23 August 2016

Review: A DEATH IN SWEDEN, Kevin Wignall

Synopsis (Amazon)

 Dan Hendricks is a man in need of a lifeline. A former CIA operative, he is now an agent for hire by foreign powers on the hunt for dangerous fugitives. It’s a lethal world at the best of times, and Dan knows his number is almost up. His next job could be his last—and his next job is his biggest yet.

The target sounds trackable enough: Jacques Fillon, who gave up his life trying to save a fellow passenger following a bus crash in northern Sweden. But the man was something of an enigma in this rural community, and his death exposes his greatest secret: Jacques Fillon never existed at all.

Dan is tasked with uncovering Fillon’s true identity—but can he do so before his own past catches up with him?

My Take

Quite a gripping thriller. 

A long standing CIA boss has been made head of ODNI, the US Office of National Intelligence. Elements of the CIA are unhappy with his appointment and have begun eliminating some of the operatives who are loyal to him.

I lost count of the number of agents who were killed in this story - at least twenty- and I certainly would not like to get on the wrong side of Dan Hendricks.

All of the action takes place overseas: Sweden, Paris, Berlin, just to name a few places. One of the "bad guys" is the American ambassador in Berlin who has covered up a crime committed by his son, now a US Congressman, some 14 years earlier in Paris.

There is some strange morality in this tale - Hendricks thinks nothing of eliminating five or six men who get in his way, but then talks scathingly of people being unlawfully killed. It makes you ask when murder is murder.

There is an interesting twist in the tale as we find out what was really behind Jacques Fillon sacrificing himself in the bus crash.

My Rating: 4.3

About the author

Kevin Wignall is a British writer, born in Brussels in 1967. He spent many years as an army child in different parts of Europe, and went on to study politics and international relations at Lancaster University. He became a full-time writer after the publication of his first book, People Die (2001). His other novels are Among the Dead (2002); Who Is Conrad Hirst? (2007), shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Barry Award; and Dark Flag (2010). The Hunter's Prayer was originally titled For the Dogs in the USA. The film The Hunter's Prayer, directed by Jonathan Mostow and starring Sam Worthington and Odeya Rush, will be released worldwide in 2016.


Review: BEFORE THE POISON, Peter Robinson

Synopsis (Amazon)

 After years of Hollywood success composer Chris Lowndes wanted only one thing: to take his beloved wife home to the Yorkshire Dales.

 But Laura is gone, and Chris is on his own.

 He welcomes the isolation of Kilnsgate House, and the beauty of the dale. And it doesn't surprise him that a man died there, sixty years ago. That his wife was convicted of murder. That something is pulling him deeper and deeper into the story of Grace Elizabeth Fox, who was hanged by the neck until she was dead . . .

 My Take

In tone this novel reminds me somewhat of the Gothic-style tales that I used to read nearly 50 years ago: an isolated house in the Yorkshire dales where a convicted murderer once lived, a possible ghost sighting, a possible miscarriage of justice.

The author cleverly brings a cold case, via extracts from a book positioned at the beginning of each chapter, together with a modern investigation. What surprised me was that the original case was in the 1950s - that part of the narration has a much older feel, almost 19th century.

But then, mid way, the story takes a turn that I wasn't expecting. At first Chris Lowndes felt the need to prove that Grace was innocent, that there had been a miscarriage of justice. Then comes the about face where he doubts her innocence. But above all he wants to understand what happened and so he sets out to track Sam, Grace's young lover, and then finally the young soldier Grace was seen walking with just days before her husband's death. A stranger turns up at Kilnsgate with some very important evidence.

This is a stand-alone, very readable and almost plausible.
Winner of Canada's Arthur Ellis award for best novel.

 My Rating: 4.5

22 August 2016

Travelling again

Off on our travels again early tomorrow, this time a multi hop trip from Tampa to Singapore.🛩
Book reading will continue but reviews may be slow in surfacing dependent on Internet connectivity.
Plenty to read though on my Kindle. 📚

18 August 2016

Review: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, Michael Stanley

Synopsis (Amazon)

 There's no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father's dead. I'm afraid he's been murdered.'

 Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID's keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?

 Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world ofriots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet.

 When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers' trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?

  My Take

I am a long-standing fan of this series. Published in 2015, this is #5.

His father Wilmon is a much loved member of Kubu's family and a kindly character who has featured in earlier titles. His murder comes as a great shock and it is hard to imagine why it has happened. Are the families of the police being targeted or is there a more local motive?

Kubu of course wants to be involved in the investigation and his boss has a hard job of keeping him out of it. Fortunately there are other matters that Kubu can be involved in. But his frustration at the assignment of his father's murder to a less experienced female detective is well depicted, especially as time passes and so little progress is made.

I enjoyed the way the various threads of this story were woven together with elements of Botswana politics and economics, particularly with Botswana struggling to find its place in the modern world.

The view presented of Botswana is different to the one with Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series which I also enjoy.  I was delighted to find references to that series in A DEATH IN THE FAMILY.

A delightful read.

  my rating: 4.7

15 August 2016

Review: RESURRECTION BAY, Emma Viskic

Synopsis (Amazon)

 Caleb Zelic, profoundly deaf since early childhood, has always lived on the outside - watching, picking up telltale signs people hide in a smile, a cough, a kiss. When a childhood friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. But he can’t do it alone. Caleb and his troubled friend Frankie, an ex-cop, start with one clue: Scott, the last word the murder victim texted to Caleb. But Scott is always one step ahead.

