30 November 2010

2010 Global Reading Challenge Update - COMPLETED

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. Completed: 21 books  reads.

Just announced: the Global Reading Challenge will continue in 2011!

create your own visited country map

The Extremist Level
Read three novels from each of these continents in 2010:

North America (incl Central America)
South America
Add two novels which are set in Antarctica
+ a ´wildcard´ novel (a novel from a place or period that is NEW to you).

And if you are really an extreme reader, you will do your best to read novels from 21 different countries or states.

North America (incl Central America)
South America
Wildcard  novel

Book sculptures in bronze

These lovely sculptures are all in bronze.

If you go to the websites where they are displayed you can scrutinise them in much greater detail.

 See the one on the left  here and the "bookworm" on the right here.

And wouldn't you love to own these book ends? Click on the image to see a larger version.

29 November 2010

Review: BEAT NOT THE BONES, Charlotte Jay

first published 1952
edition I read SOHO PRESS 1995
ISBN 1-56947-047-2
219 pages
Winner of the First Edgar Award for Best Novel 1954
source: borrowed
Also available through Wakefield Press in the Wakefield Crime Classics.
Two other Charlotte Jay titles:
A Hank of Hair
Arms for Adonis

Once Stella Warwick was meant to come to Marapai in Papua New Guinea as a young Australian bride. Now, a little over 6 months later, she comes to find out who murdered her husband.

Although her husband, a distinguished anthropologist in charge of protecting the natives from exploitation, was over 20 years older than her, and in reality she barely knew him, Stella feels that the verdict of suicide after David's death is really out of character.

David Warwick died over 3 days walk into the jungle away, and as Stella attempts to visit there, she becomes aware that everyone is telling her lies. Nobody wants her to uncover the truth.

The novel is as much about how the officials of the Australian protectorate and handling cultural and climatic differences, as it is about whether David Warwick was murdered or whether he committed suicide. The story is played out against the background of interaction and conflict between a supposedly primitive culture and Australian civilisation.

Charlotte Jay lived and worked in Papua New Guinea 1942-1950 and obviously placed BEAT NOT THE BONES in a setting with which she was very familiar. This was her second mystery novel and Anthony Boucher commented on "its deft plot".

BEAT NOT THE BONES gives the reader plenty to think about. I read it for my final Australasian crime fiction title in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge.

My rating: 4.5

Other references and reviews to check
Charlotte Jay was the pseudonym adopted by Australian mystery writer and novelist, Geraldine Halls (17 December 1919 - 27 October 1996).

ACRC Update - 29 November 2010

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, and now I'm back on schedule.
I've read 21 books and 11 collections of short stories.
CARDS ON THE TABLE is my 12th title for 2010.

Read & reviewed so far
    1924, Poirot Investigates (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US)
  7. 1927, THE BIG FOUR
    1929, Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence)
    1930, The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin)
  12. 1932, PERIL AT END HOUSE
    1932 The Thirteen Problems (thirteen short stories; featuring Miss Marple, also known as The Tuesday Club Murders in the US)
    1991, Problem at Pollensa Bay publ. 1991 (Two of them feature Hercule Poirot, two Mr. Satterthwaite and Mr. Harley Quin, and two Mr Parker Pyne.)
  16. 1935, THREE ACT TRAGEDY (aka MURDER IN THREE ACTS)- Hercule Poirot and Mr Satterthwaite.
    1933, The Hound of Death - 12 short stories, UK only
    1934, Parker Pyne Investigates - 12 stories introducing Parker Pyne and Ariadne Oliver
    1934, The Listerdale Mystery - 12 short stories, UK only
  17. 1935, DEATH IN THE CLOUDS (aka DEATH IN THE AIR) - Hercule Poirot
  18. 1936, THE A.B.C. MURDERS (aka THE ALPHABET MURDERS) - Hercule Poirot
    1947, The Labours of Hercules - Hercule Poirot - 12 short stories
  19. 1966, THE THIRD GIRL - Hercule Poirot and Ariadne Oliver
    1997, Miss Marple: complete short stories - Miss Marple - 20 short stories
    1997, While the Light Lasts - 9 short stories - incl. 2 Hercule Poirot
  20. 1936, MURDER IN MESOPOTAMIA - Hercule Poirot
  21. 1936, CARDS ON THE TABLE - Hercule Poirot, Superintendent Battle, Colonel Race, Ariadne Oliver

    Reading schedule
  23. 1937, DEATH ON THE NILE
  26. 1939, MURDER IS EASY (aka EASY TO KILL)
  28. 1940, SAD CYPRESS
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.

