21 January 2018

Review: THE MURDER AT SISSINGHAM HALL, Clara Benson

  • source: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 697 KB
  • Print Length: 260 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Mount Street Press (March 16, 2013)
  • Publication Date: March 16, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BVC1SSE
Synopsis (Amazon)

On his return from South Africa, Charles Knox is invited to spend the weekend at the country home of Sir Neville Strickland, whose beautiful wife Rosamund was once Knox's fiancée. But in the dead of night Sir Neville is murdered. Who did it? As suspicion falls on each of the house guests in turn, Knox finds himself faced with deception and betrayal on all sides, and only the enigmatic Angela Marchmont seems to offer a solution to the mystery. This 1920s whodunit will delight all fans of traditional country house murder stories.

My take:

A differently structured novel, written in the first person but not by the sleuth.

Essentially a cozy, sometimes a bit predictable, with the narrator often frustratingly blind-sided by his love for his former fiance, the wife of the victim.

Very readable though with a good balance of mystery and red herrings. It certainly passes muster as a Golden Age novel,

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Clara Benson was born in 1890 and as a young woman wrote several novels featuring Angela Marchmont. She was unpublished in her lifetime, preferring to describe her writing as a hobby, and it was not until many years after her death that her family rediscovered her work and decided to introduce it to a wider audience.

Please note: the above was copied from a note at the end of the Kindle book, but it conflicts with what I found at the author's website:  which suggests an entirely different author background.
In writing the Angela Marchmont novels, my aim was not to produce a work of historical fiction, but rather to reproduce as faithfully as I could the tone and style of those original Golden Age works, since I was sure there must be many mystery fans who wished for more ‘genuine’ Golden Age novels, just as I did. In an attempt to make the experience more immersive for readers (and also, I admit, because, like many writers, I am uncomfortable with public attention), I decided to write ‘in character’ as Clara Benson, an author of the 1920s. It was a sort of challenge to myself, to see whether I could do it convincingly. I had no idea whether my little conceit would pass muster, but since I was certain nobody would buy the book anyway, I didn’t think too hard about it.

There are now 10 published novels all featuring Angela Marchmont available for Kindle and THE MURDER AT SISSINGHAM HALL is available for $0 on Amazon.

16 January 2018

Review: ACT ONE, SCENE ONE... MURDER, A. H. Richardson

  • published by Serano Press, USA 2016
  • #2 in the Hazlitt/Brandon series
  • review copy supplied by the author
  • 270 pages
Synopsis (author website)

Invited for dinner to a rather mysterious medieval mansion, in an obscure English village, are a group of actors, preparing to open in a new play in London.  The boisterous and belligerent playwright Cleland Symeon owns the mansion.

As the curtain rises, on this odd collection of performers, rather than partaking of a sumptuous dinner, a murder takes place in front of their terrified eyes.

The leading man dies… but by whose devilish hand?  More drama and theatrics evolve, as it appears that the killer has not yet finished his … or her work. Trapped in this castle, the actors can only wait it out …wait for another strike …and when it comes, the formidable team of sleuths, Hazlitt and Brandon, are faced with terror, mystery and some confusion.  Can this fearless couple solve the problem?…

My Take:

I thoroughly enjoyed this outing: It has all the characteristics of a classic country house murder.  Hazlitt and Brandon have the advantage of being there when the leading man drops dead and they are not so far from Little Shendon, so they can get their favourite policeman to dance attendance. It comes as no surprise when the verdict is murder, but was the victim the right one, is there unfinished business?

Very readable.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed MURDER IN LITTLE SHENDON

Review: THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB, David Lagercrantz

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2206 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press (August 27, 2015)
  • Publication Date: August 27, 2015
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00SJPZCWE
  • #4 in the Millenium Series (Stieg Larsson)
Synopsis  (Amazon)

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO IS BACK.

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist have not been in touch for some time.

Then Blomkvist is contacted by renowned Swedish scientist Professor Balder. Warned that his life is in danger, but more concerned for his son's well-being, Balder wants Millennium to publish his story - and it is a terrifying one.

More interesting to Blomkvist than Balder's world-leading advances in Artificial Intelligence, is his connection with a certain female superhacker.

