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, THE CARRIER
4.3, THE MONOGRAM MURDERS -#1
4.2, CLOSED CASKET- #2
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
5.0, FORCE OF NATURE
5.0, THE LOST MAN  

17 October 2020

review: OUR HOUSE, Louise Candlish

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

Synopsis 

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

5.0, THE OTHER PASSENGER

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
5.0, THE CUCKOO'S CALLING #1 
4.5, THE SILKWORM  #2
4.6, A CAREER OF EVIL  #3
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, THE CARRIER
4.3, THE MONOGRAM MURDERS
4.2, CLOSED CASKET
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

Review: THE BOOKSHOP OF YESTERDAYS, Amy Myerson

  • 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

Review: AUNTY LEE'S DELIGHTS, Ovidia Yu

  •  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

Synopsis

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

16 September 2020

Review: THE BRISBANE LINE, J.P. Powell

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • Print Length : 242 pages
  • Language: : English
  • ASIN : B086HL63Y8
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Publisher : Xoum (27 March 2020)
  • File Size : 1358 KB
Synopsis  (Amazon)

As WWII ravages the world and the Japanese Empire has set its sights on Australia, the Americans have come to save us. But not all soldiers are heroes and not all heroes are soldiers.

Sergeant Joe Washington, a US Military Police, loves music and photography but spends his days delving into the sordid and petty crimes committed by the thousands of American troops passing through town.

While trying to find stolen gasoline stores, he is sent to investigate the body of an American soldier found dumped in a cemetery. Suddenly Joe is up against notorious detective Frank Bischof.

Although ordered to leave the investigation alone, Joe fears that Bischof is protecting the most likely suspect while trying to pin the crime on an innocent – and intriguing – young woman, Rose. A woman who seems to walk between the parallel worlds of black market deals and Brisbane’s high society.

My Take

This novel gives readers a snapshot of life in Brisbane in a period of approximately 10 days (Friday 8 October 1943 - Sunday 17 October 1943.) Brisbane is home to thousands of American soldiers, committing the usual range of crimes found in Western society, complicated by crimes, corruption,  and conventions typical of Brisbane itself. The book is populated with real life characters as well as fictional one.

While there are a range of crimes committed, I felt that the novel is historical "faction" rather than crime fiction. Two murders have been committed, the investigation shared uncomfortably by an American MP and a detective from the Brisbane police force.

My rating: 4.4

About the Author
JP Powell is an archaeologist and historian with a passion for bringing the past to life. She has worked as a high school teacher, an academic, a National Parks officer, a museum administrator and has excavated in Jordan, Cyprus and Greece as well as leading historical archaeology projects in Australia. Her previous writing includes school textbooks, academic publications, government reports and a biography of the first person to teach archaeology in Australia (Love’s Obsession. The lives and archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart. Wakefield Press. 2013). In 2017 she was awarded a QANZAC Fellowship by the State Library of Queensland to pursue research into, and writing of, a series of crime novels set in Brisbane during World War II. She lives outside Brisbane

13 September 2020

review: THE HOLIDAY, T.M. Logan

  • format: e-book available from Libby
  • published 2019
  • aka THE VACATION
  • 380 pages
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

It was supposed to be the perfect getaway: Kate and her three best friends, spending a week with their families in a luxurious villa in the south of France. Through the decades they’ve stayed closer than ever, and seven days of drinking crisp French wine and laying out under the dazzling Mediterranean sun is the perfect celebration of their friendship. But soon after arriving, Kate discovers an incriminating text on her husband’s cell phone.

A text revealing that he’s having an affair.

And that the other woman is one of her best friends.

But which one?

Trapped in paradise with no one to trust, Kate is determined to find out who has put her marriage — and a lifelong friendship — in jeopardy. But as she closes in on the truth, she realizes that the stakes are higher than she ever imagined. Everyone on the trip has secrets…and someone may be prepared to kill to keep theirs hidden.

My Take:

I will certainly be looking for another from this author.

There were several elements of mystery. Each family has secrets, and then Kate is trying to work out which of her friends is having an affair with her husband. Some times relationships become fraught and the tensions come over well.

A good read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author:
TM Logan (aka Tim Utton) was born in Berkshire to an English father and a German mother. He studied at Queen Mary and Cardiff universities before becoming a national newspaper journalist. He currently works in communications and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children.

8 September 2020

Review: WE BEGIN AT THE END, Chris Whitaker

  • format: e-book through my local library through Libby
  • ISBN: 9781785769627
  • Published April 2020
  • 464 pages
Synopsis (Allen & Unwin)

A blistering story of murder, revenge and retribution, set under the Californian sun.  As nuanced as it is intense, We Begin at the End is a thriller of exceptional psychological flair, filled with characters who will get under your skin – and might never leave.

