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 -
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


  • 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.


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.

Review: KILL ME AGAIN, Rachel Abbott

  • this edition published by Black Dot Publishing 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-9576522-7-9
  • 391 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #5 in the DI Tom Douglas series
Synopsis (author website)

When your life is a lie, who can you trust?

When Maggie Taylor accepts a new job in Manchester, she is sure it is the right move for her family. The children have settled well although her husband, Duncan, doesn’t appear to be so convinced.

But nothing prepares her for the shock of coming home from work one night to find that Duncan has disappeared, leaving their young children alone. His phone is dead, and she has no idea where he has gone, or why. And then she discovers she’s not the only one looking for him.

When a woman who looks just like Maggie is brutally murdered and DCI Tom Douglas is brought in to investigate, Maggie realises how little she knows about Duncan’s past. Is he the man she loves? Who is he running from?

She doesn’t have long to decide whether to trust him or betray him. Because one thing has been made clear to Maggie – another woman will die soon, and it might be her.

My Take:

The thing with Rachel Abbott's plots is that they are so credible. Despite being married to Duncan Taylor for 11 years, his wife Maggie comes to realise how little she really knows about him. More importantly, snippets that she discovers prove that much of what he has told her is fiction.

Days pass and Duncan does not come home, Maggie gets a text message from him asking her not to contact the police, and then others contact her saying they are looking for Duncan, that he has a debt that must be paid.

There is a sub-plot running for most of the book that involves the disappearance and search for Tom's former girl friend Leo.

A very good read, with a characteristic twist to the plot.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

11 July 2018

Review: TWIST OF FAITH, Ellen J. Green

  • this edition published by Thomas & Mercer 2018 (Amazon Publishing)
  • ISBN 9781503949065
  • 321 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

When family secrets are unearthed, a woman’s past can become a dangerous place to hide…

After the death of her adoptive mother, Ava Saunders comes upon a peculiar photograph, sealed and hidden away in a crawl space. The photo shows a shuttered, ramshackle house on top of a steep hill. On the back, a puzzling inscription: Destiny calls us.

Ava is certain that it’s a clue to her elusive past. Twenty-three years ago, she’d been found wrapped in a yellow blanket in the narthex of the Holy Saviour Catholic Church—and rescued—or so she’d been told. Her mother claimed there was no more to the story, so the questions of her abandonment were left unanswered. For Ava, now is the time to find the roots of her mother’s lies. It begins with the house itself—once the scene of a brutal double murder.

When Ava enlists the help of the two people closest to her, a police detective and her best friend, she fears that investigating her past could be a fatal mistake. Someone is following them there. And what’s been buried in Ava’s nightmares isn’t just a crime. It’s a holy conspiracy.

My Take

Ava Saunders is driven by the need to know who her mother was, who she is, and what her real name is. Frustratingly her adoptive mother Claire dies without telling her. Ava has snatches of memories that don't tie in with what little Claire has told her. Something connects her to events happening over twenty years before, but Ava has never managed to get the true story.

The author manages to carry the mystery attached to Ava's origins almost to the end of the story, providing a number of puzzles for the reader to solve. At the centre of it all seems to lie a number of black and white photos of open doors taken by an old Polaroid camera.

Prior to her death her mother insisted that Ava return from Canada where she has been studying. She has never got on really well with her adoptive mother. They seem to have been on the move for much of her life. After Claire's death Ava gains a couple of friends, one a detective, who are willing to help her search for information.

While this novel is about a search for identity, it is also about revenge.

My rating: 4.4

About the author:

Ellen J. Green was born and raised in Upstate New York. She moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University, where she earned her degrees in psychology. She has worked in a maximum security correctional facility in the psychiatric ward for fifteen years. She also holds an MFA degree in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. The author of The Book of James, Ms. Green lives in southern New Jersey with her two children.

10 July 2018

New to me authors: meme: April to June 2018

So far this year 1 in every 3 books that I have read have been written by "new to me" authors.

In the last 3 months I have read
 See what others have read in this time.

New to me authors - April to June 2018

It's easy to join this meme.

Just write a post about the best new-to-you crime fiction authors (or all) you've read in the period of April to June 2018, put a link to this meme in your post, and even use the logo if you like.
The books don't necessarily need to be newly published.

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

This meme will run again at the end of September 2018

Review: REDEMPTION POINT, Candice Fox

  • this edition published in Bantam 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-14378-188-2
  • 410 pages
  • Author website
Synopsis (Author website)

When former police detective Ted Conkaffey was wrongly accused of abducting 13-year-old Claire Bingley, he hoped the Queensland rainforest town of Crimson Lake would be a good place to disappear. But nowhere is safe from Claire’s devastated father.

Dale Bingley has a brutal revenge plan all worked out – and if Ted doesn’t help find the real abductor, he’ll be its first casualty.

