22 March 2018

Review: A ROYAL MURDER, Sandra Winter-Dewhirst

  • this edition published by Wakefield Press March 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-74305-524-3
  • 229 pages
  • #2 in the Rebecca Keith series
  • source: review copy supplied by the publisher
Synopsis (Wakefield Press)

The duffle bag appeared to be made from expensive silk, embossed with what Rebecca thought was Chinese calligraphy. She was in no doubt that the bag contained a body. The protruding bloodied leg was a giveaway.

A macabre murder during the Women's Australian Open golf tournament at one of Australia's most prestigious golf courses sees food and wine journalist and amateur golfer Rebecca Keith on the murder trail once more. Fortunately, Rebecca's sleuthing takes her on a journey of eating and drinking through many of Adelaide's bars and restaurants. Little does Rebecca know that her visits to nearby Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island will reveal clues that will become crucial in the hunt for a killer.

A Royal Murder, a light-hearted thriller full of intrigue and betrayal, features a full cast of eccentric characters set against the rich backdrop of South Australia and its lush food and wine culture.

My Take

I couldn't resist taking a look at Sandra Winter-Dewhirst's second offering, particularly as it is set in my hometown and she is a "local" author. She does a good job of spruiking local tourist attractions, both physical places, and popular events, and local readers will enjoy being able to visualise where the action is taking place.

It is a light hearted romp laced with a bit of romance, some quirky humour, and a trio of murders. As the blurb says, there are a range of eccentric characters, and semi-believable scenarios.

A satisfying read.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read THE POPEYE MURDER

About the author
A journalist for more than thirty years, Sandra Winter-Dewhirst spent ten years as the state director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in South Australia, overseeing television, radio, and online production. Educated at Adelaide University and the University of South Australia, graduating with degrees in the arts and journalism, she has sat on a range of arts boards and media advisory councils. Sandra has a passion for food and wine and, when time permits, tries to hit a golf ball.

Her first novel in the Rebecca Keith series is The Popeye Murder. For more information and for news about the next book, visit myadelaidehome.blogspot.com.au

18 March 2018

Review: FRIDAY ON MY MIND, Nicci French

  • this edition published 2015 by the Penguin Group Australia
  • ISBN 978-0-78-17963-2
  • 375 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #5/7 in the Freda Klein series
Synopsis ( publisher)

When a bloated corpse is found floating in the River Thames the police can at least sure that identifying the victim will be straightforward. Around the dead man's wrist is a hospital band. On it are the words Dr F. Klein . . .
But psychotherapist Frieda Klein is very much alive. And, after evidence linking her to the murder is discovered, she becomes the prime suspect.

Unable to convince the police of her innocence, Frieda is forced to make a bold decision in order to piece together the terrible truth before it's too late either for her or for those she loves.

My Take

Freda Klein is not popular with the police. They have noticed that people around her seem to die; not only that, she often seems to have been responsible for the killing although so far no case has yet stuck. To rub salt into the wound, often Freda has been a conducting a police consultation at the time.

So when her name crops up in connected with the corpse retrieved from the Thames, Commissioner Crawford takes it upon himself to warn the investigating officer that Freda Klein is bad news. And then, just as they are ready to lay charges, Freda disappears. According to the police this is tantamount to a confession of guilt, but that is not how Freda herself sees it.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

Review: THE BONE IS POINTED, Arthur Upfield - audio book


Arthur Upfield's The Bone is Pointed follows Inspector Bonaparte who solves mysteries in the Australian outback. Published in the 1940's, this story not only offers up a good mystery but also a portrait of the aborigines and Australia in the early 20th century. Peter Hosking tackles this story with verve. He speaks with a clear Australian accent while developing the characters believably, giving each his own attributes. Meanwhile, his varied pacing makes the story easy to follow. Mystery lovers and history buffs alike will have fun with the Inspector Bonaparte Mysteries.

Jack Anderson was a big man with a foul temper, a sadist and a drunk. Five months after his horse appeared riderless, no trace of the man has surfaced and no one seems to care. But Bony is determined to follow the cold trail and smoke out some answers.

My Take

In this tale Bony appears as a Queensland C.I.B. detective on leave, turning up at an outback station where a rouseabout has gone missing during a storm. His horse turns up at the station the morning after the storm riderless and there is no trace of Jack Anderson. No black trackers are available because the whole local tribe has gone to visit a female elder thought to be dying. By the time a tracker can be found heavy rains have obliterated Anderson's tracks.

During the story Bony becomes ill with the "Barcoo sickness" but station owner is convinced that the bones has been pointed at him. At first Bony is determined that he will not succumb but he becomes weaker and weaker despite the attempts of the local policeman to help him.

Bony is also proud of his reputation that no case that he has tackled has ever gone unsolved, but that is because he stays on the case until the very end, despite telegrams from his superiors that he must return to the city immediately.

What impressed me was the detailed observations of Aboriginal culture and customs that the author must have recorded. He also presents both sides of the argument with regard to preserving aboriginal heritage. One station family in particular recognise the damage that contact with white people has done to the aborigines, but at the same time are a bit patronising in the way they deal with the aborigines on their station. The character who has disappeared has mistreated aboriginal stockmen, whipping one almost to death, and so is very unpopular. No-one can work out why "Old Lacey" the station owner has kept him on.

