29 August 2008

Michael Robotham wins Ned Kelly!

The winners of the Ned Kelly Awards, announced tonight in Melbourne at MWF were

Best Non-Fiction

Best First Fiction
THE LOW ROAD, Chris Womersley

Best Fiction
SHATTER, Michael Robotham


When her grandmother dies in 2005 Cassandra unexpectedly inherits a cottage on the wild Cornish coast. In visiting England to see her inheritance Cassandra is retracing a journey her grandmother took thirty years earlier. Then Nell O'Connor was in search of the truth about herself.

You can read much more of the story on the blurb on the back of the book and also on Kate Morton's own site. If you take up the book for discussion with your book group, then Kate has even kindly supplied questions.

The book has an interesting structure: written in 3 time frames, the first and last separated by over 100 years, and also through a couple of fairy stories written by one of the characters of the book.

And it is a mystery, and there is a murder (just in case people try to tell you otherwise). But just like Kate Morton's earlier book, THE SHIFTING FOG (aka THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON) THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN is not conventional crime fiction. For me it was evocative of books I read 40 years ago- authors like Victoria Holt, Susan Howatch and Antonia Fraser. It's a mystery in the sense that many of Charles Dicken's book were mysteries. It's an intriguing story, with characters with plenty of flesh on them.

Kate Morton is a young Australian author living in Queensland. Her books are published in 29 countries. The House at Riverton was a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2007 and a New York Times bestseller in 2008. The Shifting Fog won General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2007 Australian Book Industry Awards, and The House at Riverton was nominated for Most Popular Book at the British Book Awards in 2008. Her second book, The Forgotten Garden, has been a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2008.

Very enjoyable. My rating 4.4

28 August 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Nominations Open

Nominations for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008 are now open! You only have until August 31st to do it!

Listed below are the categories of awards. There are many. You may not have a nomination for each award. It doesn’t matter. Nominate up to two blogs per category and send an email to BbawawardsATgmailDOTcom with your choices. You DO NOT have to have a blog to make nominations. Comments left on this post will NOT be accepted as nominations. Each category will be narrowed to the top five blogs by number of nominations received, so don’t be shy!!! Support your favorite blogs and bloggers! Nominations will close on August 31st.

And the categories for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards 2008 are:

Best General Book Blog
Best Kidlit Blog
Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
Best Literary Fiction Blog
Best Book Club Blog
Best Romance Blog
Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
Best Non-fiction Blog
Best Young Adult Lit Blog
Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog
Best Challenge Host
Best Community Builder
Best Cookbook Blog
Best History/Historical Fiction Blog
Best Design
Most Chatty
Most Concise
Most Eclectic Taste
Best Name for a Blog
Best Published Author Blog
Best Book published in 2008
Best Meme/Carnival/Event
Most Extravagant Giveaways
Best Book Community site
Most Altruistic Blog
Funniest/Most Humorous Blog
Best Sci-fi/fantasy/horror/spec-fic blog
Best Commenter/commentator

Write In–think we missed something? Write in your category and nomination and if there are enough other write-ins of the same category it will be added!

27 August 2008

Michael Robotham in Paradise

Well near enough, in Newton, at my local library this morning.

The talk, part of the August Books Alive promotion, was billed as Michael Robotham and Kathryn Fox, but unfortunately illness in the family prevented Kathryn from being there.

Michael had already given 47 talks in 36 days in the current Books Alive promotion for which he is the 2008 ambassador. And the free book attached to the promotion is his specially written BOMBPROOF. By the end of today Michael will have given 50 talks in the promotion - one for every book in the Books Alive catalogue.

I was surprised that Michael was not a lot more jaded. He confesses that he has only a vague idea of the geographic location of some of the venues - he sits in the car, goes to sleep, and wakes up on arrival. He does remember that one or two people have said "Kerrie sent me", for which I am very grateful.

As I had expected, he gave an engaging talk, had his audience on side right from the beginning. He filled the audience with background of his changing career as a journalist, ghost writer and now successful author.

He is a man full of stories. He believes that small events, crimes, can impact many people, that suddenly the individual can find himself at the centre of events totally unforseen, simply by being there.

Michael Robotham says he writes psychological thrillers: he's not interested in decapitations, buckets of blood, or serial killers who dice and slice their victims. What interests him is why people do these things. He attributes his interest in the psychology of crime to being mentored by British psychologist Paul Britton upon whom the fictional character Cracker is based. He tells the story of how Paul Britton cracked the Fred and Rosemary West case, and says there's something decidedly "creepy" about Britton who has an intuition he can't turn off.

SHATTER is based on a Paul Britton case, in fact on two cases, one in the UK and a nearly identical one in Australia. SHATTER is about mental forms of rape. Michael sees this as a pure, dark psychological thriller. It is about fear and the imagination. He wanted to pit his protagonist psychologist Joseph O'Loughlin, a brilliant mind, against another brilliant, but evil, mind.
Michael Robotham doesn't know whether he will ever go that dark again. He says writing in the first person as he does, it felt almost like an actor getting into character. When he finishes writing a book he is drained, convinced he will never write again. Until the next "what if" strikes.

SHATTER has now been shortlisted for 4 different awards.
SHATTER isn't a book that Robotham loves, but one that he is very proud of.

Speaking as the Books Alive ambassador, he sees the value of the scheme as assisting lapsed and part-time readers in finding a book that they will enjoy. In BOMBPROOF Michael aimed to write a book that you can't put down - "lock, stock, and two smoking barrels". He realised today that he was speaking to the converted. He tried to turn each person into a missionary to pass their passion for reading on.

From today Michael goes on to Melbourne Writers Festival, where you can catch him twice on Friday. Unfortunately I won't get there until Friday night, in time, I hope, to see him being presented with this year's Ned Kelly Award.

26 August 2008

Weekly Geeks #14: Pictures of books

The Weekly Geeks challenge this week is to show some photos of books.
We also have to link to a couple of postings by other Weekly Geekers.
I apologise if my picture layout looks not good at the end. I find blogspot a bit difficult to determine layout on.

