30 January 2009

Review: ACRC#7, THE BIG FOUR, Agatha Christie

Originally published by Collins in 1927, this edition by Harper Collins 2002
ISBN 0-00-712081-8, 272 pages

Some time has elapsed since Hastings last saw his old friend Hercule Poirot. Hastings has been living in the Argentine on a ranch for the last 18 months, a happily married man. Poirot has set himself up in London as a consulting detective and apparently doing very well. Business complications have necessitated Hastings coming to spend some months in London and he is rather hoping to stay in his old lodgings with Poirot, although he has given him no warning of his impending arrival.

Hastings arrives to find Poirot about to leave within the hour for Rio de Janeiro to carry out an investigation for Abe Ryland, an American millionaire, the richest man in the world. Poirot confesses that his new life has not satisfied him: he is beginning to weary of the unending procession of petty problems and has in fact been very lonely, missing the company of Hastings.
Poirot has recently come across references to "The Big Four", a gang of international criminals banded together to destroy the existing social order, and to replace it with an anarchy in which they would reign as dictators. Just as Poirot is about to leave the door swings open to reveal a thin and emaciated man coated from head to foot with dust and mud. He has something to tell Poirot about the Big Four and within hours he will be dead.

THE BIG FOUR is not so much a novel as a series of short stories generated by Poirot's quest to unmask and bring the Big Four to justice. Over the next ten months he and Hastings will progressively discover the identity of the Chinese man, American billionaire, French woman and the "destroyer" who comprise the gang. Poor old Hastings will be knocked out, kidnapped, blown up and gassed several times, and Hercule Poirot's life will be constantly under threat. This a book that stands up well in a modern context though. The scenarios are at times a little far fetched, but it is tightly plotted and a fairly quick read.

My rating: 4.4

I've read THE BIG FOUR as part of my self-created Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, in which I am trying to read Agatha Christie's novels in the order in which they were written. Just prior to THE BIG FOUR I read the short story collection POIROT INVESTIGATES published in 1925. Where THE BIG FOUR differs from the earlier collection is that the episodes in THE BIG FOUR are sequential and all connected by the quest to uncover the criminal gang. They could never be published separately whereas those from POIROT INVESTIGATES could and were.

In pursuing my challenge I think I am seeing the writings of Agatha Christie in a new light.
I am developing a sense of their continuity, able to see the Poirot novels for example as a series in which the main characters of Poirot and Hastings, and even minor ones like Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard, are expanded and developed. Previously I have read the Christie novels in a pretty random order. An older teacher librarian whom I once worked with was a teenager in the 1920s and she told me of the excitement of waiting for the next Christie novel to arrive. I am beginning to understand that excitement.

There are connecting themes between all the novels too. THE BIG FOUR's central theme of a master criminal or a gang of organised criminals responsible for a variety of international catastrophes mistakenly attributed to other causes, has been present in earlier novels. The novel also highlights the problems of international collaboration when Poirot fails in his attempt to persuade the French Prime Minister of the identity of the woman whom he has identified has being a member of the gang of Four.

There are signs at the end of THE BIG FOUR that Agatha Christie is ready for another protagonist. Perhaps the structure of this novel and the fact that the earlier Poirot was actually a set of short stories is a sign that Christie was finding it difficult to develop a proper full length novel around Poirot. Am I right I wonder?

28 January 2009

Review: THE WHITE TIGER, Aravind Adiga

Atlantic Books, 2008, ISBN 978-1-84354-721-1, 321 pages

The White Tiger, an Indian entrepreneur living in Bangalore, has heard an announcement on All India Radio that the Chinese Premier Jiabao is about to visit Bangalore. The announcer also said that Mr Jiabao wanted to know the truth about Bangalore, to meet some Indian entrepreneurs, and to hear the story of their success from their own lips. Concerned that the official story given to the Premier will be nothing like the truth, the White Tiger begins to write a series of emails to Jiabao.

Balram Halwai is The White Tiger. Until he went to school, he didn't really have a name. His father, Vikram Halwai, a rickshaw puller, called his son Munna, the Hindi word for boy. It was the school teacher who named him Balram when he enrolled him at school. Similarly his date of birth had never been recorded. It was eventually given to him when he was enrolled to vote during a scam by a village politician to get as many 18 year olds on the roll as possible. Despite being identified as an intelligent child and singled out for special treatment by a school inspector, Munna's schooling is cut short when his family sells him to become a tea shop spider.

Munna writes nightly to Premier Jiabao, telling him the story of his life: how he, a half-baked man, has become an entrepreneur who employs more than a dozen men. The letters describe for the reader an India that we can barely imagine, where corruption is rife, a nation of entrepreneurs, particularly in the field of technology, although things regarded as the essentials of life like clean drinking water, electricity, and adequate sewage simply don't exist.

THE WHITE TIGER is not really crime fiction, although I counted 20 murders. But the murders are not the focal point of this book. It is the social and economic circumstances revealed in Munna's letters. It lays bare an India that is failing it's citizens, where landlords and socialists alike bribe officials, and human life is regarded cheaply. The winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize, it is an eminently readable book.

My rating 4.5

Aravind Adiga was born in Madras in 1974, and has subsequently lived in India, Australia, the US and the UK. He currently lives in Mumbai. THE WHITE TIGER is his debut novel.

Another review on Reactions to Reading: Bernadette listened to it.

