31 December 2019

Happy New Year 2020


  • this edition published by Quercus 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-78747-431-4
  • 406 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Six neighbours, six secrets, six reasons to want Olive Collins dead.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale, people's lives appear as perfect as their beautifully manicured lawns. Money, success, privilege - the residents have it all. Life is good.

There's just one problem.

Olive Collins' dead body has been rotting inside number four for the last three months. Her neighbours say they're shocked at the discovery but nobody thought to check on her when she vanished from sight.

The police start to ask questions and the seemingly flawless facade begins to crack. Because, when it comes to Olive's neighbours, it seems each of them has something to hide, something to lose and everything to gain from her death.

My Take

When it was discovered that Olive Collins had died 3 months earlier, the investigating police wanted to know why no-one had missed her.

This is a fabulously constructed novel, narrated by each of Olive's neighbours in the gated community of Withered Vale. Olive herself chips in occasionally too with accounts of the quarrels that she had with each of her neighbours.

Very enjoyable, and highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read 4.7, THE DARKEST PLACE

30 December 2019

Review: THE MOTHER-IN-LAW, Sally Hepworth

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan)

Someone once told me that you have two families in your life - the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don't choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm's length. Diana was exquisitely polite, but Lucy knew, even after marrying Oliver, that they'd never have the closeness she'd been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something...

From the bestselling author of The Family Next Door comes a new page-turner about that trickiest of relationships.

My take

Police don't arrive on your doorstep at dinnertime unless something is wrong.

Diana's death was not unexpected - she had after all told her family that she had breast cancer but she hadn't seemed seriously ill, unless you counted the depression that she had suffered from after her husband Tom had died from MND two years earlier. So it is hard to understand why the police want to question her family so often.

Lucy's relationship with her mother-in-law has not been a comfortable one. Diana believed that her family needed to work hard for what they wanted and she was likely to refuse to give them help unless it suited her. Wealthy at the end of her life, she has worked hard herself and lived through difficult times.

The novel covers the period of about 10 years leading up to her death with glimpses into the past. There are little mysteries cleverly woven into the fabric of the story and it is really not until the end that we have the full story.

This novel is certainly enough to send me looking for another by this author. This one was on the very edge of crime fiction. The crime that has been committed takes a back seat to the issues of the relationships between Diana and her friends and family members. It seems that her other books are mainly about family issues and family ties.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Sally Hepworth has lived around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the UK and Canada, where she worked in event management and human resources. She is the author of The Secrets of Midwives, The Things We Keep, The Mother's Promise and The Family Next Door.
Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and children. 

29 December 2019

Review: THE JEWEL THAT WAS OURS, Colin Dexter - audio book

  • format: audio book from Audible
  • Narrated by: Samuel West
  • Series: Inspector Morse Mysteries, Book 9
  • Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 12-14-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio 
  • Book originally published 1991
Synopsis (Audible)

He looked overweight around the midriff, though nowhere else, and she wondered whether perhaps he drank too much. He looked weary, as if he had been up most of the night conducting his investigations....

For Oxford, the arrival of 27 American tourists is nothing out of the ordinary...until one of their number is found dead in Room 310 at the Randolph Hotel.

It looks like a sudden - and tragic - accident. Only Chief Inspector Morse appears not to overlook the simultaneous theft of a jewel-encrusted antique from the victim's handbag....

Then, two days later, a naked and battered corpse is dragged from the River Cherwell. A coincidence? Maybe. But this time Morse is determined to prove the link....

My take

Morse doesn't always get it right. Sometimes he gets to the point of actually charging a suspect before he realises that he's got it wrong. In fact Lewis thinks that Morse creates scenarios before he looks at the facts. But somehow he gets some elements right and then he plucks something else out of left field, and somehow it all fits.

We listen carefully, just as Lewis does, and eventually Morse persuades us.

We have really been enjoying this set of audio books narrated superbly by Samuel West.

My rating: 4.6

I've also "read"
4.3, INSPECTOR MORSE: BBB Radio Collection
4.6, THE WENCH IS DEAD- audio book
4.3, SERVICE OF ALL THE DEAD - audio book
4.4, LAST SEEN WEARING  - audio book
4.6, THE RIDDLE OF THE THIRD MILE - audio book  

28 December 2019

Review: THE NANNY, Gilly Macmillan

  • this edition published by Century 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-780-89984-8
  • 423 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author)

When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

In this compulsively readable tale of secrets, lies, and deception, Gilly Macmillan explores the darkest impulses and desires of the human heart. Diabolically clever, The Nanny reminds us that sometimes the truth hurts so much you’d rather hear the lie.

