5 October 2022

Review: MARPLE: TWELVE NEW STORIES, Agatha Christie and 12 others

  • This edition an e-book from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09DNJ4ZZD
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins (September 15, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 379 pages
  • by Agatha Christie, Naomi Alderman, Leigh Bardugo, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Elly Griffiths, Natalie Haynes, Jean Kwok, Val McDermid, Karen M. McManus, Dreda Say Mitchell, Kate Mosse, Ruth Ware

Synopsis (publisher)

Agatha Christie’s legendary sleuth, Jane Marple, returns to solve twelve baffling cases in this brand-new collection, penned by a host of acclaimed authors skilled in the fine art of mystery and murder

One doesn't stop at one murder...

Jane Marple is an elderly lady from St Mary Mead who possesses an uncanny knack for solving even the most perplexing puzzles. Now, for the first time in 45 years, Agatha Christie’s beloved character returns to the page for a globe-trotting tour of crime and detection.

Join Marple as she travels through her sleepy English village and around the world. In St Mary Mead, a Christmas dinner is interrupted by unexpected guests; the Broadway stage in New York City is set for a dangerous improvisation; bad omens surround an untimely death aboard a cruise ship to Hong Kong; and a bestselling writer on holiday in Italy is caught in a nefarious plot. These and other crimes committed in the name of love, jealousy, blackmail, and revenge are ones that only the indomitable Jane Marple can solve.

Bringing a fresh twist to the hallmarks of a classic Agatha Christie mystery, these twelve esteemed writers have captured the sharp wit, unique voice, and droll ingenuity of the deceptively demure detective. A triumphant celebration of Christie’s legacy and essential reading for crime lovers, Marple is a timely reminder why Jane Marple remains one of the most famous detectives of all time.

This collection of twelve original short stories, all featuring Jane Marple, will introduce the character to a whole new generation. Each author reimagines Agatha Christie’s Marple through their own unique perspective while staying true to the hallmarks of a traditional mystery.
· Naomi Alderman
· Leigh Bardugo
· Alyssa Cole
· Lucy Foley
· Elly Griffiths
· Natalie Haynes
· Jean Kwok
· Val McDermid
· Karen M. McManus
· Dreda Say Mitchell
· Kate Mosse
· Ruth Ware

Miss Marple was first introduced to readers in a story Christie wrote for The Royal Magazine in 1927 and made her first appearance in a full-length novel in 1930’s The Murder at the Vicarage. It has been 45 years since Agatha Christie’s last Marple novel, Sleeping Murder, was published posthumously in 1976, and this collection of ingenious new stories by twelve Christie devotees will be a timely reminder why Jane Marple remains the most famous fictional female detective of all time.

"Each of the twelve authors captures Christie—and Marple—perfectly, while also displaying just a bit of her own unique touch. . . . This new and entertaining collection by some of our favorite writers will hook a new group of readers to the formidable Miss Marple." — Rhys Bowen, Washington Post

My Take

95 years after Miss Marple made her first appearance in 1927 in a short story called The Tuesday Night Club, here she comes to life again. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of new Miss Marple short stories. The writers were committed to producing authentic and believable stories. Readers who know their Marple mysteries will recognise characters and settings that appeared in the original novels and short stories, as well as appreciating what each of these writers has tried to do.

My rating: 4.7

Agatha Christie Short Stories

4 October 2022

Review: THE SERIAL KILLER'S WIFE, Alice Hunter

  • This edition an e-book on Amazon (Kindle)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08N5MQYJ5
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Avon (May 27, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 382 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Every marriage has its secrets…

Beth and Tom Hardcastle are the envy of their neighbourhood – they have the perfect marriage, the perfect house, the perfect family.

When the police knock on their door one evening, Beth panics. Tom should be back from work by now – what if he’s crashed his car? She fears the worst.

But the worst is beyond imagining.

As the interrogation begins, Beth will find herself questioning everything she believed about her husband.

They’re saying he’s a monster. And they’re saying she knew. 

My Take

This story is told from the point of view of two main narrators - Beth and her husband Tom - with the occasional insert from another.

