31 July 2017

Review: MASK WARS aka CRIME ON THE FENS, Joy Ellis

  • this edition first published in Great Britain 2010, MPG Books Group
  • ISBN 978-0-7090-9021-2
  • source: my local library
  • 223 pages
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)


THE DETECTIVE DI Nikki Galena: A police detective with nothing left to lose, she's seen a girl die in her arms, and her daughter will never leave the hospital again. She's got tough on the criminals she believes did this to her. Too tough. And now she's been given one final warning: make it work with her new sergeant, DS Joseph Easter, or she's out.

HER PARTNER DS Joseph Easter is the handsome squeaky-clean new member of the team. But his nickname "Holy Joe" belies his former life as a soldier. He has an estranged daughter who blames him for everything that went wrong with their family.

THEIR ADVERSARY is a ruthless man who holds DI Galena responsible for his terrible disfigurement.

The town is being terrorised by gangs of violent thugs, all wearing identical hideous masks. Then a talented young female student goes missing on the marsh and Nikki and Joseph find themselves joining forces with a master criminal in their efforts to save her. They need to look behind the masks, but when they do, they find something more sinister and deadly than they ever expected . . .
This is an exciting and absorbing crime thriller that you won't be able to put down from start to thrilling finish

THE SETTING The Lincolnshire Fens: great open skies brood over marshes, farmland, and nature reserves. It is not easy terrain for the Fenland Constabulary to police, due to the distances between some of the remote Fen villages, the dangerous and often misty lanes, and the poor telephone coverage. There are still villages where the oldest residents have never set foot outside their own farmland and a visit to the nearest town is a major event. But it has a strange airy beauty to it, and above it all are the biggest skies you've ever seen.

My Take

These days it is very unusual for me to complete reading a book in one sitting, but I did!

I was interested in the setting: the last novel I read was also set in the Fens, but the two settings could not be more different. This one is a police procedural with a Detective Inspector being given a "last chance". She likes to work alone, is driven by a need to rid the streets of drug pushers. Her newly assigned DS has also been given a last chance to prove himself. A new posting, and 4 weeks to prove they can hit it off. Needless to say they both have "history" and a few problems.

One thing I do know is that this won't be the only title in this series that I will read.

I like the two main characters and also their assistants who make up the rest of their supposedly dysfunctional team. Two cases get tackled in this novel: a rash of robberies and assaults being carried out by gangs wearing hideous masks, and a huge drug shipment coming into a nearby port in the Wash.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Joy Ellis grew up in Kent but moved to London when she won an apprenticeship with the prestigious Mayfair flower shop, Constance Spry Ltd.
Many years later, having run her own florist shop in Weybridge, Ellis took part in a writers workshop in Greece and was encouraged by her tutor, Sue Townsend to begin writing seriously. She now lives in the Lincolnshire Fens with her partner Jacqueline and their Springer spaniels, Woody and Alfie. 

Review: THE CHALK PIT, Elly Griffiths

  • first published in Great Britain 2017
  • source: my local library
  • #9 in the Ruth Galloway series
  • ISBN 978-1-78429-680-5
  • 362 pages
Synopsis (author)

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they were recently buried, DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands. The boiling might have been just a medieval curiosity – now it suggests a much more sinister purpose.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

My Take

Yet another excellent read in the Ruth Galloway series. I should emphasise that this is a continuing series: the characters grow and age and their relationships change and develop. And so my recommendation to readers is that you try to read the books in order.

here is the list from Fantastic Fiction
1. The Crossing Places (2009)
2. The Janus Stone (2010)
3. The House at Sea's End (2011)
4. A Room Full of Bones (2011)
4.5. Ruth's First Christmas Tree (2012)
5. A Dying Fall (2012)
6. The Outcast Dead (2014)
7. The Ghost Fields (2015)
8. The Woman in Blue (2016)
9. The Chalk Pit (2017)
10. The Dark Angel (2018)

