30 April 2010

2010 Global Reading Challenge: Update #8

I am restricting my participation in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge to crime fiction titles, but participants can use books of any genre of their choosing.
Join the challenge here.

create your own visited country map

The Expert Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:

North America (incl Central America)
South America

Select novels from fourteen different countries or states.: My count so far: 13

Review: WINTER OF SECRETS, Vicki Delany

Poisoned Pen Press 2009
264 pages
My copy was an uncorrected proof kindly sent to me by the author.

It's Christmas Eve at Trafalgar in the Kootenay area of British Columbia and there's lots of snow. It's the storm of the decade and the roads are icy. Constable Molly (Moonlight) Smith, recently off probation, is on duty overnight, and it promises to be a busy one. Just after midnight a car goes into the river.

The occupants are tourists, a couple of young men staying at a local B&B with friends. They've come to Trafalgar for the skiing. They are both pronounced dead when the car is retrieved from the river. The only trouble is that the pathologist discovers a day or two later that the passenger had been dead when the car went into the water.

I enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with Molly Smith, her mother Lucky, and her colleagues. Molly has moved on a bit since the previous title in the series: VALLEY OF THE LOST. She's now left home and living above the baker's shop. In WINTER OF SECRETS we learn what a good skier she is, and she is certainly becoming a good police woman. It was a nice solid read.

Last year the author Vicki Delany was a guest on my blog. In that post Vicki told me that WINTER OF SECRETS was a departure from her usual method of writing, an experiment she says that she won't repeat.

My rating: 4.3

Review on Reactions to Reading
Vicki Delany's website
Read the first chapter of WINTER OF SECRETS (pdf)
Vicki Delany blogs at Type M for Murder


29 April 2010

Forgotten Story Collections: Agatha Christie

This post is a contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books. This week the focus is on forgotten short story collections.

Many people who read Agatha Christie novels ignore the fact that she wrote some terrific short stories.
In my quest to read the works of Agatha Christie (novels and short stories) in the order in which they were written, I have identified 21 short story collections. So far I've read 82 short stories in this particular reading challenge.

Agatha Christie used many of the short stories to introduce, and develop the character of, a person who would later feature in novels.

Most of the short stories appeared in magazine format and then were later collected for publication.

This was certainly the case of Miss Marple who first appeared The Thirteen Problems publ. 1932.
The first of these short stories was The Tuesday Night Club - Sir Henry Clithering, until recently Commissioner of Scotland Yard, tells a tale about tinned lobster that caused a fatal case of food poisoning. It was first published in December 1927. Miss Marple appeared in her first full length novel THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE in 1930.

While Hercule Poirot first appeared in THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES in 1920, by 1924 Agatha Christie had written (and mostly published separately) 11 short stories that elaborated his character and his abilities with the "little grey cells" that were then published as Poirot Investigates.

On the other hand some characters appear only in short stories, such as Mr Parker Pyne (Parker Pyne Investigates publ.1934), and Mr. Harley Quin (The Mysterious Mr Quin publ. 1930).

If you'd like to follow up on Agatha Christie short stories, then check my latest update post.
I am about to read the next The Listerdale Mystery

If you'd like to find out more about the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and the accompanying monthly blog carnival check here.

28 April 2010

Review: CONTAINMENT, Vanda Symon

Penguin Books, 2009
ISBN 978-0-14-320229-5
311 pages
#3 in the Sam Shepherd series

When the container ship the Lauretia Express runs aground near Dunedin and spills containers across the Aramoana sands the city's normally staid and law abiding denizens turn out in force to apply their own rules of salvage. Detective Constable Sam Shepherd can't believe the pillage she is witnessing. Nor does she expect to be walloped when she intervenes in a squabble between two looters. To complicate things Sam's assailant very nearly dies in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and Sam saves his life.

One of the containers held a well documented antique collection, now widely dispersed, which the owner is anxious to recover. The discovery a week or so later of a body in the sea off Aramoana,  with all the signs of foul play, adds another complicating element.
And if work is not complicated enough, Sam's personal life hypes up a notch when her boyfriend announces he has applied to come to work in Dunedin, and she's not at all sure she wants him that close.

CONTAINMENT is #3 in Vanda Symon's Sam Shepherd series. I thought there were elements of humour in this one that I had not noticed in the earlier novels, OVERKILL and THE RINGMASTER. Sam Shepherd is a likeable, feisty character who doesn't always make the wisest decisions. She is constantly in trouble with her section boss D.I.Johns but then she often causes headaches for him.
I must admit there were times when I wondered if a detective constable would really behave that way, would really  take that action on herself, but those slight stretches of credibility aside, CONTAINMENT is a well plotted page turner. I like the way the character of Sam Shepherd is developing and I think New Zealander Vanda Symon is an author well worth keeping an eye on. According to a promo in the back of CONTAINMENT we can expect a fourth title in the series.

