27 February 2022

Review: REMEMBER ME, Liz Byrski

  • This edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00LZ5OYJC
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Fremantle Press; 2nd edition (August 1, 2010)
  • Originally published 2000
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 329 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Separated from her true love at the age of 18, Liz dreamt of the day he would return to marry her, but fate had other plans. 

Thirty-seven years later, Liz answers the telephone to hear a voice from the past that still has the power to stop her in her tracks. A true story of love lost and found, this personal memoir journeys across continents and decades to relate the details of the couple's original love affair and their reunion years later. Poignant and romantic, this story is a testament to the extraordinary powers of the heart. 

My Take

You will have realised from the above descriptor that this is a departure from my usual crime fiction,

I did not realise until I had nearly finished the book that this is a memoir, written hot on the heels of the author's reunion with Karl Heinz 37 years after they first met. By this time they had both been in other marriages, and the book ends just after their reunion.

Plenty of discussion points in the book. Was their original separation on the grounds that Liz was too young for marriage a valid one? What chance did their reunion have after they had spent so long apart, and had so many experiences that were not shared?

My rating: 4.4

Ive also read


26 February 2022

Review: CANTICLE CREEK, Adrian Hyland

  •  this edition published by Ultimo Press 2021
  • ISBN 978-176115003-6
  • 342 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Two bodies. One long hot summer. A town that will never be the same.

When Adam Lawson's wrecked car is found a kilometre from Daisy Baker’s body, the whole town assumes it’s an open and shut case. But Jesse Redpath isn’t from Canticle Creek. Where she comes from, the truth often hides in plain sight, but only if you know where to look. When Jesse starts to ask awkward questions, she uncovers a town full of contradictions and a cast of characters with dark pasts, secrets to hide and even more to lose.

As the temperature soars, and the ground bakes, the wilderness surrounding Canticle Creek becomes a powderkeg waiting to explode. All it needs is one spark.

A twisty crime thriller set in small town Australia perfect for readers of The Dry and Scrublands.

My take

It is over 10 years since I have read anything by Adrian Hyland and CANTICLE CREEK demonstrates that he still has the touch.

Jesse Redpath is a Northern Territory outback cop. She is the officer in charge of the station at Kulara. One of the local boys Adam Lawson has gone off the tails a bit and Jesse has put in a word for him with the local magistrate and has set him up with a job at the roadhouse, and boarding with her artist father. Despite getting on well with Jesse's father Ben, Adam takes off for the south and ends up going to Melbourne. The next Jesse hears is that he has been killed in a road crash near Canticle Creek after killing his girlfriend. This doesn't sound like the Adam that Jesse and her father knew.

Ben Redpath is a highly regarded artist.  He has been invited to Melbourne to participate in a joint art exhibition and Jesse decides to accompany him and to go to Canticle Creek to satisfy herself that everything had been done to investigate Adam's death.

This was a very believable book. I really like the new character Jesse Redpath, who always seems to ask those extra questions. Here also is a writer who seems to have a special connection to "country" which he acknowledges himself at the end of the book.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read 5.0, GUNSHOT ROAD

20 February 2022

Review: CROCODILE TEARS, Alan Carter

Synopsis (publisher

Detective Philip ‘Cato’ Kwong is investigating the death of a retiree found hacked to pieces in his suburban Perth home. The trail leads to Timor-Leste, with its recent blood-soaked history. There, he reunites with an old frenemy, the spook Rory Driscoll who, in Cato’s experience, has always occupied a hazy moral terrain.

Resourceful, multilingual, and hard as nails, Rory has been Canberra’s go-to guy when things get sticky in the Asia-Pacific. Now Rory wants out. But first he’s needed to chaperone a motley group of whistleblowers with a price on their heads. And there’s one on his, too.

Part espionage thriller, part police procedural, Crocodile Tears shows powerful forces, at home and abroad, determined to keep their secrets buried. At any cost.

