24 September 2017

Review: THE UNEXPECTED INHERITANCE OF INSPECTOR CHOPRA, Vaseem Khan

  • #1 in the Baby Ganesh Agency series
  • this edition published by Mulholland Books 2015
  • ISBN 976-1-473-61227-3
  • 294 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Mumbai, murder, and a baby elephant combine in a charming, joyful mystery for fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Harold Fry.

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries. The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant.

As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high-rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought.

And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs....

My Take

Inspector Chopra is forced to take early retirement as a result of a heart attack. But he is not yet ready to take things easy, put up his feet and just watch cricket. On the very day of his retirement he learns of the death of a young man, supposedly from drowning, and he knows there will be no investigation, if he doesn't follow it through himself.

And then he learns that his uncle has sent him a baby elephant. Where do you keep an elephant in a high rise apartment? And what do you do when it won't eat?

A light humour lies behind every word in this novel, even when the investigation which Chopra takes on without official sanction leads him into Mumbai's steamy underworld and he sights a man who is supposed to be dead.

On the cozy side of crime fiction, this makes good reading.
Thanks for the recommendation Bernadette.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Vaseem Khan first saw an elephant lumbering down the middle of the road in 1997 when he arrived in India to work as a consultant. It was the most unusual thing he'd ever encountered and served as the inspiration...

Series
Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation
1. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra (2015)
2. The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown (2016)
3. The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star (2017)
4. Murder at the Grand Raj Palace (2018)

23 September 2017

Review: POSTCARDS FROM THE PAST, Marcia Willett

  • this edition published by Bantam, 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-593-07151-9
  • 299 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

Siblings Billa and Ed share their beautiful, grand old childhood home in rural Cornwall. With family and friends nearby, and their living arrangements free and easy, they seem as contented as they can be.

But when postcards start arriving from a sinister figure they thought belonged well and truly in their pasts, old memories are stirred. Why is he contacting them now? And what has he been hiding all these years?

My Take

Well, you ask me, is this crime fiction or not? A crime was  committed way back in the past, but that is not really the focus of the story, although it does explain why one of the characters is as he is.

The focus is the mystery behind why their mother's step-son Tris, whom they haven't seen for 50 years, is coming to visit Billa and Ed. The postcards he sends them in the weeks before he arrives have obviously been carefully selected, to remind them of things they would rather forget. And they anticipate his visit with great dread.

It felt a bit gentler than the books I usually read but I read it with great pleasure.  The characterisation was excellent, and the suspense generated by the impending visit was well done.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Marcia Willett began her career as a novelist when she was fifty years old. Since that first novel Marcia has written twenty more under her own name as well as a number of short stories. She has also written four books under the pseudonym "Willa Marsh", and is published in more than sixteen countries.

Marcia Willett's early life was devoted to the ballet, but her dreams of becoming a ballerina ended when she grew out of the classical proportions required. She had always loved books, and a family crisis made her take up a new career as a novelist - a decision she has never regretted. She lives in a beautiful and wild part of Devon where she loves to be visited by her son and young family. 

21 September 2017

Review: THE GOOD PEOPLE, Hannah Kent

Synopsis (publisher)

The fires on the hills smouldered orange as the women left, pockets charged with ashes to guard them from the night. Watching them fade into the grey fall of snow, Nance thought she could hear Maggie's voice. A whisper in the dark.

"Some folk are born different, Nance. They are born on the outside of things, with a skin a little thinner, eyes a little keener to what goes unnoticed by most. Their hearts swallow more blood than ordinary hearts; the river runs differently for them."

Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference.

Unable to care for the child alone, Nóra hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow's house.

Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken ...

My Take

I guess you could argue that this isn't really crime fiction, but in the end a crime is committed, even if only through ignorance.

The setting is Killarney 1825. Nora Leahy is brought to the edge of her tether when her husband Martin dies suddenly out in the fields. As the villagers gather together in Nora's hut for the wake, they talk about the signs observed at the time Martin died: four magpies sitting together in a field; the fact that he died at the crossroads where they bury suicides; that as he fell the hammer at the blacksmith's could be heard; and as the men carried his body home lights could be seen towards the woods. These are taken as signs that the fairies, The Good People, had a hand in his passing.

After the priest has left, Nance Roche, regarded by some as a witch, arrives to keen over Martin's body and Nora invites her into the hut. Nora has already delivered her four year grandson, who is disabled, to a neighbour so that those coming to her hut do not see him.

The novel tells the story of how Nora and Nance attempt to cure the boy, of how they become convinced that he is a changeling, left by The Good People, in the place of her actual grandson.

