31 July 2009

My July - reads, blog posts, headlines

My reviews for July 2009
I've reviewed 62 new books so far this year - that is about 9 a month, although for the last 3 months I've only got to 7. At this rate I'll get to 110 by the end of the year. Last year I made 111, so I'm on track.

How is your target going? See the poll in the side bar. Leave a comment

Check all my reviews for 2009

My posts for July 2009

July Headlines

Ann Cleeves and Colours

I had not realised, until I read Roberta Rood's post yesterday about Ann Cleeves, that the Shetland Quartet were not just held together by the unusual location, but by colours. Seeing the covers together like this, the penny dropped.

RAVEN BLACK, my rating 4.6
Set on Shetland. Magnus Tait, an elderly man living on his own, mentally slow, and once dominated by his mother, was thought by the islanders to have been responsible when a little girl disappeared a few years ago. Her body was never found. But now when Magnus's teenage neighbour Catherine Ross is found strangled, there are those who say that Tait must be the prime suspect, and that the police need look no further. The detective is Jimmy Perez, an islander himself, now living on Fair Isle, but he went to school on Shetland. A carefully constructed satisfying read.

WHITE NIGHTS, my rating 4.5
Macmillan, 2008, 392 pages, ISBN 978-0-230-01445-9

Shetland detective Jimmy Perez accompanies his friend Fran Hunter to an art exhibition when she and another local Bella are displaying their paintings. A tourist disrupts proceedings by collapsing to his knees and bursting into tears in front of one of Bella's paintings. The tourist appears to have amnesia and is carrying no identification. He gives Jimmy the slip but on the next day he is discovered dead, hanging from the rafters of shed near the Biddista jetty.

Once he has confirmed that this is murder then Jimmy has no alternative but to contact the police on the mainland, and then wait for their arrival. The dead man must have had some reason for coming to Lerwick but what is it? No one admits to recognising him.

This is #2 in Ann Cleeves promised Shetland "quartet". #1, RAVEN BLACK, won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger in 2006. Where RAVEN BLACK was set in mid winter, WHITE NIGHTS is set in mid summer. Again the murder mystery is a variant on the "locked room" scenario, taking place on Shetland where incomers are so noticeable, and memories are long.

I don't think WHITE NIGHTS is as good as RAVEN BLACK, but there is enough in the story to maintain interest, and Cleeves cleverly threads clues throughout the story, so that even at the end there are surprises.

29 July 2009

Review: FROM DOON WITH DEATH, Ruth Rendell

Arrow books, ISBN978-0-099-52476-2, 177 page. This edition published 2007. This book was first published in 1964. The 2 covers I've used here make an interesting comparison. The one with the lipstick is an early one, with clear connections with the book, while the one with the Celtic cross really doesn't mean much at all.

In six years of married life Ronald Parsons had never come home to an empty house. Margaret was always there, and after only an hour and a half of waiting, he approached Mike Burden who lived just down the road. Burden's new boss Chief Inspector Reg Wexford is of the opinion that Margaret has bolted, but he sets Burden to doing the usual checks, with no real results. Two days later Margaret's body is discovered in the woods on the outskirts of town, and that's when it becomes obvious that Margaret had a life, a history, that her husband knew nothing about.

Not only was FROM DOON WITH DEATH the first book in the Wexford series, it was Ruth Rendell's debut novel. I wrote recently how FROM DOON WITH DEATH is in some senses a "forgotten book" and I encourage you to read that post because of all the extra information it contains. This year the Wexford series of 22 titles comes to an end with THE MONSTER IN THE BOX.

In the history of the series, FROM DOON WITH DEATH was important because it introduced Wexford and Burden, and really broke new ground in crime fiction with the creation of a detective duo in what was essentially a police procedural. Interestingly Wexford is already 52 years old, and so Rendell is immediately faced with the problem of how to age her detective. As Reactions to Reading points out in her recent post, if he had been aged in real-time, a la Ian Rankin's Rebus, Wexford would now be 97. So I reckon Wexford and Burden only age 1 year every 5 or 6 years, although their children do grow up.

I don't think FROM DOON WITH DEATH is Rendell's best book. It has many signs that this is a debut novel. In addition to its comparative brevity, I think Rendell's understanding of police procedures is a bit limited. Wexford comes over with a coarseness that is considerably reduced in later books, where he and Burden are both given quite detailed back-stories, and elements of family interest. And speaking of elements, I think there is a gender element in FROM DOON WITH DEATH, and if you read the book you'll see what I mean, that must have been a bit of a jolt for crime fiction readers in the mid 1960s.