Neither of them are always truthful. The light of Beth's life is their small daughter Poppy. She will do anything for Poppy and every decision she makes is based on that premise. Tom and Beth have moved from London to the country to give Poppy a better life, even though it means quite a long commute for Tom as he still works in London. Beth has created a cafe where customers can paint ceramics while they sip coffee.

Beth is a very determined woman, and as the book progresses we learn that what Beth wants Beth gets.

In the end I was blown away by the way the story ends although there were hints of this earlier.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

After completing a psychology degree, Alice Hunter became an interventions facilitator in a prison. There, she was part of a team offering rehabilitation programmes to men serving sentences for a wide range of offences, often working with prisoners who'd committed serious violent crimes. Previously, Alice had been a nurse, working in the NHS. She now puts her experiences to good use in fiction. THE SERIAL KILLER'S WIFE draws heavily on her knowledge of psychology and the criminal mind.

2 October 2022

Review: THE RISING TIDE, Ann Cleeves

  • This edition provided as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Publisher Pan Macmillan
  • ISBN: 9781761261565
  • Format: eBook
  • Pub Date: 09/08/2022

Synopsis (publisher)

Vera Stanhope, star of ITV's Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves' acclaimed series.

Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.

Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .

But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .

My Take

This is an incredibly complex plot, and Ann Cleeves rises to the occasion - among her very best.

When Rick Kelsall is discovered hanged from the rafters of his small bedroom on the Holy Island, Vera is convinced that it is not suicide. And, as usual with Vera, she is convinced the clue to this murder lies in the past not necessarily in the most immediate events in everybody's lives.

As Vera and her small team peel back the layers events emerge. Some people lie about where they have been, obscuring the truth, but nothing daunts Vera.

An enthralling read.

 

My rating: 5.0

I've read

Fantastic Fiction listing

Vera Stanhope
   1. The Crow Trap (1999)
   2. Telling Tales (2005)
   3. Hidden Depths (2007)
   4. Silent Voices (2011)
   5. The Glass Room (2012)
   6. Harbour Street (2014)
   7. The Moth Catcher (2015)
   8. The Seagull (2017)
   8.5. Frozen (2020)
   9. The Darkest Evening (2020)
   9.5. The Woman on the Island (2022)
   10. The Rising Tide (2022)

 

1 October 2022

Review: DEATH COMES AS THE END, Agatha Christie

  • this edition accessed through my local library as a large print edition
  • first published 1944
  • ISBN 978-0-06-287971-4
  • 321 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

It is Egypt, 2000 BC, where death gives meaning to life. At the foot of a cliff lies the broken, twisted body of Nofret, concubine to a Ka-priest. Young, beautiful and venomous, most agree that she deserved to die like a snake. 

Yet Renisenb, the priest’s daughter, believes that the woman’s death was not fate, but murder. Increasingly, she becomes convinced that the source of evil lurks within her own father’s household. 

As the wife of an eminent archaeologist, Agatha Christie took part in several expeditions to the Middle East. Drawing upon this experience and exhaustive research, she wrote this serial killer mystery laid in Egypt 4000 years ago.  

My Take

This is not the first time I've read this novel - I am re-reading it with my U3A Agatha Christie Reading Group. See my previous review.

When Imhotep, the Ka-priest, returns to his family, he brings with him an unwelcome surprise, a concubine from the North, who is in fact younger than his recently widowed daughter. None of his household like the concubine, and she plainly does not like them. She tries to turn the family against their father and seems determined to stir up trouble.

But what Nofret, the concubine, does, as one of the family remarks, is reveals where trouble and evil already are present.

In the introductory Author's Note Agatha Christie points out that the fact that the action of the book takes place on the West bank of the Nile at Thebes in Egypt about 2000 BC is actually incidental to the story. It is a story that could have been played out against any setting. It is a story of jealousy, a father who dominates too much, and children who are chafing against the bit. The murder of the concubine is just the first in a series of incidents, and the author holds various characters up for us to scrutinise.

We see the action mainly through the eyes of Imhotep's daughter Renisenb, who is not always the most reliable judge if character, and she is bewildered as various members of the household are killed, and she is not sure who to trust.

The author puts her knowledge of Egyptian funerary rites and procedures to good use in providing the reader with an authentic background for a solid murder mystery. In all there are 5 murders, enough to overwhelm even the most vigilant family.

