28 February 2015

Review: THEY FOUND HIM DEAD, Georgette Heyer - audio book

  • source: Audible.com, unabridged audiobook
  • Narrated by: Ulli Birvé
  • Length: 9 hrs and 14 mins 
  • first published 1937
Synopsis (Audible.com)

The 60th birthday party of Silas Kane was marred by argument and dissension among his family. And then, the morning after the celebrations, Kane is found dead at the foot of a cliff. The theory that Silas accidentally lost his way in the fog is confirmed when the coroner returns a verdict of death by misadventure.

But then Kane's nephew and heir is murdered and threats are made on the next in line to the fortune, throwing a new and sinister light on Kane's death. All clues point to an elderly lady of eighty as the killer. But as the redoubtable Superintendent Hannasyde delves further into the case he discovers that nothing is quite as it seems

My Take

It takes quite a while for Superintendent Hannasyde to make an appearance, in my estimation about half the novel has passed before he is called in, and then only after the second death.

Meanwhile the reader has explored the Kane family. I may have found this less confusing if I had been reading with my eyes rather than my ears. The author has the tendency to refer to characters sometimes by first name and sometimes by surname. It took me quite a while to work out they were not two different people. I think perhaps which name is used depends on the character's role in the family and applies particularly to Mrs Kane (senior)'s companion.

We accept the interpretation that Silas Kane was murdered while on his evening walk, pushed over a cliff in the fog, readily enough but all theories are confounded when his heir is shot while sitting at his desk in the study. His distraught wife has a lover but as she will not inherit there seems no reason to suspect him or her. Attention focusses on who will now be the heir, and a dodgy investment scheme lurks in the wings.

As I noted in my review of an earlier Heyer detective novel, the language seems a bit dated but the plotting is tight, and the characters, although some are abysmal people, or perhaps because they are, are quite realistic. 

My rating: 3.8

I've also reviewed


23 February 2015

Review: ANGLE OF INVESTIGATION: Three Harry Bosch Stories, Michael Connelly

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 415 KB
  • Print Length: 98 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (October 11, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005SDPHM0
Synopsis (Amazon)

LAPD Detective Harry Bosch tackles three tough cases that span a legendary career in this never-before-collected trio of stories.

In CHRISTMAS EVEN, the case of a burglar killed in mid-heist leads Bosch to retrace a link to his past. In FATHER'S DAY, Bosch investigates a young boy's seemingly accidental death and confronts his own fears as a father. In ANGLE OF INVESTIGATION, Bosch delves into one of the first homicides he ever worked back as a uniformed rookie patrolman, a case that was left unsolved for decades. Together, these gripping stories span Bosch's controversial career at the LAPD, and show the evolution of the haunted, legendary investigator he would become.

My Take

From the reviews on Amazon, it seems that die-hard Michael Connelly fans won't particularly like these short stories, because they are short, lacking a bit in character development, and have pretty simple plot lines.

On the other hand if you are looking for some good quality quick reads, then they may hit the spot, as they did for me.

My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed

22 February 2015


  • first published by HarperLuxe 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-06-227844-9
  • 336 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

The critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home returns with a resonant novel of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, set in western North Carolina, involving two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins.

After their mother's unexpected death, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are adjusting to life in foster care when their errant father, Wade, suddenly appears. Since Wade signed away his legal rights, the only way he can get his daughters back is to steal them away in the night.

Brady Weller, the girls' court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn't the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due.

Narrated by a trio of alternating voices, This Dark Road to Mercy is a story about the indelible power of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.

My Take

This book is probably at the very edge of the crime fiction genre - crimes have been committed, even murders, but that is not the central theme of the story. What is central is a father's attempt to re-establish a relationship with his two daughters. He gradually wins both of them over, but they are all on the run.

The story asks a moral question - when Wade, who signed away his legal rights to his children, decides he wants to re-establish them, should he be allowed to? Or are they better off without him?

An engrossing read.

My rating: 4.7

20 February 2015

Review: THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, Paullina Simons

  • published by Harper Collins 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-00-790467-9
  • 637 pages
  • from my local library
Synopsis (author website)

Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose beautiful palaces and stately avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg.

Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents. It is a hard, impoverished life, yet the Metanovs know many who are not as fortunate as they.

The family routine is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanovs, for Leningrad and for Tatiana, life will never be the same again. On the fateful day, Tatiana meets a brash young officer named Alexander.

Tatiana and her family suffer as Hitler’s army advances on Leningrad, and the Russian winter closes in. With bombs falling and the city under siege, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn to each other in an impossible love. It is a love that could tear Tatiana’s family apart, a love that carries a secret that could mean death for anyone who hears it.

Confronted on the one hand by Hitler’s unstoppable war machine, and on the other by a Soviet system determined to crush the human spirit, Tatiana and Alexander are pitted against the very tide of history, at a turning point in the century that made the modern world.

Mesmerizing from the very first page to the final, breathtaking end, The Bronze Horseman brings alive the story of two indomitable, heroic spirits and their great love that triumphs over the devastation of a country at war.

My Take

Do you feel obliged to finish a book, once started? One of the hardest things I find is to stop reading a book when I am not finding it a satisfying read.

Had THE BRONZE HORSEMAN been shorter (I got to page 187), or had it had more mystery about its plot, or had I been younger, I might have finished it. I am more than willing to believe that it may well be another's cup of tea, just not mine.

The Metanov family are in Leningrad, fighting in their own way for Mother Russia as Hitler's forces advance steadily towards the city. Pasha, the 17 year old son, and Tatiana's twin, disappears from a boy's holiday camp near Novgorod where his father has sent him. The family are living in squalid conditions when a Red Army officer Alexander enters their lives. Tatiana's older sister appropriates him, and so a love triangle develops.

And that's where I stopped. I have no doubt that the historical detail is what will attract some readers, while the romance will captivate others. Just not me. It was part of an attempt to read a book that is NOT crime fiction.

My Rating: 2.0

19 February 2015

Books on the Go

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

from Net Galley
  • EDEN, Candice Fox
  • ODD FELLOWS, Nicholas Shakespeare
from my TBR
  • PAVING THE NEW ROAD, Sulari Gentil
audio books on the go
  • RUNAWAY, Peter May
  • THEY FOUND HIM DEAD, Georgette Heyer - I must be nearly finished this!
from my Kindle
  • THE CARTER OF 'LA PROVIDENCE', Georges Simenon
  • IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT, Charles Norris Williams - published in 1915 - I started it but now I'm not sure I want to read it
review books
  • THE KIZUNA COAST, Sujata Massey
  • DEAD RECKONING, Michael Smart
  • PAINTED BLACK, Greg Kihn
  • ONE TOO MANY, Maureen Jennings
  • THE FOURTH REICH, Helen Goltz
  • DEATH BY DISGUISE,, Helen Goltz
from the library
  • BY ITS COVER, Donna Leon
  • MEDEA'S CURSE, Anne Buist
  • AN EVENT IN AUTUMN, Henning Mankell
  • THE HUNTING DOGS, Jorn Lier Horst
  • THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, Paullina Simons - as far as I can see this will count for "NOT crime fiction." - I have begun it, but it is very long......

17 February 2015

Review: DEAD HEADING, Catherine Aird

  • first published by Allison & Busby 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-7490-1388-2
  • 287 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #23 in the Sloan and Crosby Mystery series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

When Jack Haines reports a break-in at his greenhouse, the motive of the intruder is unclear. Other than the destruction of some expensive orchids, no damage has been done, and nothing seems to be missing. But Detectives Sloan and Crosby sense something sinister, and soon their suspicions are confirmed. Similar reports are multiplying and sabotage is the word on everyone's lips.

The pair is drawn into an equally perplexing case when the mysterious Miss Enid Maude Osgathorp goes missing. Investigations begin at her deserted abode, Canonry Cottage, where the detectives soon discover that the house has been ransacked. Shattered glass is found in the larder, and traces of blood spatter are found on the floors. Something disturbing has undoubtedly taken place, but Sloan and Crosby can't figure out who did it, or why.

As it becomes clear that the two cases are linked, the two detectives must work to find the missing woman, and how she connects to the greenhouse burglary, before it is too late.

