25 September 2018

Review: DARK WATER, Robert Bryndza

  • this edition published by Sphere in 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-7148-6
  • 352 pages
  • #3 in the Erika Foster series
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)

Beneath the water the body sank rapidly.  She would lie still and undisturbed for many years but above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.

When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.

The remains are quickly identified as seven-year-old Jessica Collins.  The missing girl who made headline news when she vanished twenty-six years ago.

As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she discovers a family harbouring secrets, a detective plagued by her failure to find Jessica, and the mysterious death of a man living by the quarry.

Is the suspect someone close to home? Someone doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.

My Take

Twenty six years after she disappeared on her way to a friend's birthday party only a few houses away from home Jessica Collins' skeleton is discovered in a flooded quarry only a mile from her home. The quarry had been searched without success during the search for Jessica. Eventually the police charged a paedophile living nearby but he had an alibi and successfully sued the police for damages. The case remained unsolved and the detective in charge had a breakdown and took early retirement.

Detective Erika Foster determines that she will solve this case once the skeleton is identified, but is advised by her seniors that this is a poisoned chalice. It is a cold case that could really end up going nowhere. She is determined to investigate every possible avenue, going right back to the beginning.

Once she interviews what remains of Jessica's family, someone else begins to watch Erika and to make sure her investigation fails.

Some very interesting characters. Most readable.

I think I'll be looking for another in this series.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
My books have sold over 2.5 million copies, and have been translated into 28 languages. In addition to writing crime fiction, I have published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. I am British and live in Slovakia.

23 September 2018

Review: ODD CHILD OUT, Gilly Macmillan

  • this edition published by littlebrown.co.uk 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-349-41294-8
  • 382 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Two best friends. One terrible event.

Abdi Mahal and Noah Sadler have been inseparable since they met. They've stuck together, even when their peers have excluded them. But when a horrifying incident leaves Noah in a coma and fighting for his life, Abdi is too traumatised to say anything about what happened.

DI Jim Clemo, freshly returned to work after an enforced leave of absence, is tasked to investigate. And against a backdrop of a city where racial tensions are running high, he must determine what really happened to drive two teenage boys into a situation so desperate.

Everything rests on one of the boys talking.

But one can't talk.

And one won't.

My take

This is the second novel featuring DI Jim Clemo but the first I've read.

It is set in the author's home city of Bristol.

The action of the novel takes place over the period of a week and the story is told from several points of view with often only the content or tone to indicate who the narrator is.

Abdi and Noah are 15 year olds who have been inseparable since they began secondary school. Noah has health issues and has spent a lot of time in hospital. His father is a photographer who spends a lot of time away. Abdi is Somali, his father is a taxi driver, his mother does not speak English, and his sister is at tertiary college. Noah's mother is not convinced his friendship with Abdi is the best he can do, but Noah is very dependent on him.

On the night when the story starts Noah's father has a photographic exhibition which both boys attend. Some of the photographs are of Somalian refugee camps and Abdi finds them upsetting.  After they get back to Noah's place the boys go out, at Noah's instigation, unknown to his parents, and this sets off a train of events with dreadful consequences.

This novel has a number of thought provoking themes: relationships in the work place, journalists who use events to enhance their own careers, the effects of ill health on families and those who are afflicted, the search by teenagers for identity and rites of passage.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Gilly Macmillan grew up in Wiltshire, and was pleasantly surprised when her family moved to California when she was a teenager. She studied History of Art at Bristol University before doing an MA in Modern British Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.  Her career path has included working at the Burlington Magazine, the Hayward Gallery and teaching photography at a sixth-form college in Swindon. Her favourite job was working in a café opposite Keplers bookshop in Menlo Park, CA. She currently lives in Bristol with her husband Julian and their three children.

20 September 2018

Review: BRING ME BACK, B. A. Paris

Synopsis (publisher)

Finn and Layla: young and in love, their whole lives ahead of them. Driving back from a holiday in France one night, Finn pulls in to a service station, leaving Layla alone in the car. When he returns, minutes later, Layla has vanished, never to be seen again. That’s the story Finn tells the police. It’s the truth but not the whole truth.

Twelve years later, Finn has built a new life with Ellen, Layla’s sister, when he receives a phone call. Someone has seen Layla. But is it her or someone pretending to be her? If it is her, what does she want? And what does she know about the night she disappeared?

My Take

An intriguing plot with plenty of mystery for the reader to work on.

Twelve years ago Layla disappeared after an argument with Finn on the way back from a holiday in France. But what Finn told the police about what happened that night was not the entire truth. The story then jumps from the night of the argument in 2006 to the current time in 2018.

In the chapters in Part One, Finn is the narrator, and the chapters switch rhythmically between "Now" and "Before". Now it appears that Layla may have returned, confirmed by a sighting, a trail of Russian dolls, and text messages on Finn's phone. At first Finn is not sure who is sending the text messages and begins to think they must be from Layla. We always know whose voice it is, but just to make sure we don't get lost, each chapter heading shows the narrator's name.

Part Two introduces Layla's voice in alternate chapters, with Finn's thoughts in the other chapters.

It is an interesting structure but towards 250 pages I began to get impatient for the plot to conclude.
My brain was working overtime to rationalise the plot strands, to come up with a scenario that fitted all strands. When I finally got to the end, I discovered I was partly right and partly not. I guess that is the sign of a good story.

The other thing that the reader has to take into account is the significance of the title, something we often neglect. This was a title with acute meaning.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, B. A. Paris, grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked in finance and as a teacher. She has recently moved back to England.

17 September 2018

Review: THE BURNING CHAMBERS, Kate Mosse

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 4829 KB
  • Print Length: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Mantle (May 8, 2018)
  • Publication Date: May 8, 2018
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0774FM62G 
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Bringing 16th century Languedoc vividly to life, Kate Mosse's The Burning Chambers is a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets; of war and adventure, conspiracies and divided loyalties....