27 January 2009

Going a bit quiet for a week

Regular readers of my blog may wonder why I'm not posting. Well here's the reason. On Sunday we flew from Adelaide to Fremantle and today we join a cruise to go home.

I'm anticipating I may be without internet connection, but never fear, I have plenty of books with me, so eventually there will be many reviews to post.

Interestingly this is the liner that passengers claimed was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia in December last year.

26 January 2009

Made in Australia

Among other things, this blog is proudly Australian, and often celebrates crime fiction written by Australian authors.

Today is Australia Day, 26 January 2009, and my blog has come a long way since the post I wrote on Australia Day 2008. That post will give you a lot of cultural directions, where to find out some Australian history, and a quiz to test your knowledge of Australia.

Throughout the blog I've used the tags Australian author, Australian crime fiction, and I've talked about Australian awards such as the Davitt Award, and the Ned Kelly Award.

In the last year I've talked about Adelaide Writers' Week, Anzac Day, the Melbourne Writers Festival, and hosted two sessions of the Carnival for Criminal Minds: Carnival #18 and Carnival #29.

I hope all of these links convince you that we have some Australian crime fiction writers worth looking for.

How are you celebrating Australia Day? I am in Fremantle today, away from home in good old Adelaide.

25 January 2009

Sunday Salon #4 - 25 January 2009

Hard to believe that already 3 weeks of the year have gone.
I still have far too many unread books lying around, and every day there is news of what is coming out later this year.

This week's postings:
Breaking News
My aim for the US National Just Read More Novels Month was to get to 10 and I will get there easily. Here's what I've read so far
Currently reading
  • now - THE WHITE TIGER, Aravind Adiga
  • next - THE BIG FOUR, Agatha Christie
  • sometime soon - THE 19TH WIFE, David Ebershoff
  • also listening to - CORDUROY MANSIONS, Alexander McCall Smith, ready for ch. 81
  • in the car - AREA7, Matthew Reilly

24 January 2009

Weekly Geek #3 - Some Classics in Crime Fiction

The Weekly Geeks challenge this week is to dabble in the classics.
A classic is defined as anything written over 100 years ago and still in print.

I'm a bit short of time, because we are going away for a holiday tomorrow, so I just thought I'd point people to some classics in crime fiction that I already know about. The first three are Australian, the last British.

ROBBERY UNDER ARMS, 1888, Rolfe Boldrewood
At the beginning of this novel the narrator, Dick Marsden, is awaiting execution for crimes committed whilst a bushranger. He goes on to tell the story of his life and loves and his association with the notorious Captain Starlight.
Some of the exploits recounted are based on actual incidents carried out by Daniel Morgan, Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert all of whom are notorious historical figures.
This "ripping yarn" has, since its first publication in book form in 1888, remained popular and has been filmed three times and serialised on radio.
The linked title will take you the Gutenberg Press e-book.

FOR THE TERM OF HIS NATURAL LIFE, 1870-1872, Marcus Clarke
"For the Term of his Natural Life" is a 'ripping yarn', which at times relies on unrealistic coincidences, the story follows the fortunes of Rufus Dawes, a young man transported for a murder which he did not commit. The harsh and inhumane treatment meted out to the convicts, some of whom were transported for relatively minor crimes, is clearly conveyed. The conditions experienced by the convicts are graphically described.
The novel was based on research by the author as well as a visit to the penal settlement of Port Arthur.
The racy style and constant development of events ensures that this novel will continue be of interest to modern readers.
The linked title will take you the Gutenberg Press e-book.

, Fergus Hume (1886)
Just before 2am on a Friday morning the driver of a hansom cab turns up at the police station in St. Kilda, Melbourne, saying that his passenger is dead, and he suspects murder. He had collected both men in the city and began the long drive to St. Kilda. When they got to St. Kilda Rd, one of the men called out to him to stop. When he stopped the cab, one of the men alighted with the instructions that the driver should continue on to St. Kilda with the other passenger (who was drunk). When he got to St. Kilda he found that the passenger was dead. There are elements that mark this as a 19th century, even Australian novel, but they don't detract from the complexity of the plot. According to the introduction this was the best selling crime novel of the 19th century.
Once again the link will take you to the Gutenberg press e-book.
We used this one for an oz_mystery_readers discussion book and it worked very well. It is supposedly the highest selling Australian crime fiction book ever.

A collection of 8 short stories which feature A.J. Raffles, gentleman, cricketer, and amateur cracksman, and his old school mate Bunny Manders, a bunny in most senses of the word. In the first story The Ides of March Raffles prevents Bunny who is constantly in debt, like Raffles, having no honest source of income, from committing suicide. The eight stories are narrated by Bunny, with the plots complicated by the fact that Raffles doesn't always keep him totally informed. At times Raffles uses Bunny as a decoy, and at times Bunny initiates action on his own because he thinks Raffles has failed. Of course Raffles never fails, and in the long run it is Bunny who pays most dearly.
The stories depict Raffles as a master burglar, a gentleman, a sportsman who extends the code of cricket, of "playing fair", to thievery. He is much sought after because he is such a splendid cricketer, both at the bat and as a bowler, and various invitations give him the opportunity to relieve others of their riches. As with Conan Doyle's Holmes and Moriarty, Raffles has his principal opponent in Scotland Yard's Inspector Mackenzie. The Penguin blurb credits Ernest Hornung with creating "a unique form of crime story, where, in stealing, as in sport, it is playing the game that counts, and there is always honour among thieves".
Once again oz_mystery_readers used this as a discussion book.
This one is available as an mp3 download:http://librivox.org/the-amateur-cracksman-by-ew-hornung/

Review: DOORS OPEN, Ian Rankin

Orion books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7528-9071-5, 260 pages

Bored, too much time on his hands, too much money available, probably best describes self made Edinburgh milllionaire Mike Mackenzie. He and two other artlovers decide to take advantage of Edinburgh's annual Doors Open Day to rob the National Gallery of Scotland's warehouse of some valuable paintings.