My rating: 4.4

Agatha Christie novels I've read


27 September 2022

Review: TERRA INCOGNITA, Ruth Downie

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07BHPT57D
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ March 15, 2018
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 404 pages 

Synopsis (Amazon)

Wind-swept North Britannia, where the natives are in the mood for killing…

Gaius Petreius Ruso, medicus to the Twentieth Legion, has been posted to the hostile north – and thrown into a no-win situation. Thessalus, the current doctor at the Fort of Coria, has confessed to a grisly murder and his Prefect demands that Ruso take charge of the patients and convince Thessalus to retract his confession. But, it seems a reputation for solving tricky murders down south isn’t always helpful.

Unfortunately, the corpse is offering up few answers other than to suggest that the natives might be more murderous than restless. If Ruso is to identify the killer, he’ll need all his wits about him to keep Romans, natives and slave girls from each other’s throats.

The second novel in the bestselling Gaius Petreius Ruso series. Formerly published as Ruso and the Demented Doctor.

My Take

This story was made more interesting, despite its length, by the fact that I have been in the area in which it is set, just south of Hadrian's Wall, at least a couple of times. 

I am always surprised too at how Ruth Downie makes the characters and situations feel so modern, despite the fact that historically it is set in Roman Britain, and life would have been horrendously primitive by our standards.

My rating: 4.4

 I've also read

4.4, MEDICUS, Ruth Downie - #1  

20 September 2022

Review: THE PORTSMOUTH MURDERS, Pauline Rowson

  • this edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09SV6G9QP
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Joffe Books crime thriller, mystery and suspense (February 17, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 194 pages 
  • previously published as TIDE OF DEATH

Synopsis  (Amazon)

Meet Detective Inspector Andy Horton. It’s his second day back in Portsmouth’s CID and things aren’t going well.

Please note this was previously published as Tide of Death.

DI Andy Horton is on his morning run along an isolated stretch of beach when he stumbles across a dead man. Stark naked and bludgeoned to death.

Eight months ago, DI Horton’s life fell apart when he was suspended for misconduct. His wife kicked him out and stopped him seeing his daughter.

The young woman who’d accused him went missing and the charges were dropped, but his personal and professional life are still in a mess.

And now it doesn’t look good for a detective under suspicion to be the one to find a dead body. His colleagues don’t want him on the case.

But this murder will challenge Detective Horton in every single way. And when another body turns up with the same cause of death, Horton suspects he might be the next person in the killer’s sights.

My Take

It felt good to catch up with Andy Horton again (see below for titles I have read before). He is still a bit of a loose cannon that life has dealt some hard knocks to. Some of it he brings on himself.

This felt like a good book to start again on, so if you haven't read any of Pauline Rowson's novels and are looking for relatively quick reads, then this could be where you will start. Characters are well described and plots are well constructed.

I will certainly be trying the second title in this series.

My rating: 4.5  

THE DETECTIVE
DI Andy Horton’s mum walked out on him when he was a child and he grew up in children’s home. Now he lives onboard his yacht in Southsea Marina. He rides a Harley-Davidson and never wears a suit or tie — unless it’s to go to court. He’s an instinctive copper and a man of contrasts, which often lands him in trouble with his bosses. He has a desperate need to belong, and yet is always just on the outside. Self-contained, afraid to show his feelings, but he’s a risk-taker that seeks justice.

THE SETTING
Portsmouth boasts a vibrant waterfront, a diverse multicultural population, an international port, a historic dockyard, and is home of the Royal Navy. Portsmouth Harbour is one of the busiest in the world — and one of the best places to hide a body, it seems. Set against the backdrop of the sea, the Solent area of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight is every detective’s worst nightmare. The sea is ever-changing and often the best clues get swept away by the tide.