My rating: 4.2

There are many other things I could comment on but I'm going to save some of that for the discussion to take place on oz_mystery_readers in early August. Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine is listed as one of my favourite authors. I think she has made a huge contribution to the crime fiction genre.

Ruth Rendell (1930- ) was made CBE in 1996 and a life peer as Baroness Rendell of Babergh, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk in 1997. She sits in the House of Lords for Labour. She has many awards and honours.

27 July 2009

Review: LUCIFER'S SHADOW, David Hewson

I'm staggered to find that I have been listening to LUCIFER'S SHADOW for nearly a month. You might remember my post in late June where I talked about the fact that the narrator was using an Italian accent which I was having problems coming to terms with. I am happy to report that things got better and that I enjoyed this book immensely. Not surprising that it has taken so long to listen to - it is nearly 18 hours, and I get less than 45 minutes listening time every day!

Book Details:
Paperback: 384 pages, Publisher: Delta (July 26, 2005), ISBN-10: 0385338058, ISBN-13: 978-0385338059

When she died 10 years ago, promising violinist Susanna Gianni was buried on Venice's San Michele with her violin. After 10 years bodies on San Michele are disinterred and disposed of. Small time crook Rizzo has been employed by the Englishman Hugo Massiter to claim the corpse.. Well, he doesn't want the corpse really, just the Guarneri violin. And that's the hook that gets the reader/listener in straight away. Who is this Massiter? How did Susanna Gianni die? Why does he want the violin?

At the same time young English academic Daniel Forster arrives in Venice to do some work for Scacchi, an ailing art collector, the last of the house of Scacchi, a printing house in Venice with a long history.

Jump back now to the Venice of 1733. Vivaldi is conducting a concert in La Pieta. Canaletto is painting the life of Venice. Lorenzo Scacchi, nephew of the printer, has fallen in love with a beautiful violinist, Rebecca Levi, a Jewess whom he smuggles out of the ghetto so she can play in Vivaldi's annual concert.

I strongly believe that the reader needs to go on their own journey of discovery, to experience the book for himself, to be surprised where the author reveals something new.
So I'm not going to recount more of the story, except to tell you that there is a clever interweaving of parallel threads from the two time periods, even parallel characters. An annual concert, a piece of music, a beautiful young violinist, an evil Englishman, a law enforcement officer who is prevented from revealing the truth, are just some of the mirror images to look out for.

This was a book that grew on me, to the point that, as I could feel the end was coming, I felt quite regretful. The narrator Christopher Kay, after I had got attuned to the Italian accent, did an excellent job, and his voice gave me plenty of clues about which character was speaking.

My rating: 4.8

You might be interested in the following:
The sixth Nic Costa novel, THE GARDEN OF EVIL, was voted the best mystery of 2008 by the American Library Association and was recently shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

My other mini-reviews of Hewson novels

THE SACRED CUT, my rating 4.8
For the first time in two decades, Rome is paralysed by a blizzard. And a gruesome discovery is made in the Pantheon, one of the city's most ancient and revered architectural treasures. Covered by soft snow is the body of an American tourist - her back horribly mutilated.

A SEASON FOR THE DEAD, my rating 4.2
This is the first of the Nic Costa series. As with succeeding novels in the series, the book opens with a dramatic event. Sara Farnese looks up from a manuscript in the Reading Room of the Vatican Library to see a fellow professor approaching her with a bulging plastic bag. He appears to be distressed and is carrying a gun in his other hand. From the bag he tips the skin of her lover, and points the gun at Sara's head. Standing in the colonnades of St. Peter's Square, Rome cops Luca Rossi and his new partner Nic Costa hear of the shooting in the Reading Room on the police scanner. Strictly speaking the Vatican is not in their jurisdiction, but as Nic says, they are just around the corner…

THE LIZARD'S BITE, my rating 4.6
This is the 4th in the Nic Costa series. Detectives from Rome, Nic Costa, Gianni Peroni, and Leo Falcone, have been 'exiled' to Venice, famous for its glassblowing. A terrible fire occurs at the factory of a relatively recently arrived family of Murano glassblowers, the Arcangeli, when their furnace overheats and the furnace manager Uriel Arcangeli spontaneously combusts. Nic and Gianni had been coming to the end of their time in Venice and their return to Rome is postponed so they can prove beyond all doubt that Uriel's death is an accident. For me, Hewson has captured the atmosphere of Venice very well. The story hints at some of the issues currently worrying Venetians, and at the same time the characters of Costa, Peroni and Falcone are expanded so that we get to know them better.

