23 May 2022

Review: THE CASE OF THE UNSUITABLE SUITOR, Cathy Ace

  • This edition published in The WISE Enquiries Agency Murder Mysteries Box Set: Books 1-4
  • Made available on Kindle (Amazon)
  • BOOK 4: THE CASE OF THE UNSUITABLE SUITOR
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09SZLBH5T
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Joffe crime thriller and cozy mystery (February 20, 2022)
  • Length: 229 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A SUITOR WITH THREE DEAD WIVES. JUST BAD LUCK OR SOMETHING MORE SINISTER?

Successful businessman and charmer Huw Hughes comes back to the village and sets his sights on Annie. Can the other women of the WISE Enquiries Agency unearth the truth behind Huw having been widowed three times?

Christine is enjoying a break at her family’s Irish estate – where she and the brooding Alexander face a surprisingly dangerous case of theft.

Mavis and Carol have to work with dowager duchess Althea Twyst to ensure their unsuspecting friend Annie’s safety . . . and possibly protect the lives of other villagers. And of course all this mustn’t disrupt the Duke’s annual croquet tournament! Someone seems to want it to turn out very nasty indeed.

My Take

Vandalism and nasty graffiti on the croquet shed shows that someone is very upset, and there are moles attacking the croquet lawn. And then a number of people are unwell with a tummy bug, and finally there is a death. The WISE Agency is already investigating whether Huw Hughes has killed his three former wives, and now he is arrested for murder. Annie is convinced he is innocent.

In a separate plot, over in Ireland Christine is investigating the abduction of one of her household, and the operations of a criminal master mind called the Gadfly. Why is it that local police investigations in the past have not managed to get anywhere?

I've come to the end of this set of 4 mysteries and have thoroughly enjoyed them all. The format of 4 female investigators from Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland does seem to have its limitations. In each book at least one of the investigators operates "off-scene" and almost independently of the others. In each title there is more than one plot.  I have enjoyed the way each character has been given her own identity, and the way in which a number of themes have been explored. The plots are both imaginative and satisfying.

You do need to read them in order to appreciate the development of the main characters and the role of the minor characters.  

My rating: 4.5

I've already read

21 May 2022

Review: SHADOW SANDS, Robert Bryndza

  • this edition published in 2020 by Sphere Great Britain
  • #2 in the Kate Marshall series
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-7275-9
  • 365 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

The internationally bestselling author of Nine Elms and The Girl in the Ice Robert Bryndza is back with a nail-biting new Kate Marshall case, a woman with a dark secret and a powerful sense of justice.

When Kate Marshall finds the bloated body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don't add up: why was the victim there, in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown?

Kate is certain there is more to this case than meets the eye. As she and her research assistant Tristan Harper dig deeper, they discover a bloody trail that points towards an active serial killer hiding in plain sight. People have been silently disappearing for years, and when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate.  

My Take

When Tristan's date disappears just before they are due to meet, he and Kate leap to the possibility that she is the latest in a list of young women who have been snatched by a serial killer. Throughout the story we are very aware of the need to find Magdalena before she dies. From time to time the author has been telling us the story from her point of view and we know that time is running out.

The police are difficult to persuade to take action. Is Detective Inspector Henry Ko hiding something? Or is he the tool of the wealthy family who own the land that the Shadow Sands Reservoir is on? 

This is a well plotted story, a mystery to be explored, a few red herrings, interesting characters, some personal details explored about both Kate and Tristan, and an opening created for a follow-on.

Quite a bit more gritty than the cozies that I have been reading lately.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

4.6, DARK WATER - #1
4.8, THE NIGHT STALKER - #2
4.8, THE GIRL IN THE ICE - #3
4.8, LAST BREATH - #4
4.7, COLD BLOOD - #5
4.6. DEADLY SECRETS - #6
4.7, NINE ELMS - Kate Marshall #1 

Kate Marshall
   1. Nine Elms (2019)
   2. Shadow Sands (2020)
   3. Darkness Falls (2021)

15 May 2022

Review: THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS COOK, Cathy Ace

  • This edition published in The WISE Enquiries Agency Murder Mysteries Box Set: Books 1-4

  • Made available on Kindle (Amazon)
  • BOOK 3: THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS COOK
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09SZLBH5T
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Joffe crime thriller and cozy mystery (February 20, 2022)

Synopsis (Amazon)

TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL THE BROTH, BUT DO TOO MANY DETECTIVES?

Henry Twyst, eighteenth Duke of Chellingworth, is terribly worried about some water damage to the priceless books in his library and hires a local book restorer to tackle the repairs.

The antiquarian also runs the Crooks and Cooks bookshop with his daughter — local TV celebrity chef, The Curious Cook.

When the book restorer mentions some strange shenanigans going on at the book shop, Dowager Duchess Althea brings the case to the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency.

Just as they are trying to solve one case, they get embroiled in another. They come across a valuable book of miniatures which seems to be the work of a famous local artist, who was murdered by her own brother.

Are the cases linked and why do both mysteries lead to a nearby old folks’ home?

The WISE women are on the case — and nothing will get in their way . . .

My Take

Many threads come together in this book and a relatively plausible main plot. The Dowager Duchess Althea, coming up to her 80th birthday, decides she is capable of undertaking a little bit of undercover work. Unfortunately there is very real danger.

I am thoroughly enjoying this series- but do read them in order, to get the best out of the development of characters and the relationships between them.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

14 May 2022

Review: A SPOONFUL OF MURDER, Connie Archer

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • A Soup Lover's Mystery Book 1
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0072O0020
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Berkley (August 7, 2012)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 303 pages  

Synopsis (Amazon)

Winter is big business in small-town Snowflake, Vermont. Tourists arrive to hit the ski slopes—and what could be more satisfying after a chilly day of carving powder than a steaming bowl of soup?

When Lucky Jamieson inherits her parents' soup shop, By the Spoonful, she realizes it's time to take stock of her life. Should she sell her parents' house or move in herself? Does she really want to run a restaurant business? And what about her grandfather Jack, who seems to be showing signs of Alzheimer's?

But her life decisions are moved to the back burner after an icy blonde tourist is found frozen to death behind the soup shop. and Lucky is bowled over when her soup chef, Sage DuBois, is led out of the kitchen by the police. As suspicion and speculations snowball, Lucky decides that the only way to save her employee and her business is to find out herself who iced the tourist--and landed her chef in the soup...

Recipes included!  

My  Take

This is a fairly predictable but readable cozy murder mystery with an abundance of red herrings and a heap of amateur sleuthing. The local sheriff arrests the chef of the soup shop By the Spoonful for murder on the very thinnest of evidence. Owner of the shop Lucky Jamieson is determined to prove his innocence.

Of the 3 books titled A SPOONFUL OF MURDER, A SPOONFUL OF MURDER, Robin Stevens, and A SPOONFUL OF MURDER, JM Hall, this is probably the one with best claim to the title, as the name of the soup shop where most of the action takes place is By the Spoonful. Even though I have given each a review rating of 4.4, based on their readability, the one by JM Hall wins my vote by the narrowest of margins, as the book with most appeal to my "age group".