Dead Heading is the 23rd book in Catherine Aird's series following Detective Chief Inspector C.D. Sloan.

My Take

I decided to borrow this from my local library after seeing a tribute to Catherine Aird on Martin Edwards' blog after the CWA announced she had been awarded the Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in her work.
Edwards says
    Her plots are clever, her characters and situations are entertaining,and her humour a real bonus..
Despite the number of books Aird has written (see Fantastic Fiction for the list), I have never reviewed one in the history of this blog.

DEAD HEADING was true to Edwards' summary: a clever two-pronged plot where the strands finally merge, but it is hard to see for most of the book how they will. A cozy in the British tradition and a fine mystery. I also enjoyed the characters of the two main detectives and their boss. It didn't seem to matter that I had come in at the end, rather than the beginning, of the series.And there is a fine touch of humour - quirky little quotations, references to other well known novels and writers and so on.

My rating: 4.3

16 February 2015

Review: THE TERRORISTS, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

  • English translation first published 1975
  • this edition published by Fourth Estate 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-00-743920-1
  • translated from Swedish by Joan Tate
  • 324 pages
  • #10 (final book) in the Martin Beck series
Synopsis (Good Reads)

An 18-year-old woman is accused of a bank robbery she never intended to commit. Later, a producer of pornographic films is found murdered at the home of his mistress. Meanwhile, Martin Beck is placed in charge of Swedish security ahead of the visit of a US senator whom a group of international terrorists is determined to assassinate.

My take

Dennis Lehane wrote a wonderful introduction to this title, well worth reading, in which he talks about the chaotic forms of terror described in this story.

Martin Beck, head of the Murder Squad, seems to have risen as high as he can go, and he seems to have managed to get life in some sort of perspective, thanks to Rhea, his lover. But he still doesn't always get it right. A police procedural with a really different approach. 

This is a series worth reading, in order, if you have never tackled it. Vintage crime fiction.
1. Roseanna (1965)
2. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (1966)
3. The Man on the Balcony (1967)
4. The Laughing Policeman (1968)
     aka Investigation of Murder
5. The Fire Engine That Disappeared (1969)
6. Murder at the Savoy (1970)
7. The Abominable Man (1972)
8. The Locked Room (1973)
9. Cop Killer (1975)
10. The Terrorists (1976)

My rating:  4.5

I've also reviewed

15 February 2015

Review: THAT AFFAIR NEXT DOOR, Anna Katherine Green

  • first published 1897
  • this edition contained in The Anna Katharine Green Mystery Megapack, a selection of 35 novels and stories published in e-book format by Wildside Press (May 20, 2013)
  • #1 in the Amelia Butterworth series, also listed as Mr Gryce #8
Synopsis (Good Reads)

First published in 1897, That Affair Next Door is another fascinating study in human motivations intertwined with bits and pieces of circumstantial evidence that at first make very little sense. True to Green’s style, she calls up and explains each motivation, each piece of evidence with mathematical precision until the mystery unravels and the perpetrator is punished in a most fitting fashion.

The dead body of a woman was found under a large cabinet. But she had been dead four hours before the cabinet fell upon her. The owners of the house had been on vacation and the place empty. Who was she and why was she in the empty house all alone?

Amelia Butterworth lives next door and had noticed a man and a young woman entering the house close on midnight. Then the man came out some ten minutes later by himself. The next morning Amelia insists that a policeman gain access to the house and he and a cleaning lady discover the young woman's body.

My Take

I found this an exasperating novel. It is quite long and largely consists of theories regarding the murder posed by Amelia Butterworth and the 77 year old police detective Inspector Gryce.

Some reviews I have read of the Amelia Butterworth novels, of which this is the first, talk about Butterworth as being the forerunner of Miss Marple. Certainly, there are similarities: a quite elderly spinster, a bit of a sticky beak, rather self opiniated, and rather unlikeable. She softens as the novel progresses.

