31 December 2020

My Best Reads in 2020

Well, I made it to 118 books for the year.

The target was 120, so I'm quite happy, particularly as I rated so many books quite highly.

The best for the year were

Over half my books, both hard copies and e-books, came through my local library.
Just under 50% of my reads were e-books either on Libby or my Kindle.
A third of my reading came from Australian authors, 49/118 from British authors, and roughly a third are "new-to-me" authors, many of which I have followed up with a second title.
There are some areas where I haven't done so well: translated books, New Zealand authors.

I participated in a number of challenges, notably

  • 2020 Good Reads Reading Challenge. I have set my challenge at 120. Currently: 118
  • Good Reads A-Z of titles: Currently: 21
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Completed in 2014, titles read in 2020: 3
  • USA Fiction Challenge So far 29/51, this year: 15
  • 2020 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 39
  • 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 29
  • Read Around the World 2020: currently: 118
  • British Books Challenge 2020 currently 49
  • 2020 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 57
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently  40
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge currently 8
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge, currently 6
  • 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 9
  • Snagged through the Library currently: 68
  • Audio books: currently: 10
  • 2020 Historical Reading Challenge. Currently: 13

Blogger put up a new platform this year which I avoided swapping to for as long as I could, but eventually had to. It has made some of my record keeping more difficult and probably next year I will cut down on the number of pages that i maintain.

This blog turns 13 on January 2. According to Blogger there have been 2,642,874 page views, there are 3,945 posts, with nearly 10,000 comments. The blog gives me great pleasure.

Happy New Year! 

30 December 2020

review: CONSOLATION, Garry Disher

  • Format: e-book Libby - available through my local library
  • Length: 400pp
  • Text Publishing: 3 November 2020
  • ISBN: 9781922330260
  • #3 Paul Hirschhausen series 

Synopsis (Text Publishing)

In Consolation, Tiverton’s only police officer Constable Paul Hirschhausen is dealing with a snowdropper. Someone is stealing women’s underwear, and Hirsch knows how that kind of crime can escalate. Then two calls come in: a teacher who thinks a child may be in danger at home. A father on the rampage over at the primary school.

Hirsch knows how things like that can escalate, too. Families under pressure. Financial problems. But it’s always a surprise when the killing starts.

My Take

Constable Paul Hirschhausen of South Australia Police patrols his base town of  Tiverton on foot every morning just after sunrise, making sure that all is well. Every Tuesday and Thursday he visits people in local towns, checking on the elderly, the vulnerable and those living alone. He makes it his business to know how everybody is and what the locals are up to.

But life is never boring. There is always something that needs to be done, and he is not on his own. His supervising sergeant lives in the neighbouring town of Redruth. When she is hurt early in this novel Hirsch has to take charge. He doesn't usually have the luxury of being able to focus on a single case; he often has many strings to his bow, many little mysteries to solve. When something major happens - perhaps a shooting or a disappearance - then the investigation is often taken out of local hands by senior officers from Port Pirie or even Adelaide. Often these teams will treat Hirsch or even his sergeant as if they have no local knowledge.

The structure of these novels reminds me of those I used to read years ago before I became a crime fiction addict - novels like Dr. Findlay's Casebook by A.J. Cronin, or The Hills is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith. In the case of the Hirsch novels, (of which there are now 3) many balls are being juggled at once, and there is a strong flavour of what it would be like to live in a remote mid-North town, and a sense of the community repercussions of a single crime.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read
- Hirsch #1 - aka HELL TO PAY
5.0, PEACE- Hirsch #2

29 December 2020

review: THE AOSAWA MURDERS, Riku Onda

  • first published in Japanese in 2005 as Eugenia
  • first published in UK by Bitter Lemon Press in 2020
  • translated from Japanese by Alison Watts
  • 315 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-912242-24-5

Synopsis (Bitter Lemon Press)

The Aosawa Murders won the 59th Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel.

The novel starts in the 1960s when 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a party given by the owners of a prominent clinic in a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer's, and the physician's bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only person spared injury. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery.

The police are convinced Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident, who was herself a childhood friend of Hisako’ and witness to the discovery of the killings. The truth is revealed through a skillful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbors, police investigators and of course the mesmerizing Hisako herself.

The Aosawa Murders takes the classic elements of the mystery genre but steers away from putting them together in the usual way, instead providing a multi-voiced insight into the psychology of contemporary Japan, with its rituals, pervasive envy and ever so polite hypocrisy. But it’s also about the nature of evil and the resonance and unreliability of memory.

My Take

This novel has the reader working hard to cope with both the structure of the novel and the author's intent. It appears to be first of all a series of interviews, three decades after the original poisonings,  presented as one-sided conversations with a range of "witnesses", where we can only surmise what the original questions were. In the main those being interviewed are being asked about an event that took place over 30 years before, when 17 people died of cyanide poisoning at what was meant to be a double birthday celebration. Of the actual family only one child, a blind girl, is left. She did not drink any of the sake or cordial that contained the poisoned but sat listening to those around her vomiting and dying in agony.

At the time the blame was pinned on a young man who committed suicide a few months after the event, but there did not seem to be any motive.  In the absence of real clues the original detective became convinced that the surviving daughter was somehow responsible even if she wasn't the one who delivered the poisoned liquids. Later other survivors were also apportioned blame.

I think Japanese crime fiction is quite markedly different from that which I usually like to read. It appears that Japanese crime fiction readers like to have their plots more inconclusive, more focussed on the psychological, more open-ended. While other blurbs and reviews tell us that the plot is finally resolved, that the murderer finally becomes clear, I don't think that is the case. Maybe I just missed the bit that proved conclusively "who dunnit" but I didn't think, at the end, that it was clear - in the final wash-up we were still in the area of theory, hence my final rating. You, of course, may disagree totally.

