31 August 2011

My August 2011 crime fiction reads

Not so many books read this month but some excellent ones.
My pick of the month is BLUE LIGHTNING, #4 (and the last) in Ann Cleeves' Shetland Quartet.
  1. 5.0, BLUE LIGHTNING, Ann Cleeves (27 August) - Kindle
  2. 4.5, STILL MIDNIGHT, Denise Mina (24 August)- Audio
  3. 4.6, BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, Martin Walker  (23 August)
  4. 4.7, UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST, Asa Larsson (18 August)- Kindle
  5. 4.4, BEREFT, Chris Womersley  (17 August)
  6. 4.3, THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER, Sally Spencer (15 August)
  7. 4.3, BLUE MONDAY, Nicci French (12 August) - Kindle
  8. 4.2, THE COSY KNAVE, Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen (8 August) - Kindle
  9. 4.3, EVIL UNDER THE SUN, Agatha Christie (3 August) - Kindle

30 August 2011

Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass: Denmark: Danish writers to look out for

Finding Danish crime fiction was not an easy task in this week's Crime Fiction on a Europass.

Denmark is after all a pretty small country with a small population.
But it is, after all, known for Hans Christian Anderson, Copenhagen, and the Little Mermaid.

2011 began well for Danish crime fiction writer Jussi Adler-Olssen when he won this year’s Golden Laurel (a prize awarded by the Danish booksellers) for his crime thriller “Journal 64″ (published late 2010 in Denmark), the fourth in the series featuring Inspector Carl Mørck and the Police Department Q.

For me THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES (aka MERCY) by  Adler-Olssen has been one of my notable reads for the year.
This is the first in the Monck series and I rated it at 4.8.

Another Danish writer to look out for, particularly if you enjoy flash fiction and comic cozy crime fiction, is Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen.
Dorte blogs at DJ's Krimiblog

Two years ago I attempted to read THE QUIET GIRL by notable Danish writer Peter Hoeg. I had really enjoyed his earlier book MISS SMILLA'S FEELING FOR SNOW but THE QUIET GIRL was a disappointment.

So sadly that is all I can tell you about Danish crime fiction, so I'm hoping to learn more from fellow participants in this week's Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass.

29 August 2011

Review: BLUE LIGHTNING, Ann Cleeves

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 581 KB
  • Print Length: 340 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 023001447X
  • Publisher: Pan Books (September 3, 2010)
    Originally published 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0040JHNYI
  • Source: I bought it
Publisher's blurb

Shetland Detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to the Fair Isles to introduce his fiancée, Fran, to his parents. It’s a community where everyone knows each other, and strangers, while welcomed, are still viewed with a degree of mistrust. Challenging to live on at the best of times, with the autumn storms raging, the island feels cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped, tension is high and tempers become frayed. Enough to drive someone to murder…

When a woman's body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, with feathers threaded through her hair, the islanders react with fear and anger. With no support from the mainland and only Fran to help him - Jimmy has to investigate the old-fashioned way. He soon realizes that this is no crime of passion - but a murder of cold and calculated intention. With no way off the island until the storms abate - Jimmy knows he has to work quickly. There's a killer on the island just waiting for the opportunity to strike again…

My take

This is #4 in Cleeves' Shetland series
1. Raven Black (2006) my rating 4.6
2. White Nights (2008) my rating 4.5
3. Red Bones (2009) my rating 4.7
4. Blue Lightning (2010)
and it really is a case where you MUST read them in order to get the most out of the threads that run through them. But as you can see I have given all of them a very high rating, so it really will be a pleasure rather than a chore.

Even as Fran arrives on Fair Isle to meet Jimmy's family, the weather closes in. The island becomes isolated. Planes and helicopters can't get in, and neither is there access for boats. Those on the island must stay and no-one can come in. This gives Ann Cleeves the perfect "locked room" scenario, and the perfect setting for the inevitable murder. But no-one expected Angela, warden of the island's research centre, scientist, bird authority, and TV star to be murdered.

Cleeves intensifies the locks so to speak by ensuring that the lighthouse where Angela is murdered has also been locked so that the murderer has to be one of those inside at the time, not a member of the wider island community.

The cutting off of the island by the weather allows the author to explore how suitable Fran, essentially a city girl, will be as Jimmy Perez' wife. Fran gets a chance to see Jimmy work at first hand and to understand that his isn't a 9 to 5 job. The isolation of Fair Isle also puts pressure on Jimmy to complete his investigation before the weather improves and the island is again open to incomers and twitchers. Things are complicated by a second murder, that of the housekeeper/cook. Jimmy feels that he is too close to events, but on the other hand he is the one best placed to do an investigation. He knows that it needs to be done thoroughly, properly, even if it means investigating his own family and friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed BLUE LIGHTNING. Cleeves does an excellent job of depicting characters, building tension, laying red herrings. I found myself going over plot points and trying to work out what I had missed. To be caught up in a novel to that extent is quite unusual for me and a tribute to Ann Cleeves' skill.

My rating: 5.0

Review of BLUE LIGHTNING on EuroCrime by Maxine Clarke.

My previous reviews:

76th Book Review Blog Carnival

Welcome the August 28, 2011 edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival.
Every other Sunday the carnival appears at a blog, somewhere in blogtopia.
The founder of the carnival is Clark Bjorke who blogs at I'll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!

There are 26 contributions to this edition of the carnival and I encourage you to visit them and leave comments if you can.
Many thanks to all participants.

The next host is Colloquium who will be hosting the September 11 edition.

