30 March 2009

24 hour readathon

Now I don't need a readathon, and really can't fit it in with all the other things I do, but just in case you have time to do it, there is one running on April 18-19, 2009

You'll find FAQs and details here. And there are prizes, and buttons in abundance that you can add to your blog etc. So far there are nearly 40 people signed up.
Three people: Hannah (WordLily), Ana (Nymeth), and Trish (Hey Lady!) are managing this one.

So if you have the time, go for it!

29 March 2009

Sunday Salon - 29 March 2009

Last week I commented I was just getting back to normal after some time away. Well, this week normality has struck.

Poll results
I ran a poll during the week that asked people to consider the last 10 books they had read: how many of them were translations into English. It probably wasn't a terribly well constructed poll but 21 people answered:
  • all of them - 0
  • 7-9 1 person
  • 4-6 3 people
  • 1-3 13 people
  • none - 4 people
So over 75% of us have read at least one translated book among our last 10, and for many the number was much higher than that.
With so much Scandinavian crime fiction on the market, it is obviously becoming more common.
If you'd like some recommendations click here.

This week's poll relates to your growing TBR. Don't know what that is? Check here.
C'mon, confess, how many unread books do you have lying around? Go count them up and then pop in and participate in the poll in the right hand margin of MYSTERIES IN PARADISE.

There's a competition running on my blog until the end of March. You could win a copy of Louise Penny's THE CRUELLEST MONTH. You have to answer some questions, but it is not so hard to find the answers, as I tell you where to look. Click here.

Breaking News this week:
Currently reading
  • now - PLAY DEAD, Richard Montanari
  • next (perhaps) - MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT, Kerry Greenwood
  • and after that - IRON HEART, Marshall Browne
  • in the car - PANDORA'S DAUGHTER, Iris Johansen
This week's posts:
Have a good week everyone.

Review: THREE BAGS FULL, Leonie Swann

First published in 2005, English translation from German by Anthea Bell 2006, published Random House 2006, 351 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-60994-4

The premise of THREE BAGS FULL is simple. Glenkill shepherd George Glenn is found dead in the paddock, murdered, a heavy spade stuck through his middle. So we have a murder mystery.

But what isn't so simple is that the tale of the investigation is told from the point of view of his flock, a rag taggle collection of rare breeds put together by George for their wool and rarity. George has been working on their intelligence too, reading to them every day. The cleverest sheep in the flock is Miss Maple, and her enquiring mind won't let her leave the puzzle of George's death alone. She is assisted by some other notable characters such as Othello, a black Hebridean sheep with four horns, who was once in a circus, and Mopple, a very stout Merino ram who never forgets anything.
    Miss Maple impatiently scraped grass and earth up with her hoof. 'But it happened,' she said. 'There must be an end to the story. If George had finished the detective story we would know how it ended. And I want to know. You want to know too, I know you're curious about it. You just don't want to bother your sheepy heads.'

    'It's too much for us,' said Cordelia, embarrassed. 'So many human things that we can't understand. And there's no-one to explain words to us now.'
Seeing things from a sheep's point of view with half-understanding can certainly be extremely perplexing and I thought Swann did a very good job of passing this perplexity on to the reader. There were times I was really scratching my head trying to work out what on earth was happening. I think I got the events straight, and I certainly know who killed George.

There were glimmers of ANIMAL FARM in this book, but Swann's ability to sustain the satire is nowhere near as good as Orwell's. There are some interesting characters among the flock, and also among the townspeople. We are given lots of clues that enable us to piece together events that have occurred in the last seven years (the span of a sheep's memory).

But this is not a book that will suit the impatient reader. Other reviewers have commented on how slow it is in patches, and I don't think Leonie Swann manages to sustain it's allegorical nature all the way through.

How to categorise it? A cozy perhaps, but not particularly light. There are little puzzles that keep the grey cells working all the time, and it is easy to miss a clue or two, with the result that what is happening becomes totally incomprehensible. There's humour too - Melmoth the disappearing ram for example; the minister hearing confession behind the grill and then discovering it is actually Othello in the box; the Winter Lamb, a troublemaker with a yen to be involved.

My rating 4.3

Other people's reviews:

28 March 2009

WG 2009-12: Linking to the reviews of others

This week's Weekly Geek task relates to our reviews and linking to each other's.

    1. Write a post encouraging readers to look through your archives (if you have your reviews in a particular place on your blog, point them there), and find the books that they have also written reviews. Tell them to leave a link to their review on your review post. For example, I've written a review for Gods Behaving Badly and Jane Doe leaves a link to her review of Gods Behaving Badly in the comments section of my review.
    2. Edit your reviews to include those links in the body of the review post.
    3. Visit other Weekly Geeks and go through their reviews. Leave links for them.
    4. Leave a note somewhere on your blog to let people know this is your new policy.
    5. Write a post later this week letting us know how your project is going!

I have been trying to do this as a general policy for some time whenever I write a new book review.

I have identified a number of other crime fiction bloggers, and often, but I must confess not always, check to see if they have also reviewed this book. If they have I put a link to their review on the bottom of mine.

My reviews are all listed at Smik's Reviews and you'll find that I have also created a customised search of the blogs of fellow crime fiction bloggers. I have only been blogging for about 15 months and so I have 3 lists: the books I reviewed in 2008, the books I have reviewed so far in 2009, and a complete list of nearly 150 books so far.

The crime fiction blogs I watch are found on Crime Fiction Journeys and you'll find the customised search called Crime Fiction Search on the top right of both Crime Fiction Journeys and on the top right of this page. There's an explanation of how Crime Fiction Search was created in this post.

So, for example, I am currently reading THREE BAGS FULL by Leonie Swann, and hope to write my review before the weekend is out. If I search my Crime Fiction Search for THREE BAGS FULL, then I can see who else has talked about it in their blog. That makes it reasonably easy for me to create links to their blog pages.

One of the reasons for doing this linking is to help create a community of bloggers with similar interests.

So, here is an invitation.
If you read and review crime fiction, even occasionally, check whether I have your blog listed on Crime Fiction Journeys. If you are not there, let me know, and I'll remedy that, but I'll also add your blog to the Google list for my customised search.
If you would like to make use of my Crime Fiction search yourself, I can email you the code if you would like it, or the list of blogs that it searches.

Books, Books everywhere

Or why I shouldn't acquire anymore!

If you click on the image above, you'll get taken to the bigger photo and you'll get some idea of the size of my problem.

