31 October 2019

Review: THE CHILD'S CHILD, Barbara Vine

  • this edition published by Scribner 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-4516-9489-5
  • 302 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

From three-time Edgar Award–winning mystery writer Ruth Rendell, writing here under her Barbara Vine pseudonym, an ingenious novel-within-a-novel about brothers and sisters and the violence lurking behind our society’s taboos.

When their grandmother dies, Grace and Andrew Easton inherit her sprawling, book-filled London home, Dinmont House. Rather than sell it, the adult siblings move in together, splitting the numerous bedrooms and studies. The arrangement is unusual, but ideal for the affectionate pair—until the day Andrew brings home a new boyfriend. A devilishly handsome novelist, James Derain resembles Cary Grant, but his strident comments about Grace’s doctoral thesis soon puncture the house’s idyllic atmosphere. When he and Andrew witness their friend’s murder outside a London nightclub, James begins to unravel, and what happens next will change the lives of everyone in the house. Just as turmoil sets in at Dinmont House, Grace escapes into reading a manuscript—a long-lost novel from 1951 called The Child’s Child—never published because of its frank depictions of an unwed mother and a homosexual relationship. The book is the story of two siblings born a few years after World War One. This brother and sister, John and Maud, mirror the present-day Andrew and Grace: a homosexual brother and a sister carrying an illegitimate child. Acts of violence and sex will reverberate through their stories.

The Child’s Child is an enormously clever, brilliantly constructed novel-within-a-novel about family, betrayal, and disgrace. A master of psychological suspense, Ruth Rendell, in her newest work under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, takes us where violence and social taboos collide. She shows how society’s treatment of those it once considered undesirable has changed—and how sometimes it hasn’t.

My take

Two fairly parallel stories, history repeating itself. Also a novel about how social conventions have changed over a century. For example our attitudes to homosexuality have changed, as they have to unmarried mothers. There is a suggestion made that the attitudes changed around the same time.

The structure is a book within a book, a challenge for any author. We begin in the modern day and are then transported to a plot within the plot. In my opinion the "inner book", the manuscript that Grace is reading, is just a bit long, and almost turns into a family saga. But just in time we emerge back into the modern day.

Is it crime fiction? Well yes, there is a murder: the culprit is brought to trial and executed. But, by the laws of the day, there are other crimes for which penalties are not applied.

It wasn't my favourite Barbara Vine book, and I don't seem to have found it as fascinating as other reviewers but it is certainly clever.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read

26 October 2019

Review: LAST SEEN WEARING, Colin Dexter - audio book

  • audio book from audible.com
  • Narrated by: Samuel West
  • Series: Inspector Morse Mysteries, Book 2
  • Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-05-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio
  • originally published 1976
Synopsis (audible)

Morse was beset by a nagging feeling. Most of his fanciful notions about the Taylor girl had evaporated, and he had begun to suspect that further investigation into Valerie's disappearance would involve little more than sober and tedious routine....

The statements before Inspector Morse appeared to confirm the bald, simple truth.

After leaving home to return to school, teenager Valerie Taylor had completely vanished, and the trail had gone cold.

Until two years, three months and two days after Valerie's disappearance, somebody decides to supply some surprising new evidence for the case....

My Take

I read most of the Morse novels over 30 years ago and then followed them up by watching the Morse TV series. I really hadn't realised, until I listened to this particular book, the extent of differences between the original books and what was done for television.

I got a little confused towards the end (or did I momentarily drop off to sleep?) with the result that I had to listen to the last hour again to be sure that I knew the way it all finished up.

LAST SEEN WEARING is #2 in the series and is full of red herrings and false threads. Morse leaps from one idea to another, often operating on a few dodgy facts, and drawing some shaky conclusions from them. He becomes very despondent after one theory after another bites the dust, but in the end he does get it right. It is a very wasteful way of doing detective work, and there is not much logic to it. All of this does make reading the novel a very academic exercise, and I guess that's what sets Colin Dexter apart from the rest.

But don't go away thinking that this Morse is the one you've seen John Thaw play.
He is a much coarser person, but I think by the time we get to later in the series some of these cruder bits have been toned down.

