15 May 2021

Review: KILLJOY, Ann Cleeves

  • this edition on Libby through my local library
  • first published 1993 by Macmillan
  • this e-book published 2013 by Bello
  • #4 in the Inspector Ramsay series
  • ISBN 978-1-4472-5322-8 EPUB
  • 215 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Gus Lynch is directing the Youth Theatre through a rehearsal. The cast is in place but the female lead, Gabriella Paston, is missing. Later that evening her body is discovered in the boot of Gus's car. Detective Inspector Stephen Ramsay and Sergeant Gordon Hunter are assigned to head the murder enquiry.

Meanwhile violence is escalating on the Starling Farm Estate as police battle to contain the latest outbreak of joyriding. Is the death of Gabriella connected to the events at Starling Farm? When another death occurs, investigations suggest a possible link. Ramsay realises what could have provoked someone to kill . . . and kill again.

My Take

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. A cleverly told story, and the identity of the murderer came as a surprise. There were plenty of red herrings and a number of plot strands that provided interest. Stephen Ramsay meets up with a former girl friend, and his relationship with his Sergeant seems to be improving... slightly. There is a nice contrast between Ramsay and Hunter.

If you haven't tackled this series before, you could read this one as a stand-alone, but hopefully will enjoy it enough to go back to the beginning  and read them all.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

 

 

13 May 2021

Review: THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN, Agatha Christie

  • this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B0046A9MQS
  • Publisher : HarperCollins; Masterpiece Ed edition (14 October 2010)
  • first published 1928
  • Language : English
  • File size : 650 KB
  • Print length : 317 pages
  • Earlier review
  • Extra information- Wikipedia

Synopsis (Amazon)

The daughter of an American millionaire dies on a train en route for Nice…

When the luxurious Blue Train arrives at Nice, a guard attempts to wake serene Ruth Kettering from her slumbers. But she will never wake again – for a heavy blow has killed her, disfiguring her features almost beyond recognition. What is more, her precious rubies are missing.

The prime suspect is Ruth’s estranged husband, Derek. Yet Poirot is not convinced, so he stages an eerie re-enactment of the journey, complete with the murderer on board…

My take

Another novel that I have read many times, as well as seen numerous tv versions of. However it is one of those novels where the precise details become a bit blurred.

The novel has two major events: the theft of a ruby and the death of its owner while they are on The Blue Train which is taking holiday makers to the French Riviera. It reveals glimpses of the French underworld, a description of the lifestyle of the well to do in post-war Europe, and the plot is characterised by a lot of misdirection and red herrings. Poirot has some doubt that theft and the murder are done by the same person.

Poirot goes into "partnership" with Katherine Grey, who recently has acquired wealth after a decade as a companion. She meets Ruth Kettering on the Blue Train. This "partnership" foreshadows a method Poirot will often use in the future.

There does not appear to be a narrator in this novel (i.e. no Hastings who is not even mentioned).  Poirot is described as a famous detective of bygone years who is now retired. Ruth Kettering's father offers him a huge sum to take on the case, but then becomes frustrated with what he thinks is inaction on Poirot's part.

As with many other of Agatha Christie's full length novels, THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN was based on an idea originally used in an earlier short story: The Plymouth Express.

It was also serialised over a 6 week period in 1928 in a slightly shorter version with 34 daily instalments. This may explain the relative shortness of each chapter. 

This novel features the first mention, in a novel, of the fictional village of St. Mary Mead, which had originally appeared in "The Tuesday Night Club" published in December 1927, which was the first short story of Christie's detective Miss Marple. It also features the first appearance of the minor recurring character, Mr Goby, who would later appear in After the Funeral and Third Girl. The book also features the first appearance of Poirot's valet, George

My rating: 4.5

Agatha Christie Books read

6 May 2021

Review: THIS SIDE MURDER, John Bonnet

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B01N4V5KEI
  • Publisher : Lume Books (February 1, 2017)
  • First published 1967
  • File size : 1362 KB
  • Print length : 154 pages
  • Inspector Borges #3

Synopsis (Amazon)

Gilbert Tarsier, successful newspaper columnist, is sent by his paper to Spain on a mission: to ferret out gossip about the guests at the new luxury hotel in Cala Cristina…

This quickly arouses the hostility of several distinguished hotel guests, so when the self-assured Tarsier shows up dead, the lack of sympathy is unsurprising.

Unfortunately for the gentle Inspector Borges, Tarsier’s unpopularity means the range of suspects is extensive. If indeed it was murder that caused his untimely death. First there’s his neglected wife Lily, plain but holding untapped potential, who is soon taken under the wing of Irene Stollman, wife of the economist Franz, one of the victims of Tarsier’s libellous pen. Then there’s Lady Poppy Dauntwood, currently on her fifth husband, her vivaciousness belying a sad past and another guest suffering the slurs of Tarsier.

When it is revealed that Tarsier had penned a defamatory biography of the Victorian novelist Matthew Egremont, grandfather of the artist Arbelle and her brother Ralph Egremont, the pool of suspects grows even larger. Does this incriminate their nephew and architect of the Cala Cristina, Philip Egremont too? Surely his relations with the lovely ballerina Judy Shafto, on holiday with her Uncle Quintin, means his thoughts are occupied by romance and not murder?

The Inspector must sort through numerous and often conflicting statements and alibis to discover the truth behind Tarsier’s demise…

This Side Murder is a mystery filled with colourful characters and gripping suspense, and is the third Inspector Borges mystery.

My Take

Another enjoyable read in this series.  The plot is quite complex and after the death of the very reprehensible Gilbert Tarsier, the first thing is to decide whether his death was an accident or murder. There are plenty of reasons for thinking murder but then who had the motive or the opportunity?

You will have noticed that these novels are relatively short, so quite a lot happens in a small space, and yet the character development is very good.

I do recommend this series, but read them in order please. Available on Kindle very cheaply. However, published over 50 years ago, so probably not available now in hard copy.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

1 May 2021

Review: THE SOUND OF MURDER, John Bonett

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon
  • ASIN : B01MQNYIRF
  • Publisher : Lume Books (November 22, 2016)
  • Publication date : November 22, 2016
  • Originally published 1966
  • Language : English
  • File size : 1194 KB
  • Print length : 181 pages
  • #2 in the Inspector Borges series

Synopsis  (Amazon)

When Sid and Minnie hear a loud noise from the back of their van, they think it’s the engine stalling. Hours later, Sid discovers a corpse…

The body is of Halberd Corsair, one of London’s finest tycoons and entrepreneurs, whose home and work is the grand Termini building. The official report suggests it was an accident – that he slipped and fell out the window.