After acquiring the 3 books down in the bottom right corner today because
  • I had some book vouchers to spend and needed to buy THE WRITING CLASS for our face to face group,
  • CHILD44 was on special at $14,
  • and well... the other just leapt into my arms,
I took a serious look at my current book repositories. (Other people would call them hiding places.)

You'll see there are 7 separate photos, showing approximately 180 books waiting for me to read!
How on earth did I get myself into this situation!
I should take the following steps I think:
  • stop work and devote my time to reading
  • divorce myself from the library where I have another 30 books requested and 90 books on my wishlist
  • zip up my purse and NEVER buy any more books
  • stop belonging to reading groups which suggest new books (and discuss them)
Now, we all know none of that is going to happen, so I guess what I need to do is
  • read faster
  • read even faster
  • read very fast

27 March 2009

Up for Grabs - THE CRUELLEST MONTH, Louise Penny

This is my first foray into the world of competitions/free books.

I am aiming to make this a regular feature of my blog but probably on a fortnightly basis.

I am offering a copy of THE CRUELLEST MONTH by Louise Penny, in good condition. And I don't care where you live. I'll send anywhere in the world, but it will come by surface mail wherever you are.

But you need to do some work for it.
Despair not: you can have some help
You may answer via a comment - I have put Comments into moderation to facilitate this.
Even if you don't actually want a copy of the book, you can enter the competition. Just say in your comment that you don't want a copy.
I will take entries until the end of March and if there is more than one winner I'll pick the winner's name out of a hat.
At the beginning of April I will announce the correct answers, as well as who has won the book, and invite the person to contact me by email.
  1. What is the name of the village in which Louise Penny sets her series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache?
  2. What festive season is THE CRUELLEST MONTH set in?
  3. Which of her books did Louise Penny win the John Creasey New Blood Dagger with?
  4. Name 2 other awards this particular book won (the book in Q3 that is)
  5. Two of Penny's books have had different titles for US and Canadian publications. Give both titles of one of them.
  6. What is the name of the house where the seance was held in THE CRUELLEST MONTH?
  7. What rating did I give THE CRUELLEST MONTH?
  8. When Louise Penny has her birthday this year, how old will she be?
  9. UND DIE FURCHT GEBIERT DEN ZORN is the title of the German publication of which Canadian title?
  10. In DEAD COLD a spectator is killed while watching a sports match. What was the sport, and how was the person killed?
So you see - you have to do some work!
Happy hunting for the answers.

26 March 2009

Forgotten Book: ANATOMY OF A MURDER, Robert Traver

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books

Another book from my reading records in 1978.

Blurb courtesy Fantastic Fiction:
At forty, Paul Biegler's world seemed to have come to an end: after ten years as DA in his small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the people had elected a new hero, a young army veteran. And Biegler had been spending a lot of time fishing and thinking about his future. Then the call came from Laura Mannion: her husband had been arrested on a charge of murder. She said that the man her husband had killed had assaulted her. Suddenly, Polly, as he is known to the entire town, sees his opportunity: maybe he can show his rival that he can defend as well as he can prosecute. What follows is one of the most brilliant courtroom dramas of all time, as Polly puts together his defence and minutely examines the seething emotions under the placid surface of his town.

Apparently the novel is based on a true murder that happened in Michigan over 50 years ago, this novel is a detailed description of a famous murder trial. From the beginning of the novel, one is quite aware of the fact that army Lt Manion killed Barney Quill. There are too many witnesses who saw him commit the offence, and in fact he does not deny it. What the reader is forced to consider right up until to the end of the book is whether or not Manion is blameworthy and also whether or not the killing was acceptable in the light of what precipitated the act.

Some interesting reviews on Amazon.

Robert Traver (1903-1991) was the pseudonym of John D. Voelker who served as the Prosecuting Attorney of Marquette County, Michigan and later as the 74th Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He wrote many books reflecting his two passions, the law and flyfishing
Small-Town D.A. (1954)
Anatomy of a Murder (1958)
Laughing Whitefish (1965)
People Versus Kirk (1981)

Does anyone remember the book? Perhaps you remember the film. I think I do, just...
The best-selling novel was turned into an Academy Award nominated film -- directed by Otto Preminger and starring Jimmy Stewart -- that was released July 1, 1959. Duke Ellington wrote the music for the movie. According to the Wikepedia article, it is critically acclaimed as one of the best trial movies of all time.

25 March 2009

Magazine Plug

I've been getting the Australian goodreading magazine for quite a long time now, years in fact.

It was only after I discovered a review of Vanda Symon's OVERKILL in this month's magazine, that it occurred to me that I had never blogged about it.
The reviewer's opinion of OVERKILL wasn't quite as high as mine, but he did give it 4 stars and Highly Recommended.

Anyway, if you click on the image to the right you should get taken to a sample magazine, available at all good newsagents and book shops in Australia and New Zealand. Good price too! It contains a good range of in-depth articles, recommendations on all genres but a couple of pages of new crime fiction, and annually they have a crime fiction feature.

When you are subscriber to the online magazine, there all sorts of other goodies you can access, like first chapters etc.

So what other magazines are there around? What else can you get?

In our conference bags at Left Coast Crime we all got free copies of Mystery Scene, which has a review of Michael Robotham's SHATTER in it written by Barbara Fister (which on her blog she listed in her top 10 for 2008). It was great to be able to flourish that during the Fair Dinkum Crime panel.
Mystery Scene is a bit expensive if you are here in Australia though, 5 issues a year for $65US.

So what magazine can you recommend?

24 March 2009

Review: THE MIND OF A GENIUS, David Snowdon

Pentergen Books, 2007, ISBN 978-0-9552650-1-3, 281 pages

When top British scientist Malcolm Prince died he had just recently announced a break through discovery, a formula worth millions to somebody. The big problem was that Prince had told no-one exactly what he had been working on, but everyone was sure that it was really important.

So how to find out exactly what he had discovered? International agencies, in particular MI4, the CIA, and Danish intelligence, are keen to find out, and compete with each other to track down people who might know Prince's secret. The quest becomes a global one, moving from London, to Copenhagen, Hong Kong, and even Australia.

My major problem with THE MIND OF A GENIUS was that I found the plot rather tenuous. The idea of a scientist working on a project with nobody knowing what it was about was rather odd. Even odder was that he had announced a breakthrough and that he had discovered a world shattering formula, but had still released no further information. The idea that international agencies would expend so much time, money and energy trying to work out what he had discovered also strained credibility, although it did keep me reading to the end to find out whether all the effort was worth it. The problem was that it didn't really add to developing the tension in the novel.