Children's Books

Jon Welling presents Review: Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow posted at Hippies, Beauty, and Books Oh My!.
"This was a delightful read and I would highly recommend it to any parent for their older children. It is fun, perfectly put together, and teaches great morals. I look forward to reading more from this author!"

Read Aloud Dad presents Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man by Robert McCloskey posted at Read Aloud Dad.
"Our family celebrates Robert McCloskey as one of the greatest teachers of the finest things in life."


Scott Bartlett presents Crowshite posted at BATSHITE.
"A review of Ted Hughes' poetry collection, Crow."


Jim Murdoch presents The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam ( posted at The Truth About Lies.
"At the end of a brutal civil war, a man stumbles upon an abandoned building and finds a young woman whose story will haunt him for years. Almost a decade later his sister returns home to find her brother transformed. While she has stuck to her revolutionary ideals, he has shunned his old life to become a charismatic religious leader. And when he decides to send his son to madrasa the conflict between them comes to a devastating climax. Set in Bangladesh at a time when religious fundamentalism is on the rise, The Good Muslim is an epic story about faith, family and the long shadow of war.

Lj Quillyn presents Review: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher | The Writing Life of LJ Quillyn posted at The Writing Life of LJ Quillyn.
"Dresden fans the world over have tuned in once again for the thirteenth installment of the Dresden Files:  Ghost Story.
This book was absolutely fantastic. I’ll have to admit my bias. I love the Dresden Files. Always have. There’s just something playful and wonderful about the way that Jim Butcher writes."

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Uncle Misha’s Partisans by Yuri Suhl posted at Man of la Book.
"“Uncle Misha’s Par­ti­sans” by Yuri Suhl is a fic­tional book fol­low­ing the adven­tures of a Ukrain­ian boy dur­ing World War II. The book is meant for young adults (YA) and should be read as such."

KerrieS presents Book Review: UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST, Asa Larsson posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE.
"17-year-old Wilma Persson and her boyfriend are trapped while diving beneath the ice of Lake Vittangijarvi, looking for the wreck of a Nazi transport airplane that crashed there during the War. The story opens with Wilma as the narrator and she continues to make frequent appearances throughout. When Wilma's body is first discovered in a nearby river, it is assumed her death was an accident. No-one had known where the young couple were diving. When forensic evidence shows that Wilma did not die where her body was found, Rebecka Martinsson decides to take over the investigation herself. Translated into English from Swedish. Excellent."

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy posted at Man of la Book.
"“Tess of the d’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy is a fic­tional book pub­lished in 1891 . The book fol­lows Tess through her tri­als and tribu­la­tions in Vic­to­rian Eng­land."

Jim Murdoch presents Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke by Peter Benson posted at The Truth About Lies.
"The marijuana leaves, the cows and caravan on the cover – and indeed the book's title – all point to a comic romp involving rustic stoners; the reality is much more interesting. When Elliot gets a job on a farm he thinks he'll have plenty of time to lean on gates or stare at fields. But his best mate Spike keeps getting him into trouble finally turning up at his caravan's door with a van full of weed, the owners of which are deadly serious about getting back."

Zohar presents Book Review: Roma by Steven Saylor posted at Man of la Book.
"“Roma” by Steven Say­lor is a packed his­tor­i­cal fic­tion book which attempts to tell 1,000 years of his­tory in 600 pages. The book suc­ceeds superbly in some parts, but not so much in others."

KerrieS presents Review: BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, Martin Walker posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE.
The first in a new series of crime fiction set in France in the town of St. Denis. A satisfying cozy.

Camille Buffenmeyer presents Rock Bottom by Erin Brockovich & C.J. Lyons - Review posted at A Book A Day.
"Rock Bottom is the debut thriller by the renowned Erin Brockovich. It is the story of Angela "AJ" Palladino and her son who is handicapped."

Skylerreep presents 10 Tiny Reviews of the Best Novels of the Last 20 Years posted at Skyler Reep's Blog.
"Although it took me more than the time-frame I had originally budgeted, I finished ten novels this summer and I have two still simmering for two very different reasons. So here they are; my 10 tiny reviews."

Marina presents Introducing Indie Authors ? Amanda S. John posted at WRITING UNHOOKED.
"I want to start a series called Introducing Indie Authors. How many indie authors do you know and read? I did not know many until I published my short story Neighbors, got involved in social networking and blogging, and met quite a few talented and interesting indie writers."

Jonathan presents 10 Benefits of reading. posted at Smart blog.
"Although this isn't a book review, this post shows the benefits of reading and why we should all pick up a book."


Zohar presents Thoughts on: The Devil’s Gold By Steve Berry posted at Man of la Book.
"A short fic­tional eBook orig­i­nal. The book fol­lows one of the char­ac­ters in Mr. Berry’s books on a short adventure."

Non Fiction

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Better by Mistake by Alina Tugend posted at Man of la Book.
"“Bet­ter by Mis­take: The Unex­pected Ben­e­fits of Being Wrong” by Alina Tugend is a non-fiction book which tries to explain how deal­ing with mis­takes can ben­e­fit you and your work. While this book might be cat­e­go­rized as self-help, I found it to be more than that and  thought pro­vok­ing as well."

Jonathan Milligan presents Best Self Help Books of All-Time posted at Simple Life Habits.
"Here is my personal review of 12 of my favorite self-help books."

