27 May 2018

Review: ROGUE LAWYER, John Grisham - audio book

  • Originally published: 20 October 2015
  • Author: John Grisham
  • Genre: Legal thriller
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • Country: United States of America
  • Pages: 352 pp (Hardcover 1st edition)
  • narrator of audio version: Mark Deakin:
 Synopsis (author)

On the right side of the law. Sort of.

Sebastian Rudd is not your typical street lawyer. He works out of a customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, fine leather chairs, a hidden gun compartment, and a heavily armed driver. He has no firm, no partners, no associates, and only one employee, his driver, who’s also his bodyguard, law clerk, confidant, and golf caddy. He lives alone in a small but extremely safe penthouse apartment, and his primary piece of furniture is a vintage pool table. He drinks small-batch bourbon and carries a gun.

Sebastian defends people other lawyers won’t go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult, who is accused of molesting and murdering two little girls; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house.  Why these clients? Because he believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial, even if he, Sebastian, has to cheat to secure one. He hates injustice, doesn’t like insurance companies, banks, or big corporations; he distrusts all levels of government and laughs at the justice system’s notions of ethical behavior.


My Take

The structure of this book is virtually that of a series of episodes, or linked short stories, in Sebastian Rudd's life. 

Rudd's clients are often those whom other lawyers will not take, and sometimes they are not innocent. Rudd often attracts a lot of opposition, even becoming a target for those who despise his clients. 

The narration is excellent with Mark Deakin dramatising a number of voices.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.4, A TIME TO KILL

25 May 2018

Review: THE SANS PAREIL MYSTERY, Karen Charlton

  • this edition published in 2015 by Thomas Mercer
  • ISBN 978-1503-947825
  • 322 pages
  • source: my local library
  • The Detective Lavender Mysteries #2
Synopsis (Amazon)

On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.

With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama.

It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.

My Take

The second in the Detective Lavender series, set in London in 1810, Lavender is the chief detective in the Bow Street Runners. The body of a young woman is found under the floor of a derelict house about to be demolished. She is identified by the pathologist who had seen her on stage at a local theatre.

Apart from the murder mystery, the story gives interesting insights into Regency London. The Napoleonic Wars are not going well and London is full of foreigners such as Spanish that have fled from the invaders and French spies and those who who have fled from Bonaparte's regime. William, Duke of Clarence, who lives with an actress, is one of the circle of those who patronise the Sans Pareil theatre. (From the early 1790s until 1811, William lived with his mistress, the actress Dorothy Jordan. They had 10 children who took the surname Fitzclarence). Later he becomes William IV, married to Queen Adelaide. Ironically, in view of the 10 earlier children, their marriage is childless.

Lavender himself is very friendly with a Spanish widow. She is also a Catholic in a largely Protestant England.

The story becomes a tale of espionage when a coded document is discovered among the dead actress' papers.

This was one of those books that could have done with much better proof reading. The "typos" were made more noticeable by an earlier borrower who had gone through with a pencil striking words out and indicating omissions. Some errors were obviously caused by the use of an auto-correcter where the wrong version of a word had been accepted. All would have been funny if it hadn't become so annoying.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Karen Charlton, a writer of mysteries, writes historical crime fiction, set in Regency England.

The Detective Lavender Mysteries, published by Thomas & Mercer, are the fictional adventures of Stephen Lavender, who was a real-life Principal Officer with the Bow Street Police Office in London. 

By the early 19th century, Principal officers had a variety of different and important roles although they were still nicknamed 'Bow Street Runners' as if they were messenger boys. Apart from supporting their colleagues solve crime in the capital, they were often sent out to help magistrates in the provinces with difficult cases. They also took part in undercover work in periods of insurrection, for example, during the Luddite riots in the Midlands and were available to hire by wealthy landowners.

They were Britain's earliest private detectives and were famous throughout London. They were the only policemen allowed into Buckingham House (the forerunner of the palace) and did security work for the Bank of England. On some occasions, they were even sent abroad to help with crimes and criminals who had spilled out onto the continent. 

Where my reading is heading

My life is dominated by lists, some of them a bit incomplete

But anyway here is some of the crime fiction that I have my sights set on for the next few weeks

TBRN - To Be Read Next - lists to give me direction, but I often ignore them :-)

