20 July 2017

Review: THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, Michael Robotham

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1127 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (July 11, 2017)
  • Publication Date: July 11, 2017
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01N7SVPRI
Synopsis (Amazon)

Everyone has an idea of what their perfect life is. For Agatha, it's Meghan Shaughnessy's.

These two women from vastly different backgrounds have one thing in common - a dangerous secret that could destroy everything they hold dear.

Both will risk everything to hide the truth, but their worlds are about to collide in a shocking act that cannot be undone.

My Take:

Here is another cracker from Australian author Michael Robotham.

Two women, Meg and Agatha, living in suburban London, are joined by a bond of pregnancy. They will even give birth within days. But Agatha knows much more about Meg than vice versa. And they come from very different backgrounds and life experiences. They are the narrators of the story and so we often get two versions of the same events.

Initially I felt very critical of the apparent thin-ness of the "official" blurb, but then in writing this "review" I became very aware of how difficult it is to talk about the story without revealing too much. (I hope you don't feel that I've told you too much as it is).

So, let me just recommend the book to you. It is a stand-alone, told through excellent character development, and with mounting suspense and plot twists as the book progresses. Underpinning everything is a commentary on modern living.

Michael Robotham remains at the top of my list of modern Aussie crime fiction authors.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read
BOMBPROOF
SHATTER #3
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME #4
5.0, THE WRECKAGE #5
4.8, SAY YOU'RE SORRY #6
5.0, WATCHING YOU #7
4.8, IF I TELL YOU... I'LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger
4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES

About the Author

Michael Robotham is a former investigative journalist whose psychological thrillers have been translated into twenty-three languages. In 2015 he won the prestigious UK Gold Dagger for his novel Life or Death, which was also shortlisted for the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. Michael has twice won a Ned Kelly Award for Australia's best crime novel for Lost in 2015 and Shatter in 2008. He has also twice been shortlisted for the CWA UK Steel Dagger in 2007 for The Night Ferry and 2008 with Shatter. He lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.

18 July 2017

Review: SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE, Sarah Schmidt

  • this edition published by Hachette Australia in 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-3688-2
  • source: my local library
  • 325 pages
Synopsis (Hachette Australia)

'He was still bleeding. I yelled, "Someone's killed Father."

I breathed in kerosene air, licked the thickness from my teeth. The clock on the mantel ticked ticked. I looked at Father, the way hands clutched to thighs, the way the little gold ring on his pinky finger sat like a sun. I gave him that ring for his birthday when I no longer wanted it. "Daddy," I had said. "I'm giving this to you because I love you." He had smiled and kissed my forehead.

A long time ago now.'
 
On 4 August 1892 Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. During the inquest into the deaths, Lizzie Borden was arrested and charged with the murder of her father and her stepmother.

Through the eyes of Lizzie's sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, the enigmatic stranger Benjamin and the beguiling Lizzie herself, we return to what happened that day in Fall River.

Lizzie Borden took an axe. Or did she?

My Take

This is a work of fiction based on true events, and I was never quite sure how fictionalised everything was.The evidence about the events that led to the murder Andrew and Abby Borden is presented by several narrators, looking for reasons for the murders.

We are told in the cover blurb that Lizzie Borden was tried and found innocent, and that no one was ever convicted of the crime. The novel presents a number of possible scenarios but I think you are left in no doubt at the end of the author's conclusion.

Nevertheless it is a book that keeps you reading, and it presents an analysis of the main characters.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
After completing a Bachelor of Arts (Professional writing and editing), a Master of Arts (Creative Writing), and a Graduate Diploma of Information Management, Sarah currently works as a Reading & Literacy Coordinator (read: a fancy librarian) at a regional public library. She lives in Melbourne with her partner and daughter. See What I Have Done is her first novel.

12 July 2017

Review: BIG LITTLE LIES, Liane Moriarty

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The internationally bestselling author turns her unique gaze on the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves every day and what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

'I guess it started with the mothers.'
'It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.'
'I'll tell you exactly why it happened.'

Pirriwee Public's annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead. Was it murder, a tragic accident... or something else entirely?

Big Little Lies is a funny, heartbreaking, challenging story of ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and and schoolyard politics.

'Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.'

Winner of the ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year

My Take

When your child goes off to kindy, it isn't just him or her that joins a new world. The parent(s) join a new world too, populated by novices like themselves, and also by other parents who have confidence that has come from experience generated by older children. And most are unprepared for the rivalry that will be generated as children are classified and their performance compared with that of others. It is a world of stresses, complicated by the fact that most families are hiding things they don't necessarily want to share.

