31 March 2010

Audio Book Challenge #6

Audio Book Challenge hosted at Royal Reviews.
I listen to books to and from work every day so hopefully this will be relatively easy to achieve. Add to that the fact that I've also realised the usefulness of an audio book on my I-Pod for long flights.

I was planning to go for Addicted, but now I've made Fascinated, perhaps I should set my sights on Obsessed.

There are four levels:

-- Curious – Listen to 3 Audio Books.

-- Fascinated – Listen to 6 Audio Books.

-- Addicted – Listen to 12 Audio Books.

-- Obsessed – Listen to 20 Audio Books.

I'm trying for Addicted: 12 books

My progress so far...

Review: THE LAST POPE, Luis Miguel Rocha

Published in Portuguese 2008
translated into English (from Spanish?) 2009 by Dolores M. Koch
ISBN -10 0399154892
Read on my Kindle

Vatican City, 29 September 1978: the world wakes to the shocking news that Pope John Paul I is dead, just a month after his accession. Thirty years later, in London, young journalist Sarah Monteiro receives a mysterious package. Enclosed is a list of names and a coded message. Moments later an assassin attempts to silence her for good. 

Pope Paul VI died quietly on 6 August 1978 and there were many who were surprised that the election of a new pope happened as quickly and as uneventfully as it did.

Don Albino Luciani never really wanted to be Pope. He was looking forward to returning to his quiet life in Venice after the conclave of cardinals had made its choice. He knew he wouldn't be a popular choice. He thought far too many of the Church's teachings needed modernising.

May God forgive you for what you have done to me.
- Albino Luciani to the cardinals who elected him pope on 26 August 1978.
His death only 33 days after his accession as Pope John Paul I was equally surprising. Sure, he had niggling ailments, but he was relatively young, and none were life threatening.

THE LAST POPE opens with a black-cassocked figure running for his life through the Secret Archives of the Vatican clutching some papers yellowed with age. Monsignor Firenzi seals the papers into a large envelope which he manages to post in a mailbox just before being shot and bundled into a waiting car.
The papers contain the seeds of the downfall of the Catholic Church, and are the last in a series of packages Firenzi has sent to strategic addresses across the world, to people he hopes will take the next step. They will continue the work that Pope John Paul I never got to complete.

I found THE LAST POPE structurally confusing. The opening passage takes place in "current time" (2008?), while chapter 2 drops back 30 years to the morning Don Albino is discovered dead, 29 September 1978. And then, with few clues apart from a chapter change, we are back in the present. We continue in the present for some time, but with changes of location, and the introduction of new characters whose identities are obscure. Eventually we will go further back in time to events prior to the election of Pope John Paul I.

I think the author recognised that readers might find the novel's structure difficult because towards the end, when the main events appear to be over, there is quite a long chapter of explanation. Here the author appears to be talking directly to the reader, separating fact from fiction. Historically speaking some of the characters have been created just for the story. But then, confusingly, he continues with the narrative, with his fictionalisation of what actually happened the night John Paul I died.

In the final chapter the author reveals his true colours. He has been contacted by the man who killed John Paul I and persuaded to write this book. He believes in a conspiracy theory, that the Roman Catholic Church is controlled by financial cartels that in turn owe their success to the CIA, to the Mafia, to a Masonic Lodge known as P2. He believes the election of Don Albino was contrived but backfired on those who thought they had put in place a Pope who would do their bidding.

I felt the fictional part of THE LAST POPE owed much to Dan Brown's DA VINCI CODE - secret papers, global conspiracy, a code to be cracked. The actions by a number of the characters, including the female "heroine", strained the bounds of credibility.

Others who've reviewed THE LAST POPE have shared my qualms about its structure and storyline. Reviews range from "fascinating thriller" to "fourth rate pulp fiction". I've read it for discussion with a face to face group I belong to and it will be interesting to see if they make it to the end, and what they make of it. For myself, the more I think about it, the more it grows on me. Perhaps I should re-read it...

My rating: 4.3

Reading Syllabus for Crime Fiction 2

On Sunday I blogged the CWA list of the top 100 Crime Fiction Titles for all time published in 1990.
In 1995 the Mystery Writers of America published a similar list entitled The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time.