I'd like to note also how long it has taken for this title to be translated into English. I'm not sure we can read anything into that apart maybe from recognising that maybe 15 years ago readers in English would not have been so accepting of this type of crime fiction.

My rating: 4.2

About the author 

Riku Onda, born in 1964, is the professional name of Nanae Kumagai. She has been writing fiction since 1991 and has won the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers, the Japan Booksellers' Award, the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel, the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, and the Naoki Prize. Her work has been adapted for film and television.

26 December 2020

Review: THE ESCAPE ROOM, Megan Goldin

  • e-book via my local library through Libby
  • Publisher : Michael Joseph; 1st edition (28 May 2018)
  • Paperback : 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0143785478
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0143785477


'Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.'

In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they'll do anything to get ahead.

When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.

Tempers fray and the escape room's clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on the precipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they'll have to solve one final puzzle- which one of them is a killer?

My take

These high flyers are used to the company making unreasonable demands on them, imposing impossible deadlines, requiring them to sacrifice personal and family interests in the name of billion dollar contracts. They are used too to riding rough shod over anybody they need to, taking risks, cutting others off. But they've left behind them an incredible path of destruction, two deaths, and they share dark secrets. 

They enter the elevator thinking this is yet another one of those team building exercises that usually take an hour. But conditions in the elevator become intolerable, the clues seem incomprehensible, and when the doors don't open after an hour, or even after the last puzzle appears to be solved, it becomes obvious that this is no bonding exercise.

Meanwhile the reader is seeing the other side of the scenario, through the eyes of a previous employee, and becomes aware that over the course of the years some very nasty stuff has indeed happened.

I'm not sure that I swallowed the entire plot but certainly it made compulsive reading.

This was Megan Goldin's second thriller, and I'm looking forward to her third: THE NIGHT SWIM

My rating: 4.7

I've also read


21 December 2020

Review: THE GIRL IN KELLERS WAY, Megan Goldin

  • format: e -book available through Libby

  • ISBN-10 : 0143785443
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0143785446 
  • Published 2017, Penguin e-books
  • 274 pages 

Synopsis (Sisters in Crime)

When Laura West was murdered, Julie gained everything – her husband, her child, her house. Now, Julie West lives the good life. She is mother to 3yr old Alice and married to Matt, a charismatic professor of psychology. Yet Julie is stifled, by the memory of Laura, by the demands of being a trophy wife, and by constantly trying to wrest her husband’s attention from the young women who flock to his lectures. Julie’s escape is in running, and one morning in the forest on Kellers Way, she is forced to dive out of the way of a crashing vehicle. Then the dying driver gives her a chilling warning…

Things get busy for Detective Mel Carter when her partner goes on holidays. Just two weeks apart there’s a fatal road crash and then the discovery of human remains, both on Kellers Way. Mel discovers that the murder of Laura West is not a closed case and that the trail of clues is not as clear as she had thought. Is the obvious suspect really the murderer? Or has an innocent person been condemned?

My Take

Although Megan Goldin lives in Melbourne this psychological thriller is set in small-town North (?) Carolina.  The basic theme is how much our memories can be manipulated either by drugs or verbal means. That is what Julie's husband Professor Matt West does his research in and what he lectures in. In Julie's world whole days pass when she is "not well" and she remembers almost nothing. There are times when she hardly remembers Matt's first wife Laura, and other times when she wonders if she had a hand in her death.

The reader sees the world mainly from Julie's point of view but there are many inconsistencies and glimmers of something else. Matt is insistent she takes her medication to keep on an even keel, but when she doesn't Julie feels that she wakes up clear-headed and in control.

This is a book that will get your book group talking - particularly about the ending. The author has provided questions and an "interview" to help you along.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Megan Goldin is the author of THE ESCAPE ROOM, a 2019 thriller that Lee Child called "one of my favorite books of the year" and Harlan Coben called "thrilling and unforgettable". Megan's latest novel THE NIGHT SWIM was released in August 2020. Before becoming a novelist, Megan worked as a reporter covering the Middle East and Asia for the Reuters news agency, the Associate Press and the ABC as well as other news outlets. 

20 December 2020

Review: THE FLIGHT, Julie Clark

  • first published in UK by Hachette 2020
  • ISBN 978-1-529-529-38476-5
  • 311 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Claire and Eva lead very different lives, but they have one thing in common - they are both in huge danger and need to disappear.

A chance encounter at the airport presents the two women with a simple but crazy solution: switch places then drop off the grid when they land.

But one woman will never reach her destination.

The Flight has been highly acclaimed across the world and delivers a smart, tense and twisting narrative that will have you hooked from the first page to the last. It's the perfect escapism, wherever you are! 

My Take

Claire has been planning to leave her manipulative husband for some time, not just leave, but start a new life, go somewhere where he can't touch her. Everything is in place, tomorrow is the day - and then she wakes to find that the unthinkable has happened - he has changed her plans for her.

Eva has got to disappear. She is in an impossible situation. She too has to establish a new identity, a new life.

The pivot point of this story is the flight that Claire is scheduled to take, and which Eva ends up being on. There is mystery in this story from the very beginning. One of these women is walking into a trap, one is being manipulated by the other.

Good reading.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Julie Clark grew up reading books on the beach while everyone else surfed. After attending college at University of the Pacific, and a brief stint working in the athletic department at University of California, Berkeley, she returned home to Santa Monica to teach. She now lives there with her two young sons and a golden doodle with poor impulse control.