Jim Murdoch presents Shadow Child by P.F. Thomése posted at The Truth About Lies.
"A woman who lives longer than her husband is called a widow; a man who remains behind without his wife, a widower. A child without parents is an orphan. But what do you call the father and mother of a child who has died? In Shadow Child a father charts the course of his child's life, all 47 days of it and the effect the death has on him and his wife. A short, very moving and memorable book."

Rachel presents Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin) posted at Books In The Sun.
"I picked up Three Cups of Tea at my book (sharing) club and didn't know too much about it beyond the description my friend gave me. It covers the story of Greg Mortenson who in 1993, after a failed attempt to climb K2, promised to return to a local Pakistan village to build a school. The story takes us through the challenges he faces, the creation of the Central Asia Institute (CAI) the charity organisation he now fronts, and the growth of the organisation to build schools across various locations in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Katie Sorene presents Top 20 Travel Photography Books of all Time posted at Tripbase.
"Short reviews of the top 20 travel coffee table books available including publications by Lonely Planet and National Geographic."

Persha Davis presents Understanding Men With Men Made Easy ebook -Are Men This Easy To Understand posted at Dumped Days.
"After interviewing hundreds of men, Kara Oh developed Twelve Simple "Secrets" so she could share her winning techniques with other women. Her fresh insights, derived from teaching self-empowerment workshops, bring a new slant to understanding men and improving romantic relationships."

Manisha presents Woman Men Adore Never Want To Leave ebook Review posted at Break Up Survival Advice.
"An ebook written by Bob Grant, a reputed marriage counselor with over 17 years experience. He has carried out counseling on thousands of couples, and claims that this ebook has been used by over 42,000 women."

Danette Schott presents Look at My Eyes: Early Intervention and Navigating the System posted at Help! S-O-S for Parents.
"I recently had the pleasure of “meeting” TheFowler4, Melanie and Seth Fowler, parents of two children, one of whom has autism."

Jonathan Milligan presents Put Your Dreams to the Test posted at Simple Life Habits.
"My personal review on the latest book by John Maxwell."

Teacher Man presents Book Review; Liars Poker By Michael Lewis posted at My University Money.
"A book review by Michael Lewis. It should help you achieve your financial dreams!"

Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass: Denmark: week beginning Mon 29 Aug

The idea behind Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass is that participants write a post linked to the country of the week.

We have already visited
This week's country is Denmark

The future stops on our journey will be
  • Monday 5 September - Germany
  • Monday 12 September - Austria
  • Monday 19 September - Switzerland
  • Monday 26 September - the Czech republic
  • Monday 3 October - Italy
  • Monday 10 October - Greece
  • Monday 17 October - Turkey
Some suggestions:
You can choose one of the following (or something more imaginative)
  • a book review (create a new one or revive an old one)
  • an author profile
  • a reading syllabus for crime fiction either set in this country, or written by authors from this country.
Your post can be "based" anywhere in this week's country.

When you have written a post please do the following:
  • put a link to this post in yours (feel free to use the logo if you like)
  • Come back here and put a link to your post in Mr Linky

27 August 2011

What sort of blog do you write?

Here's a little bit of fun for you. Here is a tool where you put in your blog URL and it analyses your writing.

I first used this tool a couple of years back and it seems that my blog has changed just a little.

What the tool does is "analyse" the text of  the exposed "front page" of your blog.

It's conclusion about MYSTERIES in PARADISE is
    The analysis indicates that the author of http://paradise-mysteries.blogspot.com/ is of the type:

    ESTP - The Doers

    The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities. 
    The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.
Seems pretty spot on to me. I am happiest when I'm doing.

26 August 2011

Gone Travellin'

We are off to Melbourne today for the weekend.
I'm speaking at a conference for teacher librarians on e-books tomorrow morning and we plan to just drift around for the rest of the weekend.

It is the first weekend of Melbourne Writers Festival but sadly I couldn't find enough crime fiction sessions to spark an interest.
Might get to the Kill City bookshop, although I really don't need any more books for the TBR.
The footy team are playing in Melbourne on Sunday but they've been doing so poorly recently that we may not spend the money to watch them get beaten.

Anyway the Kindle is charged, we're staying in our favourite hotel, and weather looks good, so we'll be fine!
Oh and today is the 33rd wedding anniversary!

25 August 2011

Forgotten Book: THE HUNTING GROUND, Francis Clifford

This contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books is a book I read in 1976 shortly after I began keeping records.
At this stage I am not even sure that it is crime fiction, because I am unable to find any synopsis. I suspect it may have been what we would now term a political thriller.
The caption on the second cover says A novel of intrigue in a Caribbean police state.

Readers of this post may be able to help out, particularly if the book, THE HUNTING GROUND by Francis Clifford is one they are familiar with, or still have lurking on their shelves.

It was first published in 1964 and then again by Coronet Books; New edition edition (July 1, 1977).

According to Wikipedia, Francis Clifford is a pen name of Arthur Leonard Bell Thompson (1 December, 1917-1975), a British writer of crime and thriller novels. Born in Bristol, he served with great distinction in the Second World War, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

He wrote a good number of novels (see list at Fantastic Fiction) published from 1953-1979.

He won a Silver Dagger Award twice:  Another Way of Dying (1968) and Grosvenor Square Goodbye (1974); US title: Good-Bye and Amen.
and was twice shortlisted for an Edgar: Amigo, Amigo (1973); and Grosvenor Square Goodbye (1974); US title: Good-Bye and Amen.

