30 June 2024

My top dozen so far this year

 Here are my top 12 reads for the first half of this year

  1. 5..0, HAS ANYONE SEEN CHARLOTTE SALTER? Nicci French
  2. 5.0, THE RUNNING GRAVE, Robert Galbraith
  3. 5.0, ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE, Louise Penny
  4. 5.0, THE MADNESS OF CROWDS, Louise Penny 
  5. 5.0. THE DINNER PARTY, Rebecca Heath
  6. 4.8, WHAT HAPPENED TO NINA? Dervla McTiernan 
  7. 4.8, THE BIRDCAGE, Eve Chase
  8. 4.8, THE ZIG ZAG GIRL, Elly Griffiths
  9. 4.8, ONE GOOD TURN, Kate Atkinson 
  10. 4.8, INSIDIOUS INTENT, Val McDermid
  11. 4.8, DARLING GIRLS, Sally Hepworth
  12. 4.8, THE SCHOOL RUN, Ali Lowe

Review: MURDER IN GALWAY, Carlene O'Connor

  • this edition supplied by my local library
  • published by Kensington Books 2019
  • 330 pages
  • #1 in Home to Ireland Mystery

Synopsis (publisher)

In the first installment of bestselling author Carlene O'Connor's new Home to Ireland Mystery series, New York Tara Meehan's first trip to Galway, Ireland may be her last.

Jump right into the beauty and splendor--and murder--of Tara's Irish adventure! With a gorgeous setting, suspicious characters, and a deadly mystery--Murder in Galway will have you packing your bags...

Tara never imagined her introduction to Ireland like this--carrying her mam's ashes to honor her final request: "Tell Johnny I'm sorry...Take me home." She's never met her mam's estranged brother, Johnny Meehan, who owns an architectural salvage business in Galway. Although Tara is immediately charmed by the medieval city, the locals seem wary of strangers and a gypsy warns her that death is all around.

When Tara arrives at her uncle's stone cottage, the prophesy seems true. A dead man lies sprawled over the threshold in a pool of blood. The victim turns out to be Johnny's wealthiest client, and her missing uncle is the garda's number-one suspect. In trying to find Johnny and solve the crime, Tara uncovers her mam and uncle's troubled past. But with a desperate killer about, she had better mind herself, or they'll be tossing her ashes in Galway Bay... 

My Take

This was quite a complicated story, lots of plot strands, so much to keep track of...

From the moment Tara Meehan arrives in Galway, people seem to be telling her to go home, except the garda who keep telling her not to leave town. Tara has aimed to meet up with her uncle, whom she has never met, and then to scatter her mother's ashes. She accidentally does the latter first, and then, at her uncle's cottage encounters a body which she assumes is his. But, not foer the first or last time, she is wrong.

The problem is that Tara does not know who to trust, and they don't know if they can trust her.

My rating: 4.1

I've also read

Kerry Mystery series

Irish Village Mystery series

29 June 2024

Review: TO THE LIONS, Holly Watt

  • This edition made available by my local library
  • published by Raven Books 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-5266-0210-7
  • 435 pages
  • #1 in the Casey Benedict series
  • Awards
    2020 Barry Award for Best First Novel (nominee)
    2020 CrimeFest: eDunnit Award
    2019 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

An international thriller featuring a female journalist who stumbles upon a dark conspiracy, and her determination to follow the clues, no matter how far that takes her.

Casey Benedict, star reporter at the Post, has infiltrated the lives and exposed the lies of countless politicians and power players. Using her network of contacts, and her ability to slip into whatever identity suits the situation, Casey is always on the search for the next big story, no matter how much danger this might place her in, or what the cost might be, emotionally.

Tipped off by an overheard conversation at an exclusive London nightclub, she begins to investigate the apparent suicide of a wealthy young British man whose death has left his fiancée and family devastated. The young man's death, however, is only the tipping point of a much more sinister and dangerous scandal involving the world's most powerful leaders and magnates—men who are gathering in northern Africa for an extreme and secret hunt. With fellow reporter Miranda and combat veteran Ed by her side, Casey's determined hunt for the truth will take her from the glitz of St. Tropez to the deserts of Libya and on to the very darkest corners of the human mind.