There is more than one mystery in this book, and it is good reading, despite the warning from the publisher that Arthur Upfield reflects attitudes of his time, not necessarily views we would share today.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

15 March 2018


  • this edition published by Orion Books UK 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-4091-5376-4
  • source: my local library
  • 409 pages
  • author website: http://www.katemosse.co.uk
 Synopsis (author website)

The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream . . .1912. A Sussex churchyard.

Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.

As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years . . . 

My Take

This is not a novel for the faint hearted: gothic and gruesome.

Something that she barely remembers, a fall down some stairs over a decade ago, has robbed Connie Gifford of her memory, and left her in "delicate" health, with occasional petit mal seizures. About the same time as her accident her father lost his taxidermy business and Cassie, an older girl whom she vaguely remembers, disappeared from her life. She thinks Cassie may have died.

The book opens at midnight on 24th April 1912, at the Church of St Peter & St Mary in the Fishbourne Marshes of Sussex. This is the Eve of St. Mark when the ghosts of those destined to die in the coming year will be seen walking into the church at the turning of the hour. Connie has followed her father to the church and sees him meeting some men whom he knows. They are looking for someone Is she here? and as the bell begins to toll, the door of the church is flung wide, and a cloud of small birds flies out. No-one sees the murder take place. A week later a body floats up in the marshes.

Connie has learnt the art of taxidermy from her father and at times produces stuffed birds for sale. So there are descriptions of her at work, which helps the reader understand later events in the novel.

Connie's father has kept a secret since the night of Connie's accident, a secret that involves the four men who have met him in the church yard. An event that has occurred in the previous week holds out the promise that their secret may remain buried forever, but only her father suspects that what they have been told is not true. And is the secret still safe with him?

This novel has a very black feel about it - there is a lot of darkness, a lot of rain. Gradually we are able to piece the puzzle together.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Kate Mosse is the author of six novels & short story collections, including the No 1 multi-million selling Languedoc Trilogy - Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel - and No 1 bestselling Gothic fiction including The Winter Ghosts and The Taxidermist's Daughter, which she is currently adapting for the stage. Her books have been translated into 37 languages and published in more than 40 countries. She has also written three works of non-fiction, four plays and is curating a collection of short stories inspired by Wuthering Heights to celebrate the 200 anniversary of Emily Bronte's birth in 2018. Her documentary on the writer & classicist Helen Waddell will be broadcast by the BBC in 2018.
A champion of women's creativity, Kate is the Founder Director of the Women's Prize for Fiction - the largest annual celebration of women's writing in the world - and sits on the Executive Committee of Women of the World. She was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to literature and women and was named Woman of the Year for her service to the arts in the Everywoman Awards. Deputy Chair of the National Theatre in London, Kate hosts the pre & post performance interview series at Chichester Festival Theatre in Sussex, Platform Events for the National Theatre in London, as well interviewing writers, directors, campaigners and actors at literary and theatre festivals in the UK and beyond.
Kate divides her time between Chichester in West Sussex and Carcassonne in the southwest of France. She is now working on the next novel in 'The Burning Chambers' series, The City of Tears - set in Paris, La Rochelle and Amsterdam - for publication in May 2020.

11 March 2018

Review: ON THE JAVA RIDGE, Jock Serong

  • this edition published by Text Publishing 2017 
  • ISBN 9781925498394
  • 312 pages
  • source: my local library 
Synopsis (Text Publishing)

Shortlisted for the Indie Awards 2018

On the Java Ridge, skipper Isi Natoli and a group of Australian surf tourists are anchored off the Indonesian island of Dana. In the Canberra office of Cassius Calvert, Minister for Border Integrity, a federal election looms and a hardline new policy on asylum-seekers is being rolled out.

Not far from Dana, the Takalar is having engine trouble. Among the passengers on board fleeing from persecution are Roya and her mother, and Roya’s unborn sister.The storm now closing in on the Takalar and the Java Ridge will mean catastrophe for them all.

My Take

It is a week to the Australian Federal election, and the Prime Minister and the Minister for Border Security are emphasising the success of the government's policy on boat asylum seekers. Arrivals in Australian waters are almost unknown because all boats heading for Australia are being processed by the Indonesian authorities. Surveillance of Australian waters has been outsourced and the Australian  Navy will now take no action to assist asylum seekers arriving by boat.

Two boats, very similar in design, but one much better equipped, are heading towards Australia through Indonesia. One is a surf charter boat containing Australian tourists looking for big waves to surf and the other is an Indonesian fishing boat filled with Middle Eastern refugees. That these two boats will meet is an inevitable part of the plot.

Predictably part of the plot is about how the government's new hardline policy will impact on both these boats, but my wildest dreams did not predict the ending.

The book raises some interesting scenarios among them an explanation of why so few boats have reached Ashmore Reef recently. The Prime Minister sees Cassius Calvert, Minister for Border Integrity, as a weak link, a loose cannon, although his hold on his own seat is thought to be better than that of the Prime Minister. Interesting insights into the workings of the Australian Cabinet.

My rating: 5.0

Also reviewed by Bernadette

I've also reviewed

8 March 2018


  • this edition published by Hatchette Australia, 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-3656-1
  • 425 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Books bring them together - but friendship will transform all of their lives. Five very different women come together in this Top Ten bestseller, set in the Northern Territory of the 1970s, by an exceptional new Australian author


In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.

Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe's designated successor but he has left the Territory - for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother's place. But that doesn't stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child.
With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben's English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.
Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick.
Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.
If you loved THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, THE LITTLE COFFEE SHOP OF KABUL and THE THORN BIRDS you will devour this story of five different women united by one need: to overcome the vast distances of Australia's Top End with friendship, tears, laughter, books and love.