This is a story about good and evil and how life is lived somewhere in between.

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer. Now, he's been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star's thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin - and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution. How far can we run from the past, when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?

My Take

A layered novel full of mysteries. Like peeling a never-ending onion - the final solution is staggering and unexpected. Duchess Radley seems to have missed out on having a childhood, torn between looking after her mother and ensuring the safety of her young brother. She has an old head on very young shoulders.

Things come to a head when Vincent King returns to the town, and Walk, the Sheriff of Cape Haven, becomes determined that his childhood friend will lead a "normal" life.

There is little that I can tell you about what happens after that, without spoiling the narrative for you. I found it a challenging read, full of interesting characters, and mind-boggling scenarios.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Chris Whitaker's debut novel, Tall Oaks, was published in 2016. It was a Guardian crime book of the month as well as featuring in Crime Time's top 100 books of 2016 and BuzzFeed's incredible summer reads. It won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award, and was shortlisted for the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award. All the Wicked Girls, Chris's second novel, was described by Look magazine as 'the next Gone Girl'. Chris lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons. 

6 September 2020

Review: THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, Hilary Mantel - audio book

  • audio book from Audible
  • Narrated by: Ben Miles
  • Series: The Wolf Hall Trilogy, Book 3
  • Length: 38 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 03-05-20
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
  • Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020
    Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020
Synopsis (Audible)

The long-awaited sequel to Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the stunning conclusion to Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

‘If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?’

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

My take

We listened to this in the car over a number of weekends (38 hours of it) and were very regretful when it finished, not just because the recording came to an end, but because it was almost as if a well-known friend had died.

The story of Henry VIII and his six wives is one that all history lovers are familiar with, and so we have a broad idea of the content of this book. Where THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT excels is in bringing the times, characters and issues to light both through the text and the excellent verbal rendition.

An excellent series.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read 4.7, BRING UP THE BODIES

2 September 2020

Review: THE POET, Michael Connelly

  • this book first published in 1996
  • this edition: e-book, made available through Libby
  • source: my local library
  • #1 in Jack McEvoy novels
  • Awards in 1997:
    Anthony Awards Best Novel,
    Dilys Awards Best Book
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The apparent suicide of his policeman brother sets Denver crime reporter Jack McEvoy on edge. Surprise at the circumstances of his brother's death prompts Jack to look into a whole series of police suicides and puts him on the trail of a cop killer whose victims are selected all too carefully. Not only that, but they all leave suicide notes drawn from the poems of writer Edgar Allan Poe in their wake. More frightening still the killer appears to know that Jack is getting nearer and nearer. An investigation that looks like being the story of a lifetime, might also be Jack's ticket to a lonely end.

My Take:

I was mainly prompted to read this because firstly, I have never read it before; and secondly, because there is a new title in this series, FAIR WARNING, recently published.  My Connelly reading has mainly been Harry Bosch.

Apparently before reading FAIR WARNING, I should also read THE NARROWS (2004) and THE SCARECROW (2009)

THE POET is one of those novels when you've just worked it all out, there is another twist, and you realised you've missed something major or there was something that you didn't know. It all makes for very engrossing reading.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
THE OVERLOOK
THE BRASS VERDICT
THE CONCRETE BLONDE
4.3, THE REVERSAL
4.4, SUICIDE RUN
4.4, ANGLE OF INVESTIGATION 

1 September 2020

What I read in August 2020

Things seem to have slowed down a bit this month, as a couple of books took me longer than 3 or 4 days to read.
Nevertheless I have read 3 books by Australian authors and been introduced to 3 new-to-me authors.

My best read was Michael Robotham's latest:
WHEN SHE WAS GOOD
  1. 4.5, THE PUPPET SHOW, M. W. Craven
  2. 4.5, BLACK SUMMER, M. W. Craven
  3. 4.7, THE GUEST LIST, Lucy Foley  
  4. 4.8, WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, Michael Robotham - Australian author 
  5. 4.3, GATHERING DARK, Candice Fox - Australian author
  6. 4.4, MEDDLING AND MURDER, Ovidia Yu
  7. 4.5, THIRST, L. A. Larkin - Australian author 

28 August 2020

review: THIRST, L. A. Larkin

  • this edition published by Pier9 2012
  • 336 pages
  • ISBN 978-1741967890
  • source: my local library
  • author website: read an extract, see some discussion questions
Synopsis (author website)

Antarctica is the coldest, most isolated place on earth. Luke Searle, maverick glaciologist, has made it his home. But soon his survival skills will be tested to the limit by a ruthless mercenary who must win at any cost.

