31 December 2010

Farewelling 2010

Time to ring out the old year and welcome the new.
Where does time go?

MiP (MYSTERIES in PARADISE) will have been around for just on 3 years in a couple of days time.

I created it as the result of a resolution on New Year's Eve 2007.

Some statistical reflections.
  • I've read 136 books this year, quite an increase over last year's 104, and bringing my total since I have begun to keep records (1975) to an even 3000 in the last 36 years.
  • I've written 610 blog posts on MiP this year, an increase of over 60 on last year, after resolving at the end of 2009 that I ought to write less. Only 25% of them are actually book reviews and there always seems to be plenty to write about.
  • According to my main counter about 107,000 visitors have come to my blog this year, about 2,000 a week. Having a good number of reviews available obviously does draw quite a number.
Visitors come from all over the globe, even some really isolated spots.

  • I continue to enjoy blogging and have participated in a number of weekly events including Sunday Salon, Weekly Geeks and Friday's Forgotten Books.
  • This year I have completed quite a number of reading challenges which have pushed me to read outside my usual geographic limitations. I have put my name down on quite a number more in 2011. Time will tell about whether I'm over stretching myself, or becoming too organised.
  •  This year the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival celebrated Agatha Christie's 120th birthday with a month long blog tour.
  • MiP reached the finals of Book Blogger Appreciation week..

So if you are a visitor to my blog, regular or not, thanks for coming; and if you've left comments, thanks for the encouragement. I hope to hear again from you in the new year.

So farewell the old year with gusto, and think about those new year resolutions!

But please, if you drink, don't drive!

30 December 2010

Canadian Book Challenge 2010-2011 Update, 30 December 2010

The Canadian Book Challenge is hosted by John Mutford who blogs at The Book Mine Set.
You have one year to read 13 Canadian books and review them somewhere online, from Canada Day, July 1st, 2010- Canada Day, July 1st, 2011. There will be check-ins at the beginning of each month to see how everyone is progressing and have their current status marked in the sidebar of this blog. Participants are encouraged to read each others' reviews, discuss the books, and cheer one another on.

As always, my books will all be crime fiction.

So far
  1. 4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER,  Louise Penny (20 July 2010)
  2. 4.6, ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS, Peter Robinson (10 September 2010)
  3. 4.5, FEAR THE WORST, Linwood Barclay (11 October 2010)
  4. 4.5, NEGATIVE IMAGE, Vicki Delany (17 December 2010)
  5. 4.7, ROOM, Emma Donoghue (23 December 2010)
  6. 4.6, NEVER LOOK AWAY, Linwood Barclay (28 December)
  7. 4.4, LOVE YOU TO DEATH, Gail Bowen (28 December)
  8. 4.5, MIDNIGHT CAB, James W. Nichol (1 Jan 2011) 
already on my shelves:
Peter Robinson, A DEDICATED MAN
Peter Robinson, BAD BOY
Vicki Delany, WHITEOUT
William Deverell, APRIL FOOL

On my Kindle


On order from the library
Louise Penny, BURY YOUR DEAD

Suggestions from blog readers: Catherine Hunter, Michael van Rooy and Allan Levine.

Good reference point: Arthur Ellis Awards shortlist; past winners

Virtual Peaks to be scaled
GLEN VALLEY (1 book read)
WHITE HILL (2 books read)
ISHPATINA RIDGE (3 books read)
MOUNT CARLETON (4 books read)
BALDY MOUNTAIN (5 books read)
CYPRESS HILLS (6 books read)
MONT D'IBERVILLE (7 books read)
MOUNT CAUBVICK (8 books read)
BARBEAU PEAK (9 books read)
MOUNT NIRVANA (10 books read)
MOUNT COLUMBIA (11 books read)
MOUNT FAIRWEATHER (12 books read)
MOUNT LOGAN (13 or more books read)

New to me authors in 2010: crime fiction of course

Following precedents set earlier this month by Reactions to Reading, The Game's Afoot, Petrona, and View from the Blue House, here is my list of new-to-me authors in 2010. In some cases the author has been publishing for a while, and they just haven't come to my notice. In other cases there has been only one novel so far.
There are 46 on my list, so about 1 in 3 of the books I read in 2010 are by authors who are new to me.

I've hyperlinked the list to my reviews, but you'll see also that in some cases I have also gone on to read another title by that particular author.

5.0, BLACKLANDS, Belinda Bauer
5.0, DEVIL'S PEAK, Deon Meyer
5.0, A CARRION DEATH, Michael Stanley
4.9, THE BLOOD OF THE WICKED, Leighton Gage
4.8, THE PANIC ZONE, Rick Mofina
4.8, THE NIGHT OF THE MI'RAJ, Zoe Ferraris
4.8, BURIAL, Neil Cross
4.7, ROOM, Emma Donoghue
4.7, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, Stuart Neville
4.6, ACCESS ROAD, Maurice Gee
4.6, RED APRIL, Santaigo Roncagliolo
4.6, THE WHITE GALLOWS, Rob Kitchin
4.6, ICE MOON, Jan Costin Wagner
4.6, THE OLD SCHOOL, P.M. Newton
4.6, THE CROSSING PLACES, Elly Griffiths
4.6, CROSSFIRE, Miyuke Miyabe
4.5, THE RING OF DEATH, Sally Spencer
4.5, THE REUNION, Simone Van Der Vlugt
4.5, THE SILENCE OF THE RAIN, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza
4.5, THE MESSENGER, Daniel Silva - audio
4.5, THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS, Claudia Pineiro
4.5, ON EDGE, Barbara Fister
4.5, BLOOD & ICE, Robert Masello
4.5, THE UNCOMMON READER, Alan Bennett
4.4, DISCOUNT NOIR, edited Patricia Abbott & Steve Weddle
4.4, OVERKILL, Joseph Teller
4.3, THE LAST POPE, Luis Miguel Rocha
4.4, BADFELLAS, Tonino Benacquista
4.4, LOVE YOU TO DEATH, Gail Bowen
4.3, BAIT, Nick Brownlee
4.3, CONSEQUENCES OF SIN, Clare Langley-Hawthorne  
4.2, DISINTEGRATION, Scott Nicholson 
4.2, INHUMAN REMAINS, Quintin Jardine
4.2, DARK WINTER, William Dietrich 
4.2, THE SWAYING PILLARS, Elizabeth Ferrars
4.2, CUT & RUN, Alix Bosco  
4.1, THE MARATHON MURDERS,  Chester D Campbell
4.0, HAVANA BLACK, Leonardo Padura
4.0, TAROKO GORGE, Jacob Ritari
3.5, PLUM PUDDING MURDER, Joanne Fluke
2.5, TAKE THE MONKEYS AND RUN, Karen Cantwell

29 December 2010

Australasian crime fiction I read in 2010

Australian crime fiction
I've read about 1 Australian crime fiction title in every 5 in the last year.
That's made 18 titles in 2010 (there were 20 in 2009)
Not bad, but I'm going to try to increase it in 2011.
I've hyperlinked the titles to my reviews.

5.0, BLEED FOR ME, Michael Robotham
5.0, TRUTH, Peter Temple
5.0, GUNSHOT ROAD, Adrian Hyland
4.6, THE OLD SCHOOL, P.M. Newton  
4.6, BLOOD BORN, Kathryn Fox
4.6, TAKE OUT, Felicity Young
4.5, DEEP WATER, Peter Corris
4.5, LET THE DEAD LIE, Malla Nunn 
4.5, BEAT NOT THE BONES, Charlotte Jay
4.5, SILK CHASER, Peter Klein  
4.3, DEAD MAN'S CHEST, Kerry Greenwood
4.3, A CANTERBURY CRIME, Brian Kavanagh 
4.3, FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Kerry Greenwood
4.3, SMOKE & MIRRORS, Kel Robertson
4.3, CONSEQUENCES OF SIN, Clare Langley-Hawthorne  
4.2, BLOODY HAM, Brian Kavanagh

New Zealand crime fiction
In 2010 I also read a number of books related to the short list for inaugural Ngaio Marsh award.

as well as
TIED UP IN TINSEL, Ngaio Marsh, my rating 4.5

Review: LOVE YOU TO DEATH, Gail Bowen

Publisher: Raven Books, 2010
Rapid Reads series
ISBN 978-1-55469-262-0
94 pages

Publisher's Blurb
Charlie D is the host of a successful late night radio show that offers supportive advice to troubled listeners. LOVE YOU TO DEATH takes place during one installment of  "The World According to Charlie C" - two hours during which Charlie must discover who is killing some of the most vulnerable members of his audience.