If you want to follow up on the differences between Morse's character in the books and in the TV series, you might like check here.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.3, INSPECTOR MORSE: BBB Radio Collection
4.5, THE SECRET OF ANNEXE THREE -audio book -#7
4.6, THE WENCH IS DEAD, Colin Dexter - audio book - #8
4.3, SERVICE OF ALL THE DEAD, Colin Dexter - audio book  - #4

The books in publication order
1. Last Bus to Woodstock (1975)
2. Last Seen Wearing (1976)
3. The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)
4. Service of All the Dead (1979)
5. The Dead of Jericho (1981)
6. The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983)
7. The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986)
8. The Wench Is Dead (1989)
9. The Jewel That Was Ours (1991)
10. The Way Through the Woods (1992)
11. The Daughters of Cain (1994)
12. Death Is Now My Neighbour (1996)
13. The Remorseful Day (1999)

23 October 2019

I've reached 100! - books that is

It always gives me a little boost when I finish my 100th book for the year!

My target this year is 120 and I think I will make that easily, but not perhaps some of my individual reading challenges.

Check out my reading this year here.

  • 2019 Good Reads Reading Challenge.
       I have set my challenge at 120. Currently: 100
  • Good Reads A-Z of titles: Currently: 20
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge
        Completed in 2014, titles read in 2019: 1
  • USA Fiction Challenge
        So far 21/51, this year: 13
  • 2019 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 23
  • 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 10
  • British Books Challenge 2019 currently  57
  • 2018 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 17
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently  38
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge currently 10
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge, currently 1
  • New Zealand reading challenge -again a personal challenge. currently 2
  • Translated crime fiction - a personal challenge that will overlap with many of the other reading challenges that I have undertaken. currently 21
  • Snagged at the Library currently: 67
  • Audio books: currently: 12
  • 2019 Historical Reading Challenge. Currently: 17
  • 21 October 2019

    Review: A MONTH OF SUNDAYS, Liz Byrski

    • this edition published by Pan Macmillan Australia 2018
    • ISBN 978-1-74353-494-6
    • 343 pages
    • source: my local library
    Synopsis (author website)

    For over ten years, Ros, Adele, Judy and Simone have been in an online book club, but they have never met face to face. Until now…

    Determined to enjoy her imminent retirement, Adele invites her fellow bibliophiles to help her house-sit in the Blue Mountains. It’s a tantalising opportunity to spend a month walking in the fresh air, napping by the fire and, of course, reading and talking about books.

    But these aren’t just any books: each member has been asked to choose a book which will teach the others more about her. And with each woman facing a crossroads in her life, it turns out there’s a lot for them to learn, not just about their fellow book-clubbers, but also about themselves.

    A Month of Sundays reminds us of the joy, the comfort and the occasional challenge we can find in the pages of a book.

    My take

    Please note: another book that isn't crime fiction!
    And one that I really enjoyed.

    Each of the women in the online book group is facing some sort of crisis. Three of them are retired, but they all jump at the chance to meet up and discuss books after over 10 years online. They have met before only through Skype and so they don't really know each other.

    I loved the way we got to learn about each of these women as well as share in their book discussions.
    Their discussions, by the way, were very different to what happens at the books clubs I attend, where we take a rather cursory look at the book and then move quickly on.

    For those who'd like to explore this book further the author has kindly provided starting points on her website.

    This book came highly recommended and I certainly intend to read another by Liz Byrski.

    My rating: 4.5

    About the author
    Liz Byrski is a writer and broadcaster with more than 50 years experience in the British and Australian media. She is the author of thirteen non-fiction books and ten novels, and her work has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines.

    In the nineties Liz was a broadcaster and executive producer with ABC Radio in Perth and later an advisor to a minister in the Western Australian State Government; she has a PhD on the subject of feminist popular fiction, and is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Humanities at Curtin University.

    Liz was born in London and spent most of her childhood in Sussex. As an only child she spent a lot of time alone, much of it buried in books. She began her working life at 16, as a secretary, and later moved into journalism working as a reporter on a local newspaper, until she took up freelance writing when her children were born.

    Liz emigrated to Australia with her family in 1981 and worked as a freelance journalist/writer in Perth writing for a variety of publications including The Australian, New Idea, Homes and Living, Cosmopolitan, the Australian Financial Review, The Woman Writer, and The West Australian.  For several years she was a broadcaster with ABC Radio 720 6WF, where she was best known for hosting The Grapevine program with Peter Holland.

    Liz lives between Perth and Fremantle and in addition to enjoying the company of family and friends, she spends most of her free time reading, writing and walking.   She has two adult sons and twin grandsons.

    20 October 2019

    Review: RUIN BEACH, Kate Rhodes

    • this edition published by Simon & Schuster 2018
    • ISBN 978-1-4711-6544-3
    • 399 pages
    • source: my local library
    Synopsis (publisher)


    Ben Kitto has become the Scilly Isles’ Deputy Chief of Police. As the island’s lazy summer takes hold, he finds himself missing the excitement of the murder squad in London. But when the body of professional diver Jude Trellon is discovered, anchored to the rocks of a nearby cave, his investigative skills are once again needed.

