29 June 2017

Meme- New to Me Authors - April to June 2017

It's easy to join this meme.

Just write a post about the best new-to-you crime fiction authors (or all) you've read in the period of April to June 2017, put a link to this meme in your post, and even use the logo if you like.
The books don't necessarily need to be newly published.

 After writing your post, then come back to this post and add your link to Mr Linky below. (if Mr Linky does not appear - leave your URL in a comment and I will add to Mr Linky when it comes back up, or I'll add the link to the post)
Visit the links posted by other participants in the meme to discover even more books to read.

This meme will run again at the end of August 2017
 


27 June 2017

Review: WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE, Gunnar Staaleson

  • format  Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 881 KB
  • Print Length: 285 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS; Tra edition (March 15, 2016), translated from Norwegian.
  • Publication Date: March 15, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B016721USA
Synopsis  (Amazon)
 
September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found.

Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge …

Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.
Winner of the Petrona Award 2017

My Take

From the start of this story I could not get away from the feeling that I have read other novels where other authors have deal with this scenario: little girl goes missing from outside the house where she is playing while mother is keeping half an eye on her.

The cold case that Varg Veum tackles revealed little about the child's disappearance during the original investigation, apart from the fact that the investigators felt there was something about the community that they weren't quite getting. The residents knew more than they were prepared to say and there was something "funny" about the cooperative community housing project. Now 25 years on, Veum finds that most of the couples are divorced and in the main they are more willing to talk. There are things they want to unburden.

Coincidentally one of the former residents was recently an innocent passerby during a jewellery robbery in town. He was shot dead by one of the robbers during an altercation on the footpath outside the store. This coincidence ensures police cooperation with Varg Veum.

This turns out to be only the first in a number of coincidences in the plot and a very different picture emerges of what happened to Mette. Varg Veum is middle-aged, a former policeman, a persistent and intuitive investigator who is not afraid to ask questions and to call in favours. He has a troubled past and an alcohol problem, but appears to be getting the better of it.

Gunnar Staaleson has been a prolific Norwegian crime writer since 1993, with mostly only novels written in the last decade available in English.  It appears that there are 18 in the series in Norwegian, 7 translated into English. This is the first one that I've read but it certainly won't be the last. Four are currently available on Kindle.

My rating: 4.8

About the author (Wikipedia)


Gunnar Staalesen (born 19 October 1947 in Bergen) is a Norwegian writer. Staalesen has a Cand philol. degree from Universitetet i Bergen and he has worked at Den Nationale Scene, the main theater in Bergen. Staalesen is best known for his crime novels involving private detective Varg Veum.

Available in English (Euro Crime list)
Varg Veum, PI in Bergen, Norway
Yours Until Death19932
• At Night All Wolves are Grey19865
The Writing on the Wall200211
The Consorts of Death200914
• Cold Hearts201315
We Shall Inherit the Wind201516
• Where Roses Never Die201617
• No One is Safe in Danger201718

24 June 2017

Review: A GREAT RECKONING, Louise Penny

  • this edition large print published by Thorndike Press 2016
  • #12 in the Armand Gamache series
  • ISBN 978-1-4104-8939-5
  • 641 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes.

Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

And there he finds four young cadets in the Sûreté academy, and a dead professor. And, with the body, a copy of the old, odd map.

Everywhere Gamache turns, he sees Amelia Choquet, one of the cadets. Tattooed and pierced. Guarded and angry. Amelia is more likely to be found on the other side of a police line-up. And yet she is in the academy. A protégée of the murdered professor.

The focus of the investigation soon turns to Gamache himself and his mysterious relationship with Amelia, and his possible involvement in the crime. The frantic search for answers takes the investigators back to Three Pines and a stained glass window with its own horrific secrets.

For both Amelia Choquet and Armand Gamache, the time has come for a great reckoning.

