29 June 2013

Review: THE EASY SIN, Jon Cleary - audio book

  • book published in 2002
  • 19/20 in the Scobie Malone series
  • this edition published by Audible in 2009
  • narrator: Christian Rodska
  • Length 8 hours 53 mins
Synopsis (publisher)

The time has come for Officer Scobie Malone to leave the Homicide and Serial Offenders Unit of the Sydney police. His last investigation could be the most bizarre case ever to land upon a policeman's desk.

Fantastic Fiction

From Australia's 'national literary institution' (Sydney Morning Herald), the latest mystery featuring homicide detective and family man Scobie Malone

The time has come for Scobie Malone to leave the Homicide and Serial Offenders Unit of the Sydney police, and his last investigation could be the most bizarre case ever to cross his desk. Called in when a housemaid is found dead in a dotcom millionaire's penthouse, Scobie suspects he's dealing with a kidnap that's gone wrong. In fact, it couldn't have gone more wrong. The kidnappers thought they had grabbed the millionaire's girlfriend -- how were they supposed to know he liked slipping into her designer dresses when she wasn't around?

The plot thickens further when it is revealed that the dotcom bubble has burst, leaving the erstwhile millionaire in debt to the Yakuza and Scobie on the trail of some old adversaries. Throw in the ex-wife, a mistress or two, and the mother of all outlaws, and you have a case that would confound the greatest detective and entertain the most discerning of readers. 

My Take

Christian Rodka's brilliant narration added great pleasure to listening to this novel. There is quite a cast of characters and his voice portrayal made picking one from the other relatively easy.

I've been on a bit of a Jon Cleary kick in the last few months and have listened to
4.6, WINTER CHILL- set some time before THE EASY SIN and
4.7, DEGREES OF CONNECTION which was Jon Cleary's last Scobie Malone novel, following on from THE EASY SIN.

There are passages in this novel which crack a smile, despite the seriousness of the story line: an abduction and a couple of murders thrown in for good measure; a gang that by any standards is incompetent, but at the same time amoral.  I thought some of the characters were overblown and parts of the plot definitely unrealistic. On the other hand the collapse of the dotcom bubble pointed to how ordinary Australians lost money in a world financial phenomenon.

And then for Scobie Malone fans, historically this was his last case at the head of Homicide and at the time they must have wondered what Jon Cleary was up to. With hindsight we know he was preparing to bow out of crime fiction. 

My rating:  4.3

Review: A DECENT INTERVAL, Simon Brett

  • Published by Severn House in 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-78029-044-7
  • 202 pages
  • library book
  •  #18 in the Charles Paris series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

After a long period of 'resting', life is looking up for Charles Paris, who has been cast as the Ghost of Hamlet's Father and First Gravedigger in a new production of Hamlet. But rehearsals are fraught.  Ophelia is played by Katrina Selsey, who won the role through a television talent show.  Hamlet himself is also played by a reality TV contestant, Jared Root - and the two young stars have rather different views of celebrity and the theatre than the more experienced members of the cast.

But when the company reach the first staging post of their tour, the Grand Theatre Marlborough, matters get more serious, with one member of the company seriously injured in what appears to be an accident, and another dead.  Once again, Charles Paris is forced to don the mantle of amateur detective to get to the bottom of the mystery.

My Take

It has been a decent interval since readers last had the chance to meet up with dipsomaniac actor Charles Paris. This is #18 in the series which began in 1975 with CAST IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE. Our last outing was DEAD ROOM FARCE in 1997

Nothing much has changed in Charles' life including Charles himself who doesn't seem to have aged much. He is still in and out of work, but probably much more out than in. His agent Maurice Skellern hasn't contacted him for 8 months, he hasn't talked to his estranged wife Frances for nearly five months, and he seems to have been living on Bell's Whisky. Maurice contacts him for some small part work for a documentary on the English Civil War and then he lands a job in a production of Hamlet. The main players are winners of a singing star contest.

The mystery action takes off when would-be pop star Jared Root (Hamlet) is felled by some stage scenery, and shortly after that there is what seems to be a murder.

There's an undercurrent of commentary in this novel about the state of the theatre, the difficulty of getting good plays into London's West End in the face of reality and talent shows which attract much younger audiences and encourage more audience participation. Charles has remained a bit of a Luddite as far as internet technology and social networking goes but even he comes to understand the power of social media like Twitter in sparking interest in live performances where fans can see their idols perform. The other side of the coin of course is the accountancy that drives the theatre world - if you can't make a profit, it is not viable.

Though written in the third person, we see the world and the mystery through Charles Paris's aging eyes, although to be quite honest he doesn't seemed to have aged much since earlier books. There's a peculiar humour in these novels provided particularly by review comments about Charles' performances on stage. While Charles Paris fans will be glad of this outing, I don't think it is as good as the series at its height. Simon Brett has used a tried and trusted formula to create a very readable cozy.