  • BY MY BED
    • FAR FROM TRUE, Linwood Barclay
    • THE TWENTY-THREE, Linwood Barclay
    • MISS KOPP'S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS, Amy Stewart
    • BLUE LIGHT YOKOHAMA, Nicolas Obregon
  • Book Group
    • DARK PINES, Will Dean
    • TIME IS A KILLER, Michel Bussi
    • LIBRARY BOOKS
    • IN THE SHADOW OF AGATHA CHRISTIE, Leslie S. Klinger (edit)
    • THE WITNESS, Nora Roberts
    • THE SANS PAREIL MYSTERY, Karen Charlton
    • THE GUILTY WIFE, Elle Croft
    • THE SIXTH WINDOW, Rachel Abbott
  • AUDIO BOOKS ON THE GO
    • ROGUE LAWYER, John Grisham
  • e-books - Kindle & iPad
    • COME A LITTLE CLOSER, Rachel Abbott
    • KILLER'S ISLAND, Anna Jannson
    • ON THE LIP OF A LION, Roy Jenner
    • NOT WITHOUT RISK, Pete Trewin
  • REVIEW BOOKS
    • THE MARMALADE MURDERS, Elizabeth J. Duncan

23 May 2018

50 Books Read

I'm steaming along quite well this year, and have reached one of those milestones: 50

I keep a full record of categories here
The main ones are
  • 2018 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20: currently 11
  • 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20. Currently 6
  • British Books Challenge 2018 currently 24
  • 2018 Ebook Reading Challenge currently 13
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge currently 17
  • Snagged at the Library currently: 24
  • Audio books: currently: 8
Looking at the ratings I've given them, you may well note that they range only from 5.0 to 4.0
To be truthful I've had a few DNFs that I have not recorded, but actually I've finished and rated over  90% of the books that I've started. I think that is because so many of the books that I tackle, I do so as a result of recommendations in book groups and by friends on line. So, in a sense, a certain amount of pre-selection has already taken place.

Here are the books


22 May 2018

Review: MACBETH, Jo Nesbo

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3476 KB
  • Print Length: 494 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1781090262
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (April 5, 2018)
  • Publication Date: April 5, 2018
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01N6STDIS
Synopsis  (Amazon)

He’s the best cop they’ve got.

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.
He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.
Unless he kills for it. 

My Take

Beware of spoilers!

Right from the beginning there is a dystopian feeling about this stand-alone novel unmistakeably related to the "Scottish play". In it you will meet modern versions of the main characters from the Shakespearian story, bearing in mind that his stage version was only that - a fictionalisation of what had happened in Scotland over 500 years earlier.

The setting of the novel seems rather obscure and vague, with the city not actually being named. although obviously in Scotland. The city is no longer a bustling metropolis. The drug trade and drug pushing has gone on too long. Addicts lie everywhere. There's a depiction of the struggle between opposing groups struggling for control of its underworld and drug trade: cops, bikies, corrupt politicians. The police force has been cleansed but there is rivalry between groups, at least one mole, and power struggles everywhere you look.

Nesbo has taken themes and plot lines from the Shakespearian play and put them in modern settings. This book won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially not those who are expecting a Nordic thriller. It will mean more to those who know the original play. Other reviews that I have read on Amazon have asked why Nesbo went down this path. I think he recognised a timeless story, but just to make sure he used the same names for many of the characters: Macbeth, Banquo, Malcolm, Lennox, Fleance etc., so we would recognise them too.

An interesting rather than enjoyable novel, springing from the sort of thoughts you have after seeing the Scottish play and wondering whether it has modern relevance. I think Nesbo proves that it does.


My rating: 4.3

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
4.8, THE THIRST
4.4, MIDNIGHT SUN: BLOOD ON THE SNOW 2 

15 May 2018

Review: RUSH OF BLOOD, Mark Billingam

  • this large print edition published by W F Howes Ltd 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-47120-637-5
  • 518 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Perfect strangers. A perfect holiday. The perfect murder...

Three couples meet around the pool on their Florida holiday and become fast friends. But on their last night, their perfect holiday takes a tragic twist: the teenage daughter of another holidaymaker goes missing, and her body is later found floating in the mangroves. When the shocked couples return home, they remain in contact, and over the course of three increasingly fraught dinner parties they come to know one another better. But they don't always like what they find: buried beneath these apparently normal exteriors are some dark secrets, hidden kinks, ugly vices... Then, a second girl goes missing. Could it be that one of these six has a secret far darker than anybody can imagine? A brilliantly plotted, utterly gripping thriller about the danger of making friends on holiday.

My take

3 couples: Angie and Barry, Sue and Ed, Marina and Dave, meet at a Florida resort, and on their last day at the hotel the intellectually challenged daughter of another holiday maker goes missing. The three British couples are questioned about their whereabouts at the time the girl went missing, and nothing seems suspicious and they are allowed to fly home.

The structure of the book is interesting: emails arranging dinner parties once they are home, chapters exploring how each couple happened to take that holiday along with other details of their marriages, interspersed with the occasional chapter in the voice of the murderer.

At their first meeting back in London the conversation inevitably turns to whether the missing girl in Florida has been found. Back in Florida We are introduced to Detective Jeffrey Gardner, in charge of the investigation. Six weeks after she disappeared the body of the young girl is found, and in London the Lewisham CID room gets a request from the Florida detective for follow up interviews of the British tourists. The task is handed to Trainee Detective Constable Jenny Quinlan who is determined to make her mark. And then a second girl goes missing, but this time in Jenny's territory.

