1 May 2016

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month April 2016

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2016
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 2016, 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.


27 April 2016

Review: DYING FOR A TASTE, Leslie Karst

  • source: review copy from Netgalley
  • File Size: 1029 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1629535974
  • Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (April 12, 2016)
  • Publication Date: April 12, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01CSWPE5I
  • Available from Amazon for Kindle
Synopsis (Net Galley)
After losing her mother to cancer, Sally Solari quits her job as an attorney to help her dad run his old-style Italian eatery in Santa Cruz, California. But managing the front of the house is far from her dream job.

Then in a sudden twist her Aunt Letta is found murdered in her own restaurant, and Sally is the only one who can keep the place running. But when her sous chef is accused of the crime, and she finds herself suddenly short-staffed, Sally must delve into the world of sustainable farming—not to mention a few family secrets--to help him clear his name and catch the true culprit before her timer runs out.

Leslie Karst serves a platter of intrigue in her stirring and satisfying debut Dying for a Taste, which is sure to become a new favorite of food mystery fans. 

My take

There is a lot about her Aunt Letta that Sally Solari doesn't know, in fact they weren't even really all that close, and it comes a great surprise to her when she inherits her aunt's restaurant. Aunt Letta's murder was quite vicious, but surely no-one hated her that much? And then Sally finds evidence that Letta had been being threatened. She is galvanised into action when, in the absence of any other suspects, the police arrest the head cook of her new restaurant.

Towards the end I felt that there were actually too many suspects and that blurred the plot lines a bit. Ultimately though quite a satisfying read, with a few recipes in the final pages to stimulate your culinary juices.

My rating: 4.2

About the author
Originally from Southern California, Leslie Karst moved north to attend UC Santa Cruz (home of the Fighting Banana Slugs), and after graduation, parlayed her degree in English literature into employment waiting tables and singing in a new wave rock and roll band. Exciting though this life was, she eventually decided she was ready for a "real" job, and ended up at Stanford Law School.

For the next twenty years Leslie worked as the research and appellate attorney for Santa Cruz's largest civil law firm. During this time, she discovered a passion for food and cooking, and so once more returned to school--this time to earn a degree in Culinary Arts.

Now retired from the law, Leslie spends her time cooking, singing alto in the local community chorus, gardening, cycling, and of course writing. She and her wife and their Jack Russell mix, Ziggy, split their time between Santa Cruz and Hilo, Hawai'i.

24 April 2016

Review: A DARK AND TWISTED TIDE, Sharon Bolton (S.J. Bolton)

  • this edition published by Bantam Press 2014
  • ISBN: 9780593069196
  • 444 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #4 Lacey Flint series
  • author website: http://www.sharonbolton.com/
Synopsis ( author website)

Police sergeant Lacey Flint thinks she’s safe.

She thinks her new job with the river police, and her new life on a house boat, will keep her away from danger. But she’s wrong.

When Lacey discovers a body in the water, and sinister offerings appear in her home, she fears someone is trying to expose her darkest secret.

And the river is the last place she should be.

My Take

I'm sure I have read an S.J. Bolton title before but not in the history of this blog apparently, hence the "new-to-me" label.

So I broke into this series so to speak and there were references to events in Lacey Flint's past that I really needed a bit more background to.

Nevertheless the novel really worked quite well for me. Plenty of tension. References to recent political events such as the war in Afghanistan, people smuggling, IVF etc. The setting is the River Thames and Lacey Flint has come to work with the River Police. She finds a body floating in the river near her home, wrapped in burial cloths. It links with an event in the past where she was nearly drowned, when her team apprehended a boat smuggling a woman late at night. Parts of the story are also told from the point of view of a couple of the women who have been brought in from overseas. It is unclear for most of the story why these women are being brought into Britain but some of them are turning up as corpse.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Sharon Bolton's previous novels have been published under the title of S.J. Bolton. I am not sure what has prompted the name change - a perhaps a desire to be separated on the shelves from other SJ crime fiction authors such as S.J. Watson and S.J. Rozan.
In 2014 she was awarded a CWA Dagger in the Library.