My Take

At the beginning of the book Casey and Miranda are working on a data leak, thousands of documents, but the full investigation will take months. Casey is looking for something else. She always tips well so that waiters in cafes and restaurants will get back to her when they notice something she might be interested in.  And then the phone call comes. Some men she has been watching out for have turned up at an exclusive night club.

This is the pattern of how Casey comes up with new stories. And she is always looking for something dramatic. This time she overhears something that may be the beginning of an entirely new story and she is off on the chase!

Parts of this story left me gasping for breath, so outrageous is the scenario it describes. And yet there is a touch of credibility about it. You can imagine that in well-heeled parts of the world it might just happen, because things like this, inhumanities are not new to human history. But then there are questions of morality. Questions about whether you would ever do it yourself. Questions about what Casey gets out of following the story. How dangerous is it for her?

Th author has used a device in the narration that has left me a little puzzled. At times 2 or 3 pages are in italics. I have assumed this Casey "thinking", but once or twice, even after careful re-reading, I wasn't sure exactly what was meant.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Holly Watt started her career at theSunday Times, before working on the investigation teams at the Telegraph, where she played a key role in exposing the MPs’ expenses scandal, and the Guardian. She is currently a senior reporter at the Guardian before working on the investigation teams at the Telegraph, where she played a key role in exposing the MPs’ expenses scandal, and the Guardian. She is currently a senior reporter at the Guardian. 

27 June 2024

Review: THE SCHOOL RUN, Ali Lowe

  • this edition from Hodder Stoughton UK 2024
  • ISBN 978-1-399-71781-6
  • 389 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

How far would you go to protect your reputation?

For parents living in the beautiful coastal town of Pacific Pines, all their hopes and dreams are pinned on the outcome of the annual Gala Day hosted by St Ignatius Boys' School. To be accepted into the prestigious institution, their sons must battle it out, facing rigorous rounds of physical and mental tests. Their parents will stop at nothing to ensure their sons succeed.

But after one boy is struck down in a hit and run, the scandals, secrets and lies that entangle three mothers threaten to unravel their seemingly perfect lives . . .

How far will the women go to, not just to save their families - but also their reputations?

My Take

The Prologue tells us at the very beginning that someone has been hit by a car, but we don't know who the victim is nor who is driving the car, but we suspect that it has been deliberate. The result is that those questions remain with us as we read on. We learn about the selection process and meet some of the families and their boys who will be participating in Gala Day which starts the process. 

The action begins on a Saturday with Kaya Sterling and her son Ollie who have only recently arrived from Western Australia. Ollie is the son of Paul, a past captain of St Iggy's. It was Paul's dying wish that Ollie enrol at the school. 

We then meet Estella Monroe who lives next door, and has twin sons who will also be trying to enrol  in St. Iggy's. We don't meet the third mother Bec Lloyd, and her family, until Sunday. Her son Cooper will also be trying for selection.

The author then weaves a fascinating web of the relationships between these women and their families. Things are indeed not simple and we learn some very complex things, and we still don't know the answers to our questions.

In the last few chapters the story takes some very unexpected turns.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8

About the author

Ali Lowe has been a journalist for 20 years. She has written for bridal magazines, parenting titles, websites and newspapers in London and then Australia, after she moved to Sydney fourteen years ago on a trip that was meant to last a year. She was Features Editor at OK! in London, where she memorably stalked celebrities in Elton John's garden at his annual White Tie and Tiara ball.

Ali lives on the northern beaches of Sydney with her husband and three young children

25 June 2024

Review: THE CASE OF THE BEREAVED BUTLER, Cathy Ace

  • This edition an e-book from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CTLHWLV5
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Four Tails Publishing Ltd. (March 18, 2024)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 319 pages
  • #9 in the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries

Synopsis (Amazon

‘I KNOW IT WAS MURDER – PLEASE HELP ME PROVE IT!’

