31 January 2016

Review: THE CASE OF THE VELVET CLAWS, Erle Stanley Gardner

  • format Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 544 KB
  • Print Length: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Della Street Press (September 27, 2011)
    first published 1933
  • Publication Date: September 27, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005QE7XPK
  • #1 in the Perry Mason series 
Synopsis  (Amazon)

Thanks to a bungled robbery at a fancy hotel, the already-married Eva Griffin has been caught in the company of a prominent congressman. To protect the politico, Eva's ready to pay the editor of a sleazy tabloid his hush money. But Perry Mason has other plans. He tracks down the phantom fat cat who secretly runs the blackmailing tabloid -- only to discover a shocking scoop.

By the time Mason's comely client finally comes clean, her husband has taken a bullet in the heart. Now Perry Mason has two choices: represent the cunning widow in her wrangle for the dead man's money -- or take the rap for murder.

My take

Unlike many others in the Perry Mason series, this novel is not centred on a court room drama, but it does introduce the characters who featured in most other novels in the series: his secretary Della Street, a young woman at this time, and obviously in love with her boss; and private eye Paul Drake who hunts down the facts to back up Perry Mason's quirky theories.

It was hard not to see, in my mind's eye, the bulky Raymond Burr who played Perry Mason in the long running television series. And yet, somehow, the central character in this novel does not quite match that tv character.

I can see why, even over 80 years on, why this novel was a winner with readers. The characters are well drawn, the action fast-paced and the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns. Perry Mason points out to his client. who constantly lies to him, that he is hardly a novice. He already has files from hundreds of previous cases in his filing cabinets, and he expects to have many more. He specialises in getting people out of holes. Most of the cases he has been involved in are murder cases, and mostly he gets people off. So here is a lawyer who takes on clients regardless of how much they can pay for his services. See more at Wikipedia.

THE CASE OF THE VELVET CLAWS was made into a film in 1936. 

A good read.

My rating:  4.4

About the author

Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970) is a prolific American author best known for his works centered on the lawyer-detective Perry Mason. At the time of his death in March of 1970, in Ventura, California, Gardner was "the most widely read of all American writers" and "the most widely translated author in the world," according to social historian Russell Nye. The first Perry Mason novel, The Case of The Velvet Claws, published in 1933, had sold twenty-eight million copies in its first fifteen years. In the mid-1950s, the Perry Mason novels were selling at the rate of twenty thousand copies a day. There have been six motion pictures based on his work and the hugely popular Perry Mason television series starring Raymond Burr, which aired for nine years and 271 episodes. 

30 January 2016


Synopsis (Publisher)

Yearning for her former life as an archaeologist, Australian librarian Dr. Elizabeth Pimms is struggling with a job she doesn't want, a family she both loves and resents, and enforced separation from her boyfriend.

A royal Olmec cemetery is discovered deep in the Mexican jungle, containing the earliest writing in all the Americas. Dr. Pimms is elated to join the team investigating these Aztec ancestors. Triumph is short-lived, however, as Elizabeth's position on the team is threatened by a volatile excavation director, contradictory evidence, and hostile colleagues. With everything working against her, will Dr Pimms find the cause of death for a 3,000-year-old athlete and those buried with her?

With the archaeological intrigue of Elizabeth Peters, forensic insight of Kathy Reichs, and comfort of a cosy mystery, Olmec Obituary is the first novel in a fascinating new series: Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth. Really cold cases.

My Take

Her father's unexpected and untimely death means that Dr Elizabeth Pimms, forensic archaeologist and Egyptologist, has to abandon work she is doing in Egypt to return to her family in Canberra and take work as a librarian, so that she can provide financial support for her brother and sister and extended family.

She is approached to do some voluntary weekend work in Canberra working on the bones of 17 skeletons retrieved from an Olmec cave in Mexico. Her work is to be unpaid because the supervisor says basically that she needs to prove herself before he will consider remuneration. Elizabeth finds this difficult to understand because he has already obviously spent considerable funds on the work in Mexico. He and she have a falling out however on the first day when Elizabeth challenges some of the conclusions he wants to publish about the remains.

The reader is given background story to the events which have resulted in the burial of the bodies. These are details that Elizabeth has no way of knowing because there are no written records relating to this site. I am not sure about the wisdom of this as a plot structure.

Elizabeth has a personal mystery to unravel related to the death of her mother in a car crash nearly a decade earlier. She has to admit that she has been wrong in her assumptions about what caused the crash. But jumping to the wrong conclusions seems to be pretty par for the course for Elizabeth.

