30 January 2017


  • this edition published 2016, Bantam Books New York
  • ISBN 978-0-553-39043-8
  • 238 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Sure to thrill readers of Jenny Milchman, Linda Castillo, and Lisa Gardner, The Girls She Left Behind marks the return of ex–Boston homicide detective Lizzie Snow, the new sheriff’s deputy in Maine’s Great North Woods.

For Lizzie Snow, the ice and snow of her first punishing North Woods winter are dreadful enough. But near the small town of Bearkill a stubborn forest fire now rages out of control, and as embers swirl dangerously in the smoke-filled air, a teenage girl with a history of running away has dropped out of sight again. The locals and the law both think Tara Wylie is up to her old tricks—until her mother receives a terrifying text message.

Equally disturbing: Henry Gemerle—a kidnapper and rapist who once held three girls prisoner for fifteen years—has escaped, and may be lurking in Bearkill. As the fire closes in, Lizzie teams up with her boss, Sheriff Cody Chevrier, and state cop Dylan Hudson to search for the missing girl and the wily fugitive. But they’re blocked by Tara’s mother, a frustrating teller of needless lies and keeper of dark, incomprehensible secrets.

Following a trail of grisly clues—a bloodstained motel room, a makeshift coffin in a shallow grave—Lizzie is drawn ever closer to the flames in her race to save an innocent and corner a monster. Someone else also wants to find Tara Wylie and Henry Gemerle, though, for reasons that have nothing to do with mercy or justice. And when they all meet, the inferno threatening Bearkill will pale in comparison to the hell that’s about to break loose.

My Take

Lizzie Snow has recently moved from Boston to the rural area of Bearkill and she is not sure that she is going to stay. She seems to be having difficulty in settling in.

The novel begins with a Prologue that describes how two girls are abducted after a local dance. One of the girls, Jane, eventually escapes, believing her friend Cam is dead. And then she does her very best to forget everything. The main action of the novel takes place 15 years later when three women  who have been imprisoned by her abductor are released from a cellar. On television footage Jane recognises Cam among those released.

Meanwhile Lizzie Snow is investigating the disappearance of 14 year old Tara Wylie. Her mother says she has gone off like this before, but there are aspects that are making her think that Tara has come to harm.

This main story is told by several narrators with sometimes only bare clues about who is talking. It also often involves several time frames and more than once I was confused about the sequence of events. For the reader there are mysteries to be solved and in the background is the threat of summer wild fires.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Sarah Graves lives with her husband in Eastport, Maine, one remote rural road away from the Allagash wilderness territory and the Great North Woods. She is the bestselling author of the Home Repair Is Homicide series, as well as two novels featuring Lizzie Snow.

26 January 2017

Review: Inspector Singh Investigates: A CALAMITOUS CHINESE KILLING, Shamini Flint

  • this edition published 2013 by Piatkus
  • ISBN 978-0-7499-5799-7
  • 309 pages
  • #6 in the Inspector Singh series
 Synopsis (author website)

Inspector Singh is on a mission to China, against his better judgment. The son of a bigwig at the Singapore Embassy has been bludgeoned to death in a back alley in Beijing. The Chinese security insist that he was the victim of a robbery gone wrong, but the young man's mother demands that Singapore's finest (in his own opinion) rides to the rescue.

But solving a murder in a country that practices socialism 'with Chinese characteristics' is a dangerous business. And it soon becomes apparent that getting to the bottom of this calamitous killing will be his toughest case yet.

My Take

Inspector Singh again finds himself with an overseas posting. Not that he will have authority A crime has been committed against a Singaporean national in Beijing and he is being sent to represent Singaporean interests. The First Secretary at the Singapore embassy in Beijing has personally requested him. No one is suggesting that he will be able to solve the crime. In fact he suspects that his superiors are hopeful that his involvement will in some way be terminal and that he will not return to Singapore.

This series is a delightful read and this title is no exception. Throughout the series Singh's character has become stronger and I think he has become a better detective. In Beijing he is given a disgraced retired detective as his offsider and interpreter and between them they actually make a formidable pair. The setting is very topical because it involves land development in Beijing, the removal of century old hutongs and their replacement with modern buildings, but it also involves graft and corruption at the highest level even in the police force. In the background there is the handling of protest through re-education, and a sniff of other forms of corruption.

Singh steams on, sampling local cuisine with gusto, and following his intuition.


My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.2, INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES, A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder

24 January 2017

Reviw: THE DALAI LAMA'S CAT, David Michie

  • this edition published 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4019-4058-4
  • 216 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

“In the months that followed I watched His Holiness working on a new book . . . I began to think that perhaps the time had come for me to turn my paws to a book of my own . . . one that tells my own tale . . . How I was rescued from a fate too grisly to contemplate, to become constant companion to a man who is not only one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, but who is also a dab hand with the can opener.”

Not so much fly-on-the-wall as cat-on-the-sill, this is the warmhearted tale of a small kitten rescued from the slums of New Delhi who finds herself in a beautiful sanctuary with sweeping views of the snow-capped Himalayas. In her exotic new home, the Dalai Lama’s cat encounters Hollywood stars, Buddhist masters, Ivy-league professors, famous philanthropists, and a host of other people who come visiting His Holiness. Each encounter offers a fresh insight into finding happiness and meaning in the midst of a life of busy-ness and challenge. Drawing us into her world with her adorable but all-too-flawed personality, the Dalai Lama’s cat discovers how instead of trying to change the world, changing the way we experience the world is the key to true contentment.

