1 August 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month July 2014

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2014
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 July 2014, 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.


31 July 2014

Review: THE LOST GIRLS, Wendy James

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 956 KB
  • Print Length: 268 pages
  • Publisher: e-penguin (February 26, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H8ARVG6
Synopsis (Amazon)

From the bestselling author of The Mistake comes a hauntingly powerful story about families and secrets and the dark shadows cast by the past.

Curl Curl, Sydney, January 1978.

Angie's a looker. Or she's going to be. She's only fourteen, but already, heads turn wherever she goes. Male heads, mainly . . .

Jane worships her older cousin Angie. She spends her summer vying for Angie's attention. Then Angie is murdered. Jane and her family are shattered. They withdraw into themselves, casting a veil of silence over Angie's death.

Thirty years later, a journalist arrives with questions about the tragic event. Jane is relieved to finally talk about her adored cousin. And so is her family. But whose version of Angie's story – whose version of Angie herself – is the real one? And can past wrongs ever be made right?

The shocking truth of Angie's last days will force Jane to question everything she once believed. Because nothing – not the past or even the present – is as she once imagined.

My Take

A cleverly written book, told mainly from the point of view of Jane, who was just twelve when Angie died. Jane's story is told partly in first person, particularly from an observer's point of view, and partly through the interviewing of Jane and other family members by Erin, a journalist wanting to make a radio documentary. Of course, at twelve, there are aspects of real life that Jane really doesn't understand, but now, thirty years on she can bring a more adult perspective to her teenage memories.

The focus of the story is who killed Angie and why, and also the impact of her death on the immediate members of Jane's family. What Jane did not understand at the time of Angie's death is that there were big secrets.

I managed to get part of the "real" story worked out easily enough but the final piece slotted in only a few pages from the end.

My rating: 4.7


I've also reviewed

4.8, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
4.8, THE MISTAKE

28 July 2014

Review: THE CARTOGRAPHER, Peter Twohig

  • first published in Australia by Harper Collins Publishers 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-7322-9316-1
  • source: library book
  • 386 pages
Synopsis (author site)


An eleven-year-old boy witnesses a violent crime. Just one year before, he looked on helplessly as his identical twin died  violently. His determination that he himself is the link changes his life.

The Cartographer is a captivating novel about a tragic figure in a dark place. The nameless child who tells the story handles the terrors of his life by adopting the strengths of fictional pop culture characters he admires, drawing on comics, radio and television dramas, and movies, finally recreating himself as a superhero who saves himself by mapping, and who attempts to redeem himself by giving up his persona so that another may live again.

His only mentors are a professional standover man, his shady grandfather, and an incongruous neighbourhood couple who intervene in an oddly coincidental way. 

In the dark, dangerous lanes and underground drains of grimy 1959 Melbourne, The Cartographer is a story bristling with outrageous wit and irony about an innocent who refuses to give in, a story peopled with a richness of shifty, dodgy and downright malicious bastards, mixed with a modicum of pseudo-aunts, astonishing super heroes, and a few coincidentally loving characters, some of whom are found in the most unlikely places.

 http://browseinside.harpercollins.com.au/index.aspx?isbn13=9780732293161

My Take

This novel came highly recommended by  a friend whose judgement I trust, but perhaps it is just an indication of how widely our tastes diverge, that I can't share her enthusiasm.

I think I lost my way about halfway through the book after our narrator, 11 years old and often unreliable, survived yet another "adventure" in the name of mapping a safer world. I lost sight of what this book was about, what mystery I should be helping to solve. It was probably all there, just not plainly enough for me. There are some delightfully humorous passages, but I sometimes also doubted the authenticity of the narrator's voice. Juvenile narration is difficult to do at the best of times, but I felt our unnamed hero had too much latitude for his age.

I think there were connecting threads between various incidents in the story but the author made me work too hard to cobble them together. Perhaps at times I am a lazy reader...

My rating: 3.5

Check another review

27 July 2014

Review: THE CONFESSION. Charles Todd - audio book

Synopsis (Audible)

Declaring he needs to clear his conscience, a dying man walks into Scotland Yard and confesses that he killed his cousin five years earlier during the Great War. 

When Inspector Ian Rutledge presses for details, the man evades his questions, revealing only that he hails from a village east of London. 

With little information and no body to open an official inquiry, Rutledge begins to look into the case on his own. Less than two weeks later, the alleged killer’s body is found floating in the Thames, a bullet in the back of his head. 

The inspector’s only clue is a gold locket, found around the dead man’s neck, that leads back to Essex and an insular village whose occupants will do anything to protect themselves from notoriety. For notoriety brings the curious, and with the curious come change and an unwelcome spotlight on a centuries-old act of evil that even now can damn them all.  

My Take:

Another really good read from Charles Todd. Simon Prebble does an excellent job of the audio presentation. Although this is #14 in the series, it is only 1920 so we haven't progressed very far from the demons and ghosts of World War One. Ian Rutledge seems in better control of his own personal ghost Hamish, but even so wonders whether sometimes people hear him in conversation with Hamish.

Things are changing at the Yard. The Chief Inspector has had a heart attack and been hospitalised and so underlings like Rutledge are able to take advantage of the laxer supervision to operate this case on his own initiative. Of course that also means that the Yard doesn't actually know where he is and should anything happen to him, it will be some time before help arrives, if ever.

