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

23 February 2024

Review: THE WAITER, Ajay Chowdhury

  • This edition read on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B088GQDNLG
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Vintage Digital (27 May 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 283 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Ex-detective Kamil Rahman is embroiled in a case that might just change his life - for better or for worse . . .

Disgraced detective Kamil Rahman moves from Kolkata to London to start afresh as a waiter in an Indian restaurant. But the peace of his new life is soon shattered. The day Kamil caters an extravagant party, the powerful host, Rakesh, is found dead in his swimming pool.

Suspicion falls on Rakesh's young and glamorous new wife, and Kamil is called to investigate for the family. Kamil and Anjoli, his boss's daughter, prove a winning team - yet as the case progresses, and their relationship grows, the events of Kamil's past threaten to catch up with him . . .

My Take

Dismissed and disgraced Kolkata detective Kamil Rahman moves to London to shake off his past but he soon finds himself attempting to solve another murder, and to his amazement finds the events are connected, and that people have followed him to London.

A competently constructed first novel with an interesting scenario.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Ajay Chowdhury was the inaugural winner of the Harvill Secker-Bloody Scotland crime fiction award. He is a tech entrepreneur and theatre director who was born in India and now lives in London where he builds digital businesses, cooks experimental dishes for his wife and daughters and writes through the night. His children's book, Ayesha and the Firefish, was published in 2016 and adapted into a musical.

The Waiter, published in 2021, is the first in his critically-acclaimed crime series about Kamil Rahman, an ex-policeman from Kolkata who has moved to Brick Lane in London. It is being adapted for television by Moonage Pictures. Follow-up The Cook was published in May 2022 to excellent reviews and deals with the issue of homelessness. The third book in the series - The Detective - is about government surveillance and AI. 

17 February 2024

Review: I WILL FIND YOU, Harlan Coben

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Century Physical (28 November 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1529160553
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1529160550 
  • author website

Synopsis (publisher) 

David and Cheryl Burroughs are living the dream - married, a beautiful house in the suburbs, a three year old son named Matthew - when tragedy strikes one night in the worst possible way.

David awakes to find himself covered in blood, but not his own - his son's. And while he knows he did not murder his son, the overwhelming evidence against him puts him behind bars indefinitely.

Five years into his imprisonment, Cheryl's sister arrives - and drops a bombshell.

She's come with a photograph that a friend took on vacation at a theme park. The boy in the background seems familiar - and even though David realizes it can't be, he knows it is.

It's Matthew, and he's still alive.

David plans a harrowing escape from prison, determined to do what seems impossible - save his son, clear his own name, and discover the real story of what happened that devastating night.

My Take

From my point of view, a story that stretches the bounds of probability, but nevertheless a feel good scenario, helping us think that justice can be achieved in the most improbable ways.

Two plot strands: a father jailed for life for killing his 3 year old son, and then the possibility that the son is still alive.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


Review: THE TRAP, Catherine Ryan Howard

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BPGFT141
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Transworld Digital (3 August 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 372 pages

Synopsis (Amazon

Stranded on a dark road in the middle of the night, a young woman accepts a lift from a passing stranger. It's the nightmare scenario that every girl is warned about, and she knows the dangers all too well - but what other choice does she have?

As they drive, she alternates between fear and relief - one moment thinking he is just a good man doing a good thing, the next convinced he's a monster. But when he delivers her safely to her destination, she realizes her fears were unfounded.

And her heart sinks. Because a monster is what she's looking for.

She'll try again tomorrow night. But will the man who took her sister take the bait?

My Take:

Lucy lives in the same house as her sister's boyfriend. Her sister Nicki did not come home several months ago and there has been no trace of her. Lucy is convinced her sister is one of a number of Irish girls who have been abducted in the last three or four years, that there is a serial killer at work. Lucy cannot accept that she is never going to see Nicki again. The boyfriend Chris is convinced it is time they let go and moved on. He wants to get on with his life, and says Lucy needs to do that too.

We see the action from several points of view: Angela who works in the Missing Persons Unit; Denise a Gardai attached to a special task force searching for 3 missing women in particular; and someone who appears to be abducting women.

The story explores the motives behind setting up a special task force, why some missing women warrants searches and others don't, and we inch closer to finding out what happened. 

There are a couple of unexpected twists right at the end, that make you feel the story has started all over again.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

11 February 2024

Review: VANISHING POINT, Pat Flower

  • this novel first published 1975
  • this edition published by Wakefield Crime Classics 1991
  • ISBN 1-86254-292-9
  • 209 pages

Synopsis (publisher

Cruel, egotistical Noel, a thistledown, a cheap balloon whisking willy-nilly away from the piercing, deflating needle of her fine judgement.

Geraldine needs to keep her cool through the highs and the lows, but it's maddening when Noel keeps missing the point.

The trek up north was gruelling, yet every plant and bird she saw, every sweaty, purposeless mile she crossed, convinced her that they were made for each other.

Back home in Sydney, when there's still a gap between them, he has to be made to see.