THE SOLENT MURDER MYSTERIES
Book 1: THE PORTSMOUTH MURDERS
Book 2: THE LANGSTONE HARBOUR MURDERS
Book 3: THE HORSEA MARINA MURDERS
Book 4: THE ROYAL HOTEL MURDERS
Book 5: THE ISLE OF WIGHT MURDERS
Book 6: THE PORTCHESTER CASTLE MURDERS
Book 7: THE CHALE BAY MURDERS
Book 8: THE FARLINGTON MARSH MURDERS
Book 9: THE OYSTER QUAYS MURDERS
Book 10: THE COWES WEEK MURDERS
Book 11: THE BOATHOUSE MURDERS
Book 12: THE THORNEY ISLAND MURDERS
Book 13: THE GUERNSEY FERRY MURDERS

I've also read

DEADLY WATERS
THE SUFFOCATING SEA
4.4, DEAD MAN'S WHARF
4.3, A KILLING COAST
4.6, DEATH LIES BENEATH
4.5, DEATH SURGE
4.6, SHROUD OF EVIL
4.3, FATAL CATCH

17 September 2022

Review: 56 DAYS, Catherine Ryan Howard

  • This edition made available through my local library as an e-book on Libby
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Blackstone Publishing (August 17, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 312 pages 

Synopsis (Amazon)

No one even knew they were together. Now one of them is dead.

56 DAYS AGO

Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin and start dating the same week COVID-19 reaches Irish shores.

35 DAYS AGO

When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests they move in together. Ciara sees a unique opportunity for a relationship to flourish without the scrutiny of family and friends. Oliver sees a chance to hide who—and what—he really is.

TODAY

Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside.

Can they determine what really happened, or has lockdown created an opportunity for someone to commit the perfect crime? 

My Take

I read somewhere recently that discerning readers will in the future require writers to identify their time frame as pre-pandemic or post-pandemic, but this is the first novel that I've read that uses the pandemic as a background.

Much of what happens in Dublin as Ireland goes into lockdown in the first wave of the pandemic will be familiar to you. It certainly coincides with what happened here in Australia as Covid-19 raced through our cities and the fingers of infection reached out to us. Australia closed its borders to keep us safe, we worked from home, schools closed, and we all hibernated.

There are some interesting features to this novel. Ciara and Oliver are the two main narrative voices, and while we are aware from early on that Oliver has a hidden past, Ciara's hidden past does not emerge until later on. The settings jump time frames, leaping from TODAY back into the past, and we sometimes see an event from at least two points of view.

Very well constructed.  And it raises some interesting questions, not the least the one of whether anybody really ever pays the full price for a mistake in their past.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

14 September 2022

Review: THE WRONG WOMAN, J. P. Pomare

  • This edition published by Hachette Australia
  • available from my local library

  • Jul 27, 2022
  • ISBN 9781869718190
  • 334 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

IT WAS A TRAGIC ACCIDENT. WASN'T IT? A private investigator returning to the hometown he fled years ago becomes entangled in the disappearance of two teenage girls in this stunning literary crime thriller.

Reid left the small town of Manson a decade ago, promising his former Chief of Police boss he'd never return. He made a new life in the city, became a PI and turned his back on his old life.

Now an insurance firm has offered him good money to look into a suspicious car crash, and he finds himself back in the place he grew up - home to his complicated family history, a scarring relationship breakdown and a very public career-ending incident.

As Reid's investigation unfolds, nothing is as it seems: rumours are swirling about the well-liked young woman who crashed the car, killing her professor husband, and their possible connection to a local student who has gone missing.

Soon Reid finds himself veering away from the job he has been paid to do. Will he end up in the dangerous position of taking on the town again?

My Take

A woman has driven her car into a tree, killing her husband. Two teenage girls are missing.  A private investigator, once a policeman, is employed to investigate the crash, to find out if it really was an accident, or did the woman deliberately drive her car into a tree? Why would she? Are these strands all linked?

There are a number of mysteries for the reader to solve. Why did Reid leave the twin towns in California originally? Why did he promise never to return?

A tightly woven plot, hints dropped here and there, told mainly by two narrators, threaded skilfully between the past and the present.

Pomare is an author to watch out for.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

10 September 2022

Review: REWIND, Catherine Ryan Howard

  • This edition made available by my local library as an e-book on Libby
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07N7Z1785
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Corvus; Main edition (August 22, 2019)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 370 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

From the bestselling, Edgar-nominated novelist Catherine Ryan Howard comes an explosive story about a twisted voyeur and a terrible crime ...