Featuring a delightful cast of characters, timeless Buddhist wisdom, and His Holiness’s compassion pervading every chapter, The Dalai Lama’s Cat is simply enchanting.

My Take

This book came to me recommended by at least two members of my U3A reading group, whose job in life is to get me to read something other than crime fiction. Being possessed by a cat, how could I resist?

Told as snippets in the life of HHC (His Holiness' Cat), each tale has embedded within some Buddhist teaching. It is delightfully written and is a good reminder that there is something other can crime fiction.

I imagined that perhaps the stories come from real interviews with the Dalia Lama especially as I recognised one or two of His Holiness's visitors, whom of course the cat can't name.

Good reading.

My rating: 4.2

About the author
David Michie is the internationally best-selling author of a number of books about mindfulness, meditation and Buddhism. These include the non-fiction titles ‘Why Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate’, ‘Hurry Up and Meditate’ and ‘Buddhism for Busy People’, as well as his popular novel series ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat’. His books are available in 25 languages in over 30 different countries.

23 January 2017


  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2131 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Coffeetown Press (June 18, 2015)
  • Publication Date: June 18, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0100Q4ZUO
  • Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Synopsis (Amazon)

Recuperating from an injury and prompted by an eager young nurse, old-timer Gunnar Nilson looks back at one of his big cases as a private eye in 1950.

At that time memories of World War II were still fresh, and Seattle was a cultural backwater. The Ballard neighborhood where he hung out his shingle teemed with working-class folk of Scandinavian descent. Gals with hourglass figures and gimlet eyes enticed men in gray flannel suits with cigarettes dangling from their lips.

The case he recounts involves the murder of one of these beauties. Gunnar’s business card is in her pocket, but she’s no client. She’s just a gal he met at the movies; he gave her a ride home and helped her lose the creep who was tailing her. It’s none of Gunnar’s business who killed her, not until he discovers she dated the godson of a wealthy client, a man who’s willing to pay big bucks for Gunnar to nose around. Nose around he does, in the perfumed rooms of Fascin√© Expressions, a “rooster paradise” that employed the murdered girl and is frequented by the godson. Schooled to be class acts by a former showgirl, these fine-feathered hens know how to inspire a man to spend big on gifts for his lady. Gunnar believes the victim was killed by one of her customers, but the heady fragrance of perfumed female can make it awfully tough for a guy to think clearly, especially when the killer is also breathing down his neck.

My Take

After a fall from his roof, breaking his leg, Gunnar Nilson (who must be at least in his late 70s) is spending some time in an assisted living home in Everett, Washington. The date is Monday June 2 2003. He aqppears to have been in the home for a week or two.

His new caregiver is young Kirsti Liddell, working at the home for the summer. Kirsti finds out that Gunnar was once a private investigator in Seattle. She persuades him to spend time with her when she is off duty telling her about one of his cases. She proposes to make a written record of her interviews which she can submit for an extra credit paper in her college course.

Gunnar chooses an investigation into a murder that began over 50 years earlier, June 7, 1950.

This provides an interesting plot construct. Kirsti records Gunnar's story on a tape recorder so that she can transcribe it. Their interviews take place over a number of sessions.

Seattle has changed a lot in 50 years, and of course in 1950 the second World War is only just over, so Gunnar is able to talk about how the war affected various people, and what life was like then. The novel is filled with interesting characters particularly those who live in the boarding house where Gunnar resides.

This is a debut title. 

My Rating 4.2

About the author
T.W. Emory was born in Seattle, and is of Swedish-Norwegian heritage, which helps explain the little bit of Scandinavian flavoring to his post WWII Seattle-based detective novel, “Trouble in Rooster Paradise.” He lives and experiences his workaday world north of Seattle. He is an avid reader, and in addition to writing mystery fiction in his off-hours, he also cartoons as a hobby.
For more information, go to twemoryauthor.com

21 January 2017

Join the Global Reading Challenge for 2017

GRC 2017 challenges readers to venture outside their usual reading boundaries.

It is usually fairly easy to get started on a global reading challenge - we've all begun our reading for the year and you will be able to identify at least one of the continents that your reading has come from.
The hard thing with the Global Reading Challenge is always completing the challenge you have set yourself.

There are 7 continents, including the one you have "set" yourself.
The Easy challenge asks you to read one title from each continent, the Medium challenge requires 2, and the Expert challenge 3. If you set yourself the Expert level you could possibly read books from 21 countries or states.
I set  myself another challenge of including only crime fiction.

So why not enrol in the Challenge today. Do it here.

Participants are asked to contribute to the lists of books by returning to record their reading as they complete it. Previous Global Reading Challenges are available to look at for suggestions:
 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 

If you want some tips for record keeping, my own records are here.

18 January 2017

Review: GIRL MISSING, Tess Gerritsen

  • format e-pub
  • source: my local library
  • this edition published 3 Dec 2009
  • aka PEGGY SUE GOT MURDERED published 1994
Synopsis (Amazon)

She's young. She's beautiful. And her corpse, laid out in the office of Boston medical examiner Kat Novak, betrays no secrets - except for a matchbook clutched in one stiff hand, seven numbers scrawled inside.