My other problem was a stylistic one. Snowdon attempts to write in a rather naive style and in every change of scene we are told in some detail what the characters are wearing. I kept looking for significance in the colours chosen but I'm not sure there was any. It came to feel to me like something that needed a lot of tightening up. Indeed if there was no clothing description, I began to worry whether I had missed it. The same naive style extends to dialogue and description of action, and here again I felt a lot of editing was needed.

THE MIND OF A GENIUS is David Snowdon's second novel. It has been the subject of an extended cyber blog tour, and indeed this review was originally meant to be part of that tour. A significant number of people have "interviewed" David about the book. David's own web site is here. An extract of the book is available here.

My rating: 3.1

A view from my front door

Dorte posted recently about what she could see 40 steps from her front door.

I responded, saying 40 steps from my front door looks nothing like that.
Judge for yourself!
Blame the drought, autumn, a dead tree, and a much needed (according to husband) cull of overgrown and unwanted plants.

But lots of room for improvement!

23 March 2009

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival #3 posted

The third edition of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival is now available.

9 Agatha Christie titles have been reviewed by 7 participants.

22 March 2009

Sunday Salon, 22 March 2009, resuming normal operations

After you've been away on holidays, it always seems to take a big effort to get back to normal doesn't it?

If you have a fairly active online life then there's emails and blog comments to start with. I always read a lot when I am away so there are book reviews to be posted. And that's before you start with catching up with what others have been doing on their blogs.

It is always nice to be home again though and to get back into your normal routine.

I did have a poll running when I was away: a bit of a no-brainer really, asking people if they had a blog. Well, 24 people participated in the poll and 23 of them actually had a blog of their own. But in the time the poll was running about 1500 people visited my blog, so the participation rate wasn't very high was it?

New poll
I seem to be reading a lot of books that have been translated into English recently.
And yet I read an email from somebody saying that a book she had recently finished was the first translation she had ever read.
So what about you?
Come in and participate in my poll.
Of the last 10 books you've read, how many were translations into English?
The poll is at the top of the right hand column.
The books I read in translation were
Currently reading
  • now - THREE BAGS FULL, Leonie Swann
  • next - PLAY DEAD, Richard Montanari
  • then (perhaps) - MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT, Kerry Greenwood
  • and after that - IRON HEART, Marshall Browne
  • in the car - PANDORA'S DAUGHTER, Iris Johansen
This week's posts

21 March 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-11: Historical Fiction

This week's Weekly Geek Challenge relates to historical fiction and to a period that I love. And of course in my case, it will relate also to crime fiction.

Here is the challenge:
Let's take a magical history tour this week, with a focus on Historical Fiction. That is, contemporary novels with a historical setting. {I've now selected from the choices}

Is there a particular era that you love reading about? Tell us about it--give us a book list, if you'd like. Include pictures or some fun facts from that time period, maybe link to a website that focuses on that time. Educate us.

This challenge has come at a very opportune time in my reading. One of the periods that I seem to read a lot of fiction set in is the decade or so immediately after World War One, i.e. 1919-1932, and particularly, although not exclusively British crime fiction.

Here are a few titles to think about. The links are to reviews I've recently written, but I'll also give a short summary here.

TOUCHSTONE by Laurie R. King
The main story is set against the impending General Strike of 1926, a time when many are hoping for the collapse of the British government, and some sort of Revolution. For many of the characters the agenda is one of high political ideals, of a possible role for themselves in a new order. For Harris Stuyvesant though the agenda is personal. It is also a story of manipulation, but it wasn't until the last 20 or so pages that I thought I knew what was going to happen, and the identity of the bomber.

, Rhys Bowen
Georgie, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, related to the king of England through his grandmother Queen Victoria, is 34th in line to the English throne. Georgie is the product of her father's second marriage to a "bolter", and at 21 is living in Castle Rannoch with no real income and no prospects.
She determines to take charge of her own future when she overhears a conversation between her half brother Binky and his wife Fig about the Queen's intentions to use Georgie as marriage bait for a visiting Romanian Royal. Georgie decides to make her escape to Rannoch House in London despite the fact that she will have no maid or other help in the house with her. Queen Mary hears that she has come to London and commissions Georgie to be her eyes and ears in the Prince of Wales' escalating affair with an American woman.
The sequel is A ROYAL PAIN
These are pretty light and frothy reads, with a backing of genuine research.

And of course, my current project, the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, allows me to wallow in the historical setting of the 1920s. Agatha Christie was such a good observer of what is happening to the society in which she lives.

Here are some other books to think about:

MURDER IN MONTPARNASSE by Kerry Greenwood. My rating 4.6
A Phryne Fisher Mystery read by Julia Davis. At the end of World War 1 in Paris, Bert, Cec and 5 other Australian soldiers witness a murder when a man is pushed under a Paris train. Now, in Australia in 1928, two are very recently dead and Bert and Cec believe they are being targetted. Phryne was in Paris in 1918 and remembers the train incident. It also brings back memories of the man she was infatuated with then. Now she learns that he has recently arrived in Melbourne.

THE SHIFTING FOG (aka THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON) by Kate Morton. My rating 4.7
Set mainly during World War I and immediately after it. Six months before the war starts young Grace Bradley, 14, takes up a position as a housemaid at Riverton Manor. Eighty four years on, she is contacted by a young female filmmaker who is making a romance film about the death of Robbie Harrison, a young poet, who suicided at the house during a mid summer's eve party in 1924. Many will argue this is not a murder mystery, but you'll have to decide for yourself.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER by Jacqueline Winspear. My rating 4.6
This novel is set some time after the first in the Maisie Dobbs series. Maisie is now an established detective with rooms of her own and an assistant. It's now the early Spring of 1930. Her friend Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad is investigating a murder case in Coulsden, while Maisie has been summoned to Dulwich to find a runaway heiress. The woman is the daughter of Joseph Waite, a wealthy self-made man who has lavished her with privilege but kept her in a gilded cage. His domineering ways have driven her off before, and now she's bolted again. Waite's instructions are to find his daughter and bring her home. When Maisie looks into the disappearance she finds a chilling link to Stratton's murder case, and to the terrible legacy of The Great War.