Review: CARDS ON THE TABLE, Agatha Christie

# Format: Kindle Edition
# File Size: 377 KB
# Print Length: 320 pages
# Publisher: HarperCollinsUK; Masterpiece ed edition (January 16, 2010)
# Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
# Language: English
# ASIN: B003B02OFK

Originally published: 1936

In Chapter 3 of THE ABC MURDERS (1935), Hercule Poirot describes to Captain Hastings the kind of crime he would most like to investigate:
Four people in a room are playing bridge, while a fifth reads in a chair by the fire. At the end of the evening, it is discovered that the man by the fire has been killed. No one has been in or out of the room, and murderer must have been one of the four players while he or she was dummy.

This is the very scenario Christie explores in CARDS ON THE TABLE.

Mr. Shaitana, a collector in more ways than one, invites eight people to dinner. Four of them are sleuths whom readers of Agatha Christie novels have already met: Superintendent Battle, Hercule Poirot, Ariadne Oliver, and Colonel Race. The other four are, Shaitana has previously confided to Poirot, all successful, hitherto undetected, murderers. Shaitana appears to be doing his best to frighten them. After dinner, during which methods of murder are discussed and explored, the party divides into 2 bridge tables. Mr Shaitana does not play. The sleuths are given a table in an adjoining room, while Shaitana and the "murderers" are in the same room, he sitting by the fire. At the end of the night Shaitana is discovered to be dead, stabbed with a small dagger from his collection.

The "murderers" are Dr. Roberts, Mrs Lorrimer, Major Despard, and Miss Meredith. In the bridge game they are partnered so that they are women vs. men.

After the discovery of the murder Superintendent Battle takes charge and consults with his fellow sleuths. They then interview the other 4 guests, but it is not clear who had motive or opportunity.

This is a very tightly constructed novel, regarded by some as among Agatha Christie's best.

In the foreword to CARDS ON THE TABLE she comments
"There is an idea prevalent that a detective story is rather like a big race - a number of starters - likely horses and jockeys. 'You pays your money and you takes your choice!' The favourite is by common consent the opposite of a favourite on the race-course. In other words he is likely to be a complete outsider! Spot the least likely person to have committed the crime and in nine times out of ten your task is finished. Since I do not want my faithful readers to fling away this book in disgust, I prefer to warn them beforehand that this is not that kind of book. There are only four starters and any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime."

This idea of the probable murderer being an outsider is voiced again during the novel by at least two characters.

Agatha Christie also tells us that this was one of Hercule Poirot's favourite cases. Predictably, Captain Hastings, who plays no role in it at all, considered it very dull. Poirot saw it as a case that exercised all of his deductive skills. He has already warned Mr Shaitana that his hobby might be a very dangerous one, and so it proves. Hercule Poirot says he was "a man of great vanity. He was also a stupid man - that is why he is dead." Poirot is not best pleased that the murder has taken place under his very nose so to speak.

Mrs Oliver refuses at first to believe that any of the bridge players are murderers - "they are too nice" - and then she says the women could not have stabbed Shaitana.

Superintendent Battle points out that "murderers look and behave very much like everybody else." Mrs Oliver constantly flits from one suspect to another and does a great deal to muddy the investigation. She brings up the horse race analogy again, suggesting each sleuth investigate one person. Superintendent Battle says he can't do that - he is obliged to investigate them all equally.

Another interesting aspect - Mrs Oliver points out that not only do they have four sleuths, they all come from different backgrounds - Scotland Yard, the Secret Service, a private investigator, a crime fiction writer.

This is a very enjoyable read, designed to make the reader exercise "the little grey cells" and to consider who solves the mystery best - the steady methodical working of Superintendent Battle, the psychological considerations of Hercule Poirot or the intuition of Ariadne Oliver.

My rating 4.6

There are a couple of bonuses in the Kindle version

* the Poirots: a list of all the Poirot novels with descriptors, accompanied by a full listing of all Agatha Christie novels.

* an appraisal of CARDS ON THE TABLE by Agatha CHristie's biographer Charles Osborne

* a brief biography of Agatha Christie.

27 November 2010

Travelling Again

Tomorrow we are off to Hobart, Tasmania for 3 days so I can attend a teacher librarian conference on Monday and Tuesday and present a session on e-books.

Books going with me:
  • My Kindle so I can finish reading CARDS ON THE TABLE by Agatha Christie. Of course I could also tackle some of the other 80+ unread books I already have stored on it.
  • Also a p-book: BEAT NOT THE BONES by Charlotte Jay so that I can finish the 2010 Global Reading Challenge.
  • I'm also going to put UNHALLOWED GRAVE by Kate Ellis  in - it is a library book due back this week.
  • And I think I'll put my iPod in (and some headphones) so I can finish THE FORGOTTEN MAN by Robert Crais which I'm half way through.
  • Perhaps I'll also be able to get around to something for the Canadian Reading Challenge - I've got some on my Kindle.
2011 Global Reading Challenge
Dorte has been fleshing out the bones of the 2011 Global Reading Challenge - I'm sure it will be popular. I have found that this year it has encouraged me to read outside my usual fare.
    Although I'm anticipating quite a bit of reading time (flights, and airport waits), I may not get much blogging done in the coming few days. That's why this Sunday Salon post is running early.

