31 December 2022

Out with the Old, In with the New

 Farewell 2022

                                                       Welcome 2023

Review: THE WIFE UPSTAIRS, Rachel Hawkins

  • this edition published by Harper Collins UK 2021
  • ISBN 978-0-00-837752-6
  • 290 pages
  • January 2021 Indie Next Pick and #1 LibraryReads Pick

Synopsis (publisher)

A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda.

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

My Take

If it hadn't been for the blurb directing me to think of this novel as a "twist on a Gothic classic" and also the naming of the main male character as "Rochester", I  don't think I would have come up with any Gothic associations. However it is an intriguing tale of Southern housewives and in particular Bea who is greedy and grasping and takes ideas from others and makes them her own, almost without realising she is doing it.

It is one of those books that keeps you reading because you want to learn the real story - and there are several versions. There is certainly a mystery to be solved and at least one, possibly two, murders.

My rating: 4.5

About the Author

Rachel Hawkins is the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs and Reckless Girls, as well as multiple books for young readers. Her work has been translated in over a dozen countries. She studied gender and sexuality in Victorian literature at Auburn University and currently lives in Alabama.

30 December 2022

Review: SOMETIMES PEOPLE DIE, Simon Stephenson

  • This edition available on Kindle
  • A SUNDAY TIMES Crime Book of the Month and NEW YORK TIMES Editor Pick
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09RPM3CTQ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ The Borough Press (September 1, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 353 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0008547610

Synopsis (Amazon)

The year is 1999. Returning to practice after a suspension for stealing opioids, a young Scottish doctor takes the only job he can find: a post as a senior house officer in the struggling east London hospital of St Luke’s.

Amid the maelstrom of sick patients, over-worked staff and underfunded wards a darker secret soon declares itself: too many patients are dying.

Which of the medical professionals our protagonist has encountered is behind the murders? And can our unnamed narrator’s version of the events be trusted?

My Take

A young doctor is caught up in an investigation into a series of deaths in the London hospital he is working in as a junior doctor. Because of his previous history of opioid theft the police treat him as their prime suspect. Eventually all the doctors and nurses come under suspicion.

The narrative is written 20 years later, when the young doctor has finally worked out who was responsible for the deaths of a number of patients. The reader is taken on the journey of discovery that he went through.

Chapters of the book are interspersed with descriptions of people who in history have been healthcare serial killers. In some cases the number of deaths they were responsible for was incredible.

A well cosnstructed novel and an enjoyable read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author


I am from Edinburgh in Scotland, but live now in Los Angeles. I have had stopovers along the way in London and San Francisco.

I’m a writer and screenwriter, and before I became a full-time writer I was a physician.

My new novel, ‘Sometimes People Die’ will be published in September 2022.

I have written two other books. ‘Set My Heart To Five’ came out in 2020. The Washington Post review said that I might be ‘Vonnegut’s first true protege’. You’d better believe I am going to be dining out on that for the rest of my life.

‘Let Not the Waves Of the Sea’, my memoir about losing my brother came out in 2012. It won Best First Book at the Scottish Book Awards, and was serialized on BBC Radio 4.

I’ve worked as a writer on various films including Pixar’s LUCA, PADDINGTON 2, and my own THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN. Like every other screenwriter in Hollywood, I have a bottom drawer full of unproduced scripts and forgotten promises. So it goes.

Review: THE CROSSING, Matt Brolly

  • #1 of 5 books, available on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07T73RLVN
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas & Mercer (February 14, 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 333 pages

Synopsis (Amazon

An Amazon Charts bestseller.

In a small town full of secrets, everyone’s a suspect.

When a body is discovered, bled dry on a beach, the sleepy seaside town of Weston-super-Mare wakes up to a nightmare. For Detective Inspector Louise Blackwell, recently transferred to the town she last saw as a child, it’s her first case on the job.

The victim—Veronica Lloyd, an elderly volunteer at a local church—has puncture wounds to her hands. When a priest is found killed in a nearby church in a similarly grisly condition, it becomes clear that Blackwell is dealing with a righteous and bloody murderer. But the victims aren’t random. The killer has a vendetta and is hell-bent on exacting twisted revenge for a dark secret dating back years—and there are more murders planned.

As the body count rises, Blackwell faces a race against time to solve the mystery of the murderer’s identity and put an end to the carnage. She thought she knew Weston, but the town holds more secrets than she’d ever have imagined. Who can she trust and who knows more than they are letting on?

She must discover the crimes that unite the victims—before it’s too late.