26 July 2009

Review: SHADOWS STILL REMAIN, Peter de Jonge

Avon (a division of HarperCollins Publishers), 2009, ISBN 978-0-00-730026-6, 275 pages

Nineteen year old Francesca Pena is an NYU sophomore on a track and cross-country scholarship. A talented and motivated student, she has risen from a socially disadvataged background. On Thanksgiving Eve she disappears after meeting some friends for drinks at a bar near Rivington, New York. Her disappearance is reported two days later by a former boyfriend who has been staying with her. A week after her disappearance her violated body is found in a toilet by the East River and the former boyfriend becomes the primary suspect.

The story that Detective Darlene O'Hara from New York's 7th Precinct and her partner Serge Krekorian eventually unearth clearly demonstrates that no-one knew who Francesca Pena really was. The revelation owes much to Darlene's persistence and determination, and her inner ability to sense when she is not being told the truth. There are things that Darlene learns about Pena that just don't add up, timelines that just don't work out. The case becomes high-profile one, with plenty of red herrings, and mis-judgements. Darlene is eventually suspended, and she and Serge complete their investigation under threat of severe disciplinary measures. The chance sighting of a distinctive tattoo eventually sends Darlene hurtling along the path that results in the arrest of Francesca's murderer.

I changed my mind about SHADOWS STILL REMAIN many times. It is noir, revealing a criminal underbelly in New York's city life that we always suspected was there, but hoped wasn't. I really don't think I enjoyed reading it, but on the other hand it was cleverly written. I wanted to know the final outcome, but wanted it to be over. I really like the character of Darlene O'Hara, and hope that I have the chance to meet her again. It is a novel that will mean much more to New York readers than it did to me.

My rating: 4.2

Peter de Jonge has previously written three novels in collaboration with James Patterson. How that worked is explained in a New York Times article. SHADOWS STILL REMAIN is de Jonge's first solo effort.

Sunday Salon: 26 July 2009

I noticed there quite a few new people posting in the Sunday Salon last week. That was good to see. Book blogging is certainly alive and well.
Have you come across Book Blogger Appreciation Week? Click on the logo to find out more.

For me this was a big week because on the 23rd of each month I host the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival. This week was the 7th edition of the carnival.

I seem to have made a lot of posts this week. Lots of "challenges" that I am part of needed doing. I also made a decision this week to re-publish some reviews I've published over the last 3 years on another site.

This week's posts:
Breaking News:
What I'm reading:
  • now - SHADOWS STILL REMAIN - Peter de Jonge
  • then - FROM DOON WITH DEATH - Ruth Rendell
  • in the car - LUCIFER'S SHADOW, David Hewson

25 July 2009

Review: THE HOT TYPEWRITER, Albert Victor

Phillip Ryan had wanted to be a journalist all of his life. He'd managed to get a job at the local rag right after leaving school . You know the sort - they are full of advertisements that pay the wages and the printing, and they are delivered free to all the local residents, most of whom don't want it, who then use it to wrap the veggie scraps in, clean the barbecue with, or as a firelighter.

Still Phillip felt, at 17, that he'd made a START. Occasionally the editor sent him out with a photographer to interview an old biddy who had the reputation of being a local witch, or at election time he got to trail around behind a fiery red-neck and had the pleasure of watching him being pelted with rotten eggs by some mean spirited citizens.

But now he was within days of his 21st birthday, and feeling that it was time to move on. There was nothing on the horizon, but he was keeping an eye out.

Occasionally a nutter would slip a message through the letter slot in the front door of the newspaper office. Usually the messages were awful and after causing a frisson of repulsion in the staff, quickly screwed up and binned. Usually the messages didn't come with photos. That's what made today's so interesting.
An urban legend blinks
The message was accompanied by a picture of the local park - but wait, wasn't that a body under the swings? Phillip's heart raced. At last - was this a real story?

THE HOT TYPEWRITER is Albert Victor's debut novel, and is anything but pedestrian. The main character Phillip Ryan is vividly drawn, and the author manages not only realistic scene setting, but tension that heightens to a dramatic climax. Albert Victor is the pseudonym of a local Australian author, and THE HOT TYPEWRITER is not yet available for general purchase.

