22 October 2023

Review: CURTAIN, Agatha Christie

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B000FCK68Y
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 3, 2006)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0425173747
  • my earlier review

Synopsis (Amazon)

The legendary detective saves his best for last as he races to apprehend a five-time killer before the final curtain descends in Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, the last book Agatha Christie published before her death.

The crime-fighting careers of Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings have come full circle—they are back once again in the rambling country house in which they solved their first murder together.

Both Hercule Poirot and Great Styles have seen better days—but, despite being crippled with arthritis, there is nothing wrong with the great detective and his “little gray cells.” However, when Poirot brands one of the seemingly harmless guests a five-time murderer, some people have their doubts. But Poirot alone knows he must prevent a sixth murder before the curtain falls.

My Take

Published in 1975, and supposedly written about 35 years earlier, which puts it at the beginning of World War II, apparently during the blitz.  

I have read this before, when I was reading the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge. Now I have re-read it for my U3A Agatha Christie Reading Group.  However we intend to keep up our reading and discussion next year.

Nearing the end of his life Hercule Poirot has discovered 5 murders where he believes innocent people have borne the responsibility but at someone else's design. He calls this person X. The place where he met Hastings so many years ago, Styles, has now become a guest house, and one of the people now staying there is X. Poirot realises that X will never be tried in a court of law and he is determined that he will deal with X himself. He wants Hastings to be his eyes and ears because he himself is crippled with arthritis, and prone to heart attacks, and in a wheel chair. 

But Poirot understands the dangers to both Hastings and himself, as well as Hastings' daughter Judith who is also living at Styles.

This novel is a very fitting tribute to Poirot, obviously written while Christie was still enamoured with him, and not yet ready to kill him off.

My rating: 4.7 

All the Christie books I have reviewed. All the short stories.

21 October 2023

Review: THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW, Christian White

Synopsis (Publisher)

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW is a mystery/thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband's secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside down when she's forced to confront the evidence that her husband is a murderer. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

Brilliant and beguiling, THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love? 

My Take

I previously read this over 3 years ago, and now I am re-reading it for discussion with my U3A Crime Fiction group. 

I think now that, when I read it earlier, I seriously under-estimated the clever plot construct that the author builds in. I had forgotten the nature of this twist and began making notes because I actually thought the author had slipped up. And then of course I discovered that he hadn't!

This is an Australian story, set on an island off the coast of Victoria, a popular summer holiday destination, connected to the mainland by a ferry.

What would you do to protect your children? Something happened to John Keddie as a rebellious teenager that would stay with him for the rest of his life - affecting his mental health, giving him nightmares, and memories he can never escape. Eventually the dam overflows.

My Rating: 4.9

Previous reviews


19 October 2023


  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (31 October 2021)
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 244 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1914073606
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1914073601
  • #15 in the Highlands and Islands Detective Thrillers
  • author website

Synopsis (publisher)
A glamorous retirement village on an isolated island. A brutal killer culls the elderly starting with the oldest resident. Can Macleod discover the murderous motive and prevent the island graveyard from overflowing?

When the Isle of Eigg enjoys the opening of ‘The Singing Sands’ Later but Better Township’, little do they realise that death is only round the corner for the new arrivals. Joy turns to sorrow as old friends meet a bloody end, and DI Macleod and DS McGrath are dispatched to investigate. As a determined clientele and some unseasonal weather hamper the investigation, the detectives must look to the past to prevent the dispatching of those seen to be past their time.

Even in paradise you’re only one step from the grave!

My Take

Hope McGrath's Aunt Mary lived in this select retirement village until she apparently committed suicide.  She apparently jumped into the sea and her remains have never been found. And then Hope finds her shawl and an arm. She also learns that her aunt was the 3rd person to disappear in this way. 

This very select retirement home has only 8 residents and now 3 of them have gone in a matter of months. With the discovery of the arm all of Hope's alarm bells are ringing and a full investigation is launched.

I really enjoyed this story and you can see from my rating that I think it is the best one yet. I think this one is a little blacker than the rest, but I am also enjoying the character exploration and varied scenarios. Each book is a little over 200 pages, so not long reads, but they do pack quite a punch.