How many have you read? This is quite a different list from Sunday's
I've marked those I think I have read with * - 53
  1. Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes (1887-1927)
  2. Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon (1930)*
  3. Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1852)*
  4. Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time (1951)*
  5. Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent (1987)
  6. John le Carré: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1963)*
  7. Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (1868)*
  8. Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep (1939)*
  9. Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca (1938)*
  10. Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (1939)*
  11. Robert Traver: Anatomy of a Murder (1958)*
  12. Agatha Christie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)*
  13. Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye (1953)*
  14. James M. Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
  15. Mario Puzo: The Godfather (1969)*
  16. Thomas Harris: The Silence of the Lambs (1988)*
  17. Eric Ambler: A Coffin for Dimitrios (1939)*
  18. Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night (1935)*
  19. Agatha Christie: Witness for the Prosecution (1948)*
  20. Frederick Forsyth: The Day of the Jackal (1971)*
  21. Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely (1940)
  22. John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)*
  23. Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (1980)
  24. Fyodor Dostoevski: Crime and Punishment (1866)*
  25. Ken Follett: Eye of the Needle (1978)*
  26. John Mortimer: Rumpole of the Bailey (1978)*
  27. Thomas Harris: Red Dragon (1981)
  28. Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors (1934)*
  29. Gregory Mcdonald: Fletch (1974)
  30. John Le Carré: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)*
  31. Dashiell Hammett: The Thin Man (1934)
  32. Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White (1860)*
  33. E. C. Bentley: Trent's Last Case (1913)
  34. James M. Cain: Double Indemnity (1943)
  35. Martin Cruz Smith: Gorky Park (1981)*
  36. Dorothy L. Sayers: Strong Poison (1930)
  37. Tony Hillerman: Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
  38. Donald E. Westlake: The Hot Rock (1970)
  39. Dashiell Hammett: Red Harvest (1929)
  40. Mary Roberts Rinehart: The Circular Staircase (1908)
  41. Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (1934)*
  42. John Grisham: The Firm (1991)*
  43. Len Deighton: The IPCRESS File (1962)*
  44. Vera Caspary: Laura (1942)
  45. Mickey Spillane: I, the Jury (1947)
  46. Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö: The Laughing Policeman (1968)*
  47. Donald E. Westlake: Bank Shot (1972)
  48. Graham Greene: The Third Man (1950)*
  49. Jim Thompson: The Killer Inside Me (1952)
  50. Mary Higgins Clark: Where Are the Children? (1975)*
  51. Sue Grafton: "A" is for Alibi (1982)*
  52. Lawrence Sanders: The First Deadly Sin (1973)
  53. Tony Hillerman: A Thief of Time (1989)
  54. Truman Capote: In Cold Blood (1966)*
  55. Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male (1939)*
  56. Dorothy L. Sayers: Murder Must Advertise (1933)*
  57. G. K. Chesterton: The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)*
  58. John le Carré: Smiley's People (1979)*
  59. Raymond Chandler: The Lady in the Lake (1943)
  60. Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)*
  61. Graham Greene: Our Man in Havana (1958)*
  62. Charles Dickens: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)
  63. Peter Lovesey: Wobble to Death (1970)*
  64. W. Somerset Maugham: Ashenden (1928)
  65. Nicholas Meyer: The Seven Per-Cent Solution (1974)
  66. Rex Stout: The Doorbell Rang (1965)
  67. Elmore Leonard: Stick (1983)
  68. John le Carré: The Little Drummer Girl (1983)*
  69. Graham Greene: Brighton Rock (1938)*
  70. Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
  71. Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)*
  72. Edmund Crispin: The Moving Toyshop (1946)
  73. John Grisham: A Time to Kill (1989)
  74. Hillary Waugh: Last Seen Wearing ... (1952)
  75. W. R. Burnett: Little Caesar (1929)
  76. George V. Higgins: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972)
  77. Dorothy L. Sayers: Clouds of Witness (1927)*
  78. Ian Fleming: From Russia, with Love (1957)*
  79. Margaret Millar: Beast in View (1955)
  80. Michael Gilbert: Smallbone Deceased (1950)
  81. Josephine Tey: The Franchise Affair (1948)*
  82. Elizabeth Peters: Crocodile on the Sandbank (1975)*
  83. P. D. James: Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)*
  84. Tom Clancy: The Hunt for Red October (1984)*
  85. Ross Thomas: Chinaman's Chance (1978)
  86. Joseph Conrad: The Secret Agent (1907)*
  87. John D. MacDonald: The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1975)
  88. Dashiell Hammett: The Glass Key (1931)
  89. Ruth Rendell: Judgement in Stone (1977)*
  90. Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar (1950)
  91. Ross Macdonald: The Chill (1963)
  92. Walter Mosley: Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
  93. Joseph Wambaugh: The Choirboys (1975)
  94. Donald E. Westlake: God Save the Mark (1967)
  95. Craig Rice: Home Sweet Homicide (1944)
  96. John Dickson Carr: The Three Coffins (1935)
  97. Richard Condon: Prizzi's Honor (1982)*
  98. James McClure: The Steam Pig (1974)
  99. Jack Finney: Time and Again (1970)
  100. Ellis Peters: A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977)* and Ira Levin: Rosemary's Baby (1967)

