31 January 2011

End of the month challenge Update, 31 January 2011

I've been thinking about how to record my progress in some of the challenges where I am reading only a small number of books.
I've actually made a start in most of the 2011 challenges which is a good sign.
You will notice some overlap, with many books counting in more than one challenge.

I've decided on a monthly update record to be published at the end of each month.
Challenges will be included on these updates until I have completed them.


Canadian Book Challenge 2010-2011
Host is John Mutford at The Book Mine Set
 
I have to read 13 books by Canadian authors by 1 July 2011.
I had read 7 by the end of 2010, so I need to read another 6
  1. 4.5, MIDNIGHT CAB, James W. Nichol
  2. 4.9, THE BRUTAL TELLING, Louise Penny
2011 Global Reading Challenge:

I have committed myself to reading 21 titles, all crime fiction, 3 titles each from 7 "continents". My 7th continent - historical crime fiction.

 Africa
  1. OF WILD DOGS, Jane Taylor (South Africa)
  2. xx
  3. xx
Asia
  1. 4.5, THE HALF-CHILD, Angela Savage (Thailand)
  2. xx
  3. xx
Australasia
  1. PRIME CUT, Alan Carter (Australia)
  2. xx
  3. xx
An extra hurdle for Australasia - at least one from New Zealand.
I can count separate Australian states.

Europe
  1. 4.5, DUMB WITNESS, Agatha Christie (England)
  2. 4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD, Georges Simeon (France)
  3. 4.7, THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (Sweden)
North America
  1. 4.5, MIDNIGHT CAB, James W. Nichol (Canada)
  2. xx
  3. xx
South America
  1. xx
  2. xx
  3. xx
7th Continent: Historical crime fiction
  1. RAILWAY TO THE GRAVE, Edward Marston
    (Britain 1850s) 
  2. THE PERICLES COMMISSION, Gary Corby (Ancient Athens)
  3. xx
2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge

Get a Clue Level: 7-9 books,
must have been written prior to 1960

My extra rule: all need to be by different authors 


Progress page on the challenge site
  1. 4.5, DUMB WITNESS, Agatha Christie (1937)
  2. 4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD, Georges Simenon (1953)
  3. 4.4, IN THE TEETH OF THE EVIDENCE, Dorothy L. Sayers (1939)
Cruisin' thru Cosies Reading Challenge

'll try for Investigator: 7-12 books

Definition: most cozies take place in a small town or village, generally considered "gentle" books, and the sleuth is usually an amateur. 
  1. 4.4, A COTSWOLD KILLING, Rebecca Tope
  2. 4.4, THE PERICLES COMMISSION, Gary Corby  
  3. 4.4, IN THE TEETH OF THE EVIDENCE, Dorothy L. Sayers
Ireland Reading Challenge
  1. 5.0, THE RULE BOOK, Rob Kitchin
aiming for Luck o' the Irish level (4 books)

Agatha Christie Reading Challenge

How to join the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge 


I'm aiming for my next 12 titles.
  1. 4.5, DUMB WITNESS
  2. 4.3, DEATH ON THE NILE
Aussie Author Challenge

I'm aiming for True Blue: 12 books
  1. 4.4, THE PERICLES COMMISSION, Gary Corby 
  2. 4.7, PRIME CUT, Alan Carter 
  3. 4.5, THE HALF-CHILD, Angela Savage
Nordic Challenge 2011

I'm aiming for Odin 11-20 books
  1. 4.7, THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (Sweden)
  2. 4.9, BAD INTENTIONS, Karin Fossum (Norway)
e-book challenge

I'm aiming for obsessed: 20 books
  1. 4.7, THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo
  2. 4.9, BAD INTENTIONS, Karin Fossum 
  3. 4.7, PRIME CUT, Alan Carter 
British Books Challenge

Royal Family level: 12 books by British authors.
Extra rules: all different authors, all crime fiction.
  1. 4.5, OUR LADY OF PAIN, Elena Forbes
  2. 4.5, DUMB WITNESS, Agatha Christie
  3. 4.4, A COTSWOLD KILLING, Rebecca Tope 
  4. 4.5, RAILWAY TO THE GRAVE, Edward Marston 
Historical Fiction Challenge

Daring & Curious : 5 books
my extra rule: all need to be crime fiction
  1. 4.5, RAILWAY TO THE GRAVE, Edward Marston
    (Britain 1850s) 
  2. 4.4, THE PERICLES COMMISSION, Gary Corby (Ancient Athens) 
something New Zealand maybe 4-6 books
This is a personal challenge more than anything else.

It will be an overlapping challenge, and I aim to exceed 20 titles which was my total this year.
  1. 4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD, Georges Simenon (French)
  2. 4.7, THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (Sweden)
  3. 4.9, BAD INTENTIONS, Karin Fossum (Norway)
Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge


I'm aiming for Out of Breath: 6-10 more books than in 2010 when I read 136

My aim is 142+ and will include all books read in all formats include audio books.