My Rating :4.4

About the Author
Connie Archer is the bestselling author of the Soup Lover's Mysteries from Penguin Random House (Berkley Prime Crime) set inVermont:  A Spoonful of Murder, A Broth of Betrayal, A Roux of Revenge, Ladle to the Grave and A Clue in the Stew.  Her excerpts and recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.  Connie was born and raised in New England and now lives on the other coast.  You can visit her at ConnieArcherMysteries.com, Facebook.com/ConnieArcherMysteries and Twitter @SnowflakeVT.
Writing as Connie di Marco, she is also the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink.  (conniedimarco.com)  Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.

8 May 2022

Review: A SPOONFUL OF MURDER, Robin Stevens

  • this edition made available on Libby by my local library
  • Published: 2 April 2018
  • ISBN: 9780141373782
  • #6 Murder Most Unladylike series.
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Pages: 384

Synopsis (Penguin)

The gripping new mystery in the award-winning, bestselling Murder Most Unladylike series.

When Hazel Wong's beloved grandfather passes away, Daisy Wells is all too happy to accompany her friend (and Detective Society Vice President) to Hazel's family estate in beautiful, bustling Hong Kong.

But when they arrive they discover something they didn't expect: there's a new member of the Wong family. Daisy and Hazel think baby Teddy is enough to deal with, but as always the girls are never far from a mystery. Tragedy strikes very close to home, and this time Hazel isn't just the detective. She's been framed for murder!

The girls must work together like never before, confronting dangerous gangs, mysterious suspects and sinister private detectives to solve the murder and clear Hazel's name - before it's too late . . . 

My Take

As I said in my earlier post, the "chooser" in our monthly book group has set a challenge. We are reading 3 cozies that all share the same title. I reviewed the first here, here is the second, and the last  will shortly follow.

The year is 1936 (we know because as Hazel and Daisy are sailing to Hong Kong via the Suez Canal the news comes that King George V has died), and so the time frame is almost 80 years ago. It is therefore before World War II and Hong Kong then is very different to the Hong Kong of today.

The voyage from England to Hong Kong takes 30 days, and when Hazel arrives she finds it isn't just the absence of her grandfather that is different. She now has a little brother whom nobody has told her about, and the maid who used to look after her is now her brother's nursemaid. In addition, her baby brother now has her old room.

A few days after her arrival, Hazel's baby brother is kidnapped and held for ransom, and Hazel and Daisy begin trying to work out who has taken him. 

This is essentially a book for a young adolescent reader, part of a series that presumably he/she is already hooked on. The author tries valiantly to introduce the reader to the culture of Hong Kong. We are also told the back story of the Detective Society which Hazel and Daisy have founded, and which has already successfully pursued five investigations.

It occurs to me that one of the questions I should have posed in my review of the previous book was the significance of the title. To be quite honest, I can't see any relevance in the case of this book, and only remotely in the case of the previous one. There are two murders in this one, one by stabbing, and one by gunshot, so I think the title is a bit random.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Here are ten absolutely true things about me:

  1. I am a woman. I really am! I do get a lot of letters addressed to ‘Mr Stevens’, though.
  2. I have a pet bearded dragon named Watson, and she is a girl too.
  3. I was born in California, and I moved to England when I was three. This means that I have two passports (like a spy), and that I could be the President of the USA and the Prime Minister at the same time if I wanted to be. If this writing thing doesn’t work out, I might consider it.
  4. I grew up in Oxford, across the road from Alice in Wonderland. If she hadn’t been Victorian and fictional, I think we could have been friends.
  5. When I was little, I wanted to own a zoo and write books about it. I also wanted to be married to Gerald Durrell. I dreamed big.
  6. Colin Dexter once sent me a fan letter. I met him when I was twelve and told him that when I grew up I was going to write murder mysteries. I must have been really insistent, because he believed me.
  7. I really did go to an English boarding school, Cheltenham Ladies College. And I really did sleep in a dorm, and learn Latin, and have school on Saturday mornings. I never detected a murder, though, which was a bit of a disappointment.
  8. I’ve been on University Challenge! I was the Captain of the Warwick University team. We didn’t win, unfortunately, but I did get to meet Jeremy Paxman.
  9. When I was at university, I did my MA on crime fiction. So I really do have a degree in murder.
  10. I used to work as an editor, helping other authors get their books published, but today I’m lucky enough to be a full-time author!

7 May 2022

Review: A SPOONFUL OF MURDER, JM Hall

  • this edition available on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09F5N8FR8
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Avon (March 17, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 331 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0008530084

Synopsis (Amazon)

Introducing the three unlikeliest sleuths you'll ever meet…

Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.

But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.

By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.
 
The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.
 
But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…

Sit down with a cup of tea and this perfectly witty, page-turning cosy crime novel. Fans of Agatha Christie, Death in Paradise and Midsomer Murders will be hooked from the very first page.

My Take

The "chooser" in our monthly book group has set a challenge. We are reading 3 cozies that all share the same title. So here is the first, and the other two will shortly follow.

Thelma, Pat and Liz have all retired after successful careers in primary school classrooms at the St. Barnabus' Primary school. Their coffee session on a Thursday at the Thirsk Garden Centre Cafe is an extension of the sharing that they used to do when they were working. They have all maintained "outside" interests at charity shops, Keep Fit, and book groups. At coffee o'clock on Thursdays they catch up with their various news: what their families are doing. 

On this particular Thursday who should walk in but another ex-colleague whom they haven't seen for a while: Topsy Joy. She is on the arm of her daughter Kelly-Anne whom the group all remember. But they are taken aback at the change in Topsy: "stooped, bewildered, slightly shaking...wondering where she was". Kelly-Anne spots the little group and brings her mother over to sit with them. 18 months before Topsy's husband Gordon had died unexpectedly, and it is obvious to the group that Topsy has "gone downhill" since then. 

In the following minutes it is obvious to the group that Topsy has dementia and that Kelly-Anne is "doing it tough". Topsy refers to her husband in the present tense, as if he is not dead. 

I enjoyed the way the book went on to explore what was happening in each of the lives of the main characters, and then to reveal what happens to Topsy. Each of the three sleuths feels that what has happened to Topsy is "not right", but is unsure what to do about it. They feel their way to working it out.

Very readable.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

J.M. Hall is an author, playwright and deputy head of a primary school. His plays have been produced in theatres across the UK as well as for radio, the most recent being Trust, starring Julie Hesmondhalgh on BBC Radio 4. His first novel, A Spoonful of Murder, is about retired primary school teachers who turn to sleuthing 

1 May 2022

Review: THE PIRATE CLUB, G. R. Jordan

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • Highlands & Islands Detective Book 6
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08BS369DY
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (September 22, 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 242 pages 

Synopsis  (Amazon)

A body holding a spade in the sand amidst tales of a missing gem. An old boy’s network whose members are rapidly becoming extinct. Can Macleod solve the gamester’s clues before the club players are liquidated and the prize is gone forever?