My rating: 4.2

Other reviews - the first three are from the Fethering series

BLOOD AT THE BOOKIES
THE POISONING IN THE PUB
4.4, THE SHOOTING IN THE SHOP
4.3, SO MUCH BLOOD - a Charles Paris novel 

The Charles Paris series (Fantastic Fiction)
1. Cast in Order of Disappearance (1975)
2. So Much Blood (1976)
3. Star Trap (1977)
4. An Amateur Corpse (1978)
5. A Comedian Dies (1979)
6. The Dead Side of the Mike (1980)
7. Situation Tragedy (1981)
8. Murder Unprompted (1982)
9. Murder in the Title (1983)
10. Not Dead, Only Resting (1984)
11. Dead Giveaway (1985)
12. What Bloody Man is That (1987)
13. A Series of Murders (1989)
14. Corporate Bodies (1991)
15. A Reconstructed Corpse (1993)
16. Sicken and So Die (1995)
17. Dead Room Farce (1997)
18. A Decent Interval (2013)

27 June 2013

Review: THE FROZEN SHROUD, Martin Edwards

  • Published by Poisoned Pen Press 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-4642-0105-9
  • 276 pages
  • #6 in the Lake District (Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind) series
 Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Death has come twice to Ravenbank, a remote community in England's Lake District, each time on Halloween. Just before the First World War, a young woman's corpse was found, with a makeshift shroud frozen to her battered face. Her ghost - the Faceless Woman - is said to walk through Ravenbank on Halloween. Five years ago, another woman, Katya Moss, was murdered, and again her face was covered to hide her injuries.

Daniel Kind, a specialist in the history of murder, becomes fascinated by the old cases, and wonders whether the obvious suspects really did commit the crimes. He spends Hallowe'en at a party in Ravenbank - only to find death returning to this beautiful but isolated spot. Once more, the victim is a woman, once more her damaged face is shrouded from view.

My Take

The blurb from Fantastic Fiction is very similar to the one on the dustjacket of  the book. Both show evidence that the author changed his mind about the name of one of the characters - in the book Katya Moss is actually called Sheenagh.

There are three murder victims - Gertrude the original Faceless Woman, Sheenagh the next one, and then five years later, another. All are murdered on Halloween and the author exploits other similarities in the cases. For DCI Hannah Scarlett the coincidences are just too great, and she wonders whether the same person is responsible for at least the two most recent murders. Daniel Kind though is interested in the historic cold case of the death of Gertrude.

Martin Edwards is an accomplished storyteller and keeps the readers on their toes with coincidences and red herrings. It is a book that makes you think as you weigh up the evidence for yourself.

Running through the background is the on-again off-again relationship between the detective Hannah and the historian Daniel. And almost a character is a sensitive portrayal of the Lake District. Many thanks too to Martin for his acknowledgment at the end of the book of the small amount of information I was able to contribute about Sheenagh's possible Australian background.

My rating: 4.6

Do check
Lake District Mystery (Fantastic Fiction)
1. The Coffin Trail (2004)
2. The Cipher Garden (2005)
3. The Arsenic Labyrinth (2007)
4. The Serpent Pool (2010)
5. The Hanging Wood (2011)
6. The Frozen Shroud (2013)

I've also reviewed
MYSTERIOUS PLEASURES
THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH
THE SERPENT POOL
WATERLOO SUNSET
DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN
4.8, THE HANGING WOOD

25 June 2013

Review: THE LEWIS MAN, Peter May - audio book

  • first published in 2012
  • #2 in the Lewis trilogy
  • unabridged audio version from Audible.com
  • narrator Peter Forbes
  • Length:  10 hours 54 mins
Synopsis (author site)

A MAN WITH NO NAME
An unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog; the only clue to its identity being a DNA sibling match to a local farmer.

A MAN WITH NO MEMORY
But this islander, Tormod Macdonald - now an elderly man suffering from dementia - has always claimed to be an only child.

A MAN WITH NO CHOICE
When Tormod's family approach Fin Macleod for help, Fin feels duty-bound to solve the mystery.

A perfectly preserved body is recovered from a peat bog on the Isle of Lewis.

The male Caucasian corpse – marked by several horrific stab wounds – is initially believed by its finders to be over two-thousand years old. Until they spot the Elvis tattoo on his right arm. The body, it transpires, is not evidence of an ancient ritual killing, but of a murder committed during the latter half of the twentieth century.

Meanwhile, Fin Macleod has returned to the island of his birth. Having left his wife, his life in Edinburgh and his career in the police force, the former Detective Inspector is intent on repairing past relationships and restoring his parents’ derelict croft.

But when DNA tests flag a familial match between the bog body and the father of Fin’s childhood sweetheart, Marsaili Macdonald, Fin finds his homecoming more turbulent than expected. Tormod Macdonald, now an elderly man in the grip of dementia, had always claimed to be an only child without close family.

A lie, Fin will soon discover, Tormod has had very good reason to hide behind.

The Lewis Man is the follow-up to The Blackhouse, which was an international bestseller in both hardback and paperback.  It is the second novel in the Lewis trilogy.

My Take

This is a superb book enhanced for me by the excellent narration skills of Peter Forbes. For me this story was even better than #1 in the trilogy THE BLACKHOUSE.
However if you haven't read THE BLACKHOUSE I can't urge you too strongly to read it before starting THE LEWIS MAN.

