30 June 2017

New to me authors read April to June 2017

I haven't read quite as many new-to-me authors in this quarter of the year as in the first quarter but nevertheless they have been nearly half my total reads for the year.

You can see from my ratings that they have all been worth the effort.
I have now read 22 for the year out of a total of 52 books.
The most impressive was the winner of the Petrona Award for 2017, WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE.
Check to see what others have read.

29 June 2017

Meme- New to Me Authors - April to June 2017

It's easy to join this meme.

Just write a post about the best new-to-you crime fiction authors (or all) you've read in the period of April to June 2017, put a link to this meme in your post, and even use the logo if you like.
The books don't necessarily need to be newly published.

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

This meme will run again at the end of August 2017

27 June 2017

Review: WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE, Gunnar Staalesen

  • format  Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 881 KB
  • Print Length: 285 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS; Tra edition (March 15, 2016), translated from Norwegian.
  • Publication Date: March 15, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B016721USA
Synopsis  (Amazon)
September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found.

Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge …

Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.
Winner of the Petrona Award 2017

My Take

From the start of this story I could not get away from the feeling that I have read other novels where other authors have deal with this scenario: little girl goes missing from outside the house where she is playing while mother is keeping half an eye on her.

The cold case that Varg Veum tackles revealed little about the child's disappearance during the original investigation, apart from the fact that the investigators felt there was something about the community that they weren't quite getting. The residents knew more than they were prepared to say and there was something "funny" about the cooperative community housing project. Now 25 years on, Veum finds that most of the couples are divorced and in the main they are more willing to talk. There are things they want to unburden.

Coincidentally one of the former residents was recently an innocent passerby during a jewellery robbery in town. He was shot dead by one of the robbers during an altercation on the footpath outside the store. This coincidence ensures police cooperation with Varg Veum.

This turns out to be only the first in a number of coincidences in the plot and a very different picture emerges of what happened to Mette. Varg Veum is middle-aged, a former policeman, a persistent and intuitive investigator who is not afraid to ask questions and to call in favours. He has a troubled past and an alcohol problem, but appears to be getting the better of it.

Gunnar Staaleson has been a prolific Norwegian crime writer since 1993, with mostly only novels written in the last decade available in English.  It appears that there are 18 in the series in Norwegian, 7 translated into English. This is the first one that I've read but it certainly won't be the last. Four are currently available on Kindle.

My rating: 4.8

About the author (Wikipedia)

Gunnar Staalesen (born 19 October 1947 in Bergen) is a Norwegian writer. Staalesen has a Cand philol. degree from Universitetet i Bergen and he has worked at Den Nationale Scene, the main theater in Bergen. Staalesen is best known for his crime novels involving private detective Varg Veum.

Available in English (Euro Crime list)
Varg Veum, PI in Bergen, Norway
Yours Until Death19932
• At Night All Wolves are Grey19865
The Writing on the Wall200211
The Consorts of Death200914
• Cold Hearts201315
We Shall Inherit the Wind201516
• Where Roses Never Die201617
• No One is Safe in Danger201718

24 June 2017

Review: A GREAT RECKONING, Louise Penny

  • this edition large print published by Thorndike Press 2016
  • #12 in the Armand Gamache series
  • ISBN 978-1-4104-8939-5
  • 641 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

My Take

#1 I've read most, but not all of this series, in order. While each novel can be read as a stand alone, there is character development from novel to novel. There are incidents referred to from the past and from previous novels, so my conclusion is that in reality you are best to read them in order. They are not light reads. The plots are complex and there is a great deal of underlying philosophy, so they do take some time.
#2 Last night I went to bed as usual and then an hour later got up so that I could finish the last 150 pages of this book. I knew I wasn't going to get to sleep otherwise. This book had me hooked.

Armand Gamache has retired. He did his best to clean up the Surete in Quebec and it nearly cost him his life. But he has realised that the greatest source of the corruption and lack of humanity seen in the officers of the Surete is the Academy where they were trained, so he takes on the job of its Commander.  He knows it will be hard because although he has replaced many of the professors he has retained some whom he knows are part of the source of the corruption. He has also brought in others who have betrayed him in the past.

Things seem to be going fairly well when one of the professors is found dead, shot in the head, with a revolver bearing a partial print from Gamache's hand. So everything breaks open and the Academy comes under the scrutiny of both the head of the Surete and an outsider. Gamache himself is in real danger.

Running in the background is another mystery: the meaning of a map that was found many years ago in the walls of the Bistro at Three Pines. Why was it made? What was its purpose? A central part of the mystery is that the village of Three Pines is not named on the map, although the iconic pine trees are there.

An engrossing read.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read
4.5, THE HANGMAN - a novella

18 June 2017

Review: RACING THE DEVIL, Charles Todd

  • this edition published by Harper Collins, 2017
  • #19 in the Ian Rutledge series
  • ISBN 978-0-06-238621-2
  • 341 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Scotland Yard's Ian Rutledge finds himself caught in a twisted web of vengeance, old grievances, and secrets that lead back to World War I in the 19th installment of the acclaimed best-selling series.