23 April 2016

Review: THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY, Arthur Upfield - audio book

  • First published in 1929, #1 in the Napoleon Bonaparte titles
  • Available from Audible
  • Narrated by: Peter Hosking
  • Length: 8 hrs and 16 mins 
  • Unabridged Audiobook
Synopsis (Audible)

Why was the redoubtable King Henry, an aborigine from Western Australia, killed during a thunderstorm in New South Wales? What was the feud that led to murder after nineteen long years had passed? And who was the woman who saw the murder and kept silent?

This first story of Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, the half-aborigine detective, takes him to a sheep station in the Darling River bush country where he encounters those problems he understands so well... mixed blood and divided loyalties.

PLEASE NOTE: Part of the appeal of Arthur Upfield's stories lies in their authentic portrayal of many aspects of outback Australian life in the 1930s and through into the 1950s. These books reflect and depict the attitudes and ways of speech of that era particularly with regard to Aborigines and to women. In reproducing this book the publisher does not endorse the attitudes or opinions they express.

©1965 First published 1929 by Hutchinson and Company Ltd. © Bonaparte Holdings Pty Ltd, 1965. (P)2015 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

My Take

It would be easy to focus in a review of  THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY on the politically incorrect (by today's standards anyway) attitudes and terminology. But as the publisher says, they reflected the attitudes of the times.

Peter Hosking does a wonderful job of the narration and that allowed me to reflect on other things: the descriptions of the outback and the toughness required of those who chose to live there. I was struck also by how the novel reflected Australia's bush heritage.

Born in England in 1890, Upfield moved to Australia in 1911 and fought with the Australian military during the First World War. Following his war service, he travelled extensively throughout Australia, obtaining a knowledge of Australian Aboriginal culture that he would later use in his written works. In addition to writing detective fiction, Upfield was a member of the Australian Geological Society and was involved in numerous scientific expeditions. (Wikipedia)

The bush heritage that I am reminded of were the works of Banjo Paterson and particularly the stories of Henry Lawson, even SUCH IS LIFE by Joseph Furphy.  In later novels Upfield wasn't as expansive in his descriptions of the country, and focussed more on detective/crime elements, but there are a lot of mini-stories in THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY. There is a mystery element in the novel too, well structured, but not really all that difficult to solve.

Bony reminds me a little of Hercules Poirot: not only does he believe in his own superior detection skills, but he also dispenses his own form of justice.

My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed DEATH OF A SWAGMAN 

20 April 2016

Review: PROHIBITED ZONE, Alastair Sarre

  • first published Wakefield Press 2011
  • ISBN 978-1-86254-943-2
  • 363 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Wakefield Press)

Steve West, mining engineer and ex-footy star, just wants a dirty weekend in town, but he can't stop people telling him their secrets. When crusading Kara incites a breakout in the desert, Westie finds himself her reluctant accomplice. Soon he's got a runaway asylum seeker in tow, and all the world, it seems, on his tail.

There is a way out - but it's in the prohibited zone.

My take

The Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre (IRPC) was an Australian immigration detention facility near the village of Woomera in South Australia. Unauthorised arrivals, which had exceeded the capacity of other detention facilities. It was originally intended to hold 400 people, however at its peak in April 2000 it had nearly 1,500 detainees. After ongoing public pressure in response to several well publicised riots from 2000, accusations of human rights abuses, and capacity issues, the centre closed in April 2003. (Wikipedia)

Thirteen years on the issue of how to handle illegal immigrants still plagues Australia's political parties and so the issues behind this novel are still familiar to Australia readers. It wasn't really until after the closure of Woomera that Australians became aware of how inhumanely its residents had been treated. (See Four Corners programme)

Set very squarely in the South Australian landscape with lots of landmarks that local readers will be familiar with, PROHIBITED ZONE is very readable, the characters colourful, and the scenarios quite credible.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Alastair Sarre was born in Leigh Creek, a coal-mining town in the outback of South Australia. He studied forestry at Australian National University and worked for a mining company for a couple of years before returning to Canberra to complete a writing diploma. He has worked as a science editor and freelance writer specialising in forestry and spent time in Japan before moving with his family to the Adelaide Hills. Prohibited Zone, his first novel, was shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript.

