15 April 2024

Review: IN DARK WATER, Lynne McEwan

  • This edition available on Kindle from Amazon
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08ZD85G57
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Canelo Crime (June 24, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 330 pages
  • #1 in DI Shona Oliver Crime Thriller series

Synopsis (Amazon)

Beneath the surface lie deadly secrets...

DI Shona Oliver agreed to move to Dumfries with her ex-banker husband when their teenage daughter got in with a bad crowd in London. As a Glasgow native, she’s back on home turf.

Living on the shores of the Solway Firth allows Shona to continue as an RNLI volunteer, and a call out to recover a woman’s body indicates foul play. Police in Cumbria take the case but links back to Scotland keep Shona’s team involved. As they investigate, reports of people trafficking and a spate of thefts from local shops compete for attention with a large scale drug bust. But Shona’s work may all be in vain when those close to her threaten to tear the case apart – and ruin Shona in the process.

An unforgettable debut novel by a Scottish crime writer to watch, for fans of Val McDermid, Marion Todd and Lin Anderson.

My Take

 In DI Shona Oliver we have a very likeable Scottish detective, with all the qualities we require from a true leader. 'Wee Shona' shows herself resourceful, at the same time as persistent and empathetic.

There are lots of twists and turns in the plot, and quite a number of strong characters. A credible read.

I look forward to the second in the series DEAD MAN DEEP.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Glasgow-born Lynne McEwan is a former newspaper photographer turned crime author. She’s covered stories including the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Gulf War in addition to many high profile murder cases. Her DI Shona Oliver series is set on the beautiful Solway Firth which forms the border between Scotland and England, and where Shona is also a lifeboat volunteer. Lynne is a graduate of the University of East Anglia's Creative Writing programme and splits her time between Lincolnshire and Scotland.

13 April 2024

Review: THE DINNER PARTY, Rebecca Heath

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Published 03 Jan 2024 by Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Extent     416 pages
  • ISBN     9781804546109

Synopsis (Publisher

The new exciting thriller by Rebecca Heath, author of THE SUMMER PARTY. A dark and twisty domestic thriller set in a seemingly idyllic suburban neighbourhood, where family secrets are best kept buried...

Summer 1979. In the idyllic suburban neighbourhood of Ridgefield, Australia, during a scorching heat wave, four couples gather for their weekly dinner party.

When Frank Callaghan checks on the sleeping children, he finds an empty crib where his four-month-old daughter Megan should be sleeping. The party-goers swear they didn't see anything but each of them has something to hide.

Forty years later, a stranger knocks at the Callaghan's door. She claims to be their missing daughter. And she's holding the blanket she was wrapped in the night she disappeared.

Shocked, the Callaghans must finally confront how well they know their neighbours, and ask themselves:
Where has Megan really been all this time?

My Take

There is so much to like about this novel, not just that it is by a South Australian author, or that it is right in the time frame of my own life.

The action begins in 1979 with the disappearance of a 4 month old baby while her parents are at a dinner party in a neighbouring house. 40 years later 'The Callaghan Baby Podcast' is investigating what is now a forty-year-old cold case, bringing together investigative evidence from when the disappearance happened, police reports, a coronial investigation, interviews with suspects, family and neighbours both then and now.  The author combines that with other voices, particularly that of Billie, the adult daughter of baby Megan's sister.

This made the structure of the novel very complex, and quite challenging for the reader, but a staggering achievement. So much of the book rang true for me.

The family is marking the anniversary of Megan's disappearance with a family gathering when there is a knock at the door: a stranger is standing on the doorstep.  

Little by little, elements of the mystery are revealed and the reader is asked to assess evidence.

Highly recommended.

My Rating: 5.0

About the Author
Rebecca Heath studied science at university, worked in hospitality and teaching, but she always carved out time to write. She lives in Adelaide, Australia, halfway between the city and the sea with her husband, three children and a much-loved border collie. She spent her childhood summers at a remote beach. Her first novel is THE SUMMER PARTY

11 April 2024

Review: THE GLASS HOUSE, Eve Chase

  • This edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07VRY3DBN
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin (May 14, 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 393 pages 

Synopsis  (Amazon)

The truth can shatter everything . . .

When the Harrington family discovers an abandoned baby deep in the shady woods, they decide to keep her a secret and raise her as their own.

But within days a body is found in the grounds of their house and their perfect new family implodes.

Years later, Sylvie, seeking answers to nagging questions about her life, is drawn into the wild beautiful woods where nothing is quite what it seems.

Will she unearth the truth?

And dare she reveal it?

'The Glass House is not really about a murder, or a creepy house, but about families - the ones we're born into, the ones we make and especially the ones we flee' New York Times 

My Take

This novel has a fascinating structure with parts of the story in the past and parts in the present. Sylvie has known for most of her life that both she and her sister have been adopted, but now her mother has had an accident and is in a coma, and her daughter is pregnant, and there are things that Sylvie just doesn't know.

I think the reader knows more than Sylvie does, but even so there are t's to crossed and i's to be dotted, and so this book is really a many stranded mystery. As the book progresses things begin to fall into place, with some real surprises. Nevertheless I thought there was a bit of a struggle to tie everything off at the end.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read

Review: ABSOLUTION, Caro Ramsay

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle at Amazon
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B091H15B8W
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Joffe Books crime thriller, mystery and suspense (April 14, 2021)
    First published 2008
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 390 pages
  • #1 in Anderson and Costello series

Synopsis (Amazon)

Meet your next favourite Scottish detectives: DI Colin Anderson and DS Winifred ‘Freddie’ Costello.

A serial killer is stalking Glasgow.

A woman is found dead in her own home. No sign of forced entry. But she is posed as though on the cross. Ripped open and bled to death. With a blistering of chloroform round her mouth and nose.