In the sixth major case of Macleod and McGrath’s partnership, a deadly game is being played in the search for a long-stolen jewel of fantastic wealth. Whilst former friends dispatch their new enemies, DI Macleod hunts the pieces of parchment that will lead him to the resting place of a Sultan’s pride and joy, and the killers who cannot live without it. Will the pirate king emerge triumphant, or can the Inspector run their plans asunder?

When precious things seem out of reach, death may be the only compromise.

My Take

Bodies turn up on two separate islands, one male, one female: one killed where he lies and the other perhaps has floated in off a ferry. But Mcleod is convinced that they are somehow connected.  A scrap of a map with locations marked. A man digging up a gold cross on a beach, the item identified as something taken from a Spanish museum, 25 years earlier.

And now a trail of bodies, more murders, more throats slashed, and some young murderers, not above killing police pursuers if they get in the way.

I nearly drowned in the complexity of this plot and I'm still not sure that I got it all worked out. The "treasure hunt" turns into a fast paced thriller, challenging all the resources that Macleod and McGrath can muster. Macleod is forced to re-define and expand his team, firstly as his usual pathologist is incapacitated by ill health and needs to be replaced, and then he needs to add new investigators to his team, resulting in a redefinition of McGrath's role, with her being promoted to DS. McGrath becomes angry as choice bits of the investigation appear to be being handed over to the DC Stewart, and Macleod struggles to maintain control.

I've been thinking about why I am enjoying this series so much. I think it has something to do with the episodic nature of it. The investigative team of Macleod and McGrath is being expanded and redefined as both characters are developed from episode to episode.  I think Macleod is creating a crack investigative team which can be thrown into whatever mystery the Highlands and Islands can throw up. Macleod's superior officer is playing a very small role in this scenario. I'd almost compare this structure to something like a television series where in each episode we tackle a new mystery. Each of the episodes is sited on a different island and comes with its own locational challenges.

Running behind all this though are some personal scenarios for the main characters. Macleod has certainly developed since Book 1. He has now got a female live-in partner who needs to be very accommodating to the demands of his job. They have moved out of Glasgow back to the Isle of Lewis. MacGrath has changed too. She is still looking for a live-in partner, but she too intends to move out of Glasgow. She has risen from DC to DS and has become very attached to working with Macleod at the same time as getting very angry with him at times.

The episodes of the series do not move directly from one to another. In some cases a short period of time has elapsed and we are told of significant developments in the following pages.

I am looking forward to seeing how the series develops next.

My rating : 4.4 

30 April 2022

Review: DEAD AT THIRD MAN, G. R. Jordan

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0886541LS
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (July 3, 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 237 pages
  • Highlands & Islands Detective Book 5

Synopsis (Amazon)

A landmark cricket club is formed in the heart of the Western Isles. A gala opening leaves a battered body in the changing room when stumps is called. Can Macleod and McGrath find the killer before the rest of the team are bowled out?

In the fifth outing of this tenacious pair, Macleod and McGrath return to the Isle of Lewis when the first match of the newly formed cricket club ends in murder. Uncovering the tensions in the fledgling organisation, they must sort sporting angst from deadly intent if they are to uncover the true reason for the formation of this strange enterprise. Can they discover what bloody crimes sully the perfect whites of the starting XI?

Don't step beyond your crease or you might just be stumped! 

My Take

I'm sure you can tell that I am thoroughly enjoying this series.

In particular I am enjoying the development of the main characters alongside interesting murder plots. I don't think the plots are always credible but they do hold the attention. They often involve more than one murder.

In this title an American incomer who has been a famous baseballer has poured money into a small community on the island of Lewis, helping create a local cricket club, building club rooms, but at the same time crossing some locals by holding practices on Sundays. Bubba Carson has built his own house very near the cricket club, and has brought with him a woman whom some love and others regard as little more than a harlot. The cricket club's first match has been a resounding victory, demonstrating in particular the talents of the team's only female member.

Community relationships surrounding the cricket club are very complex, exacerbated by the opposition to the club's activities by one of the local ministers.

Macleod and McGrath discover that the reasons for the murders actually go well beyond the present.

On the more personal side, McGrath has come back from a holiday with her new lover that has not gone well, and Mcleod is considering how to develop their investigative team, to add new talents, and to make it more flexible.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

28 April 2022

Review: THE SMALL FERRY, G.R. Jordan

  • this edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0867J8PFP
  • Highlands & Islands Detective Book 4
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (11 May 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 224 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A dreich day for a crossing and a small ferry packed to the gills. A fracas when off loading leads to blood and tears. And one man sits dead at the wheel of the last remaining car.

Macleod and McGrath return to Cromarty when a man is found dead at the wheel of his car on the small, local ferry. As the passengers are identified, the trail extends across the highlands and islands as past deeds are paid back in full. Can the now seasoned pair hunt down a killer before their butchery spreads across the land?

"The Small Ferry" is the fourth Highlands and Islands Detective thriller and brings the odd pair back to the Black Isle when the quiet routine of the Firth is broken apart by a strange death. If you like murder mysteries set amongst the beautiful north of Scotland and its wild coastline and islands, then you'll love the adventures of Macleod and McGrath.

When there's so much going on, it can be hard to see what's happening!

My Take

Another outing in the Highlands and Islands with Macleod and McGrath.  Both detectives have grown so much since their first outing in WATER'S EDGE

Three cars on a small ferry. A girl in the second car gives the "glad eye" to the young attendant, distracting him from realising that the final car hasn't yet started its engine. The second car, a mini, stalls and takes just that bit longer to leave. And still no activity in the third and final car. And then the realisation that the driver is dead, sitting in his car in a bath of blood.

From the moment that the driver is identified, the race is on to find one of the women who was in the mini. Behind her she leaves a trail of violent deaths. Macleod works out that she won't stop until she catches up with her final target. 

There is considerable development in both of the detectives' personal lives. Macleod is house hunting with his new partner Jane, and McGrath is looking for someone to give new meaning to her life.

I am enjoying the individual plots of each in this series so far. I have also enjoyed the developing threads that go from one novel to the next. It will be interesting to see if the author can sustain these threads, and to see what parts these additional characters play in the stories to come.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

From Fantastic Fiction:Highlands & Islands

1. Water's Edge (2019)
2. The Bothy (2020)
3. The Horror Weekend (2020)
4. The Small Ferry (2020)
5. Dead at Third Man (2020)
6. The Pirate Club (2020)
7. A Personal Agenda (2020)
8. A Just Punishment (2020)
9. The Numerous Deaths of Santa Claus (2020)
10. Our Gated Community (2021)
11. The Satchel (2021)
12. Culhwch Alpha (2021)
13. Fair Market Value (2021)
14. The Coach Bomber (2021)
15. The Culling at Singing Sands (2021)
16. Where Justice Fails (2021)
17. The Cortado Club (2022)
18. Cleared to Die (2022)
19. Man Overboard! (2022)

26 April 2022

Review: THE WHITBY MURDERS, J. R. Ellis

  • This edition on Kindle from Amazon
  • A Yorkshire Murder Mystery #6
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08P1J6SR3
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas & Mercer (May 27, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 283 pages  

Synopsis (Amazon)

A murder with three witnesses. But one of them doesn’t believe what she saw…

Halloween, Whitby. DCI Jim Oldroyd’s daughter Louise is in town with friends for a goth festival. But their visit to an escape room ends in bloody murder when one of the group stabs his girlfriend and flees the scene. It’s a crime with three witnesses―but Louise refuses to take what she saw at face value.