My Take

There are elements in this first-in-a-series novel that have been common to a number of crime fiction novels recently: female detective, life made more difficult for her by male colleagues than it need be, appears to make a mistake, penalised by her superiors; misses out on promotion, relocated to a position now seen as a demotion, has to step straight up to the plate, with a very puzzling case.

This novel has a well thought out and intriguing plot, with a central character who is at the same time likeable and has potential. 

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Following his law degree, where he developed an interest in criminal law, Matt Brolly completed his master’s in creative writing at Glasgow University.

He is the bestselling author of the DCI Lambert crime novels Dead Water, Dead Eyed, Dead Lucky, Dead Embers and Dead Time; the acclaimed near-future crime novel Zero; and the US-based thriller The Controller.

Matt also writes children’s books as M. J. Brolly. His first is The Sleeping Bug.

Matt lives in London with his wife and their two young children. You can find out more about Matt at www.mattbrolly.co.uk or by following him on Twitter: @MattBrollyUK.


  • This edition available as an e-book on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09TS137RK
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster UK (November 10, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 351 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1398519820

Synopsis (publisher

Eighteen passengers. Seven stops. One killer.

In the early hours of Christmas Eve, the sleeper train to the Highlands is derailed, along with the festive plans of its travellers. With the train stuck in snow in the middle of nowhere, a killer stalks its carriages, picking off passengers one by one. Those who sleep on the sleeper train may never wake again.

Can former Met detective Roz Parker find the killer before they kill again?

My Take

Recently retired Met detective Roz Parker is on the Christmas Eve train London to Fort William to be with her daughter Heather, who is soon to give birth. After the train leaves she learns that Heather has gone into labour. The train is somewhat predictably derailed in a snow storm after passing through Edinburgh.

And then, also predictably one of the passengers dies violently in a room locked from the inside. Roz's training kicks and she begins to record scene of crime notes. Through her eyes we assess passengers as suspects. When a second passenger also dies violently, the remaining passengers reject Roz's attempts to confine them to the main dining room, and she retreats to her room. But then it becomes obvious that the police will not be able to get to the train at all quickly and Roz needs to work out who is the killer.

The author attempts to confuse the reader with passages narrated by the killer without revealing who it is. In the background the theme of the imminent birth of her grandchild runs a fairly predictable course.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Alexandra Benedict has been a composer, singer-songwriter, actor, and lecturer in crime fiction, and is now an award-winning writer of novels, short stories and scripts. As AK Benedict, she writes high-concept novels, speculative short stories and scripts. Her first novel, the critically-acclaimed THE BEAUTY OF MURDER, was nominated for the eDunnit Award; her short stories have featured in many anthologies; and her audio drama has been shortlisted for multiple awards including the BBC Audio Drama Award 2020, and, twice, for the Scribe Award, winning it in 2019. As Alexandra Benedict, she writes contemporary tributes and takes on Golden Age crime fiction. THE CHRISTMAS MURDER GAME was an Amazon Fiction Bestseller and was long-listed for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Her latest novel, MURDER ON THE CHRISTMAS EXPRESS, arrives on November 10th. She lives on the south coast of England with her fiancé, writer Guy Adams, their daughter, and their dog, Dame Margaret Rutherford.

23 December 2022

Review: THE TWYFORD CODE, Janice Hallett

  • This edition provided by my local library
  • Publication date: 21/07/2022
  • ISBN: 9781800815278
  • Imprint: Viper
  • 361 pages 

Synopsis (publisher)

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children's book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, full of strange markings and annotations. Wanting to know more, he took it to his English teacher Miss Iles, not realising the chain of events that he was setting in motion. Miss Iles became convinced that the book was the key to a secret code that ran through all Twyford's novels. Then she disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven has no memory of what happened to her.

Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Iles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today?

But as Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood, seeking answers, it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn't just a writer of forgotten children's stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn't the only one trying to solve it... 

My Take

This book not only describes a mystery, but also presents a number of them for the reader to solve. But that is not the only challenge, The narrative is presented as 200 audio files from an iPhone 4 transcribed into text in batches of text files. The iPhone was one of a number of items belonging to a recently reported missing person. 

In the audio files, Steven Smith describes his search for the last teacher who made an impact on him. He tracks down those who were in the same remedial English class as he was 40 years before when his teacher Miss Iles went missing.

But as the reader discovers, Steven's narration, while comprehensive, does not always tell the truth.