I've also found this information: 13 editions published between 1964 and 1997 in 4 languages and held by 175 libraries worldwide
A thriller involving an Irish photographer and a mysterious plane crash. Source
According to WorldCat Francis Clifford produced 132 works in 426 publications in 13 languages and 6,734 library holdings.

You may be interested in this post at Existential Ennui about Francis Clifford's TIME IS AN AMBUSH

24 August 2011

Review: STILL MIDNIGHT, Denise Mina - audio

Publisher's Blurb

It’s the case that could make DS Alex Morrow’s career. A suburban home invaded in the dead of night and a vulnerable old man taken hostage. It’s a black and white case and it shouldn’t be hard to solve….

The two strangers who forced their way into the house demanded millions the family didn’t have and shouted for a man nobody had heard of. It had to be a mistake, and a bad one at that. But Alex Morrow can’t be depended on and the bosses know it. Working this case is tearing her apart and as it unravels, Morrow finds that the only people she can bear to see are the very ones she’s been running from for 20 years.

My take:

A home invasion gone horribly wrong? Men break into a home in Glasgow looking for Bob. The Anwar family are Ugandan and deny all knowledge of Bob. Frustrated the home invaders snatch the elderly father of the family but not before shooting one of the daughters. The men say the ransom will be a million pounds.

There's a lot going on in this book. A family member sitting in a car outside the house chases the home invaders only to be stopped and questioned themselves by local police. Meanwhile they see the invaders' car driving away.

The reader follows what happens to the victim and learns the circumstances under which he became a refugee as a young man. The police try to solve the puzzle of first of all who Bob is, and then why the invaders thought they could demand such a high ransom. We also learn about how the home invaders became involved in this job.

And underneath all the other themes Mina explores the return of DS Alex Morrow to work and her relationships with her husband, her colleagues and her boss. Alex is desperate for success at any cost and she is very conscious that she has to prove herself.

This is a very gritty book and raises a number of the issues facing modern residents of Glasgow, particularly immigrants.

I need to admit though that I found this particular narration a bit problematic. Faced with a large range of characters, the narrator Katy Anderson utilised what felt to me a too heavily accented voice, with deeper tones used for females, and the male Ugandans in particular depicted with high pitched voices.

My rating: 4.5

This is the first in Mina's Alex Morrow series (courtesy Fantastic Fiction)
1. Still Midnight (2009)
2. The End of the Wasp Season (2011)
3. Gods and Beasts (2013)

Can I trust this list anymore?

There was a time when I followed the Amazon UK bestsellers list in Crime, Thrillers and Mystery and used it as a barometer of what I should buy/read.

But sadly now I think I can't really trust this list anymore as it has become so influenced by Amazon's price cuts war, that it no longer reflects what people are really reading, but what they are buying cheaply for their Kindle.

Are they really reading these "bargains" or are they, like me, snapping them up while they are cheap, to read later.
That's right, I am as guilty as any, but I suspect you have to go quite a long way down the list to find a book that is really knocking everybody's socks off. I now have dozens of the e-books on my Kindle waiting to be read on a rainy day, and predictably that is a long time in coming.

Don't get me wrong: there are some good books on the list - find it here - but I just think factors other than quality at times influence positioning.

But I've nothing to support this theory and I'd be quite happy for you to prove me wrong.
Take a look at the top 20 and tell me what you think.

ACRC Carnival 2011 #7 - August 24, 2011

The Agatha Christie Blog Carnival for August is now available with 20 great sites to visit, posted by 13 contributors.
There are book reviews, alerts of coming events, and some interesting recent discoveries.

Among the coming events are celebrations for Christie week on the English Riviera and our own celebrations of Agatha Christie's birthday on September 15.

Find out more about the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and the accompanying Blog Carnival here.

23 August 2011

Review: BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, Martin Walker

  • Publisher: Quercus 2008
  • 342 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-84724-598-4
  • Source: my local library
Publisher's Blurb (from Quercus)

Captain Bruno Courreges goes by the grand title of Chief of Police, though in truth he’s the only municipal policeman on staff in the small town of St Denis in the beautiful Perigord region of south west France. Bruno sees his job as protecting St Denis from its enemies, and these include the capital’s bureaucrats and their EU counterparts in Brussels.

Today is market day in the ancient town. Inspectors from Brussels have been swooping on France’s markets, attempting to enforce EU hygiene rules. The locals call the Brussels’ bureaucrats ‘Gestapo’ and Bruno supports their resistance. What’s more, here in what was Vichy France, words like ‘Gestapo’ and ‘resistance’ still carry a profound resonance.

When an old man, head of an immigrant North African family, is found murdered, suspicion falls on the son of the local doctor, found in flagrante playing sex games surrounded by Nazi paraphernalia. But Bruno isn’t convinced, and suspects this crime may have its roots in that most tortured period of recent French history - the Second World War, a time of terror and betrayal that set brother against brother.

My take

When I reviewed THE DARK VINEYARD recently, I was really determined to read the first in the series, and I'm glad to say that it has lived up to my expectations of being an excellent read.

In these days of large city living and policing that seems super organised, rationalised, and even institutionalised, it seems nice to believe there is, somewhere in the world, the sort of rural policing that happens with Bruno, the Chief of Police in St. Denis. Bruno is what you would like every policeman to be, part of his community, aware of its members, a human being who just happens to be a policeman.

Bruno is devoted to "his little corner of paradise." He ensures that his community recognises its past, respects its elders, welcomes incomers, and encourages its young people. That's why it is such a shock to think that the death of elderly Hamid al-Bakr could possibly be a racist killing. In working out what has happened, at the same time as tamping down possible flare-ups, Bruno show his real worth as a policeman. We get glimpses too of Bruno's personal and social life, of the way he contributes to the whole social fabric. In solving the crime Bruno demonstrates what a good detective he really is.

