28 January 2024

Review: A WINTER GRAVE, Peter May

  • This edition published Quercus 2023
  • ISBN 978-1-52942-849-0
  • 357 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)


A young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station in Kinlochleven discovers the body of a missing man entombed in ice.


Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective, sets out on a hazardous journey to the isolated and ice-bound village. He has his own reasons for wanting to investigate a murder case so far from his beat.


Brodie must face up to the ghosts of his past and to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that his investigation threatens to expose.

Set against a backdrop of a frighteningly plausible near-future, A WINTER GRAVE is Peter May at his page-turning, passionate and provocative best. 

My Take

Set in November 2051, this novel is not only a murder mystery, but portrays a future affected by global warming after the major powers have failed to meet targets back at the beginning of the century. The world has changed drastically with countries near the equator becoming too hot to live in, sea levels having risen, and the northern hemisphere has entered a new Ice Age.

The body of an investigative reporter has been found entombed in ice near a nuclear power station which supplies all the power for Scotland. It is just days out from a national election in which it is expected that the ruling party will be returned. 

A Glasgow detective, Cameron Brodie, has recently received the worst news from his medical specialist, and decides to undertake this investigation which may very well be his last hurrah. He also has some unfinished business which he hopes the journey north will enable him to complete.

This novel has a nicely balanced story, set against this futuristic scenario, where unmanned drones fly people to destinations.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My rating: 4.6 

I've also read

24 January 2024

Review: CLEARED TO DIE, G.R. Jordan

  • This edition read on my Kindle (Amazon)
  • Highlands & Islands Detective Book 18
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09SGS5979
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (3 April 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 227 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A dead controller killed alone in his tower. A climate of fear and coercion among employees and managers. Can Macleod enter the world of air traffic and bring a safe, orderly, and expeditious solution to the case?

When a commercial turboprop is forced to go-around on losing communication with Mull tower, the operations team find their oldest controller dead at his post. Amidst a furore over a change of working, Macleod and McGrath find a company in turmoil and with grudges to settle. As the sides are unmasked and the stakes known, can the pair see through the anger and disgruntlement, to bring a brutal killer to justice?

Silence is golden… unless you need to land! 

My Take

I'm unashamedly hooked on this series.

This book is set on Mull where a traffic controller is found dead at his desk when a small plane is attempting to land. 

A relatively quick read, but several puzzles keep you hooked until the end. 

But if you are new to this series, do tackle some of the earlier titles, so get some real knowledge of the main characters. I enjoy the variety of settings, and also the real variety in plots. Look out to for the well developed interactions between the main characters. They get you thinkin!

My rating: 4.5

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Review: LOWBRIDGE, Lucy Campbell

  • This edition from Ultimo Press
  • ISBN 9781761152061
  • Pub Date July 2023
  • Extent 384pp

Synopsis (Publisher)

Where everybody knows everyone, how can somebody just disappear?
A missing girl. Decades of silence. A secret too big to bury.

1987: It’s late summer and a time of change when 17-year-old Tess Dawes leaves the local shopping centre in the sleepy town of Lowbridge and is never seen again.
Tess’s unsolved disappearance is never far from the town’s memory. There’s those who grew up with Tess, and never left. And those who know more than they’re saying …
It just takes an outsider to ask the right questions.
2018: Katherine Ashworth, shattered by the death of her daughter, moves to her husband’s hometown. Searching for a way to pick up the pieces of her life, she joins the local historical society and becomes obsessed with the three-decades-old mystery.
As Katherine digs into that summer of 1987, she stumbles upon the trail of a second girl who vanished when no one cared enough to see what was happening in plain sight.
Her trail could lead right to Katherine’s door.
In a town simmering with divisions and a cast of unforgettable characters, Lowbridge is a heart-wrenching mystery about the girls who are lost, the ones who are mourned and those who are forgotten. 

My Take

Katherine Ashworth and her husband Jamie have moved back to the town where he grew up in rural New South Wales following the shattering death of their daughter. While Katherine finds it difficult to move on Jamie just seems to be able to put everything behind him, and they grow further and further apart. Katherine drinks and does little else until Jamie challenges her to find something to do.

But when Katherine joins the historical society and finds out about the disappearance of a school friend of Jamie's,Tess Dawes, 30 years earlier, he becomes reticent to talk about it, and she fears the worst.