Review: THE CHIMES, Charles Dickens - audio book

  • format: audio book from audible.com
  • Narrated by: Richard Armitage
  • Length: 3 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 12-11-15
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • originally written in 1844
  • aka A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In

Synopsis (Audible)

The magnificent Richard Armitage (Hamlet: King of Denmark: A Novel) performs The Chimes by Charles Dickens.

This classic story is the second in a series of five Christmas books Dickens was commissioned to write - beginning with A Christmas Carol. A haunting tale set on New Year's Eve, The Chimes tells the story of a poor porter named Trotty Veck who has become disheartened by the state of the world - until he is shown a series of fantastical visions that convince him of the good of humanity. Though much different from and certainly a bit darker than A Christmas Carol, the moral message of The Chimes is equally poignant - touting the importance of compassion, goodwill, and the love of friends and family. 

My Take

This is really not crime fiction at all, but rather a moralistic tale along the lines of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, where ghosts tell us how we should live. Trotty Veck is convinced that the cathedral bells are talking to him and on New Year's Eve, unable to sleep, goes up into the bell tower where they point out the faults of the way he lives.  It is actually a very sombre tale, not the least aspect of which is the squalid nature of daily life for those in England's poorer classes.

I think it is a reminder too of how fiction writing has changed. I can't imagine a novella like this being written today.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read A CHRISTMAS CAROL among many other Dickens titles

11 December 2020

review: ANGEL FIRE, Lisa Unger

  • writing as Lisa Miscione
  • first published 2002
  • #1 in 4 Lydia Strong books
  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • print length 306 pages
  • ASIN : B004P8JMZM
  • Publisher : Crown (August 9, 2011)

Synopsis  (Amazon)

The gripping New York Times bestselling debut that established Lisa Unger, writing as Lisa Miscione, as a novelist to watch!

The childhood murder of Lydia Strong's mother has turned her into a woman obsessed with bringing brutal killers to justice. The reclusive, bestselling true-crime writer and investigative consultant has made a life out of chasing monsters. And her powerful intuitions rarely fail her.  

When three adults--loners, drifters--go missing, no one seems to notice except for Lydia. Enlisting the help of her friend, former FBI agent Jeffrey Mark, Lydia starts an investigation of her own. But when someone raises the stakes and goes after Lydia--just as fifteen years ago when she put the FBI on the trail of her mother's killer--the real hunt begins.

My take

It wasn't until earlier this year that I read Lisa Unger's second book in this series. Lydia is constantly haunted by her mother's own violent death when she was a teenager. She solves mysteries and violent crimes and then writes about them, which makes her a target for those who feel wronged. She is fighting her own attachment to ex-FBI agent Jeffrey Mark who rescued her when her mother had been killed. 

A sound read.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

4.4, THE DARKNESS GATHERS  #2 Lydia Strong

9 December 2020

Review: THE KINGDOM, Jo Nesbo

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File size : 2309 KB
  • Print length : 542 pages
  • Publisher : Vintage Digital (September 17, 2020)Language: : English 
  • ASIN : B084Q8YRBP
  • Publication date : September 17, 2020
  • Translated from the Norwegian by Robert Ferguson

Synopsis (Amazon)

Jo Nesbo, author of the number one bestselling Harry Hole series, is back with a tense and atmospheric thriller about two brothers bound together by dark secrets.

When Roy and Carl's parents die suddenly, sixteen-year-old Roy is left as protector to his impulsive younger brother. But when Carl decides to travel the world in search of his fortune, Roy stays behind in their sleepy village, satisfied with his peaceful life as a mechanic.

Some years later, Carl returns with his charismatic new wife, Shannon - an architect. They are full of exciting plans to build a spa hotel on their family land. Carl wants not only to make the brothers rich but the rest of the village, too.

It's only a matter of time before what begins as a jubilant homecoming sparks off a series of events that threaten to derail everything Roy holds dear, as long-buried family secrets begin to rise to the surface...

The Kingdom is a simmering and complex thriller full of unexpected twists, devastating family legacies and an ever growing body count.

My Take

A stand alone from Jo Nesbo.

There are plenty of little mysteries in this novel, not the least of which who is responsible for each entry in the growing death toll. There are secrets that no-one talks about.

Roy and Carl are the children of a "mixed" marriage: the father is American. To some extent the family is dysfunctional, the father violent, the mother ignoring what she doesn't want to admit observing, and Roy, the older, always protective of his younger brother, but sometimes powerless to do anything.

Roy has inherited the violent streak from his father, and often solves Carl's problems with his fists. Their parents die when they are just teenagers and they are watched over by an uncle. Eventually Carl, the more academic of the two goes off to America to university. Over a decade later he comes back with a beautiful wife in tow, who just happens to be an architect, and that is where the real trouble starts.

An engrossing but very long novel that explores the relationships between the trio and with those from the village who have been part of Roy and Carl's life for decades.

my rating: 4.6

I've also read

4.7, THE BAT
5.0, THE SON
4.3, MACBETH, Jo Nesbo

1 December 2020

What I read in November 2020

 The year rolls on. For part of this month in South Oz we have been in sort of lock-down - they called it a 'pause' where for 3 days we stayed home. It was meant to be longer, but was called off. For some people it was their first experience of being house-bound.

But now restrictions still apply on what we are able to do because we have one that defines social distancing as 1 person to every 4 sq meters, and that looks like it might extend for another week. That really limits what social gatherings can happen - makes things like chess, bridge, backgammon and mah jong very difficult.

But anyway, reading has continued and I am pleased to announce that I have reached 110 books for the year. My target is 120, so in December that will mean 10 books.

