27 November 2022

Review: TRAPPED, Camilla Lackberg & Henrik Fexeus

  • this edition made available by my local library
  • Published by Harper Collins UK 2022
  • ISBN 978-0-00-846419-6
  • 535 pages
  • translated from Swedish by Ian Giles

Synopsis (publisher)

An incredible new thriller you won’t want to put down!

A shocking murder…
It’s a case unlike anything detective Mina Dabiri has seen before. A woman trapped inside a magician’s box, with swords pierced through. But this time, it’s not a magic trick. It’s murder.

A case which twists and turns…
Knowing she has a terrifying killer on her hands, Mina enlists the help of celebrity mentalist, Vincent Walder. Only he can give her an insight into the secret world of magic and illusions.

A ticking clock to stop a serial killer…
Mina and Vincent soon discover that the murder victim has the roman numeral III engraved on her leg. The killer is counting down. There are going to be three more murders. And time is running out.  

My Take

I really am not good with extra long books. About half way through TRAPPED I had the feeling that I wasn't getting anywhere, and thought about returning it to the library unfinished. But I persisted, as I usually do, and I am glad that I did.

Mentalist Vincent Walder has been co-opted to join a Stockholm police investigation into two murders . The second body has been discovered in an illusionist's cabinet. From the moment he is included in the investigation team, Vincent clearly shows that he thinks "differently". In many ways he and detective Mina Dabiri, who is the one who invited him to join the team, are kindred spirits. But Vincent understands aspects of the murders that the "ordinary" detectives don't.

Eventually Vincent works out what the threads are connecting three murders but is unwilling to accept the evidence that there will be a fourth.

A cleverly plotted book with real elements of mystery.

I've also read 4.5, THE STONECUTTER by Camilla Lackberg

My rating: 4.8

About the authors

Born in 1974, Camilla Läckberg lives in a suburb of Stockholm with her three children. After graduating from Gothenburg University of Economics, she moved to Stockholm where she worked for a few years as an economist. However, a course in creative crime writing became the trigger to a drastic change of career. The same week her son was born in August 2002, her first novel Isprinsessan, (The Ice Princess) was accepted for publication. Camilla is now a worldwide bestseller renowned for her thrillers featuring Detective Patrik Hedström and his wife, crime writer Erica Falck. Her novels are al based in Fjällbacka, the small fishing village where Camilla was born. Her hobbies are cooking – she's written a cookbook with a chef called Flavours from Fjällbacka – and spending time with friends.

Henrik Fexeus is a Swedish mentalist, author and TV-host. Since 2005 he is a frequent guest, as expert on body language and non-verbal communication, in television and newspapers including for Expressen at the Swedish Crown Princess Victoria's wedding and for Aftonbladet during the US SuperTuesday 2016.

24 November 2022

Review: RUN TIME, Catherine Ryan Howard

  • This edition made available as an e-book by my local library on Libby
  • Publication date 11 Aug 2022
  • Publisher Atlantic Books, Imprint Corvus
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 448 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1838951660
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1838951665

Synopsis (Amazon)

Movie-making can be murder.

The project
Final Draft, a psychological horror, being filmed at a house deep in a forest, miles from anywhere in the wintry wilds of West Cork.

The lead
Former soap-star Adele Rafferty has stepped in to replace the original actress at the very last minute. She can't help but hope that this opportunity will be her big break - and she knows she was lucky to get it, after what happened the last time she was on a set.

The problem
Something isn't quite right about Final Draft. When the strange goings-on in the script start to happen on set too, Adele begins to fear that the real horror lies off the page... 

My Take

Adele Rafferty has reached the point when she thinks no-one will ever ask her to work in a movie again. She has decided not to waste money on an agent, because she believes her reputation, and what happened on set when she was last under contract, will precede her.

So she is really surprised by the phone call asking how quickly she can flying from LA to Ireland to begin filming in a new movie. But the cast and management that she joins in West Cork are marked by their lack of experience, despite the fact that the producer appears to have a strong reputation.

The author has attempted a very ambitious structure for the novel, with a story within a story, with events in real time mirroring events described in the script.