    At first it appears that the young woman’s death was a tragic accident, but when evidence is found that suggests otherwise, the islanders close ranks. With even those closest to the victim refusing to talk, it seems that plenty of people might have had reason to harm her. As the islanders remain guarded, Ben Kitto suspects a killer is on the loose in Tresco.

    Everyone is a suspect.
    Nobody is safe

    My take

    Ben Kitto's boss tries to keep him on a tight rein, constantly harping at him to tidy himself up, to look more professional. 

    When the body of Jude Trellon is discovered the timeline becomes tight. No-one is to leave the island until the murderer is found. But that is almost impossible to enforce.  There are several suspects, mostly locals, and Ben comes to believe that Jude had found something that the murderer wants. The murderer is leaving crazy clues, scraps of verse from sea shanties, and then a young lad who dived with Jude disappears.

    This was very readable, plenty of red herrings, and the identity of the murderer is a puzzle for most of the book.

    I'll be looking for another from this author.

    My rating: 4.5

    About the author
    Kate Rhodes is an acclaimed crime novelist and an award-winning poet. She lives in Cambridge with her husband, the writer and film-maker, Dave Pescod. She visited the Scilly Isles every year as a child which gave her the idea for this new series. She is one of the founders of the Killer Women writing group.

    17 October 2019

    Review: SHE LIES IN WAIT, Gytha Lodge

    • this edition published by Penguin 2019
    • ISBN 978-0-241-36298-3
    • 391 pages
    • source: my local library
    Synopsis (back cover)

    On a hot July night in 1983, six school friends go camping in the forest,. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and young Aurora Jackson is dazzled to be allowed along with her older sister.

    She never makes it home.

    Thirty years later a body is discovered. DCI Sheens is called to the scene, but he already knows what's waiting for him: Aurora Jackson, found at last.

    But that's not all. The friends have all maintained their innocence, but the body is found in a hideaway only the six of them knew about.

    It seems the killer may have always lurked very close to home.

    My Take

    This is a variant on a cold case police procedural. To be accurate, there hasn't been a body in the cold case, but the assumption has always been that Aurora Jackson was, just not found.

    Just a police constable when Aurora disappeared Jonah Sheens knew her by sight and was friendly with some of the older members of the group.

    The investigation involves going through the evidence collected and statements taken 30 years earlier and then re-interviewing all the people involved, and looking for things that had not been investigated thoroughly.

    Sheens eventually decides that one of the six has to be the murderer, and not only that, he or she is manipulating what the others are saying now. All the group have done well: a university professor and a parliamentarian among them, and there are things they would rather not become general knowledge. But eventually someone outside the group half guesses the truth.

    My rating: 4.4

    About the author
    Gytha Lodge is a writer and multi-award-winning playwright who lives in Cambridge. After studying creative writing at UEA, she was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Arts' Council England fiction awards, and developed a very large online following for her young adult and children's writing, with over five million reads accrued on platform Wattpad. She Lies in Wait is her debut novel.

    13 October 2019

    Review: THE NEIGHBOUR, Fiona Cummins

    • This edition published by Pan Macmillan Australia 2019
    • ISBN 978-1509876891
    • 403 pages
    • source: my local library

    Synopsis (Publisher)

    FOR SALE: A lovely family home with good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Quiet, leafy road, good schools, close to the sea and commutable to London. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers . . .

    And, it seems, the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer.

    On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. Besides, they’d got the house at a steal and he was convinced he could flip it for a fortune.

    The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception.

    After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer – quickly.

    The Neighbour is a thrilling standalone novel by the author of Rattle, Fiona Cummins.

    My take

    We all do it. I opened the book to find a map of a road called The Avenue. I thought "interesting.. but I'll never use that." Well, you guessed it. I referred to it constantly, checking the location of houses etc.

    The Lockwood family moved into their new house to find that the police are removing a body from the woods behind their garden. It is the body of a young policeman who has been investigating some serial murders. He is the fifth victim, and nobody has any clue about why he was killed. As with the earlier victims the actual cause of death is difficult to identify.

    The narration of the story is mainly from the point of view of the detective's wife who is also part of the investigating team, but a large portion comes from the murderer, whose identity and location is unknown.  The reader knows that this person lives somewhere in The Avenue.

    This novel was carefully constructed to ensure that we are almost clue-less until the very end, and even then part of the identification comes as a real shock. There are several very effective red herrings.