The Duke of Chellingworth’s beloved butler is grieving his brother’s death…but was it a really a tragic accident, or was it – as the man’s widow believes – murder? Mavis and the dowager Althea offer the services of the WISE Enquiries Agency to investigate, which puts one of their team in a dangerous situation. Meanwhile, Annie and Tudor are puzzled by a spate of petty thefts at their new pub, and Alexander must confront his largely secret past – possibly endangering his new persona and his relationship with Christine…who has a secret of her own. All this while Carol heads up a case involving an aged business tycoon who’s desperate to find the Welsh farming family who took him in when he was evacuated from London during World War Two.

It’s July in Wales…however, there’s no break in sight for our four softly poached PIs, who are not only facing challenging cases, but also juggling complicated personal lives.

My Take

You can tell from the list below that I am more than a little addicted to this cozy series. The characters have blossomed, the plots are interesting, and the scenarios keep me engaged.

If you would like to take the series on, then be sure to start with the first.  THE CASE OF THE DOTTY DOWAGER and then read them in order. That way you will get all the background and get to know the characters as they unfold. I particularly enjoy the individuality of each character, the use of gentle humour, and at the same time the references to British history. They come at a price that won't break the bank. At the present books 1-4 come packaged at $2.64 AUD.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

Review: INSIDIOUS INTENT, Val McDermid

  • this edition from my local library
  • published by Little Brown 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-4087-1476-8
  • 419 pages 
  • Tony Hill & Carol Jordan #10

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

In the north of England, single women are beginning to disappear from weddings. A pattern soon becomes clear: Someone is crashing the festivities and luring the women away—only to leave the victims’ bodies in their own burned-out cars in remote locations. Psychologist Tony Hill and former police detective Carol Jordan are called upon to investigate—but this may be the toughest case they’ve ever had to face. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Paula McIntyre and her partner Elinor must deal with a cruel cyber-blackmailer targeting their teenage ward.

Impeccably plotted and intensely gripping, Insidious Intent comes from Val McDermid, Diamond Dagger Award winner, multiple Edgar Award nominee, and “one of crime fiction’s most eminent writers” (Entertainment Weekly).

My Take

Carol Jordan has taken over a new regional squad ReMIT designed to take on the burden of very difficult cases and that's what they are doing with case of the corpse in a burnt out car, then comes a second one. But there are those jealous of Carol's appointment, and also at least one detective resentful that he wasn't asked to join her squad. Carol's managers are annoyed at the resources ReMIT seems to require. In addition a journalist is muck raking, looking at a case where Carol was breathalysed and then the machine was declared faulty. Carol herself is finding the case demanding and stressful, exacerbated by her self-imposed alcohol ban.

An enjoyable read. Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

20 June 2024

Review: A FIELD OF DARKNESS, Cornelia Read

  • this edition supplied by my local library
  • first published in USA 2006
  • ISBN 9781741751574
  • 311 pages
  • debut novel
  • Awards
    2007 Anthony Award for Best First Novel (nominee)
    2007 Barry Award for Best First Novel (nominee)
    2007 Edgar Award for Best First Novel (nominee)
    2007 Macavity Award for Best First Novel (nominee)

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Madeline Dare, a tough-talking, shotgun-toting ex-debutante, is not your average detective. Then again, not much about her life is what she expected. Born of old money into high society, she married into a Syracuse farming family and a bottom-of-the-food-chain job writing puff pieces for the local newspaper. Her emotional barometer these days ranges from dry irony to whining exasperation.

Then Madeline discovers mysterious circumstances linking her favorite cousin to a twenty-year-old murder case, and suddenly her roots are a serious matter again--deadly serious. Unwilling to turn her evidence over to the authorities before figuring some things out herself, she will embark on an ill-prepared and harrowing investigation into the real dark side of her world.

... Madeline Dare would be the first to tell you her money is so old there's none left. A former socialite from an aristocratic family in decline, Maddie is a tough-talking, would-be journalist exiled to the rust belt of upstate New York. Her prospects for changing her dreary lifestyle seem dim--until a set of dog tags found at a decades-old murder site is linked to her family. Shocked into action, Maddie embarks on a search that takes her from the derelict smokestacks of Syracuse to the posh mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast. But instead of the warm refuge of home, this prodigal daughter soon uncovers dark, sinister secrets that will violently challenge everything she believes in and holds dear.