For most of the time Adele feels she really has no idea what is going on, or, more importantly, who is behind the events occurring. 

I found the book a challenging read. There was almost the feeling at the end of having coming out of a dark tunnel, Like Adele herself, you can't help wondering how much of "action" is stemming from Adele's own mental fragility. And yet the various threads do make sense by the end.

Rating: 4.4

I've also read


  • this edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09WTDGPHW
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas & Mercer (November 9, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 271 pages 
  • A Yorkshire Murder Mystery #8


A puzzling locked-room mystery that puts someone Oldroyd loves in terrible danger…

When a film shoot on Wharfedale’s vintage railway turns into a grisly crime scene, DCI Oldroyd’s idyllic visit to the countryside with his partner Deborah is well and truly stopped in its tracks. One of the film’s stars has been shot dead in a train carriage while the cameras rolled outside. But nobody else went in—or came out. Has the killer really pulled off the perfect, impossible crime?

Scouring the victim’s past for clues, Oldroyd soon unearths a string of heartbroken lovers and a mountain of unpaid debts, each adding to the growing list of suspects. But before he can determine who the culprit is, there’s the small matter of figuring out how they did it. A potential connection to a previous tragedy offers Oldroyd a much-needed lead…

Whoever the perpetrator is, they are ruthless and determined to avoid detection, and when a railway worker starts joining the dots, they are quickly silenced—for good. But as Oldroyd gets ever closer to the truth, it’s only a matter of time before he is given a chilling warning to back off.

Perhaps Deborah should have stayed somewhere safe… 

My Take

This is another of those small British crime fiction e-book series which I thoroughly enjoy reading. There are a number of characters who have been in the series from the beginning, and others recently introduced. The plots are generally engaging, credible and well fleshed out.

Strictly speaking the murder of an actor at Wharfedale is not really a case for DCI Oldroyd but the local police feel a little out of their depth and ask Oldroyd to take charge. And then as the case looks like it won't be wound up in a hurry, Oldroyd has the idea of getting his partner Deborah to book into the local hotel. There is a second murder and Deborah is snatched while out on a walk in the hills.

The first murder takes place in a railway carriage and has all the features of a locked room mystery. No-one apart from the victim is seen going into or coming out of the railway carriage. As Oldroyd is forced to step back from the case he works out how it was done, and then why the second murder was committed. There are still some surprises for the reader.

Rating: 4.5

I've also read

22 November 2022


Synopsis (publisher)

At nearly ninety, retired nature writer Hattie Bloom prefers the company of birds to people, but when a fall lands her in a nursing home she struggles to cope with the loss of independence and privacy. From the confines of her 'room with a view' of the carpark, she dreams of escape. Fellow 'inmate', the gregarious, would-be comedian Walter Clements also plans on returning home as soon as he is fit and able to take charge of his mobility scooter.

When Hattie and Walter officially meet at The Night Owls, a clandestine club run by Sister Bronwyn and her dog, Queenie, they seem at odds. But when Sister Bronwyn is dismissed over her unconventional approach to aged care, they must join forces -- and very slowly an unlikely, unexpected friendship begins to grow.

Full of wisdom and warmth, The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a gorgeously poignant, hilarious story showing that it is never too late to laugh -- or to love. 

My Take

In my U3A reading group, where I am almost the only crime fiction addict, their job, I tell them, is to interest me in reading something outside my genre. And occasionally they do.

It helped that I had already read and enjoyed another by this author.

Hattie Bloom is determined that her stay in the Woodlands Nursing Home will be short, and thinks constantly of the owls in her big tree at home. But as the local health authorities assess her home they produce a report that says there is a lot of work to be done. And Hattie becomes involved too in the life of others in the Nursing Home.

A very enjoyable novel showing a lot of empathy for those who find themselves in Hattie's predicament.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

19 November 2022

Review: CUTTER'S END, Margaret Hickey

  • This edition made available by my local library as an e-book on Libby
  • e-book published 3 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9781761044168
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Pages: 384

Synopsis (publisher)

An award-winning crime thriller, set in the South Australian outback town of Cutters End. A mysterious death on New Year’s Eve 1989 leads to a shocking murder investigation 32 years later . . .