Not only is there excellent description of life in Scotland, particularly in the northern isles, in the 1950s, but there is a sensitive and illuminating handling of how a person with dementia functions. Peter May is terrific writer.

And now I'm more than ready for the final novel in the trilogy, THE CHESSMEN.

Note that THE LEWIS MAN is on the short list for Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year for 2013.

My rating: 5.0

My review of THE BLACKHOUSE
Other novels I have reviewed
THE RUNNER
VIRTUALLY DEAD
FREEZE FRAME

23 June 2013

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013: the Letter L


The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

This meme is an annual event on this blog. This is its 4th outing.
We already have a strong core of weekly contributors but you can join at any time.

Last week we featured the letter K


This week's letter is the letter L

Here are the rules

The page telling bloggers which letter to focus on will appear on each Monday together with a Mr Linky.

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, and for links to this year's entries.

Thanks for participating.

21 June 2013

Forgotten Book: ANGEL TOUCH, Mike Ripley

My plan this year for my contributions to Friday's Forgotten Books hosted by Pattinase is to feature books I read 20 years ago - in 1993- from the records I have in my "little green book", which I started in 1975.
In 1993 I read 111 books and was pretty well addicted to crime fiction by then.

My choice this week is ANGEL TOUCH by Mike Ripley.

This book was #2 in Ripley's Fitzroy Maclean series
  • Just Another Angel (1988)
  • Angel Touch (1989)
  • Angel Hunt (1990)
  • Angels in Arms (1991)
  • Angel City (1994)
  • Angel Confidential (1995)
  • Family Of Angels (1996)
  • That Angel Look (1997)
  • Bootlegged Angel (1999)
  • Lights, Camera, Angel (2001)
  • Angel Underground (2002)
  • Angel on the Inside (2003)
  • Angel In The House (2005)
  • Angel's Share (2006)
  • Angels Unaware (2008)
Synopsis

The London Stock Exchange can be a peculiar and dangerous place when financial reputations are at stake and no end of shocking scams and insider dealings are lurking under the surface. Enigmatic band leader Fitzroy Maclean Angel is drawn into this intrigue and puts his knowledge to work. 

The Angel series are comedy thrillers set mainly in Essex and London's East End. Ripley won the CWA's Last Laugh Award for best humorous crime novel for ANGEL TOUCH in 1989 and ANGELS IN ARMS in 1991.

See more

20 June 2013

Review: THE TOOTH TATTOO, Peter Lovesey

  • this edition published by Sphere Great Britain 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-7515-5061-0
  • 389 pages
  • #13 in the Peter Diamond series
Synopsis (author's website)

Peter Diamond, head of Bath’s CID, takes a city break in Vienna, where his favourite film, The Third Man, was set, but everything goes wrong and his companion Paloma calls a halt to their relationship.

Meanwhile, strange things are happening to jobbing musician Mel Farran, who finds himself scouted by methods closer to the spy world than the concert platform. The chance of joining a once-famous string quartet in a residency at Bath Spa University is too tempting for Mel to refuse.

Then a body is found in the city canal, and the only clue to the dead woman’s identity is the tattoo of a music note on one of her teeth. For Diamond, who wouldn’t know a Stradivarius from a French horn, the investigation is his most demanding ever. Three mysterious deaths need to be probed while his own personal life is in free fall.

My Take

The promo on the book cover has Sara Paretsky saying "I'm jealous of everyone discovering Lovesey and Diamond for the first time". I couldn't agree more.

I looked forward to THE TOOTH TATTOO with great expectation and it didn't disappoint me.

While the Peter Diamond series are basically British police procedurals, Lovesey uses them to explore and develop relationships, both Diamond's personal ones and those that result from his team management techniques. In addition Lovesey is a dab hand at pulling seemingly disparate plot lines together. In the beginning you find yourself wondering what these separate parts of the story can have to do with each other, and then light begins to dawn. Peter Lovesey, whom I have been following for 40 years now, has an easy to read style that keeps bringing me back for more.

My rating: 4.8

I have also reviewed
MAD HATTER'S HOLIDAY
SKELETON HILL
THE REAPER
5.0, STAGESTRUCK
5.0, COP TO CORPSE
4.5, THE HEADHUNTERS

The Peter Diamond series (Fantastic Fiction)
1. The Last Detective (1991)
2. Diamond Solitaire (1992)
3. The Summons (1995)
4. Bloodhounds (1996)
5. Upon A Dark Night (1997)
6. The Vault (1999)
7. Diamond Dust (2002)
8. The House Sitter (2003)
9. The Secret Hangman (2007)
10. Skeleton Hill (2009)
11. Stagestruck (2011)
12. Cop to Corpse (2012)
13. The Tooth Tattoo (2013)
14. The Stone Wife (2014)

19 June 2013

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013: K is for KINGDOM OF STRANGERS, Zoe Ferraris


Following a pattern established in 2012, my contributions to the Crime Fiction Alphabet in 2013 will feature authors or books that I have read recently.

