31 October 2014

Review: MOSCOW BOUND, Adrian Churchward

 Synopsis (NetGalley)

Ekaterina Romanova, the estranged wife of Russia's wealthiest oligarch Konstantin Gravchenko, asks Scott Mitchell, an idealistic young English human rights lawyer who is being intimidated by the authorities, to find the father she's never met.

She believes he's been languishing for decades without trial in the Gulag system. Meanwhile, General Pravda of military intelligence, though an advocate of transparency, is determined to protect a covert operation that he's been running for years.

General Pravda hinders Ekaterina and Scott at every turn and lawyer and client are forced to go on the run for a murder they didn't commit. As they descend into the Hades that is the world of international realpolitik Scott is compelled to reconsider his own values, and Pravda's life's work disintegrates, when Scott uncovers a 50 year-old Cold War secret, which both the Russian and US governments are still trying to hide from the public domain.

'Moscow Bound' is the first book in The Puppet Meisters trilogy, dealing with state abuse of power.

My Take

I really struggled to get into this book. There just seemed to be too much going on right from the beginning and I couldn't work out what the connection was between the "missing father" plot and whatever General Pravda was up to. And then about half way through, there was a glimmer of light and I thought I knew where the story was going and what the possible connection was between the two main strands. That's quite a lot to ask of a reader. Perhaps other readers won't be as obtuse as me.

However, after my glimpse of where we were headed, the reading experience did not really improve much. There were just too many characters to keep track of, too many sub-plots, and in the long run, for me, it strained the bounds of credibility.

This book was not for me, but I am willing to believe that others might find it a fascinating read.

My rating: 2.5

About the author -
Adrian Churchward is an English solicitor who has worked in commercial law practices for over thirty years in London, Los Angeles and Eastern Europe. He holds an M.Phil. from Essex University in Comparative International Law. His hobbies include writing and film-making.

He first acquired a taste for Russian culture in his early teens when he immersed himself in the works of Dostoyevsky and Gogol, rather than the school’s curriculum of Shakespeare and Chaucer. A sight-seeing visit to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg)  followed in 1973 and laid the foundations of his life-long interest in the Russian people and language. For more see website

30 October 2014

Chronology for Hercule Poirot

Basically if we work backwards chronologically and look at the idea that Hercule was already retired  from the Belgian police force when he arrived in England as a Belgian refugee in 1916, then by the time of his death in 1975 (some 60 years later) he is a staggering age.
The documents below suggest he was born in 1864, so by 1975 he would have been 111 years old.

This is a compilation based on 4 documents

The Chronology of Hercule Poirot

by Brad Mengel

based on the biography by Anne Hart
All cases are by Agatha Christie, unless stated otherwise.
"Cases in Commas" denote a short story, CASES IN CAPS denote novels

1864 Hercule Poirot and his twin brother Achille are born (Two points here: 
1) There is some debate as to whether Achille is real or not, I am in favour of him being real; 
2) A number of dates have been put forward for the birth of Poirot 1839 - 44, 1849- 54, 1864, 1884. Symons suggested 1864 which I took)

1864 The Holmes Family on their second continental tour visit the Poirots, who may be related through the Vernets (Suggested by the passage in THE LABOURS OF HERCULES where Poirot's friend Dr Burton is wondering how Poirot got his name "Thinking of an imaginary conversation. Your Mother and the Late Mrs Holmes, sitting sewing little garments or knitting: Achille, Hercule, Sherlock, Mycroft." Burton may have based this on a comment from Poirot)

Circa 1893 Poirot Joins either the French or Belgian Secret Service

1901 "Did Sherlock Holmes Meet Hercule-?" Short Story by Julian Symons in ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE Mid Dec 1987 Sherlock Holmes meets Poirot who is posing as the Chef of a French Diplomat.

1904 Hercule Poirot joins the Belgian Police and immediately becomes involved in the Abercrombie Case with Inspector Japp.

1909 "The Chocolate Box" ( in early version of this adventure Poirot makes reference to a younger sister Yvette, Poirot also refers to this case as taking place in 1893)

1914 Poirot has completed his mission in the Belgian police and is "due to retire" when Germany invades neutral Belgium. Poirot joins the resistance and is at one point saved by a French General.

