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

4.5, B - VERY FLAT
4.3, IN A WORD: MURDER  (edit)

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.

24 March 2022

Review: THE GARDENER, Salley Vickers

Synopsis (publisher

A charming new novel about two sisters who buy a ramshackle country house together, from the bestselling author of The Librarian and Grandmothers

'Two sisters, Halcyon and Marguerite Days, after heated exchanges and months of debate, had put together the money left them by their father and bought Knight's Fee, a house in Hope Wenlock, just on the English side of the Welsh Borders. The house was timbered, roomy and, certainly on the outside, picturesque; "a jigsaw picture house", it was described by the agents (a description which had for some time set Hassie against going to view it). What she had seen, when Margot's persistence eroded her resistance, was a rambling redbrick building, covered in Virginia creeper, with a sprawling garden, invaded by weeds, yellow fungi, and clumps of brooding nettles. . .'

When the sisters hire Murat, who has recently arrived in Hope Wenlock from Albania, to be their gardener, they unwittingly unleash tensions in the quiet English village they have begun to call home. The Gardener is a beautifully observed tale of sisterhood, secrets, belonging and new beginnings, from the best-selling author of The Librarian.

My Take

It is books like this that make me wonder why I don't read more outside the crime fiction genre. Too much inside the genre competing for my attention I suppose.

I have listed Salley Vickers as a "new to me author" although I'm pretty sure I have read one title by her at least, but possibly decades ago.

This to me was a reminder that sometimes you just need to read books that explore relationships, rather than always solving murder mysteries. There are mysteries in THE GARDENER but they are not the primary focus.

A gentle read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool, the child of communist parents. She grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, living in Barlastan Hall, where her father was warden of a W.E.A. college that taught adult education to Trades Union workers. She moved to London aged three and lived there for the remainder of her childhood.

She wrote her first novel, “The Door Into Time”, aged nine, thanks to an enterprising primary school teacher. The novel is lost but she believes it has influenced all her subsequent work and she regards her education at this state primary school as some of the most nourishing she has been lucky enough to receive. It is a source of great regret to her, that the current primary school curriculum is so narrow and so uncreative.

Her greatest love is poetry, which she writes badly, and her three grandchildren, whom she sees as often as they allow. She also likes music, especially opera and 60s/70s rock, walking, gardening and dancing. Her first ambition was to be a ballet dancer. One of her greatest pleasures is being able to take her granddaughter to the ballet.

She has worked as a teacher for children with special needs, for the now defunct ILEA, a tutor for the W.E.A. and for the Oxford Department of Continuing Education, a university lecturer in English, a psychoanalyst and she now writes and lectures fulltime.

She divides her time between London and Wiltshire, with regular retreats to Corfu, where she has made many friends, both with Corfiots and Albanians.

22 March 2022

Review: DEATH IN BRITTANY, Jean-Luc Bannalec

  • this edition from my local library
  • first published in German 2012
  • Translated into English 2014 by Sorcha McDonagh
  • published June 2015 by Minotaur books
  • ISBN 978-1-250-06174-4
  • 318 pages 

Synopsis (publisher)

Commissaire Georges Dupin, a cantankerous, Parisian-born caffeine junkie recently relocated from the glamour of Paris to the remote (if picturesque) Breton coast, is dragged from his morning croissant and coffee to the scene of a curious murder. The local village of Pont-Aven—a sleepy community by the sea where everyone knows one other and nothing much seems to happen—is in shock. The legendary ninety-one-year-old hotelier Pierre-Louis Pennec, owner of the Central Hotel, has been found dead.

A picture-perfect seaside village that played host to Gaugin in the nineteenth century, Pont-Aven is at the height of its tourist season and is immediately thrown into uproar. As Dupin delves into the lives of the victim and the suspects, he uncovers a web of secrecy and silence that belies the village's quaint image.

A delectable read, Jean-Luc Bannalec's Death in Brittany transports readers to the French coast, where you can practically smell the sea air and taste the perfectly cooked steak frites in an expertly crafted, page-turning mystery for fans of Martin Walker.

My Take

The 91 year old hotelier's violent death couldn't have happened at a worse time. The holiday season is about to begin and have the hotel's restaurant closed because it is a crime scene is an inconvenience for many.

The village was once the haunt of Gauguin and other artists and there is a museum that tourists flock too. Most of the hotels including the Central have exhibitions of copies of Gauguin paintings.

Commissaire Georges Dupin is not a local - he only moved to Pont-Aven four years ago- but he thinks he knows the area pretty well. He quickly finds out that the hotelier has recently found out that he had not long to live, and had begun to put his affairs in order. Dupin wonders who also knew that. What dispositions did the will make? Were people happy about their inheritances, or had they come as a shock for some. On the surface of it, apart from the Central hotel itself, and some derelict warehouses, the hotelier did not have a lot of value. His heir is his son who lives locally, and he has a half-brother from whom he has been estranged most of his life. 

Dupin also quickly discovers that not everyone is telling him the truth.

Dupin works extraordinarily long days, can't start the day without at least three cups of coffee, is rather cantankerous, and does not relate well either to his superiors or his underlings. He finds it hard to remember to keep everyone in the loop. He expects unquestioning obedience and is fortunate to have a secretary who takes his phone calls and shields him from the worst anger. 

The novel takes an extraordinary twist when there is a second death and the field of suspects narrows.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

JEAN-LUC BANNALEC is a pseudonym. The author divides his time between Germany and coastal Brittany, France. Death in Brittany, the first case for Commissaire Dupin, was published in German in March 2012 and sold 600,000 copies, spending many months on the bestseller list. It has been sold into 14 countries. 

20 March 2022

Review: SECRET SMILE, Nicci French

  • This edition provided as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Published: 24 November 2003
  • ISBN: 9780718145200
  • Pages: 320
  • Synopsis (publisher)

    You have an affair.
    You finish it.
    You think it's over. You're wrong.
    When Miranda Cotton gets home from work to find her new boyfriend, Brendan, reading her diary, she breaks off the relationship and throws him out of her flat. Getting Brendan out of her life, however is not that easy. Two weeks later her sister, Kerry, phones in ecstasy. She's in love. She has a new boyfriend. His name is Brendan . . .
    So Brendan is back in Miranda's life - with a vengeance. Why has he done this? And what does he want from her? Soon, what began as an embarrassment becomes like an infestation, and then more terrifying than her worst nightmares . . .

    My Take

    Given that this book was published in 2003, I was surprised to find that I had not read it. But perhaps just not in the life of this blog, I thought. So I investigated further, in an older database, and found that I had indeed read, and enjoyed, it back in 2005.!

    When Miranda throws Brendan out of her flat, he attaches himself to her sister, and then to her best friend.  Miranda is amazed that her family and friends can't see Brendan with her eyes, and that they all think he is wonderful, and that she is the one that needs help. Brendan gets a policeman on his side and there is talk of Miranda being charged with stalking. But she thinks she knows what Brendan is doing and the damage that he is causing in her family. She starts looking for others who may have been his victims.

    A very good read.

    My rating: 4.7

    I've also read


    Review: THE BOTHY, G . R. Jordan

    • this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
    • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B083Y23RWZ
    • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (February 27, 2020)
    • Print length ‏ : ‎ 234 pages 
    • A Highlands and Islands Detective Thriller #2

    Synopsis (Amazon)

    Two bodies in a burnt out love nest. A cultish lifestyle and children moulded by domination. Can Macleod unravel the Black Isle mystery before the killer dispenses judgement again?

    DI Macleod heads for the Black Isle as winter sets in to unravel the mystery of two lovers in a burned out bothy. With his feisty partner DC McGrath, he must unravel the connection between a family living under a cultish cloud and a radio station whose staff are being permanently retired. In the dark of winter, can Macleod shine a light on the shadowy relationships driving a killer to their murderous tasks?

    Forgetting your boundaries has never been so deadly!

    My Take

    This is my second outing with Macleod and McGrath. A different setting to last time. (The settings will make you look for your atlas.) Two bodies to be identified and in the long run an unexpected resolution.

    I like the way the detective duo and the relationship between them is being fleshed out. There is a lot of back story being developed. The plot in this one was a little bizarre, and some threads a little bit far-fetched, but it still the main action drew me in. 

    I think I'm hooked but perhaps a little daunted by seeing somewhere that there are 18 in the series!

    My rating: 4.5

    I've already read

    4.5, WATER'S EDGE - #1 

    14 March 2022

    Review: SISTERS OF MERCY, Carol Overington

    • This edition made available through Libby by my local library
    • Published: 1 November 2012
    • ISBN: 9781742750446
    • Imprint: Random House Australia
    • Format: EBook
    • Pages: 320

    Synopsis (publisher)

    Sisters of Mercy by Caroline Overington is the haunting crime novel story of two sisters - one has vanished, the other is behind bars...

    Snow Delaney was born a generation and a world away from her sister, Agnes.

    Until recently, neither even knew of the other's existence. They came together only for the reading of their father's will - when Snow discovered, to her horror, that she was not the sole beneficiary of his large estate.

    Now Snow is in prison and Agnes is missing, disappeared in the eerie red dust that blanketed Sydney from dawn on September 23, 2009.

    With no other family left, Snow turns to crime journalist Jack Fawcett, protesting her innocence in a series of defiant letters from prison. Has she been unfairly judged? Or will Jack's own research reveal a story even more shocking than the one Snow wants to tell?

    With Sisters of Mercy Caroline Overington once again proves she is one of the most exciting new novelists of recent years.

    My Take

    I was amazed to find, when I began structuring this review, that I had actually read this book 10 years ago (see my original review here) but I honestly had no recollection of it.

    The main story is told by two main narrators. One is Snow Delaney who is in jail for cruelty to disabled children, and is suspected of having somehow disposed of her missing sister. Snow denies knowing anything about that, but in the the light of what we learn about what she has done to children in her foster care, how reliable is she as a narrator? The other narrator is Jack "Tap" Fawcett, a journalist who has been following the disappearance of Agnes Moore, and with whom Snow begins a correspondence when she is in jail. In the letters to Fawcett Snow fills in her back story and tries to convince him of her innocence. Fawcett is unequivocal in his belief that Snow has had something to with her sister's disappearance, but how reliable a narrator is he?

    (Date discrepancy

    Text in the novel says John Moore went to Oxford in 1930 at age of 20, and that he was picked for the Melbourne Olympics in athletics in 1956. That would make him 46 then. Surely he must have been at Oxford later than that? Something like 1954? 

    Agnes Moore met her husband John in Western Australia in 1958 when she was 17, and she was born in 1940. When she disappeared in 2009 she was 69.)

    This was an interesting read, particularly the details of how Snow "managed" the "care" of 19 disabled children. It makes you wonder how much based on fact those details are.

    My rating: 4.5

    I've also read


    13 March 2022

    Review: THE STONING, Peter Papathanasiou

    • this edition published by Quercus 2021
    • made available by my local library
    • 315 pages
    • ISBN 978-1-52941-698-5
    • #1 of a new series?

    Synopsis (publisher)

    A small town in outback Australia wakes to an appalling crime.

    A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

    Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

    Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.

    My Take

    8 hours drive from the nearest big city (but which one?), Cobb is a town on the edge of nowhere. Like most small outback towns it is struggling to survive. The detention centre was meant to breathe new life into the town, and certainly it has brought money, extra people, but also a heap of problems. The detention centre is supposedly low security, with a nightly curfew, but in reality the asylum seekers who live there dare not visit the town. Life in the detention centre is little better than living in a jail; it has its own security guards, and the town police have no jurisdiction there.

    When a local school teacher is found taped to a tree, stoned to death, a city detective is sent to investigate the case. He suspects he has been sent because he lived in Cobb as a child, his father lived in the previous immigration centre that had been there.

    Detective Sergeant George Manolis certainly has his work cut out. The town's police station has 3 staff, supervised by Sergeant Bill Fyfe, and they cut corners where ever they can, and Fyfe is a drunk. Manolis will find that the standards usually enforced in the city do not exist, the services he would expect are not available, and the locals have little respect for the police.

    This was a fascinating read that doesn't hesitate to point out the failings of Australia's asylum centre system, as well as tackling the decline that has beset many Australian small outback towns.

    Papathanasiou commented: "First and foremost, I wanted to write a compelling crime novel inspired by the vast Australian outback. But I also wrote The Stoning to be more than a whodunit. The plight of asylum seekers in detention is under intense scrutiny worldwide, with many countries considering the hardline Australian model. I feel the voices of Australian writers exploring this subject matter through literature may be especially resonant at this time. As the child of migrants and grandchild of refugees, it is also a topic close to my heart." 

    My rating: 4.6

    Another review to read: https://damppebbles.com/tag/quercus/

    About the author
    Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019 as "Son of Mine" by Salt Publishing (UK) and "Little One" by Allen & Unwin (Australia). His debut novel, a work of crime fiction, was published in 2021 as "The Stoning" by MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia), and in 2022 by Polar Verlag (Germany). Peter's writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law.


    12 March 2022

    Review: SLAUGHTER PARK, Barry Maitland

    • This edition made available through Libby by my local library
    • First published: October 2016 Text Publishing, Australia
    • Slaughter Park is the third and final book of the Belltree Trilogy.
    • Length: 368pp
    • ISBN: 9781925498905

    Synopsis (author website)

    Harry Belltree’s obsessive pursuit of justice has cost him everything – his job in homicide, his marriage and his newborn child. He has nothing left to lose, or so he thinks. Then his estranged wife disappears, leaving their baby daughter behind. The police think she has murdered a man. Harry thinks she’s in danger.

    When severed limbs are found dangling from the branches of trees in a suburban park, Harry’s former colleagues are pulled off Jenny’s case. It’s up to Harry to track his missing wife down on his own.

    And to lay bare, at last, the extraordinary conspiracy that led to his parents’ murder.

    Slaughter Park is the third and final book of the Belltree Trilogy.

    My Take

    SLAUGHTER PARK takes up where ASH ISLAND left off.

    Harry's wife has regained her sight and given birth to a baby daughter and when he visits her in hospital Jenny tells him he must go, leave them. She is frightened that the forces that have been following them will continue to pursue them and destroy them all. Harry takes Jenny at her word and he disappears and she hears nothing of him.

    However when Jenny disappears nearly a year later, her sister uses the journalist Kelly Pool to find him and he comes back to Sydney to find her. Bodies have turned up in Slater Park, nicknamed Slaughter Park by the media, and the police are looking for Jenny, believing she has murdered a man.

    Once again this is a novel about police corruption, political corruption, the domination of one family, and the death, years before, of Harry's parents. The threads that began with CRUCIFIXION CREEK are eventually resolved, some of them in a surprising twist.

    I recommend the series to you. 

    My rating: 4.5

    I've also read

    mini reviews

    4.7, DARK MIRROR - #10
    4.8, CHELSEA MANSIONS - #11
    4.7, THE RAVEN'S EYE -  #12


    4.6, ASH ISLAND

    9 March 2022

    Review: WATER'S EDGE, G. R. Jordan

    • A Highlands and Islands Detective Thriller (Highlands & Islands Detective Book 1)
    • This edition on Kindle (Amazon)
    • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07ZXMK347
    • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (December 1, 2019)
    • Print length ‏ : ‎ 167 pages 

    Synopsis (Amazon)

    A body discovered by the rocks. A broken detective returns to a scene of past tragedy. Will the pain of the past prevent him from seeing the present?

    Detective Inspector Macleod returns to his island home twenty years after the painful loss of his wife. With a disposition forged in strong religious conservatism, he must bond with his new partner, the free spirited and upcoming female star of the force, to seek the killer of a young woman and shine a light on the evil beneath the surface. To do so, he must once again stand in the place where he lost everything. Only at the water’s edge, will everything be made new.

    The rising tide brings all things to the surface. 

    My take

    This is the first novel in a Kindle boxed set of 5. Inspector Seoras Macleod's usual partner is unavailable and he has been assigned a young woman, Hope McGrath, as his sergeant. Macleod is unused to working with women, and he secretly believes Homicide is no job for a woman. He find Hope brash and unconventional; he thinks she flaunts her body a bit; but comes to admire other qualities.

    The case takes them to Stornaway and there are many aspects of the case that makes him uncomfortable. He struggles to come to terms with his new partner and particularly with the fact that she is a woman who can take physical punishment almost better than he does. Stornaway was once home for Macleod and it was where his wife died twenty years before. Much about McGrath reminds him of his wife and what he lost when she died.

    An interesting plot full of challenging ideas. I enjoyed it enough to read the second in the set.

    My rating: 4.5

    About the author

    GR Jordan is a self-published author who finally decided at forty that in order to have an enjoyable lifestyle, his creative beast within would have to be unleashed. His books mirror that conflict in life where acts of decency contend with self-promotion, goodness stares in horror at evil and kindness blind-sides us when we are at our worst. Corrupting our world with his parade of wondrous and horrific characters, he highlights everyday tensions with fresh eyes whilst taking his methodical, intelligent mainstays on a roller-coaster ride of dilemmas, all the while suffering the banter of their provocative sidekicks.

    A graduate of Loughborough University where he masqueraded as a chemical engineer but ultimately played American football, GR Jordan worked at changing the shape of cereal flakes and pulled a pallet truck for a living. Watching vegetables freeze at -40'C was another career highlight and he was also one of the Scottish Highlands' "blind" air traffic controllers. Having flirted with most places in the UK, he is now based in the Isle of Lewis in Scotland where his free time is spent between raising a young family with his wife, writing, figuring out how to work a loom and caring for a small flock of chickens. Luckily his writing is influenced by his varied work and life experience as the chickens have not been the poetical inspiration he had hoped for!

    5 March 2022

    Review: ASH ISLAND, Barry Maitland

    •  this edition made available on Libby through SA Libraries
    • Text publication date: 3 October 2016
    • ISBN: 9781925355444
    • #2 Belltree Trilogy

    Synopsis (publisher)

    Detective Sergeant Harry Belltree has a new posting. Away from Sydney, where he was nearly killed by a corrupt colleague and is now an embarrassment. Off to a quiet life in Newcastle.

    Or maybe not so quiet. A body’s been dug up on Ash Island. It may not be the only one.

    Harry’s got unfinished business in the area, too. The car crash that killed his parents and blinded his wife Jenny happened not far from Newcastle – and Harry knows it was no accident.

    But the other unfinished business is Jenny’s longed-for pregnancy. Which means that now, when Harry’s investigation starts to get dangerous, the stakes are higher than ever.

    My Take

    It took some time for Harry to recover from the injuries he received at the end of  CRUCIFIXION CREEK and now there is unfinished business. The other person who has taken some time to recover is Kelly Pool, the journalist now working at the Times.  

    Harry has been posted to Newcastle doing ordinary police work rather than Homicide. But his reputation has preceded him and the underworld from Sydney knows where he has gone. Also Newcastle Police suspect Harry has been sent there to see if they handled the death of his parents properly, and treat him cautiously.

    And so in many ways the action of ASH ISLAND connects seamlessly with the earlier novel, and Harry finds himself investigating some of the same people as before. There are new people and new cases too as well as the connecting threads. That is why you, dear reader, need to read these novels in order.

    And at the end of this novel, there is a hook to get you into the third in the trilogy.

    My rating: 4.6

    I've also read

    mini reviews

    4.7, DARK MIRROR - #10
    4.8, CHELSEA MANSIONS - #11
    4.7, THE RAVEN'S EYE -  #12


    4 March 2022

    Review: CRUCIFIXION CREEK, Barry Maitland

    •  this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
    • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00LZ1U6IY
    • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Text Publishing; UK ed. edition (September 23, 2015)
    • Language ‏ : ‎ English
    • Print length ‏ : ‎ 260 pages 
    • #1 in the Belltree trilogy

    Synopsis (Amazon)

    Homicide detective Harry Belltree wouldn't usually be looking too hard at an elderly couple's suicide pact. Especially now, when his brother-in-law Greg has just been stabbed to death. But it seems Greg and the old couple had ties to the same man, a bent moneylender with friends in high places - and low.

    Harry can't get officially involved in Greg's murder, but he suspects a link with two other mysterious deaths: his parents'. And when he goes off-grid to investigate, that's when things start to get dangerous

    Set in Sydney, this dark, morally ambiguous and adrenaline-charged new series is a triumphant change of direction for Barry Maitland.

    My Take

    My main reason for re-reading this title is that I have decided to read the two remaining novels in the trilogy, and couldn't trust my memory of the first novel.

    The author says in his Afterword that "Harry Belltree is an entirely fictitious character and his activities in no way represent the real behaviors of the New South Wales police." However it does show corruption and self-serving among police, politicians, and bikie gangs. There is a horrendous level of violence, and Harry Belltree, ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan, is really a loose cannon. His wife, blinded in the car crash that killed his parents, has become an IT expert who can break into security systems, wipe CCTV records, and disable alarm systems. 

    A good novel that fairly gallops along.

    My rating: 4.6

    My earlier review

    I've also read

    mini reviews

    4.7, DARK MIRROR - #10
    4.8, CHELSEA MANSIONS - #11
    4.7, THE RAVEN'S EYE -  #12


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