This is an excellent start to the series and I recommend it to you particularly if you like cozies.
I kept thinking of what, in my reading past, the story reminds me of - perhaps a combination of Miss Read, Don Camillo, and Miss Marple?

My rating: 4.6

Review on EuroCrime by Maxine Clarke

Martin Walker's Bruno, Chief of Police site is delightful too.

Bruno, Chief of Police
1. Bruno, Chief of Police (2008)
2. The Dark Vineyard (2009)
3. Black Diamond (2010)
4. The Crowded Grave (2011)

Crime Fiction on a EuroPass: Belgium: Hercule Poirot

How could I pass up the opportunity to talk about that most famous detective, the fastidious Belgian with the egg-shaped head?

According to Wikipedia he appeared in 33 novels and 51 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 and set in the same era

There are a number of sites devoted to Hercule Poirot.

Some time ago I discovered a Chronology of Hercule Poirot.
Here is just the beginning (which I've modified a bit)
  • 1864 Hercule Poirot and his twin brother Achille are born
  • 1864 The Holmes Family on their second continental tour visit the Poirots
  • Circa 1893 Poirot Joins either the French or Belgian Secret Service
  • Mid Dec 1987 Sherlock Holmes meets Poirot who is posing as the Chef of a French Diplomat.
  • 1904 Hercule Poirot joins the Belgian Police and immediately becomes involved in the Abercrombie Case with Inspector Japp.
  • 1909 "The Chocolate Box" ( in early version of this adventure Poirot makes reference to a younger sister Yvette, Poirot also refers to this case as taking place in 1893)
  • 1914 Poirot has completed his mission in the Belgian police and is "due to retire" when Germany invades neutral Belgium. Poirot joins the resistance and is at one point saved by a French General.
  • 1916 Poirot leaves Belgium and becomes a refugee in England.
Hercule Poirot makes his first appearance in a novel in 1920 in THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES.
This account of the Styles Case is penned by Captain Hastings, a war hero invalided home from the Front. He is invited down to Styles Court by his friend John Cavendish to spend some of his convalescent leave. In the village Hastings runs across his old friend Hercules Poirot, an elderly Belgian, once one of the most celebrated members of the Belgian police, but now a refugee assisted by John Cavendish's mother Mrs Inglethorpe. While Hastings is staying at Styles, Mrs Inglethorpe dies in suspicious circumstances, in a seemingly locked room. Through Hastings Poirot becomes involved in the case, and the "little grey cells" are put to work in England for the very first time.

Wikipedia has a list of novels and short stories in which Hercule Poirot makes an appearance. And of course the official Agatha Christie site does too.
They point out that
Poirot would be the first to call himself a great man - he has never been known for his modesty - but with such success in his career he is quite justified in his opinion! He finishes each case with a dramatic dénouement, satisfying his own ego and confirming to all, that he is truly “the greatest mind in Europe.” His love of elegance, beauty, and precision, as well as his eccentric mannerisms are often ridiculed by the local bumbling policemen, but it is always Poirot who has the last word!

One of the issues that exercises "my little grey cells" from time to time is Poirot's age. In most of the novels and short stories he is described as "old". He is due to retire in 1914 at about the age of 50, so by 1975, when he makes his last appearance, he is as old as Methusaleh. His age allows him to take an interest in young women in particular, because we can't believe the interest is romantic or sexual.

Just recently I read EVIL UNDER THE SUN.  It was published in 1941, so according to the chronology HP would be 75.

Several of the holiday makers recognise Hercule Poirot. (who wouldn't?)
    resplendent in a white duck suit, with a panama hat tilted over his eyes, his moustaches magnificently befurled, lay back in an improved type of deck-chair and surveyed the bathing beach.
and go as far as to ask if he is there on "business". He replies:
    let me assure you, Madame, that I am here simply in the same way that you are here yourselves—to enjoy myself—to spend the holiday. I do not think of crime even.

Some even privately express a belief (a murderer amongst them) that if a crime does occur Poirot is probably "past it".
    He’s Hercule Poirot. You must have heard of him.’ Mr Blatt said: ‘Didn’t catch his name properly. Oh yes, I’ve heard of him. But I thought he was dead. Dash it, he ought to be dead. What’s he after down here?’ 
    ‘He’s pretty old. Probably more or less ga ga.’

You might like to look at this post.
Just how old was Hercule Poirot?
There are some more great images of him in it.

You might also enjoy a vignette I wrote some time back about a train journey from Dover to London where I sat next to Poirot and was lucky enough to be able to interview him.

Check up on what others participating in Crime Fiction on a EuroPass have highlighted this week.

22 August 2011

Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass: Holland/Belgium: week beginning Mon 22 Aug

The idea behind Crime Fiction on a Euro Pass is that participants write a post linked to the country of the week.

We have already visited

This week's country is Holland/Belgium

The future stops on our journey will be
  • Monday 29 August - Denmark
  • Monday 5 September - Germany
  • Monday 12 September Austria
  • Monday 19 September - Switzerland
  • Monday 26 September - the Czech republic
  • Monday 3 October - Italy
  • Monday 10 October - Greece
  • Monday 17 October - Turkey
Some suggestions:
You can choose one of the following (or something more imaginative)
  • a book review (create a new one or revive an old one)
  • an author profile
  • a reading syllabus for crime fiction either set in this country, or written by authors from this country.
Your post can be "based" anywhere in this week's country.