My choice this week is KINGDOM OF STRANGERS by Zoe Ferraris

Synopsis (Amazon)


A secret grave is unearthed in the desert revealing the bodies of 19 women and the shocking truth that a serial killer has been operating undetected in Jeddah for more than a decade.

However, lead inspector Ibrahim Zahrani is distracted by a mystery closer to home. His mistress has suddenly disappeared, but he cannot report her missing since adultery is punishable by death. With nowhere to turn, Ibrahim brings the case to Katya, one of the few women in the police department. Drawn into both investigations, she must be increasingly careful to hide a secret of her own.

Portraying the lives of women in one of the most closed cultures in the world, award-winning author Zoƫ Ferraris weaves a tale of psychological suspense around an elusive serial killer and the sinister forces trafficking in human lives in Saudi Arabia..

See my review

This is the third in this series that I have read, and I think they all have been winners.

See what others have chosen for the letter K.
 

17 June 2013

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013: the Letter K


The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

This meme is an annual event on this blog. This is its 4th outing.
We already have a strong core of weekly contributors but you can join at any time.

Last week we featured the letter J


This week's letter is the letter K

Here are the rules

The page telling bloggers which letter to focus on will appear on each Monday together with a Mr Linky.

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, and for links to this year's entries.

Thanks for participating.

16 June 2013

Review: MIDNIGHT PROMISE, Zane Lovitt

  • first published by Text Publishing 2012
  • ISBN 9-781921-922930
  • 283 pages
  • subtitled: a detective's story in ten cases
  • contains 'Leaving the Fountainhead', winner of the SD Harvey short story award at the 2010 Ned Kelly Awards.
Synopsis (Publisher)

John Dorn is a private investigator. Just like his father used to be. It says ‘private inquiry agent’ in John’s yellow pages ad because that’s what his old man called himself, back before his business folded, his wife left him and he drank himself to death. 

But John’s not going to end up like his father. He doesn’t have a wife, or much business. He doesn’t really drink, either. Not yet. 

In each of these ten delicious stories Zane Lovitt presents an intriguing investigation filled with humour and complex, beautifully observed characters. At their centre is John Dorn, solving not so much crimes as funny human puzzles; but the crimes, and the criminals, are forever lurking nearby, taunting him from the city’s cold underworld.

It’s his job to unravel the mystery, or right the wrong, or just do what the client has hired him to do. Somehow, though, there is a misstep at every turn, and John takes another small stumble towards his moment of personal truth. His midnight promise. Perhaps even his redemption.

My Take

Here are ten very unusual Australian short crime fiction cases with John Dorn, private investigator, at their centre. Set mainly in working class Melbourne, and in more or less chronological order, they tell John's life story from his initial acquisition of his private investigator licence through to his loss of it, and show a downward spiral of his fortunes, even though he generally solves the mystery that the case hinges on.

John gets most of his work through high profile lawyer Demetri Sfakiakopoulos, champion of the lost cause. It ranges from investigating miscarriages of justice, false accusations, to protection of minors. The plots are generally very unusual, sometimes comedic, sometimes noir, and John Dorn always has sympathy for the underdog, even to the point of putting himself in some danger. However the outcome of John's involvement in the case is not always as successful as it might be.

Take for example the first case Amnesty.  In this one Dorn needs Demetri's help rather than the other way around. Gary Blanche is on remand and he has phoned John Dorn for help. He's up on three counts of possession of a prohibited weapon. Police found guns in his house a week before after a tip-off. Gary is claiming that three guns have been left in his letter box by mistake. He is fearful of going to jail and pleads with John Dorn to help him beat the rap. Dorn realises there is not a lot he can do, but that Demetri has far more clout than he.

The construction  of the book is unusual in that it includes 'Leaving the Fountainhead', winner of the SD Harvey short story award at the 2010 Ned Kelly Awards, and two other previously published short stories. This will appeal to those of you who really like noir stories.

My rating: 4.5

See the following video comment from Sydney bookseller Jon Page

14 June 2013

Forgotten Books: THE MAKEOVER MURDERS, Jennifer Rowe

My plan this year for my contributions to Friday's Forgotten Books hosted by Pattinase is to feature books I read 20 years ago - in 1993- from the records I have in my "little green book", which I started in 1975.
In 1993 I read 111 books and was pretty well addicted to crime fiction by then.

THE MAKEOVER MURDERS, by Australian author Jennifer Rowe, was #4 in a series featuring amateur sleuth Verity Birdwood, a TV researcher.


Verity is stranded at an exclusive isolated spa on her latest entertaining case. An assignment to take the two-week makeover course at Deepdene and check it out as a possible documentary subject fails to thrill the practical Birdie, who arrives at the start of the rainy season. The staff, including glamorous owner Margot Bell and co-owner hairdresser Alistair Swanson, coddles Birdie and four other women as the unceasing rain threatens to flood the surrounding creek and turn the spa into an island. Soon spa secretary William Dean announces that Laurel Moon, who murdered his fiancee and five other women, has been released from the psychiatric institution to which she was committed. When Margot is killed in the same manner as Moon's victims, Birdie suspects the killer may be among the guests. She calls her friend, Det. Sgt. Toby, who arrives with Det. Constable Milson before the spa is shut off, but both men are quickly drugged out of commission, leaving Birdie, aided by another guest, to solve a series of murders with a nice bit of thinking. Happily the mildly eccentric, thoroughly modern Birdie isn't made over a bit. 

