26 March 2015

Review: ABATTOIR BLUES, Peter Robinson

  • first published in the UK 2014, Hodder & Stoughton
  • #22 in the Alan Banks series
  • ISBN 978-1-444-70496-4
  • 367 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

Taking the title from the Nick Cave album, this sophisticated thriller, featuring DCI Alan Banks, follows the success of No.1 best-seller Children of the Revolution, which shot to the top of the UK charts earlier this year.

When two boys vanish under mysterious circumstances, the local community is filled with unease. Then a bloodstain is discovered in a disused World War Two hangar nearby, and a caravan belonging to one of the youths is burned to the ground. Things quickly become much more sinister.

Assigned to the case, DCI Banks and his team are baffled by the mystery laid out before them. But when a motor accident throws up a gruesome discovery, the investigation spins into a higher gear – in another direction. As Banks and his team struggle desperately to find the missing boy who holds the key to the puzzle, they find themselves in a race against time where it’s their turn to become the prey…

My Take

The blurb (above) promoting this novel, tells you almost as much as the reader needs to be told. The setting is North Yorkshire and Terry Gilchrist, recently discharged from the army is walking his dog. Peaches disappears inside an old hanger and Gilchrist recognises what Peaches has found as blood. Meanwhile Annie Cabot is investigating the theft of a tractor and Alan Banks is returning from holidays.

Crime scene investigators affirm that what Peaches found is human blood and Banks takes over the investigation.

I think what I enjoyed most about this novel was the exploration of the roles played by the various members of Banks' team, and particularly the part played by DS Winsome Jackman. And I enjoyed watching from the sidelines as the various plot threads converged.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also reviewed
FRIEND OF THE DEVIL (2007)
4.6, ALL THE COLOURS OF DARKNESS (2008)
4.6, BAD BOY (2010)
4.9. BEFORE THE POISON
4.7, WATCHING THE DARK (2013)
4.3, CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION 

22 March 2015

Review: DEAD RECKONING, Michael W. Smart

  • File Size: 914 KB
  • Print Length: 342 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IY2U966
  • source: review copy from author 
  • #1 in the Bequia mystery series.
Synopsis (Amazon)

MYSTERY AND ROMANCE SET IN THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS OF ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES.

Gage didn't have friends. He'd led an emotionally isolated life, avoiding personal attachments, a mantra for survival. And the last thing he needed was disruption and exposure of the quiet retirement he'd settled into on Bequia, living aboard his schooner Wherever. He'd buried his past. Forged a new life.

And in doing so broke his cardinal rule, he'd formed attachments. A burgeoning romantic relationship with the island's police Superintendent Jolene Johanssen, whose love awakens dormant emotions and reconnects him to the world. A relationship he's unsure he's emotionally equipped to handle. And a close friendship with the discerning Commissioner of Police Mike Daniels, who perceives more regarding Gage's past than Gage is comfortable with. And who lies in a coma, fighting for his life.

In pursuing his friend's shooter Gage becomes embroiled in the vicious world of narco traffickers, money laundering, and a possible nemesis from his past, threatening to upend his new life, resurrect his inner demons, and put the people he's come to care about in the cross-hairs.

My take

At first there are two mysteries to solve: the attempted assassination of the Commissioner of Police, and the disappearance of a tourist, Natalie Holmes. Nicholas Gage feels that the two may be connected although he has no proof.

Mike Daniels' condition is critical, far more serious than the medical facilities on the island of Becquia can cope with. So Gage calls in some favors to get Daniels airlifted urgently to Miami. But that very act exposes Gage to threat, to exposure of what he retired from before he came to Becquia. And it exposes his friends to real danger.

On his return to the island Gage realises that he is being watched, and he sets up his own surveillance systems to protect his friends and loved ones, particularly his lover police Superintendent Jolene Johanssen.