Carcassonne, 1562: 19-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father's bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: "She Knows That You Live". But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou's help if he is to get out of La Cite alive.

Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further. Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power....

My Take

Once again I am on the outskirts of crime fiction. This is more a historical novel, but there is plenty of mystery.
I have seen several times that it is also the beginning of a series of 4 books "with the next three due out in 2020, 2022 and 2024".

Set in France in 1562 at the start of the Wars of Religion, it begins with a Prologue set in Franschhoek South Africa in 1862, 300 years after the main action of the book. Thus setting up a mystery for the scope of the remainder of the series.

Within the major canvas of the wars which involved Catholics vs Huguenots is this story of the struggles within one Toulouse family, surely one mirrored all over France as Church and State struggled for power.

Central to the story is the true identity of one of the characters.

Very readable.

My rating: 4.4


 I have also read
4.4, THE TAXIDERMIST'S DAUGHTER

About the author
Kate Mosse is an international bestselling author with sales of more than five million copies in 38 languages. Her fiction includes the novels Labyrinth (2005), Sepulchre (2007), The Winter Ghosts (2009), Citadel (2012), The Taxidermist's Daughter (2014), and The Burning Chambers (2018), as well as an acclaimed collection of short stories, The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales (2013). Kate is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of the Women's Prize for Fiction and in June 2013, was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for services to literature. She lives in Sussex. 

16 September 2018

Review: CAT O'NINE TALES, Jeffrey Archer - audio book

Synopsis (Audible.com)

Cat O' Nine Tales is the sixth collection of irresistible short stories from this master storyteller. These 12 yarns are so satisfying because they are ingeniously plotted, include richly drawn characters, and have deliciously unexpected conclusions. They feature the mad, the bad, and the dangerous to know, as well as some more poignant and telling characters.

Many of these stories came to Archer while he was incarcerated for two years in five different prisons, and so they have a prison theme. Others were inspired after he was released. All in all, they confirm his position as one of the best storytellers alive.

My take

Another impressive set of short stories, a couple really almost novellas.
Beautifully and cleverly narrated.
I really am hooked on Archer's short stories.

The list of stories
    The Man who Robbed his own Post Office
    Maestro
    Don’t Drink the Water
    It Can’t Be October Already
    The Red King
    The Wisdom of Solomon
    Know What I Mean?
    Charity Begins at Home
    The Alibi
    A Greek Tragedy
    The Commissioner
    In The Eye of the Beholder

They range from a tale of ‘The Man Who Robbed His Own Post Office’, to the story of a company chairman who tried to poison his wife while on a trip to St Petersburg – both with unexpected consequences. In another, ‘Maestro’, an Italian restaurateur ends up in jail, unable to explain to the tax man how he can own a yacht, a Ferrari and a home in Florence, while only declaring a profit of £70,000 a year.

‘The Red King’ is a tale about a con man who discovers that an English Lord requires one more chess piece to complete a set that would be worth a fortune. In another tale of deception, ‘The Commissioner’, a Bombay con artist ends up in the morgue, after he uses the police chief as bait in his latest scam. ‘The Alibi’ reveals how a convict manages to remove an old enemy while he’s locked up in jail, and then set up two prison officers as his alibi. In total contrast is the accountant, who, in ‘Charity Begins at Home’, realises he has achieved nothing in his life, and sets out to make a fortune before he retires.

And then there is Archer’s favourite, which he came across after leaving prison, ‘In the Eye of the Beholder’, where a handsome premier division footballer falls in love with a 20-stone woman … who just happens to be the ninth richest woman in Italy. -
this extract from Archer's website.

My rating: 4.6

I've also reviewed
A TWIST IN THE TALE
4.5, ONLY TIME WILL TELL- #1 Clifton series
4.7, TELL TALE 

9 September 2018

Review: THE SHROUDED PATH, Sarah Ward

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 481 KB
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (September 4, 2018)
  • Publication Date: September 4, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07D3F8BZT
  • #4 in the Connie Childs series
Synopsis (Amazon)

The past won't stay buried forever.

November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.

October, 2017: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: 'Find Valerie.' Mina's elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?

DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs' old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home.

My Take

Susan definitely saw 6 girls enter the tunnel and then only 5 emerged at the other end. She walked through the tunnel in trepidation but did not find the missing girl. For her it simply confirmed the sinister and evil nature of the place. After that she avoided going near the tunnel and and years passed, then decades.

Six decades later Mina's mother Hilary is hospitalised with an aggressive cancer. She has a raging temperature which doesn't seem to respond to treatment. Hilary becomes frightened when she receives a visit from someone from her past. She is unable to explain much to her daughter Mina about who this person is. At one stage she tells Mina that she killed Valerie, that Valerie is dead, and then asks Mina to find Valerie. When Hilary dies Mina becomes determined to find Valerie, but then the possibility arises that Hilary has been murdered.

This story is a real page turner. The story is full of mysteries and fascinating scenarios.

My rating: 4.8

Read another review at Clothes in Books

I've also read
4.8, IN BITTER CHILL
5.0, A DEADLY THAW  

7 September 2018

Review: THE PARIS SECRET, Karen Swan

 Synopsis (publisher)


Not every door should be opened . . .

With stunning locations and page-turning tension, The Paris Secret is an intense and gripping tale from bestselling author Karen Swan, perfect for fans of Santa Montefiore.

Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades.

High-flying fine art agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to assess these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and discover who has concealed them for so long.

Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren’t all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family’s affairs - but just what is he hiding?

My Take

Here is another of those novels that sits on the outer boundary of crime fiction. Certainly crimes have been committed, long ago, perhaps even the biggest crime against humanity of all. But this novel is about whether a family will benefit from the aftermath of those crimes, or is what has happened in the past, in this instance, not what it seems?

A family's lawyers are contacted by some burglars to say that they have found a long untouched apartment. A junior clerk not well versed in the protocols to be followed in this case contacts the family and events escalate from there. He has sent them the key to the wrong apartment.