30 March 2010

Review: SKIN PRIVILEGE, Karin Slaughter

A book review that was originally published elsewhere.

US Publication title: BEYOND REACH
Random House, July 2007

When Detective Lena Adams is arrested in Reece, her home town in Georgia, her boss, police Chief Jeffrey Tolliver, goes to help her, taking his wife medical examiner Sara Linton with him. Sara has problems of her own: she is being sued for medical misdiagnosis after the death of a young patient. The parents, overwhelmed by debt, are looking for someone to pay. Lena has returned to Reece after learning that her uncle, a reformed alcoholic, is using drugs again.

Lena has been discovered by the local police sitting on the ground on the perimeter of a high school sports field, with her foot on a fuel can. On the fifty yard touch line is a burning Cadillac and investigators can see a body charring on the back seat. When Lena won't answer questions or indeed speak at all, she is taken to the hospital, and then charged with obstructing the law. Soon after Jeffrey and Sara arrive, Lena absconds, setting off a chain of events that places them all in great danger.

This is a novel about racism, police corruption, drug addiction and alcoholism. Dealing in speed and other drugs is rife, skinheads rule, and the previous police chief in Reece resigned after his house was fire-bombed. But this is a story about people, how they behave, and what they learn about each other and themselves in extreme circumstances. Karin Slaughter is hard on her characters. Really nasty things happen to them.

One aspect of this novel that may catch the reader unawares is that many events are recounted out of sequence. I found it difficult to get the chronology straight in my mind, and that resulted in a little confusion and some surprises.

SKIN PRIVILEGE is the sixth title in Karin Slaughter's Grant County series and I felt, at times, that I should have read all of the other five, even though there is a considerable amount of "back-story" recounted. Facts half remembered from dipping into earlier titles annoyed me, and I did wonder whether this would worry the reader if this title was the first they had read. Perhaps they won't realise what they've missed, but SKIN PRIVILEGE may send them looking for more.

SKIN PRIVILEGE ends with a punch that I didn't see coming, something that fans won't want to miss.

My rating: 4.7

Karin Slaughter's website.

Sep 2007 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem

Review: THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB, Alexander McCall Smith

Read on my Kindle
eISBN 978-0-7481-1110-7
Published 2010
#11 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.

Following a pattern established in the previous titles in the series, THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB is really a number of stories connected by the main characters Mma Precious Ramotswe, chief detective of the agency, her assistant Mma Grace Makutse, and Mma Ramotswe's husband Mr J.L.B. Matekoni.

In the first of the 17 connected stories Mr J.L.B Matekoni drives out of Gaborone to assist a female customer whose car has "died". Another car arrives at the breakdown at the same time as he does, and he notices that the man driving the car and the woman whose car has broken down appear to be well acquainted. This story crops up throughout others when Mma Ramotswe is asked by a friend to investigate whether her husband is having an affair.

In another story Mma Makutse's fiance Mr Phute Radiphute suffers a dreadful accident at work and again the ramifications of this story extend throughout the book. In another story we learn of a man who has been duped out of his house by Mma Makutse's arch rival Violet Sepotho. The final story that is really a thread throughout the book is Mma Ramotswe's search for a Safari park guide who has been left a legacy by a wealthy American tourist.

The stories are woven together with a good dose of Precious Ramotswe's home spun Botswanan philosophy. There's a good dose of humour too. The particular episode that made me laugh occurs when our two "traditionally built" ladies are travelling by canoe to the Safari Club. They notice that the rim of the canoe is perilously close to the water. The boatman decides to explain to them what could happen if they move and the boat swamps - what awaits them in the water - hippos, crocodiles, snakes and the like, and then he begins to discuss which would be the best death: being bitten in half by a hippo, or drowned in a roll by a crocodile.