Realising they don't actually have the physical power to carry out the heist on their own, Mackenzie involves Chib Calloway, a second string Edinburgh gangster whom he just happened to go to school with.

But any plan is only as strong as its weakest link. And there are lots of weak links. And Mike doesn't take into account a very alert policeman looking to collar Calloway for previous misdemeanors, a gang boss with international connections to whom Calloway owes money, and a double cross by one of their own. Just at the point when Mike is congratulating himself on getting away with it all, things begin to crumble.

This is Rankin's first novel since EXIT MUSIC, in which he retired his "alter ego", D.I. Rebus. Followers were very keen to find out whether Rankin could exist without Rebus, and in the interviews that followed the release of EXIT MUSIC he was pretty coy about what Rebus' role would be in any future novels. Well, the critics are answered. There is not a sign of Rebus in DOORS OPEN.

Can Rankin write stand-alones? Well, yes, he can. He hasn't really ground to a halt or lost his touch with Rebus' retirement. This is a relatively short novel by his standards, and not really so complex. There are few signs of Rankin's social conscience, and I spent much of my reading time thinking it wouldn't rank as highly in my rating system as other Rankin novels in my records. I gave 5.0 to EXIT MUSIC and DOORS OPEN isn't at that level. But the last 50 pages or so pushed the rating up for me, although I didn't particularly like the gung-ho with a romantic element of the final denouement of the heist plot. But then came the Epilogue with its write your own ending element. Not every one will like that. But it left the door nicely open ....

My rating 4.6

Guest Blogger: Me on writing book reviews

Many thanks to Clark Bjorne, the "barker" of the Book Review Blog Carnival who invited me to contribute a post about writing book reviews.

To those who follow my blog, my post One Person's View of Book Reviewing will be familiar territory, but maybe you are a newbie around here, or you've just dropped in to find out about guidelines for book reviewing.

If you are not familiar with the Book Review Blog Carnival then check out the widget which I have running down on the bottom right of my side bar.

The current Book Review Blog Carnival is running at Breeni Books. If you do write book reviews of any sort why not contribute a link and description of your review on the submissions page? The carnival accepts all categories of book reviews, fiction, non-fiction etc. Theoretically participation should drive a few people to your blog, but there is a certain thrill about seeing your links featured on someone else's blog too.

For those who are here because you read Agatha Christie novels, consider submitting your next review (or all your reviews past and future) to the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival which I developed after I had seen the idea functioning on the Book Review Blog Carnival.

Once again you will find the "live" widget down in the bottom right corner, but you can also go to the home page of the carnival and view the postings there. Your submissions to the carnival are made here. Be sure to put your submission into one of the categories and to write a brief teaser for your review.

23 January 2009

Left Coast Crime Award Nominees

Awards are offered, for books published, in English (anywhere), between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008 in the following three categories:

THE LEFTY: Best humorous mystery
THE BRUCE ALEXANDER MEMORIAL HISTORICAL MYSTERY: A historical mystery, covering events before 1950
HAWAII FIVE-0: Law enforcement, police procedural.

And some of us will be there!

Here are the Nominees

Bruce Alexander Memorial Mystery Award

Nox Dormienda: A Long Night Sleeping by Kelli Stanley (Five Star)
Touchstone by Laurie King (Bantam)
Tell Me Pretty Maiden by Rhys Bowen (St. Martin's Press)
A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen (Berkeley Prime Crime)
A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander (HarperCollins)

Hawaii Five-O

Angel Falls by Baron Birtcher (Iota)
Fractured by Karin Slaughter (Delacorte Press)
The Black Path by Asa Larsson (Delta)
The Angel of Knowlton Place by Kate Flora (Five Star)
Mahu Fire by Neil S. Plakcy (Alyson Books)
Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Malliet (Midnight Ink)


Thugs and Kisses by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Midnight Ink)
Six Geese a Slaying by Donna Andrews (St. Martins)
Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill by N.M. Kelby (Shaye Areheart Books/Random House Group)
Greasing the Pinata by Tim Maleeny (Poisoned Pen Press)
Getting Old is to Die For by Rita Larkin (Dell/Bantam)
It Happened One Knife by Jeffrey Cohen (Berkeley Prime Crime)

22 January 2009

Forgotten Books: RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY, John Mortimer

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books theme.

It is a long time it seems since I've read a Rumpole, but the death this week of John Mortimer (1923-2009) has prompted me to make RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY my forgotten book. The list of 27 Rumpole titles spans 33 years. They were once a staple in my crime fiction diet.
Crime fiction based in the Old Bailey with a comic side, they were a change from village cozies and police procedurals.
According to Geoffrey Robertson QC though, Rumpole can also be credited with helping to change the culture of the bar.

RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY was a collection of stories including "Rumpole and the Younger Generation", "Rumpole and the Alternative Society", "Rumpole and the Honourable Member", "Rumpole and the Married Lady, "Rumpole and the Learned Friends" and "Rumpole and the Heavy Brigade".

