26 September 2019

Review: SLEEPING PARTNER, James Humphreys

  • this edition published by Macmillan 2000
  • ISBN 0-333-90106-1
  • 359 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A ...courtroom thriller, seen through the eyes of the accused. A ... debut novel from a very promotable young author, whose day job is at 10 Downing Street.

Clarissa Morland is twenty-seven, attractive, shy - and standing trial for the murder of her ex-lover John Grant. John was shot at dawn as he answered the door of his isolated farmhouse. But Clarissa has no memory of this. All she can remember is being cut free from the wreckage of her car that same morning, after what looks like a frantic getaway. As intimate details of her life and relationship are laid bare for the court, even Clarissa finds it hard to believe she is innocent. But murdering the man she loved in cold blood? She's just not that evil - is she?

My take

It has been nearly nine months since the murder of John Grant and Clarissa Moorland still has no memory of the day. She was found in her wrecked car, badly injured, shortly after John's body was discovered. She spent weeks in hospital and eventually the police charged her with the murder.

This novel gives an account of her trial. She does not know whether she is guilty of John's murder or not as she simply has no memory. The police prosecutor wants to prove the case that they have built up but it becomes very obvious that once they latched onto the possibility of Clarissa's guilt, the police did not follow up other possibilities. It is almost as if they concluded she was guilty and then set about fitting the facts to their conclusion.

The witnesses for the prosecution include those who want to make a name for themselves, and among the witnesses are surprisingly some people who believe Clarissa is innocent. There are of course those who are carrying out their own private vendetta.

The story is rather slow at times as Clarissa considers the idea that she may be guilty and looks at what the future may hold for her. Despite the slow pace, it raises some interesting considerations, and made intriguing reading.

I think I will definitely be looking for another by this author.

My rating: 4.3

22 September 2019

Review: THE SCHOLAR, Dervla McTiernan

  • this edition published by Harper Collins 2019
  • ISBN 978-14607-5422-1
  • 360 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Being brilliant has never been this dangerous ...

When Dr Emma Sweeney stumbles across the victim of a hit and run outside Galway University late one evening, she calls her partner, Detective Cormac Reilly, bringing him first to the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him. A security card in the dead woman's pocket identifies her as Carline Darcy, a gifted student and heir apparent to Irish pharmaceutical giant Darcy Therapeutics. The multi-billion-dollar company, founded by her grandfather, has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy - it has funded Emma's own ground-breaking research. The enquiry into Carline's death promises to be high profile and high pressure.

As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn't be involved, but as his running of the case comes under scrutiny from the department and his colleagues, he is forced to question his own objectivity. Could his loyalty to Emma have led him to overlook evidence? Has it made him a liability?

My take

This novel leaps from one complexity to another.

Detective Cormac Reilly has spent the last year on the back burner, investigating cold cases at least 30 years old and now his boss has just decided to allow him to take on the Henderson case, where a manipulative husband planned to kill his wife and children. He is not sure why Murphy has allowed him to take over the case, maybe so he can trip over his own shoe laces.

So the hit and run death outside Galway University is not at first his case, but eventually there is a reshuffle of case loads and it comes to him.

The first discovery is that the person whom they think the victim is, is very much alive and so the body needs to be identified. Even though she is carrying Carline Darcy's swipe pass, Carline says she does on know her. There is some doubt about whether Cormac should be investigating this case because his girlfriend discovered the body. But Emma is cleared of involvement although some in the investigating team insist on referring to her as "the suspect".

Cormac is not really sure of who in his team will not undermine him, and loyalties become very important as the case progresses.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

19 September 2019

Review: THE RUMOUR, Lesley Kara

  • this edition published by Bantam 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-7876-3004-8
  • 304 pages
  • source: my local library 
Synopsis (publisher)

When single mum Joanna shares a rumour at the school gates – desperate to ingratiate herself with the clique of mothers at her son’s new school – there is no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death over 47 years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives amongst them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

My take

There is a lot going on in this novel. Single mum Joanna has newly moved into the area and this is new school for Alfie. Her mother suggests she latch on to some of the other mothers to help make potential friends for her son Alfie who is having some problems settling in.

Joanna overhears some gossip which she passes on to the book group that she joins and it seems to her that it spreads like wildfire. Indeed someone sends her scary messages on Twitter and then the owner of a local shop is targeted.

Alfie's father is a journalist and he becomes interested in the Sally McGowan story and also decides to move into Joanna's flat to see if they can make a go of their relationship.

In her search to see if there is any truth to the rumour Joanna discovers that the truth is much closer to home.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Lesley Kara is the author of the Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller, THE RUMOUR, published in December 2018. Her second novel, WHO DID YOU TELL, is out in January 2020.

17 September 2019

Review: THE HUNTING PARTY, Lucy Foley

  • this edition published by Harper Collins 2019
  • ISBN 978-0-00-829712-1
  • 389 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

My take

They've been meeting every New Year's weekend for as long as most of them have known each other, and everyone has agreed that this remote location north of Fort William in Scotland is the best ever.