As I've said in other reviews, these are gentle books, easy reads, at the cosy end of the mystery spectrum. They are full of regularly recurring characters whose lives advance just a little with each book. They are not filled with horrific crime, blood is rarely spilled, and I'm struggling to think of one book that features a murder. These are the sort of mysteries that could occur in everyday life. They focus on the values that make life worthwhile.

In the final pages of THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB Precious Ramotswe is thinking about the legacy of her father the late Obed Ramotswe and the lessons she learned from him about how to lead a good life.

I think it is the essential goodness we see in Precious Ramotswe, how she is such a tower of strength, that  keeps me reading these stories. Alexander McCall Smith has fallen into a bit of a pattern in writing these books, even recycling some of the back stories and some of the philosphy from book to book, and some may find that dissatisfying.

My rating 4.3

My reviews on this blog of other books in the series

29 March 2010

Review - EXIT MUSIC, Ian Rankin

Now I know most of my fellow contributors to won't interpret the rules as liberally as I do - but after all rules are meant to be broken and I am after all, travelling. That's my excuse anyway.

And it's only a semantic accident that XIT has an E in front of it!

I read EXIT MUSIC soon after it was published in 2007 and it rated as a 5 for me.

John Rebus is facing his last week in the police force. He will turn 60 in 10 days and is legally required to retire. He has no vision of what he will do in retirement and is determined to work as he's always done, right to the end. Late at night, at the foot of Raeburn Wynd the body of a Russian poet is discovered. So solving this crime will be Rebus' last case.

But there is so much more to be resolved like Rebus' biggest unfinished business is with Big Ger Cafferty. He would dearly like to put Cafferty away forever, but is that going to be a legacy he will leave to DS Siobhan Clarke?

And Shiv has problems of her own. Will she just move into Rebus' job as Detective Inspector and if she does, who will she choose to be her new partner? In a sense this, their last case together, is an important test for her too, made all the more important when DCI McCrae decides that DS Clarke will be in charge of the case, with Rebus as a sort of mentor - if a loose cannon can ever be a mentor.

Rankin manages to bed this case against the issues of real time Scotland, focussing on Scottish independence, an issue that dominated the Scottish elections of 2006.  Not a short read, but certainly an engrossing one. It left me hoping against hope that this isn't the last we see of Rebus!

Inspector Rebus novels - thank you Fantastic Fiction
1. Knots and Crosses (1987)
2. Hide and Seek (1990)
3. Tooth and Nail (1992)
     aka Wolfman
4. Strip Jack (1992)
5. The Black Book (1993)
6. Mortal Causes (1994)
7. Let It Bleed (1995)
8. Black and Blue (1997)
9. The Hanging Garden (1998)
10. Dead Souls (1999)
11. Set in Darkness (2000)
12. The Falls (2001)
13. Resurrection Men (2002)
14. A Question of Blood (2003)
15. Fleshmarket Close (2004)
     aka Fleshmarket Alley
16. The Naming Of The Dead (2006)
17. Exit Music (2007)

Non-Rebus reviews on my blog:

Crime Fiction Alphabet - week beginning 29 March - Letter X

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

Here are the rules

Each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
Your post MUST be related to either the first letter of a book's title, the first letter of an author's first name, or the first letter of the author's surname.

So you see you have lots of choice. You could write a review, or a bio of an author, so long as it fits the rules somehow.

Please check each Monday for the letter of the week, and then link your post back to the page. Also come back and put the link to your blog post in Mr. Linky below.
Then come and check to see who else has posted and visit their blog.
You have until the end of the week to complete your mission.

NB - if Mr Linky is unavailable, I hope it is temporary - leave a link in a comment

This week's letter X:

See other letters: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V

28 March 2010

Review DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN, Martin Edwards

Published 2008
I listened to this as an audio book from Audible.com after reading a recommendation on Reactions to Reading. The narrator was Jeff Harding who demonstrated incredible vocal versatility. It is available as an ISIS Audio Book, length 11 hrs & 26 mins, released 13 Jan 2010.

