30 March 2023

Review: THE FORTHRIGHT WOMAN, Darry Fraser

Synopsis (publisher)

Widow Marcella Ross won't let anything - or anyone - stop her from discovering the truth behind a deadly family mystery ... Mystery and romance collide in this compulsive historical adventure from a bestselling Australian author.

1898, South Australia

At the gateway to the Flinders Ranges lies Kanyaka Station, once a thriving sheep and cattle property, now abandoned and in ruins. But a discovery in her late mother's papers draws recently widowed Marcella Ross out to its remote landscape in search of clues to the disappearance of her Uncle Luca, an Italian immigrant whose fate seems to have been bound up in that of his mysterious partner - also long-since vanished. When Marcella is accosted by a daunting stranger, she discovers he too is entangled in the secrets of the past. Tragedy and obsession threaten Marcella's fragile independence, so how far will she have to go to unlock the secrets of Kanyaka - or solve the puzzle of her own future?


After learning that they are unlikely to have children, Frances and Joe MacDonald have taken the unusual step of buying a caravan and travelling together through the outback. They stop at Kanyaka Station, where Fran becomes mesmerised by the past. Family lore holds that an ancestor met an untimely end amid the desolate ruins. But what truly happened, and to whom, at the isolated station? As fate alters the course of her life, Fran's footsteps echo another woman's from so long ago ...

As the mystery unravels, will these two women have the chance to take control of their own destinies? 

My Take

I've had a number of recommendations by friends that I should pick up a book by this Australian author. The opening pages of this novel tell me this is the author's eighth Australian fiction novel, and it is set in the Flinders Ranges and the Barossa Valley. It is also set in at least two time frames (both historical) with many links between the two. In the Author notes at the end, I learnt of the author's own connections to the general outline of the story.

Although crimes have been committed, this novel is historical "romance" rather than crime fiction, and will have obvious appeal to Australian readers. And while this is the first novel I have read by this author, I'm pretty sure it won't be my last.

My rating: 4.4

About the Author

Darry Fraser fell in love with the great Murray River when her family moved to her childhood town of Swan Hill in Victoria. Stories of the river have been with her ever since and it's where a number of her novels are set. Her stories are of ordinary people in nineteenth century Australia who are drawn into difficult circumstances - adventure, mystery and mayhem, love and life, and against the backdrop of historical events. Darry lives on Kangaroo Island, an awe-inspiring place off the coast of South Australia.

Review: THE FAVOUR, Nicci French

Synopsis (publisher)

A good deed
Can turn deadly…

When Liam unexpectedly turns up in Jude’s life after ten years of no contact, asking her for a favour, she just can’t say no. He was her first love, and even though she is now a successful doctor and about to get married, he will always be someone special to her.
But after she does the favour, she is contacted by the police, informing her that Liam has been found dead, and suddenly she is caught up in a murder investigation.

And she realises this one decision could cost her everything – even her life… 

My Take

Ten years before Liam had done Jude a favour, and now it is payback time. Although she has had no contact with him in the intervening period, and they have gone their separate ways, Jude has no hesitation in agreeing to Liam's request. He assures her that he will describe it more fully later, but that there is nothing illegal about what he wants her to do. It starts with her driving his car to a country cottage, and then waiting for him there.

This is a tightly plotted, very intriguing, novel, and at the start Jude can have no idea of how much her life will be changed because of her decision to go along with Liam's request.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

26 March 2023


  • This edition available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BSCKW1L1
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Four Tails Publishing Ltd. (February 20, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 325 pages
  • #7 in the WISE Agency series

Synopsis (Amazon)


When the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency are approached by the frantic owner of a historic cottage in a picturesque Welsh seaside hamlet, they agree to help. After all – there can’t be any such thing as a killer cottage, can there? And isn’t a cursed cottage just as unlikely? They’re about to find out – when Christine and Annie take up residence.

Meanwhile, Carol goes undercover to investigate a day spa with some dangerous treatments, leaving Mavis to stake out a man who might be incapacitated because of a work-related accident. Will this bricklayer become belligerent if he spots her on the job?

Because our engaging private investigators are busy with paying clients, it falls to Henry, eighteenth duke of Chellingworth, to try to solve the riddle of the missing silver mugs, which is a pressing priority for his mother, the dowager, as she seeks to take over the organization of the christening of his son and heir.

Early spring in Wales is a busy time for the WISE women, and the titled Twyst family – join them to find out how they cope, in this, the seventh book in the series.

