30 May 2019

Review: DEADLY SECRETS, Robert Bryndza

  • this edition published by Bookouture, 2018
  • ISBN 9-781786-814289
  • 325 pages
  • source: my local library
  • series: Erika Foster #6
Synopsis (author website)

To commit the perfect murder, you need the perfect cover.

On a cold icy morning, a mother wakes to find her daughter’s blood-soaked body frozen to the road. Who would carry out such a horrific killing on the victim’s doorstep?

Straight off her last harrowing case, Detective Erika Foster is feeling fragile but determined to lead the investigation. As she sets to work, she finds reports of assaults in the same quiet South London suburb where the woman was killed. One chilling detail links them to the murder victim – they were all attacked by a figure in black wearing a gas mask.

Erika is on the hunt for a killer with a terrifying calling card. The case gets more complicated when she uncovers a tangled web of secrets surrounding the death of the beautiful young woman.

Yet just as Erika begins to piece the clues together, she is forced to confront painful memories of her past. Erika must dig deep, stay focused and find the killer. Only this time, one of her own is in terrible danger…

My Take

Another chilling read in this series.

Not long after the resolution of her previous case, Erika Foster is on her way for Christmas lunch. She hears a radio message about a body being found not far from her house. She knows that most staff have been given holiday leave and so she decides to attend the scene herself.

The opening episode of the book is set on Christmas Eve when the victim alights from the train near her home and meets some neighbours, The wife is abusive and her husband hurries her off and the girl resumes her journey home. She has her key in the front door when she is attacked and killed in a frenzy of stabbing.

The next morning her mother, who has heard nothing during the night, discovers the body on the front step, and then Erika Foster's team begin their investigation with house to house questioning.  Every person they speak to has a different opinion of the young woman, and many of the neighbours are not complimentary. Then CCTV footage reveals the details of  the attack and the fact that someone whom they have already interviewed has not told the truth.

As the book proceeds the plot gets increasingly complex but at the same time intriguing. I thought I had the murderer picked early on, but once again I was wrong.

This author was one that I "discovered" last year and really worth the effort locating. The series has good character development and I suggest you attempt to read them in order.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
4.6, DARK WATER #3
4.7, COLD BLOOD  #5  

Review: THE ONE, John Marrs

  • this edition published by Del Rey 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-79-503605-7
  • 405 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others...

My Take

Match your DNA purports to be the world's first scientifically proven test 100%  guaranteed to match a person with the one and only person you're genetically designed to fall in love with.
The DNA test is free and, once a match is found, then for a simple one-off fee applicants get information that allows them to contact their Match. There are no guarantees about the character of even gender of the Match. Contact is usually by email, but some couples take the plunge and use the phone to set up a date.

This story follows 5 couples who are sent details of their Match. Details can be confirmed from FaceBook pages and in each scenario one of the people contacts their Match.

In some cases the person has family members who has already participated in the DNA testing and has discovered, even married, their Match. They see the scheme as a way of cutting short the tedium of dating and looking for the One, the person of their dreams. But what if the person has lied about themselves, or there is some other reason why the Match will not work?

An intriguing and engrossing read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
John Marrs is a freelance journalist based in London, England, who has spent the last 20 years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines.
THE ONE is his third title.

26 May 2019

Review: DEAD OF NIGHT, Michael Stanley

  • this edition published by Orenda Books 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-912374-25-0
  • 310 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she'll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But within a week, she's been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything...

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she's exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it's too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it...

Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller that exposes one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent...

My Take

Writing duo Michael Stanley have ventured into relatively uncharted waters with a stand alone novel grounded in their extensive knowledge of South Africa and its problems.

Rhino horn smuggling is rife in South Africa, with poachers killing an estimated 100 rhinos per month, bringing black rhino to the point of extinction. See more.

So the setting of this novel is very topical and the issues are well described.

Freelance journalist Crystal Nguyen is a very impetuous young lady who gets away with amazingly daring deeds. I'm not sure  she will feature again in the novels of Michael Stanley (I personally favour more Kubu novels), but this one was very readable, and I feel I have more understanding now of what is going on.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also reviewed
4.5, DETECTIVE KUBU INVESTIGATES: a collection of short stories

24 May 2019

Review: ALL OUR SECRETS, Jennifer Lane

Synopsis (publisher)

A girl called Gracie.