Martin Edwards begins with a true crime, taking the case of Dr. H. H. Crippen, hanged in 1910 for the murder of his wife Cora. The jury was told how he poisoned his wife, then cut her body into bits, disposing of some parts as rubbish, and then burying the rest of it under the brick floor of the cellar of his house.
Crippen nearly eludes capture, escapes via a boat to Canada, and is then met on arrival by Inspector Dew of Scotland Yard.
Did he do it? Was it murder? Was he rightfully hanged?
I know I am echoing the thoughts of others in saying this is a strong and persuasive fictionalisation, cleverly crossing that enigmatic border between fact and fiction seamlessly. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable about the Crippen case to really tell the fact from the fiction. Martin Edwards has added an epilogue in which he explains what he has done in answer to some of the lingering puzzles related to the Crippen case.

DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN is written from Hawley Crippen's point of view in 1909-1910 as he first of all awaits sentence and then execution. He and his second wife Ethel were accused of the murder of his first wife Cora. Martin Edwards fleshes out Crippen's life from his childhood onwards, his marriage to Cora and his relationship with her, and then how Ethel enters his life. Crippen comes over as a person who really doesn't understand the forces and people who govern his life. He is very conscious of his own inadequacies, particularly of how others might see him, but there is also something unwholesome and tawdry about the sexual games he and Cora liked to play. He often doesn't really recognise how he is manipulated by others, and in particular he sees Ethel through rose-tinted spectacles.

So in DANCING FOR THE HANGMAN where does fact stop and fiction start? I don't really know, and I guess it doesn't really matter. If I had thought it was "true crime" then I probably wouldn't have read it.

My rating : 4.7
It certainly whiled away the time on a long flight!

Sites to visit:
Other Martin Edwards reviews on this blog

    Review: COFFIN SCARCELY USED, Colin Watson

    Published in 1958, 204 pages.

    Mr. Harold Carobleat had "for some time been the last twig on the dead trunk of his ancestry".
    Despite his eminent position in the town of Flaxborough the funeral of Three-Car-Carobleat was poorly attended - the minister, only 4 or 5 immediate friends, and his grieving widow.
    His business establishment, the ship brokerage firm of Carobleat and Spades, closed almost immediately.

    The final outcome might have been very different had Carobleat's next door neighbour, Mr Marcus Gwill, not died within 6 months, apparently eloctrocuted when he climbed the electricity pylon in Callender's Field in the early hours of the morning.

    His family were resigned to a verdict of suicide, but as Inspector Purbright observed
    "If I had occasion to walk down the drive of that house and cross the road and then climb a railing and go twenty yards over a field before clambering up an electricity pylon, I really believe I'd have put my boots on first."

    And then there is Mrs Poole, Gwill's housekeeper, who thought he had been very afraid since Carobleat had died, and seems to be going out of her mind herself, talking about walking ghosts.

    Nothing adds up for Purbright and he tells the horrified Chief Constable they are looking at murder. His investigation uncovers some very strange goings on indeed.

    COFFIN  SCARCELY USED is the first in Colin Watson's Flaxborough series, all of which are characterised by a macabre sense of humour. But while other titles in the series, such as THE FLAXBOROUGH CRAB, which I reviewed as a Forgotten Book here, were clearly spoofs on Golden Age murder mysteries, COFFIN SCARCELY USED seemed to me to be less so. The result is a very readable and at the same time cleverly constructed novel, with plenty of light humour both in descriptions and in incidents.
    Inspector Purbright is a tenacious investigator, a bit like a dog worrying at a bone, while his underlings don't always grasp the bigger picture.
    Although Watson's novels were published over 50 years ago they have weathered the decades well, and are worth searching for in second hand book stores.

    My rating: 4.4

    Reading Syllabus for Crime Fiction 1

    The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time is a list published in book form in 1990 by the British-based Crime Writers' Association.