PARDONABLE LIES by Jacqueline Winspear. My rating 4.6
A deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs to confirm that his son, an aviator in the Great War, did actually die when his plane crashed in France. It was something his wife never accepted and it was a torment that drove her mad. Lawton believes his son is dead and is expecting Maisie to confirm just that. Maisie was in France during the War herself as a nurse and it is where her friend Simon was wounded and brain-damaged, so going back to France is no easy thing for Maisie. She takes on an extra mission - to find out for her friend Priscilla Evernden what happened to one of her three brothers who were also killed there. I would call this book a comfortable, rather old-fashioned read, which are the qualities that I liked in the first book in the series, and which led others to dislike the book.

Review: TOUCHSTONE, Laurie R. King

Bantam 2008, ISBN 978-0-553-58666-6, 548 pages

Bennett Grey survived being blown up at the end of World War I. In fact he believes he was blown to pieces and somehow miraculously re-assembled. With the experience came the new ability to see into people, to "feel" accurately whether they are telling the truth. When his ability is noticed he becomes a "touchstone" for British intelligence, useful in prisoner interrogation, and in the development of lie detection technology. Upset by the brutality of the interrogations he participates in, he withdraws from the project and becomes a recluse, abandoning the woman he was to marry, and going to live in Cornwall.

He emerges to help Harris Stuyvesant, an American agent attached the Bureau of Investigation, who is looking for an archist, a bomber, thought to be British, already responsible for a number of deaths in the USA.
Their quest leads them to a houseparty held near Oxford, to the home of the woman whom Grey still loves, so that the American can get close to the man whom he believes is the bomber.

The main story is set against the impending General Strike of 1926, a time when many are hoping for the collapse of the British government, and some sort of Revolution. For many of the characters the agenda is one of high political ideals, of a possible role for themselves in a new order. For Harris Stuyvesant though the agenda is personal. It is also a story of manipulation, but it wasn't until the last 20 or so pages that I thought I knew what was going to happen, and the identity of the bomber.

TOUCHSTONE came to my attention originally because it was short-listed for Left Coast Crime's THE BRUCE ALEXANDER MEMORIAL HISTORICAL MYSTERY. While I was at LCC I hade the opportunity to attend a couple of panels that Laurie King was on, and also to get Laurie to sign a copy of the book for me.

I originally thought, about TOUCHSTONE, "another American writer rather cheekily setting her novel in England", but I have been pleasantly surprised. Like Elizabeth George's, Laurie R. King's writing has an authentic English feel to it. The story reflects an incredible depth of research, and only the occasional American spelling points to the nationality of the author (and the location of the publisher).

My rating: 4.7

Laurie R. King's website: http://www.laurierking.com/

The Problem with Libraries: Library Loot

I've really only been home for a few days and already my library has filled my shelves to overflowing.
I made sure to return all books (or suspend them) before I went away just under 3 weeks ago.
But my wonderful library already had books for me to collect and so this week the total is 15.
Here they are:
  • MURDER ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT by Greenwood, Kerry.
  • PANDORA'S DAUGHTER [sound recording read by Jennifer Van Dyke] by Johansen, Iris.
  • SACRIFICE by Bolton, Sharon J.
  • SCARPETTA by Cornwell, Patricia Daniels
  • TELL ME, PRETTY MAIDEN by Bowen, Rhys.
  • THE KEEPSAKE by Gerritsen, Tess.
  • THE CORONER by Hall, M R.
  • A DARKER DOMAIN by McDermid, Val.
  • SECOND VIOLIN by Lawton, John.
  • THE MYSTERIOUS MR. QUIN by Christie, Agatha
  • FULL DARK HOUSE by Fowler, Christopher
  • THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE by Christie, Agatha
****Library Loot is a weekly meme hosted by Alessandra from Out of the Blue and Eva from A Striped Armchair
I learnt about it from Marg at Reading Adventures who seems to post hers on Wednesdays. Mine might not be as regular as that.

19 March 2009

Sisterhood - Spreading the Love

The chain through which a blog award like this one progresses is a fascinating one. Mine has come from Cathy of Kittling Books, who got hers from Dorte of DJs krimblog. There are some very familiar awardees among both of their choices.

The idea of these awards is to pass them on to unsuspecting victims (oops! I meant recipients of course) so, in spreading the love I will try to name 10 awardees.
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.
My choices range the globe:
  1. Sara at Sara Reports and Sara in Vermont who revealed today that lots of people go from my blog to hers.
  2. Karen at EuroCrime who keeps pointing me to new books
  3. Gautami at Reading Room who shares a lot of reading DNA with me.
  4. Wendy, the Literary Feline, who runs a thoughtful blog.
  5. Marg at Reading Adventures who keeps the library busy.
  6. Sally, fellow Australian, at Books and Musings DownUnder who is the fastest reader I know, and also a Challenge Queen
  7. PK The Bookeeemonster, another who shares my reading DNA
  8. Jaime at Confessions of a Bibliophile who has a very adventurous looking blog.
  9. Lourdes at Lost in Books whose shelves I like to browse.
  10. Vanda at Overkill who has just finished a gruelling book tour of New Zealand and deserves a reward.

17 March 2009

Review: THE GLASS DEVIL, Helene Tursten

Soho Press, ISBN 978-1-56947-489-1, 2003
Translated from Swedish in 2009 by Katarina E. Tucker, 2007, 311 pages.

Pillars of the community in a remote Swedish village, a pastor and his wife and their son, a teacher, are shot dead one night. The pastor has recently been investigating Satanism in his village, and all the signs are indicating that this may be a cult killing. It seems likely that the remaining member of the pastor's family, a daughter in London, may be in some danger and so the investigation takes Detective Inspector Irene Huss from Goteborg to England. When interviewing the daughter becomes difficult Irene feels that the Satanist clues are not really pointing to the answer. There are also suspects in the village, even amongst those who will take over from the pastor.

This is the third of Helene Tursten's Swedish police procedurals to be translated into English, and it will be a great pity if there are no more, which I believe at present may be the case. I believe there are another 5 Irene Huss novels not yet translated into English.

I don't think THE GLASS DEVIL is the strongest of the three we have seen so far. I'm not sure either about the opening Prologue and just how some of that fits in with the main story. There are patches that read a bit like a travelogue when Irene goes to London, but Irene Huss is such a strong, likeable character, that I do want to meet her again. However I do like the way Tursten weaves elements of 'ordinary' policing and family life into the plot. I also like the gruff and down to earth character of her boss Criminal Superintendent Sven Andersson.

