29 June 2015


  • ISBN: 978 1 910679 02 9
  • Publisher: Purple Panda Press
  • Publication Date: 7 April 2015
  • source: review copy supplied by author 
  • available on Kindle
Synopsis (author website)

“They say one should never trust a thin chef. By this measure, Chef Maurice was very trustworthy indeed.”

Take one sleepy Cotswold village, mix in one Poirot-esque murder mystery, add a larger-than-life French chef with an appetite for solving crime, and season with clues and red herrings galore . . . 

It’s autumn in the Cotswolds, and Chef Maurice is facing a problem of mushrooming proportion.
Not only has his wild herb and mushroom supplier, Ollie Meadows, missed his weekly delivery—he’s missing vital signs too, when he turns up dead in the woods near Beakley village.

Soon, Chef Maurice is up to his nose in some seriously rotten business—complete with threatening notes, a pignapping, and an extremely well-catered stake-out.

Can he solve Ollie’s murder before his home-made investigation brings the killer out for second helpings?

My take

I do like the occasional cosy and found this first in the Chef Maurice series a light-hearted and entertaining read. Chef Maurice, long time resident of the Cotswolds, is a larger than life character, who loves to try new dishes. When his local supplier of mushrooms and herbs goes missing, Maurice's curiosity is piqued when he finds thousands of pounds worth of truffles in Ollie's refrigerator. 

Maurice is convinced that Ollie has actually found a local but hitherto unknown cache of rare truffles, but looking for them gets Chef Maurice into trouble he hadn't bargained for. At the same time there is a mystery or two to be solved.

The main characters in this story are humourously and well drawn. Recommended if you enjoy the occasional cosy.
My rating: 4.0

About the author
J.A. Lang is a British mystery author, living in Oxford, England. She is the author of the Chef Maurice series of culinary mysteries. See Facebook

Review: SECOND LIFE, S.J. Watson

  • this edition published by Text Publishing in 2015
  • ISBN  9-781922-079251
  • 425 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Text Publishing)

How well can you really know another person? And how far would you go to find out the truth about them?

When Julia learns that her sister has been violently killed, she knows she must get to the bottom of things.

Even if it means jeopardising her relationship with her husband and risking the safety of her son. Getting involved with a stranger online. Losing control.

Perhaps losing everything.
Set in Paris and London, Second Life is about the double lives people lead—and the dark places they can end up in. Tense and unrelenting, it is another brilliant novel from S. J. Watson.

My Take

First of all, I have a confession to make. I had formed the impression that S.J. Watson was a female writer. But no, definitely a male.  Now that shouldn't make a difference should it, but in both his first novel BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, and in SECOND LIFE, the primary narrator is female.

I thought one of the aspects of the story that was handled very well was the concept of the fine line that divides the real world and the online world. Not so long ago we were amazed at the concept of text conversation through email. But then the technology changed and we were able to enter online "rooms" where other voices spoke to us. As happens in SECOND LIFE, there is really no way of knowing whether these other voices are truthful in what they tell us, and even when we have underlying doubts, we tend to believe in the persona they create. Conversations with these online characters can be stimulating, even erotic, crossing boundaries which we wouldn't cross in "real life" situations. There is sometimes the feeling that you've discovered a soul-mate, a person who understands you in a way that no-one in your real world does, but of course you are seeing only part of their character and personality, the bit they want you to see, and you know almost nothing of their history.

The world that Julia discovers her sister has been part of is a 2D text based world, although not the 3D world also called Second Life in which avatars make the online world seem even more real. There have been other authors who have played around with the idea of Second Life, and explored online world in which even murders can happen, such as VIRTUALLY DEAD by Peter May, and WICKER by Kevin Guilfoile.

However in this novel Julia and her sister Katie both set up relationships in text rooms in an online world and then arrange to meet their new acquaintance in the "real" world. No one quite matches the persona they have created. The primary motivation for the meeting is sexual although Julia tells herself it is her search for her sister's killer.

The resultant story is one full of tension in which Julia crosses borders she wouldn't normally and the man she is meeting gives confusing signals. In reality she knows almost nothing about him.

