31 August 2009

Get Reading Australia - Books Alive

For the next month the Australian government is sponsoring the Books Alive campaign.
The Books Alive campaign identifies 50 books you can't put down.
You should be able to pick up a little booklet, featuring all 50 books, at participating booksellers.
The books on the shelves will have the distinctive Books Alive sticker.

You can also search an online catalogue on the Books Alive site and that's how I came up with the book covers of 7 books on the list that are of interest to crime fiction enthusiasts. (click on the image if the image is a bit blurry for you)

In addition, so long as supplies last, when you buy one of the 50 books you are eligible for a free book. There are 2 books on offer.
  • all-new collection of stories by ten of Australia’s best writers, including Peter Temple.
or Grug Learns to Read.

The Books Alive campaign extends from 26 August until 30 September 2009, or while stocks last.

30 August 2009

Sunday Salon - 30 August 2009

Today I am looking forward to getting some reading done. If you are interested in crime fiction then make sure you not only visit my blog but make yourself known to me so I can visit yours. In particular you'll find information about Australian crime fiction.

There are potentially 445 participants every weekend on Sunday Salon, and so it is really not possible to visit everybody's anymore, but I do try to spot those who enjoy reading crime fiction.

My blog this week:
Currently reading
  • now - BLACK ICE, Leah Giarratano
  • in the car - THE VICTORIA VANISHES, Christopher Fowler
Added to Smik's Reviews this month
Check Fair Dinkum Reviews for August
If you like crime & thriller fiction, you will find a friendly chat room here.
Looking for crime fiction blogs to follow? See Crime Fiction Journeys.
Search for crime fiction suggestions on a Customised Google search.

BBAW coming up!

Searching for books- Google Wonder Wheel

Many thanks to Jackie at Farm Lane Books for her post about Google Wonder Wheel.

Graphic presentations of search results are not new, but sometimes they can lead you down new paths just because of the way the search results are presented. I blogged earlier this year about finding new authors through Literature maps. I blogged also about the graphic search engine that Encompass provides.

Google Wonder Wheel is really a variant of that style of searching..

To find Google wonder wheel go to www.google.com, type in the topic you’d like to search for and then click on Show Options.

In the left hand column you will find the Wonder Wheel option.

Above is the wonder wheel I obtained when I searched for ‘crime fiction Australia’.

I clicked on the phryne fisher link and got the wheel on the left. What makes it impressive, is that it actually gives you books to look for.

What is really impressive is that you can then click on one of the links in the wheel and get to the next level in the search.

On the right hand side of the page Google is constantly generating a list of web page links. Very impressive.

The image below is a bit fuzzy, but if you click on it you'll see it in bigger size. The circle at the bottom is where I started, then you can see the phryne fisher search, and then I clicked on the castlemaine murders.

The search is not without drawbacks, and as I tested it, it threw up irrelevant items, but that is where the user's critical judgement comes in.

Try your favourite author or genre, and let me know how you go.

Other tags in this blog:

29 August 2009

Ned Kelly News leaks through - updated

Don't the organisers realise that the Ned Kelly Awards have a following? people who would really like to know who won the awards last night.
[addenda: winners are marked with ******]

The short list was announced a little over 2 weeks ago (there were no longlists!) and I mentioned it on this blog.

Nominations: Ned Kelly Awards 2009

Best first fiction
****** GHOSTLINES, Nick Gadd
CROOKED, Camilla Nelson
THE BUILD UP, Phillip Gwynne

Best Fiction
BRIGHT AIR, Barry Maitland
****** DEEP WATER, Peter Corris
****** SMOKE & MIRRORS, Kel Robertson

Best True crime
****** THE TALL MAN, Chloe Hooper
A QUESTION OF POWER, Michelle Schwarz

The SD Harvey Short Story
****** Fidget's Farewell, Scott McDermott
Farewell My Lovelies, Chris Womersley
Fern's Farwell, Bronwyn Mehan
Farewell to the shade, Cheryl Rogers

So who won?

The Melbourne Writers Festival e-newsletter arrived this morning with nary a mention of a Ned Kelly, even though they supposedly were awarded last night. (Why doesn't that surprise me?)

Appeals in a variety of quarters have gleaned the following:

Chloe Hooper won best true crime with TALL MAN - this originally came through a tweet on Twitter. And the Sydney Morning Herald confirms the John Button Award.

The top award for Best Fiction was jointly shared between Kel Robertson's SMOKE & MIRRORS and Peter Corris' DEEP WATER.
Thanks Canberra Times for that news. Ironically this was passed on by a New Zealand crime fiction blogger: crime watch

Shane Maloney was given the already-announced lifetime award: there's an article by Jason Steger in today's Age confirming that.

When I wrote the above, Best First fiction was an unknown, but I have since learnt it went to GHOSTLINES by Nick Gadd.

BTW, Crime Writers Association of Australia, I don't want to be picky, but it would be nice if the page that contains the shortlist, wasn't actually titled "Ned Kelly Award Entries for 2008.