Meanwhile, in a dark roadside hovel called the Barking Frog Inn, the bodies of two young bartenders lie on the beer-sodden floor. It’s Detective Inspector Pip Sweeney’s first homicide investigation – complicated by the arrival of private detective Amanda Pharrell to ‘assist’ on the case. Amanda’s conviction for murder a decade ago has left her with some odd behavioural traits, top-to-toe tatts – and a keen eye for killers . . .

For Ted and Amanda, the hunt for the truth will draw them into a violent dance with evil. Redemption is certainly on the cards – but it may well cost them their lives . . .

My take

This is a sequel to the earlier book CRIMSON LAKE when Ted Conkaffey and Amanda Pharrell first joined in partnership, so I would really recommend reading the two books in order.

Ted is still determined to track down the man who abducted Claire Bingley and so caused Ted's dismissal from the police force, his marriage break up, and his estrangement from his small daughter.  But media interest in Ted's story is still high and he is approached to appear on an Australia -wide television show, ostensibly to give his side of the story. A podcast is keeping Justice for Ted alive as its central theme.

Ted and Amanda are asked to work with local police and the inexperienced DI Sweeney to work out who murdered the bartenders at the Barking Frog Inn.

There are several "voices" telling the story in this novel - Ted's, Amanda's, Pip Sweeney's, and a diary which has been begun as a therapy journal. The identity of the writer does not become obvious until the novel is well underway.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN

Review: Inspector Morse: BBC Radio Drama Collection - audio book

  • Narrated by: John Shrapnel, Robert Glenister
  • Length: 4 hrs and 38 mins
  • Radio/TV Program
  • Release date: 03-01-18
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: BBC Digital Audio 
  • source: Audible.com 

  • Synopsis (Audible)

    Three BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisations starring John Shrapnel as Morse and Robert Glenister as Lewis, plus a bonus reading by Colin Dexter of one of his short stories.

    In Last Seen Wearing, Inspector Morse is reluctant to take over an old missing person case from a dead colleague. But two years, three months and two days after teenager Valerie Taylor's disappearance, somebody decides to supply some surprising new evidence....

    In The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, Inspector Morse tackles the murder of an exam invigilator. The newly appointed member of the Oxford foreign exam syndicate was deaf, and he wasn't from the insular world of the Oxford colleges. Now he is dead.

    After he's rushed into hospital, Inspector Morse becomes intrigued by an old crime in The Wench Is Dead. Could the wrong men have been hanged for the murder of Joanna Franks?

    Plus Colin Dexter reads his own short story, 'The Double Crossing', in which it is a good first day for a certain detective named Lewis.
    Gripping, suspenseful and entertaining, these BBC dramatisations were adapted by Guy Meredith from the original Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter.

    My take

    Just the thing for shortish journeys - each play takes about 80 minutes. Getting used to John Shrapnel playing Morse instead of John Thaw takes a bit of time as does Robert Glenister playing Lewis.

    I initially found the sound a bit patchy but it worked ok once I realised I had to have volume right up so I caught what was happening with minor scenes and some of the minor characters.

    The quality of Dexter's writing and characterisations  comes through well, even those these are obviously abridged versions of the original novels.

    I had in fact read most of the Dexter novels before beginning this blog.


    My rating: 4.3

    I've also read the following by Colin Dexter

    3 July 2018

    Review: THE GUILTY WIFE, Elle Croft

    • this edition published by Orion Books 2018
    • ISBN 978-1-4091-7541-4
    • 309 pages
    • source: my local library
    Synopsis (Good Reads)


    If you were being framed for murder, how far would you go to clear your name?

    I'm not guilty of murder.

    Bethany Reston is happily married. But she's also having an affair with a famous client.

    And no one can ever know.

    But that doesn't make me innocent.

    When Bethany's lover is brutally murdered, she has to hide her grief from everyone.

    But someone knows her secret. And then one day the threats begin.

    With an ever-growing pile of evidence pointing to her as the murderer, the only way she can protect her secrets is to prove her innocence. And that means tracking down a killer.

    An incredibly taut, tense game of cat and mouse - with a twist you'll never see coming.

    My Take

    The blurb is certainly right when it says there is a twist in the end that most readers will never see coming. After her lover is murdered someone is certainly determined to prove Bethany is guilty - but, you constantly ask yourself, who would hate her that much? They leave notes, hack into her FaceBook account, publish incriminating pictures.

    The tension builds very effectively. The police are blindsided by the so-called evidence, and in the long run Bethany is really a very poor judge of character.

    My Rating: 4.4

    About the author
    Elle Croft was born in South Africa, grew up in Australia and moved to the UK in 2010 after travelling around the world with her husband. She works as a freelance social media specialist and also blogs about travel, food and life in London. The Guilty Wife is her debut novel.


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