24 July 2021

Review: THE MARLOW MURDER CLUB, Robert Thorogood

  • This edition published by Harper Collins UK 2021
  • ISBN 9-78008-43590-5
  • 338 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

To solve an impossible murder, you need an impossible hero…

Judith Potts is seventy-seven years old and blissfully happy. She lives on her own in a faded mansion just outside Marlow, there’s no man in her life to tell her what to do or how much whisky to drink, and to keep herself busy she sets crosswords for The Times newspaper.

One evening, while out swimming in the Thames, Judith witnesses a brutal murder. The local police don’t believe her story, so she decides to investigate for herself, and is soon joined in her quest by Suzie, a salt-of-the-earth dog-walker, and Becks, the prim and proper wife of the local Vicar.

Together, they are the Marlow Murder Club.

When another body turns up, they realise they have a real-life serial killer on their hands. And the puzzle they set out to solve has become a trap from which they might never escape…

My Take

I have categorised this novel as "geezer lit" - a sub-genre of mystery crime fiction in which "old geezers" are the principal characters, usually as amateur sleuths. (see this link for further examples). The authors themselves often fall into the "old geezer" category too.

Judith, Suzie and Becks work with a local police woman to find the murderer first of Judith's "neighbour" and then of the two subsequent murders that take place in the small Thames village of Marlow.

The reading audience is probably those who are "of an age" and like their cozies. I found the story entertaining. Under the leadership of Judith, a 77 year old who likes swimming in the Thames naked on a summer's night, the trio investigate a number of suspects and commit some very audacious acts. I enjoyed participating vicariously with them.

My rating: 4.4

About the author 

Robert Thorogood is the creator of the hit BBC One TV series DEATH IN PARADISE.He was born in Colchester, Essex, in 1972. When he was 10-years old, he read his first proper novel – Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House – and he’s been in love with the genre ever since.He now lives in Marlow in Buckinghamshire with his wife, children and an increasingly cranky Bengal cat called Daniel.

20 July 2021

Review: THE COFFINMAKER'S GARDEN, Stuart MacBride

  • this edition an e-book through Libby, through my local library
  • #4 in the Oldcastle Novels
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins (January 7, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 7, 2021
  • length: 494 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

A house of secrets…
As a massive storm batters the Scottish coast, Gordon Smith’s home is falling into the sea. The trouble is: that’s where he’s been hiding the bodies.

A killer on the run…
It’s too dangerous to go near the place, so there’s no way of knowing how many people he’s murdered. Or how many more he’ll kill before he’s caught.

An investigator with nothing to lose…
As more horrors are discovered, ex-detective Ash Henderson is done playing nice. He’s got a killer to catch, and God help anyone who gets in his way.

My Take

It is years (before I began this blog) since I have read any Stuart MacBride novels. This one is particularly macabre. 

The headland that Gordon Smith's house is sitting on begins to disintegrate and fall into the sea. As the land breaks away bones buried under the house and in the surrounding land become visible. 

Gordon Smith himself has disappeared but in his basement are before and after photos of his victims.

Nobody wants this case and it is assigned to the "Misfit Mob". Henderson is actually working as a private consultant for Police Scotland alongside his friend and housemate Dr Alice McDonald, a clinical psychologist. Their team is in pursuit of one serial killer, who is taking and abusing children.

Alice continues to profile the child killer while Ash is drafted to work on the second case, alongside DS Franklin of the Misfit Mob.

There is a lot going on in this novel, a huge cast of characters, and not everyone is a squeaky clean policeman.