You can see how I am going here. Current count: 17
Again, another personal challenge.
In 2010 I read 46 new-to-me authors and I'll be keeping count in 2011 to see if I can exceed that total, even by 1.
Current count: 6

Review: DEATH ON THE NILE, Agatha Christie

Dust-jacket illustration of the first UK edition
First published in Great Britain in 1937
My edition published by Fontana Books 1962
253 pages
Source: TBR
The book was first serialised in the US in The Saturday Evening Post in eight instalments from May 15 (Volume 209, Number 46) to July 3, 1937 (Volume 210, Number 1) with illustrations by Henry Raleigh.

Christie dramatised the novel as Murder on the Nile in 1945 with several alterations including removing Poirot and changing the ending. 

Publisher's Blurb
Linnet Ridgeway is rich, beautiful and clever.  She appears to have everything.  But Linnet also has enemies.  When she is shot dead on a passenger boat in Egypt, it is fortunate that Hercule Poirot is also on the trip.  But even for the great Belgian detective, this is not a simple case.

My take: 

The scene is carefully set in DEATH ON THE NILE. We first of all meet Linnet Ridgeway, heiress, friend to Jacqueline de Bellefort. The latter has recently fallen in love with the handsome Simon Doyle. It very much looks as if Linnet Ridgeway will marry Lord Windlesham.

Hercle Poirot is again dabbling in retirement, a man of leisure, with enough funds to travel. He is contemplating a trip to Egypt to escape a grey English winter.

In the next few pages the reader is introduced to the people who will be joining Hercule Poirot on his Nile cruise, and we learn, time having elapsed, that Linnet Ridgeway has recently married. As the blurb warns us, she has a number of enemies, and that makes her death inevitable. The novel is spent working out who the murderer is. Among the candidates is the person who has been stalking Linnet and her husband ever since they married.

Hercule Poirot is assisted in this task by Colonel Race who is looking for an arch criminal but has no further information about his identity. Between them they work methodically through the candidates.

It is obvious that Christie based the setting of the novel on her own travels in Egypt and on the Nile, although, as a blogger recently commented, the journey is now a bit different to what it was in the 1930s.

I found myself wishing that the edition of DEATH ON THE NILE that I read had had a diagram of the layout of the Steamer Karnak on which they were travelling. The layout of the cabins seemed important in working out who had the opportunity to commit the murder. It was clear that Christie had a clear vision of the tour boat herself.

As in many other Poirot novels, the Belgian's fondness for romance comes to the surface, and he does his best to foster romantic feelings of some of the young people in the novel, even to the point of tweaking the outcome of one of the minor crimes, something of which Colonel Race found it hard to approve.

Colonel Race plays the role of Poirot's sounding board and confidante. This is the role often played by Captain Hastings, or by one of the women with whom Poirot strikes up a friendship. But even then Poirot finds it difficult to explain to Race where his little grey cells are leading him, and his final explanations come as a surprise to Race.

My rating: 4.3.

I'm counting DEATH ON THE NILE both for my next novel in the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge
and for the letter D in Crime Fiction Alphabet

Review: IN THE TEETH OF THE EVIDENCE, Dorothy L. Sayers - audio

AUDIOBOOK: In the Teeth of the Evidence: UNABRIDGED
A collection of 17 short stories by Dorothy L. Sayers first published by Victor Gollancz in 1939.
The book's title is taken from the first story in the collection.

The stories in the collection
Original cover
* Lord Peter Wimsey stories:
          o "In the Teeth of the Evidence"
          o "Absolutely Elsewhere"
 * Montague Egg stories:
          o "A Shot at Goal"
          o "Dirt Cheap"
          o "Bitter Almonds"
          o "False Weight"
          o "The Professor's Manuscript"
* Other stories:
          o "The Milk-Bottles"
          o "Dilemma"
          o "An Arrow O'er the House"
          o "Scrawns"
          o "Nebuchadnezzar"
          o "The Inspiration of Mr. Budd"
          o "Blood Sacrifice"
          o "Suspicion"
          o "The Leopard Lady"
          o "The Cyprian Cat"

My take:

This was an entertaining audio book, narrated with touches of the dramatic by Ian Carmichael.
I thought it gave a good idea of the range of Dorothy L. Sayers' crime fiction writing.
I particularly liked the Lord Peter Wimsey stories and enjoyed meeting Montague Egg who was new to me. Many of the "other stories" had a Poe-ish quality to them.

My rating: 4.4

I'm "counting" this in the  2011 Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge and the Cruisin' thru Cosies Reading Challenge

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2011 - Letter D - week begins 31Jan 2011

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

Contributors to this series of the Crime Fiction Alphabet are already showing just how inventive they can be. Craig has decided he will restrict himself to Kiwi crime fiction, with an extra proviso that he will try to use titles rather than author names. Bernadette has so far used only character descriptors. It is not too late to join in and you don't have to post each week if reading (or life) gets in the way.

Letters already covered: A B C 

This week's letter is the letter D:

Here are the rules

By Friday of each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
[Those who intend to participate regularly have signed up here.]

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.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)

Please link your post for the week back to this page. (a letter image is supplied that you can use in your post as well as the meme icon if you wish).

After your post is published, put a link to your actual blog post in the Mr Linky that appears below.
(leave a comment if Mr Linky has disappeared)

Then come back at the end of the week to check to see who else has posted and visit their blog (and leave a comment if you can).

Please check each Monday for the letter of the week

Letters already covered: A B C  

Thanks for participating.