My take:

This novella proves that you don't really have to write 350 pages or more to tell a story that really packs a punch. Of course we all know that, but Gail Bowen demonstrates it superbly in LOVE YOU TO DEATH.
In retrospect the police should have been able to work out where to look for this killer who is doing away with those monopolising Charlie D's airtime, without setting a honey trap, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

An excellent shortie from an established Canadian crime fiction writer who is new-to-me. It has whetted my appetite for more.

My rating: 4.4

Click HERE to read a sample chapter from this book

LOVE YOU TO DEATH by Gail Bowen is one of four inaugural titles in the Rapid Reads series from Raven Books, an imprint of Orca Book Publishers. The concept seeks to provide short novels by established authors for those readers who find reading a full-length book does not fit their skills, interests, or schedules.

Gail Bowen’s bestselling mystery series featuring Joanne Kilbourn will number an even dozen titles with the publication of The Nesting Dolls in August 2010. The first six books in the series have appeared as made-for-television movies with world-wide distribution. Winner of both the Arthur Ellis Best Novel Award and the Derrick Murdoch Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Crime Writers of Canada, in 2008 Bowen was named “Canada’s Best Mystery Novelist” by Reader’s Digest.
Gail Bowen's website

28 December 2010

Review: NEVER LOOK AWAY, Linwood Barclay

Publisher: Orion Books 2010
ISBN 978-0-7528-9743-1
415 pages
Source: Local Library

Publisher's Blurb
A warm summer Saturday. An amusement park. David Harwood is glad to be spending some quality time with his wife, Jan, and their four-year-old son. But what begins as a pleasant family outing turns into a nightmare after an inexplicable disappearance. As David struggles to restore his family, he discovers that the people we’re most close to are the ones with the biggest secrets.

My take
This is one of those books where you can't reveal too much of the story without spoiling plot surprises for readers. It is a stand-alone so you don't need to have read anything else by Linwood Barclay. On the other hand, I'll be very surprised if you don't go looking for other titles by this well established Canadian crime fiction author if this is your first.

As he often does, Barclay has taken a scenario that others have explored, or that many parents have often thought about, and given it a strong twist. And then he delivers more shocks in rapid succession.

My rating: 4.6

Media release from Linwood Barclay's website, including a sneak peek at about 11 pages from the beginning of NEVER LOOK AWAY.

Other Reviews
Petrona: an exciting read
The Lit Review: A fast-paced thriller

Other reviews of Barclay titles on MiP

2010 translated books: crime fiction of course

I've read a good swag of translated crime fiction this year, 20 of them, quite a few Scandinavian.
I was surprised at how many of them were Spanish or Portuguese.
You'll see what good reads most of them were from my high ratings.
I gave 14 books a rating of 5 this year, and 6 of them were translated.

5.0, THE FIFTH WOMAN, Henning Mankell (Swedish)
5.0, DEVIL'S PEAK, Deon Meyer (Afrikaans)
5.0, THE SNOWMAN, Jo Nesbo (Norwegian)
5.0, HYPOTHERMIA, Arnaldur Indridason  (Icelandic)
5.0, THE MAN FROM BEIJING, Henning Mankell  (Swedish)
5.0, THE DARKEST ROOM, Johan Theorin  (Swedish)
4.8, THIRTEEN HOURS, Deon Meyer (Afrikaans)
4.7, THE WATER'S EDGE, Karin Fossum (Norwegian)
4.6, RED APRIL, Santaigo Roncagliolo (Spanish) 
4.6, ICE MOON, Jan Costin Wagner (German)
4.6, CROSSFIRE, Miyuke Miyabe (Japanese)
4.5, UNKNOWN, Marie Jungstedt (Swedish)
4.5, AUGUST HEAT, Andrea Camilleri (Spanish)
4.5, THE REUNION, Simone Van Der Vlugt (Dutch)
4.5, THE SILENCE OF THE RAIN, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (Portuguese)
4.5, UNSPOKEN, Mari Jungsted (Swedish)
4.5, THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS, Claudia Pineiro (Spanish)
4.4, BADFELLAS, Tonino Benacquista (French)
4.3, THE LAST POPE, Luis Miguel Rocha (Portuguese)
4.0, HAVANA BLACK, Leonardo Padura (Spanish)

27 December 2010

And the Winner Is...

The winner of my book giveaway of  THREE SECONDS by Roslund & Hellstrom is kathyd!
Many thanks to all who entered by leaving a comment on the original post
I used the integer generator at random.org to generate a number randomly. 

due to be released in the US on 4 January 2011.

The promoters at Wiredset will take care of posting the winner his/her copy, anywhere in the world.

Marketing blurb
Three Seconds [SilverOak, January 4, 2011] , Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström's realistic and edgy new novel, has sold over 1.5 million copies in Sweden, spent 13 months on the bestsellers list in the authors' native country, and won the prestigious Swedish Academy of Crime Writers' Award.  Roslund, an acclaimed investigative journalist, and Hellström, an ex-criminal who spent years working to rehabilitate criminals, combine inside knowledge of the brutal reality of criminal life with searing social criticism that puts them at the forefront of modern Scandinavian crime writing.

In Three Seconds they use their backgrounds and considerable research skills to create a dark and action-packed novel about the drug trade within the Swedish prison system and the corruption among police and politicians that keeps it going.

Ex-con Piet Hoffman, the Swedish police force’s most valuable informant, is on a deadly mission.  He has infiltrated the Polish mafia in an attempt to take control of illegal narcotics distribution and must go back inside Sweden’s most infamous maximum-security prison.  Success will mean freedom and the chance to start a new life with his beloved wife and two young sons.  Failure will mean certain death.  His survival depends on one man.  

Detective Inspector EwertGrens, a complex and haunted man, is charged with investigating a drug-related killing involving Hoffman.  Unaware of Hoffmann’s real identity, he believes he’s on the trail of a dangerous psychopath.  As Grens’s investigation takes him closer to the truth, government lies are exposed and Hoffman is trapped in prison, wanted dead by both the police and mafia.

Three Seconds captures a nefarious world of betrayal and violence, where a wise man trusts no one and even the most valuable agent can be “burned”.  Intelligent, gritty, and suspenseful, it firmly establishes Roslund & Hellström as the heirs apparent to Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell and is poised to be the crime novel of the winter season.

Check the website

Think about your best Crime Fiction reads in 2010

In the middle of the year I collected a list of best crime fiction reads for 2010 from readers of this blog.

Now I want to put together a definitive list for the year.
The rules are simple - you just have to have read the books in 2010, regardless of when they were published.

You can give me a list of up to 10 or so, in a comment to this post. (I'm not fussed about there being more than 10, I'm going to have problems shortening my list too)

I need title and author.

If you are listing best reads for the year on your blog, by all means leave the URL of your blog post too (as well as a summary list in the comment).

I will write a summary post of those early in the new year - Let's make 4 January the deadline for getting your comments in.
Feel free to use the image to the right in your blog post and to link it back to this one.

26 December 2010

Celebrating 350 reviews on MiP

I can't let the occasion of having just uploaded my 350th review, THE RING OF DEATH, by Sally Spencer, pass without comment.

You can see them all on Smik's Reviews - the Full List

When I began this blog just on 3 years ago, I created it so that I would have a place to write my reviews.
[I also store them on Library Thing and have been doing so since April 2007, so there are just over 500 over there. I have an Access database begun in December 2004 with 730 records in it, and my notebooks kept since 1975 have 2998 books listed in them]

But I did decide when I began blogging that I would take the time to write a review of every book I read, even the ones I don't finish.
The act of writing forces me to think about what I like and don't like about a book, and often to do a bit of research about the author, and/or the series it is part of.