Slowly bits of what Gage is hiding are revealed. The story is action packed, set against the beguiling waters of the Caribbean. There is a strong sense of place, a setting at once enchanting but also a cover to lethal activities including drug running.

My rating: 3.6

16 March 2015

Review: THE CARTER OF LA PROVIDENCE, Georges Simenon

  • File Size: 406 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (February 6, 2014)
    Originally published 1931
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141393467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141393469
  • ASIN: B00GPBQTBC
  • #4 in the Maigret series 
  • Translated by David Coward
  • Also published as LOCK 14
Synopsis (Amazon)

What was the woman doing here? In a stable, wearing pearl earrings, her stylish bracelet and white buckskin shoes! She must have been alive when she got there because the crime had been committed after ten in the evening.

But how? And why? And no one had heard a thing! She had not screamed. The two carters had not woken up.

Inspector Maigret is standing in the pouring rain by a canal. A well-dressed woman, Mary Lampson, has been found strangled in a stable nearby. Why did her glamorous, hedonistic life come to such a brutal end here? Surely her taciturn husband Sir Walter knows - or maybe the answers lie with the crew of the barge La Providence.

My Take

This novel was one of a number that Simenon wrote after spending 6 months on French canals in 1928.
In the setting he captures a life style now long gone, when the canal boats and barges played an important role in transporting goods to the major ports in France.

It also captures the rural isolation of many of the towns that the canals connected: the first murder scene is along a tow path, several kilometres from the nearest major town. Maigret has to walk there, and then manages to acquire a bicycle which he uses to travel up to 70 kilometres a day. Most of the boats are horsedrawn, with the horses stabled on the boats themselves. The days are long, beginning well before dawn, and finishing only at sunset. At one lock there are more than 60 barges waiting to go through. There's a glimpse too of the future, with motorised pleasure boats, taking preference over working boats at the locks.

The murderer in this story was convicted nearly thirty years before, of the murder of his aunt, and paid the penalty with transportation to French Guiana. There he shook off his former identity, and returned to France to a new life as a labourer. A chance meeting at a junction of canals leads to another murder. Maigret's intuition puts scattered bits of evidence together.

My rating: 4.3

I've also reviewed
4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD
4.5, MAIGRET & THE HEADLESS CORPSE
4.3, PIETR THE LATVIAN
THE LATE MONSIEUR GALLET
4.4, THE RULES OF THE GAME
4.2, THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE TRAINS GO BY

Review: DARK HORSE, Honey Brown

  • first published Penguin Group 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-921901-53-9
  • 274 pages
  • source: Mt TBR
  • Available on Amazon for Kindle
Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

It's Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.

Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman's Hut.

She settles in to wait out Christmas.

A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn't ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What's driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.

But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger's dangerous game of intimacy.

My Take

The narrative is told from Sarah Barnard's point of view and so the reader shares Sarah's anxiety when a stranger comes out of the wild weather at the Hangman's Hut. The weather worsens and they are stranded on Devil Mountain for seven days between Christmas and New Year. There are things about Heath that don't seem to ring true, and although she and Heath become very intimate, Sarah feels he is not who he says he is. But then how much of her own story does Sarah tell?

Mid-story there is a twist that I really didn't see coming. Excellent psychological suspense.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Honey Brown lives in country Victoria with her husband and two children. She is the author of four books: Red Queen, The Good Daughter, After the Darkness and Dark Horse. Red Queen was published to critical acclaim in 2009 and won an Aurealis Award, and The Good Daughter was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award in 2011. After the Darkness was selected for the Women's Weekly Great Read and for Get Reading 2012's 50 Books You Can't Put Down campaign. Her fifth novel, Through the Cracks, was published in 2014.

13 March 2015

Review: ROSEMARY'S BABY, Ira Levin

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 380 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B000VZ1HI8
  • Publisher: Corsair (June 22, 2011), first published 1967
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0057GIRA2
Synopsis (GoodReads)

Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, an ordinary young couple, settle into a New York City apartment, unaware that the elderly neighbors and their bizarre group of friends have taken a disturbing interest in them. But by the time Rosemary discovers the horrifying truth, it may be far too late!