The white continent is under attack. The Australian team is being hunted down. Can Luke stay alive long enough to raise the alarm?

The countdown has begun. T minus 5 days, 2 hours and 53 minutes …

My take

THIRST is about climate change catastrophe. We all know about the effects of global warming and the impact on the polar caps and the glaciers in them. But what if someone decided to harvest the resources in Antarctica, like the rare minerals, and even the water?

This is a fast paced thriller, firmly based on solid research, presenting a scenario that strains the bounds of credibility at first.

Recommended.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
L.A. Larkin divides her time between writing topical thrillers and her work for one of Australia's leading climate change consultancies.

27 August 2020

Review: MEDDLING & MURDER, Ovidia Yu

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 847 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: One More Chapter (April 28, 2017)
  • Publication Date: April 28, 2017
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01MQFCSVL
Synopsis (Amazon)

A delightfully warm and witty mystery from one of Singapore's best-known and most acclaimed writers, perfect for fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY.

Aunty Lee is on the case!

There is nothing Rosie ‘Aunty’ Lee, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved restaurant, loves more than solving other people’s problems. So when Beth Kwuan, an ambitious businesswoman, tells Aunty Lee her maid has disappeared, Aunty Lee is happy to let her own maid, Nina, help.

Only as the weeks go by, little clues make Aunty Lee worry. And as she digs into what is really going on behind the closed doors of Beth’s grand house, she starts to wonder—did Beth’s maid just run away, or did she meet a darker fate?

Now the race is on for Aunty Lee to get to the bottom of the mystery…and save Nina before it’s too late!

My Take

Although this is #4 in the Aunty Lee mystery series, I really didn't feel that I had missed much from not reading earlier titles. I would categorise the novel as a cozy, but there are also embedded some quite serious comments on the development of Singapore, and the impact of things like immigration of groups from China and India. There were references to earlier books in the series.

In style it reminded me a little of the Inspector Singh novels by Shamini Flint - also a Singaporean author. Although of course while Inspector Singh is a policeman, usually on an "official case", Aunty Lee is a "noseyparker".

Anyway, a fairly quiet sort of read, although some serious events do occur.


My rating: 4.4

About the author
Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore's best-known and most acclaimed writers. As well as award winning short stories and a children's book, she has had over thirty plays performed and is author of the Aunty Lee books, featuring a crime solving Tai Tai, and the Colonial Crime series set in Colonial Singapore.

21 August 2020

review: GATHERING DARK, Candice Fox

  • this edition published by Bantam 2020
  • ISBN 978-0-14-378917-8
  • 408 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

From Australia's most exciting and original crime writer comes another electrifying thriller, set in Los Angeles, introducing a new – and decidedly unconventional – team of 'detectives'.

A convicted killer. A gifted thief. A vicious crime boss. A disillusioned cop. Together they’re a missing girl's only hope.

Blair Harbour, once a wealthy, respected surgeon in Los Angeles, is now an ex-con down on her luck. She’s determined to keep her nose clean to win back custody of her son.

But when her former cellmate, Sneak Lawlor, begs for help to find her missing daughter, Blair is compelled to put her new-found freedom on the line. Joined by LA’s most feared underworld figure, Ada Maverick, the crew of criminals bring outlaw tactics to the search for Dayly.

Detective Jessica Sanchez has always had a difficult relationship with the LAPD. And her inheritance of a $7 million mansion as a reward for catching a killer has just made her police enemy number one.

It’s been ten years since Jessica arrested Blair for the cold-blooded murder of her neighbour. So when Jessica opens the door to the disgraced doctor and her friends early one morning she expects abuse, maybe even violence.

What comes instead is a plea for help.

My Take

A cleverly constructed story but not really my cup of tea. Candice Fox has certainly written a novel whose very grittiness will appeal to an American audience. It brings a number of very quirky, in some cases alarmingly evil, characters together.

Blair Harbour, once a popular paediatrician, has certainly paid an unjust penalty for her unthinking act of attempting to rescue a neighbour from domestic violence. For detective Jessica Sanchez it had been an open and shut case: Harbour was obviously unhinged and lying, but now Sanchez has to face the fact that she didn't work hard enough to get the story right.

And now Sanchez herself is the victim of an innocent act: a grateful father leaves her his million-dollar mansion, driving a wedge between herself and other cops in the LAPD.