There is a lot going on in this book but my enjoyment of it was not helped by the fact that I didn't particularly warm to Elizabeth herself. I thought I found some inconsistencies in the background details about Elizabeth: later in the book the family celebrates her 26th birthday, but in the Prologue we are told "after twenty years of yearning, planning and dedicated study she was finally here... a skilled archaeologist and knowledgeable Egyptologist". I found it difficult to juggle her expertise against her age, and would have been more comfortable if she had just been a few years older.

Nevertheless, it is always interesting to find a new female Australian author, with a very different scenario, leading me into a world I am not really familiar with.

A second book in the series is promised: MAYAN MENDACITY. Elements of the story from OLMEC OBITUARY are left unresolved, so this should help link the two.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
L.J.M. Owen drew extensively on her education and experience when developing the novel. Relevant qualifications include an undergraduate degree in archaeology and a PhD in palaeogenetics from ANU, and a graduate diploma in library management from Curtin University. See more information on her website.

26 January 2016


  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 329 KB
  • Print Length: 94 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publication Date: January 21, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0192DPPBO
  • source: review copy from author 
Synopsis (Amazon)

When Abigail Freedman, Beatrice Young's sworn rival, approaches her with a case she's too curious not to take it on. As it turns out, Abby has a very modern romantic conundrum: her Internet boyfriend may be the love of her life ... or a scammer who wants to suck her bank account dry.

It's up to the 62-year-old Cozy Cat Cafe owner and her three crime-solving cats to find this Romeo's identity. Too bad Hamish, Petunia, and Lucky can't help Bee with an even bigger problem: how to sort out her new feelings for ex-husband and best friend Matthew.

No matter what happens, things are about to get romantic in Ashbrook, New Hampshire...

This book will be 50% longer than previous Beatrice Young mysteries.

The Unfur-tunate Valentine's Scam is the sixth book in the Beatrice Young cozy cat mystery series. These books can be read in any order but are extra delightful when enjoyed in sequence.

My Take

If you are looking for a short cozy to read, and love cats, then this novella may be just the thing.

Beatrice Young spends so much of her time solving local mysteries, in cahoots with her three cats and the local sheriff, that she is thinking of setting up office as a private investigator.

This story is a cozy without a body, but there is still a serious theme: someone seems to be preying, via an internet dating site on lonely senior women, with the ultimate aim of asking them for money. Abigail Freedman, Beatrice's rival in the cafe business, has been trying to meet the Lothario she has been corresponding with but he always has an excuse. So far he hasn't asked for money... yet.

And there is another theme too: Beatrice has always remained friendly with her first husband Matt but recently she has detected a change in her feelings. A story for those who know that life doesn't end at 60!

My rating:  4.2

About the author:
Alannah Rogers is a retired librarian living in rural New Hampshire. She has three cats, all named after authors: Charlie, Wilkie, and Jane.
Alannah is an obsessive knitter and Scrabble player who loves a strong cup of English Breakfast tea. She makes a mean strawberry rhubarb pie and enjoys tinkering in her garden when time permits.

25 January 2016

Review: VENGEANCE IS MINE, Joanne Fluke

Synopsis (Amazon)

As a family clinic administrator, Michele Layton has seen her share of suffering. But never anything like this. Not here in St. Cloud, Minnesota. A local activist has been found murdered, his body frozen like a statue and placed in a Winter Carnival ice sculpture display. Next a vicious hate crime puts a man in the ICU. And locked away in the Holy Rest mental ward, a deranged man of the cloth prays for more sinners to be punished—and waits for a sign from above. These seemingly random acts lead police chief Steve Radke to Michele, who could be the next pawn in a madman’s chess game of life and death, good versus evil…

My Take

Set in St. Cloud Minnesota February 1985.  A small group of prominent citizens, who are also good friends, is putting together some winter games for the local community, to raise money for a centre for the gay and lesbian people. The committee includes the Mayor and his wife, the host of the local television station, the acting chief of police, and the manager of a family clinic, as well as representatives of GALA (the Gay and Lesbian community). But not everybody is comfortable with coming events, and the associated publicity makes these citizens easy targets.

The first to die is a member of the committee, a business man who has been active in his support for GALA. As yet another dies, and then another, with not even any idea what the murder weapon could be, the people of St. Cloud begin to stay at home and the WinterGame looks doomed to failure. Steve Radke, acting police chief, needs to hold the community together, and prevent mass hysteria.