In the last month some good reads

29 November 2020


  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File size : 625 KB
  • Print length : 337 pages
  • Publisher : Orion (1 October 2020)
  • ASIN : B086SNF147
  • #23 in the Rebus series

Synopsis (Amazon)

When his daughter Samantha calls in the dead of night, John Rebus knows it's not good news. Her husband has been missing for two days.

Rebus fears the worst - and knows from his lifetime in the police that his daughter will be the prime suspect.

He wasn't the best father - the job always came first - but now his daughter needs him more than ever. But is he going as a father or a detective?

As he leaves at dawn to drive to the windswept coast - and a small town with big secrets - he wonders whether this might be the first time in his life where the truth is the one thing he doesn't want to find...

My take

Here's a treat for all Rankin fans: with all the old crew summoned to attendance.: John Rebus, Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox. Rebus of course is retired and Siobhan has just been helping him move into a ground floor apartment (his health isn't so good and he has been having trouble climbing stairs. Then comes the phone call from his daughter and Rebus drives north to her even though he realises he probably won't be welcome.

Siobhan is on leave, having taken time off to help Rebus move, but there is a murder case which she wants to be part of. And in the way of all good crime fiction, coincidences abound, there are links between Rebus' "new case" and the murder Siobhan is working on. And Malcolm Fox finds himself being snagged by that personification of evil, Big Ger Cafferty.  

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

4.4, WITCH HUNT - writing as Jack Harvey


5.0, IN A HOUSE OF LIES   #22

27 November 2020


  • format: e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • File size : 8812 KB
  • Print length : 292 pages
  • Publisher : Scribner (26 March 2013)
    first published 1981
  • Language: : English
  • #1 in the Richard Jury & Melrose Plant series

Synopsis (Amazon)

Long Piddleton had always been wary of newcomers. But the quiet town was stunned when the first stranger was found dead, upended in a butt of ale in the cellar of the Men with a Load of Mischief. Then the second body appeared, swinging in place of the mechanical man above the door of the Jack and Hammer.

Suddenly Long Piddleton had good reason to be wary of everyone! Its cozy pubs and inns with their polished pewter and blazing hearths had become scenes of the most bizarre crimes. Who were the victims? And who was the murderer? A stranger? A maniac? Or the disarmingly friendly man next door?

My take

This isn't the first that I've read in this series, but it has been a long time, certainly before this blog was started. There is a Golden Age, almost antiquarian flavour, to the novel, and murders abound. It is the first novel in the series and introduces D.I. Richard Jury and dilettante Melrose Plant, and a range of other interesting characters. The action is set in some colourfully named pubs.

An enjoyable read particularly if you are looking for a series with a Golden Age flavour.

My rating: 4.4

About the author 

Martha Grimes b. 1931, is one of the few authors left carrying on the British detective mystery tradition, and doing it well. Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury and sidekick Melrose Plant are in the third decade of their clever, darkly humorous crime-solving careers. There are 25 books in this series, with the last written in 2019

20 November 2020

Review: SILENT KILL, Jane Casey

  • Format: kindle e-book (Amazon)
  • File size : 796 KB
  • Publication date : August 6, 2020
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Print length : 100 pages
  • Publisher : HarperCollins (August 6, 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • A novella between #8 and #9 of the Maeve Kerrigan series

Synopsis (Amazon

A murder in broad daylight…
A teenage girl is killed on a London bus. The case should be simple. The bus was full of witnesses, and there are cameras everywhere.
A hunt for a killer…
But the more DC Georgia Shaw and her colleagues Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent delve into the crime, the more elusive the answers become.
A case that spirals out of control…
It seems impossible that no one saw anything, but soon the leads run cold. Will they uncover what really happened, or will the killer get away with murder?
For fans of the Maeve Kerrigan series, this is a story with a difference. Told from Georgia’s point of view, we see Maeve and Josh from the outside…like you’ve never seen them before.

My Take

A quick read, this has the feeling of a full-fledged novel, a strong plot, an investigation, lots of suspects, strong characters, the victim an unpleasant school girl, the murderer a person who has just had enough, a murder that was never meant to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

19 November 2020

Review: THE SILENCE, Susan Allott

  • e-book made available through Libby through my local library
  • Publisher : The Borough Press (1 May 2020)
  • ASIN : B07ZG7ZT2V
  • Language: : English
  • Print length : 304 pages 


It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, Joe, phoning from Sydney.  

30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. Joe claims he thought she had gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and he’s under suspicion of murder.

Back home in Sydney, Isla's search for the truth takes her back to 1967, when two couples lived side by side on a quiet street by the sea. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

Deftly exploring the deterioration of relationships and the devastating truths we keep from those we love, The Silence is a stunning debut from a rising literary star.

My Take

It is very rare for me to read a book within 24 hours. But I have, so let that fact be testament to how much I enjoyed this book.

On the surface this mystery is about the disappearance of a young woman, essentially a cold case that a police officer hushed up, brought on by the nature of her husband's shameful job.  

This book is one of those rare combinations: crime fiction and a poke at Australia's history.  I'd love to be able to claim Susan Allott as an Australian writer, but she is British. But she has been able to bring to this novel a very significant understanding of something in Australian history that for decades people tried to gloss over.

My rating: 4.8 

About the author

Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. In 2016 she completed the Faber Academy course, during which she started writing this novel. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.

18 November 2020

Review: THE HOUSE ON FRIPP ISLAND, Rebecca Kauffman

  • this edition published in Great Britain 2020
  • by www.serpentstail.com
  • ISBN 9-781788-165204
  • 319 pages 
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

A taut, page-turning novel of secrets and strife. When two families - one rich, one not - holiday together off the coast of South Carolina, little do they know that someone won't be returning home.
Fripp Island, South Carolina, is the perfect destination for the wealthy Daly family: Lisa, Scott, and their two girls. For Lisa's childhood friend, Poppy Ford, the resort island is a world away from the one she and Lisa grew up in -and when Lisa invites Poppy's family to join them, how can she turn down an all-expenses paid vacation for her husband and children?