My Take

Confessions:
#1 I've read most, but not all of this series, in order. While each novel can be read as a stand alone, there is character development from novel to novel. There are incidents referred to from the past and from previous novels, so my conclusion is that in reality you are best to read them in order. They are not light reads. The plots are complex and there is a great deal of underlying philosophy, so they do take some time.
#2 Last night I went to bed as usual and then an hour later got up so that I could finish the last 150 pages of this book. I knew I wasn't going to get to sleep otherwise. This book had me hooked.

Armand Gamache has retired. He did his best to clean up the Surete in Quebec and it nearly cost him his life. But he has realised that the greatest source of the corruption and lack of humanity seen in the officers of the Surete is the Academy where they were trained, so he takes on the job of its Commander.  He knows it will be hard because although he has replaced many of the professors he has retained some whom he knows are part of the source of the corruption. He has also brought in others who have betrayed him in the past.

Things seem to be going fairly well when one of the professors is found dead, shot in the head, with a revolver bearing a partial print from Gamache's hand. So everything breaks open and the Academy comes under the scrutiny of both the head of the Surete and an outsider. Gamache himself is in real danger.

Running in the background is another mystery: the meaning of a map that was found many years ago in the walls of the Bistro at Three Pines. Why was it made? What was its purpose? A central part of the mystery is that the village of Three Pines is not named on the map, although the iconic pine trees are there.

An engrossing read.

My rating: 5.0

I've also read
4.8, THE CRUELLEST MONTH
4.9, A RULE AGAINST MURDER
4.9, THE BRUTAL TELLING
5.0, BURY YOUR DEAD
5.0,  A TRICK OF THE LIGHT
4.5, THE HANGMAN - a novella
4.9, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY
5.0, HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN
4.9, THE LONG WAY HOME
4.9, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST

18 June 2017

Review: RACING THE DEVIL, Charles Todd

  • this edition published by Harper Collins, 2017
  • #19 in the Ian Rutledge series
  • ISBN 978-0-06-238621-2
  • 341 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Scotland Yard's Ian Rutledge finds himself caught in a twisted web of vengeance, old grievances, and secrets that lead back to World War I in the 19th installment of the acclaimed best-selling series.

On the eve of the bloody Battle of the Somme, a group of English officers having a last drink before returning to the front make a promise to each other: if they survive the battle ahead - and make it through the war - they will meet in Paris a year after the fighting ends. They will celebrate their good fortune by racing motorcars they beg, borrow, or own from Paris to Nice.

In November 1919, the officers all meet as planned, and though their motorcars are not designed for racing, they set out for Nice. But a serious mishap mars the reunion. In the mountains just north of their destination, two vehicles are nearly run off the road, and one man is badly injured. No one knows - or will admit to knowing - which driver was at the wheel of the rogue motorcar.

Back in England one year later, during a heavy rainstorm, a driver loses control on a twisting road and is killed in the crash. Was it an accident due to the hazardous conditions? Or premeditated murder? Is the crash connected in some way to the unfortunate events in the mountains above Nice the year before? The dead driver wasn't in France - although the motorcar he drove was. If it was foul play, was it a case of mistaken identity? Or was the dead man the intended victim after all?

Investigating this perplexing case, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge discovers that the truth is elusive - and that the villages on the South Downs, where the accident happened, are adept at keeping secrets, frustrating his search. Determined to remain in the shadows, this faceless killer is willing to strike again to stop Rutledge from finding him. This time, the victim he chooses is a child, and it will take all of Rutledge's skill to stop him before an innocent young life is sacrificed.

My Take

Some reading friends and I were talking the other day about authors aging their detectives in "real time" or not. The Charles Todd duo (mother and son) have chosen not to age Inspector Rutledge for here we are at installment #19 and we are still in 1920 with memories of World War One still fresh enough to impact of people's lives and actions. Many of the novels delve back into the past with incidents that took place during the war, and that now have impact post-war. There is a lot of information about the war and its economic and social impact on Britain, particularly on villages like the one where RACING THE DEVIL is set.