My Take

I have read this book as part of my U3A Crime Fiction Readers group. I'll make no bones about it - I struggled, even considered abandoning it half way through - most unlike me. I'm now wondering what the rest of our group are going to say about it.

So part of my review is about why I had such a struggle.

The setting is Syracuse, New York State, 1988.

For me the book has 3 main themes:

  • what has happened to "old money" families in the United States. Madeline Dare's family is from old money, Long Island aristocracy, money made originally by unscrupulous means, land acquired by killing off the original occupants. Some of Maddy's extended family, like her cousin Lapthorne still have money and flaunt it, while Maddie's own family have sold off their wealth and land, so Maddie needs to work for a living. Maddie's extended family is quite dysfunctional.
  • the second theme is Maddie's own quest for satisfying work. She is a journalist at a Syracuse newspaper but basically writes "puff" pieces and would much rather get her teeth into much more serious stuff. Maddie is married and her husband Dean is away a lot, mainly in Canada where he is working on a railway contract
  • The third theme is a murder case, the central plot of the novel. Dean's father is a farmer and has recently discovered some dogtags in a field when he has ploughed it. The dogtags have been there for nearly 20 years and the story is that they relate to the "Rose Girls" case of two unnamed girls murdered at the New York State Fair. There is a whiff of police corruption attached to the case. One of the dog tags bears the name of Maddie's favourite cousin Lapthorne Townsend, golden boy of a still wealthy branch of Maddie's old-money family.
    Maddie is hooked by the idea of investigating the case and proving Lapthorne's innocence.
    The dogtags were never handed in to the police and so Lapthorne was not investigated at the time.

Ok. So I made it through the book to the end, and eventually found out the whole story.

So what was my problem?

I guess it was that I am an Australian reader with a smattering of American history knowledge, to be honest a bit more than most Australian readers.

I guess I felt that the author was trying to teach me a lot about what had happened to "old money" in the original 13 colonies. There were lots of references to American history, some fairly oblique, but also not really essential to the story. I thought there were some references that American readers would not "get". e.g. the reference to the "second gun on the grassy knoll". (the assassination of JFK, but its relevance here?}

Neither did I particularly warm to most of the characters, although I guess those who would crop up again in later books in this series, like Maddie's husband Dean are probably better fleshed out.

My rating: 4.3

Other reviews you might like to read- two entirely different reactions

About the author

Cornelia Read is the author of "Valley of Ashes", "Invisible Boy", and "The Crazy School". Read's first novel, "A Field of Darkness", was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. She lives in Berkeley, California.

16 June 2024

Review: GHOST CHILD, Caroline Overington

  • This edition provided as an e-book on Libby from my local library
  • Published: 1 May 2010
  • ISBN: 9781864714562
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Pages: 384

Synopsis (publisher

Caroline Overington's stunning fiction debut is a multi-voiced novel centred around a child's death and its terrible repercussions.

In 1982 Victorian police were called to a home on a housing estate an hour west of Melbourne. There, they found a five-year-old boy lying still and silent on the carpet. There were no obvious signs of trauma, but the child, Jacob, died the next day.

The story made the headlines and hundreds attended the funeral. Few people were surprised when the boy's mother and her boyfriend went to prison for the crime. Police declared themselves satisfied with the result, saying there was no doubt that justice had been done.

And yet, for years rumours swept the estate and clung like cobwebs to the long-vacant house: there had been a cover-up. The real perpetrator, at least according to local gossip, was the boy's six-year-old sister, Lauren . . .

Twenty years on, Lauren has created a new life for herself, but details of Jacob's death being to resurface and the story again makes the newspapers. As Lauren struggles with the ghosts of her childhood, it seems only a matter of time before the past catches up with her.

My Take

The multi-voiced structure of this novel was certainly ambitious for a debut author, and it keeps the reader on their toes.

The policeman in charge of the investigation always knew that the story told the public, the one that came out in court, that put the mother in gaol, wasn't quite right. But Lauren has lived with the truth for 20 years.