At times Miss Butterworth works in collaboration with the police, but after they make their first arrest, she decides that they have the wrong man, and strikes out investigating on her own, accompanied by her lady's maid. But each time she or the police come up with a scenario which doesn't quite fit the facts and in the long run Amelia Butterworth produces a rabbit from the hat, something the police did not know. But even then there is a twist to the tale, something Butterworth did not know.

My rating: 3.8

I have also reviewed: X.Y.Z. A Detective Story, a novella published in 1883

About the author

Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) was an American poet and novelist. She was one of the first writers of detective fiction in America and distinguished herself by writing well plotted, legally accurate stories (no doubt assisted by her lawyer father). Born in Brooklyn, New York, her early ambition was to write romantic verse, and she corresponded with Ralph Waldo Emerson. When her poetry failed to gain recognition, she produced her first and best known novel, The Leavenworth Case (1878). She became a bestselling author, eventually publishing about 40 books. She was in some ways a progressive woman for her time-succeeding in a genre dominated by male writers-but she did not approve of many of her feminist contemporaries, and she was opposed to women's suffrage. Her other works include A Strange Disappearance (1880), The Affair Next Door (1897), The Circular Study (1902), The Filigree Ball (1903), The Millionaire Baby (1905), The House in the Mist (1905), The Woman in the Alcove (1906), The House of the Whispering Pines (1910), Initials Only (1912), and The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow (1917).

12 February 2015

Review: MURDER ONE, Robert Dugoni

  • First published by Touchstone, 2011
  • #4 in the David Sloane series
  • ISBN 978-1-4516-0669-0
  • 374 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

A year after tragedy, attorney David Sloane has returned to work full time. At a black-tie dinner he reconnects with Barclay Reid, opposing counsel in Sloane's most prominent case. Barclay is suffering from her own personal tragedy after the death of her teenage daughter from a drug overdose. In the aftermath, Barclay has begun an intense crusade against the Russian drug traffickers she holds responsible for her daughter s death, pursuing them with a righteousness that matches Sloane's own zeal for justice. Sloane finds himself drawn to this woman, despite their adversarial past.

When Barclay's crusade stalls and the Russian drug dealer turns up dead, she stands accused of murder and Sloane is her chosen defender. Amidst the swirling media frenzy, in his first criminal case, Sloane finds himself once again in harm s way, while mounting evidence suggests Barclay is a woman with many secrets. And may not be quite as innocent or as in love with Sloane as she purports to be.

With his signature fast-paced, page-turning action, and exhilarating plot twists, Robert Dugoni once again proves why he' s so often been named as the heir to Grisham's literary throne.

My take

David Sloane, who normally takes on civil cases, agrees to defend Barclay Reid when she is accused of murder despite a clear conflict of interest and the fact that he does not usually take on murder cases. Barclay Reid says she wants him in court for her as he is known never to lose a case.

There's plenty of tension in this thriller as the court case proceeds, and just little inklings of what the truth might be. I found it also gave me a view of the American trial system, and the roles taken by prosecutor and defense, which differ quite markedly it seems from both British and Australian systems. The setting is Seattle. The "American-ness" of the novel obviously annoyed a previous borrower of this library book who had assiduously marked out differences in spelling and colloquial expression.


My rating: 4.5

7 February 2015

Review: BEAST IN VIEW, Margaret Millar

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 313 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (August 18, 2011) - originally published 1955
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

At thirty, Helen Clarvoe is alone: her only visitors are the staff at the hotel where she lives, and her only phone calls come from a stranger.

Until that stranger, with a quiet, compelling voice, lures the aloof and financially secure Miss Clarvoe into a world of extortion, pornography, vengeance, madness and murder.
But who is the hunter and who is the victim...?

A gothic chiller which still feels incredibly modern, BEAST IN VIEW is a true classic of the crime fiction genre.

My Take

As others have commented, this has a staggeringly modern feel to it. It also feels as if it has cinematographic qualities. There is an incredible twist in the tail which apparently is a characteristic of most of Margaret Millar's novels.

Since her father's death, Helen Clarvoe has been estranged from her mother and brother who live in increasing poverty in the family home. Helen apparently inherited all her father's money but lives the life of a wealthy recluse although she is only thirty.  When Helen is contacted by a voice from the past she becomes scared and implores a friend of her father's to track Evelyn Merrick down. Then begins a breathtaking spiral of events, eventually ending in three deaths.