This review was created for Weekly Geeks 2009-28.
It uses random words generated at Creativity Tools
Among the random words I had to include were witch, neck, and mean.
I also had to use a randomly generated phrase and a randomly generated sentence. I wonder if you can spot them?
Your task, dear reader, is to decide whether this is an authentic review for a real book, or simply a figment of my imagination.

Tell me what you think via a comment.

BIP #13: Blog Post Bingo, Round 2!

For some reason I had a problem in getting my head around this task, but when I saw Dorte's this morning, the penny dropped.

What the following list demonstrates is that, even though the focus in my blog is almost always crime fiction, my posts themselves have plenty of variety.

I'm probably too late to add it all to Mr Linky, but here goes:

1. A Link Post – Weekly Geeks 2009-26: Where in the World?
2. A Short Post – Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Sept 14-18, 2009
3. A List Post – A Dozen of my best
4. An Opinion Post – I am not always right - CWA International Dagger
5. A Poll or Question Post – Who brings Hercule Poirot to life best?
6. A How-To Post – this is the only one I haven't really done. For this one I'm submitting Book Reviews: My Policy and Guidelines which is an older post that I keep updated.
7. A Long Post – Awards - Received and Given
8. A Review Post – Review: THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, Stieg Larsson
9. A Definition Post – Did Agatha Christie change her mind about Miss Marple?
10. A Personal Post – Travelling Report. I could have included the Sunday Salon post that featured my mother's 89th birthday.
11. NEW: A Resource Post – ACRC: Short Stories, Update #4
12. FREE SPACE – Wordless Wednesday

Check the original project out here.

I Keep Coming Back for More Award

Cathy of Kittling Books has created her very own award and generously included me amongst its recipients. She really is pointing out what many of us have discovered: blogging is addictive, and some of us rack up lots of download every day to discover what fellow bloggers are talking about. We watch them through RSS feeds as I do on Blogs I'm watching or through Friend Feed rooms such as Crime and Mystery Fiction, or simply through events such as Friday's Forgotten Books, Sunday Salon, and Weekly Geeks.

The I Keep Coming Back for More! Award is for a blog you just can't stay away from. If you've been busier than a one-armed paperhanger with the hives and your Google reader is over 1,000 unread posts, these are the blogs that you single out to read. These are the ones that are never victims to the dreaded Mark All As Read. There may be many different reasons why you can't stay away: a taste in books that mirrors your own, the same sense of humor, always knowing the latest in the book world... for whatever the reason, these blogs are flat out addictive and you have no wish to be cured!

Here are Cathy's rules:
The rules for the recipients are simple. (I'm a believer in the KISS method.) What are the rules?
  • Enjoy the award. If you don't want to put it on your blog, don't. Just get the warm, fuzzy feeling that I'm sending your way!
  • You don't have to reveal any deep, dark secrets about yourself or answer any sort of questions. You've already earned it!
  • You don't have to link back to me.
  • You don't have to give it to anyone else.
Simple, huh? Now, if you do want to give this award to someone else, that's a whole 'nuther kettle of fish.

If you do want to pass it along to some of those addictive book blogs in your reader, just follow the same four rules I outlined above. This is a pay-it-forward award. Nothing is to be expected in return!

It is too nice an award to keep to myself so I'm going to hand it on with the same provisos as Cathy's above. Please don't feel neglected if you aren't on my list. Some whom I would have included are already on Cathy's list so do check their blogs out too.
And you might also like to join Book Blogger Appreciation Week.

24 July 2009


Random House Australia, Dec 2006, ISBN 9781741664928

This review is one of a number that I am re-publishing as they were originally published elsewhere, not on this blog.

It is twenty years since the Mafia had Inspector Anders blown up in his car in Rome, and eighteen months since Anders has been in Italy. The killing of two right wing Italian politicians one month apart has resulted in Anders' Europol chief sending the one-legged investigator back to Milan where he will be in most danger. A calling card with each of the bodies leaves no doubt that the killings have both been carried out by the same person. There are no witnesses, and no useful forensic data at the crime scenes.

Within hours of his arrival in Milan Inspector Anders' cover is blown. Shortly after, a third right wing politician is murdered. Anders is under pressure from the Italian government to stop these killings. Terrorism is his speciality and the government is convinced these are terrorist acts. Anders is not so sure. Other factors complicate his investigation: he is unwell with some sort of virus; he is wearing a new leg (Mark IV); has some personal pressures to get a book published; leaks by parliamentarians let the public know things he wants kept quiet; and the investigation seems to be alternately going down side alleys and then back-tracking.

