31 October 2011

The counting game OR 10 most important questions

I'm basing this meme on those you can find at various blogs:
Ten questions

The book I’m currently reading:

Oh, this is easy. I've found that really I can only read one book at a time. I've recently got hooked on Sally Spencer books and so I'm currently reading THE DARK LADY which is #4 in the Inspector Woodend series. These books are very nearly cozies, police procedurals without a lot of blood and gore, and some acceptable mysteries. Very palatable without being too stunning or mind stretching.

The last book I finished:

I'm going to talk about a made-from-paper book here. It was another Sally Spencer. #1 in her Monika Paniatowski series, THE DEAD HAND OF HISTORY.
I didn't mention in my review how clever I think the cover is.

The next book I want to read:

This ought to be an easy one to answer but, you see, I've got so many to choose from and I can hear them all calling out to me.
But I've really been letting the side down with my Australian crime fiction reading and so I think it will be Garry Disher's WHISPERING DEATH. There's a Fair Dinkum Crime review by Bernadette here.

The last book I bought:

It is rather sad that I can't remember when I last bought a made-from-paper book. Yesterday I bought NEXT OF KIN by Danish (?) author Elsebeth Egholm for my Kindle.

The last book I was given:

Hakan Nesser's THE UNLUCKY LOTTERY arrived for review the other day. It looks great, but I think I've got a couple of earlier ones from the Inspector Van Veeteren series to read first. Where to get the time though? Looks great - blurb is intriguing.

The last book I borrowed from the library:

I borrow a lot of books from my local library which is part of a network of 7 public libraries that pool their resources. The most recent book was AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Agatha Christie.

The most recent e-book I read was 13, RUE THERESE by Elena Mauli Shapiro

Through her main character, an American researcher visiting Paris, the author pieces together the life story of a woman who left behind a box of momentoes. Not crime fiction, but a mystery nonetheless.

The last translated book I read:

was OUTRAGE by Arnaldur Indridason
I didn't feel OUTRAGE had the flair of earlier novels in the series, but is nevertheless still a very acceptable police procedural. It does also explore a number of contemporary issues: the pain that occurs when children leave home, the growing urbanisation of Iceland and the social dislocation that can occur, and how life in Iceland has changed in the last part of the twentieth century.

The book at the top of my Christmas list:

I think I'd like my own made-from-paper copy of AGATHA CHRISTIE'S SECRET NOTEBOOKS by John Curran. I borrowed it from the library recently and thought I might read it through, but it more a book you dip into. It is full of fascinating stuff but resembles delving into an encyclopaedia.

The so-far unpublished book are I'm most looking forward to reading:

I don't want to be a disappointment here but I'm quite happy to wait until I hear that something has been published and don't much follow "what's next".

30 October 2011

Review: 13 RUE THERESE, Elena Mauli Shapiro

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3611 KB
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0755374223
  • Publisher: Review (April 14, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004O0U5AC
  • Source: I bought it 
Product description (Amazon)

An American in Paris falls in love with two women, one of whom he can only only imagine, in this wonderful debut.
As he settles into his new office in Paris, American academic Trevor Stratton discovers a box full of century-old artifacts.
The pictures, letters and objects in the box relate to the life of Louise Brunet, a Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars. Trevor begins to piece together the story of Louise's life: her love for a cousin who died in the war, her marriage to a man who works for her father, and her attraction to a neighbour in her building at 13 rue Therese.
As he becomes enamored with the charming, feisty Louise of his imagination, he notices another alluring Frenchwoman, his clerk Josianne, who planted the mysterious box in his office, and with whom he decides he is falling in love. 

My take

Another reviewer described this as a puzzle-novel, and that description fits quite well. Can I make it clear though, that, while it sits on the fringes of mystery, it is not crime fiction. (No crimes are committed) It is rather like the process of piecing the evidence together, after the fashion of a jigsaw puzzle. I remember doing something similar with history students years ago. They were provided with a folder of documents and photos and encouraged to weave a story.

As American researcher Trevor Stratton works his way through Louise Brunet's box he documents items and writes letters about them to a person who appears to be his mentor. Through Stratton the author fictionalises the events of Louise Brunet's life. The events are out of order, described as the items are removed from the box. Sometimes alternative events are described for us. Stratton's letters usually describe the item he has taken out of the box, but sometimes things are embellished even further by his imagination.

Elena Mauli Shapiro nearly pulls this off, but loses me just a bit when she allows Stratton to slip back in time and momentarily converse with characters who have been long dead. The reader does come away with a sense of what Brunet's life might have been like, so to that extent Shapiro is successful. She tells us in the foreword how the novel was inspired by Lousie Brunet's "real" box:
    When I was a little girl growing up in Paris in the early 1980s, an old woman who lived a few floors up from my apartment died alone. Her name was Louise Brunet. She had no remaining relatives to come fetch her belongings, so the landlord had to clear them all out. He let the other tenants in the building scavenge through her stuff and take home silverware, jewellery, whatever they wanted. My mother salvaged a small box filled with mementos: old love letters from WWI, mesh church gloves, dried flowers, a rosary - many objects worth nothing but memories. This box is the sepulchre of Louise Brunet’s heart. The story behind the objects is lost; the objects are now the story. As I have carried this strange box through life and across the world, I have always intended to make a book out of it. This book now exists; you hold it in your hands. The Louise Brunet depicted within it is a fiction; the real Louise Brunet is irretrievable. Still, she gave me the stars. I merely drew the constellations.
In 13 RUE THERESE the box is in the possession of the academic department's secretary Josieanne who likes to leave it for a male academic to find, to see what he makes of it. Somehow the box always finds it's way back to her. And so she leaves it in a filing cabinet which the new American researcher will find in his new office. Trevor Stratton can't resist the temptation that the box provides.