PLAY

Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Cottages, watches his only guest via a hidden camera in her room. One night the unthinkable happens: a shadowy figure emerges on-screen, kills her, and destroys the camera. But who is the murderer? How did they know about the camera? And how will Andrew live with himself?

PAUSE

Natalie wishes she'd stayed at home as soon as she arrives in the wintry isolation of Shanamore. There's something creepy about the manager. She wants to leave, but she can't -- not until she's found what she's looking for ...

REWIND

Psycho meets Fatal Attraction in this explosive story about a murder caught on camera. You've already missed the start. To get the full picture you must rewind the tape and play it through to the end, no matter how shocking ... 

My Take

While I found this novel very engaging reading, I must admit that I puzzled a lot over its structure and eventually gave up on trying to make sense of it. 

The final explanation of who was behind the crime and why, was in many ways "out of left field" as they say.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

Review: LYING BESIDE YOU, Michael Robotham

  • this edition published in 2022 by Hachette Australia
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-4815-1
  • 390 pages
  • #3 in the Cyrus Haven series 

Synopsis (publisher)

TWO MISSING WOMEN. ONE WITNESS. SO MANY LIES . . . The brand-new thriller by the number-one bestselling and award-winning master of crime

Twenty years ago, Cyrus Haven's family was murdered. Only he and his brother survived. Cyrus because he hid. Elias because he was the killer.

Now Elias is being released from a secure psychiatric hospital and Cyrus, a forensic psychologist, must decide if he can forgive the man who destroyed his childhood.

As he prepares for the homecoming, Cyrus is called to a crime scene in Nottingham. A man is dead and his daughter Maya is missing. Then a second woman is abducted . . . The only witness is Evie Cormac, a troubled teenager with an incredible gift: she can tell when you are lying.

Both missing women have dark secrets that Cyrus must unravel to find them - and he and Evie know better than anybody how the past can come back to haunt you . . .

This breathtaking new thriller from the #1 bestselling author will keep you guessing until the very end.

My Take

Michael Robotham handles multiple plot strands with such ease. And even though this is the third in the series we get new insights into both Evie Cormac and Cyrus Haven and their relationship.

Cyrus is not sure whether he can handle his brother Elias coming out of psychiatric hospital and Evie is fearful about what it means for her life as a lodger in Cyrus's house. For despite the fact that Elias is medicated, he is still not normal.

Meanwhile Cyrus is continuing to work in his usual job, as a forensic psychologist, and Evie observes on the fringes of his work.

An excellent novel.

Readers will ask if they need to read the first two in this particular series - the answer: yes you do - before you read this one!

My rating: 5.0

About the author

Before becoming a novelist, Michael Robotham was a former feature writer and investigative reporter working in Britain, Australia and America, and with clinical and forensic psychologists as they helped police investigate complex, psychologically driven crimes. His debut thriller, The Suspect, introduced clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin and sold more than a million copies around the world. The first of a nine-book series, The Suspect is being adapted for the screen by World Productions (makers of Line of Duty and Bodyguard), starring Aidan Turner. Michael's standalone thriller The Secrets She Keeps was adapted for TV by Network 10 and the BBC. The second series is out now.

Michael is the only Australian to twice win the UK's prestigious Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel, for LIFE OR DEATH and GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL as well as the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for WHEN SHE WAS GOOD. His latest Book, LYING BESIDE YOU, is the third book in his bestselling Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac series.

Michael lives in Sydney.

I've also read

1 September 2022

Review: THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, Margie Orford

  • this edition made available on Kindle via Amazon
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09NW1XS2K
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Canongate Books (July 7, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 321 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

When danger lies in the eye of the beholder, what happens when you reject its pull?

Cora carries secrets her daughter can’t know.
Freya is frightened by what her mother leaves unsaid.
Angel will only bury the past if it means putting her abusers into the ground.

One act of violence sets the three women on a collision course, each desperate to find the truth. In a nail-biting thriller set between the scorched red soil of South Africa, the pitiless snowfields of Canada and the chilly lochsides of western Scotland, each woman must contend with the spectres of male violence, sexual abuse and the choices we each make to keep our souls.