My Take

As with other offerings in this series, a quick entertaining read, and plenty of openings for future books.The team takes on a number of cases, as well carrying on investigations closer to home.

My rating: 4.3 

I've also read

Review: THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, Michael Robotham

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B01N7SVPRI
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Sphere (July 11, 2017)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 385 pages
  • my original review


Amazon summary
Everyone has an idea of what their perfect life is. For Agatha, it's Meghan Shaughnessy's.
These two women from vastly different backgrounds have one thing in common - a dangerous secret that could destroy everything they hold dear.
Both will risk everything to hide the truth, but their worlds are about to collide in a shocking act that cannot be undone.

Fantastic Fiction synopsis

Meghan doesn’t know Agatha, but Agatha knows Meghan. And the one thing Agatha looks forward to each day is catching a glimpse of her, the effortlessly chic customer at the grocery store where she works stocking shelves. Meghan has it all: two adorable children, a handsome and successful husband, a happy marriage, a beautiful house, and a popular parenting blog that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of the baby growing inside her, to return her calls.

Yet if Agatha could look beyond the gloss and trappings of Meghan’s “perfect life,” she’d see the flaws and doubts. Meghan has her secrets too, especially one that she dare not ever tell. Soon the lives of these two women will collide in the most spellbinding and intimate of ways, until their secrets are exposed by one shocking act that cannot be undone. From internationally bestselling author Michael Robotham, The Secrets She Keeps is a dark, exquisite, and twisted page-turner so full of surprises, you’ll find it impossible to put down.

My Take

Followers of my blog will know that this is one of my favourite Australian authors and that I have read this novel before.

I am reviewing it a second time, because I am re-reading it with a U3A Crime Fiction group. For some of them this is the first time they have read a book by this author.

So here I want to come up with some pointers for our discussion. However I think it is also important that the readers of this blog don't come across any spoilers, although of course in our face to face discussion we will be working on the assumption that all participants have read the novel

Here are some of my pointers

  • the dual narrators: Agatha and Meghan. We are told who the narrator is at the beginning of every chapter, but did you eventually get to the stage where you knew who the narrator was? What helped you get to this point?
  • Why does Agatha see Meghan as a model for her own life? What do they have in common? Where do they differ?
  • How does Agatha stalk/watch Meghan and Jack? Why does she do this?
  • What do we learn about Agatha's life history?
  • What secrets do Agatha and Meghan have?
  • What actions has Agatha taken in her efforts to become a mother? 
  • How has Agatha become a killer?
  • This novel marks the first appearance of Cyrus Haven, a police profiler who will later appear in his own series
       1. Good Girl, Bad Girl (2019)
       2. When She Was Good (2020)
       3. Lying Beside You (2022)
  • The BBC TV series: In 2020 the novel became the basis of a 6 episode tv series that, apart from being set in Australia, stayed fairly close plot-wise to the original book. However a second 6 part series screening in 2022 goes well beyond the original book

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

16 March 2023

Review: ONE FALSE MOVE, Robert Goddard

  •  this edition provided by my local library
  • Published by Transworld Publishers 2019
  • ISBN 978787630437
  • 339 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

What value can be put on a human mind?

How Joe Roberts does what he does is a mystery. He has a brain that seems able to outperform a computer. To a games company like Venstrom that promises big profits if his abilities can be properly exploited. So they send Nicole Nevinson to track him down and make him an offer too good to refuse.

But Venstrom aren't the only people interested in Joe. His current boss, a shady businessman, is already making serious money out of Joe's talents and isn't going to let him go without a fight. And then there are other forces, with still darker intentions, who have their own plans for him.

Almost before she knows it, Nicole's crossed an invisible line into a world where the game being played has rules she doesn't understand and where no-one can help her win.

But win she must. Because the battle now isn't just for Joe's mind - it's for Nicole's life. 

My Take

Go is an ancient Chinese game of strategy, long believed to provide challenges for the most brilliant minds. Played worldwide it sorts the wheat from the chaff. And Joe Roberts is definitely brilliant, to the point where he can outwit the computer. Joe is only known to have been beaten once. When games company Venstrom detects Joe's ability through his constant winning of their games online, they decide they must have him, and they send Nicole to make him an offer.

But others high in the world of Artificial Intelligence have become aware of Joe's abilities too and are determined to gain control of his mind.

But the plot lost me when it transitioned into the world of international espionage, and I had trouble with credibility. 