She’s not the first victim found like this.

Detectives Anderson and Costello are on the case. But their boss, DCI Alan McAlpine, is unravelling before their eyes.

The past holds horrific memories for McAlpine. He last worked this beat some twenty years earlier, when he was assigned to guard a woman, faceless after a sadistic acid attack. He couldn’t protect her.

The past is resurfacing.
Three women are dead.

Can they stop a serial killer who’s terrifying the gritty streets of Glasgow?

A Scottish police procedural that will keep your pulse racing from electrifying opening to heart-stopping finish.  

My Take

This is actually not a new series, the first originally published in 2007, just recently published as an e-book, I think. I will certainly be checking up for more.

A serial killer is acting as a vigilante, targetting women who have betrayed others. So far three have been brutally killed, and there is no sign  that "he" is stopping.

It is a complex plot, with clues that seem to lead nowhere. In many ways this is a very solid police procedural. The ending will leave you wondering where the series is heading.

Book 7: RAT RUN

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Caro was born in Govan, on Glasgow's south side. A graduate of the British School of Osteopathy, she runs a large osteopath centre in West Scotland, treating animals and humans, and writes in her spare time.

Her first novel Absolution was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2008 and her second Singing to the Dead was longlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2010. The third in the series, Dark Water, was published on 4 August 2010, and the fourth book The Blood Of Crows was published on 30 August 2012. Critic Cathi Unsworth in The Guardian opined that Ramsay's series "excels in sense of place, realism, plotting and caustic humour", describing it as "Bleak, black and brilliant".

Ramsay was the subject of a 2007 BBC documentary film, and appeared on STV show The Hour in 2010.

6 April 2024

Review: THE BIRDCAGE, Eve Chase

  • This edition read as an e-book on my Kindle through Amazon
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08T6L6D24
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin (April 28, 2022
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 370 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

When half-sisters Lauren, Flora, and Kat are unexpectedly summoned to the Cornish house where they spent their childhood summers, it's the first time they've dared return.

Because the wild cliffs and windswept beaches hide a twenty-year-old secret.

The truth about what they did.

Someone who remembers them lurks in the shadows, watching their every move.

And there are other secrets, even darker than their own, waiting to be unearthed . . .

My Take

This was a fascinating read, absolutely enthralling. Three half sisters are summoned by their father to the house in Cornwall where they used to meet every summer. He has things he wants to tell them.

They have recently met at the funeral of one of their mothers, but relationships are not easy.

Readers become aware that something occurred twenty years before that affected the family dramatically and we spend most of the book piecing that together. The author does a very good job of preventing us from learning the full truth too quickly, at the same time as giving us a picture of how things are now.  A mystery in the true sense of the word.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read 4.8, THE WILDLING SISTERS

About the author
Eve Chase is an internationally bestselling British novelist who writes rich, layered and suspenseful novels, thick with secrets, unforgettable characters and settings. Her latest novel, The Midnight Hour - 'Her best yet...I loved every word' - Claire Douglas - publishes June '24, in the UK. Other novels include, The Birdcage, The Glass House (The Daughters of Foxcote Manor, US) a Sunday Times top ten bestseller and Richard and Judy Book Club pick, The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde (The Wildling Sisters, US) which was longlisted for the HWA Gold Crown Award, and Black Rabbit Hall, winner of Paris' Saint-Maur en Poche prize for Best Foreign Fiction. She works in the Writer's Shed at the bottom of her garden, usually with Harry, her golden retriever.  

2 April 2024

Review: THE MATCH, Harlan Coben

  • This edition made available as an e-book by my local library on Libby
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Grand Central Publishing (February 7, 2023) 
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1538748290
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1538748299


After months away, Wilde has returned to the Ramapo Mountains in the wake of a failed bid at domesticity that confirms what he's known all along: He belongs on his own, free from the comforts and constraints of modern life.

Suddenly, a DNA match on an online ancestry database brings Wilde closer to his past than he's ever dreamed, and finally gives Wilde the opening he needs to track down his father. But meeting the man brings up more questions than answers. So Wilde reaches out to his last, most desperate lead, a second cousin who disappears as quickly as he resurfaces, having experienced an epic fall from grace that can only be described as a waking nightmare.

Was his cousin's downfall a long time coming? Or was he the victim of a conspiracy as cunning as it is complex? And how does it all connect to the man once known as The Stranger, a treacherous fugitive with a growing following whose mission and methods have only turned more dangerous with time?


My Take

No wonder I had problems understanding this book! I have just discovered that this is the second book in a series. I kept thinking that I had missed something. There were so many times where I went back and read a passage again and was forced into making guesses.

The book raised a number of interesting issues: reality TV programs that "play" with the emotions of participants/contestants; the use of DNA to trace relatives etc. That bit I appreciated. But there were really too many holes in my understanding for me to really enjoy reading the book.

My Rating: 3.0

I've also read

1 April 2024

Review: POIROT INVESTIGATES, Agatha Christie

  • this edition from my local library published by Vintage Books Jan 2023
  • first published 1924
  • ISBN 978-0-593-31188-3
  • 237 pages


Poirot Investigates is a short story collection written by English author Agatha Christie and first published in the UK by The Bodley Head in March 1924.[1] In the eleven stories, famed eccentric detective Hercule Poirot solves a variety of mysteries involving greed, jealousy, and revenge. The American version of this book, published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1925,[2] featured a further three stories. 

The American edition of the book, published one year later, featured an additional three stories which did not appear in book form in the UK until 1974 with the publication of Poirot's Early Cases.