Four days in Highland wilderness in cabins and a lodge near Loch Corrin. It's very exclusive, nine guests and the gamekeeper and the manager.

Right from the beginning of the book, on 2nd January 2019,  we know there is a body, but we don't know who it is or, for most of the time, whether it is male or female.

The narration hops around the time frame from 30 December to 2nd January, and from narrator to narrator. So we see events from several sets of eyes, but events don't necessarily overlap.  The guest is reported missing on New Year's Day and the gamekeeper finds the body early the next day.

I must admit to worrying about whether I would find the structure of the novel confusing, but it certainly gives the reader an "insider's view" of the relationships between the characters.  It also preserves the anonymity of the victim, because the person keeps contributing to the narration right up to the end.

A good read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities. She then worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry – during which time she also wrote The Book of Lost and Found. Lucy now writes full-time, and is busy travelling (for research, naturally) and working on her next novel.Visit her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LucyFoleyAuthor and follow her on Twitter @LucyFoleyTweets and Instagram @Lucy_F_Author

Review: THE CHAIN, Adrian McKinty

  • this edition published by Hachette Australia 2019
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-4251-7
  • 357 pages
  • source: review copy from publisher
Synopsis (publisher)


The morning starts like any other. Rachel Klein drops her daughter, Kylie, at the bus stop and heads into her day. But then a phone call changes everything. A woman has Kylie bound and gagged in her back seat, and the only way Rachel will ever see her again is if she pays a ransom - and kidnaps another child. The caller is a mother herself, whose son has also been abducted, and if Rachel doesn't do exactly as she's told, both children will die. Rachel is now part of a terrifying scheme - The Chain.

The rules are simple: find the money, find your victim, and then commit a horrible act you'd have thought yourself incapable of just 24 hours ago. Rachel is an ordinary woman, but over the coming days she will be pushed beyond ordinary limits to save her daughter. What the anonymous masterminds behind The Chain know is that parents will do anything for their children. But what they don't know is that they may have met their match.

Can Rachel be the one person to finally break The Chain?


My Take

We all remember those chain letters from childhood.  My parents always told us to burn them, not to do whatever they are asked you to do. I always had a little bit of fear about what retribution might be wreaked on me if I broke the chain. And surely the people who sent me the letter were my friends and could be trusted?

The first half of the book deals with Rachel's case. All she knows for sure is that someone has taken her daughter Kylie from the bus stop. There is a ransom to be paid and then Rachel has to kidnap someone-else's child and Kylie will not be released until the ransom for that child has been paid. There are rules about who Rachel can contact, the ransom has to be paid into a bit-coin account, and the whole process might take at least 4 or 5 days. And if things don't happen to schedule then the ransom might be raised. Once Rachel has completed paying the ransom then she must seach for another victim. Meantime she is occasionally contacted by people who have been earlier links in the chain, to reassure her that she will get Kylie back if she plays by the rules.

People in the Chain are linked together by their need to keep their own children alive. The person who has taken Kylie is still waiting for her son to be returned, and that won't happen until Rachel completes both steps in the process: paid the ransom, and kidnapped a child herself.

Once she has Kylie back then Rachel begins to think about who the monsters are started the Chain.

An engrossing read, a real page turner, but very noir. It may not be your cup of tea.
The book has the reader asking questions of yourself.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.2, BELFAST NOIR, Adrian McKinty (ed) and Stuart Neville (ed)

About the author
Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s and 1980s. His father was a boilermaker and ship's engineer and his mother a secretary. Adrian went to Oxford University on a full scholarship to study philosophy before emigrating to the United States to become a high school English teacher. His debut crime novel Dead I Well May Be was shortlisted for the 2004 Dagger Award and was optioned by Universal Pictures. His books have won the Edgar Award, the Ned Kelly Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award and have been translated into over 20 languages. Adrian is a reviewer and critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Irish Times and The Guardian. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

12 September 2019

Review: DARK SATURDAY, Nicci French

  • this edition published (large print) by Gale in 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-4328-4275-8
  • 561 pages
  • #Freda Klein series: 6
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Thirteen years ago eighteen year old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the brutal murder of her family. It was an open and shut case and Hannah's been incarcerated in a secure hospital ever since.

When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to meet Hannah and give her assessment of her she reluctantly agrees. What she finds horrifies her. Hannah has become a tragic figure, old before her time. And Frieda is haunted by the thought that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family; that something wasn't right all those years ago.

And as Hannah's case takes hold of her, Frieda soon begins to realise that she's up against someone who'll go to any lengths to protect themselves . . .

Saturday Requiem is the sixth addictive and intriguing novel in the Frieda Klein series by the bestselling author Nicci French.

My Take

There are threads and characters that connect this novel to ones earlier in the series of which it is #6. You'll see from my list below that I haven't read #5 so I guess that explains why I struggled to "remember" some of the connections.

Once Frieda is asked to look at the case of Hannah Docherty, it is almost inevitable that she is going to consider whether Hannah was wrongly convicted. Hannah is certainly being badly treated, not protected at all from abuse by other inmates, in the psychiatric hospital. And Hannah herself looks much older than she actually is. She is also almost totally uncommunicative. She seems convinced that she actually did kill her family, her mother, stepfather and young brother, but she is also confused and traumatised by the thought.