Importantly, it is a project I enjoy, so I can't see myself stopping any time soon. I just wish I could read faster!

Sunday Salon: Do tell - what books did you get?

Did your family get the message? Did you get a book or two for Christmas?

Mine are always a bit worried by the prospect of giving me something I've already read or something I'll hate.

I have to report that I didn't get one book, although my husband did give me the full set of DVDs for Rumpole of the Bailey, 15 DVDs altogether, and something I hadn't see before, a complete set of The Irish R.M. which starred Peter Bowles, 6 DVDs altogether, so we have some serious viewing ahead of us!

How did you get yours to give you books? Did you have a "wishlist"? What books did you get?

Review: THE RING OF DEATH, Sally Spencer

Publisher: Severn House
2010 (originally published 2009)
ISBN 978-0-7278-6868-8
233 pages
Source: Local Library

Publisher's Blurb
The second in a new series featuring DCI Monika Paniatowski - Nothing could have prepared DCI Monika Paniatowski for this. It's not that the man's throat has been cut, or that he is naked, that shocks her - it's the way his corpse has been so carefully posed. Is the killer sending a message? If so, to who? Saddled with a colleague she doesn't trust, and watched by an old enemy, Monika realises that whatever the murderer's message is, he will not stop killing until she understands.

My take

I found THE RING OF DEATH  a real page turner and I do like the character of Monika Paniatowski.
I have never read any of the previous, Inspector Woodend, series, and I feel the need to at least delve into the last one or two in the series (there are 20 of them), and the first in the Monika Paniatowski series, THE DEAD HAND OF HISTORY, to find out more about Monika's rise to DCI, and to get a better acquainatnce with her. However there is plenty of background in THE RING OF DEATH. The novel deviates from just being a police procedural with an interesting exploration of how Monika is "making" herself, especially in her dealings with the Chief Constable, a one-time lover.

Her predecessor DCI Charlie Woodend, for whom she was "bagman", retired to Spain in the 20th novel in the Woodend series. There are references to how much he is missed in THE RING OF DEATH, and Monika constantly thinks of how Charlie would have handled this or that situation.

My rating: 4.5

Sally Spencer (31 novels) is a pseudonym of Alan Rustage (8 novels), who has also written 3 novels as James Garcia Woods.
Alan Rustage grew up in the north of England. He has taught in England and Iran. He now writes full-time and lives in Madrid.
Sally Spencer worked as a teacher both in England and Iran - where she witnessed the fall of the Shah. She now lives in Spain and writes full-time. She is an almost fanatical mah jong player.
See also http://www.sallyspencer.com/ and http://www.alanrustage.com/

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

I hope your presents contained plenty of books.

24 December 2010

Review: A DUTY TO THE DEAD, Charles Todd

William Morrow, 2009
ISBN 978-006-193384-6
328 pages
Source: Local Library

Publisher's Blurb
England, 1916. Independent-minded Bess Crawford's upbringing is far different from that of the usual upper-middle-class British gentlewoman. Growing up in India, she learned the importance of responsibility, honor, and duty from her officer father. At the outbreak of World War I, she followed in his footsteps and volunteered for the nursing corps, serving from the battlefields of France to the doomed hospital ship Britannic.

On one voyage, Bess grows fond of the young, gravely wounded Lieutenant Arthur Graham. Something rests heavily on his conscience, and to give him a little peace as he dies, she promises to deliver a message to his brother. It is some months before she can carry out this duty, and when she's next in England, she herself is recovering from a wound.

When Bess arrives at the Graham house in Kent, Jonathan Graham listens to his brother's last wishes with surprising indifference. Neither his mother nor his brother Timothy seems to think it has any significance. Unsettled by this, Bess is about to take her leave when sudden tragedy envelops her. She quickly discovers that fulfilling this duty to the dead has thrust her into a maelstrom of intrigue and murder that will endanger her own life and test her courage as not even war has.

My take:
This is the first of Todd's Bess Crawford novels,  and I found it very readable. While the well-established, still continuing, Ian Rutledge series is set after World War One, the Bess Crawford novels are set in the war itself.  A second novel in the series, IMPARTIAL WITNESS, was published in 2010.
The authors are without doubt drawing on a comprehensive knowledge of the impact of World War One on British soldiers in particular in both series.

A DUTY TO THE DEAD has a cosy feel about it, but at the same time it reminded me in style of novels I read back in the 70s by Victoria Holt and Susan Howatch.
Some readers may feel that the setting, the time frame, and the female sleuth are improbable, but it is a scenario that Jacqueline Winspear has explored in the Maisie Dobbs series, admittedly setting her first novel just over a decade later.

I certainly liked A DUTY TO THE DEAD well enough to look for the next in the series.

My rating: 4.5

Other Charles Todd reviews on this blog:
[These are all Inspector Rutledge titles]

Canadian Book Challenge 2010-2011 Update, 23 December

The Canadian Book Challenge is hosted by John Mutford who blogs at The Book Mine Set.
You have one year to read 13 Canadian books and review them somewhere online, from Canada Day, July 1st, 2010- Canada Day, July 1st, 2011. There will be check-ins at the beginning of each month to see how everyone is progressing and have their current status marked in the sidebar of this blog. Participants are encouraged to read each others' reviews, discuss the books, and cheer one another on.

As always, my books will all be crime fiction.

So far
  1. 4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER,  Louise Penny (20 July 2010)
  2. 4.6, ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS, Peter Robinson (10 September 2010)
  3. 4.5, FEAR THE WORST, Linwood Barclay (11 October 2010)
  4. 4.5, NEGATIVE IMAGE, Vicki Delany (17 December 2010)
  5. 4.7, ROOM, Emma Donoghue (23 December 2010)
already on my shelves:
Peter Robinson, A DEDICATED MAN
Peter Robinson, BAD BOY
Vicki Delany, WHITEOUT
James W. Nichol, MIDNIGHT CAB
William Deverell, APRIL FOOL


On my Kindle


On order from the library
Louise Penny, BURY YOUR DEAD

Linwood Barclay, NEVER LOOK AWAY

Suggestions from blog readers: Catherine Hunter, Michael van Rooy and Allan Levine.

Good reference point: Arthur Ellis Awards shortlist; past winners

Virtual Peaks to be scaled
GLEN VALLEY (1 book read)
WHITE HILL (2 books read)
ISHPATINA RIDGE (3 books read)
MOUNT CARLETON (4 books read)
BALDY MOUNTAIN (5 books read)
CYPRESS HILLS (6 books read)
MONT D'IBERVILLE (7 books read)
MOUNT CAUBVICK (8 books read)
BARBEAU PEAK (9 books read)
MOUNT NIRVANA (10 books read)
MOUNT COLUMBIA (11 books read)
MOUNT FAIRWEATHER (12 books read)
MOUNT LOGAN (13 or more books read)

23 December 2010

Review: ROOM, Emma Donoghue

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 603 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (August 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003X27L9U
  • Source: I bought it
Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra. Before that I was three, then two, then one, then zero. "Was I minus numbers?"

Others may not consider ROOM to be crime fiction. It is told in the voice of Jack, who was born in Room, and has known no other environment. His mother has been in Room since Old Nick snatched her off the street when she was 19 years old. So, in contrast to my usual reading where a crime is committed in the pages of the novel, here there is no mystery about the nature of the crime, or about who committed it. For me ROOM was an exploration of the impact of a crime on the victims, in this case on one who wasn't even born when the crime was first committed.

It's hard to write about this novel without revealing too much. I would prefer you had the same reading journey that I did, so I'm not going to reveal more. Suffice it to say that it certainly is a novel that makes you think. It also says a lot about human resilience.

For a sizeable book ROOM was an incredibly quick read, at times very poignant, with a number of small puzzles for the reader to solve, as Jack often doesn't explain fully things that have always been part of his life.
Highly recommended.