To the right you see a book sculpture that I photographed on my recent visit to Abu Dhabi, outside, you guessed it, a library.

And this one is a photo a friend took of the book case next to her bed, before she decided it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Here's a photo I took when I was struck by the huge size of some of the books I had in my pile.

And below is a Creative Commons photo I found on Flickr,
titled "The Library:And I really love the BookMooch cartoon too.

Linking to someone else is not hard. I love the pictures over on MizB's site.

Have a look too at Reading in Appalachia, Book Zombie's amazing stash of books in every corner of the house, Family Reading Time on Page after Page, Chloe and Suiki on The Restless Reader,

Forgotten Books: THE DOUBLE IMAGE, Helen MacInnes

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books theme.

I consulted my little green book (see last week for an explanation) to track down those who have influenced my reading tastes. I discovered that even back in those days when I read rather less selectively, I was beginning to look for crime fiction and thrillers. I remember that I belonged to the Hamlyn "book club" that delivered cheapish books monthly to my doorstep, and among them was often a book by Helen MacInnes.

Now I don't have any records other than title, author, and the date that I read a particular book, so I'm relying on other sources here for content.
The last book I read in 1977 was THE DOUBLE IMAGE by Helen MacInnes whose picture comes courtesy of Fantastic Fiction, a truly wonderful source of information. I remember as Helen MacInnes' novels as similar to Alistair Maclean and Hammond Innes whom I also devoured. They were often about spies and espionage and some of them were made into films. She wrote 23 novels between 1939 and 1984, the last appearing in the year before her death.

From an Amazon review:
DOUBLE IMAGE is one of her best books. John Craig, an American, economic historian while vacationing in Paris,bumps into his old college professor of Archaeology, Mr.Sussman. Sussman , a survivor of Auschwiz, is in a shock having been accosted by an ex-Nazi official,( who has since been declared as a war criminal )on streets of Paris whereas officially has been declared dead over 10 years ago! Craig teels about the experience to his sister, who blurts it out at a party. Next day Sussman is dead, and Police start questioning Craig, French Intelligence Suerete steps in,...the nightmare starts!.
Soon French,Italian,British and American intelligence step in because the man who accosted Sussman is not just an ex-nazi, but much more than that!
The scene shifts to Greek Islands, more people get killed, intelligence agents and the enemy agents try outwit each other, intense struggles and interesting chases.
The story is very interesting and well written, taut, racy and fast paced.

Sadly my local library now stocks only 2 of her novels. I guess if you want to track them down, then you'd best look in Amazon or a UBS for copies. BookMooch is another place to look at - and there are scads of Helen MacInnes titles listed there.

Other titles recorded in the little green book:
NEITHER FIVE NOR THREE (twice! I wonder if I realised I'd read it earlier?)
PRELUDE TO TERROR (again 2x- but 15 years apart)

25 August 2008


Complete and Unabridged Audio, read by Andrew Wincott. ISBN 978-0-7351-3001-8
13 CDs, 15 hours, an ISIS audio book.

In Bradfield Moor Secure Hospital profiler Tony Hill has got between an inmate and the fire-axe he is threatening staff with. The result is incredible damage to Tony's knee and now he is recuperating in Bradfield Hospital.

Another patient in Bradfield Hospital is Bradfield Victoria's star midfielder, quickly dying from a poison for which there is no antidote. It is obvious he has been murdered but why?

Then a terrorist bomb explodes at the Bradfield football stadium killing dozens. DCI Carole Jordan seethes as she is forced to hand over the bombing investigation to a specialist terrorist investigation team. Not that she doesn't have enough to keep her occupied. Tony Hill suspects that the bomber is no terrorist, and then one of their own dies from poisoning.

I wrote a progress report some weeks back. Well, here I am 3 weeks later, and I must report that I have absolutely enjoyed this book. It has taken me at least 5 weeks to get it finished, even after resorting to driving slowly behind buses, sitting in the carpark waiting for a track to finish, and taking the long route home. I think part of my enjoyment has been the enforced speed of reading. You really can't race ahead or skim read when a story is being read to you. In fact sometimes you listen to the occasional track again just to make sure you got it right.

Andrew Wincott in the long run did an excellent job of the reading. At first I reported that I thought his voice was too similar to that of Robson Green the TV actor who plays Tony Hill. But as the story progressed Wincott did an excellent job in voice differentiation.

My rating: 5.0

BENEATH THE BLEEDING is #5 in the Carole Jordan/Tony Hill series
1. The Mermaids Singing (1995)
2. The Wire In The Blood (1997)
3. The Last Temptation (2002)
4. The Torment of Others (2004)
5. Beneath the Bleeding (2007)

If you are looking for Val's own site, click here.
Watch out for the new book out soon.
A DARKER DOMAIN is not a Jordan/Hill novel:
The superb new psychological thriller from bestselling author Val McDermid mixes fiction with one of the most symbolic and exceptional moments in recent history - the national miners' strike It seemed like an unsolvable mystery at the time: a wealthy heiress and son kidnapped in Fife, then a botched payoff, leaving her dead with no trace of the child. So when, over twenty-five years later, a possible clue is discovered by a journalist in Tuscany, cold case expert DI Karen Pirie doesn't hold much hope of unravelling the infamous enigma. She's already investigating a case from the same year. At the height of the miner's strike, Mick Prentice broke ranks to join 'scab' strike-breakers down south. But new evidence suggests Mick's disappearance may not be as straightforward as that - and Karen's investigations take her into a dark domain of secrets, betrayal and the ultimate violence! Past and present intertwine in a novel of taut psychological suspense that explores the intersection of desire and greed.
Read an extract online here.

24 August 2008

Sunday Salon #23 - 24 August 2008

I've probably over-blogged this week. To my dismay I see that I've posted 10 times in the last week. I hope it is not losing me friends. Perhaps it is a symptom of my addiction to blogging, or do I just have too much time on my hands?