So is this crime fiction you ask? Well yes, it is. The underpinning plot is Katie's murder, and then there are a heap of little secrets that Julia has hidden for well over a decade. But has Julia got in too far over her head, and will there be another murder?

My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed 4.4, BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP

About the author
S. J. Watson’s debut novel, Before I Go To Sleep, has sold over four million copies and has been published in over 40 languages around the world. It has won several awards, including the UK’s Crime Novel of the Year (2011) and the Prix du Polar Prize for Best Crime Novel in France.

24 June 2015


  • this edition published by Scribe 2015
  • ISBN 978-1-925106-45-9
  • 282 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Scribe Publications)

The Port Fairy Murders is the sequel to The Holiday Murders, a political and historical crime novel set in 1943, featuring the newly formed homicide department of Victoria Police.

The department has been struggling to counter little-known fascist groups, particularly an organisation called Australia First that has been festering in Australia since before the war. And now there's an extra problem: the bitter divide between Catholics and Protestants, which is especially raw in small rural communities.

The homicide team, which once again includes Detective Joe Sable and Constable Helen Lord, is trying to track down a dangerous man named George Starling. At the same time, they are called to investigate a double murder in the fishing village of Port Fairy. It seems straightforward -- they have a signed confession -- but it soon becomes apparent that nothing about the incident is as it seems.

Written with great verve and insight, The Port Fairy Murders is a superb psychological study, as well as a riveting historical whodunit.

My Take

I've discovered that this is the first novel by Robert Gott that I've read. THE HOLIDAY MURDERS was shortlisted for Best Fiction on the Ned Kelly Awards, but somehow I just never got around to reading it. As THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS is a sequel to that title, and the plot takes in some unfinished business from  it, it is probably best to read them in order, but obviously I haven't done that. There are plenty of hints about what happened in the first title, and the characters are well developed.

There are some interesting features to the plot of THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS: the historical setting of 1943 which is not only during the Second World War, but also a time when women were not generally employed by Victoria Police except as secretarial staff; the rural location of the murder site; it allows the author not only to explore the restrictions imposed by the war, but attitudes in the general population.

The author has left plenty of room for a sequel, for while we know who committed the various murders, there is still some unfinished business.

My rating: 4.4

19 June 2015

Review: TELL THE TRUTH, Katherine Howell

  • this edition published by PanMacmillan Australia 2015
  • ISBN 978-1-74353-290-4
  • 324 pages
  • #8 in the Ella Marconi series
  • Source: my local library
  • Also available on Kindle
Synopsis (Publisher)

Paramedic Stacey Durham has an idyllic life; her dream job, a beautiful house, and a devoted husband. Until her car is found abandoned and covered in her blood.

Detective Ella Marconi knows information is key in the first twenty-four hours, questioning the frantic husband, Marie, the jealous sister, and Rowan, the colleague who keeps turning up in all the wrong places.
Just as Ella starts to piece together the clues, a shocking message arrives for James: You won't see her again if you don't tell the truth.

As she sifts through the lies, Ella's relationship with Dr Callum McLennan is under siege, and she doesn't know if it can survive the overenthusiasm of her family, or the blind hatred of his mother.
With the investigation hitting dead ends and new threats being made, Ella must uncover the truths buried beneath the perfect façade before the case goes from missing person to murder.

My take

TELL THE TRUTH just confirms what an excellent story teller Katherine Howell is, and what a wonderful journey she has taken us on with Ella Marconi in the last eight years.

In each of the titles different paramedics interact with crime and an investigation conducted by Detective Ella Marconi. The setting is Sydney and, while each could be seen as police procedurals, they also attest to the Australian lifestyle and the multicultural nature of Australian society.

I'm not sure that I felt that the plot, as it panned out, was entirely credible, but it made good raeding.