I read ROOM because it was chosen by my face to face discussion group for this month's discussion book. I was also delighted to realise that I could count it for the Canadian Book Challenge.

My rating: 4.7

Other reviews:
ROOM was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker prize (read this synopsis if you want more of the story), and in November it won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
ROOM was also shortlisted for the 2010 Governor General's Awards in Canada and was the winner of the Irish Book Award 2010.

Born in Ireland in 1969, Emma Donoghue became a Canadian citizen in 2004

Christmas Edition of Agatha Christie Blog Carnival

There are 10 contributors to the December 2010 edition of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival, with 18 items.

Predictably there are a couple of Christmas titles, as well as an interesting link to Agatha Christie's medical murderers.

Anybody can contribute to this monthly carnival with reviews of Agatha Christie books and Christie-related items.

Check the latest edition out here.

22 December 2010

Review: UNKNOWN, Mari Jungstedt

This edition published by Corgi 2010
English translation by Tiina Nunnally 2010
ISBN 978-0-552-15889-3
430 pages
Originally published as THE INNER CIRCLE: A MYSTERY  (2008)
Originally written in Swedish.
Source: local library

Publisher's Blurb
It’s summer on Gotland and an international group of archaeology students are excavating an ancient Viking site. The camaraderie and holiday spirits of the group are shattered when one of their number, a Dutch student called Martina, disappears. Rumours abound about a secret relationship she was having with someone on the island, but is her disappearance simply a lover’s intrigue? When the body of a horse is discovered in a local farmer’s field, other rumours begin to circulate. The horse had been decapitated and the head has vanished. Why would someone take a dead horse’s head? As Inspector Knutas begins his investigation, echoes from Gotland’s Viking past begin to trouble his search. When Martina’s naked body is found hanging from a tree, with what look like ritualistic markings on her skin, there can be little further question. Someone is calling to the old Gods of Gotland. Martina has been killed according to the Viking ritual of the three-fold death, and the one thing the ritual points to is that more deaths will follow.

My take:
Note to self: put Gotland on my list of dangerous places never to be visited! (My list includes St. Mary Mead, and Midsomer and neighbouring villages - what does yours include?)

For a summer vacation spot, the small island of Gotland is very perilous. In this, the third in Mari Jungstedt's Anders Knutas series set on this island, the author continues strands begun in the earlier novels. For example, the story of journalist Johan Berg and Emma who have now progressed to having a baby.

The main story was well told and the elements came together quite well. The interaction between the police investigation led by Knutas and the press, represented by Berg, is a bit formulaic and predictable, with Berg releasing details ahead of when the police want to. I didn't come away feeling that I knew Knutas much better
though. There was a little humour with someone from Knutas's past joining the investigation team and insisting on calling him "Knutie". You could feel the thunder in the air!

Another aspect I found interesting is that when some of the interviews need to be conducted in English, Knutas has to use another team member to conduct the questioning, because his own English is inadequate. This adds to his level of frustration with the lack of progress in the investigation. As his own family go off to the mainland for their summer holidays and he has to stay behind Knutas becomes even more frustrated.

So, this is a good read, but make sure you read the earlier novels first to get the best out of the continuing stories.

My rating: 4.5

Other reviews:

My reviews of earlier novels:

Another novel in the series was published in English in 2010: THE KILLER'S ART.
See reviews at Crime Scraps, DJ'sKrimiblog, and International Noir Fiction

Reminder: Book Giveaway - just 3 more days to enter

You have until Christmas Eve to try your luck at this giveaway of THREE SECONDS by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom.

Check the original post for details on how to enter.

21 December 2010

Canadian Book Challenge 2010-2011 Update, 20 December

The Canadian Book Challenge is hosted by John Mutford who blogs at The Book Mine Set.
You have one year to read 13 Canadian books and review them somewhere online, from Canada Day, July 1st, 2010- Canada Day, July 1st, 2011. There will be check-ins at the beginning of each month to see how everyone is progressing and have their current status marked in the sidebar of this blog. Participants are encouraged to read each others' reviews, discuss the books, and cheer one another on.

As always, my books will all be crime fiction.

So far
  1. 4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER,  Louise Penny (20 July 2010)
  2. 4.6, ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS, Peter Robinson (10 September 2010)
  3. 4.5, FEAR THE WORST, Linwood Barclay (11 October 2010)
  4. 4.5, NEGATIVE IMAGE, Vicki Delany (17 December 2010)
already on my shelves:
Peter Robinson, A DEDICATED MAN
Peter Robinson, BAD BOY
Vicki Delany, WHITEOUT
James W. Nichol, MIDNIGHT CAB
William Deverell, APRIL FOOL


On my Kindle


On order from the library
Louise Penny, BURY YOUR DEAD

Linwood Barclay, NEVER LOOK AWAY

Suggestions from blog readers: Catherine Hunter, Michael van Rooy and Allan Levine.

Good reference point: Arthur Ellis Awards shortlist; past winners

Virtual Peaks to be scaled
GLEN VALLEY (1 book read)
WHITE HILL (2 books read)
ISHPATINA RIDGE (3 books read)
MOUNT CARLETON (4 books read)
BALDY MOUNTAIN (5 books read)
CYPRESS HILLS (6 books read)
MONT D'IBERVILLE (7 books read)
MOUNT CAUBVICK (8 books read)
BARBEAU PEAK (9 books read)
MOUNT NIRVANA (10 books read)
MOUNT COLUMBIA (11 books read)
MOUNT FAIRWEATHER (12 books read)
MOUNT LOGAN (13 or more books read)

20 December 2010

Successful shopping: the year of the book

'Tis official: it is the year of the book in the Smith household!
We successfully completed our Christmas shopping yesterday. Visited 2 bookstores and got the lot.
Not all crime fiction of course: have also catered for the cooks, YAs, footy fans, meticulous record keepers, and young uns.

19 December 2010

Sunday Salon: 19 December, only a few more sleeps!

A quieter week here on MiP.
I did manage to get my 130th book for the year finished.  They are listed on Smik's Reviews.

Just a reminder that I have a book giveway running of an exciting new novel, due to be released in the US on 4 January 2011. You have until Christmas Eve to enter.
THREE SECONDS, Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström

This week, on December 22,  the final edition of the year of the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival will be posted. If you read and write about Agatha Christie novels in your blog, you might consider joining the Carnival next year. It runs monthly around 22/23 of the month.

Other things to do: 
  • Suggest a Christmas Title: use this to link to any reviews you've done this year of Christmas related books.
  • Sign up for Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2011. Each week, beginning Monday 10 January 2011, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week. Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname. This is really an easy meme to participate in.
  • Looking forward: I'll be collecting your "best crime fiction reads" for 2010 early in 2011. Stay tuned.
This week's posts:
Headlines & News
TBRN (To Be Read Next)
  • next - UNKNOWN, Mari Jungstedt
  • now on audio - OUR LADY OF PAIN, Elena Forbes
  • next on Kindle - ROOM, Emma Donoghue
  • then STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG , Kate Atkinson
  • next Agatha Christie - DUMB WITNESS

      18 December 2010

      Gingerbread Houses 2010

      I need to have my annual boast about the daughters' skills in creating gingerbread houses. It is a "tradition" Kathryn created and then inducted Alison into. Now separated by thousands of kms they continue..

      Ali's in Adelaide have lots of colour

      Kathryn's in Abu Dhabi are a bit more restrained this year

      17 December 2010

      Review: NEGATIVE IMAGE, Vicki Delany

      • Format: Kindle Edition
      • File Size: 345 KB
      • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
      • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (September 8, 2010)
      • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
      • Language: English
      • Source: I bought it.

      What would you do if you believe the person you trust most in the world has betrayed you? What would you do if you discover that the person you trust most in the world believes you capable of betrayal? 