This week's posts:
  • Around the Traps, Sunday 24 August
    I'm not sure whether I will do this regularly or not. It's a summary of some of the posts that have come into my RSS reader.
  • Review: LITTLE GIRL LOST, Susan Kelly
    My review of #3 in Susan Hill's Gregory Summers series. police procedurals with a difference.
  • Backs, Covers, and Tattoos
    What's the fascination with backs and tattoos that have recently been seen on book covers? More seriously, are there some infringements of copyright or intellectual property going on in the book publishing world? If nothing else, have a look at the covers themselves.
  • Reading the ending first? No way!
    I came across a posting where someone claimed she always read the ending of a mystery novel first so she can focus on the unfolding story. My question is whether this person is serious about their reading anyway.
  • Melbourne, UNESCO City of Literature
    On the eve of the Melbourne Writers Festival, UNESCO has granted the city the status of City of Literature, and the Victorian government is contributing $millions to a cultural venture!
  • It's all Enid's fault
    Were you brought up on a diet of Enid Blyton? A new Costa Book Awards survey has revealed that she is the top of the poll as far as 2000 surveyed adults are concerned. She is obviously the cause of my crime fiction addiction, or at least the fact that my day feels incomplete if I don't read for pleasure.
  • Olympics and Reading
    Some crime fiction titles connected to the Olympics.
  • Drop in, chat about books
    This morning I'm trying out a new web 2.0 tool where live chat people are moderated but don't have to log in.
  • Book Blogger Appreciation week 15-19 Sept
    Do you appreciate Book Bloggers? Of course you do! You are one aren't you? Spread the word.
  • SHATTER on ITV3 Shortlist
    Michael Robotham makes the shortlist with 11 others for ITV3's inaugural Crime Thriller Awards. The competition is stiff though.
  • I've been playing around with my blog layout again and now have Breaking News featured at the top of every page.
  • I found a site that tells me what my blog is worth. It is on the top right of the page.
  • I've begun participating in Pattinase's forgotten books and so there is a button and link now in the right hand column to my postings. Look for the lovely Creative Commons picture of some library shelves.
  • I've added a block that shows what books I have available through BookMooch.
  • I'm now watching 66 Blogs in my blog roll available on the right. This is a Blogger gadget.
  • Through the Books Alive scheme Michael Robotham is coming to my library next Wednesday. He must be worn out - he has been travelling around Oz for the last 3 weeks meeting and greeting as part of his role as Books Alive Ambassador.
  • Melbourne Writers Festival has started. Unfortunately I won't get there until next Friday night, but my "coven" of friends Karen Sally, Helen, Sunnie, and Fiona are attending this weekend. I'll arrive mid-way through the Ned Kelly Awards night next Friday night and then am able to attend a couple of things next Saturday and Sunday.
    Stop me and say hello if you spot me there.
  • OzMysteryReaders discussion programme for the next 6 weeks:
    8-14 Chat to Michael Robotham, author of THE SUSPECT, LOST (THE DROWNING MAN), THE NIGHT FERRY and SHATTER, published April 2008.
    16-26, discussion of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson.
    October 1-10, discussion of SUCKED IN by Shane Maloney.
Currently reading:
  • now - THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, Kate Morton
  • next - BOMBPROOF, Michael Robotham
  • audio book - BENEATH THE BLEEDING, Val McDermid (nearly finished) and then it will be MY LADY JUDGE by Cora Harrison- a historical mystery.
Happy reading folks.

Around the Traps, Sunday 24 August

When I was a child my grandfather used to go round the traps, meaning he checked the rabbit traps for what had come in over night. My RSS reader is a bit like that. Here are some crime fiction postings that I've caught recently.
Now this is by no means all that has come in through my RSS reader this week, so don't feel too badly if your most recent posting isn't there. I'm not sure if I will write "Around the Traps" on a regular basis. Perhsap you can let me know if you think it is useful/interesting.

The image I've used is from 'Somewhere, beyond the sea...'

23 August 2008

Review: LITTLE GIRL LOST, Susan Kelly

Allison & Busby, 2002, 279 pages, ISBN 0-74900-533-5

Do people in your library leave little marks on the back page of a book to let you know they've read it? They do in mine, and lots of people have handled this book. I wonder if they share my reading tastes?

This is #3 in the Greg Summers series and I'm a bit regretful that I didn't get hold of #2. I reviewed #1 THE LONE TRAVELLER last week.

I was a bit surprised that the theme of a missing child cropped up again - that was the focus of THE LONE TRAVELLER too. Emilia Troy is the missing child, and her father thinks that she has been taken by Joshua Salem, a social worker and a neighbour. Emilia is only three. The story of how her mother refused treatment for rampant cancer during her pregnancy, deciding against a termination too, and then died shortly after Emilia's birth, is well known. When her father, a clever scientist, had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalised, Emilia was fostered out for a couple of years. But then Roger Troy married a nurse and was declared competent to look after Emilia again. But his new wife Concepta does not seem fond of the child.

For some reason I found this book did not entirely grab my attention and was a bit difficult to get into. There are two major POVs (points-of-view): the continuing story of Detective Superintendent Greg Summers who shares his house and his life with his daughter-in-law Angela, and the new character Megan Davies. Megan is Greg's new Chief Inspector, but is a single mother, her status the result of a newly fractured marriage. She has returned to the district for family reasons: her father has progressive dementia, and yet at the same time she is hoping her mother will be able to help her care for her 9 year old son.
Perhaps part of my problem is that I haven't read #2 and perhaps if I had I would have known more about some of the new-to-me characters in this book.

Don't get me wrong though - there's a lot to like in the issues and scenarios that Susan Kelly is tackling. I like her approach too.
Sometimes we see things from Greg Summers' point of view. He is a compassionate leader, a thorough investigator, one who doesn't mind doing the grunt work too, although not really good at delegating and leaving alone. We see also his moral dilemma of his love for Angela, the young woman who was his dead son's wife. There's a nasty newspaper reporter who tries to use that as blackmail from time to time. He's the case of a character who was developed in THE LONE TRAVELLER, and just pops in here, with minimal back story, for a cameo appearance.
And then we also see Greg Summers from the POV of those he leads and manages, and the picture is quite different, flavoured by their emotions and in this case things that Megan Davies is just not coping with. That Greg Summers seems tough, uncaring, unsupportive and lacking in trust.