It seems that Salander, like Balder, is a target of ruthless cyber gangsters - and a violent criminal conspiracy that will very soon bring terror to the snowbound streets of Stockholm, to the Millennium team, and to Blomkvist and Salander themselves.

My Take

I'm not sure now what I felt about this novel. I've had it on my TBR on my Kindle for at least a couple of years and have only just managed to read. I was a fan of the first 3 novels in Millenium series, but I had trouble remembering them through this novel.

The novel felt very heavy, too detailed, with the author determined both to uphold the Stieg Larssen style, and to make sure that the reader has all the information. It felt as if there was a lot of new plot data which had not been part of the original novels. There seemed to be too many details about the main characters that I was not aware of. But maybe that was just my forgettery at work.

However, I don't think I will read another.

Was this Steig Larsson's unfinished manuscript?
From Wikipedia:
The late author's [ Stieg Larsonn] literary estate is fully controlled by his brother and father, who hired Lagercrantz and have supported the latest book in the series. However Larsson's long-term partner Eva Gabrielsson, has voiced criticism against this project. She possesses an unfinished fourth manuscript of the Millennium series, which is not included in the upcoming fourth novel. She referred to Lagercrantz as a "completely idiotic choice" to continue the Millennium series.

Here is what I say elsewhere about "coattails" novels.



My rating: 4.0

About the Author
DAVID LAGERCRANTZ is an acclaimed Swedish journalist and author. He has worked as a crime reporter for Expressen, and has written several novels, including the forthcoming Fall of Man in Wilmslow. He worked with international soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimović on his memoir, I Am Zlatan Ibrahimović, which was short-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award and was nominated for the August Prize in Sweden.

My reviews of the Steig Larsson novels
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE
THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST

Review: FORCE OF NATURE, Jane Harper

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia 2017)

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.

Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?

My Take

On the surface this crime fiction novel is a stand alone, but in fact it is the second to feature Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk. However I think it functions well as a stand-alone.

Two groups set out on a teamwork exercise - a men's group and a women's group - a bushwalk to cover three nights in the bush, camping along the way. Both groups belong to a corporate company from Melbourne. We learn almost nothing about the male group which completes its walk in time and apparently without problems. However within the women's group there are a number of underlying tensions which almost ensure that the team will fail. If the team does not make the campsite each night then they will have no food provisions as these are stored at each campsite. So the potential consequences for misreading the map provided can be catastrophic. One thing that took me aback was that the group had no means of contacting the organisers in an emergency and the organisers also had no way of monitoring the team and its progress.

Right from the beginning the reader knows that the women's team is late, and when they do emerge from the bush. one of them is missing. The question is whether "foul play" has occurred.

This is an engrossing read. Highly recommended.

The novel has been shortlisted for the 2018 Indie Book Awards, the winner to be announced on 26 March 2018.


My rating: 5.0

I've also read 4.7, THE DRY which won the 2017 CWA Gold Dagger

15 January 2018

Getting organised for 2018 - Challenges

It is just a week since I got back from my travels and it has taken me that long to begin to get back to my blog.

My organisation went out of the window in mid December when I went travelling for 3 weeks and so much of my blogging just didn't get done, and lsist for 2017 were not brought up to date.

However there were some reading challenges that I really abandoned during 2017.
In reality my "challenges" are methods of keeping track of my reading, rather than challenging myself to do something different, so I have cut a couple out this year, but really stuck to the ones that I like. Most of them are personal challenges rather than participating in ones that other bloggers are running online.


I have set my target at 110 books for the year and my challenges as
  • 2018 Good Reads Reading Challenge. I have set my challenge at 110. 
  • Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Completed in 2014, titles read in 2018: 0
  • 2018 Global Reading Challenge 
  • USA Fiction Challenge So far 21/51,
  • 2018 Aussie Author Reading Challenge: aiming for 20:
  • 2018 Australian Women Writers Challenge: aiming for 20.
  • British Books Challenge 2018
  • 2018 Ebook Reading Challenge 
  • New to me authors - a personal challenge
  • Not crime fiction - a personal challenge 
  • Nordic reading challenge - a personal challenge,
  • New Zealand reading challenge -again a personal challenge.
  • Translated crime fiction - a personal challenge that will overlap with many of the other reading challenges that I have undertaken
  • Snagged at the Library
  • Audio books: 
  • 2018 Historical Reading Challenge. 
Now to get my book reviews up to date!