My Take

Cato Kwong is has moved to of Perth's Major Crimes Unit ( I have to admit that I haven't read the last two novels in the series), he is married, and has a small child. He is recently wounded while on duty, and close to burn-out. His wife Sharon works with the airport police, and they lead busy and demanding lives. Something's got to give.

This is a novel that keeps you on your toes, with two narrative streams: one for Cato, and one for Rory Driscoll, ex-spook, who is introduced in a prologue with an incident 14 years earlier.

In Perth a retiree is found dead, multiple slash wounds, missing an ear. He is an ex-cop and Cato is convinced the missing ear is a clue. This murder is followed with that of an ex-teacher, eyes gouged out. What connects these two?

Meanwhile a passenger, apparently Timorese by birth, has a meltdown on a plane landing at Perth airport, and comes to Cato's wife's attention.

So, a complex plot, made more complex by the introduction of Rory Driscoll, former spook, aboriginal. His ex-employer, nick named Aunty, Canberra intelligence mandarin, wants Driscoll to make sure three whistle blowers are able to report to a meeting of a committee from the Hague in Darwin in three weeks time. Their names are on a hit list and so is Rory's. Timor-Leste appears to connect the other three, but Driscoll can't think what has put his name on the list.

I think I suffered a little from the fact that I had not read books #3 and #4 in the series, although CROCODILE TEARS works pretty well as a stand-alone. Plenty to think about. Quality Australian writing.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

Alan Carter - Awards

Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (Winner 2018)
Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction (Winner 2011)
UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award (Shortlisted 2010)

18 February 2022

Review: CROOKED HOUSE, Agatha Christie

  • This edition published 1989 by William Collins
  • Originally published in 1949
  • ISBN 0-00-616864-7
  • 188 pages

Synopsis (Agatha Christie.com)

A wealthy Greek businessman is found dead at his London home… The Leonides were one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That was until the head of the household, Aristide, was murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection. Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiance of the late millionaire’s granddaughter… 

The crooked house of the title is much like the house in the nursery rhyme There was a Crooked Man. The narrator, in love with a daughter of the household, wonders if this means dishonest or as she describes it “twisted and twining”, unable to grow up independently, all surrounding the family patriarch and murder victim. The shock ending was nothing new for Agatha Christie but it certainly surprised her readers. It was so shocking in fact that her publishers at the time wanted her to change the ending, but Christie refused.

My Take

I'm re-reading this for the Agatha Christie discussion group that I am leading at U3A.

The story is set in London after World War II. Both Sophia Leonides and Charles Hayward have been overseas during the war.

Among the questions that I want to  talk about with my group:

  • the reliability of the narrator
  • Agatha Christie's familiarity with poisons
  • the portrayal of children in this novel
  • the deception that Aristide Leonides resorted to about his will - was it justified or necessary?
  • the portrayal of the main characters - can you visualise them?
  • how realistic or ethical was it of Scotland Yard to involve Charles Hayward in the investigation?
  • how surprised were you by the ending?
  • Why was Aristide Leonides murdered?
    What does his murder tell you about the murderer?
    What was his opinion of the murderer?
    Who did you consider might have been the murderer?
    What red herrings were there?
    Was there anyone you decided could not have committed the murder?
  • What about the other people who are murdered during the book?

We will follow our discussion up with the viewing of the 2017 film with Glenn Close and Max Irons in it. Do they think this film is a good interpretation of the novel?

Here is a quiz that I could direct them to.

My rating: 4.5

My earlier review 

All Agatha Christie novels

15 February 2022

Review: A ROMAN SHADOW, H.L. Marsay

  • This edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09CG6RCG3
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Tule Publishing (February 3, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 196 pages
  • Chief Inspector Shadow #4

Synopsis (Amazon)

There’s no such thing as a coincidence in York…

As Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year approach, the ancient city of York is busier than ever and so is Detective Chief Inspector John Shadow. First he has the theft of valuable Roman artifacts from a museum, then a Chinese tourist is reported missing. During his investigations, he encounters jewellers, chocolatiers, museum curators and Roman soldiers—all pieces to a puzzle he must solve. After discovering a series of coincidences, he begins to suspect there may be a link between the two cases.