My rating: 4.4 

I have previously read

COLD GRANITE, Stuart Macbride, my rating 4.8
Aberdeen, oil capital of Europe … Christmas is coming, cold, dark and wet, bringing death with it.
It's DS Logan McRae's first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and it couldn't get much worse. Four-year-old David Reid's body is discovered in a ditch, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. There's a killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood.
If that wasn't enough, Logan also has to contend with a new boss, DI Insch, who doesn't suffer fools gladly and thinks everyone's a fool, and his own ex-girlfriend, the beautiful but chilly Isobel MacAlister, who also happens to be the chief pathologist. The only good news is WPC 'Ball Breaker' Watson, Logan's new guardian angel.
The dead are piling up in the morgue almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going missing. More are going to die. If Logan isn't careful, he's going to end up joining them.
Very readable. Black humour mixed in with the serious stuff about the world of crime and child abuse. Interesting thread about how Colin Miller from the press is getting his information and the effect that the press can have on an investigation.

17 July 2021

Review: THE LAST GIRL, Jane Casey

  • This edition an e-book on my Kindle  (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B007W1BVM6
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 24, 2012
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1468 KB
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 484 pages 
  • #3 in the Maeve Kerrigan series

Synopsis (Amazon)

The teenage girl was the first victim.

Her throat cut to the bone, she didn’t stand a chance.

Her mother was the second.

She, at least, had time to fight back. Briefly.

Called to the South London crime scene, Maeve Kerrigan’s first thought is that this is a domestic dispute gone bad. But the husband – found bloody and unconscious in an upstairs room – insists he’s the third victim not the killer. However, the only witness is his young daughter. And she’s not talking...

My take

Their boss Superintendent Godley is waiting for DI Josh Derwent and DC Maeve Kerrigan when they arrive at the murder scene, for the husband, who was not killed is a well known QC, Philip Kennford. Right from the beginning Maeve feels they are not being told all there is to know. A mother and one of her 15 year old twin daughters have been killed and the other twin is not talking. The father is abrasive, waiting for the police to make wrong moves.

It turns out to be a very complex case and Superintendent Godley is also managing a second case related to conflict between rival gangs. Maeve is managing her new relationships with her misogynistic DI as well as a new live in partner.

As you can see from my list below I have missed out on reading some of the titles in the series, so I'm trying to catch up, but it is playing around with my sense of continuity, although in the major sense each title can be read as a stand-alone.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

6 July 2021

Review: WHEN YOU ARE MINE, Michael Robotham

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08BWVTNCQ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Sphere (24 June 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1021 KB
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 375 pages
  • Best Sellers Rank: 4 in Kindle Store

Synopsis (Amazon)

From the multi-million-copy bestselling author behind THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, a major BBC series, comes a gripping new standalone thriller

Philomena McCarthy has defied the odds and become a promising young officer with the Metropolitan Police despite being the daughter of a notorious London gangster. Called to the scene of a domestic assault, she rescues a young woman, Tempe Brown, the girlfriend of a decorated detective. The incident is hushed up, but Phil has unwittingly made a dangerous enemy with powerful friends.

Determined to protect each other, the two women strike up a tentative friendship. Tempe is thoughtful and sweet and makes herself indispensable to Phil, but sinister things keep happening and something isn't quite right about the stories Tempe tells. When a journalist with links to Phil's father and to the detective is found floating in the Thames, Phil doesn't know where to turn, who to blame or who she can trust.

My take

In the Acknowledgements at the end of this novel, Robotham, after reminding us he has been publishing crime fiction for twenty years, talks about what keeps him writing. 

With each subsequent novel, I have always strived to push myself as a writer, using different tenses, new voices, and dual narratives. This is also one of the reasons that I write occasional standalone novels like WHEN YOU ARE MINE because it challenges me to come up with new characters and to explore new lives.

This is a novel about domestic abuse, toxic friendships and the baggage that all families carry with them.

 And those words so perfectly sum up what keeps me reading his novels too. I know he will always come up with something fresh, even when other writers are touching on the same topics. (I seem recently to have been read a number of novels about toxic friendships for example: GREENWICH PARK by Katherine Faulkner, THE OTHER PASSENGER by Louise Candlish) But there is much more to this novel.

A great read! Well done Michael.