Blair's former cellmate comes to her for help in locating her missing daughter. Blair and Sneak need help, and Blair decides to call a favour in. But Ada Maverick does nothing for free.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN
4.6, CRIMSON LAKE  (#1)
4.7 REDEMPTION POINT (#2) 
4.5, GONE BY MIDNIGHT (#3) 

16 August 2020

Review: WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, Michael Robotham

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 651 KB
  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (July 28, 2020)
  • Publication Date: July 28, 2020
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07ZLTMRC6
  • Read an excerpt
  • #2 in the Cyrus Haven series 
  • Interview with the author
Synopsis (Amazon)

She has secrets.

Six years ago, Evie Cormac was found hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a brutal murder. But nobody has ever discovered her real name or where she came from, because everybody who tries ends up dead.

He needs answers.

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven believes the truth will set Evie free. Ignoring her warnings, he begins to dig into her past, only to disturb a hornet's nest of corrupt and powerful people, who have been waiting to find Evie - the final witness to their crimes. Unbeknownst to him, Cyrus is leading them straight to Evie. The truth will not set her free. It will get them killed.

From internationally bestselling, award-winning author Michael Robotham, this is the second explosive novel featuring the gifted criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven, introduced in GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL.

My Take

You really need to read the first in this series (GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL) before reading this one.
Cyrus Haven is convinced that if he can work out who Evie Cormac really is, then they can work out who it was that treated her so badly. He teams with Sacha Hopewell, the ex-police woman who discovered where Evie was hiding 6 years before.

The novel is set in 2020, in a world where Covid-19 does not exist, mainly because it was written and dispatched to the printers before the virus hit us. (Chapter 1 where Cyrus tracks Sacha down is set in May 2020). Cyrus believes there were things not put in the police reports 6 years before that will help him give Evie her real name, although it is obvious that Evie knows who she is. He thinks these are details Sacha can help him with. Initially Sacha is reluctant to get involved, but inevitably she does.

Robotham uses mainly the two voices: Cyrus and Evie to progress the novel and the search for the truth. Evie has turned into a feisty character and is living in a correctional centre, ostensibly to protect her, but outside there are people who are trying to work out where she is, and eventually one of them does.

A good read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
BOMBPROOF
SHATTER #3
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME #4
5.0, THE WRECKAGE #5
4.8, SAY YOU'RE SORRY #6
5.0, WATCHING YOU #7
4.8, IF I TELL YOU... I'LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger
4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES
5.0, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS
5.0, THE SUSPECT #1 (audio)
4.8, LOST #2 (audio)
5.0, THE OTHER WIFE

4.8, GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL  

Awards
The Crime Writer's Association Gold Dagger (won) LIFE OR DEATH 2015 (shortlisted) SAY YOU'RE SORRY 2013.
The Australian Book Industry Association ABIA General Fiction Award 2018 for THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS
The Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel (won 2005 and 2008) LOST and SHATTER.
The Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel (shortlisted) 2016 LIFE OR DEATH (shortlisted) 2019 GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL)
The Crime Writer's Association Steel Dagger (shortlisted) THE NIGHT FERRY and SHATTER. 


GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL has been shortlisted for the UK Gold Dagger.
The winners of the 2020 Daggers will be announced at an awards ceremony, due to take place on 22 October.

10 August 2020

Review: THE GUEST LIST, Lucy Foley

  • this edition published by Harper Collins UK 2020
  • ISBN 978-0-00929717-6
  • 374 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A wedding celebration turns dark and deadly in this deliciously wicked and atmospheric thriller reminiscent of Agatha Christie from the New York Times bestselling author of The Hunting Party.

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

My Take

This is the thing about organising a wedding. I can put together a perfect day, as long as the guests play along, remember to stay within certain bounds. But if they don't, the repercussions can last longer than twenty-four hours. No one is capable of controlling that sort of fallout.

Sometimes we don't realise just how close we are to people.
We move "in the same circles" but don't see it.
The six degrees of separation theory states that any inhabitant of the Earth could meet anyone in the world with a maximum of six or fewer mutual connections between them and another person. Be it through acquaintances, friends, or members of their family.

Ostensibly what connects these wedding guests in the main is that they, the males at least, went to the same school, or knew each other from university days. And, in a sense they have never grown up. Several refer to what happened to them at school as being like something from The Lord of the Flies.
The female guests that we meet are mainly attached to the males. But there are some horrific threads lurking in the background, not acknowledged, all linked to one person, the one who ends up dead.