A small town called Coongahoola with the dark Bagooli River running through it.

The Bleeders — hundreds of ‘Believers’ who set up on the banks of the river, who start to buy up the town and win souls.

The River Children
— born in the aftermath of the infamous River Picnic. They begin to go missing, one after another.

Gracie Barrett is the naively savvy spokesperson for her chaotic family (promiscuous dad, angry mum, twins Lucky and Grub, Elijah the River Child and fervent, prayerful Grandma Bett), for the kids who are taken, for the lurking fear that locks down the town and puts everyone under suspicion.

Gracie is funny and kind, bullied and anguished, and her life spirals out of control when she discovers she knows what no one else does: who is responsible for the missing children.

Coongahoola is where hope and fear collide, where tender adolescence is confronted by death, where kindness is a glimmer of light in the dark.

My Take

Gracie Barrett, the central figure in this novel, reminded me a lot of Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. In fact at one stage Gracie is reading the book. In some senses Gracie has a wisdom beyond her years, and in other ways she is naive in her acceptance of what is happening in the adult world. There is a deceptive complexity to this plot.

The first mystery to solve is what actually happened on the night of the River Picnic. And then, as the River Children born in its aftermath, begin to go missing and are then are discovered murdered, what is the thread that connects them? Why are these murders happening, what has triggered them after 8 years?

The town of Coongahoola is divided with the arrival of Saint Bede and his followers, and the followers become easy scapegoats to blame for the murders. Gracie is particularly affected when he mother and father breakup, her mother leaves home, and is then chosen by Saint Bede to be his 4th wife. Through all Grandma Bett provides much needed stability, but still the murders happen.

And then Gracie unwittingly identifies the murderer.

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Boo Radley had been bad?

My rating: 4.5

In 1995, doubled over under the enormous weight of her backpack (lugging a 10kg laptop among other things), Jennifer Lane left Australia to satisfy her curiosity about the rest of the world – and to fulfil her dream of writing a novel. Twenty-two years, one husband and two daughters later, her mum has finally given up asking when she’s coming home.

For two decades now, Jennifer has lived in Wellington, New Zealand with the aforementioned family. She was a winner of New Zealand Book Month’s Six Pack 2 writing competition in 2007 and her short stories have appeared in publications on both sides of the Tasman, including Southerly and Island.

It took a little longer than she planned, but ALL OUR SECRETS is her first novel.

Her website and blog are at: jenniferlane.co.nz

19 May 2019

Review: WHERE THE DEAD LAY, David Levien

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1006 KB
  • Print Length: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (November 24, 2009)
  • Publication Date: November 24, 2009
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0031RS2MC
  • #2 in the Frank Behr series 
Synopsis (Amazon)

THE VICTIM was a fighter, but strength wasn't enough to save him from a gruesome end.

THE MISSING are two well-paid private investigators who vanish on a confidential job.

THE FAMILY is formidable, crazy, deadly, and will stop at nothing to make a mark.

THE INVESTIGATOR is Frank Behr: tough, reclusive, angry, and close to becoming . . .

THE HUNTED . . . can Behr track down the killers before they add him to their hit list?

My Take

The action takes place about 18 months after the first title in the series: CITY OF THE SUN. Frank Behr is working as an independent investigator and has taken up Ju Jitsu. He arrives in the early morning for his class and finds the instructor, with whom he has become very friendly, dead in the foyer of the building, murdered. He makes a pledge that he will find the person(s) responsible.

At the same time Frank is asked to take on an investigation into two missing private investigators. The people making the request want him to keep the case quiet, and give him minimal information. He does find out however that it is related to an investigation into a bent cop.

Frank has heard other detectives talk about the inter-relatedness of cases they take on, but he has never really believed it until now when connections begin to pop up between two cases that are seemingly unrelated.

And Frank now has some personal problems to resolve with his lover Susan.