In the novel many of the items are accompanied by footnotes which the reader is encouraged to look up as they often contain translations of French text, or historical information. 

I read the book on my Kindle and sometimes the graphics did not come over at all well and I was left wishing for colour, or at the very least the ability to see a larger version of the image. All the footnotes were at the end of the novel and so you had to pop backwards and forwards in the text. This doesn't work all that well with Kindle's "last location" system as it meant my "last read location" on another device (the app. on my phone) was always recorded as a location towards the end of the novel.

Visit the website for the novel at 13ruetherese.com. There you can see scanned copies of everything that was in the box.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Elena Mauli Shapiro grew up in Paris, and currently lives in California with her husband. She has amassed literature and writing degrees in and around the Bay Area (Stanford, Mills, Davis). Visit the website for her novel 13 rue Thérèse at 13ruetherese.com.

    29 October 2011

    Review: CAUGHT, Harlan Coben - audio

    Publisher's blurb (from author's site)

    17 year-old Haley McWaid is a good girl, the pride of her suburban New Jersey family, captain of the lacrosse team, headed off to college next year with all the hopes and dreams her doting parents can pin on her. Which is why, when her mother wakes one morning to find that Haley never came home the night before, and three months quickly pass without word from the girl, the community assumes the worst.

    Wendy Tynes is a reporter on a mission, to identify and bring down sexual predators via elaborate—and nationally televised—sting operations. Working with local police on her news program Caught in the Act, Wendy and her team have publicly shamed dozens of men by the time she encounters her latest target. Dan Mercer is a social worker known as a friend to troubled teens, but his story soon becomes more complicated than Wendy could have imagined.

    In a novel that challenges as much as it thrills, filled with the astonishing tension and unseen suburban machinations that have become Coben’s trademark, Caught tells the story of a missing girl, the community stunned by her loss, the predator who may have taken her, and the reporter who suddenly realizes she can’t trust her own instincts about this case—or the motives of the people around her.
    Read an extract, listen to a sample, here.

    My take

    When Wendy Tynes investigates Dan Mercer's background her curiosity is aroused by the fact that he is one of a Harvard group of friends who have all had a disastrous career collapse in the past 12 months. The evidence against Dan Mercer looks irrefutable, but what are the chances that he has been set up, that in fact he is innocent? When he goes into hiding after being acquitted on a technicality, Wendy's investigation, undertaken with the aim of proving Dan's guilt, takes her back 20 years when a prank changed lives forever.

    The plot twists and turns, and several times Wendy thinks she has nailed the real facts only to find there is yet another rabbit hole to investigate.

    There's quite a cast of characters and narrator Christopher Evan Welch does an excellent job in helping us differentiate between them.

    My rating: 4.4

    Another review to check: Roz Kaveney in the Independent.

    My mini review of THE WOODS By Harlan Coben in 2007, rated at 5
    Paul Copeland, county prosecutor for Essex in New Jersey, has had an emotional roller coaster of a life. Right now he is the only immediate family his six year old daughter Cara has. Her mother died of cancer 5 years ago. Paul comes from Russian immigrant parents and recently his father died. But Paul's family was shattered twenty years ago when he and his sister Camille were on a holiday camp and Camille disappeared. Camille and three friends went into the woods near the camp at night. Two were found murdered but Camille and one of the boys were never found. Paul remembers that his father used to spend time searching the woods, digging for his sister's body. Now Paul recognises a murder victim as the boy who disappeared. So where is his sister? Is she still alive? An excellent read, that keeps you guessing until the final pages.

    27 October 2011

    Forgotten Book: MURDER FOR CHRISTMAS, Thomas Godfrey & Gahan Wilson

    This contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books comes my records in 1990.

    Better World Books says
    This offbeat Christmas collection of 26 tales of seasonal mayhem by 26 best-selling authors, including Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Dickens, and others, is sure to make the holidays frightful fun.

    Amazon records this as on the back cover.
    (NOTES FROM THE BACK COVER:) Here is the perfect stocking stuffer for the person who has everthing - and plans to leave it to you. Come to a unique Christmas celebration and rub adverbs with such greats as Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Stanley Ellin, and Ellery Queen. The great detectives of literature are also invited: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Albert Campion, Father Brown and Bombay's inspector Ganesh Ghote, all tackling the type of cases that made them famous. Here is a literary feast prepared with something for every taste: cheating, killing, spying, shoplifting and kidnapping. In short, everything to make the holidays bright. Merry Christmas. And God help us, everyone.

    However I think it may be part of a series with the same titles, or at least two different books. Take a look at this cover which definitely says Volume II.

    Another cover is similar to the top one, but says 1982, 1989.

    Library Thing has an interesting collection of covers for the title.

    26 October 2011

    Review: THE DEAD HAND OF HISTORY, Sally Spencer

    • published 2009, Severn House Publishers
    • ISBN 978-0-7278-6805-3
    • 235 pages
    • Source: local library book
    Publisher's blurb

    The first in a new series featuring Charlie Woodend's protege, DCI Monika Paniatowski - It will be no easy task to fill DCI Charlie Woodend's shoes, the newly-promoted Monika Paniatowski tells herself, but, given a little time, she thinks she can grow into them. Yet, with the discovery of a severed hand, time is the one thing she does not have. When her colleagues prove untrustworthy, the urge to call Woodend for help becomes almost irresistible . . .