      A famous photographer arrives in Trafalgar to do a feature on mountain tourism, but also to re-connect with the woman who left him twenty-five years ago to marry another man. Today she just happens to be married to Trafalgar City Police Sergeant John Winters.
      The photographer is found dead in his luxury hotel room, shot once in the back of the head, and suspicion falls upon Eliza Winters. John Winters slowly comes to realize that he doesn’t know the woman to whom he has been married for twenty-five years as well as he thought he did.
      Unable to help the Sergeant, Constable Molly Smith has her own troubles: a series of B&Es has the peaceful town in an uproar, her overprotective Mountie boyfriend is fighting with her colleagues, and a vengeful stalker is watching her every move. When tragedy strikes at the heart of her own family, Molly can’t even turn to her mother, Lucky, for help.

      My take
      I've read three of Vicki Delany's Molly Smith series now and this, #4, is the best.
      Molly has developed well as a policewoman, and she really comes alive on the page. The plot has some good strands that all come together nicely.The setting in the small Canadian town feels realistic and Delany has really fleshed the town dynamics out well. It is worth trying to track down some of the earlier titles in the series.

      My rating: 4.5

      Review on Reactions to Reading 
      Review by Joan Barfoot who says "It's a crime not to read Vicki Delany.... one of Canada's best crime fiction writers."

      Read the first chapter:  click here
      Read the second chapter: click here

      I read NEGATIVE IMAGE as part of the Canadian Reading Challenge

      My other reviews:

      16 December 2010

      Forgotten Books: SLEIGHT OF BODY, Ralph McInerny.

      This week's contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books comes from my records of 1991.

      SLEIGHT OF BODY aka ABRACADAVER (1989) is #12 in McInerny's Father Dowling series.

      For Father Dowling, a ring holds the key to his investigation into the brutal murder of Aggie Miller, a member of his parish, and the disappearance of Frances Grice, the missing wife of a local millionaire entrepreneur.

      The Father Dowling series consisted of 29 titles published 1977-2009.
      Ralph McInerney (1929-2010, was a prolific writer who taught for over forty years at the University of Notre Dame, where he was the director of the Jacques Maritain Center. He wrote at least five other series,  including one under the pen name Monica Quill. His other pen names included Harry Austin, Matthew FitzRalph, Ernan Mackey, and Edward Mackin. McInerny was awarded the Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award, and was a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

      See the article on Wikipedia

      The following is the synopsis for the Father Dowling Mysteries, a television series that ran in the US 1987-1991.
      Father Frank Dowling is a Catholic priest who continually stumbles over murders, abductions, and other high crimes in his hometown, Chicago, Illinois. He is assisted by Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski, who does much of the legwork for Frank. Sister Steve is a streetwise nun who grew up in a rough housing project nearby, so she can hotwire a car and handle firearms with ease. She knows the language of the streets and converses in it fluently.
      Father Philip Prestwick is the ladder-climbing assistant to the Archbishop, who just happens to drop in before meals, prepared by housekeeper Marie Murkin, who provides comic relief.

      THOU SHALT NOT KILL looks an interesting collection to search for.
      A collection of mystery stories culled from the pages of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine features the work of John Mortimer, G. K. Chesterton, Ralph McInerny, and others..

      N.B. Friday's Forgotten Books will be in "holiday" mode on 24th December and 31st December.
      Normal postings will resume on 6 January 2011.

      14 December 2010

      Review: BLOOD ATONEMENT, Dan Waddell

       Edition: Large print edition published by W F Howes Ltd
      ISBN 978-1-40745-171-1
      392 pages

      Amazon Product Description
      Katie Drake was an affluent single mother living in Queen’s Park – until someone cut her throat and tore out her tongue. Worse still, the killer has abducted her fourteen-year-old daughter, Naomi. Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster quickly sees chilling parallels with the disappearance of teenager Leonie Stamey three years earlier. With hopes fading of finding Naomi alive, he calls on genealogist Nigel Barnes to piece together the links between the families of the two girls. The trail leads Nigel back to 1890 ..... A husband and wife fleeing a terrible crime in their past, and harbouring a secret that's now having bloody repercussions in the present …

      My take
      Dan Waddell is one of my "finds" for 2010. I reviewed his first novel in the Nigel Barnes series THE BLOOD DETECTIVE  just over 5 weeks ago and remarked then what a great read it was. BLOOD ATONEMENT uses a similar plot device, a crime in the past that inspires crimes in the present, and perhaps that is a weakness, despite the fact that this is not really copy-cat killing. The sleuthing trio are an interesting combination: genealogist Nigel Barnes, and detectives DCI Grant Foster, and DS Heather Jenkins. Foster was quite severely injured in THE BLOOD DETECTIVE, and it helps in understanding the relationship between Barnes and Jenkins if you have read the first novel, I think.

      One of the satisfying elements of this story is the way Waddell lays information before the reader, allows you to draw your own conclusion, just ahead of one of the sleuths voicing the same idea. I found it compelling reading. I'm hoping there is a third in the series. The final pages of the book seem to imply that there is.

      An interesting feature of this edition of the novel is that the "voice from the past" and current investigation are given different font styles. This may be just a feature of the large print edition. If you click on the cover image that will take you to Amazon where you can read an extract from the first few pages, and, rather oddly, the complete Epilogue. You'll note that in that extract the "voice from the past" is in italics.

      My rating: 4.6

      I couldn't help wondering what inspired Waddell to explore this plot.
      Dan Waddell explains here.
      Check what Blood Atonement is at Wikipedia.

      12 December 2010

      Review: THE UNCOMMON READER, Alan Bennett

      Faber & Faber 2007
      A Novella
      ISBN 978-1-84668-049-6
      124 pages
      Source: borrowed from a friend

      Publisher's blurb
      When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen's transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word.

      My take
      I know, this is a real departure from my usual fare of crime fiction.
      The blurb on the inside fly cover says
      Subversive and enjoyable, THE UNCOMMON READER offers the perfect argument for reading, written by one of its great champions, Alan Bennett.
      The Queen's venture into reading provides advancement "upstairs" for Norman as he becomes her amanuensis, acquirer of books as she becomes more addicted to her reading. Her reading is not popular with those closest to her, particularly the royal household. For some, attempts to subvert her new habits have unforeseen consequences. Things that once seemed important to her no longer seem so, until finally she realises where her reading is leading her.

      THE UNCOMMON READER is written with a dry wit that makes it all the more enjoyable. It also makes you think about what you get out of reading.

      My rating: 4.5

      Review in The Guardian

      Review: PLUM PUDDING MURDER, Joanne Fluke

      • Format: Kindle Edition
      • File Size: 278 KB
      • Print Length: 256 pages
      • Publisher: Kensington Books (October 1, 2009)
      • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
      • Language: English
      • ASIN: B002OM67MM
      • Source: I bought it
       Publisher's Blurb
      The yuletide season in Lake Eden, Minnesota, guarantees a white Christmas, delectable holiday goodies from Hannah Swensen's bakery, The Cookie Jar and murder. As a shadow hangs over her friends' Christmas wedding, Hannah's determined to cook a killer's goose before anyone else gets burned. . . 

      The Cookie Jar's busiest time of the year also happens to be the most wonderful time. . .for Christmas cookies, Hannah's own special plum pudding and romance! Holiday orders are high, and Hannah's slated to provide dessert at the Reverend Knudsen's upcoming nuptials. She's busy as can be and loving it. She also gets a kick out of "Lunatic Larry Jaeger's Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot," a kitschy carnival taking place smack-dab in the middle of the village green. Larry thinks he's crazy like a fox with his wild business schemes, but this time, the entrepreneur may have bitten off more than he can chew. Rumor has it that Larry's in the red an idea that takes a sinister turn when Hannah discovers the man himself dead as a doornail in his own office. . . 

      It seems quite a few people would have liked to fill Larry's stocking with coal and then bash him with it including his bitter ex-wife, his ex-partner's daughter, a woman he was wooing, and the Crazy Elf Tree Lot's extremely exasperated investors. . .
      Now, with so many suspects to investigate and the twelve days of Christmas ticking away, Hannah's running out of time to nab a murderous Scrooge who doesn't want her to see the New Year. . .
      Includes Hannah's favorite Christmas dinner recipes! 

