31 July 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012: K is for Karin & Katherine


I've decided that for my participation in the Crime Fiction Alphabet in 2012 I will highlight recently read books or their authors.


So they'll all come from my 2012 Reviews. Or at least that's the plan.

My choice for the letter K is shared between two women writers.

Norwegian queen of crime fiction Karin Fossum wrote THE CALLER which I rated at 5.0.

This is #8 in her Inspector Sejer series, and does a lot to show how far reaching the effects of crime can be on the victims.


Australian author Katherine Howell is the author of  SILENT FEAR

This one too is part of a series, but one so firmly bedded in the Australian landscape you can feel the hot wind coming off it.
If you've not read any Katherine Howell, take the opportunity to look for one by her.


Check what others have chosen for the letter K this week.

30 July 2012

Review: COP TO CORPSE, Peter Lovesey

  • Published by Sphere in 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-84744-571-1
  • 362 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author site)

Hero to zero. 

Cop to Corpse.

One minute PC Harry Tasker is strolling up Walcot Street, Bath, on foot patrol. The next he is shot through the head. No scream, no struggle, no last words. He is picked off, felled, dead. 

Bath detective Peter Diamond takes on the most dangerous assignment of his career when he goes in search of the Somerset Sniper, a killer who is targeting policemen in West Country towns. After a constable from Diamond’s own police station is murdered in the small hours of a Sunday morning a desperate hunt follows. Action, menace and courage in the face of extreme danger are the driving forces of this story laced with the surprises that always lie in wait in a Lovesey novel.

My Take

When Peter Diamond says he suspects the Somerset Sniper is actually one of their own, his investigating team all but turn against him. When he asks them to check duty rosters for coincidences, his lieutenant refuses and Peter ends up doing it himself.

For Peter it is a pretty eventful case: he gets shot at; mown down by a motor bike; and attacked by someone who should be on his side. But nothing stops him, and despite his injuries, and the fact that his team thinks he's on the  wrong track, his mind keeps working. He proves yet again why he is at the top of his game: he sees connections no-one else does, but he isn't always right.

Another very readable tale. I think Peter Lovesey is incapable of writing a bad one, particularly if you delight in police procedurals like his.

And look, if you haven't read a Lovesey before, start with this one. It'll get you hooked! And then there are 10 earlier ones in the Peter Diamond series that you can try.


My rating: 5.0

Other reviews to check

Other reviews of Lovesey titles on MiP

MAD HATTER'S HOLIDAY
SKELETON HILL
THE REAPER
5.0, STAGESTRUCK

Crime Fiction Alphabet: the letter K


The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.


This meme was run first on this blog in 2009-2010 and was re-run in 2011.

Many thanks to those who have participated so far this year. 
We have an average of about 14 participants a week.


Our journey so far
A   B    C    D    E    F   G  H  I   J   

So how will they go with today's letter, the letter K?

Here are the rules

By Friday of each week participants try 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, or even maybe a crime fiction "topic". But above all, it has to be crime fiction.
So you see you have lots of choice.
You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)
You probably won't have to do a lot of extra reading in order to participate, but I warn you that your TBR  may grow as a result of the suggestions other participants make.
Feel free to use either of the images provided in your blog.

Your assistance in advertising this community meme, and pointing people to this page, would be very much appreciated.

By the end of this week  post your blog post title and URL in the Mr Linky below.
Please place a link in your blog post back to this page.
Visit other blogs and leave comments.

Check the Crime Fiction Alphabet page for summaries of previous years.

Thanks for participating.

26 July 2012

Review: Forgotten book, MRS McGINTY'S DEAD, Agatha Christie

  • first published 1952
  • this edition a Fontana papeback printed in 1952
  • 188 pages
  • source: my own book shelves
  • an Hercule Poirot with some assistance from Ariadne Oliver
Synopsis

Mrs McGinty dies from a brutal blow to the back of her head. Suspicion immediately falls on her shifty lodger, James Bentley, whose clothes reveal traces of the victim's blood and hair. Yet something is amiss:  Bentley just doesn't look like a murderer. Poirot believes he can save the man from the gallows - what he doesn't realise is that his own life is now in great danger...

First published in 1952, the novel was adapted by MGM in 1964, and released as 'Murder Most Foul'. The character of Hercule Poirot was replaced by Jane Marple, played by Margaret Rutherford. In 2008 David Suchet starred as Poirt and Zoë Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver in the ITV production.

My take

Now retired, Hercule Poirot does not have enough to keep him busy. The only important events in his life are his three meals a day, and so when Superintendent Bert Spence, who he met on an earlier case, comes to see him about the McGinty case he welcomes some activity. James Bentley has just been found guilty of Mrs McGinty's murder but has not yet been sentenced. Superintendent Spence is not happy that Bentley is really guilty and asks Poirot to retrace the investigation.

The problem with Bentley is that he is such a hangdog that he looks guilty and Poirot thinks that he can't blame the jury for their verdict, but he doubts that Bentley could kill anyone. Poirot goes to stay in the village of Broadhinny and puts it about that there is new evidence come to light that Bentley may not have committed murder after all. As Poirot questions those Superintendent Spence has already questioned, new evidence does indeed come to light. Someone tries to push Poirot under a train so he knows he is on the right track, but he is not quick enough to prevent another murder. Ariadne Oliver is chagrined to learn it has taken place under her very nose.