In 2016 Elly Griffiths was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library for services to crime fiction and I think it is true to say that by having a forensic archaeologist as the central character she has broken new ground in the genre.  Dr. Ruth Galloway is both clever and intuitive. There are a range of characters both in the police and among their relatives and friends who are very well drawn and engaging.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
4.8, DYING FALL- audio book
4.5, THE GHOST FIELDS, Elly Griffiths - audio book
4.7, THE OUTCAST DEAD, Elly Griffiths - audio

27 July 2017

Review: A STRAITS SETTLEMENT, Brian Stoddart

  • this edition published by Crime Wave Press 2016
  • #3 in the Le Fanu series
  • ISBN 978-988-14584-8-3
  • 265 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

In the third instalment of the Le Fanu Mystery series, the intrepid superintendent is promoted to Inspector-General of Police in 1920s Madras, which proves to be more boring than he had envisaged.

Instead of pushing papers across his desk, Le Fanu focuses on the disappearance of a senior Indian Civil Service officer and an apparently unrelated murder. As the two incidents intertwine, the world weary detective is drawn into the worlds of indentured labor recruitment and antiquities theft..

But as bureaucratic politics make his position vulnerable, his superiors send the intrepid policeman across the Bay of Bengal to pursue the cases in the Straits Settlements. Le Fanu immediately becomes embroiled in the activities of secret societies and the British colonial intelligence services.

The appearance of a mysterious Chinese woman renders his professional life uncertain as he wonders anew about the British imperial future.

My Take

I think it helped, this being #3 in this series, that I had already read the first two, so that I was familiar with many of the characters that occur in the earlier books.

What I particularly like about these stories is the authentic feel to the historical setting, which is, rather vaguely, Madras in the 1920s. The Indian Civil Service is losing its grip because of the independence movement and the protests about Imperialism. Le Fanu has risen to the level of Inspector-General of Police mainly because Major Jepson has taken his sick wife back to England. Le Fanu expects to job to be a lot more interesting than it is, but it does bring status with it.

Nevertheless he jumps at the chance to do some real investigation, rather than his usual pen pushing, and the trail eventually leads him to the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, and with that the tantalising offer of a new job.

Stoddart has left himself plenty of room for #4.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

23 July 2017

Review: AFTER THE CRASH, Michel Bussi

  • this edition first published in Great Britain 2015 by Orion Publishing Group
  • ISBN 978-0-297-87142-2
  • translated from French by Sam Taylor
  • 386 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Good Reads)

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Credule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl's hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything - then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone..

My take

A private investigator, Credule Grand-Duc, is employed by the richer of the two families, the de Carvilles, to continue to investigate the identity of the baby girl for 18 years,with continual financial support, despite the fact that a court has given the baby into the care of the other family.

We see the investigation through his eyes, through the journal in which he has summarised the 18 year investigation for the benefit, he says, primarily of the baby girl who has now had her 18th birthday. The journal tells a meandering story during which little conclusive evidence is revealed.
    In this notebook I have reviewed all the clues, all the leads, all the theories I have found in eighteen years of investigation. It is all here, in these hundred or so pages. If you have read them carefully, you will now know as much as I do. Perhaps you will be more perceptive than me? Perhaps you will find something I have missed? The key to the mystery, if one exists. Perhaps.. 
    For me, it is over.
The plot made intriguing reading with Grand-Duc's investigation constantly posing little problems, particularly with what the de Carville family hoped to get out of supporting the ongoing investigation. Is there a hidden agenda?

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

20 July 2017

Review: THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, Michael Robotham

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1127 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (July 11, 2017)
  • Publication Date: July 11, 2017
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

Everyone has an idea of what their perfect life is. For Agatha, it's Meghan Shaughnessy's.

These two women from vastly different backgrounds have one thing in common - a dangerous secret that could destroy everything they hold dear.

Both will risk everything to hide the truth, but their worlds are about to collide in a shocking act that cannot be undone.

My Take:

Here is another cracker from Australian author Michael Robotham.

Two women, Meg and Agatha, living in suburban London, are joined by a bond of pregnancy. They will even give birth within days. But Agatha knows much more about Meg than vice versa. And they come from very different backgrounds and life experiences. They are the narrators of the story and so we often get two versions of the same events.