My rating: 4.7

Vanda Symon's website
Kiwi Craig interviews Vanda Symon
Craig talks about CONTAINMENT

My reviews of earlier titles:

27 April 2010

Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2010 Update #1

I couldn't resist this challenge being run by The Black Sheep Dances.

The challenge as I understand it is to read 6 books set in Scandinavia from March 1 to the end of 2010.

My list will all be crime fiction.
Here is what I have read so far.
  1. THE WATER'S EDGE, Karin Fossum - Norway - 13 March
  2. THE MAN FROM BEIJING, Henning Mankell - Sweden - 10 April
Planning to read HYPOTHERMIA by Arnaldur Indridason - Iceland.

I'm open to suggestions about what else to tackle.

I've found a definition of Scandinavia as follows:
Norway, Sweden, and Denmark - are primarily considered to be Scandinavian countries.
They mutually recognize each other as parts of Scandinavia and therefore, reflect the cultural similarities between these countries, despite their political independence.
However, the usage and meaning of the term outside of Scandinavia is somewhat ambiguous because Finland and Iceland are occasionally counted as parts of Scandinavia.

26 April 2010

2010 Global Reading Challenge: Update #7

I am restricting my participation in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge to crime fiction titles, but participants can use books of any genre of their choosing.
Join the challenge here.

create your own visited country map

The Expert Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:


North America (incl Central America)
South America


Select novels from fourteen different countries or states.: My count so far: 11

25 April 2010

Sunshine Award

Nearly 2 weeks ago Janet Rudolph at Mystery Fanfare included me on a list of blogs when she passed on a Sunshine Award.  I felt particularly flattered with the idea of being a little ray of sunshine.

The award's supposed to go to bloggers whose “contagious positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging universe.”

The rules read as follows:
1. Put the logo on the blog within your post.
2. Pass the award on to 12 bloggers.
3. Link to the nominees within your post.
4. Let the nominees know they have received the award by commenting on their blogs.
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

Passing on such an award to 12 others is always a bit of a task, because you do wonder whether your chosen recipients will be grateful. I hope mine accept the award in the spirit in which it is intended. (and that those I've left off this list are not offended).

Here is my list:

Sunday Salon - getting myself better organised with challenges

Plans, plans, plans

I've realised this week, that I've got a few challenges on my plate, and if I don't get myself a little more organised, then in a few months time I will be just as far from completing them as I am today.

One challenge I have finished is the Aussie Author Challenge being run by Book Lover Book Reviews.

That one required me to read 8 books by at least 5 different Australia authors. My special requirement was that my books need to be crime fiction.

As I read one or two Australian crime fiction books a month, that wasn't hard for me to finish. Check here for what I read.

In the 2010 Global Challenge I've now read 11 books out of the 14 I have decided to read.

I have imposed a couple of conditions on my reading here:
* all my books must be crime fiction/thriller
* as far as possible each book will be set in a different country.
You can see what I've read so far here.
I actually only have 3 more to read and review: one each from New Zealand (doing that now), one from South America, and one from Canada/Central America.

So here is my reading list:
  • CONTAINMENT, Vanda Symon (New Zealand)
  • WINTER OF SECRETS, Vicki Delany (Canada)
  • THURSDAY NIGHT WIDOWS, Claudia Pineiro (Argentina) OR
  • THE SILENCE OF THE RAIN, Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (Brazil)
In the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, my aim is to read a book a month, in order of publication. Last month I didn't get around to doing this. So far I have read 23 out of an estimated 87 books.

This is my list for the next few months

1934, The Listerdale Mystery - 12 short stories

I have a couple of other challenges on my plate but am progressing fairly well with them:

Audio Book Challenge is hosted at Royal Reviews.

I listen to books to and from work every day so hopefully this will be relatively easy to achieve.

I'm trying for Addicted: 12 books 
So far I have listened to 7 and am on my 8th:

 100+ ReadingChallenge is hosted by J. Kaye

I'm doing pretty well so far with 43 books on my list - about 4 books ahead of where I was last year when I read 104 books.

You can follow my progress on Smik's Reviews.

I've decided to take part also in the Scandinavian Reading Challenge - being run by The Black Sheep Dances. For this you have to read 6 books set in Scandinavia. Mine will all be crime fiction and so far I have read 2. I'll do an update post later this week.