After winning the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel in 2015 for LIFE OR DEATH and then in 2020 for GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL, Michael Robotham has this year (2021) won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller for WHEN SHE WAS GOOD.

If you haven't yet begun reading him, now is the time to start!

My Rating: 5.0

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 -#1
4.8, WHEN SHE WAS GOOD -#2  

 

1 July 2021

Review: MURDER AT THE VICARAGE, Agatha Christie

  • This edition a kindle e-book (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0046H95N6
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins; Masterpiece Ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • First published 1930
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 305 pages
  • #1 in the Miss Marple series

Synopsis  (Amazon)

Agatha Christie’s first ever Miss Marple mystery, reissued with a striking cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

’Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a service!’

It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later. From seven potential murderers, Miss Marple must seek out the suspect who has both motive and opportunity.

My take

This is the first time I have read this title in 12 years and I was a little surprised at how much I have forgotten or perhaps mis-remembered. I think my memory is a little clouded by the fact that I have probably seen about 3 television versions of the story in that time, and each one of those has tampered with or embellished the story.

This is the first Miss Marple novel although she had been introduced to readers in short story in 1927. Basically she is an elderly spinster living in St. Mary Mead, with apparently little experience of life outside the village. She has already figured in solving small village mysteries in the past, but the Vicar and his wife both regard her as a busy body, although more astute than most.

Colonel Protheroe, an extremely unpleasant and unpopular character,  is found murdered in the same vicar's study, and two different people confess to the crime. The investigation is handed locally to Inspector Slack, who has a great belief in fingerprints, and expects to be able to solve the murder quickly and easily. There are a number of red herrings. At firts Miss Marple who lives next door to the Vicarage doesn't seem to take much part in the novel, but then she seems to hover in the background.

The novel really sets a pattern for what we can expect in future novels and there are a range of characters who will crop up again in the future.

The vicar and his wife, Leonard and Griselda Clement respectively, who made their first appearance in this novel, continue to show up in Miss Marple stories: notably, in The Body in the Library (1942) and 4.50 from Paddington (1957)  

The Chief Constable, Colonel Melchett becomes involved, as does Sir Henry Clithering, a friend of Miss Marple's and a former head of Scotland Yard. He will feature in a number of Miss Marple stories. We are also introduced to Raymond West, Miss Marple's nephew, who is an author and will also feature in a number of future plots.

Agatha Christie uses the narrator device which she relied on so much in the Poirot novels. we see the story through the eyes of the vicar Leonard Clement. However it is really us seeing things as the vicar does, hearing conversations he is part of, and so on, rather than the impression of a written journal.

The other thing I have noticed in this novel is that Christie uses numbered chapters, without giving each chapter a number and a title as she did in the Poirot novels.

There are still references to the impact of the first world war on English society.

There are a number of side-plots which flesh out the setting: among them the parentage of Lettice Protheroe, and a love interest in the marriage of Leonard and Griselda Clement, the vicar and his wife.

My rating: 4.5

My original review in 2009 (I gave it 4.7)

The Agatha Christie Novels

Useful Link at Fandom

24 June 2021

review: THE BABY-SNATCHER, Ann Cleeves

  •  this edition an e-book made available through my local library on Libby
  • Originally published 1997
  • #6 in the Inspector Ramsay series
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bello (May 9, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 635 KB
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 240 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

When fifteen-year-old Marilyn Howe turns up alone and frightened on Inspector Ramsay's doorstep he has little choice but to invite her in. 

Marilyn and her mother, Kathleen, are a familiar sight around Heppleburn, a strangely inseparable couple. But Kathleen has unaccountably failed to return home that evening, and Marilyn is fearful for her mother's safety. Ramsay takes the young girl home, to the isolated coastal community known as the Headland. And in the Howes' dark and cluttered kitchen they find Kathleen safe and apparently well, though acting rather mysteriously. 