28 August 2009

review: VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE, Leah Giarratano

This is another of those book reviews originally published in July 2007 elsewhere, that I am re-publishing here.
VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE was Leah Giarratano's debut novel.

Bantam Press, July 2007

Newly promoted Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson of the New South Wales Police force has a deep hatred of paedophiles and the "squirrels" who procure children for them. When Jill was twelve years old she was abducted and held in a basement for three days. During that time she was abused by men who were never caught. Even now, over twenty years later, she has recurrent nightmares, and unpredictable panic attacks. She is very security conscious and has also developed techniques for dealing with unwanted memories. Exhaustive exercise is one of her strategies.

David Carter, paedophile and voyeur, is found beaten to death in the sand dunes where he was watching a young couple. There have been two other bashing deaths with similar MOs in the Sydney metropolitan area. Jill's colleague Scotty Hutchinson is as committed as Jill is to hunting down paedophiles. Jill and Scotty believe there are connections, perhaps even a serial killer who is hunting down paedophiles.

Mercy Merris is a psychotherapist who has treated both Jill and other trauma victims - not, it seems, particularly successfully. She is conducting a vendetta against those involved in paedophile rings, particularly those known to have been responsible for the misery of some of her patients. Her patients tend to be survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE seems to me to be rather thickly populated with unpleasant characters, including a colleague of Jill's, whose brother she gaoled in the amphetamine bust that resulted in her promotion. Jill has many enemies and needs all her physical and mental strength to win through.

The subject matter of this novel is extremely unpleasant. We are told that VODKA DOESN'T FREEZE, "though inspired by real Australian crimes, is a work of fiction". Author Leah Giarratano is a psychologist who has obviously drawn on her experiences in working with victims of sexual offences. In this, her debut novel, the plot is tightly constructed, and the action violent. However for me Jill Jackson is just a little too larger than life. At 34 years of age, too many bad things have happened to her. I am surprised that she actually made it into the New South Wales Police force, although Giarratano has built a very strong case for this being her mission in life. Giarratano's next book is due to be released in July 2008.

July 2007 review, originally published on Murder and Mayhem
My rating: 4.2

I've also reviewed VOODOO DOLL (2008)

25 August 2009

Review: THE BUILD UP, Phillip Gwynne

Pan Macmillan Australia, 2008, ISBN 978-1-4050-3849-2, 339 pages.

It is late September, and the Wet is coming to Darwin. Or rather the Build Up is happening. The temperatures and the humidity are rising, every day just a little more. 33 year old Detective Dusty Buchanon of the NT Police Force is originally from Adelaide. Until recently she had a boyfrined. Now she doesn't.

Dusty has been working on the McVeigh case for nearly two years. Now a body has been found in the desert and it is almost certainly the abducted woman. But Dusty's new boss has decided to take her off the case. Even before the body had been found, a case had been brought against a suspect, but he walked free.

But the Top End is never long without crime. Two weeks later there are rumours of a female body in a billabong. The location is very near a Vietnam Veterans bush camp, but when Dusty and her partner investigate there is nothing to see. Still the rumours persist, and when Dusty eventually locates a body buried near the billabong it is male not female.

There is a lot to like about THE BUILD UP. If you've ever been to Darwin you'll recognise the names of streets and cafes, and somehow Gwynne has captured the essence of the place. I felt as if culturally I had been dropped right in it. And there are some wonderfully drawn characters including Dusty herself, newcomer Flick Roberts-Thomson, ex-footballer Trigger Tregenza, the Dutch policeman Tomasz, Viet veteran Barry O'Loughlin, and Trace born as the cyclone raged. Dusty seems to move effortlessly through a number of communities: the itinerant aborigines who camp in the parklands around Darwin; conversing in Indonesian with waiters in restaurants.

It is not just the interesting characters he draws though. Gwynne writes in a language that feels at once local and authentic. I couldn't help wondering whether the book will have much appeal outside Australia. Are there too many idioms that will puzzle? There are references to cases like Azaria Chamberlain, places like the Emerald City - I wonder what a non-Australian reader will make of that? Perhaps it won't matter.

If you read Australian crime fiction, then this is certainly a book to look for.
My rating: 4.7

THE BUILD UP has been shortlisted for the 2009 Ned Kelly Awards.
SBS have announced that they will be making a 13 part television series set in the Top End, in and around Darwin. Titled Dusty, the show will follow the trials of the crime-fighting police detective working in the self-styled 'capital of the second chance'.

Other Reviews:

Celebrating Christie Week - Blog Tour

Christie Week is scheduled for 13-20 September. There are many things we could do on the official Christie site but here we are going to have a blog tour.

Celebrating the life and work of Agatha Christie with a blog tour where people undertake to put up a special post on their own site? If that idea appeals, then volunteer for a date by leaving your chosen date and blog URL in a comment, and I will add you to the tour sites list. Still a few dates left.