John Shadow is a man of contradictions. A solitary figure who notices the smallest details about other people, but endeavours to avoid their company. A lover of good food, but whose fridge is almost always empty. Although he would prefer to work alone, he is ably assisted by his eager partner Sergeant Jimmy Chang.

Shadow suspects he knows who the culprit is, but he needs proof. And then there’s the headache of trying to dodge attending an important party, even as the normally easygoing Jimmy behaves out of character…  

My Take

I'm thoroughly enjoying this small series of cozies set in York. Not only are the plots credible but the characters are being fleshed out well. The main characters are developing well, and the human interest side of each story is coming along too.

If you are going to pick them up, do take the trouble to start from the beginning. The Kindle versions won't cost you much. Recommended.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

13 February 2022


  • this edition published by William Heinemann 2021
  • ISBN 978-1-785-152627
  • 172 pages
  • Commissario Brunetti #30

Synopsis (publisher)

The landmark thirtieth instalment of the global bestselling Commissario Brunetti series

When two young American women are badly injured in a boating accident, joy riding in Venice's Laguna with two young Italians, Commissario Guido Brunetti's curiosity is aroused by the behaviour of the young men, who abandoned the victims after taking them to the hospital.

As Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, investigate, they discover that one of the young men works for a man rumoured to be involved in more sinister night-time activities in the Laguna. To get to the bottom of the mystery, Brunetti needs to enlist the help of both the Carabinieri and the Guardia Costiera. Determining how much trust he and Griffoni can put in these unfamiliar colleagues only adds to the difficulty of solving this peculiarly horrible crime.

Donna Leon's landmark thirtieth Brunetti novel is as powerful as any she has written, testing Brunetti to his limits, forcing him to listen very carefully for the truth.

My Take

As always Donna Leon uses Brunetti as her mouthpiece with his reflections about what is happening to Venice: the effects of the tourist industry on the local economy, the flooding of the streets, the reduction of the local population, the lack of work for young people, the influence of the Mafia, and the impact of drug smuggling, and people trafficking.

Brunetti's nose takes him out of the streets of Venice, following some events that don't seem quite right to him. Why didn't the young men who took the American girls to the hospital stay there with them? Why did they abandon them? That scenario drives Brunetti's intuition, as he begins to wonder about one of the young men in particular, what he has to hide.

It is 4 years since I read one in this series, and I see that there are 3 titles that I have missed (which I must catch up with). There is some acknowledgement of the pandemic in this book, but not a lot. Mainly in the fact that there have been few tourist boats. The main characters are there, including Brunetti's family, but Brunetti himself seems a little tireder.

A good read.

My rating: 4.6

About the Author

Donna Leon was named by The Times as one of the 50 Greatest Crime Writers. She is an award-winning crime novelist, celebrated for the bestselling Brunetti series. Donna has lived in Venice for thirty years and previously lived in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China, where she worked as a teacher. Donna’s books have been translated into 35 languages and have been published around the world. Her previous novels featuring Commissario Brunetti have all been highly acclaimed; including Friends in High Places, which won the CWA Macallan Silver Dagger for Fiction, Fatal Remedies, Doctored Evidence, A Sea of Troubles and Beastly Things. 

I've also read

4.5, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS, Donna Leon - abridged audio version


11 February 2022

Review: THE NIGHT BIRD, Brian Freeman

  • this edition published in 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
  • ISBN 978-15030943568
  • 350 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

What if you had to relive your most terrifying memory…over and over? A detective and a psychiatrist investigate in Thriller Award–winning author Brian Freeman's gripping psychological novel.