INSPECTOR ANDERS AND THE BLOOD VENDETTA moves at a cracking pace as Anders and those he is working with in the Milano Questura follow lead after lead in their search for the killer(s). Huge manpower and resources are thrown at this investigation, and more than anything the government does not want the Mafia to carry out its long-standing threat of killing Anders on Italian soil. They come close at least twice.

This is not the Italy we see as tourists, but the world of political confusion, of a "nation thick with crime and mayhem". Browne uses some wonderful imagery as he describes a country "being ripped apart at the seams" by the killing of right wing politicians.

Inspector Anders is a very interesting character. One of his friends describes him as "a lonely, damaged man with a mind full of dark corners". His stubbornness, taciturnity, willingness to put himself in danger for the sake of the investigation, the domination of what he is physically able to do by "the leg", are all things that make him more alive to us.

Marshall Browne is an Australian author living in Melbourne. There are five titles in the Inspector Anders series. INSPECTOR ANDERS AND THE BLOOD VENDETTA is the most recent.

January 2007 review, originally published on Murder and Mayhem

My rating: 4.5

My reviews:
THE IRON HEART, my rating 4.5
RENDEZVOUS AT KAMAKURA INN (2006) my rating 4.3

INSPECTOR ANDERS and THE SHIP OF FOOLS (2001). My rating 4.2
Somebody doesn't want two big European companies to conduct a merger. An estimated 21,000 redundancies will occur if the merger goes ahead. So someone plants a bomb in the boardroom of ChemtexAG, a "fish tank" with walls of unbreakable glass, on the 33rd floor of a Frankfurt office tower. For the 16 directors of the two companies meeting in the room at the time, it is instant death, their remains coating the inside walls of the room just like paint. Interpol, in the person of one-legged Inspector Anders and his off-sider Matucci, are called in.
A group called Judgement Day claim responsibility, and seems to have some sort of link with the German terrorism of the 1970s. A message from the terrorists identifies another proposed merger as the next target and suddenly Anders has a race against time on his hands. Not so much a mystery as a thriller, #2 in Marshall Browne's Inspector Anders series. The action moves between Brussels, Strasbourg, and Paris.

23 July 2009

Forgotten Book: THE DARK SIDE OF THE ISLAND, Mark Hebden

This week's contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books.

This book features in my records for November 1977.
I have no memory of it so had to do some sleuthing and really managed to come up with precious little. This book really has been all but forgotten, and yet Mark Hebden (1916-1991) was quite a prolific author.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE ISLAND (1973) was a thriller set in the ''lost islands of the Outer Hebrides''. I didn't find a cover, but Amazon UK has the following synopsis:
Set in the lost islands of the Outer Hebrides, things are not quite what they seem to its residents. Strange characters appear and begin to unleash mindless violence on the islanders. The Dark Side of the Island, a tense and fast-paced novel, reaches a tumultuous climax when half the island is united against the criminals destroying the peace.

I learnt that Mark Hebden (27 books) was also known as John Harris (24 books) and Mark Hennessy (11 books), publishing up to 3 books a year. To the right is a self-caricature from the late 1970s.

Fantastic Fiction says
Born in 1916, Mark Hebden wrote many crime fictions. He was a sailor, airman, a journalist, travel courier, cartoonist and a history teacher. During the Second World War he served with two air forces and two navies. After turning to full-time writing, Hebden created a sequence of crime novels around the quirky fictional character Chief Inspector Pel. A master of his genre, Hebden's writing is as timeless as it is versatile and entertaining.

I'm pretty sure I never read any Inspector Pel but it sounds as if I might have missed out on a treat. The first appears to be PEL AND THE FACELESS CORPSE.
An unidentified, faceless corpse is discovered near a memorial dedicated to villagers killed by the Nazis. Pel is on the case searching for a way to name the faceless corpse. The trail leads him from Burgundy to the frontiers of France, aided by a canny Sergeant Darcy and the shy, resourceful Sergeant Nosjean. Follow the irascible, quirky Chief Inspector on a road to solving the mystery of the faceless corpse.

I found out also that his daughter Juliet Hebden took over writing the Inspector Pel series on her father's death, and added 8 novels to the 18 that her father wrote. That must be some sort of record! Do you know of any other father-daughter writing pair, where the daughter picks up the father's discarded mantle?

Agatha Christie Blog Carnival #7 now posted.