A good well constructed novel that just keeps you reading to the end.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

17 May 2019


  • this edition published by hachette Australia 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-4035-3
  • 357 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Joanna Nell's life-affirming debut is a moving, funny, heartwarming tale of love and community in the spirit of THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY and GRACE AND FRANKIE.

The life of 79-year-old pensioner PEGGY SMART is as beige as the decor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. Following a very minor traffic accident, things have turned frosty with her grown-up children and she is afraid they are trying to take away her independence.

The highlight of Peggy's day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim. She dreams of inviting the handsome widower - treasurer of the Residents' Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village - to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.

But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn't seen in five decades - the glamorous fashionista ANGIE VALENTINE - sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery.

My Take

Once again I have ventured outside my usual crime fiction genre.
But this came to me so highly recommended I felt I could not miss it. And it is a delightful read.

Peggy Smart has reached the age that I am approaching, and she feels a bit as if she is over the hill and that there isn't much left for her. That is until her childhood friend Angie turns up. Peggy always envied Angie. She seemed to have life on a string. Peggy though was forced into becoming a secretary and then she married early. Angie disappeared from her life, went overseas and re-appeared only occasionally. But now she lives in a unit just 3 doors away in the retirement village, and instantly she challenges Peggy to get more out of life.

I really warmed to this book and to some of Peggy's predicament. An enjoyable read.

My Rating: 4.7

About the author
Joanna Nell was born in the UK and studied medicine at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Her short fiction has won multiple awards and has been published in various journals and literary anthologies. As a GP with a passion for women's health and care of the elderly, Joanna is drawn to writing character-driven stories for women in their prime, creating young-at-heart characters who are not afraid to break the rules and defy society's expectations of ageing. Her first novel, THE SINGLE LADIES OF JACARANDA RETIREMENT VILLAGE, was a national bestseller. Joanna lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches with her husband and two teenage children

13 May 2019

Review: CITY OF THE SUN, David Levien

  • this edition published by Corgi Books 2008
  • ISBN 978-0-552-15968-5
  • 491 pages
  • #1 in the Frank Behr series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Penguin Random House)

Private detective Frank Behr has been perfectly content living a solitary life, working on a few simple cases, and attempting to move on from his painful past. But when Paul and Carol Gabriel ask him to help them find their missing son, he can hardly refuse. Going against everything he fears—Behr’s been around too long to hope for a happy ending—he enters into an uneasy partnership with Paul on a quest for the truth that will become both dangerous and haunting. Richly textured and crackling with suspense on every page, City of the Sun masterfully takes readers on an investigation like no other.

Twelve-year-old Jamie Gabriel gets on his bike before dawn to deliver newspapers in his suburban neighbourhood. Somewhere en route, he vanishes without a trace. Fourteen months later, still with no sign of Jamie and having lost all faith in the police, his parents Paul and Carol are on the verge of abandoning hope. Then they meet private investigator Frank Behr, a tough, reclusive ex-cop. Abandoned by his former colleagues, separated from his wife and haunted by his own terrible past, Behr doesn't make it a practice to take on hopeless cases, but the desperate couple's plea for help awakens a personal pain he can't ignore . . .

My Take

Jamie Gabriel has been missing for 14 months when his parents Paul and Carol meet private investigator Frank Behr. As far as they can tell the police in Indianapolis gave up nearly a year ago on what seems to be a dead-end case. Behr takes on their case against his better judgement, and then he allows Paul to become his partner in the investigation, again against his better judgement.

This is the first novel in the Frank Behr series and we spend a lot of the book in getting to know him.
An ex-cop, Frank tries to focus on what the police haven't looked at. Where in his paper round did Jamie stop delivering the papers? What happened to his bike? Have other boys his age also gone missing? What do the cases have in common? These separate threads begin to yield results.

An intriguing novel that turns into a thriller at the end.
A good read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
David Levien, author of Thirteen Million Dollar Pop, Where the Dead Lay, City of the Sun, and Signature Kill, has been nominated for the Edgar, Hammett, and Shamus awards. He is also a screenwriter and director, including co-director of Solitary Man (2009) starring Michael Douglas. He lives in Connecticut.