My Rating: 4.9

I've also reviewed
5.0, FRANTIC - #1 (mini review) - 2007
4.6, THE DARKEST HOUR - #2 - 2008
4.8, COLD JUSTICE - #3 -2010
4.8, VIOLENT EXPOSURE -#4 - 2010
4.8, SILENT FEAR -#5 - 2012
4.7, WEB OF DECEIT  #6 -2013 

17 June 2015

Review: I LET YOU GO, Clare Mackintosh

  • first published in Great Britain in 2014 by Sphere
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-5416-8
  • 370 pages
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (Publisher)

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

My Take

The story is narrated through a number of voices. The beginning is a hit and run accident on a wet night in which a 5 year old, Jacob, is killed while crossing a surburban road in Bristol with his mother.

The case is assigned to Detective Inspector Ray Stevens and his team but it is one of those accidents that has no witnesses and the boy's mother is unable to give any details of the vehicle.

The title is inevitably a focus of this book, because the mother did let go the little boy's hand as he ran across the road to their house. But not all of the voices tie in well with the title, and that is where the plot twist comes in. On the back cover Peter James terms the plot twist "astonishing" and I'd have to agree: it certainly took me in.

An excellent read. Recommended.

My rating: 4.6

15 June 2015

Review: CRYSTAL NIGHTS, Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

  • available for Kindle
  • File Size: 820 KB
  • Print Length: 187 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Candied Crime; 1 edition (May 6, 2015)
  • Publication Date: May 6, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

Kristallnacht in Berlin, 1938.
A Jewish family flees from persecution, the mother desperate to assure her children freedom is within their grasp.

Thirty years later, ten-year-old Lars-Ole disappears from a sleepy village in Denmark.
After months of investigation, the police have no leads. Creeping unease thickens when another boy disappears, and Lars-Ole's best friend is determined to act. Will Niels succeed when the police have given up? Or will he pay with his life?

CRYSTAL NIGHTS is the story of the violence and evil that rips through a cosy and peaceful Danish village in the 1960s.
The psychological mystery is Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen's third standalone. 

My Take

I have watched the writing career of Dorte Jakobsen with interest, and I think CRYSTAL NIGHTS is her best yet, demonstrating a maturity of plotting, structure and character creation.

One interesting feature is that the author writes in both Danish (her native tongue) and English. Her fluency in the latter is admirable.

I recently saw the film Woman in Gold and so the events of the persecution of the Jews in Germany just before World War Two were fresh and I think CRYSTAL NIGHTS does an excellent job of showing how those events impacted on the Jews who became refugees. For me to be able to see how it worked out for  Jews who went to Sweden and Denmark was something a little different.

A good read.

My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed

The Danish edition of the book, Krystalnætter, won a national competition in 2013. Judge and editor Lene Dalmejer explains her choice:

”Crystal Nights” is a highly commendable historical suspense novel that captures the reader from the opening phrase. It opens in Berlin in 1938 on the Night of the Broken Glass, and a Jewish family is preparing for a perilous escape to Scandinavia. Subsequently the story moves 30 years ahead to 1967, to the small town Kalum in Northern Jutland.
... and soon tales of destiny emerge, much larger than tiny Kalum. The novel is well-turned, and the plot is spot-on. Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen writes in a fashion that almost makes you forget you are reading. This is in itself a huge achievement. The language breathes freely, and we delve into the Denmark of the 1960s without any discord whatsoever. It is, in short, a first-rate novel!

11 June 2015

Review: THE BLUE ROSES OF ORROROO, Margaret Visciglio

  • this edition published 2011 by Ginninderra Press
  • ISBN 978-1-74027-673-3
  • 288 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • Available for Kindle
  • Author's website
Synopsis (Booktopia)

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.

Blue Roses won the Three Day Novel Writing Race conducted by the Salisbury Writers' Festival in 2007. The novel was expanded and entered in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition in 2009, reaching the semi-finals. One reviewer (USA) wrote, 'The historical setting is well researched and seamlessly presented. Although set in a small Australian town the themes are universal. Style-wise, this is above your average best-seller.' Another reviewer (Canada) said, 'Written with heart and humour. A book that dares to start with horse shit is going to be good.'