I had some trouble in separating out the main characters at the beginning of the book although there was plenty of information, perhaps the problem was too much, about each of them. By about a third of the way through though I had them all sorted and I was able to appreciate the complexity of the plotting, and also the romance between two of the characters.

We know almost from the very beginning who is responsible for the murders, and it seemed just a matter of time before they were caught. It takes the police four murders before they develop a theory about how the victims have been selected, but they still don't know who the perpetrator is.

An interesting read.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read
Joanne Fluke is a well-established and quite prolific writer, publishing over 30 novels since 1980. See the list at Fantastic Fiction

24 January 2016

review: THE CRIME AND THE CRYSTAL, Elizabeth Ferrars

  • first published 1985
  • this edition published in 1986 by Ulverscroft in large print edition
  • #3 in the Andrew Basnett series
  • ISBN 0-7089-1485-3
  • 303 pages (large print)
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Christmas in Adelaide promises to be a pleasant vacation for Andrew Basnett, retired professor of botany and amateur sleuth. But the shadow of an unsolved murder hangs over the lives of his hosts, Tony and Jan Gardiner. The police still suspect Jan of her first husband's murder - and then a second killing takes place under the same bizarre circumstances. What can a guest do in such a case but try to clear the name of his hostess and solve the crime?

My Take

I'm not sure what actually led me to select this novel from my local library but it came as a pleasant surprise to find that it was set in my home city of Adelaide.

Andrew Basnett comes to Adelaide to spend Christmas with his former student Tony Gardiner. Tony has recently married and he and his wife Jan live in the fictitious seaside suburb of Betty Hills, which I decided was probably either Brighton or Hove. Twelve months earlier Jan's first husband had been murdered at a local quarry and she and Tony had married within a few months. Jan's sister Kay has also recently married and she and her husband live nearby, a little closer to the beach.

At first I suspected that the author had got most of the details for her setting from travel brochures but then discovered she had actually lived in Adelaide for a short time (see about the author below). I'm not sure why the suburb was named Betty Hills, possibly because it is a combo of the features of more than one of the southern suburbs. Basnett takes a ride on the Glenelg Tram, visits Botanic Park, and refers to The City of Churches.

Basnett thinks things are pretty strained between Tony and his new wife, a little more than is usual in the case of relative newly weds. On Christmas Day a second murder takes place and Jan disappears. Similarities between this murder and the earlier one make it likely that the murderer is the same person.

There is nothing really remarkable about this novel, plenty of allusions to Adelaide's tourist attractions, filling in the setting of a comfortable cozy. It does make me curious about what the other settings of the Basnett series were like:
Andrew Basnett
Something Wicked (1983)
Root of All Evil (1984)
The Crime and the Crystal (1985)
The Other Devil's Name (1986)
A Murder Too Many (1988)
Smoke Without Fire (1990)
A Hobby of Murder (1994)
A Choice of Evils (1995)
They were all published in the last 12 years of Ferrars' life.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read

About the author 1907-1995 (Wikipedia)
Her extraordinary output owes a great deal to considerable self-discipline and diligent method. Her plots were worked out in detail in hand-written notebooks before being filled out in typed manuscript; she said that they were worked backwards from the denouement. Like every writer, she based characters and situations on people she knew and things she had seen in real life. She travelled with her husband when his academic career required, for example to Adelaide where he was a visiting professor at the University of South Australia.

23 January 2016

Review: DUCK SEASON DEATH, June Wright

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 911 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Passage (December 21, 2014)
    Originally written sometime in the 1950s
  • Publication Date: December 21, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00N01TQOW
Synopsis (Amazon)

June Wright wrote this lost gem in the mid-1950s, but consigned it to her bottom drawer after her publisher foolishly rejected it. Perhaps it was a little ahead of its time?

Because while it’s a tour de force of the classic ‘country house’ murder mystery, it’s also a delightful romp, poking fun at the conventions of the genre. When someone takes advantage of a duck hunt to murder publisher Athol Sefton at a remote hunting inn, it soon turns out that virtually everyone, guests and staff alike, had a good reason for shooting him. Sefton’s nephew Charles thinks he can solve the crime by applying the “rules of the game” he’s absorbed from his years as a reviewer of detective fiction – only the killer evidently isn’t playing by those rules.

Duck Season Death is a both a fiendishly clever whodunit and a marvellous entertainment.