On the eve of the bloody Battle of the Somme, a group of English officers having a last drink before returning to the front make a promise to each other: if they survive the battle ahead - and make it through the war - they will meet in Paris a year after the fighting ends. They will celebrate their good fortune by racing motorcars they beg, borrow, or own from Paris to Nice.

In November 1919, the officers all meet as planned, and though their motorcars are not designed for racing, they set out for Nice. But a serious mishap mars the reunion. In the mountains just north of their destination, two vehicles are nearly run off the road, and one man is badly injured. No one knows - or will admit to knowing - which driver was at the wheel of the rogue motorcar.

Back in England one year later, during a heavy rainstorm, a driver loses control on a twisting road and is killed in the crash. Was it an accident due to the hazardous conditions? Or premeditated murder? Is the crash connected in some way to the unfortunate events in the mountains above Nice the year before? The dead driver wasn't in France - although the motorcar he drove was. If it was foul play, was it a case of mistaken identity? Or was the dead man the intended victim after all?

Investigating this perplexing case, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge discovers that the truth is elusive - and that the villages on the South Downs, where the accident happened, are adept at keeping secrets, frustrating his search. Determined to remain in the shadows, this faceless killer is willing to strike again to stop Rutledge from finding him. This time, the victim he chooses is a child, and it will take all of Rutledge's skill to stop him before an innocent young life is sacrificed.

My Take

Some reading friends and I were talking the other day about authors aging their detectives in "real time" or not. The Charles Todd duo (mother and son) have chosen not to age Inspector Rutledge for here we are at installment #19 and we are still in 1920 with memories of World War One still fresh enough to impact of people's lives and actions. Many of the novels delve back into the past with incidents that took place during the war, and that now have impact post-war. There is a lot of information about the war and its economic and social impact on Britain, particularly on villages like the one where RACING THE DEVIL is set.

Little things like the story of Hamish McLeod are repeated from novel to novel, an attempt I think to ensure that a reader new to the series doesn't miss out on too much important background.

In many ways though Ian Rutledge feels like a "modern detective". Apart from the fact that getting from one place to another is pretty slow because mostly people are on foot or horseback (motorcars are still a rarety), and telephones virtually non-existent, Rutledge has relatively modern methods.

I wasn't totally clear by the end about all the links between the various plot lines. Perhaps I was just reading too fast in my attempt to get to the end of the book. It is a novel with a complex set of plot lines, and also lots of red herrings.

One interesting feature of this novel is that Rutledge contacts old friend Melinda Crawford, and so gets her daughter Bess Crawford (detective in the other Charles Todd series) to do some investigating for him. I have only read one title in the Bess Crawford series and this has sparked my interest to try another.

Overall, a satisfying read with just enough of a historical flavour.

My rating: 4.7

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

13 June 2017

Review: THE BUNTING QUEST, Steven Marcuson

  • this edition published by Hybrid Publishers 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-925272-15-4
  • 276 pages
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Two compelling adventures, set hundreds of years apart, come together in this breathtaking page-turner that reveals mankind’s greatest secret.

‘When Bunting drew this in 1581, absolutely no one in the world could have known what the coast of Western Australia looked like …’

Nick Lawrance, an antique map dealer, is shocked to find his gallery has been burgled. However, this isn’t an ordinary robbery: the thieves have ignored priceless maps and have only taken Bunting’s World Map. All of a sudden, Nick is thrown into a four-hundred-year religious mystery where strange people around him will do anything for this map … even kill for it. Nick has to figure out why, before it’s too late.

Thrilling and steeped in dark history, The Bunting Quest is inspired by a real-life map that displays the Australian coastline many years before its ‘discovery’. Here, two compelling adventures, set hundreds of years apart, come together in this breathtaking page-turner that reveals mankind’s greatest secret.

My Take

My main interest in this novel was generated by the links in the plot to the history of Western Australia. The author tells readers in a note in the last pages that the story is based partly on actual people and events, and partly on fiction.

It seems quite logical that the early European explorers of the islands to the north of Australia should also have explored the coast of Western Australia.  I prefer to think about deliberate exploration rather than espouse to just "blown off course". That they didn't continue on to establishing settlements was more likely due to the arid nature of the land as well as the fact that it seemed so sparsely populated, and had little to offer trading nations.

Other reviewers have commented on the plot similarities between this novel and those of Dan Brown. There is a certain amount of plausibility to the plot, but perhaps credibility is a little stretched by the idea of a quest to bury an object that could overturn the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless an interesting read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Steven Marcuson was born 1959 and raised in Glasgow, Scotland into a small but vibrant Jewish community. He received a BSc from Strathclyde University in Glasgow, majoring in textiles and marketing. Prior to immigrating to Australia in 1983, he volunteered for a year on a kibbutz in Israel and backpacked extensively throughout Europe, working as he went. In late 1983 he established Trowbridge Gallery, an antique print and map gallery in Perth which he runs to this day. That same year he met Miriam and together they have three children, two now living in Melbourne and one at home. His interests include playing blues and jazz guitar, reading books on history and historical literature and spending time with his family. You can check out his website here.