I did find the format of the narration challenging, and even at times considered whether I wanted to finish reading the book.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Janice Hallett studied English at UCL, and spent several years as a magazine editor, winning two awards for journalism. After gaining an MA in Screenwriting at Royal Holloway, she co-wrote the feature film Retreat. The Appeal is inspired by her lifelong interest in amateur dramatics. Her second novel, The Twyford Code, will be published by Viper in 2022. When not indulging her passion for global adventure travel, she is based in West London.

20 December 2022

Review: THE SHADOW MURDERS, Jussi Adler-Olsen

  • this large print edition published 2022 by Penguin Random House
  • made available by my local library
  • translated by William Frost
  • Department Q #9
  • 603 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

In the penultimate thriller in the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling Department Q series, Copenhagen's cold cases division must hunt for a nefarious serial killer who has slipped under the radar for decades.

On her 60th birthday, a woman commits suicide. When the case lands on Detective Carl Morck's desk, he can't imagine what this has to do with Department Q, Copenhagen's cold cases division. It's a tragedy to be sure, but the cause of death seems to be clear. But his superior, Marcus Jacobsen, is convinced that this is not in fact a suicide, but a murder related to an unsolved case that has been plaguing him since 1988.

At Marcus' behest, Carl and the Department Q gang-Rose, Assad, and Gordon-reluctantly begin to investigate. However, they quickly discover that Marcus is on to something: Every two years for the past three decades, there have been unusual, impeccably timed deaths with connections between them that cannot be ignored. As they dig deeper, it transpires that these "accidents" are in fact murders by a very cunning and violent serial killer.

Faced with their toughest case yet, made only more difficult with COVID-19 restrictions and the challenges of their own personal lives, the Department Q team must race to find the culprit before the next murder is committed, as it is becoming increasingly clear that the killer is far from finished. 

My Take

For much of this complex novel I struggled to see where it was going. At first it seemed to be a series of unconnected incidents: the pattern emerged about half way through. 

As always the very existence of Department Q is under scrutiny and threat, and Carl Morck is being threatened himself. There are those in the Police department who are determined to bring Morck down. 

The story is set in 2020, Covid resrictions are in place, and investigations and interviews are difficult. 

The reader is able to follow both sides of the investigation, both the Department Q side, and the continuing case which is destined to result in a murder on Boxing Day. 

The plot is clever and very Danish noir.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


15 December 2022

Review: THE TILT, Chris Hammer

  • This edition (trade paperback)  published by Allen & Unwin October 2022
  • ISBN:9781761067419
  • 496 pages
  • Awards: Longlisted, Best Fiction, Indie Book Awards, 2023, AU

Synopsis (publisher

A man runs for his life in a forest.

A woman plans sabotage.

A body is unearthed.

Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her home town, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder - a 'file and forget'.

But this is no ordinary cold case, as the discovery of more bodies triggers a chain of escalating events in the present day. As Nell starts to join the pieces together, she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her. Could her own family be implicated in the crimes?

The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more dangerous the present becomes for her, as she battles shadowy assailants and sinister forces. Can she survive this harrowing investigation and what price will she have to pay for the truth?

Gripping and atmospheric, The Tilt is a stunning multi-layered novel by the acclaimed and award-winning author of the international bestsellers Scrublands, Silver, Trust and Treasure & Dirt.

My Take

From my point of view, this really is Chris Hammer's best novel so far. Multi-layered, it has a bit of everything: current political issues, current ecological issues, police procedural, cold cases, mystery, puzzles, linkings between the past and the present, history, and a family saga.

When you read this book, look for the geneaological table in the last pages of the book. I found this so useful that I photocopied it for quick reference.

The last thing that Nell Buchanan expects is for her family to be involved in the unknown skeleton unearthed near the river which is the cold case she is assigned to investigate.

The story also gives an overview of how Australia history from the First World War onwards has affected a small rural town.

I was interested too that some of the current issues that Hammer thinks are impacting on rural Australia coincide with those that Garry Disher referred to in DAY'S END which I read recently. 

And finally, for South Australian readers, you will learn more about the history of the River Murray, very relevant today with the current flooding of the river.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

11 December 2022

Review: ALL THAT'S LEFT UNSAID, Tracey Lien

  • This edition made available as an e-book by my local library on Libby
  • Published by Harper Collins 2022
  • ISBN: 9780008547080
  • ISBN 10: 0008547084
  • Pages: 352
  • Reading guide

Synopsis (publisher)

There were a dozen witnesses to Denny Tran’s brutal murder in a busy Sydney restaurant. So how come no one saw anything?