A well constructed mystery which flits between the past and the present. The central characters are well drawn. The eventual resolution is a shock.

My rating: 4.5

Lucy Campbell has worked as a writer and sub-editor across magazines, newspapers and non-fiction books. Lowbridge is her first novel. She lives in Canberra with her husband and three children.

22 January 2024

Review: DARKNESS FALLS, Robert Bryndza

  • this edition published by Sphere 2021
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-7280-3
  • 356 pages
  • #3 in the Kate Marshall series

Synopsis (publisher)

Kate Marshall's detective agency takes off when she and her partner Tristan are hired to investigate a cold case from over a decade ago. Twelve years previously, a determined young journalist called Joanna Duncan exposed a political scandal that had major repercussions. In the fallout she disappeared without trace and was never found.

When Kate and Tristan examine the case files, they find the trail long cold, but they discover the names of two young men who also vanished at that time. As she begins to connect their last days, Kate realizes that Joanna may have been onto something far more sinister than anyone first believed: the identity of a serial killer preying on the people who few will ever miss.

But the closer Kate comes to finding the killer, the darker things become . . . 

My Take

Well constructed layered plot with an unexpected twist at the end.

We are unexpectedly introduced to the serial killer early in the novel. He sees himself as exacting revenge for various beatings he has suffered throughout his life from bullies and homophobes because of his sexuality. But Tom leads a double life and only towards the end of the story do we learn his real identity. By then he has been responsible for the deaths of a number of young men who have vanished without trace.

But the story begins with a cold case - a young female journalist who disappeared after work, whose mother is looking for closure. The police have declared her disappearance a cold case and have handed all their files over to the family to be shared with an investigator. As they begin to go through the papers and boxes Kate and her partner Tristan come across some names and a phone number that the police do not seem to have followed up on. 

As Kate says several times, she and Tristan have nothing else to occupy them or distract them, whereas for the police this was just one case among hundreds. So following leads is really important to them, although I found the detail that many of their contacts remembered quite surprising. Also was their willingness to share information with private investigators.

A good story. This series is recommended.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

4.6, DARK WATER - #1
4.8, LAST BREATH - #4
4.7, COLD BLOOD - #5
Kate Marshall
4.7, NINE ELMS - #1
4.7, SHADOW SANDS - #2 

20 January 2024

Review: THE RUNNING GRAVE, Robert Galbraith

  •  This edition read on my Kindle (Amazon) on a variety of devices
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C3CKHR3F
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Mulholland Books (September 26, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 961 pages
  • #7 in the Cormoran Strike series

Synopsis (Amazon)  

In the seventh installment in the "outrageously entertaining" Strike series, detective duo Cormoran and Robin must rescue a man ensnared in the trap of a dangerous cult. (Financial Times) 

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is contacted by a worried father whose son, Will, has gone to join a religious cult in the depths of the Norfolk countryside.

The Universal Humanitarian Church is, on the surface, a peaceable organization that campaigns for a better world. Yet Strike discovers that beneath the surface there are deeply sinister undertones, and unexplained deaths.

In order to try to rescue Will, Strike's business partner, Robin Ellacott, decides to infiltrate the cult, and she travels to Norfolk to live incognito among its members. But in doing so, she is unprepared for the dangers that await her there or for the toll it will take on her. . .

Utterly page-turning, The Running Grave moves Strike's and Robin's story forward in this epic, unforgettable seventh installment of the series. 

My Take

Well, this must be the longest book I've ever read - Kindle tells me nearly 18 hours, page count 961, but to be honest, my interest in it never flagged. I did initially contemplate reading the hard copy edition, but eventually hopped between my Kindle and my Samsung tablet.

The story itself has a huge time span, and an enormous range of characters, but the more you read, the more you want.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

4.7, LETHAL WHITE - #4

13 January 2024


Synopsis (publisher)

The “page-turning, exhilarating” (PopSugar) and “heartfelt thriller” (Real Simple) about a woman who thinks she’s found the love of her life—until he disappears.

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.

With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a “page-turning, exhilarating, and unforgettable” (PopSugar) suspense novel.