But if you haven't read any of them, then you must make the effort to read them from the beginning. They are all available on Kindle and probably on other e-book platforms.

According to Fantastic Fiction there are now 29 in the series, and I am intending at this stage to read them all.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

15 October 2023

Review: LAST SEEN ALIVE, Claire Douglas

Synopsis (publisher)

She can run but she can't hide. Because someone knows her secret . . .

Libby and James Hall can't believe their luck when the leaflet comes through the door. Swapping their tiny city flat for a beautiful house by the sea? Who would say no? But once they arrive at The Hideaway Libby starts to get jittery and increasingly paranoid. She is sure that someone is watching them. Something here isn't right. And when she suspects their lives to be in danger they swiftly decide to return to Bath.

But they can't pick up their old life so easily. Because this isn't just a casual house swap. This is something much, much more sinister.

My Take

Libby and Jamie Hall seem to have had a real struggle since they married a few months earlier. So many things have gone wrong. But now Libby has two weeks holiday and the offer of a house swap comes just at the right moment. Libby is able to make all the arrangements by phone and two days later they are on their way to Cornwall. 

But the week in Cornwall doesn't go quite to plan and at the end they are happy to be on their way back to Bath.  But the return home brings only temporary relief. Because that's when we become aware that Libby isn't who we think she is, and the world as we know it is turned upside down

To quote a common phrase this novel has the potential to "do your head in." There are so many twists and turns the brain struggles to make sense of it all.

Very cleverly written.

I've discovered there are quite a few titles I haven't yet read by this author. They are now on my bucket list.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

14 October 2023

Review: WAKE, Shelley Burr

  •  this edition published by Hachette Australia 2022
  • 363 pages
  • ISBN 9-780733-647826
  • winner CWA Debut Dagger 2019

Synopsis (publisher)

A Top Ten bestseller, WAKE is a searing debut crime novel where the grief and guilt surrounding an unsolved disappearance still haunt a small farming community . . . and will ultimately lead to a reckoning.

Evelyn simply vanished.

The small town of Nannine lies in the harsh red interior of New South Wales. Once a thriving outback centre, this ghost town now has one sinister claim to fame: the still-unsolved disappearance of Evelyn McCreery nineteen years ago from the bedroom she shared with her twin sister.

Mina McCreery's life has been defined by the intense and ongoing public interest in her sister's case. Now a reclusive adult, Mina lives alone on her family's sunbaked, destocked sheep farm. The million-dollar reward her mother established to solve the disappearance has never been paid out.

Enter Lane Holland, a private investigator who dropped out of the police academy to earn a living cracking cold cases. Lane has his eye on the unclaimed money, but he also has darker motivations.

WAKE is a powerful, unsparing story of how trauma ripples outward when people's private tragedies become public property, and how it's never too late for the truth to set things right. 

My Take

Lane Holland, private investigator, comes to Nannine to see if he can talk to Mina McCreery about the disappearance of her twin sister nineteen years before. He has done his homework and finds her fairly easily at the general store. But she doesn't, not surprisingly, doesn't want to talk to him. Lane also tries to talk to locals, but they are as reticent as Mina. So Lane uses plan B. He investigates another missing girl, the sister of a friend of Mina's, and her he eventually has some success.

The novel carefully takes readers over what happened nineteen years earlier, and then what has happened to Mina's family since. 

On the surface Lane appears to be mainly interested in the million dollar reward that Mina's mother established in a trust fund over a decade earlier. But what he doesn't reveal is his ulterior motive, that he suspects that he already knows who was responsible for the 9 year old's disappearance.

A very atmospheric book. The Australian setting comes through strongly. Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8 

About the author

Shelley Burr is the winner of the CWA Debut Dagger award with Wake, an alumni of the ACT Writer's Centre Hardcopy program (2018) and a Varuna fellow. When not writing she works at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. She lives in Canberra, but grew up splitting her time between Newcastle and Glenrowan, where her father's family are all sheep farmers. WAKE is Shelley's first novel.