My Take

N.B. Not crime fiction! I'm not sure how you categorise this one - romance, Australian life, remote Australia.

Somebody recommended it to me as it is to do with a book group, and I belong to 3. It covers the lives of 5 book group participants over four calendar years 1978-1981, A range of quite traumatic things happen to these women over that time, but their book group binds them together in friendship and support.

It raises some interesting issues: dealing with living in remote Australia, inter racial relations, family bonds, domestic violence, women's support groups, moving on after trauma and so on. The characters are well drawn and really lived for me. The demands and effects of outback life are well depicted.

The book group reads a number of books that you might be familiar with and the author gives reasons why she chose them: THE THORN BIRDS, LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, THE FAR PAVILIONS, THE HARP IN THE SOUTH, MY BRILLIANT CAREER, and A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE. In the final pages of the book she provides some discussion questions relating to issues and incidents in the book.

Worth considering.

My rating: 4.4

About the author:
Sophie Green is an author and publisher who lives in Sydney. She has written several fiction and non-fiction books, some under other names. In her spare time she writes about country music on her blog, Jolene. She fell in love with the Northern Territory the first time she visited and subsequent visits inspired the story in THE INAUGURAL MEETING OF THE FAIRVALE LADIES BOOK CLUB, a Top Ten bestseller.

1 March 2018


  • this edition published by Abacus, 2017
  • translated from French by Simon Pare
  • ISBN 978-0-349-14222-7
  • 292 pages
Synopsis ( Abacus)

An heart-warming story of romance and adventure - and a return to France - from the internationally bestselling author of THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP (600,000 copies sold worldwide)
Marianne Messman longs to escape her loveless marriage to an uncaring husband - an artillery sergeant major named Lothar. On a day trip to Paris, Marianne decides to leap off the Pont Neuf into the Seine, but she is saved from drowning by a homeless man. While recovering in hospital, Marianne comes across a painting of the tiny port town of Kerdruc in Brittany and decides to try her luck on the coast.

In Kerdruc, Marianne meets a host of colourful characters who all gravitate around the restaurant of Ar Mor (The Sea). It is this cast of true Bretons who become Marianne's new family, and among whom she will find love once again. But with her husband looking to pull her back to her old life, Marianne is left with a choice: to step back into the known, or to take a huge jump into an exciting and unpredictable future.

My take

A departure from my usual crime fiction reading.

Marianne's decision to leave the restaurant where she and her husband are dining while on a tour bus visiting Paris takes her husband by surprise but he makes no attempt to follow her. At 60 and childless Marianne feels her life has been a series of failures, as is her attempt to commit suicide by jumping off the Pont Neuf into the Seine.

She eventually finds her way to a small town on the coast where she meets a group of people willing to accept her as she is. There she finds she has a number of skills which these people appreciate.

This is a delightful read, with some touches of mystery, comedy and irony. It felt like taking a holiday.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Born in 1973, Nina George is a journalist and the author of numerous bestselling novels, which have been translated into several languages. The Little Paris Bookshop was a phenomenal top five bestseller in Germany and is set to be published around the world. She is married to the writer Jens J. Kramer and lives in Hamburg.

Pick of the Month February 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 February 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 -
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 February 2018

Farewell to Bernadette in Oz

Rather than read my tribute to my friend and blog collaborator Bernadette here,
you might like to read it on Fair Dinkum Crime

27 February 2018

Review: THE MALICE OF THE WAVES, Mark Douglas-Home

  • source: my local library
  • #3 in the Sea Detective series
  • published by Penguin Books 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-718-18275-5
  • 290 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

Investigator Cal McGill uses his knowledge of tides, winds and currents to solve mysteries no-one else can.

Five years ago, fourteen-year-old Max Wheeler disappeared from a remote Scottish island. None of the six police and private investigations since have shed any light on what happened.

Unable to let go, Max's family call in Cal McGill - known as 'The Sea Detective' - hoping he'll force the sea to give up its secrets. Yet Cal finds he is an outsider to a broken family, and an unwelcome stranger in a village which has endured years of suspicion.

Cal knows that a violent storm is approaching. But what he doesn't know is that when it cuts off the island, a killer will see their chance...

My Take

In my opinion, parts of this story suffered a bit because there were threads, particularly in Cal's relationship to the police, that stemmed from earlier novels, and these were hard to piece together.

However the main story line held my interest. Max Wheeler's father is convinced that his 14 year old son who disappeared 5 years earlier was murdered by someone local in retribution for him reclaiming the lease of "The Black Island."  Every year he comes to the island to mourn his son's death and the locals display their remorse. Wheeler's elder daughter moves to live in the local community but there is a lot of hostility. The Wheeler family has become almost totally dysfunctional.

Meanwhile there is a second plot involving the illegal taking of rare sea bird eggs and the two plots converge on the island during a horrendous storm.

The idea of a "sea detective" is an interesting one, as is Cal McGill's methodology in tracking tides and currents.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Mark Douglas-Home is a journalist turned author. The Sea Detective, his first novel, was published in 2011 to critical praise. It introduced a new kind of investigator to crime fiction - an oceanographer called Cal McGill who tracks floating objects, including dead bodies, at sea. A sequel, The Woman Who Walked Into The Sea, was published in April 2013 ('a classic whodunit,' according to The Scotsman's respected reviewer Allan Massie). Before writing books, Mark was editor of Scotland's leading daily newspaper, The Herald, for five years and editor of The Sunday Times Scotland. He has also held senior roles with The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.
When he was Scottish correspondent of The Independent he reported on both the Lockerbie and Piper Alpha disasters. His career in journalism began as a student in South Africa where he edited the newspaper at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. After the apartheid government banned a number of editions, he was deported from the country. He is married with two children and lives in Edinburgh.