    My take:

    I read #2 in this series, THE RING OF DEATH, at the end of last year, and liked it so much that I promised myself to chase up the first in the series. I'm so glad I did and look forward to reading #3.

    You can put DCI Monika Paniatowski right up there with female sleuths. She's tough, gritty, and has lots of that "gut feeling" that characterises the best of modern detectives. Apart from being a woman, she carries a little extra baggage: she is a Pole, and once had an affair with the Chief Constable, who's determined he won't be seen as doing her any favours. She has a bagman, Sergeant Walker, who resents her and does his best to leave her out of the loop whenever possible, and the press are just waiting for her to make big mistakes on her first job. Monika would love to consult Charlie Woodend for advice, and even goes as far as doing some heavy breathing on the end of his phone, but this case with two severed hands asks for her best efforts. And she is not entirely on her own: Inspector Colin Beresford provides faithful support and she has won recent graduate DC Crane over to her side.

    After tough, abrasive, Charlie Woodend, some think Monika might be a bit soft. But they soon learn differently.  And she already has the pathologist and her local JP on her side, simply because she is a woman.

    It was interesting being there right at the beginning, watching Monika establish her team, and put in place her own procedures. There's a touch of humour in the writing particularly in the descriptions of her management of her teenage daughter struggling with her homework.

    Good reading. If you like Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope, or Helene Tursten's Irene Huss, or Aline Templeton's Marjorie Fleming, then you'll take to Monika Paniatowski.

    My rating: 4.7.

    Reviews of Sally Spencer titles on MiP
    4.5, THE RING OF DEATH (#2 of the Monika Paniatowski series)

    25 October 2011

    Agatha Christie Blog Carnival October 24

    This month's Agatha Christie Carnival is a bumper one with 31 items from 16 contributors, covering a big range of titles and topics.

    Check it out here.

    Can I point you also to Margot Kinberg's "In the Spotlight" for today -
    Agatha Christie's HALLOWEEN PARTY

    24 October 2011

    Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass - Summary

    The challenge in the Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass was deceptively simple.

    Write a crime fiction blog post related to the country of the week.

    On a long and eventful journey, we visited
    As participants found, sometimes it involved considerable research.
    Many thanks to all participants for their persistence and support.
    Here is an aggregated list of all our posts.

    1. EuroCrime - Authors (England)
    2. MiP - Victoria Station, England
    3. Bev@My Reader's Block (Oxford)
    4. Lizzy's Literary Life (Preston)
    5. The Game's Afoot - Jose Ignacio (The Lake District)
    6. Pretty Sinister Books - Christopher St. John Sprigg
    7. Mysteries and More (Cover Her Face by P.D. James)
    8. Mystery Bookshelf - Author List
    9. Maxine (Petrona)

    1. Mysteries and More (A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson)
    2. Lizzy Siddal (Barcelona)
    3. The Game's Afoot (Barcelona)
    4. Euro Crime - Spanish authors
    5. Euro Crime - Portuguese authors
    6. Pretty Sinister Books (Catalonia)
    7. MiP - Arturo Reverte-Perez
    8. Margaret @ BooksPlease - Winter in Madrid
    9. Bev@My Reader's Block (Madrid)
    10. Maxine (Petrona)

    1. Euro Crime - French authors
    2. Bev@MyReadersBlock (Le Bosquet)
    3. Mysteries and More (The Premier by Georges Simenon)
    4. Lizzy Siddal (Dordogne)
    5. Margaret @ BooksPlease (Maigret)
    6. The Game's Afoot (Lorraine)
    7. Pretty Sinister Books: less well known French writers
    8. Violette (Mosse in Carcassonne)
    9. MiP- recently read French crime fiction


    1. Euro Crime - Belgian authors
    2. Euro Crime - Dutch authors
    3. Bev@My Reader's Block (A C Baanjter)
    4. Margaret @ BooksPlease - Amsterdam
    5. Mysteries and More (The Blond Baboon by Janwillem Van De Wetering)
    6. The Game's Afoot (Maastrich)
    7. MiP - Hercule Poirot
    8. Pretty Sinister Books (Amsterdam)
    9. Violette@Mystery Bookshelf)
    10. Maxine (Petrona)
    1. Bev@My Reader's Block (Mikkel Birkegaard)
    2. EuroCrime - crime fiction writers in Denmark
    3. The Game's Afoot (Thy - Denmark)
    4. MiP - Danish writers
    5. Mysteries and More (Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg)
    6. Violette (4 Danish authors)
    7. Pretty Sinister Books - SCAPEGOAT by Poul Orum

    1. EuroCrime - German authors
    2. Lizzy's Literary Life (Munich)
    3. Petrona's Germany Book Reviews archive
    4. Bev@My Reader's Block (Philip Kerr)
    5. Pretty Sinister Books (Spies & Nazis)
    6. MiP - Swann, Wagner, et al
    7. Mysteries and More (The Good German by Joseph Kanon)
    8. Violette@Mystery Bookshelf (East Germany)

    1. Bev@My Reader's Block (Vienna)
    2. Mysteries and More (The Time of Murder at Mayerling by Ann Dukthas)
    3. Pretty Sinister Books (Mountain climbing in Tirol)
    4. Lizzy Siddal (Detective Muller - Imperial Austrian Police)
    5. The sweetness of life, by Paulus Hochgatterer, Maxine (Petrona)
    6. Violette@Mystery Bookshelf (reading list)
    7. EuroCrime - Austrian authors
    8. MiP - Glauser & Hochgatterer