This is a carefully woven plot with Poirot trying to track down the identity of four women whose photos appeared in the local paper. There are several likely people and we see an idea surfacing that was used in an earlier novel, that so many people lost their identity papers during air raids and dislocation during the Second World War, that you can never be sure that people are who they say they are. 

Poirot again gets a young woman to assist him in his investigation, and in the final pages we glimpse him indulging in some matchmaking.

A good read, but I really can't go along with Miss Marple replacing Hercule Poirot (see Synopsis).

My rating 4.4

See what others who are contributing to this week's edition of Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books  are up to this week.

25 July 2012

Review: DEATH OF THE MANTIS, Michael Stanley

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1119 KB
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0755381157
  • Publisher: Headline (September 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005CIOOR0
  • Source: I bought it
SynopsisAmazon

The third novel in the fantastic Detective 'Kubu' Bengu crime series is set in the southern Kalahari area of Botswana - a place full of buried lost cities, incredible hidden wealth, ancient gods and, for thousands of years, home to the nomadic Bushmen.

When a fractious ranger named Monzo is found dead, fallen into a donga - a dry ravine - surrounded by three Bushmen, the local police arrest the nomads.
Detective 'Kubu' Bengu is on the case, which reunites him with his old school friend Khumanego, a Bushman and now an advocate for his people. Khumanego believes the arrests are motivated by racist antagonism from the police, as the Bushmen are claiming that they were at the murder scene because they were trying to help.
Soon after Monzo's death, Detective 'Kubu' learns of another case involving two botany students on their way back from a specimen-collecting trip but who were later found dead, seemingly poisoned, at a campground. Could the deaths be connected?

My Take

I have realised as I write this review that I have missed out on reading #2 in this series (THE SECOND DEATH OF GOODLUCK TINUBU). I reviewed the first A CARRION DEATH in 2010 and really did mean to read #2 - I'm sure I have it somewhere..

I have really enjoyed DEATH OF A MANTIS. 'Kubu' Bengu has grown dramatically in stature as a detective and is held in high regard by the Botswana police force. Kubu still acts impulsively, makes decisions that are not always wise - in fact one puts his life in great danger. But now he has family responsibilities: a wife, a baby girl.

DEATH OF THE MANTIS is one of those books that makes the reader think. For a start - who is "the Mantis"?  One of the themes is the conflict between modern Western-style life and the indigenous culture of the Bushmen of the Kalahari. How far will the Bushmen go to preserve the old ways, to keep the sacred places hidden, and yet at the same time how do they pass on their culture?

Kubu is torn because one of his best childhood friends is a Bushman although Khumanego says he is trying to preserve the old ways by being an advocate for his people.
There are many reminders too that this is a dangerous land that Kubu is living in.

DEATH OF THE MANTIS is tightly plotted, has excellent character development, as well as passing on to the reader a great depth of information about Kalahari life. There's an interesting juxtaposition of technologies too - old maps and records, overlaid by GPS printouts.

Check what the authors have to say about the background to the book. You can also read the Prologue and the first chapter there.

My rating: 5.0

Other reviews to check
If you are looking for a reading guide, there are 10 questions here.(pdf)
 
Awards for DEATH OF THE MANTIS
  • one of six finalists for the 2012 Barry Award for best paperback original
  • .one of four novels selected for the short list for Best Genre Fiction at the Minnesota Book Awards in 2012.
  • one of five nominees for the Edgar Award from Mystery Writers of America for best paperback original in 2012.
  • chosen by LIBRARY JOURNAL in the US as one of their top ten new mysteries for 2011.
  • rated number 5 in THE STRAND MAGAZINE'S top 12 mysteries for 2011

Review: THE THIEF, Fuminori Nakamura - audio book

Synopsis

The Thief is a seasoned pickpocket. Anonymous in his tailored suit, he weaves in and out of Tokyo crowds, stealing wallets from strangers so smoothly sometimes he doesn’t even remember the snatch. Most people are just a blur to him, nameless faces from whom he chooses his victims. He has no family, no friends, no connections....

But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when Ishikawa, his first partner, reappears in his life, and offers him a job he can’t refuse. It’s an easy job: tie up an old rich man, steal the contents of the safe. No one gets hurt. Only the day after the job does he learn that the old man was a prominent politician, and that he was brutally killed after the robbery. And now the Thief is caught in a tangle even he might not be able to escape.

My take

From a Western point of view, this is an unusual story told from the thief's point of view.
The first signs that things may not be well are the things that appear in his pockets that he doesn't remember lifting.  Has he in his turn been the victim of a skilled pickpocket?

He has been a thief all his life, always coveting the treasures other children had, and gradually perfecting his techniques as a pickpocket. He specialises in replacing the wallets after he has removed what he wants, so the victim does not immediately realise his cash has been taken.

He is alarmed when he meets a boy who shoplifts with his mother and who is setting his sights on life as a pickpocket. He tries to divert the boy, at first refusing to show him any techniques, and then by giving him money to adopt a better life.

The murder of the old man in the house robbery leaves The Thief ensnared in a trap where he is required to steal to order. Failure to carry out the thefts will result in his own death and each task gets harder than the last. He realises he may not be around much longer.

Many other reviewers have commented on the gritty view the novel gives of the underbelly of Tokyo life.

It is a surprisingly short audio book, but is apparently unabridged although Amazon says the hard back version is 304 pages. At first I was put off by the narrator's American accent, but then became used to it.