30 January 2011

Sunday Salon, 30 January 2011 - some crime fiction treats for you


Good morning fellow Sunday Saloners.

I hope your reading is going well, and that today you find some space and time to get more done. My own reading is going well. I have read and reviewed 15 crime fiction titles this month, and there may be even time for the 16th. Hot weather here in Adelaide is making the air conditioned lounge very attractive!

This week has been a busy one on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.
  • To celebrate Australia Day 2011 Bernadette (Reactions to Reading) and I re-launched our revamped joint blog, now named Fair Dinkum Crime
    We aim to feature reviews, news, interviews relating to Australian crime fiction which includes books written by Australian authors or set in Australia.
    So bookmark us, add it to your favourites, or even go as far as to become a friend, but above all keep an eye on our progress.
    We'll suggest some great Australian crime fiction reading.
    We are particularly interested in hearing from bloggers who have posted a review of an Australian crime fiction novel and would like it re-published, or Australian crime fiction authors who would like to sponsor a novel giveaway or would like to be "interviewed" by one of us.

  • Earlier this month I set up another round of the Crime Fiction Alphabet, a meme where participants suggest crime fiction authors and titles related to the letter of the week.
    This week's letter was the letter C.
    This is a fun meme where you can participate regularly or just when you have time.

  • On Friday I hosted this week's edition of Friday's Forgotten Books. In this meme participants remind us of crime fiction books of the past. Again, it is a fun meme to participate in.

  • And then, I've also read some great books. So if you are looking for some great crime fiction check this week's reviews:
    THE BRUTAL TELLING, Louise Penny - Canadian author and setting
    THE HALF-CHILD, Angela Savage - Australian author, set in Thailand
    THE RULE BOOK, Rob Kitchin - Irish author and setting
Kontactr Me: I came across a great little gadget for my blog. Check it out just under my Who Am I information. It lets people email me quite detailed information/requests privately without having to activate their email. If it interests you'll find it out here.
If you scroll down a bit you'll also notice the Revolver Map that I added at the beginning of December 2010. It currently shows that I've had over 13,000 visits since December 3.
At the top right of mypage I've added a Blogoversary button that counts down to my next blogoversary.

News & Headlines for the last couple of weeks:
TBRN (To Be Read Next)
  • now - BURY YOUR DEAD, Louise Penny
  • next - THREE SECONDS, Roslund & Hellstrom
  • now on Kindle - THE GHOST OF A FLEA, John Brindle
  • next on Kindle - OPERATION NAPOLEON, Arnaldur Indridason
  • now on audio - IN THE TEETH OF THE EVIDENCE, Dorothy L. Sayers
  • next on audio STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG , Kate Atkinson
  • then on audio - DIED IN THE WOOL, Ngaio Marsh
  • next Agatha Christie - DEATH ON THE NILE

Review: THE RULE BOOK, Rob Kitchin

Publisher: Pen Press, 2009
ISBN13: 978-1-906710-57-6
352 pages
Source: complimentary copy supplied by the author.

Blurb:

April in the Wicklow mountains and a young woman is found dead, seemingly sacrificed. Accompanying her body is Chapter One of The Rule Book – a self-help guide for prospective serial killers. The case is assigned to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and headed up by Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy. Since the recent death of his wife, McEvoy is a shadow of his former self – two stones lighter with a wardrobe of ill fitting suits, struggling to quit the cigarettes that killed his wife, and still getting used to being a single parent. Less than twenty four hours later a second murder is committed. Self-claiming the title ‘The Raven’, the killer starts to taunt the police and the media. When the third body is discovered it is clear that The Raven intends to slaughter one victim each day until The Rule Book is published in full. With the pressure from his superiors, the press, and politicians rising, McEvoy stumbles after a killer that is seemingly several steps ahead.

Is The Rule Book as definitive as The Raven claims?

My take:

This was a very ambitious first novel. So much action occurs in just 12 days, so much blood is shed, and from a writer's point of view, so many threads to be tracked, so many characters to be fleshed out. And for me, this is the best novel I've read so far this year.

I came to THE RULE BOOK having already met Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy in the second novel from Rob Kitchin, THE WHITE GALLOWS. The author took pity on me after I had reviewed the latter, and sent me a copy. My local library still doesn't have either. 

McEvoy is still grieving the death of his wife Maggie, trying to cope, not very successfully, with being a single parent, when the serial killer, whom the media will label The Raven, hits. The first scene of crime is a gruesome one - the victim appears to have willingly swallowed a sword - and they really don't get any better. As McEvoy pits his brain against that of The Raven the murders pile up, tempers fray. The media, hot on the heels of McEvoy's superiors, bays for blood. There is even a member of McEvoy's team who does his best to gain glory for himself at the expense of the team effort. The personal cost as McEvoy struggles on working 16-18 hour days is huge.

An excellent read, one you must add to your list.

Obtainable at
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rule-Book-Rob-Kitchin/dp/1906710570/
http://www.amazon.com/Rule-Book-Rob-Kitchin/dp/1906710570/

My rating 5.0

Don't just take my word for it: check the reviews on the author's site.