But gossip is rife and rumours spread that Mrs. Corsair might have done him – it was an unhappy marriage and she profited handsomely from her husband’s death. Not only that, but her opera glasses are found broken outside, just below the ill-fated window. As her health declines over these vile slanders, her nephew and heir to Corsair’s ‘empire’, Keith Antrim, enlists Sir Otto’s help to clear her name.

And so, Inspector Borges is brought in. Alongside Sir Otto’s niece, the headstrong Anthea, the pair realise that Corsair’s death might not have been an accident after all. As Inspector Borges discovers, there are several people with the means and the motive to kill. As the list of suspects grows, it’s up to Borges and Anthea to track down the killer before it’s too late.

Filled with intrigue and suspense, The Sound of Murder is a cleverly-plotted, engrossing murder mystery, and the second book in the Inspector Borges mystery series.

My Take

Inspector Borges has been at a conference in Europe with some English senior policemen and has accepted an invitation to holiday in London with an old friend, Sir Otto. Sir Otto's niece Anthea will  be taking him to see the sights in future days but Sir Otto has been contacted by the son of an old friend with a worrying problem about his uncle's recent death. The death is that of Halberd Corsair and rumours are beginning to circulate that his wife has somehow caused his death. Her nephew Keith is keen to prove them wrong.

And so Inspector Borges is drawn into a semi-official investigation with the blessing of Scotland Yard,  although in fact he is a Spanish policeman.

I'm so glad to have discovered this series of very readable crime fiction, with their very satisfyingly constructed teasers.

I have already begun reading #3, THIS SIDE MURDER. I will certainly follow through and read all 5 titles in the Inspector Borges series. Has anybody read the 3 titles John Bonett wrote with his wife - the Mandrake series?

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.6, THE PRIVATE FACE OF MURDER 

27 April 2021

Review: THE PRIVATE FACE OF MURDER, John Bonett

  • this edition read as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B01N6V53R1
  • Publisher : Lume Books (January 24, 2017)
  • first published 1966
  • Language : English
  • File size : 1294 KB
  • Print length : 172 pages
  • #1 in the Inspector Borges series

Synopsis  (Amazon)

People have many faces…

In the Spanish town of Caltrava, a group of ex-pats have created their own close-knit community. In moving to a hotter country, the Brits are hoping to find a more relaxing way of living. But then – disaster strikes when the beautiful Linda Huntingdon is killed in a fatal car crash.

Nothing appears too suspicious until retired actor Aubrey de Lamplugh meets the same fate, being crushed by a falling cliff. Two complete accidents, or a double homicide?

That’s what Inspector Borges intends to discover. At first, the two appear unrelated – how is the death of a young, bored housewife connected with that of an alcoholic egotist? Slowly, a picture starts to unfurl before the Inspector’s eyes..

My Take

This novel took off fairly slowly, acquainting the reader with details about the residents of the British ex-pat community in the Spanish town of  Caltrava. There are a number of small side plots which tease out the links between the various residents.

After the two deaths Inspector Borges arrives to stay at the hotel, almost unobtrusively, not telling anyone at first that he is a police inspector looking for connection the two events.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. There are some lovely descriptive parts, as well as explanation of the Spanish criminal justice system. I'm certainly going to be looking for the second in the series.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

John Bonett was the pen name of John Hubert Arthur Coulson (10 August 1906 – 21 January 1989), an English author, best known for numerous mystery and detective novels written in collaboration with his wife, Emery Bonett.

He was born in Longbenton, Tynemouth and educated at Durham School. In addition to his writing work, after serving in the Admiralty between 1940–45, he worked as a banker from 1924–37, a company secretary from 1937–39, and finally as a sales promotion executive, from 1945-63.

He lived in Spain with his wife during his later years.

25 April 2021

Review: A DAY IN THE DEATH OF DOROTHEA CASSIDY, Ann Cleeves

  •  this edition published by Pan books 2018
  • originally published 1992
  • #3 in Inspector Ramsay series
  • ISBN 978-1509-856244
  • 193 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The third title in the Inspector Ramsay crime series. Dorothea Cassidy, the Vicar's wife is found dead in the park's flower bed. The list of suspects include old Mrs Bowman, Clive Stringer, a disturbed adolescent, and Theresa Stringer, a single mother with a violent boyfriend and even members of her own family.

My Take

Dorothea Cassidy is not everybody's idea of a vicar's wife. She is much younger than her husband and an unlikely candidate for murder. Thursdays are the day when she "does her own thing" and thursday night is when she was last seen.

Stephen Ramsay is first alerted to Dorothea's disappearance by his aunt who lives in a retirement village where Dorothea was supposed to have given a talk in the evening. It is another 12 hours before her body is discovered in a local park. The circumstances are complicated by a music fair running over a number of days.

Stephen tries to put together a timeline relating to when Dorothea was last seen. She had last been involved with a child protection case being managed by a local social worker.

These are very readable, and credible stories. Recommended.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read (from this series)

24 April 2021

Review: THE BONE CODE, Kathy Reichs

  • this edition published by Simon & Schuster Australia 2021
  • ISBN 9-781760-858582
  • 351 pages
  • #20 in the Temperance Brennan series

Synopsis (Publisher)

NUMBER ONE NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author KATHY REICHS returns with her next edge-of-your seat thriller featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past.

On the way to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognizes many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManch to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice—and comfort—of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan.

Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable.

Shockingly, Tempe eventually discovers that not only are the victims in both grisly murder cases related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause…​​

My Take

It is some time since I have read one of this series. THE BONE CODE is set in 2020, acknowledging the presence of the Covid-19 pandemic. However it is not the pandemic that plays a role in this novel but a virus that is killing dogs. Is it possible it can also infect their human owners?

In South Carolina the two bodies washed up in a shipping container remind Tempe of an unsolved cold case in Quebec fifteen years earlier. In a secondary mystery she is trying to track down why the photo of a death mask many decades old looks so familiar.

Tempe calls in a number of favours to help her solve her problems, and eventually tracks down the reason for the similarity between the two sets of bodies separated, in discovery, by 15 years.

I did feel at a distinct disadvantage from having read so few of this series. For me, the book worked relatively well as a stand-alone.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

CROSS BONES - #8
4.1, MORTAL REMAINS  -#13 AKA SPIDER BONES

21 April 2021

Review: GREENWICH PARK, Katherine Faulkner

Synopsis (publisher

Daniel is the perfect husband.
Rory is the perfect brother.
Serena is the perfect sister-in-law.

And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare.

When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel.

Extroverted, brash, unsettling single mother-to-be Rachel, who just wants to be Helen's friend. Who just wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who just wants to know everything about them. Every little secret…

Masterfully plotted and utterly addictive, Greenwich Park is a dark, compelling look at motherhood, friendships, privilege and the secrets we keep to protect ourselves.

My Take

This is one of those books that just keeps the reader guessing. There are dark secrets to be unearthed, and just when I thought I had them all sussed out, then something else popped up.