    Posts in the last week:
    How are you going with achieving your target for reading this year?
    I'm now aiming at 125 titles, and I think I will get there - I'm sitting on 118.
    How about you?

    26 November 2010

    Haunted Computer Books: A Mystery to Me

    My guest blogger today is Scott Nicholson whose e-book DISINTEGRATION I reviewed a couple of days ago. Scott has been on a non-stop blog tour since the beginning of September.

    It is always interesting to find out what makes an author "tick", where the ideas for their books come from.
    Please feel free to leave a comment for Scott, or pose a question for him, or to visit his site at http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/blogtour.htm
    At the foot of this post you will find instructions about how to try to win a free Kindle as part of the tour.

    Scott writes
    I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew.
    I thought she was pretty cool, with her sweaters and her Ned and her fearless attitude. I also liked the Hardee Boys, and Scooby Doo, and though I somehow bypassed Encyclopedia Brown, I probably would have liked him, too.

    My teen self read a lot of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies, which used to mix horror, psychological thriller, and crime stories in a rich blend, something the namesake magazine got away from in the 1980s and 1990s. They seemed a lot milder, along with Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and I send both of those editors a stack of submissions in the 1990s. Though I never cracked those pages, I did get some stories published in Blue Murder and Crimewave and a few other projects just a notch below in respectability.

    I have enjoyed humorous mysteries by the likes of Charlotte McLeod, Janet Evanovich, Lawrence Block, and Donald Westlake, and Agatha Christie was a little too classist for my taste, but I trend toward the edgier psychological suspense instead of the puzzle-building mystery writers. Patricia Highsmith is one of my favorites, and Ira Levin, and William Goldman, who regrettably seems to have traded in his novelist hat for screenwriting. His style in “Magic” and “Marathon Man” leaves me in awe while simultaneously compelling me to turn the pages. Levin’s most famous for “Rosemary’s Baby,” but “A Kiss Before Dying” is a taut personality study, as is his play “Deathtrap.”

    These days I read mostly independent writers like Debbi Mack, Vicki Tyley, and Simon Wood, all talents who will become widely known in the next few years. But I’m also likely to come full circle again and head back for the funny stuff. One of the best crime novels I’ve read recently was Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” and the Dexter series is a riot. And though my “serious” novels like Disintegration and The Skull Ring rely on psychological tension, I’m having a blast plotting Albert Shipway’s evolution from insurance negotiator to claims investigator, complete with black magic, in the Cursed!series.

    And I would be surprised if I caught up on all those Nancy Drews I’ve missed over the years. I wonder if she ever married Ned. I always thought she was too good for him. Or maybe I was just jealous.


    Scott Nicholson is author of 12 novels, including the thrillers Disintegration, As I Die Lying, Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, Forever Never Ends, The Skull Ring, Burial to Follow, and They Hunger. He’s also written the YA paranormal romance October Girls and, with J.R. Rain, the urban fantasy Cursed! His revised novels for the U.K. Kindle are Creative Spirit, Troubled, and Solom. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and more than 60 short stories. His story collections include Ashes, Curtains, The First, Murdermouth: Zombie Bits, and Flowers.

    To be eligible for the Kindle DX or Kindle 3, simply post a comment below with contact info. Feel free to debate and discuss the topic, but you will only be entered once per blog. I’m also giving away a Kindle 3 through the tour newsletter and a Pandora’s Box of free e-books to a follower of “hauntedcomputer” on Twitter. Thanks for playing. Complete details at http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/blogtour.htm

    25 November 2010

    Forgotten Book: A PERFECT MATCH, Jill McGown

    This week's contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books comes from my records of 1991.

    Publisher's Blurb
    A young woman is found murdered in a small English town, while the main suspect has spent the night drinking, and denies any involvement. It looks like an easily solved case for Detective Inspector Lloyd and Sergeant Judy Hill, but it soon proves more complex than they originally thought.