My Take

There was no warning in the morning that Owen Michaels wouldn't be coming home after work that night. A child turns up on Hannah's doorstep with a note from Owen and it becomes obvious he is on the run. That is quickly followed with a message from a friend, and then a story on the news, that the company he works for are in trouble, and that Owen's boss has been arrested for fraud and embezzlement.

Two days on and an FBI Marshall turns up on Hannah's doorstep and then the police come knocking.  Owen's daughter Bailey finds a sack of money in her locker at school with another brief note.

Hannah realises that Owen is on the run and she and Bailey start to put together clues about where he is and why. A real page turner.

Reading Group Guide available.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Laura Dave is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me, Eight Hundred Grapes, and other novels. Her books have been published in thirty-eight countries and have been chosen by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club, Book of the Month Club, and the Richard and Judy Book Club. The Last Thing He Told Me was chosen as the Goodreads Mystery & Thriller of the Year for 2021. It is now a limited series on Apple TV+, cocreated by Laura. She resides in Santa Monica, California. 

12 January 2024


  • this edition available from Amazon as a Kindle e-book
  • #8 in the Blitz Detective series
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BWPNK6NG
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Allison & Busby (October 19, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 328 pages

Synopsis (publisher

December, 1940. Christmas is coming, but the season of goodwill is overshadowed by the death and destruction of the Blitz. In London's Covent Garden, where the glamour of theatreland rubs shoulders with the bustle of the capital's biggest fruit and vegetable market, the war has closed the theatres and ruined the market trade.

When a daylight air raid hits the Prince Albert Theatre in Drury Lane, rescuers find a man dying in the wreckage. But it wasn't the bomb that's ending his life - he's been stabbed, and with his dying breath he whispers what sounds like a fragmented confession. As Detective Inspector John Jago begins to investigate, there's an underlying question he must grapple with: was the murdered man himself a killer?

My take

This series began with the beginning of the Blitz in London at the beginning of September 1940, and here we are in the last book in the series, the 8th, at Christmas nearly 4 months later. 

All the cases have been murder mysteries, cases that could have been attributed to the Blitz, except, as in most of the cases, for the obvious presence of a murder weapon. We have learnt little snippets of what it was like to be in London in the Blitz, also little bits about the legacy of World War One, and what was done by the authorities to try to keep life in London "normal" for its population.

The cases have been meticulously investigated by Detective Inspector Jago, originally of the Metropolitan Police force, but recently of Scotland Yard. His offsider/bagman has been Detective Constable Peter Cradock, plucked summarily from uniform and put into plain clothes. We have met a range of regular characters, including Dorothy, an American correspondent for the Boston Globe based at the Savoy Hotel.

The characters have been well developed and the plots plausible and the scenarios intersting.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

9 January 2024

Review: BRUNY, Heather Rose

  • this edition from my local library
  • first published 2019, Allen & Unwin
  • ISBN 978-1-76087-516-9
  • 406 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Why is a massive bridge being built to connect the sleepy island of Bruny with the mainland of Tasmania? And why have terrorists blown it up?

When the Bruny bridge is bombed, UN troubleshooter Astrid Coleman agrees to return home to help her brother before an upcoming election. But this is no simple task. Her brother and sister are on either side of politics, the community is full of conspiracy theories, her mother is fading and her father is quoting Shakespeare. Only on Bruny does the world seem sane. Until Astrid discovers how far the government is willing to go.

Bruny is a searing, subversive novel about family, love, loyalty and the new world order. It is a gripping thriller with a jaw-dropping twist, a love story, a cry from the heart and a fiercely entertaining and crucial work of imagination that asks the burning question: what would you do to protect the place you love? 

My Take

Astrid Coleman's twin JC is the Liberal Premier of Tasmania, coming up to an election in less than 6 months. Their old sister is the leader of the Labor opposition. The focus of JC's activity has been a huge bridge to connect mainland Tasmania to the island of Bruny. But now someone has bombed the nearly completed bridge. JC asks Astrid to come home. He wants her to manage public relations while he gets the re-building of the bridge agreed to. Initially she refuses but then gets an instruction from her bosses to go.

People find it very difficult to understand why the bridge is being built. It has Federal Government backing, and then JC announces that he has secured a workforce of about 300 Chinese workers to be available for the re-build immediately, and Astrid wonders what the Chinese are getting out of the deal.