My Take

I don't think I have ever seen the film (1968) based on this book, starring Mia Farrow. That was probably a good thing as I didn't know how the story ended.

The Introduction by Chuck Palahniuk prepared me a little though. He begins
    "Before Ira Levin, horror always happened soemwhere else... it was a comfort to know that real life-threatening horror never occurred at home. You had to be baited far, far away. For the century leading up to 1967 the real horrors had been elsewhere in the world, always outside the borders of England and the United States. If you stayed home you'd be safe... Home constituted this safe little island where women could raise children in domestic bliss."

But Ira Levin changed all that, for, on the very edges of crime fiction, ROSEMARY'S BABY  is a horror story, showing that there is no safety in your own home either.

There is a cinematographic quality to the action, and I kept imagining how chilling it would be on the silver screen.

During her early pregnancy Rosemary Woodhouse has incredible pain, and then peculiar dreams. A friend who warned her about the apartment house she and her husband have moved, is taken ill just before meeting with her, and then falls into a coma from which he never recovers. Rosemary thinks her husband has developed an unhealthy affection for their elderly neighbours but continues to trust Guy.

An interesting read.

My rating: 3.8

I've read this novel as my contribution to Past Offences #1967book meme of March this year.

12 March 2015

Review: THE HUNTING DOGS, Jorn Lier Horst

  • first published 2012 in Norwegian
  • published in English by Sandstone Press 2014
  • Translation by Anne Bruce
  • ISBN 978-1-908737-43-2
  • 323 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

Winner of The Glass Key (top Nordic novel 2013) and winner of The Golden Revolver (top Norwegian crime novel 2012).

Seventeen years ago, William Wisting led the investigation into one of Norway's most widely publicized criminal cases, when the young Cecilia Linde was killed. Now it is discovered that evidence was planted and the wrong man convicted. Wisting is suspended and the media smell blood. William Wisting has spent his life hunting criminals, but now it is he who is hunted. To discover what really happened he must work alone and under cover, assisted only by his journalist daughter Line.

Then another young woman disappears.

My take

THE HUNTING DOGS is the eighth title published in the William Wisting series, the third to be published in English. Wisting is aged 52, the widowed father of grown up twins, a carerr policeman who has risen through the ranks to become Chief Inspector in the Criminal Investigation Department of Larvik Police, just as the author was. The setting is Vestfold county on the south-west coast of Norway. Wisting has recently added to his duties as head of CID by becoming a visiting lecturer at the recently opened police College campus at Stavern. A lecture he had given recently had been about ethics and morality, a topic that becomes the central focus of this novel.

The man who was convicted of murdering Cecilia Linde seventeen years before has served his time and has been released. He has always protested his innocence and now a hot-shot lawyer is convinced he can prove that the police planted the crucial evidence that resulted in the conviction.

Wisting has always been convinced of Rudolf Haglund's guilt but now he also becomes convinced that the cigarette butt that was crucial in the case was planted by someone close to him on the investigation. He realises that he, like others on his team, did not question the evidence closely enough, because they, like hunting dogs, were only concerned with bringing their quarry down. The Assistant Chief of Police, who seventeen years ago was the police prosecutor, is quick to step back, and to point out that Wisting was in charge of the investigation, and therefore that he must bear the full responsibility if there has been police corruption. If guilt is proven there is a hefty prison sentence.

This is a very readable book, although I question the extensive involvement of Wisting's daughter Line and her team in the case. I'm not sure enough of my case to say that it wouldn't happen here.

I'd love to read more by this author. The book carries with in a strong sense of setting and reality, and the characters are finely drawn.

My rating: 5.0

I've also reviewed
4.7, DREGS
4.8, CLOSED FOR WINTER

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