My take:

What the blurb above does not say is that the main reason this novel was "consigned to her bottom drawer" was that the author's usual publisher rejected this offering in the 1950s because of negative reviews by three of their pre-publishing readers.

I can understand what attracted scathing comments from these readers. First of all I think Wright meant this as a spoof on the genre. The murder victim is a publisher known for his scathing comments about would-be authors and the books they gave him to read, but also an unlikeable person who tried his invective out on most of those who  came within range. The amateur sleuth who thinks the murder is not accidental is his nephew, but he didn't like Athol Sefton any more than most people. He just thinks the local doctor and policeman are bumbling idiots.

Enter an odd plot strand - the victim himself was under observation by the Victoria police for the murder of his wife, actually a cold case, with the second suspect being the nephew who used to send her boxes of chocolates.

The style in which all this is written is, at first, a bit hard to take. She writes as if she has swallowed the dictionary, a rather pompous version of English which I think was supposed to point the finger at more academic writers from the Golden Age- lots of five syllable words appear in the narrative. The style changes a little for the better in the latter half of the novel. I think it was supposed to imitate the thinking style of the voice of the narrator which did change from section to section of the novel, but was nearly always that of the nephew.

So there we have it - a country house murder set in the style of Agatha Christie (to whom there is the odd reference), located in rural Victoria in the 1950s. The location is near the Murray River at a hotel called The Duck and Dog Inn. The timing: the opening of theduck shooting season.

I spent some time considering whether I thought Wright intended this as a spoof or not, and therefore how I should rate it. I think she did, but her original readers misunderstood, or disapproved. Other bits of humour emerge, even a romantic element. So it may well have been "ahead of its time", but she doesn't quite pull it off.

My rating: 3.5


See another review

21 January 2016

Review: ONLY TIME WILL TELL, Jeffrey Archer

  • published 2011 by Macmillan
  • ISBN 978-0-230-74822-4
  • 388 pages
  • source: a friend
  • #1 in the Clifton series
Synopsis ( Macmillan)

The epic tale of Harry Clifton's life begins in 1919, in the backstreets of Bristol. His father was a war hero, but it will be twenty-one tumultuous years before Harry discovers the truth about how his father really died and if, in fact, he even was his father.

Only Time Will Tell takes a cast of memorable characters from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take his place at Oxford, or join the fight against Hitler's Germany.

In Jeffrey Archer's masterful hands, you will be taken on a journey that you won't want to end, even after you turn the last page of this unforgettable yarn, because you will be faced with a dilemma that neither you, nor Harry Clifton could ever have anticipated.

Only Time Will Tell is part of The Clifton Chronicles series, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.

My take

I read this because first of all a friend loaded four of the books onto me just before Christmas, and secondly, because I have read some Jeffrey Archer novels and short stories quite a long time ago and enjoyed them.

Crimes are committed and there is mystery but this book is on the very edge of the crime fiction genre (you will see from my labels that I have allowed myself to label it "not crime fiction"). To my mind it is more a historical saga focussing on the life of Harry Clifton.

Harry is always told his father was killed in the Great War, but he himself was born in 1920, so he knows that just can't be true. Harry has "the voice of an angel" and that becomes his passport into a choral scholarship and a good education. Harry is a quick, intelligent child, who endears many people to himself, and behind the scenes they contribute to the costs of keeping him at school. And then what really happened to his father has left many people feeling guilty and they also keep a watchful eye on his progress. Ironically Harry's life becomes inextricably linked to the lives of the family who have done him the most damage.

So here I am having enjoyed the first in the Clifton series and with the second ready at hand. The ending of the first has left me hooked to know what happens in the second.

My rating: 4.5

BOOK 1: Only Time Will Tell
BOOK 2: The Sins of the Father
BOOK 3: Best Kept Secret
BOOK 4: Be Careful What You Wish For
BOOK 5: Mightier Than The Sword
BOOK 6: Cometh The Hour

I have also read

19 January 2016

review: GHOST GIRLS, Cath Ferla

 Synopsis (Echo Publishing)

Winter in Sydney. The city is brimming with foreign students. Sophie Sandilands takes a job teaching at an English language school. When one of her students leaps to her death it becomes clear that lurking within the psyche of this community is a deep sense of despair and alienation. When it is revealed that the dead woman on the pavement has stolen another’s identity, Sophie is drawn into the mystery.