Tour sites:
13 September: Overkill
14 September: Reactions to Reading
15 September: Elizabeth at Miss Lemon Mysteries
16 September: Just A (Reading) Fool
17 September: Margot at Joyfully Retired
18 September: Crime Scraps
19 September: A library is a hospital for the mind...
20 September: Confessions of a Mystery Novelist
21 September: BooksPlease
22 September:
23 September: ACRC Carnival #9

Have you any other suggestions?

24 August 2009

Review: NIGHT FERRY, Michael Robotham

Sphere, May 2007

This review is one of a number that I am re-publishing as they were originally published elsewhere, not on this blog.

THE NIGHT FERRY is a fascinating book even if you only look at it from the point of view of how it fits with Michael Robotham's earlier books. His first was THE SUSPECT where the central character was psychologist Joseph O'Loughlin. In a sense the second book, LOST (also published as THE DROWNING MAN) was a sequel to SUSPECT, with the same two main characters, Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz and psychologist Joe O'Loughlin. Whereas SUSPECT focused on O'Loughlin's predicament, LOST focuses on Ruiz.

Now in THE NIGHT FERRY Detective Constable Alisha (Ali) Barba, a minor character in LOST, emerges in her own right, with assistance and mentoring from the now retired DI Vincent Ruiz. Ali Barba is still on medical leave, nearly recovered after her back was broken by a murder suspect a year earlier (in LOST). Now she is in limbo, her employers unable to decide where to place her.

There is to be a re-union of classmates at Ali's old school. She receives a note from former classmate and best friend Cate, from whom she has been estranged for eight years. Cate says she is in trouble and asks Ali to come to the reunion. When they meet briefly Alisha sees that Cate is pregnant and Cate talks of people who are trying to take her baby. After the reunion Cate and her husband are knocked down by a taxi. The husband is killed and Cate is critically injured. Subsequent medical examination reveals that Cate was never pregnant.

From this tantalising beginning, Robotham builds a cleverly crafted story, and the character of Ali Barba grows and grows. We explore the consequences of a police force that moves too slowly, a justice system that refuses to charge criminals because it is not "in the public interest", and the greed of those who see children as a saleable commodity. In true mystery style, things are not always as they seem and we discover the truth through Ali Barba's eyes.

I have read all three of Robotham's books. THE SUSPECT hooked me. I found LOST very dark but nevertheless intriguing and I remember thinking I must keep an eye out for the next. THE NIGHT FERRY is an excellent read. Has Robotham left the door open for another? The last line holds hope. "The end of one story is merely the beginning of the next."

My rating for THE NIGHT FERRY: 5.0

For those who want to keep in touch with Michael Robotham, his website at http://www.michaelrobotham.com/aus/index.htm details his coming appearances and you can join his newsletter list. He also has a presence at CrimeSpace at http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/Michaelrobotham.

Michael Robotham links on my blog.

May 2007 Review

23 August 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-32: Why Haven't I Read This Yet?

This week's Weekly Geeks task is to talk about a book or books I haven't read yet. Sorry, I can't do that!
That's because I have Mount TBR (to be read) lurking in the passage. Just inside the front door it is, waiting to trap me, ensnare me in its coils as I pass by in and out of the house.

Here is the main peak of TBR.

Sitting smugly at the top are the library books. They think they are safe. Little do they know. Today 6 of them have been relegated, unread, to the out-of-this-house contingent, just to keep our librarian happy. They'll be back!

Under the library shelf are the so-called "review" books - ones I should be reviewing post-haste.

And under them books I have bought. I have talked before about my inability to visit a book shop without books leaping off the shelves into my arms!

The growth of Mount TBR is a constantly recurring theme of this blog.

And here is the Agatha Christie Challenge part of it.
I've read 13 out of an estimated 80 Agatha Christie titles. And just last week, they've announced another has been discovered.

And here is the pinnacle: the select few, the ones I have to read now: just ignore the fact that there is nearly a month's reading there.

10 reasons why TBR doesn't ever diminish
  • Reading them gets deferred in favour of other books I have to read for discussions and books groups I belong to.
  • New review books keep turning up!
  • I can't stay away from book shops.
  • I'm greedy and collect books like other people collect stamps
  • People keep publishing new books
  • I don't read fast enough
  • I've tried training my eyes to read independently of each other, but it doesn't work, my brain gets in the way
  • I belong to Book Mooch
  • I've tried to listen to audio books and read hard copy books, but despite an innate ability to multi-task I can't do both at once.
  • I am addicted to blogging and spend valuable reading time blogging, tweeting, and reading other people's blogs.
What does your TBR look like?

Sunday Salon: 22 August 2009

It has been a busy week as usual on MYSTERIES IN PARADISE. Lots of interesting things happening in the crime fiction world as you will see from my various posts.

This weekend sees the beginning of Melbourne Writers Festival, but I won't get there this year unfortunately. The Davitt Awards 2009 were announced on Friday night.
At the end of the week the Ned Kelly Awards for the best in Australian crime fiction will be announced. Check the 2009 shortlist.