Oldroyd and DS Carter are called in to solve the case, assisted from the sidelines by Louise. But the closer they investigate, the more complex the web of deceit appears. This is no straightforward crime of passion.

With a violent murderer on the loose, it’s only a matter of time before they strike again. And this time it’s personal. Oldroyd must expose the truth, protect his daughter and stop the horror before it’s too late. 

My Take

As a tourist, I've always enjoyed my visits to Whitby, and this crime fiction visit evoked great memories.

Bram Stoker created Dracula in the town of Whitby and apparently it has become the home of Goth Festivals.

This story comes very close to home for Jim Olryd and his team when his daughter witnesses one of her friends murdered in an "escape room". Louise feels that there is something unbelievable about what she has seen, although her girlfriend is undoubtedly dead.  She contacts her father and he arranges to come to Whitby to assist in the investigation. I think in reality Olroyd would seem to have a "conflict of interest" and not be allowed to be involved.

Like Louise, Jim Olroyd finds the scenario hard to take at face value, particularly when the murderer is still at large.

There are a number of side plots carefully woven into the story: plagiarism in university courses, deception in the jewellery business centred around Whitby jet, stolen art works, tourist activities.

I did think there were a couple of unnecessarily complicated scenarios, such as the duplicate sarcophagi which I found it hard to see the point of. I also thought the author may have changed his mind about the motivation for the murders, or were they just red herrings?

Overall though, I found it a very satisfying read.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

 

24 April 2022

Review: THE ROYAL BATHS MURDER, J. R. Ellis

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • A Yorkshire Murder Mystery Book 4
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07QRSP8J1
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas & Mercer (August 29, 2019)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 321 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1542015421 

Synopsis ( Amazon)

A murdered crime writer. An idyllic Yorkshire town. Can DCI Oldroyd separate fact from fiction?

A famous writer is found murdered at the Victorian baths in the Yorkshire town of Harrogate. In a crime worthy of one of his novels, Damian Penrose, who was appearing at the town’s crime writing festival, has been ruthlessly strangled. But with no trace of the murderer and no apparent means of escape, how did the killer simply vanish from the scene of the crime?

There’s only one mind capable of unlocking this mystery: DCI Jim Oldroyd. But as he and his team quickly discover, while Penrose was popular with the reading public, he had made plenty of enemies. Feuds over money, accusations of plagiarism, a string of affairs…His route to the top left a trail of embittered rivals—and suspects. But which of them was willing to commit murder?

When Penrose’s shocking death proves to be just the first of many, it becomes clear to Oldroyd that he is dealing with a calculating criminal hell-bent on revenge. He must find and bring them to justice. Before the truth becomes more chilling than fiction… 

My Take

I am thoroughly enjoying this cozy series. Regretfully I only have one title to go.

I was fascinated because this story is set at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, and there are several threads woven together. I have attended crime fiction literary events and so this scenario rang many bells - but there has never been an actual murder at one, that I am aware of.

Damian Penrose is an author of some note, not particularly popular amongst fellow writers, but certainly a draw card at the festival.
It appears that Penrose in the past has used his masculine charms to lure female writers in particular into relationships, but also to convince them to let him read their work. He was often cutting about their writing, but later on they discovered he had stolen their ideas.

Back at HQ. one of Olroyd's team, DC Steph Johnson, is being sexually harrassed by a male colleague and she finds that she is not his only victim. In addition she is convinced he is using his position as a DI corruptly, coming to an agreement with people accused of deception and dropping charges that should be pursued.

We get more glimpses of Jim Olroyd's personal life as he decides, at his daughters' prompting, to look for someone to go out with, through a dating agancy.

So I found this a well constructed novel with lots to keep me interested. It filled in some gaps between novels #3 and #5 in the series too.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

22 April 2022

Review: THE NIDDERDALE MURDERS, J. R. Ellis

  •  this edition on Kindle from Amazon
  • #5 in the Yorkshire Murder Mysteries
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0847NMGY9
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 303 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1542017432

Synopsis  (Amazon)

In a Yorkshire Dales village everyone has a motive for murder—except the killer.

A retired judge is shot dead outside the Dog and Gun Inn in the remote Yorkshire village of Niddersgill. There’s a witness who saw everything, and the gunman’s on the run; the case should be open-and-shut for DCI Jim Oldroyd. But the murderer had no motive for wanting Sandy Fraser dead and, what’s more, no trace of him can be found.

As Oldroyd and his team cast the net wider, they discover that Fraser wasn’t without enemies in Niddersgill. As the wealthy owner of a grouse moor, he’d clashed with farmers, debtors, hunt saboteurs and blackmailers. But none of them were at the scene of the murder. And when a local shopkeeper is gunned down in a second senseless attack, it’s clear that these killings are anything but random.

Surrounded by the dramatic beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, Oldroyd faces a race against time to connect the crimes and find who’s behind them. But with all the evidence sending him down dead ends, can he get one step ahead before someone else is killed?

My Take

Another relatively cozy series that I'm enjoying on my Kindle. The plot has plenty of red herrings, and I've enjoyed the character development from book to book. The Yorkshire Dales makes a good setting.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

Here is the series as listed by Fantastic Fiction

Yorkshire Murder Mystery
   1. The Body in the Dales (2017)
     aka The Body in Jingling Pot
   2. The Quartet Murders (2017)
   3. The Murder at Redmire Hall (2018)
   4. The Royal Baths Murder (2019)
   5. The Nidderdale Murders (2020)
   6. The Whitby Murders (2021)
   7. Murder at St Anne's (2021)
   8. The Railway Murders (2022)- November 2022

20 April 2022

Review:THE HORROR WEEKEND, G. R. Jordan

  • This edition on Kindle from Amazon
  • #3 Highlands & Islands Detective series
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0852L26GV
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (27 March 2020) 
  • 225 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A last-minute replacement on a role-playing weekend. One fatal accident after another. Can Macleod overcome the snowstorm from hell to stop a killer before the guest list becomes obsolete?

Detectives Macleod and McGrath join a bizarre cast of characters at a remote country estate on the Isle of Harris where fantasy and horror are the order of the day. But when regular accidents happen, Macleod sees a killer at work and needs to uncover what links the dead. Hampered by a snowstorm that has closed off the outside world, he must rely on Hope McGrath before they become one of the victims.

It’s all a game…, but for whom?