Six months later, Ramsay has more or less forgotten the strange incident, busy as he is on the trail of a local child abductor. Until he receives news that Mrs Howe has disappeared once more. And for the second time he is drawn into the strange relationships of the families living on the lonely Headland. Then a woman's body is washed up on the beach . 

My Take

I've rather reluctantly come to the end of this series which I thoroughly recommend. I also recommend reading them in the order of publication. They have all recently be re-published as e-books.

The final solution in this particular novel caught me by surprise, so perhaps there weren't enough clues as to the identity of the murderer. There are some fascinatingly dysfunctional characters.

I've enjoyed watching the development of the character of Stephen Ramsay and the increasingly complex plots. From here the author went on to develop the character of Vera Stanhope.

My rating: 4.6. 

I've also read

21 June 2021

Review: THE TRESPASSER, Tana French

  • This edition a Kindle e-book (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B016IOF3O4
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hodder & Stoughton (September 22, 2016)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 481 pages 
  • Dublin Murder Squad #6

Synopsis (Amazon)

Being on the Murder Squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed it would be. Her partner, Stephen Moran, is the only person who seems glad she’s there. The rest of her working life is a stream of thankless cases, vicious pranks, and harassment. Antoinette is savagely tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.
 
Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty, groomed-to-a-shine, and dead in her catalog-perfect living room, next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her—except that Antoinette’s seen her somewhere before.
 
And that her death won’t stay in its neat by-numbers box. Other detectives are trying to push Antoinette and Steve into arresting Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinetteʼs road. Aislinnʼs friend is hinting that she knew Aislinn was in danger. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the glossy, passive doll she seemed to be.
 
Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface? 

My Take

I nearly stopped reading this novel several times, and ended up being glad that I persisted, and finished it. The book took me well over a week to read - very unusual for me. It is a very long book too, but I solved the problem of the size by resorting to a Kindle edition.

Antoinette Conway and Stephen Moran are struggling to work out why they were assigned this case. Perhaps it was because they were early to work. What does their boss have in mind? Antoinette suspects that it is her last chance to prove herself. Neither she nor Stephen have been popular with other members of the Murder Squad, and others seem to take great delight in sabotaging her work. And why did the boss insist they take Detective Breslin on their team? He seems to barely tolerate them.

On the surface this seems as if it could be a lovers' tiff gone wrong, but then the suspect seems wrong, and he insists that he has never entered the dead woman's flat. Gradually a different slant on the scenario emerges.

The detail in this plot is incredible, as is the insight into how detectives work.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

4.3, THE LIKENESS
4.8, THE SECRET PLACE
4.5, THE WYCH ELM 

12 June 2021

review: THE GINZA GHOST, Keikichi Osaka

  •  Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B0714J93TC
  • Translated by Ho-Ling Wong
  • Publisher : Locked Room International (May 29, 2017)
  • Stories published originally between 1932 and 1947
  • Language : English
  • Print length : 206 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN : 154305742X

Synopsis (Amazon)

Although the Japanese form of Golden Age detective fiction was re-launched in the early 1980s as shin honkaku by Soji Shimada and Yukito Ajatsuji, the original honkaku dates from the 1930s and one of its pioneers was Keikichi Osaka. The Ginza Ghost is a collection of twelve of his best stories, almost all impossible crimes. Although the solutions are strictly fair-play, there is an unreal, almost hallucinatory quality to them.
Osaka, who died tragically young, was an early pioneer and master of the genre, whose work is only now starting to be re-discovered.

My take

This collection of stories was recently brought to my attention by a fellow blogger at A Crime is Afoot. The stories are essentially mysteries, not necessarily murders. Most of them present "impossible" scenarios, with unusual/unpredictable solutions, some featuring illusions or ghosts.