Unable to resist the investigative instincts that run in her blood, Sophie finds herself unravelling a sinister operation that is trawling the foreign student market for its victims. But as Sophie works on tracking down the criminals it becomes evident that someone has knowledge of her and the disappearances in her own past. Will Sophie solve the mystery before she too becomes a ghost?

Ghost Girls richly evokes the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Sydney’s Chinatown, and imagines dark exploitative demands behind closed suburban doors.

My Take

GHOST GIRLS took me into a world that I really hadn't thought too much about - English language students who come to Australia, mainly from China. Many of them come with high expectations, not much money, and very homesick. I probably knew all that. But the book gives the reader a "behind the scenes" look at the sleazy Sydney underworld that preys on these students, and just how vulnerable they are.

Sophie Sandilands is part Chinese herself, brought back to the "safety" of Australia from China by her Australian father. But even then her Chinese mother disappeared and Sophie has never forgiven her father, a private investigator, for the role that he played in that.

One of the themes of the book is disappearance: David, the young boy who disappeared in a playground in Beijing while Sophie was caring for him, girls who seem to disappear without trace from the English language classes in the school where Sophie teaches. And underneath all an underworld that deals in pornography, prostitution and drug distribution.

An intriguing read.

About the author
Cath Ferla is a multi­platform writer with a background in screenwriting and script editing, print and online journalism, educational publishing and long and short form fiction. She is also a Secondary School­qualified teacher, with teaching experience and qualifications in the area of EAL (English as an Acquired Language). She has also lived in Beijing, China and studied Mandarin Chinese.

17 January 2016

Review: THE BLOOD STRAND, Chris Ould

  • File Size: 1989 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages, also available for Kindle
  • Publisher: Titan Books (February 16, 2016)
  • Publication Date: February 16, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0198VHPMC
  • Source: e-ARC from publicist 
Synopsis (Amazon)

Having left the Faroes as a child, Jan Reyna is now a British police detective, and the Islands are foreign to him. But he is drawn back when his estranged father is found unconscious, a shotgun by his side and someone else’s blood in his car. Then a man’s body is found, a shotgun wound in his side, but signs that he was suffocated. Is his father responsible for the man’s death? Jan must decide whether to stay or forsake the Faroe Islands for good,

My Take

Chris Ould's previous outings as a screen writer and author of YA crime fiction titles means that he has brought a polished style to THE BLOOD STRAND which promises to be the beginning of a trilogy, even perhaps a series.

Faroes-born Jan Reyna comes back to the Faroes from England because his father has been shot and seems to be dying. His adoptive parents encourage him to attempt one last reconciliation. Inevitably his policeman's detective brain kicks in and he realises there are mysteries to be solved. He meets up with his half-brothers, one of whom is very hostile, the other very friendly, and so he decides to approach the police to see what they have found out. This leads to him teaming up with local policeman Hjalti Hentze, in an unofficial way, becoming part of the investigative team. At first he is treated by Hentze's boss as a suspect, but then it becomes clear that he could really have had nothing to do with the original incident. Faroese police procedures are a little different to British ones and so he looks at the crimes scenes with different eyes.

As the book progresses we learn little snippets of Reyna's background but the author keeps us constantly hungry for more.

As I usually do, I weighed the clues up, and came up with a workable scenario which led to the shooting of Jan's father and then explained the subsequent chain of action. But I was wrong!

I very much enjoyed the unique setting of the novel  too.

Jan Reyna and Hjalti Hentze make an interesting and effective team and I look forward to meeting them again in

THE KILLING BAY due to be published Feb 2017
THE FIRE PIT dues to be published Feb 2018.

About the author
Chris was first published as a novelist for adults before being seduced by the murky world of television. Since then he has written more than eighty hours of TV drama and documentaries including Soldier Soldier, Casualty, Hornblower and many episodes of The Bill, one of which won a BAFTA in 2009.

Chris's first novel in a series for young adults, Street Duty: Knock-Down was published by Usborne in 2012 and  the second book in the series, The Killing Street was published in June 2013.

Chris is married and lives in Dorset with his wife and son.

Read another review

10 January 2016

Review: EDGE OF WILD, D. K. Stone

  • Release date 1 May 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-9866494-3-1
  • 329 pages
  • Tathagata Volume 1 
  • Source: special pre-release copy supplied by author
  • Author website
Synopsis (supplied by author)

Transplanted from New York City to the tiny mountain town of Waterton, Alberta with the task of saving a floundering new hotel, Rich Evans is desperate to return to the city as soon as he can. The locals seem unusually hostile towards his efforts, or maybe even menacing, and was that a cougar on his door-step last night?