Review: DEATH OF A LAKE, Arthur Upfield - audio book

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Features Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte(Bony), a detective of mixed European and Aboriginal heritage.
On a vast sheep station in the outback Raymond Gillen goes swimming in the lake one night and is never seen again. Bony arrives disguised as a horsebreaker and uncovers a story of sexual tension and murder. The lake is evaporating in the intense drought, only when it is drained will the mystery be solved.

My Take

The audio book begins with the usual warning that the publisher does not ascribe to Upfield's now politically incorrect views. However they do reflect popularly held opinions, particularly abour aborigines, in the 1950s.

The story moves a bit slowly in this tale because Lake Otway, a lake that had filled three years before because of flooding in the north, is in the process of evaporating and dying. There are wonderful descriptions of what happens as the lake gets shallower and shallower and smaller and smaller. At the same time the rabbit population blows out. The daily temperature is well over 110F and the outstation near the lake burns to the ground one night.

You can't help but be impressed by Upfield's detailed observations of life on Outback stations.

Bony turns up (undercover) to investigate the Ray Gillen's disappearance and discovers that all the hands living at the outstation have, unusually, stayed on since Gillen's disappearance, not taking holidays and so on. Something is keeping them all there.

The tension builds very well, and the narration by Peter Hosking is in a class of its own.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

Review: THE WRITING BOOK, Kate Grenville

I have two editions of this book on hand.

The book was first published in 1990 and the 3rd impression, 1991, is subtitled: A Workbook for Fiction Writers. ISBN 0-04-442124-9, 192 pages

The other edition I have from the library is published in 2010, subtitled A Practical Guide for Fiction Writers. ISBN 978-1-74237-388-1, 220 pages.

Both are published by Allen & Unwin Australia.
They are essentially the same book.

Synopsis (Amazon)

The Writing Book doesn't just talk about how to write fiction; it takes you, step-by-step, through the process of doing it.

Each chapter concentrates on one aspect of writing: getting started, bringing characters to life, writing convincing dialogue, revising and writer's block, etc.

Exercises in each chapter are carefully structured so that each one builds on the one before. Examples from contemporary Australian writing demonstrate how different writers tackle the technical aspects of their art.

By working your way through this book, you'll gradually craft a piece of fiction, and develop confidence in your own fictional voice.

If you'd like to write, but you're not sure how to start, The Writing Book will show you how. If you're already writing, The Writing Book will give you practical ideas for new energy and direction.

My take

I heard this book referred to by a couple of people at a recent writing workshop that I attended. One said that he was working his way through the exercises.

The author writes "this is a practical workbook, a resource for a writer to work through, with an emphasis on exercises and examples."

Grenville encourages the budding writer to begin with what they already have and build from there.

If you are looking for a DIY at home course on writing, a challenge in concentration on honing your skills, then this may well be it. It is interestingly constructed, full of things to try, and may even result in a finished piece: a short story, a novella, or a novel.

For me it just clarified that I am a reader, not a writer.

My rating: 5.0

About the author
Kate Grenville (kategrenville.com) was born in Sydney, Australia. She's published eight books of fiction, including the multiple prize-winners 'The Secret River', 'The Lieutenant', 'The Idea of Perfection', and 'Lilian's Story'. She's also published three books about the writing process that are classic texts for Creative Writing classes, and a memoir about the research and writing of 'The Secret River'.

Grenville writes about Australia, but her themes are universal: love, violence, and survival. Her characters are often inspired by real historical characters: her own nineteenth century convict ancestor, an early Australian settler; a bag-lady on the streets of 1950s Sydney who quotes Shakespeare for a living; a soldier in the Sydney of 1788 who shares an extraordinary friendship of tenderness and respect with a young Aboriginal girl.

Grenville's international prizes include the Orange Award, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and a shortlisting for the Man Booker Prize. Her books have been published all over the world and translated into many languages, and two have been made into feature films. . 

I have also read 4.8, THE SECRET RIVER

23 February 2018

Review: TALKING TO THE DEAD, Harry Bingham

  • this edition published by Orion Books 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4091-4086-3
  • 376 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

The first novel in the powerful Fiona Griffiths mystery series - a detective who will break every rule in the book to crack her case..
A young girl is found dead. A prostitute is murdered. And the strangest, youngest detective in the South Wales Major Crimes Unit is about to face the fiercest test of her short career.

A woman and her six-year-old daughter are killed with chilling brutality in a dingy flat. The only clue: the platinum bank card of a long-dead tycoon, found amid the squalor.

DC Griffiths has already proved herself dedicated to the job, but there's another side to her she is less keen to reveal. Something to do with a mysterious two-year gap in her CV, her strange inability to cry - and a disconcerting familiarity with corpses.

Fiona is desperate to put the past behind her but as more gruesome killings follow, the case leads her inexorably back into those dark places in her own mind where another dead girl is waiting to be found . . .

My Take

I was a little disconcerted to find, after I had finished reading this book, and thinking that parts of it were  a bit familiar, that I actually read this book just over three years ago. I don't seem to have enjoyed it any more this time than I did last.