ANZAC DAY, 25 April 2010

Just over 2 weeks ago we were travelling in Turkey and we visited Anzac Cove.
Today we'll be at the Dawn Service and then the band will be marching in the Adelaide Parade, but for moments throughout the day I'll be thinking of this place
- the Australian cemetery near Anzac Cove.

and also of this one - the Turkish Memorial near Lone Pine

Anzac Day posts 2009 & 2008
Read Craig Sisterson's blog post for today

24 April 2010

Review: DARK WINTER, William Dietrich

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 572 KB
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
ASIN: B00381B95S
Published April 2001

Jed Lewis and Robert Norse are last minute additions to the Antarctic Support team at the Amunsden-Scott base and are among the group that will maintain the base for 8 winter months. The plane that drops Jed takes the summer team away and will be the last contact the base has with "home" for 8 months.

There are 26 beakers (scientists) and station support personnel and Jed has a lot to learn. There is suspicion about why he is there - after all there are no rocks in Antarctica - but he is there to take weather observations related to global warming. The senior beaker, a famed astrophysicist named Mickey Moss, has discovered a meteorite that may be worth millions, and when his body is discovered and the meteorite goes missing, suspicion falls on Jed, mainly because of his late arrival at the base. Before long the other murders begin.

I was getting a bit aggravated with this book by the time my Kindle reader was telling me that I had read 30%. Not much seemed to be happening and I had read a lot of scientific trivia and not much thriller/mystery. Things did get better in the second half of the book, I think as the author warmed to his task of writing fiction, and was a little less concentrated on teaching the reader about life at the Pole.

Another reviewer likened it to "ten little Indians at the South Pole" and certainly it is inevitably a variant on a locked room mystery. For the first half of the story at least there is a sub-story revealed, the thoughts or writing of the killer who has actually killed before. This mystery connection was solved about three-quarters of the way through as the identity of the killer was revealed (although I had guessed his identity by then), and then the interest centres on the resolution of the plot.

My rating 4.2

I read this as part of the 2010 Global Reading Challenge

Read more of the story on the author's site.

The author William Dietrich has based the factual parts of the novel on his own Antarctic experiences.
In 1987-88 he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and in 1990 was part of a four-person team that won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting on the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
He has written a number of novels.

Ethan Gage Series
1. Napoleon's Pyramids (2007)
2. The Rosetta Key (2008)
3. The Dakota Cipher (2009)
4. The Barbary Pirates (2010)

Ice Reich (1998)
Getting Back (2000)
Dark Winter (2001)
Hadrian's Wall (2004)
The Scourge Of God (2005)

Weekly Geeks 2010-14: Reading Globally

This week's Weekly Geeks Challenge asks us to talk about our experiences in Reading Globally.

One of the challenges that I have joined this year is the 2010 Global Reading Challenge and I'm well on the way to achieving Expert Level (14 books each from 2 continents including Antarctica). I am currently reading my 11th challenge book.

I've imposed my own rules:
* each book must be linked to a different country

* each book must be crime fiction.

When I complete a  new title, I review it then write a Challenge Update. You can find my updates here. I have found a map that enables me to record my progress. You have to imagine Antarctica.

Join the challenge here.

create your own visited country map

I often read translated crime fiction, so in 2009 I participated in the Lost in Translation Reading Challenge and that post also lists a number of other translated crime fiction books that I had read to that point in 2009.

Agatha Christie Blog Carnival for April 2010 now available

Edition #4 for 2010 of the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival is now posted.
There are 14 items from 11 contributors.

If you read Agatha Christie, have you considered either joining the challenge or contributing to the Carnival?

Check this month's carnival out here.

Among the titles reviewed are

22 April 2010

Forgotten Book: SCIENCE and the DETECTION OF CRIME, C.R.M Cuthbert

Published Hutchinson 1958.
Here is a book that appears in my records in September 2007.
At the time of publication, forensic science was still young, only established in Britain 21 years before.

It seems there may in fact have been two authors: C.R.M. Cuthbert and O.W. Wilson
I'm quite impressed that I apparently read it, because non-fiction has never been of major interest to me.

My research indicates that this title is regarded highly in forensic science circles.
There are libraries in Britain that are still holding a copy.

I wasn't able to find a cover image, but I was lucky enough to find a review in The Age newspaper written shortly after publication. You can see the full article here courtesy of the Google News Archive.

At the end of the article the reviewer reveals the author's belief that science will never really impact on solving most crimes.

I wonder how he would react to the use of scientific techniques such as DNA, and more detailed fingerprinting, in the solving of cold cases these days?

Does anybody else remember this book?

20 April 2010

13 - Unlucky for Some?

I was recently reminded that some people take the "unluckiness" of the number 13 very seriously, when the lift in the Washington hotel I was staying in apparently skipped from the 12th to the 14th floor. This is a phenomenon not confined to the USA, but often causes a great deal of mirth from less suspicious travellers.