When a second victim is discovered, Kat begins to fear that a serial killer is stalking the streets. The police are sceptical. The mayor won't listen. And Kat's chief suspect is one of the town's most prominent citizens.

With the death toll rising, Kat races to expose a deadly predator who is closer than she ever dreamt. And every move she makes could be her very last.

My take

This is quite a page turner. I was surprised (later) to find that it is a reprint of a much earlier novel.
It appears to be a stand-alone, with a likeable Boston medical examiner as the central character.

The bodies of young girls begin to turn up, apparently dead from a drug overdose. The bodies are found in the slum streets of one of the poorer Boston suburbs where the ME herself grew up, so she feels an affinity with them. However the drug they are dying from is still in the trial stage and not yet released for human usage. Kat Novak wants the police department to put out an alert, warning drug users that there is something lethal being sold but she meets all sorts of opposition. The town is on the brink of its bicentennial and the mayor does not want anything to rock the boat.

Meanwhile she meets a man who is looking for his daughter.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

17 January 2017

Review: WIN, LOSE, OR DRAW, Peter Corris

  • published January 2017, Allen & Unwin Australia
  • #42 in the Cliff Hardy series
  • source: my local library
  • format: e-pub
  • ISBN: 9781760294786
 Synopsis (Allen & Unwin Australia)

A missing teenager, drugs, yachts, the sex trade and a cold trail that leads from Sydney to Norfolk Island, Byron Bay and Coolangatta. Can Cliff Hardy find out what's really going on?
Will one man's loss be Hardy's gain?

'I'd read about it in the papers, heard the radio reports and seen the TV coverage and then forgotten about it, the way you do with news stories.'

A missing girl, drugs, yachts, the sex trade and a cold trail that leads from Sydney to Norfolk Island, Byron Bay and Coolangatta.

The police suspect the father, Gerard Fonteyn OA, a wealthy businessman. But he's hired Cliff to find her, given him unlimited expenses and posted a $250,000 reward for information.

Finally there's a break - an unconfirmed sighting of Juliana Fonteyn, alive and well. But as usual, nothing is straightforward. Various other players are in the game - and Cliff doesn't know the rules, or even what the game might be. He's determined to find out, and as the bodies mount up the danger to himself and to Juliana increases.
My Take
When Juliana Fonteyn disappears she is an underage teenager. By the time her father hires Cliff Hardy to find her the case is already 18 months old, and other investigators have tried to find her and failed. In her father's estimation they have largely been concerned with how much they will be paid. In Cliff Hardy he hopes he has found someone who really cares. And there is new evidence that Juliana is still alive - a photograph taken on Norfolk Island.

Even so the investigation doesn't go smoothly and after fruitless weeks Hardy tells Gerard Fonteyn that he is giving up. And then there is yet another breakthrough.

This relatively easy read reflects the fact that the Australian author is most accomplished. This is #42 in a very popular series, although I have read very few of them before. Something I can see I should remedy in 2017.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

About the author
Award winning Australian author Peter Corris has been writing his best selling Cliff Hardy detective stories for nearly 40 years. He's written many other books, including a very successful 'as-told-to' autobiography of Fred Hollows, and a collection of short stories about golf.

16 January 2017


Synopsis (Quercus)

No one keeps more secrets. No one is better at hiding them.

Haunting, evocative and beautifully written, THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN will grab you and not let you go until the last page. Full of twists and turns, with an ending you will never see coming and characters that will stay with you long after the book is finished, THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN is a gripping psychological mystery perfect for fans of Emma Cline's THE GIRLS and Clare Mackintosh's I SEE YOU.

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she's found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie's dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del's, Hattie's high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life. . .

Wonderfully evocative of its Midwestern setting and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this is a book about manipulation of relationships and identity; about the line between innocence and culpability; about the hope love offers and the tragedies that occur when it spins out of control.

My Take

Each chapter has a heading like this: HATTIE / Saturday, March 22, 2008.
The first part of the heading tells the reader who is telling this part of the story, and the second, of course, is the date of their telling. Quite often I ignore chapter headings but in this case they are the clue not only to the timeline of the story, but also to who is speaking. Part of the reader's job is to get the timeline in order.

We see the action and events from three points of view, and of course the character who is speaking doesn't always know what the other characters know. This lets the reader fill in the gaps and accumulate what looks like a complete picture.

Hattie Hoffman has always envisaged that she will escape the claustrophobia of her home town . She wants to become an actress and go to New York. In a sense she has always been an actress: she herself recognises that she is always playing a part, changing like a chameleon according what her audience, her friends, her parents, want or expect to see.

So this is the story of Hattie's coming of age, but even as Hattie falls in love, she is playing a part, and tries to manipulate those around her, seriously underestimating the impact she is having on those around her. Her own expectations are a combination of immaturity and her growing sexuality. Hattie has a lot of secrets, and those closest to her are amazed at what comes out when Sheriff Del Goodman investigates the circumstances surrounding her death.