5 January 2018

Review: IN THE DARK, Chris Patchell

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1561 KB
  • Print Length: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Kindle Press (August 4, 2015)
  • Publication Date: August 4, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00YNKHFI8
Synopsis (Amazon)

Marissa Rooney stands in her daughter’s empty dorm room, a half-used vial of insulin clutched in her trembling hand. Brooke has been missing for days. Her roommate hasn’t seen her since that night in the bar. And if Marissa has Brooke’s insulin, it means that Brooke does not.

But Marissa isn’t alone in her terror. A phantom from her past is lurking in the shadows, waiting in the night, and holding her family captive…

In the dark.

My Take

This is much better than your average debut novel, and it really has been sitting in my TBR for far too long.

It is filled with strong characters from Marissa Rooney, with 3 ex-husbands, to Seth Crawford police detective, to  Lizzie Holt creator of the Holt Foundation. Marissa’s daughter Brooke, an insulin dependent diabetic, goes missing during a night out with her room mate. The problem is that nobody realises Brooke is missing for at least 36 hours.

At the time Marissa is working for a law firm in Seattle. The moment Brooke’s room mate contacts her Marissa leaves work to contact the police. As a result she loses her job and is offered another with the Holt Foundation, a philanthropic organisation being set up to support parents finding themselves in situations just like this.

Meantime Marissa’s other daughter Kelly is in trouble at school for carrying a knife. It turns out that she is being bullied by other students. The plot shows how much stress Marissa is under.

Some of the plot elements felt a bit fanciful, but in general it was a good read, fast moving with plot threads well resolved.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
When Chris Patchell isn't hiking in the Cascade Mountains or hanging out with family and friends, she is working at her hi-tech job or writing gritty suspense novels. Writing has been a lifelong passion for Chris. She fell in love with storytelling in the third grade when her half-page creative writing assignment turned into a five-page story on vampires. Even back then Chris had a gift for writing intricate plots that were so good her father refused to believe she didn't steal them from comic books.

Years later, Chris spent long afternoons managing her own independent record store and writing romance novels. After closing the record store and going to college, Chris launched a successful career in hi-tech. She married, had kids but amid all the madness, the itch to write never really went away. So she started writing again. Not romance this time - suspense filled with drama, and angst, speckled with a little bit of blood.

Why suspense? Chris blames her obsession with the dark on two things: watching Stephen King movies as a kid and spending ridiculous amounts of time commuting in Seattle traffic. "My stories are based on scenarios I see every day, distorted through the fictional lens. And my stories come with the added bonus of not having to be restrained by socially acceptable behavior."

Recipient of the 2015 Indie Reader Discovery Award for DEADLY LIES

3 January 2018

Review: MIDNIGHT SUN, Blood on the Snow, BooK 2, Jo Nesbo

My Take:

This is the second in the Blood on The Snow series, stories about Norwegian contract killers.
It is a little longer than the first in the series which I reviewed on this blog a couple of years ago.

Jon Hansen is on a bus heading north, as far away from Oslo as he can get.
A small time drug dealer in desperate need of extra money to save the life of his young daughter with leukaemia, he took a job with The Fisherman as a debt collector and fixer. If he can’t collect the debt then The Fisherman expects him to eliminate the person owing the money. But killing things has never been his strong point and he falls at the first hurdle when the victim offers him money in return for letting him disappear. In addition his finger just won’t pull the trigger.

And so now The Fisherman is after him and he is on the run. He gets as far as Kasund on the Finnmark plateau and gets off the bus in the middle of the night, spending the rest of the night on the floor of the local church. Saying he is there for the hunting season he takes a cottage some distance out of the village and waits to see if The Fisherman catches up with him.

In some ways this is a story of redemption, even a love story. Something a little different, with some humour, but still noir.

My Rating: 4.4


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