Superstitions around the number 13 are entrenched in a number of cultures, and Agatha Christie acknowledged this in 3 titles (as far as I know - but were there more?)

A republication "for younger readers" of 13 short stories, all of them previously published in the US, UK, or both.
The stories are  
Accident (from The Listerdale Mystery);  
The Bird with the Broken Wing and  
The Face of Helen (from The Mysterious Mr. Quin);  
The Blue Geranium and  
The Four Suspects (from The Thirteen Problems);
The Girdle of Hippolyta and  
The Nemean Lion (The Labours of Hercules);  
The Market Basing Mystery (The Under Dog);
Problem at Pollensa Bay and  
The Regatta Mystery (The Regatta Mystery);  
The Tape-Measure Murder (Three Blind Mice);  
The Unbreakable Alibi (Partners in Crime); and  
The Veiled Lady (Poirot's Early Cases).
They are taken variously from 9 different books and include 4 Poirot stories, 3 Miss Marple stories, 1 of Tommy & Tuppence, 2 of Parker Pyne, and 2 of Mr. Quin.

In THIRTEEN AT DINNER (aka LORD EDGWARE DIES) Agatha Christie worked on a superstition that sitting 13 people at a table will result in the death of one member.

This was a good solid Christie read (as you'll see from my review) although Hercules Poirot always regarded the case as one of his failures.

Coincidentally it was also Christie's 13th novel

THE THIRTEEN PROBLEMS, reviewed here, saw the debut of Miss Marple.

It consists of 13 short stories, all dedicated to demonstrating the cleverness of Miss Marple, who mainly solves the mysteries by comparing them to her observations of life in St. Mary Mead.

Other authors have similarly used the number 13 in their titles.
Perhaps you'd like to comment on your favourite.

19 April 2010

Crime Fiction Alphabet A-Z - my choices

The Crime Fiction Alphabet meme has been a really interesting and at times very challenging experience over the last 8 months.

I think there is plenty of room to run it again.
It certainly has provided some great reading recommendations.

Here are the books I chose.

The Ultimate Summary: Crime Fiction Alphabet A-Z

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

Many thanks to all who have contributed in the last 8 months

The Crime Fiction Alphabet had  its last weekly event last week and now hopefully those who have contributed over the last 8 months will link to their summary posts.

If anybody else would like to run something similar, go for it!
 - for example see the Alphabet in Historical Fiction over at Historical Tapestry.

Here are the rules we have used.
    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.
See all the letters: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Please link your summary post below:

18 April 2010

Sunday Salon - been reading up a storm this year?

One of the challenges I am participating in this year is the 100+ Reading Challenge
My own count so far is 42.

I've done a fair bit of travel so far this year - away for over 4 weeks altogether - so that has contributed to a good total.
And the quality has been there too: Here is my list of books, all crime fiction of course, so far in April.
  1. 4.8, THE PANIC ZONE, Rick Mofina (17 April)
  2. 4.5, TIED UP IN TINSEL, Ngaio Marsh (17 April)
  3. 4.6, FREEZE FRAME, Peter May (13 April)
  4. 5.0, BLEED FOR ME, Michael Robotham (12 April)
  5. 4.0, TAROKO GORGE, Jacob Ritari (11 April)
  6. 4.5, DEEP WATER, Peter Corris (9 April)
  7. 5.0, THE MAN FROM BEIJING, Henning Mankell (6 April)
  8. 4.4, RUMPOLE and the PENGE BUNGALOW MURDERS, John Mortimer (3 April)
  9. 4.3, FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Kerry Greenwood (1 April)
I've run a poll on my blog asking respondents how many books they've finished in the first 3 months.

There are some people who are headed for well over 150 for the year.

From the comments, it does seem that most people do have a reading target, and nearly everybody aims to do better this year than last.

Review: THE PANIC ZONE, Rick Mofina

July 1, 2010
Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: Mira 416 pages
ISBN-10: 0778327949
ISBN-13: 978-0778327943
I read this on my Kindle as an ebook ARC made available by the publishers Harlequin (Mira) through NetGalley.

Gretchen Sutsoff is convinced the world is running out of time. The current rate of population growth is simply unsustainable and will result in the exhaustion of food and water sooner than later. She has also developed a pathological loathing of crowds. She believes science can provide the immediate answer to the problem: the use of synthetic biological agents that will result in population reduction through DNA manipulation.

THE PANIC ZONE is a race against time - for Gretchen to implement her plan, for Emma Lane to find her son Tyler snatched from the car crash that killed her husband, and for investigative journalist Jack Gannon to discover why two colleagues had to die in Rio de Janiero.

The reader is a bystander who sees these threads racing to a collision point. Tight plotting and a constant focus on the possible connections between the threads help build the tension.