My rating: 4.5

See another review on Reactions to Reading

Best crime fiction reads so far in 2012 - the full list

On Monday I gave you the list of titles that had been mentioned more than once by my 15 or so contributors in their list of 150+ titles.

Yesterday the list consisted of authors mentioned for more than one title.

Here today is the full list in alphabetical order of title with year of publication included where I was given it.


1222 Anne Holt  2010
A FEW RIGHT THINKING MEN Sulari Gentill  2010
A GOOD DEATH Elizabeth Ironside  2000
A SPARK OF DEATH Bernadette Pajer  2011
A TRICK OF THE LIGHT Louise Penny 2011
A WALK IN THE DARK Gianrico Carofiglio 2010
ALL  I SAW WAS THE GIRL Peter Leonard
AN EMPTY DEATH Laura Wilson 2009
ANOTHER TIME ANOTHER LIFE Leif Persson
ASHES Sergei Gakas
AWAKENING S.J. Bolton
BEASTLY THINGS Donna Leon
BEFORE THE POISON Peter Robinson  2011
BELIEVING THE LIE Elizabeth George 2012
BERLIN GAME Len Deighton 1983
BLACK SKIES Arnaldur Indridason 2012
BLEED FOR ME Michael Robotham
BLUE LIGHTNING Ann Cleeves  2010
BLUFFING MR. CHURCHILL John Lawton 2001
BROKEN HARBOUR Tana French
BURNED Thomas Enger
CHAMPAGNE FOR ONE Rex Stout  1958
CHELSEA MANSIONS Barry Maitland  2011
CUT SHORT Leigh Russell
CUTS LIKE A KNIFE M.K. Gilroy 
DEFENDING JACOB William Landay
DEPARTMENT THIRTEEN James Houston Turner  2011
DOUBLE INDEMNITY James M. Cain 1943
ENDLESS NIGHT Agatha Christie  1967
ESCAPE THE NIGHT Mignon G. Eberhart  1944
EYES OF LIRA KAZAN Eva Joly
FATHERLAND Robert Harris  1992
FIFTY GRAND Adrian McKinty
GILLESPIE & I  Jane Harris 2011
GODS AND FATHERS James LePore
GONE Mo Hayder  2010
GREEN RIVER KILLER Jeff Jensen  2011
HIDDEN RIVER Adrian McKinty
HOUR OF THE WOLF Hakan Nesser 2012
I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS  Alan Bradley 2011
I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS William Deverell
ICELIGHT Aly Monroe
IF THE DEAD RISE NOT Philip Kerr
IN THE WOODS Tana French 2007
INSPECTOR AND SILENCE Hakan Nesser
JOURNEY INTO FEAR Eric Ambler 1940
KINGLAKE - 350 Adrian Hyland
LAST WILL Liza Marklund
LIAR MOON Ben Pastor
MISERY BAY Steve Hamilton
MISSING Jane Casey
MIXED BLOOD 2009 Roger Smith
ON BEULAH HEIGHT Reginald Hill
ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE Agatha Christie  1940
OUTRAGE Arnaldur Indridason
PHANTOM Jo Nesbo 2012
PRAGUE FATALE Philip Kerr
REBECCA Daphne du Maurier  1979
RED BONES Ann Cleeves  2009
SILENT FEAR Katherine Howell  2012
SLEEPING MURDER Agatha Christie  1976
SNOW ANGELS James Thompson
SOMETHING TO KILL FOR Susan Holtzer  1994
SONS AND LOVERS James LePore
SUCH FRIENDS ARE DANGEROUS Walter Tyrer  1954
SUMMON UP THE BLOOD R.N. Morris
THE BAT Mary Roberts Rinehart  1932
THE BLACK PATH Asa Larsson
THE BLACKHOUSE Peter May
THE BLIND GODDESS Anne Holt 
THE BOUNDARY Nicole Watson
THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE Lena Kaarbol & Agnete Friis 2011
THE BROTHERHOOD Y.A. Erskine 2011
THE BURNING COURT John Dickson Carr 1937
THE BURNING SOUL John Connolly 2011
THE BURRY MAN’S DAY Catriona McPherson  2006
THE CALLER Karin Fossum  2011
THE CAMBRIDGE THEOREM Tony Cape 1989
THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS  Robert Wilson 2001
THE CORONER M R Hall  2009
THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X Keigo Higashino
THE DROP Michael Connelly 2011
THE DROWNING Camilla Lackberg
THE FIFTH WITNESS Michael Connelly
THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST Stuart Neville
THE GUARDS Ken Bruen 201
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  1889
THE HOUSE OF SILK Anthony Horowitz  2011
THE INFORMATION OFFICER Mark Mills 2009
THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN  G.K. Chesterton 1911
THE INVISIBLE ONES Stef Penney
THE LEOPARD Jo Nesbo  2011
THE LITIGATORS John Grisham
THE MALTESE FALCON Dashiell Hammett  1930
THE MESSENGER OF ATHENS Anne Zouroudi  2007
THE MONSTER IN THE BOX Ruth Rendell  2009
THE MOONSTONE  Wilkie Collins 1868
THE MORNING AFTER DEATH Nicholas Blake  1966
THE NAMELESS DEAD Brian McGillowray
THE NOBODIES ALBUM Carolyn Parkhurst 2010
THE POTTER’S FIELD Andrea Camilleri
THE PRECIPICE Virginia Duigan  2011
THE QUARRY Johan Theorin  2011
THE RAGE Gene Kerrigan 2012
THE REDBREAST  Jo Nesbo 2006
THE REDEEMED M R Hall  2011
THE RETRIBUTION Val McDermid  2011
THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN JOHN EMMETT  Elizabeth Speller 2010
THE ROPE Nevada Barr
THE SO BLUE MARBLE Dorothy B Hughes  1940
THE UNLUCKY LOTTERY Hakan Nesser
THE WOMAN IN WHITE Wilkie Collins  1859
U IS FOR UNDERTOW Sue Grafton 2009
UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST Åsa Larsson 2011
V IS FOR VENGEANCE Sue Grafton  2011
VOICE OF THE VIOLIN Andrea Camilleri
VOICES OF THE DEAD Peter Leonard
WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE  J. T.Ellison 2011
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Wendy James 2010
WHERE THE DEVIL CAN'T GO Anya Lipska
WYCLIFFE AND THE CYCLE OF DEATH W J Burley  1990
ZONE DEFENCE Petros Markaris  2006