My review of the next in the series:  THE WHITE GALLOWS

I'm counting THE RULE BOOK as my first book in the Ireland Reading Challenge

28 January 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday 28 January 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books is usually hosted at Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books but this week Patti is still on holidays and so I am your host.
I've tried to hunt down as many of the usual contributors as I can, so I hope I haven't missed anybody.
If I have please leave a comment and I will add you in.

Last week's host was Davy Crockett's Almanack of Mystery, Adventure and The Wild West

The schedule for the next two weeks
February 4: Todd Mason
February 11: George Kelley

Me Tarzan You Nobody

- article courtesy of Ed Gorman who blogs here
Somebody on line mentioned Lin Carter yesterday so I of course got nostalgic for the mid-Sixties which was right before I took my sacred vows with drink and drug. I looked up Carter on the net. Now you know and I know that he was generally a pretty miserable writer. He had to two good books in him by my estimation The Man Who Loved Mars and Time War. As with all his books you knew on page one exactly who he was "homaging." In Mars he was homaging (doesn't that sound dirty?) Leigh Brackett and Wars he was imitating Van Vogt. His worst work was his attempt to recreate the mystery pulps of the Thirties, Doc Savage, The Shadow and etc. But for some damned reason I bought and read all 900 (I'm joking) of his books and finished every one of them. To his credit, he was a damned fine editor. His Ballantine Fantasy series remains (for me) the benchmark of classic reprint lines.

One of the Carter pieces mentioned his affection for Edgar Rice Burroughs. I logged on and am glad I did. Burroughs has always fascinated me and I'm not sure why. Maybe because as a young man he was rather pretentious and vainglorious about himself while all the while being a failure at everything he tried. We've all known people like that (I was certainly one of them myself--Brian Moore's great The Luck of Ginjer Coffee gets him down on paper for all time) and while we might snicker at them we know there's something sad about them, too, that the bragging is empty and recognizing themselves in the morning mirror is painful.

Then he became a writer. Sort of just like that. An idiotic turn in a sappy Hwood movie. Then he became a writer. And by God not just any writer. Early on he created Tarzan, books still in print in virtually every country today, nearly one hundred years after their first appearance. I still read two or three Burroughs novels a year. He's not anywhere as good as Rafael Sabatini; and it's sacreligious to even utter the names Robert Louis Stevenson and H. Rider Haggard in the same piece. But I recently reread the first Tarzan novel and think I found the obvious reason for Burroughs' enduring success. He wrote books for innocents. He didn't know a damned thing about Africa, his prose occasonally makes you want to give the book in your hand a hot foot, and nobody will ever be outdone in his hatred of Germans (I ain't crazy about them either but still).

But in his innocence he allowed himself to create human creatures who have virtually no human responses. Swinging through the trees in a loincloth? Jane giving it all up to leave in a tree house? Apes and lions living in terror of this white dude? An "Africa" that bears no relation whatsoever to the real thing, an Africa in fact that's closer to the Burroughs Mars than any place else?

When you talk about the aventure novels scooped up by boys early in the last century you ARE talking about Stevenson and Haggard and Sabatini. But for all their adventurousness each of their books come with serious themes. Haggard's She remains nothing less than a bitter look at the mortality of our our species; a very dark book at its core. Sabatini's novels are implicit condemnations of imperialsim and expansionism. And the underlying psychology of Stevenson's bad guys invariably alter the lives of their young victims forever. Consider Treasure island, for instance, in juxtaposition to The Treasure of Sierra Madre. In some ways they're identical. And yet the Stevenson is a young adult book.

But it's fun sometimes to escape all that with Edgar Rice Burroughs. One of my favorite images in all literature is John Carter in that Arizona cave deep in the night when he's summoned to Mars. It's one of the most eerily beautiful scenes I've ever read.

This week's contributions to Friday's Forgotten Books

Kerrie Smith - THE NOMINATIVE CASE, Edward Mackin
Patti Abbott -  THE MAIN, Trevanian. Reviewed by John McFetridge
John Norris - CANDIDATE FOR LILIES, Roger East
Richard Robinson -  BERSERKERS: THE BEGINNING, Fred Saberhagen
Dave Evans - DARK MEMORY, Jonathan Latimer
Paul Bishop - THE FIRE MARSHALL: BEN PEDLEY NOVELS, Stewart Sterling
Randy Johnson - THE BORDER JUMPERS, Will C. Brown
Martin Edwards - DEATH AMONG THE SUNBATHERS, E.R. Punshon

Joe Barone - THE BIG SLEEP, Raymond Chandler
Scott Cupp - THE ELEMENT OF FIRE, Martha Wells
Jerry House - RUE MORGE NO. 1, edited by Rex Stout and Louis Greenfield
George Kelley - THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF THEODORE STURGEON
Ron Scheer -ALONG THE RIO GRANDE, Jack Thorpe

Paul Brazill -FEARLESS JONES, Walter Mosley
James Reasoner - THE RED SCARF, Gil Brewer

Bill Crider - SCI-FI PRIVATE EYE, Charles G. Waugh & Martin H. Greenberg (Editors)
B.V. Lawson - THORNE IN THE FLESH, Rhona Petrie
Kevin Tipple - WITNESS TO MYSELF, Seymour Shubin
Todd Mason - THE PRICE OF SALT, Claire Morgan (Patricia Highsmith) & SPRING FIRE, Vin Packer (Marijane Meaker)

Richard L. Pangburn - A BROTHER'S N BLOOD, Michael C. White
Steve Lewis - THE PHANTOM CLUE, Gaston Leroux
Elizabeth Foxwell - MURDER AND ITS MOTIVES - F. Tennyson Jesse

27 January 2011

Forgotten Book - THE NOMINATIVE CASE, Edward Mackin

This contribution to Friday's Forgotten Books, hosted here on my blog tomorrow, for just this week, comes from my records for 1991.