But everyone brings secrets to the island, distorting what should be a convivial, relaxing summer on the beach. Lisa sees danger everywhere, while Poppy watches over her husband John and his routines with a sharp eye. It's a summer of change for all of the children too, who are exposed to new ideas and different ways of life as they forge a bond of their own.

While revelations from the past and present unfold, the book builds to a shocking event that will shake your sense of justice and leave you wanting to talk about crime and retribution. 

My Take

We know from the very beginning that someone has drowned, but not until near the end just who the victim is. We even know that it is murder, but not who is responsible. 

But even so, the murder really comes out of left-field. 

The build up consists of an exploration of the relationships within and between the two families. Each of the adults in particular have secrets, and a sinister element intrudes when Lisa recognises the name of someone on a sex-predator list. There is an indication that neither sets of parents knows their children as well as they think they do. One is a secret drinker, another grows pot, but their parents have no idea.

There is a sense of a ghost watching over things from on-high.

I didn't particularly like the ending of the book. It posed problems that weren't all that well re-solved.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Rebecca Kauffman is originally from rural Ohio. She studied Classical Violin Performance at the Manhattan School of Music before receiving an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU. Her previous novels are Another Place You've Never Been and The Gunners. She currently lives in Virginia. 

15 November 2020

Review: A ROOM MADE OF LEAVES, Kate Grenville

  • this edition published by textpublishing 2020
  • 322 pages
  • ISBN 9781922330024
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (textpublishing)

What if Elizabeth Macarthur—wife of the notorious John Macarthur, wool baron in the earliest days of Sydney—had written a shockingly frank secret memoir? And what if novelist Kate Grenville had miraculously found and published it? That’s the starting point for A Room Made of Leaves, a playful dance of possibilities between the real and the invented.

Marriage to a ruthless bully, the impulses of her heart, the search for power in a society that gave women none: this Elizabeth Macarthur manages her complicated life with spirit and passion, cunning and sly wit. Her memoir lets us hear—at last!—what one of those seemingly demure women from history might really have thought.

At the centre of A Room Made of Leaves is one of the most toxic issues of our own age: the seductive appeal of false stories. This book may be set in the past, but it’s just as much about the present, where secrets and lies have the dangerous power to shape reality.

Kate Grenville’s return to the territory of The Secret River is historical fiction turned inside out, a stunning sleight of hand by one of our most original writers.

My Take

It is very tempting to regard this book as definitive history of life in the early colony of New SouthWales, but both the author and the narrator remind us that it is "faction", a fiction that is a possible interpretation of the rather skimpy evidence available. However it serves to remind us of us difficult life in those times was, nothing like the life we live now. How did women like Elizabeth Macarthur survive and how much of the male legacy from those times is actually due to the women who accompanied them?

A very good read, with a touch of mystery and a little spice to keep the interest level up.

My Rating: 4.8

I've also read


Review: THE SECOND SLEEP, Robert Harris - audio book

  • format: audiobook from Audible
  • Narrated by: Roy McMillan
  • Length: 9 hrs and 21 mins
  • Release date: 08-22-19 
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio
  • Language: English
  • Unabridged Audiobook


The latest novel from Robert Harris: chosen as a Book of the Year by The Times, Sunday Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Mail on Sunday, and Express.

What if your future lies in the past?

Dusk is gathering as a young priest, Christopher Fairfax, rides across a silent land.

It’s a crime to be out after dark and Fairfax knows he must arrive at his destination – a remote village in the wilds of Exmoor – before night falls and curfew is imposed.

He’s lost and he’s becoming anxious as he slowly picks his way across a countryside strewn with the ancient artefacts of a civilisation that seems to have ended in cataclysm.

What Fairfax cannot know is that, in the days and weeks to come, everything he believes in will be tested to destruction, as he uncovers a secret that is as dangerous as it is terrifying....

My Take

You might want to challenge some of my categories for this book. I've said it is not crime fiction although crimes have been committed. And I've said it is historical although it is set in the future.

The first challenge for the reader is to work when this novel is actually set. Dates are given that challenge our ideas of chronology.  How can a book that is set in future feel so much like it is set in medieval times? What has happened to "our world"?

I saw some reviews that said this book went nowhere - that the initial idea was good but the result was disappointing. I actually thought it gave us a lot to think about.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


8 November 2020

Review: THOSE PEOPLE, Louise Candlish

  • format: e-book made available through Libby
  • File size : 7763 KB
  • Print length : 386 pages
  • Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK (27 June 2019)
  • Language: : English 

Synopsis (Amazon)


Until Darren and Jodie move in, Lowland Way is a suburban paradise. Beautiful homes. Friendly neighbours. Kids playing out in the street. But Darren and Jodie don't follow the rules and soon disputes over loud music and parking rights escalate to threats of violence.

Then, early one Sunday, a horrific crime shocks the street. As the police go house-to-house, the residents close ranks and everyone's story is the same: They did it.

But there's a problem. The police don't agree. And the door they're knocking on next is yours. 

My take

The middle class neighbours in Lowland Way are living life their way, and have even won an award for their community ideas. But now one of the elderly owners has died and someone else has moved in. They don't share the same ideals, play loud music all the time, don't have kids, and couldn't care less about the community.

Things go from bad to worse and the original community leaders come up with plans to get rid of Darren and Jodie. The plan back-fires and someone is accidentally killed.

The police seem to be constantly around and the death is called a homicide. 

