20 November 2017

Review: A NECESSARY EVIL, Abir Mukherjee

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2122 KB
  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1911215132
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (June 1, 2017)
  • Publication Date: June 1, 2017
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01K6RP0MO
Synopsis (Amazon)

India, 1920. Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force investigate the dramatic assassination of a Maharajah's son.

The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant 'Surrender-Not' Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a moderniser whose attitudes - and romantic relationship - may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother – now in line to the throne – appears to be a feckless playboy.

As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules and those who cross their paths pay with their lives. They must find a murderer, before the murderer finds them…

My Take

Not much time has elapsed since the first book of this series. In the background is the unrest generated by the Indian independence movement. To assuage the growing clamour for Home Rule, the British government in India has come up with the idea of an Indian House of Lords called the Chamber of Princes. All the native princes are being invited to join, and it is important that the wealthiest did so. The Maharajah of Sambalpore, even though the state is amongst the smallest, is billed as among the wealthiest princes. His eldest son Crown Prince Adhir went to school with Sergeant Banerjee and has requested a meeting with him in Calcutta. Adhir is against joining the Chamber of Princes. He has also received some threatening letters, which ironically he can't read as they are in local script. On their way back to their hotel the prince is assassinated.

Having set the scene in Calcutta in 1920, the novel really makes very little use of the political turmoil of the time. Instead Wyndham and Banerjee become embroiled in local politics in Sambalpore, chasing down the person behind the prince's assassination.

The novel provides an interesting depiction of the contrast between the old way of life and the new. The Maharajah and his court behave as if there is no threat to their way of life or their social status. In some ways the novel is a police procedural but Wyndham and Banerjee tread a fine line between what the British Raj wants to do, and what it can achieve without upseting local protocols.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read 4.4, A RISING MAN

16 November 2017

Review: MURDER IN LITTLE SHENDON, A. H. Richardson

  • this edition published in 2015 by Serano Press USA
  • ISBN 978-1515283973
  • 248 pages
  • source: copy provided the publisher
Synopsis (provided by publisher)

The Hazlitt/Brandon series of murder mystery novels follows a pair of clever, colorful and charismatic sleuths - Sir Victor Hazlitt and Beresford Brandon – as they scratch their heads searching for clues to figure out whodunit.

The first book in the series, Murder in Little Shendon, is a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two.

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens — not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper.

Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! From his housekeeper to Lady Armstrong and her household staff. Or could it be the shy librarian new in town? Or the defiant retired army major and his ladyfriend, the post mistress? Or perhaps the weird sisters who live on the edge of town? Then there is the couple who own the local inn and pub, along with the two Americans who are staying there? Even the vicar and his wife fall under the gloom of suspicion.

Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community?

A murder mystery that will keep you reading until you learn the details, uncovered by Police Inspector Stanley Burgess and his two amateur detectives, Sir Victor Hazlitt and Beresford Brandon. The three sift methodically through the Alibis and life stories of the suspects until they uncover…

You are challenged to discover the culprit before the last few pages. And no fair looking ahead — it’s the journey that proves the most enticing.

My Take

Murdered antiquarian/shopkeeper Bartholomew Fynche had many enemies and almost no friends. He had dealt many a local resident a nasty blow in the past and many of them were in his shop the morning before his death, there to remind him of what he owed them. By the time they came back in the afternoon someone had beaten them to it. He was dead.

Although this novel follows an almost classic formula - make a list of possible suspects and then eliminate them one by one - this novel is unusual in that it has three detectives, two of them amateurs, working together and independently, and then at the end, when they are sure of their ground, a Poirot-style denouement.

At the beginning there are almost no clues to the identity of the murderer, but then the murderer slips up when he murders a second person who had seen something that she couldn't explain.

In the end I too thought I knew who the murderer was, although there were several good red herrings.

This is the first in the Hazlitt/Brandon series: there are already two more: ACT ONE, SCENE ONE - MURDER, and MURDER AT SERENITY FARM

All 3 books are available for Kindle.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

A.H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an Author.

In addition to the Hazlitt Brandon series, she is also the author of a series of children’s chapter books, the Jorie series, which includes Jorie and the Magic Stones, Jorie and the Gold Key, and Jorie and the River of Fire.

A.H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.



Readers can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

To learn more, go to https://ahrichardson.com/
 

12 November 2017

Review: MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON EXTRA, Peter Bartram

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 390 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The Bartram Partnership (July 3, 2017)
  • Publication Date: July 3, 2017
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B073PYXKJN
  • #2 of The Morning, Noon and Night Trilogy
Synopsis (Amazon)

Welcome to Brighton, England - where they do like to murder beside the seaside…

Don't you just hate it when you go on a foreign trip - and then someone tries to kill you?