This is a thought provoking novel in many ways. Astrid's parents are suffering from dementia and final-stage cancer and this adds another dimension to the story.

Rose has some interesting comments on Australian attitudes.


  • Shortlisted, Best Fiction, Indie Book Awards, 2020, AU
  • Longlisted, Best Designed Commercial Fiction Cover, Australian Book Design Awards, 2020, AU
  • Winner, General Fiction Book of the Year, ABIA Awards, 2020, AU
  • Shortlisted, Adult Fiction Book of the Year, ABA Booksellers' Choice Awards, 2020, AU
  • Shortlisted, Best Crime Fiction, Davitt Awards, 2020, AU
  • Longlisted, Nib Literary Award, 2020, AU

My rating: 4.8

About the author 

Heather Rose is the Australian author of eight novels. Her seventh novel The Museum of Modern Love won the 2017 Stella Prize. It also won the 2017 Christina Stead Prize and the 2017 Margaret Scott Prize. It has been published internationally and translated into numerous languages. Both The Museum of Modern Love and The Butterfly Man were longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. The Butterfly Man won the Davitt Award in 2006, and in 2007 The River Wife won the international Varuna Eleanor Dark Fellowship. Heather writes with Danielle Wood under the pen-name Angelica Banks and their Tuesday McGillycuddy children's series has twice been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards for best children's fantasy. Angelica Banks is also published internationally. Heather lives by the sea in Tasmania.

8 January 2024

Review: THE TEA LADIES, Angela Hampson

Synopsis (publisher

A wickedly witty cosy crime novel set in Sydney in the swinging sixties, ideal for fans of Richard Osman and Bonnie Garmus.

They keep everyone's secrets, until there's a murder...

Sydney, 1965: After a chance encounter with a stranger, tea ladies Hazel, Betty and Irene become accidental sleuths, stumbling into a world of ruthless crooks and racketeers in search of a young woman believed to be in danger.

In the meantime, Hazel’s job at Empire Fashionwear is in jeopardy. The firm has turned out the same frocks and blouses for the past twenty years and when the mini-skirt bursts onto the scene, it rocks the rag trade to its foundations. War breaks out between departments and it falls to Hazel, the quiet diplomat, to broker peace and save the firm.

When there is a murder in the building, the tea ladies draw on their wider network and put themselves in danger as they piece together clues that connect the murder to a nearby arson and a kidnapping. But if there’s one thing tea ladies can handle, it’s hot water.

My Take

Angela Hampson is obviously an accomplished writer but this is my first outing with her. It takes us back into the 1960s in Sydney with a bunch of observant tea ladies who become accidental detectives. 

The glue who holds together a group of tea ladies who work in adjacent buildings is Hazel Bates. Hazel also provides an observant link between all levels of workers and management in Empire Fashionwear. It is Hazel who first notices "the woman at the window" in the bond store next door. It is Hazel who reports her observations to the police and raises the alarm when the bond store is torched.

Hazel is the ring leader of a group of tea ladies who work for neighbouring firms, and organises meetings where they compare notes on their observations.

There are lovely character sketches of each of the tea ladies, and touches of humour too. A satisfying read. I can see myself looking for more by this author..

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Amanda Hampson grew up in rural New Zealand. She has lived in London and Sydney, and now lives in Melbourne. Writing professionally for more than 20 years, she is the author of The Olive Sisters, Two for the Road, The French Perfumer, The Yellow Villa, Sixty Summers, Lovebirds, and the bestselling cosy crime novel The Tea Ladies. Her forthcoming novel is The Cryptic Clue.

7 January 2024

Review: MURDER ON FRIDAY STREET, Russell Cooper

  • This edition read on my Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CJBCR7K4
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Red Balloon Press (September 19, 2023)
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 394 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1919602178
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1919602172
  • #1 Friday Street Murder Mysteries

Synopsis (publisher

If you love Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series, you’ll love this.

Eccentric twin brothers, Cedric and Ambrose, retire from MI6 to make honey and tackle crosswords at Tanglefoot Farm in England’s Surrey Hills.

The unsolved brutal murder of their long-lost friend drags them back into the secret life they left behind.

Can Cedric and Ambrose, along with Charlie, their dead friend’s daughter, and the seventy-five year old mystery woman who lives in a campervan, unravel the clues and crack the cold case before the killer strikes again?