Initially I felt very critical of the apparent thin-ness of the "official" blurb, but then in writing this "review" I became very aware of how difficult it is to talk about the story without revealing too much. (I hope you don't feel that I've told you too much as it is).

So, let me just recommend the book to you. It is a stand-alone, told through excellent character development, and with mounting suspense and plot twists as the book progresses. Underpinning everything is a commentary on modern living.

Michael Robotham remains at the top of my list of modern Aussie crime fiction authors.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read
SHATTER (audio)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger

About the Author

Michael Robotham is a former investigative journalist whose psychological thrillers have been translated into twenty-three languages. In 2015 he won the prestigious UK Gold Dagger for his novel Life or Death, which was also shortlisted for the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. Michael has twice won a Ned Kelly Award for Australia's best crime novel for Lost in 2015 and Shatter in 2008. He has also twice been shortlisted for the CWA UK Steel Dagger in 2007 for The Night Ferry and 2008 with Shatter. He lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.

18 July 2017

Review: SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE, Sarah Schmidt

  • this edition published by Hachette Australia in 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-3688-2
  • source: my local library
  • 325 pages
Synopsis (Hachette Australia)

'He was still bleeding. I yelled, "Someone's killed Father."

I breathed in kerosene air, licked the thickness from my teeth. The clock on the mantel ticked ticked. I looked at Father, the way hands clutched to thighs, the way the little gold ring on his pinky finger sat like a sun. I gave him that ring for his birthday when I no longer wanted it. "Daddy," I had said. "I'm giving this to you because I love you." He had smiled and kissed my forehead.

A long time ago now.'
On 4 August 1892 Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. During the inquest into the deaths, Lizzie Borden was arrested and charged with the murder of her father and her stepmother.

Through the eyes of Lizzie's sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, the enigmatic stranger Benjamin and the beguiling Lizzie herself, we return to what happened that day in Fall River.

Lizzie Borden took an axe. Or did she?

My Take

This is a work of fiction based on true events, and I was never quite sure how fictionalised everything was.The evidence about the events that led to the murder Andrew and Abby Borden is presented by several narrators, looking for reasons for the murders.

We are told in the cover blurb that Lizzie Borden was tried and found innocent, and that no one was ever convicted of the crime. The novel presents a number of possible scenarios but I think you are left in no doubt at the end of the author's conclusion.

Nevertheless it is a book that keeps you reading, and it presents an analysis of the main characters.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
After completing a Bachelor of Arts (Professional writing and editing), a Master of Arts (Creative Writing), and a Graduate Diploma of Information Management, Sarah currently works as a Reading & Literacy Coordinator (read: a fancy librarian) at a regional public library. She lives in Melbourne with her partner and daughter. See What I Have Done is her first novel.

12 July 2017

Review: BIG LITTLE LIES, Liane Moriarty

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The internationally bestselling author turns her unique gaze on the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves every day and what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

'I guess it started with the mothers.'
'It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.'
'I'll tell you exactly why it happened.'

Pirriwee Public's annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead. Was it murder, a tragic accident... or something else entirely?

Big Little Lies is a funny, heartbreaking, challenging story of ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and and schoolyard politics.

'Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.'

Winner of the ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year

My Take

When your child goes off to kindy, it isn't just him or her that joins a new world. The parent(s) join a new world too, populated by novices like themselves, and also by other parents who have confidence that has come from experience generated by older children. And most are unprepared for the rivalry that will be generated as children are classified and their performance compared with that of others. It is a world of stresses, complicated by the fact that most families are hiding things they don't necessarily want to share.

But nothing that I experienced back in those kindy days led to the death of one of the other parents. This novel is full though of very believable scenarios and I enjoyed every minute of it. The natural audience for this book is probably women who have "been there", and I guarantee that it will stir memories.

A certain amount of tension is created by the fact that for most of the novel the reader does not know who is going to die, and why. Is the person who caused the death going to escape detection? After the death no-one wants to talk.

