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 Antoinette╩╝s road. Aislinn╩╝s 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

 

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