This was a really well plotted story. It had me asking who the murderer was- trying to identify him or her from those very short chapters that kept popping up.

As it turned I was very nearly right, but the author inserted a couple of real twists at the end.

My rating: 4.5 

I've also read
4.3, TALKING TO THE DEAD

11 May 2018

Review: THE VANISHING BOX, Elly Griffiths

  • this edition published by Quercus (UK) 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-78429-700-8
  • 351 pages
  • #4 in the Stephens & Mephisto Mystery series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

The fourth Stephens and Mephisto mystery from the author of the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway series, for fans of Agatha Christie and Anthony Horowitz
 
'Vivid description, masterful sleight of hand and a lightness of touch add up to a terrific read for aficionados and newcomers alike' Guardian

Winter, 1953. A young flower seller is found dead in her room at a Brighton boarding-house, posed with chilling perfection into a recreation of the death of Lady Jane Grey. This is a killer unlike any DI Edgar Stephens has encountered before.

Across the city at the Hippodrome theatre, Max Mephisto is top of the bill in a double act with his daughter Ruby. Tarnishing the experience, though, is one of the other acts: a seedy 'living tableaux' show where barely-dressed women strike poses from famous historical scenes. Is the resemblance to the murder scene pure coincidence, or is life imitating art?

When another death occurs - this time within the troupe itself - Max once again finds himself involved in one of Edgar's cases, and a threat that will come closer to home than anything before. What should be just a job is about to become personal.

My take


When people ask me about the best way to tackle a book that is part of a series, I always tell them to start with the first book. Well, this time I didn't take my own advice and I think I paid the penalty.

One of the benefits of reading a series from the first book is that you meet the characters as they are introduced and read of the events in their lives, and then follow the minor plots as they develop. There were references to previous events in THE VANISHING BOX about which I had no clue and could only surmise what had happened. Similarly I was coming to the main characters cold and had little idea, apart from hints dropped in the book, about the connections between them. As the story progressed those omissions mattered less, but the end result was that it took me a while to warm to the main characters and to begin to enjoy the story.

I like the time frame of 1953. World War II is an event that connects the investigative duo of DCI Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto the magician, and this is the time of variety halls and boarding houses. The world has an old-fashioned feel about it, of a morality not quite the same as ours. Policewomen who actively participate in investigations of murder are new, and there is a feeling in the force that they need to be protected from gruesome sights and are best as providing comfort in distressing situations.

In the long run it was an entertaining read but for most of the time I had little idea who the murderer was, so the final explanation came as a bit of a surprise.



My rating: 4.4


About the author
WINNER OF THE 2016 CWA DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY. Elly Griffiths was born in London. She worked in publishing before becoming a full-time writer. Her bestselling series of Dr Ruth Galloway novels, featuring a forensic archaeologist, are set in Norfolk. The series has won the CWA Dagger in the Library, and has been shortlisted three times for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Her Stephens and Mephisto series is based in 1950s Brighton. She lives near Brighton with her husband, an archaeologist, and their two children.

6 May 2018

Review: THE FIX, David Baldacci

  • this edition published by Hachette Book Group 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-4879-4546-8
  • 417 pages
  • #3 in the Amos Decker series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Amos Decker witnesses a murder just outside FBI headquarters. A man shoots a woman execution-style on a crowded sidewalk, then turns the gun on himself.

Even with Decker's extraordinary powers of observation and deduction, the killing is baffling. Decker and his team can find absolutely no connection between the shooter--a family man with a successful consulting business--and his victim, a schoolteacher. Nor is there a hint of any possible motive for the attack.

Enter Harper Brown. An agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, she orders Decker to back off the case. The murder is part of an open DIA investigation, one so classified that Decker and his team aren't cleared for it.

But they learn that the DIA believes solving the murder is now a matter of urgent national security. Critical information may have been leaked to a hostile government--or worse, an international terrorist group--and an attack may be imminent.

Decker's never been one to follow the rules, especially with the stakes so high. Forced into an uneasy alliance with Agent Brown, Decker remains laser focused on only one goal: solving the case before it's too late.

My Take:

Amos Decker is "the memory man" - the man who has a photographic memory, the man who can never forget. He also appears to others to be a little tunnel-visioned, perhaps a touch autistic. He hasn't always been that way. His special powers are the result of severe concussion which has put his brain onto a permanent state of video record.

The murder takes place right in front of Decker, in front of the FBI headquarters in Washington DC. And nothing about it seems to make sense.The shooter is a respectable business man on his way to a meeting at headquarters and he doesn't appear to know the victim at all. The FBI investigation gets a set back when a DIA tells them that they must surrender the investigation to them.

The case turns out to be one of "homeland security", that state of awareness that the USA has been in since 9/11. But the issues that result in the shooting go back decades.