Little things like the story of Hamish McLeod are repeated from novel to novel, an attempt I think to ensure that a reader new to the series doesn't miss out on too much important background.

In many ways though Ian Rutledge feels like a "modern detective". Apart from the fact that getting from one place to another is pretty slow because mostly people are on foot or horseback (motorcars are still a rarety), and telephones virtually non-existent, Rutledge has relatively modern methods.

I wasn't totally clear by the end about all the links between the various plot lines. Perhaps I was just reading too fast in my attempt to get to the end of the book. It is a novel with a complex set of plot lines, and also lots of red herrings.

One interesting feature of this novel is that Rutledge contacts old friend Melinda Crawford, and so gets her daughter Bess Crawford (detective in the other Charles Todd series) to do some investigating for him. I have only read one title in the Bess Crawford series and this has sparked my interest to try another.

Overall, a satisfying read with just enough of a historical flavour.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
A TEST OF WILLS -#1
SEARCH THE DARK -#3
4.8, A FEARSOME DOUBT -#6
A PALE HORSE -#10
4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD - Bess Crawford series
4.7, A LONELY DEATH -#13
4.6, THE CONFESSION - #14
4.7, HUNTING SHADOWS - #16
4.7, NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE - #18

13 June 2017

Review: THE BUNTING QUEST, Steven Marcuson

  • this edition published by Hybrid Publishers 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-925272-15-4
  • 276 pages
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Two compelling adventures, set hundreds of years apart, come together in this breathtaking page-turner that reveals mankind’s greatest secret.

‘When Bunting drew this in 1581, absolutely no one in the world could have known what the coast of Western Australia looked like …’

Nick Lawrance, an antique map dealer, is shocked to find his gallery has been burgled. However, this isn’t an ordinary robbery: the thieves have ignored priceless maps and have only taken Bunting’s World Map. All of a sudden, Nick is thrown into a four-hundred-year religious mystery where strange people around him will do anything for this map … even kill for it. Nick has to figure out why, before it’s too late.

Thrilling and steeped in dark history, The Bunting Quest is inspired by a real-life map that displays the Australian coastline many years before its ‘discovery’. Here, two compelling adventures, set hundreds of years apart, come together in this breathtaking page-turner that reveals mankind’s greatest secret.

My Take

My main interest in this novel was generated by the links in the plot to the history of Western Australia. The author tells readers in a note in the last pages that the story is based partly on actual people and events, and partly on fiction.

It seems quite logical that the early European explorers of the islands to the north of Australia should also have explored the coast of Western Australia.  I prefer to think about deliberate exploration rather than espouse to just "blown off course". That they didn't continue on to establishing settlements was more likely due to the arid nature of the land as well as the fact that it seemed so sparsely populated, and had little to offer trading nations.

Other reviewers have commented on the plot similarities between this novel and those of Dan Brown. There is a certain amount of plausibility to the plot, but perhaps credibility is a little stretched by the idea of a quest to bury an object that could overturn the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

Nevertheless an interesting read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Steven Marcuson was born 1959 and raised in Glasgow, Scotland into a small but vibrant Jewish community. He received a BSc from Strathclyde University in Glasgow, majoring in textiles and marketing. Prior to immigrating to Australia in 1983, he volunteered for a year on a kibbutz in Israel and backpacked extensively throughout Europe, working as he went. In late 1983 he established Trowbridge Gallery, an antique print and map gallery in Perth which he runs to this day. That same year he met Miriam and together they have three children, two now living in Melbourne and one at home. His interests include playing blues and jazz guitar, reading books on history and historical literature and spending time with his family. You can check out his website here.

5 June 2017

Review: DAINTREE, Annie Seaton

  • first published 2016, Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-74353-569-1
  • 324 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)


The Daintree breeds survivors, those who can weather the storms, heat and floods that come hand-in-hand with its beauty. Doctor Emma Porter is one such survivor, dedicated to her patients and to preserving this precious land where she has made a home.