The family is controlled by a matriarch, her husband long dead. He has left instructions that the apartment is not to be opened by the family until after his wife's death. So, the family employs a fine art agent to explore and document the contents of the apartment which appears to be scores of painting and other art treasures untouched for over 70 years.

The author says the story is based on a newspaper report about a similar situation that has occurred in Paris.

There is a lot of human interest in this story particularly about how the younger members of the family will cope with their family's history about which they have, until this point, known nothing.

Very readable.

My rating 4.4

About the author
Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and a puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her books include Christmas at Tiffany’s, Summer at Tiffany’s, The Perfect Present, Christmas in the Snow, Christmas on Primrose Hill, The Paris Secret and The Rome Affair.

2 September 2018

What I read in August 2018

A good month, some solid reads, including some short stories
  1. 4.5, THREE LITTLE LIES, Laura Marshall  
  2. 4.4, THEN SHE WAS GONE, Lisa Jewell
  3. 4.5, MOTIVES FOR MURDER, Martin Edwards (edit) - short stories
  4. 4.4, BANNERLESS, Carrie Vaughn 
  5. 4.6, DEAD HEAT, Peter Cotton - Australian author
  6. 4.6, I FOUND YOU, Lisa Jewell 
  7. 4.7, THE GATEKEEPER, Charles Todd
  8. 4.6, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, A. J. Finn
  9. 4.5, BODIES FROM THE LIBRARY, Tony Medawar (edit)- short stories
  10. 4.7, TELL TALE, Jeffrey Archer   - audio book, short stories
  11. 4.8, CARELESS LOVE, Peter Robinson 
  12. 4.5, NEED TO KNOW, Karen Cleveland  
My Pick of the month is Peter Robinson's latest CARELESS LOVE, Peter Robinson
See what others have chosen.

Review: THE CELTIC STONE, Nick Hawkes

Synopsis (publisher)

Chris Norman’s dreams of being a commercial pilot are shattered when he crashes his light plane in central Australia and is badly wounded. His life hangs in the balance, a balance that is swayed by the intervention of an Aboriginal man. He leaves Chris with a mysterious and incongruous legacy, a Celtic cross made of stone.

Partly blinded and in deep grief at no longer being able to fly, Chris finds his way to the inhospitable islands off the West Coast of Scotland where he seeks to unravel the secrets of the Celtic stone.

A blind Hebridean woman, shunned by many in the local community, becomes his reluctant ally, along with a seven year old boy who is as wild as the storm tossed seas that surround the islands.

Chris must overcome his grief to find answers to his questions. But the threat of murder lingers ....

My Take

This is one of those books that I place on the margins of crime fiction: but there is murder, there is mystery and there is crime.

I bought the book recently at a book launch held at our local library by the author to celebrate his third book.

There's something a little old fashioned about the plot and style of this book - it reminds me of some of the books I read decades ago. Having said that though, I am not denigrating it. I really enjoyed the story. At the book launch Nick Hawkes said he favoured happy endings and this novel certainly works towards that. It is a stand-alone and its characters are engaging and, as the Caleb Prize might warn you, there is an underlying theme about the meaning of life.

The setting ranges from South Australia to the Scottish Hebrides and they are places which the author appears to know and love.

If you are looking for some very readable, feel-good, crime fiction then this might just hit the spot for you.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Nick was a research scientist for twelve years before training as a pastor and leading a number of vibrant churches. He is currently Pastor of Rivergate Christian Community in South Australia.

Nick is a guest lecturer at two theological colleges, gives daily devotions on Christian radio and is a popular speaker both in Australia and abroad. He is an eloquent and passionate apologist for the Christian gospel

31 August 2018

Pick of the Month August 2018

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2018
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 August 2018, 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 -
e.g.
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.


30 August 2018

Review: NEED TO KNOW, Karen Cleveland

  • This edition published by Penguin Random House UK 2018
  • source: my local library
  • ISBN 978-0-5930-7960-7
  • 292 pages
  • Read an extract
Synopsis (publisher)

Perfect husband. Perfect father. Perfect liar?

Do you really know who you kissed goodbye this morning?

You get to work. Make a coffee. Turn on your computer.

Your task: break into a Russian criminal's laptop and find proof that he's concealing five deep-cover agents - seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

You’re in. Five faces stare back at you.

One of them is your husband.

From Amazon:
Vivian Miller. High-powered CIA analyst, happily married to a man she adores, mother of four beautiful children. Until the moment she makes a shocking discovery that makes her question everything she believes.
She thought she knew her husband inside and out. But now she wonders if it was all a lie. How far will she go to learn the truth?  And does she really . . .

My Take

This story was a real page-turner.

Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst who discovers that, for the last 10 years, her husband has been lying to her. She knows what she should do, but if she does, then he, or she, face years of imprisonment. The longer she delays, the deeper the quandary, and the worse the consequences for her family. And does the infiltration of US intelligence go much much deeper than anyone likes to admit?

Very engrossing read, perhaps not totally credible, but then the author has herself been a CIA analyst.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Karen Cleveland spent eight years as a CIA analyst, focusing on counter-terrorism and working briefly on rotation to the FBI. She has master's degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Harvard University. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two young sons.

28 August 2018

Review: CARELESS LOVE, Peter Robinson

  • this edition published in 2018 by Hodder & Stoughton UK
  • ISBN 978-1-444-78698-9
  • 340 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #25 in the Alan Banks series
  • author website
Synopsis (publisher)

A young local student has apparently committed suicide. Her body is found in an abandoned car on a lonely country road. She didn't own a car. Didn't even drive. How did she get there? Where did she die? Who moved her, and why?

Meanwhile a man in his sixties is found dead in a gully up on the wild moorland. He is wearing an expensive suit and carrying no identification. Post-mortem findings indicate he died from injuries sustained during the fall. But what was he doing up there? And why are there no signs of a car in the vicinity?