    1. EuroCrime - Swiss Authors
    2. Lizzy Siddal (Magendorf)
    3. Petrona: Chessex and Glauser
    4. MiP - complexities
    5. Bev@My Reader's Block (Montarraz)
    6. Mysteries and More (The Pledge by Friedrich Dürrenmatt)
    7. Violette (reading list)
    8. Pretty Sinister Books (Rivoli)

    Czech Republic
    1. on EuroCrime
    2. Bev@My Reader's Block (Prague)
    3. Mysteries and More (The Miracle Game by Josef Skvorecky)
    4. The Game’s Afoot (The Widow Killer, by Pavel Kohout)
    5. Pretty Sinister Books (Brno)
    6. MiP - Books to look for
    7. Violette (Skvorecky bio)

    1. Bev@My Reader's Block (Tuscany,Florence)
    2. Lizzy Siddal (Rome, Bologna)
    3. The Game’s Afoot (Andrea Camilleri, The Snack Thief)
    4. Margaret @ BooksPlease (David Hewson)
    5. Petrona: Reviews of Italian crime fiction, a Hewson-free zone
    6. Pretty Sinister Books (Massimo Carlotto)
    7. Mysteries and More (Ratking by Michael Dibdin)
    8. MIP - Where else but Venice
    9. EuroCrime - Italian cf writers
    10. Violette@The Mystery Bookshelf (Florence)

    1. EuroCrime - Greek cf writers
    2. The Game’s Afoot (Petros Markaris) )
    3. Mysteries and More (The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi)
    4. Petrona: Ashes by Sergios Gakas
    5. Maxine's Euro Crime review of Che Committed Suicide by Petros Markaris
    6. MiP- Atreus, Hermes and Pericles
    7. Bev@My Reader's Block (Corfu)
    8. Pretty Sinister Books (Ancient & Modern Greece)
    9. Sarah: Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst

    1. EuroCrime - Turkish authors
    2. Bev@My Reader's Block (Istanbul)
    3. Margaret @ BooksPlease - Barbara Nadel's Inspector Cetin Ikmen
    4. MiP - Pera Palace Hotel, Instanbul
    5. Mysteries and More (The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin)
    6. Pretty Sinister Books (Mehmet Murat Somer)
    7. The Game’s Afoot (Petros Markaris) )
    8. Violette (Mehmet Somer)

    22 October 2011

    Review: THE ASSISTANT MURDERER, Dashiell Hammett

    THE ASSISTANT MURDERER is a novella which I've read as an e-book. It is available free from manybooks.net but until I began searching for it, I was under the impression that I had actually acquired it from Amazon, perhaps as a free book from there.

    It begins strikingly:
      Gold on the door, edged with black, said ALEXANDER RUSH, PRIVATE DETECTIVE. Inside, an ugly man sat tilted back in a chair, his feet on a yellow desk. 
      The office was in no way lovely. Its furnishings were few and old with the shabby age of second-handdom. A shredding square of dun carpet covered the floor. On one buff wall hung a framed certificate that licensed Alexander Rush to pursue the calling of private detective in the city of Baltimore in accordance with certain red-numbered regulations. 
      A map of the city hung on another wall. Beneath the map a frail bookcase, small as it was, gaped emptily around its contents: a yellowish railway guide, a smaller hotel directory, and street and telephone directories for Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia. An insecure oaken clothes-tree held up a black derby and a black overcoat beside a white sink in one corner. The four chairs in the room were unrelated to one another in everything except age. The desk's scarred top held, in addition to the proprietor's feet, a telephone, a black-clotted inkwell, a disarray of papers having generally to do with criminals who had escaped from one prison or another, and a grayed ashtray that held as much ash and as many black cigar stumps as a tray of its size could expect to hold. 
      An ugly office -- the proprietor was uglier. His head was squatly pear-shaped. Excessively heavy, wide, blunt at the jaw, it narrowed as it rose to the close-cropped, erect grizzled hair that sprouted above a low, slanting forehead. His complexion was of a rich darkish red, his skin tough in texture and rounded over thick cushions of fat.
    Into the office comes a young man who wants Rush, a former but discredited policeman, to accept a commission to find out why a suspicious looking character is following a young woman of his acquaintance. Eventually there is a murder mystery.

    I've been doing some research to find out when THE ASSISTANT MURDERER was published. I have discovered it was published in The Black Mask in 1926.

    I have found it also published as part of a Dashiell Hammett Collection.. The Collection contains Afraid of A Gun, Arson Plus, Bodies Piled Up, Death On Pine Street, Man Who Killed Dan Odams, Mike Alec Or Rufus, Nightmare Town, Night Shots, One Hour, Road Home, Ruffian's Wife, Second Story Angel, The Assistant Murderer, The Tenth Clew, Who Killed Bob Teal, Zigzags of Treachery, and is available from Amazon and from http://pulpfictionportal.com.

    Certainly THE ASSISTANT MURDERER has whetted my appetite for more Hammett.

    Here is biographical information of interest
      Hammett's (1894-1961) writing career was short. He produced four novels and almost all of his short stories between 1922 and 1931, a span of barely nine years. A fifth novel The Thin Man followed in 1934. Then... nothing.
    A good site to check: The Dashiell Hammett website

    My rating: 4.2

    Review: IN DESPERATION, Rick Mofina

    Publisher's blurb

    A single mother answers a knock at her door and enters a nightmare…
    Eleven-year-old Tilly Martin is dragged from her suburban bedroom. Her mother, Cora, pleads for mercy but the kidnappers are clear: if they don’t get their $5 million back in five days, Tilly dies. If anyone contacts police, Tilly dies.