  • THE HANGMAN OF THE DEPARTMENT STORE, 1932, debut work featuring detective Kyosuke Aoyama
  • THE PHANTASM OF THE STONE WALL, 1935, Kyosuke Aoyama
  • THE MOURNING LOCOMOTIVE, 1934
  • THE MONSTER OF THE LIGHTHOUSE, 1935
  • THE PHANTOM WIFE, 1947, published posthumously
  • THE MESMERISING LIGHT, 1936
  • THE COLD NIGHT'S CLEARING, 1936
  • THE THREE MADMEN, 1936
  • THE GUARDIAN OF THE LIGHTHOUSE, 1936
  • THE DEMON IN THE MINE, 1937
  • THE HUNGRY LETTER-BOX, 1939
  • THE GINZA GHOST, 1936

These stories could have been written in any language, but at the same time you are aware that the settings are a "different" culture, and notes are provided to explain Japanese weights and measures, as well as cultural terms. The ones that stick with me are THE HANGMAN OF THE DEPARTMENT STORE, where a thief is "hoist on his own petard", THE MOURNING LOCOMOTIVE, about a train that keeps killing people, and THE THREE MADMEN, which is truly horrific.

My rating: 4.3

10 June 2021

Review: THE LANTERN MEN, Elly Griffiths

  • this edition published in 2020 by Quercus

  • ISBN 9-781787-477544
  • 363 pages
  • #12 in the Ruth Galloway series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway.

She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police's resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried - but only if Ruth will do the digging.

Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travellers to their deaths.

Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over? 

My Take

The beginning of this book took me by surprise! Ruth has changed jobs, and moved into Cambridge (and I have only missed 2 books in the series!). She even has a new partner. I presume she is trying to establish a life without Harry Nelson. She and Katie are settled in their new surroundings and relationships, have been there about two years I think, but she thinks of Nelson constantly.

But all comes unstuck when convicted murderer Ivor March offers to tell Nelson where some more bodies are buried, on condition that Ruth does the excavation. So once again Ruth and Nelson are thrown together and life become compliacted.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Elly Griffiths has lost none of her touch.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries
   1. The Crossing Places (2009)
   2. The Janus Stone (2010)
   3. The House at Sea's End (2011)
   4. A Room Full of Bones (2011)
   4.5. Ruth's First Christmas Tree (2012)
   5. A Dying Fall (2012)
   6. The Outcast Dead (2014)
   7. The Ghost Fields (2015)
   8. The Woman in Blue (2016)
   9. The Chalk Pit (2017)
   10. The Dark Angel (2018)
   11. The Stone Circle (2019)
   12. The Lantern Men (2020)
   13. The Night Hawks (2021)
   14. The Locked Room (2022) 

5 June 2021

Review: THE HEALERS, Ann Cleeves

  • This edition read as an e-book through Libby, through my local library
  • Originally published in 1995
  • Inspector Ramsay #5

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

An Inspector Ramsay murder mystery. Farmer Ernie Bowles is found lying strangled on his kitchen floor. A second strangulation follows and then a third suspicious death which provides a link and leads Inspector Ramsay to the Alternative Therapy Clinic. Could one of the healers be a killer?

My take:

The 5th Inspector Ramsay that I have read in quick succession, in order, and it has been worth doing that for the character development of both Ramsay and his off-sider Hunter. The setting is once again a small community of fairly tightly knit people.

We start off with a bachelor farmer found dead on his kitchen floor, strangled, after a night when he went out on a blind date.

There is a range of quirky characters in this one, and a lovely lot of red herrings. I had my major suspect but I was wrong!
These are very satisfying reads. I'm just sad there is only one more in the series.

I've also read

 

28 May 2021

Review: HAVE YOU SEEN ME? Kate White

  • this edition published by Harper Collins 2020
  • ISBN 978-0-00-842723-8
  • 366 pages
  • author website

Synopsis (author)

The key to her missing memories could bring relief—
or unlock her worst nightmares.

On a cold, rainy morning, finance journalist Ally Linden arrives soaked to the bone at her Manhattan office, only to find that she’s forgotten her keycard. When her boss shows, he’s shocked to see her—because, he explains, she hasn’t worked there in five years.