As the inconsistencies multiply and the mysteries proliferate, Annie's father's new partner, Zelda, comes up with a shocking piece of information that alerts Banks and Annie to the return of an old enemy in a new guise. This is someone who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants - and suddenly the stakes are raised and the hunt is on.
 
My Take

Very readable police procedural.

Bank's small team is called to deal with 2 deaths, one a young female uni student, and the other a financier in his 60s. At first the deaths do not seem to be murders but there is no way to explain how the bodies came to be where they are. The young woman appears to have died from a drug overdose but she is sitting in a car waiting to be towed away, and she wasn't there just days before. The man on the other hand is at the bottom of a gully on the moors with a broken neck. It seems unlikely that he walked there.

Then Banks is notified by a colleague of another dead girl and investigation seems to throw up links with the first girl.

I must admit that I came up with a scenario that connected everything up, about 100 pages bcfore the end, but I'm delighted to report that I was wrong!

I love the character development in these novels, both of Banks' team getting on with their lives, and the new characters who become part of the investigation.

There are references to plots from earlier titles in the series (hard to believe we are up to #25), and I should warn readers that the plots have taken a very different path to those of the television series.

My rating : 4.8


I've also read
FRIEND OF THE DEVIL (2007)
4.6, ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS (2008)
4.6, BAD BOY (2010)
4.9. BEFORE THE POISON
4.7, WATCHING THE DARK (2013)
4.3, CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION
4.8, ABATTOIR BLUES
4.4, THE PRICE OF LOVE
4.5, BEFORE THE POISON
4.6, SLEEPING IN THE GROUND

26 August 2018

Review: TELL TALE, Jeffrey Archer - audio book

  • source: my local library
  • Narrated by: Robert Bathurst
  • Length: 5 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 11-02-17
  • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio
Synopsis

Nearly a decade after his last volume of short stories was published, Archer returns with his eagerly awaited, brand-new collection, Tell Tale, giving us a fascinating, exciting and sometimes poignant insight into the people he has met, the stories he has come across and the countries he has visited during the past 10 years.

Find out what happens to the hapless young detective from Naples who travels to an Italian hillside town to find out ' Who Killed the Mayor?' and the pretentious schoolboy in A Road to Damascus', whose discovery of the origins of his father's wealth changes his life in the most profound way.

Revel in the stories of the 1930s woman who dares to challenge the men at her Ivy League university in 'A Gentleman and a Scholar' while another young woman who thumbs a lift gets more than she bargained for in 'A Wasted Hour'.

These wonderfully engaging and always refreshingly original tales prove not only why Archer has been compared by the critics to Dahl and Maugham but why he was described by The Times as probably the greatest storyteller of our age.

My Take

An excellent and intriguing set of short stories, some crime fiction amongst them. The opening 100 word story Unique gets the reader thinking, and the novella The Senior Vice President is wonderful.

Well read in this audio book version.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
A TWIST IN THE TALE
4.5, ONLY TIME WILL TELL- #1 Clifton series 

23 August 2018

Review: BODIES FROM THE LIBRARY: Lost Classic Stories, Tony Medawar (edit)

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 809 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Collins Crime Club (July 26, 2018)
  • Publication Date: July 26, 2018
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B077ZGVY1Z
Synopsis (Amazon)

This anthology of rare stories of crime and suspense brings together 16 rare tales by masters of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction for the first time in book form, including a newly discovered Agatha Christie crime story that has not been seen since 1922.

At a time when crime and thriller writing has once again overtaken the sales of general and literary fiction, Bodies from the Library unearths lost stories from the Golden Age, that period between the World Wars when detective fiction captured the public’s imagination and saw the emergence of some of the world’s cleverest and most popular storytellers.

This anthology brings together 16 forgotten tales that have either been published only once before – perhaps in a newspaper or rare magazine – or have never before appeared in print. From a previously unpublished 1917 script featuring Ernest Bramah’s blind detective Max Carrados, to early 1950s crime stories written for London’s Evening Standard by Cyril Hare, Freeman Wills Crofts and A.A. Milne, it spans five decades of writing by masters of the Golden Age.

Most anticipated of all are the contributions by women writers: the first detective story by Georgette Heyer, unseen since 1923; an unpublished story by Christianna Brand, creator of Nanny McPhee; and a dark tale by Agatha Christie published only in an Australian journal in 1922 during her ‘Grand Tour’ of the British Empire.

With other stories by Detection Club stalwarts Anthony Berkeley, H.C. Bailey, J.J. Connington, John Rhode and Nicholas Blake, plus Vincent Cornier, Leo Bruce, Roy Vickers and Arthur Upfield, this essential collection harks back to a time before forensic science – when murder was a complex business.

My Take

This is a fascinating collection of stories and plays by Golden Age authors, including the one that got Arthur Upfield into so much trouble, about the perfect murder, and an Agatha Christie story The Wife of the Kenite published in in an Australian Women's Magazine in 1922. This is the earliest published Christie story that I have read. (See my list here).

Most of the stories in the anthology have only been published once, or not previously. Some have worn well, others were more 19th century in their "feel". After each short story is an excellent short biography of the author. The introduction also gave an excellent summary of the Golden Age period. What a productive time it was!

The contents
Before Insulin, J.J. Connington
The Inverness Cape, Leo Bruce
Dark Waters, Freeman Wills Croft
Lincke's Great Case, Georgette Heyer
Calling James Braithwaite, Nicholas Blake - a play
The Elusive Bullet, John Rhode
The Euthanasia of Hilary's Aunt, Cyril Hare
The Girdle of Dreams, Vincent Cornier
The Fool and the Perfect Murder, Arthur Upfield
Bread Upon the Waters, A.A. Milne
The Man with the Twisted Thumb, Anthony Berkeley
The Rum Punch, Christianna Brand
Blind Man's Buff, Ernest Bramah - a play
Victoria Pumphrey, H.C. Bailey
The Starting-Handle Murder, Roy Vickers
The Wife of the Kenite, Agatha Christie

My rating: 4.5

About the Author

Editor Tony Medawar is a detective fiction expert and researcher with a penchant for tracking down rare stories. His other collections of previously uncollected stories include WHILE THE LIGHT LASTS (Agatha Christie), THE AVENGING CHANCE (Anthony Berkeley), THE SPOTTED CAT (Christianna Brand) and A SPOT OF FOLLY (Ruth Rendell).