Ace crime reporter Colin Crampton thinks he's wrapped up a story that began with a robbery and ended with a murder. He's filed his copy. Job done.

But that was before he hit on a new clue - which takes him on a foreign trip and into more danger than he's ever known.

Before long, Colin discovers his hunt for the truth has dumped him right into the middle of a conspiracy he could never have foreseen.

As he battles to find a way out of danger, he meets a stripper with a pet python, a clumsy assassin who kills the wrong people, and a slot machine salesman with less luck than his punters.

If you enjoy books by authors like Janet Evanovich, M C Beaton and Simon Brett, you'll soon be hooked by the mix of murder, mystery and mirth in this second book in the Colin Crampton Morning Noon & Night trilogy. Come and join the fun…

My Take

This novella is the second in a trilogy, so you really must read the first for it to make any sense at all. As with the first, this is a fairly light fluffy cozy with a murder or two thrown in.

Reporter Colin Crampton's search for the identity of local criminal leads him to the Big Apple, and more unlikely events.

Just a bit of fun, light reading.

My rating: 4.1

I've already read
4.3, MURDER IN THE MORNING EDITION 

9 November 2017

Review: A TALENT FOR MURDER, Andrew Wilson

  • This edition published by Simon & Schuster 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-4711-4822-4
  • 403 Pages
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

`I wouldn't scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.' 

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, boards a train, preoccupied and flustered in the knowledge that her husband Archie is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train.

So begins a terrifying sequence of events. Her rescuer is no guardian angel; rather, he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind. Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her genius for murder to kill on his behalf.

My Take

In the past I have written about what I call "coat-tails" books, those that attach themselves to the success of others. I think this is one such book. To be honest, I wouldn't have read it if it wasn't for the reference to Agatha Christie in the blurb. And yet the allure is very strong. I'm not sure there is even a grain of truth in its explanation of what happened to Agatha Christie in those days in which she disappeared in 1926. And yet the book is very persuasive.

This novel opens with an "Editor's Note", from someone called John Davison. He tells readers that the novel is the result of an agreement between himself and Mrs Christie.

When I first mentioned the idea of this book to her, she was understandably reluctant. However, she agreed to be interviewed on condition that the resulting volume should not be published until at least forty years after her death. I too served my solicitors with notice to the same effect.

So here is the first of the puzzles this novel, mainly using Agatha Christie as narrator. It is indeed 41 years since the death of Agatha Christie.

This work of fiction presents a story of what caused her disappearance in 1926. The author says that he tried to "make sure the facts surrounding Agatha's disappearance in 1926 were as accurate as possible." He has even included real characters from the time, including Archie Christie, and the police detective William Kenward.

So, read it for yourself, and judge how successful you think it is in presenting a plausible story.

The final chapter in the book is the first chapter of A DIFFERENT KIND OF EVIL, Andrew Wilson's next Agatha Christie adventure.

My rating: 4.4

Find out more about The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge

Here is a list of Agatha Christie novels, and Agatha Christie related books, that I have read.

5 November 2017

Review: THE GHOST, Robert Harris - audio book

Synopsis (Publisher's summary)

The moment I heard how McAra died I should have walked away. I can see that now...

The narrator of Robert Harris's gripping new novel is a professional ghostwriter - cynical, mercenary, and with a nice line in deadpan humour. Accustomed to working with fading rock stars and minor celebrities, he jumps at the chance to ghost the memoirs of Britain's former prime minister, especially as it means flying to the American resort of Martha's Vineyard in the middle of winter and finishing the book in the seclusion of a luxurious house.

But it doesn't take him long to realise he has made a terrible mistake. His predecessor on the project died in circumstances that were distinctly suspicious, and the ex-prime minister turns out to be a man with secrets in his past that are returning to haunt him - secrets with the power to kill.

My Take

I've probably missed all the political implications of  this contemporary thriller (see more), but it certainly is a good read. We never find out who the ghost writer is, but he finds out that his predecessor has recently died, and that he must work on the manuscript in the house where his subject, a recently unseated British prime minister, is staying. Not only that, but the timeline for completing the work is incredibly short.  

The ghost writer realises that this is yet another boring autobiography. There is no personal interest to hook the reader and he feels that he will need to cull much of the existing text and find something new as the opening hook. In his quest to be thorough he discovers that much of the text written by his predecessor is not true at all. And then an international news item brings the "hook".