Fiona Griffiths has in the past suffered from Cotard's Syndrome, and still does. She doesn't relate to other people particularly well, and is a bit of a loose cannon in any police investigation. Her boss tries to get her to see the difference between doing things the right way, and doing them the wrong way. Inevitably Fi chooses to do things on her own, not to call for backup, and not to involve her boss in her decision making.

There were parts of the novel that really did make me feel uncomfortable.

My rating: 4.3

18 February 2018

Review: BOOKSTORE CATS, Brandon Schultz

  • this edition published by Gliteratzi New York 2017
  • ISBN 9-781943-876525
  • 159 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

Reading an article about cats who live in bookstores inspired author Brandon Schultz to further investigate the lives of bookstore cats. Cats have strong personalities that enchant and engage, and it turns out there are many of them living in every reader's favorite environment: the bookstore. With personalities and histories as varied as the books they tend, each cat has a story worth telling. Collected here are their tales, along with enchanting photos of the feline employees in their shops.

Most bookstore cats are famous in their local communities, many have been featured and profiled in entertainment outlets, and some even have their own books and social media accounts. Now, for the first time, some of the world's most beloved bookstore cats are collected together in one adorable directory, making the perfect gift for cat lovers, book lovers, shoppers, and the generally curious worldwide. Aside from keeping a bookseller free of mice, these noble creatures become part of the fabric of their environment and, while they chase away the mice, they lure in the world's cat-loving readers. 
My Take
My guess is that you probably have to be a cat lover to really enjoy this book, but there are obviously enough of us around.
Interspersed with photos of cats who "work" in US bookstores and their stories, are fact pages such as lists of cats who are - Owned by British Authors; In Poetry; Owned by Poets; in Comic Books; and so on. 
A delightful book to dabble in, and perhaps a good present for a cat lover.
My Rating: 4.0


  • this edition published by Sphere 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-6738-0
  • 310 pages

The suspense thriller of the year - The Marsh King's Daughter will captivate you from the start and chill you to the bone.
'I was born two years into my mother's captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn't have adored my father.'

When notorious child abductor - known as The Marsh King - escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.
No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena's past: they don't know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve - or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don't know that The Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone... except, perhaps his own daughter.

My Take

Extracts from the Marsh King's Daughter, a fable by Hans Christian Anderson, appear at the beginning of some sections of the story. They appear to be directing the reader to the conclusion that girl in the fable had dual personality, or perhaps that every one of us is capable of ambivalence.

I kept thinking of how things have changed culturally throughout history, that if Helena's father had committed this abduction, the choosing and taking of a wife, two hundred years earlier, in Indian culture this would have been an acceptable way of doing things.

Helena grows up unaware that her father has done anything wrong although she recognises that he has an angry side to his personality, that he is capable of meting out swift and cruel punishments to her and her mother.

Although Helena adores her father, and despises her mother, she eventually escapes and is responsible for his captures and imprisonment. Her narration in the book swaps between her experiences as child and the life she has built for herself since her escape. Now her father has escaped after 15 years of imprisonment and she knows he is looking for her.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Karen Dionne drew heavily on her experiences during the 1970s in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to write The Marsh King's Daughter, when she and her husband lived in a tent with their six-week-old daughter while they built a tiny cabin. Karen carried water from a stream, made wild apple jelly over a campfire (and defended it against marauding raccoons), sampled wild foods such as cattail heads and milkweed pods, and washed nappies in a bucket (which Karen says is every bit as nasty as it sounds). She enjoys nature photography and lives with her husband in Detroit's northern suburbs.

15 February 2018

Review: THE WORD IS MURDER, Anthony Horowitz

Synopsis (author website)

It’s been two years since Injustice aired and Detective Daniel Hawthorne needs cash. Having gotten himself fired from his job at the Metropolitan police, Hawthorne decides to approach Anthony Horowitz. He’s investigating a bizarre and complex murder and he wants Anthony to write a book about it, a bestselling book of course, with a 50/50 split.

The only catch is they need to solve the crime.

But award winning crime writer Anthony Horowitz has never been busier in his life. He’s working on Foyle’s War and writing his first Sherlock Holmes novel. He has a life of his own and doesn’t really want to be involved with a man he finds challenging to say the least. And yet he finds himself fascinated by the case and the downright difficult detective with the brilliant, analytical mind. Would it be really such a crazy idea for Anthony to become the Watson to his Holmes? The Hastings to his Poirot?

Should he stick to writing about murder? Or should he help investigate?

A classic crime for the modern reader, The Word is Murder is a whodunnit to end all whodunnits.

My Take

Somehow I just wasn't prepared for the author himself to be acting as the narrator.  And I never could decide how much was fiction. My best guess is that the author is trying to show how differently he works as an author, when compared to a top-notch detective. The author sets up a murder in a plot, describes the scene for us, and then lays clues about the murderer whose identity he already knows. The detective observes the scene after the fact and then interprets what he sees, and follows the clues. In THE WORD IS MURDER both detective and author are central characters and interact with each other. So even the dialogue between author and detective becomes interesting. Hawthorne, the detective, tries to put the author in his place, demanding that he be see but not heard. The author, Horowitz, refuses to be kept in his box, and often demands to ask his own questions.

It is probably a novel that would benefit from more study and from robust discussion in a book group.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read

12 February 2018

Review: THE STRANGER, Melanie Raabe

  • This edition published by Text Publishing Australia 2016
  • translated from German by Imogen Taylor
  • ISBN 9-781925-498042
  • 346 pages
Synopsis (back cover)

Philip Petersen, a wealthy businessman, disappears without trace on a trip to South America. His wife, Sarah, is left to bring up their son on her own.

