31 August 2019

Review: THE SECRET OF ANNEXE THREE, Colin Dexter - audio book

  • By: Colin Dexter
  • Narrated by: Samuel West
  • Series: Inspector Morse Mysteries, Book 7
  • Length: 7 hrs and 11 mins
  • audio book: Macmillan Digital Audio
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Audible)

Morse sought to hide his disappointment. So many people in the Haworth Hotel that fateful evening had been wearing some sort of disguise - a change of dress, a change of makeup, a change of partner, a change of attitude, a change of life almost; and the man who had died had been the most consummate artist of them all....

Chief Inspector Morse seldom allowed himself to be caught up in New Year celebrations. So the murder inquiry in the festive hotel had a certain appeal.

It was a crime worthy of the season.

The corpse was still in fancy dress. And hardly a single guest at the Haworth had registered under a genuine name....

My Take

I've actually read most or all of the Morse books years ago (prior to this blog commencing), as well as seeing most of the TV versions with John Thaw and Kevin Whately.
However the audio version gives you a chance to contemplate Colin Dexter's skill as a writer, and in particular how clever he is as a plotter and how literary his expression is.

Samuel West does a lovely job of narration, and I'm looking forward to my next.

My rating: 4.5

I've already read
4.3, INSPECTOR MORSE: BBB Radio Collection

27 August 2019

Review: THE MISTLETOE BRIDE, Kate Mosse

  • this edition published 2013 Orion Books
  • ISBN 978-1-4091-4804-3
  • 290 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

The perfect winter ghost short story collection from the No.1 bestselling author of LABYRINTH and THE WINTER GHOSTS.

"I hear someone coming. It has happened before. I pause and listen but no longer hear anything. I sigh. As always, hope is snatched away before it can take root. And so then, as always, I am carried back to that first December so very long ago..."

Rooted in the elemental landscapes of Sussex, Brittany and the Languedoc, here are tales of ghosts and spirits seeking revenge, grief-stricken women and haunted men coming to terms with their destiny.

My Take

Mystery rather crime fiction.

This volume contains 14 short stories and a short play.
Each short story is accompanied by an account of what inspired the writing of it, whether it is connected to local folklore, and when it was published.
This was Kate Mosse's first collection of short stories, and only 6 of them had been published before.

The author says "What they have in common is a protagonist is a state of crisis, someone whose emotional state makes them more susceptible to experiences or happenings outside everyday life. They are men and women who, for a moment at least, have slipped between the cracks of the physical world we can see and understand and into a shadow world that may or may not exist."

I love short stories. The bonus was to find out what was behind the writing of it.
Most were historical, maybe a little Gothic, in flavour, and a bit Poe-ish. 

The ones I liked best were The Misteltoe Bride, The Drowned Village, and the House on the Hill.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.4, THE TAXIDERMIST'S DAUGHTER
4.4, THE BURNING CHAMBERS  

24 August 2019

Review: HEAD IN THE SAND, Damien Boyd

  • this edition published by Thomas & Mercer (Amazon imprint) 2015
  • ISBN 978-1477821046
  • 198 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

The discovery of a severed head in a golf course bunker triggers a frantic race to find a serial killer that brings the town of Burnham-on-Sea to a standstill.

A connection is made with a series of unsolved murders harking back to the 1970s, and Detective Inspector Nick Dixon finds himself caught in a race against time that takes him the length and breadth of the country.

The brutal killing of an elderly man raises the stakes and, as he closes in, Dixon begins to question whether he is chasing one serial killer or two.

Head in the Sand is the second novel in the DI Nick Dixon Crime Series

My Take

A nice solid police procedural with a enough mystery threads to keep you reading. An author that I first discovered earlier this year.

The main setting for this novel is Burnham-on-Sea, a large seaside town in Somerset, England, at the mouth of the River Parrett, upon Bridgwater Bay. 

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.2, AS THE CROW FLIES

According to Fantastic Fiction the published series is
1. As The Crow Flies (2013)
2. Head In The Sand (2013)
3. Kickback (2014)
4. Swansong (2015)
5. Dead Level (2016)
6. Death Sentence (2016)
7. Heads or Tails (2017)
8. Dead Lock (2018)
9. Beyond the Point (2019)
So I may well look for another. 

22 August 2019

Review: SISTERS, Gabrielle Lord

Synopsis (publisher)

Sydney screenwriter Greta Maitland’s life crashes at the arrival of the postcard from Crete:

‘Sorry to tell you this, but your sister Xanthe has been missing since May. Police have found no trace….’