From the middle of this story, thread by thread is revealed, but the most horrendous one, the one that finally ends in murder, does not come out until the last few pages.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
4.6, THE HUNTING PARTY

9 August 2020

Review: BLACK SUMMER, M.W. Craven

  • this edition published by Constable in 2019
  • ISBN 9-781472-127471
  • 392 pages
  • #2 in Washington Poe series
Synopsis ( Fantastic Fiction)

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He's currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

And then Elizabeth goes missing again - and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.

My take

I initially started reading this novel, and then after about 50 pages, realised that it was #2 in a series, and so located a copy of #1 (THE PUPPET SHOW). That meant that when I came back to reading BLACK SUMMER, I had already met the main characters and had some understanding of the relationship between them.

Jared Keaton has been in gaol for 7 years for the murder of his daughter.  The appearance of a young woman claiming to be Elizabeth Keaton means that his lawyers appeal for his release, particularly after a DNA test seems to confirm her identity.

The novel opens with two puzzles: the first page begins My body is eating itself. So the first puzzle is to identify this person. Chapter One ends with the arrest of Washington Poe on suspicion of murder. So there is the second puzzle to be solved.

This is one of those novels where the reader needs to take notice of the time frame given at the beginning of each chapter.

The novel brings together the team we met in THE PUPPET SHOW: Washington Poe, Tilly Bradshaw, DS Gamble, and DI Flynn. Poe is convinced that he did not get it wrong when he originally arrested Jared Keaton for murder, so there is a race against time to try to prove his case.

An excellent read.


My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.5, THE PUPPET SHOW, M. W. Craven

5 August 2020

Review: THE PUPPET SHOW, M.W. Craven

  • this edition published by Constable, 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-4721-2744-0
  • 344 pages
  • source: my local library
  • series: Washington Poe #1
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District's prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of . . .

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he's ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive ...

My Take

I always advocate that readers tackle a series in order of publication, but occasionally I don't obey my own rule.

I had in fact begun reading the sequel to this novel (which kept referring to events related to the Immolation Man) when I realised I needed to seek out and read this one.

Washington Poe, disgraced and demoted detective) and Tilly Bradshaw, mathematical genius, make an interesting investigative pair. Tilly loves data and can make it form patterns which no-one else can. She and Poe make a formidable pair, each appreciating what the other has to offer.

This case is one that the perpetrator intends Washington Poe will be the one to investigate. He wants Poe brought back from demotion, re-instated to help him wreak vengeance on a crime that is over a quarter of a century old. In desperation he carves Poe's name on the chest of one of the victims.

A good read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
aka Mike Craven

Although he was born in Cumbria, Mike Craven grew up in the North East before running away to join the army when he turned sixteen. After training as an armourer for two and a half years, he spent the next ten travelling the world having fun. In 1995 he left the army and completed a degree in social work, with specialisms in criminology, psychology and substance misuse. In 1999 he joined Cumbria Probation Service as a probation officer, working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later, he took the plunge and accepted redundancy to concentrate on writing. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals.

Between leaving the army and securing his first publishing deal, Mike found time to keep a pet crocodile, breed snakes, survive cancer and get married. He lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne, and his springer spaniel, Bracken.

31 July 2020

Review: THE OTHER PASSENGER, Louise Candlish

  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2869 KB
  • Print Length: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (June 25, 2020)
  • Publication Date: June 25, 2020
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07YL9FYWZ
  • Author website: http://www.louisecandlish.com/
Synopsis (Amazon)

It all happens so quickly. One day you're living the dream, commuting to work by riverbus with your charismatic neighbour Kit in the seat beside you. The next, Kit hasn't turned up for the boat and his wife Melia has reported him missing.

When you get off at your stop, the police are waiting. Another passenger saw you and Kit arguing on the boat home the night before and the police say that you had a reason to want him dead. You protest. You and Kit are friends - ask Melia, she'll vouch for you. And who exactly is this other passenger pointing the finger? What do they know about your lives?

No, whatever danger followed you home last night, you are innocent, totally innocent.

Aren't you?

My take

An engrossing read.

Jamie and Clare have been living together for 10 years in a large house that Clare's parents bought her. Clare works for a real estate agent and works with Melia who lives with Kit in a rental property a couple of streets away. Jamie, well past middle age, commutes into London to work in a cafe, after some sort of nervous collapse. He meets Kit on a riverbus going to work, and the older couple become friends with the younger one.

While Jamie and Clare live comfortably, Melia and Kit are heavily in debt, spending all that they earn and more, and Kit is openly envious.

Just before Christmas in 2019 the commuters meet with fellow travellers for Christmas drinks and Kit never returns home. Just after New Year two detectives come to the house to question Jamie, intimating that he is somehow connected to Kit's disappearance, that someone has seen something that implicates him. Jamie knows that he has nothing to fear but what has this other person reported.