24 July 2012

Best crime fiction reads so far 2012 - authors with more than one title

Yesterday  I gave you the list of titles mentioned more than once by contributors.

Today here is the list of authors with more than one title.
Of course that may simply mean that one of the contributors began reading all available from that author, but see judge for yourself.
Of course, not all the books listed are recently published (e.g. Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins have definitely stood the test of time), but most are.

Tomorrow I'll give you the full list.


Agatha Christie  ENDLESS NIGHT, ONE TWO BUCKLE MY SHOE, SLEEPING MURDER
Hakan Nesser HOUR OF THE WOLF, THE INSPECTOR AND SILENCE, THE UNLUCKY LOTTERY
Jo Nesbo PHANTOM, THE REDBREAST, THE LEOPARD
Adrian McKinty FIFTY GRAND, HIDDEN RIVER
Andrea Camilleri THE POTTER’S FIELD, VOICE OF THE VIOLIN
Ann Cleeves  BLUE LIGHTNING, RED BONES
Anne Holt  1222, THE BLIND GODDESS
Arnaldur Indridason BLACK SKIES, OUTRAGE
Asa Larsson THE BLACK PATH, UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST
James LePore GODS AND FATHERS, SONS AND LOVERS
M R Hall  THE CORONER, THE REDEEMED
Philip Kerr PRAGUE FATALE, IF THE DEAD RISE NOT
Sue Grafton U IS FOR UNDERTOW, V IS FOR VENGEANCE
Wilkie Collins THE MOONSTONE , THE WOMAN IN WHITE

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012: J is for Jo Nesbo


I've decided that for my participation in the Crime Fiction Alphabet in 2012 I will highlight recently read books or their authors.


So they'll all come from my 2012 Reviews. Or at least that's the plan.

My choice for the letter J is Jo Nesbo whose name appears twice on my list of books this year. Click on the image to go to his website.

4.7, HEADHUNTERS, Jo Nesbo - Kindle
This is a stand-alone.
Set in Oslo, the novel's central character is Roger Brown, a highly successful corporate headhunter.

    Roger Brown, the headhunter who has never nominated a candidate for a job he did not get, who if necessary manipulates, forces, levers and rams the candidate in, who has clients who trust his judgement implicitly, who without a moment’s hesitation place their company’s fate in his – and only his – hands. 
    To put it another way, it was not Oslo Port Authority who appointed their new traffic director last year, it was not Avis who appointed their Scandinavian director and it was quite definitely not the local authority who appointed the director of the power station in Sirdal. It was me.
Roger's problem is that he leads a lifestyle that demands an income well beyond what he actually earns, but Roger has come up with a ploy by which he supplements his income by stealing from the people he interviews.

4.7, PHANTOM, Jo Nesbo

A Harry Hole book. An interestingly structured, but very noir book, with the dominant narrator a boy who is already dead. And a rat with a problem.

Visit the meme page to see what others have chosen for the letter J.

23 July 2012

Review: A BALI CONSPIRACY MOST FOUL, Shamini Flint - audio book

Audio book available from Audible.com
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Length: 8 hours 32 mins
Format: Paperback 304 pages
Date of publication: 03/09/2009
Publisher: Piatkus Books
ISBN-10: 0749929766
ISBN-13: 978-0749929763
#2 in the Inspector Singh series
Also available on Amazon (including Kindle) - click on the link to read a sample of the text.
Source: I bought it.

Synopsis (from author's site)

Inspector Singh is back, but this time on secondment to Bali. A bomb has exploded and Singh has been sent to help with anti-terrorism efforts. But there's a slight problem: he knows squat about hunting terrorists. He's much better suited to solving murder!

So when a body is discovered in the wreckage, killed by a bullet before the bomb went off, Singh should be the one to find the answers - especially with the help of a wily Australian copper by his side. But simple murders are never as simple as they seem - and this one has far-reaching global consequences ...

My Take

This book is of special interest to Australians because it is based around the Bali bombings of October 2002 when 202 people, (including 88 Australians, and 38 Indonesian citizens) were killed when 3 bombs were detonated, two at Kuta and one in Denpasar.

The irony of the story is that while the police are hunting down those responsible for mass murder, Inspector Singh and Bronwyn Taylor, an Australian Federal Policewoman, are deployed to hunt down someone who used the bombing to cover up a homicide. No-one expects Singh and his offsider to succeed for both are held in pretty low regard by their colleagues.