    The Chocolate Box
    The Veiled Lady
    The Lost Mine

The original 11 stories

  1. The Adventure of the Western Star
  2. The Tragedy of Marsdon Manor
  3. The Adventure of the Cheap Flat
  4. The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge
  5. The Million Dollar Bond Robbery
  6. The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb
  7. The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan
  8. The Kidnapped Prime Minister
  9. The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim
  10. The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman
  11. The Case of the Missing Will

My Take

You will find that I have read all these short stories previously. See also here.  

I am re-reading them to discuss with my U3A Agatha Christie group. So here rather than look comprehensively at each story, I will just make a few notes, and perhaps some questions that I want to ask the group in our discussion. Please excuse me if I inadvertently release a few spoliers.

At the beginning of the collection there is a warning that the plots of these original stories may differ from the television versions of them. 

There is also a warning that the book as published in 1925 contained some offensive cultural representations and language that may detract - and distract- from the value of the work. A certain amount of sanitisation has taken place.  Do the group think that sanitisation is justified?

I am interested in how Poirot was depicted. Generally he is nimbler than in later books and also poses at times as a handyman, such as a plumber.

These stories all pre-date the appearance of Miss Lemon. Poirot and Hastings have a landlady.

The stories are all narrated by Hastings, basically set after  World War One, and he sets the tone in the first story (The Adventure of the Western Star) with his complaint that Poirot has made an absolute laughing stock of him. His complaint is basically that Poirot never confides what he is thinking and just lets Hastings blunder along.  Poirot says Hastings is "always in a mental fog". Of course this allows Poirot to demonstrate how superior his "little grey cells" are.

The stories demonstrate the breadth of the consultations are that Poirot undertakes. In the second, The Tragedy of Marsdon Manor, Poirot is asked to investigate a possible insurance fraud.

I found the plot of the third one, The Adventure of the Cheap Flat, rather convoluted and didn't think Christie pulled it off particularly well. It does demonstrate the breadth of Poirot's international connections, and also introduces Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard who will appear regularly in Poirot stories and novels.

In the Mystery of Hunter's Lodge Poirot is in bed with influenza and he allows Hastings to go instead of him. At Lodge he meets up with Japp who refers unkindly to "the cart without the horse". In this case Poirot solves the case from his sick bed, but Hastings and Japp combined, who are on the spot, are unable to secure the culprits. Hastings observes though that justice is finally done.

The Million Dollar Bond Robbery makes us aware of Poirot's chronic mal der mer as well as his ability to think outside the box. 

In The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb Christie gives us a time frame determined by the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. In 1923 and 1924 there were stories of a curse having been activated by the desecration of the tomb, so this story would have had a very contemporary feel for the readers.

In The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan, Hastings announces his plan to take Poirot away to Brighton for the weekend.  Hastings reminds us that Poirot is inclined to underestimate Hastings' mental capacities. A pearl necklace is stolen but Poirot solves the case while hasting misses all the clues.

The Kidnapped Prime Minister is set a little earlier than some of the stories, probably in 1919 during the peace conferences and Hastings reveals the role that Poirot played in averting an international crisis. In this story we have a description of Japp as "ferret-faced" which is quite at odds with the way he has been portrayed in TV series. 

In the Disappearance of Mr Davenheim Poirot assures us that he approaches the business of detection as an exact science, a mathematical precision.  He regards himself as a "consulting specialist", able to solve mysteries without moving from his chair, providing he is given the right information. But he asks such peculiar questions that Japp privately considers his abilities have deserted him. Japp emphasises his age and war experiences are catching up with him. But in the end Japp loses a five pound wager to Poirot.

The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman looks like an Italian vendetta but Poirot is not convinced. He realises that they are reliant on the evidence of one man, and what if that is not true?

The Case of the Missing Will  features Poirot and Hastings and a New Woman who impresses Poirot but not Hastings. Poirot solves her problem but Hastings feels they have not "played fair".

So that brings us to the end of the original 11 stories. They have all been designed to show us what a clever mind Poirot has, and how much superior to both Japp and Hastings. The remaining 3 stories seem a little shorter than the earlier ones.

In The Veiled Lady Poirot is bored - he imagines that he is making such a name for himself in London that criminals are not presenting any interesting cases. In this case Poirot and Hasting break into a  house in the dead of night in search of a Chinese Box containing some compromising letters. 

In The Lost Mine Poirot recounts an old adventure of his to explain to Hastings why he does not invest in shares. And in The Chocolate Box he tells Hastings of one of his rare failures, a case where he let natural justice take its course.

So in general, these stories range in quality. Each of them has a puzzle for the reader to solve. However, there are times when the author does not give the reader everything they need to solve the puzzle. At times Poirot is privy to information that we do not have. However the stories in general move quickly and the problem is resolved.

My rating: 4.3

Review: POISON AT THE VILLAGE SHOW, Catherine Coles

  • This edition available on Amazon for Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09NR1NJMT
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Boldwood Books (March 17, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 226 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 1804150630
  • Martha Miller Mysteries #1

Synopsis (Amazon)

Westleham Village 1947.

It’s the Westleham village show and with the war finally over, everyone is looking forward to a pleasant day.

But newcomer, Martha Miller doesn’t share the excitement. Because since her husband Stan left for work one day and never returned, Martha has been treated as somewhat of an outsider in Westleham. The village gossip is that Martha must be to blame….

Martha hopes she can win her fellow villagers over with her delicious homemade plum gin. But as glasses of the tangy tipple are quaffed, disaster strikes! Chairwoman of the village show, Alice Warren, slumps to the ground - poisoned!

As fingers of suspicion again point Martha’s way, she’s determined to prove
her innocence and find the real culprit. And she’s ably helped by the new vicar, Luke Walker.

But who would kill Alice and why? And will Luke and Martha discover who is behind the poisoning before it's too late?

My Take

A very readable cozy, with likeable central characters, a plausible plot, and a couple of elements of romance. Set in an English village after World War II, with rationing still in place. This was a quick read and the first in a series of 4. Perhaps the ending was a bit weak.