20 August 2018

Review: THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, A. J. Finn

  • this edition published  by Harper Collins UK
  • ISBN 978-0-00-823416-4
  • 427 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

What did she see?

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

My Take

This book is layered like an onion, and we spend most of the reading time working out why Anna, a child psychiatrist, has become agoraphobic. Compounding her problems is the fact that she has become a heavy drinker (in the eyes of her neighbours a drunk) and she mixes her medication with alcohol with the result that she loses track of time, and seems to suffer from hallucinations. She watches her many neighbours through the lens of her camera but rarely takes photos.

Anna spends much of her time watching old black and white movies, mainly thrillers, but she often dozes off in them and then confuses their scripts with her actual life.

There are lots of mysteries to solve in this story. When Anna thinks she has seen a murder committed she calls the police but even the sympathetic detective and his colleague eventually suggest that she is deluded.

A very good read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

A. J. Finn is an American author, born in New York. Finn is a pseudonym for Daniel Mallory. He is an Oxford graduate and former book critic.
A. J. Finn has written for numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the Times Literary Supplement. Finn’s debut novel, The Woman in the Window, has been sold in thirty-nine territories worldwide and is in development as a major motion picture from Fox. A native of New York, Finn lived in England for ten years before returning to New York City.

18 August 2018

review: THE GATEKEEPER, Charles Todd - audio book

  • format: audio book from Audible
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge, Book 20
  • Length: 10 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 02-06-18
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: HarperAudio
Synopsis (Audible)

On a deserted road, late at night, Scotland Yard's Ian Rutledge encounters a frightened woman standing over a body, launching an inquiry that leads him into the lair of a stealthy killer and the dangerous recesses of his own memories in this 20th installment of the acclaimed New York Times best-selling series.

Hours after his sister's wedding, a restless Ian Rutledge drives aimlessly, haunted by the past, and narrowly misses a motorcar stopped in the middle of a desolate road. Standing beside the vehicle is a woman with blood on her hands and a dead man at her feet.

She swears she didn't kill Stephen Wentworth. A stranger stepped out in front of their motorcar, and without warning, fired a single shot before vanishing into the night. But there is no trace of him. And the shaken woman insists it all happened so quickly, she never saw the man's face.

Although he is a witness after the fact, Rutledge persuades the Yard to give him the inquiry, since he's on the scene. But is he seeking justice - or fleeing painful memories in London?

Wentworth was well-liked, yet his bitter family paint a malevolent portrait, calling him a murderer. But who did Wentworth kill? Is his death retribution? Or has his companion lied? Wolf Pit, his village, has a notorious history: in medieval times, the last wolf in England was killed there. When a second suspicious death occurs, the evidence suggests that a dangerous predator is on the loose and that death is closer than Rutledge knows.

My Take

Set in 1920. Rutledge is still suffering from post traumatic stress from the war and the recent marriage of his sister brings painful reminders of what life might have held for him.

The investigation he takes on into the shooting death of a motorist in the middle of the night in a sense provides a welcome distraction from his war memories and personal life, but in reality there is no getting away from the war and the impact it had on people's lives.

The title is a puzzle right to the end. The plot is intricate, and some of the strands tested credibility but as always the character portrayal was excellent.

Simon Prebble does a superb job of the narration.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
A TEST OF WILLS -#1
SEARCH THE DARK -#3
4.8, A FEARSOME DOUBT -#6
A PALE HORSE -#10
4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD - Bess Crawford series
4.7, A LONELY DEATH -#13
4.6, THE CONFESSION - #14
4.7, HUNTING SHADOWS - #16
4.7, NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE - #18
4.7, RACING THE DEVIL - #19 

16 August 2018

review: I FOUND YOU, Lisa Jewell

  • this edition published by Penguin Random House UK in 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-78-089362-4
  • 448 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Two women. Twenty years of secrets. And a man who doesn't remember anything.
Or does he?

Everyone has secrets. What if you can't remember yours?
'How long have you been sitting out here?'
'I got here yesterday.'
'Where did you come from?'
'I have no idea.'

Lily has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night, she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one.

Alice finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement, she invites him into her home.

But who is he, and how can she trust a man who has lost his memory?

My take

Lily's new husband doesn't come home and she can't find him. Almost simultaneously Alice finds a man who doesn't know who he is. Are they the same man?

The novel works its way through these plot strands and we understand that they are edging closer and closer towards each other. Much of the book describes events from 22 years earlier but its connection to either of these more contemporary plots is not clear until the latter half of the book.

I so enjoyed my first book by Lisa Jewell that I determined to read another, and I've enjoyed this one too. She is an excellent storyteller and her style is very readable.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
4.4, THEN SHE WAS GONE

14 August 2018

Review: DEAD HEAT, Peter Cotton

  • this edition published by Scribe Publications 2018
  • #2 in the Darren Glass series
  • source: review copy from publisher
  • ISBN 978-1-923713-42-8
  • 299 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

Detective Darren Glass is back, and the stakes are higher than ever.

When the battered body of a young Aboriginal woman washes up onto a beach at Jervis Bay, Australian Federal Police Detective Darren Glass is brought in from Canberra to investigate. Glass quickly ties the murder to the disappearance of a sailor from the nearby naval base, and is forced to partner up with a senior intelligence officer from the Royal Australian Navy.