The chase is on to solve the mystery and catch the murderer.

Murder on Friday Street is the highly entertaining first book in the Friday Street Murder Mystery series. If you like witty, feisty women, a tangle of clever clues, and hilarious adventures, then you’ll love Russell Cooper’s gripping murder mystery.

My Take

While I enjoyed reading this latest outing in the geezer lit genre, I am just a little uncomfortable with its close proximity to that other very successful series by Richard Osman. It feels a little to0 close to a spoof on a spoof, an author saying "I can do a little better.  ... instead of one retired spy lets put a few of them together and see what happens." (although I am sure this sort of thing happens more than I indicate in my reviews)

In the middle of it there is some serious plotting, a serious cold case, some delightfully drawn characters, some humorous and not-so humorous situations.

However, if you read it then come back here and tell me if you think I've been unduly harsh with my coattails analogy.

My rating: 4.0

About the author

Russell Cooper...grew up on a rich diet of spy novels and Sunday afternoon television dramas. Following a hectic career in the restaurant business I did a couple of undisclosed stints (nothing dangerous) with NATO & GCHQ. Today I live in Surrey UK and when I’m not writing, editing or reading, I support the demands of Winnie, my toy poodle.

5 January 2024


Synopsis (publisher) 

Sarah Carter, mother of twelve-year-old Marni, is raising her daughter alone in a small granny flat in suburban Melbourne. A serial killer, dubbed 'The Freeway Killer', is headline news and when Marni's classmate is abducted from the mall where Sarah and Marni shop, their city no longer feels safe.

Detective Ross Hunter's investigation into the abduction leads him to dead ends - until an unrelated incident sends him to the door of Freddy Adam-Jones, an unscrupulous barrister, who is guarding a secret that could ruin his life.

When an unexpected windfall changes the lives of Sarah and Marni, their sudden wealth opens doors long closed, and threatens to cast light on history better left buried.

What might Sarah's past reveal? What is her connection to Freddy? And can Detective Ross Hunter discover the link in time to save a young girl's life?

My Take

This novel had all the makings of a good 'un but I came away with strong feelings of dissatisfaction. On reflection I've ended up thinking that the author tried to do too much, tried to create too much mystery. It seemed that there were too many plot strands and that they never finally got wound together. At the end I had strong feelings that I had missed something. The story seemed to finish but I had a number of confusions and unanswered questions.

My rating: 3.2

About the author

Joy Dettman was born in country Victoria and spent her early years in towns on either side of the Murray River. She is an award-winning writer of short stories, the complete collection of which, Diamonds in the Mud, was published in 2007, as well as the highly acclaimed novels Mallawindy, Jacaranda Blue, Goose Girl, Yesterday's Dust, The Seventh Day, Henry's Daughter, One Sunday and the bestselling Woody Creek series.

2 January 2024

Review: THE PIMLICO MURDER, Mike Hollow

  • This edition read on Kindle (Amazon)
  • #6 in the Blitz Detective series
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B093PHTGBL
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Allison & Busby (18 November 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 345 pages

Synopsis (publisher

Armistice Day, 1940. The nation remembers the Great War while a new and harrowing conflict rumbles on. The Blitz Detective, John Jago, must set aside his own painful memories to investigate a suspicious death in Pimlico, south-west London. The body of a young man has been discovered in an Anderson shelter, with two white poppies in his pocket.

As the investigation progresses, Jago and his assistant, DC Cradock, find themselves knee-deep in Pimlico's shady underworld and connections with Mosley's fascist party. It will take all their skills to uncover the truth behind the young man's brutal death.

My Take

These stories are a reminder that even when there is a war as catastrophic as the Blitz of 1940, life goes on, and the deaths that occur are not necessarily the result of war: the usual crimes continue to be committed too.

In this one, Jago and Cradock are seconded to Scotland Yard to solve the murder of a young man whose body is found in an Andersen shelter. As usual they investigate a range of characters and unearth other crimes being committed. 

So far these stories have actually taken place in a very short period of time: the second half of 1940 in London with Hitler's planes attacking it almost every night. The amount of research behind the stories lend a feeling of authenticity. There are a number of "personal interest" threads too which provide ongoing interest.

My rating: 4.5

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