My Take

This episode takes place on the Isle of Harris and the duo of Macleod and McGrath are filling in on a weekend for their boss. She has something else to attend and a police presence has been requested by a wealthy dilettante. It appears their role will be advisory and it will be one of those popular "murder" weekends.  Appropriate clothing has been provided. There are about a dozen guests altogether.

The estate at which the weekend is being held is on a small island off the Isle of Harris and as the weather turns wild the small island is cut off from civilisation in a way rather reminiscent Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. In this case the host is well and truly present, at least until he dies in a freak accident. In the meantime the host has set up some macabre sets and booby traps for his guests to "enjoy". After his death though, the ghoulish events keep occurring, and the question rather becomes one of who is in control, and who can be trusted. 

Other reviewers have remarked that the plot delves into macabre fantasy, and is a little bit beyond crime fiction. If you don't take it too seriously, quite an interesting read, particularly if you are trying to work out who is doing the manipulating. Plenty of red herrings, although I think a couple of suspects are obvious right from the beginning.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

 

 

18 April 2022

Review: THE ONE HUNDRED YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED, Jonas Jonasson

  • first published in Swedish in 2009
  • translated into English by Rod Bradbury in 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-74331-127-1
  • 384 pages
  • author website 

Synopsis (publisher)

After a long and eventful life Allan Karlsson is moved to a nursing home to await the inevitable. But his health refuses to fail and as his 100th birthday looms a huge party is planned. Allan wants no part of it and decides to climb out the window...

Charming and funny; a European publishing phenomenon.

Sitting quietly in his room in an old people's home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn't want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The Mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not . . .

Escaping (in his slippers) through his bedroom window, into the flowerbed, Allan makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving a suitcase full of cash, a few thugs, a very friendly hot-dog stand operator, a few deaths, an elephant and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, Allan's earlier life is revealed. A life in which - remarkably - he played a key role behind the scenes in some of the momentous events of the twentieth century.

The One Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a charming, warm and funny novel, beautifully woven with history and politics. 

My Take

Surprisingly Allan Karlsson has featured in nearly every important political milestone of the twentieth century world since 1929. He has been helpful to almost every one of the world's most important political leaders among them Truman, Churchill, Mao Tse tung, Nixon and others.

Karlsson's true talent is explosives including THE Bomb.
So while it is a black comedy, the story of Allan Karlsson's life presents a kaleidoscope of history, how one man has played East against West and vice versa.
His escape from the nursing home on the morning of his 100th birthday leads to him being on the run, wanted for murder by the police, and surviving for another month before he is recaptured.

Recollections of the main events of his life are set against this struggle for survival and Karlsson's philosophy about the important things in life.

This novel reminds me a little of a Mad Comic, episodic, not meant to be taken at face value, but at the same time full of little wisdoms.
I have to say that I did get a little tired of the seemingly endless list of adventures and escapades in Allan Karlsson's life, at the same time wanting to know how it all ended. 

My rating: 4.5

About the author
In 2007, I sold everything I owned, packed my bag and placed myself under a palm tree by Lake Lugano, laptop in lap.
Exactly twelve months later, I finished the manuscript. The one I had been carrying around in my mind for so long. Lovingly, it rips the twentieth century of all its glory and righteousness. And yet it embraces life. How could it not? How could we not? The alternative must be boring beyond everything!
Anyway, I sent the manuscript to six different publishing companies. Five of them turned it down, the sixths called me and said yes before they finished reading. Success was in the making, they said. They got bold and printed seven thousand copies in the first go. "Seven thousand? Are you sure?"
"You can never be sure", they said.
It sold ten million. Encouraging enough to give it another try.

15 April 2022

Review: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER, Cathy Ace

  • This edition published in The WISE Enquiries Agency Murder Mysteries Box Set: Books 1-4

  • Made available on Kindle (Amazon)
  • BOOK 2: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09SZLBH5T
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Joffe crime thriller and cozy mystery (February 20, 2022)

Synopsis (Amazon)

BOOK 2: THE CASE OF THE MISSING MORRIS DANCER
Henry, eighteenth Duke of Chellingworth, is about to marry Stephanie Timbers in a grand ceremony at his Welsh estate. But one of the Morris dancers, who must lead the wedding party through the village, is missing. Along with the troupe’s kit of exquisite sixteenth-century silver bells and engraved sticks. Can the ladies of the WISE Enquiries Agency track him down and save the day? 

My Take

Oh what have I let myself in for?

This delightful series continues in a second book. Hot on the heels of their success in THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER, the ladies of the WISE Enquiries Agency have moved from London to the Welsh countryside, in particular the Chellingworth estate, and the nearby village. In particular Mavis has become live-in companion to Althea, the dotty dowager herself, their office is in one of the estate building, Annie has a cottage in the village centre, Carol and husband David have their own house near the village, and Christine has an apartment at the Hall.

So it is a month or so into the next year and elaborate preparations are underway for the Duke's wedding. Then Aubrey Morris who is meant to be leading the Morris dancers in their procession at the wedding goes unexpectedly missing. Normally the quietest and yet most reliable of chaps, a local handyman, Aubrey doesn't turn up for an appointment he has made to to transport the Morris dancers. In addition their regalia has gone missing, and his van can't be found. It comes out that Aubrey was planning to go away, but not until the week after the wedding. The Duke wants him found.

What I am enjoying about these books is the development of each of the characters and the fleshing out of how they work as a team. Little traits are being added to each of them. Althea, the Dowager Duchess, as made an honorary member of WISE, and Alexander Bright, Christine's new "friend" becomes very useful indeed.

I'm hooked!

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

Book 1: THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER

13 April 2022

Review: OLD BONES, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

  • this edition published by Grand Central Publishing 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-5387-4722-3
  • 349 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis

Nora Kelly, a young curator at the Santa Fe Institute of Archaeology, is approached by historian Clive Benton with a once-in-a-lifetime proposal: to lead a team in search of the so-called “Lost Camp” of the tragic Donner Party. This was a group of pioneers who earned a terrible place in American history when they became snow-bound in the California mountains in 1847, their fate unknown until the first skeletonized survivors stumbled out of the wilderness, raving about starvation, murder--and cannibalism.

Benton tells Kelly he has stumbled upon an amazing find: the long-sought diary of one of the victims, which has an enigmatic description of the Lost Camp. Nora agrees to lead an expedition to locate and excavate it--to reveal its long-buried secrets.

Once in the mountains, however, they learn that discovering the camp is only the first step in a mounting journey of fear. For as they uncover old bones, they expose the real truth of what happened, one that is far more shocking and bizarre than mere cannibalism. And when those ancient horrors lead to present-day violence on a grand scale, rookie FBI agent Corrie Swanson is assigned the case…only to find that her first investigation might very well be her last.

My Take

I came away thinking that this might be the beginnings of a new investigative team of  a forensic archaeologist and an FBI Special Agent,

Based on a true story from 1846, this made engaging reading as an archaeological team looks for a "lost camp" of some pioneers crossing the Sierra Nevada. They became lost, and the story ended tragically with starvation and cannibalism. There were tales also of a huge cache of gold dollars buried somewhere near the site.