Greta immediately flies to Crete to continue the stalled investigation, but there, runs into deceit; the Cretan police officer deliberately mistranslates her questions; Xanthe’s lover lies … more and more disturbing facts emerge about her sister and Greta’s growing suspicions about her husband seem confirmed.

In the ancient house inherited by the sisters, where Xanthe had first been living, Greta notices a faintly penciled phone number surrounded by a love heart, missed by the police and this leads her to the beautiful Etz Hayyim synagogue in Chania, and to her sister’s secret lover.

Using only Xanthe’s damaged artist’s journal and paintings as possible leads, and with earthquakes threatening, Greta must uncover the extraordinary events that have led to her sister’s disappearance. But can her marriage survive such betrayal? And can Greta herself survive the earthquakes in Crete, both emotional and physical, and their shattering consequences?

My Take

While there is plenty of mystery in this story, it is not crime fiction.

Greta's husband Magnus tells her that he has arranged a holiday for them on the French Riviera and almost immediately two things happen which throw those plans aside. First of all her mother, in the last stage of Alzheimers' dies; and then a postcard arrives telling her that her sister Xanthe who has been in Crete for three years is missing. Immmediately after her mother's funeral Greta flies out to Crete to look for her sister.

Almost immediately things back in Australia go awry. Magnus' career as Assistant Police Commissioner in New South Wales goes into jeopardy, he is unable to cope with his teenage daughter and young son, and Greta's publisher wants her next script.

In Crete Greta manages to find out what the police know about her sister's disappearance and she starts to look for clues about where she might be.  On the phone from Australia her husband Magnus becomes increasingly angry and at the same time very distant.

So this is a mystery rather than crime fiction. I found it a difficult read sometimes, a bit too philosophical, and several times was on the verge of giving up.

In March this year Gabrielle Lord wrote
Sisters is finally making its way into the shops.  It's been a long process, held up by unforeseen circumstances but now I'm hoping it goes out into the world and is well received.  This is the worry time for writers.  Will people like it?  Will it be well reviewed? Will it sell?  I'm hopeful that such a good story, well-researched --I lived in Crete for months in the northwest town of Kissamos where the story is set in order to get things right -- well, as right as a non-resident is able, with strong characters, facing difficult choices and often in some danger, create a novel which has been described as 'unputdownable'.  Wilkinson publishing has been very supportive (thank you Jess!) and although it's been a 'difficult birth', the result makes me happy.  I hope it'll bring the same satisfaction to all my readers.

I think maybe it was the depth of research that got in the way of my enjoyment. At times it read like a travelogue. But read it for yourself.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read
BABY DID A BAD BAD THING
DEATH DELIGHTS
DIRTY WEEKEND
4.4, DEATH BY BEAUTY 

18 August 2019

Review: SNAP, Belinda Bauer

  • this edition published by Penguin UK 2018
  • ISBN 9781784160852
  • 434 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS . . .

On a stifling summer's day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack's in charge, she'd said. I won't be long.
But she doesn't come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge - of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they're alone in the house, and - quite suddenly - of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

My Take

August 1998. The broken down car is parked on the side of the highway and Jack's pregnant mother has walked to the emergency phone to get help. But when Jack takes his sisters to find his mother, she is not there.

Three years later Jack's devastated father has walked out and Jack is trying to feed his sisters by stealing from local houses. The children are no longer going to school and he and his sisters are barely surviving.

A new neighbour has moved in next door. Her son is a policeman and she is a bit nosy.

Detective Chief Inspector John Marvel has been newly appointed to the West Country because of various failures when he was in London investigating murders. He feels he has been demoted, out in the cold, and now he is expected to take charge of the investigation of burglaries.

But there is much more to this case than he anticipated.

I enjoyed the development of the characters in this story and the way the storyline progressed.
I wonder if we will see more of John Marvel?

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
5.0, BLACKLANDS
4.8, THE SHUT EYE

15 August 2019

Review: FORGET MY NAME, J S Monroe

  • this edition published by Head of Zeus, 2018
  • ISBN 9-781786-698056
  • 419 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)
She arrived into Heathrow after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen. Her whole life was in there - passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn't remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she is at the door of Tony and Laura, a young couple living in Wiltshire. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before. One of them is lying. But which one?

My Take

Tony and Laura feel sorry for the young woman standing on their doorstep and invite her to stay overnight in the hope that her memory will return. Tony says she looks like a Jemma, so that is the name they call her by. Jemma is carrying a small suitcase but there is no clue about who she is.

They take her to see a local doctor who thinks she recognises her. Jemma is diagnosed with a form of amnesia. Susie, the doctor, messages Laura warning her that she should be very careful about their house guest. At the local pub a man called Luke thinks he also recognises Jemma but is not sure from where.