But nothing that I experienced back in those kindy days led to the death of one of the other parents. This novel is full though of very believable scenarios and I enjoyed every minute of it. The natural audience for this book is probably women who have "been there", and I guarantee that it will stir memories.

A certain amount of tension is created by the fact that for most of the novel the reader does not know who is going to die, and why. Is the person who caused the death going to escape detection? After the death no-one wants to talk.

Liane Moriarty is an Australian author to watch,

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.6, THE HUSBAND'S SECRET

Novels to look for (list from Fantastic Fiction)
Three Wishes (2003)
The Last Anniversary (2005)
What Alice Forgot (2010)
The Hypnotist's Love Story (2012)
The Husband's Secret (2013)
Big Little Lies (2014)
     aka Little Lies
Truly Madly Guilty (2016)

9 July 2017

Review: THE THIRST, Jo Nesbo

  • Format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3361 KB
  • Print Length: 538 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (April 20, 2017)
  • Publication Date: April 20, 2017
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01LXW31Q5
  • series: Harry Hole #11
Synopsis: Amazon


HARRY HOLE IS BACK!

THERE’S A NEW KILLER ON THE STREETS...
A woman is found murdered after an internet date. The marks left on her body show the police that they are dealing with a particularly vicious killer.

HE’S IN YOUR HOUSE… HE’S IN YOUR ROOM
Under pressure from the media to find the murderer, the force know there’s only one man for the job. But Harry Hole is reluctant to return to the place that almost took everything from him. Until he starts to suspect a connection between this killing and his one failed case.

HE’S OUT FOR BLOOD
When another victim is found, Harry realises he will need to put everything on the line if he’s to finally catch the one who got away.


My Take


Harry Hole is as content as he's ever been. He is married, working as a lecturer at the Police Academy, even using his previous cases as examples for his students. He has promised his wife Rakel that he will never return to active policing. And his stepson Oleg has joined up.

But amongst the police force his reputation is legendary as the one who never lets a killer get away, even putting his own life on the line. And now murders are happening and the police think they know who is responsible - someone who did escape from Harry four years earlier.


Police Chief Mikael Bellman wants to be the Minster for Justice and a quick resolution to this nasty case is just what is needed. He needs Harry to come back, even though Harry is the bane of his life.


This is a gritty noir read, not for the squeamish.  It involves a vampirist, as well as being a long novel in three stages. Just when you think it is finished you realise that your Kindle is saying there is still 2 hours of reading left and Harry points out there are still some loose ends.

An excellent read.


My rating: 4.8

I've also read
NEMESIS
THE REDEEMER
5.0, THE SNOWMAN
4.8, THE LEOPARD
4.7, HEADHUNTERS
4.7, PHANTOM
4.7, THE BAT
4.7, POLICE
5.0, THE SON
4.4, BLOOD ON SNOW

8 July 2017

Review: STORMY COVE, Bernadette Calonego - audio book

Synopsis (Amazon)

As a globe-trotting freelance photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lori Finning has seen just about everything. But when she lands an assignment on the barren, snow-swept island of Newfoundland, she finds herself in harsh and unfamiliar territory.

During the long, dreary winters in the isolated fishing community of Stormy Cove, gossiping is the primary pastime. So Lori is surprised when she learns of a crime the locals have spent twenty years not talking about: the strange, unsolved murder of a teenage girl. As she delves deeper into the village's past, she'll discover dark family secrets, unexplained crimes, and an undeniable attraction to Noah, a taciturn local fisherman who just might hold all the answers.

My Take

An intriguing and rather complicated plot with lots of plot lines. Lori Finning's assignment to create a coffee table record of life in a remote Canadian fishing village turns into a murder mystery and an investigation of missing women. Rather inevitably it also has a romance strand, and also some danger to Lori herself.

Nicole Zanzarella does a good job with the narration, producing a number of voices to differentiate different characters.

The author also uses not only first voice narration but also some segments when a person is being interviewed about his/her impressions of the main characters in the story. This made for challenging listening.

My rating:4.2
 
About the author
Bernadette Calonego was born in Switzerland and grew up on the shores of Lake Lucerne. She was just eleven years old when she published her first story, in a Swiss newspaper. She went on to earn a teaching degree from the University of Fribourg, which she put to good use in England and Switzerland before switching gears to become a journalist. After several years working with the Reuters news agency and a series of German-language newspapers, she moved to Canada and began writing fiction. Stormy Cove is her fourth novel. As a foreign correspondent, she has published stories in Vogue, GEO, and SZ Magazin. She splits her time between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Newfoundland. 