The novel is very critical of the welfare system in Victoria, which separated the family, and put them, with varying degrees of success into foster homes.

The book is accompanied in the final pages by Reading Group Questions.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

Review: CAUTION: DEATH AT WORK, Rhys Dylan

  • This edition on Kindle from Amazon
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09R16KB6Z
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Wyrmwood Books (February 28, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 328 pages
  • #2 in the DCI Evan Warlow series

Synopsis (Amazon

A dark past casts a deep shadow.

Evan Warlow is back in the saddle as a DCI, though he isn’t yet sure he deserves to be, and there are others who share his doubts.

When a brutal attack on two mountain bikers in the vast solitude of the Brechfa forest leaves one dead and the other badly injured, the hunt is on for the killer. And though the evidence points firmly in one direction, an open and shut case soon becomes murky and unclear.

It’s not the first time bad things have happened in these woods. Things that some have tried desperately to forget. But for the killer, it’s more a matter of unfinished business.

Unless Evan and the team can outwit a vengeful and clever murderer, someone else is going to die

My Take

My second in this series, and I'm hooked. 

The mountain bikers are having one last fling before one of them gets married. Warlow discovers something that happened 15 years before involving the same two men when they were just kids. He doesn't like coincidences.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.6, THE ENGINE HOUSE - #1

Review: THE DENTIST, Tim Sullivan

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0938DH5X3
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Head of Zeus; 1st edition (September 2, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 362 pages
  • DS Cross Thriller #1

Synopsis  (Amazon)

A cold case that has been ignored... A detective who fights for the voiceless.

THE DETECTIVE

Bristol detective DS George Cross might be difficult to work with – but his unfailing logic and determined pursuit of the truth means he is second to none at convicting killers.

THE CRIME

When the police dismiss a man's death as a squabble among the homeless community, Cross is not convinced; there are too many unanswered questions.

Who was the unknown man whose weather-beaten body was discovered on Clifton Downs? And was the same tragedy that resulted in his life on the streets also responsible for his death?

THE COLD CASE

As Cross delves into the dead man's past, he discovers that the answers lie in a case that has been cold for fifteen years.

Cross is the only person who can unpick the decades-old murder – after all, who better to decipher the life of a person who society has forgotten than a man who has always felt like an outsider himself?

My Take

George Cross is a very interesting protagonist. His "disability" gives him a different set of skills, a narrower focus, a greater awareness when something doesn't fit. This is the first in a series and already the characters are strong, as was the plot. 

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Tim Sullivan is a crime writer, screenwriter and director who has worked on major feature films such as the fourth Shrek, Flushed Away, Letters to Juliet, A Handful of Dust, Jack and Sarah, and the TV series Cold Feet. His crime series featuring DS George Cross has topped the book charts and been widely acclaimed. Tim lives in North London with his wife Rachel, the Emmy Award-winning producer of The Barefoot Contessa and Pioneer Woman. To find out more about the author, please visit TimSullivan.co.uk

9 June 2024

Review: THE MADNESS OF CROWDS, Louise Penny

  • this book made available by my local library
  • this edition published 2021 by Hodder Stoughton
  • ISBN 978-1-529-37939-6
  • 436 pages
  • #17 book in Gamache series
  • author website  

Synopsis (author)

You’re a coward.

Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.

It starts innocently enough.

While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.

Abigail Robinson promises that, if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.

When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

My Take

Louise Penny began  writing this book at the end of March 2020 as she sat at home in quarantine. I remember that time as we too just made it home (to Australia) before our airports shut their doors. Was it only just over 4 years ago?

Penny decided to make the book post-pandemic, as the world returned to "normal". In the long run it was published well before the pandemic was over.

Gamache is asked to provide security for what he expects to be a poorly attended event, that is, until he works out what Abigail Robinson has on her agenda.

And then that agenda becomes personal for Gamache as it has implications for his newly born grand-daughter. 

A murder occurs on New Year's Eve in Three Pines, and then the possibility of a much older murder rears its head.