    A PERFECT MATCH published in 1983 began a successful series for Jill McGown (1947-2007)
    Lloyd and Hill
    1. A Perfect Match (1983)
    2. Redemption (1988)
         aka Murder At the Old Vicarage
    3. Death of a Dancer (1989)
         aka Gone to Her Death
    4. The Murders of Mrs Austin and Mrs Beale (1991)
    5. The Other Woman (1992)
    6. Murder... Now and Then (1993)
    7. A Shred of Evidence (1995)
    8. Verdict Unsafe (1996)
    9. Plots and Errors (1999)
    10. Picture of Innocence (1998)
    11. Scene of Crime (2001)
    12. Births, Deaths and Marriages (2002)
         aka Death in the Family
    13. Unlucky for Some (2004)

    In addition to this series McGown wrote 5 other novels, one writing as Elizabeth Chaplin.
    Fantastic Fiction suggests that readers of Jill McGown will also like novels by
    Sharyn McCrumb
    Deborah Crombie
    Michael McGarrity
    Peter Robinson
    Val McDermid
    Ann Granger
    G A McKevett
    Leslie Meier
    Marianne MacDonald
    Carolyn Hart
    M C Beaton
    Jill Churchill
    Laura Childs
    Elizabeth George
    Ian Rankin

    Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival for November posted

    The November edition of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival has been posted.

    There are 9 contributors and 15 contributions in this month's edition, including some recommendations for books to read about Agatha Christie.

    24 November 2010

    Poll reflects steady growth in e-reading.

    Polls conducted on MYSTERIES in PARADISE this year have reflected a steady rise in the adoption of e-readers.

    Here is a graph that shows the results of polls on MiP this year.

    January 2010

    September 2010

    November 2010

    23 November 2010

    Review: DISINTEGRATION, Scott Nicholson

    • Format: Kindle Edition
    • File Size: 360 KB
    • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
    • Publisher: Haunted Computer Books (October 22, 2010)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0048EL5M6
    • Source: purchased from Amazon
    Note this novel is available only as an e-book.

    This is one of those novels where the Amazon blurb just tells you far too much of the story. Check it out if you want. For my part I'll just tell you about the beginning of the book from my point of view.

    It opens with one of the most horrifying "hooks" that I have read this year.
    Jacob Wells smelled smoke seventeen seconds before hell opened its door.
    Jake and Renee are in their bedroom with the door locked and their 9 year old daughter Mattie is in her room down the passage behind a closed door. Jake manages to wake Renee and opens the door into the passage. He tells Renee to dial 911 and then to get out of the house herself. He will get Mattie. He struggles to crawl to Mattie's room beneath the smoke, and then realises that opening the door to her room will let the fire into it. The image of what happens when Jake opens the door is very graphic and memorable.

    After the fire we learn that tragedy has already struck Jake and Renee. They lost a baby girl Christine to SIDS less than a year before.

    The fire investigators believe the fire may have been deliberately lit. Joshua is back thinks Jake. Who is Joshua? the reader asks. Davidson, the female fire investigator, says they believe the fire was started downstairs by an intruder who entered through an open sliding glass door.

    As we read on in this story, we realise that things are far from normal in the Wells family. Jake and his twin were warped in their upbringing by cruel manipulative parents. And that's not all. I think this story will shock most readers when you finally untangle its strands.

    I think that Scott Nicholson has overdone the horror element just a bit. The imagery though is very strong. Towards the end the story resolves with one shock wave after another. For me it is a thriller rather than murder mystery although certainly murder (several actually) is done.

    My rating 4.2

    I wrote about Scott Nicholson's Kindle giveaway blog tour just a week ago, and he will be a guest on this blog in just 3 days.

    22 November 2010

    Short Story Writing Challenge

    A fellow blogger, Yvette at in so many words.. is hosting a short story challenge thta looks intriguing.

    A few days ago she posted a story about this painting discovered in an apartment in Paris that had been untouched for 70 years. Read how much the painting was worth.

    Yvette thinks there must be a flash-fiction story in there some where? Check her challenge here.

    Your time limit is to write a story and post it on your blog by Valentine's Day 2011.

    Let your imagination run riot! Surely there is a mystery here.

    21 November 2010

    Review: CHILD'S PLAY, Reginald Hill - audio

    Written in 1986, #9 in the Dalziel & Pascoe series
    Downloaded from Audible.com
    Reader is Colin Buchanan
    LENGTH 8 hrs and 53 mins

    Publisher's blurb
    When a battered Ford Escort containing one very dead Italian turns up in the police car park, Peter Pascoe and his bloated superior Dalziel, are plunged into an investigation that makes internal police politics look like child's play.

    If it had been my job to write the publisher's blurb, then mine would have looked more like this one from Amazon:
    A half-dotty old Yorkshire widow dies, throwing her relations into confusion with a will that leaves her wealth to a son missing in action in World War II. If he's not found by 2015, the fortune will be divided among charities for animals, the needy and Women for Empire. A man resembling the long-lost son appears and disappears. Officials of the charities, surviving relatives and the deceased's lawyer begin a complicated bargaining dance.  A top cop campaigns to become Chief Constable. A young drifter enters the life of Sgt. Wield, forcing him to a decision about his homosexuality. There are a couple of apparently unrelated murders. Supt. Dalziel sorts it all out in his usual boorish, intuitive, irreverent way. He's helped by youthful, (relatively) cultured Inspector Pascoe, stolid Sgt. Wield and by Lexie Huby, a young, mousy legal secretary with lots of surprises.