They established the character of Rumpole, a barrister who liked to defend rather than prosecute; who didn't really like his clients to be guilty, but accepted the inevitability of that; who had a nose for sussing out the real truth; whom you suspect had his place in Chambers because he had married well, to She Who Must Be Obeyed; who really had only one claim to immortality - The Penge Bungalow Murders.

The character though was immortalised by Leo McKern who seemed to fit the bill so well.
According to the books Rumpole was only a little younger than Mortimer himself. In all, seven television series of Rumpole of the Bailey were made from 1978 to 1992, each consisting of six episodes. A two-hour TV movie, "Rumpole's Return", was aired in 1980, between the 2nd and 3rd series.

The list of books (courtesy of Fantastic Fiction) spans four decades.

Rumpole of the Bailey (1978)
The Trials of Rumpole (1979)
Rumpole (1980)
Regina v Rumpole (1981)
Rumpole for the Defence (1982)
Rumpole's Return (1982)
The First Rumpole Omnibus (omnibus) (1983)
Rumpole and the Golden Thread (1983)
Rumpole for the Prosecution (1986)
Rumpole's Last Case (1987)
The Second Rumpole Omnibus (omnibus) (1987)
Rumpole and the Age of Miracles (1988)
Rumpole and the Age for Retirement (1989)
Rumpole a La Carte (1990)
Rumpole On Trial (1992)
The Best of Rumpole: A Personal Choice (1993)
Rumpole and the Angel of Death (1995)
Rumpole and the Younger Generation (1995)
The Third Rumpole Omnibus (omnibus) (1997)
Rumpole Rests His Case (2001)
Rumpole and the Primrose Path (2002)
Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders (2004)
Rumpole and the Reign of Terror (2006)
The Anti-social Behaviour of Horace Rumpole (2007)
Rumpole Misbehaves (2007)

The UK Guardian tribute
Sarah Weinman blog post

21 January 2009

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival #1

The inaugural edition of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival is up and running with 25 quality contributions.

I am very pleased with how well it has taken off and really hope the word will spread (with your help of course) and people remember to contribute reviews and comments as they write them.

It turned out to be remarkably easy to put the post together after the contributions had been collected at BlogCarnival.com which is why I managed to post it a couple of days ahead of schedule.

20 January 2009

Review: SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS, Matthew Reilly

Unabridged audio, Bolinda Publishing, 12 hours 15 minutes on 11 CDs. ISBN 1-74093-885-2. Read by Sean Mangan.

Originally published in 2005 by Pan Macmillan Australia.

I wasn't at all sure that I would like this book. A thriller in the Indiana Jones mode rather than my usual crime fiction diet, and I was a bit daunted by the length of time I would have to listen. At 15-20 minutes a journey, I calculated it would take me at least a month of travelling to and from work.

The story quickly: At one time, the Great Pyramid at Giza had a golden capstone with remarkable powers. And then it was broken into seven pieces and hidden for over 4,000 years. Each of the pieces is located with one of the lost seven ancient wonders of the world. The cataclysm that the capstone was originally created to prevent is about to happen again, and teams of ruthless men race around the world trying to find and take possession of the seven pieces, so becoming the most powerful men in the world. The only clues are some ancient documents written in an almost untranslatable language, which only a child can read. The hiding places are booby trapped, created by one of Egypt's cleverest builders. The nation that retrieves and replaces the capstone on the Great Pyramid will, according to legend, rule for 1,000 years.

So, did I enjoy this? Well yes I did! The start was a bit gruesome and it did take a CD or two to work out what was going on. But then I found myself worried if the team of Jack West Jr., an Australian leading a small team with minimal resources, representing the 'small nations', was going to succeed or fail in preventing the US or European teams from gaining the power.

It did rather feel as if I was inside a Dungeons and Dragons game, or at the very least on the set of a Harrison Ford movie. But Sean Mangan's reading is first class. A measure of my enjoyment: tonight I borrowed AREA7, again by Matthew Reilly, and again read by Sean Mangan, to listen to in the car. 11 Cds, 13 hours 6 minutes. I'm a Matthew Reilly convert, at least in this format.

My rating: 4.6

The novels of Matthew Reilly - courtesy Wikipedia

Stand alone novels

  • 1996 Contest (Self-published in 1996; published by Pan Macmillan in 2000)
  • 1999 Temple (appears to be set in the same universe as Reilly's other novels, is referred to in passing in both Area 7 and Scarecrow.

The Shane Schofield series

The Jack West Jr series

Fair Dinkum Crime at LCC

Left Coast Crime is getting closer, and you could say that our little Australian contingent is getting just a bit excited.

It is all getting to the pointy end, and I am moderating a panel called Fair Dinkum Crime, six of us, including Sunnie and Helen, talking about the best in Australian crime fiction.

If you are going to be there, then we are item 67, 9-9.45 am on Thursday morning, 12 March.

If you haven't yet booked, I think there are still spaces. Just click on the image and it will take you to the web site. Click here to see the programme.

If you are attending, leave a comment, and I'll look out for you. (or you could look out for me).

19 January 2009

Euro Crime: Euro Crime reviewers' favourite reads of 2008

Euro Crime: Euro Crime reviewers' favourite reads of 2008

Karen asked a bunch of crime fiction addicts to list their top 5 reads for 2008.
The 15 of us are mainly people who have reviewed books in the last year for Euro Crime.
Only 5! It was very hard to choose.