My Take

A very cleverly written novel with a number of narrators: Virginia, the matriarch of the family; Jo, the daughter; and then a third person who gives us the background to Hannah becoming a nanny.

The setting jumps back and forth over a period of more than three decades. There are plenty of clues about where we are in time.  The result is a complicated intertwining of plot threads. There is an almost Gothic feel to the plot.

In the long run I found the ending a bit unsatisfactory, but I will let you read it so that you can decide for yourself. It probably should have affected my rating.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

Review: THE SILENT PATIENT, Alex Michaelides

  • this edition (large print) published by Thorndike Press 2019
  • ISBN -13: 978-1-4328-5864-3
  • 483 pages
  • source: my local library
  • Amazon best book February 2019
Synopsis (Amazon)

The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband―and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations―a search for the truth that threatens to consume him....

My Take

One of the narrators in this novel is Alicia Berenson herself, with a diary that predates her husband's murder.

Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband.
They had been married for seven years. They were both artists - Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer.

The second narrator is criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber, who gets a job in the Grove, the criminal forensic unit in London where Alicia has been detained. Alicia has not spoken since Gabriel's death and Theo works on strategies to get Alicia to talk.

The novel has a most unexpected twist in the final pages, when we realise that it not only a lesson in unreliable narration, but that the author has also manipulated the time frame of the various chains of events.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Alex Michaelides was born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother. He has a MA in English Literature from Cambridge University and a MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient is his first novel.

23 December 2019

Review: SMOKE AND MIRRORS, Elly Griffiths

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1993 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (November 5, 2015)
  • Publication Date: November 5, 2015
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0118MR2UE
  • #2 in the Stephens and Mephisto series
Synopsis (author)

December 1951. It’s snowing and two children, Mark and Annie, have gone missing in Brighton. As DI Edgar Stephens leads an increasing desperate search, Max Mephisto is preparing to star in Aladdin on the end of the pier. Then the children’s bodies are found on lonely downland, surrounded by a trail of sweets. For old music hall star, Stan Parks (aka The Great Diablo), the case sparks memories of another murder before the war, when the killer was obsessed with the dark origins of pantomime. Annie used to write plays for the other children, disturbing versions of old tales. Could there be a link between the murders and these stories?

As Christmas approaches, Edgar embarks on the most difficult case of his career. Then another child vanishes. Can Edgar put the pieces of the puzzle together before it’s too late?

My Take

I've found that I haven't read THE ZIG ZAG GIRL, which is the first in this series. This is something that I must remedy as I have thoroughly enjoyed this title. I did read THE VANISHING BOX, but I think my lower rating must have reflected my unfamiliarity with the earlier titles.

This mystery is intriguing right from the start. Two children disappear playing together after school, one of them a very precocious writer who writes her own versions of fairy tales and then organises children to act them out. Her script is based on something she has worked out about her family.

Once again plenty of red herrings which characterises well written mysteries.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.8, DYING FALL- audio book
4.5, THE GHOST FIELDS - audio book
4.7, THE OUTCAST DEAD - audio book
4.4, THE VANISHING BOX- #4 in the Stephens & Mephisto series

List of the series (Fantastic Fiction)
Stephens and Mephisto Mystery
   1. The Zig Zag Girl (2014)
   2. Smoke and Mirrors (2015)
   3. The Blood Card (2016)
   4. The Vanishing Box (2017)
   5. Now You See Them (2019) 

18 December 2019

Review: THE GIRL WITHOUT SKIN, Mads Peder Nordbo

  • this edition published by Text Publishing 2019
  • ISBN 9781922268198
  • 356 pages
  • translated from Danish by Charlotte Barsland
Synopsis (publisher)

They were near the edge of the glacier. The sea beneath the helicopter was dense with pack ice. In front of them, the endless whiteness stretched as far as the light could reach. It hurt his eyes. Millions of white crystals. Except in one place. One spot. Right where the mummified Norseman had been found and Aqqalu had kept watch. There, the ice was glossy red.

When a mummified Viking corpse is discovered in a crevasse out on the edge of an ice sheet, journalist Matthew Cave is sent to cover the story. The next day the mummy is gone, and the body of the policeman who was keeping watch is found naked and flayed—exactly like the victims in a gruesome series of murders that terrified the remote town of Nuuk in the 1970s.