So yes, hopefully I will find #2 in the series and get to read it. Regretfully neither my library nor BookMooch have it. I think Susan Kelly is on a winner here.
My rating of LITTLE GIRL LOST: 4.2

1. The Lone Traveller (2000)
2. Killing the Fatted Calf (2001)
3. Little Girl Lost (2002)
4. In Cold Blood (2003)
5. Death of a Ghost (2004)
6. A Disguise for Death (2005)
7. Murder on the Dancefloor (2007)

Backs, Covers, and Tattoos

Now, when you look closely these covers are not really alike, but obviously a tattoo on the back holds some fascination.

In the first case of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson which I reviewed a week or two ago, the cover is what I would call "relevant".

But then this morning I came across a review for THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson on Poisoned Fiction Review. Here is the cover.
I'm not clear whether there is a character in this book that really has a tattoo on her back, but I rather think not.

There's been some discussion recently about book covers that, for a better word, "emulate" each other.
There's been quite a vigorous one over on Detectives Beyond Borders, with some authors weighing in, and questions of covers suiting books and copyright being raised.

Peter at DBB wrote his posting after Karen at Euro Crime has discovered yet another case of "look alike" covers.
Karen has been looking at "copycat covers" for quite a while, and I'm grateful to her for another, John Burdett's BANGKOK HAUNTS, to add to my collection of tattoed backs.

And, while we are at it, here is another to add to the collection.

And I guess there are more examples if we looked for them - book covers with tattoed backs on them that is.
And there have certainly been lots of examples flying around this year of look-alike, copy-cat, almost identical, emulative covers.

But I guess for me the issue this raises is much more serious. In my "real job" we are very much concerned with copyright issues particularly where it relates to intellectual property. It seems to me in this imitative covers issue is a clear case of breach of intellectual property. I'm afraid I don't accept the argument of use of a set of "stock" images. But then I'm not a writer or a publisher, so does it really matter to me as a reader?

And here's one to really curdle your stomach!

22 August 2008

Reading the ending first? No way!

I can't believe that any serious reader of crime fiction would read the ending first!

Through my daily Google Alert I discovered this site which contained:
When I read detective, crime or mystery fiction I always read the end first in order to be free of the distraction of trying to work out the who, why, what and where questions which would mar my enjoyment of the unfolding.

I'm not sure what this blogger is claiming to be, but comments are closed on her blog too, otherwise I would have taxed her on this statement.

Please tell me you don't read the ending first! How could you deprive yourself of the development of plot and character, the building of suspense, and then the cathartic experience of the resolution of the whodunnit.

A statement like that really draws into question the issue of why you would read a mystery book in the first place.

I wonder how common the practice of reading the ending first is?
I've done a Google search with the following results:
So come on, 'fess up! Can you honestly say that you never, never, never read the ending before you've finished the book?

But surely you never read the final pages before you read anything else?

21 August 2008

Melbourne, UNESCO City of Literature

Almost on the eve of Melbourne's Writer's Festival, UNESCO has named Melbourne as its second City of Literature.

The Victorian State Government is promising the establishment of the Centre for Books and Ideas at the State Library of Victoria. The centre will provide a home for a variety of literature bodies, including the Melbourne Writers Festival, the Victorian Writers Centre, the Emerging Writers Festival and the Australian Poetry Centre.

Read more here.

19 August 2008

It's all Enid's fault

A new Costa Book Awards survey has revealed that Enid Blyton is the top of the poll as far as 2000 surveyed adults are concerned. Now I don't know how this survey was conducted, but the influence of Enid Blyton on people my age and younger is undeniable.

I was brought up on a diet of the Magic Faraway Tree, Secret Seven, and Famous Five. There was a monthly magazine that came from England and my mother had it on order for me at the newsagent. And then there were the annuals. I wonder if she was responsible for my interest in British police procedurals and cozies: whether it was a natural progression from Blyton to Christie?

Blyton, who wrote more than 700 stories over a 40-year career, and has sold over 600 million books in total around the world, came out top and continues to be a phenomenally popular author. Despite her death in 1968, around eight million books are still sold worldwide every year, including more than a million Famous Five tales.

Here's the top 10 out of the 50 listed in the survey
1. Enid Blyton
2. Roald Dahl
3. J.K. Rowling
4. Jane Austen
5. William Shakespeare
6. Charles Dickens
7. J.R.R. Tolkien

8. Agatha Christie
9. Stephen King
10. Beatrix Potter

So were you an Enid Blyton child? I am sure I have seen at least one other crime fiction blogger who refers to her in their interests.
By the time my children came along there were so many other books to choose from, but in post-war Australia books were not plentiful and I remember waiting avidly for the next offering from the Blyton stable.

18 August 2008

Olympics and Reading

It is hard to get away from the Olympics isn't it?
On the TV every night, and almost all day on the weekends. Those who like particular sports are complaining at having to watch all the others, but, I enjoy the lot.
There can be no doubt though that it has had an impact on my reading.
As most of the blogs I read are related to crime fiction, only a few have references to the Olympics.

Here are a couple to check out:
Here is another title I've found:
AN OLYMPIC DEATH by Manuel Vazquez Montalban.
The Barcelona detective Pepe Carvalho has been hired by a beautiful French woman and a mysterious man involved in the planning of the 1992 Olympic Games. Into his life comes danger and puzzling clues in the form of murdered Greeks, Arab criminals and a sadistic, anonymous killer.

Something else I ran across that I haven't seen on the news here:
Two weeks ago in Beijing two family members of the U.S. Olympic volleyball coach were stabbed, one fatally.

Drop in, chat about books

I aim to run a "live blog" next Sunday, 24th August, at 11 am Adelaide time (Australian Central Standard time). click here for the time in your city

The blog works a bit like a chat room. You won't have to log in, just put your name on your comment and send, and with my magic moderation skills I'll let your post through.

So let's talk about what you are reading, the best things you've read recently, where your reading has taken you, and meet up with a few friends.

If you think you will try to drop in, leave a comment now to let me know.