    How many of these have you read? My count is 56 (marked *)
    1. Josephine Tey: The Daughter of Time (1951)*
    2. Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep (1939)*
    3. John le Carré: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1963)*
    4. Dorothy L. Sayers: Gaudy Night (1935)*
    5. Agatha Christie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)*
    6. Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca (1938)*
    7. Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely (1940)
    8. Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone (1868)*
    9. Len Deighton: The IPCRESS File (1962)*
    10. Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon (1930)*
    11. Josephine Tey: The Franchise Affair (1948)*
    12. Hillary Waugh: Last Seen Wearing ... (1952)
    13. Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose (1980)
    14. Geoffrey Household: Rogue Male (1939)
    15. Raymond Chandler: The Long Goodbye (1953)*
    16. Francis Iles: Malice Aforethought (1931)
    17. Frederick Forsyth: The Day of the Jackal (1971)*
    18. Dorothy L. Sayers: The Nine Tailors (1934)*
    19. Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None (1939)*
    20. John Buchan: The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)*
    21. Arthur Conan Doyle: The Collected Sherlock Holmes Short Stories (1892-1927)
    22. Dorothy L. Sayers: Murder Must Advertise (1933)*
    23. Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Mystery & Imagination (1852)*
    24. Eric Ambler: The Mask of Dimitrios (1939)
    25. Edmund Crispin: The Moving Toyshop (1946)
    26. Margery Allingham: The Tiger in the Smoke (1952)*
    27. Peter Lovesey: The False Inspector Dew (1982)*
    28. Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White (1860)*
    29. Barbara Vine: A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986)*
    30. James M. Cain: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
    31. Dashiell Hammett: The Glass Key (1931)
    32. Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)*
    33. John le Carré: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)*
    34. E. C. Bentley: Trent's Last Case (1913)
    35. Ian Fleming: From Russia, with Love (1957)*
    36. Ed McBain: Cop Hater (1956)
    37. Colin Dexter: The Dead of Jericho (1981)*
    38. Patricia Highsmith: Strangers on a Train (1950)
    39. Ruth Rendell: Judgement in Stone (1977)*
    40. John Dickson Carr: The Hollow Man (1935)*
    41. Anthony Berkeley: The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929)
    42. Ellis Peters: A Morbid Taste for Bones (1977)*
    43. Ellis Peters: The Leper of St. Giles (1981)*
    44. Ira Levin: A Kiss Before Dying (1953)
    45. Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)*
    46. Graham Greene: Brighton Rock (1938)*
    47. Raymond Chandler: The Lady in the Lake (1943)
    48. Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent (1987)
    49. Ruth Rendell: A Demon in My View (1976)*
    50. John Dickson Carr: The Devil in Velvet (1951)
    51. Barbara Vine: A Fatal Inversion (1987)*
    52. Michael Innes: The Journeying Boy (1949)
    53. P. D. James: A Taste for Death (1986)*
    54. Jack Higgins: The Eagle Has Landed (1975)*
    55. Mary Stewart: My Brother Michael (1960)*
    56. Peter Lovesey: Bertie and the Tin Man (1987)*
    57. Susan Moody: Penny Black (1984)
    58. Len Deighton: Game, Set & Match (1984-1986)
    59. Dick Francis: The Danger (1983)*
    60. P. D. James: Devices and Desires (1989)*
    61. Reginald Hill: Underworld (1988)
    62. Mary Stewart: Nine Coaches Waiting (1958)*
    63. Paula Gosling: A Running Duck (1978)
    64. Michael Gilbert: Smallbone Deceased (1950)
    65. Lionel Davidson: The Rose of Tibet (1962)
    66. P. D. James: Innocent Blood (1980)*
    67. Dorothy L. Sayers: Strong Poison (1930)*
    68. Michael Innes: Hamlet, Revenge! (1937)
    69. Tony Hillerman: A Thief of Time (1989)
    70. Caryl Brahms & S. J. Simon: A Bullet in the Ballet (1937)
    71. Reginald Hill: Dead Heads (1983)
    72. Graham Greene: The Third Man (1950)*
    73. Anthony Price: The Labyrinth Makers (1974)
    74. Adam Hall: The Quiller Memorandum (1965)
    75. Margaret Millar: Beast in View (1955)
    76. Sarah Caudwell: The Shortest Way to Hades (1984)
    77. Desmond Bagley: Running Blind (1970)*
    78. Dick Francis: Twice Shy (1981)*
    79. Richard Condon: The Manchurian Candidate (1959)*
    80. Caroline Graham: The Killings at Badger's Drift (1987)*
    81. Nicholas Blake: The Beast Must Die (1938)
    82. Martin Cruz Smith: Gorky Park (1981)
    83. Agatha Christie: Death Comes as the End (1945)*
    84. Christianna Brand: Green for Danger (1945)
    85. Cyril Hare: Tragedy at Law (1942)
    86. John Fowles: The Collector (1963)*
    87. J. J. Marric: Gideon's Day (1955)*
    88. Lionel Davidson: The Sun Chemist (1976)
    89. Alistair MacLean: The Guns of Navarone (1957)*
    90. Julian Symons: The Colour of Murder (1957)
    91. John Buchan: Greenmantle (1916)*
    92. Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands (1903)
    93. Peter Lovesey: Wobble to Death (1970)*
    94. Dashiell Hammett: Red Harvest (1929)
    95. Ken Follett: The Key to Rebecca (1980)
    96. Ed McBain: Sadie When She Died (1972)
    97. H. R. F. Keating: The Murder of the Maharajah (1980)*
    98. Simon Brett: What Bloody Man Is That? (1987)*
    99. Gavin Lyall: Shooting Script (1966)
    100. Edgar Wallace: Four Just Men (1906)*