Ally knows her name, but is having trouble coming up with much beyond that, though after a trip to the psychiatric ER, she begins to piece together important facts: she lives on the Upper West Side; she’s now a freelance journalist; she’s married to a terrific man named Hugh. More memories materialize and yet she still can’t recall anything about the previous two days. Diagnosed as having experienced a “dissociative state,” she starts to wonder if it may have been triggered by something she saw—an accident, or worse, a trauma from her childhood that has risen to the surface.

Desperate for answers, Ally tries to track where she spent the missing days, but every detail she unearths points to an explanation that’s increasingly ominous, and it’s clear someone wants to prevent her from learning where those forty-eight hours went. In order to uncover the truth, Ally must dig deep into the secrets of her past—and outsmart the person who seems determined to silence her.

My take

When Ally Linden arrives at work, she doesn't realise she has been missing for two days. Her husband hasn't realised she is missing because when he last saw her she was storming out after an argument. 

Bits of her memory return but she still doesn't have answers to her fugue state, and it seems that something deep in her past may have triggered everything. A friend suggests that she may have had a shock, and Ally is inclined to believe that after she finds blood-soaked tissues in her coat pocket.

A book that kept me engaged right to the end.

My rating: 4.5

About the author 

Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of fifteen novels of suspense: seven standalone psychological thrillers, including Have You Seen Me? (an Amazon Editors’ mystery and thriller pick for 2020), as well as eight Bailey Weggins mysteries.

Her next suspense novel, The Fiancée, will be published on June 29, 2021.

For fourteen years Kate served as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, and though she loved the job (and all the freebies to be found in the Cosmo beauty closet), she decided to leave eight years ago to concentrate full-time on being a suspense author.

Her first mystery, Even If It Kills Her, was a Kelly Ripa Book Club pick and #1 bestseller on Amazon. She has been published in countries around the world. Her most recent Bailey Weggins mystery, Such a Perfect Wife, was nominated for an International Thriller Writers Award.

Like many female mystery writers, Kate fell in love with the genre after reading her first Nancy Drew book, The Secret of Redgate Farm.

Kate is a frequent speaker at libraries and conferences and loves to share her journey from magazine editor to suspense novelist in a talk called “On Becoming an Author: Forging a New Creative Path and Finding Winning Ideas All Around You.”

She is also the editor of the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, a collection of recipes from the field’s top-selling authors. In addition to writing mysteries and thrillers, Kate is the author of several bestselling career books, including The Gutsy Girl Handbook: Your Manifesto for Success, as well as I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion, and Create the Career You Deserve, and Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do.

She divides her time now between New York City and Las Flores, Uruguay.

25 May 2021

review: TELL ME LIES, J. P. Pomare

  • this edition published by Hachette in 2020
  • ISBN 9-781869-718619
  • 230 pages

Synopsis (Publisher)

Psychologist Margot Scott has a picture-perfect life: a nice house in the suburbs, a husband, two children and a successful career.

On a warm spring morning Margot approaches one of her clients on a busy train platform. He is looking down at his phone, with his duffel bag in hand as the train approaches. That's when she slams into his back and he falls in front of the train.

Margot's clients all lie to her, but one lie cost her family and freedom.

A fast-paced psychological thriller for fans of The Silent Patient.

My Take

It is not just Margot's clients who lie to her, the success of her entire career has been based on lies, narrowly avoided conflict of interest and compromise.

Margot knows that she is a successful psychologist. She spends much of her time in pigeon-holing her clients, confident that she can help solve their problems. But she doesn't seem to see behind the facade they present, and she doesn't realise that at least one of them is stalking her, and just biding his time.

Her own problems seem to begin when her family house is fire-bombed. She thinks that the culprit is one of her clients, but she picks the wrong one. And then her consulting rooms are fire-bombed as well, but her office has been ransacked too, and she realises that the fire-bomber was looking for something.