I announced the winners of my giveaway of THE WHITE QUEEN yesterday, and the winners have already contacted me with their snail mail addresses.

Two of my blogs, MYSTERIES IN PARADISE and THE AGATHA CHRISTIE READING CHALLENGE BLOG CARNIVAL have been nominated for a BBAW Award. Voting begins in September.

This week's posts
Breaking News and Headlines
Currently Reading
  • now - THE BUILD UP, Philip Gwynne
  • then - BLACK ICE, Leah Giarratano
  • in the car - THE VICTORIA VANISHES, Christopher Fowler

Agatha Christie Blog Carnival #8

Blog Carnival #8 is now published.

In 15 contributions, there are 10 Titles reviewed in this carnival.
In addition we have some blog posts of general interest to Agatha Christie readers.

In particular please check Suggestions Wanted: How to Celebrate Agatha Christie Week? posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE, saying, "Join our blog tour scheduled for Christie week. Make some suggestions on how we could celebrate. Enter the date in your calendar."

Spread the word too about the existence of this blog and the monthly opportunity it offers to showcase reviews about Agatha Christie books.

If you'd like to be part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, it is never too late to start. Check out the other postings on this blog and my main Agatha Christie Reading Challenge postings which will lead you to the lists of titles etc.

22 August 2009

Review: GONE TOMORROW, Lee Child

Bantam Press, 2009, ISBN 9780593057049, 441 pages

Jack Reacher thinks he knows a suicide bomber when he sees one.Twenty years ago he learnt a list of behavioural indicators from an Israeli army captain. It is a set of twelve bullet points for male suspects, and eleven for women. Riding the New York City subway at two o'clock in the morning he reckons he is looking at one - a female suicide bomber, that is. He's worked his way through the bulleted list and she fits. And then the woman realises that he has spotted her.

For thirteen years Jack Reacher was a military policeman in the US Army, saw service all over the world, and finally reached the rank of Major. He was highly decorated but that didn't help when the army downsized. He's never lost his ability to put two and two together, and so in the police interviews that follow the subway incident, he smells a rat or two, especially when the interviewers ask him about a name he recognises. John Sansom is an Army veteran, and a highly decorated hero, aiming at election as a Senator, but Jack can't work out what he got his decorations for. It's a puzzle Jack wants to solve.

There is something uncomfortable and patriotically close to the bone about the central theme of this novel. I feel that Lee Child wears his political beliefs on his sleeve, and is writing for an audience only too sensitive about suicide bombers and the aftermath of 9/11.

Reacher talking about a photo he sees in a book that Sansom has written:
    That photograph that was different was a news picture I had seen before. It was of an American politician called Donald Rumsfeld, in Baghdad, shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, back in 1983. Donlad Rumsfeld had twice been Secretary of Defense, but at the time had been a special presidential envoy for Ronald Reagan. He had gone to Baghdad to kiss Saddam's ass and pat him on the back and hive him a pair of solid gold spurs as a gift and a symbol of America's everlasting gratitude. Eight years later we had been kicking Saddam's ass, not kissing it. Fifteen years after that, we killed him. Sansom had captioned the picture Sometimes our friends become our enemies, and sometimes our enemies become our friends.
GONE TOMORROW is a thriller, a mystery, and at times the violence feels very raw. The plot becomes extremely complex and it feels at times as if there is a lot of technical detail in particular.
GONE TOMORROW is #13 in the Jack Reacher series, but I don't think you need worry if you have never read any before. GONE TOMORROW will work well as a stand-alone.

My rating: 4.1

Other reviews:
I've only read one other Jack Reacher novel recently and I enjoyed that one much more than I did GONE TOMORROW.

THE HARD WAY, my rating: 4.7
Jack Reacher is a maverick. A gun-for-hire, with the remorse gene missing, ex-military, photographic memory, and an incredible ability to tell the time without a watch. Late one night as he sits in a New York cafe drinking coffee from a foam cup ready to move at a moment's notice, he sees a man unlock a car, get in, and drive away. The next night Jack is back in the same cafe at the same time and a man approaches him and asks what he saw the previous night. And Jack is able to describe the car, its number plate, make and colour. Edward Lane on the other hand is a wealthy man running an illegal soldiers-for-hire operation. His wife has been kidnapped and he engages Jack to find her. Jack's hackles rise when he learns that this is the second time Lane has lost a wife this way.

Up for Grabs Winner - THE WHITE QUEEN

Thank you to the 15 entries in the Up For Grabs for Philippa Gregory's THE WHITE QUEEN.

The winners are Lynne and Barb. I have emailed you - you need to reply to my email.

Links of interest:

Davitt Awards 2009

Embargoed to 10pm, Friday August 21, 2009

Media Release:

This year 39 crime books competed for the Davitt Awards which were set up by Sisters in Crime in 2001 to celebrate the achievements of Australian women crime writers. Justice Betty King presented the awards to a crowd of 140 at the Celtic Club. For the third year running, the awards were sponsored by the Victoria Police Museum.

