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
 

1 May 2017

Pick of the Month April 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 April 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.


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