Emma's quiet life is disrupted when Doctor Jeremy Langford starts working at the hospital, bringing back painful memories: Jeremy was her first love and embodies all that she left behind in Sydney. Jeremy has demons of his own, however, and the tight-knit community of Dalrymple seems to promise the peace he has been looking for.

But while some come to the Daintree to find shelter, others are here to exploit the rainforest's riches. And they will stop at nothing to get their hands on its bounty.

My Take

Annie Seaton's website says that she writes "Women's Fiction in Australian landscapes." The Australian Women's Weekly calls it an action and romance packed thriller, that "raises the bar in rural fiction." I agree with these thoughts.

Certainly Annie Seaton's recognition of some of the current social and ecological issues in Australian life today comes through loud and clear. Her writing is tight and concise.

Perhaps the direction this story will take is signalled too obviously right from the beginning, but I found it a satisfying enough read, with believable characters and scenarios. It is not a murder mystery but there are mysteries to be solved.

My rating: 4.4

About the author.
Annie Seaton lives near the beach on the east coast of Australia. She is fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing and has been delighted to discover that readers love reading her stories as much as she loves writing them. Her career and studies have spanned the education sector for most of her working life, with the completion of a Masters Degree in Education, and working as an academic research librarian, a high school principal and a university tutor until she took up a full-time writing career.
Recently her genre of choice is women's fiction and you can read of the topical human and social issues that she explores in Kakadu Sunset and Daintree.
Annie gains inspiration from the natural beauty of landscapes and is passionate about raising awareness of the need to preserve the pristine areas that surround us. See more

4 June 2017

What I read in May 2017

A good month, but just a few less books
  1. 4.5, INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE, Ray Berard New Zealand writer
  2. 4.8, WHY DID YOU LIE? Yrsa Sigurdadottir   Winner of the Petrona Award   
  3. 4.4, A JARFUL OF ANGELS, Babs Horton
  4. 4.7, YOU WILL KNOW ME, Megan Abbott 
  5. 4.5, DICTATOR, Robert Harris    audio book
  6. 4.6, THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, Liane Moriarty  Australian author
  7. 4.5, TELL THE TRUTH, SHAME THE DEVIL, Melina Marchetta    Australian author
 My pick of the month is WHY DID YOU LIE? by Yrsa Sigurdadottir
A journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide.
An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the states to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing.
Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea.
They have one thing in common: they all lied.
And someone is determined to punish them...

See what others have recommended
 

Review: EARTHLY REMAINS, Donna Leon

  • published by Penguin Random House UK 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-78-515137-8
  • 308 pages
  • #26 in the Guido Brunetti series
Synopsis

During the interrogation of an entitled, arrogant man suspected of giving drugs to a young girl who then died, Commissario Guido Brunetti acts rashly, doing something he will quickly come to regret. In the aftermath, he begins to doubt his career choices and realises that he needs a break from the stifling problems of his work.

Granted leave from the Questura, Brunetti is shipped off by his wife, Paola, to a villa owned by a wealthy relative on Sant'Erasmo, one of the largest islands in the Venetian laguna. There, he intends to pass his days rowing, and his nights reading Pliny's Natural History.

The recuperative stay goes according to plan and Brunetti is finally able to relax, until Davide Casati, the caretaker of the house, goes missing following a sudden storm. Nobody can find him - not his daughter, not his friends, and not the woman he'd been secretly visiting. Now, Brunetti feels compelled to investigate, to set aside his holiday and discover what happened to the man who had recently become his friend.

In Earthly Remains, Donna Leon shows Venice through an insider's eyes.From family meals and vaporetti rides to the never-ending influx of tourists and suffocating political corruption, the details and rhythms of everyday Venetian life are at the core of this thrilling novel, and of the terrible crime at its heart.