The author tells readers that this work of fiction is based on a real event that occurred in the summer of 1825 in County Kerry. The novel explores what might have been behind the case and it makes fascinating reading.  The time frame is pre-potato famine, and already crops are failing and people are barely subsisting. They tend to blame events on external forces and rely on people such as Nance Roche for herbal cures, poultices, and superstitious beliefs to support them when they are ill or injured.

My Rating: 4.7

I've also read 4.5, BURIAL RITES

17 September 2017

Review: THE SUSPECT, Michael Robotham - audio book

 Synopsis (author website)

Joseph O'Loughlin appears to have the perfect life - a beautiful wife, a loving daughter and a successful career as a clinical psychologist. But nothing can be taken for granted. Even the most flawless existence is only a loose thread away from unravelling. All it takes is a murdered girl, a troubled young patient and the biggest lie of his life.

When an unknown young woman is found dead with multiple stab wounds – all of them self-inflicted – the police ask Joe to help them understand the crime. Are they dealing with a murder or a suicide? Reluctantly, he agrees to help and the brutalised body he views at the mortuary turns out to be someone he knows: Catherine Mary McBride, a nurse and former colleague.

At the same time, Joe is grappling with a troubled young patient, Bobby Moran, whose violent dreams are becoming more real. As Bobby's behaviour grows increasingly erratic, Joe begins to ponder what he's done in the past and what he might do next. Is there a link between his terrible dreams and Catherine McBride?

Caught in a complex web of deceit and obsessed by images of the slain girl, Joe embarks upon a search that takes him into the darkest recesses of the human mind. Ultimately, he will risk everything to unmask the killer and save his family..


My Take

If you follow my blog you will know that I have read this title before, much closer to the date of original publication (2004).

It is the book that introduced British psychologist Professor Joseph O'Loughlin and his creator Australian writer Michael Robotham to the crime fiction world. Now the Joseph O'Loughlin/ Vincent Ruiz series has 8 titles and Robotham has produced another 4 stand-alones. He has won many awards, been translated into a myriad of languages, and even become the basis of a German TV series. (What an irony it will be if in Australia we have to view a translated version!)

Listening to this excellent audio version, unabridged of course, has given me a new appreciation of what a startling new voice Robotham was.  The writing is crisp and tight, the plot multi-stranded, but somehow all coming together at the end.

So, if you haven't read any of this series yet, there is no better place to start - at the beginning.
I will be downloading the unabridged version of #2 in the series: LOST (aka THE DROWNING MAN).

Rating: 5.0

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

15 September 2017

Review: CRIMSON LAKE, Candice Fox

  • this edition published by Penguin Random House Australia 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-14-378190-5
  • 389 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

12.46: Thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop
12.47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her
12.52: The girl is missing . . .

Six minutes – that’s all it took to ruin Detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of Claire’s abduction, he escapes north, to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

Amanda Pharrell knows what it’s like to be public enemy number one. Maybe it’s her murderous past that makes her so good as a private investigator, tracking lost souls in the wilderness. Her latest target, missing author Jake Scully, has a life more shrouded in secrets than her own – so she enlists help from the one person in town more hated than she is: Ted.

But the residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair’s every move. And for Ted, a man already at breaking point, this town is offering no place to hide . . .

My Take

Amanda Pharrell and Ten Conkaffey must surely rate among the oddest detective duo ever created. Amanda is a convicted killer while Ted is an ex-detective, accused of  child abduction, but not convicted. Importantly, not acquitted either. He has spent 8 months on remand, then released without conviction, leaving a broken marriage, trying to find anonymity in far North Queensland.

Amanda is running a detective agency and both she and Ted have been pointed towards each other. Her current case is that of a missing, almost certainly dead, writer. Amanda is being employed by Stella, Jake Scully's wife. She primarily wants evidence that Jake is dead so that she can claim his life insurance and get on with her life.

Once Ted teams up with Amanda he becomes an object of interest for the locals and in particular two local policemen who try to make things as unpleasant as possible for him. Journalists and local media make plenty of the new detective partnership and local hoons visit Ted's house regularly.

A very gritty book, full of North Queensland steaminess and danger.  Several mysteries to be solved. Good reading.