A desert highway. A remote town. A murder that won’t stay hidden.

New Year’s Eve, 1989. Eighteen-year-old Ingrid Mathers is hitchhiking her way to Alice Springs. Bored, hungover and separated from her friend Joanne, she accepts a lift to the remote town of Cutters End.

July 2021. Detective Sergeant Mark Ariti is seconded to a recently reopened case, one in which he has a personal connection. Three decades ago, a burnt and broken body was discovered in scrub off the Stuart Highway, 300km south of Cutters End. Though ultimately ruled an accidental death, many people - including a high-profile celebrity - are convinced it was murder.

When Mark’s interviews with the witnesses in the old case files go nowhere, he has no choice but to make the long journey up the highway to Cutters End.

And with the help of local Senior Constable Jagdeep Kaur, he soon learns that this death isn’t the only unsolved case that hangs over the town... 

My Take

There is always something fascinating about reading crime fiction set in a geographic area which you know well, in this case, the Australian state in which I live.

Back in the days when we thought hitching rides was relatively safe, Ingrid Mathers took a ride she will remember for the rest of her life.

32 years on Mark Ariti, an Adelaide Detective Sergeant, temporarily promoted to Acting Inspector, is asked to investigate what appears to be a cold case. A television personality has insisted that the police should thoroughly investigate a death death 30 years earlier which she is convinced was murder.  Mark is the perfect choice because he knows one of the people who gave evidence back then when the case was fresh.

Mark Ariti agrees to take the case as he feels it may get him out of the career slump he is currently in. It take him north to Port York (fictitious town) and then up the Stuart Highway to Cutter's End, a fictitious ex-opal mining town.

What chance does Mark have of finding new evidence? None you would think, but that is not quite true.

An excellent read. Certainly an author to watch.

There is an extra bonus of Reading Group Questions at the end of the book, as well as some Author Q & A.

Rating: 4.7

About the author

Margaret Hickey is an award-winning author and playwright from North East Victoria. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and is deeply interested in rural lives and communities. She is the author of Cutters End and Stone Town.

17 November 2022

Review: THE IT GIRL, Ruth Ware

  • This edition made available as an e-book through my local library on Libby
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gallery/Scout Press (July 12, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 431 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1982155264

Synopsis (Amazon)

April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

My Take

Hannah Jones believes she may have been responsible for an innocent man spending ten years in jail. It proved to be the rest of his life. John Neville was jailed mainly on the evidence that Hannah gave, but now she believes she may been wrong, and that the murderer is still at large.

At the time that April was murdered Hannah's husband, Will, was April's boy friend. And even Will is not above suspicion. As Hannah tries to work out who was where when April died, she realises that even those who are closest to her are not above suspicion.

A very readable story, and intriguing. The only problem I have is with the title.

Like many other readers, I really didn't see the end coming.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read


Review: CULHWCH ALPHA, G.R. Jordan

  • This book available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08YY1NMVF
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (May 9, 2021)
  • #12 in the Highlands & Islands Detective series
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 219 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A routine call to muster on a North Sea oil rig. One man short and a body found hanging in the canteen. High above the raging sea, can Macleod and McGrath uncover the underbelly of fear to reveal a brutal killer?

Six months into production and the death of a well-liked colleague rips apart the community on Scotland’s newest oil rig. But beneath the camaraderie and sense of loss, broods a sense of fear and control. As a killer extends their sights to multiple targets, can Macleod stop the murders before the shift completes its final day.

When the sea becomes your cage there’s nowhere left to hide!

My Take

This is really a variant on a locked-room mystery. A murder has taken place on a North Sea oil rig and Macleod and his team know the murderer is still on the rig. However there is a limited time people can be kept on the rig, and while they narrow the list of suspects down to 20, some are due to return home within hours.

So Macleod is coordinating an investigation both on the rig and back on nearby islands and the mainland. As they get closer somebody tries to eliminate McGrath.

This time the plot struggles to hold itself together and I got the feeling the author was juggling a few too many balls, and occasionally I struggled to make sense of the connections.  It all seemed to come together at the end, but I think Macleod seemed out of his depth at times.