My rating: 4.2

About the author
Born in Germany to a military father, Catherine’s early years were an adventure in themselves. For the first 14 years of her life, she called various countries abroad her home. It was during this time that she developed her insatiable appetite for stories, courtesy of her school library.

With each turn of the page, Catherine became captivated by two genres: romance and mysteries. The daring escapades of Nancy Drew left a mark on her, igniting a love for mystery stories. Soon, she discovered the genius of Agatha Christie, whose books remain her favourites to this day.

Catherine’s bestselling Tommy & Evelyn Christie Mysteries transport readers to the North Yorkshire countryside of the 1920s while the Martha Miller Mysteries unfold in the charming countryside of post-World War 2 Berkshire. Catherine’s new series, the West Cliffe Bay Cosy Mysteries are contemporary mysteries set in a fictional North Yorkshire village.

Catherine shares her home with her youngest child and two delightfully spoiled dogs who have no idea they are not human.

30 March 2024

Review: FOUL PLAY, Fiona McIntosh

  • This edition available on Amazon in Kindle 
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CB1YNVX7
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin eBooks (January 9, 2024)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 403 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Superstar footballer Luca Bruni is being blackmailed for a night of lust he swears he didn’t participate in...except the ransom photo denies that. A media darling on and off the field, he has powerful charisma, a perfect home life he’ll do anything to protect, and more money than he knows what to do with. He’s determined to defy the extortion racket.

When Detective Superintendent Jack Hawksworth learns that the cunning mastermind behind this crime has already swindled a dozen of the world’s most highly prized male athletes, he is instructed to keep the situation from escalating and prevent a media frenzy.

Intrigued by the creativity of the crime and the shockwaves it is creating through the global sporting fraternity, Jack begins a journey into a case that has tentacles far more wide-reaching that he ever imagined – and far more deadly. 

My Take

This is the 5th in this series.

I read the first in 2008, BYE BYE BABY, when the author had decided to use pseudonym Lauren Crow for her crime fiction titles. It was republished under the name Fiona McIntosh in 2013.

Since then there have been a further 3 in the series which I have not read.

Since all 5 titles have the same central characters, there is considerable back story which I am not familiar with. There are some references (and details) in this novel to what has gone before, and probably enough to allow you to read FOUL PLAY as a stand-alone.

Jack Hawksworth has been warned by his commanding officer more than once about mixing his private and professional lives and once again he ignores this warning to the detriment of someone he is using and whom he has promised to protect. Although both Hawksworth and his offsider Kate are supposed to be at the top of their game, they are in many ways unlovely personalities and their actions did affect the way I eventually felt about the book.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read 

4.2, BYE BYE BABY (as Lauren Crow)

From Fantastic Fiction

DCI Jack Hawksworth
   1. Bye Bye Baby (2007)
   2. Beautiful Death (2009)
   3. Mirror Man (2021)
   4. Dead Tide (2023)
   5. Foul Play (2024)

The author has written another 30+ books, mainly fantasy. 

About the author

Originally from Brighton, Fiona McIntosh moved to Australia in her teens and forged a successful career in travel - running a business with her husband - before becoming a writer. She continues her work and on top of this not only writes at least two books a year, but also spearheads the Fab Fantasy Bookclub - Australia's premier fantasy bookclub. She lives in southern Australia with her husband, her two lovely sons, two mad dogs and two insane birds.

24 March 2024

Review: THE NARRATOR, K.L. Slater

  •  This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BLCN1CF4
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bookouture (January 6, 2023Print length ‏ : ‎ 306 pages

Synopsis (Amazon

What if the chance of a perfect life… put your daughter in grave danger?

Being a single mother is tough, but I’d do anything for my little girl Scarlet. I’d given up on my career as a voice actor when the call came, but suddenly I was the new narrator for a secret book from bestselling author Philippa Roberts, who has been missing for eight months. It was a lifeline for me and my daughter.

I hated that it meant leaving Scarlet with my ex in his perfect new home with his perfect new girlfriend. But I knew it was the right thing to do.

But as I start reading Philippa’s new novel, I start to wonder if it’s no coincidence that I’ve been chosen to narrate it. There’s something hidden in the pages of this book, I’m sure of it. Some clue to Philippa’s disappearance. And I don’t feel safe. I think I’m being watched. My room has been searched.

And then my ex’s girlfriend calls in tears and everything starts to click together. If I don’t find answers fast, I’ll lose more than my second chance. I’ll lose my daughter. 

My Take

Eve has been the narrator for all nine of Philippa Roberts' popular crime fiction D.I. Tower series but then Philippa disappeared, Eve's father died, and her marriage collapsed. Now Philippa's tenth novel has turned up and Eve is offered the job of narrator again.

But, as she reads, Eve feels there is something wrong with this novel. It doesn't feel quite right. So she starts asking questions about the disappearance of the novelist, and Eve starts to get threatening messages.

This plot has some good strands and some interesting characters - sure to keep you reading to find out the final answer.

My rating: 4.6

23 March 2024


  •  this edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C8JWHT8S
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster UK (February 29, 2024
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 541 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 006329835X

Synopsis (Amazon)

She’s loved by all who meet her. But someone wants her gone . . .


When beautiful and vivacious Charlotte Salter fails to turn up to her husband Alec’s 50th birthday party, her kids are worried, but Alec is not. As the days pass and there’s still no word from Charlie, her daughter, Etty, and her sons, Niall, Paul and Ollie, all struggle to come to terms with her disappearance.
How can anyone just vanish without a trace?
Left with no answers and in limbo, the Salter children try and go on with their lives, all the while thinking that their mother’s killer is potentially very close to home.