After the doctor's message Laura becomes less comfortable with Jemma staying in the house.

An engrossing read where the tension builds as more clues accumulate about Jemma's possible identity.

I thought there was a bit of a hitch about midway through the book, and wasn't entirely happy with the final plot resolution.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

J.S.Monroe is the pen name of Jon Stock, author of five acclaimed spy novels and 'To Snare a Spy', a spy novella.

Jon lives in Wiltshire with his wife and three children. After reading English at Cambridge University, he worked as a freelance journalist in London, writing features for most of Britain's national newspapers, as well as contributing regularly to BBC Radio 4. He was also chosen for Carlton TV's acclaimed screenwriters course. Between 1998 and 2000, he was Delhi correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, and he also wrote the Last Word column in The Week Magazine (India) from 1995, when he lived in Cochin, South India, to 2012.

12 August 2019

Review: 55, James Delargy

  • this edition published by Simon and Schuster UK 2019
  • ISBN: 978-14-7118-463-5
  • 423 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

There were 54 victims before this. Who is number 55? A thriller with a killer hook, and an ending that will make you gasp!

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.
He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

James Delargy has written one of the most exciting debuts of 2019. He masterfully paints the picture of a remote Western Australian town and its people, swallowed whole by the hunt for a serial killer.

My Take

Two stories are told in tandem. One from the present and one from ten years ago.

In the story from ten years ago a young man is missing in the bush and two very new policemen are heading the search party in the rough country near Wilbrook.

Now, ten years on, one of the policemen is the Sergeant at the Wilbrook station when a an injured man arrives, claiming to have been captured and imprisoned by a serial killer. Two days later another man turns up with the same story.

The second policeman is now the Inspector at the Port Headland station and he and his officers turn up to take on the investigation at Wilbrook. There is a lot of animosity between the two, largely stemming from their experiences ten years before.

This novel reads as if the author is Australian and I was surprised to realise that he is not.
A good read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives. He incorporates this diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. 55 is his first novel.

11 August 2019

Review: CLOSED CASKET, Sophie Hannah - audio book

  • audio book - unabridged,
  • narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt
  • source: my local library
  • length: 10 hours
  • publisher: www.harperaudio.com 
  • published 2016
Synopsis:  Audible.com

Hercule Poirot returns in another brilliant murder mystery that can be solved only by the eponymous Belgian detective and his 'little grey cells'.

'What I intend to say to you will come as a shock....'

Lady Athelinda Playford has planned a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering. As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will - one she intends to announce at dinner that night. She has decided to cut off her two children without a penny and leave her fortune to someone who has only weeks to live....

Among Lady Playford's guests are two men she has never met - the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited...until Poirot starts to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike. But why does she seem so determined to provoke in the presence of a possible killer?

When the crime is committed in spite of Poirot's best efforts to stop it, and the victim is not who he expected it to be, will he be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery?

Following the phenomenal global success of The Monogram Murders, which was published to critical acclaim following a coordinated international launch in September 2014, international best-selling crime writer Sophie Hannah has been commissioned by Agatha Christie Limited to pen a second fully authorised Poirot novel. The new audiobook marks the centenary of the creation of Christie's world-famous detective, Hercule Poirot, introduced in her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles

My Take

I have been a bit staggered to work out that I actually read the printed version of this novel 3 years ago. That didn't occur to me at all during this excellent rendition, so maybe it didn't make much of an impact on me.

The novel is a bit long winded, with an almost impenetrable mystery, lots of reasons why people would murder the victim, lots of red herrings.

I've given up thinking about whether Sophie Hannah writes well in the vein of Agatha Christie or not. I think this novel has a few questionable things: for example Hercule Poirot cheerfully crosses the Irish Sea - when we all know that Christie's detective suffered atrociously from "mal de mer".

It does have one characteristic of a Christie novel: a very long meeting between Poirot and all the other characters in which he reveals who the murderer is and how it was done.
The emphasis in the novel is on Poirot's interest in psychology and the "why' rather than the "how."

Nevertheless perfectly acceptable listening if you have 10 hours or so to spare.

My Rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.4, THE CARRIER
4.3, THE MONOGRAM MURDERS
4.2, CLOSED CASKET (printed version)

8 August 2019

Review: TRANSCRIPTION, Kate Atkinson

  • this edition published by Little, Brown and Company (large print) 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-316-45331-8
  • 445 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

'Think of it as an adventure, Perry had said right at the beginning of all this.And it had seemed like one. A bit of a lark, she had thought. A Girls' Own adventure.'