My rating: 4.1
See review by Maxine Clarke for EuroCrime

My other reviews of Tursten novels:

Translated from Swedish in 2006. The story begins with the gruesome discovery of part of a human torso in a black plastic bag on a shoreline near Goteborg. Detective Inspector Irene Huss, whose superintendent suspects she is a magnet for killings, is one of the team called in to investigate. When they learn of a similar torso turning up 2 years earlier in Copenhagen, Irene is sent to liaise with the Copenhagen police. Her investigations reveal strong connections between communities in Sweden and Denmark. As people she visits seem to die shortly afterwards, it certainly appears her superintendent's joke has at least a grain of truth. Irene herself is targetted by someone who does not want the connections fully revealed. Some detailed descriptions will not suit the squeamish. Irene Huss is strong, level-headed, intuitive, highly principled, but sometimes fallible.

My rating 4.6

The first in the Irene Huss series. Originally titled in Swedish "The Broken Tang Horse". The Vicious Crimes Unit that Irene Huss is part of are investigating the death of a wealthy businessman who fell over 20 metres from the balcony of this apartment to the footpath below just as his wife and son arrived home and were getting out of their car.
The business man, Richard von Knecht, has recently celebrated his 60th birthday, and he and his wife Sylvia their 30th wedding anniversary. The building they live in is a fortress with their apartment on the top two floors and old friends living in apartments on other floors. Is it suicide? The day after his death, the building where his office was housed burns down, the result of an incendiary bomb, and Irene's Vicious Crimes Unit is investigating the connections. The book 'establishes' the character of Irene Huss: her physical endurance, her martial arts prowess, her family life, her chef/cook husband, teenage daughters, intuitive powers etc. There is an exploration of what it is that makes their 'team' work - the diversity of personalities and talents.
Translated into English by Steven T. Murray 2003. I read this after I had read a later book THE TORSO. I would recommend reading them in order.

My rating: 4.4

Review: THE CRUEL STARS OF THE NIGHT, kjell eriksson

ST. MARTIN'S MINOTAUR, 2008, ISBN 979-0-312-36668-1, 312 pages
Translated from Swedish by Ebba Segerberg

An elderly professor has disappeared without trace from his home in Uppsala. And then two other seventy year olds are found dead. The first appears to have been planning suicide but some one beat him to it. Three missing or dead seventy year old men just feels a little too coincidental to Ann Lindell working with the Violent Crimes Squad of the Uppsala Police. As the team begin to look for a serial killer, they try to work out who the next victim will be. Will it be Queen Silvia due to visit the town in just a few days?

Interwoven in the investigation is the arrival of a new member in the team, and Ann Lindell's own struggle to prove that she can manage to be both a vital member of the team, and also a single mother. The problem is that Ann Lindell is not always a team player, she doesn't keep everyone informed of what she is doing or where she is, and often turns her phone off when she needs thinking time.

THE CRUEL STARS OF THE NIGHT has a couple of intriguing sub-plots that add dimension to the main characters and intensify the main action. A good solid read.

My rating: 4.0

There are 3 books in the Ann Lindell series:
1. The Princess of Burundi (2006)
2. The Cruel Stars of the Night (2007)
3. The Demon from Dakar (2008)

Review on EuroCrime of The Princess of Burundi by Maxine Clarke
Review on EuroCrime of The Cruel Stars of the Night by Karen Meek

15 March 2009

Sunday Salon, 15 March 2009

As with last week, this edition on my Sunday Salon posts is being auto-posted because I am on my way back to Australia from Left Coast Crime.

This week I am going to tell you about a couple of my other blog sites, both of which are spin offs from this one.

First of all Smik's Reviews lists all the reviews I've posted on MYSTERIES IN PARADISE in 2008 and 2009. There are over 130 reviews there at the moment.
There are 4 lists to look at:
  • Ones that I have read recently
  • The full list of reviews for 2008 & 2009
  • 2009 reviews
  • 2008 reviews
Unfortunately there is no alphabetical listing, and I'm resisting creating one just at the moment, although I think probably such a thing will need to happen eventually. If you want to look for a particular author you are probably best to use your browser's Find tool.

Secondly you may not yet have seen Crime Fiction Journeys (Blogs I'm watching).

This started off as a simple list on my main page at MYSTERIES IN PARADISE, but it got so long I decided to give it a page of its own. The purpose of this particular blog page is to point readers to other crime fiction blogsthey may enjoy. What I have done is to embed RSS feeds from nearly 100 blogs which then display a snippet from the most recent posting on that blog.

I'm sure when you read them you will then decide to add some of them to your own bookmarks or RSS feeds. However, if it suits you better, just bookmark my page, then come back and visit often, and check out the changing landscape.
If you have a blog that is mainly crime fiction and you are not yet listed on Crime Fiction Journeys let me know so I can add you to the growing list.

14 March 2009

ACRC Update - 13 March 2009

My intent in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge is to read her books in order, so that I can get some idea of what she is doing, problems she is attempting to solve, and her development as a writer. If you look at some of my reviews you will see that I have been able to undertake some of this reflection.

Currently I am managing about a book a month.

I am mainly borrowing the books from my local library and as such am a bit subject to some outside influences, and as a result may do a little out of order reading.

Check the opening blog of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge here.
  2. 1922, THE SECRET ADVERSARY- finished
  3. 1923, THE MURDER ON THE LINKS - finished
  4. 1924, THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT - finished
    1924, POIROT INVESTIGATES (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US) - finished
  5. 1925, THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS - finished
  6. 1926, THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD - finished
  7. 1927, THE BIG FOUR - finished
  8. 1928, THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN - finished
  9. 1929, THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY - finished
    1929 Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence) - on order from library
  10. 1930, THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE - on order from library
    1930 The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin) - on order from library
  11. 1931, THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY (aka MURDER AT HAZELMOOR) - on order from library
  12. 1932, PERIL AT END HOUSE
    1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders in the US)
I am using the list at Wikipedia of novels and collections of short stories. I will interlace the short story collections into the list where I can, but may have to read them out of order. I have decided on a method for reporting on the short stories.

Please feel free to join in my challenge, comment on my reviews etc.

I have set up a block over in the right hand column called Agatha Christie Reading Challenge (with the same logo as this post) where I am listing the books I'm currently reading and those I've finished.
The challenge is called ACRC so each review will be preceded by those letters.

If you want to follow my progress through your RSS reader, then the RSS URL is
Just save that in your bookmarks or RSS reader and you will be notified when I have written a new post.
Alternatively you could subscribe to the feed through FeedMyInbox. Just copy the RSS URL, click on the FeedMyInbox link and paste the URL in there.
You will need to confirm your subscription by email.