As Matt investigates, he is shocked by the deprivation and brutal violence the locals take for granted. Unable to trust the police, he begins to suspect a cover-up. It’s only when he meets a young Inuit woman, Tupaarnaq, convicted of killing her parents and two small sisters, that Matt starts to realise how deep this story goes—and how much danger he is in.

My Take

Here is your chance to be in at the beginning of a new translated Nordic crime fiction series. Matthew Cave is a Danish journalist who has moved to a new job in Nuuk in Greenland, because there are too many reminders in Denmark of what his life might have been like.

The reporting of a mummified Viking corpse, possibly over 600 years old, promises to be a story which will bring him and his camerman world wide coverage. But when the corpse disappears overnight and the policeman who was guarding it is murdered, the whole story is hushed up. It reminds one of his colleagues of a 40 year old cold case where 4 locals were murdered in the same way. Matt is asked by his editor to do some research on the events of 49 years earlier/

A satisfyingly complex novel, many plot strands, mnay red herrings.
Be warned - some gruesome bits.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Master of arctic crime Mads Peder Nordbo has recently returned to Denmark after a long stint in Greenland, where he worked at the town hall in Nuuk. He has written six novels and been published in eighteen languages. The Girl Without Skin, also published by Text, was the first of his books to be translated into English.

17 December 2019

What I read in November 2019

November 2019
A few less books this month and my pick of the month is not crime fiction!
See what others have read

Review: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE, Alice Feeney

  • This edition published by Harper Collins Publishers 2019
  • ISBN 978-0-008-26893-0
  • 342 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Booktopia)

Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

My take

I enjoyed most of this book thoroughly. It was well constructed, the characters believable, and the plot was gripping. It is a story in two parts: that of Aimee Sinclair, very successful actress, and that of the little girl she once was, who ran away from home and was adopted by Maggie.

Aimee's husband has disappeared after an awful row the night before. She reports his disappearance to the police and then herself becomes a suspect, their suspicions confirmed when a body is found buried under her back porch. Aimee has been stalked, someone is leaving post cards "I know who you are" and there are things she doesn't want anyone to know.

What I didn't enjoy was a twist at the end when the author implements an extraordinary explanation for who the person is that has been stalking Aimee. But then there is a final twist that is brilliant.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

15 December 2019

Review: POIROT'S EARLY CASES, Agatha Christie


Hercule Poirot delighted in telling people that he was probably the best detective in the world. So turning back the clock to trace eighteen of the cases which helped establish his professional reputation was always going to be a fascinating experience. With his career still in its formative years, the panache with which Hercule Poirot could solve even the most puzzling mystery is obvious. Chronicled by his friend Captain Hastings, these eighteen early cases - from theft and robbery to kidnapping and murder - were all guaranteed to test Poirot’s soon-to-be-famous ‘little grey cells’ to their absolute limit.

My Take

This title brings together 18 cases, and consisted of short stories I had mainly read in other collections. However I do not appear to have read Problem at Sea under that title.
It was originally called Poirot and the Crime in the Cabin and was not published till 1936.

The other 17 stories very largely first appeared in magazines in 1923, 1924, 1925, and 1928, 1929, and 1932. Here is a set of links in Wikipedia.
You can also find them on my list of 155 short stories
The narrator in all of the stories is Captain Hastings and between them they create a history of his connection with Poirot both before World War One and after the war.

My rating: 4.4

Check out the following

10 December 2019

Review: THE LYING ROOM, Nicci French

  • this edition published by Simon & Schuster 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-4711-7924-2
  • 417 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man.
She doesn't call the police.

‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said. ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to, she’s the one people confide in.

A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things.
She has also made mistakes; some small, some unconsciously done, some large, some deliberate. She is only human, after all.
But now one mistake is spiralling out of control and Neve is bringing those around her into immense danger.
She can’t tell the truth. So how far is she prepared to go to protect those she loves?
And who does she really know? And who can she trust?
A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.
Could she be a murderer?

My Take

A stand-alone from Nicci French, well worth reading.

After 20 years of marriage, 3 children, one about to leave for university, Neve Connolly's life has become predictable in fact you could set your clock by her. And then she has an affair with someone who makes her feel valued and special. When she gets a message on her phone to meet as soon as possible, she doesn't question who it is from, or where to go, she just gets on her bike and leaves.

What she finds on her arrival turns her life upside down.