The author Rick Mofina says that in crafting THE PANIC ZONE he was inspired in part by the public record and accounts of people subjected to experimentation without their consent. He asks readers to bear in mind "that THE PANIC ZONE is ... a work of fiction drawn in my imagination after reaching into the darkest corners of historical fact". He apologises for any "implausibility in my made-up tale", and while the threads of the main story do at times strain the bounds of credibility (I had a couple of time sequence problems), at the same time THE PANIC ZONE makes engrossing reading.

I particularly liked Mofina's final words to the reader:
Which brings me to you, the reader; the most critical part of the entire enterprise.
Thank you very much for your time, for without you a book remains an untold tale.

My rating. 4.8

Rick Mofina's website

Rick Mofina is a Canadian author whose first book was published in 2000. Look for

Review: TIED UP IN TINSEL, Ngaio Marsh

Originally published 1972
Harper Collins Publishers, Fontana (1994)
ISBN 0-00-615832-3
224 pages

Every member of the staff at Halberds, but one, is a convicted murderer. Troy Alleyn, wife of DI Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard, is spending Christmas there, her husband out of the country. She is painting the portrait of Hilary Bill-Tasman, the rather eccentric and enormously wealth landed proprietor of Halberds Manor.

The other members of the Halberds Christmas houseparty, Hilary's Aunt Bed and Uncle Flea, his uncle Bert, and his fiance Cressida Tottenham, round out a rather unusual cast of characters.

Bill-Tasman has organised an elaborate Christmas Day treat for local children in which an ancient bewhiskered and bearded Druid arrives towing a sledge of presents. But after the event the Druid can't be found, and other pranks seem designed to cast the blame for his disappearance on the murderous staff.
Enter Roderick Alleyn just returned from Australia.

TIED UP IN TINSEL was among the last of Dame Ngaio Marsh's (1895-1982) mysteries, although she continued to publish another 5 titles, right up to her death. It reflects not only her gift for clever plotting but also has a very theatrical feel to it. Characteristically an early page displays a very useful cast of characters, and the whole story feels as if it could easily be dramatised. There are lots of places that have the reader grasping at straws in an attempt to solve the murder before Alleyn does. I must confess that the "how" was easier to deduce than the "why".

I had intended to use this title as my "New Zealand" offering in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge but have decided not to since TIED UP IN TINSEL is set entirely at an English manor. It is really a variant of a locked room mystery since for much of the time the characters are confined to the manor either by events or by the weather.

TIED UP IN TINSEL proves that even as she approached her 80s New Zealand's Dame Nagaio Marsh had not lost her ability to write a good yarn.

My rating 4.5

If you are in New Zealand, or visiting there, you might like to visit Dame Ngaio Marsh's home in Christchurch on the South Island.

At the end of last year author Vanda Symon reviewed TIED UP IN TINSEL for our Christmas reading. Her eye for description is delightful.

Travellers Home Again

The worst part about arriving home, apart from the compulsory nap after travelling for over 24 hours, is the unpacking and getting your life back in order - dealing with the mail, the emails, collecting the cat, sorting out the souvenirs, accumulating the washing, and then of course catching up with the blog, adding reviews, and finally back to work (tomorrow!)

Here the Dubai Banker Camel meets his predecessor the Jordanian camel.

And below are the real things - photo taken when we went on a dune bashing safari.

16 April 2010


This review was originally published elsewhere.

Random House Australia, Bantam Press, 2006

When Rudy Kelly was a young boy he came to Bass Creek, a Florida backwater, with his mother Elena. Locals recognise that Rudy is slow, but not retarded. He has become a lovely young man always eager to please.

Now Lucy Ochoa has been found dead in her trailer, her throat cut, and several witnesses saw seventeen year old Rudy running away down the street. Local police are convinced they do not need to look any further and actually manipulate the evidence to prove Rudy's guilt. Elena does not have the money needed to follow Rudy's defence through to the highest level. Rudy is convicted of the murder and ten years later is waiting on death row. When crack trial lawyer Jack Tobin learns of Rudy's plight there are just eight weeks to go before his execution is scheduled to take place.

A number of flash-back chapters tell the readers both the significance of the title, and the reasons why Jack Tobin becomes involved in Rudy's appeal process at such a late stage. Proving that Rudy is the victim of manipulated evidence and a miscarriage of justice becomes Jack's whole focus. Jack is a man of political influence who manages to manoeuvre himself into a position where he can bring those who destroyed Rudy's life to justice through the legal system.