As seems to be the fashion with the recent crime fiction novel, there are several narrators and their names head the various chapters. The "hook" is a letter written after the action is complete by an inmate of HMP Bowood to Helen saying that she needs to hear the truth, and here it is. There is no indication who the writer might be. The next chapters regress to when the pregnancy is at 24 weeks, and with Helen who is waiting at the antenatal class for her husband, brother, and sister in law to join her. Her sister in law Serena is also pregnant, more or less due at the same time. They don't arrive and Helen is joined by Rachel who is similarly pregnant and also on her own.

The novel then counts down each week, and new narrators pop up. Helen and Rachel become closer, until eventually Rachel moves in with Helen and Daniel. There are also scenes from Greenwich Park involving characters who remain unnamed.

So there is plenty of mystery for the reader to unravel, there are references to things that have happened in the past, as well as strange events occurring now. We are never quite sure about the relationship between various characters, but we tend to see things mainly from Helen's point of view.

Enjoy!

My rating: 4.6

About the author

An award-winning journalist, Katherine Faulkner studied History at Cambridge. She has worked as an investigative reporter and an editor and was formerly the joint Head of News at The Times (London). She lives in London, where she grew up, with her husband and two daughters. Greenwich Park is her first novel.

17 April 2021

Review: KILL A STRANGER, Simon Kernick

Synopsis (publisher)

They took your fiancée.
They framed you for murder.

You’re given one chance to save her. To clear your name.
You must kill someone for them.

They give you the time and place.
The weapon. The target.

You have less than 24 hours.
You only know that no-one can be trusted…and nothing is what it seems.

My Take

Matt Walters comes home late one night to find his pregnant fiance gone, and a strange woman in his bed .. dead in a pool of blood, with a phone in her hand. The phone rings and Matt's nightmare begins. Webcam footage shows Kate with a noose around her neck, and a voice on the phone tells Matt he must follow instructions or Kate will die.

There are are four main narrative voices in this story: Matt, Kate, a British policeman, and Kate's father.  The trouble is that we, the readers, don't know which has the true story, and which is the unreliable narrator. One of them, at least, is a killer.

To be honest, I was 10 pages from the end before I had the plot worked out.

I know I have read a Simon Kernick novel sometime in the past, but apparently not in the history of this blog (13 years) so I am claiming him as a "new to me" author. A much neglected one.

My rating: 4.5

14 April 2021

Review: DYING ON THE VINE, Aaron Elkins

  • this edition published by Berkley Prime Crime 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-425-24788-4
  • 294 pages
  • #17 in Gideon Oliver series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Now, the celebrated Skeleton Detective is visiting friends at a vineyard in Tuscany when murder leaves a bitter aftertaste...

It was the unwavering custom of Pietro Cubbiddu, patriarch of Tuscany's Villa Antica wine empire, to take a solitary month-long sabbatical at the end of the early grape harvest, leaving the winery in the trusted hands of his three sons. His wife, Nola, would drive him to an isolated mountain cabin in the Apennines and return for him a month later, bringing him back to his family and business.

So it went for almost a decade - until the year came when neither of them returned. Months later, a hiker in the Apennines stumbles on their skeletal remains. The carabinieri investigate and release their findings: they are dealing with a murder-suicide. The evidence makes it clear that Pietro Cubbiddu shot and killed his wife and then himself. The likely motive: his discovery that Nola had been having an affair.

Not long afterwards, Gideon Oliver and his wife, Julie, are in Tuscany visiting their friends, the Cubbiddu offspring. The renowned Skeleton Detective is asked to reexamine the bones. When he does, he reluctantly concludes that the carabinieri, competent though they may be, have gotten almost everything wrong. Whatever it was that happened in the mountains, a murder-suicide it was not.

Soon Gideon finds himself in a morass of family antipathies, conflicts, and mistrust, to say nothing of the local carabinieri's resentment. And when yet another Cubbiddu relation meets an unlikely end, it becomes bone-chillingly clear that the killer is far from finished...

My take

The plot of this novel is very similar to the only other book I have read in this series (OLD BONES), in that the setting is linked to a conference on forensic anthropology that the Skeleton Detective is attending and giving several sessions at. The aim of the seminars is to teach detectives to "read skeletons". One of the attendees suggests that he is able to access some skeletons recently found. Gideon Oliver finds that he disagrees with almost everything the pathologists have come up with. The have concluded a murder/suicide. His interpretation is that they have the order of the deaths wrong, and that both people have been murdered. The other similar plot line is that Gideon Oliver has some connection with the dead person.

Some parts of the investigation held very interesting information, but in other parts the plot got just a little  bit too cute, and I thought the final chapter was not very satisfactory at all, and had the feeling of being written far too hastily. 

My rating: 4.4

I've also read 4.6, OLD BONES

12 April 2021

Review: THE BIG FOUR, Agatha Christie

  • this edition published on Kindle
  • ASIN : B0046H95TA
  • Publisher : HarperCollins (October 14, 2010)
  • Publication date : October 14, 2010
  • Originally published 1927
  • Language : English
  • File size : 633 KB
  • Print length : 242 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A ruthless international cartel seeks world domination…

Framed in the doorway of Poirot’s bedroom stood an uninvited guest, coated from head to foot in dust. The man’s gaunt face stared for a moment, then he swayed and fell.

Who was he? Was he suffering from shock or just exhaustion? Above all, what was the significance of the figure 4, scribbled over and over again on a sheet of paper? Poirot finds himself plunged into a world of international intrigue, risking his life to uncover the truth about ‘Number Four’.

My take

I had forgotten the unusual structure of this novel. 

Hastings returns from Argentina without warning Poirot that he is coming. He arrives to find Poirot about to leave to sail to South America. He had decided to surprise Hastings with his arrival.

Plans are thrown into disarray by the uninvited guest who comes into Poirot's bedroom, collapses, and then dies. Poirot realises that he is being warned not to embark for South America.

This 18 chapter novel focusses on 4 people who threaten world security with catastrophe and destruction. At first the identity of just two people are known, then the third is revealed, but Number 4 is like a chameleon, able to take on many disguises and then leave no lasting impression of his face. All 4 are self-centred, and have world domination as their individual goal.

The novel was written originally as 11 or 12  short stories with the central theme of Poirot's search for these arch villains. The stories are presented sequentially and take place over a period of 10 or so months. The stories were published separately in Sketch magazine from 1924 under the sub-heading of The Man who was No. 4, then amalgamated into one narrative. The stories test Hercule Poirot's abilities as a detective. In fact he wishes to establish himself as the pre-eminent brain in the world.