Grim Pickings (1988)
Murder by the Book (1989)
Death in Store (1991)
The Makeover Murders (1992)
Stranglehold (1993)
Lamb to the Slaughter (1996)

 About the author
Australian author Jennifer Rowe is better known by the pseudonym Emily Rodda, and  she has had considerable success with children's novels, in particular The Deltora Quest series, and more recently the Rondo series.. As Emily Rodda she has a string of children's fiction awards spanning nearly 25 years.  See more at Wikipedia.

12 June 2013

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013: J is for Jo Nesbo


Following a pattern established in 2012, my contributions to the Crime Fiction Alphabet in 2013 will feature authors or books that I have read recently.

My choice this week is THE BAT by Jo Nesbo

I read this as an audio book. Set in Sydney, this is the first Harry Hole book, only recently published in English.

Harry is out of his depth.
Detective Harry Hole is meant to keep out of trouble. A young Norwegian girl taking a gap year in Sydney has been murdered, and Harry has been sent to Australia to assist in any way he can.
He's not supposed to get too involved.
When the team unearths a string of unsolved murders and disappearances, nothing will stop Harry from finding out the truth. The hunt for a serial killer is on, but the murderer will talk only to Harry.
He might just be the next victim.

See my review

See what others have chosen for the letter J.

11 June 2013

Review: ROTTEN GODS, Greg Barron

Synopsis (Publisher)

A new wave of terror threatens a world torn by inequality, conflict, economic disaster and environmental chaos.

Heads of state gather in Dubai in an attempt to bring society back from the brink of global catastrophe. But when extremists hijack the conference centre, the clock starts ticking: seven days until certain death for presidents and prime ministers alike, unless the terrorists′ radical demands are met.

A treasonous British diplomat, an Australian intelligence officer, an airline pilot searching for his missing daughters, a mysterious Somali agent, and a disillusioned UN official are all forced to examine their motives, faith and beliefs as they attempt to stave off disaster, hurtling towards the deadline and a shattering climax.

Rotten Gods is both an imaginative tour de force and a dire warning, holding the reader spellbound until the last breathtaking page.

Blurb from Amazon Kindle

It took seven days to create the world ... now they have seven days to save it.
Extremists hijack the conference centre where heads of state have gathered in an attempt to bring society back from the brink of global environmental catastrophe, and the clock starts ticking: seven days until certain death for presidents and prime ministers alike, unless the terrorists′ radical demands are met.
Marika, an Australian intelligence officer, Isabella, a treasonous British diplomat, Simon, an airline pilot searching for his missing daughters, and Madoowbe, a mysterious Somali agent, are all forced to examine their motives, faith and beliefs as they attempt to stave off disaster, hurtling towards the deadline and a shattering climax.

My Take

ROTTEN GODS is not a quick read, but don't let that put you off - it is well worth your attention and signals the arrival another Australian author to put on your "look for" list. There is nothing about this book to indicate it is a debut title. The plotting is well executed and the writing is tight, with plenty of detail and plenty of depth.

The fact that the action is on a 7 day deadline heightens the tension. There are four main plot arenas and the story moves easily from one to the other. What doesn't sit so easily for the Western reader is the account of the damage their lifestyle has done, and continues to do, to the global environment. So this becomes a book with a message as well. It also highlights the attractiveness of extremist action for those who feel that the world, or at least those responsible for environmental policy, is not listening.

My rating: 4.8

I was reminded of the plot of THE LORDS' DAY by Michael Dobbs in which the Queen is taken hostage by terrorists at the opening of Parliament in the House of Lords. ROTTEN GODS however is far more global in its theme.

Other reviews to consider

About the author

Greg Barron has lived in both North America and Australia, and studied International Terrorism at Scotland’s prestigious St Andrew’s University. He has visited five of the world’s seven continents, once canoed down a flooded tropical river, and crossed Arnhem Land on foot. Greg’s writing reflects his interests in political, social and environmental change. He lives on a small farm in Eastern Australia’s coastal hinterland with his wife and two sons.

His website.

A second title, SAVAGE TIDE, is already available.

10 June 2013

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013: the Letter J


The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

This meme is an annual event on this blog. This is its 4th outing.
We already have a strong core of weekly contributors but you can join at any time.

Last week we featured the letter I


This week's letter is the letter J

Here are the rules

The page telling bloggers which letter to focus on will appear on each Monday together with a Mr Linky.

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, and for links to this year's entries.

Thanks for participating.

9 June 2013

9 June 2013, On the doorstep, waiting to be read

Currently I have many more books in the "waiting to be read" pile than I really have any hope of reading in the near future. Several of them seem to arrive each week at present, and sit on the shelves making me feel guilty.