Edward Mackin is better known as Ralph McInerny, the author of the popular Father Dowling mystery series, who taught for over forty years at the University of Notre Dame, where he was the director of the Jacques Maritain Center. He was awarded the Bouchercon Lifetime Achievement Award, and was a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. In fact I wrote about one of his Father Dowling books, SLEIGHT OF HAND, in a Forgotten Books post in late 2010. Wikepdia contributes: Some of his fiction has appeared under the pseudonyms of Harry Austin, Matthew FitzRalph, Ernan Mackey, Edward Mackin, and Monica Quill.

I have been able to find little out about THE NOMINATIVE CASE however, which is listed by Fantastic Fiction as one in a considerable list of "Novels". Published in 1990 it looks like it may have been the only title he wrote as Edward Mackin. Good Reads however also lists a novel called THE IRON APES published in 1986, but I suspect they may have confused two different authors.

I know a number of contributors to Friday's Forgotten books were readers of the Father Dowling series, but has anybody read this one, or even better, have it on their shelves? A plot abstract would be great.

26 January 2011

Review: THE HALF-CHILD, Angela Savage

Publisher: Text Publishing Melbourne Australia 2010
ISBN:978-1-921656-54-5
322 pages
Source: Local Library

Publisher's blurb
Jayne Keeney is a fiesty thirty-something Aussie who has been living in Bangkok for many years. She has been hired to investigate the alleged suicide of a young Australian woman in a seedy Thai coastal town. Maryanne Delbeck was happy and harmless, her father refuses to believe she took her own life. Jayne immerses herself in the case, navigating the backstreet world of Thai ladyboys, monks, strippers, expats and corrupt officials.
Maryanne’s death is not the only mystery awaiting Jayne among Pattaya’s neon signs and go-go bars. While working undercover at the orphanage where Maryanne volunteered, Jayne discovers something far more sinister. Now her life is in danger, her case is still unsolved and she barely has time for dinner with her handsome new love interest, Rajiv. With love and death both circling, Jayne now has two cases to crack and very little time to do it.

My take:

Maryanne Delbeck was a twenty-one-year old Australian volunteer working for Young Christian Volunteers in Bangkok. The year is 1996. Less than five months after her arrival in Thailand Maryanne jumped from a hotel rooftop in Pattaya, falling fourteen storeys to her death. She had found work at the New Life Child Centre in Pattaya, an orphanage that prepares babies for international adoption.

Jayne Keeney decides the best way to investigate what caused Maryanne to jump is to volunteer at the orphanage herself.  In her gathering of relevant information she calls in favours from a friend at the Australian Embassy, from a new Indian friend Rajiv, and from Police Major General Wichit whom she assisted in a case involving his own daughter. As Jayne extends her net she realises she is looking at something much more organised than a young woman's suicide.

I'm not an expert in Thai culture by any means but I have been to Thailand several times in the last 30 years, and spent time not only in Bangkok but also Chiang Mai and Kanchanaburi. Angela Savage's settings and descriptions rang very true for me, and I thought a very credible flavour of Thailand came through.

The plot in THE HALF-CHILD is very credible, and well threaded. Angela Savage shows how a crime fiction author can get under the skin of another culture, and focus on social issues as well as a crime fiction theme.
A very good read from an Australian author worth your while to look for. I think you can read these books out of order - I had rather hazy memories of the previous title in the series, BEHIND THE NIGHT BAZAAR. See my mini review below.

My rating: 4.5

About Angela Savage (from Text Publishing)
Angela Savage travelled to Laos on a six-month scholarship in 1992 and ended up staying in Asia for six years. She was based in Vientiane, then Hanoi and Bangkok where she set up and headed the Australian Red Cross HIV/AIDS subregional program. Her love affair with Asia continues and she has returned many times since. Behind the Night Bazaar won the 2004 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. Angela lives in Melbourne.

Angela Savage writes (on her blog) about the launch of THE HALF-CHILD

Mini-review of
BEHIND THE NIGHT BAZAAR  (published 2006) My rating 4.5
Jayne Keeney, fluent in Thai language, is an Australian private investigator living in Bangkok. Her last investigation into a marital infidelity resulted in her being severely wounded and two weeks later, stitches out, she has arranged to visit her friend Didier de Montpasse living in Chiang Mai. Didier is gay and works on an HIV/AIDS awareness program. He and Jayne get on very well, drawn together by a love of crime fiction. Jayne and Didier go to meet someone in a gay bar behind the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai. There Didier has an argument with his Thai lover who has a gambling problem. Later that night Nou, Didier’s lover, is discovered dead, in the bar, butchered and mutilated. Soon Didier is also dead, shot at home by the police who say he was attempting to escape arrest. Jayne is determined to prove Didier’s innocence and to find out who really killed Nou. The content of story seems to stem from Savage’s own experience in South East Asia when she worked for the Australian Red Cross in setting up an HIV/AIDS program in Bangkok. In some senses it presents a stereo-typed view of Thailand, particularly of Bangkok and Chang Mai, where the under-age sex industry seems to flourish, with Australians amongst those who feed it. On the other hand, there is an unmistakeable tone of authenticity, raising issues that we need to think about.
A Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Winner in 2004, shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Best First Crime Fiction in 2007.