     A reporter receives a heart-stopping email that rips open the past…
    Journalist Jack Gannon’s estranged sister, Cora, disappeared without a trace decades ago. Now she is frantically reaching out to him for help. Cora tells him about the shameful mistakes she’s made—but she guards the one secret that may be keeping her daughter alive.

    A Mexican priest hears a chilling confession…
    A twenty-year-old assassin, haunted by the faces of the people he’s executed, seeks absolution as he sets out to commit his last murders as a hired killer.

    Time is running out…
    In the U.S. and Mexico, police and the press go flat out on Tilly’s case. But as Gannon digs deeper into his anguished sister’s past, the hours tick down on his niece’s life and he faces losing a fragment of his rediscovered family forever.

    My take

    IN DESPERATION is #3 in Mofina's Jack Gannon series. I have reviewed the earlier ones ( VENGEANCE ROAD and THE PANIC ZONE ) but IN DESPERATION didn't grab me right at the start in quite the same way, although the snatching of Tilly is a horrifying opening hook.

    The novel builds pace by adding plot element after element. Tilly's mother Cora "in desperation" contacts her long-lost brother journalist Jack Gannon who happens to be in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, working on a story about drug cartels. As it turns out, the contacts that Jack has made for this story are of great advantage in tracking down those responsible for Tilly's abduction. The story moves several times between Juarez and Phoenix Arizona where Cora and Tilly live.

    As the story builds so does the tension, mainly around whether the police will find Tilly in time.

    It is a novel that relies on coincidences but it is not on its own in that.

    My rating: 4.2

    21 October 2011

    ACRC Update - 21 October 2011

    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 33 novels and 11 collections of short stories.

    Read & reviewed so far
      1924, Poirot Investigates (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US)
    7. 1927, THE BIG FOUR
      1929, Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence)
      1930, The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin)
    12. 1932, PERIL AT END HOUSE
      1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders in the US)
      1991, Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991 (Two of them feature Hercule Poirot, two Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Harley Quin, and two Mr Parker Pyne.)
    16. 1935, THREE ACT TRAGEDY (aka MURDER IN THREE ACTS)- Hercule Poirot and Mr Satterthwaite.
      1933, The Hound of Death - 12 short stories, UK only
      1934, Parker Pyne Investigates - 12 stories introducing Parker Pyne and Ariadne Oliver
      1934, The Listerdale Mystery - 12 short stories, UK only
    17. 1935, DEATH IN THE CLOUDS (aka DEATH IN THE AIR) - Hercule Poirot
    18. 1936, THE A.B.C. MURDERS (aka THE ALPHABET MURDERS) - Hercule Poirot
      1947, The Labours of Hercules - Hercule Poirot - 12 short stories
    19. 1966, THE THIRD GIRL - Hercule Poirot and Ariadne Oliver
      1997, Miss Marple: complete short stories - Miss Marple - 20 short stories
      1997, While the Light Lasts - 9 short stories - incl. 2 Hercule Poirot
    20. 1936, MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA - Hercule Poirot
    21. 1936, CARDS ON THE TABLE - Hercule Poirot, Superintendent Battle, Colonel Race, Ariadne Oliver
    24. 1937, DEATH ON THE NILE - Hercule Poirot, Colonel Race
    25. 1938, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH - Hercule Poirot, Colonel Carbury
    26. 1939, MURDER IS EASY (aka EASY TO KILL) - Superintendent Battle
    28. 1940, SAD CYPRESS - Hercule Poirot
    30. 1941, EVIL UNDER THE SUN  - Hercule Poirot
    31. 1941, N or M? - Tommy & Tuppence
    32. 1942, THE BODY IN THE LIBRARY - Miss Marple
    33. 1942, FIVE LITTLE PIGS (aka MURDER IN RETROSPECT) - Hercule Poirot

      Reading schedule
    36. 1944, DEATH COMES AS THE END
    39. 1948, TAKEN AT THE FLOOD (aka THERE IS A TIDE...)
    40. 1949, CROOKED HOUSE
    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. Here is my latest short story update.

    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 October 2011

    Forgotten Book: THE HORSE YOU CAME IN ON, Martha Grimes

    This contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books comes my records in 1996.

    THE HORSE YOU CAME IN ON was published in 1993, and is mid way (12/22) in Grimes' Richard Jury series. 

    From Martha Grimes' website

    The murder is in America, but the call goes out to Scotland Yard superintendent Richard Jury. 
    Accompanied by his aristocratic friend Melrose Plant and by Sargeant Wiggins, Jury arrives in Baltimore, Maryland, home of zealous Orioles fans, mouth-watering crabs, and Edgar Allen Poe. 
    In his efforts to solve the case, Jury rubs elbows with a delicious and suspicious cast of characters, embarking on a trail that leads to a unique tavern called “The Horse You Came In On”….

    I have dabbled in the Jury series just a little over the years but it is not a series I have really "taken to", although obviously there must be plenty of readers who have.

    Martha Grimes (born May 2, 1931) is an American author of detective fiction, who has set most of the Richard Jury series in the UK. Richard Jury is a Scotland Yard detective.

    How many other American crime fiction authors can you think of who have set their books mainly in Britain?
    On my mental list are Charles Todd (mother and son team Caroline and Charles Todd), Elizabeth George, and Deborah Crombie.