As Rich begins to wonder whether his predecessor disappeared of his own accord, he finds himself strongly drawn to Louise Newman, the young woman who is fixing his suddenly unreliable BMW, and the only person in Waterton who doesn’t seem desperate to run him out of town. As Rich works on the hotel, the town is torn apart by a series of gruesome, unsolved murders. With Louise as his only ally in a town that seems set against him, Rich can’t help but wonder: will he be the next victim?

My Take

One of the things that attracts tourists to the town of Waterton on the edge of the Canadian/American border is its isolation. But there are drawbacks too: the lack of a high quality hotel, cell phones don't work, there is no internet, the nearest fire brigade is in the next town, and there is just one garage. There are a number of small businesses that economically survive on the edge, But they are surprisingly resistant to change. The resisted Rich Evan's predecessor with his ideas for the new Whitewater hotel and now they block Rich at every turn. Rich begins to feel that they have a lot of things to hide.

From the very start Rich is aware that he is being watched: there are footprints in the snow surrounding his cabin, his silver BMW sports car develops almost terminal mechanical problems, there are noises in his yard, and his garage door is left open. He knows that his predecessor, who disappeared without trace, felt spooked by the town, and Rich begins to feel he is trapped.

Then there are murders, unidentifiable mauled bodies are found in the mountains, the new hotel develops new problems every day and is partially closed and the visitors dry up.

This is a novel that makes the reader want to know what is going on. What is it about the town that people want to keep hidden?

My rating: 4.5
About the author (Amazon)
Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both adults (The Intaglio Series and Ctrl Z) and teens (Icarus and All the Feels). When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.

The first book in Danika's upcoming Tathagata series (Edge of Wild) was selected as a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award (2013). Edge of Wild (Stonehouse CA) will be released March 2016. Danika's YA novel, All the Feels (Macmillan US), will be released June 2016 

7 January 2016

Review: GOOD MONEY, J.M. Green

Synopsis (Scribe Publications)

Introducing Stella Hardy, a wisecracking social worker with a thirst for social justice, good laksa, and alcohol.

Stella's phone rings. A young African boy, the son of one of her clients, has been murdered in a dingy back alley. Stella, in her forties and running low on empathy, heads into the night to comfort the grieving mother. But when she gets there, she makes a discovery that has the potential to uncover something terrible from her past -- something she thought she'd gotten away with.

Then Stella's neighbour Tania mysteriously vanishes. When Stella learns that Tania is the heir to a billion-dollar mining empire, Stella realises her glamorous young friend might have had more up her sleeve than just a perfectly toned arm. Who is behind her disappearance?

Enlisting the help of her friend Senior Constable Phuong Nguyen, Stella's investigation draws her further and further into a dark world of drug dealers, sociopaths, and killers, such as the enigmatic Mr Funsail, whose name makes even hardened criminals run for cover.

One thing is clear: Stella needs to find answers fast -- before the people she's looking for find her instead.

Set in the bustling, multicultural inner west of Melbourne, Good Money reveals a daring and exciting new voice in Australian crime fiction.

My Take

GOOD MONEY was shortlisted in 2014 for the Victorian premier’s literary award for an unpublished manuscript.This led to a two book deal, hence the blurb on the cover "The first Stella Hardy novel."

The novel is one of a batch of new titles by young Australian authors published recently which reflects the current mileu of Australian society: one that is struggling to adapt to new elements of multiculturalism; growing cities in which crime and corruption seem to thrive; rural communities in steady decline; a fragile mining industry with illusory riches where the naive are the prey of the organised crime.

The author's quirky sense of humour surfaces frequently as social worker Stella Hardy searches for her missing neighbour and is frequently summoned for help by an African client whose son has been murdered in what looks like a drug deal gone wrong. Small gobbets of Stella's background surface to flesh out her character. In this story Stella gets herself into some horrendous situations, and I'm amazed that she survived.

An interesting read from an author worth following.

My rating: 4.3

Other reviews:
Fair Dinkum Crime
Aust Crime Fiction
The Guardian

Author's website

6 January 2016

8th Birthday

I created this blog 8 years ago to have somewhere to store my book reviews, and to keep a more detailed record of what I have read.

Since then I have published nearly 3,200 posts, with over 1,000 labelled "book review".