Homicide detective Frost Easton doesn't like coincidences. When a series of bizarre deaths rock San Francisco―as seemingly random women suffer violent psychotic breaks―Frost looks for a connection that leads him to psychiatrist Francesca Stein. Frankie's controversial therapy helps people erase their most terrifying memories―and all the victims were her patients.

As Frost and Frankie carry out their own investigations, the case becomes increasingly personal―and dangerous. Long-submerged secrets surface as someone called the Night Bird taunts the pair with cryptic messages pertaining to the deaths. Soon Frankie is forced to confront strange gaps in her own memory, and Frost faces a killer who knows the detective's worst fears.

As the body count rises and the Night Bird circles ever closer, a dedicated cop and a brilliant doctor race to solve the puzzle before a cunning killer claims another victim.

My Take

Psychiatrist Frankie Stein meddles with people's memories and fears. She tries to eliminate things that they want to forget and at times substitutes pleasant feelings. There are those including her own father that believe she goes too far. In particular she writes a favourable psychiatric report for someone who is clearly a murderer and gets him out of jail.

But somebody is playing the same game with some of her ex-patients, making them react to triggers like special sounds and music. A number of them have died without warning after psychotic episodes.

Detective Frost Easton meets someone who witnessed a person jumping off a bridge. The episode happened without warning and he is worried that the witness herself may be targeted by a person in a mask that she saw on the bridge. 

This plot is a very creepy scenario particularly after it becomes obvious that those who have died are  being stalked by someone.

My rating: 4.4 

About the author

Brian Freeman is a New York Times and Amazon Charts bestselling author of more than two dozen psychological thrillers, including the Jonathan Stride and Frost Easton series. His books have been sold in 46 countries and 23 languages. He is widely acclaimed for his "you are there" settings and his complex, engaging characters and twist-filled plots. Brian was also selected as the official author to continue Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne series, and his novel THE BOURNE EVOLUTION was named by Kirkus as one of the best mysteries and thrillers of 2020.

Brian's stand-alone thriller SPILLED BLOOD won the award for Best Hardcover Novel in the annual Thriller Awards given out by the International Thriller Writers organization, and his fifth novel THE BURYING PLACE was a finalist for the same award. His novel THE DEEP, DEEP SNOW was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original in 2021.

His debut thriller, IMMORAL, won the Macavity Award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the Edgar, Dagger, Anthony, and Barry Awards. IMMORAL was named an International Book of the Month, a distinction shared with authors such as Harlan Coben and Lisa Unger.


6 February 2022

Review: THE INVITATION, Lucy Foley

Synopsis (publisher)

It’s 1951. In Europe’s post-war wreckage, the glittering Italian Riviera draws an eclectic cast of characters; lured by the glamour but seeking an escape.

Amongst them, two outcasts: Hal, an English journalist who’s living on his charm; and Stella, an enigmatic society beauty, bound to a profiteering husband. When Hal receives a mysterious invitation from a wealthy Contessa, he finds himself aboard a yacht headed for Cannes film festival.

Scratch the beautiful surface, and the post-war scars of his new companions are quick to show. Then there’s Stella, whose secrets run deeper than anyone’s — stretching back into the violence of Franco’s Spain. And as Hal gets drawn closer, a love affair begins that will endanger everyone…

The Invitation is an epic love story that will transport you from the glamour of the Italian Riviera, to the darkness of war-torn Spain. Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Victoria Hislop.

My take

For my blog followers, I should first of all tell you, that this is not crime fiction, my usual fare. 

This book tells its story through a number of time frames, which makes it a challenging read.  In addition there are two main plot lines: the current story, and that of an old hand written journal. The author uses different type face too, presumably to help the reader decide which story you are reading.