3 July 2017

Review: Cherringham (1-3) - Cosy Crime Series Compilation, Matthew Costello, Neil Richards - audio book

Synopsis ( audible)

Jack's a retired ex-cop from New York, seeking the simple life in Cherringham. Sarah's a Web designer who's moved back to the village find herself. But their lives are anything but quiet as the two team up to solve Cherringham's criminal mysteries.

This compilation contains episodes 1 - 3: MURDER ON THAMES, MYSTERY AT THE MANOR and MURDER BY MOONLIGHT.

Here Jack and Sarah investigate a suicide in the River Thames - or was it murder? They investigate an "accidental" fire with deadly consequences, and they nab the culprit behind the Rotary Club choir poisoning.

Cherringham is a series à la Charles Dickens, with a new mystery thriller released each month. Set in the sleepy English village of Cherringham, the detective series brings together an unlikely sleuthing duo: English web designer Sarah and American ex-cop Jack. Thrilling and deadly - but with a spot of tea - it's like Rosamunde Pilcher meets Inspector Barnaby. Each of the self-contained episodes is a quick listen for the morning commute, while waiting for the doctor, or when curling up with a hot cuppa.

My Take

This is not very demanding listening, really a cozy in the real sense of the word. The events are almost everyday occurrences, the sort of scenarios the listening audience might find themselves in. The detective duo are interesting enough: a retired NYP detective and a housewife who is also a single mum. Each episode is 2-3 hours, so achievable with a longish return journey. There is not to think about in each scenario, but not a lot of mystery either. 

I think the character development of the detectives is quite well done, and Neil Dudgeon does a  good job of the narration.

My rating: 4.1

About the authors
Co-authors Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US), have been writing together since the mid 90's, creating content and working on projects for the BBC, Disney Channel, Sony, ABC, Eidos, and Nintendo to name but a few. Their transatlantic collaboration has underpinned scores of TV drama scripts, computer games, radio shows, and - most recently - the successful crime fiction series Cherringham.

The narrator of the audiobook, Neil Dudgeon, has been in many British television programmes including the roles of "DCI John Barnaby" in "Midsomer Murders" and "Jim Riley" in "The Life of Riley".  

What I read in June 2017

I have really slowed down in the last month or two, but I've also read some really good crime fiction.
My pick of the month is A GREAT RECKONING by Louise Penny
  1. 4.8, EARTHLY REMAINS, Donna Leon
  2. 4.4, DAINTREE, Annie Seaton
  3. 4.4, THE BUNTING QUEST, Steven Marcuson 
  4. 4.7, RACING THE DEVIL, Charles Todd
  5. 5.0, A GREAT RECKONING, Louise Penny 
  6. 4.8, WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE, Gunnar Staaleson  
See what others have read in the last month

1 July 2017

Review: LET THE DEAD SPEAK, Jane Casey

  • this edition published by Harper Collins UK 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-00-814899-7
  • 390 pages
  • #7 in the Maeve Kerrigan series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis ( Pan Macmillan US)

When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds her mother missing, the house covered in blood. Everything points to murder, except for one thing: there’s no sign of the body.

London detective Maeve Kerrigan and the homicide team turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter and Chloe Emery definitely have something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighborhood’s favorite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat, or is there more behind the charismatic façade?

As a body fails to materialize, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of testimonies and accusations. Who is lying, and who is not? And soon Maeve starts to realize that not only will the answer lead to Kate Emery, but more lives may hang in the balance.

With Let the Dead Speak, Jane Casey returns with another taut, richly drawn novel that will grip readers from the opening pages to the stunning conclusion.

My Take:

I have only read the first title in this series, so it was nice to re-acquaint myself with Maeve Kerrigan, recently made a DS. Obviously quite a lot has happened in her life in the intervening years.

Something appears to have happened to Kate Emery and the police decide to treat it as a murder although there is no body. This allows them to call on more resources than if they were just investigating a missing person. However forensic experts feel that the story told by the blodd spatters in Kate's house don't add up. Kate has left behind her wallet, her credit card, and to all intents and purposes this points to an abduction.

Chloe then disappears with the neighbour's daughter and fears are held for their safety. After a couple of days a traumatised Bethany returns without Chloe. Kerrigan's investigation ramps up.