Contribute your blog postings about any Agatha Christie novels to the monthly carnival. Make an agreement with yourself that whenever you complete reading an Aggie you will write a blog posting about it and then submit the posting to the carnival.
If you are participating in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge then write updates like this one and submit them to the Carnival. Let us know what progress you are making.

13 March 2009

Left Coast Crime - Update #5 - Fair Dinkum Crime

This morning's session went very well. If you are looking for a copy of the hand out click here.

We ended up with 55 people, and gave away about 50 books as door prizes, as well as a couple of jars of vegemite and tastes of vegemite on SAO biscuits, Cherry Ripes and Tim Tams.

It gave us a terrific opportunity to talk about the work of a number of Australian writers. (Thank you to everyone who gave us books!)

Our panel: (left to right) Kathy Hagen, Sarah Byrne, Kerrie Smith, Sunnie Gill, Helen Lloyd, and Ann Cornellier

12 March 2009

Left Coast Crime - Update #4 - Awards

Just a note tonight about the awards announced at the brunch this morning.

The winners were


Kelli Stanley: Nox Dormienda, A Long Night For Sleeping (Five Star). This Kelli's debut novel.


Neil S. Plakcy: Mahu Fire (Alyson Books)


Tim Maleeny: Greasing the Pinata (Poisoned Pen Press)

The DILYS AWARD was also announced. The winner was Trigger City by Sean Chercover.

Forgotten Book: MOMENTO MORI, Muriel Spark

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books

MOMENTO MORI was published by Muriel Spark (1918-2006) in 1959 (Macmillan). Don't you just love the original cover?
The title appears in my little green book towards the end of 1976.
It is Muriel Spark's second book.

Dame Lettie Colston, 79 and pioneer penal reformer, has much in common with the elderly residents of the Maud Long Medical Ward. All are united by scorn, resentment, boredom - and the humour that masks the awareness of impending death. Then the insidious telephone calls begin. The title translates to "Remember you must die" and is the message delivered by a series of insidious phone-calls made to Dame Lettie other residents. Who is making the calls and why? The recipients reflect on their past lives whilst trying to identify the culprit...

It was the beginning of a long and distinguished career for Muriel Spark, who continued to write until 2004. She is another of these cross genre authors, both literary and crime fiction.


She received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1965 for The Mandelbaum Gate, the US Ingersoll Foundation TS Eliot Award in 1992 and the British Literature Prize in 1997.
She became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1993, in recognition of her services to literature. She has been twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, in 1969 for Loitering with Intent and in 1981 for The Public Image. She was the Bram Stoker winner (1987) : Mary Shelley.

In 2001 the Catholic Book Club presented the Campion Award to her for “bequeath[ing] to us a literary legacy of ‘prime’ quality”.

The Scottish Arts Council created the Muriel Spark International Fellowship in 2004, with Canadian Margaret Atwood winning the inaugural prize.

In 2004 DAME Muriel Spark became the first recipient of a new literary award in celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF). The EIBF Enlightenment Award will be given annually to a writer who has made a distinguished contribution to world literature and thought.

MOMENTO MORI was adapted for television in 1992 by the BBC starring Maggie Smith, Thora Hird, Michael Hordern and Zoe Wanamaker.

Check her novels and short stories at Fantastic Fiction

Fair Dinkum Crime at Left Coast Crime

Tomorrow is the day at Left Coast Crime when our little panel swings into action, item 67, 9-9.45 am on Thursday morning, 12 March to be precise.

I thought participants might appreciate the handout being on line, and those of you unable to be there, would appreciate also being able to see what we are talking about.

I hope I will be able to post later a photo of our accumulated loot for the panel, which includes our own version of "tasting Australia". In true Australian tradition of beer and chook raffles, participants will be given a raffle ticket as they come in the door, so hopefully each will have something apart from a sheet of paper to take away with them.

Recommendations from oz_mystery_readers taken from top books 2007 and 2008:
Adrian Hyland, DIAMOND DOVE
Barry Maitland, NO TRACE
Michael Robotham: SHATTER, BOMBPROOF

Ned Kelly Winners

Best Novel
2008: SHATTER, Michael Robotham
2007: CHAIN OF EVIDENCE, Gary Disher
2006: CROOK AS ROOKWOOD, Chris Nyst & THE BROKEN SHORE, Peter Temple
2005: LOST, Michael Robotham
2003: WHITE DOG, Peter Temple
2002: DEATH DELIGHTS, Gabrielle Lord
2001: DEAD POINT, Peter Temple & THE SECOND COMING, Andrew Masterson
2000: SHOOTING STAR, Peter Temple
1999: AMAZE YOUR FRIENDS, Peter Doyle
1997: THE BRUSH OFF, Shane Maloney
1996: THE MALCONTENTA, Barry Maitland & INSIDE DOPE, Dope Paul Thomas

Best First Novel
2008: THE LOW ROAD, Chris Womersley
2007: DIAMOND DOVE, Adrian Hyland
2006: OUT OF THE SILENCE, Wendy James
2005: A PRIVATE MAN, Malcolm Knox
2004: THE WALKER, Jane R Goodall & JUNKIE PILGRIM, Wayne Grogan
2003: BLOOD REDEMPTION, Alex Palmer
2002: APARTMENT 255, Bunty Avieson & WHO KILLED ANGELIQUE?, Emma Darcy
2001: LAST DRINKS, Andrew McGahan
1999: THE LAST DAYS, Andrew Masterson
1997: BAD DEBTS, Peter Temple & GET RICH QUICK, Peter Doyle
1996: DARK ANGEL, John Dale

Authors (or their publishers) who gave us books:

Michael Robotham
Felicity Young
P. D. Martin
Brian Kavanagh
Adrian Hyland
Katherine Howell
Chris Womersley
Lenny Bartulin
Tony Berry
Jane R. Goodall

Blogs and sites
MYSTERIES IN PARADISE (Kerrie): http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/
IT’S CRIMINAL (Helen): http://its-criminal.blogspot.com/
SUNNIE’S BOOK BLOG: http://sunniesbookblog.blogspot.com/
REACTIONS TO READING (Bernadette): http://reactionstoreading.wordpress.com/
BOOKS & MUSINGS FROM DOWNUNDER (Sally): http://sally906.blogspot.com
AUST CRIME FICTION (KarenC): http://www.austcrimefiction.org/
NED KELLY AWARDS: http://nedkellyawards.com/

Audio Books (checked by Kathy)
SKIN AND BONE, by Kathryn Fox, and VOODOO DOLL, by Leah Giarratano, and THE CORONER’S LUNCH, by Colin Cotterill are available in audible from amazon.co.uk. I can’t find them in the U.S.