Seven years later, out of the blue, Sarah receives news that Philip is still alive. But the man who greets her before a crowd of journalists at the airport is a stranger- and he threatens Sarah. If she exposes him, she will lose everything- her house, her job, her son ... her whole beautiful life.

My Take

Sarah Petersen is convinced that her husband Philip is dead. It is seven years since he disappeared in Colombia and she has been thinking of having him declared dead. When the Foreign Affairs Department tells her he has been found and will be home tomorrow, she really thought she would have more time.

Everybody gets off the plane and she is still waiting for Philip to emerge, and then she realises he must be one of the men already on the tarmac. He is a stranger - she thinks - an imposter. Her son Leo was a baby when his father left and he takes an instant aversion to the stranger. The authorities deliver the stranger to her house despite Sarah's attempts to tell them she does not know him. She takes her son to stay with friends.

An intriguing story as Sarah tries to discover who the cold stranger is and what he wants from her. There are things that only Sarah knows but the stranger seems to know them too. Lots to think about when you have finished reading the book.

My Rating: 4.7

I've also read

8 February 2018

Review: SLEEP NO MORE, P.D. James

  • this edition published by Faber & Faber 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-571-33087-7
  • 172 pages
  • short stories
Synopsis (publisher)

The acknowledged 'Queen of Crime', P. D. James, was a past master of the short story, weaving together motifs of the Golden Age of crime-writing with deep psychological insight to create gripping, suspenseful tales. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories contained four of these perfectly formed stories, and this companion volume contains a further six, published here together for the first time.

As the six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each. Bullying schoolmasters receive their comeuppance, unhappy marriages and childhoods are avenged, a murder in the small hours of Christmas Day puts an end to the vicious new lord of the manor, and, from the safety of his nursing home, an octogenarian exerts exquisite retribution.

The punishments inflicted on the guilty are fittingly severe, but here they are meted out by the unseen forces of natural justice rather than the institutions of the law. Once again, P. D. James shows her expert control of the short-story form, conjuring motives and scenarios with complete conviction, and each with a satisfying twist in the tail.

My Take

Here is a handful of very clever short stories, each with a good twist in the tail, which often took me by surprise, revealing a culprit that I hadn't suspected, even though, on looking back all the clues were there.

Mostly the stories were 20-30 pages long, easily conquered in a sitting, and very well crafted. Make no mistake - I think the short story is incredibly difficult to pull off, because everything has to tie in, there must be no loose threads. The ending must be believable and complete.

Highly recommended.
My rating: 4.5

I've also read


 Synopsis (Text Publishing 2017)

The young detectives call Alan Auhl a retread, but that doesn’t faze him. He does things his own way—and gets results.

He still lives with his ex-wife, off and on, in a big house full of random boarders and hard-luck stories. And he’s still a cop, even though he retired from Homicide some years ago.

He works cold cases now. Like the death of John Elphick—his daughters still convinced he was murdered, the coroner not so sure. Or the skeleton that’s just been found under a concrete slab. Or the doctor who killed two wives and a girlfriend, and left no evidence at all.

My Take

A very welcome stand-alone from an Australian much-loved crime fiction writer - or is it the beginning of a new series?

Alan Auhl, once a worn-out detective, has been re-employed by the Victoria Police to go through cold case files. This seems to be a world-wide phenomenon- the new tools such as DNA testing of old evidence, computerised case comparisons etc, now make it possible to solve some cases where physical evidence was collected and stored. Each police force has a hideous back log of unsolved cold cases, and presumably all have a small team of detectives working through them to see if modern techniques can be used.

Alan Auhl brings years of experience to the job. Every now and then some of his old interview techniques, not really acceptable by modern standards, surface, and occasionally it seems that suspects are just busting to get a confession off their chest.

So Auhl is busy on a number of cases simultaneously, In addition the author builds up an interesting picture of his personal life.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.7, WYATT
4.7, HER 

4 February 2018

Review: 10 SHORT STORIES YOU MUST READ THIS YEAR, Sandra Yates (edit)

  • first published in 2009 by the Australia Council
  • ISBN 9780731814329
  • 262 pages
  • book was  provided free as part of the 2009 Books Alive Campaign (Australia)
Synopsis (back cover)

Kylie has a close encounter with a self-help guru in a stadium full of people.... Austin North is strangely smitten by a new student from Sudan ... Elizabeth's Christmas letters take on a life of their own ... Tom is on the bus with Tara Finke - Parramatta Road never looked so good.

There is something for everyone in this collection. Funny, poignant, perceptive, these vivid tales by some of our best-known writers capture contemporary Australia in all its variety.

My Take

Another book that has been in my TBR for a long long time.

Each of the short stories is 20-30 pages long and so easily read at a sitting.
Although some of the writers specialise in crime fiction, only a couple of the stories could be labelled crime fiction. Most of the stories challenge the reader to build the background scenario from the clues given.

1. A View of Mount Warning, Robert Drew
2. Hate at First Sight, Kathy Lette
3. Life in a Hotel Room, William McInnes
4. Elizabeth's News. Monica McInerney
5. Ithaca in Mind, Peter Temple
6. Blackberries, Tom Keneally
7. Twelve Minutes, Melina Marchetta
8. Manhattan Dreaming, Anita Heiss
9. You Can Change Your Life, Toni Jordan
10. Letter from a Drunk to a Long Gone Wife, Jack Marx.