Together they follow the trail of evidence to the red heart of Australia, where a confrontation with outlaw bikies and Aboriginal activists proves deadly. As the body count mounts and foreign links emerge, the conspiracy at the heart of the case becomes a threat to Australia’s national security, as well as regional peace.

My take

This thriller can hold its head up on the international stage. Cotton spins a plausible tale, with Australia the object of fine balance in international politics and under threat from its neighbours.

A dead body on territory theoretically under the jurisdiction of the Australian Federal Police sparks an investigation. The AFP detective Darren Glass finds that he is not actually in control, and will be shadowed by someone appointed by the Navy. In the background is the story of his girlfriend Jean a journalist who has disappeared in upheavals in Indonesia.

A second theme is the underlying resentment that Aboriginal activists are harbouring against the white domination.

This novel brings together current themes in the Australian psyche.

My rating: 4.6

I've also reviewed 4.8, DEAD CAT BOUNCE

About the author

11 August 2018

Review: BANNERLESS, Carrie Vaughn

  • this edition published 2017 by Mariner Books
  • source: my local library
  • ISBN 978-0-544-94730-6
  • 274 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

A mysterious murder in a dystopian future leads a novice investigator to question what she’s learned about the foundation of her population-controlled society.

Decades after economic and environmental collapse destroys much of civilization in the United States, the Coast Road region isn’t just surviving but thriving by some accounts, building something new on the ruins of what came before. A culture of population control has developed in which people, organized into households, must earn the children they bear by proving they can take care of them and are awarded symbolic banners to demonstrate this privilege. In the meantime, birth control is mandatory.

Enid of Haven is an Investigator, called on to mediate disputes and examine transgressions against the community. She’s young for the job and hasn't yet handled a serious case. Now, though, a suspicious death requires her attention. The victim was an outcast, but might someone have taken dislike a step further and murdered him?

In a world defined by the disasters that happened a century before, the past is always present. But this investigation may reveal the cracks in Enid’s world and make her question what she really stands for.

My Take

This novel couples crime fiction with science fiction in a dystopian view of America in one hundred years' time. Much was lost during The Fall, when political, social and technological chaos resulted from some sort of cataclysm. The population has been decimated by pestilence and the large cities have gone along with most of their populations.

An interesting read. Investigators Enid and Tomas have been sent to a nearby community to investigate a serious death reported by one of the community leaders. The man has already been 4 days dead by the time they arrive, and nobody wants to give them any information. It appears Ariana, the community leader who has requested the investigation actually has another agenda altogether.

My Rating: 4.4

About the author
Carrie Vaughn is the author of the New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty. She also writes for young adults (her novel STEEL was named to the ALA's 2012 Amelia Bloomer list of the best books for young readers with strong feminist content), the Golden Age superhero series, and other contemporary fantasy stories. She's a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin, and her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. She's a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop, and in 2011, she was nominated for a Hugo Award for best short story.

8 August 2018

Review: MOTIVES FOR MURDER, Martin Edwards (edit)

  • this edition published by Sphere 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-6615-4
  • edited by Martin Edwards
  • 375 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

Members of London's famed Detection Club have joined together to honor Peter Lovesey, winner multiple times of the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger and Silver Dagger, and Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement.

He has also won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best Novel, as well as Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. He is the creator of Victorian sleuths Sergeant Cribb and Constable Thackeray, Inspector Peter Diamond, and the almost true-to-life Bertie Prince of Wales.

The Detection Club was founded in 1930 by Anthony Berkeley. Its first Honorary President was G.K. Chesterton, to be succeeded by such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Julian Symons, and H. R. F. Keating. The current President, Martin Edwards, has edited this collection of new stories. Motives for Murder contains new stories to honor Peter Lovesey by some of the greatest names in current crime writing.


My Take

With an introduction by Martin Edwards who edited this collection, a foreword by Len Deighton, a final response by Peter Lovesey himself  this is a lovely collection of specially written short stories honoring Peter's 80th birthday.

Like so many of the contributors I remember reading Peter's debut novel WOBBLE TO DEATH, and have followed his writing over the years, both in his various series, and his stand alone novels.

Reviewed on this blog are
MAD HATTER'S HOLIDAY
SKELETON HILL
THE REAPER
5.0, STAGESTRUCK
5.0, COP TO CORPSE
4.5, THE HEADHUNTERS
4.8, THE TOOTH TATTOO
4.7, DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN
4.7, THE STONE WIFE
4.5, ANOTHER ONE GOES TONIGHT 
and I read a great many before that.

Many of the contributors paid homage by setting their story in one of the settings that Peter has used.

If, like me, you like crime fiction short stories, you'll enjoy this collection.


My rating: 4.5

3 August 2018

Review: THEN SHE WAS GONE, Lisa Jewell

  • this edition published 2017 by Century (Random House)
  • ISBN 978-1-78-089542-7
  • 424 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

She was fifteen, her mother's golden girl.
She had her whole life ahead of her.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.

But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine-year-old daughter.

Because his daughter is the image of Ellie.

Now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What really happened to Ellie? And who still has secrets to hide?

My take

Ellie disappeared on her way to the library. No CCTV to help, house to house searches revealed nothing. The police thought she had run away, and eventually the discovery of her bag with some clothes seemed to confirm that. Four years after her disappearance someone burgled the house, as if Ellie had come back to retrieve some belongings.

In the aftermath of Ellie's disappearance Laurel's marriage collapsed, her brother and sister left home, and Laurel's husband Paul found a new woman.

I did have some doubts about the credibility of parts of the plot but that did not prevent me from either enjoying or finishing the book.

Lisa Jewell really is an author that I read need to read more books by.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

I've been here in one form or another for A Very Long Time Indeed.

My first book, Ralph's Party, came out in 1998, when I was still a young person and when some of you may not yet have been born. Since then I have written and published another fourteen books, from the 'curry and flatmates' novels of the nineties and noughties like Thirtynothing, One Hit Wonder, A Friend of the Family and Vince & Joy, to more serious 'themed' novels like After The Party (marriage), The Making of Us (sperm donation) and The House We Grew Up In (hoarding) to my more recent domestic thrillers, like The Third Wife, The Girls, I Found You and Then She Was Gone.