Published in 1955 BEAST IN VIEW won the  Edgar Award in 1956 and was later adapted for an episode of the television series Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964.
 It also made the list of The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time that was issued in 1995 by the Mystery Writers of America.

I've read this novel as my contribution to Past Offences #1955book meme of February this year.
Fellow blogger Jose Ignacio at The Game's Afoot is also reading it.

My rating: 4.6

About the Author
Margaret Millar (1915-1994) was born in Ontario, Canada and was educated at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto, majoring in classics. In 1938 she married Kenneth Millar (who wrote under the name Ross Macdonald). She published her first novel, The Invisible Worm, in 1941 and she worked as a screenwriter for Warner Brothers. She was active in the conservation movement in California in the 1960s and was named a Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles Times in 1965, and in 1982 she became a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America.

6 February 2015

Review: THE BACK ROAD, Rachel Abbot

Synopsis (author website)

One girl is fighting for her life in hospital… One village is struggling to hold tight to its secrets. When a young girl is knocked over and left for dead at the side of the road, the small community of Little Melham goes into shock. Why was Abbie out so late at night, and why wasn’t she missed?

For Ellie Saunders, the truth about that night could put her marriage and even the safety of her children in jeopardy. She has to protect her family, no matter what the consequences. Former DCI Tom Douglas thought that Little Melham would offer a peaceful retreat from the daily trauma of his work for the Met.

But as he is drawn into the web of deceit, his every instinct tells him that what happened to Abbie was more than a tragic accident…

Only one person knows the whole story – why Abbie was out that night, and who was driving the car. For that person, the accident spells disaster, and somebody has to pay.

My Take

I am so pleased to have discovered Rachel Abbott. Like #1 in the DI Tom Douglas series, this has a complex plot. The hit/run accident to young Abbie Campbell triggers all sorts of seethings in a cauldron of close friends.

All the main cast are introduced to the readers at a party at Ellie and Max Saunders' house. Among the guests, mainly close friends, are their newest neighbour Tom Douglas, and Ellie's sister Leo, for whom Ellie's renovated house holds dreadful memories.

When the driver of the hit/run vehicle does not come forward, Tom is approached by Steve, the detective inspector in charge of the investigation, who asks him to keep his ear close to the ground. But almost everyone is holding something back, and Ellie is particularly close to the chase because she is the nurse looking after young Abbie at the local hospital. She is also being stalked and blackmailed.

A great read.

My rating: 4.9

I've also reviewed #1 in the series

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and Blog Carnival continue in 2015

Yes, the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival rolls on into 2015.

Here are the 6 posts to the carnival in January

1. Review: Towards Zero - Margaret @ BooksPlease
2. Notes on THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY @ Christie in a Year (Extended)
3. Evil Under the Sun - Daydreaming in Maths
4. Ryan @ Wordsmithonia - One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
5. Come and be Hanged- Towards Zero
6. THE MONOGRAM MURDERS by Sophie Hannah - Kerrie @ MiP

The Blog Carnival for February is now open and all readers and reviewers of Agatha Christie novels are invited to participate.

5 February 2015

Review: THE ART OF KILLING WELL, Marco Malvaldi

  • first published in Italian in 2011
  • this edition published by Maclehose Press in 2014
  • translated from Italian into english by Howard Curtis
  • ISBN 987-0-85705-294-0
  • 189 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

Nothing could please a chef more than a chance to learn the secrets of a Baron’s castle kitchen. Having travelled the length and breadth of the country compiling his masterpiece, The Science of Cooking and The Art of Eating Well, Pellegrino Artusi relishes the prospect of a few quiet days and a boar hunt in the Tuscan hills.

But his peace is short-lived. A body is found in the castle cellar, and the local inspector finds himself baffled by an eccentric array of aristocratic suspects. When the baron himself becomes the target of a second murder attempt, Artusi realises he may need to follow his infallible nose to help find the culprit.