 This gripping, original and fast-paced crime thriller is set between a big city and a small coastal town, Resurrection Bay, where Caleb is forced to confront painful memories. Caleb is a memorable protagonist who refuses to let his deafness limit his opportunities, or his participation in the investigation. But does his persistence border on stubbornness? And at what cost? As he delves deeper into the investigation Caleb uncovers unwelcome truths about his murdered friend – and himself.

My Take

Caleb and his business partner Frankie are insurance investigators. Frankie is a former cop in the Victoria police and her contacts are often useful in getting information not normally readily available.

Caleb asks police friend Gary to assist with information about their current case, a warehouse fire, and then gets a text message from Gary indicating he is in trouble. He gets to Gary's flat too late and the police find him sitting on the kitchen floor, covered in blood, holding his friend's body in his arms.

The investigation into Gary's death sends Caleb to his ex-wife Kat for help and it appears that those who killed Gary now think that Caleb has the incriminating evidence that Gary once held.

As the blurb says, a fast paced thriller set in Melbourne and a seaside Victorian town. The characters are well drawn and the result is a solid debut novel.

My Rating: 4.3

Review: RESURRECTION BAY, Emma Viskic

Synopsis (Amazon)

 Caleb Zelic, profoundly deaf since early childhood, has always lived on the outside - watching, picking up telltale signs people hide in a smile, a cough, a kiss. When a childhood friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer. But he can’t do it alone. Caleb and his troubled friend Frankie, an ex-cop, start with one clue: Scott, the last word the murder victim texted to Caleb. But Scott is always one step ahead.

 This gripping, original and fast-paced crime thriller is set between a big city and a small coastal town, Resurrection Bay, where Caleb is forced to confront painful memories. Caleb is a memorable protagonist who refuses to let his deafness limit his opportunities, or his participation in the investigation. But does his persistence border on stubbornness? And at what cost? As he delves deeper into the investigation Caleb uncovers unwelcome truths about his murdered friend – and himself.

My Take

Caleb and his business partner Frankie are insurance investigators. Frankie is a former cop in the Victoria police and her contacts are often useful in getting information not normally readily available.

Caleb asks police friend Gary to assist with information about their current case, a warehouse fire, and then gets a text message from Gary indicating he is in trouble. He gets to Gary's flat too late and the police find him sitting on the kitchen floor, covered in blood, holding his friend's body in his arms.

The investigation into Gary's death sends Caleb to his ex-wife Kat for help and it appears that those who killed Gary now think that Caleb has the incriminating evidence that Gary once held.

As the blurb says, a fast paced thriller set in Melbourne and a seaside Victorian town. The characters are well drawn and the result is a solid debut novel.

My Rating: 4.3

10 August 2016

Review: STRANGE TIDE, Christopher Fowler

Synopsis (Amazon)

The river Thames is London’s most important yet neglected artery. When a young woman is found chained to a post in the tide, no-one can understand how she came to be drowned there. At the Peculiar Crimes Unit, Arthur Bryant and John May find themselves dealing with an impossible crime committed in a very public place. 

Soon they discover that the river is giving up other victims, but as the investigation extends from the coast of Libya to the nightclubs of North London, it proves as murkily sinister as the Thames itself. That’s only part of the problem; Bryant’s rapidly deteriorating condition prevents him from handling the case, and he is confined to home. To make matters worse, May makes a fatal error of judgement that knocks him out of action and places everyone at risk.

With the PCU staff baffled as much by their own detectives as the case, the only people who can help now are the battery of eccentrics Bryant keeps listed in his diary, but will their arcane knowledge save the day or make matters even worse? Soon there’s a clear suspect in everyone’s sights – the only thing that’s missing is any scrap of evidence.

As the detectives’ disastrous investigation comes unstuck, the whole team gets involved in some serious messing about on the river. In an adventure that’s as twisting as the river upon which it’s set, will there be anything left of the Peculiar Crimes Unit when it’s over?

My Take:

A Bryant & May, Book 13 in the series, following on from THE BURNING MAN.
Mostly I have been listening to the audio books of this series so it will be interesting to see how this one takes me.

Arthur Bryant appeared to be developing Alzheimer's quite rapidly at the end of the last book, and at the beginning of this one Raymond Land says he is in poor health and will be working mainly from home.

The problem is, as the PCU team knows, it is mainly  Arthur Bryant's experience, as well as his odd way of viewing things and connecting up the dots that has led to the team's excellent clear up record. Without him the team will have nothing.

The story starts with three excellent hooks: Queen Boadicea and a Roman legionary sitting on a wall, the capsizing of a Libyan refugee boat off the coast of Italy several years earlier, and then the discovery of a young woman's body near the Queen's Stairs in the Thames.

Ever present in the background of this novel is the River Thames, winding its way through London. We learn peculiar facts about its past and the effects it has had on its residents. As in the other books in this series Fowler's research has thrown up incredible antiquarian items which we see through Arthur Bryant's encyclopaedic brain. 

The plot twists and tangles, and just when you think there couldn't be more there is. As usual the future of the unit comes under threat and the mystery must be solved to save it.

Very enjoyable read, and yes, I did enjoy it as much as the audio ones I had listened to earlier.

My Rating: 4.6

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