27 April 2021


  • 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


  •  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


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.


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


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.


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


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