And just when I thought the plot was sorted, there was a very peculiar twist.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Mindy Mejia was born and raised in Minnesota, and has held a succession of jobs, from apple orchard labourer to global credit manager. THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN is her first novel to be published in the UK. Find out more at www.mindymejia.com

Launching Global Reading Challenge for 2017

Today I have created a blog site for the 2017 Global Reading Challenge.

As in previous years there are three levels to the challenge, and while all my own reading will all be crime fiction, participants can choose their own fiction parameters, and 7, 14 or 21 books.
GRC2017 is organised around 6 continents and then a 7th "continent" is chosen by the participant.
Titles need to be read in 2017.

Sign up on the home page of the blog and then return throughout the year to the various continent pages to record your reading.

Please promote GRC2017 through your own blog and reading circles.
Feel free to use the logo on your own blog.

Crime fiction set in India in the decline of the British Raj

I thought I would point out some interesting novels that I have read recently, all set in the British Raj.

The list may be useful if you are doing something like the Global Reading Challenge, or perhaps a Historical Reading Challenge.

Click on the link for my review.

Gaind, Arjun: 4.3, A VERY PUKKA MURDER
Maharaja Sikander Singh, Light of Heaven, Sword of Justice, Shield of the Faithful, sole ruler of Rajpore, is slow to rise the morning after the 1909 New Year's Ball.
But news of a murder galvanizes him. Major William Russell, the English Resident of Rajpore, is dead in his bed.

Koula, Sudha: 4.3, THE TIGER LADIES - this one is not crime fiction, but provides interesting historical detail about life in Kashmir.

Mukherjee, Abir: 4.4, A RISING MAN 
Calcutta, 1919. Captain Sam Wyndham, a former Scotland Yard detective new to India, is confronted with a highly charged case: a senior British official has been found murdered, in his mouth a note warning the British to quit India, or else...


Stoddart, Brian: 4.6, A MADRAS MIASMA
Madras in the 1920s. The British are slowly losing the grip on the subcontinent. The end of the colonial enterprise is in sight and the city on India's east coast is teeming with intrigue. A grisly murder takes place against the backdrop of political tension and Superintendent Le Fanu, a man of impeccable investigative methods, is called in to find out who killed a respectable young British girl and dumped her in a canal, her veins clogged with morphine. 

15 January 2017

Review: NO SHED OF EVIDENCE, Charles Todd ~ audio book

Synopsis (Audible.com)

In this absorbing new entry in the acclaimed New York Times best-selling series, Scotland Yard's Ian Rutledge is caught up in a twisted web of vengeance and murder.

On the north coast of Cornwall, an apparent act of mercy is repaid by an arrest for murder. Four young women have been accused of the crime. A shocked father calls in a favor at the Home Office. Scotland Yard is asked to review the case.

However, Inspector Ian Rutledge is not the first inspector to reach the village. Following in the shoes of a dead man, he is told the case is all but closed. Even as it takes an unexpected personal turn, Rutledge will require all his skill to deal with the incensed families of the accused, the grieving parents of the victim, and local police eager to see these four women sent to the infamous Bodmin Gaol. Then why hasn't the killing stopped?

With no shred of evidence to clear the accused, Rutledge must plunge deep into the darkest secrets of a wild, beautiful, and dangerous place if he is to find a killer who may - or may not - hold the key to their fate.

My Take

I have followed this series from the beginning, but have not read them all.

This story takes place in the early 1920s when 4 young women are accused of attempting to murder a young man in the river. Unfortunately he dies, and th charge become murder. Rutledge finds that he knows one of the accused, which does compromise him a little.

Memories of the war are still very raw, and some characters are physical reminders of what happened. 

Simon Prebble does a superb job of the reading.

In the second half of the book, the authors have decided to introduce a second plot. My guess is that they felt they didn't have enough leeway to bring the main plot to a satisfactory ending, but it does have the effect of diverting attention a bit, at the same time as providing explanation for some unresolved earlier events.

Hamish makes fewer "appearances", perhaps a sign that mentally Rutledge is mending.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD - Bess Crawford series
4.7, A LONELY DEATH -#13

14 January 2017

Review: A VERY PUKKA MURDER, Arjun Gaind

  • format: Kindle (.mobi from author)
  • also available on Amazon
  • Series: The Maharajah Mysteries (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; Reprint edition (November 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1464206457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1464206450
  • Source: review copy as e-book from author
Synopsis (Amazon)

Maharaja Sikander Singh, Light of Heaven, Sword of Justice, Shield of the Faithful, sole ruler of Rajpore, is slow to rise the morning after the 1909 New Year's Ball.

But news of a murder galvanizes him. Major William Russell, the English Resident of Rajpore, is dead in his bed.

A lover of luxury cars and beautiful women, Sikander's deepest passion is for mysteries. As a clock starts ticking, Sikander must overcome obstacles, false trails, and the growing hostility of the English Establishment, even as he learns that Major Russell was not as pukka as he liked to pretend. Will the Maharaja work through a surplus of suspects and motives before the British shut him down and cover up the truth?

Like Sherlock Holmes, Sikander wields careful and deliberate logic to crack puzzles that leave less intelligent men confounded. Here is such an opportunity, and well timed - for the Maharaja, resigned to another year of indolence, is almost fatally bored.