Neve's reaction and what she does next has the reader questioning how she/he would react in the same circumstances. We read on to find out how Neve will fare. The book is a compulsive page-turner, and readers will discover elements that they share with Neve.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

9 December 2019

Review: THE RIDDLE OF THE THIRD MILE, Colin Dexter - audio book

  • format: audio from Audible
  • Narrated by: Samuel West
  • Series: Inspector Morse Mysteries, Book 6
  • Length: 6 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-05-17
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Macmillan Digital Audio 
Synopsis (Audible)

The thought suddenly occurred to Morse that this would be a marvellous time to murder a few of the doddery old bachelor dons. No wives to worry about their whereabouts; no landladies to whine about the unpaid rents. In fact nobody would miss most of them at all....

By the 16th of July, the Master of Lonsdale was concerned but not yet worried.

Dr Browne-Smith had passed through the porter's lodge at approximately 8:15 a.m. on the morning of Friday, 11th July. And nobody had heard from him since.

Plenty of time to disappear, thought Morse. And plenty of time, too, for someone to commit murder..

My Take

This is another cunningly constructed mystery, plenty of red herrings, so many that we lose sight of others who have disappeared, in our focus on one person. Eventually Morse gets help from a surprising quarter, which throws a very different light on his investigation.

These books are superbly read by Samuel West, and there's a literary quality to them that is rarely found in crime fiction.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
4.3, INSPECTOR MORSE: BBB Radio Collection
4.6, THE WENCH IS DEAD- audio book
4.3, SERVICE OF ALL THE DEAD - audio book
4.4, LAST SEEN WEARING  - audio book

Review:A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS, Linwood Barclay

  • this edition published by Harper Collins Publishers 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-06-284564-1
  • 520 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Booktopia)

Paul Davis forgets things. Why he walked into a room. Who he spoke to, and what they said. What he promised his wife he'd do. Sometimes it's too much, and the panic takes hold.

But he wasn't always like this.

Eight months ago, Paul was attacked - left for dead after seeing something he shouldn't have - and has been piecing his life back together ever since.

During the days, therapy helps. But at night, he hears noises that no one else can. That nobody believes. Sometimes he thinks someone is in the house. Other times, the sounds are far stranger.

Either he's losing his mind - or someone wants him to think he is. Or maybe something even darker is waiting downstairs...

My Take

Before "the incident" Paul had thought his marriage had gone a bit flat, and that his wife might even be thinking of leaving him. But since he was attacked Charlotte has been very supportive. It is now 8 months on and he he seeing a therapist, battling PTSD, and depression, and is yet to return to work.

He has become anxious to understand what led his colleague to commit murder, which was what led him to attack Paul with a shovel. Central to the whole thing is a typewriter which Paul thinks is the one which his colleague owned. The typewriter is sitting in Paul's study and at night it appears to deliver messages from his colleague's victims.

A truly creepy and very readable novel.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

2 December 2019

Review: WHAT YOU PAY FOR, Claire Askew

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2035 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (22 August 2019)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group (AU)
  • Language: English
  • Shortlisted for McIlvanney and CWA Awards
  • #2 in DI Birch series
Synopsis (Amazon)

DI Helen Birch faces a terrible choice - family or justice? - in the gripping second novel from the author of All the Hidden Truths

DI Birch joined the police to find her little brother, who walked out of his life one day and was never seen again. She stayed to help others, determined to seek justice where she could.

On the fourteenth anniversary of Charlie's disappearance, Birch takes part in a raid on one of Scotland's most feared criminal organisations. It's a good day's work - a chance to get a dangerous man off the streets.

Two days later, Charlie comes back. It's not a coincidence. When Birch finds out exactly what he's been doing all those years, she faces a terrible choice: save the case, or save her brother. But how can you do the right thing when all the consequences are bad?

As she interrogates Charlie, he tells his story: of how one wrong turn leads to a world in which the normal rules no longer apply, and you do what you must to survive.

From one of the most acclaimed new voices in crime fiction, What You Pay For is a brilliantly tense and moving novel about the terrible disruption caused by violence and the lines people will cross to protect those they love.

My take

A gripping tale told alternately by two narrators - one is Helen Birch, the other is her brother Charlie.
Birch's tale is what is happening in current time, Charlie's brings us up to date with what he has been doing for the past 14 years and why he has come to her.

Birch should turn Charlie in  - he has committed more serious crimes than you can count on both hands. But she desperately wants to make sure he will be safe, but it really comes down to a choice between her career and his freedom. She can't have both.

My rating: 4.5


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