I am going to "count" THE HALF-CHILD in

Are you Fair Dinkum about your Australian Crime fiction?

We are.

To celebrate Australia Day 2011 Bernadette (she of Reactions to Reading) and I are re-launching our revamped joint blog, now named Fair Dinkum Crime

We aim to feature reviews, news, interviews relating to Australian crime fiction which includes books written by Australian authors or set in Australia.

So bookmark us, add it to your favourites, or even go as far as to become a friend, but above all keep an eye on our progress.

We'll suggest some great Australian crime fiction reading. Try these below for starters.

And if you are looking for Australian book bloggers, take a look at the Australian Book Bloggers Directory.

24 January 2011

Review: THE BRUTAL TELLING, Louise Penny

Published by Headline 2009, 2010 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-7553-4105-4
460 pages
Source: Local Library

Publisher's blurb

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

My take:

The discovery of the body of an apparent outsider dead on the floor of the bistro in Three Pines, murdered, appears to signal the end of life in the little Canadian hamlet as its residents know it.

But even before the murder, change has been on the way. The old Hadlee house, featured in an earlier novel, has been sold and is being re-born as an exclusive guest house. It's new owners are ambitious and unlikely to let anything stand in their way. 

And why won't Olivier tell Inspector Gamache that he knew the murdered man?

Many of the residents living in Three Pines have come to escape from their old world and achieve a lifestyle change. But in a murder investigation secrets are the first thing to be uncovered. It just amazed me that some of it hadn't come out in earlier investigations. THE BRUTAL TELLING is after all #5 in the series.

This is a great read. There was a lot more that I was going to include in this review: how Gamache adds another member to his team, how we learn so much more about Gamache and his methods, the humorous images of Rosa the duck dressed in baby clothes to keep her warm, the development of the characters of the other members of Gamache's team, and how cleverly the threads of the mystery that surround the murder are woven. But really, I can't do better than to urge you to get hold of a copy of THE BRUTAL TELLING and see for yourself.
The writing is superb.
But I would really urge you to read the books in the series in order. That way you'll appreciate how Louise Penny has developed the setting and the characters who interact within it.
For myself, I have the next waiting on my shelves!

My rating: 4.9

THE BRUTAL TELLING was the winner of the Agatha Award for best novel of 2009.

1. Still Life (2005)
2. Dead Cold (2006)  aka A Fatal Grace
3. The Cruellest Month (2007)
4. The Murder Stone (2008) aka A Rule Against Murder
5. The Brutal Telling (2009)
6. Bury Your Dead (2010)

Other titles I've reviewed
4.8, THE CRUELLEST MONTH
4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER

Louise Penny's website.

I'm "counting" this novel in the Canadian Book Challenge 2010-2011

On a humorous note: Just recently I added Gotland to my list of places, fictional and otherwise, to avoid. 
 I think that list (Midsomer, St. Mary Mead, Gotland) should be expanded to include Three Pines don't you?

Crime Fiction Alphabet 2011 - Letter C - week begins 24 Jan 2011

The Alphabet in Crime Fiction - a Community Meme.

After a cracking start with the letter A, last week's letter B also produced a great mixture of contributions, with some bloggers showing just how flexibly the rules can be interpreted.


This week's letter is the letter C:

Here are the rules

By Friday of each week you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week.
[Those who intend to participate regularly have signed up here.]

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.
(It is ok too to skip a week.)
Link your post for the week back to this page.

After your post is published, put a link to your actual blog post in the Mr Linky that appears below.
(leave a comment if Mr Linky has disappeared)

Then come back at the end of the week to check to see who else has posted and visit their blog (and leave a comment if you can).

Please check each Monday for the letter of the week (a letter image will be supplied that you can use in your post as well as the meme icon if you wish).

Letters already covered: A B  

Thanks for participating.


23 January 2011

Sunday Salon - Sunday 23 January 2011 - great Australian reading


Hello fellow Sunday Saloners

My reading went very well this week.
I need to tell you that I have come across 2 new Australian crime fiction writers to watch.
Postings this week on MiP - I've managed to restrain myself to just over 1 a day.
Today I posted the first edition of the Agatha Christie Blog Carnival for 2011, part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge.  Even if you just read and review the occasional Agatha Christie novel, you can take part. Find out how.