My Take

Crime fiction set in the declining years of the British Raj in India, but very much from an Indian point of view. There are characters in here who illustrate the very worst, and most corrupt elements, of the administration. The British have survived the Indian Mutiny (1857) and, convinced of their racial superiority, will survive for another four decades until 1947. Administration in Rajpore in the Punjab in 1909 is a precarious division of power between the Maharajah and the British Resident, found dead in his bed behind a locked door.

Nearly all of those we meet in the British administration are incompetent or corrupt, but are they murderers? For Sikander Singh this is a splendid opportunity to exercise his detection skills, and there seem to be no lack of suspects. His position as Maharajah allows him through doors that other Indians would not be able to access, but even then there are impenetrable barriers.

The structure of the novel is based on best Golden Age crime fiction, with a maze of plot threads, and a plethora of red herrings. As this novel is intended to be first in a trilogy, there is a lot of what I would term "background material", which sometimes is a bit tedious, but it paints a rich picture of the times and the setting. The character of the Maharajah is well developed.

At the end the Maharajah holds a Poirot-like denouement in which the major suspects are dismissed one by one.

A good, interesting, read.

My rating: 4.3

About the Author
Arjun Raj Gaind is one of India's best known comic book writers. He is the creator and author of the critically acclaimed, best-selling graphic novels, Empire of Blood, Reincarnation Man, The Mighty Yeti, Project: Kalki, Blade of the Warrior: Kshatriya, and A Brief History of Death. A Very Proper Murder is his debut novel, the first in a trilogy featuring the adventures of Maharaja Sikander Singh, set against the backdrop of princely India during the heyday of the British Raj.

The author describes his main character as "a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Peter Wimsey".

11 January 2017

Review: SUMMERTIME DEATH, Mons Kallentoft

  • this edition published 2012 (originally published in Swedish 2008) by Hodder & Stoughton
  • translated into English by Neil Smith
  • ISBN 978-1-444-72156-0
  • 486 pages
  • #2 in the Malin Fors series
Synopsis (Amazon)

In this chilling crime novel starring the elusive, tough-as-nails Swedish police superintendent Malin Fors, a combustive summer turns deadly.


The tiny town that Detective Malin Fors calls home is plagued by a sweltering heat wave and resulting raging forest fires. It is the hottest summer anyone can recall, and it’s about to become the most violent and grim, too. A teenage girl is found naked and bleeding in a city park, without any recollection of what has happened to her. Next, another grisly discovery is made on a lakeside beach, and the whole town is on edge. A serial killer walks among them, and while the families of Link√∂ping withdraw to protect their young, Malin must uncover the secrets behind these crimes, potentially putting herself and her own family at risk in the process.

My Take

This novel was a little more noir, even grisly, than my normal choice of reading.

Having just survived a hot spell here, I could empathise with the skeleton investigation team which takes on the first case. The victim has amnesia so has no clue as to what has happened to her., and the team really has nothing to work on. Her parents have only just discovered she is missing.

Malin Fors' mind is distracted by the fact that her daughter Tove, approximately the same age as the first victims, has gone on a holiday to Bali with her father.

The central theme of the story is the relationship between fathers and their daughters.

Those who like a bit of paranormal in their crime fiction will undoubtedly like this book berrter than I did. The victims' voices, italicised, provide a commentary on the investigation, and that really stretched the bounds of credibility for me. So, just at the moment I probably won't be looking for #3.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read 4.3, MIDWINTER SACRIFICE

8 January 2017

Review: OUT OF BOUNDS, Val McDermid

  • this edition published by Little, Brown 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-4087-0692-3
  • 421 pages
  • #4 in the DCI Karen Pirie series
Synopsis (author website)

There were a lot of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them …’Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. 
With each cold case closed, justice is served. So when a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and ends up in a coma, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kind of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for …

Number one bestseller Val McDermid returns with her most atmospheric, spine-chilling and gripping novel to date.

My Take

Despite, the fact that this is quite a long novel, I managed to finished it within 24 hours of starting.

It is a police procedural in which modern technology plays a considerable role: DNA testing, birth and adoption databases, mobile phone messaging, CCTV, organ transplants, just to note a few elements. So much has changed hasn't it in the last 20 years? But it doesn't necessarily make an investigation easier, just provides a few more red herrings.

The story threads in this novel just keep on branching, but McDermid passes the true test of bringing them all together cohesively at the end.

Karen Pirie and her offsider Jason,The Mint, are still recovering from the murder of a colleague and both are learning to operate without him. Cold Case elements intertwine seductively with modern events and as usual Pirie steps on toes in a number of other teams, as well as those of her boss.

There are references which place the novel in recent days: Syrian refugees who meet at night under one of the city bridges because they have nowhere else to go, even a couple of references to Donald Trump.

I thought McDermid went out of her way, for Scottish readers, to give the novel a local flavour with the use of colloquialisms, and occasional architectural descriptions.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8


7 January 2017

Review: CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS, Agatha Christie

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1012 KB
  • Print Length: 355 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (October 14, 2010)
  • Publication Date: October 14, 2010
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0046RE5A4
  • first published in 1959 
Synopsis  (Amazon)

Unpleasant things are going on in an exclusive school for girls – things like murder…

Late one night, two teachers investigate a mysterious flashing light in the sports pavilion, while the rest of the school sleeps. There, among the lacrosse sticks, they stumble upon the body of the unpopular games mistress – shot through the heart from point blank range.