A very believable, if at the same time improbable, story of what can happen when ordinary people are taken to the brink. Families fall apart and the most unlikely come up with wicked schemes.

A great read.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

1 November 2020

What I read in October 2020

 My reading appears to have slowed down a bit this month, not helped by the length of a couple of books

  1. 4.4, THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS, Sophie Hannah - audio book 
  2. 4.8, TROUBLED BLOOD, Robert Galbraith
  3. 4.7, OUR HOUSE, Louise Candlish
  4. 4.8, THE SURVIVORS, Jane Harper - Australian author  
  5. 4.4, THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL, Sophie Hannah - audio book
  6. 4.5, FOLLOW THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

Review: FAIR WARNING, Michael Connelly

  • format: e-book made available through my local library on Libby
  • File size : 1088 KB
  • Publication date : May 26, 2020
  • Print length : 325 pages
  • Publisher : Allen & Unwin (May 26, 2020)
  • ASIN : B081ZR4TYF (Amazon)
  • Jack McEvoy #3

Synopsis (Amazon

Jack McEvoy has taken down killers before, but when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered in a particularly brutal way, he realises he might be facing a criminal mind unlike any he's ever encountered.

Jack investigates against the warnings of the police and his own editor, walking a thin line between investigation and obsession, and makes a shocking discovery, connecting the crime to other mysterious deaths across the country. But then he himself becomes a suspect, and as he races to clear his name, Jack's findings point to a serial killer who uses personal data shared by the victims themselves to select and hunt his targets.

My Take

Jack McEvoy originally appeared in THE POET in 1996. Now, over 20 years on, he is an investigative journalist for a website called Fair Warning. (The author tells us that this site actually exists, https://www.fairwarning.org/, and that he is on its board. Myron Levin, the founder and editor of the site also appears in this book)

Jack is interviewed by FBI agents about the death of a woman that he dated once. When they tell him that they have DNA from the scene he voluntarily gives his own DNA to prove that it wasn't him. The woman died from AOD (internal decapitation) and Jack discovers that she is one of a number of cases with similar deaths. He also discovers that all of the victims had recently sent their DNA to a cheap DNA research company, who pass anonymous DNA results out into the community to fund their work.
Jack works with colleagues at the Fair Warning website to investigate these cases and then pulls in Rachel Walling, ex-FBI, to assist. Rachel is also a character from THE POET.

There are a number of issues of concern raised in the novel such as how much control there is over how DNA results are used, who gets access to them, and the political implications of the novel have not suited all readers.
I was reminded of a novel that I read last year THE ONE, by John Marrs where DNA is used to find people's life-long partners. And then there have been other crime fiction DNA-based novels such as WICKER by Kevin Guilfoyle, DIRTY LITTLE LIES by John Macken and JAR CITY by Arnaldur Indridason (see more )

What interested me in particular in FAIR WARNING was Connelly's revival of the original investigative duo of Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling after such a long gap. That in itself was unusual. And it seems likely that we will meet them again in the future.

Plenty to think about in this book.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


29 October 2020

Review: FOLLOW THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

  • e-book acquired through local library and Libby
  • File Size : 935 KB
  • Publication Date : March 27, 2018
  • Print Length : 363 pages
  • Publisher : Macmillan (March 27, 2018)
  • Language: : English
  • ASIN : B078WJQVD7 (kindle)
  • #12 in Rhona MacLeod series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Shortlisted for the 2018 McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

FOLLOW THE DEAD is the thrilling twelfth book in Lin Anderson's forensic crime series featuring Rhona MacLeod.

On holiday in the Scottish Highlands, forensic scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod joins a mountain rescue team on Cairngorm summit, where a mysterious plane has crash-landed on the frozen Loch A’an. Added to that, a nearby climbing expedition has left three young people dead, with a fourth still missing.

Meanwhile in Glasgow, DS McNab’s raid on the Delta Club produces far more than just a massive haul of cocaine. Questioning one of the underage girls found partying with the city’s elite reveals she was smuggled into Scotland via Norway, and it seems the crashed plane in the Cairngorms may be linked to the club. But before McNab can discover more, the girl is abducted.

Joined by Norwegian detective Alvis Olsen, who harbours disturbing theories about how the two cases are connected with his homeland, Rhona searches for the missing link. What she uncovers is a dark underworld populated by ruthless people willing to do anything to ensure the investigation dies in the frozen wasteland of the Cairngorms . . . 

My Take:

Although this title precedes the two in the series that I read earlier, I felt that it operated better as a stand-alone, although perhaps that was because I was already familiar with Rhona MacLeod and DS Michael McNab. 

The story emphasises the connections between Scotland and Norway, not just the geographic one of the North Sea, but also the tough conditions, and the shared crimes.

This is certainly a series that I will return to again.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

25 October 2020

100 Books read so far in 2020

Each year I set myself a reading target and among them I set a number of books to strive for.

This year my target is 120, and yesterday I got to 100, which always feels special.

This is what the summary so far looks like (you will note that in some cases I am exceeding my targets):

Last updated 25 October 2020

  • 2020 Good Reads Reading Challenge. I have set my challenge at 120. Currently: 100
  • Good Reads A-Z of titles: Currently: 22
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Completed in 2014, titles read in 2020: 3
  • USA Fiction Challenge So far 29/51, this year: 9
  • 2020 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 35
  • 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 25
  • Read Around the World 2020: currently: 100
  • British Books Challenge 2020 currently 42
  • 2020 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 45
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently  35
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge currently 6
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge, currently 5
  • 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 7
  • Snagged through the Library currently: 56
  • Audio books: currently: 8
  • 2020 Historical Reading Challenge. Currently: 9

You can find my summary page in full at https://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_55.html

Review: THE KILLINGS AT KINGFISHER HILL, Sophie Hannah - audio book

  • From audible
  • Narrated by: Julian Rhind-Tutt
  • Series: New Hercule Poirot Mysteries, Book 4
  • Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 08-20-20
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: HarperCollins

Synopsis (audible)

The world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot - legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile - returns to solve a fiendish new mystery.