Recommended reading.

It is probably decades since I have read a book by either of these authors.

My rating: 4.6

About the authors

Douglas Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Wellesley. Following a distinguished career at a private nursery school--he was almost immediately expelled—he attended public schools and the Cambridge School of Weston.

Lincoln seemed to have acquired an interest in writing as early as second grade, when he wrote a short story entitled Bumble the Elephant (now believed by scholars to be lost). Along with two dozen short stories composed during his youth, he wrote a shamelessly Tolkeinesque fantasy in twelfth grade titled The Darkness to the North (left unfinished at 400 manuscript pages).

12 April 2022

Review: THE DARK REMAINS, William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin

Synopsis (publisher)

In this scorching crime hook-up, number one bestseller Ian Rankin and Scottish crime-writing legend William McIlvanney join forces for the first ever case of DI Laidlaw, Glasgow's original gritty detective.

Lawyer Bobby Carter did a lot of work for the wrong type of people. Now he's dead and it was no accident. Besides a distraught family and a heap of powerful friends, Carter's left behind his share of enemies. So, who dealt the fatal blow?

DC Jack Laidlaw's reputation precedes him. He's not a team player, but he's got a sixth sense for what's happening on the streets. His boss chalks the violence up to the usual rivalries, but is it that simple? As two Glasgow gangs go to war, Laidlaw needs to find out who got Carter before the whole city explodes.

William McIlvanney's Laidlaw books changed the face of crime fiction. When he died in 2015, he left half a handwritten manuscript of Laidlaw's first case. Now, Ian Rankin is back to finish what McIlvanney started. In THE DARK REMAINS, these two iconic authors bring to life the criminal world of 1970s Glasgow, and Laidlaw's relentless quest for truth. 

My Take

Jack Laidlaw is a maverick. He believes he works best on his own, and constantly rubs people up the wrong way. The Commander, Robert Frederick of the Glasgow Crime Squad has asked DS Bob Lilley to babysit Laidlaw because he needs careful handling. Laidlaw certainly doesn't like attempts by DI Ernie Milligan to give him orders and dictate how he does things. Milligan and Laidlaw have history. They were DCs together, Milligan rose the ladder, Laidlaw hasn't.

Essentially Milligan and Laidlaw are different as chalk and cheese, and Milligan can't resist any opportunity for a bit of one-up-manship.

Most of the novel is occupied with the cut and thrust between two rival Glasgow gangs. Running in the background is the investigation into lawyer Bobby Carter's death.

Having never read any William McIlvanney before I can't tell how good a job Rankin has done of completing the original manuscript.
Ian Rankin has spent most of lockdown writing a novel – but it isn’t a new Rebus. Instead, the Scottish writer has been putting the finishing touches to a handwritten manuscript left by the late William McIlvanney, the so-called godfather of “tartan noir” and author of the Laidlaw detective books.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/dec/05/ian-rankin-to-complete-william-mcilvanney-final-unfinished-novel-the-dark-remains
But Rankin said The Dark Remains was unlikely to be the start of a franchise. “It’s just there was that one unfinished book and there was enough material there that meant it could be finished,” he said. “And why wouldn’t you want a new William McIlvanney book out in the world?”

I can't see Rankin writing any more in this "series" despite the comments in the blurb about this being a "scorching crime hookup". For me it was a little disappointing.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

THE COMPLAINTS
DOORS OPEN
HIDE & SEEK
4.4, BEGGARS BANQUET
4.4, WITCH HUNT - writing as Jack Harvey
4.5, THE FALLS
4.7, THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD
4.8, STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE $18
4.7, SAINTS OF THE SHADOW BIBLE #19

4.5, EVEN DOGS IN THE WILD # 20
4.5, RATHER BE THE DEVIL #21

5.0, IN A HOUSE OF LIES   #22 4.8, A SONG FOR DARK TIMES #23

10 April 2022

Review: THE TEA LADIES OF ST JUDE'S HOSPITAL, Joanna Nell

  • this edition made available from my local library
  • published by Hachette Australia 2021
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-4290-6
  • 342 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

The heartwarming and hilarious bestseller by the author of treasured novels, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village and The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home

The Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria has been serving refreshments and raising money at the hospital for over fifty years, long after anybody can remember who Marjorie Marshall actually was. Staffed by successive generations of dedicated volunteers, the beloved cafeteria is known as much for offering a kind word and sympathetic ear (and often unsolicited life advice) as for its tea and buns.

Stalwart Hilary has worked her way up through the ranks to Manageress; Joy has been late every day since she started as the cafeteria's newest recruit. She doesn't take her role as 'the intern' quite as seriously as Hilary would like but there's no doubt she brings a welcome pop of personality. Seventeen-year-old Chloe, the daughter of two successful surgeons, is volunteering during the school holidays because her mother thinks it will look good on her CV.

Chloe is at first bewildered by the two older women but soon realises they have a lot in common, not least that each bears a secret pain. When they discover the cafeteria is under threat of closure, this unlikely trio must band together to save it. 

My Take

An entertaining read, and some very believable characters. 

Hilary is the volunteer manager of the cafeteria, 76 years old, recently separated from her husband, and now living with her older sister. She runs the cafeteria on an exceedingly tight budget.

Her assistant is Joy, 74 years old, always a smile on her face. Her husband of 53 years, Len, has recently had cancer and is now at home on remission (?). Joy tries to feed new ideas to Hilary, trying to make her think the ideas are hers.

Chloe, 17 years old, is the third volunteer in the trio, still at school, and destined to follow her parents into medicine. Chloe has a few problems of her own, and is not really looking forward to working with the two "oldies".

This was a lovely read, and covered a number of issues including what happens when progress at the hospital challenges the very existence of the cafeteria.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.7, THE SINGLE LADIES OF THE JACARANDAH RETIREMENT VILLAGE

Review: THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER, Cathy Ace

  • This edition published in The WISE Enquiries Agency Murder Mysteries Box Set: Books 1-4
  • Made available on Kindle (Amazon)
  • BOOK 1: THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09SZLBH5T
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Joffe crime thriller and cozy mystery (February 20, 2022)

Synopsis (Amazon)

A WELSH MURDER MYSTERY BOX SET BOOKS 1–4 four cozy Welsh murder mysteries full of twists (The WISE Enquiries Agency Murder Mysteries Box Set)

THE DETECTIVES
The WISE Enquiries Agency consists of Mavis, Annie, Carol and Christine. One is Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English, hence the name. Drawn together by chance — and a killer — the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency turned their backs on their previous careers to work together to help others. Combining their unique skills, and revelling in their differences, they’re doing their best to make the business succeed. But being private investigators isn’t a bed of roses — there are bills to pay, clients to be managed, and dangers to be faced. Can they manage to do it all, and survive?

BOOK 1: THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER
Henry Twyst, eighteenth Duke of Chellingworth, is convinced his mother is losing her marbles. The dowager claims to have seen a corpse on the dining room floor, but all she has to prove it is a bloodied bobble hat. Henry hires the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency. The duke wants the strange matter explained. But the truth of what happened at the Chellingworth Estate is more complex, dangerous, and deadly, than anyone could have foreseen . . .