My Rating: 4.4

I've also read THE WHOLE TRUTH

5 May 2018

Review: RECALLED TO LIFE, Reginald Hill - audio book

  • source: my local library
  • Narrated by: Brian Glover
  • Series: Dalziel & Pascoe, Book 13
  • Length: 11 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook 
  • ISBN: 1-4915-7352-X / 978-1-4915-7352-5 (USA edition)
    Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Release date: 08-29-05 
  • originally published 1992 

Synopsis (Audible)

1963. It was the year of the Profumo Scandal, the Great Train Robbery, the Kennedy Assassination ...and the Mickledore Hall Murder. The guests at the hall that weekend had included a Tory minister, a CIA officer specializing in dirty tricks, a British diplomat with royal connections, and Cissy Kohler, a young American nanny who had come to England for love. And love kept her in England for nearly 30 years. In jail. For murder.

Detective Superintendent Andrew Dalziel is convinced that Cissy Kohler was -- and is -- guilty. But, investigating further, he soon finds his certainties being eroded. Not a state of affairs Dalziel can put up with for long, particularly when his old mentor's reputation is at stake. Not to mention his own...

My Take

The decision by the narrator/publisher to have the Yorkshire accent feature so strongly in this audio book was a brave one, and, for this non-Yorkshire listener, a trying one. I kept wishing they would lapse into "proper" English.

The story begins with the release of Cissy Kohler from prison, her sentence quashed, but the reason for the release is not given. "New evidence at come to light" - at the instigation of an American TV host into whose care Cissy is released.

The conviction obtained 30 years before is under scrutiny, especially the role played by the now-dead Inspector Tallantire, Dalziel's old boss. If Cissy Kohler is innocent, what does that mean in the case of Mickledore who was hanged for the murder? 

In the long run the plot was a very complex one with some historical roots. Listening to an audio version probably detracted from my ability to follow the plot, as it is very difficult to check on a point that you didn't quite get the significance of at first. This book also has little quotations at the beginning of each chapter, and their meaning often quite eluded me.

I was struck though by Reginald Hill's at times quirky sense of humour, interesting turn of phrase, an allusions to other literature.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES
ASKING FOR THE MOON
4.5, CHILD'S PLAY
DEATH OF A DORMOUSE
MIDNIGHT FUGUE
THE SPY'S WIFE
THE ROAR OF THE BUTTERFLIES
THERE ARE NO GHOSTS IN THE SOVIET UNION
4.8, THE WOODCUTTER 

3 May 2018

Review: THE RUIN, Dervla McTiernan

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 704 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (February 19, 2018)
  • Publication Date: February 19, 2018
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0758ZBY2K
Synopsis (Amazon)


Galway 1993: Young Garda Cormac Reilly is called to a scene he will never forget. Two silent, neglected children - fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack - are waiting for him at a crumbling country house. Upstairs, their mother lies dead.

Twenty years later, a body surfaces in the icy black waters of the River Corrib. At first it looks like an open-and-shut case, but then doubt is cast on the investigation's findings - and the integrity of the police. Cormac is thrown back into the cold case that has haunted him his entire career - what links the two deaths, two decades apart? As he navigates his way through police politics and the ghosts of the past, Detective Reilly uncovers shocking secrets and finds himself questioning who among his colleagues he can trust.

What really did happen in that house where he first met Maude and Jack? The Ruin draws us deep into the dark heart of Ireland and asks who will protect you when the authorities can't - or won't.

My Take

Cormac Reilly has recently moved back to Galway from a top notch crime unit in Dublin. But he is finding it hard to fit in. Others at the station turn their backs on him, or try to score points at his expense. He is assigned to routine enquiries into cold cases, well below his level of experience. Then an apparent suicide turns out to be someone from his early days as a Garda. Coincidentally, it seems, he is assigned to the cold case twenty years before where he first met Jack Blake, the young man who has just died in the River Corrib.

It is hard to believe this is a debut novel, it is written with such assurance of tone. The plotting is clean with quite a number of well developed strands, while the characterisation is excellent, and relationships between characters well explored. I liked the linking between cold cases and current ones, with a clear indication of the role modern technologies can play - not just DNA but apps like Google Timeline.

An author's note at the end tells readers there is a second novel to be released in 2019. I certainly look forward to seeing it.

My rating: 4.8

About the author
Dervla McTiernan was born in County Cork, Ireland, to a family of seven. She studied corporate law at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and the Law Society of Ireland, and then practiced as a lawyer for twelve years. Following the global financial crisis she moved with her family to Western Australia, where she now lives with her husband and two children. In 2015 she submitted a story for the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto competition and was shortlisted. This gave her the confidence to complete her first novel, The Ruin

What I read in April 2018

April 2018

I read a good range of books in the last month
My Pick of the Month is THE GIRL BEFORE by J P Delaney
See what others have chosen for their Pick of the Month.