Reading so far in January 2011 - looks like I might make 15 books for the month.
  1. 4.7, PRIME CUT, Alan Carter (21 January)
  2. 4.4, THE PERICLES COMMISSION, Gary Corby (16 January)
  3. 4.5, OUR LADY OF PAIN, Elena Forbes (15 January) - audio book
  4. 4.9, BAD INTENTIONS, Karin Fossum (13 January) - kindle
  5. 4.2, OF WILD DOGS, Jane Taylor (12 January)
  6. 4.2, THE SOUNDS OF CRIME, Maxim Jakubowski (editor) - audio book (10 January)
  7. 4.5, RAILWAY TO THE GRAVE, Edward Marston (7 January)
  8. 4.4, A COTSWOLD KILLING, Rebecca Tope (6 January)
  9. 4.7, THE MAN WHO WENT UP IN SMOKE, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo (3 January)
  10. 4.5, DUMB WITNESS, Agatha Christie (1 January)
  11. 4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD, Georges Simenon  (1 January)
  12. 4.5, MIDNIGHT CAB, James W. Nichol (1 January)
Crime Fiction Alphabet 2011

Have you caught up with this meme? It is a really easy one to participate in.
Beginning tomorrow, this week's letter is the letter C.
Check these posts and you'll get the idea of what is required
TBRN (To Be Read Next)
  • now - BURY YOUR DEAD, Louise Penny
  • next - THREE SECONDS, Roslund & Hellstrom
  • next on Kindle - OPERATION NAPOLEON, Arnaldur Indridason
  • now on audio - IN THE TEETH OF THE EVIDENCE, Dorothy L. Sayers
  • next on audio STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG , Kate Atkinson
  • then on audio - DIED IN THE WOOL, Ngaio Marsh
  • next Agatha Christie - DEATH ON THE NILE

Online places to buy Australian books

ACRC Carnival 2011 #1 - January 2011 now published

The first edition of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge Blog Carnival has stepped off smartly for 2011 with 22 contributions from 12 contributors.

It contains a lovely mixture of reviews and news items.

Note also the details of how to become part of the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and how to participate in the monthly Carnival.

21 January 2011

Review: PRIME CUT, Alan Carter

Publisher: Fremantle Press, 2011
Awards:  Shortlisted, Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, 2010 (as Chinese Whispers)
ISBN13: 9781921696503
HB/PB: Paperback
Pages: 320
Source: e-copy of the (Proof Read version) on my Kindle, supplied by the publisher for review purposes.
Sample Chapter: PRIME CUT extract.pdf
Book Club Notes:  View Book Club Notes
 
Publication date: February 2011
Publisher's blurb

Meet Cato Kwong — disgraced cop and ex-poster boy for the police force. Banished to the stock squad after the fallout from a police frame-up, Cato is brought in from the cold to solve the case of a torso washed up on the wild shores of the Great Southern Ocean. But Cato faces powerful opposition when his investigation lifts the lid on the exploitation of migrant workers and disturbs an even darker criminal mind.

My take:
This really is a remarkable novel. Two main stories are told in tandem. The first begins in the Prologue with the murder of a woman and her son in Sunderland, England in 1973, the day of the FA Cup. What Detective Sergeant Stuart Miller sees at the scene of the crime will stay with him for the rest of his working life and in fact contributes to him emigrating to Busselton in Western Australia. 35 years later he still has nightmares.

The second story begins in Western Australia in October 2008. Detective Senior Constable Cato Kwong and Detective Sergeant Jim Buckley are part of Western Australia's Stock Squad and are also at a crime scene. In Cato's view they are "washed-up has-beens recycled as detectives.... The Laughing Stock Squad." And then they are called to a murder scene, at HopeToun: a headless torso in the shallows on the beach. The local policewoman is Senior Sergeant Tess Maguire, recovering from sick leave after being beaten up. HopeToun is a laid-back holiday or retirement spot for wheatbelt farmers, not a place where you expect murders to happen. In recent times though HopeToun has become a mining town.

What makes this novel remarkable is the way the author forwards these plot strands in tandem. It took a bit of getting used to at first. There is little to tell the reader that you've changed from one plot to another, just a change of characters. Often, but not always, the plots are basically at the same point, like the interviewing of a suspect.

But there's much more than that to keep the reader involved. There are prior links between some of the characters which are gradually teased out for us. There are genuine murder mysteries with lots of attendant red herrings. There's a good feel for the climate in Western Australia, both physical and economic. And there is some excellent characterisation.

My rating: 4.7

I'm already looking forward to Alan Carter's second novel - I hope there is one!

PRIME CUT will be available from Fremantle Press

About the author:
Alan Carter was born in Sunderland, UK, in 1959. He holds a degree in Communications Studies from Sunderland Polytechnic and immigrated to Australia in 1991. Alan lives in Fremantle with his wife Kath and son Liam. He works as a television documentary director. In his spare time he follows a black line up and down the Fremantle pool. Prime Cut is Alan Carter’s first novel. He wrote it while he was living in Hopetoun as a kept man.

2011 Challenges:

20 January 2011

Forgotten Book: THE COLOUR OF BLOOD, Brian Moore

This week's offering for Friday's forgotten books comes from my records in July 1991.
It comes from  a period when I was reading many more thrillers than I do now.
Friday's Forgotten Books is being hosted this week at Davy Crockett's Almanack of Mystery, Adventure and The Wild West

THE COLOUR OF BLOOD was originally published in hardback in 1987. It is now out of print but the most recent publishing was by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (paperback) in 2005.

Publisher's blurb

Set in an unnamed East European country, Moore's political thriller concerns a Cardinal who finds himself caught in the middle of an escalating revolution.