Rating: 4.3

I've also read

Review: THE SATCHEL, G. R. Jordan

  •  This book available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08V22KVZH
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (March 20, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 221 pages
  • #11 in the Highlands & Islands Detective series

Synopsis (Amazon)

A bag is found hanging on a lonely tree in an Inverness park. Inside, a morbid collection of fists tell a tale of murder and intrigue. Can Macleod find the killer and stop a second show of hands?

Battle-weary Macleod must seek to understand a murderer’s obsession when a bag of appendages turns up in a local park. But as the links between the victims become more apparent, the possible identities of the killer increase. Can Macleod sift the wheat from the chaff and stop the killer before another bag is full?

Don’t raise your hand if you know what’s good for you!

My Take

This series really has me hooked

The gruesome discovery of a satchel full of 8 right hands hanging from a tree near a popular picnic spot near Inverness sparks a hunt by Macleod's team to identify their owners. Some of the hands have been recently detached, while others belong to people who have been missing for some time. And what have their owners done to deserve this sort of treatment?

The team discovers that two satchels were bought at the same time, and so there are some people still in danger of becoming victims. It is a race to find them, and then to convince them that they are in danger.

The team is well established now and the main characters are clearly defined.

Rating: 4.4

Others in the series that I have read

6 November 2022

Review: BETTER THE BLOOD, Michael Bennett

  • this book made available by my local library as an e-book through Libby
  • Published Simon & Schuster (in Australia), August 2022
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781398512221

Synopsis (publisher)


Hana Westerman is a tenacious Māori detective juggling single motherhood and the pressures of her career in Auckland’s Central Investigation Branch. When she’s led to a crime scene by a mysterious video, she discovers a man hanging in a secret room. As Hana and her team work to track down the killer, other deaths lead her to think that they are searching for New Zealand’s first serial killer.

With little to go on, Hana must use all her experience as a police officer to try and find a motive to these apparently unrelated murders. What she eventually discovers is a link to an historic crime that leads back to the brutal bloody colonisation of New Zealand.

When the pursuit becomes frighteningly personal, Hana realises that her heritage and knowledge are their only keys to finding the killer.

But as the murders continue, it seems that the killer's agenda of revenge may include Hana – and her family . .

My take

It is unusual for me to read a book in a single day, but that is what happened here. And I came away feeling that I had learnt so much, particularly about what has happened to the Maori people in New Zealand.

The setting is Auckland. The scenario a killer who wants his crimes noticed by one person in particular, so he sens her videos alerting her. And Hana Westerman is clever enough to work where those videos have been shot, and then eventually to learn what is behind them.

An absolutely fascinating read.

Rating: 5.0

About the Author

Michael Te Arawa Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) is an award-winning screenwriter, director and author.

His first book, a non-fiction novel telling the true story of New Zealand’s worst miscarriage of justice, In Dark Places, won Best Non-Fiction Book at the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards. Michael’s second book, Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas is a time-travel graphic novel co-authored with Ant Sang.

Michael’s short films and feature films have won awards internationally, and have screened at numerous international festivals including Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, Locarno, New York, London and Melbourne. Michael is the 2020 recipient of the Te Aupounamu Māori Screen Excellence Award, in recognition of members of the Māori film-making community who have made high-level contributions to screen storytelling.

He lives in Auckland, Aotearoa (New Zealand) with his partner Jane, and children Tīhema, Māhina and Matariki.

5 November 2022

Review: THE KILLING CODE, Ellie Marney

  •  this book made available by my local library through Libby
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (September 20, 2022)
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 031633958X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316339582
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 years and up
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 9 and up

Synopsis (Amazon)

A historical mystery about a girl who risks everything to track down a vicious serial killer, for fans of The Enigma Game and Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

Virginia, 1943: World War II is raging in Europe and on the Pacific front when Kit Sutherland is recruited to help the war effort as a codebreaker at Arlington Hall, a former girls’ college now serving as the site of a secret US Signal Intelligence facility. But Kit is soon involved in another kind of fight: government girls are being brutally murdered in Washington DC, and when Kit stumbles onto a bloody homicide scene, she is drawn into the hunt for the killer.
To find the man responsible for the gruesome murders and bring him to justice, Kit joins forces with other female codebreakers at Arlington Hall—gossip queen Dottie Crockford, sharp-tongued intelligence maven Moya Kershaw, and cleverly resourceful Violet DuLac from the segregated codebreaking unit. But as the girls begin to work together and develop friendships—and romance—that they never expected, two things begin to come clear: the murderer they’re hunting is closing in on them…and Kit is hiding a dangerous secret. 