After years away, Etty returns home to the small East Anglian village where she grew up to help move her father into a care home. Now in his eighties, Alec has dementia and often mistakes his daughter for her mother.
Etty is a changed woman from the trouble-free girl she was when Charlie was still around - all the Salter children have spent decades running and hiding from their mother’s disappearance.
But when their childhood friends, Greg and Morgen Ackerley, decide to do a podcast about Charlotte’s disappearance, it seems like the town’s buried secrets – and the Salters’ – might finally come to light.

After all this time, will they finally find out what really happened to Charlotte Salter?

My Take

An absolutely gripping read. 

The story opens with Alec Salter's 50th birthday party, the one that his wife Charlie never appeared at, even though she was expected. The party finished early but Charlie never came home.

A police investigation was held but Charlie was never found. 

And now, 30 years later, Alec has dementia and his children have made the decision to move him into a care home, and to sell the house. A podcast revisits the events of 30 years ago, opens old wounds, and asks locals and family to remember what happened.

Another death results in another police investigation.

There is plenty of opportunity for readers to pit their little grey cells against the evidence and to come up with their own theories of what happened to Charlotte Salter.

My rating: 5.0 

I've also read

Review: DARLING GIRLS, Sally Hepworth

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Macmillan Australia (26 September 2023)
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1761262165
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1761262166

Synopsis (publisher)

SISTERS, SECRETS, LOVE, AND MURDER... Sally Hepworth's new novel has it all.

For as long as they can remember, Jessica, Norah, and Alicia have been told how lucky they are. As young girls they were rescued from family tragedies and raised by a loving foster mother, Miss Fairchild, on an idyllic farming estate and given an elusive second chance at a happy family life.

But their childhood wasn't the fairy tale everyone thinks it was. Miss Fairchild had rules. Miss Fairchild could be unpredictable. And Miss Fairchild was never, ever to be crossed. In a moment of desperation, the three broke away from Miss Fairchild and thought they were free. Even though they never saw her again, she was always somewhere in the shadows of their minds. When a body is discovered under the home they grew up in, the foster sisters find themselves thrust into the spotlight as key witnesses. Or are they prime suspects? 

My Take

As always, this novel by Sally Hepworth has an unusual plot with unusual twists, and, as always, gives the reader something to sink their teeth into.

Jessica, Alicia and Norah came to Miss Fairchild as young girls in need of compassion. But there was another side to Miss Fairchild and the girls were very lucky to survive. 

I loved the construction of this novel and there is mystery to work on right from the beginning.

My rating: 4.8 

I've also read


16 March 2024

Review: THE NIGHT SHE FELL, Eileen Merriman

  •  this edition is available on Amazon for Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CP6X5ZFJ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin eBooks (NZ Adult) (March 5, 2024)
  • author website

Synopsis (Amazon)

‘When I last saw Ashleigh, she was lying in a pool of blood . . . Her eyes were open, staring sightlessly into the sky. I’d like to think she saw the stars before she died; that in her last moments she flew, soaring on serotonin, dreamy with dopamine. I’d like to think she didn’t suffer . . .’

A beautiful young law student dies on the concrete below her third-storey window in chilly Dunedin.

It’s clear enough how she died. What isn’t is why — or who’s involved.

Plenty of people had a reason to hate Ashleigh, with her straight As and perfect looks. She’s fallen out with her flatmates, and her boyfriend Xander is having second thoughts about their future together. And then there are the weird messages.

The Night She Fell is a gripping psychological thriller from one of New Zealand's most multi-talented contemporary novelists. 

My Take

This appears to be the author's first adult crime fiction novel.

Set in Dunedin where Ashleigh and Xander are university students living in different flats. Xander is a medical student and Ashleigh a law student. They have been together for seven years but Ashleigh is dominating while her parents have been financially generous to Xander and his family. Xander's eye has been recently caught by Ronnie, a psychology student with a room in Ashleigh's house.

And then one night Ashleigh dies, jumping from a third floor window. It is just a week since she and Xander broke up.

The structure of book centres around Ashleigh's death. The main voices are Xander and Ronnie and the chapters are Before and After.  The puzzle is what caused Ashleigh to jump. Is anyone or anything to blame?

Very engrossing.

My rating: 4.7 

About the author

Several of Eileen Merriman’s young adult novels have been finalists in the NZ Children’s and Young Adult Book Awards, and also Storylines Notable Books. Her first adult novel, Moonlight Sonata, was released in 2019, and was longlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction. Her fourth YA novel, A Trio of Sophies, was released in Australia, New Zealand  and Germany in  2020 and was a finalist in the Ngaio Marsh Crime Awards. Her fourth adult novel, The Night She Fell, is due for release in March 2024. Three of her young adult novels have been optioned for TV or film, including Catch Me When You Fall, for which the prequel, Catch A Falling Star, was released in 2023.

11 March 2024

Review: NOW YOU SEE THEM, Elly Griffiths

  • this edition published by Quercus 2019
  • #5 in the Brighton Mysteries
  • ISBN 978-1-78648-735-3
  • 351 pages
  • author website

Synopsis (author website)

Three girls have left. None have come back.

Brighton, 1963. Edgar Stephens has been promoted to Superintendent and is married to his former sergeant, Emma Holmes. Edgar’s wartime partner in arms, magician Max Mephisto, is a movie star in Hollywood, while his daughter Ruby has her own TV show.

The funeral of an old friend highlights just how much the gang’s lives have changed in the last nine years. Edgar is struggling with fresh responsibilities and the new swinging Brighton of rioting mods and rockers; Emma is chafing against the restrictions of life as a housewife.

Bob Willis, meanwhile, is tackling his biggest case since his promotion to DI: a schoolgirl missing from high-class boarding school Roedean. It looks like she’s run away; but there are disturbing similarities to the disappearances of a young local nurse and a tearaway Modette, neither of whom have been seen or heard from since…

A new world is dawning in Brighton, but the city’s dark side is as dangerous as ever.