The text is superbly narrated by Michael Jayston.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
5.0, CONCLAVE
4.8, IMPERIUM
4.6, LUSTRUM
4.5, DICTATOR 

Review: BARKING DOGS, Rebekah Clarkson

  • this edition published 2017 by Affirm Press
  • ISBN 978-925475-49-4
  • 230 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Affirm Press)


Everybody thinks they know this story. But do they? If you took a bird’s-eye view of any sprawling Australian regional town, you’d see ordinary Australians living on their ordinary suburban blocks. Get closer. Peer through a window.

In the town of Mount Barker, you might see Nathan Hearle obsessively recording the bark of a neighbourhood dog, or the Wheeler family sitting down for a meal and trying to come to terms with a shocking discovery. You might hear tales of fathers and their wayward sons, of widows who can’t forgive themselves, of children longed for and lost, of thwarted lust and of pure love. Within the shadows is an unspeakable crime.

Rebekah Clarkson has created a compelling, slow-burning portrait of a town in the midst of major change as it makes the painful transformation from rural idyll to aspirational suburbia. What looked like redemption is now profound loss. What seemed spiteful can now be forgiven. A novel in stories, Barking Dogs is an assured debut from one of Australia’s most respected storytellers.

My Take

This book is an anthology of connected short stories written over half a decade or so. Not only are they connected with some characters appearing in or referred to in more than one story, they nearly all focus on the Adelaide hills town of Mt Barker, currently undergoing incredible change with an influx of new residents, in a myriad of new housing "estates".

The book does not qualify in my mind as crime fiction, although there are plenty of mysteries to be unravelled, and certainly a crime or two committed. Between them the stories explore a range of contemporary issues: the pressures of modern living on young families, the onset of dementia, the effects of death from cancer on a family, barking dogs. Older folk, long time residents, live cheek by jowl with newly arrived families with younger children.

The stories were of particular interest to me because it is an area we travel through every weekend. We have friends who've moved from suburban Adelaide into one of the new Mt. Barker estates. Over the years we have seen farmland sold, cleared, scoured and subdivided into new estates with improbable names. These stories remind the reader that not every rainbow leads to a pot of gold.

The publisher refers to this anthology as a "novel in stories", but I beg to differ. It is as if somehow a "novel" brings higher acclamation. These stories are well crafted and cleverly written. But they don't have a completeness, or denouement, that a novel tries to achieve. In a sense too there is plenty of room left for further stories.

Just one thing extra I could have wished for - a table of contents at the beginning listing the stories by title.

My rating: 4.4

About the author:

Rebekah Clarkson’s award-winning fiction has been published widely, most recently in Best Australian Stories, Australian Book Review and Something Special, Something Rare: Outstanding Short Stories by Australian Women (Black Inc.).
Her stories have been recognised in major awards in Australia and overseas, including the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open. She has a BA in Aboriginal Studies and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide, where she also teaches. She has taught Fiction Writing at the University of Texas in Austin.

2 November 2017

Review: HER, Garry Disher

  • this edition published by hachette Australia 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-3854-1
  • 209 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (hachette Australia)

 Beautifully and powerfully written, this is a look at the darker side of Australia's past - and particularly the status of girls and women in our society - that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . . 

HER name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father's hand.

She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.

My Take

I should first of all make it clear that this is a historical novel rather than crime fiction, although crimes are committed. My impression is that the intended audience is young adult although the writing style is sophisticated and quite demanding.

The time period is 1913 - early 1920s, the setting rural Victoria. Life is hard and a family with too many children and not enough food sells a three year old girl to the scrap man for nine shillings and sixpence. The scrap man's family consists of Wife, Big Girl and now there is You. The little girl never really knows what her real name is. Years later she sees a boy newly enlisted, who she thinks might be her brother.

Big Girl and You do not go to school - the scrap man hides Big Girl and passes You off as feeble-minded. The scrap man travels the country side hawking items his women folk have made at home out of flour bags, torn sheets, fencing wire, and scrap metal. It depicts an Australia that most of us have never known, of life when the horse was central to transport, of life on the road.

I think this is a novel guaranteed to make an impression on readers, teaching about a period that most would have no idea about. This the way to learn history.

In the final pages are some group reading notes, with discussion questions and suggestions for further reading.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
4.7, WYATT
4.8, WHISPERING DEATH
4.7, BLOOD MOON
4.2, THE HEAT
4.5, SIGNAL LOSS  

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