11 October 2023

Review: THE LAST DEVIL TO DIE, Richard Osman

  • This edition published by Viking 2023
  • ISBN 978-0-241-51245-6
  • 417 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

The fourth book in the record-breaking Thursday Murder Club series from British national treasure Richard Osman

Shocking news reaches the Thursday Murder Club.

An old friend in the antiques business has been killed, and a dangerous package he was protecting has gone missing.

As the gang springs into action they encounter art forgers, online fraudsters and drug dealers, as well as heartache close to home.

With the body count rising, the package still missing and trouble firmly on their tail, has their luck finally run out? And who will be the last devil to die?

My Take

At their Boxing Day lunch the Thursday Murder Club learns of an online scam affecting new resident Mervyn. And then on December 27th, their friend in the antiques business, Kuldesh Sharma, is killed. These two incidents form the basis of most of the investigations the Club becomes involved in: convincing Mervyn that he has been "taken for a ride", and finding out who killed Kuldesh. The Kuldesh scenario leads them once more into close contact with local police Chris and Donna. Puzzlingly Chris and Donna are taken off the case by Jill Regan of the National Crime Agency.

I love the way these books are written, and the empathetic way these geriatic investigators are dealt with, with snippets of humour, and realistic scenarios. 

The book contains a tribute to those people, and their families, living with dementia. It is rare for reading a book to bring tears to my eyes, but, as Elizabeth and Stephen arrive at a solution, this one did. 

The author finally assures readers that there will be more in this series.

My rating: 4.8

I've already read

7 October 2023

Review: GIRL, 11, Amy Suiter Clarke

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • 352pp
  • Text Publishing publication date: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9781922330499

Synopsis (author)

Former child social worker Elle Castillo now hosts a popular true crime podcast investigating cold cases of missing and abducted children. After four seasons of successfully solving cases in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Elle decides to tackle her white whale: The Countdown Killer. Twenty years ago, TCK terrorized the community by kidnapping and ritualistically murdering three girls over seven days, each a year younger than the last. But after he took his eleven-year-old victim, the pattern—and the murders—abruptly stopped.

When Elle follows up on a listener email only to discover the tipster’s dead body, she feels responsible. Within days, a young girl is abducted, and the crime seems to fit the TCK sequence halted decades before. While media and law enforcement long ago concluded that TCK was dead, Elle has never believed it. She had hoped her investigation would uncover his identity, but instead, her podcast seems to be inciting new murders.

My Take

Elle Castillo's podcast Justice Delayed  has a following of several hundred thousand. She basically deals with cold cases and has been succesful in solving a number of them. The case she has decided to focus on in her fifth year of production is over twenty years old. After a number of murders in which the female victims become progressively younger, TCK suddenly stopped when he had taken an 11 year old victim.

Now, in response to Elle's podcast, he appears to have started up again. Listeners often contact Elle with information, but this time she arrives to find her informant has been killed.

The story features a number of voices. The transcript of the podcast has Elle asking questions of people related to the topic, interspersed with voiceovers from Elle explaining her thoughts. The transcripts are interspersed with descriptions of what Elle is doing in response to tips. The effect is to build tension. Each section is dated and that provides challenges to the reader too as the chapters are not sequential. The effects of the podcast though is that her listeners learn new information almost as quickly as Elle does.

Elle reveals a lot about her back ground, what motivates her to produce the podcasts, and then ultimately she reveals her true identity.

A well constructed and powerful debut novel.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Amy Suiter Clarke is the author of psychological thrillers GIRL, 11 and LAY YOUR BODY DOWN. Originally from a small town in Minnesota, she completed a BA in theater in the Twin Cities then earned an MFA in Creative Writing with Publishing at Kingston University in London. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her debut novel Girl, 11 has been translated into twelve languages and published in fifteen territories around the world.

4 October 2023

Review: THE RUSH, Michelle Prak

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia (May 3, 2023)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781761108204

Synopsis (publisher

The first drops start to fall when Quinn spies the body. With no reception and nothing but an empty road for miles, does she stop to help or keep driving to safety?

Back at the iconic country pub where Quinn works, Andrea is sandbagging the place in preparation for heavy rains. Alone with her sleeping son in the back room, she reluctantly lets a biker in to wait out the storm.