My take

The disappearance of 3 young women who have left similar goodbye notes sparks an investigation. And then the body of one of them is discovered and is followed by the disappearance of Ruby Magic, Max Mephisto's daughter. Ruby has also left a note telling people not to worry. But Ruby has missed work, an left her cat locked up in her flat.

Meanwhile Edgar Stephens' wife Emma is very much feeling underused and left out. She was one of the first female detective sergeants  in the country, but she resigned on her marriage. Emma feels she could still make a useful contribution. In the long run it is Emma who eventually works out what has happened to the girls.

Set in the 1960s, the plot definitely shows how things are changing. Max has been asked to accept a role in a film with a film star of some prominence.

My rating: 4.6 

I've also read

10 March 2024

Review: DARK DEEDS DOWN UNDER, Craig Sisterson (edit)

  • This edition is available on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B6CQCCJD
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Clan Destine Press (July 1, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 349 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A vibrant southern constellation of crime writers.

Dark Deeds Down Under features the very best of modern Australian and New Zealand crime and mystery writing.

Spend time with some of your favourite Aussie and Kiwi cops, sleuths and accidental heroes, and meet some edgy new investigators.

A crew of beloved series characters - Corinna Chapman, Hirsch, Sam Shephard, Rowly Sinclair, Nick Chester, Murray Whelan - will lead you down dark alleys to meet our newer heroes - the Nancys, Penny Yee and Matiu, Alex Clayton, Kate Miles - and the stars of some cracking standalone tales.

Travel the criminal trails of two countries. From the dusty Outback to South Island glaciers, from ocean-carved coastlines and craggy mountains to sultry rainforests or Middle Earth valleys, and via sleepy towns to the seething underbellies of our cosmopolitan cities.

The 19 dark deeds herein are perpetrated by:

Alan Carter - Nikki Crutchley - Aoife Clifford - Garry Disher - Helen Vivienne Fletcher - Lisa Fuller - Sulari Gentill - Kerry Greenwood - Narrelle M. Harris - Katherine Kovacic - Shane Maloney - R.W.R. McDonald - Dinuka McKenzie - Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray - Renee - Stephen Ross - Fiona Sussman - Vanda Symon - David Whish-Wilson

My Take

I love short stories but short story collections are always difficult to to review. I try not to say which I've enjoyed most. Ranking them is always too hard. But here is a collection you can pop on your Kindle for the occasional dabble. They are all good representatives of the genre, some of them grittier than others.

So I've decided to list below the authors that I have 'met' before and to list the books that I have read.

The collection has also pointed out to me some authors I should really look for, particularly those  "across the ditch". In reality I've only met the work of  9 of the 19 before, so Craig has done me a service.

But, I've got to say it... the one that will stick with me for a while is Mr Pig by NZ author Stephen Ross.

My rating: 4.6 

I have 'met' the following authors through their books recorded in this blog

Carter, Alan:

Disher, Garry:

Gentill, Sulari:

Greenwood, Kerry:

Kovacic, Katherine:

Maloney, Shane: SUCKED IN

McDonald, R.W.R

Symon, Vanda:

and lastly, but by far not least
Sisterson, Craig: 5.0, SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME

9 March 2024

Review: SUSPECT, Robert Crais

  • This edition available on Amazon for Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00AZ0HGJI
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Orion (January 17, 2013)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 418 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0425278271

Synopsis (Amazon)

LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well. Eight months ago, a shocking late-night assault by unidentified men killed his partner Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode. He is unfit for duty - until he meets his new partner.

Maggie is not doing so well, either. A German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing out explosives before losing her handler to an IED.

They are each other's last chance. Shunned and shunted to the side, they set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. What they begin to find takes them both on a journey through the darkest moments of their own personal hells. Whether they will make it out again, no one can say.

My Take

I have read this book for discussion with my U3A Crime Fiction Reading Group.

If Maggie had been a human Marine, not a dog, she would be decorated, as it is she is under notice. Shape up or ship out! The same is true of her new human alpha, LAPD cop Scott James. In reality he should be retired. Both he and Maggie have been injured on duty, and both are struggling to resume a working life. They both suffer from PTSD and are temporarily part of the LAPD K-9 unit but the odds are stacked against them.

  • both react badly to loud sudden noises
  • both have long lingering injuries.

Among the questions I am going to ask my group are those relating to the meaning of the book's title, because I think there is more than one. So, what is it that helps Scott and Maggie work together? What attributes does Maggie have that are of most use to Scott in his search for the killers of his former partner?

Crais attempts to make Maggie a real character, even to the point of getting inside her head, telling us how she sees her new partner. For Scott there is a real learning journey. He has never had a dog before, and has a lot to learn about how to treat Maggie.

In a sequel to this novel THE PROMISE, Crais decided to bring this pair into his Elvis Cole series but there don't appear to be any mention of them after that.

I will be interested to see how my group react to this novel - for some of them it will not be their cup of tea. I should explain that in the case of this group we read sets of books supplied by our local library so I didn't actual choose this book specifically, just a title from a list.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read


Review: A SWEEPING DARKNESS, Inferno Trilogy 3, G.R.Jordan

  •  this edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BLP5MWZ8
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (January 1, 2023
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 210 pages
  • #24 Highlands and Islands Detectives

Synopsis (Amazon)

The public weeps as the killings begin again. With the chase now on, agendas are quickly accelerated. Can Macleod and McGrath pull together a ragged investigation to stop an unholy sacrifice?

Reinstated but still under the public glare, DI Macleod knows that the dark cult responsible for the first deaths are now feeling the pressure. Tales of brutality and sacrifice run rife leaving Macleod to sort rumour from reality. As the true nature of what the cult intends to do comes to light, Seoras and Hope find themselves in a desperate race to find missing children and Ross's adopted child.