It is interesting to compare this list with others I have been part of or seen.
I've marked those I've read. ***
You could do a lot worse than use this as a "reading syllabus".
All the ones I have marked *** are more than worth your attention, and I trust my fellow reviewers to recommend the others too.
4 votes:
Stieg Larsson - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ***

3 votes:
Stuart MacBride - Flesh House
Yrsa Sigurdardottir - Last Rituals
Johan Theorin - Echoes from the Dead

2 votes:
Kate Atkinson - When will there be good news?***
Reginald Hill - A Cure for All Diseases ***
Arnaldur Indridason - Arctic Chill ***
Philip Kerr - A Quiet Flame
Jo Nesbo - Nemesis***
Michael Robotham - Shatter***
Helene Tursten - The Torso***
Fred Vargas - This Night's Foul Work***

18 January 2009

Sunday Salon #3 - 18 January 2009

Already I've broken a rather tentative New Year's resolution. It was tentative because I wasn't sure I could keep it - and as it turns out I was right.
I looked at how many posts I made in 2008 (456 in 365 days, an average of 1.3 a day), and resolved to post less. So far I've posted 29 times in 18 days in January 2009 which is an average of 1.6 a day, so I'm not doing well am I?
I'll be away later this month so maybe that is an opportunity to put my blog on a diet!

Last weekend I tried to get round to every Sunday Salon posting which I have coming in to my RSS reader. It was a mammoth but very engrossing journey. Sorry if I ran out of steam in leaving comments.

Watch out for
  • The inaugural Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival.
    You can submit a link to any postings you have made that review Agatha Christie books by going to the Carnival collecting space and putting in the URL, your details, and a comment about the post.
    The January Carnival closes on January 20. Any links submitted after that go into February etc.
    The links submitted for the January Carnival will be posted on January 23.
  • The next Book Review Blog Carnival goes up later today at Breeni Books
    I've been contributing my book reviews as I've posted them here on my blog, so I'm looking forward to seeing them on the website. If you are interested go to the Carnival home and check out the details. The Book Rack is the place to check the current Carnival.
This week's postings:
Breaking News:
I'm currently reading:
  • now - DOORS OPEN by Ian Rankin.
  • next - THE BIG FOUR, Agatha Christie
  • sometime soon - THE 19TH WIFE, David Ebershoff
  • also listening to - CORDUROY MANSIONS, Alexander McCall Smith, ready for ch. 81
  • in the car - SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS, Matthew Reilly
My 40th Sunday Salon ever.

Weekly Geeks 2009 #2 - What it means to be a Weekly Geek

This week's Weekly Geek Question asks what it means to be a Weekly Geek.

I guess I qualify to be a Weekly Geek because I am really addicted to blogging. I promised myself at the beginning of this year that I would try to cut down to one daily post. Last year I posted 456 times in 365 days. But instead of being more restrained, it looks to me as if I am becoming more addicted. This will be the 28th post for January already.

What I value about Weekly Geeks is the opportunity to browse the blogs of others, to look at how their blogs are constructed, what their graphics look like, what challenges they have taken up. I like the way it brings a community of bloggers together. From them I get ideas of gadgets/widgets I could add to mine, new topics to blog about, new books to look out for.

17 January 2009

Bloggers who Inspire Me

Many thanks to Vanda at Overkill who gave me the Inspiration Award. I've slightly modified the image she handed on but I guess that is the way with memes.

Part of this Inspiration Award is that you hand it on to other bloggers who inspire you and whose blogs add that sparkle to your day. In fact there are rules :

1. Please put the logo of the award on your blog.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate 7 or more blogs.
4. Leave a message on their blogs to tell them.

So don't cringe when you see me coming with yet another meme in hand folks!

My bloggers I watch list has expanded to 100 people over the last few months, so I've looked carefully at the people who have helped me on my journey in the last 12 months by consistently visiting, leaving comments, handing on good advice, giving me ideas, and providing avenues through which my blog has become known to a wider audience.

Choosing my 7 Victims wasn't easy because there are many more who have inspired me in others ways. My victims are not listed in any order of preference. They all people to whom I feel very grateful for the fact that they have gone out of their way for me.
  • Patti Abbott at Pattinase who invited me to contribute to Friday's Forgotten Books and provided a weekly pleasure in researching ever since.
  • Peter at Detectives beyond Borders who kept insisting I look at what he was writing on his blog even before I appreciated what blogging actually was.
  • Bernadette who now has a book blog of her own at Reactions to Reading, but in the early days last year told me about BookMooch and other pleasures
  • Debra at Sunday Salon who has brought 320 bloggers together and provided a venue for me to reach a wider audience.
  • Marg at Reading Adventures who seems to read my every post and inpsires me with all her activities.
  • Maxine at Petrona who has helped me in so many ways and feels like the calm voice of sensibility, with advice on so many aspects of crime fiction reading and blogging.

  • Martin at Do You Write Under Your Own Name whose blog I have been reading now for well over a year. I enjoy his books and I enjoy his posts.
So I hope you will accept this award everyone, and take some of the credit in helping me along in the blogging world.

Review: ARCTIC CHILL, Arnaldur Indridason

Harvill Secker, 2008, ISBN 978-1-846-55065-2, 344 pages. Translated from Icelandic by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb.