My Take

Underlying the crimes committed in this novel, is an in-depth look at the problems plaguing modern day Venice. Davide Casati is haunted by the role he has played in compromising the ecology of Venice, in causing the death of his bees, and perhaps even the death of his wife.

Out rowing with Casati every day while he is taking recuperative leave Guido Brunetti becomes aware of the Casati's troubled mind, and when Casati is found drowned he decides to find out what happened in his past.

Once again Donna Leon takes an issue that is troubling modern Venice,embeds some crime fiction in it, and then makes us think about the bigger picture, issues that make even have global implications.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
ABOUT FACE
THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
4.4, A QUESTION OF BELIEF
4.5, BEASTLY THINGS
4.4, QUIETLY IN THEIR SLEEP
3.9, THE JEWELS OF PARADISE
4.8, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS
4.6, DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY
4.7, BY ITS COVER
4.5, THE GOLDEN GOOSE
4.8, THE WATERS OF ETERNAL YOUTH
4.5, FALLING IN LOVE

1 June 2017

Pick of the Month for May 2017

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2017
Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for May 2017, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
e.g.
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.


28 May 2017

Review: TELL THE TRUTH, SHAME THE DEVIL, Melina Marchetta

  • first published in 2016 by the Hatchette Book Group
  • ISBN 978-0-316-3429-1
  • 407 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Booktopia)

Melina Marchetta's gripping new novel Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil is part family saga, part crime fiction, and wholly unputdownable.

Chief Inspector Bish Ortly of the London MET, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in a whisky bottle. Something has to give. He's no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students on tour in France is hit in a bomb attack. Bish goes immediately to the scene, not in an official capacity, but because his daughter Bee was on that bus. Four people have been killed and another four critically injured.

Bee has mercifully survived, and so too has seventeen-year old Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years previously her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing twenty-three people in the process. Her mother, Noor, who ultimately confessed to helping make the bomb, is serving a life sentence. But before Violette's involvement in the French tragedy can be established she disappears, along with a younger male student.

Bish Ortly has another interest in this case besides his daughter: he was involved in Noor LeBrac's arrest.

My Take

A very readable book with plenty of puzzles to solve, and a number of personal interest stories.

The main puzzle is who has put the bomb on the bus and why? One of the victims Violette LeBrac is no stranger to terrorism and the media is quick to make the association and to infer that she has somehow been responsible for this bomb. When Violette goes on the run with another student, Bish Ortly is asked by British security to befriend the other families whose children were on the bus, to find out where Violette might have gone.

The first reviews I saw about this book talked about how good it was to see Melina Marchetta venturing into the world of adult crime fiction. Having now finished the book I'm not sure that that was her intention (even though I have been told that she herself has said so). I thought the author would still see herself writing mainly for an older YA audience, helping them come to terms with some of the serious issues of the adult world, in particular terrorism, racism, and sexuality. I didn't think that so much for the bulk of the book, but certainly felt it in the last few pages.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Melina Marchetta's first novel, Looking for Alibrandi, swept the pool of literary awards for young adult fiction in 1993, winning the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Award (Older Readers) among many others. In 2000 it was released as a major Australian film, winning an AFI award and an Independent Film Award for best screenplay as well as the NSW Premier's Literary Award and the Film Critics Circle of Australia Award.

Melina taught secondary school English and History for ten years, during which time she released her second novel, Saving Francesca, in 2003, followed by On the Jellicoe Road in 2006, and Finnikin of the Rock in 2008. Saving Francesca won the CBC Book of the Year Award for Older Readers. On the Jellicoe Road was also published in the US as Jellicoe Road, and it won the prestigious American Library Association's Michael L Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature in 2009. In 2008, Melina's first work of fantasy, Finnikin of the Rock, won the Aurealis Award for Best Young Adult Novel and was shortlisted for the 2009 CBCA Award for Older Readers.