My Take

I've certainly enjoyed reading the first book in this new recently published series (available only in Kindle and currently at a bargain price). The characters of the four members of the WISE Enquiries Agency are well drawn, very distinct from each other. I'm not sure about the entire credibility of the plot but there was enough good stuff to keep me going.

I will certainly be going on to Book 2 sometime in the future. 

My rating: 4.3

I've also read THE CORPSE WITH THE SILVER TONGUE which was Cathy's first novel.

About the author
Cathy Ace migrated from her native Wales to Canada at the age of 40. She is the award-winning author of the traditional Cait Morgan Mysteries featuring her Welsh Canadian criminology professor sleuth who travels the world tripping over corpses, which have now been optioned for TV. She also writes the cozier WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries featuring a quartet of female PIs who run their business out of a Welsh stately home. Both series have been well-reviewed. Her award-winning standalone, THE WRONG BOY, is a gripping novel of psychological suspense, set in Wales, and has also been optioned for TV.

5 April 2022

Review: MEDICUS, Ruth Downie

  • this edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07B659FYD
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ March 1, 2018
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 418 pages 
  • #1 in the Medicus series
  • Formerly published as RUSO AND THE DISAPPEARING DANCING GIRLS 

Synopsis (Kindle)

Welcome to the most remote part of the Roman Empire. Britannia, AD117 – primitive, cold, damp and very muddy.

The Gods are not smiling on army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso in his new posting in Britannia. He has vast debts, a slave girl who is much more trouble than she is worth and an overbearing hospital administrator to deal with . . . not to mention a serial killer stalking the local streets.

Barmaids’ bodies are being washed up with the tide and no one else seems to care. It’s up to Ruso to summon all his skills to investigate, even though the breakthroughs in forensic science lie centuries in the future, and the murderer may be hunting him down too.

If only the locals would just stop killing each other and If only it were possible to find a decent glass of wine, and a slave who can cook, Ruso’s prospects would be a whole lot sunnier . . .

The first novel in the New York Times bestselling Gaius Petreius Ruso series. With a gift for comic timing and historic detail, Ruth Downie has conjured an ancient world as raucous and real as our own. Perfect for fans of Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor. 

My Take

Gaius Petreius Ruso is a career soldier in the Roman army and has recently transferred to the 20th Legion in Deva (modern day Chester) from Africa. Things are very different in Britannia. Not only is the weather dismal but the locals are rebellious and they speak British. Ruso is recovering from a divorce and the death of his father in Gaul. His father has left ruinous debts and so Ruso is constantly trying to send money to his brother who is looking after the family farm in Gaul.

His money seems to be going the wrong way. His lodgings are near the hospital but are filthy, and due to be demolished. He desperately needs someone to cook and clean, but instead ends up rescuing a British slave at a price he can ill afford, and she has a broken arm.

Girls from a local cafe/bordello keep turning up dead, and Ruso becomes a reluctant detective as he tries to work out what is happening. And then his new slave Tilla runs away and Ruso finds he has got used to having her around.

Much of this introduction to life on the frontier of the Roman Empire is seen from the point of view of the conquered rather than the conquerors. We see at first hand the impact of slave trafficking as well as the way in which the conquerors try to impose the "Roman way" onto the locals. The author has created sufficiently likeable central characters in Ruso and Tilla for me to investigate where things go in the second book in the series.

My rating: 4.4

There are 8 titles in the series
MEDICUS (the first story, AKA 'Medicus/Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls')
TERRA INCOGNITA ('Ruso and the Demented Doctor')
PERSONA NON GRATA ('Ruso and the Root of All Evils')
CAVEAT EMPTOR ('Ruso and the River of Darkness')
SEMPER FIDELIS
TABULA RASA
VITA BREVIS
MEMENTO MORI

About the author
Ruth (RS) Downie left university with an English degree and a plan to get married and live happily ever after. She is still working on it.
Ruth lives in North Devon with a husband, a fine view and too many cats. She is not the same person as the RS Downie who writes real medical textbooks. Absolutely none of the medical advice in the Ruso books should be followed. Roman and Greek doctors were very wise about many things but they were also known to prescribe donkey dung and boiled cockroaches.

Find out more at www.ruthdownie.com

2 April 2022

Review: WHITE OUT, Ragnar Jonasson

  • this edition made available by my local library through Libby

  • first published 2017
  • Book 5 of 6: Dark Iceland 
  • translated by Quentin Bates 

Synopsis (Amazon)

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík.

Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop?
With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier.

As the dark history and its secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place.

(When the body of a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted Icelandic village of Kálfshamarvík, police officer Ari Thór Arason uncovers a startling and terrifying connection to an earlier series of deaths, as the killer remains on the loose…)

Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers. 

My Take

Asta Karadottir has returned to the scene of a terrible event that she witnessed. She hasn't been there for 25 years. So why has she returned? She says that she is writing a thesis about her father who had survived the deaths of her mother and her sister twenty five years earlier.

Asta has written to the owner of the house, a well known media personality, asking if she may stay for a few days, and she is given her old childhood room. The people in the house are those who were there 25 years earlier. Within two days Asta herself is dead, suffering the same fate as her mother and sister.

Did Asta return to commit suicide, or is the same killer still at large? There is a limited cast of suspects, and fairly quickly another person dies.

Detectives have already arrived to investigate Asta's death and each of the suspects is scrutinised carefully. DNA evidence provides clues but is the finger pointing at the right person?

One of the detectives, Ari Thor, brings his very pregnant girlfriend to the locality with him, as it seems unlikely he will make it home for Christmas. 

Icelandic crime fiction has a different flavour, and is truly noir.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read 4.4, THE MIST 

31 March 2022

Review: DESTINATION UNKNOWN, Agatha Christie

Synopsis (Christie website)

A young woman with nothing to live for is persuaded to embark on a suicide mission to find a missing scientist. 

When a number of leading scientists disappear without trace, concern grows within the international intelligence community. Are they being kidnapped? Blackmailed? Brainwashed? One woman appears to have the key to the mystery. Unfortunately, Olive Betteron now lies in a hospital bed, dying from injuries sustained in a Moroccan plane crash. 