My Take

There is a little mystery embedded in THE BLUE ROSES but one that is really easily solved (and a crime has taken place).

But for me the fascinating part of the read is the depiction of life in South Australia on the brink of the Depression in 1929.  The story straddles both urban and rural life, in the period before cars were common conveyances, and electricity was not standard. The setting is a little older than me, but things had not changed so much by the time I was a child.

The story of how this novel came to be is an inspiring one for all who think they might have a book or a short story in them.

My rating: 4.2

8 June 2015

Review: BLOOD ON SNOW, Jo Nesbo

  • published Random House 2015
  • English translation by Neil Smith, from Norwegian
  • this edition Random House Large Print, 164 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-8041-9488-4
  • source: my local library

From the internationally acclaimed author of the Harry Hole novels—a fast, tight, darkly lyrical stand-alone novel that has at its center the perfectly sympathetic antihero: an Oslo contract killer who draws us into an unexpected meditation on death and love.

This is the story of Olav: an extremely talented “fixer” for one of Oslo’s most powerful crime bosses. But Olav is also an unusually complicated fixer. He has a capacity for love that is as far-reaching as is his gift for murder. He is our straightforward, calm-in-the-face-of-crisis narrator with a storyteller’s hypnotic knack for fantasy. He has an “innate talent for subordination” but running through his veins is a “virus” born of the power over life and death. And while his latest job puts him at the pinnacle of his trade, it may be mutating into his greatest mistake. . . .

My Take

Olav tries to put what he does for a living on a professional footing: he refers to those who pay him as his clients, and those he kills as units. This is part of his own strategy to remain aloof and to depersonalise what he does.

When he is contracted to kill the client's wife, things begin to go wrong, and Olav makes a decision which means his client will be gunning for him, literally. Olav tries to play Oslo underworld bosses off against each other. But not everyone is as loyal as he thinks they are.

BLOOD ON SNOW is really a novella, a quick read, a short snippet of Olav's life, not a Harry Hole novel. Even so, we learn quite a bit about Olav, his background, and what he does.

I think the thing I liked best was the twist in the tail in the final pages.

My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed
4.7, THE BAT
5.0, THE SON

Three views of crime in Iceland?

By pure accident the last three novels that I have read, all crime fiction of course, were set in Iceland, a country that I have never actually visited.

4.8, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir- translated
4.4, OBLIVION, Arnaldur Indridason  - translated from Icelandic
4.5, FROZEN OUT, Quentin Bates - set in Iceland

The first and last were by new-to-me authors and were set after the global financial crisis hit Iceland. OBLIVION is by an author that I feel I know well and is a prequel to an existing series.
Two of the novels are translated but FROZEN OUT is by a British author who first went to Iceland for his "gap" year and stayed on.

All of the novels emphasise how small Iceland is, how everybody knows everybody-else, and I'm trying to decide whether they present the same view of Iceland. They all certainly seem to say that very little crime takes place in Iceland, serial killers are almost unknown, and that Iceland presents a similar crime profile to the rest of the Western world.

FROZEN OUT is a police procedural with a very strong female sleuth. It is the first in a series.
SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME is the 5th in a series and features a female lawyer.
OBLIVION features Elendur, and is a prequel to a long series which began with JAR CITY.

I think that OBLIVION is the most noir, and that the other two both present a much more optimistic view of Iceland. I think that, despite his long residence, Quentin Bates still has an "incomers" view of the island.

How do you see them?

7 June 2015

Review: SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1253 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (May 9, 2013), first published 2012
  • Translated from Icelandic by Philip Roughton
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • #5 in the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series
Synopsis (Amazon)

Berglind hurried to her son and pulled him forcefully from the window. She held him close and tried at the same time to wipe the windowpane. But the haze couldn't be wiped away. It was on the outside of the glass.

Pesi looked up at her. 'Magga's outside. She can't get in. She wants to look after me.' He pointed at the window and frowned. 'She's a little bit angry.'