My rating: 4.6


I've also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN

About the author

Candice Fox is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from Sydney’s western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings. The daughter of a prison parole officer and an enthusiastic foster-carer, Candice spent many of her early Christmases travelling to a Sydney correctional facility in the family minibus to knock on prison cell windows, run around the razor-wired yard and eat fruitcake prepared by inmates. While her mother and stepfather developed an ever-growing mob of Sydney’s most disadvantaged children throughout her later youth, entertainment had to be cheap. She spent her school holidays exploring free, open spaces – farms, bushland and cemeteries.
As a cynical and trouble-making teenager, her crime and gothic fiction writing was an escape from the calamity of her home life.
Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen. At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and taught high school through two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees. In 2015, she began collaborating with best selling author James Patterson on a series of books featuring Detective Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue.
Candice’s books Hades, Eden and Fall are published with Random House Australia and are in multiple translations. Hades and Eden both won Ned Kelly Awards presented by the Australian Crime Writers Association.

14 September 2017

Review: THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY, Caroline Overington

  • this edition published by Harper Collins Publishers 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-7322-9975
  • 332 pages
Synopsis (back cover)

Loren Wynne-Estes appears to have it all: she's the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who's landed a handsome husband, a stunning home, a fleet of shiny cars and two beautiful daughters ...

Then one day a fellow parent taps Loren on the shoulder outside the grand school gate, hands her a note ... and suddenly everything's at stake.

Loren's Facebook-perfect marriage is spectacularly exposed revealing an underbelly of lies and betrayal. What is uncovered will scandalise a small town, destroy lives and leave a family divided.

But who is to be believed and who is to blame? Will the right person be brought to justice or is there one who got away?

My Take

The blurb on the back of the book tries very hard not to reveal any plot details, and so I think I should follow that line. That makes reviewing it extremely hard.

The book is set in a suburb of Los Angeles with deep social divisions demarcated by the river that runs through the suburb. Loren and her family(husband and twin girls aged 5) live on High Side but she was born on Low Side. When she was young her mother left her father for another woman who already had a daughter Loren's age, Molly. Loren eventually goes to work in New York where she meets a man from High Side. She returns to Los Angeles and and they eventually marry.

The story is told by a number of narrators: Molly, a journal that Loren wrote, a journalist interviewing Loren's husband David, and the judge in a trial where David is being tried for murder,

It is a book that holds the reader's interest throughout but I guarantee that most readers will not predict the ending.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Caroline Overington is a two-time Walkley Award-winning journalist who is currently a senior writer and columnist with The Australian. She is the author of two non-fiction books, Only in New York and Kickback which is about the UN oil-for-food scandal in Iraq. Since then she has had her first novel Ghost Child published in October 2009 to great acclaim.

She has written eleven books, including LAST WOMAN HANGED, which won the Davitt Award for True Crime Writing in 2015.  Caroline has also profiled many of the world's most famous women, including Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton.

I've also read
4.4, SISTERS OF MERCY
4.5, NO PLACE LIKE HOME
4.7, I CAME TO SAY GOODBYE
4.5, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?

11 September 2017

Review: JOURNEY TO DEATH, Leigh Russell

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2150 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (February 9, 2016)
  • Publication Date: February 9, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B014KVMWQ4
Synopsis (Amazon)

A deadly secret lurks in an island’s history, buried deep but not forgotten. And it is about to come to light.

Lucy Hall arrives in the Seychelles determined to leave her worries behind. The tropical paradise looks sun-soaked and picture-perfect—but as Lucy soon discovers, appearances can be very deceptive.

As black clouds begin to gather over what promised to be a relaxing family break, Lucy realises that her father stands in the eye of the coming storm. A shadow from his past is threatening to destroy all that he holds dear—including the lives of his loved ones.

A dark truth is about to explode into their lives, and that truth is going to hit them right between the eyes.

My take:

Leigh Russell is quite a prolific author with 16 Books published since 2009. JOURNEY TO DEATH is the first of 3 in the Lucy Hall series.

Lucy Hall comes to the Seychelles with her parents just after a romance breakup. She has sustained an emotional collapse and her parents are trying to help her recover.

While they know that her father was evacuated (forcibly) from the island 30 years before, his wife and daughter know little about his personal life at that time. Their idyllic holiday is shattered when the wife, Angela, disappears. In the meantime Lucy begins to think that someone is targetting their family.

The main narrator of the tale is Lucy and we see the action mainly through her eyes. However occasionally the reader is told what is happening to Angela, and the tension and suspense ratchet up.
In the long run the story was handled well, and I feel tempted to follow Lucy into the second book in the series.

My rating: 4.4
About the author (Fantastic Fiction)
LEIGH RUSSELL is described as "a brilliant talent" by Jeffery Deaver. CUT SHORT (2009) was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel. Road Closed (2010) was listed as a Top Read on Eurocrime. With Dead End (2011) Leigh's detective Geraldine Steel was Number 1 on amazon kindle's bestseller chart for female sleuths.

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