9 titles have been reviewed in the latest edition of the Carnival.
Check out some of the posts too. Some samples:

"Imagine if the impeccably organized and eminently sensible Miss Felicity Lemon (private secretary to Mr. Parker Pyne and M. Hercule Poirot) were to assemble her own collection of crime fiction.... Here she recommends and discusses the choicest whodunits ever written."

"On December 3, 1926 Agatha Christie disappeared from her home in Sunningdale, in Berkshire. Her car was found at eight o’clock on Saturday morning, abandoned several miles away, with some of her clothes and identification scattered around inside." What happened to her?

"Wherever you find Mr. Poirot, there is sure to be a murder. It’s definitely enough to pull Hercule’s little gray cells away from his vegetables."

22 July 2009

When Worlds Collide

I often say that I am one of those lucky people whose daily work intersects with what they like to do for leisure. For nearly 10 years I have worked for an online company whose mission is to assist teachers in using information technologies and internet-based tools in particular.
In that role cyber safety, social networking, online technologies are all part of my daily life. I blog in both worlds, write dozens of emails every day, create web pages, use Twitter... you get the idea.

Every now and again something I read about in the crime fiction world strikes a chord with me because of its connection with the world I also work in.

The style used by Minette Walters to write THE DEVIL'S FEATHER, featuring a series of emails, struck a chord. Reginald Hill used a similar technique in A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES, which annoyed some readers but delighted me.

In P.D. Martin's second novel THE MURDERERS CLUB, the perpetrators meet in a chat room, and another Australian author, Felicity Young, in HARUM SCARUM has a cyber safety theme when paedophiles stalk children in internet chat rooms.

A teaching friend wrote in her blog this week about how some of her young 10 year old students had discovered the art of cyber bullying through email chain letters.
And so it just felt too coincidental when earlier this week I was contacted by a new author, Richard Jay Parker, whose debut thriller novel STOP ME is being published by Allison & Busby in the UK on August 4th. The premise on which the novel is based is chain email.

Here is the synposis from Amazon UK
Forward this email to ten friends. Each of those friends must forward it to ten friends. Maybe one of those friends of friends of friends will be one of my friends. If this email ends up in my inbox within a week, I won't slit the bitch's throat. Can you afford not to send this onto ten friends? Vacation Killer.
Leo Sharpe's life is shattered when his wife Laura suddenly disappears. His desperate need to find her turns to obsession when he becomes convinced she's the latest victim of The Vacation Killer who has claimed eleven lives already - is Laura going to be the twelfth? The MO is the same every time - a woman disappears and within hours inboxes around the world receive a threatening email. A few days later, grim evidence of the victim's death is delivered to the police. But in Laura's case, nothing is sent. Has the killer spared her life? Why? And for how long? For Leo, the clock is ticking - he needs to do everything in his power to stop the killer before it's too late.

I haven't had a chance to read STOP ME yet, but if you are in the UK, you might like to look for it in about 2 weeks time. Richard tells me STOP ME will eventually make it to Australia.

Here are some links to visit

Review: ONE GOOD TURN, Kate Atkinson

Random House Australia, Transworld Publishers, September 2006, ISBN 9780552772440

This review is one of a number that I am re-publishing as they were originally published elsewhere, not on this blog.

When Paul Bradley brakes suddenly to avoid hitting a pedestrian he becomes the victim of road rage. The driver of the Honda behind him takes to Paul's car with a baseball bat, and then starts on Paul himself. Paul is saved by Martin Canning who throws his computer bag and hits the Honda driver in the head.

Among those who saw the incident is Jackson Brodie, retired police officer, in Edinburgh with his current girl friend for the Festival of Arts. Jackson decides that he does not want to get involved and leaves the scene without making a report, although he gives Martin his phone number. Martin however is not so lucky. His good deed leads him to wait in hospital for Paul to be released, and then he agrees to stay overnight with him to make sure he is all right.

In this cleverly woven web of violence and deceit, author Kate Atkinson draws together a number of those who witnessed the road rage incident. Even at the height of the Festival, and packed with tourists, Edinburgh can become a very small town indeed. We haven't seen the last of the Honda driver, nor of Jackson Brodie, nor even of Gloria and Pam who were among the bystanders. So finely are the threads between them drawn, that it comes as a surprise on the last page to discover how little actual time has passed. We have learned a lot about their lives, witnessed a couple of murders, and solved a few mysteries on the way. And right at the end, on the very last page, comes a twist that few readers will forsee.