It has also led to more involvement with the blogging community, managing a number of memes and challenges each year, and the creation of a large number of online friends, some of whom I have actually met in the flesh.

Blogger tells me there have been 1,753,521 PageViews, with over 9,000 published comments.
Thank you for visiting today.

4 January 2016

Review: THE DROWNING POOL, Ross Macdonald

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1636 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (July 5, 2012)
    originally published 1950
  • Publication Date: July 5, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0082440BQ
  • #2 in the Lew Archer series 
Synopsis  (Amazon)

When Maude Slocum - beautiful, frightened and angry - comes to Lew Archer's office with a poison pen letter intended for her husband, he reluctantly agrees to help her. As he follows the Slocums around, Archer finds that Mrs Slocum might have the least of the family's troubles: her teenage daughter is desolate, her husband is in the closet and her mother-in-law has just come to an unpleasant end in the swimming pool. But why is their handsome ex-chauffeur still hanging around? And what does the sinister Pacific Refinery Company have to do with the all the bloodshed?

The Drowning Pool is Ross Macdonald's gripping tale of adultery, jealousy, murder and lies.

Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer mysteries rewrote the conventions of the detective novel with their credible, humane hero, and with Macdonald's insight and moral complexity won new literary respectability for the hardboiled genre previously pioneered by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. They have also received praise from such celebrated writers as William Goldman, Jonathan Kellerman, Eudora Welty and Elmore Leonard.

My take

This Penguin Publisher e-book version comes with an excellent introduction by John Banville.
    "as usual with Macdonald, the mud at the bottom of today's pool is stirred up by yesterday's storms. There is hardly a character in the book without something to hide from his or her past."
All this gives the plot an incredible complexity, although, as Banville says, Macdonald was really intrigued by the motivations of plausible people in plausible circumstances.

Three deaths later, Lew Archer comes up with an explanation that I had not seen coming.

I read it for my participation in the Crime Fiction of the Year Challenge @ Past Offences for January 2016, a book published in 1950.It also fits in with the Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt, hosted by Bev at My Reader's Block.

My rating: 4.3

About the Author
MacDonald served as president of The Mystery Writers of America in 1965, received the Silver Dagger in 1964 and the Gold Dagger in 1965 from The British Crime Writers Association, and in 1981, received The Eye, the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Private Eye Writers of America.
The Drowning Pool was made into a film starring Paul Newman in 1975.

Where I'm heading with Reading Challenges

With most of the reading challenges I've undertaken in the last year or two, I've actually completed the challenges, but failed in communicating and reporting in the way the challenge organiser envisaged.

Hence, in the list below, shown in more detail on my 2016 Reading Updates page, many of the challenges are now personal ones, basically a means of helping me keep track of my reading.

Here are my challenges for 2016

3 January 2016

Kerrie's Top "Ten" in 2015

As usual there is something seriously wrong with my counting.
Crime fiction of course
I read 137 books in 2015 and here is the top of my list.

However I can't even assure you at this distance that the book at the very top is the best that I read.
I suspect that honour could probably go to any on this list, and perhaps even to one a little further down.
For the other 100 or so see here.

What I read in December 2016

December 2015
I managed to put a bit of a spurt on in December, despite the increase in social activities.
You will notice a goodly number of Australian authors too.
My pick of the month was a toss up between  THE HANGING GIRL by Jussi Adler Olsen and THE SHUT EYE by Belinda Bauer
  1. 4.8, THE HANGING GIRL, Jussi Adler Olsen
  2. 4.2, THE ANCIENT CURSE, Valerio Massimo Manfredi
  3. 4.5, DAMAGE, Felix Francis
  4. 4.2, THE PENGUIN POOL MURDER, Stuart Palmer - audio book 
  5. 4.2, TEN STAR CLUES, E.R. Punshon - Vintage mystery 
  6. 4.4, DARK CORNERS, Ruth Rendell - her final novel
  7. 4.3, MURDER ON THE ISLAND, Brian Kavanagh - Aussie author 
  8. 4.8, THE SHUT EYE, Belinda Bauer - British author 
  9. 4.7, CRUCIFIXION CREEK, Barry Maitland  - Aussie author
  10. 3.9, THE POPEYE MURDER, Sandra Winter-Dewhirst - Aussie author 
  11. 4.3, ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US, Sarah Foster - Aussie author 
  12. 4.4, RUNNING AGAINST THE TIDE, Amanda Ortlepp - Aussie author
  13. 4.4, FALL FROM GRACE, David Ashton 
 Check what others have chosen for their pick of the month.