Hal's initial invitation to a party being held by the Contessa comes from a friend who cannot go. The Contessa is throwing a party for her rich friends, trying to attract investment for a film based on part of her family history. Hal is a journalist who has been living in Rome since the end of the war. He manages by writing small pieces for a magazine but is in desperate need of work. At the party the Contessa takes a liking to him and promises to be in touch later. At the party he also meets Stella, who comes back to his flat with him - a one-night stand. 

Fifteen months later the Contessa contacts him. The Film is made, she has funding, it is being released at Cannes, and she needs a captive journalist. And so the Hal-Stella story begins.

The blurb says this is an "epic love story". It is also about infatuation, possession, and the impact of events in Europe, in particular Spain since the mid 1930s, on the lives of families and individuals.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read 


2 February 2022

Review: WILD PLACE, Christian White

Synopsis (publisher)

In the summer of 1989, a local teen goes missing from the idyllic Australian suburb of Camp Hill. As rumours of Satanic rituals swirl, schoolteacher Tom Witter becomes convinced he holds the key to the disappearance. When the police won’t listen, he takes matters into his own hands with the help of the missing girl’s father and a local neighbourhood watch group.

But as dark secrets are revealed and consequences to past actions are faced, Tom learns that the only way out of the darkness is to walk deeper into it. Wild Place peels back the layers of suburbia, exposing what’s hidden underneath – guilt, desperation, violence – and attempts to answer the question: why do good people do bad things?

My Take

In an Author's Note at the end the author tells us that his plot style is to "take one crime trope,  add a strange and interesting thing that intrigues me, blend and pour over ice..... Wild Place is a Rear Window-style mystery. The special ingredient: "Satanic Panic - a wave of hysteria and moral outrage that swept the world in the 1980s and 90s." "

A few weeks before Christmas 1989 teenager Tracie Reed goes missing. As the end of the year approaches she is still missing and the suburb of Camp Hill puts its community under a microscope. Neighbourhood Watch in particular has created a vigilante mindset, and one teenager in particular is viewed with great suspicion. And there are many who have things to hide.

Camp Hill is an Australian suburb on the Mornington Peninsular in Victoria. I had to remind myself a number of times of the Australian setting because I felt at times there was a North American vibe to it.

As the blurb says, the central theme is why good people do bad things. I was amazed at how this plot finalised, because I didn't have the "bad person" pegged at all, nor their motivation. 

Fascinating. In the long run, several good people do bad things. But which do you think is the worst? This would make a good book for a group discussion if you are looking for one.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read


1 February 2022

Review: A GHOSTLY SHADOW, H. L. Marsay

  • This edition, format Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0973LJSTX
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Tule Publishing (October 14, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 203 pages
  • #3 Chief Inspector Shadow Mystery

Synopsis  (Amazon)

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you…

This Halloween, the notorious rivalry between York's iconic ghost walk tour guides spirals out of control when the body of one guide dressed as the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin is found hanging from a tree. A few days later, his partner, who plays Guy Fawkes, is killed by an explosion of gunpowder at their office.

Detective Chief Inspector John Shadow is a man of contradictions. A solitary figure who notices the smallest details about other people, but endeavours to avoid their company. A lover of good food, but whose fridge is almost always empty. Although he would prefer to work alone, he is assisted by his eager and easygoing partner Sergeant Jimmy Chang. Despite a sprained ankle, a stray cat and an impromptu trip to Oxford, the two men investigate the shocking murders that have York on edge. Are the murders the work of a madman or a business feud?

And then the killer strikes again.

My Take

I am thoroughly enjoying this series of cozies set in modern day York, so much so that I have pre-ordered the next, A ROMAN SHADOW, due to be published in just a few days time.

There is a lovely blend of tourist events in York, a believable plot with enough clues and red herrings, and a cast of well drawn characters. In particular John Shadow and Jimmy Chang are developing well. Shadow is one of those detectives who uses a mixture of hard work, pounding the beat, logic and intuition to solve the crimes. He is always under pressure from the Chief Constable to work more efficiently and quickly.

Recommended, but do read the titles in order.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


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