The school is thrown into chaos when the ‘cat’ strikes again. Unfortunately, schoolgirl Julia Upjohn knows too much. In particular, she knows that without Hercule Poirot’s help, she will be the next victim…

My take

Last year I didn't do a very good job of participating in the monthly meme Crime Fiction of the Year Challenge @ Past Offences. I completed reading all the Agatha Christie novels more or less in order of publication in 2014, but last year I found that I was missing my occasional dose of Christie.

So I've decided that this year I will try to read an Agatha Christie novel each month for the appropriate year in the Crime Fiction of the Year Challenge (if one is available).

Having made that decision, I wondered whether a re-reading would bore me. I originally read this novel for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge in June 2013, and it wasn't new to me then. My review is here. The novel is listed as the 32nd Poirot novel, and my records show it as the 51st Agatha Christie novel.

There were a couple of aspects of particular interest. Firstly the background is a revolution in the Middle East in a fictitious Sheikdom. Prince Ali Yusuf has tried to force change on his kingdom too quickly and has to flee the country. Politics in the Middle East were obviously of great interest to Agatha Christie. Since reading the novel in 2013 I have visited Abu Dhabi a couple of times. Sheik Zayed I modernised his country too, but didn't suffer a revolution.

Second was the character of the principal of Meadowbank School. Miss Bulstrode (and her assistant Miss Chadwick) reminded very strongly of three female school principals that I had met. All were principals of girl's schools. The first school was a metropolitan high school where I was doing my final year of secondary schooling, the second was an elite girls college where I was a junior housemistress, and the third a metropolitan high school at which I was a young teacher. All were women of vision, very strong, very charismatic. Agatha Christie drew Honoria Bulstrode so well, as she did the faithful Chaddy who helped Bulstrode carry out her dream.

Another issue that was of interest was Miss Bulstrode's intention to retire but to groom her successor to eventually take over. In each of the cases I mentioned earlier the issue of succession was a problem, and I well remember, in the first school, the resentment of the students when the principal retired abruptly at the end of the first term. Her successor had a very rough time of it indeed.

So no, I wasn't bored with the re-reading, although I could actually remember most of the plot strands. Poirot doesn't make an appearance until nearly half way through the novel, but it was interesting to see how he related to Miss Bulstrode too.
I think I appreciated Christie's insight a little more than I did three years ago: I have given it a slightly higher rating.

My rating: 4.5

Check my list of Agatha Christie novels here.

e-books I read in 2016

All the e-books I read are in Kindle format and I swap between my paper-white Kindle and the Kindle app on my iPad. They are mostly purchased, but some are review copies sent to me by the author.
The following list is in the order in which I read them.
It includes a wide range of the genre, some recently published, some cozy, some Australian authors, and some classic.
I find the Kindle a good alternative to holding a book with a lot of pages or one with small print.

Total read in 2016:  56

  1. 4.4, KING OF THE ROAD, Nigel Bartlett 
  2. 4.3, THE DROWNING POOL, Ross Macdonald 
  3. 4.8, THE BLOOD STRAND, Chris Ould  
  4. 3.5, DUCK SEASON DEATH, June Wright 
  5. 4.2, THE UNFUR-TUNATE VALENTINE'S SCAM, Alannah Rogers 
  6. 4.4, THE CASE OF THE VELVET CLAWS, Erle Stanley Gardner 
  7. 4.3, MURDER ON THE HOUR, Elizabeth J. Duncan 
  8. 4.9, WHAT SHE NEVER TOLD ME, Kate McQuaile 
  9. 4.3, LOCK NO 1. Maigret #18, Georges Simenon
  10. 4.4, BOGMAN, R.I. Olufsen 
  11. 4.4, LONDON'S GLORY, Christopher Fowler
  12. 4.8, TWISTER, Jane Woodham 
  13. 4.6, DARKEST PLACE, Jaye Ford 
  14. 4.4, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukherjee 
  15. 4.0, MAIGRET IN NEW YORK, Georges Simenon
  16. 4.5, SIX FOUR, Hideo Yokoyama 
  17. 3.8, OUT OF THE ICE, Ann Turner 
  18. 4.4, THE TRAVELLER'S RETURN, Patricia Wentworth 
  19. 4.2, DYING FOR A TASTE, Leslie Karst 
  20. 4.2, COMFORT ZONE, Lindsay Tanner
  21. 4.2, THE BUNGALOW MURDER, Annie Haynes
  22. 5.0, THE LAKE HOUSE, Kate Morton 
  23. 4.3, DADDY DEAREST, Paul Southern
  24. 4.6, A CAREER OF EVIL, Robert Galbraith
  25. 4.8, AN ISOLATED INCIDENT, Emily Maguire 
  26. 4.0, BLACK COFFEE, Agatha Christie (novelised by Charles Osborne) 
  27. 4.1, TREACHERY IN BORDEAUX, Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen
  28. 4.7, THE DRY, Jane Harper 
  29. 4.7, LOST GIRLS, Angela Marsons 
  30. 4.2, WEEKEND WITH DEATH, Patricia Wentworth
  31. 4.3, THE LOVING HUSBAND, Christobel Kent 
  32. 4.6, DIFFERENT CLASS, Joanne Harris 
  33. 4.5, ONLY DAUGHTER, Anna Snoekstra 
  34. 4.3, GIRL IN THE DARK, Marion Pauw 
  35. 4.4, THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10, Ruth Ware 
  36. 4.2, THE GROWN UP, Gillian Flynn
  37. 4.6, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA, Antonia Hodgson
  38. 4.6, STRANGE TIDE, Christopher Fowler
  39. 4.3, RESURRECTION BAY, Emma Viskic 
  40. 4.7, A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, Michael Stanley
  41. 4.5, BEFORE THE POISON, Peter Robinson
  42. 4.3, A DEATH IN SWEDEN, Kevin Wignall
  43. 4.9, PLAY DEAD, Angela Marsons 
  44. 4.7, THE DEFENCELESS, Kati Hiekkapelto
  45. 5.0, A DEADLY THAW, Sarah Ward 
  46. 3.5, THE MURDERED BANKER, Augusto de Angelis 
  47. 5.0, THE WRONG HAND, Jane Jago 
  48. 4.3, THE EXILED, Kati Hiekkapelto 
  49. 4.3, SEE ALSO MURDER, Larry D. Sweazy
  50. 4.1, ENTANGLEMENT, Zygmunt Miloszewski
  51. 4.4, PAST TENSE, Margot Kinberg
  53. 4.7, MAGPIE MURDERS, Anthony Horowitz 
  54. 3.5, THE CLIMATE CHANGE MURDERS, David Kilner 
  55. 4.2, CLOSED CASKET, Sophie Hannah 
  56. 4.9, BLOOD LINES, Angela Marsons   