The plot explores the relationships within an investigative team, and the roles played by systematic following of procedure, and intuitive leaps.

My Rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.6, THE MISSING
4.3, THE BURNING

Pick of the month for June 2017

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2017
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 June 2017, 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.


30 June 2017

New to me authors read April to June 2017

I haven't read quite as many new-to-me authors in this quarter of the year as in the first quarter but nevertheless they have been nearly half my total reads for the year.

You can see from my ratings that they have all been worth the effort.
I have now read 22 for the year out of a total of 52 books.
The most impressive was the winner of the Petrona Award for 2017, WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE.
Check to see what others have read.
 

29 June 2017

Meme- New to Me Authors - April to June 2017

It's easy to join this meme.

Just write a post about the best new-to-you crime fiction authors (or all) you've read in the period of April to June 2017, put a link to this meme in your post, and even use the logo if you like.
The books don't necessarily need to be newly published.

 After writing your post, then come back to this post and add your link to Mr Linky below. (if Mr Linky does not appear - leave your URL in a comment and I will add to Mr Linky when it comes back up, or I'll add the link to the post)
Visit the links posted by other participants in the meme to discover even more books to read.

This meme will run again at the end of August 2017
 


27 June 2017

Review: WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE, Gunnar Staalesen

  • format  Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 881 KB
  • Print Length: 285 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS; Tra edition (March 15, 2016), translated from Norwegian.
  • Publication Date: March 15, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B016721USA
Synopsis  (Amazon)
 
September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found.

Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge …

Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.
Winner of the Petrona Award 2017

My Take

From the start of this story I could not get away from the feeling that I have read other novels where other authors have deal with this scenario: little girl goes missing from outside the house where she is playing while mother is keeping half an eye on her.

The cold case that Varg Veum tackles revealed little about the child's disappearance during the original investigation, apart from the fact that the investigators felt there was something about the community that they weren't quite getting. The residents knew more than they were prepared to say and there was something "funny" about the cooperative community housing project. Now 25 years on, Veum finds that most of the couples are divorced and in the main they are more willing to talk. There are things they want to unburden.

Coincidentally one of the former residents was recently an innocent passerby during a jewellery robbery in town. He was shot dead by one of the robbers during an altercation on the footpath outside the store. This coincidence ensures police cooperation with Varg Veum.

This turns out to be only the first in a number of coincidences in the plot and a very different picture emerges of what happened to Mette. Varg Veum is middle-aged, a former policeman, a persistent and intuitive investigator who is not afraid to ask questions and to call in favours. He has a troubled past and an alcohol problem, but appears to be getting the better of it.

Gunnar Staaleson has been a prolific Norwegian crime writer since 1993, with mostly only novels written in the last decade available in English.  It appears that there are 18 in the series in Norwegian, 7 translated into English. This is the first one that I've read but it certainly won't be the last. Four are currently available on Kindle.

My rating: 4.8

About the author (Wikipedia)


Gunnar Staalesen (born 19 October 1947 in Bergen) is a Norwegian writer. Staalesen has a Cand philol. degree from Universitetet i Bergen and he has worked at Den Nationale Scene, the main theater in Bergen. Staalesen is best known for his crime novels involving private detective Varg Veum.

Available in English (Euro Crime list)
Varg Veum, PI in Bergen, Norway
Yours Until Death19932
• At Night All Wolves are Grey19865
The Writing on the Wall200211
The Consorts of Death200914
• Cold Hearts201315
We Shall Inherit the Wind201516
• Where Roses Never Die201617
• No One is Safe in Danger201718

24 June 2017

Review: A GREAT RECKONING, Louise Penny

  • this edition large print published by Thorndike Press 2016
  • #12 in the Armand Gamache series
  • ISBN 978-1-4104-8939-5
  • 641 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

My Take

Confessions:
#1 I've read most, but not all of this series, in order. While each novel can be read as a stand alone, there is character development from novel to novel. There are incidents referred to from the past and from previous novels, so my conclusion is that in reality you are best to read them in order. They are not light reads. The plots are complex and there is a great deal of underlying philosophy, so they do take some time.
#2 Last night I went to bed as usual and then an hour later got up so that I could finish the last 150 pages of this book. I knew I wasn't going to get to sleep otherwise. This book had me hooked.

Armand Gamache has retired. He did his best to clean up the Surete in Quebec and it nearly cost him his life. But he has realised that the greatest source of the corruption and lack of humanity seen in the officers of the Surete is the Academy where they were trained, so he takes on the job of its Commander.  He knows it will be hard because although he has replaced many of the professors he has retained some whom he knows are part of the source of the corruption. He has also brought in others who have betrayed him in the past.

Things seem to be going fairly well when one of the professors is found dead, shot in the head, with a revolver bearing a partial print from Gamache's hand. So everything breaks open and the Academy comes under the scrutiny of both the head of the Surete and an outsider. Gamache himself is in real danger.

Running in the background is another mystery: the meaning of a map that was found many years ago in the walls of the Bistro at Three Pines. Why was it made? What was its purpose? A central part of the mystery is that the village of Three Pines is not named on the map, although the iconic pine trees are there.

An engrossing read.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read
4.8, THE CRUELLEST MONTH
4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER
4.9, THE BRUTAL TELLING
5.0, BURY YOUR DEAD
5.0,  A TRICK OF THE LIGHT
4.5, THE HANGMAN - a novella
4.9, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY
5.0, HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN
4.9, THE LONG WAY HOME
4.9, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST

18 June 2017

Review: RACING THE DEVIL, Charles Todd

  • this edition published by Harper Collins, 2017
  • #19 in the Ian Rutledge series
  • ISBN 978-0-06-238621-2
  • 341 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Scotland Yard's Ian Rutledge finds himself caught in a twisted web of vengeance, old grievances, and secrets that lead back to World War I in the 19th installment of the acclaimed best-selling series.

On the eve of the bloody Battle of the Somme, a group of English officers having a last drink before returning to the front make a promise to each other: if they survive the battle ahead - and make it through the war - they will meet in Paris a year after the fighting ends. They will celebrate their good fortune by racing motorcars they beg, borrow, or own from Paris to Nice.

In November 1919, the officers all meet as planned, and though their motorcars are not designed for racing, they set out for Nice. But a serious mishap mars the reunion. In the mountains just north of their destination, two vehicles are nearly run off the road, and one man is badly injured. No one knows - or will admit to knowing - which driver was at the wheel of the rogue motorcar.

Back in England one year later, during a heavy rainstorm, a driver loses control on a twisting road and is killed in the crash. Was it an accident due to the hazardous conditions? Or premeditated murder? Is the crash connected in some way to the unfortunate events in the mountains above Nice the year before? The dead driver wasn't in France - although the motorcar he drove was. If it was foul play, was it a case of mistaken identity? Or was the dead man the intended victim after all?

Investigating this perplexing case, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge discovers that the truth is elusive - and that the villages on the South Downs, where the accident happened, are adept at keeping secrets, frustrating his search. Determined to remain in the shadows, this faceless killer is willing to strike again to stop Rutledge from finding him. This time, the victim he chooses is a child, and it will take all of Rutledge's skill to stop him before an innocent young life is sacrificed.

My Take

Some reading friends and I were talking the other day about authors aging their detectives in "real time" or not. The Charles Todd duo (mother and son) have chosen not to age Inspector Rutledge for here we are at installment #19 and we are still in 1920 with memories of World War One still fresh enough to impact of people's lives and actions. Many of the novels delve back into the past with incidents that took place during the war, and that now have impact post-war. There is a lot of information about the war and its economic and social impact on Britain, particularly on villages like the one where RACING THE DEVIL is set.

Little things like the story of Hamish McLeod are repeated from novel to novel, an attempt I think to ensure that a reader new to the series doesn't miss out on too much important background.

In many ways though Ian Rutledge feels like a "modern detective". Apart from the fact that getting from one place to another is pretty slow because mostly people are on foot or horseback (motorcars are still a rarety), and telephones virtually non-existent, Rutledge has relatively modern methods.

I wasn't totally clear by the end about all the links between the various plot lines. Perhaps I was just reading too fast in my attempt to get to the end of the book. It is a novel with a complex set of plot lines, and also lots of red herrings.

One interesting feature of this novel is that Rutledge contacts old friend Melinda Crawford, and so gets her daughter Bess Crawford (detective in the other Charles Todd series) to do some investigating for him. I have only read one title in the Bess Crawford series and this has sparked my interest to try another.