I live in London with my husband, two daughters, two hairy cats, two nervous guinea pigs and a very lovely auburn dog. I write every day, a minimum of one thousand words, in a cafe, with no access to the internet, in two to three hour sessions. It's a very good life.

2 August 2018

What I read in July 2018

July 2018

An excellent month of reading with some outstanding books
My pick of the month was THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING by Bill Clinton & James Patterson

See what others have chosen, and add your pick of the month.


Review: THREE LITTLE LIES, Laura Marshall

  • this edition published by Sphere 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-6836-3
  • 372 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #2 in the Friend Request series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Sasha North has gone missing.

Everyone says she's run away, but I know better. We've been best friends since we were teenagers, since Sasha swept into the neighbourhood and brought colour to my life. Until a brutal attack changed both our lives forever.

I know what happened that night. I know who wants revenge.

And if Sasha has been taken, does that mean I'm next?

My Take


Ellen and Karina watch with interest the arrival of a new family to the house across the road with two teenage sons and a daughter their own age. The house becomes the focus of parties thrown by the parents and Ellen feels that the mother Olivia is so much more modern than her own staid parents. Ellen and Karina, once bosom buddies, become rivals for the friendship of the foster daughter Sasha.

The story spans a 12 year period, with two main narrators Olivia and Ellen. It opens in a courtroom with one of the boys on trial.

A good read with a slightly predictable twist in the final pages.



My rating: 4.5


About the author
Laura Marshall grew up in Wiltshire and studied English at the University of Sussex.

In 2015 she decided it was time to fulfil a lifetimes ambition to write a novel, and enrolled on the Curtis Brown Creative three month novel writing course.

Her first novel, Friend Request, was runner-up in the Bath Novel Award 2016 and shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2016.

Laura lives in Kent with her husband and two children.

31 July 2018

Pick of the Month July 2018

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2018
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 July 2018, 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 -
e.g.
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.


28 July 2018

Review: MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE, Matthew Sullivan

  • this edition published Penguin Random House UK 2017
  • ISBN 9781785151439
  • 325 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

When a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favorite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has inherited his meagre worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long-buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu.

My take

When Lydia discovers Joey Molina has hanged himself in the upper reading room of the Bright Ideas Bookstore she also discovers that he has a photo of her in his pocket. It shows herself and two friends celebrating her birthday just days before the Hammerman struck. She struggles to understand how this photos has come into his possession and then she realises there is only one person he could have got it from.

Lydia has told her husband David only very bare details of her life before they met, but now, as she unravels the mystery of why Joey killed himself, the past comes flooding back.

Joey has left a series of messages for her cleverly coded into the books in the book shop.

A good read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Matthew Sullivan grew up in a family of eight spirited children in suburban Denver, Colorado. In addition to working for years at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver and at Brookline Booksmith in Boston, he has taught writing and literature at colleges in Boston, Idaho and Poland, and currently teaches writing, literature and film at Big Bend Community College in the high desert of Washington State. He is married to a librarian and has two children and a scruffy dog named Ernie.

26 July 2018

Review: DEAD LETTERS, Caite Dolan-Leach

  • this edition published by Corvus Books 2017 (Random House)
  • ISBN 978-1-7864913-0-5
  • 332 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Random House)

A missing woman leads her twin sister on a twisted scavenger hunt in this clever debut novel with eccentric, dysfunctional characters who will keep you guessing until the end.

Ava has her reasons for running away to Paris. But when she receives the shocking news that her twin sister, Zelda, is dead, she is forced to return home to her family’s failing vineyard in upstate New York. Knowing Zelda’s penchant for tricks and deception, Ava is not surprised when she receives her twin’s cryptic message from beyond the grave. Following her sister’s trail of clues, Ava immerses herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers, and soon finds herself confronted with dark family legacies and twisted relationships. Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending? Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut thriller is a literary scavenger hunt for secrets hidden everywhere from wine country to social media, and buried at the dysfunctional heart of one utterly unforgettable family.

My Take

This was a book that grew on me. In the first 30 or so pages I began to wonder if I would even go on with it. At first I didn't take to the style nor did I particularly like the characters.

The story is narrated by Ava, the second born of identical twins, who gives us a lot of background, and we flit between past and present. Interspersed with her narration are text messages from her twin Zelda, carefully dated so there is no doubt about their currency, and eventually laying out a puzzle for Ava to solve.

Ava has come home after nearly 5 years in Paris because she has been told that her twin has been killed in a barn fire at their parent's house. Ava is convinced that she would know if Zelda was dead and refuses to believe that the remains found in the barn are Zelda's. She is convinced that Zelda is playing a trick on them. Zelda's phone messages are linked to an alphabetical puzzle and Ava is convinced that when she has solved the puzzle she will know the truth.

By the final pages I too wanted to know the truth.

Despite the fact that the author was born in the aare that is the setting of the novel, it doesn't have a particularly American feel to it.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Caite Dolan-Leach is a writer and literary translator. She was born in the Finger Lakes region and is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the American University in Paris. Dead Letters is her first novel.

23 July 2018

Review: BALLAD FOR A MAD GIRL, Vikki Wakefield

  • this edition published by Text Publishing 2017
  • 309 pages
  • ISBN 9781925355291
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Everyone knows seventeen-year-old Grace Foley is a bit mad. She’s a prankster and a risk-taker, and she’s not afraid of anything—except losing. As part of the long-running feud between two local schools in Swanston, Grace accepts a challenge to walk the pipe. That night she experiences something she can’t explain.

The funny girl isn’t laughing anymore. She’s haunted by voices and visions—but nobody believes a girl who cries wolf.