17 August 2008

Book Blogger Appreciation week 15-19 Sept

Spread the word - you'll see this image in my sidebar for the next month or so. Go here for more information.

Show your appreciation of the blogs that people are keeping that help you find good books to read. Visit some of the people in my Blog Roll too. Leave comments whenever you can.

SHATTER on ITV3 Shortlist

Twelve novels have been shortlisted for the three fiction prizes at ITV3’s inaugural Crime Thriller Awards, with titles included ranging from Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Quercus) to Michael Robotham’s Shatter (Sphere).

SHATTER is also on the Ned Kelly shortlist in the Best Fiction category.

The shortlists in full:

Breakthrough Author Award
Chelsea Cain Heartsick (Pan)
Stuart MacBride Broken Skin (Harper)
Michael Robotham Shatter (Sphere)
Anne Zouroudi The Messenger of Athens (Bloomsbury)

International Author of the Year
Jeffery Deaver The Sleeping Doll (Hodder & Stoughton)
Stieg Larsson The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Quercus)
Karin Slaughter Skin Privilege (Arrow)
PJ Tracy Snow Blind (Penguin)

Author of the Year
Lee Child Bad Luck and Trouble (Bantam)
Robert Harris The Ghost (Hutchinson)
Peter James Not Dead Enough (Pan)
Ian Rankin Exit Music (Orion)

Thanks to Petrona for the "heads-up".

Earlier ITV3 named Colin Dexter, Ian Rankin, PD James, Lynda La Plante, Val McDermid and Ruth Rendell as the six best crime writers working today. Their profiles of these writers are available here.

Sunday Salon #22 - 17 August 2008

I've had a quieter week although I've been over to Melbourne for a conference for a couple of days.
There are just so many good books around at the moment.

This week's posts:
Headline to check:
Suspected South African Killer being tracked through FaceBook

Something new:


Harper, 2007, ISBN 978-0-00-726298-4, 330 pages.
A reprint of the original published by Harper Collins in 1987.

A rather quirky and patchy collection of six items: novellas and short stories, with no apparent connecting theme. The one thing that strikes me after reading this collection is that Reginald Hill is always writing with a purpose, playing with scenarios to see how they pan out.

There Are No Ghosts in the Soviet Union
This is really a novella. The original message from the Gorodok Building said that a man had fallen down a lift shaft, but what they didn't tell Inspector Lev Chislenko is that, firstly, he had gone through the floor of the lift, much to the horror of its occupants, and, secondly, he had been dead for decades. There is a simple explanation, but of course that is unacceptable, because there are no ghosts in the Soviet Union are there?

Bring Back the Cat!
This is a short story with a twist in the tail. Joe Sixsmith, the private investigator at the centre of a series by Reginald Hill, is asked to investigate the case of the cat who went out and didn't come back. As Joe pieces together the evidence from the family he becomes convinced that the cat has met with foul play in the woods that run behind the house.This is really well written, as each part of the investigation fills in a bit more of the picture.

The Bull Ring
A short story set in World War One, France, on the eve of the Somme. 18 year old Harry Bowden is a farm boy about to become cannon fodder. He's the bane of Corporal Banty Pierce who doesn't seem to be able to get Harry to understand that this is war.

Auteur Theory
This is really odd story. The author warns: Nothing in this story is what it seems. You should remember that. A film crew is making a film of one of Reginald Hill's early books AN ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING. Peter Pascoe falls in love with Ellie Soper. The success of the production is under threat because of uneven acting and the film makers decide to play with the plot even though the author himself, who has actually signed away all his rights to the script, is hanging around like a ghost. Reginald Hill plays with the reader's mind so much in this short story that it hurts, and in the long run it all comes down to a case of murder. I was reminded a bit of "the play within the play" in Hamlet.

Poor Emma
Really a novella. I think this may have been written as a sort of tribute to Jane Austen. I recently became aware of Hill's respect for Austen through what he does in A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES. For me, as a story, this became rather tedious but then I am not a Janeite.

Crowded Hour
Daphne Davis is sitting quietly at home reading a murder mystery. Her husband Ted is out walking the dog. The doorbell rings. She answers the door and two men wielding a shot gun invade her home.In the hour that follows she learns the shocking truth about Ted.

My rating: 3.8
My first inclination was to give a lower rating but writing the review has given me a better appreciation of just how clever some of the writing is.

16 August 2008

Forgotten Books: CRIMINAL CONVERSATION, Nicholas Freeling

I'm writing this post to be part of Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books theme. I will try to do it more regularly to participate in this project, since she has asked me so nicely :-)

Do you remember the Van der Valk TV series? Well, CRIMINAL CONVERSATION was #5 in the series of books that the television series was based on.

My little journal, where in 1975 I began recording the titles and authors of books that I had finished reading, tells me that I read CRIMINAL CONVERSATION in the middle of 1976. I was actually in the middle of an Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh "kick" at that stage, and I couldn't tell you whether I enjoyed the book or not.

My little manually written journal is a fascinating overview of the authors I've read over the years, and clearly shows the writers who shaped my reading tastes.

Perhaps in this posting, I am talking not so much about forgotten books, but forgotten authors. Nicholas Freeling figures on Wikipedia, and in Fantastic Fiction.
The Van der Valk TV series starred Barry Foster and was a big hit out here in Oz.

The blurb on Fantastic Fiction for CRIMINAL CONVERSATION reads
A mysterious letter alluding to the murder of Cabestan by a named killer, Dr Hubert van der Post, arouses the interests of the irascible and ever-suspicious van der Valk who decides to find out who the mysterious letter writer is. What transpires is a tale of deception and adultery as the rich, very careful character of Carl Merckel, the managing director of the Lutz Brothers merchant bank, lays an accusation of cold blooded homicide of which, he claims, his wife had no part to play.

Nicholas Freeling seems to have begun writing during a three-week prison sentence, after being convicted of stealing some food. He was actually quite prolific, writing over 35 books over a 40 year period: 13 in the Van der Valk series, 16 in the Henri Castang series, a number of stand alones, and 3 non fiction books.

I'd be interested whether his earlier novels have stood the test of time.
He died in 2003 at the age of 76, and published his last novel in 2002.