6 January 2017

Australian authors I read in 2016

I participated in the The Aussie Author Challenge 2016 hosted at Booklover Book Reviews

I'm aimed initially at Kangaroo (12 titles) but the reality was that I read many more than that. I read 118 books in the year and 29 of them were by Australian authors, so 1 in every 5 books that I read is by an Australian author.

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; Fiction or non-fiction, at least 3 genre. 

Because I read almost entirely crime fiction, I had a problem with the 3 genre aspect.

18/29 are female authors.

The titles are listed in the order in which I read them.

Read: 29 - Completed

  1. 4.4, KING OF THE ROAD, Nigel Bartlett   M, N
  2. 4.3, GOOD MONEY, J. M. Green FN
  3. 4.3, GHOST GIRLS, Cath Ferla F, N
  4. 3.5, DUCK SEASON DEATH, June Wright F  
  5. 4.4, OLMEC OBITUARY, L.J.M. Owen F, N
  6. 4.5, MISSING, Melanie Casey, F, N 
  7. 4.6, DARKEST PLACE, Jaye Ford F
  8. 4.9, ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING, Evie Wyld F, N
  9. 4.4, HINDSIGHT, Melanie Casey
  10. 3.8, OUT OF THE ICE, Ann Turner
  11. 4.5, PROHIBITED ZONE, Alastair Sarre  M
  12. 4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY, Arthur Upfield M
  13. 4.2, COMFORT ZONE, Lindsay Tanner M
  14. 5.0, THE LAKE HOUSE, Kate Morton F 
  15. 4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES, Arthur Upfield M
  16. 4.4, THE BATTLING PROPHET, Arthur Upfield M
  17. 3.9, FRONT PAGE NEWS, Katie Rowney
  18. 4.8, AN ISOLATED INCIDENT, Emily Maguire
  19. 4.7, THE DRY, Jane Harper
  20. 4.3, MR JELLY'S BUSINESS, Arthur Upfield 
  21. 4.5, ONLY DAUGHTER, Anna Snoekstra 
  22. 4.2, THE HEAT, Garry Disher 
  23. 4.3, RESURRECTION BAY, Emma Viskic
  24. 5.0, THE WRONG HAND, Jane Jago 
  25. 4.8, THE SOLDIER'S CURSE, Tom & Meg Kenneally 
  26. 5.0, THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET, Jock Serong 
  27. 4.5, SALT CREEK, Lucy Treloar
  28. 3.5, THE CLIMATE CHANGE MURDERS, David Kilner
  29. 4.8, THE BANK MANAGER, Roger Monk   

5 January 2017

Review: A MADRAS MIASMA, Brian Stoddart

 Synopsis (Crime Wave Press)

Madras in the 1920s. The British are slowly losing the grip on the subcontinent. The end of the colonial enterprise is in sight and the city on India's east coast is teeming with intrigue.

A grisly murder takes place against the backdrop of political tension and Superintendent Le Fanu, a man of impeccable investigative methods, is called in to find out who killed a respectable young British girl and dumped her in a canal, her veins clogged with morphine.

The first Detective Le Fanu Adventure, A Madras Miasma, tells a classic tale of murder, corruption and intrigue with a sharp eye on British colonial politics and race relations. It is a story that, like its main protagonist, has its heart firmly in the right place.

My Take

Here is a new-to-me author whom I have already decided to follow.