The idea of evil powers trying to control world politics and economies is not confined to Agatha Christie, nor to this one "novel". We see it for example in the James Bond stories, in Christie's Tommy and Tuppence stories, in Superman, Batman and so on. It seems particularly to crop up in the 1920s and 1930s when the Western Powers felt threatened by the rise of China, of Russia, and when the old order had been brought down during World War One.

Once you realise the structure of the novel you begin to see other things. Some of the stories in  THE BIG FOUR appear at first to have nothing to do with the central theme, but Poirot plucks 4s out of nothing.

My rating: 4.2

See Agatha Christie books I have read as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.

11 April 2021

Review: MURDER IN MY BACK YARD, Ann Cleeves

  • This edition made available as an e-book through Libby, through my local library
  • #2 in the Inspector Ramsay series
  • Published 1991
  • Author website

Synopsis

In this second Inspector Ramsay novel, our hero faces a murder investigation on his own doorstep following his impulsive decision to buy a cottage in the quiet Northumberland village of Heppleburn.

When local uproar over a proposed housing development ends in murder, the pressure is once again on Ramsay to act from within and interrogate every possible suspect. But then tragedy strikes a second time, and Ramsay must test his true measure as a detective working against the clock.

My Take

Stephen Ramsay seems a little more relaxed in this novel than in the first in the series. He has bought and moved into a cottage in Heppleburn, the setting for the first in the series. He is also better fleshed out and we find out a bit more personal background. 

This novel has a number of themes but the main one is a proposed housing development in the village. The woman who originally sold the land to the developer claims she was misled about the nature of the development. She invites her family to stay with her as usual on St. David's Day but that night goes off to see the land developer with an offer to buy back the land. That is the last time her rather dysfunctional family sees her. The next morning she is found dead, murdered.

Ramsay is under pressure to solve the murder and it is obvious that Hunter, his #2, feels he is not taking the steps that he should. Jack Robson who appeared in the first novel makes a second appearance.

I enjoyed this novel and will certainly look for the third.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

 

8 April 2021

Review: THE PORT OF LONDON MURDERS, Josephine Bell

  • this edition published by Black Dagger Crime 2005
  • first published 1938
  • ISBN 9-781405-685092
  • 219 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A suicide, a derelict barge, and floating pink chiffon nightdresses...

When the San Angelo drifts into port in the Pool of London, telephones begin to ring across the capital and an intricate series of events is set in motion. Beset by dreadful storms in the Bay of Biscay, the ship, along with the "mixed cargo" it carries, is late.

Unaware of the machinations of avaricious importers, wayward captains, and unscrupulous traders, docklands residents Harry Reed and June Harvey are thrust together by a riverside accident, before being swept into the current of a dark plot developing on the harborside.

First published in 1938, this early novel from one of the great Golden Age mystery writers skillfully delivers a compelling tale of murder set against a gritty portrayal of life alongside the Thames.

My Take

I'm willing to believe that, as one of her first novels, this is not Josephine Bell's best.  I found the plot heavy going, and felt as if I struggled to finish it. There were however some clever plot strands and interesting characters, perhaps a few too many of them. The setting seems to be contemporary with its original publication, and the picture it paints of life in the slums on the London wharves is arresting.

Perhaps someone has a recommendation for my next read?

My rating: 4.0

About the author

Josephine Bell (Doris Bell Ball) (1897 - 1987)

Josephine Bell was born Doris Bell Collier in Manchester. She studied at Godolphin School, then trained at Newnham College, Cambridge until 1919. At the University College Hospital in London she was granted M.R.C.S. and L.R.C.P. in 1922, and a M.B. B.S. in 1924. 

She was a prolific author with over 60 titles to her credit.

3 April 2021

Review: THE FAMILY DOCTOR, Debra Oswald

Synopsis (publisher

Paula is a dedicated suburban GP, who is devastated by the murder of a friend and her children by their estranged husband and father. Stacey and the children had been staying with her after fleeing his control, and Paula is haunted by the thought that she couldn't protect them when they most needed it. How had she missed the warning signs? How had she failed to keep them safe?

Not long after, a patient with suspicious injuries brings her anxious young son into Paula's surgery. The woman admits that her husband hurts her, but she's terrified to leave for fear of escalating the violence, and defeated by the consistent failures of the law to help her.

Can Paula go against everything she believes to make sure one woman is saved, one child spared? She isn't motivated by revenge. She's desperately trying to prevent a tragedy . . .

A riveting, provocative novel about women's fury, traumatic grief, new love, deep friendship, and the preciousness of life, The Family Doctor asks the questions: Should you cling to faith in a flawed system, or take control the only way you can? Can a good person justify taking a life to save a life?

My Take

A very topical read given what is being discussed both in the Australian Parliament and elsewhere at present. Domestic violence is a community concern because it has such widespread social and economic consequences.

Finding her friend Stacey and her two lovely children already dead in her house and then watching Stacey's husband take his own life, has the effect of tipping the balance for Paula. She becomes much more aware of the signs of domestic violence which she sees in her work as a GP in a Sydney suburb. To be honest, Paula has not really recovered from the death of her own husband from cancer in the previous year. 

In the months that follow Stacey's death Paula and her good friend Anita can't steer away from the issue of domestic violence, but Anita does not realise how it has affected Paula's thinking. They talk about how good it would be to rid the world of monsters, but neither imagine that they would take action themselves. 

When the opportunity presents itself to actually rid the world of one monster Paula takes it, and everything else stems from there. In fact it all starts much earlier - in Paula's failure to protect Stacey and her children, in the failure of the legal/police system to protect them, or even to keep them informed.

An impressive novel.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Debra Oswald is a playwright, screenwriter and novelist. She is a two-time winner of the NSW Premier's Literary Award and author of the novels Useful (2015) and The Whole Bright Year (2018). She was creator/head writer of the first five seasons of successful TV series Offspring. Her stage plays have been performed around the world and published by Currency Press. Gary's House, Sweet Road and The Peach Season were all shortlisted for the NSW Premier's Literary Award.

Debra has also written four plays for young audiences - Dags, Skate, Stories in the Dark and House on Fire. Her television credits include award-winning episodes of Police Rescue, Palace of Dreams, The Secret Life of Us, Sweet and Sour and Bananas in Pyjamas. Debra has written three Aussie Bites books for kids and six children's novels, including The Redback Leftovers, Getting Air and Blue Noise. Debra has been a storyteller on stage at Story Club and will perform her one-woman show, Is There Something Wrong With That Lady?, in 2021.

1 April 2021

Review: A STUDY IN STONE, Michael Campling

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B07S1GTNV7
  • Publisher : Shadowstone Books (June 20, 2019)
  • Language : English
  • File size : 3105 KB
  • Print length : 121 pages 
  • #1 in series

Synopsis (Amazon)

Dan Corrigan wants to disappear.