Liane Moriarty is an Australian author to watch,

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

Novels to look for (list from Fantastic Fiction)
Three Wishes (2003)
The Last Anniversary (2005)
What Alice Forgot (2010)
The Hypnotist's Love Story (2012)
The Husband's Secret (2013)
Big Little Lies (2014)
     aka Little Lies
Truly Madly Guilty (2016)

9 July 2017

Review: THE THIRST, Jo Nesbo

  • Format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3361 KB
  • Print Length: 538 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (April 20, 2017)
  • Publication Date: April 20, 2017
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01LXW31Q5
  • series: Harry Hole #11
Synopsis: Amazon


A woman is found murdered after an internet date. The marks left on her body show the police that they are dealing with a particularly vicious killer.

Under pressure from the media to find the murderer, the force know there’s only one man for the job. But Harry Hole is reluctant to return to the place that almost took everything from him. Until he starts to suspect a connection between this killing and his one failed case.

When another victim is found, Harry realises he will need to put everything on the line if he’s to finally catch the one who got away.

My Take

Harry Hole is as content as he's ever been. He is married, working as a lecturer at the Police Academy, even using his previous cases as examples for his students. He has promised his wife Rakel that he will never return to active policing. And his stepson Oleg has joined up.

But amongst the police force his reputation is legendary as the one who never lets a killer get away, even putting his own life on the line. And now murders are happening and the police think they know who is responsible - someone who did escape from Harry four years earlier.

Police Chief Mikael Bellman wants to be the Minster for Justice and a quick resolution to this nasty case is just what is needed. He needs Harry to come back, even though Harry is the bane of his life.

This is a gritty noir read, not for the squeamish.  It involves a vampirist, as well as being a long novel in three stages. Just when you think it is finished you realise that your Kindle is saying there is still 2 hours of reading left and Harry points out there are still some loose ends.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

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

8 July 2017

Review: STORMY COVE, Bernadette Calonego - audio book

Synopsis (Amazon)

As a globe-trotting freelance photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lori Finning has seen just about everything. But when she lands an assignment on the barren, snow-swept island of Newfoundland, she finds herself in harsh and unfamiliar territory.

During the long, dreary winters in the isolated fishing community of Stormy Cove, gossiping is the primary pastime. So Lori is surprised when she learns of a crime the locals have spent twenty years not talking about: the strange, unsolved murder of a teenage girl. As she delves deeper into the village's past, she'll discover dark family secrets, unexplained crimes, and an undeniable attraction to Noah, a taciturn local fisherman who just might hold all the answers.

My Take

An intriguing and rather complicated plot with lots of plot lines. Lori Finning's assignment to create a coffee table record of life in a remote Canadian fishing village turns into a murder mystery and an investigation of missing women. Rather inevitably it also has a romance strand, and also some danger to Lori herself.

Nicole Zanzarella does a good job with the narration, producing a number of voices to differentiate different characters.

The author also uses not only first voice narration but also some segments when a person is being interviewed about his/her impressions of the main characters in the story. This made for challenging listening.

My rating:4.2
About the author
Bernadette Calonego was born in Switzerland and grew up on the shores of Lake Lucerne. She was just eleven years old when she published her first story, in a Swiss newspaper. She went on to earn a teaching degree from the University of Fribourg, which she put to good use in England and Switzerland before switching gears to become a journalist. After several years working with the Reuters news agency and a series of German-language newspapers, she moved to Canada and began writing fiction. Stormy Cove is her fourth novel. As a foreign correspondent, she has published stories in Vogue, GEO, and SZ Magazin. She splits her time between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Newfoundland. 

3 July 2017

Review: Cherringham (1-3) - Cosy Crime Series Compilation, Matthew Costello, Neil Richards - audio book

Synopsis ( audible)

Jack's a retired ex-cop from New York, seeking the simple life in Cherringham. Sarah's a Web designer who's moved back to the village find herself. But their lives are anything but quiet as the two team up to solve Cherringham's criminal mysteries.