Overall, a satisfying read with just enough of a historical flavour.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
A TEST OF WILLS -#1
SEARCH THE DARK -#3
4.8, A FEARSOME DOUBT -#6
A PALE HORSE -#10
4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD - Bess Crawford series
4.7, A LONELY DEATH -#13
4.6, THE CONFESSION - #14
4.7, HUNTING SHADOWS - #16
4.7, NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE - #18

13 June 2017

Review: THE BUNTING QUEST, Steven Marcuson

  • this edition published by Hybrid Publishers 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-925272-15-4
  • 276 pages
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Two compelling adventures, set hundreds of years apart, come together in this breathtaking page-turner that reveals mankind’s greatest secret.

‘When Bunting drew this in 1581, absolutely no one in the world could have known what the coast of Western Australia looked like …’

Nick Lawrance, an antique map dealer, is shocked to find his gallery has been burgled. However, this isn’t an ordinary robbery: the thieves have ignored priceless maps and have only taken Bunting’s World Map. All of a sudden, Nick is thrown into a four-hundred-year religious mystery where strange people around him will do anything for this map … even kill for it. Nick has to figure out why, before it’s too late.

Thrilling and steeped in dark history, The Bunting Quest is inspired by a real-life map that displays the Australian coastline many years before its ‘discovery’. Here, two compelling adventures, set hundreds of years apart, come together in this breathtaking page-turner that reveals mankind’s greatest secret.

My Take

My main interest in this novel was generated by the links in the plot to the history of Western Australia. The author tells readers in a note in the last pages that the story is based partly on actual people and events, and partly on fiction.

It seems quite logical that the early European explorers of the islands to the north of Australia should also have explored the coast of Western Australia.  I prefer to think about deliberate exploration rather than espouse to just "blown off course". That they didn't continue on to establishing settlements was more likely due to the arid nature of the land as well as the fact that it seemed so sparsely populated, and had little to offer trading nations.

Other reviewers have commented on the plot similarities between this novel and those of Dan Brown. There is a certain amount of plausibility to the plot, but perhaps credibility is a little stretched by the idea of a quest to bury an object that could overturn the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless an interesting read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Steven Marcuson was born 1959 and raised in Glasgow, Scotland into a small but vibrant Jewish community. He received a BSc from Strathclyde University in Glasgow, majoring in textiles and marketing. Prior to immigrating to Australia in 1983, he volunteered for a year on a kibbutz in Israel and backpacked extensively throughout Europe, working as he went. In late 1983 he established Trowbridge Gallery, an antique print and map gallery in Perth which he runs to this day. That same year he met Miriam and together they have three children, two now living in Melbourne and one at home. His interests include playing blues and jazz guitar, reading books on history and historical literature and spending time with his family. You can check out his website here.

5 June 2017

Review: DAINTREE, Annie Seaton

  • first published 2016, Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-74353-569-1
  • 324 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)


The Daintree breeds survivors, those who can weather the storms, heat and floods that come hand-in-hand with its beauty. Doctor Emma Porter is one such survivor, dedicated to her patients and to preserving this precious land where she has made a home.

Emma's quiet life is disrupted when Doctor Jeremy Langford starts working at the hospital, bringing back painful memories: Jeremy was her first love and embodies all that she left behind in Sydney. Jeremy has demons of his own, however, and the tight-knit community of Dalrymple seems to promise the peace he has been looking for.

But while some come to the Daintree to find shelter, others are here to exploit the rainforest's riches. And they will stop at nothing to get their hands on its bounty.

My Take

Annie Seaton's website says that she writes "Women's Fiction in Australian landscapes." The Australian Women's Weekly calls it an action and romance packed thriller, that "raises the bar in rural fiction." I agree with these thoughts.

Certainly Annie Seaton's recognition of some of the current social and ecological issues in Australian life today comes through loud and clear. Her writing is tight and concise.

Perhaps the direction this story will take is signalled too obviously right from the beginning, but I found it a satisfying enough read, with believable characters and scenarios. It is not a murder mystery but there are mysteries to be solved.