An interestingly constructed plot, with little problems for the reader to solve along the way. Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8 

I've also read

4.6, IN THE CLEARING
4.8, CALL ME EVIE 

23 May 2021

Review: NOT DARK YET, Peter Robinson

  • this edition published in 2021 by Hodder & Stoughton
  • ISBN 978-1-529-34307-6
  • 374 pages
  • #27 in the Inspector Banks series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction

Murder is only the beginning for Banks and his team . . .

The gruesome double murder at an Eastvale property developer's luxury home should be an open and shut case for Superintendent Banks and his team of detectives. There's a clear link to the notoriously vicious Albanian mafia, men who left the country suspiciously soon after the death. Then they find a cache of spy-cam videos hidden in the house - and Annie and Gerry's investigation pivots to the rape of a young girl that could cast the murders in an entirely different light.

Banks's friend Zelda, increasingly uncertain of her future in Britain's hostile environment, thinks she will be safer in Moldova hunting the men who abducted, raped and enslaved her than she is Yorkshire or London. Her search takes her back to the orphanage where it all began - but by stirring up the murky waters of the past, Zelda is putting herself in greater danger than any she's seen before.

And as the threat escalates, so does the danger for Banks and those who love Zelda . . .

My take

Another many stranded plot, firmly rooted in the infiltration of Britain by East European mafia. Added to that the exploration of Banks's personal life. Some heart stopping moments as not only Zelda is abducted but also Banks himself is snatched and then thinks his end has come.  

I am always an advocate of reading a series in order, and that has stood me in relatively good stead in the case of the Inspector Banks series. However I have missed only one of the recent titles in this series, but it was enough to ensure that I did not know who one of the important characters in this title, Zelda, was.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

FRIEND OF THE DEVIL (2007)
4.6, ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS (2008)
4.6, BAD BOY (2010)
4.9. BEFORE THE POISON
4.7, WATCHING THE DARK (2013)
4.3, CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION
4.8, ABATTOIR BLUES
4.4, THE PRICE OF LOVE
4.5, BEFORE THE POISON
4.6, SLEEPING IN THE GROUND
4.8, CARELESS LOVE - #25 

20 May 2021

Review: THE CUTTING PLACE, Jane Casey

  • format: Kindle e-book (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B07ND6691Q
  • Publisher : HarperCollins (April 3, 2020)
  • Publication date : April 3, 2020
  • File size : 1217 KB
  • Text-to-Speech : Enabled
  • Print length : 390 pages 
  • #9 in the Maeve Kerrigan series 

Synopsis (Amazon)

Rumours…
Everyone’s heard the rumours about elite gentlemen’s clubs, where the champagne flows freely, the parties are outrageous…and what goes on behind closed doors is darker than you could possibly imagine.

Scandals…
Paige Hargreaves was a young journalist working on a story about a club for the most privileged men in London. She was on the brink of exposing a shocking scandal. Then she disappeared.

Secrets…
DS Maeve Kerrigan must immerse herself in the club’s world of wealth, luxury and ruthless behaviour to find out what happened. But Maeve is keeping secrets of her own. Will she uncover the truth? Or will time run out for Maeve first?

My take

A Thames mudlarker discovers a human hand and an investigating team finds a few other pieces of a body, enough for the forensic pathologist to say that these are female remains, and enough to yield some DNA which eventually leads to identification of young journalist who has disappeared just when she was about to break a shocking story. 

There are several threads to this plot: a male voice recounts something that happened two years earlier, and Maeve Kerrigan works on the current story. But the thread that virtually takes over is the domestic violence that Maeve becomes part of, something she had never thought would happen to her.

An engrossing read.

My rating: 4.8 

I've also read

4.6, THE MISSING 
4.3, THE BURNING #1
4.5, LET THE DEAD SPEAK #7
4.6, CRUEL ACTS - #8
4.5, THE RECKONING - #24.6, SILENT KILL - #8.5

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 Bonett

  • 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.

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