Hercule Poirot is travelling by luxury passenger coach from London to the exclusive Kingfisher Hill estate. Richard Devonport has summoned him to prove that his fiancée, Helen, is innocent of the murder of his brother, Frank. There is one strange condition attached to this request: Poirot must conceal his true reason for being there from the rest of the Devonport family.

On the coach, a distressed woman leaps up, demanding to disembark. She insists that if she stays in her seat, she will be murdered. A seat-swap is arranged and the rest of the journey passes without incident. But Poirot has a bad feeling about it, and his fears are later confirmed when a body is discovered in the Devonports' home with a note that refers to ‘the seat that you shouldn’t have sat in’.

Could this new murder and the peculiar incident on the coach be clues to solving the mystery of who killed Frank Devonport? And can Poirot find the real murderer in time to save an innocent woman from the gallows?  

My take

There has been considerable discussion about whether Sophie Hannah has quite captured Hercule Poirot, whether her characterisation of him rings true. My feeling is that while she has captured the essence of the great detective, she hasn't quite got it with the plotting. The plots to me become trivial, too much detail, and lacking in Agatha Christie's economy of words.  I think this is partly because the books are longer than Agatha Christie's were.

In the long run the author manages to bring the plot threads together and even to introduce a a couple of elements that we didn't see coming, to bring an element of surprise to the final denouement.

I must add also that the narration is superb.

I've also read

4.4, CLOSED CASKET - audio book
4.4, THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS -audio book   - #3

22 October 2020

Review: THE SURVIVORS, Jane Harper

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size : 3035 KB
  • Print Length : 343 pages
  • Publisher : Macmillan Australia (22 September 2020)
  • ASIN : B087WP479H  

Synopsis (Amazon Australia)

Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away.

My Take

Twelve years on from when his older brother died in the sea in a storm in a small coastal town in Tasmania, there is another death.  Kieran Elliott has carried the guilt of his brother's death all that time, and now his father may be accused of the latest death, so clearly a murder.

Kieran's father has dementia and he has come home to help his mother pack up the house. It was Kieran that his brother was rescuing twelve years ago and he has always felt that his mother has blamed him for his brother's death. A local girl disappeared without trace that day too, but now it appears there were facts that were never revealed.

A terrific atmospheric novel, some very interesting characters and many tensions.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

4.7, THE DRY

17 October 2020

review: OUR HOUSE, Louise Candlish

  • this large print edition published in UK 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-52888-676-5
  • 489 pages


On a bright January morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought in Trinity Avenue.

Nothing strange about that. Except it is your house. And you didn’t sell it.

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she's sure there's been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird's nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona's children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram's not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

My Take

There are two main sources of narration in this novel: combined they present not only an unusual story but an unusual plot structure.

When Fiona Lawson arrives at her house to discover it has been sold and is actually in the process of being moved into, her estranged husband is already in Europe. And so his story begins, presented as his real-time thoughts and a word document saved on his computer.

Fiona's story is presented as a podcast script via the website of The Victim, in a series that begins six weeks after she has lost her home. Each episode comes complete with followers who, at the end of each episode, add their tweets and predictions of what will happen.

It is Bram who must bear the bulk of the guilt for what happens, but Fiona is not innocent either. 

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read


9 October 2020

Review: TROUBLED BLOOD, Robert Galbraith

  • Format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size : 11931 KB
  • Print Length : 888 pages
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • X-Ray : Enabled
  • ASIN : B084VPR3N2
  • Publisher : Sphere; 01 Edition (15 September 2020)
  • Cormoran Strike #5

Synopsis (Amazon)

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough - who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.

As Strike and Robin investigate Margot's disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly . . .

My Take

I thought this novel owed quite a lot to the fact that Galbraith (J. K. Rowling) is the extremely successful author of the Harry Potter novels. Certainly as far as crime fiction goes, it is a very long and complex novel, with an amazing number of plot threads, and a huge array of interesting characters. I wasn't so taken with the sections that owed so much to interpretation of tarot cards, and reading it on my kindle meant that I didn't get the most out of the full page illustrations that had been created by the first detective who had investigated the disappearance of Margot Bamborough forty years earlier. 

In the background are the other investigations that the Strike/Ellacott firm have running simultaneously, their rising success, Strike's relationships with his family, and his relationship with Robin. All of that gives the novel a depth that is unusual in modern crime fiction, and yet it provides an interest that keeps the reader going, despite the length of the novel.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.7, LETHAL WHITE - #4  

8 October 2020

New to me authors - July to September 2020

I've read 35 new-to-me authors in 2020 (out of a total of 96 books).
In some cases I have gone on to read a second book by this author.
I should point out here that the titles are not necessarily recently published although most are.

Here is the list for July to September. There are some very good reads amongst them and none have been a waste of time.