A Beautiful Place To Die (PanMacmillan), the debut novel by Sydney-based filmmaker turned crime writer, Malla Nunn, tonight won Sisters in Crime’s Davitt Awards for the best (adult) crime novel by an Australian woman in 2008.

Blue Mountains writer Catherine Jinks took out the Davitt (young adult) for Genius Squad (Allen & Unwin)

Melbourne’s Chloe Hooper won the Davitt (true crime) for much-awarded The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island (Penguin Books Australia).

The Davitt Reader’s Choice (as voted by the members of Sisters in Crime) went to last year’s Davitt (Adult Fiction) winner, Gold Coast writer Katherine Howell, for her second novel, The Darkest Hour.

The judging panel comprised Dr Shelley Robertson (Sisters in Crime member, forensic pathologist), Rosi Tovey (former owner of Chronicles Bookshop in St Kilda), Dr Sue Turnbull (Head of Media Studies, La Trobe University, Sisters in Crime national co-convenor and Sydney Morning Herald crime columnist), Sylvia Loader (Sisters in Crime national co-convenor, and reviewer) Tanya King (reviewer and former Sisters in Crime national co-convenor).

The awards are named after Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865.

For a complete list of nominations see the Sisters in Crime website.

21 August 2009

BBAW 2009 - Thanks for the nomination

Both MYSTERIES in PARADISE and the AGATHA CHRISTIE READING CHALLENGE CARNIVAL have been nominated for a Book Blogger Appreciation Week Award in the category Best Thriller/Mystery/Suspense Blog. Many thanks to the kind nominator(s).

Watch this space to see if either makes the short list, which will be announced on September 7. (If either does, I'll be soliciting votes!)

During BBAW week, which is going to be a busy one because it is also Agatha Christie week around then, I am going to do an interview swap with another blogger. We have already been exchanging questions and answers. I'm not sure if that opportunity is still open. Try registering here.

ACRC Update - 20 August 2009

My intent in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge is to read her books in order, so that I can get some idea of what she is doing, problems she is attempting to solve, and her development as a writer. If you look at some of my reviews you will see that I have been able to undertake some of this reflection.

Currently I am managing about a book a month.
I've read 13 books and 4 collections of short stories.

What I've read so far
  2. 1922, THE SECRET ADVERSARY- finished
  3. 1923, THE MURDER ON THE LINKS - finished
  4. 1924, THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT - finished
    1924, POIROT INVESTIGATES (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US) - finished
  5. 1925, THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS - finished
  6. 1926, THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD - finished
  7. 1927, THE BIG FOUR - finished
  8. 1928, THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN - finished
  9. 1929, THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY - finished
    1929 Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence) - now on my shelves
  10. 1930, THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE - finished
    1930, The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin) - finished
  12. 1932, PERIL AT END HOUSE - finished
    1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders in the US) - finished
  13. 1933, LORD EDGEWARE DIES (aka THIRTEEN AT DINNER) - finished
  14. 1934, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (aka MURDER IN THE CALAIS COACH) - now on my shelves
  15. 1934, WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVANS? (aka THE BOOMERANG CLUE) - now on my shelves
  20. 1936, CARDS ON THE TABLE
Check the opening blog post of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge here.
If you'd like to join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge click here.

I am using the list at Wikipedia of novels and collections of short stories. I will interlace the short story collections into the list where I can, but may have to read them out of order. I have decided on a method for reporting on the short stories.

Please feel free to join in my challenge, comment on my reviews etc.

I have set up a block over in the right hand column called Agatha Christie Reading Challenge (with the same logo as this post) where I am listing the books I'm currently reading and those I've finished.
The challenge is called ACRC so each review will be preceded by those letters.

If you want to follow my progress through your RSS reader, then the RSS URL is
Just save that in your bookmarks or RSS reader and you will be notified when I have written a new post.
Alternatively you could subscribe to the feed through FeedMyInbox. Just copy the RSS URL, click on the FeedMyInbox link and paste the URL in there.
You will need to confirm your subscription by email.

Contribute your blog postings about any Agatha Christie novels to the monthly carnival. Make an agreement with yourself that whenever you complete reading an Aggie you will write a blog posting about it and then submit the posting to the carnival.
If you are participating in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge then write updates like this one and submit them to the Carnival. Let us know what progress you are making.

19 August 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-31: Second Chances

This week's Weekly Geek challenge asks us to consider whether we would ever give a book a second chance.

You know, once upon a time I would never have considered reading a book for the second time. I will rarely pick up a novel I have rejected. That is because before the rejection occurred, I have often re-started the book at least once. If you look at the list of my 2009 Reviews and 2008 Reviews, you will see on each those a book that I rated at 0. What that basically means is that I was unable to finish the book. In the reviews I describe my experience and also reveal why I couldn't even try to read them again.