    27 March 2010

    Aussie Author Challenge Update #4

    Aussie Author Challenge

    This one is being run by Book Lover Book Reviews.
    I've signed up for the FAIR DINKUM challenge which requires me to read 8 titles by at least 5 different Aussie authors.

    In 2009 I read 20 books by Aussie authors so I should be able to do this easily, although of course mine will have that extra little challenge of being all crime fiction titles.

    1. TRUTH, Peter Temple
    2. BLOOD BORN, Kathryn Fox
    3. CONSEQUENCES OF SIN, Clare Langley-Hawthorne (some might dispute Clare is Australian)
    5. TAKE OUT, Felicity Young

    On our travels again

    Today we off on our travels again, back to Abu Dhabi, and while we are there, a side trip for a week to Turkey.

    So I've scheduled lots of posts for the blog, but I'll also be able to add reviews of books I'm reading (and perhaps even upload pictures) from time to time.

    Don't you love the camel?
    In 2003 and 2004 the Rotary Club of Dubai sponsored Artists in the U.A.E. who painted and embellished camel sculptures into unique works of art which were then showcased in a multitude of high profile locations. The project culminated in a public art auction with the proceeds going to children’s charities and for the development of art and culture in Dubai. Over 100 camels were created.

    This is one of the ceramic camels produced by the Dubai Camel Company for the Camel Caravan. I bought him in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago. There are 16 camels in the caravan and this one is Jordanian Spirit painted by Shereen Noor Awad.
    I'd love to collect some more!

    Check all the camels created.

    26 March 2010

    Review: TAKE OUT, Felicity Young

    Fremantle Press, 2010, ISBN 9-781921-361838, 314 pages
    #3 in the Stevie Hooper series
    Many thanks to Fremantle Press for supplying the review copy.
    My abject apologies for taking 4 months to read and review it.

    Skye Williams is a district nurse and Stevie Hooper's friend. Skye is visiting a stroke patient Lilly Hardegan who has become worried because her neighbours have disappeared. Stevie belongs to Perth's Central Crime Squad and really shouldn't be entering the house, but Skye has already tried unsuccessfully to get the local cops to take an interest. There are clear signs of what seems to have been a hasty departure - an unfinished meal, an overflowing mail box, and the stove is still on and contains the charred remains of apple pies. And then they make a discovery they had not expected.

    Mrs Hardegan lives next door with her son who is also absent. Her speech has been severely affected by a stroke, which makes communication difficult, particularly as she seems to be prone to make up her own words.

    Stevie feels that the local cops are not taking the case seriously enough and continues to take an interest even though she knows she should walk away. She has more than enough on her own plate - her husband Monty is due to have heart surgery any day now - but when Skye Williams is killed there is no way she can disconnect.

    I liked the way TAKE OUT is constructed. There are some threats that raise the level of tension in the book very effectively. There is Monty's impending surgery, threats to Stevie herself and to her daughter Izzy, and a plot that involves a trade in bringing Thai girls into Australia illegally.  There is an interesting device which gives Mrs Hardegan "a voice" that reveals her role in her neighbours' disappearance.
    I'm not sure I understand what the title means and Young has to resort to a heightened level of coincidences to bring the plot strands together. Nevertheless TAKE OUT provided a satisfying read.

    My rating: 4.6

    I've counted this in my Aussie Author challenge.

    Other reviews you might enjoy:

    The age of the books we read

    Recently I set up a poll asking When was the book you are currently reading published?

    Readers of my blog are certainly a varied lot if the poll results are anything to go by.

    There were 43 respondents, and 18 of them reported their book had been published in the last 5 years. That's 40%.
    Another 9 (20%) of the books had been published in the previous 10 years. That means 60% of the books had been published in the last 15 years.
    At the other end of the scale, 2 of the books were published over 100 years ago.

    In very practical terms, I've checked up on publication dates for the 28 books I've read this year:

    1999 to 1900 - 6
    1840 -1
    The list tells its own story doesn't it?