The audio versions of these books are produced to a very high standard, assisted by the fact that each story is carefully plotted and sufficiently tangled to be intriguing. World War One lurks there as a background without being intrusive.

my rating: 4.6

I've also reviewed
SEARCH THE DARK
A PALE HORSE
A TEST OF WILLS
4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD
4.7, A LONELY DEATH
4.7, HUNTING SHADOWS 

23 July 2014

Review: HOLY ORDERS, Benjamin Black

  • published by Henry Holt and Company 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-8050-9440-4
  • 286 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #6 in the Quirke series- Benjamin Black is a penname for John Banville
Synopsis (author website)

When the body of his daughter’s friend is brought to his autopsy table, Quirke is plunged into a world of corruption that takes him to the darkest corners of the Irish Church and State.

“At first they thought it was the body of a child. Later, when they got it out of the water and saw the pubic hair and the nicotine stains on the fingers, they realized their mistake.”

So begins the latest Quirke case, a story set in Dublin at a moment when newspapers are censored, social conventions are strictly defined, and appalling crimes are hushed up. Why? Because in 1950s Ireland the Catholic Church controls the lives of nearly everyone. But when Quirke’s daughter Phoebe loses her close friend Jimmy Minor to murder, Quirke can no longer play by the Church’s rules. Along with Inspector Hackett, his sometime partner, Quirke investigates Jimmy’s death and learns just how far the Church and its supporters will go to protect their own interests.

Haunting, fierce, and brilliantly plotted, this is Benjamin Black writing at the top of his form. His inimitable creation, the endlessly curious Quirke, brings a pathologist’s unique understanding of death to unlock the most dangerous of secrets.

My Take

I can't believe that this is the first Benjamin Black title that I have read. I do remember the debut novel CHRISTINE FALLS being published and the speculation that Benjamin Black was somebody who had already made his name in another genre. (Among others things the Man Booker Prize for 2005).

HOLY ORDERS taps into what has become an international theme of the Catholic Church abusing the children supposedly under its care. It is something Quirke is familiar with having had an institutional upbringing himself. Mixed in with this theme is Quirke's own failure with regard to his relationship with his daughter.

It makes good reading.

My rating: 4.8

21 July 2014

Review: MURDER IN THE MONASTERY, Lesley Cookman

  • published in 2013 by Accent Press
  • ISBN 9-781908-917751
  • 309 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #11 in Libby Sarjeant Mysteries series
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

The eleventh book in the Libby Sarjeant series of British murder mysteries which features a retired actress as the female sleuth and are based in the picturesque village of Steeple Martin.

Libby Sarjeant is invited to look into the provenance of a jewelled Anglo-Saxon reliquary which has appeared on a website.

The nuns at St Eldreda's Abbey are curious, as it apparently contains a relic of St Eldreda herself. Libby's friend Peter obtains permission to mount a play based on St Eldreda's story in the ruins of the original monastery called, naturally, Murder In The Monastery.

 And then, inevitably, a real body is discovered, and Libby and her friend Fran find out that this is not the first.

My Take

Helpfully at the beginning of this novel there is a Who's Who in the Libby Sarjeant series. I did end up using it a few times to get relationships between people sorted out. There are a number of occasional references to events that Libby and her friends have been involved in in previous titles.

I think I may need to add the village of Steeple Martin to my list of places not to visit, although the village itself sounds pretty interesting. (If you remember others include St. Mary Mead, and anything including the word Midsommer.)

The action of the novel centres around a quickly written play about the life of St. Eldreda to be accompanied by the display of a reliquary which contains her finger bone. Of course we are expecting a murder because of the title of the novel, but the identity of the victim comes as a surprise to all. Libby engages a researcher to trace the descendants of the family whom the reliquary has belonged to over the centuries. The results of this research provides a lot of surprises.

This is a real cozy, lots of characters to sort out, and red herrings do abound. Libby has a good working relationship with a local police DCI because she has been involved in a number of earlier cases. There is probably a good argument for getting into this series at the very beginning, so you have the build up of character information that will result from that.

My rating: 4.2

19 July 2014

Review: ELIZABETH IS MISSING, Emma Healey

  • published 2014 by Viking, Penguin Books
  • ISBN 978-0-241-00351-0
  • 275 pages
Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

What if you could remember just one thing?

Maud is forgetful.  She makes a cup of tea and doesn't remember to drink it.  She goes to the shops and forgets why she went.  Back home she finds the place horribly unrecognizable - just like she sometimes thinks her daughter Helen is a total stranger.

But there's one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing.  The note in her pocket tells her so.  And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud's damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery.  One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud . . .

My Take

Maud organises her life with little bits of paper. She writes notes but doesn't always discard the paper when she should. She know Elizabeth is missing because the note says so, and because Elizabeth's house is empty. But she can't understand why no-one will do anything about Elizabeth's disappearance - not the police whom she visits several times, not her daughter, not her doctor.

Events in the present trigger vivid memories from the past, when she was a teenager and someone else close to her also disappeared.The war was recently over, they had a lodger, and a mad woman was killed by a car right outside their house.

Emma Healey does a wonderful job of of presenting Maud's fractured memories.
An excellent read.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Emma Healey is 28 years old and grew up in London. She has spent most of her working life in libraries, bookshops and galleries. She completed the MA in Creative Writing: Prose at UEA in 2011. Elizabeth is Missing is her first novel.

Check her website.

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