My Take

This was one of those books that felt almost longer than it actually is. Three women's lives converge along what seemed to me improbable lines. Cora is the main thread of the book, but the other two threads are joined to he by both who they are and also by the things that have happened to them.

A very harrowing read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author 

Margie Orford is an award-winning journalist who has been dubbed the Queen of South African Crime Fiction. Her Clare Hart crime novels have been translated into ten languages and are being developed into a television series. She was born in London and grew up in Namibia. A Fulbright Scholar, she was educated in South Africa and the United States, has a doctorate in creative writing from the University of East Anglia and is an honorary fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford. She is president Emerita of PEN South Africa and was the patron of Rape Crisis Cape Town while she lived in South Africa. She now lives in London.

Review: THE RED NOTEBOOK, Antoine Laurain

  • this edition first published in English by Gallic Books 2015
  • translated from French by Emily Boyce
  • ISBN 978-1-908313-86-7
  • 159 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street, and feels impelled to return it to its owner. The bag contains no money, phone or contact information. But a small red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions? 

My Take

You probably can't justifiably categorise this book as crime fiction, more a mystery. We know from the very beginning who the red notebook belongs to. We know how it came to be abandoned in the street in the handbag that was stolen from its owner. As we keep an eye on the recovery of its owner, we watch Laurent Letellier investigate its contents and try to track down its owner.

A good read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Antoine Laurain is the award-winning author of nine novels including The Red Notebook (Indie Next, MIBA bestseller) and The President’s Hat (Waterstones Book Club, Indies Introduce). His books have been translated into 25 languages and sold more than 200,000 copies in English. He lives in Paris.

Emily Boyce is a translator and editor. She was shortlisted for the French Book Office New Talent in Translation Award in 2008, the French-American Translation Prize in 2016, and the Scott Moncrieff Prize in 2021. She lives in London.

 

Review: THE NOTHING MAN, Catherine Ryan Howard

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby through my local library
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0855N98FH
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Corvus; Main edition (6 August 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 309 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

I was the girl who survived the Nothing Man.
Now I am the woman who is going to catch him...

You've just read the opening pages of The Nothing Man, the true crime memoir Eve Black has written about her obsessive search for the man who killed her family nearly two decades ago.

Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle is reading it too, and with each turn of the page his rage grows. Because Jim was - is - the Nothing Man.

The more Jim reads, the more he realises how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won't give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first...

My Take

This is the 3rd of this author's stand alone novels that I have read, each very different from the last. 

Jim Doyle used to be a policeman, but has left the force and works as a security guard in a shopping centre in Cork. At the book shop he notices a new book on display, just released,  THE NOTHING MAN, by Eve Black. So Eve has written the book - it is about him - and the murder of the rest of her family twenty years earlier.

It is a very adventurously constructed novel, with the principal narratives from Jim and Evie. We start with the essay that Evie wrote in her creative writing course, a thinly disguised statement about how The Nothing Man took her family away, and her childhood when she was 12 years old. Hers was the last family The Nothing Man attacked, his fifth strike in two years. The essay established Evie as The Girl Who.

Evie is convinced that if she can work out how her family was chosen, she will be able to identify The Nothing Man. She hopes that she will be able to lure him out from his cloak of secrecy.

The book makes compelling reading.

My rating: 4.7

 I've also read

21 August 2022

Review: PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT, Agatha Christie

  • this edition a large print one published in 2012 by Harper Collins Publishers
  • novel first published 1970
  • ISBN 978-1-4448-0305-1
  • 357 pages

Synopsis (Agatha Christie fandom)

Sir Stafford Nye's flight home from Malaya takes an unexpected twist when the bored diplomat is approached in an airport by a woman whose life is in danger, he agrees to lend her his passport and boarding ticket. Suddenly, Stafford has unwittingly entered a web of international intrigue, from which the only escape is to outwit the power-crazed Countess von Waldsausen who is hell-bent on world domination through the manipulation and arming of the planet's youth, which brings with it what promises to be a resurgence of Nazi domination. Unwittingly the diplomat has put his own life on the line; when he meets the mystery woman again she is a different person and he finds himself drawn into a battle against an invisible and altogether more dangerous enemy.