See the history of this occasional post.

I'd like to also stress that there is no rhyme or reason to my selections.

Please note that this listing is in no way a recommendation for you to read a title, simply a chance for you to assess for yourself whether you would like to read it. I will also try to discover whether the book is available on Kindle, particularly for Australian authors which are not necessarily available overseas.

You might have noticed that I haven't made a lot of progress in trimming this huge pile, but still the books arrive: some from publishers in hope of a review, and some that I have requested from the library, because I have seen a good review, or even a mention of it, somewhere.

THE FROZEN SHROUD, Martin Edwards
This is a library book, requested because I saw a mention of it on Crime and mystery fiction Friend Feed.

Synopsis (Poisoned Pen Press)

Death has come twice to Ravenbank, a remote community in England’s Lake District, each time on Hallowe’en. Just before the First World War, a young woman’s corpse was found, with a makeshift shroud frozen to her battered face. Her ghost – the Faceless Woman – is said to walk through Ravenbank on Hallowe-en. Five years ago, another woman, Katya Moss, was murdered, and again her face was covered to hide her injuries.

Daniel Kind, a specialist in the history of murder, becomes fascinated by the old cases, and wonders whether the obvious suspects really did commit the crimes. He spends Hallowe’en at a party in Ravenbank – only to find death returning to this beautiful but isolated spot. Once more, the victim is a woman, once more her damaged face is shrouded from view.

The latest horrifying murder presents DCI Hannah Scarlett, head of the Cold Case Review Team, with the toughest challenge of her career. Is the case linked to the two earlier killings, and if so, what is the connection? Hannah has never had such a huge personal stake in solving a case, and it comes at a time when her private life is thrown into turmoil.

Hannah and Daniel join forces as they try to discover who killed the Faceless Women. But before the shocking puzzle is solved, both of them must confront ghosts from their own past, as well as the ghosts of lonely and mysterious Ravenbank.

GOOD AS GONE, Douglas Corleone
This is an ARC forwarded to me by Pan Macmillan Australia. The book is not due for release in Australia until September 2013 and there is an Amazon Kindle version available for pre-order.

The paper blurb that accompanied the book says that it is a "lightning fast abduction thriller that races through the streets of Europe in a style reminiscent of the Jason Bourne and Taken films."

Pan Macmillan Australia have Corleone's debut title ONE MAN'S PARADISE listed. It won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of American First Crime Novel Competition

THE HANGING, Lotte and Soren Hammer
This is a review copy sent to me by Bloomsbury Publishing
The authors are a sister and brother from Denmark, and the book is marketed as "the first in an exciting new six-part crime series."
The book was published this month.

Publisher's blurb
On a cold Monday morning before school begins, two children make a gruesome discovery. Hanging from the roof of the school gymnasium are the bodies of five naked and heavily disfigured men. Detective Chief Superintendent Konrad Simonsen and his team from the Murder Squad in Copenhagen are called in to investigate this horrific case - the men hanging in a geometric pattern; the scene so closely resembling a public execution. When the identities of the five victims and the disturbing link between them is leaked to the press, the sinister motivation behind the killings quickly becomes apparent to the police. Up against a building internet campaign and even members of his own team, Simonsen finds that he must battle public opinion and vigilante groups in his mission to catch the killers.

A nerve-wrenching look at justice and retribution, The Hanging is a spectacular crime tale straight from the heart of Scandinavia.

I'm also reading/ or planning to read these novels by Aussie authors
ROTTEN GODS by Greg Barron
THE MIDNIGHT PROMISE by Zane Lovitt
and an ARC of WATCHING YOU by Michael Robotham

7 June 2013

Forgotten Book: THE NEGOTIATOR, Frederick Forsyth.

My plan this year for my contributions to Friday's Forgotten Books hosted by Pattinase is to feature books I read 20 years ago - in 1993- from the records I have in my "little green book", which I started in 1975.
In 1993 I read 111 books and was pretty well addicted to crime fiction by then.

My choice this week is THE NEGOTIATOR by Frederick Forsyth.

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

1991, Glasnost has its enemies, the worlds oil is running out and ruthless mercenaries have kidnapped the US president's son. As the world teeters on the edge of catastrophe, the negotiator goes to work.

This was Forsyth's 10th book, a thriller, published in 1989.

There is a comprehensive plot disclosure on Wikipedia

The tension between the West and Arab countries over oil is still a viable topic and coincidentally I am currently reading ROTTEN GODS by Australian author Greg Barron. Over 20 years on from the plot of Forsyth's novel, heads of state gather in Dubai in an attempt to bring society back from the brink of global environmental catastrophe. But when extremists hijack the conference centre, the clock starts ticking: seven days until certain death for presidents and prime ministers alike, unless the terrorists' radical demands are met.

6 June 2013

Review: THE DEVIL'S SANCTUARY, Marie Hermanson

  • first published in Swedish in Sweden in 2011
  • translated into English by Neil Smith 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-84744-576-6
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Hachette Australia)

A breathless, heart-stopping psychological thriller from one of Sweden's best selling authors. Fear lies around every corner. . .