Another fascinating plot with issues relevant for all of us.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

6 June 2024

Review: THE ENGINE HOUSE, Rhys Dylan

  • This edition read as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09P3S8FH7
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Wyrmwood Books (January 6, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 360 pages
  • A Black Beacons Murder Mystery (DCI Evan Warlow Crime Thriller Book 1)

Synopsis (publisher)

You can bury the bodies, but you can’t hide the truth.

When a landslip on Pembrokeshire’s stunning coastal path reveals the harrowing remains of two bodies, ex-DCI Evan Warlow’s quiet-one man and his dog-retirement is shattered. As the original investigator for the two missing persons eight years before, Evan is recalled to help with what is now a murder inquiry.

But as the killer scrambles to cover up the truth, the body count rises.

Working with a new young team, Warlow peels away the layers to reveal the dark and rotten heart that beats beneath the chocolate box tranquillity of an area renowned for its quiet beauty.

But does he still have what it takes to root out the monstrous truth before all hell lets loose?

The Engine House is the gripping debut crime thriller set in the heart of wild Wales from author Rhys Dylan. A # 1 Amazon bestseller in three countries.

My Take

I'm always on the look out for new-to-me authors and this series came recommended by a couple of reading friends. There are already 13 books in the series, and I'll certainly be reading the next one.

Ex-DCI Evan Warlow has retired and there is a level of mystery about why he has taken early retirement. He was known as a very committed detective but it cost his marriage. Now a cold case that was one of the last he was involved in has resurfaced with the discovery of a couple of skeletons in a cave on the cliffs. Thy are identified as those of a couple who disappeared while out walking, who lived in a cottage on the cliffs. Who better than Warlow who had worked so hard on the case, to become involved again.

Warlow had vowed to give up police work, but he finds he can't refuse the offer.

Well written, interesting characters, an engaging plot, a bit of Welsh history, and some modern issues.   

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Rhys Dylan lives on the edge of the Black mountains of Wales with his wife and a dog who doesn't like the rain. Though he has written books for children and adults under different pen names in other genres, the Black Beacons Murder Mystery series sees him return to crime and his love of Celtic noir and dark humour. He hopes readers will find a brief escape from a very troubled world inside the stories. He does not expect to get rich as an author, but as someone once famously said, money can't buy you love, but it can get you some great chocolate digestives.   

Review: ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE, Louise Penny

  • this edition made available by my local library
  • large print edition from Thorndike Press, published 2020
  • ISBN- 13: 978-1-4328-8115-3
  • 665 pages
  • 16th novel in the Gamache series
  • author website  

Synopsis (publisher)

On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand's godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man's life.

When a strange key is found in Stephen's possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand's godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen's Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide.

My Take

It is four years since I've caught up with reading Louise Penny and I'm chiding myself with being so tardy. You know how good it is to catch up with old friends, and I feel like that about the Gamache novels. Louise Penny's writing slips down like silk. 

There is a lot going on in this novel. Armande's daughter Annie is about to have a baby, and we also catch up with his son Daniel.

The central plot point is the hit and run incident when Armande's godfather Stephen is run down by a passing van as they are crossing the road after a night out. This sparks an investigation into Stephen's life, looking for what someone may have against him.

The story just flows. There are challenges to the idea that Stephen is an honourable man, about how Armande's son in law Jean_Guy, Annie's husband, actually got his job, and why Daniel is so hostile to his father. Once the story gets you hooked you read as quickly as you can to solve the mysteries you are being set.

Delicious!

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

4.8, THE CRUELLEST MONTH
4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER
4.9, THE BRUTAL TELLING
5.0, BURY YOUR DEAD
5.0,  A TRICK OF THE LIGHT
4.5, THE HANGMAN - a novella
4.9, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY
5.0, HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN
4.9, THE LONG WAY HOME
4.9, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST
5.0, A GREAT RECKONING
4.9, GLASS HOUSES
5.0, KINGDOM OF THE BLIND  - #14
4.9, A BETTER MAN - #15

2 June 2024

Review: MURDER BEFORE EVENSONG, Richard Coles

  • this edition published in 2023 by Charnwood
  • Made available by my local library
  • First published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson 2022
  • ISBN 978-1-4448-5187-8
  • 311 pages
  • (The first book in the Canon Clement Mystery series) 
  • 2023 British Book Award Crime and Thriller Book of the Year (nominee)
    2023 Paul Torday Memorial Prize (shortlist)

Synopsis (publisher)

Canon Daniel Clement is Rector of Champton. He has been there for eight years, living at the Rectory alongside his widowed mother–opinionated, fearless, ever-so-slightly annoying Audrey–and his two dachshunds, Cosmo and Hilda.