The plot is a clever mix of fact and fiction, with some of the characters' names resembling those eventually convicted of the bombings. The author does a good job of describing why the bombings happened, how ordinary people were caught up in them: the bombers themselves, the ex-pat community, the Balinese economy and people. I liked the fleshing out of Inspector Singh much better than in #1 in the series. Bronwyn Taylor, the Australian policewoman, comes over well as both compassionate and conscientious, and she and Singh make a good team.

I thought too that the author captured the flavour of Bali very well, although I have to admit it is 35 years since I was there. Time for another holiday I reckon.

Narrator Jonathan Keeble does a good job with a range of accents including some dreadfully flat Australian ones.

My rating: 4.5

See my review of INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES, A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder

About the author

Shamini Flint is an established writer of children's books, living in Singapore, and has a background in international law. Her website makes interesting reading

There are now 3 more books in the series
3. Singapore School of Villainy (2010)
4. A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree (2011)
5. A Curious Indian Cadaver (2012)

Best Crime Fiction Reads so far in 2012 - multiple mentions

I have managed to collect mid-year lists from about 15 contributors and ended up with 156 titles, some of which are duplicates.

Today's list contains the "top" 14, and you will see there is one clear leader.
The number at the beginning of the line is the number of times the title was listed.

Tomorrow's list will give you the authors mentioned for more than one title, and then on Wednesday I'll list all the titles.


4 HOUR OF THE WOLF Hakan Nesser 2012
3 LAST WILL Liza Marklund
3 THE POTTER’S FIELD Andrea Camilleri
2 1222 Anne Holt  2010
2 ANOTHER TIME ANOTHER LIFE Leif Persson
2 BEFORE THE POISON Peter Robinson  2011
2 BLACK SKIES Arnaldur Indridason 2012
2 PRAGUE FATALE Philip Kerr
2 THE BROTHERHOOD Y.A. Erskine 2011
2 THE CALLER Karin Fossum  2011
2 THE DROP Michael Connelly 2011
2 THE INVISIBLE ONES Stef Penney
2 THE NOBODIES ALBUM Carolyn Parkhurst 2010
2 THE PRECIPICE Virginia Duigan  2011

Crime Fiction Alphabet: the letter J


The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.


This meme was run first on this blog in 2009-2010 and was re-run in 2011.

Many thanks to those who have participated so far this year. We have an average of about 14 participants a week.


Our journey so far
A   B    C    D    E    F   G  H  I

There are some tricky letters to come although this week's  letter J is probably fairly easy.


Here are the rules

By Friday of each week participants try 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, or even maybe a crime fiction "topic". But above all, it has to be crime fiction.
So you see you have lots of choice.
You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)
You probably won't have to do a lot of extra reading in order to participate, but I warn you that your TBR  may grow as a result of the suggestions other participants make.
Feel free to use either of the images provided in your blog.

Your assistance in advertising this community meme, and pointing people to this page, would be very much appreciated.

By the end of this week  post your blog post title and URL in the Mr Linky below.
Please place a link in your blog post back to this page.
Visit other blogs and leave comments.

Check the Crime Fiction Alphabet page for summaries of previous years.

Thanks for participating.

22 July 2012

Review: THE KILLINGS ON JUBILEE TERRACE, Robert Barnard - audio book


Synopsis

Meet the cast of Jubilee Terrace, one of the most popular soap operas on British television.
Recently, however, long-standing cast member Vernon Watts, died suddenly of a heart attack. Terrible as his death was, the production team was quick to make the most of the opportunity.

As news of Vernon's demise spreads, the show's bosses decide to bring back an old character. The infamous Hamish Fawley is all set to return, despite the disapproval of the cast. But when a suspicious letter emerges raising questions about Vernon's death and an arson attack kills two more of the cast, it would appear something sinister is afoot.

The script-writers are clearly not the only ones capable of killing off characters...

My take

An interesting plot, but the audio version is made all the more confusing by the fact that there are two sets of characters: the actors in the soapie, and the characters themselves. Some of the actors prefer their soapie personas.

I think the author struggled with this duality. The plot idea was a good one but juggling with about 20 personalities must have been a real challenge. The plot gets an extra twist when one of the people thought to have been killed in the arson attack reports for work as usual and the reader has to cope with some huge very red herrings.

Gordon Griffin the narrator does an admirable job with the voice differentiations required.

The detective in THE KILLINGS ON JUBILEE TERRACE is Charlie Peace, although interestingly Fantastic Fiction does not include it in the Charlie Peace series - surely an oversight..

My rating: 4.1

Mini -reviews of other books by Robert Barnard

A LITTLE LOCAL MURDER, publ. 1976, my rating 4.0
Radio Broadwich comes to Twytching to do a documentary about the town. Debra Withens, the town chairman's wife, assumes she will be pivotal in choosing who will be interviewed. Alison Mailer on the other hand is just as determined to be the determiner. Suddenly accusing letters are delivered to the locals and then there is death. A rather enjoyable cosy, well read by Christopher Scott. Police Inspector George Parrish makes an interesting central investigator.