My rating: 4.4

About the author.
Annie Seaton lives near the beach on the east coast of Australia. She is fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing and has been delighted to discover that readers love reading her stories as much as she loves writing them. Her career and studies have spanned the education sector for most of her working life, with the completion of a Masters Degree in Education, and working as an academic research librarian, a high school principal and a university tutor until she took up a full-time writing career.
Recently her genre of choice is women's fiction and you can read of the topical human and social issues that she explores in Kakadu Sunset and Daintree.
Annie gains inspiration from the natural beauty of landscapes and is passionate about raising awareness of the need to preserve the pristine areas that surround us. See more

4 June 2017

What I read in May 2017

A good month, but just a few less books
  1. 4.5, INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE, Ray Berard New Zealand writer
  2. 4.8, WHY DID YOU LIE? Yrsa Sigurdadottir   Winner of the Petrona Award   
  3. 4.4, A JARFUL OF ANGELS, Babs Horton
  4. 4.7, YOU WILL KNOW ME, Megan Abbott 
  5. 4.5, DICTATOR, Robert Harris    audio book
  6. 4.6, THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, Liane Moriarty  Australian author
  7. 4.5, TELL THE TRUTH, SHAME THE DEVIL, Melina Marchetta    Australian author
 My pick of the month is WHY DID YOU LIE? by Yrsa Sigurdadottir
A journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide.
An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the states to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing.
Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea.
They have one thing in common: they all lied.
And someone is determined to punish them...

See what others have recommended
 

Review: EARTHLY REMAINS, Donna Leon

  • published by Penguin Random House UK 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-78-515137-8
  • 308 pages
  • #26 in the Guido Brunetti series
Synopsis

During the interrogation of an entitled, arrogant man suspected of giving drugs to a young girl who then died, Commissario Guido Brunetti acts rashly, doing something he will quickly come to regret. In the aftermath, he begins to doubt his career choices and realises that he needs a break from the stifling problems of his work.

Granted leave from the Questura, Brunetti is shipped off by his wife, Paola, to a villa owned by a wealthy relative on Sant'Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the Venetian laguna. There, he intends to pass his days rowing, and his nights reading Pliny's Natural History.

The recuperative stay goes according to plan and Brunetti is finally able to relax, until Davide Casati, the caretaker of the house, goes missing following a sudden storm. Nobody can find him - not his daughter, not his friends, and not the woman he'd been secretly visiting. Now, Brunetti feels compelled to investigate, to set aside his holiday and discover what happened to the man who had recently become his friend.

In Earthly Remains, Donna Leon shows Venice through an insider's eyes.From family meals and vaporetti rides to the never-ending influx of tourists and suffocating political corruption, the details and rhythms of everyday Venetian life are at the core of this thrilling novel, and of the terrible crime at its heart.

My Take

Underlying the crimes committed in this novel, is an in-depth look at the problems plaguing modern day Venice. Davide Casati is haunted by the role he has played in compromising the ecology of Venice, in causing the death of his bees, and perhaps even the death of his wife.

Out rowing with Casati every day while he is taking recuperative leave Guido Brunetti becomes aware of the Casati's troubled mind, and when Casati is found drowned he decides to find out what happened in his past.

Once again Donna Leon takes an issue that is troubling modern Venice,embeds some crime fiction in it, and then makes us think about the bigger picture, issues that make even have global implications.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
ABOUT FACE
THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
4.4, A QUESTION OF BELIEF
4.5, BEASTLY THINGS
4.4, QUIETLY IN THEIR SLEEP
3.9, THE JEWELS OF PARADISE
4.8, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS
4.6, DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY
4.7, BY ITS COVER
4.5, THE GOLDEN GOOSE
4.8, THE WATERS OF ETERNAL YOUTH
4.5, FALLING IN LOVE

1 June 2017

Pick of the Month for May 2017

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2017
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 2017, 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.


28 May 2017

Review: TELL THE TRUTH, SHAME THE DEVIL, Melina Marchetta

  • first published in 2016 by the Hatchette Book Group
  • ISBN 978-0-316-3429-1
  • 407 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Booktopia)

Melina Marchetta's gripping new novel Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is part family saga, part crime fiction, and wholly unputdownable.

Chief Inspector Bish Ortly of the London MET, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in a whisky bottle. Something has to give. He's no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students on tour in France is hit in a bomb attack. Bish goes immediately to the scene, not in an official capacity, but because his daughter Bee was on that bus. Four people have been killed and another four critically injured.

Bee has mercifully survived, and so too has seventeen-year old Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years previously her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing twenty-three people in the process. Her mother, Noor, who ultimately confessed to helping make the bomb, is serving a life sentence. But before Violette's involvement in the French tragedy can be established she disappears, along with a younger male student.

Bish Ortly has another interest in this case besides his daughter: he was involved in Noor LeBrac's arrest.

My Take

A very readable book with plenty of puzzles to solve, and a number of personal interest stories.