Marco Malvaldi serves up an irresistible dish spiced with mischief and intrigue, and sweetened with classical elegance and wit. His stroke of genius is to bring Italy’s first cookery writer to life in this most entertaining of murder mysteries.

My Take

This is a delightful book, both for its murder mystery and for its insight into Italian society in 1895, after unification. Here we have a Baron and his extended family living in castle splendour, with his heirs unaccustomed to doing anything for themselves. The first death is that of the young butler, poisoned by a glass of wine intended, it seems, for the Baron himself. The Baron is then peppered in the back with a shotgun, confirming that he was the intended victim of the poisoned wine.

Meanwhile Pellegrino Artusi is befriended by the daughter of the family who has the habit of reading private diaries, and he overhears the housemaid sobbing in great distress. Artusi has come to the castle to advise the Baron whether he could turn his home into a hotel to keep himself financially afloat, but he is a little distracted when one of the maiden aunts comes to believe he is a potential suitor.

This is a novel written with great humour, with the author breaking in occasionally to apologise for his departure from 19th century language. And at the back are some mouth watering recipes from the historical Artusi's cookery book published in 1895.

For The Art of Killing Well, for Marco Malvaldi was awarded both the Isola d'Elba Award and the Castiglioncello Prize.

I loved it.

My rating: 4.5

I have also reviewed

3 February 2015

Review: DEATH OF A LIAR, M.C. Beaton

  • published Feb 3, 2015
  • #30 in the Hamish Macbeth series
  • this edition published by Grand Central Publishing 
  • review e-copy available through NetGalley.
Synopsis (NetGalley)

Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is alarmed to receive a report from a woman in the small village of Cronish in the Scottish Highlands. She has been brutally attacked and the criminal is on the loose. But upon further investigation, Hamish discovers that she was lying about the crime. So when the same woman calls him back about an intruder, he simply marvels at her compulsion to lie. This time, though, she is telling the truth. Her body is found in her home and Hamish must sort through all of her lies to solve the crime.

My Take

For a small area of the Highlands, there seem to be an awful lot of murders in Hamish Macbeth's jurisdiction. And yet his police station at Lochdubh is under constant threat of closure.

Despite the death rate, this is really a cozy because although we see the corpses they are not particularly grisly objects. A number of interesting characters populate the canvas and I felt we got to know some of them pretty well.

Beaton has branched out into links with an international drugs trade, as well as exploring what makes a successful rural policeman. Hamish Macbeth is a rather quirky character and it seems to me that I liked him better than at our last outing.

My rating: 4.0

I've also reviewed

Review: HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, Louise Penny

  • published 2013
  • source: my local library.
  • #9 in the Inspector Gamache series
  • ISBN 978-1-84744-429-5
  • 404 pages
Synopsis (author website)

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” - Leonard Cohen

Christmas is approaching, and in Québec it’s a time of dazzling snowfalls, bright lights, and gatherings with friends in front of blazing hearths. But shadows are falling on the usually festive season for Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Most of his best agents have left the Homicide Department, his old friend and lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir hasn’t spoken to him in months, and hostile forces are lining up against him. When Gamache receives a message from Myrna Landers that a longtime friend has failed to arrive for Christmas in the village of Three Pines, he welcomes the chance to get away from the city. Mystified by Myrna's reluctance to reveal her friend's name, Gamache soon discovers the missing woman was once one of the most famous people not just in North America, but in the world, and now goes unrecognized by virtually everyone except the mad, brilliant poet Ruth Zardo.

As events come to a head, Gamache is drawn ever deeper into the world of Three Pines. Increasingly, he is not only investigating the disappearance of Myrna’s friend but also seeking a safe place for himself and his still-loyal colleagues. Is there peace to be found even in Three Pines, and at what cost to Gamache and the people he holds dear?

My Take

Even though I had already read the novel that preceded this one, and the one that followed it), nothing prepared me for the fight Inspector Gamache would have in this novel, nor for the strength he displays.

One aspect of the novel is related to a murder and probes how some people, through an accident of birth, become public property. The other story line is about the attempt to oust Gamache from Homicide by his immediate superior, who has gutted the Homicide Unit, and is now attempting to demoralise Gamacahe by attacking those dear to him.