Burnt out by the pressures of corporate life, he escapes to the countryside. But when he least expects it, a chance discovery draws him into a compelling mystery.

An ancient legend, a coded message on a stone slab, and a secret concealed in a country manor house: these are the clues that take Dan on a journey into the past, delving deeper into a hidden history.
But reputations are on the line, and there are those who want the mystery to remain unsolved.
Uncovering the truth might give Dan the confidence to rebuild his life, but if he fails, there’s no going back.
Can you solve this very British mystery?

Find out when you join Dan as he chases down the clues in A Study in Stone.

My Take

If you are looking for a quick cozy read then this novella might be just the thing, the first in what is currently a series of 4. Dan Corrigan has fled to Devonshire from London, from a high pressure job.  He and his next door neighbour Alan make an unlikely sleuthing duo (they remind me a bit of the Fethering mysteries with Carole and Jude), but neither can leave a mystery alone, and the puzzle confronting them has more serious implications than it first seems.

My rating: 4.3

About the series

The Devonshire Mysteries are traditional British mysteries in a modern-day setting.

These are cosy mysteries (or ‘cozy mysteries’ for Dan Corrigan’s trans-Atlantic fans). There’s a touch of dry humour and the stories pay homage to the legacies of Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle. You’ll always find a mixed bag of suspects, plenty of clues and a few red herrings, so that you could have solved the mystery if only you’d put two and two together.

Amateur Sleuth Dan Corrigan is quick-witted, driven and far too clever for his own good. Fortunately, his friend and neighbour, Alan Hargreaves, is the perfect foil for Dan's intellect. Loyal, dependable and with a knack for detailed research, Alan keeps Dan on track, and together, they make an effective team.

Review: DOOM CREEK, Alan Carter

  • Publisher : Fremantle Press (March 1, 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1925816818
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1925816815
  • #2 in the Nick Chester series

Synopsis (Amazon)

Sergeant Nick Chester has dodged the Geordie gangsters he once feared and is out of hiding and looking forward to the quiet life. But gold fever is creating ill feeling between prospectors, and a new threat lurks in the form of trigger-happy Americans preparing for doomsday by building a bolthole in the valley. As tensions simmer, Nick finds himself up against an evil that knows no borders and no depths.

Sequel to MARLBOROUGH MAN

My take

Set in New Zealand, in what should be an idyllic back water, the plot proves that not even New Zealand is safe from the underworld and those who use money to get what they want. Several plot strands intertwine to prevent Nick Chester from focussing just on local issues and local policing. 

I think it helps to have read the first in this series, which I had.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read 4.6, MARLBOROUGH MAN

23 March 2021

Review: A LESSON IN DYING, Ann Cleeves

  • this edition available as an e-book through Libby
  • originally published in 1990
  • #1 in the Inspector Ramsay series
Synopsis (Amazon)
 
A Lesson in Dying is the first mystery novel in the Inspector Ramsay series by Ann Cleeves, author of the Shetland and Vera Stanhope crime series.

Who hung the headmaster in the playground on the night of the school Halloween Party?

Almost everyone in Heppleburn either hated or feared the viper-tongued Harold Medburn. Inspector Ramsay is convinced it was the headmaster’s enigmatic wife but Jack Robson, school governor and caretaker, is determined to prove her innocence.

With the help of his restless daughter Patty, Jack digs into the secrets of Heppleburn, and uncovers a cesspit of lies, adultery, blackmail and madness .
 
My Take
 
You can see from the list below that I have read a lot by this author and generally really enjoyed them. I can't believe that I have never come across the Inspector Ramsay series before, but then it pre-dates both the Vera and the Shetland series.
 
Inspector Ramsay is a somewhat peculiar character, a bit reclusive and there is some mystery to his background which I haven't yet worked out. Maybe it will become clearer in the next books in the series, which I intend reading.
 
Harold Medburn, the principal of the Heppleburn school, is a nasty bit of goods, and no-one is regretful about his death. But who hated or feared him enough to kill him? It looks an open and shut case, but  when Inspector Ramsay arrests Medburn's wife, an old flame, Jack Robson, now the elderly school caretaker, begins to try to prove her innocence. 
 
It seems that everybody in this village has their secrets. When Jack Robson gets coshed during the course of his investigations, Ramsay realises that Kitty Medburn is not the murderer, but it is too late - she has already taken her own life.
 
A good read.  I will certainly read the next in the series.

My rating: 4.5
 
I've also read
 

21 March 2021

Review: THE NIGHT WHISTLER, Greg Woodland

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B088VKG7Q4
  • Publisher : Text Publishing (4 August 2020)
  • Language : English
  • File size : 4287 KB
  • Print length : 300 pages
  • source: NetGalley

Synopsis (Amazon)

The summer of 1966–7. Hal and his little brother have just come to live in Moorabool. They’re exploring the creek near their new home when they find the body of a dog.

Not just dead, but killed.

Not just killed, but horribly maimed.

Constable Mick Goodenough, recently demoted from his big-city job as a detective, is also new in town—and one of his dogs has gone missing. Like other pets around the town.

He knows what it means when someone tortures animals to death. They’re practising. So when Hal’s mother starts getting late-night phone calls — a man whistling, then hanging up — Goodenough, alone among the Moorabool cops, takes her seriously. But will that be enough to keep her and her young sons safe?

Nostalgic yet clear-eyed, simmering with small-town menace, Greg Woodland’s wildly impressive debut populates the rural Australia of the 1960s with memorable characters and almost unbearable tension.

My Take

There's something rather Disher-like with this novel, and the underlying theme is not a new one: a demoted city cop sent to the sticks, to rural NSW, to teach him a lesson. The boss at the Moorabool police station doesn't appreciate this new burden but Goodenough's is a pair of new eyes, and he realises there are things Bradley, the station boss, has been letting things slide.

Hal's father hasn't been telling the truth about his new job either, that he will be on the road a fair bit, leaving his wife and sons to fend for themselves. And then come the phone calls and the messages, and the prowler in the back yard. The police would rather not know - it's "normal" - but Probationary Constable Goodenough recognises the signs. 

A good read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author:
Greg Woodland is an author, screenwriter and director. Since 2000 he’s worked as a freelance script editor and consultant for film funding bodies and the Australian Writers' Guild. The Night Whistler is his first novel.

18 March 2021

Review: MURDER ON THE MENU, Fiona Leitch

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B08BHN4H1P
  • Publisher : One More Chapter (January 15, 2021)
  • File size : 3113 KB
  • Print length : 286 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

The first book in a NEW cosy mystery series!

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realising that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

The first book in the Murder on the Menu cosy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cosy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie's Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril. 