My Take

Aimed at a young adult audience, this story combines historical detail with a thriller/mystery. At times the fact that it has a YA audience peeks through, but in general the story is plausible and well-told. 

Two girls employed by the government have recently been murdered and group of four decide to try to track down the murderer. They use their skills as code breakers working in a secret US facility to develop a profile of the murderer and liaise with a journalist from the Washington Post to entrap him.

Running in the background are a couple of other strands: Kit Sutherland's hidden background, the role of girls in codebreaking, and the treatment of black girls despite the role they are playing.

Rating: 4.4 

About the Author
Ellie Marney is an New York Times bestselling author of crime thrillers. Her titles include the Aurealis-winning None Shall Sleep, White Night, the Every series and the companion novel No Limits, and the Circus Hearts series. Her books are published in ten countries, and have been optioned for television. She’s spent a lifetime researching in mortuaries, talking to autopsy specialists, and asking former spies about how to make explosives from household items, and now she lives quite sedately in southeastern Australia with her family. Her latest book is The Killing Code, an intense mystery about female codebreakers hunting a serial killer against a backdrop of 1940s wartime Washington DC. You can find out more about Ellie and her books at www.elliemarney.com or online @elliemarney.

3 November 2022

Review: BLACK RIVER, Matthew Spencer

  • this book made available as an e-book on Libby through my local library
  • author website
  • eBook ISBN: 9781761064388
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin
  • Publication Date: 31 May 2022
  • Page Extent: 352

Synopsis (author website)

A long, burning summer in Sydney. A young woman found murdered in the deserted grounds of an elite boarding school. A serial killer preying on victims along the banks of the Parramatta River. A city on edge.

Adam Bowman, a battling journalist who grew up as the son of a teacher at Prince Albert College, might be the only person who can uncover the links between the school murder and the 'Blue Moon Killer'. But he will have to go into the darkest places of his childhood to piece together the clues. Detective Sergeant Rose Riley, meanwhile, is part of the taskforce desperately trying to find the killer before he strikes again. Adam Bowman's excavation of his past might turn out to be Rose's biggest trump card or it may bring the whole investigation crashing down, and put her own life in danger.

My take

According to booksellers, this new novel has simply flown off the shelves.

Part Australian police procedural, part psychological thriller. A police taskforce is investigating a serial killer who has already killed two young women in their houses close to each other on the banks of the Parramatta River near Sydney. Now a third body is found. But it doesn't follow the pattern set in the first two murders. So is it also the work of BMK? There are some doubts.

By chance an online newspaper The National sends Adam Bowman to the scene, a house in the grounds of a boarding school, as a backup journalist. Adam knows how to avoid the police presence on the gate, because he lived in the grounds when he was a teenager. On a hunch, Adam is used by the investigating team to release select pieces of the investigation, and through him information about the principal and other staff becomes known.

A well constructed and very authentic-feeling novel. An author to be watched.

My rating: 4.6 

About the author

Matthew Spencer was a journalist at The Australian for twenty years, with long stints running the Foreign News desk and as Opinion Editor. He has written for newspapers and magazines in Uganda and Kenya and been published in The Australian Financial Review and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Matthew has an Honours degree in English Literature from the University of Sydney. Black River is his first novel.

He was born in Parramatta. The son of teachers, he lived with his sister Kate on the 320-acre campus of a boys’ boarding school. Long summers on the largely deserted property while exploring the remnant bush with its tributary of the Parramatta River inspired the book.

Black River is published by Allen and Unwin and is out now.

Matthew lives in Sydney with his wife, Ritu Gupta, and their three children.


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