1 May 2018

Pick of the Month: April 2018

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2018
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 April 2018, 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.


29 April 2018

Review: COMPANY MAN, Joseph Finder

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 4242 KB
  • Print Length: 571 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (July 1, 2014)
  • Publication Date: July 1, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00KFDQZHY
Synopsis (Amazon)

Nick Conover is the CEO of a major corporation, a widower and single parent, he's struggling to insulate his ten-year-old daughter and angry sixteen-year-old son from the town's hostility.

When his family is threatened by a nameless stalker, Nick is faced with a dead body and damning circumstances. To protect his family, he must cover up this murder.

Now Audrey Rhimes, a police investigator with an agenda of her own, is determined to connect Nick to the homicide. Nick, in the meantime, begins to unravel a web of intrigue within his own corporation, involving his closest colleagues, that threatens to gut the company and bring him down with it. With everything he spent his life working for hanging in the balance, Nick Conover discovers that life at the top is just one small step away from a long plunge to the bottom.

My Take

Recently Nick Conover was the one, as the CEO of the Stratton Corporation, who instigated 5,000 layoffs, to keep the company afloat. So now he is known in the local media as "Slasher" and people turn away as he approaches them.

Last year his wife was killed in a late night motor car accident on an icy road. And now he has a stalker breaking into his house and leaving cryptic messages daubed on the walls. Nick and his family live in a mansion in a gated community but it doesn't stop the stalker. Over the past year he has had calls from the alarm company or the police. But the police aren't in a hurry to track the stalker down. The latest incident is the death of their family dog, and now Nick is seriously worried.

Nick gets his company security director Rinaldi to install a better security system and also accepts a gun from him. Soon after the new system is installed, the stalker comes back, and approaches the house. Nick shoots him in a panic, and Rinaldi disposes of the body. Nick then lives in fear that the body will be found and he will be exposed as a murderer.

The story makes an arresting start but a dead body isn't Nick's only problem. The Stratton Corporation isn't going well, he gets to the point where he doesn't know who to trust, there are problems at school with his 16 year old son, and then the body is found.

An excellent read. Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
4.5, THE SWITCH

23 April 2018

Review: DEATH AT THE DURBAR, Arjun Gaind

  • review copy supplied by author
  • #2 in the Maharajah series 
  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; Reprint edition (March 6, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1464209200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1464209208
Synopsis (Amazon)

December, 1911. All of India is in a tizzy. A vast tent city has sprung up outside the old walled enclave of Mughal Delhi, where the British are hosting a grand Durbar to celebrate the coronation of the new King, George V. From across India, all the Maharajas and Nawabs have gathered at the Viceroy of India's command to pay homage and swear loyalty to the King Emperor, the first monarch of England to travel out to India personally.

Maharaja Sikander Singh of Rajpore is growing increasingly bored, cooling his heels at the Majestic Hotel as he awaits George V's arrival. Just as his frustration is about to peak, a pair of British officers shoulders in. They insist that he accompany them to the British Encampment. Irked, but his curiosity piqued, Sikander agrees. To his surprise, they take him to the King Emperor's quarters where Sikander's old school friend, Malik Umar Hayat Khan, the Durbar herald, awaits. Malik Umar is serving Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy and the highest-ranked Englishman in the country. Lord Hardinge, overruling several subordinates, tells Sikander that his services as a sleuth are needed by King and country. Sworn to secrecy, Sikander is ushered into George V's personal chambers.

And there he finds the cause for his extraordinary summons - an exquisite nautch-girl, hanged until dead. Employing techniques he has learned from studying Eugene Vidocq and Sherlock Holmes, Sikander examines the scene and demonstrates the girl was not a suicide, but murdered.

Her death at the very heart of the encampment could ruin the enormously costly celebration and spark deep political repercussions in India and in England. Under this pressure, the Viceroy hands Sikander both the case to solve and a ticking clock - he must complete his investigation before George V arrives. And under the surveillance of one Captain Campbell of an elite British regiment.

The list of suspects and motives is too large, the number of hours for the task too few. But he gave his word and so the Maharaja must put his skills to work. In the end, Sikander wishes he had not.

My Take

King George V, Emperor of India, is about to arrive in Delhi for his very public coronation. The who's who of Indian society, Maharajahs and princes, and members of the British Raj, have arrived in their thousands. The Maharajahs and princes have set up pavilions and courts, all designed to show how rich and influential they are.

And in the middle of it all, in the King's own pavilion, an Indian dancer is found murdered. The King is due to arrive within 48 hours and Sikander Singh, Maharajah of Rajpore, who would much rather be a detective than a Maharajah, is asked by the Viceroy, to solve the mystery.

Blending fictitious with actual characters, the author presents us with a panoply of suspects, and authentic historical detail on a grand scale. I was impressed above all by the amount of research that must have gone into the writing of this book. The overall effect is sumptuous beyond measure.