The main puzzle is who has put the bomb on the bus and why? One of the victims Violette LeBrac is no stranger to terrorism and the media is quick to make the association and to infer that she has somehow been responsible for this bomb. When Violette goes on the run with another student, Bish Ortly is asked by British security to befriend the other families whose children were on the bus, to find out where Violette might have gone.

The first reviews I saw about this book talked about how good it was to see Melina Marchetta venturing into the world of adult crime fiction. Having now finished the book I'm not sure that that was her intention (even though I have been told that she herself has said so). I thought the author would still see herself writing mainly for an older YA audience, helping them come to terms with some of the serious issues of the adult world, in particular terrorism, racism, and sexuality. I didn't think that so much for the bulk of the book, but certainly felt it in the last few pages.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Melina Marchetta's first novel, Looking for Alibrandi, swept the pool of literary awards for young adult fiction in 1993, winning the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) among many others. In 2000 it was released as a major Australian film, winning an AFI award and an Independent Film Award for best screenplay as well as the NSW Premier's Literary Award and the Film Critics Circle of Australia Award.

Melina taught secondary school English and History for ten years, during which time she released her second novel, Saving Francesca, in 2003, followed by On the Jellicoe Road in 2006, and Finnikin of the Rock in 2008. Saving Francesca won the CBC Book of the Year Award for Older Readers. On the Jellicoe Road was also published in the US as Jellicoe Road, and it won the prestigious American Library Association's Michael L Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature in 2009. In 2008, Melina's first work of fantasy, Finnikin of the Rock, won the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel and was shortlisted for the 2009 CBCA Award for Older Readers.

Melina's most recent novel, The Piper's Son, was published in 2010 and has been long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. Melina's novels have been published in more than sixteen countries and twelve languages.

25 May 2017

Review: THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, Liane Moriarty

  • first published 2013, Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-74261-394-9
  • 402 pages
  • Author website
Synopsis ( Author website)



At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read…

My Darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret – something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too.

Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all – she’s an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home.
But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia – or each other – but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

My Take

I have had many people recommend this author to me, and particularly urging me to read  THE HUSBAND'S SECRET and BIG LITTLE LIES which I aim to read sometime soon.

There are 3 intertwined stories in THE HUSBAND'S SECRET. The connections are not obvious at first and I felt initially that I was having to work hard to get the names and the families straight in my head. The main setting is Sydney, Australia, but I didn't think the setting actually mattered. I could see that the stories would appeal to an American audience too.

I've talked with people about whether this is really crime fiction. Certainly a crime was committed and the plot reaches back nearly four decades. But in reality the book is not so much about the crime but about relationships and family. In some ways it is a lot less noir than my usual reading, but there is a strong element of psychological exploration, and the dilemma about what to do with the secret.

So, I'm not going to tell you any more, other than the book was extremely readable, and that this is an author worth following.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

A new-to-me Australian author who has recently become hugely successful
Three Wishes (2003)
The Last Anniversary (2005)
What Alice Forgot (2010)
The Hypnotist's Love Story (2012)
The Husband's Secret (2013)
Big Little Lies (2014)
     aka Little Lies
Truly Madly Guilty (2016)

22 May 2017

Review: DICTATOR, Robert Harris - audio book

 Synopsis (Audible)There was a time when Cicero held Caesar’s life in the palm of his hand. But now Caesar is the dominant figure, and Cicero’s life is in ruins.

Exiled, separated from his wife and children, his possessions confiscated, his life constantly in danger, Cicero is tormented by the knowledge that he has sacrificed power for the sake of his principles.

His comeback requires wit, skill and courage - and, for a brief and glorious period, the legendary orator is once more the supreme senator in Rome.

But politics is never static, and no statesman, however cunning, can safeguard against the ambition and corruption of others.

Riveting and tumultuous, Dictator encompasses some of the most epic events in human history yet is also an intimate portrait of a brilliant, flawed, frequently fearful yet ultimately brave man - a hero for his time and for ours.

My Take

It took some time to get used to the different narrator in this series (the earlier books IMPERIUM and LUSTRUM had been narrated by Bill Wallis who had done such a good job).

The story resumes with Julius Caesar in power and the Roman Republic in tatters as the Senate struggles for a way to control his megolomania. And then the assassination of Caesar by senators who think they are saving the Republic leads to chaos because there really is no-one to take charge and in the long run Cicero is really too old. He thinks he has Caesar's heir Octavian under control  but sadly misjudges the situation.

This series really brings history to life as well has making it relevant to the modern context. The audio books are excellent.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.8, IMPERIUM
4.6, LUSTRUM 

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