    Review: RING OF FIRE, Peter Klein

    • was to have been published by Pan Macmillan Australia 2011.
      Recently removed from the publishing schedule.
      I certainly hope another publisher picks it up.
    • ISBN 9781742610146
    • 308 pages
    • Source: advanced review copy supplied by Pan Macmillan Australia.
    Publisher's blurb  (from the dust jacket)

    A fire takes no prisoners, has no conscience and destroys indiscriminately. So, too, does the 'Barn Burner'.

    When horse racing steward Ryan Carlisle is banished to a long, hot summer on the bush racing circuit, he's devastated. Even though this is a chance to get away from his unbearable boss, his career is at a crossroads and his divorce has left him feeling insecure.

    But Ryan has no time to dwell on his misfortunes: an arsonist begins torching racing stables in a string of seemingly random attacks.

    As the tally in human life and horses rises, it's clear to Ryan the Barn Burner will not stop until caught. The police are baffled, racing officials are ducking for cover and when Ryan starts digging into his father's past and is seconded to the Arson Squad, his involvement in the case becomes very personal. And suddenly, he needs to find the answers before he, too, is caught up in the ring of fire.

    My take

    I'm still reeling a bit from the information that RING OF FIRE has been removed from Pan Macmillan's publishing schedule. I think it is a nice solid read by an established Australian author and certainly hope it gets placed somewhere. 

    Peter Klein has branched out a bit in RING OF FIRE. The central character is not the gambler John Punter who featured in the three titles in the Punter series (see below). Ryan Carlisle is a steward and so we see horse racing in Australia from a different and largely unfamiliar perspective.

    The publisher's information that I was sent also says
      Australians are terrified by fires; they take no prisoners, have no conscience, and destroy lives indiscriminately. Klein was heavily influenced by the tragic Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 and after visiting the worst hit areas of Kinglake and Marysville some months afterwards, he decided to write a novel about a fire starter.
    At first it is thought that the fires that engulf training stables, and kill both trainers and horses, are accidental or perhaps even insurance scams. But as the number of fires rise, then the authorities realise there is an arsonist at work targetting those connected to the racing industry.
    Perhaps a weakness in the plot structure is that I worked out who the arsonist was about half way through the story. Klein attempted to lay a couple of red herrings in my path, but they just didn't really work.

    Peter Klein also gives Ryan Carlisle a great interest in fishing, like himself, and these passages have an authentic ring to them.

    RING OF FIRE is a nicely paced novel. It attempts to get past the "who" and to explore, less successfully and credibly I thought, "why". The ending was a bit predictable.
    Peter Klein still isn't Australia's answer to Dick (and now Felix) Francis but he is doing well.

    My rating: 4.3

    Other Peter Klein titles reviewed on MiP
    4.5, SILK CHASER

    19 October 2011

    My Kindle Hundred

    Followers of my blog will know that just on 2 years ago I bought a Kindle 2.
    My records show that earlier this week I completed reading my 100th book on the Kindle.
    I'm a long way from running out of books to read.
    My Kindle tells me I have another 300 items on it left to read.

    It has become my great travelling companion whether I am going on a plane journey, or just sitting in the doctor's waiting room.

    I am convinced that it helps me read just that little bit faster, and I think I can even detect withdrawal symptoms if I haven't been reading a book on it for a few days. (I haven't abandoned made-from-paper books and have an equivalent number of books sitting on my shelves).

    I love the search facility and sometimes find myself wishing I could search a made-from-paper book. 

    I get most of my e-books from Amazon, but with a purchase limit of $10, some from Smashwords, and some review e-books from NetGalley.

    When I first bought it, I was greatly bothered by what seemed to be the unavailability of the books I read, but things seem to have got better and I don't seem to come across that "unavailable to you" icon nearly so much.

    I still have my original Kindle2 and don't feel particularly tempted to buy a Kindle 3, or even Kindle Fire if it ever becomes available DownUnder.

    If you'd like to see what I have been reading on my Kindle recently click here.

    18 October 2011

    Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass: Pera Palace Hotel, Instanbul

    I am ending my trip for Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass in room 411 at the Pera Palace Hotel where Agatha Christie is thought to have written Murder on the Orient Express. I invite you to join me at the hotel by clicking on the picture or the link above.

    She in fact stayed at the Pera Palace many times between 1926 and 1932, and is supposed to have lost a diary there.

    Not far from the recently renovated and re-opened Pera Palace Hotel is the Istanbul Railway station, the departure point for the Orient Express that Hercule Poirot had to catch so urgently.

    I wrote about it last year, as follows, after my trip to Turkey.

    I didn't get a chance to venture inside - always seemed to be on a bus when we were passing it, which we did several times.

    This is the Sirkeci Terminal on the European side of Istanbul (Constantinople) which was opened in 1890 as the terminus of the Orient Express. It was designed by a Prussian architect and our guides pointed it out as a good example of Germanic architectural influence.

    You might remember that in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot has just arrived from Bagdad at the Istanbul terminal on the Anatolian side and meets his good friend the Wagon Lits controller. Poirot needs to get a berth on the Orient express but the train is full.

    They cross to the other side of the Bosphorus (fortunately a short boat ride in view of HP's tendency to mal de mer) and go to the specially built Wagon Lits hotel, the Hotel Pera Palace, opened in 1892, to wait until it is closer to boarding time. Today the hotel has recently been refurbished. The tourist guides all take pride in mentioning Agatha Christie as one of its famous guests.