    My rating: 4.7

    About the author
    Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course. She lives in Essex with her family. The Neighbour is her third novel, following Rattle and The Collector.

    8 October 2019

    Review: THE AUTUMN MURDERS, Robert Gott

    • this edition published by Scribe Publications 2019
    • ISBN 978-1-925713-46-6
    • 263 pages
    • source: review copy from publisher
    Synopsis (Scribe Publications)

    The series that began with The Holiday Murders and The Port Fairy Murders now continues with The Autumn Murders …

    In the autumn of 1944, George Starling prepares to exact revenge on the person he hates most in the world (and Starling has a long list of people he hates), Detective Joe Sable of the Melbourne Homicide division. Driven by his dark passion for Nazism, Starling is going to make sure that nothing and no one will stand in his way and survive.

    Homicide is in turmoil. Riven by internal divisions and disrupted by the war, it has become a dangerous place for Joe to work. Constable Helen Lord, suspended from her position in Homicide, and battling grief, is also in Starling’s sights. Knowing that Inspector Titus Lambert can’t protect them from Starling’s ruthless aim, Helen and Joe decide to set their own trap. But when the trap is sprung, who will be caught in it?

    The Autumn Murders is a stylish, historical whodunit, written with wit and insight into the dark corners where the worst of us hides.

    My take

    This is the third book in a series, and I had read only the second.

    The setting is Melbourne 1944. Detective Joe Sable of the Melbourne Homicide division is a Jew and has already paid a penalty for that status in a severe beating at the hands of George Starling and an arson attack on his flat. News of how Hitler is treating Jews in Europe is filtering into Australia but the average citizen finds it very hard to believe.

    Although there is a shortage of good detectives there is little belief that women can make good police officers or detectives and already Constable Helen Lord has been suspended from Homicide. Most of the men staffing Homicide are hardly the cream of the crop although Inspector Titus Lambert is a good policeman and a good administrator.

    Recognising talent in Joe Sable, Lambert has promoted him to Sergeant causing resentment among other detectives.

    And now a prominent Melbourne business man, Peter Lillee is dead, apparently murdered.

    For those who haven't read the earlier two books in the series, the author has provided helpful plot summaries to bring you up to scratch. Be sure to read them.

    I thought this book took a little while to get going but then I thoroughly enjoyed it. It brought home to me many effects of the war on Australian society.

    My rating: 4.5

    I've also read

    6 October 2019

    Review: THE BLACK ASCOT, Charles Todd

    • this edition published William Morrow 2019
    • ISBN 978-0-06-267874-4
    • 342 pages
    • source: my local library
    • #21 in the Inspector Rutledge series
    Synopsis (author website)

    Scotland Yard’s Ian Rutledge seeks a killer who has eluded Scotland Yard for years.

    An astonishing tip from a grateful ex-convict seems implausible—but Inspector Ian Rutledge is intrigued and brings it to his superior at Scotland Yard. Alan Barrington, who has evaded capture for ten years, is the suspect in an appalling murder during Black Ascot, the famous 1910 royal horserace honoring the late King Edward VII. His disappearance began a manhunt that consumed Britain for a decade. Now it appears that Barrington has returned to England, giving the Yard a last chance to retrieve its reputation and see justice done. Rutledge is put in charge of a quiet search under cover of a routine review of a cold case.

    Meticulously retracing the original inquiry, Rutledge begins to know Alan Barrington well, delving into relationships and secrets that hadn’t surfaced in 1910. But is he too close to finding his man? His sanity is suddenly brought into question by a shocking turn of events. His sister Frances, Melinda Crawford, and Dr. Fleming stand by him, but there is no greater shame than shell shock. Questioning himself, he realizes that he cannot look back. The only way to save his career—much less his sanity—is to find Alan Barrington and bring him to justice. But is this elusive murderer still in England?

    My take

    It is January 1921, and Eddie Wade has come to a small village in Gloucestershire looking for his wife at an address that doesn't exist. Desperate, he climbs the church roof and threatens to throw himself and the Vicar's daughter off unless someone finds his wife for him.

    Rutledge is travelling back to London when he is stopped outside the village and helps get Eddie Wade down from the roof. He manages to reunite Wade with his wife and in return Wade tells him a story he's heard in prison. The man in the cell next door saw a man alight from the ferry from Ireland and swore that he had recognised the man thought to be responsible for the death of a woman on the road after Black Ascot.

    Rutledge decides to pass on the story to his superior officer at the Yard, and is assigned the role of seeing if he can find Barrington, the man who was going to be brought to trial in 1910.

    Rutledge gets close to the killer and is shot himself. The strange thing is that it looks as if he might have turned the gun on to himself.