ONE GOOD TURN is subtitled A Jolly Murder Mystery, and author Kate Atkinson certainly doesn't allow mystery, violence, and murder get in the way of a fine sense of humour. Several times I found myself smiling at a clever turn of phrase, and sometimes at the situations the characters have found themselves in.

Kate Atkinson introduced Jackson Brodie, ex-army, ex-police, and ex-private detective, in her bestseller CASE HISTORIES. With that novel she won the Saltire Book of the Year Award, and the Prix Westminster. In ONE GOOD TURN Jackson Brodie is almost an anti-hero, a bit of a rolling stone, but one that would like very much to be gathering some moss. I look forward to the next in this series.

My rating: 4.8

October 2006 Review first published on Murder and Mayhem

Mini-review of CASE HISTORIES: my rating 5.0
1970s: A young toddler goes missing in a Cambridge summer heat wave.
1980s:A teenage girl is brutally murdered in her father's law office.
1980s: A struggling young mother can't abide her screaming baby anymore and in a temper takes an axe to her husband.
Three shocking vignettes. Three grim case histories that begin this compelling and beautiful novel from Kate Atkinson.
The way Atkinson brings all these three case histories together through threads from the present in the investigations of Jackson Brodie is excellent.

My review of the next in the series: WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? My rating 4.8

The Jackson Brodie series (list from Fantastic Fiction)
1. Case Histories (2004)
2. One Good Turn (2006)
3. When Will There Be Good News (2008)

Other novels
Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995)
Human Croquet (1997)
Emotionally Weird (1999)

21 July 2009

Match the cover with a title - competition

In the table below are a number of covers (with titles and authors removed, just to make it interesting) taken from my recent posts, and here a list of titles and authors.

A. LUCIFER'S SHADOW, David Hewson ; B. MURDEROUS REMEDY, Stella Shepherd ; C. NAME TO A FACE, Robert Goddard; D. PERIL AT END HOUSE, Agatha Christie; E. SHADOW, Karin Alvtegen; F. SHATTER, Michael Robotham; G. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, Stieg Larsson; H. THE MYSTERIOUS MR QUIN, Agatha Christie; I. THE REDEEMER, Jo Nesbo; J. WOBBLE TO DEATH, Peter Lovesey

Your assignment is to match them up. Just leave your answer as a comment.











I have 3 books to give away for the competition. I will send them anywhere in the world, but if you are outside Australia, it will come surface mail.

In your comment, say whether you would like
MYSTERIOUS PLEASURES, edited by Martin Edwards
BROKEN, Karin Fossum

You won't necessarily have to get them all right, but that will be an advantage.
If more than one "best" answer chooses the same book, then I'll draw straws or something.
I'll contact the winners to get snail mail addresses.
The competition will close in 2 weeks. (August 4)

ACRC Update - 21 July 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've read 12 books and 4 collections of short stories.

What I've read so far
  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) - now on my shelves
  10. 1930, THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE - finished
    1930, The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin) - finished
  12. 1932, PERIL AT END HOUSE - finished
    1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders in the US) - finished
  13. 1933, LORD EDGEWARE DIES (aka THIRTEEN AT DINNER) - - now on my shelves
  14. 1934, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (aka MURDER IN THE CALAIS COACH) - now on my shelves
  15. 1934, WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVANS? (aka THE BOOMERANG CLUE) - now on my shelves
  20. 1936, CARDS ON THE TABLE
Check the opening blog post of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge here.
If you'd like to join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge click here.

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.

20 July 2009

ACRC: Short Stories, Update #4

In ACRC: Short Stories, I explained how I'm going to keep records of the reading of Agatha Christie's short stories.

As I read another collection, I'll add the stories to the list that I've created and publish a new posting headed ACRC: Short Stories, Update #x, and also link to ACRC: Short Stories which will show my gradual conquering of the short story mountain.

Short Story Collections read so far
The updates will show the short stories read, listed in the order in which they were written, and the collection(s) in which they were published.