This is a debut novel that probably could have done with a bit more editing. I felt sometimes that there were too many characters and really too much going on. The plot has many strands and a number of time frames, and while the author makes a good job of drawing everything together by the end, there were sections that felt extraneous and should have been sacrificed. For example, the central character Jack Tobin and Pat, the love of his life, take a holiday in Ireland, getting away for ten days just prior to the big trial sequence. It was eight pages that just did not need to be there

The author, James Sheehan, is a trial attorney who has practiced law for twenty- eight years in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida. In the opening pages Sheehan has inserted the customary disclaimer that reminds readers that this novel is "a work of fiction". I found that I had to remind myself of that on occasion because it reminded me of non-fiction books I have read. The style of THE MAYOR OF LEXINGTON AVENUE has much in common with true-crime books with precision dating, courtroom descriptions, legalese, and an obvious knowledge of the local legal system. It reads as if it is closely based on circumstances that Sheehan has known well.

Sheehan paid his parents the ultimate compliment by naming his main character Jack Tobin after them, and dedicating his book to their memory. There seem to be similarities between the boyhoods of Jack Tobin and the author himself, as if here too he is drawing on his own life.

The copy of the novel that I have has a little sticker on it that says "as good as Grisham or get a Grisham free". Certainly it is Grisham-like in its style, and there are similarities in the saga-like construction and the building of tension towards the climax. Those who enjoy courtroom thrillers and legal dramas will certainly enjoy this.

My rating: 4.1

August 2006 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem

15 April 2010

Forgotten Book: DEEP POCKET, Michael Kenyon

Well, I have to confess that I've been able to find out almost nothing about DEEP POCKET, which my records show that I read back in 1979.
I'm hoping my post will jog some memories, so I'm going to witter on about the author.
I did find some information but am not repeating it here as I think it is actually the blurb from a subsequent book THE MOLEHILL FILE.

The following comes from Wikipedia:
Michael Kenyon (1931 – 2005 ) was an author of crime novels. Author of more than 20 humorous mystery novels, he was one of the first in the field of spoof-espionage story telling, but perhaps better known for the Superintendent O'Malley, and latterly Inspector Henry Peckover series of books.
Peckover was especially successful, fondly known as "The Bard Of The Yard". He was also a regular contributor to Gourmet Magazine, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.


  • May You Die in Ireland (1965)
  • The Whole Hog (1967)
  • Out of Season (1968)
  • Green Grass (1969)
  • Mr. Big (1975)
  • Brainbox and Bull (1976)
  • The Rapist (1977)
  • Deep Pocket (1978)
  • The Molehill File (1978)

Superintendent O'Malley Series

  • Hundred Thousand Welcomes (1970)
  • Shooting of Dan McGrew (1972)
  • A Sorry State (1974)

Inspector Peckover Series

  • Zigzag (1980)
  • The Man at the Wheel (1982)
  • A Free-Range Wife (1983)
  • A Healthy Way to Die (1986)
  • Peckover Holds the Baby (1988)
  • Kill the Butler! (1991)
  • Peckover Joins the Choir (1992)
  • Peckover and the Bog Man (1994)
The list on Fantastic Fiction.

14 April 2010

Review: BREAK NO BONES, Kathy Reichs

This review was originally published elsewhere

Random House Australia, July 2006

Dr Temperance Brennan is filling a vacancy as a supervisor of an archaeology dig for university students. A pre-Colombian burial ground, the dig site on Dewees Island contains sixteen prehistoric graves. Dewees Island is largely a conservation easement north of Charleston, but the rest is ripe for development. On the penultimate day of the dig, just when they are well on the way to wrapping everything up on schedule, Tempe has visitors: local freelance journalist Homer Winborne, and Dickie Dupree, land developer and entrepreneur. As if on cue, an intrusive articulated skeleton is discovered in one of the graves. Tempe quickly realises that this body is not prehistoric. In the subsequent post-mortem she discovers this skeleton has some strange features, and the hunt begins to match this body with local missing person reports.

As with all the other books in this popular series, this Temperance Brennan novel draws on decades of involvement by author Kathy Reichs at crime labs and crime scenes. Reichs says BREAK NO BONES is "a bit of a departure" from her usual modus operandi in that she has drawn from not just one or two cases, but a range of both personal and professional experiences. It seemed to me that I found out much more about Tempe's personal life, too. In order to get to the archaeological dig more easily, Tempe is staying in a beach house owned by a friend. She is joined by her estranged lawyer husband, the adulterous Pete, investigating the disappearance of a local woman. Life becomes complicated when her lover Detective Andrew Ryan also turns up. A further human element is added when Tempe discovers that her good friend Emma, Charleston County Coroner, is seriously ill.