    If you are a fan of Reginald Hill's Dalziel & Pascoe series, then you've probably already read this one. It is yet another very engaging performance from Hill. I was struck by how he builds the plot from parallel investigations by his detective duo. At times they rub sparks off each other, and just as you are thinking what a clever clogs Peter Pascoe is, you come to the realisation that Andy Dalziel is already two steps ahead of him. Pascoe methodically dots the i's and crosses the t's, while Fat Andy effortlessly surges ahead with impressive intuition.

    Most enjoyable, with an excellent narration by Colin Buchanan who plays Peter Pascoe in the TV series.

    My rating: 4.5

    20 November 2010

    2010 Global Reading Challenge Update - November 20

    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. I am really excited: only 1 book to go.
    Join the challenge here.

    Just announced: the Global Reading Challenge will continue in 2011!

    create your own visited country map

    The Extremist Level
    Read three novels from each of these continents in 2010:

    North America (incl Central America)
    South America
    Add two novels which are set in Antarctica
    + a ´wildcard´ novel (a novel from a place or period that is NEW to you).

    And if you are really an extreme reader, you will do your best to read novels from 21 different countries or states.

    North America (incl Central America)
    South America
    Wildcard  novel
    Select novels from 21 different countries or states.: My count so far: 20

    19 November 2010

    Review: BAIT, Nick Brownlee

    Published 2009
    Source: bought by me and read on my Kindle

    Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books, July 2009
    ISBN: 978-0-312-55021-9, ISBN10: 0-312-55021-9,

    Publisher's blurb:
    Ex-Scotland Yard cop Jake Moore’s career was cut short by a bullet; ten years later, he runs a game fishing business that is about to go broke. But old habits die hard, and when cerebral Mombasa detective Daniel Jouma—seemingly the only good policeman in a city where corruption is king—asks for his help in solving a baffling murder case, the two men find themselves drawn into a deadly conspiracy involving local hoodlums, murderous ex-pats, and a mysterious and psychopathic kingpin who presides over a sickening trade in innocent human life.

    I picked up BAIT because I needed a crime fiction novel set in Africa for my 20th title in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge. And it fitted my requirements very well.  I must admit until I read BAIT my idea of where Kenya was was very hazy indeed. (I didn't even realise it had a coastline!)

    In Jake Moore, ex Scotland Yard Flying Squad, and Daniel Jouma, Nick Brownlee has created a very attractive duo. The main story is told at a cracking pace and for the most part quite believable. There were a couple of bits that were a bit predictable, but very readable.

    My rating: 4.3

    Nick Brownlee was a published non-fiction author with numerous titles to his name by the time BAIT was published.
    SeriesJake and Jouma
    1. Bait (2008)
    2. Burn (2009)
         aka Blood and Fire
    3. Machete (2010)
    4. Snakepit (2010)

    Interview with Chris High

    Review: ALEXANDRIA, Lindsey Davis - audio

    # by Lindsey Davis
    # Narrated by Christian Rodska
    # purchased from Audible.com
    # Publisher BBC WW
    # LENGTH:11 hrs and 15 mins
    # AUDIBLE RELEASE DATE: 05-15-09

    Publisher's blurb
    In Roman times, the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World held a deep fascination. Two of them were in Egypt: the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Lighthouse at Alexandria. Marcus Didius Falco's wife, Helena Justina, is determined to see them before her next confinement.
    Conveniently, he has an uncle with a house in Alexandria. For this innocent reason (he says) they sail to Egypt. As soon as they arrive in Alexandria, a suspicious death occurs at the famous Great Library. The authorities rapidly hand Falco the investigation; he is, after all, the well-known informer from Rome and the Emperor Vespasian's fixer. He was one of the last to see the victim alive and, should the investigation fail, it is he who'll get the blame...

    Published in 2009, ALEXANDRIA is #19 in Lindsey Davis' Marcus Didius Falco series, which she has been publishing since 1989. It is a series I have dabbled in over the years, so I already had a passing acquaintance with the central character and his wife.I do regret not having read them all (in order). Although I hasten to say that I'm not sure you necessarily need to do that.

    Although Falco protests that his reason for visiting Alexandria are purely tourism: to see the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Lighthouse at Alexandria, and the Sphinx, his reputation precedes him and people are curious about why one of Vespasian's trusted men is visiting. Is he there to investigate the great library and the possible theft of scrolls, or is there another sinister reason? When the head librarian is found dead in a room locked from the outside the presence of Falco seems fortuitous. Who better to conduct the investigation? Two more deaths occur in the ensuing struggle to appoint a new head librarian, and some of the contenders are perfect suspects for the first death.