Out on the wet roads, tensions arise among four backpackers on their way to Darwin. They haven’t prepared for this kind of weather and the flooding isn’t the only threat on the horizon …

Chilling, tense and twisted, this compulsive thriller will send adrenaline coursing through your veins. 

My Take

This story brings together some elements of recent news stories about outback Australia - unexpected flooding, backpackers disappearing or being murdered, an outback pub struggling to survive.

Hayley and Scott are accountancy students in Adelaide, embarking on a holiday trip to Darwin by road. They plan to take a week or two, and to defray expenses they borrow Scott's grandfather's four wheel drive and decide to offer seats in the car to two backpackers who will contribute to the expenses kitty. It is surprisingly easy to find a couple of people to join them. Hayley makes detailed plans of their route, where they will go sightseeing, and where they will camp overnight. They appear to have given little thought to the return journey.

Hayley and Scott have been together for a couple of years, but she is beginning to think he is tiring of her. Hayley is young and she doesn't realise that she is literally being "taken for a ride".

Further north, the rains start, the flooding begins, and then the two main elements of the story come together, with a scenario that is guaranteed to leave the reader gobsmacked.

There are some structural elements which ask the reader to take extra notice - a number of narrative voices, a disjointed time frame (each chapter tells you the name of the main narrator and the date and time, but they are not sequential). There are little backstories which add to your knowledge of each character.

I have some reservations about the title - I am not really sure how it relates to the story.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Michelle Prak is a professional communicator with a thirty-year career in corporate communication, social media, politics and journalism. Writing has been the backbone of much of her work and she has written several short stories and self-published commercial women's fiction titles. She lives in Adelaide and lectures in public relations and social media at the University of South Australia. The Rush is her first thriller.

3 October 2023

Review: ONE BY ONE, Ruth Ware

Synopsis (publisher

Snow is falling in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, as the shareholders and directors of Snoop, the hottest new music app, gather for a make or break corporate retreat to decide the future of the company. At stake is a billion-dollar dot com buyout that could make them all millionaires, or leave some of them out in the cold.

The clock is ticking on the offer, and with the group irrevocably split, tensions are running high. When an avalanche cuts the chalet off from help, and one board member goes missing in the snow, the group is forced to ask - would someone resort to murder, to get what they want?

My Take

The opening pages begin the story with snapshots of the Board members of the Snoop company, followed by a BBC press release about the tragedy in an exclusive ski resort that has killed 4 Britons. 

There is one person not listed on the Board, Liz, who was also at the Alpine ski resort when the avalanche that began it all struck. Liz had not wanted to attend this "retreat" but she is an essential person as she holds the casting vote about the future of the company.

The book combines the best qualities of thriller and page-turner, and the author at her best.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

2 October 2023

Review: NEMESIS, Agatha Christie

Synopsis (publisher

"In utter disbelief Miss Marple read the letter addressed to her from the recently deceased Mr Rafiel – an acquaintance she had met briefly on her travels. Recognising in Miss Marple a natural flair for justice, Mr Rafiel had left instructions for her to investigate a crime after his death. The only problem was, he had failed to tell her who was involved or where and when the crime had been committed. It was most intriguing."

Miss Marple receives an unusual bequest – her old friend and one-time partner in detection, has left posthumous instructions for an investigation into a crime. She must follow the clues across England to discover the truth of his bizarre request.

Extra notes

Nemesis was in fact the last novel Christie wrote featuring Miss Marple, although not the last to be published.

Mr Rafiel first appeared in A Caribbean Mystery and struck up a begrudging alliance with Miss Marple in order to solve a multiple murder case. This transformed to respect, which carries on through to Nemesis, despite the fact that it isn’t a sequel. They are partnered novels which complement each other. Written in her eighties, Nemesis is a testament to Agatha Christie's enduring skill at mystery and deception.

First adapted for screen in 1987, the story starred Joan Hickson. In 2004 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a dramatisation, starring June Whitfield. It was adapted again in 2007, with Geraldine McEwan and also featured Richard E Grant as her nephew, Raymond West.