Melina's most recent novel, The Piper's Son, was published in 2010 and has been long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards. Melina's novels have been published in more than sixteen countries and twelve languages.

25 May 2017

Review: THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, Liane Moriarty

  • first published 2013, Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-74261-394-9
  • 402 pages
  • Author website
Synopsis ( Author website)



At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read…

My Darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret – something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too.

Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all – she’s an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home.
But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia – or each other – but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

My Take

I have had many people recommend this author to me, and particularly urging me to read  THE HUSBAND'S SECRET and BIG LITTLE LIES which I aim to read sometime soon.

There are 3 intertwined stories in THE HUSBAND'S SECRET. The connections are not obvious at first and I felt initially that I was having to work hard to get the names and the families straight in my head. The main setting is Sydney, Australia, but I didn't think the setting actually mattered. I could see that the stories would appeal to an American audience too.

I've talked with people about whether this is really crime fiction. Certainly a crime was committed and the plot reaches back nearly four decades. But in reality the book is not so much about the crime but about relationships and family. In some ways it is a lot less noir than my usual reading, but there is a strong element of psychological exploration, and the dilemma about what to do with the secret.

So, I'm not going to tell you any more, other than the book was extremely readable, and that this is an author worth following.

My rating: 4.6

About the author

A new-to-me Australian author who has recently become hugely successful
Three Wishes (2003)
The Last Anniversary (2005)
What Alice Forgot (2010)
The Hypnotist's Love Story (2012)
The Husband's Secret (2013)
Big Little Lies (2014)
     aka Little Lies
Truly Madly Guilty (2016)

22 May 2017

Review: DICTATOR, Robert Harris - audio book

 Synopsis (Audible)There was a time when Cicero held Caesar’s life in the palm of his hand. But now Caesar is the dominant figure, and Cicero’s life is in ruins.

Exiled, separated from his wife and children, his possessions confiscated, his life constantly in danger, Cicero is tormented by the knowledge that he has sacrificed power for the sake of his principles.

His comeback requires wit, skill and courage - and, for a brief and glorious period, the legendary orator is once more the supreme senator in Rome.

But politics is never static, and no statesman, however cunning, can safeguard against the ambition and corruption of others.

Riveting and tumultuous, Dictator encompasses some of the most epic events in human history yet is also an intimate portrait of a brilliant, flawed, frequently fearful yet ultimately brave man - a hero for his time and for ours.

My Take

It took some time to get used to the different narrator in this series (the earlier books IMPERIUM and LUSTRUM had been narrated by Bill Wallis who had done such a good job).

The story resumes with Julius Caesar in power and the Roman Republic in tatters as the Senate struggles for a way to control his megolomania. And then the assassination of Caesar by senators who think they are saving the Republic leads to chaos because there really is no-one to take charge and in the long run Cicero is really too old. He thinks he has Caesar's heir Octavian under control  but sadly misjudges the situation.

This series really brings history to life as well has making it relevant to the modern context. The audio books are excellent.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.8, IMPERIUM
4.6, LUSTRUM 

18 May 2017

Review: YOU WILL KNOW ME, Megan Abbott

  • first published 2016 by Picador
  • ISBN 978-1-4472-2636-2
  • 344 pages
  • source: my local library
  • Author website
  • A finalist for International Thriller Writers Best Novel of 2017 
Synopsis  (author website)

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gym community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.

You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.

My Take

YOU WILL KNOW ME takes to reader into a world that few of us know much about - that of competitive gymnastics.This is a world of sacrifices, where the family's whole life is dedicated to one goal, and even Katie and Eric's son Drew is affected by the need to give everything to Devon. It strikes you that this is what must happen in the lives of so many elite sporting hopefuls.

But then an apparent hit and run results in the death of a popular member of the gymnastic community and most are only too willing to blame someone who has been in trouble before. All important gymnastic trials are only a few weeks off and nothing must be allowed to disrupt final preparations.