For the love of God, he has to find them!

My Take:

The Infernal Trilogy races to its breathtaking conclusion. MacLeod and his team has to find the final meeting place of the cult as well as locate seven children selected for sacrifice.

An impressively constructed story. 

My rating:  4.5

I have read

3 March 2024

Review: A COMMON MAN, Inferno Trilogy 2, G. R. Jordan

  • this edition available from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BLP9G14P
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (December 11, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 222 pages
  • Highlands & Islands Detective Book 23 

Synopsis (Amazon)

Removed from his post and cast aside by his superiors. Without authority and any resources to call to hand. Can Macleod operate from the dark and hunt down the mysterious group before another child dies?

Having been sidelined from the investigation and fast tracked for an early retirement, DI Macleod knows that the child killer is still on the loose. With the assistance of his injured Colleague, DS Urquhart, Macleod finds himself operating beyond the law for the first time in his career. With DS McGrath increasingly frustrated by the glory hunting DCI, Macleod must pull whatever resources he can to bring about the arrest of the dark band of brothers before another innocent suffers.

With Hope removed, you need a rottweiler at your heels! 

My Take

Warning: don't start this until you have read THE DEATH OF MACLEOD, Inferno Trilogy 1.

Spoiler: in the first in the Trilogy, Macleod had a falling out with the new DCI and has gone on indefinite leave. Clarissa was injured in that novel and so she is on leave too. None of Macleod's team are meant to be in contact with him.

This novel further explores the dynamics that holds this team together. The trilogy has one more title to go.

My rating: 4.6 

I've read

Review: THE DEATH OF MACLEOD: Inferno Trilogy 1, G.R. Jordan

  • this book available from Amazon on Kindle
  • Highlands & Islands Detective Book 22
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BLZQ6FCS
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (November 9, 2022)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ November 9, 2022

Synopsis (Amazon)

A slaughter of innocents. A crazed public demands vengeance from any source. Can Macleod hold his poise amidst a cry for blood before justice?

When a heinous crime against children provokes a national outcry, Detective Inspector Macleod and his team are under pressure for results like never before. As the murders continue, top brass demands a scapegoat at all costs. But when Detective Sergeant McGrath suspects evidence has been planted to sate the public’s bloodlust, can Macleod find the real killer before the public tears their sacrificial lamb apart?

Today in the crucible, tomorrow the gallows.

My Take

These stories continue to hold my attention. 

Macleod has a new DCI who sees Macleod as a managerial challenge. When Macleod comes up with a radical interpretation of the ghastly events that are occurring, the DCI insists that he is wrong and forces Macleod to take action that he feels is wrong.

There can only be one result.

The author has chosen to break this story into 3 parts, hence the title.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

Review: THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS, Agatha Christie

  • first published 1932
  • this edition published by Harper Collins 2021
  • ISBN 978-0-00-850935-4
  • 231 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Follow the ingenious mysteries of the ‘Tuesday Night Club’ with this hardback special edition of Agatha Christie’s beloved classic.

‘Well,’ said Joyce, ‘it seems to me we are a pretty representative gathering. How would it be if we formed a Club? What is today? Tuesday? We will call it The Tuesday Night Club. It is to meet every week, and each member in turn has to propound a problem. Some mystery of which they have personal knowledge, and to which, of course, they know the answer.’

Two years before The Murder at the Vicarage, Agatha Christie first introduced the world to Jane Marple and the stories of murder and intrigue told by each member of the Tuesday Night Club. Time and time again, crimes so wicked they have confounded even Scotland Yard’s finest are solved by St Mary Mead’s sharpest mind and everyone’s favourite armchair.

Additional information

THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS consists of 13 short stories, all dedicated to demonstrating the cleverness of Miss Marple, who mainly solves the mysteries by comparing them to her observations of life in St. Mary Mead. The stories marked the debut of Miss Marple. The first set were published in 1927-28, and therefore preceded her debut novel THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE which was published in 1930.

The first story is The Tuesday Night Club and it sets the scene for the next 5 stories.
The author Raymond West is staying with his aunt, Jane Marple in the village of St. Mary Mead.
Apart from Raymond and Miss Marple, there are four other people in the room, the occasion simply an evening in MissMarple's house. Other people might play charades but Raymond West suggests they think about unsolved mysteries. One of the guests suggests they form a club, call it the Tuesday Night Club, to meet every week, and each member has to propound a problem. It seems at first that Miss Marple will be left out but the others courteously include her.
As the evening progresses, each of the guests tells a story, and then the others each attempt a solution. Invariably the story teller knows the answer and only Miss Marple guesses correctly.

The stories generated are

  • The Tuesday Night Club - Sir Henry Clithering, until recently Commissioner of Scotland Yard, tells a tale about tinned lobster that caused a fatal case of food poisoning. December 1927.
  • The Idol House of Astarte - Dr. Pender is an elderly clergyman. He tells the story of paganism and the time when he saw a man "stricken to death by apparently no mortal agency". January 1928.
  • Ingots of Gold - this story is recounted by Raymond West and is about a Cornish village called Rathole (a sly dig at the real village of Mousehole?) and treasure from the Spanish Armada. February 1928.
  • The Bloodstained Pavement - Joyce Lempriere, the artist, also tells a tale from the village of Rathole, of a husband and wife playing the cruellest trick of all, the duping and eventual murder of another woman. March 1928.
  • Motive & Opportunity - Mr Petherick is a solicitor, "a dried-up little man with eyeglasses which he looked over and not through." His tale is of spiritualism and of a will that is eventually found to be a blank sheet of paper. April 1928.
  • The Thumb Mark of St. Peter - this is Miss Marple's story, about her niece Mabel who married a man with a violent temper, and who is suspected by the locals of causing his death. May 1928.
The proposed Tuesday Night Club doesn't seem to have met again, or at least not regularly as was first proposed.