Estranged identical twins Daniel and Max have a complex relationship, so when Daniel goes to visit his bi-polar brother in a remote and expensive Swiss 'recovery' clinic, he has no idea what really lies in wait for him. Lulled by the routine and peacefulness of the clinic, Daniel finds himself unquestioningly accepting Max's plea for help in taking care of some business, and the brothers swap places for a few days.

But soon Daniel realises Max isn't coming back, and that the clinic is far from a place of recovery. Struggling to get anyone to believe who he really is, Daniel finds himself trapped in a cruel and highly secretive prison: this is no sanctuary, it's a living nightmare.

My Take

Daniel really should have known better than to trust his twin brother Max when he invited Daniel to visit him at the Swiss clinic in Himelstat. And then his proposal that they swap places for a few days was quite ludicrous, but then Daniel was always the more compliant. Only too late does Daniel realise that Max will not be coming back any time soon, and that Himelstat is not a place you can just walk out of.

Once Daniel decides to reveal to management that he and his brother have swapped and that Max has escaped, he realises that no-one is going to release him, particularly after the doctor in charge of him starts talking about multiple personalities in the one body. Attempts to escape show him that he doesn't know who he can trust, particularly when it appears that most of the other residents are psychopaths.

The plotlines verge on science fiction and fantasy and give the author some chances to explore possible treatments of psychiatric disorders.

For some reason the story kept reminding me of the 1960s British TV series The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan. Mind you I don't remember the story all that well, just that nothing was ever what it seemed.

To be quite honest, this is a most peculiar novel but it wasn't just the idea that my face to face reading group want to discuss it in a couple of weeks' time that kept me reading. I'm curious now to read another by this author, although THE DEVIL'S SANCTUARY appears to be the first of her novels translated into English..

My rating: 4.3

About the Author
An author and journalist, Marie Hermanson published her first book in 1986. Her novels are huge bestsellers in Scandinavia, and Musselstranden (Clam Beach) is considered a modern classic, with over 250,000 copies sold. Mannen under trappan (The Man Under the Stairs) was adapted into a TV drama in 2009. She lives in Gothenberg, Sweden.

4 June 2013

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013: I is for I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS by Alan Bradley


Following a pattern established in 2012, my contributions to the Crime Fiction Alphabet in 2013 will feature authors or books that I have read recently.

My choice this week is I AM HALF-SICK OF SHADOWS by Alan Bradley #4 in the series featuring twelve year old detective Flavia De Luce.

Synopsis (Amazon)

It’s Christmastime, and Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick.

But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern.

Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.

See my review.

See what others have chosen for the letter I.

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival May 2013

There is a very good variety of posts in the May 2013 Agatha Christie Reading Challenge blog carnival including reviews and news items.


Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Participants
1. Review:Crooked House
2. Review: APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH (@Christie in a Year)
3. Review Murder in the Mews Margaret@ BooksPlease
4. Notes on THE SECRET ADVERSARY (Christie in a Year)
5. Notes on THE MIRROR CRACK'D FROM SIDE TO SIDE (Christie in a Year)
6. Moira@ClothesinBooks: N or M?
7. Notes on THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT (Christie in a Year)
8. Notes on DEATH IN THE CLOUDS (Christie in a Year)
9. Review:A Pocket Full Of Rye
10. Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks Volume II, Murder In The Making- Quirkyreader
11. MiP - ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE
12. A Talent to Deceive -- Mystery Reference (TracyK)
13. David Suchet celebrates 25 years of portraying Poirot
14. Review:The Seven Dials Mystery
15. Flashcards for teaching Christie novels
16. Agatha Christie Literary Trail
17. Review: THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS
18. Moira@ClothesinBooks: Five Little Pigs


It is never too late to participate: the June ACRC Blog Carnival is now open for entries: blog posts, news items etc.

3 June 2013

Review: PROMISE, Tony Cavanaugh

  • Published by Hachette Australia 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-2847-4
  • 327 pages
  • debut title
Synopsis (Publisher)

Top Homicide cop Darian Richards has been seeking out monsters for too long. He has promised one too many victim's families he will find the answers they need and it's taken its toll. Now retired, a series of disappearances see him return to the gun. On his terms. But he knows, every promise has a price to pay. If you love Harry Bosch and Dave Robicheaux you'll love Darian Richards.

Top Homicide cop Darian Richards has been seeking out monsters for too long. He has promised one too many victim's families he will find the answers they need and it's taken its toll. After surviving a gunshot wound to the head he calls it quits and retires to the Sunshine Coast in an attempt to leave the demons behind. But he should have realised, there are demons everywhere and no place is safe. A serial killer is prowling the Sunshine Coast area and Darian tries to ignore the fact his experience could make a difference hunting him down.

All he wants is to sit at the end of his jetty on the Noosa River and ignore the fact that girls from the area have vanished over the past fourteen months. All blonde and pretty. Youngest: 13. Oldest: 16. He knows they are all dead but the cops were saying 'missing' or 'vanished . That's what you have to say if you don t have a body.