1916 Poirot leaves Belgium and becomes a refugee in England.


1918 "The Kidnapped Prime Minister"
"The Lemesurie Inheritance"
1919 "The Affair at the Victory Ball"
1920 "The Disappearance of Mr Davisheim"
"The Plymouth Express"
"The Adventure of the Cheap Flat"
"The Submarine Plans"
"The Adventure of the Chapham Cook"
1921 "The Cornish Mystery"
"The Tragedy at Marsden Manor"
"The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge"
"The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb"
"The Jewelry Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan"
"Double Sin"
1922 "The Market Basing Mystery"
"The King of Clubs"
"The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman"
"The Double Clue" (Poirot meets Countess Vera Rossakoff for the first time.)
"The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly"
"The Case of the Missing Will"
"The Million Dollar Bond"
1923 "The Veiled Lady"
"The Adventure of the Western Star"
"The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" (This case was expanded and updated as "The Theft of a Royal Ruby" in the 1950's)
1924 THE BIG FOUR (This adventure is the only appearance of Achille Poirot who dies at the end of this adventure. Countess Rossakoff aids Poirot, Poirot rescues the Countess' son Niki and is going to propose at the end of this adventure which has led to speculation that Poirot is Niki's father)

1925 Poirot is retired for a year

1929 "The Third Floor Flat"
"The Underdog"
"Wasp's Nest"
1930 BLACK COFFEE (play by Christie)
"The Second Gong" (Expanded with new ending as "Dead Man's Mirror")
"The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest" (expanded and updated as "The Mystery of the Spanish Chest" in the fifties)

Sept "About Maigret and the Stolen Papers" by Julian Symons in THE GREAT DETECTIVES Maigret meet Poirot

1933 THREE ACT TRAGEDY (Poirot meets Mr Satterthwaite the associate of Harley Quin)
1935 "How Does Your Garden Grow"
A CASE FOR THREE DETECTIVES by Leo Bruce (Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey and Father Brown are all beaten to the solution of this case by Sgt William Beef.

"Problem at Sea"
"Triangle at Rhodes'
"Murder in the Mews"
1937 CARDS ON THE TABLE (Poirot meets Mrs Oliver, Superintendent Battle and Col. Race)

1938 Summer "The Adventure of the Orient Express" by August Derleth (Poirot meet Solar Pons, the Saint and Ashenden)
1939 "Yellow Iris"
"The Dream"
Late 1939 - Late 1940 THE LABOURS OF HERCULES
"Four and Twenty Black Birds"

1943 "Poirot and the Regatta Mystery" (Fellow Christie Investigator Parker Pyne earlier investigated a similar case called "The Regatta Mystery")

1945 Sept THE HOLLOW


1951 October MURDER IN PASTICHE by Marion Mainwaring (Poirot under the name of Atlas Poireau meets Trajan Beare (Nero Wolfe), Spike Bludgeon (Mike Hammer), Mallory King (Ellery Queen), Sir John Nappleby (Sir John Appleby), Jerry Pason (Perry Mason), Lord Simon Quinsey (Lord Peter Wimsey), Miss Fan Sliver (Maud Silver) Broderick Tournier (Roderick Alleyn))

1952 MRS MCGINTY'S DEAD (Mrs Oliver)



1955 DEAD MAN'S FOLLY (Mrs Oliver)


1962 THE CLOCKS (Poirot meets Colin Lamb the son of Superintendent Battle)

1963 THIRD GIRL (Mrs Oliver)

1968 HALLOWE'EN PARTY (Mrs Oliver)


1972 MAFIA FIX by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy (Poirot works with James Bond and Mr Moto and meets Remo Williams the Destroyer)

1973 THE STRANGE CASE OF THE END OF CIVILISATION AS WE KNOW IT (Poirot attends the Great Detective Conference held Arthur Sherlock Holmes as well as Columbo, Miles Messervy, Steve McGarrett, Sam Spade, Ironside and McCloud. The version seen of this was highly fictionalized as a spoof but it appears the Spade met his demise here and Poirot sustained injuries that caused him to be wheelchair bound for the rest of his life)

1974 CURTAIN (The Death of Poirot)

Poirot's Timeline:

 1904--Poirot retires from Belgian police force as detective
Has own practice in Europe, meets Inspector James Japp; later Captain Arthur Hastings
 1916--Arrives to England as a Belgian refugee from WWI
Aided by Mrs. Inglethorpe of Styles Court, meets Hastings again
Solves murder at Styles Court with Hastings and Japp
Sets up practice in England, moves to 14 Farraway Street, London, with Hastings
 1923--Poirot and Hastings solve murder in France, Hastings marries Dulcie and moves to Argentina
 1925?--Poirot solves jewel theft, meets the Russian Countess Vera Rossakoff for first time
 1926--Poirot unmasks member of the "Big Four" with Hastings, meets with Countess Rossakoff again
Retires and goes to King's Abbot to grow vegetable marrows for a year, solves the murder of Mr. Ackroyd
 1928--While in France, Poirot solves a jewel theft and murder of American heiress, hires Georges as valet
 1932--Poirot and Hastings (back from Argentina) are vacationing in St. Loo and uncover murder attempts
 1934?--Poirot moves to 28 Whitehaven Mansions
 1935--Poirot travels in airplane to England where a French moneylender is murdered, Japp helps
Poirot solves ABC Murders with Hastings (visits from Argentina) and Japp
 1936--Poirot and fellow sleuths Colonel Race, Battle, and Ariadne Oliver solve murder of dinner host
 1937--Poirot meets Colonel Race again and solves murder on the Nile River
Hastings helps Poirot solve case about "accident" of old lady
Poirot and Inspector Japp investigate a girl's suicide/murder
 1939?--Felicity Lemon is hired by Poirot to be his secretary
 1941--Poirot goes to the Jolly Roger Hotel and solves crime there
 1946--Poirot unexpectedly sees Countess Rossakoff years later, now as a proprietor of a nightclub
 1948--Poirot travels to Warmsley Vale to solve murder of young wife
 1952--Poirot, Mrs. Oliver, Spence join to solve old lady's murder and clear an innocent man
 1955--Miss Lemon's sister comes to Poirot asking for help at youth hostel
 1956--Mrs. Oliver asks Poirot to help in a real murder hunt of a young girl
 1963--Colin Lamb asks Poirot for help in murder of an unknown man
 1969--Poirot joins forces with Spence (and Mrs. Oliver) in a Halloween Party murder
 1972--Poirot helps Mrs. Oliver and Spence solve a decades-old murder/suicide
 1975--Georges leaves employ of Poirot, Poirot goes to Styles Court
Poirot and Hastings track down murderer in Poirot's last case at Styles
Hercule Poirot, Belgian detective, dies at Styles Court

29 October 2014

Aussie Author Challenge 2014 completed

The Aussie Author Challenge 2014 is being hosted at Booklover Book Reviews

I'm aiming initially at Kangaroo (12 titles) but the reality is that I will read many more than that.
- Read and review 12 titles written by Australian Authors of which at least 4 of those authors are female, at least 4 of those authors are male, and at least 4 of those authors are new to you;
- At least 6 fiction and at least 2 non-fiction, and at least 3 titles first published in 2013 or 2014.

Completing this challenge actually involved a bit more reading than I had thought at first.
The challenge required 12 titles and initially I thought it would take no time at all, and then I realised that I couldn't just use any old 12 Australia titles - there were criteria, although some of them could overlap.
Today I am able to claim completion although I will continue reading Australian authors.