My Take

I was so conscious that my U3A Agatha Christie reading group might make heavy weather of this novel that I wrote them some guidelines for their reading:

I am very conscious that you won't find PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT the easiest book to read but please persist.

Passenger to Frankfurt: An Extravanganza is a spy novel by Agatha Christie first published in the UK by the Collins Crime Club in September 1970 and in the US later in the same year.

It was published to mark Christie's eightieth birthday and, by counting up both UK and US short-story collections to reach the desired total, was also advertised as her eightieth book. It is the last of her spy novels. 

Plot Summary (from Agatha Christie fandom)
Sir Stafford Nye's flight home from Malaya takes an unexpected twist when the bored diplomat is approached in an airport by a woman whose life is in danger, he agrees to lend her his passport and boarding ticket. Suddenly, Stafford has unwittingly entered a web of international intrigue, from which the only escape is to outwit the power-crazed Countess von Waldsausen who is hell-bent on world domination through the manipulation and arming of the planet's youth, which brings with it what promises to be a resurgence of Nazi domination. Unwittingly the diplomat has put his own life on the line; when he meets the mystery woman again she is a different person and he finds himself drawn into a battle against an invisible and altogether more dangerous enemy.

There is more detail and a list of characters at https://agathachristie.fandom.com/wiki/Passenger_to_Frankfurt but you may not want to look at that until after you've finished reading it and after you've made your own notes.

So, in reading it, I suggest you make your own notes and try to think about the following questions

  • think about Christie the social commentator: what is she observing happening in the world (in the 1950s and 1960s)?
  • think of the world events that are described in various chapters as snapshots from television news reels. Make a list of some of them
  • Make a list of the world problems that Christie identifies.
  • What does the Young Siegfried symbolise? Who is he?
  • What does the young woman to whom Sir Stafford Nye lends his cloak at Frankfurt airport carry into England?
  • Where and when did Christie make this sort of commentary before?
  • What does this novel have in common with one that we read earlier, DESTINATION UNKNOWN?
  • Make a list of your own questions and comments not covered by mine

This novel had a very mixed reception. Can you understand why? Is it a satire or are we meant to take it seriously?

I read this novel nearly 10 years ago and really didn't give it much credit then and gave it a rating of 2.0

Today I am feeling a bit more kindly to it, but have still only given it 3.5 and I feel there is a certain clumsiness about it and I don't think it was a style she was suited to.

See my list of Agatha Christie novels.


17 August 2022

Review: WINTERKILL, Ragnar Jonasson

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • ISBN: 9781913193447
  • ISBN-10: 1913193446
  • #6 in Dark Iceland series
  • Number Of Pages: 276
  • Published: 1st March 2021
  • translated into English from French by David Warriner

Synopsis (publisher)

When the body of a 19-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjordur, Police Inspector Ari Thor battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer . . . The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjordur, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes. 

Ari Thor Arason is now a police inspector, but he's separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air. 

Three days before Easter, a 19-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes "She was murdered" again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death . . . 

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjordur, Ari Thor must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth . . . one that will leave no one unscathed. Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jonasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction. 

My Take

Easter is approaching when a girl's body is found near a house in the main street. At first she seems to have fallen from a first floor balcony but there are no witnesses. And then the balcony has only her fingerprints, and the owner is away in Reyjavik, and the conclusion is that the girl must have jumped. Her mother is understandably distraught and her father flies in from America. Both seem convinced that she was pushed, and they in turn push Ari Thor to investigate the incident thoroughly. 

His girlfriend and young son arrive from Sweden for the weekend, and Ari Thor is determined to give them as much time as he can. He gives them his house and stays in the local hotel. There are aspects of this case that are unsettling and on closer attention he unearths some disturbing ideas. 

In the long run Ari Thor discovers another murder, one that others had accepted as a natural death.

I find it hard to put a finger on what is different about Icelandic writing. I think Jonasson's style is deceptively simple, and it is not just the effect of the text having been translated. 

My rating: 4.5 

I've also read

Series
Dark Iceland
   1. Snowblind (2015)
   2. Nightblind (2015)
   3. Blackout (2016)
   4. Rupture (2016)
   5. Whiteout (2017)
   6. Winterkill (2020)

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