5 June 2017

Review: DAINTREE, Annie Seaton

  • first published 2016, Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-74353-569-1
  • 324 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)

The Daintree breeds survivors, those who can weather the storms, heat and floods that come hand-in-hand with its beauty. Doctor Emma Porter is one such survivor, dedicated to her patients and to preserving this precious land where she has made a home.

Emma's quiet life is disrupted when Doctor Jeremy Langford starts working at the hospital, bringing back painful memories: Jeremy was her first love and embodies all that she left behind in Sydney. Jeremy has demons of his own, however, and the tight-knit community of Dalrymple seems to promise the peace he has been looking for.

But while some come to the Daintree to find shelter, others are here to exploit the rainforest's riches. And they will stop at nothing to get their hands on its bounty.

My Take

Annie Seaton's website says that she writes "Women's Fiction in Australian landscapes." The Australian Women's Weekly calls it an action and romance packed thriller, that "raises the bar in rural fiction." I agree with these thoughts.

Certainly Annie Seaton's recognition of some of the current social and ecological issues in Australian life today comes through loud and clear. Her writing is tight and concise.

Perhaps the direction this story will take is signalled too obviously right from the beginning, but I found it a satisfying enough read, with believable characters and scenarios. It is not a murder mystery but there are mysteries to be solved.

My rating: 4.4

About the author.
Annie Seaton lives near the beach on the east coast of Australia. She is fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing and has been delighted to discover that readers love reading her stories as much as she loves writing them. Her career and studies have spanned the education sector for most of her working life, with the completion of a Masters Degree in Education, and working as an academic research librarian, a high school principal and a university tutor until she took up a full-time writing career.
Recently her genre of choice is women's fiction and you can read of the topical human and social issues that she explores in Kakadu Sunset and Daintree.
Annie gains inspiration from the natural beauty of landscapes and is passionate about raising awareness of the need to preserve the pristine areas that surround us. See more

4 June 2017

What I read in May 2017

A good month, but just a few less books
  1. 4.5, INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE, Ray Berard New Zealand writer
  2. 4.8, WHY DID YOU LIE? Yrsa Sigurdadottir   Winner of the Petrona Award   
  3. 4.4, A JARFUL OF ANGELS, Babs Horton
  4. 4.7, YOU WILL KNOW ME, Megan Abbott 
  5. 4.5, DICTATOR, Robert Harris    audio book
  6. 4.6, THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, Liane Moriarty  Australian author
  7. 4.5, TELL THE TRUTH, SHAME THE DEVIL, Melina Marchetta    Australian author
 My pick of the month is WHY DID YOU LIE? by Yrsa Sigurdadottir
A journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide.
An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the states to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing.
Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea.
They have one thing in common: they all lied.
And someone is determined to punish them...

See what others have recommended

Review: EARTHLY REMAINS, Donna Leon

  • published by Penguin Random House UK 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-78-515137-8
  • 308 pages
  • #26 in the Guido Brunetti series

During the interrogation of an entitled, arrogant man suspected of giving drugs to a young girl who then died, Commissario Guido Brunetti acts rashly, doing something he will quickly come to regret. In the aftermath, he begins to doubt his career choices and realises that he needs a break from the stifling problems of his work.

Granted leave from the Questura, Brunetti is shipped off by his wife, Paola, to a villa owned by a wealthy relative on Sant'Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the Venetian laguna. There, he intends to pass his days rowing, and his nights reading Pliny's Natural History.

The recuperative stay goes according to plan and Brunetti is finally able to relax, until Davide Casati, the caretaker of the house, goes missing following a sudden storm. Nobody can find him - not his daughter, not his friends, and not the woman he'd been secretly visiting. Now, Brunetti feels compelled to investigate, to set aside his holiday and discover what happened to the man who had recently become his friend.

In Earthly Remains, Donna Leon shows Venice through an insider's eyes.From family meals and vaporetti rides to the never-ending influx of tourists and suffocating political corruption, the details and rhythms of everyday Venetian life are at the core of this thrilling novel, and of the terrible crime at its heart.

My Take

Underlying the crimes committed in this novel, is an in-depth look at the problems plaguing modern day Venice. Davide Casati is haunted by the role he has played in compromising the ecology of Venice, in causing the death of his bees, and perhaps even the death of his wife.

Out rowing with Casati every day while he is taking recuperative leave Guido Brunetti becomes aware of the Casati's troubled mind, and when Casati is found drowned he decides to find out what happened in his past.

Once again Donna Leon takes an issue that is troubling modern Venice,embeds some crime fiction in it, and then makes us think about the bigger picture, issues that make even have global implications.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

1 June 2017

Pick of the Month for May 2017

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2017
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 2017, 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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