If historical India is your "thing", then you will enjoy this.

My rating: 4.5

I have also read
4.3, A VERY PUKKA MURDER

About the author:
Arjun Raj Gaind is one of India's best known comic book writers. He is the creator and author of the critically acclaimed, best-selling graphic novels, Empire of Blood, Reincarnation Man, The Mighty Yeti, Project: Kalki, Blade of the Warrior: Kshatriya, and A Brief History of Death. A Very Pukka Murder was his debut novel, the first in a trilogy featuring the adventures of Maharaja Sikander Singh, set against the backdrop of princely India during the heyday of the British Raj.

Review: DOWNFALL, Margot Kinberg

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1197 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Grey Cells Press (March 16, 2018)
  • Publication Date: March 16, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B079T9KXYN
Synopsis (Amazon)

They Said It Was a Tragedy. They Said It Was an Accident. They Lied.

Second Chance is a Philadelphia alternative school designed for at-risk students. They live on campus, they take classes, and everyone hopes they’ll stay out of prison. And then one of them dies. When Curtis Templeton falls from a piece of scaffolding near the school, it’s called a tragic accident. A damned shame. A terrible loss. And everyone moves on.
Two years later, former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams and two of his colleagues do a study of Second Chance for a research paper. When they find out about Curtis’ death, they start asking questions. And no-one wants to answer them.

The search for the truth takes Williams and his research partners behind the scenes of for-profit alternative education – and straight into the path of someone who thought everything would stay buried.

In the meantime, changes are coming to Tilton University. The School of Social Sciences is going to be the new home of a center for research on juvenile offenders. But not everyone is happy about it. YouthPromises, the company that’s underwriting the center, is a for-profit alternative program that has a stake in the outcome of any research the center does. What will that mean for the faculty? Williams finds himself caught in the controversy over the center, just as he’s finding out the truth about Second Chance

My Take

I think this is Margot Kinberg's best book yet. The characters came alive for me and there was just enough mystery to present some puzzles where the solution was not obvious until the very end. It was the perfect setting for Joel Williams to demonstrate his skills and intuition.

Recommended.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
PUBLISH OR PERISH
4.5, B - VERY FLAT
4.3, IN A WORD: MURDER  (edit)
4.4, PAST TENSE

22 April 2018

Review: THE SWITCH, Joseph Finder

  • this edition published by Dutton, 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-101-98578-6
  • 370 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Michael Tanner picks up the wrong MacBook in an airport security line, a mistake he doesn’t notice until he arrives home in Boston. Tanner’s curiosity gets the better of him, and he discovers that the owner is a US senator and that the laptop contains top secret files.

When Senator Susan Robbins realizes the mix-up, she calls her chief of staff, Will Abbott, in a panic. Both know that the senator broke the law by uploading classified documents onto her personal computer.

Hoping to avoid Snowden 2.0, Will attempts to gain Tanner’s cooperation and recover the laptop. When Will fails, he turns to an unscrupulous “fixer” for help. Meanwhile, the security agency whose files the senator has appropriated has its own, darker methods–and suddenly Tanner finds himself a hunted man, on the run, terrified for the safety of his family, in desperate need of a plan, and able to trust no one.

My Take

This story begins as a mistake anybody could make at an airport security line. When Michael Tanner opens up what he thinks is his MacBook at home  and discovers it isn't his, he also discovers that the owner uses their name to login and has left their password conveniently on the bottom of the computer on a post-it note.  He uses the password to log in to the laptop and that is when he discovers it contains sensitive material, and becomes aware of who it belongs to.

The Senator to whom the MacBook belongs rings her chief of staff in a panic, but does not admit she has left the password so conveniently on the laptop.  However chief of staff, Will Abbott, agrees to take the laptop she has brought back and to find out who it belongs to. Will manages to find someone to break into Michael's laptop and to work out how to contact him.

However when Will rings Michael Tanner he doesn't say he is ringing on behalf of the senator and Michael becomes suspicious and says he doesn't have the laptop.

That triggers off a chain of reactions with at least two groups of people trying to get hold of the senator's laptop. The story raises some moral questions too. What should Michael have done when he first discovered who owned the laptop he brought home by mistake?

The consequences are dire for both Michael Tanner and all those involved.

An engrossing read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
JOSEPH FINDER is the New York Times bestselling author of ten previous novels, including Vanished and Buried Secrets. Finder’s international bestseller Killer Instinct won the International Thriller Writer’s Thriller Award for Best Novel of 2006. Other bestselling titles include Paranoia and High Crimes, which both became major motion pictures

19 April 2018

Review: DARKTOWN, Thomas Mullen

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1169 KB
  • Print Length: 385 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 150113387X
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (September 13, 2016)
  • Publication Date: September 13, 2016
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01D9013IU
Synopsis  (Amazon)

Darktown is a relentlessly gripping, highly intelligent crime novel set in Atlanta in 1948, following the city's first black police force investigating a brutal murder against all the odds.