Meanwhile, in a Casablanca hotel room, Hilary Craven prepares to take her own life. But her suicide attempt is about to be interrupted by a man who will offer her an altogether more thrilling way to die. 

~~~~~~~~

A woman thinks she has nothing to live for – bereaved, divorced – she is saved from suicide by an opportunity to die in an altogether more thrilling way. Nuclear scientists, international intrigue and a touch of romance, Agatha Christie takes her readers on a wild excursion far from the country houses and cosy murders of England.

Christie based this book partly on the activities of two famous physicists of the early 1950s: Bruno Ponecorvo, who defected to Russia, and Emil Fuchs, who spied for the Russians. It is another of Christie’s light-hearted thriller novels featuring a daring and fearless heroine. 

My Take

Once again a re-read of a novel I previously read for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. My original review

This novel echoes themes present much earlier in Christie's novels such as Tommy and Tuppence and THE BIG FOUR and even earlier stories. (THE BIG FOUR's central theme was that of a master criminal or a gang of organised criminals responsible for a variety of international catastrophes mistakenly attributed to other causes.) This was a theme that was transposed into the period after World War Two, the period of the Iron Curtain, when Communist Russia seemed to pose a threat to the Western democracies. It was a theme that occupied other authors like Ian Fleming and George Orwell and was supported by the defection from the early 1950s onwards of British diplomats and agents. Only a short step from them to scientists and others.

DESTINATION UNKNOWN explores the possible defection of Western European scientists, with a prominent business man sponsoring their defection.

This idea of a mastermind who threatened the existence of democratic countries is one that never left Agatha Christie's writing, and reoccurs often enough for it to be something Christie really believed in.

To modern readers this theme probably seems a little far fetched but to readers 70 years ago, the threat seemed very real. Communism seemed a real threat to the capitalist world - the "red under the bed". Has that changed?

Things to talk about:

  • A missing scientist - brain drain.
  • A breakthrough invention in nuclear energy - a benefit or a threat?
  • A mad philanthropist - what motivates philanthropy?
  • possible threat of a global virus
  • the battle of ideologies between East and West
  • new "world order" after World War II, dissatisfaction by idealists with the results of the war. 
  • the meaning of life - the "heroine comes back from the brink of suicide
  • the idea of the world becoming "smaller" because of technology like faster planes.
  • the concept of cooperation by the Western Powers - not just Britain being affected.
  • life is more than work. The idea that work in captivity is still like being in jail even if all you need is provided. 

Anything else my group should discuss?

My rating: 4.3

Agatha Christie Books

27 March 2022

Review: STREETS OF GOLD, Margot Kinberg

  • this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09RJQ6CR7
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Grey Cells Press (March 16, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 126 pages

Synopsis  (Amazon)

These Streets Are Not Made of Gold…

Fifteen-year-old Staci Mckinney thought that leaving home would solve her problems. At least it would get her away from her disgusting stepfather, Nick. But it’s not long before Nick becomes the least of her worries. It’s not easy to live on the streets. It’s a daily struggle to find food and a place to sleep, especially during a Philadelphia winter. Things get even harder when Staci witnesses two men dumping a body. When they see her, too, she has no choice but to go on the run.

Philadelphia City Councilman Daniel Langdon thought everything would be alright, even after the ‘road rage’ incident that led to a death. After all, nobody knew what happened. Except some kid saw him and his assistant dumping the body. Now he’s going to have to find the girl before she gets the chance to talk to anyone about what she witnessed.  

My Take

In this novella the author impressively and credibly explores what would send a teenager out onto the streets, and then, the options that she has for survival.

Already on the streets of Philadelphia, Staci Mckinney sees two men dumping what she later discovers is a body on the streets. However not only can she identify them, but they also see her, and realise the part she could play in revealing their identities to the authorities. 

Now not only Staci's mum is looking for her but also these two men who have resources that eventually assist them in finding out where members of the community have last seen Staci.

In her efforts to get away and to stay hidden, Staci discovers that there are a number of people whose hearts are in the "right place".

Well done Margot - I enjoyed the read!

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

PUBLISH OR PERISH
4.5, B - VERY FLAT
4.3, IN A WORD: MURDER  (edit)
4.4, PAST TENSE
4.5, DOWNFALL
4.4, A MATTER OF MOTIVE

26 March 2022

Review: WATCH HER FALL, Erin Kelly

  • this edition published by Hodder & Stoughton UK 2021
  • 389 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-473-68084-5
  • author website: http://erinkelly.co.uk

Synopsis (author website)

Swan Lake is divided into the black acts and the white acts, with one dancer playing both the virginal Odette and the dark, seductive Odile. The faultless ballet technique required to master the steps, and the emotional range needed to perform both parts makes this dual role one of the most challenging and coveted in all ballet.

Dancers would kill for the part.

Ava Kirilova has reached the very top of her profession. After years and years of hard graft, pain and sacrifice as part of the London Russian Ballet Company, allowing nothing else to distract her, she is finally the poster girl for Swan Lake. Even Mr K - her father, and the intense, terrifying director of the company - can find no fault. Ava has pushed herself ahead of countless other talented, hardworking girls, and they are all watching her now.

But there is someone who really wants to see Ava fall . . . 

My Take

A fascinating read. The structure of the novel reflects the structure of a ballet, and the plot of the novel reflects the plot of Swan Lake. In addition sections of the book are told from the point of view of particular characters and we actually see some events from two points of view. The complexity of the book's plot makes the reader work hard.

The plot transports us to a world with which most are not familiar: the world of an elite ballet company.

The master of the London Russian Ballet Company Nikolai Kirilov is confronting the end of his career. The Company is about to go on tour with Swan Lake but Mr K won't be with them for the first time. He is scheduled to have hip surgery.
Mr K gets the best out of his "creatures" by bullying them. They must do exactly as he instructs them or he will reject them, and even replace them. His 30 year old daughter has known nothing else since she was 13, and still she quails in front of his criticism. Ava Kirilova is wondering how much longer her role as the company's prima ballerina can last. 

Others know that her days are numbered. And then the unthinkable happens.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

I was born in London in 1976 and grew up in Essex. At Warwick University I read English, and began working as a journalist in 1998.

Growing up I read classic suspense: Barbara Vine, Daphne du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith were my idols. I only really became a journalist because I thought it might be a good launch pad for writing fiction. It took me a decade to make the shift, but in 2008 I flipped my usual work routine: treating the novel as my day job and scratching a couple of hours’ journalism in the evening until six months later, I had a book.

I called it The Poison Tree.

My debut was good to me. ITV adapted it for television, it became a Richard & Judy bestseller and was longlisted for the CWA John Creasy Award. On 1 April 2010 I got an email from Stephen King saying 'I wish I’d written it' and was so convinced it was an April Fools' joke that I didn’t say thank you for two days.

Since then, I’ve published seven more psychological thrillers and in 2014 I was chosen to write the novelisation of the BAFTA-winning Broadchurch.

We Know/You Know and He Said/She Said were also Richard and Judy picks, making me one of a select few authors to do a hat-trick. He Said/She Said spent twelve weeks in the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller lists and was nominated for a clutch of awards. My books have sold over a million copies and been translated into 25 languages.

My new thriller, Watch Her Fall, is a deadly cat-and-mouse game between two elite ballet dancers, set in a London theatre during a production of Swan Lake. It was written in lockdown. Described as Black Swan meets Killing Eve, it contains the most ambitious twist I’ve ever written.

As well as writing fiction I continue to work as a journalist and also teach creative writing. I live in north London with my husband and two daughters, and an ever-growing collection of toy lambs. Trust me, it’s best not to ask.

I’m currently working on my ninth novel, a thriller about bones, buried treasure and family secrets.

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin