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

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

14 August 2022


Synopsis (publisher

The sudden death of a pupil in Fleat House at St Stephen's - a small private boarding school in deepest Norfolk - is a shocking event that the headmaster is very keen to call a tragic accident.

But the local police cannot rule out foul play and the case prompts the return of high-flying Detective Inspector Jazmine 'Jazz' Hunter to the force. Jazz has her own private reasons for stepping away from her police career in London, but reluctantly agrees to front the investigation as a favour to her old boss.

Reunited with her loyal Sergeant, Alastair Miles, she enters the closed world of the school, and as Jazz begins to probe the circumstances surrounding Charlie Cavendish's tragic death, events are soon to take another troubling turn.

Charlie is exposed as an arrogant bully and those around him had both motive and opportunity to switch the drugs he took daily to control his epilepsy.

As staff at the school close ranks, the disappearance of young pupil Rory Millar and the death of an elderly Classics Master provide Jazz with important leads, but are destined to complicate the investigation further. As snow covers the landscape and another suspect goes missing, Jazz must also confront her own personal demons . . .

Then a particularly grim discovery at the school makes this the most challenging murder investigation of her career. Because Fleat House hides secrets darker than even Jazz could ever have imagined.

My Take

On the face of it, 17 year old Charlie Cavendish's death is a terrible accident. Originally it appears that he has had an epileptic fit, but then the autopsy reveals anaphylactic shock resulting from taking aspirin to which he is highly allergic. So who left aspirin out for Charlie to take?

Hot on the heels of Charlie's death comes the suicide of Hugh Daneman, the Classics Master, and the implication that he may have known something about Charlie's death.

So we have a nicely fleshed out plot, some excellently drawn characters, and a beautifully written story. 

DI Jazz Hunter, persuaded to return to work after quite a long sabbatical, is convinced that the story goes deeper than the present. Just to complicate things her father has a heart attack, and her ex-husband turns up.

It's a story with plenty of mystery to sort out, a just a few red herrings. 

Everyone I have spoken to about this novel has found it very readable and very enjoyable. 

In the foreword of this novel, Lucinda Riley's only crime fiction novel, her son Harry Whittaker tells us that this novel was originally written in 2006 and that she died in June 2021 from cancer. Lucinda had not edited this novel and Harry has made the decision to publish it as he found it.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read


About The Author

Lucinda Riley was born in Ireland and, after an early career as an actress in film, theatre and television, wrote her first book aged twenty-four. Her books have been translated into thirty-seven languages and sold thirty million copies worldwide. She was a Sunday Times and New York Times number one bestseller.

Lucinda's The Seven Sisters series, which tells the story of adopted sisters and is inspired by the mythology of the famous star cluster, has become a global phenomenon. The series is a number one bestseller across the world and is currently in development with a major TV production company.

Though she brought up her four children mostly in Norfolk in England, in 2015 Lucinda fulfilled her dream of buying a remote farmhouse in West Cork, Ireland, which she always felt was her spiritual home, and indeed this was where her last five books were written. Lucinda was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and died in June 2021. 

12 August 2022


  • this edition read on my Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08Q4C4GKD
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (January 31, 2021) 
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • Highlands & Islands Detective Book 10 

Synopsis (Amazon)

A remote island community starts its new life. A dead body leads to locked doors and closed mouths. Can Macleod and McGrath find the killer hell bent on destroying paradise?

Leaving behind the city of Inverness, Seoras and Hope travel to the fledgling paradise of Morning Light to investigate a body found in the idyllic town square. When the Mayor tries to run roughshod over Macleod’s investigation, the determined pair find a wall of silence and an underlying current of deceit and mistrust. Can Macleod find who controls the villagers’ tongues before more permanent measures are taken against those who speak out?

A generous dose of fear is the key to a happy town!

My Take

When the call comes in about a dead body in th town square of a gated community on a remote island, Macleod and McGrath are away at a conference being told about new procedures for officers addressing other and their subordinates. It is almost too much for Macleod who feels it will all lead to disrespect, at least for senior officers.

So Constable Ross has to lead the investigation and ventures on to the island at the beginning of a storm, which effectively cuts off communications and turns it into a locked room mystery. As the deaths begin to mount, it becomes obvious that they need reinforcements from the mainland, if anybody is to survive. It also becomes obvious that things in this community are not as they should be. There is evidence that the community is being used for criminal purposes, and that not everybody there is what they seem.

This becomes a particularly violent scenario, and Macleod feels he is being stretched to his limits.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

10 August 2022


  •  this edition read on my Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08NTF1GH8
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (December 19, 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 222 pages
  • Highlands & Islands Detective Book 9 

Synopsis (Amazon)

A dead Santa Claus in a garden centre grotto. Underground fighting in the dark corners of the Highlands. Can Macleod and McGrath discover who is dispatching the strongmen of the ring in such a festive fashion?

With Hope McGrath struggling to regain her confidence after a disfiguring injury, Macleod must encourage his protegee as they seek to discover the link between Grotto strangulations and an underground fighting promotion. But as the snow starts to fall and Yuletide celebrations turn sour, Macleod must look beyond the lights and fanciful characters to find the real murderer in their midst.

Ho-Ho-Ho! This time, Santa better watch out! 

My Take

This story is set in the north of Scotland near Inverness, but the author says is quick to say that the city has been used as an inspirational canvas and not to be confused with "actual buildings and structures".

In the previous case Hope McGrath was severely burned on the face by boiling oil and McLeod's partner Jane, already injured in a hit and run accident, was threatened by a maniac but was saved by McGrath. McGrath is very conscious of her disfigurement and believes everyone is looking at her.

In this case the team is called to a garden centre where a Santa has been killed. But the nature of the killing is unusual - he has been suffocated in a wrestling hold, and this discovery leads to a secondary case. It leads to DC Kirsten Stewart working undercover and also being put in danger.

I am really enjoying this series. The plots are inventive, sometimes at the bounds of credibility, but the exploration of the relationships between the main characters is very good.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read (all from this series)

6 August 2022

Review: ONCE THERE WERE WOLVES, Charlotte McConaghy

  • This edition made available via my local library through Libby
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin eBooks (3 August 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 263 pages
  • Book club questions
    Synopsis (publisher)

    From the author of the international bestseller Migrations comes a pulse-pounding new novel set in the wild Scottish Highlands

    Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team tasked with reintroducing fourteen grey wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but a broken Aggie, too. However, Inti is not the woman she once was, and may be in need of rewilding herself.

    Despite fierce opposition from the locals, Inti's wolves surprise everyone by thriving, and she begins to let her guard down, even opening up to the possibility of love. But when a local farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, she makes a reckless decision to protect them, testing every instinct she has.

    But if her wolves didn't make the kill, then who did? And what will she do when the man she's been seeing becomes the main suspect?

    Propulsive and spellbinding, Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable tale of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves. Part thriller, part redemptive love story, Charlotte McConaghy's profoundly affecting novel will stay with you forever. 

    My Take

    In places where there were once trees, the forests are gone. The world has lost countless species of wildlife, largely in our lifetimes. In places where there were once wolves, there are now none. In hunting down or chopping one down, the world's population has often destroyed the entire ecosystem that it was part of. Re-wilding projects believe that if you can re-instate one part of the system, sometimes the main predator, then you stand a chance of restoring the ecosystem.

    But often the land was cleared, or the predators killed in order to grow another economic enterprise. In Scotland for example the land was cleared and the wolves hunted down to make way for sheep. But destroying that ecosystem has often turned the land barren. The promise is that if we can re-introduce wolves then other things will be restored and nature's balance will be restored.

    But those whose livelihood depends on the sheep fear the re-introduction of wolves, believing that they will not only attack the sheep but also humans.

    I found the scale of this novel breath taking. Only part of it was concerned crime fiction, with murder, and violence. Much of it was about how humans treat each other. The characters were very real and the scenarios credible. Highly recommended.

    My rating: 4.7

    About the author

    Charlotte McConaghy is the author of the international bestseller Migrations, a TIME Magazine Best Book of the Year and the Amazon.com Best Fiction Book of the Year for 2020, which is being translated into over twenty languages. She has both a Graduate Degree in Screenwriting and a Masters Degree in Screen Arts, and lives in Sydney, Australia. Her forthcoming novel Once There Were Wolves will be published by Flatiron Books in August 2021 in the US and around the world.

    Review: PLAY DEAD, Anne Frasier

    • this edition read on my Kindle (Amazon)
    • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00DELN6A8
    • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas & Mercer (February 25, 2014)
    • Print length ‏ : ‎ 370 pages
    • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1477849009 

    Synopsis (Amazon)

    No one is more familiar with Savannah's dark side than homicide detective and native resident Elise Sandburg. She's been haunted for years by her own mysterious past: she was abandoned as a baby in one of the city's ancient cemeteries, and it's rumored that she is the illegitimate daughter of an infamous Savannah root doctor. The local Gullah culture of voodoo and magic is one that few outsiders can understand, least of all Elise's new partner. Now someone is terrorizing the city, creating real-life zombies by poisoning victims into a conscious paralysis that mimics death. As the chilling case unfolds, Elise is drawn back into the haunted past she's tried so hard to leave behind.

    [Publisher's Weekly] Frasier has perfected the art of making a reader's skin crawl, which is evident from this book's very first scene, in which a medical examiner discovers in the midst of an autopsy that the cadaver he's working on is really a live person. Set in Savannah, Ga., this exceptional thriller follows the hunt for the deranged person who's drugging people so that their minds remain wide awake even as their bodies resemble death. The creepiness factor increases when Frasier introduces homicide detective Elise Sandburg, who was abandoned in a cemetery as a baby and who knows Gullah spells and culture. Elise's partner, anti-social David Gould, is equally strange; his past holds secrets so dark he should be under psychiatric care. Formerly with the FBI, Gould currently lives in a rundown, foul-smelling apartment and sleeps with a prostitute who works for a voodoo priestess. As the two detectives follow leads to the priestess and the former college professor who researched the drug, they forge a tentative bond and come to terms with their own troubled pasts. 

    My Take

    This novel is billed as the beginning of a Gothic/zombie/paranormal series featuring homicide detective Elise Sandburg working in Savannah. However it is a series that I won't be following. This book was just not my cup of tea and we nearly parted company early on when the author was trying to "educate" me about zombieism and voodooism. There were police procedural aspects which I thought were the book's salvation but in general I struggled, although I got to the end.

    I must acknowledge though that my feelings are not echoed by other exuberant reviewers on Amazon.

    My rating: 3.2

    About the author

     Anne Frasier is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her award-winning books span the genres of suspense, mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, paranormal, and memoir. She won a RITA for romantic suspense, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for paranormal romance. Her thrillers have hit the USA Today list and have been featured in Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, and Book of the Month Club. Her memoir, The Orchard, was an O, The Oprah Magazine Fall Pick; a One Book, One Community read; a B+ review in Entertainment Weekly; and a Librarians’ Best Books of 2011. She divides her time between the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and her writing studio in rural Wisconsin.


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