The novel asks some serious questions about the nature of sacrifice and explores the social and psychological pressures behind what is, after all, a sport. What lengths will parents go to to achieve their daughter's potential, but what is actually their own ambition?

A very good read.

My Rating: 4.7

I've also read
DIE A LITTLE
4.7, BURY ME DEEP
4.5, THE END OF EVERYTHING

17 May 2017

Review: A JARFUL OF ANGELS, Babs Horton

Synopsis (author website)

Four imaginative children. One magical summer. One terrible secret.

'Stoop down and run your fingers through the damp soil and there in the black coal earth you will find the splintered remnants of tiny bones and the fragments of a hundred broken jars, jars that once held so terrible and so marvellous a secret.'

The remote town in the Welsh valleys was a wonderful, magical - but sometimes dangerous - place in which to grow up. It was there that Iffy, Bessie, Fatty and Billy experienced a plague of frogs one summer, stumbled upon a garden full of dancing statues, found a skull with its front teeth missing - and discovered just what it was that mad Carty Annie was collecting so secretly in those jars of hers.

But at the end of that long, hot summer of 1963, one of the four children disappeared.

Over thirty years later, retired detective Will Sloane, never able to forget the unsolved case, returns to Wales to resume his search for the truth. His investigation will draw him into a number of interlocking mysteries, each one more puzzling than the last.

Written in a rich, sensuous and lyrical prose style full of the sights and sounds of childhood, A Jarful of Angels is a mesmerising, evocative - and wholly unforgettable - novel of psychological suspense.

My Take

The main story is set in a Welsh village in 1963: impoverished families, unwed mothers, damaged people, lots of secrets.  Four children who get up to lots of mischief, who don't always understand what they see and hear, and then one of the children vanishes.

The second part of the tale is told thirty years later, with the narrative interwoven with the earlier tale. Will Sloane, retired, has always been haunted by what he didn't understand about the child's disappearance.

This is a lively plot, but I think the author tried too hard to keep the identity of the missing child secret. As a result there is a lot of confusing detail, because there is more to the story than just a missing child.  For a small village there are lots of secrets and mysteries, made even more mysterious because we see so much of them through a child's eyes.

My rating: 4.4


About the author
Babs Horton has gone on to write more novels
A Jarful of Angels (2003)
Dandelion Soup (2004)
Wildcat Moon (2006)
Recipes for Cherubs (2008)
Holy Mackerel (2013)
The Emporium of Dreams (2016)
the plots of which all seem to have a crime fiction twist.

14 May 2017

Review: WHY DID YOU LIE? Yrsa Sigurdardottir

  • first published 2013
  • translated into English from Icelandic 2016
  • translated by Victoria Cribb
  • winner of the 2015 Petrona Award
  • ISBN 978-1-473-60503-9
  • 394 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

The Sunday Times top crime read of the year. 

A journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide.

An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the states to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing.

Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea.

They have one thing in common: they all lied.

And someone is determined to punish them...

WHY DID YOU LIE is a terrifying tale of long-delayed retribution from Iceland's Queen of Suspense
My Take

How to describe this plot? Take 3 seemingly unconnected stories.  You know they must be connected somehow but what or who is the connecting point is really elusive.  Each of the scenarios is fascinating but how they are linked is hidden until the very end. And there comes a final surprise, a real whammy out of left field.

Credit for making the connections goes to the wife of the journalist who, as a result of his attempted suicide, is lying in hospital on life support. Nina is a policewoman in disgrace, on light duties, supposedly clearing out files in the police station basement. She needs to know why Throstur tried to commit suicide and comes across some old files that link him with her boss.