When Daniel announces a plan to install a lavatory in church, the parish is suddenly (and unexpectedly) divided: as lines are drawn, long-buried secrets come dangerously close to destroying the apparent calm of the village.

And then Anthony Bowness–cousin to Bernard de Floures, patron of Champton–is found dead at the back of the church, stabbed in the neck with a pair of pruning shears.

As the police moves in and the bodies start piling up, Daniel is the only one who can try and keep his fractured community together... and catch a killer.

My Take

An interesting who-dunnit, a cozy really from a very different perspective.

This plot is many stranded: Daniel Clement wants to modernise his church by installing a toilet. Who could object you wonder? The suggestion raises many objections. For a start it would involve the removal of a number of medieval (maybe Victorian copies) pews.  The flower arranging group opposes the suggestion as they have their eyes on the space for their own purposes. But there are more serious objections. 

The church's patron, a member of the House of Lords, has heavy involvement in the affairs of the church, as has his family had for centuries. The lives of the family are inextricably linked to that of the village and the parishioners. And there is one who sees their lives threatened to the point of resolving the issue with murder - not just one but 3...

I liked the central characters, and the way the plot was presented, enough to read another at some time.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

The Reverend Richard Coles is the presenter of SATURDAY LIVE on BBC Radio 4. He is also the only vicar in Britain to have had a number-one hit single and appeared on STRICTLY COME DANCING. He read Theology at King's College London, and after ordination worked as a curate in Lincolnshire and subsequently at St Paul's Church in Knightsbridge, London.
He is the author of LIVES OF THE IMPROBABLE SAINTS, two memoirs, FATHOMLESS RICHES and BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES, and the Sunday Times bestseller THE MADNESS OF GRIEF. He lives in his parish of Finedon, Northamptonshire.

1 June 2024

Review: THE WIREGRASS, Adrian Hyland

  •  this edition made available as an e-book on BorrowBox by my local library
  • published 2023 by Ultimo Press
  • eISBN 978-1-76115-036-4
  • 322 pages

Synopsis (publisher

A murder made to look like an accident. A disgraced cop trying to forget his past.

My eyes sprang open. What was wrong? Something had been hovering down in the backwoods of my brain. A disturbing image that only rose to the surface when I began to relax. Wild winds, wet hair, black bark, blood. A crushed body. The poor bastard killed by the falling tree at Wycliff Rise. Something about that scene wasn’t right.

Nash Rankin is a disgraced cop trying to escape his past – his career was destroyed when he chose to take justice into his own hands. Now he’s living a quiet life in a small town, caring for the local wildlife and trying to stay away from trouble.
 
Jesse Redpath has a new job in a new town: Satellite. The stormy weather that greets her first few days on the beat seems like a sign of what’s to come. A local has died in what looks like an accident, but Jessie isn’t so sure that the ‘accident’ wasn’t planned. All the evidence points to Nash, but Jesse’s not sure about that either.
 
Seems like Nash has enemies. And what looks like a close-knit community might just be a cover for dark secrets.

No amount of rain will wash this town clean.

The new Jesse Redpath crime thriller from the bestselling author of CANTICLE CREEK.

My Take

Readers looking for authentic Australian crime fiction will not be disappointed.

Central protagonist Jesse Redpath is an interesting character who brings intuition to a police procedural set in a compelling Australian landscape. The setting is in the northern Victorian highlands not far from Canticle Creek where Jess has family. Her new appointment as a police station head gives Jesse a chance to show what she is made of, but before long she has has a new man in her life, has blotted her copy book, is suspended, and being targetted by those she has been investigating.

Adrian Hyland has a lovely writing style.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.7

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