As she’s drawn deeper into a twenty-year-old mystery surrounding missing girl Hannah Holt, the thin veil between this world and the next begins to slip. She can no longer tell what’s real or imagined—all she knows is the ghosts of Swanston, including that of her own mother, are restless. It seems one of them has granted her an extraordinary gift at a terrible price.

Everything about her is changing—her body, her thoughts, even her actions seem to belong to a stranger. Grace is losing herself, and her friends don’t understand. Is she moving closer to the truth? Or is she heading for madness?

My Take

Grace Foley believes that a girl, Hannah Holt, who disappeared 23 years ago has contacted her and wants her to solve the mystery of her disappearance. Grace's own mother, killed as she was crossing a road two years ago, was in Hannah's class at school so Grace feels a connection.

Grace has never fully got over her mother's death. Other teenagers suggest that Grace's mother committed suicide by deliberately walking into the path of the truck. Grace's father then gave up their farm and they moved into town. Things have never seemed right for Grace ever since.

This is a challenging YA crime fiction novel as Grace kicks against her life. Set in a fictional Australian rural town (Victoria I think). Compelling reading.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Vikki Wakefield’s first YA novel, All I Ever Wanted, won the 2012 Adelaide Festival Literary Award for YA Fiction, as did her second novel, Friday Brown, in 2014. Friday Brown was also an Honour Book at the Children’s Book Council of Australia, in 2013, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Prime Minister’s Awards. Vikki’s third novel, Inbetween Days, was Highly Commended in the 2016 Barbara Jefferis Award, was a 2016 CBCA Honour Book and was shortlisted for the 2016 Prime Minister’s Awards. Vikki lives in the Adelaide foothills with her family.

22 July 2018

Review: SECRET SANTA - Cherringham 25, Matthew Costello, Neil Richards - audio book

  • sourced at Audible
  • Narrated by: Neil Dudgeon
  • Length: 2 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
    Release date: 12-21-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Lübbe Audio
Synopsis (Audible)

Bill Vokes has played Santa at the children's Christmas show for years. But with the show just hours away, he vanishes with no explanation. The whole village is baffled. Did something bad happen to loveable Bill, upstanding citizen, churchgoer, life and soul of the party and the holiday season? Jack and Sarah are on the case - and soon discover there are secrets about this Santa that no one could have imagined...

Cherringham is a serial novel à la Charles Dickens, with a new audio episode released every two weeks. 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

If you do a bit of short journey travelling, these short audio books can become a bit addictive in the style of MidSomer Murders, where a remarkable number of deaths occur in a small village community. They are cosies, intellectually undemanding, nothing too macabre happens, and there's a lot of "common sense". I like the way Neil Dudgeon handles the narration, and also the development of the main characters Jack and Sarah.

My rating: 4.2 

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". He is also known for his film roles in "The Nativity", "Sorted" and "Son of Rambow". In 2012, Dudgeon starred as "Norman Birkett" on BBC Radio 4's Afternoon Play series written by Caroline and David Stafford.




18 July 2018

Review: THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING, Bill Clinton & James Patterson

  • this edition published by Penguin Random House UK 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-780-89840-7
  • 513 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (website)

Blurb from back cover:
The President Disappears. The world is in shock.
But the reason he’s missing is much worse than anyone can imagine. With details only a President could know, and the kind of suspense only James Patterson can deliver.

Extract

Chapter 1
“The House Select Committee will come to order . . .”
The sharks are circling, their nostrils twitching at the scent of blood. Thirteen of them, to be exact, eight from the opposition party and five from mine, sharks against whom I’ve been preparing defenses with lawyers and advisers. I’ve learned the hard way that no matter how prepared you are, there are few defenses that work against predators. At some point, there’s nothing you can do but jump in and fight back.
Don’t do it, my chief of staff, Carolyn Brock, pleaded again last night, as she has so many times. You can’t go anywhere near that committee hearing, sir. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain.
You can’t answer their questions, sir.
It will be the end of your presidency.

My Take

Very readable and very topical, almost credible.

The President is on the brink of impeachment. He has apparently met with a terrorist leader and appears to have foiled his capture. A young US soldier was killed. So the House Select Committee is baying for his blood.

And it won't have escaped your attention how reliant we've become on technology. What would we do if it wasn't available?

I thought Bill Clinton's voice came through loud and clear, his social agenda and political ideals.

The President runs a tight ship. In crisis there must be absolute loyalty, but there is a traitor in the White House.

My rating: 4.8

From the authors:

‘Yes, The President is Missing is fiction – it’s a thriller – but James Patterson and I have come up with three of the most frightening days in the history of the presidency. And it could really happen... These days, the seemingly impossible can happen. And it happens so fast. I believe that readers will not soon forget President Jonathan Duncan and his story.’ – Bill Clinton

‘Needless to say, we had some great conversations about the presidency, what life in Washington is really like, and about the state of America and the rest of the world.’ – James Patterson


15 July 2018

Review: THE LAST PUZZLE - Cherringham 16, Matthew Costello, Neil Richards - audio book

  • Narrated by: Neil Dudgeon
  • Length: 2 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 12-08-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Lübbe Audio 
Synopsis (Audible)

When amiable old village eccentric Quentin Andrews dies, the good folk of Cherringham are astonished at the crowd that turns up to his funeral. But even more astonished are the beneficiaries of his will: Quentin has left a veritable fortune to whomever is the first to solve an intricate "Cherringham crossword". That puzzle is only the first of many that Jack and Sarah will uncover as they follow the treasure hunt for clues and learn the truth about who Quentin Andrews really was... and the biggest mystery of them all... was he - in fact - murdered? 

My Take

This episode fulfills its promise of being suitable for a relatively short commute, providing an interesting yet not demanding audio file with mysteries to be solved.

Good narration by Neil Dudgeon.

My rating: 4.3


About the series

Cherringham is a serial novel 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.

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, 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".

Now into its second season of 12 novellas, Cherringham is popular around the world and has been adapted as a series of audiobooks in Germany.




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