My rating: 4.0

I've also read


12 March 2023

Review: MURDER ON THE EDGE, Bruce Beckham

  • This edition available from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00N62WUSE
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (August 29, 2014)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 255 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ B09FCCDBFB
  • #3 in the Inspector Skelgill Investigates series

Synopsis (Amazon


WHEN A MAN IS FOUND STRANGLED by a climbing rope beneath the Lake District's notorious Sharp Edge, it is assumed he is the victim of a tragic accident.

But Detective Inspector Skelgill suspects otherwise, and his fears are borne out when a second corpse is discovered close to Striding Edge. Soon it appears that a ritualistic serial killer stalks Cumbria's fells.

As the body count increases, Skelgill must determine the connection between the seemingly randomly selected targets – for it is the only hope of ending the reign of terror and unmasking the perpetrator.

My Take

There were plenty of puzzles to solve in this outing: who has killed these men? why have they been killed? how have they been killed? why have their bodies been presented where they are? how did they get there?

The reader gets some help with answering the first question and hints are given to the answers of the others. Plenty of chance to exercise "the little grey cells".

I'm enjoying the character development of Skelgill, Jones, Leyton, and Smart, and even the dog Cleopatra who was added in the second novel. So far the plots have given the author good opportunities to describe Cumbria in particular.

I'm beginning to suspect that these novels are a bit formulaic, but I also have to admit I'm hooked. So far the plots have varied in their settings and in the methodology.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

11 March 2023

Review: MURDER IN SCHOOL, Bruce Beckham

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00IBIG32C
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (February 7, 2014)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 271 pages
  • #2 of 20 in the Detective Inspector Skelgill Investigates series 

Synopsis (Amazon

WHEN A LONG-SERVING MASTER at one of England’s most prestigious public schools drowns in Bassenthwaite Lake, Detective Inspector Skelgill is summoned to investigate his apparent suicide.

It soon becomes clear that senior members of staff are not all that they seem. As the school closes ranks, Skelgill realises he is pitted against a sinister power struggle for control of its highly lucrative operation.

A second violent death threatens to throw the police off the scent, and the sudden mysterious disappearance of a VIP pupil sows panic in their ranks. In a race against time Skelgill is faced by the unthinkable consequences of a third tragedy on his watch. 

My Take

While the Editor's Note clearly states that this novel (and all others in the series) is a "stand-alone whodunit", I take issue with that descriptor. The novels are part of a series, and each novel builds on the reader's knowledge of the characters and the environment in which they work. The building background helps the reader predict how Skelgill and his colleagues will react to new challenges.

I'm not sure about the credibility of the plot of this one but I enjoyed it none-the-less. Much less of the conversation was in local dialect, which was a bit of a relief, but possibly that was because Skelgill interacted with fewer locals. Skelgill himself comes across as a multi-skilled (physically) rough diamond, tough, but likeable. 

I can feel myself becoming addicted...

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.4, MURDER IN ADLAND- Skelgill #1

7 March 2023

Review: THE ABC MURDERS, Agatha Christie

  • This edition made available on Amazon (Kindle)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0046RE5CM
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins; Masterpiece Ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • Originally published 1936
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 244 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 042513024X
  • My original review
  • this cover shows Jon Malkovitch as Poirot    

Agatha Christie’s world-famous serial killer mystery, reissued with a striking cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, bent on working his way through the alphabet. And as a macabre calling card he leaves beside each victim’s corpe the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place.

Having begun with Andover, Bexhill and then Churston, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught – until he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans…

From the Back Cover

There’s a serial killer on the loose, working his way through the alphabet and the whole country is in a state of panic.

A is for Mrs. Ascher in Andover, B is for Betty Barnard in Bexhill, C is for Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston. With each murder, the killer is getting more confident—but leaving a trail of deliberate clues to taunt the proud Hercule Poirot might just prove to be the first, and fatal, mistake.

My take

Once again this is a novel I am reading with my U3A Agatha Christie Reading Group, and it is a re-read for me. Once again I have used the note-making facility on my Kindle to make a big list of the things that I want to talk about. (I actually started off using a printed copy, and then thought this note-making ability would be very useful).