My Take

Here is one for those who would like to be in on the start of a new cosy series. Ex-police Jodie "Nosey' Parker is trying to set herself up as a cook for hire, when she meets up with an old boyfriend desperately looking for a caterer for wedding which is imminent. And then his ex-wife is killed, his wife-to-be goes missing, and eventually another body is found. And Jodie finds that she hasn't lost the urge to investigate. The groom is the main suspect and Jodie is convinced that the police are barking up the wrong tree.

Very readable.

My rating: 4.2

About the author

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called 'Sod Off'. After living in London and Cornwall she's finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Her debut novel 'Dead in Venice' was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. Fiona also writes screenplays and was a finalist in the Athena Film Festival Writers Lab, co-run by Meryl Streep's IRIS company.

Fiona is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Literary Agency.  

14 March 2021

Review: THE TALLY STICK, Carl Nixon

  • this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B089SC8KLH
  • Publisher : Random House New Zealand (August 4, 2020)
  • Language : English
  • File size : 547 KB
  • Print length : 234 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)  

A compulsive and chilling novel about subjugation, survival and the meaning of family.

Up on the highway, the only evidence that the Chamberlains had ever been there was two smeared tyre tracks in the mud leading into the almost undamaged screen of bushes and trees. No other cars passed that way until after dawn. By that time the tracks had been washed away by the heavy rain . . . It was a magic trick. After being in the country for only five days, the Chamberlain family had vanished into the air. The date was 4 April 1978.

In 2010 the remains of the eldest Chamberlain child have been discovered in a remote part of the West Coast, showing he lived for four years after the family disappeared. Found alongside him are his father’s watch and what turns out to be a tally stick, a piece of wood scored across, marking items of debt.

How had he survived and then died? Where was the rest of his family? And what is the meaning of the tally stick?

My Take

Thirty two years after he and his family disappeared in a remote part of New Zealand Mo Chamberlain's skeleton turns up on an equally remote beach.  At the time when the family and their car disappeared the land near the highway was searched extensively but no trace was ever found, of the car, of the husband and wife, or the four children.

We are in the car with them as it plunges off the road, and with the children as they wait for rescue. What follows is beyond belief.

We are with Suzanne, Julia Chamberlain's sister, when the New Zealand High Commission rings 32 years later to say a body has been found. We know Suzanne has been to New Zealsnd 4 times in the intervening years, the first just 3 weeks after the family disappeared, trying to work out where they had gone.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Carl Nixon is an award-winning short story writer, novelist and playwright. He has twice won the Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition, and won the Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Short Story Competition in 2007. His first book, Fish ’n’ Chip Shop Song and other stories went to number one on the New Zealand bestselling fiction list, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.

Nixon completed his first novel while he was the Ursula Bethell/Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence at Canterbury University in 2006. Rocking Horse Road saw him identified as ‘a major talent’ by North & South, and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2009. It has been published in China, France, and Germany and was on several lists for the best crime novels in Germany in 2012. His second novel, Settlers’ Creek, was also long-listed for the Dublin Literary Award. His novel, The Virgin and the Whale is being developed as a feature film by South Pacific Pictures.

His stage plays have been produced in every professional theatre in New Zealand. They include Mathew, Mark, Luke and Joanne,The Birthday Boy and The Raft. He has adapted for the stage Lloyd Jones’s novel The Book of Fame and JM Coetzee’s Disgrace. He was awarded the 2020 Howard McNaughton Prize at the Adam NZ Play Awards, recognising excellence in a unproduced script.

In 2018 Carl Nixon was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in France where he worked on The Tally Stick.

See more at www.carlnixon.co.nz/

13 March 2021

Review: THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN : B0046A9MRW
  • Publisher : HarperCollins; Masterpiece Ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • Originally published 1926
  • My original review (2008)
  • Language : English
  • File size : 1538 KB
  • Print length : 260 pages 

Synopsis (Amazon)

Agatha Christie’s most daring crime mystery - an early and particularly brilliant outing of Hercule Poirot, ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’, with its legendary twist, changed the detective fiction genre for ever.

Roger Ackroyd was about to be married. He had a life of wealth and privilege. First he lost his fiancée – and then his life.

The day after her tragic suicide he retires upstairs to read a mysterious letter, leaving his closest friends and family to eat dinner below.

Just a few hours later he is found stabbed to death in a locked room with a weapon from his own collection.

Was he killed for money? For love? Or for something altogether more sinister?

The truth will out.
But you won’t see it coming

Warning: there are significant differences between the original book and the TV version.

My Take

I have read this one several times before, and also seen the TV version more than once. I think that resulted in some confusion in my mind, because after all that I wasn't really sure who murdered who. So I'm glad to have read it again, and clarified things, I think...

I did remember though that it introduced for the first time in Christie novels the theme of the unreliable narrator. Poirot himself remarks on how a number of people witnessing an event will have a variety of interpretations, particularly if they are hiding secrets. And of course, if we were not a first-hand witness, then we have no idea of how reliable the version we are being told is.

And of course what we are reading is Dr. Sheppards' version of events. In that he has picked up the role that Hastings played in the two earlier novels. And because we accepted Hastings as a narrator chosen by Poirot, we tend to accept Sheppard.

The plot also appears to present as a locked-room mystery, but that is quickly dismissed.

I'm not sure that I agree with the synopsis that I picked up from Amazon. Was Roger Ackroyd about to be married? Certainly his adopted son was, and it was his impending marriage that was being announced, and while Roger was deeply in love with Mrs Ferrars, was his marriage to her expected?

Plenty to think about though, with a prototype of Miss Marple making an appearance, and many references to how useful Hastings had been is making suggestions even if he didn't always understand what was happening. 

Poirot is living in the village of King's Abbot, retired after 30 years as a detective, so a change from where he was and what he was doing in MURDER ON THE LINKS. He is now attempting to grow marrows and finds it very frustrating.

My rating: 4.4

Check the list of Agatha Christie novels

Another review: This novel, written in 1927, is considered the best and most successful of the early mysteries. It met with no small outrage when it appeared, as it uses a plot device many readers thought "unfair." There is a full complement of characters populating the cozy English village of King's Abbot: Major Blunt, Colonel Carter, Miss Gannett, the butler, the housekeeper, the narrator, Dr. Sheppard, and his know-it-all sister (the precursor of Miss Marple, according to Christie), and, of course, the redoubtable Hercule Poirot and his little grey cells. There are clues with a capital C to mislead us, and the listener gets so involved with these red herrings (or not) that the very simple truth eludes the puzzler. A classic of the genre and essential for any fiction collection. 

Review: A LATE PHOENIX, Catherine Aird

  • this edition published by Chivers Press (Large Print) 1993
  • originally published 1970
  • #4 in the Sloan and Crosby series
  • source: my local library
  • ISBN 0-7451-6427-7
  • 196 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Decades ago, Germans bombed the village at Lamb Lane. But now redevelopment is under way. During the excavation, a workman finds the skeleton of a pregnant girl with a bullet lodged in her spine. The trail is definitely stone cold when C. D. Sloan takes on the case.