But the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge is the perfect illustration of the fact that some books are worth a second read.
What I am doing there is reading the Agatha Christie novels in order, as if they are a series. I feel as if I am seeing the books with new eyes, and have a greater appreciation of Christie's development as an author.

A friend has written in his footer "So many books, so little time". Some readers apply a test - if they don't like a book within a certain number of pages, then they abandon it. In some cases they allow 50 pages, but some even go as low as 20. Some apply that to a series. If they don't like one book, they won't touch another in that series.

Sometimes I think that I will listen to an audio book, where as if I had been reading it in hard copy I would have long ago abandoned it. Sometimes the reason I don't like a book is that it tries to trigger a sense of humour that I don't seem to have. Sometimes a series grows on me, despite an underlying feeling of dislike. But some will never tempt me again. And did I mention my revulsion at graphic novels?

Sorry, this seems to have become a diatribe on what puts me off reading a book. I stress though, I usually finish a book - I sort of feel an obligation to an author to give it my best shot. But read them again to see if I enjoy them more second time around? - no chance!

Review: LORD EDGWARE DIES, Agatha Christie

Published in the UK in 1933 as LORD EDGWARE DIES and in the US in the same year as THIRTEEN AT DINNER.

The edition I read was in a Hamlyn omnibus, published in 1969, pages 191-366, 175 pages.
The omnibus, Agatha Christie Crime Collection, also contained 4.50 FROM PADDINGTON, and MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA.

Lady Edgware, Jane Wilkinson, is an actress, who has been married to Lord Edgware for about 3 years. The marriage has been a failure and now Lady Edgware wants a divorce. She tells Hercule Poirot her husband has refused to agree to a divorce and she asks Hercule Poirot to try to negotiate one for her. When Poirot and Hastings visit Lord Edgware, he claims that to the contrary he has already sent his wife a letter agreeing the divorce. Poirot reports this back to Lady Edgware who is now over the moon because it means she will be able to marry again, and she already has someone in mind.

That night however Lord Edgware is killed and the housekeeper and butler both claim that the perpetrator was Lady Edgware. But was it her or Carlotta Adams, a successful impersonator who has been entertaining London clubs with her impersonations of Lady Edgware? On the same morning that Lord Edgware's body is discovered in his library, Carlotta is discovered dead in her flat from a drugs overdose.

The tale LORD EDGWARE DIES is told by Poirot's companion Hastings. He tells us that Hercule Poirot regards the solving of the case of Lord Edgware's death as one of his failures. We learn that Poirot made some serious misjudgements in the case with the result that the murderer of Lord Edgware, Carlotta Adams, and another, very nearly got away with it. And yet, Hastings says, it was Poirot's genius that discovered the truth. Hastings says that he is recounting the case to comply with the wishes of a fascinating lady.

LORD EDGWARE DIES is Christie's 13th novel, and marks the 7th appearance of Hercule Poirot in novels. It was published in the year following PERIL AT END HOUSE, a case in which Porot was tricked by a young woman to whom he felt great attraction. If Poirot comes over as capable of making critical mistakes, it is very obvious that Arthur Hastings is a person whose judgement simply cannot be trusted. He is, as Poirot points out, not only unobservant, but also easily misled. Sometimes, when we are seeing things through Hastings' eyes, we need to remember that he is often an unreliable witness.

I thought that technically LORD EDGWARE DIES was a shade better than PERIL AT END HOUSE. I had begun to suspect the truth within 50 or so pages of the end, but still really needed Hercule Poirot to explain it all to me. My rating 4.5

I've read this as part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.
I've now read 13 novels, and 4 sets of short stories.
Poirot appeared in 33 novels and 51 short stories that were published between 1920 and 1975.

Here is a list of Hercule Poirot novels and short story (ss) collections from Wikipedia so you can see I have quite a long way to go, and lots of pleasure in store:

18 August 2009

Review: DEATH OF A DORMOUSE, Reginald Hill

Published in 1987, Reginald Hill writing as Patrick Ruell. I listened to this book as a complete and unabridged mp3 from ISIS Audio Books. Read by Di Langford.

In many ways this is, I suspect, a forgotten book.

Trudi Adamson has recently returned to England from the continent with her husband. She really has not much idea of what her husband Trent does for a living. Her life has always revolved around his. So when Trent is burnt to death in a freak car accident, Trudi is completely unprepared for what she will learn about his life.
She has recently re-connected with an old friend Janet, who becomes a real lifeline, getting Trudi back on her feet just when an overdose seems a good way out.
Trudi seems to have been left unprovided for, although Trent had always seemed to be well off. It is a shock to learn that Trent had recently resigned from his job without telling her. So is the arrival on her doorstep of an Austrian policeman who wants her help in nailing down the details of some of the criminal activities Trent was apparently involved in.

This seemed a very long book, so I was surprised to see that the running time is approximately 9 hours 30 mins. The illusion of great length was added to by the fact that the book is divided into 10 sections each with a number of chapters. Each section is preceded by a quote from Robbie Burns' poem "To a Mouse". These extracts emphasised the dormouse-like role that Trudi had played in her marriage to Trent.