Currently: 28- Completed.
  1. 4.4, DEATH OF A SWAGMAN, Arthur Upfield -M
  2. 3.9, HANK OF HAIR, Charlotte Jay -F
  3. 4.5, ARMS FOR ADONIS, Charlotte Jay -F
  4. 4.5, THE DYING BEACH, Angela Savage -F
  5. 4.5, THE DONOR, Helen Fitzgerald -F, 2013
  6. 4.3, THIN BLOOD, Vicki Tyley - F, New to me
  7. 4.7, I CAME TO SAY GOODBYE, Caroline Overington - F, 2013
  8. 4.7, GETTING WARMER, Alan Carter -M, 2014
  9. 4.4, DRIVE BY, Michael Duffy - M, New to me, 2013
  10. 4.8, FATAL IMPACT, Kathryn Fox - F, 2014
  11. 4.4, DEATH BY BEAUTY, Gabrielle Lord - F,
  12. 4.5, BLOOD SECRET, Jaye Ford - F, 2013
  13. 4.8, PRESENT DARKNESS, Malla Nunn - F, 2014
  14. 4.9, ST KILDA BLUES - Geoffrey McGeachin - M, 2014
  15. 4.5, SILENT KILL, Peter Corris - M, 2014
  16. 4.6, ELEMENTAL, Amanda Curtin - F, new to me, 2013 
  17. 4.6, FALLING GLASS, Adrian McKinty - M, 2011 
  18. 5.0, LIFE OR DEATH, Michael Robotham - M, 2014
  19. 3.5, THE CARTOGRAPHER, Peter Twohig - M, 2011
  20. 4.7, THE LOST GIRLS, Wendy James - F
  21. 4.4, DANGEROUS LIAISON, Vicki Tyley - F, 2014 
  22. 4.9, IN THE MORNING I'LL BE GONE, Adrian McKinty - M, 2014 
  23. 4.5, QUICK, Steve Worland - M, New-to-me, 2014 
  24. 4.7, ALREADY DEAD, Jaye Ford - F, 2014
  25. 4.5, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?, Caroline Overington - F, 2014
  26. 4.5, MOTHERS WHO MURDER, Xanthe Mallett -F, 2014, non-fiction
  27. 4.7, THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH - Richard Flanagan - M, 2013, Not crime fiction/partly non-fiction
  28. 4.3, A FATAL TIDE, Steve Sailah - new to me

28 October 2014

Review: THE TOMB IN TURKEY, Simon Brett

  • source: e-book, review copy provided through NetGalley by Severn House
  • #16 in the Fethering series
  • published in 2014
  • ISBN 9781780290690
 Synopsis (NetGalley)

 Carole Seddon has never enjoyed holidays much. Nevertheless, she has allowed herself to be persuaded by her friend Jude to accept a fortnight’s free accommodation at a luxurious Turkish villa owned by Jude’s property developer friend Barney Willingdon.

But from the outset the holiday is marred by a series of menacing incidents: threatening messages daubed on the villa walls; and their host being accosted by a knife-wielding man at a local restaurant.

As Carole and Jude launch into what they do best - investigating - it becomes clear that Barney Willingdon has made plenty of enemies, with his ruthless business deals and complicated love life. Matters come to a head when Carole’s sightseeing trip to nearby Pinara is curtailed by the discovery of a body in one of the ancient Lycian tombs. And what really did happen to Barney’s first wife, Zoe?

My Take

It is no secret on this blog that the Fethering series is one of my favourite cozies. I enjoy the contrast between Carole, the prim and proper retired civil servant, and her neighbour Jude who has a rather laissez faire attitude to life and, from Carole's point of view, a rather murky past that doesn't bear thinking about.

One of the features of the plots is their unlikely nature, and this one particularly interested me because of its setting in Turkey, which I have visited at least twice, and because this is the first time that Simon Brett has taken his sleuthing busybodies outside of England.

This was perfect holiday reading, with the usual quirky humour as Brett pokes fun at his two main characters, from Jude being disconcerted by a neighbour who insists on staring at her cleavage, to Carole's need to find a purpose to having a holiday.

My rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed

Review: A FATAL TIDE, Steve Sailah

 Synopsis (Net Galley)

A powerful novel set in Gallipoli, that's part war-story and part mystery.

'Amid Gallipoli's slaughter he hunted a murderer . . .'

It is 1915 and Thomas Clare rues the day he and his best friend Snow went to war to solve the murder of his father. The only clues - a hidden wartime document and the imprint of an army boot on the victim's face - have led the pair from the safety of Queensland to the blood-soaked hills of Gallipoli.

Now not only are Thomas's enemies on every side - from the Turkish troops bearing down on the Anzac lines, to the cold-blooded killer in his own trench - but as far away as London and Berlin.

For, unbeknown to Thomas, the path to murder began thirteen years earlier in Africa with the execution of Breaker Morant - and a secret that could change the course of history . . .

My Take

The scope of this novel is quite ambitious: its themes include the Australian soldiers at Gallipoli in 1915; the Boer War, particularly what led up to the execution of Breaker Morant; the relationships between Aborigines and whites in Australia in the early twentieth century; as well as a closely plotted murder mystery.