Clare becomes suspicious of Kit and Melia and thinks they somehow they have been targeting Jamie.

If you think I seem to have told you a lot about the plot, never fear, there is much more, and some incredible plot twists that will leave you catching your breath.

I'll certainly be reading more by this author.

My rating: 5.0

About the author
Hello and welcome! I am a novelist based in London. OUR HOUSE, my #1 bestseller in the UK with over 200,000 copies sold to date, was my debut in the US. Soon to be published in multiple languages, it won the British Book Awards 2019 Book of the Year: Crime & Thriller and was shortlisted for the Capital Crime Amazon Publishing Best Crime Novel of the Year Award​ 2019 and the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 2019. It was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2019 and the National Book Awards Crime & Thriller Book of the Year 2018. OUR HOUSE is now in development for a major TV series by Red Planet Pictures, makers of the international hit drama 'Death in Paradise'.

Sunday Times bestselling author ​Louise Candlish was born in Hexham, Northumberland, and grew up in the Midlands town of Northampton. She studied English at University College London and worked as an illustrated books editor and copywriter before writing fiction. She is the author of thirteen novels, including the thriller Our House, winner of the British Book Awards 2019 Crime & Thriller Book of the Year and shortlisted for several other awards. A #1 bestseller in paperback, ebook and audiobook, it is in development for a major TV series with Red Planet Pictures. Those People, a novel about the neighbours from hell, is out now in paperback in the UK and hardcover in the US and reached #2 on the Sunday Times bestseller list.

Louise lives in Herne Hill in South London with her husband, teenage daughter, cat, and puppy. Besides books, the things she likes best are: coffee; TV; salted caramel; France (especially the Ile de Re); Italy (especially Sicily); tennis; lasagne; heavy metal; 'The Archers'; driving towards the sea (but not into it); anything at the Royal Opera House; white wine; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or, failing that, a Starbar); and using parentheses. Her favourite book is Madame Bovary.

26 July 2020

Review: INHERITANCE OF SECRETS, Sonya Bates

  • read as an e-book through Libby, source: my local library
  • Shortlisted in Harper Collins Australia Banjo Prize 2018 for an unpublished manuscript
  • ISBN: 9781460757857
  • ISBN 10: 1460757858
  • On Sale: 20/04/2020
  • Pages: 432 
Synopsis (publisher)

A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A quest for the truth.

Heather Morris meets Jane Harper in a gripping, page-turning mystery.

No matter how far you run, the past will always find you.

Juliet's elderly grandparents are killed in their Adelaide home. Who would commit such a heinous crime - and why? The only clue is her grandfather Karl's missing signet ring.

When Juliet's estranged sister, Lily, returns in fear for her life, Juliet suspects something far more sinister than a simple break-in gone wrong. Before Juliet can get any answers, Lily vanishes once more.

Juliet only knew Karl Weiss as a loving grandfather, a German soldier who emigrated to Australia to build a new life. What was he hiding that could have led to his murder? While attempting to find out, Juliet uncovers some disturbing secrets from WWII that will put both her and her sister's lives in danger ...

Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Inheritance of Secrets links the crimes of the present to the secrets of the past and asks how far would you go to keep a promise?

My Take

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, partly because it is set in my home town, but also partly because I am so familiar with the historical events it is connected with. The end of World War II started a whole new chapter in Australian history, but our fascination with television programmes and films about the war clearly show us that it is still very much part of our psyche.

In the Acknowledgements and then the Reading Group Notes at the back of the book, the author gives us an insight into what led her to write this particular story. 

The author has done a particularly good job with the mysteries woven into the story, and there is that little frisson that we the readers know just a little more than Juliet the main character does.

Recommended.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Sonya Bates is a Canadian writer who has made South Australia her home since 1997. She studied linguistics at the University of Victoria before obtaining a masters degree in speech-language pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Having worked with children with communication difficulties for over twenty-five years, she now enjoys sharing her knowledge with speech pathology students as a part-time clinical educator. When her two daughters were young, she started writing for children and has published several children's books. Her debut adult novel, Inheritance of Secrets, was shortlisted as an unpublished manuscript in the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018.

23 July 2020

Review: WHO WE WERE, B.M. Carroll

  • this edition published in Great Britain by Viper 2020
  • ISBN 9-781788-164184
  • 319 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

A KILLER TWENTY-YEAR REUNION.
AND YOU'RE INVITED...