‘Just let him go.’ Those are words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation. That night in 1996, Denny – optimistic, guileless, brilliant Denny – is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in Cabramatta, a Sydney suburb facing violent crime, an indifferent police force, and the worst heroin epidemic in Australian history.

Returning home for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by her brother’s case: several people were at Lucky 8 restaurant when Denny died, but each of the bystanders claim to have seen nothing.

As an antidote to grief and guilt, Ky is determined to track down the witnesses herself. With each encounter, she peels away another layer of the place that shaped her and Denny,exposing the trauma and seeds of violence that were planted well before that fateful celebration dinner: by colonialism, by the war in Vietnam,and by the choices they’ve all made to survive.

Tracey Lien's extraordinary debut pulls apart the intricate bonds of friendship, family, culture and community that produced a devastating crime. All That's Left Unsaid is both a study of the effects of inherited trauma and social discrimination, and a compulsively readable literary thriller that expertly holds the reader in its grip until the final page.

My Take

When Ky Tran finds that her parents have no idea how or why her baby brother Denny was killed, that they had refused an autopsy, and that all of those present at the time claim to have seen nothing, she is determined to conduct her own investigation.

Ky is a journalist, and her profession and her own guilt about the way she has left her brother to his own devices, push her to track down those present at Denny's death, convinced that she must be able to work out what actually happened even if the police can't. 

At the same time we are filled in on how Ky and her brother were raised, the cultural values important to them and their parents, and the effects of living in Cabramatta. 

The result is an unusual crime fiction debut novel, raising issues that most Australian readers have never thought about.

My rating: 4.8

About the author
Tracey Lien was born and raised in southwestern Sydney, Australia. She earned her MFA at the University of Kansas and was previously a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. All That’s Left Unsaid is her first novel. 

review: DAY'S END, Garry Disher

  • This edition published by Text Publishing 2022
  • ISBN 978192245887
  • 383 pages
  • #4 in the Paul Hirschhausen series

Synopsis (publisher

Hirsch’s rural beat is wide. Daybreak to day’s end, dirt roads and dust. Every problem that besets small towns and isolated properties, from unlicensed driving to arson. In the time of the virus, Hirsch is seeing stresses heightened and social divisions cracking wide open. His own tolerance under strain; people getting close to the edge.

Today he’s driving an international visitor around: Janne Van Sant, whose backpacker son went missing while the borders were closed. They’re checking out his last photo site, his last employer. A feeling that the stories don’t quite add up.

Then a call comes in: a roadside fire. Nothing much—a suitcase soaked in diesel and set alight. But two noteworthy facts emerge. Janne knows more than Hirsch about forensic evidence. And the body in the suitcase is not her son’s.

My Take

Set in Tiverton, a small outback town in wheat and sheep country in South Australia, and set during the ongoing Covid pandemic, the story presents the seamy undercurrent of rural life. Hirsch's work is never done. One thing leads to another and from small fragments big issues grow.

But Hirsch plugs on, following threads with almost unbelievable consequences. Hirsch represents what rural policing is all about.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Garry Disher has published over fifty titles across multiple genres. With a growing international reputation for his best-selling crime novels, he has won four German and three Australian awards for best crime novel of the year, and been longlisted twice for a British CWA Dagger award. In 2018 he received the Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award. 

I've also read
4.7, WYATT
4.7, HER
5.0, BITTER WASH ROAD - Hirsch #1 - aka HELL TO PAY
5.0, PEACE- Hirsch #2
5.0, CONSOLATION - Hirsch #3

2 December 2022

Review: INTO THE WATER, Paula Hawkins

  • this large print edition made available by my local library
  • published by Random House USA 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-5254-9620-5
  • 532 pages

Synopsis (Publisher)

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath

My Take

 Written from multiple points of view, this novel made me work very hard to ithe action together and to sort the characters out.

Given her preoccupation with the Drowning Pool and her research into its history and the women who had ended their lives there, perhaps it wasn't surprising that Nel Abbott had drowned there. But her sister Jules found it hard to accept and her daughter Lena feels abandoned.

A few weeks earlier Lena's best friend Katie had drowned there too and Katie's parents are grieving and, for some reason, blaming Nel for Katie's death. 

But in the close knit community there are those who don't think Jules should just accept things,

The narrative is interspersed with items that Nel had written as part of here research and a number of the community members add their opinions and narratives. The structure gives the story a rich complexity.

My rating: 4.8 

I've also read


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