Frieda becomes convinced that the police investigation was too hasty. In addition only Hannah was  asked to identify the victims and she did that when she was in total shock. The police became quickly convinced that Hannah was the murderer, but also unfit to stand trial.

As Frieda expands her investigation it becomes clear that someone does not want her to find the truth.

The other thread that runs through these novels is about Dean Reeve, a man who stalks Frieda, but at the same time appears to protect her. He is elusive but Frieda is convinced he has recently been in her house.  This thread is designed to link the novels together, but I actually find it annoying and distracting.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

10 September 2019

Review: THE WENCH IS DEAD, Colin Dexter - audio

  • this edition approx 6 hours
  • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio; Unabridged edition edition
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1509885102
  • ISBN-13: 978-1509885107
  • Narrator: Samuel West
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

That night he dreamed in Technicolor. He saw the ochre-skinned, scantily clad siren in her black, arrowed stockings. And in Morse's muddled computer of a mind, that siren took the name of one Joanna Franks....

The body of Joanna Franks was found at Duke's Cut on the Oxford Canal at about 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22nd June 1859.

At around 10.15 a.m. on a Saturday morning in 1989 the body of Chief Inspector Morse - though very much alive - was removed to Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital. Treatment for a perforated ulcer was later pronounced successful.

As Morse begins his recovery he comes across an account of the investigation and the trial that followed Joanna Franks' death...and becomes convinced that the two men hanged for her murder were innocent....

My Take

I'm so glad I've discovered this set of unabridged productions of the Morse books. At between 6 and 7 hours they are lovely renditions of Dexter's novels.

Lying in hospital recovering from a perforated ulcer Morse is given a small book written by a recently died patient investigating the very cold case of a woman who was found drowned in the Oxford Canal over 100 years earlier. As he reads he feels there was something wrong with the verdict which convicted 3 canal boatmen of the murder, but he can't put his finger on it. Luckily the man in the neighbouring bed is visited by his daughter who works in the Bodliean, just the sort of research assistant he needs.

Highly recommnended.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
4.3, INSPECTOR MORSE: BBB Radio Collection
4.5, THE SECRET OF ANNEXE THREE -audio book 

6 September 2019

Review: THE TURN OF THE KEY, Ruth Ware

  • format: kindle (amazon)
  • File Size: 2870 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1982128895
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (August 8, 2019)
  • Publication Date: August 8, 2019
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07H9NSJ1P
Synopsis (amazon)


When Rowan stumbles across the advert, it seems like too good an opportunity to miss: a live-in nanny position, with a very generous salary. And when she arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious ‘smart’ home fitted out with all modern conveniences by a picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare – one that will end with a child dead and her in cell awaiting trial for murder.

She knows she’s made mistakes. But she’s not guilty – at least not of murder. Which means someone else is…

My take

Rowan Cane is in jail writing a letter to a barrister pleading for him to represent her in her upcoming trial. Her letter to Mr Wrexham tells the story of how she came to be in HMP Charnworth awaiting trial for murder.

So in a sense it is a case of how reliable Rowan is as a narrator. Is she telling us the whole truth? What don't we know about her?

A truly fascinating read, with an almost Gothic feel about it. Rowan has been offered a very demanding job, very highly paid, but the last four nannies have all left. In addition, her employers leave almost straight away, leaving Rowan in a very high tech house, with three little girls who do not really like her. A very demanding job indeed even for a super nanny. And things begin to go wrong almost immediately.

But the really staggering thing about this story is the incredible twist at the end, which won't make any sense unless you've absorbed the whole book.

I've made it the top of my list for this year.

If you haven't read anything by Ruth Ware, time to start. And then follow it up with others from my list below.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

1 September 2019

Review: THE WOODS, Harlan Coben

  • this edition published by Thorndike 2007
  • ISBN 978-0-7862-9488-6
  • 588 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Good Reads)

Twenty years ago at summer camp, Paul Copeland's sister died in the woods, the alleged victim of a serial killer. Her body was never found. Now, Paul is the prosecutor for Essex County, New Jersey, immersed in one of the biggest cases of his career-a case that will change everything he believes about the past...and the truth.

My Take

Paul Copeland is a single father raising a young daughter, and also the county prosecutor of Essex, New Jersey.

He is in the middle of a rape case when the father of one of the rapists decides to do whatever he can to keep his son out of jail. He gives a sleazy investigative firm carte blanche to do whatever they can to investigate Copeland and to deflect him from the prosecution.

They focus on the disappearance of Copeland's sister twenty years earlier and soon the ghosts begin to rise. A homicide victim turns out to be a man who died twenty years before and Copeland is left wondering if his sister is also still alive. If she is, who knew about it?

Although this is a mesmerising tale, it takes a long time to get anywhere and like most Coben novels that I have read it spans a huge amount of time and enormous array of characters.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

Pick of the Month - August 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 August 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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