DEATH OF AN OLD GOAT, publ. 1977, my rating 3.7
The very elderly Professor Belville-Smith from Oxford is contributing to the education of antipodean students of English with a lecture tour to Australia. Basically he is delivering the same lectures for which he gained a reputation 50 years ago. However someone at Drummondale, an outback New South Wales university town obviously doesn't like him and he ends up dead in his motel room with his throat cut from ear to ear. Local police inspector Royle has to interrupt his weekly schedule of local cuckolding to investigate the death.  This was Barnard's first novel and apparently based on a sojourn he had in Australia. It is semi-satirical and contains some very unkind observations about Australian life in general. It evoked both annoyance and cultural cringe in me.

Review: ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, Simon Wood

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 517 KB
  • Print Length: 356 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0843958308
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004MDLXNE
  • Originally published 2002
  • source: I bought it
 Synopsis (author site) - read Chapter One here

Josh Michaels is worth more dead than alive. He just doesn’t know it yet. He has no idea why someone would try to kill him, clearly that’s exactly what happened.
When an SUV forced Josh’s car off the road and into a river, it might have been an accident. But when Josh looked up at the road, expecting to see the SUV’s driver rushing to help him, all he saw was the driver watching him calmly…then giving him a “thumbs down” sign.
That was merely the first attempt on Josh’s life, all of them designed to look like accidents, and all of them very nearly fatal. With his time—and maybe his luck—running out and no one willing to believe him, Josh had better figure out who wants him dead and why…before it’s too late. 

My take
This was one of those very inexpensive buys on Amazon and I am not even now very sure who recommended it to me. Although the author is a "transplanted Brit", it is a very American novel, set in a world  where making money however you can is important.

Dexter Tyrrell, Vice President of Pinnacle Investments, has come up with one such scheme, but various factors have reduced its profitability recently, and so Tyrell has introduced another factor, designed to ensure profits go up again. But sometimes human factors, like Josh Michaels. destroy the best laid plans.

Sufficiently intrigued? Another clue- Josh Michaels, strapped for cash, a few years earlier, cashed in his life insurance policy, for a fraction of what it was worth. Or at least that's what he thought he had done. His best friend Bob is his insurance agent, and Bob, on Josh's behalf, made a viatical settlement.

Married now for a number of years, Josh has not always been squeaky clean in either his business or sexual life, and now these elements are coming back to bite him, adding to the complexity of the plot.
This is a thriller with many interesting elements.

My rating: 4.3

Other reviews to check - Reviewing the Evidence - although beware that some of these will reveal more of the plot than I have. 

19 July 2012

Forgotten Book: THE MURDERER, George Simenon

For many of my contributions this year to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books I am focussing on the books I read 20 years ago in 1992. By then my reading diet was almost exclusively crime fiction.

So my recent posts for this meme have largely been about authors that I "discovered" in that year.

One author that I was already familiar with, available here in Australia in the distinctive green Penguin Crime Classics paperbacks, was Simenon.
I don't think that at the time I realised I was reading translated books.

Late in 1992 I read THE MURDERER, first published in 1935.

Synopsis (Amazon)

Not a mystery in the mode that has made Simenon universally famous, this is a classic psychological novel, issued in France in 1935 but like all other works of merit, timeless.

The author's stringent control of his material deepens the reader's feelings for Dr. Hans Kuperus of Sneek, a small town in Friesland. After killing his wife and her lover, Herr Schutter, Kuperus escapes suspicion and the townspeople sympathize with the widower for a time.

Then he begins behaving extravagantly, flaunting his affair with his housekeeper and scandalizing the crabbed, insular community in other ways. Finally, the doctor has no practice, no friends; he and the housekeeper are prisoners in his house.

Faithfully translated by Sainsbury, the narrative hauntingly describes the disintegration of human beings, damned by weaknesses that Simenon compels the reader to recognize and pity.

See also
4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD
4.5, MAIGRET & THE HEADLESS CORPSE 

18 July 2012

Crime fiction readers are voracious e-book consumers

Last month in my post e-books holding steady I commented that about 75% of readers of my blog read e-books in one form or another (on an e-reader, their iPad, or computer). This figure has been pretty consistent for the last 12 months.

The poll I have been conducting for the past few weeks mines a bit deeper and has a few more respondents.
Again the significant statistic is around 75%.
24% of the respondents have bought no e-books, so presumably most of them have either not purchased an e-reader or have abandoned using it.

But a whopping 64% have purchased more than 5 e-books in the last 6 months, with some commenting that they were surprised the poll hadn't "tested" more than 5.  (the post connected to the poll is here)

I read about 1 e-book in every 2 books.
Others confessed
  • "I am totally hooked to my Kindle. While it was a slow conversion (about 4 years) I just recently have read solely off my Kindle."
  • "I probably purchased more than five each month. I am an e-book-aholic. In fact, I don't buy any paper books anymore."
  • "I may have already told you that I read my ebooks only at bedtime for ease of holding." (although this person says she still buys more paper books than e-books)
  • "I was surprised that your survey only went up to five. I would say I have read 30-50 ebooks in the last six months"
  • " I try not to buy any paper book if it's available in electronic format."
  • "I generally alternate, a print book then an ebook, its just the way my schedule works."
So why are we (crime fiction readers) so hooked on e-books?