When you have written a post please do the following:
  • put a link to this post in yours (feel free to use the logo if you like)
  • Come back here and put a link to your post in Mr Linky

21 August 2011

Sunday Salon: 21 Aug 2011, listening to different points of view

Good morning fellow Sunday Saloners.
It's heading to a nice 21C here in downtown Adelaide. A nice time of the year.

Things have gone on pretty well as usual here at MiP. I was pretty productive in reading and managed to get three reviews written.
Currently reading
  • Australian - RING OF FIRE, Peter Klein
  • from library: BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, Martin Walker
  • on audio - STILL MIDNIGHT, Denise Mina
  • next Agatha Christie: N or M
I completed a reading challenge, updated my efforts in another, and participated in a couple of memes
This week looks a bit busy:
Take the poll this week

I have a new poll this week: Do you agree? Standalone=plot. Series=character
The poll is an extension of the results of last week's poll where I asked if readers avoided reading a  book if it was part of a series. Overwhelmingly the participants didn't but there were some interesting comments about the differences between a series and a stand_alone, hence the poll.

News & Headlines

Do you agree? Standalone=plot. Series=character

I don't think I had ever seen the difference between a stand alone book and a series quite in these terms.
But at least a couple of respondents to my poll this week said that they felt standalone books had to be plot driven while an extended series was often dependent on character development.

And yet, I know that in my reviews of books that are part of a series I often remark how nice it is to get to know the characters better. In fact I sometimes use this as a reason for recommending reading a series in order. When an author begins a series, he/she often doesn't reveal all about the main characters. With each new book little bits are added, the characters are fleshed out just a bit more.

With some series, like Donna Leon's Brunetti series, meeting up with Brunetti again is like meeting up with an old friend. We don't need introductions (although that causes a problem for the author if the reader is new to the series) and can get on with the story.

So what do you think? Is that the reason you enjoy reading a series?
Do take the poll over on the right and leave a comment.

20 August 2011

ACRC Update - 20 August 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.
I've read 30 books and 11 collections of short stories.

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
  24. 1937, DEATH ON THE NILE - Hercule Poirot, Colonel Race
  25. 1938, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH - Hercule Poirot, Colonel Carbury
  26. 1939, MURDER IS EASY (aka EASY TO KILL) - Superintendent Battle
  28. 1940, SAD CYPRESS
  30. 1941, EVIL UNDER THE SUN

    Reading schedule
  31. 1941, N or M?
  35. 1944, TOWARDS ZERO
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. Here is my latest short story update.

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

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

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

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

19 August 2011

Sisters in Crime Book Bloggers Challenge - the Easy Challenge completed


Earlier this week I reviewed UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST by Asa Larsson set in northern Norway, and certainly a strong representative of today's crop of top female crime fiction writers.

To complete the "easy challenge" celebrating 25 Years of Sisters in Crime, here are 6 excellent female crime fiction authors to look for.
They come from all over the world as you can see.

5.0, BURY YOUR DEAD, Louise Penny -Canada
4.9, THE BRUTAL TELLING, Louise Penny
4.9, BAD INTENTIONS, Karin Fossum - Norway
4.8, AN UNCERTAIN PLACE, Fred Vargas - France
4.8, COLD JUSTICE, Katherine Howell - Australia
4.8, BOUND, Vanda Symon - New Zealand
4.8, SILENT VOICES, Ann Cleeves - Britain

This challenge has been created by Barbara Fister to celebrate 25 years of American Sisters in Crime.

Easy challenge: write a blog post about a work of crime fiction by a woman author; list five more women authors who you recommend.
Moderate challenge: write five blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention another woman author who writes in a similar vein.
Expert challenge: write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.
Deadline: whenever. Another one of the joys of reading for pleasure is not having deadlines. Also, feel free to recycle previous reviews.
If you tag your posts with “SinC25” Barbara will compile them.  And if you tweet, use the hashtag #SinC25.

18 August 2011

Forgotten Book: THE THROTTLEPENNY MURDER, Roger J. Green

My contribution this week to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books is a book I read in 1993. It was published in 1989 by O.U.P..

Publisher's Blurb:

Jessie hated old Throttlepenny, her miserly boss. She dreamed about ways of hurting him, but never had the nerve to turn her dreams into reality. When Throttlepenny is found murdered and she finds herself under arrest. Will someone prove her innocence before she is hanged?

In 1989 the book was shortlisted for the Carnegie Award so I presume it was actually adolescent fiction. (I was teaching secondary school English at the time and always looking for books that might interest my students)

Fantastic Fiction lists the following
The Throttlepenny Murder (1989)
Dreamgold (1991)
She Was a Witch (1992)
Wolfecho (1995)
Cuckoos (1998)
Daggers (2001)
The Hidden Hand (2003)

Book Review: UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST, Asa Larsson

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 478 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (August 4, 2011)
    Originally published in Swedish 2008, translated from Swedish by Laurie Thompson
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • Source: I bought Kindle version, but a review hard copy was provided by Pan Macmillan Australia
Product description (Amazon)

In the first thaw of spring the body of a young woman surfaces in the River Thorne. Rebecka Martinsson is working as a prosecutor in nearby Kiruna. Her sleep has been disturbed by haunting visions of a shadowy, accusing figure. Could the body belong to the ghost in her dreams?
Joining forces once again with Police Inspector Anna-Maria Mella, Martinsson is drawn into an investigation that focuses on old rumours about the disappearance of a plane carrying supplies for the Wehrmacht in 1943. Shame and secrecy shroud the locals' memories of the war, with Sweden's early collaboration with the Germans still a raw wound. And on the windswept shore of a frozen lake lurks a killer who will kill again to keep the past buried for ever beneath half a century's silent ice and snow.