The Wakefield Crime Classics series revives forgotten or neglected gems of crime and mystery fiction by Australian authors. Many of the writers have established international reputations but are little known in Australia.

additional blurb (Sapere Books) - more revealing (almost a plot spoiler)

When Geraldine Blaine embarks on a gruelling expedition through the remote Cape York Peninsula with her husband, she hopes it will be the trip of a lifetime.

Noel is becoming ever more emotionally distant … and, she suspects, unfaithful. Perhaps a holiday is just what they need?

But Noel never wanted Geraldine on the trip in the first place, and amidst the simmering menace of the wilderness their threadbare marriage swiftly begins to unravel.

When Noel delivers the bombshell that he’s returning home early, in defiance Geraldine stays behind. But when she finally returns home to Sydney, her husband is more indifferent than ever — and clearly infatuated with beautiful young Nerida Jessop.

It’s the final straw for Geraldine – and as her obsessive love turns to murderous rage, she’s driven to terrible extremes…

In flight from the consequences of her actions, she finds herself journeying through the unforgiving Peninsula once more. But as her new travelling companions turn against her, Geraldine’s about to learn that some secrets aren’t so easy to bury…

Why is her new travelling companion, Jim Oates, so hostile? And why are he and the mysterious Ralph Turner so interested in Geraldine’s past?

And as the net begins to close in on her, what desperate measures will she resort to?

My Take

Set in 1974, a thriller set around a trip from Sydney to Cape York. I found this a demanding read. It is written from the point of view of Geraldine Blaine who sees herself very differently to the ways other people see her. Her husband Noel really marries Geraldine for her money, which she never quite understands. By the time they undertake the trip North, Geraldine's hold on reality has become very stretched.

Eventually Noel drives Geraldine to an extreme act, but she thinks she has got away with it. 

The final pages of the Wakefield Crime Classic version of this novel contains a thought provoking review by editors Michael J. Tolley and Peter Moss.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Pat was born in Ramsgate, Kent, England and moved to Australia with her family in 1928. She originally worked as a secretary, writing radio plays and sketches in her spare time. She eventually moved on to writing crime novels and TV scripts.

She wrote so many episodes of the ABC TV series Australian Playhouse one critic called it “The Pat Flower Show”.

She was married to Cedric Flower, an actor, costume designer, designer, playwright, director, playwright, producer and set designer.

Pat passed away in 1977.

Review: HOLDING, Graham Norton

  • this edition published by Hodder & Stoughton 2016
  • made available by my local library
  • ISBN 978-1-444-79199-0
  • 312 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn't always been this overweight; mother of two Brid Riordan hasn't always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn't always felt that her life was a total waste. So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke - a former love of both Brid and Evelyn - the village's dark past begins to unravel.

As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community's worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of lovable characters, and explore - with searing honesty - the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

My Take

You will note that this is the second time I have read this novel. My earlier review is here ( I first read it about 3 years ago) 

This time I am reading it for discussion with my U3A Crime Fiction group. This is the first book we are reading this year, and I think they will enjoy it.

We will be basing some of our discussion on some questions listed at The Reading Agency (listed on Amazon)

Duneen is a quiet place, far enough from the big towns to have kept its own rhythms. Its residents include cast down policeman PJ who lives a lonely, uneventful life punctuated only by the next meal – until now; the beautiful and mysterious family of three spinster sisters each with their own secrets and
sorrows; and of course, the town's gossip who think she knows the answers. When a grim discovery is made on a building site up by the old school, it becomes the catalyst for half lived secrets and seething rivalries to come to light and this silent, once innocent and repressed-seeming town is revealed to have
a much darker, hungrier undertow

The other resources that I've found which we may use in our discussion are some short You Tube videos:

Both of these videos comment on the significance of the novel's title. 

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

5 February 2024

Review: ROGUE'S GALLERY, G.R. Jordan

  • this edition an e-book on my Kindle (Amazon)
  • #21 in the Highlands and Islands series
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (10 September 2022)
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 228 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

Foreign royalty found dead on an island estate. A fractious gathering provides a plethora of suspects. Can Macleod and McGrath sort the treasure from the driftwood to reveal who truly gains the most from the duke's death?

DI Seoras Macleod is ordered away from his recovering partner Jane, to investigate the suspicious death of a foreign duke at the estate of his mother. Found naked and deceased in a small loch near the family's holiday estate, the duke is not short of enemies at the milestone gathering of his remaining parent's birthday. Amidst bluster and genuine loathing, Macleod, and his faithful Sergeant McGrath, must hunt down a killer who seems ready to destroy an entire lineage.

Blood runs thicker than water, every drop!

My Take

A small European royal family has been allowed to set up a sequestered embassy on a remote Scottish island. MacLeod and his team have been ordered by the British government to investigate the murder of the head of the family. But MacLoed is far from happy. He is very restricted in the way in which he can carry out the investigation.

And then the weather closes in and the team becomes isolated on the island, and then more murders take place. MacLeod can't understand why he has been assigned this case. In addition he has been taken away from his partner who suffered mental stress in the last case. He thinks Jane needs him more than this case does.

What is the British government hoping he will achieve, or do they have another agenda?