In 1940, 18-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realise that there is no action without consequence.

Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of this country's most exceptional writers.

My Take

It is fascinating how many books recently published relate to World War II and are set at the start of the war.

This novel really has 3 points in time: 1940, 1950 and 1981. I will leave you to discover for yourself how those dates fit in, but it is most written from the point of view of 1950, after the War when Juliet is employed by the BBC and thinks she sees someone from her MI5 past, someone she thought she knew well, but he tells her she is mistaken.

In 1940 Juliet thinks her job of transcribing conversations from recordings is pretty boring and lacking in importance. However she does at times act in an undercover role, sometimes as a decoy, and while some of her colleagues know what is going on, Juliet seems blissfully ignorant. Nasty things happen in 1940 but then that period passes and then the war ends. After the war Juliet passes from MI5 to work st the BBC but occasionally MI5 ask favours of her.

There is a touch of "Red Joan" about this story.
Very readable, if at times a little confusing.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
ONE GOOD TURN
WHERE WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS?
4.6, STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG-audio
LIFE AFTER LIFE 

4 August 2019

What I read in July 2019

A good reading month, with the number of books read increased because I was on holidays (but not away)
July 2019

My pick of the month was Michael Robotham's new book: GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL
See what others have read

Review: MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER

  • this edition printed by Atlantic Books 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-78649-762-8
  • 226 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other...

My take

Korede knows that she shouldn't be helping Ayoola to dispose of the bodies of the men that she "accidentally" kills, but she is good at it. After all she is a senior nurse at the local hospital. She keeps hoping each body will be the last. Their mother is amazingly unaware of what is going on as Ayoola's boyfriends go missing.

But then things get really serious when Ayoola begins to drop in to the hospital for lunch and meets Korede's colleagues, in particular a male doctor that Korede has her eye on.

Korede begins sharing her secrets with a patient who is in a coma, and then he wakes up and remembers some of what she has told him.

An interesting read. Really about so much more than murders.

This is really one novel where you need to look at the chapter headings because they tell you the focus of the chapter.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Oyinkan Braithwaite is a graduate of Creative Writing and Law from Kingston University. Following her degree, she worked as an assistant editor at Kachifo, a Nigerian publishing house, and as a production manager at Ajapaworld, a children’s educational and entertainment company. She now works as a freelance writer and editor.

In 2014, she was shortlisted as a top-ten spoken-word artist in the Eko Poetry Slam, and in 2016 she was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019
Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2019
Winner of the LA Times Award for Best Crime Thriller, 2019 

1 August 2019

Review: CRISIS, Felix Francis

  • this edition (large print) published by Gale 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-4328-5521-5
  • 517 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

Harrison Foster is a lawyer by training but works as a crisis manager for a London firm that specializes in such matters. Summoned to Newmarket after a fire in the Chadwick Stables slaughters six very valuable horses, including the short-priced favourite for the Derby, Harry (as he is known) finds there is far more to the ‘simple’ fire than initially meets the eye. For a start, human remains are found amongst the equestrian ones in the burnt-out shell. All the stable staff are accounted for, so who is the mystery victim?

Harry knows very little about horses, indeed he positively dislikes them, but he is thrust unwillingly into the world of Thoroughbred racing where the standard of care of the equine stars is far higher than that of the humans who attend to them.

The Chadwick family are a dysfunctional racing dynasty, with the emphasis being on the nasty. Resentment between the generations is rife and sibling rivalry bubbles away like volcanic magma beneath a thin crust of respectability.

Harry represents the Middle-Eastern owner of the Derby favourite and, as he delves deeper into the unanswered questions surrounding the horse’s demise, he ignites a fuse that blows the volcano sky-high, putting him in grave jeopardy. Can Harry solve the riddle before he is overcome by the toxic emissions from the eruption and is bumped off by the fallout?

My Take

This novel operates as a stand-alone, introducing a new investigator.

It enters the racing industry from a new perspective with a very likeable central character. In part the novel is a romance, which increases the audience sympathy for Harrison Foster.

The source of this crisis comes from the past, biting back at Oliver Chadwick, head of a very dysfunctional family, and there is not one of the family who is not really responsible for something.

There is some good detail in the background given for the thoroughbred racing industry based at Newmarket.

Very readable and up to Felix Francis' usual standard.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
Francis, Dick & Felix
DEAD HEAT
SILKS
4.5, TO THE HILT
4.5, REFUSAL
4.5, DAMAGE, Felix Francis
4.4, FRONT RUNNER, Felix Francis  

Pick of the Month - July 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 July 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 -
e.g.
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

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


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