In BREAK NO BONES, as in other books in the Bones series, there is plenty of forensic and medical detail. Reichs is always meticulous in her descriptions. I find Temperance Brennan a rather abrasive and formidable character, whose outspoken approach and impulsiveness initiate plenty of action. Tempe never lets the fact that she is an outsider prevent her from saying what is on her mind or doing what she thinks must be done.

In 'real life' Kathy Reichs is a practising forensic anthropologist working both in North Carolina and Quebec. Her own work is closely parallelled in that done by her protagonist Dr. Temperance Brennan. Reichs began the Temperance Brennan series in 1997 with the immediately acclaimed DEJA DEAD and has added to the series at the rate of almost a book a year. BREAK NO BONES is the tenth in the series.

Reichs has her own website  You can read the first chapter of BREAK NO BONES online

August 2006 review, originally published on Murder and Mayhem
Revised review March 2007

Review: FREEZE FRAME, Peter May

Poisoned Pen Press March 2010
ISBN 978-1-59058-717-1
Many thanks to the publishers for a review e-copy for my Kindle through NetGalley.

[I certainly hope this title and the 3 that precede it are made available for Kindle - at present they aren't.]

#4 in a series in which forensic biologist Enzo MacLeod attempts to solve a number of cold cases. In FREEZE FRAME the crime scene has been perfectly preserved for 20 years on a remote island off the northwest coast of France by the daughter-in-law of the victim. Adam Killian knew he was going to die and he left his son Peter a number of clues about the identity of his murderer. Unfortunately Peter himself died before he had a chance to solve the puzzles.

Enzo MacLeod has apparently successfully solved the first 3 of the cases, the result of a challenge to solve a number of cold cases written about in a book by friend Roger Raffin. Roger has a considerable amount of background for each case, and in particular material that didn't make it into his book.

FREEZE FRAME is entertaining and very readable. The main character Enzo MacLeod is not without blemish and has a lot in common with detectives who put their work before personal relationships. In the publisher's supplementary material Poisoned Pen editor in chief Barbara G. Peters says "FREEZE FRAME is sure to please fans looking for an escape, but who still want to learn something about some unusual settings." She says it will appeal to readers of Jon Jefferson, Simon Beckett and Dan Brown. For me it was redolent of P.D. James. I think I found Enzo very like Adam Dagliesh.

My rating 4.6

I'm anxious to get my hands on the earlier titles in the series as well as whatever comes after. FREEZE FRAME is apparently #4 in a 7 title series.
Enzo Files
1. Extraordinary People (2006)
     aka Dry Bones
2. The Critic (2007)
3. Blacklight Blue (2008)
4. Freeze Frame (2010)

Other Peter May reviews on my blog

13 April 2010

review: DIRTY LITTLE LIES, John Macken

This review was originally published elsewhere.

Bantam/Random House Australia, March 2007

Reuben Maitland is a respected British forensic pathologist with an invention that, in the right hands, should revolutionise crime detection and crime prevention. He believes he has found a way to use DNA to predict the physical appearance of perpetrators. But Reuben goes too far when, in an unauthorised trial, he links computer generated images built from DNA profiles with images captured by CCTV surveillance cameras on the streets of London.

His subsequent dismissal from his position as the head of the prestigious GeneCrime lab means that Reuben has to find other sources, sometimes criminal, to fund his research. Just after he is dismissed members of his former GeneCrime team begin to die, apparently murdered after extensive torture. The DNA evidence seems to point to Reuben, an unlovely character whose marriage has collapsed. He has doubts about the paternity of his own son, rubs amphetamine into his gums, and demonstrates a very blurred set of ethics.

DIRTY LITTLE LIES would have benefited from much stronger editing. It is a many-layered, multi-stranded story, but the interweaving is not tight enough. There is a considerable amount of gruesome description of what has been done to the murder victims that does little but nauseate. Laboratory procedures are described in detail but I found it difficult to visualise what was actually being done. I became confused by the vast array of characters, their relationships with each other, and by the multiplicity of cases that the GeneCrime lab is investigating.

First time author John Macken attempts to heighten tension and momentum by finishing most chapters with "suspenseful" sentences, e.g. "Someone was killing his friends. It was time to find out who." But many of these hanging chapter endings ring hollow. They don't seem to be warranted by what has happened so far, nor do they connect well with the following pages.

Nevertheless the story had potential and John Macken has obviously been able draw authentically from his own background as a research scientist. There will be many who enjoy this debut novel. Reuben Maitland's invention, Predictive Phenotyping, certainly has interesting implications.

Since I wrote this review John Macken has continued ot write:
Reuben Maitland
1. Dirty Little Lies (2007)
2. Trial By Blood (2008)
3. Breaking Point (2009)

and a standalone Control (2010) 

May 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem

12 April 2010

Aussie Author Challenge Update #7 - challenge completed

2010 Aussie Author Challenge Completed

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 expected to be able to do this easily but perhaps not so quickly.
Mine has that extra little challenge of being all crime fiction titles.