    25 March 2010

    3 Month summary: how many books so far in 2010?

    How is your reading target going for 2010?
    How many books have you read in the first 3 months of the year?

    Are you on target ?
    Over on the right you'll find a poll where you can choose a range. The poll will be up for the next 3 weeks, so by all means come back and update your choice.

    Why not leave a comment too?
    Confess the exact number. Are you doing as well as you'd hoped?
    What is affecting your reading at the moment? Are you on a roll? Have you got your teeth into some really good books lately? Have you got any recommendations?

    Or are you having a bit of a slump? What is causing that?

    Forgotten Book: SPY STORY, Len Deighton

    On my way to becoming a crime fiction addict, I took in a healthy dose of thrillers and spy stories, including Cold War tales. SPY STORY by Len Deighton appears in my records 32 years ago.

    Fantastic Fiction tells me this was #5 in the Harry Palmer series, published 4 years before I read it.

    From the secretive computerized college of war studies in London, via a bleak, sinister Scottish redoubt, to the Arctic ice-cap where nuclear submarines prowl ominously beneath frozen wastes, a lethal web of violence and double-cross is woven. And Europe's whole future hangs by a deadly thread.

    Without doubt Deighton's most famous novel was #1 in the Harry Palmer series THE IPCRESS FILE. However there seems to be some doubt about whether the nameless narrator in THE IPCRESS FILE  is in fact Harry Palmer. The film THE IPCRESS FILE starring Michael Caine was made in 1965 and Michael Caine is credited with giving the character his name.

    Harry Palmer
    1. The Ipcress File (1962)
    2. Horse Under Water (1963)
    3. Funeral in Berlin (1964)
    4. The Billion Dollar Brain (1966)
    5. An Expensive Place to Die (1967)
    5. Spy Story (1974)
    6. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy (1976)
         aka Catch a Falling Spy

     From the Harry Palmer series Deighton moved into
    Bernard Samson
    1. Berlin Game (1983)
    2. Mexico Set (1984)
    3. London Match (1985)
    4. Spy Hook (1988)
    5. Spy Line (1989)
    6. Spy Sinker (1990)
    7. Faith (1994)
    8. Hope (1995)
    9. Charity (1996)

    23 March 2010

    Agatha Christie Blog Carnival #3 for 2010 now available

    This month the monthly Agatha Christie Blog Carnival continues with another strong edition. 15 contributions from 11 contributors.

    If you'd like to be part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, it is never too late to start.
    Read at your own pace, write a review on your blog, go to the Carnival collecting space and put in the URL, your details, and a comment about the post.

    22 March 2010

    Review: THE DEVIL'S FEATHER, Minette Walters

    My contribution this week to the is a book that I read some time ago but have never reviewed on this blog.

    Published in 2005.

    When five women are brutally murdered in Sierra Leone, Reuters journalist Connie Burns comes to believe that the culprit is a foreigner whom she recognises: someone she met, under a different name, in Kinshasa.

    Two years later she recognises the same man in Iraq, again living under a different name. Voicing her suspicions to colleagues results in Connie being kidnapped for 3 days.
    When she is released apparently unharmed, she refuses to speak about her ordeal and returns to England. The reader is never told explicitly what happened to her but we are left to deduce it from snippets. Seemingly small things now leave Connie subject to panic attacks.  She lives as a recluse in Devon but decides to keep investigating the man, and he comes after her.

    I found this a difficult read. The story is told through emails and accounts given to others in interviews. As the reader I never felt included in direct disclosures and the events were never really narrated for my benefit.  There are two major stories intertwined and by the end I was impatient for it to finish. I felt as my brain had been exercised enough.

    [ the "devil's feather" is a woman who stirs a man's interest without realizing it; the unwitting cause of sexual arousal. Connie's captor calls her 'feather'. Connie decides to use this to lure him to England and eliminate him. This puts all her friends and family in danger]

    My rating was 4.4

    Other books by Minette Walters
    The Ice House (1991)
    The Sculptress (1993)
    The Scold's Bridle (1994)
    The Dark Room (1995)
    The Echo (1997)
    The Breaker (1998)
    Acid Row (2001)
    The Shape of Snakes (2001)
    Fox Evil (2002)
    Disordered Minds (2003)
    The Devil's Feather (2005)
    The Chameleon's Shadow (2007)


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