I kept thinking as I listened that this was a different Reginald Hill from the one I know through the Dalziel & Pascoe series. I had decided that it was an early book, written more in the style of a thriller, almost cold war style, in the vein of authors like Helen MacInnes, whose books I read avidly back in the 1970s. DEATH OF A DORMOUSE is a thriller, where poor Trudi Adamson is faced with one revelation after another, and the bounds of credibility are strained almost to bursting.

But I hadn't guessed that this was originally written by Hill using a pseudonym, this time Patrick Ruell.
As Ruell he has written
For me DEATH OF A DORMOUSE is an older style that we rarely see in new crime fiction. But it has elements of the modern Reginald Hill about it. There is the business of the quotes from Burns. They remind me a bit of what happens in Hill's tribute to Jane Austen, A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES, and indeed in other Dalziel & Pascoe novels. Trent Adamson collected first editions of George Orwell novels, and so there are some mind games related to Orwell's "real name" (you know what that was don't you?) and the number 1984.

Did I enjoy this shadow of past styles? Well yes, I did. I've given it a rating of 4.3.

Want some more forgotten books? Try Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books

By the way, Reginald Hill has also written as Dick Morland and Charles Underhill, but I've never come across any of those books. Have you?

Crime at MWF

A newsletter arrived today from Melbourne Writer's Festival with the following summary:


We've attracted the world's most interesting crime writers to Melbourne this year.

Don't miss Robert Wilson who, in The Ignorance of Blood is bringing to a close his acclaimed series of psychological thrillers featuring Javier Falcon, the tortured detective from The Hidden Assassins and The Blind Man of Seville.
Also from Spain we have Catalan crime writer Teresa Solana.

Tom Rob Smith
, shortlisted for the Booker Prize with Child 44, brings us another glacial Russian thriller, The Secret Speech.

Marshall Browne
this year published The Iron Heart, another in his stunning Franz Schmidt series. Herr Schmidt, a bank auditor, is the most unlikely hero in these absolutely gripping novels set in Nazi Germany during WWII.

Our two Lisas from the US - Lisa Unger whose latest thriller, Die for You looks like it will follow Beautiful Lies onto the NY Times bestseller list and Lisa Lutz with Revenge of the Spellmans. If you haven't been introduced to the offbeat Spellmans yet - drop everything and head to Readings.

Philip McLaren's
Murder in Utopia is crime with an indigenous twist.

PD Martin
in Killing Hands has FBI profiler Sophie Anderson on the trail of a serial killer.

Garry Disher's Chain of Evidence is the fourth Challis & Destry novel and 'puts Disher up on the world stage' (The Age).

And in Murder on a Midsummer Night Kerry Greenwood has given us another elegant Phryne Fisher mystery set in Melbourne in 1929 where Phryne deals with a group of thoroughly unpleasant Bright Young Things.

There's even a Crime Lovers package!

Look for PD Martin and Katherine Howell this Friday 21 Aug at the Davitt Awards.
You can find out more at http://www.home.vicnet.net.au/~sincoz/

Look for PD Martin, Kerry Greenwood, and Lisa Lutz on Friday 21 Aug on session 2135 Who Knew Crime was Sassy? And PD Martin, Garry Disher, and Philip McLaren in X-rated on Saturday 22 Aug,

17 August 2009

Mini-Review Roundup

Last week I provided an opportunity for people to submit a mini-review via a Google Docs Form.

There were 6 submissions, so here they are! (Many thanks to the contributors too)

PANIC, Jeff Abbott, a thriller, rating: 3

Review by Bernadette from Reactions to Reading

A thriller featuring a young documentary film maker called Evan who discovers his mother's body, is hounded by her killers and learns that nothing he thought he knew about his family is true.
It was action packed as a good thriller should be but there were so many double (and triple) agents that I lost track of parts of the plot. I listened to this as an audio book and found, rarely, the narrator was not terribly good which I think detracted from my enjoyment.

NO MERCY, John Gilstrap, thriller, rating: 5

Review by Alan from A Million Blogging Monkeys

Jonathan Grave, formerly of Special Ops, has to avenge the vicious murder of his wife as he attempts to retrieve stolen nerve gas from terrorists.
Good features: Action, pacing, characters fighting evil
Gilstrap's other books, including Nathan's Run, are excellent.

BAD THINGS HAPPEN, Harry Dolan, mystery, rating 4

Review by Barbara from Barbara Fister's Place

A mysterious hero falls into an editorial job at a mystery magazine in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is compelled to find out what led to the publisher being pushed out a window, the first of several deaths. The writing pulled off a preposterous project: to write a puzzle plot reminiscent of golden age mysteries using a hardboiled style, keeping tongue in cheek but not overdoing the archness.
It's billed as a thriller. It isn't. Smart and fun, though.