My rating is mainly a reflection of how often I held my breath, not knowing how things were going to turn out.

While you can read this as a stand-alone, if you are new to this author I really encourage you to start the series at the beginning.
The order of the Gamache books, from first to most recent, is:
Still Life, A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold (same book, different title), The Cruelest Month, A Rule Against Murder/The Murder Stone (same book, different title), The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets In, The Long Way Home.
#11 in the series, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST, will be published sometime in 2015 (see newsletter

My Rating: 5.0

I've already reviewed
4.5, THE HANGMAN - a novella

2 February 2015

What I read in January 2015

Pick of the Month 2015
I've begun the new year with an astounding amount of reading, but I'm pretty sure I won't be able to keep it up.
  1. 4.8, ONLY THE INNOCENT, Rachel Abbott
  2. 5.0, ENTRY ISLAND, Peter May 
  3. 4.0, THE GOLDEN CLAW, Sax Rohmer - vintage crime, publ. 1915
  4. 4.2, THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE TRAINS GO BY, Georges Simenon - vintage crime
  5. 4.6, THIN AIR, Ann Cleeves 
  6. 4.3, GAME FOR FIVE, Marco Malvaldi - translated
  7. 4.3, MASTERMIND, Helen Goltz - female Aussie author
  8. 4.7, PUT ON BY CUNNING, Ruth Rendell  
  9. 4.7, WEB OF DECEIT, Katherine Howell - female Aussie author
  10. 4.1, THE STEEL SPRING, Per Wahloo - translated
  11. 4.2, THE CORNISH COAST MURDER, John Bude - vintage crime
  12. 5.0, HADES, Candice Fox - female Aussie author 
  13. 4.3, THE MONOGRAM MURDERS, Sophie Hannah - revival of Hercule Poirot?? 
  14. 4.8, CLOSED FOR WINTER, Jorn Lier Horst - translated
  15. 4.3, MURDER ON THE THIRTY FIRST FLOOR, Per Wahloo -translated
My Pick of the Month was a toss up between  ENTRY ISLAND by Peter May and HADES by Candice Fox. 
I'm leaning just a bit towards the latter because she is an Australian author.

See what others have chosen for this month.

1 February 2015

Review: A SLEEPING LIFE, Ruth Rendell - audio book

 Synopsis (Audible)

The body found under the hedge was that of a middle-aged woman. With nothing more to go on than what appeared to be a sardonic gleam in the wide and staring eyes of the victim, It’s time for Wexford and his team to get pro-active. From a seemingly unremarkable death comes an intricate web of lies and deception. 

A wallet found in the victim’s handbag leads our hero, Inspector Wexford, to a Mr. Grenville West, a writer whose plots revel in the blood, thunder, and passion of dramas of old; whose current whereabouts are unclear; and whose curious secretary--the plain Polly Flinders--provides the Inspector with more questions than answers. And when a second Grenville West comes to light, Wexford faces a dizzying array of possible scenarios--and suspects--behind the Comfrey murder. 

My take

This is one of those stories where Wexford seemed a bit plodding in coming to the same conclusion as me but then I can't really decide whether or not I had actually read this before, decades ago, when I was focussed on reading Wexford after Wexford.

Wexford's search for the family of the dead woman under the hedge, Rhoda Comfrey, turns up remarkably little information, and in particular he can't find out where she has lived in London for the last twenty years. Wexford calls in a few favours among London police in a desperate attempt to stave off the Chief Constable's threat to hand the case over to Scotland Yard if he hasn't solved it by the end of the week.

Wexford's personal life becomes complicated when his daughter Sylvia leaves her husband and adds herself and her two young sons to stay indefinitely with Dora and Reg. Sylvia is feeling much put-upon, in a women's lib way of thinking, and Reg tries to add his bit of common sense to the brew.

I love the way Rendell weaves the byplay between Reg and his colleague Mike Burden into the investigation, while the ongoing story of Wexford family life hums along in the background.

And Nigel Anthony does an excellent job with the narration.

My rating: 4.3

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

Writing as Barbara Vine:

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month January 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 January 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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