Let's start with Joe Barone's list (see comments in the poll here)
  • (1) Availability. I can download them in two minutes or so; 
  • (2) The opportunity to enlarge the type. I have regular old people's eyes with growing cataracts which don't yet need surgery. Easily making the type larger is a real blessing; and 
  • (3) Affordability. I buy few ebooks that cost more than $9.99.
then he contributed
  • They make books available which might not otherwise be available.
Nan contributed on the weight issue
  • I read my ebooks only at bedtime for ease of holding
So here are some of mine (some of them may be just applicable to the Kindle)
  • ease of instant purchase: I buy my e-book online and I have it on my Kindle only minutes later.
  • if I want to re-read a book, my Amazon library is always available. (although I think taking an occasional backup of the files on your Kindle may be a good idea)
  • when travelling I can take my library of several hundred books with me.
  • but I don't have to be travelling: my Kindle fits beautifully into my shoulder bag for use in the doctor's surgery etc.
  • or I can read on the app on my mobile phone (although it does drain the battery big-time, nor would it be my preferred method of reading)
  • people who want me to review a book can send me a Kindle file as an e-mail attachment. That's much much cheaper than postage to Australia.
  • Like many of my friends who have e-readers I am convinced that I read e-books faster, probably because, like Joe, I am appreciative of the option to re-size the text.
  • I often mark text that I wish to remember for any review I write. On the Kindle I can download those highlighted bits to my computer as a text file.
  • I can put the books on my Kindle into categories and it helps me choose what to read next)
  • I can synchronise my e-reading across my Kindle, phone app, and husband's iPad, and move "seamlessly" from one to the other, picking up the book on one device where I left it on the other device.
  • I can listen to my e-book if I want to - most Kindle books have text to audio. Admittedly it is a computerised voice, but I can also attach it to a speaker system so I can listen while ironing etc.
So what have I left out?
Oh yes, I'm hooked.

17 July 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2012: I is for Ian Rankin


I've decided that for my participation in the Crime Fiction Alphabet in 2012 I will highlight recently read books or their authors.

So they'll all come from my 2012 Reviews.
At least that's the plan which nearly came unstuck this week, when I had a real paucity of Is. Only one in the titles, only one in the surnames but I had already used him in this meme.


 

But just recently I finished my third book for the year by Ian Rankin.



4.7, THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, Ian Rankin - and it has the added advantage  of an I in the title!

4.5, THE FALLS, Ian Rankin
4.4, WITCH HUNT, Ian Rankin


So there you are - an author worth checking.
Ian Rankin's website.

Check out what others have chosen for the letter I


16 July 2012

Crime Fiction Alphabet: the letter I


The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

This meme was run first on this blog in 2009-2010 and was re-run in 2011.

Many thanks to those who have participated so far this year.
Our journey so far
A   B    C    D    E    F   G  H

This week's letter is the letter I

Here are the rules

By Friday of each week participants try 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, or even maybe a crime fiction "topic". But above all, it has to be crime fiction.
So you see you have lots of choice.
You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)
You probably won't have to do a lot of extra reading in order to participate, but I warn you that your TBR  may grow as a result of the suggestions other participants make.
Feel free to use either of the images provided in your blog.

Your assistance in advertising this community meme, and pointing people to this page, would be very much appreciated.

By the end of this week  post your blog post title and URL in the Mr Linky below.
Please place a link in your blog post back to this page.
Visit other blogs and leave comments.

Check the Crime Fiction Alphabet page for summaries of previous years.

Thanks for participating.

15 July 2012

Review: THE MIND'S EYE, Hakan Nesser

  • copyright 1993. #1 in the Van Veeteren series
  • published by Macmillan 2008
  • translated from Swedish into English by Laurie Thompson
  • my edition - Large Print by ISIS Publishing 2009
  • ISBN 978-0-7531-8376-2
  • 316 pages
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (author's website)

When Eva Mitter is found drowned in her bathtub, the chief suspect quickly becomes her husband of three months, Janek. With no other viable suspects and Janek’s suspicious behaviour, it looks like and open and shut case. Certainly Inspector Van Veeteren thinks so. After all who could believe Janek’s convenient loss of memory as to what happened that fateful night because he drank too much at dinner?

But when a second murder occurs that is clearly connected to the first, something about Janek’s protestations sets Van Veeteren rethinking the entire case, and before long finds himself involved in one of the darkest cases of his career.

My Take

The author's website is worth consulting for an overview of the series, of which THE MIND'S EYE is the first.
    The series, most often referred to as the Van Veeteren series, takes place in Maardam, a fictitious city in a made-up country that could be anywhere in northern Europe. It follows the murder cases investigated by Chief Inspector Van Veeteren – eventually the retired Chief Inspector – and his two crime squad protégés, Münster and Moreno.

The author goes on to describe Inspector Van Veteeren as a "a philosophical detective with a unique ability to draw lines between dots that are far apart and nearly invisible."
Certainly in THE MIND'S EYE there are some fascinating descriptions of the Inspector listening to classical music and finding that the elements of the case click into place. 

Van Veeteren's offsider Munster reflects
    The murderer was somewhere out there. One of this town's 300,000 inhabitants had taken it upon himself to kill one of his fellow human beings, and it was the duty of him, and Van Veeteren and all the rest of them, to nail the man - or the woman. It was going to be one hell of a job in fact. They would work for thousands of hours before the case was closed, and when they eventually had all the answers, it would become clear to them that nearly everything they had done had been a complete waste of time. They would realize that if only they'd done this or that right away, they would have cracked it in two days instead of two months.
There are many things to like about THE MIND'S EYE: if you are new to the series, you'll have the pleasure of starting with the first in the series; you'll also have the pleasure of getting acquainted with a very likeable detective. He's not young - someone rings the station and asks to be put through to the "grey one". I like the fact that he can admit he has made a mistake.