11 May 2019

Review: HIDDEN KILLERS, Lynda La Plante

  • this edition published 2016 by Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN 978-1-4711-4055-6
  • 496 pages
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A prostitute dressed in a blue rabbit fur coat walks through the darkness of Hackney Fields, seemingly alone. But someone is waiting for her ...A woman is found dead in her bath, a small child crying in the room next door ...Is it accidental death or the perfect murder?

When WPC Jane Tennison is promoted to the role of Detective Constable in London's Bow Street CID, she is immediately conflicted. While her far more experience colleagues move on swiftly from one criminal case to another, Jane is often left with doubts about their findings. Becoming inextricably embroiled in a multiple-rape case, Jane must put her life at risk in the search for answers. Will she toe the CID line, or endanger her position by seeking the truth ...?

My Take

This book is the second in a series that Lynda La Plante wrote from 2015.
1. Tennison (2015)
2. Hidden Killers (2016)
3. Good Friday (2017)
4. Murder Mile (2018)
5. The Dirty Dozen (2019)

In the first book in the series, TENNISON, in the aftermath of an explosion in the bank vault, the police operation descends into pandemonium and panic. Police officers search the rubble for survivors and find Gibbs and a badly-injured. This incident and its impact on Tennison and colleagues is often referred to in HIDDEN KILLERS.

Actually though the background to this series needs mentioning. The televised series that resulted from the original PRIME SUSPECT books, featuring Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, was immensely popular.
1. Prime Suspect (1991)
2. A Face in the Crowd (1992)
3. Silent Victims (1993)

Following on from the success of Prime Suspect, the author and ITV launched a new series, Prime Suspect 1973, a prequel to Prime Suspect. Set in London in the 1970's, this series, followed the early career of the formidable DCI Jane Tennison, the role that established Dame Helen Mirren as a household name. However La Plante walked away from the collaboration when she felt they were trying to change it too much. ITV scrapped the series but La Plante went on to write 4 more novels beginning with  HIDDEN KILLERS.

This book is really a collection of the cases that Detective Constable Jane Tennison becomes involved in beginning with a case where she is used as a decoy for a rapist.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

5 May 2019

Review: THE AFTERMATH, Rhidian Brook

  • this edition published by Penguin.com 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-670-92291-8
  • 325 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Booktopia)

In the bitter winter of 1946, Rachael Morgan arrives with her only remaining son Edmund in the ruins of Hamburg. Here she is reunited with her husband Lewis, a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But as they set off for their new home, Rachael is stunned to discover that Lewis has made an extraordinary decision: they will be sharing the grand house with its previous owners, a German widower and his troubled daughter. In this charged atmosphere, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal. 

My take

For followers of my blog: although this novel includes crimes, it is not really crime fiction.
It is part of a genre which explores "real" historical situations, particularly related to issues connected to World War 2.

The setting is Hamburg in 1946, ironically destroyed by British fire bombing late in the war with total devastation of the city and the loss of  thousands of "innocent" citizens. The area is now occupied by the British, Russian and the Americans and their mission is to "reform" the German citizens, to change their mind set, and make sure they see Hitler for what he was.

Lewis Morgan is the British officer in charge of this rehabilitation but he is among the humanitarian few who think that feeding the population, housing them, taking them off the streets, and re-establishing schools and work is much more important than working out those who still believe Hitler was right.

The British officers bring their families to Hamburg and settle into requisitioned housing. Some of them carry out vendettas against the German population, at the same time as beginning to repatriate art treasures etc to Britain.

For me the novel raised a number of interesting issues while telling a believable story.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Reviewed in The Guardian in 2013
Rhidian Brook's family history handed him The Aftermath more or less on a plate. His grandfather, Walter Brook, allocated a requisitioned house in Hamburg in 1946, took the unusual decision to share it with the owners, rather than dispossessing them. 

(This review is quite critical of what it considers to be the thin-ness of the novel, and lost opportunities.)

1 May 2019

What I read in April 2019

10 books read this month
The best was actually the novella written by Jeffery Deaver

See what others have chosen for their Pick of the Month

Pick of the Month April 2019

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2019
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 April 2019, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.


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