      My take
      Crime fiction really takes a back seat in this light fluffy read, #13 in Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen series. It's hard to take murder seriously when you are constantly being distracted by delicious recipes, placed in the book almost at the end of every chapter.
      Not that there is anything wrong with the story. It is well plotted and all the threads resolve. Hannah coopts friends and family to help her investigate mysteries large and small, but in the long run she is the one who comes up with the answers.
      And for those who like it, there is also a little light romance.

      My rating: 3.4

      Joanne Fluke's website

      Recipes you'll find in this book
      Easy Cheesy Biscuits
      Hot Fudge Sundae Cakes
      Holly Jolly Coffee
      White Chocolate Pumpkin Dreams
      Christmas Cheese Rounds
      Pork and Beans Bread
      Frosted Ginger Cookies
      Minnesota Plum Pudding
      Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies
      Fudge-Mallow Cookie Bars
      Christmas Lace Cookies
      Triple Threat Chocolate Cheesecake Pie
      Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
      Frosting Splatters
      Orange Julius Cookies
      Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
      Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
      Dixie Lee’s German Apple Cake
      Nancy Dunn Bar Cookies
      Shrimp Louie Spread
      Holiday Squash Soup
      Pineapple Cranberry Jell-O Salad
      Christmas Bell Salad
      Jeweled Pork Roast
      Lingonberry Gravy
      Scandinavian Spuds
      Cranberry Scones
      Petite Pea Boats

      Sunday Salon: 12 December, Reading Challenges, Christmas titles, Book Giveaway

      After taking on a Weekly Geek's task last weekend, I got a bit carried away this week looking at Reading Challenges for 2011.
      I think I'm almost done now. My updated post lists 7 challenges I've signed up for, and a couple of other tempting ideas. I'm running a couple myself including the Crime Fiction Alphabet.

      A couple of Christmas links:
      I'm running a Book Giveaway: THREE SECONDS, Anders Roslund and Borge Hellström
      The publicists will send anywhere in the world, so spread the word for me.

      This week's posts
      News & Headlines
      TBRN (To Be Read Next)
      • next - BLOOD ATONEMENT, Dan Waddell
      • now on audio - OUR LADY OF PAIN, Elena Forbes
      • now on Kindle - PLUM PUDDING MURDER, Joanne Fluke
      • then STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG , Kate Atkinson
      • next Agatha Christie - DUMB WITNESS

      11 December 2010

      Review: LET THE DEAD LIE, Malla Nunn

      Pan Macmillan Australia 2010
      ISBN 978-1-4050-3920-8
      390 pages
      Source: my local library

      Publisher's blurb:

      In Let the Dead Lie, Cooper is a changed man. Forced to resign from his position of Detective Sergeant and re-classified as mixed race, he winds up powerless and alone in the tough coastal city of Durban, mixing labouring with a bit of surveillance work for his old boss, Major van Niekerk.
      Patrolling the freight yards one night, Cooper stumbles upon the body of a young white boy and, the detective in him can not, or will not, walk away. When two more bodies – this time black women – are discovered at his boarding house, he unwittingly becomes the prime suspect in a triple murder case.
      At van Niekerk's behest, Cooper's given 48 hours to clear his name and – unofficially – solve the three murders. And so, temporarily back to being a European Detective Sergeant, he launches headlong into Durban's seedy underworld, a viper's nest of prostitution, drug running and violence run by a colourful cast of characters including wannabe Indian gangsters; a mysterious figure who drives a white De Soto convertible; a Zion Gospel preacher, and the exquisite yet streetwise Lana, who also happens to be van Niekerk's mistress...

      My take
      LET THE DEAD LIE takes place in Durban, South Africa, in May 1953, 8 months after the action of Malla Nunn's debut crime novel A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE which I reviewed earlier this year. Events moved on after the conclusion of the action covered in that novel. Apartheid has become deeper entrenched in Souther Africa, and just 6 months earlier Emmanuel Cooper lost his job in the police force because he upset the Security forces. He now works for his former boss in an undercover role.

      Among the characters in LET THE DEAD LIE, and important to understanding the plot are Russians who were close to Josef Stalin, by this time dead. The writing style of LET THE DEAD LIE has a modern feel about it, and I kept forgetting that the action was taking place in 1953. The plot is many stranded and complex. Adding to the complexity are details from Cooper's past, some going back to his childhood, and some from his experiences in Paris in 1945 at the end of the war.

      I was glad to meet up again with Zweigman, the German doctor, and Shabalala, the Zulu police constable from A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE. I commented in my review of  A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE  about the sergeant major who offers Cooper advice in times of stress, particularly when he has a migraine coming on. He plays with Cooper's head in LET THE DEAD LIE too.

      It would have been remarkable if Australian author Malla Nunn had been able to achieve the same level of writing in LET THE DEAD LIE as she did in A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO DIE. However, I do think this second novel has a level of complexity that the first didn't, and is therefore a more difficult read, and I struggled at times to know what was going on.

      My rating: 4.5

      Other Reviews:
      Reactions to Reading

      LET THE DEAD LIE was a nomination for the 2010 CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award.

      Crime Calls at Christmas: Crime Fiction titles

      These are crime fiction novels recorded in my database over the last 5 years, where Christmas looms, or a crime takes place over the Christmas period. Some of the full reviews are in my blog, others not.
      In some the fact that Christmas is on the way is something the author has thought important enough to tell us. That knowledge seems to add to the atmosphere in which the story is set. Should the festive season give immunity against crime?

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

      COLD GRANITE, Stuart Macbride, my rating 4.8
      Aberdeen, oil capital of Europe … Christmas is coming, cold, dark and wet, bringing death with it.
      It's DS Logan McRae's first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and it couldn't get much worse. Four-year-old David Reid's body is discovered in a ditch, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. There's a killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood.
      If that wasn't enough, Logan also has to contend with a new boss, DI Insch, who doesn't suffer fools gladly and thinks everyone's a fool, and his own ex-girlfriend, the beautiful but chilly Isobel MacAlister, who also happens to be the chief pathologist. The only good news is WPC 'Ball Breaker' Watson, Logan's new guardian angel.
      The dead are piling up in the morgue almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going missing. More are going to die. If Logan isn't careful, he's going to end up joining them.
      Very readable. Black humour mixed in with the serious stuff about the world of crime and child abuse. Interesting thread about how Colin Miller from the press is getting his information and the effect that the press can have on an investigation.

      BLOOD FROM A STONE, Donna Leon, my rating 4.8
      On a cold Venetian night shortly before Christmas, a street vendor is killed in a scuffle in Campo Santo Stefano. The closest witnesses to the event are the American tourists who had been browsing the man's wares—fake designer handbags—before his death. The dead man had been working as a vu cumpra, one of the many African immigrants peddling goods outside normal shop hours and trading without work permits.
      Commissario Brunetti's response is that of everybody involved: Why would anyone kill an illegal immigrant? Because these workers have few social connections and little money, infighting seems to be the answer. And yet the killings have all the markings of a professional operation. Once Brunetti begins to investigate this unfamiliar Venetian underworld, he discovers that matters of great value are at stake within the secretive society.
      While his wife, Paola, struggles to come to terms with their young daughter's prejudices about the immigrants, Brunetti finds that his own police force shares many of the same biases. Warned by Patta, his superior, to desist from further involvement in the case, Brunetti only becomes more determined to unearth the truth. How far will Brunetti be able to penetrate the murky subculture of Venice's illegal community? And how high does the corruption reach into the upper echelons of Brunetti's own world and the world at large?