    The story seems to have a  number of false endings. By that I mean that you just think everything is solved, and Davis reminds you that there is just another little matter outstanding.

    The reader is transported into the world of ancient Alexandria, and is left in no doubt that Lindsey Davis knows her stuff. In this audio version Christian Rodska does an excellent job of producing a number of appropriate voices.

    My rating: 4.3

    Links of interest:
    Lindsey Davis' website
    Hear Lindsey Read ALEXANDRIA
    Listen to a sample on Audible

    The List grows: Crime Fiction to Give for Christmas

    This is one of two memes that I will be running that have a Christmas theme.

    In this one which will run from now until Christmas I'm asking for your suggestions for crime fiction books to give for Christmas.

    You may like to create a special page on your blog and list some books there, or alternatively link to already posted reviews on your blog of books you think would make good presents.

    Please complete the details in the Mr. Linky below.
    1. Suggested format  BOOK TITLE, author name - your name
    2. Please link to the actual post on your blog, not just the blog itself.
    3. In your post or your blog, please link back to this page, and feel free to use the image I've created.
    4. You may link to more than one blog post if you wish
    5. Links not complying with the above will be edited or removed altogether.
    Thanks for your participation

    18 November 2010

    Forgotten Books: PLANNING FOR MURDER, Anne Morice

    This week's contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books comes from my records of 1991.

    Anne Morice was a pseudonym for Felicity Shaw (1918-1989)

    PLANNING FOR MURDER was published posthumously in 1990 and it appears in my records in 1991.
    If you are lucky enough to own a copy of this book, particularly a hard cover edition, then it appears to be worth quite a lot of money.

    Morice wrote 25 novels altogether, with the first published in 1970, and then mostly one a year from then on.
    A 23 book series featured Tessa Crichton, followed by 2 books featuring Tubby Wiseman.

    Blurb from Publisher's Weekly:
    This posthumous novel by Morice proves that the author maintained her considerable powers as a wit and creator of complex puzzles right to the end. In PLANNING FOR MURDER Morice again demonstrates her ability to work with a new cast of characters as she expresses in a mystery format her timely concern about the future of the English countryside should it fall into the hands of avaricious developers. In fact there seems to be no dearth of reasons to motivate the eccentric country neighbors whose actions center around a scene of the crime that also happens to be the site of a potential "model village." When a nosy realtor and her friend peer into the windows of the country house that forms the center of the development scheme, they expect to catch a glimpse of the interior of a potential luxury apartment. But when they spy a corpse instead, their action sets off a series of incidents that include staged pranks and cold-blooded murder. As always, Morice provides not only a solid and satisfying plot but also marvelous, witty dialogue that illuminates both character and class.

    Lists courtesy Fantastic Fiction
    Tessa Crichton
    Death in the Grand Manor (1970)
    Death of a Gay Dog (1971)
    Murder in Married Life (1971)
    Murder on French Leave (1972)
    Death and the Dutiful Daughter (1973)
    Death of a Heavenly Twin (1974)
    Killing with Kindness (1974)
    Nursery Tea and Poison (1975)
    Death of a Wedding Guest (1976)
    Murder in Mimicry (1977)
    Scared to Death (1977)
    Murder by Proxy (1978)
    Murder in Outline (1979)
    Death in the Round (1980)
    Men in Her Death (1981)
    Hollow Vengeance (1982)
    Sleep of Death (1982)
    Murder Post-Dated (1983)
    Getting Away With Murder? (1984)
    Dead on Cue (1985)
    Publish and Be Killed (1986)
    Treble Exposure (1987)
    Fatal Charm (1988)
    Tubby Wiseman
    Design for Dying (1988)
    Planning for Murder (1990)

    17 November 2010

    Returning a book with feeling

    Do you follow this wonderful cartoon series?
    All about libraries.
    Have you ever felt like doing this with a book? or worse?

    16 November 2010

    Kindle Giveaway Blog Tour

    In 10 day's time Scott Nicholson, who writes mainly paranormal fiction, but has recently published a couple of  thrillers, will be a guest on MiP.

    Scott has been on a non-stop blog tour since the beginning of September. He is continuing his tour until the end of November and will be posting here on November 26.

    You might like to catch the remaining tour stops, so check the schedule out here.
    Scott is giving away 3 Kindles as part of his blog tour. 
    A Kindle DX and Kindle 3 will be given away through the participating blogs, and a Kindle 3 will be given away through the tour newsletter. A Pandora's Box of free e-books will be given away to a follower of Nicholson's "hauntedcomputer" Twitter account.