  1. 4.6, SINS OF THE DEAD, Lin Anderson 
  2. 4.5, DEAR CHILD, Romy Hausmann 
  3. 4.7, INHERITANCE OF SECRETS, Sonya Bates - Australian
  4. 5.0, THE OTHER PASSENGER, Louise Candlish 
  5. 4.5, THE PUPPET SHOW, M. W. Craven  
  6. 4.4, MEDDLING AND MURDER, Ovidia Yu
  7. 4.5, THIRST, L. A. Larkin - Australian
  8. 4.6, WE BEGIN AT THE END, Chris Whitaker 
  9. 4.5, THE HOLIDAY, T.M. Logan
  10. 4.4, THE BRISBANE LINE, J.P. Powell - Australian
  11. 4.5, THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS, Amy Myerson

4 October 2020

Review: THE MYSTERY OF THREE QUARTERS, Sophie Hannah - audio book

  • audio book available from Audible
  • By: Sophie Hannah, Agatha Christie
  • Narrated by: Julian Rhind-Tutt
  • Series: New Hercule Poirot Mysteries, Book 3
  • Length: 9 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 08-23-18

Synopsis (Audible)

The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot - the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket - returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in 1930s London.

Returning home after lunch one day, Hercule Poirot finds an angry woman waiting outside his front door. She demands to know why Poirot has sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met.

Poirot has also never heard of a Barnabas Pandy and has accused nobody of murder. Shaken, he goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him - a man who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy....

Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger?

My Take:

When you read the book you will understand why I have included an image of a Battenberg cake here. It is a motif that Poirot uses with great effect in the novel, as he speculates about the relationship between the squares in the cake. Why were there 4 letters sent to people accusing them of murdering Barnabas Pandy when they did not know each other? Or is there some other connection?

And is one of those four a murderer or not, or just waiting in the wings, ready to commit a murder? Poirot works with Scotland Yard's Inspector Catchpoole to work out the motive behind the letters.

There were times when I thought the plot was unnecessarily devious and long winded but the audio production is excellent.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read

4.4, CLOSED CASKET - audio

What I read in September 2020

 Surprisingly, a smaller number of books this month, but I'm still doing well for the year (so far 95)

  1. 4.5, THE POET, Michael Connelly
  2. 5.0, THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, Hilary Mantel - audio book 
  3. 4.6, WE BEGIN AT THE END, Chris Whitaker
  4. 4.5, THE HOLIDAY, T. M. Logan
  5. 4.4, THE BRISBANE LINE, J.P. Powell - Australian author  
  6. 4.2, AUNTY LEE'S DELIGHTS, Ovidia Yu
  7. 4.5, THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS, Amy Myerson 

24 September 2020


  • this edition available as an e-book through Libby
  • published 2018
  • Hardcover : 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0778319849
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0778319849 

Synopsis (Amazon)

A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.

Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy's bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda's twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda's life. 

She doesn't hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy--and one final scavenger hunt.When Miranda returns home to Los Angeles and to Prospero Books--now as its owner--she finds clues that Billy has hidden for her inside novels on the store's shelves, in locked drawers of his apartment upstairs, in the name of the store itself. 

Miranda becomes determined to save Prospero Books and to solve Billy's last scavenger hunt. She soon finds herself drawn into a journey where she meets people from Billy's past, people whose stories reveal a history that Miranda's mother has kept hidden--and the terrible secret that tore her family apart.Bighearted and trenchantly observant, The Bookshop of Yesterdays is a lyrical story of family, love and the healing power of community. It's a love letter to reading and bookstores, and a testament to how our histories shape who we become.

My Take

Not crime fiction but plenty of mystery in this novel when Miranda Brooks finds out her estranged uncle has died and has left her his book shop. As he did when she was younger, Billy has left her a scavenger hunt to solve. Miranda could have just walked away, but Billy has really thrown down the gauntlet, appealing to Miranda's love of solving a puzzle. And the more she finds out, the deeper the puzzle becomes.

And there is more - stories about the effects of cataclysmic events on family, on events that shape our lives. A very enjoyable read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Amy Meyerson teaches in the writing department at the University of Southern California, where she completed her graduate work in creative writing. She has been published in Reed Magazine, The Manhattanville Review, The Bloomsbury Review, The Fanzine and Obit Magazine, and was a finalist in Open City's RRofihe Trophy Short Story Contest and in Summer Literary Seminars's Unified Literary Contest. She currently lives in Los Angeles. The Bookshop of Yesterdays is her first novel. 

23 September 2020


  •  this edition published by William Morrow 2013

  • ISBN 978-0-06-222715-7
  • 257 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #1 in the Aunty Lee series


This delectable and witty mystery introduces Rosie "Aunty" Lee, feisty widow, amateur sleuth, and proprietor of Singapore's best-loved home-cooking restaurant

After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could have become one of Singapore's "tai tai," an idle rich lady. Instead she is building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean meals are graciously served to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore's tourist havens and one of her guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two events are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson, Mark, his social-climbing wife, Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder are Police Commissioner Raja and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, who quickly discover that Aunty Lee's sharp nose for intrigue can sniff out clues that elude law enforcers.

Wise, witty, and charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship, and food in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities coexist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly consequences.

My take

This was my second venture into the Aunty Lee series, an enjoyable, not overly complex cosy. It gives good background for the later novel that I had already read. Apart from the murder mystery there is interesting commentary on life in Singapore. In style it reminded me just a little of Alexander McCall Smith's No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. 

My book group have suggested I also try the Crown Colony series.

Listings from Fantastic Fiction

Singaporean Mystery
   1. Aunty Lee's Delights (2013)
   2. Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials (2014)
   3. Aunty Lee's Chilled Revenge (2016)
   4. Meddling and Murder (2017)

Crown Colony
   1. The Frangipani Tree Mystery (2017)
   2. The Betel Nut Tree Mystery (2018)
   3. The Paper Bark Tree Mystery (2019)
   4. The Mimosa Tree Mystery (2020)
   5. The Cannonball Tree Mystery (2021)

My rating: 4.2

I've also read

4.4, MEDDLING AND MURDER #4  in the Aunty Lee series


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