Van Veeteren is empathetic to the victims of crime - he's been where they are now: broken marriage, fragile childhood. There are some truly comic incidents too: imagine him lying on the floor having his back massaged by someone he went to interview. 
In these days of over long books, THE MIND'S EYE is a quick read.

I have a couple of the other titles on my shelves. Must read them!

My rating: 4.6

Other sites to check
Also reviewed in MiP: WOMAN WITH BIRTHMARK

The Van Veeteren series

1. The Mind's Eye (2008)
2. Borkmann's Point (2006)
3. The Return (2007)
4. Woman with Birthmark (2009)
5. The Inspector and Silence (2010)
6. The Unlucky Lottery (2011)
7. Hour of the Wolf (2012) 

14 July 2012

Review: THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, Ian Rankin

  • Format: trade paperback
  • first published in Great Britain by Orion Books 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-7528-8954-2
  • 373 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • #2 in the Malcolm Fox series
  • Author website
Synopsis (Author website)

Malcolm Fox and his team from Internal Affairs are back. They've been sent to Fife to investigate whether fellow cops covered up for a corrupt colleague, Detective Paul Carter. Carter has been found guilty of misconduct with his own uncle, also in the force, having proved to be his nephew's nemesis.

But what should be a simple job is soon complicated by intimations of conspiracy and cover-up - and a brutal murder, a murder committed with a weapon that should not even exist.

The spiralling investigation takes Fox back in time to 1985, a year of turmoil in British political life. Terrorists intent on a split between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom were becoming more brazen and ruthless, sending letter-bombs and poisonous spores to government offices, plotting kidnaps and murder, and trying to stay one step ahead of the spies sent to flush them out.

Fox has a duty to get at the truth, while the body count rises, the clock starts ticking, and he fights for his professional and personal life.

My Take

When Rankin introduced Malcolm Fox who works in the Dark Side of the Complaints and Conduct section of Edinburgh's Lothian and Borders Police HQ in THE COMPLAINTS we all wondered whether he was going to replace John Rebus, forcibly retired. The answer I think is that he is a very different character but no less a detective, very largely also a lone wolf, but also more careful to cover his back than Rebus was.

The title of Fox's team has been changed from "Complaints and Conduct" to "Professional Ethics and Standards" but their mission is the same: to investigate claims of police corruption. And when they turn up at a police station they are about as popular as lepers: the boss is at head office, no secure interview room available, people to be interviewed are off sick with lingering illnesses or they are so involved in a current case that they can't spare the time. The air of suspicion and opposition is thick and palpable.

So Fox decides to interview the person who originally laid the complaint about his own nephew: a former police officer who now runs his own successful security firm, and lives in a difficult to find cottage well out of town. Fox interviews him and finds Alan Carter is investigating the death of a political leader, Francis Vernal, nearly twenty years earlier. Strictly speaking the investigation that erupts when Alan Carter is found murdered and his nephew is taken in for questioning should not be of interest to the Complaints, but Fox can't help thinking there must be connections. His interest is further spiked when he finds a picture of his own uncle with Francis Vernal.

This is a carefully layered and constructed tale. We learn more about Malcolm Fox's family and his background, and his relationships with the rest of his team. And it is certainly well written.

I have seen reviews whether bloggers have said they prefer the first in the series, THE COMPLAINTS, but I think I enjoyed THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD as much.

My rating: 4.7

Other reviews to check
Also reviewed on MiP

THE COMPLAINTS
DOORS OPEN
HIDE & SEEK
4.4, BEGGARS BANQUET
4.4, WITCH HUNT - writing as Jack Harvey
4.5, THE FALLS

12 July 2012

Forgotten Book: SERVICE OF ALL THE DEAD, Colin Dexter

For many of my contributions this year to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books I am focussing on the books I read 20 years ago in 1992. By then my reading diet was almost exclusively crime fiction.

So my recent posts for this meme have largely been about authors that I "discovered" in that year.

1992 was a year of discovery for me with me authors, well known now, that I discovered had written a large number of books. many of these I have already focussed on with my "forgotten books" this year.

My choice this week is SERVICE OF ALL THE  DEAD by Colin Dexter. 
Published in 1979, this was early, #4, in the Morse series (did you realise there were actually only 13 of them?), and Dexter became another author I explored in 1992.

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Chief Inspector Morse, a middle-aged bachelor with a fondness for crossword puzzles, Mozart, and attractive women, investigates a series of suspicious and sinister events at Oxford's Church of St. Frideswide. 

That doesn't actually tell you a lot does it?

Wikipedia tells us a bit more, hopefully not too much.

This time Inspector Morse brings the imposition on himself. 
He could have been vacationing in Greece instead of investigating a murder that the police have long since written off. But he finds the crime – the brutal killing of a suburban churchwarden – fascinating. 
In fact, he uncovers not one murder but two, for the fatal fall of St. Frideswides vicar from the church tower Morse reckons to be murder as well.
And as he digs into the lives and unsanctified lusts of the late vicar's erring flock, the list of the dead grows longer. Not even the oddly appealing woman he finds scrubbing the church floor can compensate Morse for the trouble he's let himself in for. 
So he has another pint, follows his hunches, and sets out to untangle the deadly business of homicide. 


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