Jenny Brown was the first. She vanished sometime after 4 in the afternoon, Saturday 15 October the previous year. Except for her parents and her friends and everybody who knew her, it was thought she was just a runaway. Especially by the cops who allowed a good two or three minutes before arriving at that conclusion. By the time they'd reached the gate to the front yard of her house, before they'd even walked across the road and climbed into their cruiser, they would've forgotten Jenny Brown even existed.

But then others disappeared and they couldn't call them all runaways. Darian can't sit idly by and he decides he is going to find the killer and deal with him ... his way.

My Take

At thirty years old Darian Richards became Officer in Charge of Victoria Police's Homicide Squad, having earned the reputation of Australia's top homicide investigator. But failure doesn't sit well with him and sixteen years later, when he fails to find a serial killer taking girls riding trains, he resigns and heads north to Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

It seems there are serial killers everywhere, many murders going undetected. A year after Darian has fled from the south, a serial killer taking young girls in Queensland strikes on the Sunshine Coast. Darian Richards can't stand by and do nothing. He becomes a free lance investigator.

He draws into his net Marie, the wife of a local friend. She is a constable in the Queensland Police and through her he learns what the police know. They form a maverick team, together with Isosceles, an international investigator who provides online services.

By this time we have also learnt that if the courts don't convict and dispense justice then Darian will dispense his own. Over the years he has done this several times, removing perps who have beaten the courts. Darian Richards is a dangerous man, and a rather unlikeable character. You find yourself asking how different he is to the people he pursues.

What didn't work all that well for me in this novel were chapters written from the point of view of the killer whose public count is eight abductions. The author tries to get into his sick mind and the result is horrifying, making for a very noir novel.

My rating: 4.3

Tony Cavanaugh has already published a second novel featuring Darian Richards, DEAD GIRL SING.

Other reviews to check
About the author

Tony Cavanaugh is an Australian writer and producer of film and television, writing numerous dramas since the 1980s. He has over thirty years experience in the industry, in all fields, from the genesis of an idea to production. He has lectured at several prestigious universities and institutions including RMIT, Melbourne University, and the Australian Writer s Guild, and has been a regular guest on radio commenting on the film and television industry. Tony was also invited to judge the Logie Awards, Australian Film Institute Awards, and the International Emmy Awards, held in New York. 

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2013: the Letter I


The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

This meme is an annual event on this blog. This is its 4th outing.
We already have a strong core of weekly contributors but you can join at any time.

Last week we featured the letter H
 

This week's letter is the letter I

Here are the rules

The page telling bloggers which letter to focus on will appear on each Monday together with a Mr Linky.

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, and for links to this year's entries.

Thanks for participating.

2 June 2013

Review: BRING UP THE BODIES, Hilary Mantel - audio book

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The sequel to Hilary Mantel's 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne's head?

My Take

BRING UP THE BODIES gives a fascinating insight into Henry VIII's court and in particular into the way Thomas Cromwell, "Master Secretary", manipulated the families around the throne. Cromwell is as much concerned with keeping himself on top as with keeping Henry VIII happy.  The novel focusses on the period of 1535-6, when Anne's attempts to give Henry a male heir fail, and Henry's dissatisfaction, coupled with rumour and innuendo, result in her trial and eventual execution.

I am fairly familiar with Tudor history but this gives the reader a detailed "insider" point of view. I found it impossible to pick "real truth" from fiction, and the characters really do come to life. It is a wonderful way to learn history, or at least to get a commentary on it. The events described will send you off to check the novel against historical fact. Mantel's explanation of what motivates Thomas Cromwell makes you think twice.

Simon Vance does an excellent job of the narration.

You will notice that I am counting this as a non-crime-fiction title, although you could argue that an immense amount of crime is committed.

My rating: 4.7

Read some articles and reviews

What I read in May 2013

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2013

Another productive month with some really worthwhile and satisfying reads. Some new Aussie authors to try too.
My pick of the month was TRUST YOUR EYES by Linwood Barclay
The author, a Canadian, has been a favourite of mine for some years, and in fact I have another of his titles on my shelves right now.

Synopsis (author's website)

A schizophrenic man spends his days and nights on a website called Whirl360, believing he’s employed by the CIA to store the details of every town and city in the world in his head. Then one day, he sees something that shouldn’t be there: a woman being murdered behind a window on a New York street. Suddenly Thomas has more to deal with than just his delusions, as he gets drawn into a deadly conspiracy.

From Orion Books
Map-obsessed Thomas spends his days and nights on a virtual tour of the world through his computer screen, believing he must store the details of every town and city in his head. Then one day, while surfing a street view program, he sees something that shouldn't be there: a woman being murdered behind a window on a New York street.
When Thomas tells his brother Ray what he has witnessed, Ray humours him with a half-hearted investigation - until he realises Thomas may have stumbled onto a deadly conspiracy, which puts them both in danger...
With enough suspense to rival a Hitchcock film, this is a thriller with edge.

See my review

See what others have chosen for their pick of the month.

1 June 2013

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month May 2013

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2013


Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for May 2013, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
e.g.
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.



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