About Brian Moore 1921-1995 - courtesy Fantastic Fiction

Brian Moore was a novelist. His Christian name is pronounced in Irish (Bree-an). He was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1975 and the inaugural Sunday Express Book of the Year award in 1987, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times and also worked as a screenwriter. His distinctively simple, lucid style gives his works a highly powerful effect. He remains possibly the only novelist to encapsulate life in Northern Ireland in the post-war era, including his exploration of the intercommunal divisions of The Troubles. He also demonstrated an unusual male insight into female psychology, with women as the central narrative character in several of his books.

Fantastic Fiction lists 27 novels published over a 45 year period beginning in 1951, and the following Awards and nominations:
James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction Best Novel winner (1975) : The Great Victorian Collection
The Man Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (1976) : The Doctor's Wife
The Man Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (1987) : The Colour of Blood
The Man Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (1990) : Lies of Silence

ACRC Update - 20 January 2011

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 23 books and 11 collections of short stories.

Read & reviewed so far
  1. 1920, THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES
  2. 1922, THE SECRET ADVERSARY
  3. 1923, THE MURDER ON THE LINKS
  4. 1924, THE MAN IN THE BROWN SUIT
    1924, Poirot Investigates (short stories: eleven in the UK, fourteen in the US)
  5. 1925, THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS
  6. 1926, THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD
  7. 1927, THE BIG FOUR
  8. 1928, THE MYSTERY OF THE BLUE TRAIN
  9. 1929, THE SEVEN DIALS MYSTERY
    1929, Partners in Crime (fifteen short stories; featuring Tommy and Tuppence)
  10. 1930, THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE
    1930, The Mysterious Mr. Quin (twelve short stories; introducing Mr. Harley Quin)
  11. 1931, THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY (aka MURDER AT HAZELMOOR)
  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)
  13. 1933, LORD EDGEWARE DIES (aka THIRTEEN AT DINNER)
  14. 1934, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (aka MURDER IN THE CALAIS COACH)
  15. 1934, WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVANS? (aka THE BOOMERANG CLUE)
    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
  22. 1938, HERCULE POIROT'S CHRISTMAS (aka MURDER FOR CHRISTMAS, aka A HOLIDAY FOR MURDER) - Hercule Poirot
  23. 1937, DUMB WITNESS (aka POIROT LOSES A CLIENT)

    Reading schedule
  24. 1937, DEATH ON THE NILE
  25. 1938, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH
  26. 1939, MURDER IS EASY (aka EASY TO KILL)
  27. 1939, TEN LITTLE NIGGERS (aka AND THEN THERE WERE NONE; also TEN LITTLE INDIANS)
  28. 1940, SAD CYPRESS
  29. 1940, ONE, TWO, BUCKLE MY SHOE (aka AN OVERDOSE OF DEATH; also THE PATRIOTIC MURDERS)
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
http://www2.blogger.com/feeds/8273911883856580200/posts/default/-/Agatha%20Christie%20Challenge
Just save that in your bookmarks or RSS reader and you will be notified when I have written a new post.
Alternatively you could subscribe to the feed through FeedMyInbox. Just copy the RSS URL, click on the FeedMyInbox link and paste the URL in there.
You will need to confirm your subscription by email.

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

19 January 2011

18 January 2011

Taking Advantage of Your Kindle

I've my Kindle2 now for nearly 18 months and I have a few tips to pass on.
I'm presuming that these also hold good for the latest, the Kindle3.

These are features that I use a lot.

Collections/categories

Organising your books into collections is far better than listing your books in alphabetical order of title or author, or by "most recent."
Straight lists make it hard to find books and to know what you've read and what you haven't read.

Each book goes into just one collection on my Kindle.

Here are some of the collections I have.
  • now reading - one book goes into here
  • TBRN - to be read next, for those books I really have to tackle soon
  • special collections such as - historical, vintage, British, Nordic, global reading challenge, Agatha Christie, review books
  • completed - as I complete reading a book I move it into here and remove it from all other collections
  • TBR - any book not in another collection goes into here
 How to do it

Sound

Somewhere I read just recently a suggestion that if you were anxious to finish a book on your Kindle but were unable to use your eyes, e.g. when you are driving the car, then you could use the Text-reader and listen.

Not all books come with a text-reader option - apparently that is something the publisher had to agree to - and if you can turn it on, it is a computer-generated voice. As you listen it auto-turns the page.

Still, it is not bad. You can plug some head phones in and listen too. If the volume is a bit low, there is a regulator on the right hand side of the Kindle. Be aware that it will run the battery down more qucikly.

Notes, Highlights and BookMarks

I have begun using my notes and bookmarks when I create my book reviews.
You can highlight bits of text you want to include in your book review and add notes too.
When you read them over they serve to remind you of salient parts of the story.

When you connect your Kindle to your computer, it is treated as an extra drive.
Look for My Clippings. This is a text file and you can open it with a simple word processor like Notepad.
The highlights and notes from your most recent book will be at the end of the document.
I select the text I want and then transfer it into another text document and then manipulate it from there.
Check my most recent review, and you'll see how I used a bit of text that I had stored in my highlights.

So I hope these pointers are handy.

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