BTW, I still write in my notebook the titles and authors of the books I've read, together with the date that I completed the book. The spine of my faithful green notebook collapsed at the end of 1999, and was replaced in 2000 with a new red book. The two books now contain records for nearly 2,700 books, collected since 1975, at the rate of just over 80 books a year.

Carnival of Criminal Minds #20

After it's Australian sojourn, the Carnival of Criminal Minds has moved on to southwestern Minnesota, where Crime Dog One’s Virtual Dive Bar is hosting a special freak show edition.
Ringmaster Barbara Fister says that in Carnival #20 we will find "a rare mix of transgressive zines, biker pulp, pentacostalism, and some ... unusual things".

Review: THE LONE TRAVELLER, Susan Kelly

Allison & Busby, 2000, 288 pages, ISBN 0-7490-0451-6

It comes as a surprise when you finish reading this book to find that all the action takes place over 11 days.

People are gathering on Hungerford Common near the neolithic stone horsehoe in time for the summer solstice. There will be a traditional English fair with stalls, crafts, shire horses, food and drink. Romanies and new Age travellers are arriving with their gypsy caravans and campervans.

On the evening of 19th June DS Greg Summers is being held hostage by a grief stricken Romany who has just accidentally shot his wife dead. Her body lies on the floor in the B&B room where she and her children have been staying. Huwie Lee is holding DS Summers and the landlady hostage.

This is the first of a number of incidents in what will be an action filled week for Greg Summers. On the night before the summer solstice six year old Jordan Abbott who lives with her mother in the houses bordering the Common disappears, and local distrust of the gypsies surfaces.

THE LONE TRAVELLER is #1 in Susan Kelly's Gregory Summer series, and the author is rather obviously laying a lot of groundwork for an extended series. That doesn't make the story any less interesting, but I suspect it does mean that it will be worth attempting to read the books in order, which I intend to do.

Other books in the series:
2. Killing the Fatted Calf (2001)
3. Little Girl Lost (2002)
4. In Cold Blood (2003)
5. Death of a Ghost (2004)
6. A Disguise for Death (2005)
7. Murder on the Dancefloor (2007)

My rating: 4.3

11 August 2008

Excellence in my book

What these six crime fiction novels have in common is that I used the word "excellent" in my database record, and each one of them scored my maximum of 5.0. Does that sound a bit trivial? Have you read any of them? Do you agree?

ABOVE SUSPICION by Lynda La Plante
#1 In the Anna Travis series. Detective Chief Inspector Langton has the opportunity to had an extra DS to his team investigating a series of murders when one of his team goes sick. He chooses DS Anna Travis a graduate in economics who has experience in number of squads but has never worked on a murder team. Her father was a well respected DCS. Anna gets an instant introduction to murder when the body of a young female student is found on Clapham Common, and she first views the body in situ and then attends the post mortem. At first the murder team incident room treat Anna as an inexperienced rookie, but then her dedication to her work proves her worth to them as she stumbles across a vital connection that identifies the possible killer. An excellent read. I look forward to the next in the series.

CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson
1970s: A young toddler goes missing in a Cambridge summer heat wave. 1980s:A teenage girl is brutally murdered in her father's law office. 1980s: A struggling young mother can't abide her screaming baby anymore and in a temper takes an axe to her husband. Three shocking vignettes. Three grim case histories that begin this compelling and beautiful novel from Kate Atkinson.
The way Atkinson brings all these three case histories together through threads from the present in the investigations of Jackson Brodie is excellent.

THE MINOTAUR by Barbara Vine
An excellent read. Always has you on the edge of your seat with hints about what is to come. It is the 1960s, but the “swinging sixties” revolution hasn't quite reached rural England. In an attempt to be closer to her English boyfriend, Kerstin Kvist accepts a job with the Cosway matriarch; her three unmarried daughters; and her son, John, a sad, self-absorbed figure in his thirties who haunts the grand house of Lydstep Old Hall, deep in the Essex countryside. There is a fourth daughter, too—a widow herself and apparently quite rich—who comes and goes infrequently, with ill-disguised contempt for the others. Then, just as Kerstin is beginning to figure out the odd family, a stranger moves into the village, his very presence setting the Cosways on a path to self-destruction.

MISSING by Karin Alvtegen
For the last fifteen years, Sybilla Forsenstrom has been living as the ultimate outsider. In breaking away from an oppressive girlhood, where her mother quashed thoughts and actions in the most passive-aggressive way possible, Sybilla has found a way to survive by drifting on the streets of Stockholm. Although she gets a monthly stipend--sent to a post office box--she hordes the money, never spending it. What money she does get is obtained by the occasional scam or two. The one that's worked the best of late for Sybilla is to waltz into a hotel restaurant, charm a well-to-do gentleman into buying her dinner and perhaps a night's stay in a hotel room.
When she meets Jorgen Grundberg at the Grand Hotel, the scam goes according to plan. But the next morning, Sybilla awakes to a horrifying nightmare. Grundberg is the victim of a ritual murder, and all the signs and physical evidence points to Sybilla as the killer. But she has no recollection of what happened.
This was the first of Alvtegen's novels to be translated into English.
Excellent, excellent, excellent

SCARED TO LIVE by Stephen Booth
#7 in the Ben Cooper & Diane Fry series. A house fire results in the death of a mother and two of her children, and a reclusive woman is shot dead when standing at her bedroom window. DS Fry is called to the house fire, DC Ben Cooper to the shooting. But inevitably the cases they are working on become connected. An excellently stimulating read.
I think there are a couple of things that make this series different
* I am struck by the fact that the language is "ordinary" i.e. everyday words particularly in the dialogues
* the nasty cop/nice cop routine comes out strongly too in the partnership of DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper. She is without doubt the nasty one, putting people offside all the time, but also asking the hard questions and pointing out the things that others gloss over. He is the intuitive one. You see that also in Dalziel and Pascoe but I actually think Stephen Booth does it better
* Cooper and Fry often act in ignorance of each other's discoveries but the reader is omniscient, with the opportunity to solve the conundrums before either of the detectives.
* and finally there are some open ended questions. Times when the answers are not so readily forthcoming.