      WATER LIKE A STONE, Deborah Crombie, my rating 4.8
      The first Christmas with your partner's parents is never an easy one, and Gemma James is not sure she is looking forward to the one that she and Duncan Kincaid and their two boys will be spending with his parents in Cheshire. However on the eve of their arrival, Duncan's sister Juliet finds the mummified body of a baby concealed in the wall of a barn she is renovating, and everything takes on a different twist. Duncan finds the investigating officer called to the scene is someone he was at school with. Despite the setting in the small Shropshire town where Duncan Kincaid grew up, WATER LIKE A STONE has a big canvas feel to it. There are a number of threads, at least one murder, a couple of mini-mysteries to be solved, and plenty of action, all taking place in the holiday season of Christmas to New Year. Most enjoyable read. #11 in the James/Kincaid series

      THE REDEEMER, Jo Nesbo, my rating 4.8
      The shooting of a Salvation Army officer at point blank range as Christmas shoppers stand listening to a street concert in Oslo is almost unthinkable. Many saw the assailant, the gun in his hand, but predictably, afterwards, they were almost of no help. If there is an irony, it is that the victim should not have been there, having changed his shift with his brother.
      At Police HQ Harry Hole is investigating another case, the death of a young heroin addict, found dead in a unit at the container terminal. Harry's boss Bjarne Moller is leaving. If it hadn't been for Moller's protective wing Harry would have been off the force years ago. Harry mistrusts his new boss, Gunnar Hagen, who threatens to make him toe the line.
      You can almost feel Nesbo building this book, layer on layer, investigating how events that took place over a decade before, can have consequences in present time. You certainly forget that it is translated, so natural is the English.
      We've already met Harry Hole, most recently in NEMESIS, and before that in THE REDBREAST and in THE DEVIL'S STAR. THE REDEEMER is a great read, a book whose ending may shock. Harry's personal life is also once again at the centre of this book.

      HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS, Agatha Christie, my rating 4.7
      Simeon Lee gathers his family around him for Christmas, including his black sheep of a son Harry, whom everyone had assumed (or hoped) was either dead or in gaol somewhere. His granddaughter Pilar, whose mother had died the previous year, turns up as does the son of his old mining partner in South Africa.
      On Christmas Eve Simeon Lee signs his death warrant by telling his collected family that he is about to change his will.
      "Your mother had the brains of a louse! And it seems to me that she transmitted those brains to her children!". He raised himself up suddenly. A red spot appeared on each cheek. His voice came high and shrill. "You're not worth a penny piece, any of you!  I'm sick of you all! You are not men! You're weaklings - a set of nanmby-pamby weaklings. Pilar's worth any two of you put together! I'll swear to heaven I've got a better son somewhere in the world than any of you, even if you are born on the right side of the blanket. "
      This is a locked room mystery. There are plenty of suspects. Simeon Lord is found with his throat cut on the other side of a door with the key on the inside.

      FROST AT CHRISTMAS, R. D. Wingfield, my rating 4.7
      Ten days to Christmas. 8 year old Tracey Uphill disappears on her way home from Sunday School. D.I. Jack Frost has been assigned a new helper, the Chief Constable's nephew, D.C. Clive Barnard. As Christmas approaches, Frost is typically behind with his paper work and the trail to Tracey seems cold. His investigations unearth information about the vicar, about a teacher who regularly visits Tracey's prostitute mother, and about a robbery that was committed a long time ago.

      PAST REASON HATED, Peter Robinson, my rating 4.7
      Susan Gay, newly appointed Detective Constable at Eastvale, her second day on the job in D.I. Bank's team, is called to a murder scene. It is 22 December, Christmas is approaching, and the rest of the team are at D.S. Hatchley's wedding celebrations. The victim Caroline Hartley lies stretched out on the lounge in front of the fire, with multiple stab wounds in her throat and chest, and blood drenching her whole body. She is part of the cast of a local dramatic production of Twelfth Night, and right from the beginning it seems as if there are far too many suspects.

      LIGHT ON SNOW, Anita Shreve, my rating 4.7
      Thirty years old Nicky looks back at the event that changed her and her father from gloom and depression to hope for the future. Just prior to Christmas 1983 in New Hampshire, twelve years old Nicky Dillon and her father Robert walk in the woods when they find an abandoned newborn female with the umbilical cord still attached. They take the blood drenched infant to the nearest hospital while the police search for the parents. The incident shakes both Dillons to the core because it serves as a fragile reminder of life; two years ago Nicky's mother and her one-year-old sister died in a car crash in Westchester County. Not a mystery, but a good read none-the-less

      THE SWEETNESS OF LIFE, Paulus Hochgatterer, my rating 4.6
      A little girl is playing Ludo with her grandfather, having cocoa, when the door bell rings. It is Christmas time, the presents have been opened, but Ludo is a game she and her grandfather always play. Grandfather goes to the door, talks to someone there, gets his coat, and goes out.
      Opposite, its windows lit up, is the house where the little girl and her family live. When her grandfather doesn't come back the little girl puts on her new green quilted jacket with the squirrel on it and goes out to find him. She follows footprints and finds her grandfather's body on the ramp that leads into the barn. There is no doubt it is his body, the clothes are right, but his head has been squashed flat. The little girl goes home and says nothing for the next few days.

      A CHRISTMAS CAROL (audio), Charles Dickens, my rating 4.6
      I know, I know, I can can hear you! This is not crime fiction! This audio book came to me as a Christmas gift from Audible.com.
      The book is presented in five parts, and you probably all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, whose name is synonymous with penny pinching, mean-ness, and all enjoyment of Christmas being dashed as humbug. He is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, the present, and the future, and brought to his senses before it is too late.
      This is a most enjoyable performance by Tim Curry.

      CHOCOLAT (Audio CD), Joanne Harris, my rating 4.5
      Vianne Rocher, with her small daughter Anouk, arrives at a small French village on a festival day leading up to Christmas. She decides to stay and sets up a chocolaterie in the square directly opposite the church. As Lent approaches the village priest identifies her as a corrupting influence, confirmed in his mind when Vianne decides to have an Easter Chocolate Festival. Is this a mystery book? - some would say not - but there is plenty of mystery, even an old case of murder - and who is the old priest in a coma whom Father Reynaud visits on such a regular basis? Is Vianne herself who she thinks she is? Beautifully read by Juliet stevenson - a BBC Audiobook on 8 CDs.

      TIED UP IN TINSEL, Ngaio Marsh, my rating 4.5
      Every member of the staff at Halberds, but one, is a convicted murderer. Troy Alleyn, wife of DI Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard, is spending Christmas there, her husband out of the country. She is painting the portrait of Hilary Bill-Tasman, the rather eccentric and enormously wealth landed proprietor of Halberds Manor.
      The other members of the Halberds Christmas houseparty, Hilary's Aunt Bed and Uncle Flea, his uncle Bert, and his fiance Cressida Tottenham, round out a rather unusual cast of characters.
      Bill-Tasman has organised an elaborate Christmas Day treat for local children in which an ancient bewhiskered and bearded Druid arrives towing a sledge of presents. But after the event the Druid can't be found, and other pranks seem designed to cast the blame for his disappearance on the murderous staff.
      Enter Roderick Alleyn just returned from Australia.

      WOMAN WITH BIRTHMARK, Hakan Nesser, my rating 4.5
      A pre-Christmas funeral, a solitary mourner, a dead woman whose whole life had been littered with defeats and messy failures, a death bed promise to exact revenge. Just over three weeks later the murders begin.
      When the first victim's wife comes home from the theatre near midnight she finds her husband dead just inside the door, shot twice in the chest, twice under the belt.
      There are few clues for the police to work on. None of the neighbours noticed anything, there seems to have been no motive, the killer simply shot Malik when he opened the front door, then closed the door and walked away.
      Solving this case, amid a rising death toll, takes Inspector Van Veeteren and his team the best part of two months. The tension rises as the reader identifies the next victims, and the race is on to see who gets to them first: the police or the killer.

      MURDER IN THE DARK, Kerry Greenwood, my rating 4.5
      #16 in the Phryne Fisher series. It is the end of 1928. We celebrate Christmas with Phyrne and her family and then she is off to the Last Best party of 1928, being held by the Golden Twins, Isabella and Gerald Templar. The party is a 4 day event being held at Werribee Manor outside of Melbourne. Someone tries to dissuade Phryne from going, but that of course makes her more determined to be there. Once the party gets underway there is plenty to keep Phryne occupied, including cryptic threatening notes, an extravaganza of activities for rich young things, the kidnapping of a child, and the discovery of one that has been kidnapped and belongs to no-one.