My take

I'm really regretful that I have read only 2 of Asa Larsson's four novels, and in particular have missed reading THE BLACK PATH (see Euro crime review by Maxine Clarke), because the impact of the events of the third novel are frequently referred to in UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST.

The hook that gets the reader into the novel is a powerful one.
    I remember how we died. I remember and I know. That's the way it is now.
17-year-old Wilma Persson and her boyfriend are trapped while diving beneath the ice of Lake Vittangijärvi, looking for the wreck of a Nazi transport airplane that crashed there during the War. The story opens with Wilma as the narrator and she continues to make frequent appearances throughout.
When Wilma's body is first discovered in a nearby river, it is assumed her death was an accident. No-one had known where the young couple were diving. When forensic evidence shows that Wilma did not die where her body was found, Rebecka Martinsson decides to take over the investigation herself.

I was never very clear about what the transport plane contained but it was enough to push locals, who are ironically relatives of Wilma's, to make sure it was not discovered.

Wilma ensures Rebekah Martinsson's involvement in the investigation by appearing to her in what seems to be a dream.
    I go to visit the prosecutor. She’s the first person to see me since I died. She’s wide awake. Sees me clearly when I sit down on her bed. Her farmor is standing in the bedroom as well. She is the first dead person I’ve seen since I died myself. The first dead person I’ve ever seen, in fact. The grandmother eyes me up and down. You can’t just come and go as you like here, stirring up trouble. The prosecutor has a stern protector. I ask permission to speak to her granddaughter. 

UNTIL THY WRATH BE PAST is about a lot more than a murder mystery. It is also about how local people had behaved 60 years before during the war; about relationships within a particular family; about how Inspector Anna-Maria Mella, mother of four, is coping with her job; and about Rebecka Martinsson trying to maintain her independence in Kiruna when her lover has gone back to Stockholm.

Allowing Wilma to narrate events, and even at times to go back into the past as a character remembers, does feel a little odd, and requires a degree of tolerance from the reader. It introduces a paranormal element into the book which perhaps we could have done without.
    Hjalmar is skiing through the forest. The afternoon sun is warming everything. There are big balls of new snow in the trees, but it has started to melt and drip. I’m sitting in the birch trees among all the watery pearls, watching him. Moving from tree to tree. Being weightless, I can perch on the thinnest of twigs. In winter they are black and the frost makes them straggly.
My rating: 4.7

Other reviews
Also reviewed on this blog: THE SAVAGE ALTAR

2011 Aussie Author Challenge completed

Aussie Author Challenge 12/12- completed

You'd probably expect that a challenge to read 12 Australian crime fiction books in a calendar year would not be much of a challenge for me.
But somehow finding the time to include Australian authors in my reading, although I have many books lined up both on my shelves and on my Kindle, can be difficult.

So yesterday BEREFT by Chris Womersley was my 12th title in the challenge which is being hosted at Book Lover Reviews.

It won't of course be the last Australian crime fiction title I'll read this year and I will keep listing them on my Reading Challenges Update

I'm was aiming for True Blue: 12 books - completed
  1. 4.4, BEREFT, Chris Womersley
  2. 4.8, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL, Geoffrey McGeachin
  3. 5.0, THE WRECKAGE, Michael Robotham
  4. 3.9, DIAMOND EYES, A. A. Bell
  5. 4.8, COLD JUSTICE, Katherine Howell
  6. 4.3, THE SERPENT AND THE SCORPION, Clare Langley-Hawthorne
  7. 4.2, DARK WATER, Georgia Blain
  8. 4.7, WYATT, Garry Disher
  9. 4.4, D-E-D DEAD! Geoffrey McGeachin
  10. 4.4, THE PERICLES COMMISSION, Gary Corby 
  11. 4.7, PRIME CUT, Alan Carter 
  12. 4.5, THE HALF-CHILD, Angela Savage

17 August 2011

Review: BEREFT, Chris Womersley

  • Published by Scribe 2010
  • ISBN 978-1-921640-60-5
  • 264 pages
  • Source: my local library
Publisher's Blurb

It is 1919. The Great War has ended, but the Spanish flu epidemic is raging through Australia. Schools are closed, state borders are guarded by armed men, and train travel is severely restricted. There are rumours it is the end of the world.

In the NSW town of Flint, Quinn Walker returns to the home he fled ten years earlier when he was accused of an unspeakable crime. Aware that his father and uncle would surely hang him, Quinn hides in the hills surrounding Flint. There, he meets a mysterious young girl called Sadie Fox, who encourages him to seek justice — and seems to know more about the crime than she should.

A searing gothic novel of love, longing, and revenge, BEREFT is about the suffering endured by those who go to war and those who are forever left behind.

My Take

Returning to his home town after the Great War Quinn Walker is determined to clear his name of the murder/rape of his younger sister 10 years before. He finds that the man he knows was guilty is now the local policeman, that his father has vowed to kill him if he returns, and his mother is dying from bubonic plague. In fact his mother believes that he is dead, having been killed in the war.