    As you know the Orient Express recently became financially unviable and all that is left is a super expensive annual tourist train - the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
    See Holiday on the Orient express

    17 October 2011

    Review: DEAD MAN'S WHARF, Pauline Rowson

    • Format: Kindle Edition
    • File Size: 486 KB
    • Publisher: Fathom (October 27, 2010)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B004EEP7CO
    • Source: I bought it
    Publisher's Blurb (from author's site)

    DI Andy Horton and Sergeant Barney Cantelli are called to a nursing home where an elderly resident, suffering from dementia, claims she's been attacked by an intruder. Horton is ready to dismiss it as senile ramblings until he discovers that her room-mate has died, the dead woman's belongings are missing and her son, convicted for armed robbery, has been found dead in his cell.
    As if this isn't enough, Horton also has to deal with a series of threatening telephone calls to a television personality, and a mother's conviction that her son's death on Christmas Eve was no accident.
    Soon, to his surprise, Horton finds he is caught up in a complex investigation that has far-reaching international implications.
    With the pressure on to find a killer, and hampered by his belief that his bosses are lying to him, Horton discovers that he's stepped into a web of intrigue, deception and corruption that stretches back into the past.

    My take

    This is #4 in Rowson's Andy Horton series and the third I have read. Rowson is a clever writer able to develop a complex plot from seemingly simple roots. The plot keeps branching, element upon element being added, and Rowson does a good job of keeping tabs on them all.

    Early in his investigation of the threatening phone calls case, Horton's immediate superior DCI Bliss is seconded to the Performance and Review team. Horton will be in charge with a new DC, Harriet Lee, assigned to help him. Horton is suspicious that Lee is not what she seems.

    Running through the background are two themes: Andy Horton's desire to have some access to his daughter, and his need to know what happened to his own mother who disappeared when he was young. It turns out that the dead woman in the nursing home is a familiar name, someone who knew his mother.

    Pauline Rowson has the ability to make you want to keep reading, to find out the answers to the growing pile of questions. Those who enjoy British crime fiction will enjoy this series. The Portsmouth setting gives it a unique flavour.

    My rating: 4.4
    Visit Pauline Rowson's website
    Follow Pauline's blog

    Other reviews on MiP of titles in Pauline Rowson's Andy Horton series

    The Andy Horton series (courtesy Fantastic Fiction)
    1. Tide of Death (2006)
    2. Deadly Waters (2007)
    3. The Suffocating Sea (2008)
    4. Dead Man's Wharf (2009)
    5. Blood on the Sand (2010)
    6. Footsteps on the Shore (2011)
    7. Killing Coast (2012)

    Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass: Turkey: week beginning Mon 17 October

    The idea behind Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass is that participants write a post linked to the country of the week.

    On a long and eventful journey, we have already visited
    Our journey comes to an end this week in Turkey

    Many thanks to those who have participated in the last 12 weeks. I hope you have enjoyed the experience.
    Next week I will publish a summary post for the whole journey.
      Some suggestions:
      You can choose one of the following (or something more imaginative)
      • a book review (create a new one or revive an old one)
      • an author profile
      • a reading syllabus for crime fiction either set in this country, or written by authors from this country.
      Your post can be "based" anywhere in this week's country.

      When you have written a post please do the following:
      • put a link to this post in yours (feel free to use the logo if you like)
      • Come back here and put a link to your post in Mr Linky

      14 October 2011

      Review: STAGESTRUCK, Peter Lovesey

      • published in Great Britain by Soho Press 2011
      • ISBN 978-1-84744-444-8
      • 327 pages
      • Source: library book
      Publisher's Blurb (from author's site)

      A Peter Diamond Mystery
      Clarion Calhoun is a fading pop star wanting to launch an acting career. The audiences at her debut at Bath’s Theatre Royal are expecting a dramatic evening, but what they get is beyond their wildest imagination. When Clarion is rushed to hospital with third-degree burns, rumours spread through the theatrical community and beyond. In the best theatrical tradition, the show goes on, but the agony turns to murder.
      The case falls to Peter Diamond, Bath’s top detective, but for reasons he can’t understand, he suffers a physical reaction amounting to phobia each time he goes near the theatre. As he tries to find its root in his past, the tension at the Theatre Royal mounts, legends come to life and the killer strikes again.

      My Take

      Peter Lovesey is a much loved author and STAGESTRUCK came up to expectations.
      As always there's much more seething just under the surface than the initial scenario and STAGESTRUCK is a cautionary tale for artistic impresarios who decide they want to change horses.

      In #11 in the Peter Diamond series, the head of Bath's CID is still at the mercy of Georgina Dallymore, the assistant chief constable, who has recently joined BLOGS (the Bath Light Operatic Group) and has a personal interest in anything related to the Theatre Royal. She foists Sergeant Horatio Dawkins, dance tutor to BLOGS, on to the CID team much to Diamond's dismay. But Dawkins has hidden talents.

      STAGESTRUCK will particularly appeal to those who have attended performances in the Theatre Royal, exploring back stage workings, and theatre hoodoos such as the grey ghost and dead butterflies. But wound through it all is a cleverly and tightly written plot, two deaths, and a range of believable characters. And throughout, Peter Diamond is trying to discover what event in his past gave him an aversion to theatres.

      Lovely reading.

      My rating: 5.0

      Other reviews of Lovesey titles on MiP

      See a full list of Peter Lovesey's books

      Check Peter's awards

      13 October 2011

      Forgotten Book: GIDEON'S DAY (aka GIDEON OF SCOTLAND YARD), J J Marric

      This contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books comes not from my trusty old green record book, but from an audio purchase I made today.