2 January 2016

Review: KING OF THE ROAD, Nigel Bartlett

  • ARC from NetGalley
  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1130 KB
  • Print Length: 317 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Australia (February 2, 2015)
  • Publication Date: January 28, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00NG754UK
Synopsis (Net Galley)

When David's 11-year-old nephew goes missing and he finds the finger pointed at him, he has no choice but to strike out on his own - an unlikely vigilante running away from the police and his own family, and running towards what he hopes desperately is the truth about Andrew's disappearance.

David Kingsgrove is a man on a mission. An ordinary man - and an extraordinary mission. It is a mission that will turn him into someone he never thought he would be: the king of the road, the loner on the highway, the crusader for a sort of justice he has never before had to seek.

Andrew had been a regular visitor to David's home right up until the day he disappeared, walking out the front door to visit a neighbour. It doesn't take long for the police to decide that David - a single man in his thirties, living alone - is their suspect. Soon Andrew's parents will share that opinion. But David knows that he didn't take Andrew.

Realising that the only way Andrew will be found is if he finds him - the police, after all, are fixated on David as their suspect and are not looking anywhere else - David turns to the one person who he knows will help him: Matty an ex-cop now his personal trainer, whose own son disappeared several years before.

David's crusade to find Andrew will also take him into his own dark heart - to do things he never thought he would have to do, and go places he has never wanted to go. And the choices David makes lead us all to ask: How far would I go to save someone I love?

This is a compelling story that is almost impossible to stop reading - a hero's journey, of sorts, with a momentum that is breathtaking even while the subject matter is confronting.

My take

This an ARC that I received from Net Galley early in 2015 and so I'm feeling a bit guilty that I didn't tackle it before.

In many cases the police work on the premise that the perpetrator of the crime is often a member of the family. In the case of the disappearance of his nephew Andrew, David Kingsgrove is a very likely suspect, and this seems to mean that their resources don't focus on others. David knows that he himself is innocent and so he starts looking for clues about what Andrew did when nobody was looking. He discovers that Andrew has a FaceBook account. At the same time he discovers thousands of child pornography pictures on his own computer. When the police take his computer, he knows it will be no time at all before they find them too. So he hits the road to find Andrew himself, and triggers a man-hunt by the police who believe that he has just confirmed his guilt.

A thought provoking novel, drawing together plot-lines relating to paedophilia and social media. Set in Sydney.

My rating 4.4

About the author

Nigel Bartlett is a freelance writer and editor who has worked for many of the best-known publications in Australia.

He's a former deputy editor of GQ Australia and Inside Out magazines and has been a regular contributor to Belle and Sunday, the colour supplement for the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Herald Sun. In addition, he's freelanced for numerous other titles, ranging from Who to Sunday Life and Harper's Bazaar, as well as a number of high-profile websites.

In 2012 he completed a research masters in creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney. He lives in the inner-city suburb of Redfern.

1 January 2016

What's with 137?

I have been keeping a reading record of all books read since 1975.
For the past three years, 2013, 2014, and 2015 the total has been 137.

The total for the last 41 years is 3713.

As I always do, I have kept a summary of the reading challenges I have participated in and the categories I have read.
There are a number that I have not completed this year, and I am yet to decide on my directions for 2016.

There are enough stats though to reveal the following about my reading profile:
  • I read about 12 books a month
  • About 20% are Australian authors, 
  • about 40 % British, 
  • roughly 50 % are e-books read on my Kindle
  • 4 in 10 are new-to-me authors, which means that just over half are authors I have read before
  • 20% are translated crime fiction, often Nordic
  • about 40% of the titles come from my local library.
  • about 20% are "vintage" crime fiction, although I generally don't rate them as highly as more recently published books.
 Here is the "negative" side
  • I am not good at reading from my TBR pile - every now and then I cull the pile and pick out books I am not likely to read, ever, and give them away to people in the various reading groups I belong to.
  • I read almost nothing other than crime fiction
  • I need to read more by New Zealand authors
  • Among the Challenges I haven't done much with this year are
    the Global Reading Challenge (65% complete),
    the USA Fiction Challenge - I've read 16 titles this year, just haven't ticked off many new states.
Last updated 30 December 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month December 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2015
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 December 2015, 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 -
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.

Happy New Year 2016


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