BEREFT draws a harsh landscape and I found it difficult reading. Despite the original murder and the fact that two more take place within the novel's time frame, I found it difficult to accept the novel as crime fiction, mainly because I think Womersley was trying to write something else. My reservations are shared by Bernadette but not by the glowing reviews that Womersley quotes on his site.

Womersley's style is carefully crafted, demanding the reader's full attention, and providing some arresting imagery.
    On the day twelve-year-old Sarah Walker was murdered in 1909, a storm bullied its way across the western plains of New South Wales and unleashed itself on the fly-speck town of Flint. Sarah's murder became the warm, still heart of several days of of frantic activity in which almost every one of the town's two hundred or so residents had a tale of chaos or loss. Trees cowered and snapped in the winds; horses bolted ..... Dead cows, swollen tight, bobbled about in the floodwater for days. And old Mrs Mabel Crink lost her sight, which partly accounted for the name by which the maelstrom became known: the Blinder.
In the novel Womersley describes the impact that losing its men folk to the Great War had on the small town of Flint, as well as the impact of the war on those who returned. In many ways, although avenging his sister's death is what keeps Quinn going and cold blooded murder does happen, crime and justice take a back seat.

My rating: 4.4

Awards and listings:
Winner ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year
Winner of Indie Award for Best Novel
Shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year
Shortlisted for 2011 Miles Franklin Award
Shortlisted for ASL Gold Medal for Literature
Shortlisted for Ned Kelly Award for Fiction

Chris Womersley won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First novel in 2008 with THE LOW ROAD

Sisters in Crime Book Bloggers Challenge

This challenge has been created by Barbara Fister to celebrate 25 years of American Sisters in Crime.

Easy challenge: write a blog post about a work of crime fiction by a woman author; list five more women authors who you recommend.
Moderate challenge: write five blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention another woman author who writes in a similar vein.
Expert challenge: write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.
Deadline: whenever. Another one of the joys of reading for pleasure is not having deadlines. Also, feel free to recycle previous reviews. I’m all about recycling.
If you tag your posts with “SinC25” Barbara will compile them.  And if you tweet, use the hashtag #SinC25.

See more

In a later post I will be undertaking the Easy Challenge.

16 August 2011

Review: THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER, Sally Spencer

  • Severn House Publishers 2001
  • 248 pages
  • ISBN 9-780727-857101
  • Source: my local library
  • #5/20 in the Woodend series

Publisher's blurb
The investigation into the brutal murder of a Blackpool policeman in the middle of the holiday season was never going to easy, but the case itself is not Woodend's only problem. There is trouble at home: his new boss, DS Ainsworth, is just waiting for an opportunity to stick a knife in his back; his invaluable assistant, Bob Rutter, had been replaced by a new sergeant more intent on advancing her own career than helping him - and the Blackpool police themselves seem to think it might be better if the killer were never found...

My take

Dipping into an established series has its problems for the reader as you have to work out a lot of the detail from earlier novels yourself (if the author doesn't tell you a lot of back story)

Charlie Woodend, "Cloggin-it Charlie", has obviously upset his superiors at Scotland Yard to the point that he's been relocated. In the THE SALTON KILLINGS which was the first in the series he was the "expert" from London, the bigwig from Scotland Yard. Although that brought problems, now the scenario is very different.

Now he has to report to Chief Superintendent Ainsworth at Lancashire Central in Whitebridge. This is where Woodend originally came from but it's no happy homecoming. Ainsworth sees him as trouble and assigns him a new "bag man" in the person of Sergeant Monika Paniatowski, the original Ice Maiden. Monika has had a difficult time in getting promotion partly because of her gender and partly because of her own sensitivity. Woodend is at first resentful of losing Rob Rutter who has been promoted but then he decides to see what he can do to initiate Monika into the way he works.  In reality Woodend likes best to work alone but Ainsworth tells him he must learn to work as a team player. Woodend tells Monika that they have been paired because Ainsworth doesn't think any one else would want to work with them.

The first case they are assigned is the murder of  popular DI "Punch" Davies. Woodend quickly gains the impression that his "team", who are all locals, are not working particularly hard at getting answers, almost as if they have something to hide.

So there is a lot of canvas enlargement in THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER. For the author, with a change of scenery for Woodend and new characters to associate with him, it is almost like starting again. It is set in the 1960s mainly in Blackpool and there is plenty of scope for Woodend to reflect on what things were like when he was a lad growing up in the area.

I'd call THE GOLDEN MILE TO MURDER  a good solid read, a story well told. My rating 4.3

Other reviews on this blog of Spencer titles
4.5, THE RING OF DEATH - #2 in the Paniatowski series
4.4, FATAL QUEST: WOODEND'S FIRST CASE - #20 in the Woodend series
4.4, THE SALTON KILLINGS - #1 in the Woodend series

Inspector Woodend (list from Fantastic Fiction)
1. The Salton Killings (1998)
2. Murder at Swann's Lake (1999)
3. Death of a Cave Dweller (2000)
4. The Dark Lady (2000)
5. The Golden Mile to Murder (2000)
6. Dead On Cue (2001)
7. Death of an Innocent (2002)
8. The Red Herring (2002)
9. The Enemy Within (2003)
10. A Death Left Hanging (2003)
11. The Witch Maker (2004)
12. The Butcher Beyond (2004)
13. Dying in the Dark (2005)
14. Stone Killer (2005)
15. A Long Time Dead (2006)
16. Sins of the Fathers (2006)
17. Dangerous Games (2007)
18. Death Watch (2007)
19. A Dying Fall (2008)
20. Fatal Quest: Woodend's First Case (2008)


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