This story, set in Madras in the early 1920s, oozes with authenticity. The British Raj is struggling to maintain control of its Indian empire, corruption amongst its administrators is rife, and the voice of the Indian population is getting stronger.

The young woman found dead in a local canal is identified as part of the British "fishing fleet" and flags are raised when she is discovered to have a large level of morphine in her system.  She came to Madras with another young woman who seems surprisingly unaffected by her friend's death. They have been part of the ex-pat social scene for a few weeks, and so there are a number of suspects.

This is a police procedural too, highlighting the tension between the newly created police force, and the colonial administration. Le Fanu's status in the colonial community has been affected by the fact that his wife has left him to return to Britain, and he has an Anglo-Indian housekeeper. He is not popular with the colonial adminstration.

A good plot with some interesting strands. Good reading.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Professor Brian Stoddart is an international consultant who works mainly on higher education reform in Asia and the Middle East, and is currently Distinguished Fellow of the Australia India Institute based at the University of Melbourne.    He trained as a South Asianist then also became an international authority on sport and culture.  His academic career was spent in Australia, Malaysia, Canada and Barbados, and he finished his formal career with a term as Vice-Chancellor and President at La Trobe University in Australia.  In addition to his formal work he is a regular contributor to regular and new media as a columnist and commentator.
He writes regularly for the press and several websites, appears on radio and television, is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and seminars around the world, and also works as a speaker-lecturer on cruise ships. Brian Stoddart maintains his own blog at www.professorbrianstoddart.com.

British authors I read in 2016

With so much British crime fiction available, this really wasn't much of a challenge for me.
The aim was to read at least 12 books by British authors.
The challenge stored here really just became a way of keeping records.
Recently written novels seem to suit me better than ones written decades ago, but very few were not worth my time.
Many of them were read on my Kindle.
Total read: 49

  1. 4.8, THE BLOOD STRAND, Chris Ould 
  2. 4.5, ONLY TIME WILL TELL, Jeffrey Archer 
  3. 4.2, THE CRIME AND THE CRYSTAL, Elizabeth Ferrars  
  4. 4.9, WHAT SHE NEVER TOLD ME, Kate McQuaile 
  5. 4.9, COFFIN ROAD, Peter May
  6. 4.7, EVEN THE DEAD, Benjamin Black 
  7.  4.4, LONDON'S GLORY, Christopher Fowler 
  8. 3.7, THE SANTA KLAUS MURDER, Mavis Doriel Hay
  9. 4.0. Agatha Christie, the Lost Plays
  10. 4.7, DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN, Peter Lovesey 
  11. 4.7, ENOUGH ROPE, Barbara Nadel 
  12. 4.1, SMALLBONE DECEASED, Michael Gilbert
  14. 4.9, ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING, Evie Wyld  
  16. 4.8, THE WIDOW, Fiona Barton 
  17. 4.4, FATAL ERROR, Michael Ridpath
  18. 4.4, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukherjee 
  19. 4.5, LITTLE GREY CELLS: The Quotable  POIROT, Agatha Christie (edited by David Brawn)
  20. 4.7, THE STONE WIFE, Peter Lovesey
  21. 4.5, CHANCE DEVELOPMENTS, Alexander McCall Smith
  22. 3.7, MYSTERY IN WHITE, J. Jefferson Farjeon 
  23. 4.4, THE TRAVELLER'S RETURN, Patricia Wentworth
  24. 4.5, A DARK AND TWISTED TIDE, Sharon Bolton
  25. 4.2, THE BUNGALOW MURDER, Annie Haynes  
  26. 4.3, DADDY DEAREST, Paul Southern 
  27. 4.6, A CAREER OF EVIL, Robert Galbraith 
  28. 4.4, THE KILLING IN THE CAFE, Simon Brett
  29. 4.0, BLACK COFFEE, Agatha Christie (novelised by Charles Osborne)
  30. 4.7, LOST GIRLS, Angela Marsons
  31. 4.5, THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT: The Carpathia, the Californian and the Night the Titanic Was Lost, Daniel Allen Butler
  32. 4.2, WEEKEND WITH DEATH, Patricia Wentworth  
  33. 4.5, MISSING PRESUMED, Susie Steiner 
  34. 4.6, DIFFERENT CLASS, Joanne Harris 
  35. 4.4, HESTER & HARRIET, Hilary Spiers 
  36. 4.4, THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10, Ruth Ware 
  37. 4.2, THE GROWN UP, Gillian Flynn 
  38. 4.6, THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA, Antonia Hodgson 
  39. 4.6, STRANGE TIDE, Christopher Fowler
  40. 4.3, A DEATH IN SWEDEN, Kevin Wignall 
  41. 4.9, PLAY DEAD, Angela Marsons 
  42. 5.0, A DEADLY THAW, Sarah Ward
  43. 4.7, THE WOMAN IN BLUE, Elly Griffiths 
  44. 4.3, SERPENTS IN EDEN, Martin Edwards (edit)
  45. 4.3, THE MISTLETOE MURDER, P.D.James 
  46. 4.7, MAGPIE MURDERS, Anthony Horowitz 
  47. 5.0, CONCLAVE, Robert Harris 
  48. 4.2, CLOSED CASKET, Sophie Hannah 
  49. 4.9, BLOOD LINES, Angela Marsons 


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