Twenty years after they went their separate ways, friends and enemies are coming together for their school reunion. Katy, who is desperate to show that she's no longer the shy wallflower. Annabel, who ruled the school until a spectacular fall from grace. Zach, popular and cruel, but who says he's a changed man. And Robbie, always the victim, who never stood a chance.

As the reunion nears, a terrible event that binds the group together will resurface. Because someone is still holding a grudge, and will stop at nothing to reveal their darkest secrets...

My Take

As Katy organises the 20 year re-union, members of the central group are targeted by someone who seems to hate them all. And it seems that possibly the person has been in their homes, stalking them, taking things, leaving messages. Very scary.

So the mystery part of it puts it squarely in the category of crime fiction.
Katy is organising the event and updating the year book that they all contributed to in 2000. She asks each of the people she contacts to update their details, and then "the stalker" begins to make their own malicious contributions, with details that makes them think it is one of their small group.

We see events through the eyes of a number of characters.
Very well written. Engrossing.

My Rating: 4.5


I have also read
4.5, THE MISSING PIECES OF SOPHIE McCARTHY

19 July 2020

Review: HUNTING GAME, Helene Tursten

  • format: e-book through Libby
  • #1 in Detective Inspector Embla Nystrom series
  • published 2016 
  • Translated from Swedish by Paul Norlen
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Helene Tursten's explosive new series features Detective Inspector Embla Nyström, a sharp, unforgiving woman working in a man's world. When one of her peers is murdered during a routine hunting trip, Embla must track down the killer while confronting a dark incident from her past.

Twenty-eight-year-old Embla Nyström has been plagued by chronic nightmares and racing thoughts ever since she can remember. She has learned to channel most of her anxious energy into her position as Detective Inspector in the mobile unit in Gothenburg, Sweden, and into sports. A talented hunter and prizewinning Nordic welterweight, she is glad to be taking a vacation from her high-stress job to attend the annual moose hunt with her family and friends.

But when Embla arrives at her uncle’s cabin in rural Dalsland, she sees an unfamiliar face has joined the group: Peter, enigmatic, attractive, and newly divorced. And she isn’t the only one to notice. One longtime member of the hunt doesn’t welcome the presence of an outsider and is quick to point out that with Peter, the group’s number reaches thirteen, a bad omen for the week. Sure enough, a string of unsettling incidents follow, culminating in the disappearance of two hunters. Embla takes charge of the search, and they soon find one of the missing men floating facedown in the nearby lake. With the help of local reinforcements, Embla delves into the dark pasts of her fellow hunters in search of a killer.

My take:

I found this novel a little difficult to get into which I eventually put down to the style and the translation. I found characters and places difficult to identify.

Embla Nyström is a tough lady. She has suffered from nightmares for years, linked to the disappearance of her best friend Lollo when they were teenagers from a nightclub. Embla never revealed to the police and parents the true circumstances of Lollo's disappearance, particularly the link to some gangsters. 

The two missing men were once a group of 3, who nicknamed themselves "the three musketeers". Then 12 months ago one of them drove his car at high speed into a tree on his way home from that year's annual moose hunt.  It is Embla who discovers the link between these three men to the disappearance of Peter's sister.

An interesting but demanding read.
The author reveals in her final words that Embla has already made an appearance in one of the Inspector Huss novels, but now, she says, it is time for Embla "to stand on her own two feet."


My rating: 4.4

Detective Inspector Embla Nystrom
   1. Hunting Game (2019)
   2. Winter Grave (2019)
   3. Snowdrift (2020)

I've also read (Inspector Huss series)
THE GLASS DEVIL
4.4, NIGHT ROUNDS
THE GOLDEN CALF
4.5, THE FIRE DANCE

16 July 2020

Review: THE MEMORY WATCHER, Minka Kent

  • this edition published in 2016
  • ISBN 9-781541-3681
  • 321 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Press, tap, refresh...

When Autumn Carpenter stumbles upon the social media account of the family who adopted her infant daughter years ago, she finds herself instantly drawn into their picture-perfect existence.

From behind a computer screen, Autumn watches Grace's every memory, from birthdays to holidays to bedtime snuggles. But what starts as an innocent fascination soon spirals into an addictive obsession that comes to a screeching halt the day the McMullen family closes their Instaface account without so much as a warning.

Frantic and desperate to reconnect with her daughter, Autumn applies for a nanny position with the McMullens, manipulating herself into Grace's life under false pretenses. And it's only then that Autumn discovers pictures lie, the perfect family doesn't exist, and beautiful people? They have the ugliest secrets.