Here are some of the things we are going to talk about - please leave a comment if you'd like to contribute to our discussion

  • The disclosure right at the beginning by Captain Hastings that he has departed from his usual practice of using only his own account, and has included third person accounts by someone else. So who wrote these extra chapters?
  • this novel was originally published in 1936, but the setting is only a year before?
  • How old is Poirot at this stage - Let's say he was about 60 when he arrived as a Belgian refugee during World War 1. Is he getting past it? Is Agatha Christie ageing him in "real time"? 
  • Poirot and Hastings trying to prevent aging. Poirot with his black hair dye, Hastings with his comb-over
  • I think it is Agatha Christie's only novel with a plot about a serial killer. But am I right? Aren't there some novels where the killer strikes more than once?
  • How did Hercule Poirot tackle solving the puzzle. Why does Hastings get annoyed by his method? How do his methods differ from those of the other detectives?
  • the fact that Hercule Poirot has now retired several times, and now tackles only "the cream of crime"
  • The way Poirot is regarded (or not) by the other detectives trying to solve the crime
  • What is ABC trying to do with his letters to Poirot?
  • What are the questions Poirot asks himself in reference to the case? (Why has ABC contacted him rather than going straight to the police?)
  • Why does Poirot get the "vigilante" group together - the victims of crime group. What is he trying to achieve?
  • When does Poirot get his first idea about who is really behind the murders?
  • What is the final solution?

What other questions do YOU think I should put on my list?

My rating: 4.7

See my list of Agatha Christie novels

5 March 2023


  • This edition made available as an e-book through my local library on Libby
  • Originally published 2003, recently republished
  • 400 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)
A vivid psychological suspense novel. 

A diving instructor makes a gruesome discovery in Cranwell Lake - the body of a teenager who has clearly been in the water for many years. Detective Peter Porteous is called to the scene. After trailing through the missing persons files, he deduces that the corpse is Michael Grey, an enigmatic and secretive young man who was reported missing by his foster parents in 1972. 

As the police investigation gets under way in Cranwell, on the other side of the country prison officer Hannah Morton is about to get the shock of her life. For Michael was her boyfriend, and she was with him the night he disappeared. The news report that a body has been found brings back dreaded and long buried memories from her past...

My Take

This stand-alone followed the Inspector Ramsay series, but preceded the Shetland series. 

Detective Peter Porteous and his older assistant Sergeant Eddie Stout don't seem to have made any other appearance, although they had potential as a detective duo. 

The novel is multi-stranded, complex, and well littered with red herrings. There are some interesting scenarios and some well drawn characters. It kept me guessing and I really didn't know who the murderer was, although in retrospect there was a hint.

My rating: 4.5 

I've also read

2 March 2023

Review: MURDER IN ADLAND, Bruce Beckham

  • this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B009T93NO8
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 2nd edition (October 18, 2012)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 239 pages
  • Inspector Skelgill series #1  

Synopsis (Amazon)
WHEN A HIGH-FLYING ADMAN is stabbed to death on a company weekend in the English Lake District, local detective Daniel Skelgill finds himself wrenched from his rural Cumbrian comfort zone.

As the investigation unfolds, DI Skelgill is led a merry dance between London and Edinburgh, at every turn confronted by uncooperative suspects – colleagues, wife and lovers of the deceased – each of whom is possessed of motive and opportunity.

Is this a crime of passion, a professional hit, or a cleverly calculated killing borne out of greed and jealousy?

In this traditional-style whodunit, the case can only be solved by carefully piecing together the essential clues – but Skelgill is running out of time. The patience of his superiors wears thin, while the actions of an anonymous agent provocateur serve only to advance the moment when the killer must strike again.

My Take

There seem to be a number of British crime fiction authors publishing multiple titles in rapid succession on Kindle recently, so I wasn't really sure whether I wanted to start another series. However I was pleasantly surprised although there were a couple of quirky features which other reviewers have also remarked on: most of the narrative is in the present tense (which some have found annoying); the author has attempted to put some of the dialogue in local Cumbrian dialect. There seemed to be less of the latter as the story progressed, or maybe I just got used to it.

However Skelgill is an interesting character, the mystery was well constructed, with a few red herrings, and we got there. Under pressure by his boss to get a "result", Skelgill has a number of redeeming features, and a reasonable amount of intuition.

There were times when I thought the narrative was a bit long winded, a bit too descriptive, but perhaps I was just , like Skelgill's boss, for progress, and the identification of the murderer.

I've another waiting for me on my Kindle.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Bruce Beckham is an award-winning Amazon best-selling author. A resident of Great Britain, he has travelled and worked in over 60 countries. He is published in both fiction and non-fiction, and a member of the Society of Authors.
You can contact him via his publisher, at this address: lucius-ebooks@live.com or directly at brucebeckham@live.co.uk
His series 'Detective Inspector Skelgill Investigates' now extends to 20 standalone murder mysteries and 6 boxsets, and sells across five continents, from Japan and India to Brazil and the United States of America. Over one million copies have been downloaded worldwide. 


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