Set in Reyjavik, Iceland. A young boy of Asiatic appearance is discovered dead near the flats where he lives. He is frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood, with a stab wound to the stomach. A theme that runs through the story is the tensions between native Icelanders and incomers, particularly those who are noticeably different.

A teacher of Icelandic language at the boy's school believes such incomers have no place in Iceland. Erlendur has to decide whether the boy has been the victim of racial bigotry, perhaps perpetrated by another student at the school, or is the recent sighting of a possible paedophile in the neighbourhood significant?

Reyjavik is a relatively warm oasis in the harsh Icelandic landscape. Icelandic men go off to warm places like Thailand, have a good time, and then bring back with them new wives. You can almost hear Indridason thinking about this dilution of the Icelandic genetic pool. You may like to read Indridason's first novel translated into English JAR CITY (aka TAINTED BLOOD) to see the full significance of that.

For Erlendur though the boy's death stirs once again memories of the death of another little boy, his own brother, also the victim of the harsh Icelandic climate. There are questions about Bergur's death that were never answered.

ARCTIC CHILL develops and expands Erlendur's own character for Indridason's readers, as well as those who have made appearances as part of Erlendur's investigative team throughout the series. This novel will cement his following.

My rating: 4.8

ARCTIC CHILL is the 5th of Indridason's novels translated into English.
During this translation Bernard Scudder, the translator, died suddenly at the age of 53. Bernard has I think been the translator of all the books.

In 2005 Indridason won the CWA Gold Dagger for SILENCE OF THE GRAVE
However ARCTIC CHILL has emblazoned across both front and back covers (see the image on the top right of this page) - WINNER OF THE CWA GOLD DAGGER.
In my book that's misleading advertising, even though ARCTIC CHILL did appear in many "tops" lists in 2008.

My earlier reviews

A man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat, a cryptic note left on his body. Erlendur, Detective Inspector with the Reykjavik police investigates. The investigation of the dead man's past reveals 40 year old accusations of rape and the murder begins to reach out like an octopus into Iceland's past and its present. We learn much about Icelandic society, and about how police investigations are carried out. There are some interesting side plots such as Erlendur's relationship with his drug-addicted daughter Eva Lind, his son Sindri Snaer, and his retired colleague Marion Briem. The investigation moves at a good pace and raises some interesting ethical questions. My rating 4.9

SILENCE OF THE GRAVE by Arnaldur Indridason
Building work on the outskirts of Reykajavik (Iceland) uncovers a body possibly buried alive during World War Two. Erlendur and his team are called in to investigate and try to uncover the truth while a team of archaeologists slowly and painstaking exhume the skeleton. Those who still live in the area tell of a young pregnant woman who disappeared in the war, but is it her? An elderly dying man talks of the green woman who was crooked. At the same time Erlendur is re-living his past - his daughter Eva Lind lies in a coma in the local hospital after a miscarriage and an old woman asks him why he is carrying a young boy around with him. The construction of this novel is intricate and it is almost impossible to solve the mysteries until the very end. Indridason draws into it a fascinating local legend about an orgy at the local gasworks on the night Halley's comet nearly struck the earth in 1910. Translated into English from Icelandic in 2005.
My rating: 5

VOICES, Arnaldur Indridason, rating 5.0
The doorman at a Reykjavik hotel who doubles every year as Santa at Christmas parties in the hotel is found dead by one of the hotel maids, stabbed to death, in his squalid basement room. Christmas is fast approaching and the detective Erlendur is confronted by the problem of how or even if he is going to celebrate Christmas. Is there anything to celebrate? Strangely he moves into the hotel while the investigation of the murder is carried out just feeling he can't go back to his flat. This is Indridason's 3rd novel to be translated into English. It was originally published in 2003 and made it into English in 2006. Erlendur of course eventually solves the murder mystery but along the way we learn a lot about the ghosts of his own past, and gain insight into his relationship with his drug-addicted daughter Eva Lind. And even in the last 10 pages we are still juggling candidates for the killer.

THE DRAINING LAKE by Arnaldur Indridason
After an earth tremor, the water level in an Icelandic lake begins to drop as water drains out through fissures in the lakes bed. Eventually it drops low enough to reveal the skeleton of a murder victim, probably there for a number of years and anchored to a piece of Russian radio equipment. The search for the identity of this person is a fairly lengthy and tedious process but murders and missing persons are pretty rare in Iceland where everybody knows everybody. Woven into the murder investigation is the story of idealistic young Icelandic socialists, party members chosen to be educated at university in Leipzig in East Germany, and then also more about Erlendur's own family and his children who flit in and out of his life. Originally published in Icelandic in 2004, the 4th of Indridason's books to be translated into English.
My rating: 4.7

Other Reviews:

The Edgar Nominees have been announced

Mystery Writers of America have announced the 2009 Edgar Nominees.
The winners will be announced on April 29 in New York City.
I must confess at the outset that I have read very few of them.