My Take

Daphne McMullen and Autumn Carpenter are the principal narrators of this tale. Autumn has been watching the McMullen family through social media, and then Daphne ceases to post. Autumn becomes desperate to establish some sort of contact. She can also watch the family quite literally over her back fence and what she sees is an idyllic family. She applies for the position of summer nanny and for a while everything seems to be working out well. But then she discovers the undercurrents running beneath the apparent harmony and things become very different.

I wasn't prepared however for the incredible twist in the middle of the novel.

Well, I can hear you - is this crime fiction? Well yes it is. There is a murder and there is a lot of mystery.
Quite a satisfying read, and not bad for a debut title.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.4, THE PERFECT ROOMMATE 

13 July 2020

Review: DEAR CHILD, Romy Hausmann

  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • Published in German Feb 2019
  • Translated from German by Jamie Bulloch
Synopsis (Amazon)

YOU ESCAPED. BUT YOUR NIGHTMARE HAS JUST BEGUN.

A windowless shack in the woods. Lena's life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.

One day Lena manages to flee - but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called 'Lena', who disappeared without a trace over thirteen years ago. The police and Lena's family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn't quite seem to fit.

My Take

Lena Beck went missing in Munich when she was 23 and her father Matthias, and Karin, his wife of 40 years, have always believed she will turn up sometime, alive.

In a sense the novel begins almost at the end. An ambulance is called to a road accident where a woman has been hit by a car. A child tells them her name is Lena and her own name is Hannah, but she doesn't know their surname and she doesn't know how to contact her father. She says she has a younger brother and that he will be in their cabin in the woods.

Matthias gets a phone call from a policeman in charge of the case that investigation into Lena's original disappearance to say that a person has been found that they think might be Lena. He rushes to the hospital only to find that the injured person is not his daughter. Then he and Karin see Hannah who looks like a younger version of their daughter.

A very intriguing plot with plenty of twists. On one level it is a hideous tale about obsession, on another a warming one about Matthias' search for the truth. The identity of "the husband" came as a complete surprise. It is the author's debut title.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Romy Hausmann was born in the former GDR in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son Romy has been working as a freelancer in TV. DEAR CHILD is her thriller debut. Romy lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart.

8 July 2020

Review: THE CAKEMAKER'S WISH, Josephine Moon

Synopsis (publisher)

When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.

The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.

For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.

After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options she didn’t even know she was craving.

My take

Please note - this is not crime fiction

When her final family link in Tasmania dies, Olivia decides to go back to the Cotswolds to become part of a project designed to attract those whose families came from there. Not everyone is pleased with having "imports" in their village, as Olivia realises when someone releases a rat in her cake shop. But she and her young son Darcy quickly make new friends and begin to feel at home.

Olivia hopes too to discover why her grandmother originally left the village and meets some residents who were Ma's contemporaries.

I found this a "comfort" read, with an interesting scenario, and believable characters.

Book groups will enjoy the questions at the back of the book aimed at increasing their enjoyment.

My  rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.2, THREE GOLD COINS 

6 July 2020

Review: TIME FOR THE DEAD, Lin Anderson

  • this book published 2019
  • #14 in the Rhona MacLeod series
  • source: my local library - Libby
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Time for the Dead ..sees forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod investigate a brutal series of killings on Scotland's Isle of Skye.

When forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod returns to her roots on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, a chance encounter in the woods behind a nearby activities centre leads her to what seems to be a crime scene, but without a victim. Could this be linked to a group of army medics, who visited the centre while on leave from Afghanistan and can no longer be located on the island?

Enlisting the help of local tracker dog Blaze, Rhona starts searching for a connection.

Two days later a body is found at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock, face and identity obliterated by the fall, which leads Rhona to suspect the missing medics may be on the island for reasons other than relaxation. Furthermore, elements of the case suggests a link with an ongoing operation in Glasgow, which draws DS Michael McNab into the investigation.

As the island’s unforgiving conditions close in, Rhona must find out what really happened to the group in Afghanistan, as the consequences may be being played out in brutal killings on Skye . . .

My Take

Reading this novel immediately after the previous title in the series definitely paid off. The events of SINS OF THE DEAD were very fresh in my memory and there were many references to that novel which would have otherwise left me very puzzled. My conclusion is that this really is a series where the author does not hold back from references to previous events.

Based on this experience, if you have never read any in this series, my advice would be to start at the beginning if you can, as I am sure part of the pleasure comes from the accumulation of knowledge about characters and what has happened to them.

I do really like the central character Rhona MacLeod and those other characters who are linked to her. The scenarios are very believable.

My Rating: 4.7

I have also read 4.6, SINS OF THE DEAD

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