My rating: 4.6 

I've also read

3 February 2024


  • This edition available from Amazon on Kindle
  • #20 in Highlands and Islands series
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B21SCJCQ
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (17 July 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 228 pages

Synopsis (Amazon

A youth is found dead at a children’s playpark. A stolen car burnt out with the joyriders inside. Can Macleod discover the avenging angel brutally restoring the highland’s peace and quiet?

When a spate of deaths indicating teenagers as targets sends Macleod and McGrath into a very public hunt for killer, they must walk in view of the hottest debate of the day. But when Hope believes she sees an angle that points the blame at those who responsible for the nation’s safety, Macleod must trust his Sergeant’s instincts while dodging a career ending bullet.

It was all easier back in the day, or was it?

My Take

Set in Inverness. Gangs from two council estates appear to be at war. In one night 5 young people dead in two separate incidents. Macleod's DCI wants a public campaign with Seoras as the figurehead. He protests, that is not his job. His is finding out who is responsible for the murders.

Besides, he and his team are not convinced that gang conflict is the root of the problem. The weapons being used, including a grenade, are too sophisticated.

Another excellent read.

My rating: 4.6 

I've also read

2 February 2024

Review: MAN OVERBOARD, G. R. Jordan

  • this edition read on my Kindle (Amazon)
  • #19 in the Highlands and Island series
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09WVJVP9P
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carpetless Publishing (May 29, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 219 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A Coastguard’s nightmare repeats. The fledgling tourist season is in tatters. Can Macleod and McGrath find the killer amongst the hordes of holidaymakers?

When the Coastguard note an increase in drownings from travellers falling overboard from passenger vessels, Macleod is called in to satisfy an itch that these may not be innocent accidents. When the victims are all found to be from troubled marriages, the team must seek the hidden orchestrator of spring mayhem. Can Seoras and Hope find the killer before widow maker of the seas strikes again?

To jump or not to jump, sometimes it’s not a choice! 

My Take

While the people apparently committing suicide by jumping into the sea from the top deck of a ferry are all on different ferries, they are all ferries being run by the same company. So is somebody trying to put the company out of business? 

These suicides are too much of a coincidence for Macleod, but the investigation is hampered by the fact that most of them don't surface and the bodies are not able to be retrieved.  But then they get "lucky" and a body is retrieved and the pathologist is able to determine that it is a case of murder.

The team gets stretched very thin by the locations of these incidents, and by also tracking down the people that these "bodies" have been interacting with before they jumped.

Another very engaging read! I am very much enjoying the variety in these stories, and the fact that they are so readable.

My rating: 4.5

I have read the following:

Review: MOLE CREEK, James Dunbar

  • This edition available from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C8T3DB2Q
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Echo (August 1, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 332 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

A hellish war. A deadly secret. Fifty years on, in a small Tasmanian town, the truth unfolds and the killing begins again …       

Betrayal cannot be buried forever.

In the tiny Tasmanian town of Mole Creek, retired Australian cop and Vietnam veteran Pete McAuslan has retreated to his fishing cabin to write his memoirs. In Sydney, his grandson, journalist and trashy true crime author Xander, learns that Pete has taken his own life, begging forgiveness in a suicide note.

Arriving in Mole Creek in the aftermath of Pete's death, Xander discovers that his grandfather's laptop is missing. He begins to suspect that something is wrong, refusing to accept the facts as presented. With the local police not interested in investigating an apparently open-and-shut suicide, Xander sets about uncovering the truth of what happened to his grandfather.

In the process, he discovers long-buried secrets from Pete's time serving in the Vietnam war: secrets that Pete has withheld from him and everyone else for fifty years; secrets that powerful people would prefer to stay buried. Ensnared in a web of betrayals that began a generation before, Xander finds himself on the hitlist of a clinically violent assassin. Now he must race to identify the connection between the seemingly unremarkable death of an old Australian soldier and the imminent reactivation of the most powerful and potentially destructive 'sleeper' in the history of espionage - before the truth catches up with him. 

My Take

When Xander McAuslan refuses to believe that his grandfather Pete, a retired policeman and ex-Vietnam veteran has committed suicide, he unleashes a can of worms.

Pete has never told Xander very much about what he did in the Vietnam war. Xander know he was in the military police, and was sent home wounded, but little apart from that. Xander knows that his grandfather was supposedly writing his memoirs but hadn't kept in touch very well. However things about his grandfather's death don't sit well, and there are a number of puzzles: like, where is his laptop? Once Xander begins to investigate, things begin to happen.

This story was written mainly in two times frames, 50 years apart, producing a many stranded plot, which was for the main part fairly easy to follow. In the long run though, at the end, I think the author had a problem in pulling it all together, and it felt a bit rushed.

My rating: 4.2

About the Author

James Dunbar is a journalist, television scriptwriter, travel writer, university lecturer and website editor. Mole Creek is his first venture into the serious crime thriller and espionage genre. Published under Jimmy Thomson, he is also the author of two crime ‘caper’ novels and two true-crime memoirs, as well as several books about Australian army engineers (sappers) during the Vietnam War.


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