My Take

The people who lived in the houses that were bombed on the site claimed not to know whose body it might have been. No-one knows of a young woman who might have been unaccounted for. But Inspector Sloan sees a flicker of recognition in the eyes of one of the men. And someone is taking desperate measures to stop the truth from being uncovered.

Catherine Aird specialises in tangled plots, many red herrings, and this novel is no exception.

By the end, the place is littered with bodies including a death previously thought to be a suicide.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
4.3, DEAD HEADING
4.4, HIS BURIAL TOO

7 March 2021

Review: THE LAST MOVE, Mary Burton

  • this edition published 2017 by Montlake Romance, Seattle
  • ISBN 978-1542046923
  • 325 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author website

Synopsis (author website)

FBI agent Kate Hayden heads to San Antonio to hunt a serial killer. The tricky part? She already caught him.

Catching monsters helps FBI agent Kate Hayden keep her nightmares at bay. Now an urgent call brings her back to San Antonio, the scene of her violent past. A brutal new murder shows hallmarks of a serial killer nicknamed the Samaritan. Tricky part is, Kate already caught him.

Either Kate made a deadly error, or she’s got a copycat on her hands. Paired with homicide detective Theo Mazur, she quickly realizes this murder is more twisted than it first appeared. Then a second body is found, the mode of death identical to a different case that Kate thought she’d put behind her.

Now Kate and Detective Theo Mazur aren’t just working a homicide; the investigative pair is facing a formidable enemy who knows Kate intimately. While Mazur is personally trying to protect Kate, the closer they are drawn to the killer, the clearer it becomes that in this terrifying game, there is only one rule: don’t believe everything you see…

My Take

Kate Hayden is the FBI's best profiler. She has solved a number of serial killing cases. But this new murder in San Antonio is close to home, close to where her father was killed, and she herself was set on her career path. A text message sent to a burner phone left with the body is directed to her, and the words are hauntingly familiar.

Kate is essentially a loner, but her boss is clear: she must work with the locals on this one, and she has 3 days to make her contribution.  It looks like this murder may be a copy-cat killing: but is it? There are aspects to the murder that only the original serial killer could know, but he is still in jail.

And then Kate realises that a voice is reaching out from the past. He has been in jail for 17 years for the death of her father, but is now free. What does he want?

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Mary Burton, whose latest book, Burn You Twice, her most recent Criminal Profiler novel, loves writing suspense, getting to know her characters, keeping up with law enforcement and forensic procedure, morning walks, baking, and tiny dachshunds. She also enjoys hunting down serial killers, which she does in her New York Times and USA Today bestselling novels. She is a 2019 Montlake Romance Diamond Award winner signifying she’s reached one million readers. Library Journal has compared her work to that of Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner, and Fresh Fiction has likened her writing to that of James Patterson.

Mary is routinely featured among the top ten writers in Amazon’s Author Rankings for romantic suspense. Upon publication, her books, including her recent titles Never Look Back I See You, Hide and Seek, Cut and Run and Her Last Word, consistently rank high on the Kindle eBooks Store Bestseller List.

Research is a favorite part of Mary’s workday. She never tires of delving into police work, evidence collection and analysis. She’s known for taking a hands-on approach, whether it means interviews with professionals in the field, forensic seminars or lessons at the firing range.

A Richmond native, Mary has lived there for most of her life. She’s a graduate of Virginia’s Hollins University and worked in marketing before she began writing full time. Her first book was published in 2000. Today she’s the author of thirty-three published novels and five novellas as Mary Burton and six works of contemporary fiction as Mary Ellen Taylor, including her recent Winter Cottage and Spring House and upcoming Honeysuckle Season. She’s co-editor, with novelist Mary Miley, of Deadly Southern Charm, A Lethal Ladies Mystery Anthology.

A member of International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Novelists, Inc., and Romance Writers of America, Mary is known for creating multiple suspense stories connected by characters and/or place.

When not on the road for research or visits with readers at bookstores, book festivals and conferences, Mary remains very much a homebody. She and her husband spend time alternately enjoying their empty nest and spoiling their four-legged babies Buddy, Bella and Tiki.

6 March 2021

Review: A MURDER AT MALABAR HILL, Sujata Massey

  • this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B07YTGHYT7 (Amazon)
  • Publisher : Allen & Unwin (January 7, 2020)
  • Publication date : January 7, 2020
  • Language : English
  • File size : 5731 KB
  • Print length : 390 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN : 0143428233
  • author website 
  • multiple award winning author
  • aka WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL

Synopsis (Amazon)

Introducing Miss Perveen Mistry, the star of an outstanding new crime series. This courageous, likeable and determined young lawyer-turned-sleuth will appeal to readers of Phryne Fisher and Precious Ramotswe in a stunning combination of crime and mystery set in 1920s Bombay.

Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen Mistry has joined her father's law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India.

Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr Omar Farid, a wealthy mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What future will they have?

Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X-could she even read the document? The Farid widows live in strict seclusion, never leaving the women's quarters or speaking to any men. With her own tragic history close to her heart, Perveen worries that the women are vulnerable to injustice.

As Perveen comes closer to the truth, tensions escalate to murder, the widows fall under suspicion and Perveen must figure out what's really happening on Malabar Hill. 

My Take

It is always nice to start at the beginning of a new series, with a new sleuth, set in a different culture, especially when the author is as talented as Sujata Massey.

The story has a ring of authenticity about it, taking readers into a world we will know very little about. Perveen is a recently qualified solicitor, in fact the only female solicitor in Bombay, Parsi background, in British India. The story gives considerable background to her own failed marriage, which gives her some understanding of the position of the three widows in the household of Mr Omar Fareed, deceased. Perveen is determined that these women who are living in purdah, and their children, will not be duped out of their inheritances by an unscrupulous house manager. Things get complicated when he is murdered.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read 

4.5, THE KIZUNA COAST

About this author:

  • Winner and Top Pick of the 2019 American Library Association Reading List for Mystery
  • Winner of the 2019 Mary Higgins Clark Award
  • Winner of the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Historical Novel
  • Winner of the the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel
  • Finalist for the 2019 Shamus Award
  • Finalist for the 2019 Harper Lee Legal Fiction Prize

5 March 2021

Review: AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD, John Le Carre - audio book

  • this audio book from Audible.com
  • Narrated by: John le Carré
  • Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-17-19
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd, 2019

Synopsis (Audible)

Nat, a 47 year-old veteran of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him. Nat is to take over The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is young Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie.