1923, The Adventure of the Western Star - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, Tragedy at Marsdon Manor - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, The Adventure of the Cheap Flat - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, The Mystery of Hunters Lodge - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, The Million Dollar Bond Robbery - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, The Kidnapped Prime Minister - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, The Disappearance of Davenheim - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1923, The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ.1924
1923, The Case of the Missing Will - Hercule Poirot - Poirot Investigates publ. 1924
1926, Magnolia Blossom - romance - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
1926, The Love Detectives - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
1927, The Tuesday Night Club - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1928, The Idol House of Astarte - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1928, Ingots of Gold - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1928, The Bloodstained Pavement - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1928, Motive & Opportunity - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1929, The Thumb Mark of St. Peter - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1929, Next to a Dog - romance - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
1929, The Blue Geranium - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1930, The Companion - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1930, The Four Suspects - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1930, A Christmas Tragedy - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1930, The Herb of Death - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1930, The Affair of the Bungalow - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1930, The Coming of Mr. Quin - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The Shadow on the Glass - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, At the "Bells and Motley" - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The Sign in the Sky - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The Soul of the Croupier - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The Man from the Sea - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The Voice in the Dark - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The Face of Helen - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The Dead Harlequin - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The Bird with the Broken Wing - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, The World's End - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1930, Harlequin's Lane - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - The Mysterious Mr Quin
1931, Death by Drowning - Miss Marple - The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932
1932, The Second Gong - Hercule Poirot - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
1935, Problem at Pollensa Bay - Parker Pyne - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
1936, The Regatta Mystery - Parker Pyne - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
1937, Yellow Iris - Hercule Poirot - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991
1971, The Harlequin Tea Set - Mr Satterthwaite & Harley Quin - Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991

Did Agatha Christie change her mind about Miss Marple?

I've just completed reading Agatha Christie's first set of short stories featuring Miss Marple, THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS.
I asked just recently Who is the best Miss Marple? and a poll asked participants to choose from 7 film/TV actors who have played Jane Marple.
The popular choice was Joan Hickson, but significantly, none of them looked like this, the first known image of Miss Marple, an illustration by Gilbert Wilkinson of Miss Marple from the December 1927 issue of The Royal Magazine and the first-known image of the character.

In THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS there are two very clear descriptions of Miss Marple.
In first story The Tuesday Night Club, Miss Marple's debut appearance, we have
Miss Marple wore a black brocade dress, very much pinched in round the waist. Mechlin lace was arranged in a cascade down the front of the bodice. She had on black mittens, and a black lace cap surmounted the piled-up masses of her snowy hair. She was knitting - something white and soft and fleecy.
And then in a later story, The Blue Geranium, we have
Mrs Bantry... fixed her gaze on the very upright old lady sitting on her husband's right. Miss Marple wore black lace mittens; an old lache fichu was draped around her shoulders and another piece of lace surmounted her white hair. She was talking animatedly...
Elsewhere Miss Marple's age is emphasised by referring to her as "the old lady", and with reference to her faded blue eyes. She herself refers to her failing memory and sight.

Descriptions of Miss Marple are not plentiful in her debut novel THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE. The vicar's wife Griselda refers to her as "that terrible Miss Marple.... the worst cat in the village". The vicar says "Miss Marple is a white-haired old lady with a gentle, appealing manner - Miss Wetherby is a mixture of vinegar and gush. Of the two Miss Marple is the more dangerous." The Chief Constable calls her the "typical elderly spinster" and then, after he has met her, "that wizened-up old maid."
Physically, Christie obviously has the same description in mind as in the earlier short stories.
"Miss Marple arranged her lace fichu, pushed back the fleecy shawl that draped her shoulders", and in other places the vicar emphasises her fragility and her age.

I'll be watching how Miss Marple develops, what descriptions of her there are in later books.
The Wikipedia article says " The character of Jane Marple in the first Miss Marple book, The Murder at the Vicarage, is markedly different from how she appears in later books. This early version of Miss Marple is a gleeful gossip and not an especially nice woman. The citizens of St. Mary Mead like her but are often tired by her nosy nature and how she seems to expect the worst of everyone. In later books she becomes more modern and a kinder person."

I just have the feeling that Miss Marple of film and television is not as old as the Miss Marple as Agatha Christie first created her.
Any comments?

Miss Marple appeared in 12 novels
and in 20 short stories
  • The Thirteen Problems (short story collection featuring Miss Marple, also published as The Tuesday Club Murders) (1932)
  • Miss Marple's Final Cases and Two Other Stories (short stories collected posthumously, also published as Miss Marple's Final Cases, but only six of the eight stories actually feature Miss Marple) (written between 1939 and 1954, published 1979)
  • Miss Marple also appears in Greenshaw's Folly, a short story traditionally included as part of the Poirot collection The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding (1960). Four stories in the Three Blind Mice collection (1950) feature Miss Marple: Strange Jest, Tape-Measure Murder, The Case of the Caretaker, and The Case of the Perfect Maid.


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