      THE SHOOTING IN THE SHOP, Simon Brett, my rating 4.4
      Nothing in Fethering happens unseen. There's always someone watching.
      Christmas is approaching in the seaside village of Fethering and Jude is horrified that her neighbour Carole Seddon, retired public servant, has chosen such dull presents for her immediate family. To make matters worse Carole's son Stepehen, his wife gaby and her baby grandaughter Lily will be coming down for Christmas Day.
      So Jude takes Carole off to a newly opened trendy shop called Gallimaufray. A few days later, when the shop is burnt down fire investigators find the body of a young woman in the burnt out premises. By this time Carole has met the owners of the shop at Jude's pre-Christmas open house party, and so neither she nor Jude have any hesitation in becoming personally involved in finding out what really happened.

      THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY, Agatha Christie, my rating 4.3
      Christmas is approaching. Snow has fallen in England over the last four days and the landscape on the fringe of Dartmoor at Sittaford House is several feet deep in snow. To all intents and purposes the tiny village of Sittaford is almost completely cut off.
      The winter tenants of Sittaford House, Mrs Willett and her daughter Violet, are entertaining the residents of the nearby estate cottages to afternoon tea. To pass the time the group tries a spot of table turning. When the table spells out the message ""Captain Trevelyan ... dead... murder"", one of the party, Trevelyan's lifelong friend Major Burnaby decides to make the six mile trek into the village on foot, just to check his friend's welfare.

      CROWNER'S QUEST, Bernard Knight, my rating 4.3
      Set in Exeter 1194 AD. Sir  John de Wolfe, ex-Crusader and king's man through and through, is the King's Coroner in Exeter. He leaves a party being given on Christmas Eve by his wife Matilda to investigate the death of a canon found hanging in his cell. Set against the background of a country on the verge of rebellion against its absentee king, Richard Couer de Lion. The action comes thick and fast, a local lord is killed, and we learn a lot about the Norman legal system.

      WINTER OF SECRETS, Vicki Delany, my rating 4.3
      It's Christmas Eve at Trafalgar in the Kootenay area of British Columbia and there's lots of snow. It's the storm of the decade and the roads are icy. Constable Molly (Moonlight) Smith, recently off probation, is on duty overnight, and it promises to be a busy one. Just after midnight a car goes into the river.
      The occupants are tourists, a couple of young men staying at a local B&B with friends. They've come to Trafalgar for the skiing. They are both pronounced dead when the car is retrieved from the river. The only trouble is that the pathologist discovers a day or two later that the passenger had been dead when the car went into the water.

      FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Kerry Greenwood, my rating 4.3
      For those who haven't yet made her acquaintance Corinna Chapman is an accountant turned baker who has a shop in Melbourne, just off Flinders' Lane.
      FORBIDDEN FRUIT is #5 in the Corinna Chapman series (you may already be aware of Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series which also has a new title out this year).
      It is December in Melbourne, in the lead up to Christmas. As it often is at this time of the year, Melbourne is in the grip of a heatwave, with north wind days every day: hectic, invasive, dust-bearing wind like dragon's breath. Corinna and her assistant run a boutique bakery in the ground floor of an old building named, Roman style, Insula, with apartments in the floors above populated by a range of interesting/weird characters.
      The Corinna Chapman books are light cosy reads, sure to be popular with those who like food with their mystery. In this one Corinna's talented assistant (and Corinna is no mean cook herself) is in search for the perfect recipe for glace cherries. Everyday their bakery "Earthly Delights" serves up a mouth watering range of muffins and breads. As always, in the final pages of the book, Corinna delivers some tried and true recipes for readers to try. The ones at the end of FORBIDDEN FRUIT are for glace cherries, Christmas cakes, Vegie delights, and variety of muffins. One of the things I think Kerry Greenwood gets right is a taste of Melbourne weather at this time of the year.

      A CANTERBURY CRIME, Brian Kavanagh, my rating 4.3
      Antiques dealer Hazel Whitby and her Australian companion Belinda Lawrence have been asked to catalogue and value the contents of a deceased estate, the Manor House. It is just a few days to Christmas and Hazel and Belinda will be spending Christmas in Canterbury.
      Professor de Gray died nearly six months earlier, supposedly from a heart attack. But Hazel and Belinda hear stories of there having been "blood on his head" and the Professor's body was cremated with almost indecent haste, the day after his death.

      A CHRISTMAS JOURNEY, Anne Perry, my rating 4.1
      A bit disappointing. A novella rather than a full novel. With the London season over, Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould like most of her peers is now looking forward to the Christmas holidays. Vespasia's husband is abroad on business and her children remain in London while she attends a party at Applecross, home of friend Omegus Jones. Vespasia feels good about life in general, but hers in particular as she reflects that her nation is prospering in the peace of the middle of the century though rumors fly that war in the Crimea is imminent. However, at a gala, Vespasia's friend Isobel Alvie's behaves is rather spiteful and nasty especially towards widow Gwendolyn Kilmuir. The next day, Gwendolyn is found dead, apparently having jumped off a bridge. Everyone blames the tragedy on acrimonious Isobel due to her cruel words so no one will talk to the "culprit" except Vespasia. A despondent remorseful Isobel accompanied by her only loyal friend Vespasia journey to Scotland to offer sympathy to Gwendolyn's mother where they will learn the truth behind the suicide and the true meaning of friendship."

      MISS MARPLE: COMPLETE SHORT STORIES, Agatha Christie, my rating 4.1
      20 short stories actually come from only 3 collections:     * The Thirteen Problems     * Miss Marple's Final Cases     * The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding.  a bit patchy, and a couple of them were downright improbable. All the stories tended to suffer a bit from the need to write sparingly, to keep the plot to short story length. Sometimes the story was finished off, and tidied up, a little too quickly for my liking.

      THE DEVIL'S COMPANIONS, John Misto, my rating 4
      On Christmas Eve, three-year-old Anna Brennan disappears from a crowded church during midnight mass. She is kidnapped, believed murdered. Twenty years later, in the process of a burglary investigation, a startling piece of evidence accidentally comes to light. Could Anna still be alive? If so, who abducted her, and why? Detective Constable Greg Raine is assigned the task of solving the case and reuniting Anna with her parents. But a nightmare of treachery and murder lies ahead. In a shattering climax, the detective unearths the secret behind Anna’s disappearance … and it’s a discovery that comes at a terrifying price.

      A HOLLY, JOLLY MURDER, Joan Hess, my rating 3.2
      This is the 11th title in Joan Hess' Claire Malloy series. Claire owns a book shop in Farberville Arkansas. As Christmas approaches, business is rather slow. Then less than a week before Christmas and the Book Depot has a visit from Malthea Hendlerson, an Arch Druid in search of New Age titles. Claire is able to order the books in for her.
      Claire's teenage daughter Caron and her friend Inez have found what look like the ideal, well paying, holiday jobs at Santa's Workshop. They will be reindeer assisting in taking Christmas photos of children sitting on Santa's lap. What could be simpler?
      Claire's friend Peter, the local police chief, has had to leave town for a few days to deal with a family emergency, and Claire is feeling rather disappointed. But the final few days to Christmas prove to be far from uneventful. Claire is invited by Malthea to be an observer at a winter solstice celebration. Just before dawn, as the ceremony is about to start, an older male member of the Druidic community is found dead, murdered. The subsequent hunt for the murderer reveals that the Druidic community is full of problems.
      Just to complicate things Caron's job as Santa's helper turns out to be part of a scam for the unsuspecting.
      In the police chief's prolonged absence Claire works with the local officers in finding out the truth about who committed the murder and why.

      AGATHA RAISIN and KISSING CHRISTMAS GOODBYE, M. C. Beaton, my rating 3
      Phyllis Tamworthy, about to celebrate her 80th birthday, contacts Agatha Raisin because she thinks someone from her family will try to murder her at her birthday celebrations. And they do - Mrs Tamworthy dies of hemlock poisoning despite the fact that Agatha is on the case, and actually staying in the manor house! That's enough to raise any female PI's dander. Phyllis Tamworthy was universally hated by her family and all the villagers, so the list of suspects reads like the local telephone directory.


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