Atlanta, 1948. In this city, all crime is black and white.

On one side of the tracks are the rich, white neighbourhoods; on the other, Darktown, the African-American area guarded by the city's first black police force of only eight men. These cops are kept near-powerless by the authorities: they can't arrest white suspects; they can't drive a squad car; they must operate out of a dingy basement.

When a poor black woman is killed in Darktown having been last seen in a car with a rich white man, no one seems to care except for Boggs and Smith, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Pressured from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust of their community and even their own lives to investigate her death.

Their efforts bring them up against a brutal old-school cop, Dunlow, who has long run Darktown as his own turf - but Dunlow's idealistic young partner, Rakestraw, is a young progressive who may be willing to make allies across colour lines . . .

My take

The creation of Atlanta's first black police force in 1947 comes about as a result of a promise the Mayor made to the African-American population in return for their votes in the mayoral elections. It is certainly not welcomed by the white police force who on the whole are determined that it will fail. The black population is not sure that it wants the black police force either. Some of the members of the new police force were soldiers during World War II, while others never left the USA. Throughout the novel they are constantly assessing whether they have made the right decision in becoming a policeman. The role is very challenging, the are meant mainly to just patrol the streets. If they need to arrest anyone they have to call a white patrol car or wagon to transport the person being arrested.

The background is held together by a story that links both white and black officers - that of a black girl who recently came to Atlanta from the country for work, and is then found dead.  Two black officers had seen her alive and in the company of a middle-aged white man. Although they are not supposed to investigate crimes they try to find out who killed the girl, but each step they take seems to make things worse for her family.

Very interesting, with an authentic historical feel.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Thomas Mullen is the author of Darktown, an NPR Best Book of the Year, which has been shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Southern Book Prize, the Indies Choice Book Award, and has been nominated for two CWA Dagger Awards; The Last Town on Earth, which was named Best Debut Novel of 2006 by USA Today and was awarded the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for excellence in historical fiction; The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers; and The Revisionists. His next novel, Lightning Men, which follows the characters from Darktown two years later, will be published in September 2017.
His works have been named to Year’s Best lists by The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kirkus Reviews, The Onion’s A/V Club, The San Diego Union-Times, Paste Magazine, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and Amazon. His stories and essays have been published in GrantlandPaste, The Huffington Post, and Atlanta Magazine. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and sons.

14 April 2018

Review: A SPOT OF FOLLY, Ruth Rendell

  • this edition published by Profile Books 2017
  • ISBN 978-1788160148
  • source: my local library
  • 210 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

Ten and a Quarter New Tales of Murder and Mayhem.
Previously uncollected and unpublished: new short stories from a master of psychological suspense. Introduction from Sophie Hannah.
New and uncollected tales of murder, mischief, magic and madness.

Ruth Rendell was an acknowledged master of psychological suspense: these are ten (and a quarter) of her most chillingly compelling short stories, collected here together for the first time.
In these tales, a businessman boasts about cheating on his wife, only to find the tables turned. A beautiful country rectory reverberates to the echo of a historical murder. A compulsive liar acts on impulse, only to be lead inexorably to disaster. And a wealthy man finds there is more to his wife's kidnapping than meets the eye.

Atmospheric, gripping and never predictable, this is Ruth Rendell at her inimitable best.
The stories are: Never Sleep in a Bed Facing a Mirror; A Spot of Folly; The Price of Joy; The Irony of Hate; Digby's Wives; The Haunting of Shawley Rectory; A Drop Too Much; The Thief; The Long Corridor of Time; In the Time of his Prosperity; and Trebuchet.

My Take

No two of Ruth Rendell's short stories are ever alike, although in some cases one or two became the basis of a later novel.

She was obviously fascinated by links with history and elements of the supernatural. Each of the short stories is polished and they are mostly under 20 pages. There are 3 ghost stories in this collection, although one is only a matter of lines long. Most have an unexpected twist.

Highly recommended.
The introduction by Sophie Hannah raises some interesting points.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
FROM DOON WITH DEATH - Wexford #1
4.5, A NEW LEASE OF DEATH- Wexford #2
4.6, THE BEST MAN TO DIE - Wexford #4
4.3, A SLEEPING LIFE, Ruth Rendell  - Wexford #10 
4.7, PUT ON BY CUNNING - Wexford #11
4.6, THE VAULT- Wexford #23 
4.5, NO MAN'S NIGHTINGALE- Wexford #24   
Stand-alones 
PORTOBELLO
4.7, THE MONSTER IN THE BOX
4.5, A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES
4.5, THE SAINT ZITA SOCIETY
4.6, THE MASTER OF THE MOOR

4.4, DARK CORNERS

Review: FATTY O'LEARY'S DINNER PARTY, Alexander McCall Smith - audio book

Synopsis (Amazon)

When his loving wife, Betty, plans a trip to Ireland for Fatty O'Leary's 40th birthday things go wrong almost immediately: the seats in economy class on the plane are too small; Irish bathroom furniture is not as commodious as he'd have liked. And all the time Fatty must put up with the unthinking cruelty of strangers.