    Sign up for the newsletter at scottsinnercircle-subscribe@yahoogroups.com to get daily links to the participating blogs. Winners will be selected at the Watauga County (NC) Public Library in December. No purchase necessary, and the contest is international. Co-sponsored by Kindle Nation Daily and Dellaster Design.

    15 November 2010

    Your ebook style: hoarder or reader?

    I've "borrowed" this title from an article on TeleRead in which Joanna tells the story of how her parents are behaving with their Kobo e-readers.

    Joanna's father "seems content to download one or two books at a time and read them in full before heading back to Manybooks.net for more obscure boyhood favourites"
    Her mother on the other hand loves to collect e-books in a way that reminds you of the squirrel collecting nuts in case winter strikes. She is well on the way to becoming a hoarder.

    Joanna's mother and I have a lot in common. I already have very large TBR-on-Kindle, without counting review books etc which I am now store in separate categories. Oh dear... when will I get them all read? Many were "bargains" at "once-only" prices, but not too many were free. I can see I need to give myself a severe talking to as well as practicing my speed reading.

    What about you? What is your e-book style?

    BTW have you done the poll in the top right corner? If you haven't yet succumbed to an e-reader, you can still take the poll.

    2010 Global Reading Challenge Update - November 15

    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. I am getting very excited: only 2 books to go.
    Join the challenge here.

    Just announced: the Global Reading Challenge will continue in 2011!

    create your own visited country map

    The Extremist Level
    Read three novels from each of these continents in 2010:

    North America (incl Central America)
    South America
    Add two novels which are set in Antarctica
    + a ´wildcard´ novel (a novel from a place or period that is NEW to you).

    And if you are really an extreme reader, you will do your best to read novels from 21 different countries or states.

    North America (incl Central America)
    South America
    Wildcard  novel
    Select novels from 21 different countries or states.: My count so far: 19

    14 November 2010

    Weekly Geeks 2010-37: Where Did That Extra Hour Go?

    This week's Weekly Geeks task really asks us how we find time to do our reading.

    Here down under we took on daylight savings on the first Sunday in October, so we are getting used to the longer days. They will continue until the first Sunday in April.

    I am one of those people who just has to read. The day doesn't feel complete, and never has, if I don't read before going to sleep. I listen to books in the car, read a book on the bus, and love travelling in a plane just because it gives me extra reading time. I even try to snatch some time at lunch time too.
    I try to read as the family watches TV too, but that doesn't always work.

    In truth I probably spend far too much time reading.

    Sunday Salon - the Silly Season starts, 14 November

    With the official arrival of Santa in our town yesterday, the silly season begins, as we try to do far too much, catch up with friends and family, buy appropriate presents, and eat far too much.

    I've solved the Christmas present thing for you: give books!
    And you can help others find books by participating in a meme: Give Books for Christmas 2010.
    This meme invites you to add links to a "Mr Linky" for crime fiction books you've read or reviewed and have no hesitation in recommending to others, or to a page on your blog where you have a list of recommendations. My own suggestions for Give Books for Christmas 2009 were really just my best reads for the year.

    If you'd like to participate in Give Books for Christmas 2010 just go to the post and add your recommendations.
    Of course, if you are looking for crime fiction books to give, it will provide an invaluable source of information too.

    This week's posts:
    TBRN (To Be Read Next)
    • now - BEAT NOT THE BONES, Charlotte Jay
    • now on Kindle - BAIT, Nick Brownlee
    • now on Audio - ALEXANDRIA, Lindsey Davis
    To finish the Global Reading Challenge:
    * BEAT NOT THE BONES, Charlotte Jay (New Guinea)
    * BAIT, Nick Brownlee (Kenya) - Kindle

    Review: HAVANA BLACK, Leonardo Padura

    Bitter Lemon Press 2006
    translated from Spanish by Peter Bush
    first published in Spanish 1998
    ISBN 1-904738-12-X
    261 pages
    setting: Cuba
    source: my local library

    When the news comes through that his chief for the last eight years, Major Antonio Rangel, is to be replaced, as a result of investigations that require a scapegoat, Detective Lieutenant Mario Conde (the Count), a few days short of his 36th birthday, requests a discharge, and goes home to drown his sorrows in a bottle.

    Havana is lying in wait for Hurricane Felix. Conde has been watching it's progress, convinced that despite it's meanderings Havana is the hurricane's target. Conde's new boss sends Sergeant Manuel Palacios to his home to bring him in. He has a proposition for him. Conde is being offered one last job, and then he will be allowed to leave smelling of roses. The new boss Colonel Molina is an officer from Military Intelligence and he knows little about police work but he knows he needs Conde to deal with the hot potato that has just arrived.