This compilation contains episodes 1 - 3: MURDER ON THAMES, MYSTERY AT THE MANOR and MURDER BY MOONLIGHT.

Here Jack and Sarah investigate a suicide in the River Thames - or was it murder? They investigate an "accidental" fire with deadly consequences, and they nab the culprit behind the Rotary Club choir poisoning.

Cherringham is a series à la Charles Dickens, with a new mystery thriller released each month. Set in the sleepy English village of Cherringham, the detective series brings together an unlikely sleuthing duo: English web designer Sarah and American ex-cop Jack. Thrilling and deadly - but with a spot of tea - it's like Rosamunde Pilcher meets Inspector Barnaby. Each of the self-contained episodes is a quick listen for the morning commute, while waiting for the doctor, or when curling up with a hot cuppa.

My Take

This is not very demanding listening, really a cozy in the real sense of the word. The events are almost everyday occurrences, the sort of scenarios the listening audience might find themselves in. The detective duo are interesting enough: a retired NYP detective and a housewife who is also a single mum. Each episode is 2-3 hours, so achievable with a longish return journey. There is not to think about in each scenario, but not a lot of mystery either. 

I think the character development of the detectives is quite well done, and Neil Dudgeon does a  good job of the narration.

My rating: 4.1

About the authors
Co-authors Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US), have been writing together since the mid 90's, creating content and working on projects for the BBC, Disney Channel, Sony, ABC, Eidos, and Nintendo to name but a few. Their transatlantic collaboration has underpinned scores of TV drama scripts, computer games, radio shows, and - most recently - the successful crime fiction series Cherringham.

The narrator of the audiobook, Neil Dudgeon, has been in many British television programmes including the roles of "DCI John Barnaby" in "Midsomer Murders" and "Jim Riley" in "The Life of Riley".  

What I read in June 2017

I have really slowed down in the last month or two, but I've also read some really good crime fiction.
My pick of the month is A GREAT RECKONING by Louise Penny
  1. 4.8, EARTHLY REMAINS, Donna Leon
  2. 4.4, DAINTREE, Annie Seaton
  3. 4.4, THE BUNTING QUEST, Steven Marcuson 
  4. 4.7, RACING THE DEVIL, Charles Todd
  5. 5.0, A GREAT RECKONING, Louise Penny 
  6. 4.8, WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE, Gunnar Staaleson  
See what others have read in the last month

1 July 2017

Review: LET THE DEAD SPEAK, Jane Casey

  • this edition published by Harper Collins UK 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-00-814899-7
  • 390 pages
  • #7 in the Maeve Kerrigan series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis ( Pan Macmillan US)

When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds her mother missing, the house covered in blood. Everything points to murder, except for one thing: there’s no sign of the body.

London detective Maeve Kerrigan and the homicide team turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter and Chloe Emery definitely have something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighborhood’s favorite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat, or is there more behind the charismatic façade?

As a body fails to materialize, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of testimonies and accusations. Who is lying, and who is not? And soon Maeve starts to realize that not only will the answer lead to Kate Emery, but more lives may hang in the balance.

With Let the Dead Speak, Jane Casey returns with another taut, richly drawn novel that will grip readers from the opening pages to the stunning conclusion.

My Take:

I have only read the first title in this series, so it was nice to re-acquaint myself with Maeve Kerrigan, recently made a DS. Obviously quite a lot has happened in her life in the intervening years.

Something appears to have happened to Kate Emery and the police decide to treat it as a murder although there is no body. This allows them to call on more resources than if they were just investigating a missing person. However forensic experts feel that the story told by the blodd spatters in Kate's house don't add up. Kate has left behind her wallet, her credit card, and to all intents and purposes this points to an abduction.

Chloe then disappears with the neighbour's daughter and fears are held for their safety. After a couple of days a traumatised Bethany returns without Chloe. Kerrigan's investigation ramps up.

The plot explores the relationships within an investigative team, and the roles played by systematic following of procedure, and intuitive leaps.

My Rating: 4.5

I've also read

Pick of the month for June 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 June 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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