series
Synopsis (Amazon)

In The Golden Egg, as the first leaves of autumn begin to fall, Vice Questore Patta asks Brunetti to look into a minor shop-keeping violation committed by the mayor’s future daughter-in-law. Brunetti has no interest in helping his boss amass political favors, but he has little choice but to comply. Then Brunetti’s wife, Paola, comes to him with a request of her own. The mentally handicapped man who worked at their dry cleaner has just died of a sleeping pill overdose, and Paola loathes the idea that he lived and died without anyone noticing him, or helping him.

Brunetti begins to investigate the death and is surprised when he finds nothing on the man: no birth certificate, no passport, no driver’s license, no credit cards. As far as the Italian government is concerned, he never existed. Stranger still, the dead man’s mother refuses to speak to the police, and assures Brunetti that her son’s identification papers were stolen in a burglary. As secrets unravel, Brunetti suspects that the Lembos, an aristocratic family, might be somehow connected to the death. But why would anyone want this sweet, simple-minded man dead?

My Take

I've followed the novels of Donna Leon closely over the last two decades, but I don't think any of them have ever left me with such a feeling of sadness that THE GOLDEN EGG has.

Set in Venice, the novels have come to explore the issues of living in modern day Venice against the background of a crime, often a murder. Some of those issues get passing mention in this novel such as corruption amongst city officials and the effects of cheap imports on the Venetian economy.

At the beginning of this novel we are not sure whether a murder has taken place.What concerns Brunetti is that there are no state records of this man despite his estimated age of over forty years. He is identified by a name on a piece of paper in his pocket, in conjunction with the record of where the ambulance was called to collect his body.

You'll have to ask yourself at the end of reading this novel whether a crime has been committed. What has happened certainly leaves Brunetti feeling that there should be some way of wreaking retribution.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed

Guido Brunetti (according to Fantastic Fiction)
1. Death At La Fenice (1992)
2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
3. The Anonymous Venetian (1994)
     aka Dressed for Death
4. A Venetian Reckoning (1995)
     aka Death And Judgment
5. Acqua Alta (1996)
     aka Death in High Water
6. The Death of Faith (1997)
     aka Quietly in Their Sleep
7. A Noble Radiance (1997)
8. Fatal Remedies (1998)
9. Friends in High Places (1999)
10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)
11. Wilful Behaviour (2002)
12. Uniform Justice (2003)
13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)
16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
18. About Face (2009)
19. A Question of Belief (2010)
20. Drawing Conclusions (2011)
21. Beastly Things (2012)
22. The Golden Egg (2013)
23. By Its Cover (2014)
24. Falling in Love (2015)
25. The Waters of Eternal Youth (2016)

Summary: Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival for October 2015

I have realised that because I was travelling I didn't write a summary post for the ACRC Blog Carnival for October, so here it is. Some lovely places to explore.

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Participants
2. Notes on THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS @ Christie in a Year Extended
3. Tuesday Night Bloggers: THE LABOURS OF HERCULES @ Clothes in Books
4. Tuesday Night Bloggers: summary @ The Passing Tramp
5. A Crime is Afoot - THE ABC MURDERS
6. Kate Jackson (Armchair Reviewer)
7. Agatha Christie tropes: moira @ clothes in books
8. Come Tell me How you Live: Christie memoir - moira @ clothes in books
9. ISOT Classic Mystery Novel - Hallowe'en Party
10. ISOT Classic Mystery Novel - Christie vs Carr
11. Kate Jackson (Armchair Reviewer): The Christie Verdict
12. Clothes in Agatha Christie- moira @ clothes in books

Summary: Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival for November 2015

And interesting selection of posts for last month.

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Participants
1. Christie memoir - moira@ClothesInBooks
2. Agatha Christie: Mistress of Mystery by G. C. Ramsey (Kate Jackson)
3. Book vs Adaptation: N OR M?
4. Within a Wall @ Clothes in Books
5. Murder on the Orient Express: Branagh
6. Agatha Christie Reading List
8. Margaret@BooksPlease - Update
9. The Moving Finger @ Bitter Tea and Mystery

The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival for December is ready for your posts.

2 December 2015

Review: THE HANGING GIRL, Jussi Adler-Olssen

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3470 KB
  • Print Length: 514 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (September 3, 2015)
  • Translated  from Danish into English  by William Frost 2015
  • Publication Date: September 3, 2015
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00YS5M060
  • Department Q #6 
Synopsis (Amazon)

In the middle of a hard-won morning nap in the basement of police headquarters, Carl Mørck, head of Department Q, receives a call from a colleague working on the Danish island of Bornholm. Carl is dismissive at first, but then he receives some shocking news.

Carl then has no choice but to lead Department Q into the tragic cold case of a vivacious seventeen-year-old girl who vanished from school, only to be found dead hanging high up in a tree. The investigation will take them from the remote island of Bornholm to a hidden cult, where Carl and his assistants must stop a string of new murders by a skilled manipulator who refuses to let anything-or anyone-get in the way.

My Take

A friend told me that this was his best read for 2015, and while it won't be my top read, it will certainly make it into my top 10 for the year. It took me quite a long time to read it, well over 10 days, which is long for me. I'm sure whether I had been hit by jet lag after my recent travels, or whether it was some how due to the translation and structure of the novel.

As always, someone will ask, "should I read the Carl Morck series in order"? This is #6 in the series, and I have only read three others. So there in part is your answer I guess. But I've certainly benefitted from reading earlier titles. They have contributed to my understanding of the composition of Department Q and of the relationships between its members. I also have some understanding of what happened to Morck's friend and colleague Hardy.

Carl Morck receives a phone call from a former colleague whose career has been blighted by his obsession with a murder that took place over three decades earlier. When Morck refuses to help by taking a look at the case, his former colleague commits suicide at his own retirement party, thus forcing Morck to at least visit Bornholm to look at the cause of the suicide. He takes Assad and Rose with him and between they decide that they need to look at the case that had so obsessed Christian Habersaat. In the long run, nothing is what it seems. The threads lead everywhere and finding continuous strings is hard.

When Assad and Carl get close to identifying the person they think was the original murderer, their own lives are put into danger. And meanwhile the author is layering more and more information onto our plates, for us to sift and decide what to discard. This is certainly one of those novels where the reader gets a strong intimation of what is required of the detective.

One of the things that struck me about this novel is a level of humour created by Assad's literal interpretation of idiomatic language. It wasn't an element that had struck me so much in earlier novels. And Morck begins to understand that he doesn't know everything to know about Assad.

My rating : 4.8

I've also reviewed

1 December 2015

What I have read in November 2015

I have only read 7 books this month, a bit of a slow down for me, but I have been reading the same book for about 10 days now. I think jet lag clicked in a bit last week and my brain has been struggling with the change in hemispheres, as well as the impact of those long flights back to Australia.
 My pick of the month is a toss up between THE NATURE OF THE BEAST by Louise Penny and EVIL GAMES by Angela Marsons.

Check what others have chosen here.

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month November 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2015
Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for November 2015, 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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