Missing by Karin Alvtegen (Felony & Mayhem Press)
Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
The Night Following by Morag Joss (Random House - Delacorte Press)
Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)


The Kind One by Tom Epperson (Five Star, div of Cengage)
Sweetsmoke by David Fuller (Hyperion)
The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador)
Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock (Random House - Doubleday)


The Prince of Bagram by Alex Carr (Random House Trade)
Money Shot by Christa Faust (Hard Case Crime)
Enemy Combatant by Ed Gaffney (Random House - Dell)
China Lake by Meg Gardiner (New American Library - Obsidian Mysteries)
The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli (Random House - Bantam)


For The Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb and the Murder that Shocked Chicago by
Simon Baatz (HarperCollins)
American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of
the Century by Howard Blum (Crown Publishers)
Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It To The Revolution by
T.J. English (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Hans van
Meegeren by Jonathan Lopez (Harcourt)
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale (Walker & Company)


African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie
Y. Bailey (McFarland & Company)
Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories by
Leonard Cassuto (Columbia University Press)
Scene of the Crime: The Importance of Place in Crime and Mystery Fiction by
David Geherin (McFarland & Company)
The Rise of True Crime by Jean Murley (Greenwood Publishing - Praeger)
Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories
by Dr. Harry Lee Poe (Sterling Publishing - Metro Books)


"A Sleep Not Unlike Death" - Hardcore Hardboiled by Sean Chercover (Kensington
"Skin and Bones" - Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by David Edgerley Gates
(Dell Magazines)
"Scratch of a Woman" - Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman (HarperCollins -
William Morrow)
"La Vie en Rose" - Paris Noir by Dominique Mainard (Akashic Books
"Skinhead Central" - The Blue Religion by T. Jefferson Parker (Hachette Book
Group - Little, Brown and Company)


The Postcard by Tony Abbott (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Enigma: A Magical Mystery by Graeme Base (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff (Random House Children's Books - Wendy Lamb
The Witches of Dredmoore Hollow by Riford McKenzie (Marshall Cavendish
Children's Books)
Cemetary Street by Brenda Seabrooke (Holiday House)


Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd (Random House Children's Books - David Fickling
The Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo (Harry N. Abrams Books - Amulet Books)
Paper Towns by John Green
(Penguin Young Readers Group - Dutton Children's Books)
Getting the Girl by Susan Juby (HarperCollins Children's Books - HarperTeen)
Torn to Pieces by Margo McDonnell
(Random House Children's Books - Delacorte Books for Young Readers)


The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza (Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, based on the story by
Robert Lewis Stevenson (Arizona Theatre Company)
Cell by Judy Klass (International Mystery Writers' Festival)


"Streetwise" - Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Paul Grellong (Wolf Films/NBC
"Prayer of the Bone" - Wire in the Blood, Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (BBC
"Signature" - Law & Order: SVU, Teleplay by Judith McCreary (Wolf Films/NBC
"You May Now Kill the Bride" - CSI: Miami, Teleplay by Barry O'Brien (CBS)
"Burn Card" - Law & Order, Teleplay by David Wilcox (Wolf Films/NBC Universal)


The Bank Job, Screenplay by Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (Lionsgate)
Burn After Reading, Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Focus Features)
In Bruges, Screenplay by Martin McDonagh (Focus Features)
Tell No One, Screenplay by Guillaume Canet, based on the book by Harlan Coben
(Music Box Films)
Transsiberian, Screenplay by Brad Anderson & Will Conroy (First Look

"Buckner's Error" - Queens Noir by Joseph Guglielmelli (Akashic Books)

James Lee Burke
Sue Grafton

Edgar Allan Poe Society, Baltimore, Maryland
Poe House, Baltimore, Maryland


Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton (St. Martin's Minotaur)- I have a copy of this one
The Killer's Wife by Bill Floyd (St. Martin's Minotaur)
Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer (Random House - Doubleday)
A Song for You by Betsy Thornton (St. Martin's Minotaur)
The Fault Tree by Louise Ure (St. Martin's Minotaur)

16 January 2009

Oz_Mystery_Readers Announce top reads for 2008

The oz_mystery_readers Yahoo group has announced it's top crime fiction reads for 2008.

15 members suggested 140 titles

How we voted:

47% (7) - SHATTER, Michael Robotham
25% (4) - FAN MAIL, P. D. Martin
20% (3) - THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Stieg Larsson
20% (3) - VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE, Leah Giarratano

then all the following were chosen by 2 readers
FRANTIC, Katherine Howell
GUILTY PLEASURES, Laurell K. Hamilton
THE DARKEST HOUR, Katherine Howell
THE DRAINING LAKE, Arnaldur Indridason
VOODOO DOLL, Leah Giarratano

If we sort it by author here is what we get (*** Aussie writers surface)

50% (8) - ***Michael Robotham: SHATTER, BOMBPROOF
40% (6) - ***Leah Giarratano: VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE, VOODOO DOLL
25% (4) - ***Katherine Howell: FRANTIC, THE DARKEST HOUR
20% (3) - Stieg Larsson: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

then each of the following authors got 2 mentions
Stephanie Meyer: NEW MOON, TWILIGHT
***Leigh Redhead: CHERRY PIE, RUBDOWN
Arnaldur Indridason: THE DRAINING LAKE

15 January 2009

Authors and their characters face to face

My last two posts have set me wondering if many crime fiction authors have ever met actors who have played their characters in TV series, and if so, what did they think of them?

You may need to help me out here.

Pictures tell their own story don't they? Ellis Peters it seems met Sir Derek Jacobi.

We know that Colin Dexter met John Thaw, even counted him as friend.

In an interview Dexter said "I had good fortune with John, who fitted in exactly. He never influenced my subsequent writing of Morse because I did not have to change the character, he was actually what he was in the books."

And yes, Agatha Christie met Joan Hickson, even before she portayed Miss Marple. I am sure I have seen a photo of them together, on Agatha Christie's 80th birthday or similar, but haven't been able to find it today.