My Take

Like many generously built people Fatty O'Leary is a most forgiving man. He has very few malicious bones in his body and he quickly forgets indignities once they have been surmounted, most of the time. His trip of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare, and indeed progresses from one nightmare to another, all caused mainly by his generous proportions, but Fatty, an antiques dealer from Arkansas, soars above it all. His wife Betty deserves a medal.

This was a lovely entertaining read, not, I should point out, crime fiction.
Steven Crossley does a wonderful job of the narration.

My rating: 4.4

I have also read 
TEA TIME for the TRADITIONALLY BUILT
THE MIRACLE AT SPEEDY MOTORS

THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB
4.5, THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY
4.5, THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION
4.6, THE MINOR ADJUSTMENT BEAUTY SALON
4.5, CHANCE DEVELOPMENTS
4.5, PRECIOUS AND GRACE
4.5, THE WOMAN WHO WALKED IN SUNSHINE
4.4, THE HANDSOME MAN'S DE LUXE CAFE 

13 April 2018

Review: THE DETECTION COLLECTION, members of the Detection Club

  • this edition published in 2014 by Harper Collins
  • edited by Simon Brett, President of the Detection Club
  • ISBN 978-0-00-758389-8
  • 224 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

This volume of short stories by the cream of British crime writing talent celebrates 75 years of the quintessential Detection Club.
Contains
The Part-Time Job, P.D. James
Partnership Track, Michael Ridpath
A Toothbrush, H.R.F Keating
The Sun, the Moon, the Stars, John Harvey
'Going Anywhere Nice'?, Lindsey Davis
Between the Lines, Colin Dexter
The Life-lie, Robert Barnard
The Woman from Marlow, Margaret Yorke
Toupee for  Bald Tyre, Robert Goddard
The Holiday, Clare Francis
Fool of Myself, Reginald Hill

My take

Most of these short stories are quick reads, about 20 pages long, and among the authors are a number of bestsellers, as well as winners of both Diamond and Gold Daggers. The stories appear to have all been written for the occasion, and are previously un-published.

I think the best were The Part-Time Job, by P.D. James and Between the Lines, by Colin Dexter

My rating: 4.3


9 April 2018

Review: MURDER ISN'T EASY, Richard Hull

  • source: publisher, Ipso Books
  • File Size: 2438 KB
  • Print Length: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Ipso Books (March 29, 2018)
  • Publication Date: March 29, 2018
  • Originally published 1936
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07B9LGQ9N
  • available at Amazon
Synopsis (publisher)


Three men, three motives, one murder. Who will come out on top? No one ever said murder was easy.

Nicholas Latimer considers himself indispensable to advertising agency NeO-aD  unlike his partners Barraclough and Spencer. Sometimes Nicholas thinks it would be better if he was running it by himself. If only some unfortunate accident would befall his colleagues

Paul Spencer has just about had it with Latimer's incompetence and wilful time-wasting. Spencer knows for a fact that he is the cog that keeps NeO-aD rolling, and wishes that Barraclough would take a stance and get Latimer out of the way.

And Barraclough? He just wants to do his job without the constant bickering of his two insufferable colleagues.

When a new client presents an opportunity for the company to hit it big, Latimer contemplates taking matters into his own hands. He hasn't considered, however, that Spencer and Barraclough might have plans of their own

Filled with so many twists and turns that you won't be able to keep track, this underrated crime classic gem will keep you guessing until it s final conclusion. With a hilarious prose style and richly developed characters, Murder Isn't Easy is a gripping page turner that we think you would love.

My take

Unusually this novel is written from 4 points of view.  Each of the partners in NeO-aD is convinced that he is the essence of the company, and the others are a waste of space, and even perhaps hampering the company from it's true development.  Each considers that he could run the company without the others, with minimal help from the office staff. It has got to the stage where each person is considering how to get rid of the others. And so it becomes a case of murder, but who will murder who? And will they get away with it?

The book is divided into four distinct sections and eventually the deed is done. But who actually committed the murder? It is up to police Inspector Hoopington of Scotland Yard to finally deduce  what happened. He manages with considerable help from one of the office staff whom each of the partners under-rated.

This is a bit of Golden Age crime fiction with a less than straight forward plot and some unusual plot twists.
  
My rating: 4.2

About the author
(1897 - 1973)

Richard Henry Sampson FCA, known by the pseudonym Richard Hull, was a British writer who became successful as a crime novelist with his first book in 1934.

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