The novel also falls in with a pattern emerging in Australian fiction as the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing approaches, of novels set in the First World War that wrap fictitious plots in historical fact. Real historical characters such as Major General Harry Chauvel and Lord Kitchener make an appearance.It also explores what it was like at Anzac Cove and the role that trench warfare played there even before it became the dominant feature of the Western Front.

I did find parts of the murder plot a bit far fetched, particularly the idea that the murder of his father led Thomas Clare to enlist, and indeed the reason why his father was murdered.
Nevertheless the plot holds together fairly well and the background to the main story certainly added to my understanding of the times.

There seemed to be some unresolved strings at the end which could well be the platform into a sequel.

My Rating: 4.3

About the author
Steve Sailah is a former ABC foreign correspondent in New Delhi and Washington and the recipient of two prestigious Walkley Awards. He was a friend to several Gallipoli veterans, and returned to the battlefields with a number of them on the 75th anniversary of the first ANZAC landing. His ABC documentary, Stories from Gallipoli, was republished in April 2013.

Review: THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH, Richard Flanagan - audio book

 Synopsis (Audible)

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.
August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier.

Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.

This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.

My Take

To be quite honest I didn't take too much to Richard Flanagan as a narrator. His voice tends to be a rather flat, perhaps deliberately so, and almost monotonous. Perhaps he felt a professional narrator would not do it justice, but I actually think he has done his book an injustice. However I guess in the final scheme of things that is quite minor.

This novel has recently won the Man Booker prize of 2014.
It has already won
2014 Western Australia Premier's Book Award
2014 WA Premier's Book Award - Fiction
2014 Independant Booksellers Award
- See more at: http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/richard-flanagan/the-narrow-road-to-the-deep-north-9781741666700.aspx#sthash.5bl5bHrC.dpuf
2014 Western Australia Premier's Book Award;
2014 WA Premier's Book Award - Fiction;
2014 Independent Booksellers Award;

There are many issues that will make this a perfect discussion book - the way Australian P.O.Ws and others were treated on the construction of the Burma Railway, the reluctance of Dorrigo Evans to see himself as a hero, the treatment of refugees, the nature of the relationship between Dorrigo Evans and the women in his life.
There is a set of questions on the publisher's site. There is also a chapter to whet your appetite, and an interview with Richard Flanagan.

Other reviews
For me the story was made more meaningful by my knowledge of World War II, but also because I have been to the Burma Railway, to Hellfire Pass, and the bridge over the River Kwai.

My rating: 4.7

I chose to read this book because it is not crime fiction, as part of my participation in the 2014 Aussie Author reading challenge. This completes for me the requirements of the challenge.

25 October 2014

Review: AFTER THE SILENCE, Jake Woodhouse

Synopsis (Penguin Australia)
A body is found hanging on a hook above the canals of Amsterdam's old town, a mobile phone forced into the victim's mouth.

In a remote coastal village, a doll lies in the ashes of a burnt-down house.  But the couple who died in the fire had no children of their own.  Did a little girl escape the blaze?  And, if so, who is she and where is she now?

Inspector Jaap Rykel knows that he's hunting a clever and brutal murderer.  Still grieving from the violent death of his last partner, Rykel must work alongside a junior out-of-town detective with her own demons to face, if he has any hope of stopping the killer from striking again.

Their investigation reveals two dark truths: everybody in this city harbours secrets - and hearing those secrets comes at a terrible price . . .
My Take
This is a well constructed thriller, particularly considering it is a debut novel. A police procedural set in Amsterdam, but by a new British writer, it clearly shows that there is a fine line between crime and fighting against it, that too often it is easy to cross that line, and that it is hard to know who to trust.

The novel brings together a trio of detectives whom I presume will be the core of the team for the next: all are flawed in their own way but each is well drawn.  I thought perhaps the action of the final pages was a bit rushed, but there are plenty of openings for the next in the series.

My Rating: 4.4
About the author
Jake Woodhouse has worked as a musician, winemaker and entrepreneur. He now lives in London with his wife and their young gundog. After the Silence is the first book in his Amsterdam Quartet.


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