THE WOODS by Harlan Coben
Paul Copeland, county prosecutor for Essex in New Jersey, has had an emotional roller coaster of a life. Right now he is the only immediate family his six year old daughter Cara has. Her mother died of cancer 5 years ago. Paul comes from Russian immigrant parents and recently his father died. But Paul's family was shattered twenty years ago when he and his sister Camille were on a holiday camp and Camille disappeared. Camille and three friends went into the woods near the camp at night. Two were found murdered but Camille and one of the boys were never found. Paul remembers that his father used to spend time searching the woods, digging for his sister's body. Now Paul recognises a murder victim as the boy who disappeared. So where is his sister? Is she still alive? An excellent read, that keeps you guessing until the final pages.

10 August 2008


Macmillan, 2008, 392 pages, ISBN 978-0-230-01445-9

Shetland detective Jimmy Perez accompanies his friend Fran Hunter to an art exhibition when she and another local Bella are displaying their paintings. A tourist disrupts proceedings by collapsing to his knees and bursting into tears in front of one of Bella's paintings. The tourist appears to have amnesia and is carrying no identification. He gives Jimmy the slip but on the next day he is discovered dead, hanging from the rafters of shed near the Biddista jetty.

Once he has confirmed that this is murder then Jimmy has no alternative but to contact the police on the mainland, and then wait for their arrival. The dead man must have had some reason for coming to Lerwick but what is it? No one admits to recognising him.

This is #2 in Ann Cleeves promised Shetland "quartet". #1, RAVEN BLACK, won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger in 2006. Where RAVEN BLACK was set in mid winter, WHITE NIGHTS is set in mid summer. Again the murder mystery is a variant on the "locked room" scenario, taking place on Shetland where incomers are so noticeable, and memories are long.

I don't think WHITE NIGHTS is as good as RAVEN BLACK, but there is enough in the story to maintain interest, and Cleeves cleverly threads clues throughout the story, so that even at the end there are surprises.

My rating: 4.5

Sunday Salon #21 - 10 August 2008

I realised this week after I'd added a link to Sitemeter and a couple more links to Blogs I'm Watching, how complex my initial blog page is becoming. So I've done a little modification of the layout and put my list of 2008 reviews on its own dedicated simpler blog called Smik's Reviews. I'll see how that works. It does mean I have to do one more thing with my review once I have written it, but I will still post it here. Smik's Reviews will only contain the links.

MYSTERIES in PARADISE however does not even pretend to follow KISS principles. It may be that you are finding the page slow to load. Let me know via a comment if you will. You might be able to identify what is making it too slow.

I've spent most of the last few days catching up with email and other people's blog postings via my RSS reader. I was away for the first 4 days of the week with work and it's amazing how things mount up in just a really short time.

This week's posts:
  • The Amazon UK BestSellers in Crime Fiction
    A couple of books not yet released have made it into the top 10 already! You might like to comment on which in the list you have marked down to read.
  • Progress Report: BENEATH THE BLEEDING, Val McDermid
    What I've been listening to in the car. I'm about half way, so these are my first impressions.
    My rating 4.7. Well worth the read.
  • Weekly Geeks #13 - Author Photos
    I set up a challenge/competition with photos of a dozen Australian crime fiction authors.
  • Author Photos Revealed
    The response to my challenge wasn't exactly overwhelming. Two correct sets of answers so I revealed which names belonged to which photos.
  • Australian Literary Awards 2008 - who will the PM choose?
    Well, this weekend he's in Beijing watching the Olympics, so I guess he's not reading anything. This award has two tax-free prizes of $100,000 each on offer, and Mr. Rudd gets the final say. Crime fiction writer and poet Dorothy Porter is one of those on the list.
  • One of those trails
    This is an illustration of how one thing leads to another. Starting off on One Minute Book Reviews I came across a different reviewer who uses a scoring system which requires ratings in 7 categories. Not for me I'm afraid. I'll still go with my "gut feeling", essentially subjective, system.
    I also commented in this post how I am still posting under duress. Blogger decided last week that I was a potential spammer, then decided I wasn't, but has still got autosave turned off and every time I save I have to do "word verification". Very annoying but I've just applied to have it reviewed yet again. We'll see if my faith in Blogger as a good, easy to use, blogging site is restored.
    Another really good read, but not if you don't like long books. I compared it to a turducken.
  • 2008 Shamus Awards Nominees
    I've only read one of the books listed in this shortlist.
What I'm reading in between blog posting and Olympics watching:
  • now - WHITE NIGHTS, Ann Cleeves
  • next - THE LONE TRAVELLER, Susan Kelly
  • then - LITTLE GIRL LOST, Susan Kelly
  • audio book - BENEATH THE BLEEDING, Val McDermid
So drop in and let me know how you are faring with your reading. Particularly check, if you have a crime fiction blog, whether I've got you on the list of what I'm watching. Let me know in a comment if I haven't and tell me where to find your blog.

The Amazon UK BestSellers

The Amazon UK RSS feed of their top 25 Bestsellers in Crime, Thrillers & Mystery that I've been monitoring all year appears to have become their top 10 in recent weeks, or perhaps the RSS feed just transmogrified at some stage when I wasn't paying total attention.
It comes faithfully into my RSS feeds several times a day, and of course I also have that little widget over in the side column. On the little wheel, if you hover over the title you get the current UK price, the number of customer reviews, and the average star rating. If you click on the book itself, it takes you off to Amazon UK where you can read the review and of course order the book. And if you really need something to do , you can make the wheel spin around!