Nat is not only a spy, he is a passionate badminton player. His regular Monday evening opponent is half his age: the introspective and solitary Ed. Ed hates Brexit, hates Trump and hates his job at some soulless media agency. And it is Ed, of all unlikely people, who will take Prue, Florence and Nat himself down the path of political anger that will ensnare them all. Agent Running in the Field is a chilling portrait of our time, now heartbreaking, now darkly humorous, told to us with unflagging tension by the greatest chronicler of our age.

Listed in Times Books of the Year, New Statesman Book of the Year, Guardian Books of the Year, Sunday Times Books of the Year, TLS Books of the Year, Daily Mail Books of the Year, Mail on Sunday's Best Books of the Year, Apple Best books of 2019

My take

This audio book comes with an impressive list of credentials, not the least that it is read by the author. 

Nat is fully expecting to be retired but management has other ideas. There is a Russian agent, a sleeper, in London whom the service is fully expecting to be activated any time soon, and he becomes Nat's responsibility. Nat decides he will hand him over to "young" Florence, one of his brightest agent-runners. Meanwhile someone turns up at the Badminton club who wants to play Nat, the club champion despite his age. Ed wants to play him now, without having to go through the "ladder" system. Ed is taciturn most of the time but it is clear he has strong political views, and is keen to do something about them. He has no idea that Nat is a spy.

And then things begin to go a bit pear-shaped when Florence storms out, and rumours abound of a new double agent in London.

An interesting story with several puzzles to solve. Le Carre does an impressive job as narrator, particularly considering his age when he produced it. He died in 2020 at the age of 89.

My rating: 4.5 

I've also read

4.0, SINGLE & SINGLE
3.5, OUR KIND OF TRAITOR - abridged audio

28 February 2021

Review: OLD BONES, Aaron Elkins

  • this issue published Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy; Reissue edition (8 July 2014)
  • Paperback : 216 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1497643155
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1497643154
  • #4 in the Gideon Oliver series

Synopsis (Amazon)

Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best mystery novel of the year. 1988

With the roar of thunder and the speed of a galloping horse comes the tide to Mont St. Michel goes the old nursery song. So when the aged patriarch of the du Rocher family falls victim to the perilous tide, even the old man's family accepts the verdict of accidental drowning. 

But too quickly, this "accident" is followed by a bizarre discovery in the ancient du Rocher chateau: a human skeleton, wrapped in butcher paper, beneath the old stone flooring. 

Professor Gideon Oliver, lecturing on forensic anthropology at nearby St. Malo, is asked to examine the bones. He quickly demonstrates why he is known as the "Skeleton Detective," providing the police with forensic details that lead them to conclude that these are the remains of a Nazi officer believed to have been murdered in the area during the Occupation. Or are they? Gideon himself has his doubts

Then, when another of the current du Rochers dies - this time via cyanide poisoning - his doubts solidify into a single certainty: someone wants old secrets to stay buried . . . and is perfectly willing to eradicate the meddlesome American to make that happen.

My Take

Members of the du Rocher family have been "summoned" to a meeting at which it's oldest member Guillame intends to make an important announcement. But before they can all get together he is dead, accidentally drowned on the flats of Mont St. Michel, caught by the galloping tide. Guillame's nephew claims to have been in his confidence, and to know what the meeting was about, but he is an unlovely character, and at least one other has a different idea about why they have been brought together.

Then the discovery of a skeleton in the cellar of the chateau, one that has apparently been there for over 40 years, calls for the involvement of the police and a bones expert, an American who is lecturing at a forensic science conference.

This is the first in this series that I have read, and it certainly won't be the last - there are plenty to choose from.

This is a many stranded plot, lots of red herrings, with engaging and interesting characters.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Aaron Elkins is a former anthropologist and professor who has been writing mysteries and thrillers since 1982. His major continuing series features forensic anthropologist‑detective Gideon Oliver, "the Skeleton Detective." There are fifteen published titles to date in the series. The Gideon Oliver books have been (roughly) translated into a major ABC‑TV series and have been selections of the Book‑of‑the‑Month Club, the Literary Guild, and the Readers Digest Condensed Mystery Series. His work has been published in a dozen languages.
Mr. Elkins won the 1988 Edgar Award for best mystery of the year for Old Bones, the fourth book in the Gideon Oliver Series. He and his cowriter and wife, Charlotte, also won an Agatha Award, and he has also won a Nero Wolfe Award. Mr. Elkins lives on Washington's Olympic Peninsula with Charlotte.

23 February 2021

Review: THE BURNING ISLAND, Jock Serong

Synopsis (publisher)

A father’s obsession. A daughter’s quest.

Eliza Grayling, born in Sydney when the colony itself was still an infant, has lived there all her thirty-two years. Too tall, too stern—too old, now—for marriage, she looks out for her reclusive father, Joshua, and wonders about his past. There is a shadow there: an old enmity.

When Joshua Grayling is offered the chance for a reckoning with his nemesis, Eliza is horrified. It involves a sea voyage with an uncertain, probably violent, outcome. Insanity for an elderly blind man, let alone a drunkard.

Unable to dissuade her father from his mad fixation, Eliza begins to understand she may be forced to go with him. Then she sees the vessel they will be sailing on. And in that instant, the voyage of the Moonbird becomes Eliza’s mission too.

Irresistible prose, unforgettable characters and magnificent, epic storytelling: The Burning Island delivers everything readers have come to expect from Jock Serong. It may be his most moving, compelling novel yet.

My Take

In a sense this is a sequel to an earlier novel PRESERVATION in which Joshua Grayling was a key character. It involves the same geographic and historical setting - the Furneaux Islands in Bass Strait, the wreck of a ship and the disappearance of its passengers and cargo, but it is 30 years on, and Joshua Grayling, once assistant to Governor Hunter in the Sydney colony, is no longer the man he was. Now old, blind, and an alcoholic, he has been haunted for over 30 years by the thought of catching up with Master Figge, one of the survivors of the earlier wreck and the author of so much death.

Grayling is asked to undertake a private expedition to Bass Strait to discover what has happened to the Howrah, its passengers and its cargo. Some debris has been found that indicates that it has been wrecked. It is unthinkable that he take this voyage on his own, and so his daughter accompanies him. They arrive at the boat the Moonbird to discover that there is a paying passenger, doctor/scientist who will be studying birds and fish.

The Furneaux group in Bass Strait is largely populated by sealers who have taken Aboriginal wives, sometimes originally against their wills, and there are half-caste children. And the mad governor of Van Diemen's Land, Governor Arthur, is attempting to purge the main island and the Furneaux group of their Aboriginal population.

The story line didn't hold my interest as much as I would have liked, but that was certainly overlaid with a heap of interesting historical detail and and a wealth of very interesting characters, not the least the master of the Moonbird.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

5.0, THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET
5.0, ON THE JAVA RIDGE

4.8, PRESERVATION
4.6, QUOTA 

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