I have now completed the challenge, but of course will still continue to read and review Australian crime fiction titles during the remainder of the year. I may even do an occasional update to keep track of all my Australian author reading.
  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
  6. FORBIDDEN FRUIT, Kerry Greenwood  
  7. DEEP WATER, Peter Corris
  8. BLEED FOR ME, Michael Robotham 

Review: BLEED FOR ME, Michael Robotham

Publisher: Sphere/Griffin Press April 2010 Australia,  June 2010 UK
ISBN 978-1-84744-219-2
418 pages
I am indebted to the author for a signed copy hot off the presses.

I started several times to write my own blurb for this latest book from Michael Robotham and then decided I couldn't really do any better than the teaser on the back cover.

Ray Hegarty, a highly respected former detective, lies dead in his daughter Sienna's bedroom. She is found covered in his blood. Everything points to her guilt, but psychologist Joe O'Loughlin isn't convinced.

Fourteen year old Sienna is the best friend of Joe's daughter and he has watched her grow up and seen the troubled look in her eyes. Against the advice of the police, he launches his own investigation, embarking on a hunt that will lead him to a predatory schoolteacher, a conspiracy of silence and a race-hate trial that is captivating the nation.

Although he and his wife are living apart, his family, his two daughters Charlie and Emma, are of prime importance to Joe O'Loughlin. That's why they are separated really - his work with the police in Bristol has a way of backlashing into their lives.

There's a theme running through BLEED FOR ME which I feel must come straight out of Michael Robotham's own heart. The following extract comes from the final pages.
Parenthood is a lot like being a trapeze artist, knowing when to let go and watch your child tumble away in mid-air, reaching out for the next rung, testing herself. My job is to be here when she swings back, ready to catch her and to launch her into the world again.

After SHATTER which topped the charts for me two years ago, I wondered whether Michael Robotham could ever do as well or better. These days I rarely read a book in one sitting, but BLEED FOR ME just kept me reading.

The prime POV is Professor Joe O'Loughlin, clinical psychologist, but ex-detective Vincent Ruiz who has been present from the beginning of the series, and DCI Ronnie Cray whom we first met in SHATTER both play primary roles. By the end of BLEED FOR ME they are really working as a team.

If you've never read any Robotham before then this one will send you looking for more. And where better to start than at the beginning:
I'm seriously wondering whether the Ned Kelly Awards for 2010 will have to consider joint winners again this year. For me BLEED FOR ME just pips Peter Temple's TRUTH by a nose.

My rating: 5.0

THAT Railway Station

I didn't get a chance to venture inside - always seemed to be on a bus when we were passing it, which we did several times.

This is the Sirkeci Terminal on the European side of Istanbul (Constantinople) which was opened in 1890 as the terminus of the Orient Express. It was designed by a Prussian architect and our guides pointed it out as a good example of Germanic architectural influence.

You might remember that in MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot has just arrived from Bagdad at the Istanbul terminal on the Anatolian side and meets his good friend the Wagon Lits controller. Poirot needs to get a berth on the Orient express but the train is full.

They cross to the other side of the Bosphorus (fortunately a short boat ride in view of HP's tendency to mal de mer) and go to the specially built Wagon Lits hotel, the Hotel Pera Palace, opened in 1892, to wait until it is closer to boarding time. Today the hotel has recently been refurbished. The tourist guides all take pride in mentioning Agatha Christie as one of its famous guests.

As you know the Orient Express recently became financially unviable and all that is left is a super expensive annual tourist train - the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
See Holiday on the Orient express

Review: SHADOW OF THE WIND - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This is our final contribution to the .
Z looked as if it would be a difficult letter to accommodate but thank goodness in my database there was an author whose name started with Z! (otherwise I would have had to get creative like I did with X)

This is a book I read back in 2005, and have never printed my mini-review of before. I gave it a rating of 5, which puts it among my best reads for that year.

Barcelona, 1945—A great world city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called The Shadow of the Wind, by an author named Julian Carax.He finds the book in a library referred to as "the cemetery of lost books".

When the boy searches for Carax's other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written.
Soon the boy realizes that The Shadow of the Wind is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author's identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret.
Fascinating multi-layered tale with lots of mystery. The tale spans about 60 years and history seems to be repeating itself.

SHADOW OF THE WIND was shortlisted among the best reads of 2005 by Richard and Judy.

Zafon isn't a prolific author but here are the titles to look for
The Shadow Of The Wind (2004)
The Angel's Game (2009)
The Prince Of Mist (2010)
September Lights (2011)

Zafon's website


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