My Take

Some years earlier, when on holiday in the Caribbean, Miss Marple had met Jonas Rafiel and together they had solved a mystery. Now, a number of years on, he has died, but with some"unfinished business" on his mind, and he leaves a bequest for Miss Marple, dependent on her carrying out his request. She is contacted by his lawyers who hand her a letter from him offering her £20,000. At that stage there is no detail about what he wants her to do apart from the fact that he is keen to see that justice is to be done, and he reminds her of the fact she once told him that she saw herself as Nemesis, the harbinger of justice.

So she begins her quest two days letter by joining a bus tour of Famous Hoses and Gardens of Great Britain with 15 other people. She really still has no idea of what Mr Rafiel wanted her to do, but she has already begun some investigations of her own into his background. As the bus trip progresses it becomes clear that although he hasn't told Miss Marple much, Mr Rafiel has assumed she will accept his request, and he has done several things to clear the way for her.

By the middle of the novel I thought the nature of Miss Marple's quest had become obvious, but at the same time, the narrative was frustratingly slow, almost as if Christie wanted us to think about what makes a person a good detective etc. And then came the first death when one of the passengers from the bus tour was killed, struck by a large boulder. Things speeded up a bit after that.

I can understand if readers are of two minds with this book. It is very different from most of the Miss Marple books, and I thought it was a bit obvious that Christie wanted to explore what made Jane Marple so sensitive to the presence of evil, what made her so determined to see that justice was done. There are sections of text that are almost rambling.

You will have seen that I have read this before. I am re-reading it with my U3A Agatha Christie reading group and I will be interested to see whether or not they have enjoyed it. We will follow our discussion with the viewing of one of the television interpretations but I have yet decided whether it will be the  Joan Hickson or the Geraldine McEwan one, probably the former I think, in the hope that it sticks closer to the original book. Which do you think it should be? (We don't have time for both)

My rating: 4.0

Agatha Christie novels that I've read.

Review: HOMECOMING, Kate Morton

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Published: 4th April 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761185786
  • 640 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Adelaide Hills, Christmas Eve, 1959: At the end of a scorching hot day, beside a creek in the grounds of the grand and mysterious mansion, a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. A police investigation is called and a small town becomes embroiled in one of the most shocking and perplexing murder cases in the history of South Australia.

Sixty years later, Jess is a journalist in search of a story. Having lived and worked in London for almost twenty years, she now finds herself laid off from her full-time job and struggling to make ends meet. A phone call out of nowhere summons her back to Sydney, where her beloved grandmother, Nora, who raised Jess when her mother could not, has suffered a fall and been raced to the hospital.

Nora has always been a vibrant and strong presence: decisive, encouraging, young despite her years. When Jess visits her in the hospital she is alarmed to find her grandmother frail and confused; it's even more alarming to hear from Nora's housekeeper that Nora had been distracted in the weeks before her accident, and that she fell on the steps to the attic - the one place Jess was forbidden from playing when she was small.

At a loose end in Nora's house, Jess does some digging of her own. In Nora's bedroom, she discovers a true crime book, chronicling the police investigation into a long-buried tragedy: the Turner Family Tragedy of Christmas Eve, 1959. It is only when Jess skims through the book that she finds a shocking connection between her own family and this once-infamous crime - a crime that has never been resolved satisfactorily. And for a journalist without a story, a cold case might be the best distraction she can find…

An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love, and how we protect the lies we tell. It explores the power of motherhood, the corrosive effects of tightly held secrets, and the healing nature of truth. Above all, it is a beguiling and immensely satisfying novel from one of the finest writers working today. 

My Take:

When Jess in London gets the phone call calling her to Sydney, to her grandmother's hospital bed side, she has no idea of what she is about to learn.  She has no idea what secrets her grandmother has kept over the years. She was brought up by her grandmother after her mother Polly went north to Brisbane but she has no idea why that happened. But she becomes aware that many things are troubling Nora and Jess becomes determined to find out what they are.

And so layers of secrets are revealed, beginning with a family tragedy in the Adelaide Hills sixty years earlier.  The story is told in two distinct settings, two distinct timelines, and several mysteries come to the surface. There are several narrative voices, in some cases the narrator doesn't have the full story either.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, working at the mysteries as titbits were revealed. Sometimes I guessed correctly and sometimes I didn't.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read


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