However there is this from the Agatha Christie site:
    Joan’s connections with Agatha Christie go back to 1937, when she appeared as Emmy in Love from a Stranger. Then in 1962, she played Mrs Kidder in Murder She Said which starred Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. It was on the set of this film that Joan first met Agatha Christie: Agatha did not see Margaret Rutherford as the ideal Miss Marple. She said to me, ‘Some day I would like you to play my Miss Marple.’ I was quite taken aback, as I was young at the time.”
As far as I can work out there are no pictures of Agatha Christie with Margaret Rutherford, and David Suchet did not begin playing Poirot until well after her death in 1976.

And yes, Val McDermid has met Robson Green:
It was great fun to meet the actors who are bringing Patrick Harbinson's dynamic script to life. Robson Green is excelling himself in the role of Tony Hill, and Hermione Norris (the blonde one in Cold Feet) is the perfect foil as Detective Inspector Carol Jordan, bringing real intelligence and strength to it. The supporting actors are a great team, playing off each other to give the adaptation tremendous energy. I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing it on screen, which is not something authors can often say.

So over to you! What other duos can you think of?
Give me some other links to check!

14 January 2009

Forgotten Book: LAST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, Colin Dexter

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books theme.

Colin Dexter(1930 - ) is best known for his Inspector Morse series published over a period of 25 years, and made memorable for us on television by John Thaw. He is another crime fiction writer who contributed immeasurably to the crime fiction genre.

Blurb of THE LAST BUS TO WOODSTOCK courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.
The death of Sylvia Kaye featured dramatically in the "Oxford Mail". By Friday evening Inspector Morse had informed the nation that the police were looking for a dangerous man - facing charges of wilful murder, sexual assault and rape.

As one book followed another the Morse character developed: an educated man who loved classical music, cryptic crosswords, a bachelor not averse to the company of women but shy of commitment, a homicide detective who hated the sight of blood.

Like Ellis Peters, who had the pleasure of meeting Derek Jacobi who brought Cadfael to life, Colin Dexter had the pleasure of meeting "Morse".
In fact if you watch the TV series carefully you will find Dexter, who often acted as adviser, also managed to get a little spot, in true Hitchcock style, in the film.

The Morse series
1. Last Bus to Woodstock (1975)
2. Last Seen Wearing (1976)
3. The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)
4. Service of All the Dead (1979)
5. The Dead of Jericho (1981)
6. The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983)
7. The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986)
8. The Wench Is Dead (1989)
9. The Jewel That Was Ours (1989)
10. The Way Through the Woods (1992)
11. The Daughters of Cain (1994)
12. Death Is Now My Neighbour (1996)
13. The Remorseful Day (1999)

Look also for a set of short stories: Morse's Greatest Mystery (1993)

Other blogs
Books to the Ceiling

Here's little taste of Morse from YouTube

Dexter has been the recipient of several Crime Writers' Association awards: two Silver Daggers for Service of All the Dead in 1979 and The Dead of Jericho in 1981; two Gold Daggers for The Wench is Dead in 1989 and The Way Through the Woods in 1992; and a Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement in 1997. In 1996 Dexter received a Macavity Award for his short story Evans Tries an O-Level.

In 2000 Dexter was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to literature.

13 January 2009

Review: AGATHA RAISIN and the WELLSPRING of DEATH, M.C. Beaton

Robinson, 1998, ISBN 978-1-84529-319-2, 250 pages.

Agatha Raisin is finding life in the small village of Carsley just a bit boring. The current village gossip concerns the spring of water in the neighbouring village of Ancombe. In the past water from the spring was thought to have restorative properties, but now public opinion is divided on whether a bid by a water company to buy and bottle the water will be a good thing for the village. Those who have lived in the villages all their lives make their feelings about commercialiastion and "incomers" very clear.

Feelings are running high, the local council is divided, and then Agatha finds the body of the Chairman of the Parish Council in the spring. Perverse as always Agatha decides to take a job as public relations for the water company.

Part of Agatha's misery concerns her relationship with her next door neighbour James Lacey, and so when the younger partner of the water company courts her, she is ripe for the picking.

I must admit the Agatha Raisin novels are growing on me. She is still a silly woman, and the situations she gets into are nearly all of her own making. But there are characters such as Agatha's loyal friends Roy Silver and the rector's wife Mrs Bloxby who sustain my interest. If you are looking for a light cozy then this may suit.

My rating: 3.5

My previous reviews of Agatha Raisin titles.

From Fantastic Fiction:
1. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (1992)
2. Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet (1993)
3. Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (1994)
4. Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley (1995)
5. Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage (1996)
6. Agatha Raisin and the Terrible Tourist (1997)
7. Agatha Raisin and the Wellspring of Death (1998)
8. Agatha Raisin and the Wizard of Evesham (1999)
9. Agatha Raisin and the Witch of Wyckhadden (1999)
10. Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam (2000)
11. Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell (2001)
12. Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came (2002)
13. Agatha Raisin and the Case of the Curious Curate (2003)
14. Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House (2003)
15. The Deadly Dance (2004)
16. Agatha Raisin and the Perfect Paragon (2005)
17. Love, Lies and Liquor (2006)
18. Kissing Christmas Goodbye (2007)
19. Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison (2008)
Introducing Agatha Raisin: Vicious Vet / Quiche of Death (omnibus) (2008)


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