    A man's corpse has been found. A Cuban with US citizenship who'd come to see his dying father. He'd been thrown into the sea after being battered by a baseball bat. His penis and testicles had been cut off after death with a blunt knife. In the 1960s he had been the deputy head of the Provincial Office for Expropriated Porperty, and in 1978 as national deputy director for Planning and the Economy he had made a trip to the Soviet Union, stopped off in Madrid on the way back, and defected to the USA. Since then he'd been living in Florida. So the big question was: why had he come back to Cuba?

    Conde agrees that he will take on the case, that he will solve it in 3 days, and in return he wants to be able to consult his former boss Rangel, and to get a letter of discharge.

    I didn't find HAVANA BLACK an easy read, possibly because it wasn't the first in the series and I wasn't already acquainted with Mario Conde. Initially I found the interchangeable use of Conde and Count confusing and thought there must be a second character.  Then there were large sections of the book where I just wanted to get on with the story, and fast passage was halted by pages of unparagraphed text.  There were long passages dredging up detail from Conde's past, descriptions of Havana, and Conde, who wants to be a writer in his next life, philosophising.
    I was impatient for the initial question to be solved. Why did the dead man return to Havana when he must have known that, although twenty years had passed since his defection, his life could be in danger?

    Well, we got there eventually and I breathed a sigh of relief. I read this as my 19th novel in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge, and yes I did learn something of life in Cuba.

    My rating: 4.1

    Learn more about Leonardo Padura and his Havana series on The Game's Afoot

    Mario Conde Mystery (order of English publication - N.B. they were translated out of order)
    1. Havana Red (2005)
    2. Havana Black (2006)
    3. Havana Blue (2007)
    4. Havana Gold (2008)
    5. Havana Fever (2009)

    13 November 2010

    Review: CITY OF VEILS, Zoe Ferraris

    • Format: Kindle Edition
    • File Size: 618 KB
    • Print Length: 384 pages
    • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (June 3, 2010)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
    • Language: English
    Source: I bought this and read it on my Kindle.
    Read the opening chapter at Amazon.

    A fisherman reports finding a dead body on the beach near Jeddah: female, young, but with whole sections of her face missing.
    Nayir the desert guide is preparing to take another too wealthy family on a desert excursion, but the family keeps shortening the length of the planned trip, until eventually business gets in the way and they don't go at all.
    It is 8 months since he has spoken to Katya, despite all the promise of the final days of their first investigation (FINDING NOUF/THE NIGHT OF THE MI'RAJ) At first Katya had phoned Nayir every week or so, but eventually stopped as it became obvious that he was unable to respond.

    Katya has begun a new job. Thanks to a government initiative to get more Saudi women into the workplace, a number of positions had opened at the crime lab in police headquarters and Katya had won one of those jobs. The dead body on the beach is assigned to her boss Osama.

    Miriam is an American woman rejoining her husband Eric in Jeddah. Eric has a military background and is working as a security guard. He speaks Arabic and has great respect for Muslim culture and wants to be part of it.
    Miriam has been on holiday in the US for four weeks, and expects Eric to collect her at the airport. When he fails to turn up she is bundled into a room for unclaimed women. When Eric eventually arrives he seems distracted and has no good explanation for his lateness. Miriam and Eric live in an Islamic neighbourhood, something which upsets Miriam as she feels threatened and out of place. In the month she has been away Eric has done no cleaning and he has bought no food, so he leaves Miriam in their flat while he goes out to buy local food. Miriam thinks she hears him return and when she goes to the kitchen the food is there but Eric isn't. Her worst fears are realised when it becomes apparent  that Eric has disappeared.

    CITY OF VEILS skilfully draws these story strands together, blending a murder investigation with a commentary on Saudi culture and in particular the status of women. We feel this commentary in the precariousness of Miriam trying to find out what has happened to Eric, in Katya and Osama trying to discover the identity of the body on the beach and what led to her murder, in Osama's relationship with his wife Nuah, and also in Nayir and Katya exploring their feelings for each other.

    In much the same way as in THE NIGHT OF THE MI'RAJ you suspect that Zoe Ferraris didn't actually set out to write a murder mystery, but it certainly becomes the vehicle for the exploration of relationships in an Islamic society. For me it was a pointer to how little I really understand about Islam. In some ways Zoe Ferraris seems to be pointing to the social shortcomings of Saudi society, but on the other hand you are aware that she is treating the culture with great respect. The story raises so many issues for you to think about.

    CITY OF VEILS is really another of these novels that crosses out of the crime fiction genre and really deserves a literary "tag" too.

    My rating: 4.8

    Other reviews to check:
    I wrote earlier in my blog about how I started CITY OF VEILS and then realised I needed to read the first book in the series FINDING NOUF/THE NIGHT OF THE MI'RAJ
    I urge you to read my earlier post and to consider reading them in order.


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