    There are characters in this series who provide threads between the books, and so I think it is series that works best for the reader if you have read some of the series before.  I enjoy them for their historical flavour and for the well constructed mysteries. Readers of the series will not be disappointed with this one.

    My rating: 4.5
    I've also read
    4.8, A FEARSOME DOUBT -#6
    A PALE HORSE -#10
    4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD - Bess Crawford series
    4.7, A LONELY DEATH -#13
    4.6, THE CONFESSION - #14
    4.7, HUNTING SHADOWS - #16
    4.7, NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE - #18
    4.7, RACING THE DEVIL - #19
    4.7, THE GATEKEEPER - #20 

    Review: SERVICE OF ALL THE DEAD, Colin Dexter - audio book

    • Narrated by: Samuel West
    • Series: Inspector Morse Mysteries, Book 4
    • Length: 7 hrs and 49 mins
    • Unabridged Audiobook
    • Release date: 10-05-17
    • originally published 1979
    • Language: English
    • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio
    Synopsis (Audible)

    Chief Inspector Morse, a middle-aged bachelor with a fondness for crossword puzzles, Mozart, and attractive women, investigates a series of suspicious and sinister events at Oxfords Church of St. Frideswide.

    The sweet countenance of Reason greeted Morse serenely when he woke and told him that it would be no bad idea to have a quiet look at the problem itself before galloping off to a solution.

    Chief Inspector Morse was alone among the congregation in suspecting continued unrest in the quiet parish of St Frideswide's.

    Most people could still remember the churchwarden's murder. A few could still recall the murderer's suicide. Now even the police had closed the case.

    Until a chance meeting among the tombstones reveals startling new evidence of a conspiracy to deceive...

    My Take

    Six dead bodies makes this story feel very complicated. How many of them are murders and how many are connected to each other? Morse himself is responsible for the death of the final person.

    This is almost a cold case, or at least an unsolved mystery. The first murder took place in the vestry during a service when the church warden was stabbed by an intruder as he was counting the collection. The second followed soon after when the vicar threw himself off the bell tower. The most recent was nursing sister found dead in a hotel room.  It took some time to work out her identity.

    It takes Morse's peculiar brain to work out how all the deaths are connected to each other.

    The novel is divided into four books. Each book takes its name from a book of the Old Testament and follows a different style of writing. Notably, the third is in the form of a statement taken from a witness and the fourth (mostly) takes the form of court proceedings.

    It is a very convoluted set of events, and I don't feel that the structure of the novel helped create a particularly successful audio production, although the narration is excellent once again.

    The final events show us just how human Morse is.

    My rating: 4.3

    I have also read
    4.3, INSPECTOR MORSE: BBB Radio Collection
    4.5, THE SECRET OF ANNEXE THREE -audio book
    4.6, THE WENCH IS DEAD, Colin Dexter - audio book

    1 October 2019

    Pick of the Month - September 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 September 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.

    Review: THE NEVER GAME, Jeffery Deaver

    • this large print edition published by Gale 2019
    • ISBN 978-1-4328-6339-5
    • 598 pages
    • source: my local library
    • #1 in the Colter Shaw series
    Synopsis (author website)

    The first novel in a thrilling new series.

    Colter Shaw is an itinerate “reward-seeker,” traveling the country to help police solve crimes and private citizens locate missing persons. When he learns of a reward for a missing college student in Silicon Valley, he takes the job. The investigation quickly thrusts him into the dark heart of Silicon Valley and the cutthroat billion-dollar video gaming industry–and then a second kidnapping happens…and this victim turns up dead.

    The clues soon point to one video game, The Never Game, in which the player has to survive after being left abandoned. Is a madman bringing that game to life? If so, Shaw has to stop him before he strikes again…and before he figures out that Shaw is on his trail.

    My take:

    A young woman goes missing and her father puts up a reward for her recovery. Soon after Shaw finds her, her boy friend is shot dead, and then another person goes missing. This time the kidnapped person does not survive.

    The investigation takes Shaw into the heart of the video gaming industry and into Silicon Valley, where he learns what the NBT (next big thing) is.

    A thread that runs through the story is what happened to Shaw's father 15 years earlier. Frustratingly this thread is left open to be continued in the next book in the series, to be published in 2020. A lot of the book is taken up with reminiscences about Ashton Shaw and allusions to his philosophy.

    In the book, confusingly, the video game behind the kidnappings is called The Whispering Man, and The Never Game has a slightly different connotation. 

    My rating: 4.1

    I've also read
    4.2, EDGE


    Blog Widget by LinkWithin