      Publisher's blurb
        Available to download for the first time, The Gideon of Scotland Yard Series by 'JJ Marric' (pseudonym of Grand Master John Creasey). 
        Gideon's day is a busy one. London is faced with the murder of a little girl and a policeman's murder. While trying to bring these killers to justice, Gideon has to deal with a criminal gang that is after one of it's own. 
        One of the most senior officers within Scotland Yard, George Gideon's crime-solving abilities are in the finest traditions of London's world-famous police headquarters. His analytical brain and sense of fairness is respected by colleagues and villains alike. 
        John Creasey (1908-1973) published over 600 books under 20+ different pseudonyms. In 1969 he was given the Mystery Writers of America’s highest Honour, the Grand Master award. 
        ©1955 John Creasey (P)2010 Audible Ltd
      The first in the Gideon series GIDEON'S DAY aka GIDEON OF SCOTLAND YARD was published in 1955 under the pseudonym of J J Marric, and titles basically continued to appear at the rate of one a year until 1978 with the last,  GIDEON'S FORCE. The last four Gideon titles and a Gideon omnibus were published after Creasey's death in 1973.

      I know I have read the occasional Creasey (who hasn't?), and I do remember watching some of the Gideon's Way television series, so I am looking forward to the three audio books I have downloaded with great anticipation.

      I see also that many of the Gideon series are available for Kindle, so perhaps I'll indulge there with some of the other titles.

      Check John Creasey's prodigious output through Fantastic Fiction.

      11 October 2011

      Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass: Greece: Atreus, Hermes and Pericles

      This week in Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass we've reached Greece.

      I haven't read many novels either by Greek authors or actually set in Greece.

      I have decided to highlight three very different novels I reviewed earlier on this blog. All have links to ancient Greece and to the time of legends.

      THE MASK OF ATREUS by A.J. Hartley
      There are really two beginning points for this thriller/mystery. In the dying days of World War Two, a German tank convoy escorting a truck is intercepted by an American platoon. In the skirmish that follows most of the Germans are killed and the rest flee leaving the truck behind. Inside the truck is a single crate stencilled with the German eagle and swastika. The contents of this crate are pivotal to the rest of the story.

      THE MASK OF ATREUS then leaps to the present day. At 3 a.m. Deborah Miller, curator of a small private museum in Atlanta, Georgia, is awakened by the third strange phone call for the night. This one sends her hurrying back to the museum which she left just after midnight following a successful promotional evening. At the museum, in a room she did not even know existed, she finds the body of Richard Dixon, her mentor and the museum's founder and director. On the shelves around the room is a treasure trove of what seem to be genuine Mycenaean antiquities. read more

      THE MESSENGER OF ATHENS by Anne Zouroudi

      This book which I reviewed more recently is the beginning of a series featuring Hermes Diaktoros, referred to in the novels as "the fat man".

      When the battered body of a young woman is discovered on a remote Greek island, the local police are quick to dismiss her death as an accident. Then a stranger arrives, uninvited, from Athens, announcing his intention to investigate further. His methods are unorthodox, and he brings his own mystery into the web of dark secrets and lies. Who has sent him, on whose authority is he acting, and how does he know of dramas played out decades ago?

      read more 


      Set in Athens in 416 BC, this novel had me hooked from the beginning.
      How could I resist this opening paragraph?

        A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thud. I stopped and stood there like a fool, astonished to see him lying where I was about to step. He lay facedown in the dirt, arms spread wide, with an arrow protruding out of his back. He'd been shot through the heart.

      Gary Corby is an Australian author.

      read more

      10 October 2011

      Review: SO COLD THE RIVER, Michael Koryta

      • Published Allen & Unwin Australia 2010
      • ISBN 978-1-74237-133-7
      • 503 pages
      • Source: my local library
      Blurb (from author's site)

      It starts with a beautiful woman and a challenge. As a gift for her husband, Alyssa Bradford approaches Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, Campbell Bradford, a 95-year-old millionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. Eric grabs the job even though there are few clues to the man's story—just the name of his hometown and an antique water bottle he's kept his entire life.

      In Bradford's hometown, Eric discovers an extraordinary history—a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once mingled, and mineral springs whose miraculous waters were reputed to cure everything from insomnia to malaria. Neglected for years, the resort has been restored to its former grandeur just in time for Eric's stay.

      Just hours after his arrival, Eric experiences a frighteningly vivid vision. As the days pass, the frequency and intensity of his hallucinations increase and draw Eric deeper into the area's dark history. He discovers that something besides the historic resort town has been restored—a long-forgotten evil that will stop at nothing to regain its lost glory. Brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, So Cold the River is a tale of irresistible suspense with a racing, unstoppable current.

      My take

      Michael Koryta is one of those authors that I have been meaning to try for some time, and I must have seen SO COLD THE RIVER talked about on one of the cyber networks I belong to. I have had it on my library request list for some months, and really knew little about it.

      If someone had told me that it has a fairly significant paranormal element I probably wouldn't have tackled it. I would have regarded that as outside my credibility lines. However I'm glad I did read it and I will probably try another, perhaps the award winning TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE.

      The idea of the past meeting the present through the central character Eric Shaw, through the offices of a bottle of very old spring water, does strain the bounds of credibility a bit, but it makes for a rollicking good yarn with an incredible tornado thrown in at the end for good measure.

      My rating: 4.2

      About the author

      Michael Koryta's first novel, the Edgar Award-nominated Tonight I Said Goodbye, was published when he was just twenty-one and was followed by Sorrow's Anthem, A Welcome Grave, Envy the Night, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and The Silent Hour, So Cold the River and his most recent book The Cypress House. His works have been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he has worked as a newspaper reporter and private investigator, and in St. Petersburg, Florida.

      Michael Koryta's website.


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