Some months later, Sir Henry Clithering goes to stay with friends, Colonel and Mrs Bantry who live near St. Mary Mead. Mrs Bantry is arranging a dinner party and Sir Henry suggests Miss Marple as the sixth person for the party. He mentions the memorable evening the year before in Miss Marple's house. Mrs Bantry adds Miss Marple to the invitations and suggests they try her out on "Arthur's ghost story" after dinner. There are 6 people at the dinner table and after dinner the stories are told.
  • The Blue Geranium - This is Colonel Arthur Bantry's tale. He is a red-faced, broad shouldered man who tells his "ghost story" at his wife Dolly's prompting. It is about a "dreadful" woman who had a weakness for fortune tellers, palmists and clairvoyantes, until the latest warns her against blue flowers, and the flowers on her bedroom wallpaper begin to change colour. December 1929.
  • The Companion - Dr. Lloyd is the grizzled elderly doctor who for the past 5 years has administered to the ailments of the village of St. Mary Mead. His tale is from time he spent practsing on the Canary Islands. Tragedy struck when two English ladies, one the paid companion of the other, came to stay, went swimming, and the companion drowned. February 1930.
  • The Four Suspects - Sir Henry Clithering tells the story of a marked man, hiding from a secret society, to whom he assigns a protector. Unfortunately the man is still killed, in an apparent accident falling down the stairs, but Clithering suspects the very man he sent in as the protector. January 1930.
  • A Christmas Tragedy - Mrs Bantry, Dolly, protests she doesn't have a tale to tell, so Miss Marple tells the story of the murder of a young wife, she had been convinced would happen, and failed to prevent. January 1930.
  • The Herb of Death - Mrs Bantry can't get out of telling a tale, and so she tells a tale of what had appeared to be a case of accidental poisoning when foxglove leaves were picked with sage, and roast duck stuffed with the mixture. But even she doesn't see what really happened, but Miss Marple works it out. March 1930.
  • The Affair of the Bungalow - Jane Helier, a beautiful young actress, tells the story of a "close friend" but Miss Marple sees through it and gives her some timely advice. May 1930.

The final story does not come from either of the preceding occasions, but is a collaboration between Sir Henry Clithering, again staying with the Bantrys, and consulted by Miss Marple, who says she knows who has committed a local murder.

Death by Drowning - a local St. Mary Mead girl has been drowned. At first it is thought to be suicide but Miss Marple is convinced it is murder. She asks Sir Henry to intervene in the local investigation to ensure that the true murderer is apprehended. She gives Sir Henry a slip of paper with the name of the murderer on it. November 1931.

My Take

I have re-read these for discussion with my U3A Agatha Christie Reading group.

This is an interesting collection of short stories, a little patchy. I thought the first six were the best.

We have already read the last story (Death by Drowning) which was reprinted recently in the collection A DEADLY AFFAIR: unexpected love stories

One of the questions that I will ask in our discussion is what they think of the image created of Miss Marple. Does it fit the one which we see in the videos and films?

Miss Marple (as she is affectionately known) is a tall, thin woman of between 65 and 70 years of age. She has white snowy hair, pale blue eyes, and a pinkish wrinkled face. Two of her hobbies (and subjects of conversation) are bird watching and gardening, and she is often seen carrying knitting needles and yarn.

Here is the description from the opening page of The Tuesday Night Club:

... she sat erect in the big grand-father chair. Miss Marple wore a black brocade dress, very much pinched in around the waist. Mechlin lace was arranged in a cascade down the front of the bodice. She had on black mittens, and a black lace cap surmounted the piled-up masses of her snowy hair. She was knitting - something white and soft and fleecy. Her faded blue eyes, benignant and kindly, surveyed her nephew and her nephew's guests with gentle pleasure. 

My other question is about what sort of person she is. Is she always kind and benign or do we sometimes see another side of her? 

My rating: 4.5

My first reviews:

My list of Agatha Christie novels

27 February 2024

Review: ONE GOOD TURN, Kate Atkinson

Just a note here to say that I have re-read Kate Atkinson's ONE GOOD TURN, forgetting that I had read it 15 years ago. My original review is here and I am pleased to see that I basically concurred with it.

This was the second in the Jackson Brodie series and made good reading even the second time around. Since then I have read others:


ONE GOOD TURN is set in the Fringe of the Edinburgh Festival, and it was interesting to see  that the Fringe of the Adelaide Festival shares many elements of it, although perhaps not road rage incidents leading to murder.

24 February 2024

Review: THE ZIG ZAG GIRL, Elly Griffiths

  •  this large print edition published in 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • provided by my local library
  • ISBN 978-1-62899-768-2
  • 350 pages
  • #1 A Magic Men Mystery (Brighton Mysteries #1)

Synopsis (author website

Magic, murder and a mystery rooted in a murky wartime past. Meet DI Stephens and Max Mephisto.

Brighton, 1950. When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. 

Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind. Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. 

When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in the killer’s sights…

My Take

This story is a treat in many ways. First of all it is by one of my favourite authors. Secondly it is the first of a series that I've hardly touched, so I know I have at least a couple of treats in store.

This is the first in what has become known as the Brighton Mysteries series. The author carefully introduces the main characters, Max Mephisto, and Edgar Stephens, magician and detective, who first came together during World War II in a special unit intended to create illusions to trick Hitler into thinking England was about to invade Norway.

Now, five years after the war, Stephens is a detective in Brighton and Mephisto has gone back to the Variety Halls. They are brought together by a body in 3 parts. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my outing.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read


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