18 April 2016

Review: A FEW OF THE GIRLS, Maeve Binchy

  • this edition published by Orion Publishing in 2015
  • ISBN 978-1-4091-6142-4
  • 404 pages, 
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

'The Irish do love telling stories, and we are suspicious of people who don't have long, complicated conversations. There used to be a rule in etiquette books that you should invite four talkers and four listeners to a dinner party. That doesn't work in Ireland, because nobody knows four listeners' Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy's multi-million-copy-selling novels not only tell wonderful stories, they also give an insight in to how Ireland has changed over the decades, but how people remain the same: they still fall in love, sometimes unsuitably; they still have hopes and dreams; they have deep, long-standing friendships, and some that fall apart. From her earliest writing to her most recent, Maeve's work has included wonderfully nostalgic pieces and also sharp, often witty writing which is insightful and topical.

But at the heart of all Maeve's fiction are the people and their relationships with each other. A FEW OF THE GIRLS is a glorious collection of the very best of her stories, full of the warmth, charm and humour that has always been an essential part of all of Maeve's writing.

My Take

There are 41 short stories in this collection, mainly focussing on women and relationships. Some are set in Ireland, some in London, but in most of them the central figure finds out something new about herself or a friend.  Each of the stories is very different and individual, and I can honestly say I enjoyed them all. I was sorry as the end of the collection approached.

I read this book simply because a friend recommended it, and I wanted to read something outside the crime fiction genre.

You'll notice that I have used the label "new to me". I am sure I read some Maeve Binchy somewhere in the past, but certainly not in the history of this blog.

If you are a dabbler in your reading, then this book would work very well at the rate of a story or two a day.

My rating: 4.6

14 April 2016

Review: THE TRAVELLER RETURNS, Patricia Wentworth

  • alternative title: SHE CAME BACK
  • first published 1945 (US publication)
  • #9 in the Miss Silver series
  • this edition from Amazon (Kindle)
  • File Size: 655 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; New Ed edition (December 13, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 13, 2007
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0043VDC8E
Synopsis (Amazon)

Anne Jocelyn had been a beautiful, wealthy young woman. She had died three years ago. At least, that was what her husband Philip and the rest of the family had always thought. But then a woman calling herself Anne Jocelyn appeared and managed to convince everyone that she was the real Anne. Everyone, that is, except Miss Silver, whose suspicions are aroused by an apparently senseless murder.

My Take

I chose this for my participation in the Crime Fiction of the Year challenge for 1945 found over at Past Offences.  There is a little conflicting evidence about the date of publication so I have gone with the date on Fantastic Fiction. It seems that it was published in 1945 in USA, but not till 1948 in UK

The setting is England 1943. As far as Philip Jocelyn was concerned his wife Anne had been killed in France by a German bullet in 1940 and her body was buried in the local churchyard at Jocelyn's Holt. So when a woman claiming to be Anne turns up at the house at Jocelyn's Holt he can't believe it is her. The rest of the family are taken in by her stunning resemblance to Anne and to her detailed knowledge of the family. But if this woman is impersonating his wife, why is she doing it?

Miss Silver meets a woman on a train who is travelling to London to meet Lady Jocelyn.  She says she will know whether this is truly Anne Jocelyn or not. And then she is found dead.

While the police sergeant is a fan of Maudie Silver's, his boss doesn't come out of it too well as he is always ready to accept the easy solution to a problem. He sees Miss Silver as an interefering old biddy, always turning up where she is not really needed. Of course it is Miss Silver who eventually solves the case. 

 A nice cosy read.

My Rating: 4.3

I've also read
4.1, GREY MASK

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