BIG HAIR, FLYING COWS, Dolores Wilson, mystery, rating 4

Review by Maria from Bear Mountain Books

Bertie is a tow-truck driver in a small town. She's getting threatening letters. Who could it be? She knows everyone and everyone knows her. Is it a joke or does someone really have it in for her???
I loved the humor, the family sagas--love, laughter and tears! Some parts were a little silly and some things were resolved a little too quickly. It's a cozy and it was a fun read!
I will be looking for the next in this series and more from this author!

SHADES OF GRAY, Jessica James, historical fiction, rating 5

Review by Wisteria Leigh of Bookworms Dinner

Although the novel takes place during the Civil War in Virginia, it is also a passionate love story between Alex and Andrea who are fighting on opposing sides. Circumstances bring them together and they are forced to live in the same house. Andrea is a pro-Union Southerner. She can be the Southern Belle, petite and sophisticated or a rough riding horseman spying behind enemy lines for the Union. Alex, the epitome of southern gentile society is a ruthless Confederate Captain. The characters of Alex and Andrea are brought to life in their spirited dialog about the war and their patriotic honor.
Have you ever become so enchantingly entangled in reading a story that it no longer is print on a page but it becomes part of your life? The people have souls, they breathe. The setting is not flat but alive and auditory. You turn pages eager to find out what happens next, but when the end comes you grieve. Shades of Gray is that kind of book and it takes a masterful gifted storyteller like Jessica James to create the allure.
James writes with such wit and ease when Alex and Andrea are bantering back and forth: speaking, screaming, arguing and debating about the war, slavery, states rights and more. The alliteration is awesome and I could read sentences over and over again. Andrea’s unconventional spirit and intelligence makes her my favorite heroine in all literature. What a little spitfire: stubborn, full of spunk, so real and so genuine. I loved this book and carry the memory with me still. A feat not many authors can successfully do. Jessica James has an extraordinary talent. Her writing is untouchable. This one I see as a movie!!!

THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE, Heather Gudenkauf, literary fiction, rating 4

Review written by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness

Seven-year-olds Callie and Petra are best friends. Callie, traumatized by an event in her past, hasn't spoken for over three years. Petra has become Callie's voice, and the girls are inseparable. One summer morning, Petra's parents wake up to find their daughter missing. When they go to see if she's with Callie, they discover that Callie is missing too. Fearing the worst, a search begins for the two missing girls which drives the rest of the story forward.
This book is told in multiple voices, which gives you a sense of what the different characters are going through. I thought Gudenkauf did a great job capturing each of the unique voices, and the technique helped to show how much the different characters were not able to tell each other. I also thought the plot of the book -- the search for the two girls -- was compelling and entertaining; I stayed up pretty late for a few nights in a row because I was so eager to finish the book.
My one criticism is that I didn't feel like there was enough to show the relationship that Callie and Petra had. We get a lot of it in flashbacks, but there aren't many scenes with the girls together. Their relationship -- described as soul mates -- is such an integral part of the book, but I never felt like I knew enough about it or really believed it. However, I think this is a small quibble with a book that I enjoyed very much.
I received this book as part of a blog tour for TLC Book Tours. The book is Heather Gudenkauf's debut novel, and I think she did a fantastic job. The book is definitely recommended.

16 August 2009

Sunday salon: 16 August 2009

So what can you do on my blog this week?
  • I have a book giveaway running, THE WHITE QUEEN by Philippa Gregory, so you can pop over to put your name into the draw. Up for Grabs: THE WHITE QUEEN, Philippa Gregory.
  • It's not too late to Try your hand at a mini-review.
    This is an embedded Google Docs form. The data entered is stored at Google Docs. I'll be putting the mini-review roundup together tomorrow.
  • The next Agatha Christie Blog carnival will happen on August 23, so there is just under a week to add your submission if you've been reading and reviewing Agatha Christie novels. See Agatha Christie Carnival.
  • Agatha Christie week is happening September 13-20 and I'm organising a blog tour. If you'd like the tour to visit a post on your blog about Agatha Christie, then sign up soon. See Suggestions Wanted: How to Celebrate Agatha Christie Week.
  • I've finished a couple of really good books this week: ABOUT FACE, Donna Leon and DARK MIRROR, Barry Maitland. If you haven't tried either of these authors then you are definitely missing out. In the car I've been listening to an older Reginal Hill: DEATH OF A DOORMOUSE. It is not a Dalziel & Pascoe, but a stand alone. Very enjoyable. I should get it finished in the next couple of days.
This week's posts: I have been busy with about a post a day.
Breaking News and Headlines
Currently reading
  • now - LORD EDGEWARE DIES, Agatha Christie.
  • next - GONE TOMORROW - Lee Child.
  • after that - THE BUILD UP, Philip Gwynne.
  • then - BLACK ICE, Leah Giarratano.
  • in the car - DEATH OF A DOORMOUSE, Reginald Hill.
So do you have a crime fiction recommendation? What book should I look out for?


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