All the remaining books are available through audible.com here in the U.S.:
Katherine Howell: FRANTIC
Michael Robotham: SUSPECT, LOST, THE NIGHT FERRY, and, in March of 2009 SHATTER
Sydney Bauer: UNDERTOW
Geoffrey McGeachin: D-E-D DEAD!
Michael MacConnell MALESTROM
Kerry McGinnis THE WADI TREE
Gabrielle Lord WHIPPING BOY
Sonya Hartnett OF A BOY

Australian authors available in Canada (Ann’s research)

Bauer, Sydney
Corris, Peter
Darcy Emma
Disher, Garry
Douglass Sara
Fox, Kathryn
Gott, Robert
Greenwood Kerry
Howell, Katherine
Hyland, Adrian
Lord, Gabrielle
Maitland, Barry
Maloney, Shane
Martin, P.D.
McGeachan, Geoffrey
McKinty Adrian
Moss, Tara
Peter Carey
Redhead, Leigh
Robotham Michael
Rowe, Jennifer
Temple, Peter
Toltz Steve
Upfield, Arthur

Review: HER ROYAL SPYNESS, Rhys Bowen

BERKLEY PRIME CRIME, 2007/2008, ISBN 978-425-22252-2, 324 pages

Georgie, Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, related to the king of England through his grandmother Queen Victoria, is 34th in line to the English throne. Georgie is the product of her father's second marriage to a "bolter", and at 21 is living in Castle Rannoch with no real income and no prospects.

She determines to take charge of her own future when she overhears a conversation between her half brother Binky and his wife Fig about the Queen's intentions to use Georgie as marriage bait for a visiting Romanian Royal. Georgie decides to make her escape to Rannoch House in London despite the fact that she will have no maid or other help in the house with her. Queen Mary hears that she has come to London and commissions Georgie to be her eyes and ears in the Prince of Wales' escalating affair with an American woman.

In the meantime Georgie has to decide how she will earn an income and life becomes rather complicated when a man is drowned fully clothed in a bath in Rannoch House. Both Georgie and her brother Binky are suspected because the dead man had been claiming that he was owed their dead father's estate through an old gambling debt. Meanwhile Georgie, always a rather clumsy person, begins to realise that the little accidents happening to her, each of which could so easily have been fatal, might not be so accidental after all. Who among her friends would want her dead?

This is a cozy with a difference, a light and enjoyable read.

My rating: 4.2

I reviewed the second in the series A ROYAL PAIN recently. Bowen has set these novels at the beginning of the 1930s. England is in depression, unemployment is high, and here is an aristocracy that has not yet realised that the old way of life is nearly gone. Many of the minor aristocracy will soon be like Binky, struggling with the upkeep of two large houses, and many like Georgie will have to think in terms of getting "real" jobs. Some among Georgie's friends have already done so. There are some delightful characters to meet in these books including Georgie's Cockney grandfather.

11 March 2009

Left Coast Crime - Update #3

Voting closes today for 3 awards given by LCC and yesterday I managed to fit in 2 panels where the authors talked about their books and read extracts.

The award short lists are each an impressive line-up


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


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


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

Last night we went to a screening of Charlie Chan in Honolulu and tonight there is one of Monk, which is a series that doesn't seem to have made it on to Australian TV.

Sessions I'm going to today include ones with Rhys Bowen, Dana Stabenow, Helene Tursten, Barry Eisler, Laurie King, and Janet Rudolph.

I am told by people who've been to both that LCC is more intimate than Bouchercon. Certainly there is plenty of opportunity to hear most authors speak more than once, and also times when you are able to chat informally. The sessions are well spaced too so you are not rushing from one to the other.

One thing that occurs to me though is that this is almost the perfect setting for a closed-room mystery Death at the Crime Fiction Convention. So many places where one could die: dramatically while talking on a panel, quietly in the pool or the spa, flamboyantly at the volcano etc.

10 March 2009

Review: ACRC#9, THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY - Agatha Christie

First published in 1929 by William Collins. The edition I read was Fontana Paperback 1984, 189 pages, ISBN 0-00-616541-9

A weekend house party at the fashionable country mansion Chimneys turns to tragedy when Gerry Wade, one of a party of young men employed by the Foreign Office, dies in his sleep. Always late for breakfast, surely even Gerry could not have slept through the eight alarm clocks set to ring one after the other at half past six in the morning. The doctor's verdict is that Gerry took an overdose of a sleeping potion. But wait, one of the clocks is missing: there are only 7 dials lined up, ticking away on the mantlepiece of his bedroom.

Another of the young men from the Foreign Office is dead within weeks. His dying words to Lady Eileen (Bundle) Brent, into the path of whose car he stumbles, are Seven Dials and Tell .... Jimmy Thesiger.

Gerry Wade had referred to Seven Dials in his last letter to his sister, so Bundle and Jimmy begin to investigate the connections. The policeman investigating the death of the latest victim is Superintendent Battle who first appeared in THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS and whom Bundle knows quite well.

Some readers won't have picked up on the connection between THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY and Agatha Christie's earlier novel THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS. Not only is the location the same, but some of the same characters whom we already know and trust make an appearance: Lady Eileen Brent, Superintendent Battle, and Bill Eversleigh.

Sir Oswald Coote, an industrialist of great influence and power in the British economy, has been renting Chimneys from the Marquis of Caterham for 2 years. After the death of Gerry Wade Lord Caterham and his daughter Bundle move back into Chimneys.

Other things to consider:
  • Is Agatha Christie in this, her 9th novel in as many years, still looking for a protagonist/detective?
    This is Superintendent Battle's second appearance. To me he is still a rather stolid character, and we almost never see how his mind works. By the end of THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY we certainly know more about him, but will we see him again?
  • It is interesting to note that THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY is almost a sequel to THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS and carries with it the same sense of espionage and industrial secrets being sold to enemies. At the time of its publication, fans of Agatha Christie would have recognised this.
  • In places in THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY the dialogue is almost theatrical, stagish, with swift repartee and sometimes very evocative of a comedy of errors.
  • Christie presents a number of possibilities, there are many characters to whom we must attach a real identity and so there are many puzzles to be solved. But it could also be said that here again is another case where she doesn't quite "play fair" with the reader.
  • BEWARE POSSIBLE SPOILER: Agatha Christie plays with her readers. I won't disclose too much here, but the reader actually trusts the culprit and at times sees events from his point of view, with little indication that he is not to be trusted. Other people whom we trust also trust this character, so not only do we have to sift through the red herrings so liberally provided, but we have to deal with an unreliable witness.
My rating: 4.0

Left Coast Crime - Update #2

Already Monday! Yesterday LCC 09 began in earnest. I attended sessions where authors told us what they like to read, learnt about the History of the Mystery from Kate Stine, about books set in Victorian England, had my own 15 minutes of fame , and then went to what for me was the pick of the day, Funny Bones, a panel moderated by Donna Andrews, about using humour in mysteries.