A young man with Down's Syndrome has been convicted of burning down his care home and killing five people, but a fellow inmate at his secure psychiatric unit has hired Thora to prove Jakob is innocent. If he didn't do it, who did? And how is the multiple murder connected to the death of Magga, killed in a hit and run on her way to babysit?

My Take

Despite the best intentions this is the first title that I have read by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. The storyline is intriguing: a very nasty inmate of a psychiatric prison wants to challenge the sentence which found a fellow inmate guilty of arson and the murder of four other residents of the care home in which he lives.

Jakob has Downs Syndrome and much of the evidence he gave at his trial made little sense. The jury took into account the fact that he did not want to be in the care home at all, and that he was at time capable of great violence. But the more Thora investigates the more she becomes convinced that he would not have the ability to set a fire.

The only other survivor of the fire has "locked-in" syndrome but she obviously has information she thinks is important. The problem is making sense of what she communicates.

A very good read, one that will send me back looking for earlier titles in the series.

My rating:  4.8

Thóra Gudmundsdóttir
1. Last Rituals (2007)
2. My Soul to Take (2009)
3. Ashes to Dust (2010)
4. The Day is Dark (2011)
5. Someone to Watch Over Me (2012)
     aka I Remember You
6. The Silence of the Sea (2014)

In 2015 Sigurðardóttir received the Petrona Award for THE SILENCE OF THE SEA.

3 June 2015

Review: TROUBLED WATERS, Gillian Galbraith - audio book

  • #6 in the Alice Rice mystery series
  • Narrated by: Lesley Mackie
  • Length: 7 hrs and 59 mins 
  • Unabridged Audiobook

  • Release Date:02-01-15
  • Publisher: Soundings
  • source: Audible.com 
Synopsis (Audible)

A young, disabled girl is lost on a winter's night in Leith, unable to help herself or find her way home. Someone is combing the streets, frantically searching for her. Within hours of her disappearance, a body is washed up on Beamer Rock, a tiny island in the Forth being used as part of the foundations for the new Queensferry Bridge.

No sooner has DI Alice Rice managed to discover the identity of that body than another one is washed up on the edge of the estuary, in Belhaven Bay. What is the connection between the two bodies? Has the killer any other victims in his or her sights? And if so can Alice solve the puzzle before another life is taken?

My Take

Another police procedural based in the Lothian and Borders Police, but there are sufficiently different plot strands to keep the readers' interest. There are quite a few mystery elements and the solutions are not immediately obvious. 

I wasn't particularly aware that this title was part of a series, so obviously you don't have to read them in order, although I guess a progressive reading might add to an understanding of the characters of the investigative team.

Very readable.

My rating: 4.4

 Alice Rice Mysteries
1. Blood in the Water (2007)
2. Where the Shadow Falls (2008
3. Dying of the Light (2009)
4. No Sorrow to Die (2010)
5. The Road to Hell (2012) 
6. Troubled Waters (2014) 

About the author
Gillian Galbraith is the author of six detective novels featuring Alice Rice, a Detective sergeant with Lothian and Borders Police. Alexander McCall Smith said of "Blood In The Water", the first book in the series, ;
"There is not a dull page from start to finish"
Prior to taking up writing, Gillian worked for a very short period as a journalist and then, for many years, as an Advocate at the Scottish Bar.The majority of her work was in Civil Law but she also conducted a number of High Court trials in the High Court of Justiciary. She lives in the country with her husband , daughter and countless other creatures.  

2 June 2015

What I read in May 2015

I didn't read so many books this last month, but did enjoy many of them as you can tell from my ratings.
May 2015
I read many of them on my Kindle, which I find I am using often as an alternative to holding a heavy book.
My Pick of the Month was  THE DROWNED BOY by Karin Fossum

Synopsis (NetGalley)

‘He'd just learnt to walk,’ she said. ‘He was sitting playing on his blanket, then all of a sudden he was gone.’

A 16-month-old boy is found drowned in a pond right by his home. Chief Inspector Sejer is called to the scene as there is something troubling about the mother’s story. As even her own family turns against her, Sejer is determined to get to the truth. 

See what others have chosen this month.

1 June 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month May 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 May  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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