I loved the irony of  A View of Mount Warning, the comedy of Elizabeth's News and the sadness of
Letter from a Drunk to a Long Gone Wife.
My rating: 4.4

What I read in January 2018

Pick of the month January 2018
  1. 5.0, FORCE OF NATURE, Jane Harper
  3. 4.6, IN THE DARK, Chris Patchell 
  4. 4.0, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB, David Lagercrantz 
  5. 4.5, ACT ONE, SCENE ONE ...MURDER, A.H. Richardson
  6. 4.4, THE MURDER AT SISSINGHAM HALL, Clara Benson 
  8. 4.5, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS, Donna Leon
  9. 4.3, BORROWED TIME, Robert Goddard 
  10. 4.3, DADDY'S GIRL, Lisa Scottoline
I enjoyed most of what I read, but I do suspect my ratings are creeping a bit high.

My pick of the month is  FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper

See what others have chosen for their pick of the month

Review: MATILDA, Roald Dahl - audio book

 Synopsis (audible.com)

Penguin presents Roald Dahl's Matilda, read by multi-award-winning actress Kate Winslet.
Matilda Wormwood is an extraordinary genius with really stupid parents.

Miss Trunchbull is her terrifying headmistress who thinks all her pupils are rotten little stinkers. But Matilda will show these horrible grown-ups that even though she's only small, she's got some very powerful tricks up her sleeve.... 

My Take

Well, this was intended to entertain the grandkids in the back seat but they haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. The adults in the car found it most entertaining. Kate Winslet is really a fabulous narrator with the ability to change her voice to suit the character she is playing.

It isn't a story that either of us have read, so we had no idea of where the plot was heading.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.7

Review: THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE, Roald Dahl - audio book

Synopsis (audible.com)

Stephen Fry reads this enhanced audiobook edition of Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile. The audiobook features original music and 3D sound design by Pinewood film studios.
The Enormous Crocodile is a greedy grumptious brute who loves to guzzle up little girls and boys. But the other animals have a scheme to get the better of this foul fiend, once and for all!

My take

If you are looking for something to entertain the small ones in the car then this is it.
They are guaranteed to demand it be played again and again, journey after journey, until adults, at least, are sick of it.
We follow the enormous crocodile from the river to the jungle in his search for tasty morsels, small children, for lunch.

Stephen Fry's reading is superb.

My rating: 5.0

1 February 2018

Pick of the Month - January 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 January 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 -
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 January 2018

review: DADDY'S GIRL, Lisa Scottoline

  • this edition published by Pan Macmillan 2007
  • ISBN 978-0-230-01470-1
  • 338 pages
  • author website
Synopsis  (author website)

In Daddy’s Girl, Natalie Greco’s quiet and idyllic, if not predictable, life turns chaotic when a violent riot breaks out while she is teaching a course at the local prison. Nat rushes to give CPR to a grievously injured prison guard. Before he dies, he asks her to deliver a cryptic message with his last words: “Tell my wife, it’s under the floor.” The dying declaration plunges Nat into a nightmare.

Suddenly, the girl who has always followed the rules finds herself suspected of a brutal murder. She encounters threats to her life around every curve, from ruthless killers desperate to keep her from exposing their secret. In the meantime, she gets dangerously close to Angus, a fellow colleague, whose warmth, strength, and ponytail shake her dedication to her boyfriend. With her love life in jeopardy, her career in the balance, and her life on the line, Nat is thrown back on her resources, her intelligence, and her courage. Forced into hiding to stay alive, she sets out to save herself by deciphering the puzzle behind one man’s last words. And learns the secret behind the greatest puzzle of all — herself.

My Take

I could have sworn that I had read at least one book by Lisa Scottoline, but apparently not in the life of this blog. Here again is a book that has been sitting in my TBR for longer than I care to remember.

Natalie Greco is a law professor, the daughter of a wealthy building family, used to getting what it wants. She is asked by another professor to take part in an outreach legal studies programme in a nearby prison. While they are there the prison goes into lockdown, a guard and three inmates are killed and Nat ends up holding the guard as he dies. Then it appears that the prison authorities have decided not to reveal what really happened, and their press release does not jell with what Nat remembers.

When she tries to deliver the dying man's message to his wife it become apparent there are those who are determined to scare her off. More deaths occur and Nat goes into hiding.

I found the plot a bit mind-bending, a little incredible, coupled with the fact that Nat herself is an appalling judge of character. She also seems to me to be a little young for the academic position that she holds.

The author says at the end that the scenario is based on her own experiences in teaching the law.

My rating: 4.3

29 January 2018

review: BORROWED TIME, Robert Goddard

  • this edition published 1995 Corgi Books
  • ISBN 978-0-552-14223-6
  • 447 pages
Synopsis (Penguin UK)

One fateful summer evening, businessman Robin Timariot meets a strikingly beautiful woman while out walking. They exchange only a few words, but those words prove to be unforgettable. A few days later, the newspapers are full of the rape and murder of Lady Louise Paxton - and to his horror, Timariot realises that this was the woman he met just hours before her death.

A man is swiftly charged and convicted of the crime, but a series of bizarre events begin to convince Timariot that all is not what it seems. Against his better judgement, he is soon sucked into the tortuous complexity of the dead woman's life. But the closer Timariot gets to the truth, the more hideous and uncertain it seems to be. And far too late, he realizes that anybody who uncovers it is unlikely to live...