Last night we went to a luau (feast), were blessed by an Hawaian priest, watched some hula dancing, and then saw a one act play House Without a Key, a mystery set in 1925 in Honolulu. It is a Charlie Chan mystery, with Charlie Chan played excellently by Ron Serrao.

Already this morning we have been to a continental breakfast, featuring 12 new authors. And Vicki Delaney has given me a reprint of her first novel WHITEOUT.

9 March 2009

Reminder: submissions wanted, Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival

Don't forget, if you have written any blog posting about an Agatha Christie novel (or play) you can submit it for linking in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival.

The Carnival can be found here, and it is a good way to make people aware of your blog.
The next Carnival will be posted after 20 March.
To add your submission just go to the Carnival collecting space and put in the URL, your details, and a comment about the post.

8 March 2009

LeftCoast Crime -Update #1

Things have got off to an excellent start. The Aussie contingent (the Fair Dinkum Crime panel) are by and large all here, although I have yet to meet Sarah.

Yesterday we did the Discovery Circle Island orientation tour and the grey skies and rain followed us all the way. But we visited a smoking caldera, and rain forest, and waterfalls and Hilo, so now we more or less know where everything is.

This morning began with a 4MA breakfast with about 14 attendees, and we exchanged white elephant items. We've now completed registration and collected a formidable bag with its impressive complement of books. So now a quandary. Do I read the book I had intended to read or choose one from the bag?
Perhaps since Rhys Bowen is here, and I hope to go to one of the sessions where she is speaking, I'll read HER ROYAL SPYNESS which is in the bag. I reviewed A ROYAL PAIN a few days back.

There are some orientation lectures happpening this afternoon, and then this evening a welcome ceremony with "Desserts to Die For".

As always the programme is full of those conflicts where you would like to be in several places at once, not the least that I'm doing my 15 minute Talk Story in competition with the panel where Helene Tursten is speaking. Oh well! I'll just have to put up with people telling me what I missed out on.

Sunday Salon, 8 March 2009

This edition on my Sunday Salon posts is being auto-posted while I am at Left Coast Crime, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell you about the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge (ACRC) and it's associated Blog Carnival.

I began ACRC last year as a personal challenge to read the novels of Agatha Christie in publication order. I have read quite a large number of them before but the order of reading has been rather haphazard. These days I tend to like to read a series in order, and often when I am reviewing a new book, I advise readers to go back and read earlier ones in the series.

So I wondered what I would learn if I treated the novels of Agatha Christie in the same way. I then invited people to join me on this journey if they liked, and a number said they would.

Since I began my journey in September last year I have read 8 novels and a couple of collections of short stories. Here is my latest update. Click on the image on the right and you will see all of my postings about the challenge so far.

At the beginning of this year I decided to set up a monthly blogging carnival called, predictably, the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Carnival, which enables anyone who is posting reviews of Agatha Christie books to have them featured in the Carnival. So far there have been two carnivals, and the next is due to be posted on March 23, which means submissions close about March 20. So all you have to do is go to the Carnival site, follow the instructions there on how to submit your post and I will consider it for posting in the next carnival.

I would love it if you could spread the word, either by talking about this post in your blog, or by putting the widget for the carnival in your blog.

7 March 2009

DJs Bait in a Box

Some blogging friends are coming up with such interesting features to their blogs.
Dorte at DJs kimiblog has been running something called Bait in Box.

She's been using interesting images like the one to the right, but primarily what she is doing is running a little competition among her readers.

She gives you a quote of some lines from a book, crime fiction of course, and generally a British author, but sometimes an expatriate, and asks you to guess who. Only you are not allowed to say who!

The rules are as follows:
1) if you think you can guess who wrote it, please post your guess.
2) if you recognize the quotation, please post a clue to other readers - do not spoil the fun by giving too much away.

Dorte herself gives clues, and the "bait in a box" is a prelude to a book review she will be posting in the next few days. It is a very nifty idea!

6 March 2009

Review, PORTOBELLO, Ruth Rendell

Hutchinson 2008, ISBN 978-0-09-192585-7, 278 pages

Anybody who has visited London is familiar with the Portobello Road and its markets. Some of the families, rich and poor, who live in the streets off Portobello Road have lived in the district for generations. Eugene Wren's very successful art gallery of fine arts in upmarket Kensington Church Street for example, is the successor to the one his father had in a glossy arcade quite a long way up the road. Gene, seemingly a confirmed bachelor now in his 50s lives in the more fashionable Chepstow Villas.

In contrast is the Gibson family, once market stall holders, now most of the family either lives on the dole or on the products of breaking and entering. Lance, unemployed, lives with his step-uncle Gib,an elder of the Church of the Children of Zebulun. His girlfriend has thrown him out, and his parents won't let him in. Lance needs instant money to repair his girlfriend's teeth after he knocks her front tooth out, and burglary provides afeasible option.

When Joel Roseman has a heart attack in the street he becomes a patient of Eugene's lady friend Ella, who is a GP in a nearby practice. Ella soon realises that Joel's problems are as much psychological as they are physical, and outside her capabilities. And in an illustration that the problems right on our own doorstep often go unrecognised by our nearest and dearest, Eugene has an addiction he doesn't dare tell Ella about.

Ruth Rendell has taken the lives of three principal characters and the circles within which they move, and played with the concept of degrees of separation, forging connections between them that we would never have expected.

In a sense, although several crimes take place in the novel, this isn't really a crime fiction novel. For me, it is more like those novels that Rendell has written under her Barbara Vine pseudonym. I've felt that with the last couple of Rendell stand alones, most recently in in THE WATER'S LOVELY. It is almost as if she has changed her mind about what goes under what name. As others have commented, this isn't Rendell at her best. She struggles with a couple of plots to make them interesting, and I found the one involving Eugene Wren particularly tedious. However she still writes well, but the crime fiction strands are really not tensioned enough.

My rating: 4.2

For a full list of Rendell novels see Fantastic Fiction


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