And then right at the end, after we think we know everything, just a hint that it is not yet all over.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.8, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME
5.0, THE SILENCE OF THE SEA
4.5, ASHES TO DUST
4.5, THE UNDESIRED

6 May 2017

Review: INSIDE THE BLACK HORSE, Ray Berard

  • Format Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 890 KB
  • Print Length: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Mary Egan Publishing (November 15, 2015)
  • Publication Date: November 15, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0181TQLYU

Synopsis (Amazon)

Winner of the 2016 Ngaio Marsh Debut Novel award and long-listed for the 2017 Dublin Literary Award as well as making the finals of the 2016 Ngaio Marsh Crime thriller of the year.

Inside the Black Horse is a fast-moving thriller, a story of fate, and unlikely love story for our time. Pio Morgan is waiting outside a pub on a cold winter night. There is a debt he must pay and no options left. What he does next drags a group of strangers into a web of confusion that over the course of a few days changes all their lives. The young Maori widow just trying to raise her children, the corporate executive hiding his mistake, the gang of criminals that will do what ever it takes to recover what they've lost - and the outsider sent to town to try and figure out who did what. Time is running out for all of them as events take an increasingly dark turn. 

Inside the Black Horse explores equally the emotions felt by the victim and perpetrator and the effect of crime on the lives of ordinary people, gang members and drug dealers. This book could be based in any city in New Zealand. So real that you can visualize the characters in the book, feel their desperation, sense their hope for the future, and find compassion for them as you join them on their journey. With a few good twists along the way, it’s a great read.

The International Judging panel for the Ngaio Marsh awards called it “A lucid and potent portrait of good people and gangsters that is unmistakably Kiwi and a fine crime story with considerable depth"

My Take:

This book creates an interesting picture of contemporary New Zealand, particularly of a multi- layered drug culture, with a pyramid of users and pushers, with upper layers feeding off the misery of those below. The main characters in this pyramid are Maori born and their elders don't understand what has happened to the old values.

The possibility that the owner of the Black Horse Bar and Casino was somehow involved in the events that took place, gives Peter Butterworth a possible way of covering up the mistake he's made in not having the Black Horse's taking collected in the previous week. He brings in ex-US policeman, private investigator Brian Duncan in the hope that he can find some incriminating evidence.

A really enjoyable and carefully written book with strong and well depicted characters. I liked the way the final results were not entirely predictable.

My Rating: 4.5

About the author
Ray Berard is a Canadian born Kiwi writer based in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A McGill University graduate and five-year member of the NZ Authors Society, writing has always been his passion, and in recent years a full-time one.

Inside the Black Horse is his debut novel, based off a diary he kept during his years supervising betting outlets for the New Zealand Racing Board. "It's about New Zealand right now, and what happens when a group of strangers get drawn into each other's lives after a young man's desperate act."

Ray is currently working on his second Novel, The Diary of a Dead Man.

4 May 2017

What I read in April 2017

Not so much reading done this month.
  1. 4.6, IN FARLEIGH FIELD, Rhys Bowen
  2. 4.8, THE DIGGERS' REST HOTEL, Geoffrey McGeachin - audio book
  3. 4.5, THE ASHES OF LONDON, Andrew Taylor - London 1666
  4. 4.3, THE MIDNIGHT PROMISE, Zane Lovitt - Melbourne, Aussie author
  5. 4.4, PAST CRIMES, Glen Erik Hamilton
  6. 4.5, THE WOMAN WHO WALKED IN SUNSHINE, Alexander McCall  Smith
  7. 4.4, THE HANDSOME MAN'S DELUXE CAFE, Alexander McCall Smith
 My pick of the month is IN FARLEIGH FIELD by Rhys Bowen
Farleigh Place is removed from the war by more than just miles.
While bombs rain down on London just an hour away, life goes on as usual at this Downton Abbey-like estate in the countryside.
Hampered only by a skeletal wartime staff, a dwindling supply of meat coupons, and an army regiment that's taken up residence at the big house, Farleigh is almost too idyllic to be real—until one night, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the grounds, and the war literally hits home for Lord Westerham and his five daughters.

Check what others have chosen for their Pick of the Month
 

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