My take

This book has been lurking on my TBR for longer than I care to remember. One thing that has put me off reading it is the small format of the paperback and of the print. I've been spoilt by the adjustability of reading e-books.

Robin Timariot is walking Offa's Dyke while trying to make a decision about the rest of his life. His accidental meeting of Louise Paxton should have had no lasting consequences but her death only a few hours later draws him into her family.

This is one of those plots that twists and turns and seems as if it will never end. Just when you think you have it all sorted out it darts off again. In fact I came to a conclusion early on about who was likely to be responsible for Louise Paxton's death, and, as it turns out, I was right, but not really for the right reasons.

The plot meanders along a bit with elements about the cricket bat company that Robin's family owns, and then strands related to Louise Paxton's family.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read (among others)


Review: DRAWING CONCLUSIONS, Donna Leon - audio book

Synopsis (Audible.com)

When Anna Maria Giusti returns from holiday to find her elderly neighbour Constanza Altavilla dead, with blood on the floor near her head, she immediately alerts the police. Commissario Brunetti is called to the scene and it seems the woman has suffered a fatal heart attack. Patta, the Vice-Questore, is eager to dismiss the case as a death from natural causes, but Brunetti believes that there is more to it.

It soon transpires that there are some faint bruises around her neck and shoulders, indicating she may have been shaken. Could this have caused a heart attack? Was someone threatening her?

Meanwhile, Brunetti meets Signora Altavilla’s son, Niccolini, who tells him that since her retirement she had been helping out at a nearby nursing home. Brunetti visits the home with Ispettore Vianello to try and find any information that might be connected to the case. While they speak to those she spent the most time with, it appears that there is some hostility between the residents, which raises Brunetti’s suspicions. Once again, he enlists the help of Signorina Elettra, who discovers that Signora Altavilla was involved with an organisation that helped women at risk, providing them with a safe house. Could this have something to do with her death?

As the investigation takes an unexpected twist in events, Brunetti needs to find out the truth before it gets buried within a community that seems to be slipping deeper and deeper into deception and lies.

My take

I was a bit doubtful about listening to this audio version, first of all because I had already read the book some time ago, and secondly because this is an abridged version. I generally avoid abridged books because I am never sure about what is actually left out, I was attracted to the book because the narrator is Andrew Sachs (Manuel from Fawlty Towers)

There is always the danger too with an audio book that you can nod off while listening, and while he does an excellent job most of the time, Sachs' voice is a bit soporific at times. Other reviewers commented on how slowly the book moved.

I have read a large number of Donna Leon titles and I think in part my enjoyment must have come from the fact that I have considerable background about the main characters: Brunetti, his colleagues and his family. I enjoy the interaction between them and the finely drawn portraits that lead to great visualisation.

As usual with Leon novels the plot incorporates elements of life in modern Venice. So there is political and administrative corruption, problems of caring for an elderly population, social violence particularly towards women. Behind it all Leon's slightly quirky sense of humour shows itself.


My rating: 4.5
I've read and reviewed:

25 January 2018


  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 5347 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma; 1 edition (September 10, 2015)
  • Publication Date: September 10, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
Synopsis (Amazon)

Shortlisted for the BMA Book Awards and Macavity Awards 2016

Fourteen novels. Fourteen poisons. Just because it's fiction doesn't mean it's all made-up ...

Agatha Christie revelled in the use of poison to kill off unfortunate victims in her books; indeed, she employed it more than any other murder method, with the poison itself often being a central part of the novel. Her choice of deadly substances was far from random – the characteristics of each often provide vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. With gunshots or stabbings the cause of death is obvious, but this is not the case with poisons. How is it that some compounds prove so deadly, and in such tiny amounts?

Christie's extensive chemical knowledge provides the backdrop for A is for Arsenic, in which Kathryn Harkup investigates the poisons used by the murderer in fourteen classic Agatha Christie mysteries. It looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, the cases that may have inspired Christie, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering and detecting these poisons, both at the time the novel was written and today. A is for Arsenic is a celebration of the use of science by the undisputed Queen of Crime.

My Take

This is an encyclopaedic work written authoritatively by a scientist who obviously loves her Agatha Christie novels. I have to admit to getting a bit lost in some of the more technical/scientific sections but really enjoyed the analysis in each chapter of whether Agatha Christie got it right.

Each chapter is headed with the name of a poison (Arsenic, Thallium, Veronal etc) attached to the plot of a particular novel. We get the historiography of the poison, how it works on the human body, real-life examples of its use, whether there is an antidote, and then an in depth treatment of the way it is used in the novel. Quite often the sleuth is Hercule Poirot.

Of interest too will be Appendix 1: Christie's Causes of Death, a table listing all of the Agatha Christie novels and short stories in order of publication, and the cause of death in each of them. My Kindle Paper White didn't handle this graphic all that well, but my iPad reader does better.
For the technically minded there is Appendix 2: structures of some of the chemicals in this book.

By no means a quick read, but an interesting one from many points of view.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Kathryn Harkup is a chemist and author. Kathryn completed a doctorate on her favourite chemicals, phosphines, and went on to further postdoctoral research before realising that talking, writing and demonstrating science appealed a bit more than hours slaving over a hot fume-hood. For six years she ran the outreach in engineering, computing, physics and maths at the University of Surrey, which involved writing talks on science topics that would appeal to bored teenagers (anything disgusting or dangerous was usually the most popular). Kathryn is now a freelance science communicator delivering talks and workshops on the quirky side of science. 


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