But that wasn't what I wanted to talk about today but to give you the list itself, and comment on a couple of newcomers.
  1. No Time For Goodbye, Linwood Barclay - has been there for a few weeks. My review (rating 4.7) is here.
  2. Devil May Care (James Bond), Sebastian Faulks - on the list a while now. I don't care for James Bond.
  3. The Ghost, Robert Harris - I've seen some good things said about this, but Amazon reviewers are only giving it ***.
  4. All the Colours of Darkness, Peter Robinson - I have this among my BTBR (Books To Be Read) already acquired. I'm looking forward to reading it, but actually have the one before it (FRIEND OF THE DEVIL) to read first.
  5. Deadline, Simon Kernick - reasonably new to the list, already has **** Amazon stars.
  6. The Shack, William P. Young - I haven't noticed this before, and know nothing about it, but it appears to be on the way up.
  7. In the Dark, Mark Billingham - also in my BTBR pile, Amazon average review is *****. Publication date was August 7, 2008. He is coming to Melbourne Writers' Festival and on a panel with Michael Robotham (I think). This is a stand alone, not part of the Tom Thorne series. You can read an excerpt here. You appear to be able to read excerpts from most of his novels on his site. The most recent in the Tom Thorne series is DEATH MESSAGE.
  8. A Quiet Belief in Angels, R.J. Ellory - has been on the list all year but now on the way down. My review is here. Running at just under *****. I gave it 5 .0 as a rating and you'll find it in my blog postings several times if you search for Ellory.
  9. The Private Patient (Adam Dalgliesh Mystery), P.D. James - not due for release until 4 Sep 2008. I guess it's position on the list reflects the number of pre-orders.
  10. Devil Bones, by Kathy Reichs - not due for release until 28 Aug 2008.
If you are a follower of my blog, then you know that I love lists. Seriously though, they give me titles of books to look out for and they are excellent for discussion groups when deciding what to read next.

9 August 2008

Progress Report: BENEATH THE BLEEDING, Val McDermid

ISIS Audio book on CD.

In Bradfield Moor Secure Hospital profiler Tony Hill has got between an inmate and the fire-axe he is threatening staff with. The result is incredible damage to Tony's knee and now he is recuperating in Bradfield Hospital.

Another patient in Bradfield Hospital is Bradfield Victoria's star midfielder, quickly dying from a poison for which there is no antidote. It is obvious he has been murdered but why?

In a way this story reminds me a bit of Josephine Tey's THE DAUGHTER OF TIME where Scotland Yard's Inspector Alan Grant, is forced to spend time laid up in a hospital, and investigates the evidence for a 500 hundred year old mystery, the disappearance of the princes in the Tower.

In BENEATH THE BLEEDING Carol Jordan brings Tony his laptop and arranges wireless access to the internet for him. So Tony spends his time tapping databases and attempting to profile the killer, and to work out whether he has struck before, and whether he will strike again.

I've been listening to this unabridged book on 14 CDs in the car to and from work, in 20 minute gobbets, over the last 3 weeks, so I'm making relatively slow process as you can see. I'm about half way through. One of the things I'm finding a bit odd is that the reader could very well be Robson Green, the actor in the Wire in the Blood TV series, but it isn't. The voice is so similar to Green's though that it makes me feel as if everything is being seen from Tony Hill's point of view, which of course it isn't. There is a slight differentiation for other characters, but for me, not quite enough.

My verdict so far: excellent reading/listening. I wish I travelled further and have taken to getting behind frequently stopping buses.

If you'd like to read the opening chapter of BENEATH THE BLEEDING, Val McDermid has it available here. At the bottom of this page you can subscribe to Val's newsletter which arrives in a rather random fashion.

8 August 2008


Clipper Large print edition 2007. 546 pages.
ISBN 978-1-40740-080-8. Translated from French by Sian Reynolds.

Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg's team from the Paris Serious Crime Squad is due to fly to Quebec for DNA profiling course in Quebec. Adamsberg's second-in-command Danglard, who hates flying, is praying every day that some urgent case will keep the entire squad home. Meanwhile the boiler in the basement of squad headquarters has suddenly stopped working on an October day when the outside temperature has dropped to one degree Celsius.

Adamsberg's mind works in mysterious ways, and a few days prior to the Quebec trip, he experiences an alien feeling of trouble. Something is causing sudden sweats, clenched muscles, and a singing in his ears. He is unsettled by something his subconscious has seen, something his mind can't explain. And then he realises it is an image he has seen of Neptune and his trident. His mind has dredged up memories of an invincible and arrogant killer whom he used to called "The Trident". A killer who always escaped and in fact had derailed Adamsberg's own brother. Adamsberg believes The Trident has been responsible for at least eight murders, all in different regions of France, over a period of about fifty years. Recently a girl has been killed in the countryside, the stab marks of the trident left on her body. But the man whom Adamsberg has known as "The Trident" is dead, so is this a copy cat killer?

Adamsberg is being thrown so out of kilter that he attacks an insolent member of his own squad. This is an unprecedented situation that brings both Adamsberg and the insolent brigadier before a disciplinary tribunal. Adamsberg goes to Quebec with orders not to get into further trouble. But how can he help it when The Trident follows him there, and a young woman is killed, the tell-tale three pronged marks on her body accusing Adamsberg himself of her death?

Sometimes this story became just a little too complex for me. But it is full of wonderful characters. The melancholic Danglard, waiting for promotion himself, loves and hates Adamsberg at the same time. He doesn't like the way Adamsberg has treated his former lover Camille, doesn't usually understand how his boss's mind works, but at the same time he is protective and supportive when he needs to be. The character of the squad's pillar of strength Lieutenant Violette Retancourt is wonderfully developed. And what can I say about the octagenarians Clementine Courbet and her boarder Josette, fallen on hard times? Clementine provides the ear that Adamsberg so badly needs, and Josette is a hacker extraordinaire.

Vargas has the ability to use just a few words to create interesting images. The lives of those in the station are at the mercy of the squatting inert central heating boiler, and the silent mother watching over them all, the coffee machine. And then there are the images of the exploding,smoking, toads - but I'll let you find out about them for yourself.

In the year 2007 WASH THIS BLOOD CLEAN FROM MY HAND won the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger Award.

My rating: 4.7

Author Photos Revealed

Here are the answers for the author photos "competition" that I ran for Weekly Geeks #13.
Correct answers came from Linda and Sunnie.
They are all Australian crime fiction writers.

5. Felicity Young.
8. Garry Disher.
10. Marshall Browne.
12. Kerry Greenwood.


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