31 December 2016

Ringing out the old year

I never get tired of looking at this image.  
How big this bell tower must be to house all these bells.
And who are the people ringing them?
And how secure is the floor with all those bits of timber?

Goodbye 2016

30 December 2016

My best reads for 2016

I've just taken my top 10 titles, but there are plenty more on my list, and plenty of Australian representation here too. (A)
And a number of them I read as E books on my Kindle (E)
See all at
  1. 5.0, THE LAKE HOUSE, Kate Morton (A) (E)
  2. 5.0, A DEADLY THAW, Sarah Ward (E)
  3. 5.0, THE WRONG HAND, Jane Jago (A)
  4. 5.0, CONCLAVE, Robert Harris 
  5. 5.0, THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET, Jock Serong (A) (E)
  6. 4.9, WHAT SHE NEVER TOLD ME, Kate McQuaile (E)
  7. 4.9, ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING, Evie Wyld (A)
  8. 4.9, COFFIN ROAD, Peter May
  9. 4.9, PLAY DEAD, Angela Marsons (E)
  10. 4.9, BLOOD LINES, Angela Marsons (E)

Review: BLOOD LINES, Angela Marsons

  • Format: kindle (Amazon)
  • #5 in the Kim Stone series
  • File Size: 2252 KB
  • Print Length: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Bookouture (November 4, 2016)
  • Publication Date: November 4, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English

Synopsis (Amazon)

How do you catch a killer who leaves no trace?

A victim killed with a single, precise stab to the heart appears at first glance to be a robbery gone wrong. A caring, upstanding social worker lost to a senseless act of violence. But for Detective Kim Stone, something doesn’t add up.

When a local drug addict is found murdered with an identical wound, Kim knows instinctively that she is dealing with the same killer. But with nothing to link the two victims except the cold, calculated nature of their death, this could be her most difficult case yet.

Desperate to catch the twisted individual, Kim’s focus on the case is threatened when she receives a chilling letter from Dr Alex Thorne, the sociopath who Kim put behind bars. And this time, Alex is determined to hit where it hurts most, bringing Kim face-to-face with the woman responsible for the death of Kim’s little brother – her own mother.

As the body count increases, Kim and her team unravel a web of dark secrets, bringing them closer to the killer. But one of their own could be in mortal danger. Only this time, Kim might not be strong enough to save them…

A totally gripping thriller that will have you hooked from the very first page to the final, dramatic twist.

My take

This is one of those books that gets you in right from the beginning, but I think I also need to say that the reader will be more engaged if you have read the earlier titles in the series (in order). There are also plot strands that continue from earlier novels (the Alex Thorne one, and Kim's mother). I wasn't conscious of a lot of repetition of material from earlier novels, other than re-affirmation of what I already knew. The canvas of the five novels is very detailed and rich.

This is a police procedural, and the nature of police work, the intuition and inspiration that sometimes cracks cases, the tedium of working through endless lists, following up phone calls without result, the rivalry among members of the investigative team, the frustration of being assigned the most pedestrian jobs, are all well explored. They all bring DI Kim Stone and her team alive. Emphasised too in Kim's own character is the fact that no one works in a vaccuum - Kim is in constant danger of being derailed.

Excellent reading.

My rating: 4.9

I've also read

26 December 2016

Review: CLOSED CASKET, Sophie Hannah

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1167 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (September 6, 2016)
  • Publication Date: September 6, 2016
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01BJ12PEM
Synopsis  (Amazon)

Hercule Poirot returns in another brilliant murder mystery that can only be solved by the eponymous Belgian detective and his ‘little grey cells’.

‘What I intend to say to you will come as a shock . . .’

Lady Athelinda Playford has planned a house party at her mansion in Clonakilty, County Cork, but it is no ordinary gathering. As guests arrive, Lady Playford summons her lawyer to make an urgent change to her will – one she intends to announce at dinner that night. She has decided to cut off her two children without a penny and leave her fortune to someone who has only weeks to live . . .

Among Lady Playford’s guests are two men she has never met – the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited . . . until Poirot starts to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murderer to strike. But why does she seem so determined to provoke, in the presence of a possible killer?

When the crime is committed in spite of Poirot’s best efforts to stop it, and the victim is not who he expected it to be, will he be able to find the culprit and solve the mystery?

Following the phenomenal global success of The Monogram Murders, which was published to critical acclaim following a co-ordinated international launch in September 2014, international best-selling crime writer Sophie Hannah has been commissioned by Agatha Christie Limited to pen a second fully-authorised Poirot novel. The new book marks the centenary of the creation of Christie’s world-famous detective Hercule Poirot, introduced in her first book The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

My Take

This is the second of Sophie Hannah's Poirot stories. The story is told mainly through the voice of Inspector Edward Catchpool, Poirot's friend from Scotland Yard. They have both been invited to a houseparty in Clonakilty, County Cork. A murder occurs but it isn't the one any of the house party were expecting. The amount of space given to Catchpool's voice is just one of the things distinguishing this novel from a "real" Agatha Christie. For another, Christie herself would have underplayed the gruesomeness of the state of the dead body.

I was willing to be persuaded, but Hannah's Poirot still does not ring true. He seems in some ways younger, more mobile, and a little less fastidious than the original.

And am I just being petty in my objections to the prominence given to the Agatha Christie name on some covers?

My rating: 4.2

I've also reviewed 4.3, THE MONOGRAM MURDERS

25 December 2016

Merry Christmas to all

It will be a hot one this year.
The weather man is promising 40C!

23 December 2016

Review: CONCLAVE, Robert Harris - audio book

  • Narrated by: Roy Mcmillan
  • Length: 8 hrs and 19 mins 
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • published 2016
Synopsis (Audible)

The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, 118 cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world's most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.

Over the next 72 hours, one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

My Take

I guess one could argue that this novel is at the very edge of crime fiction, but there is certainly mystery, and a plot that kept me listening until the very end.

The narration is excellent, and there is plenty of drama and suspense as the Dean of the College of Cardinals leads 118 cardinals through the process of electing another Pope, making sure that their final choice is worthy of the office.

At the end we are left asking how much influence the former Pope actually had in choosing his successor.

My rating: 5.0

About the author

Robert Harris was born in Nottingham in 1957 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He has been a reporter on the BBC's Newsnight and Panorama programmes, Political Editor of the Observer, and a columnist on The Sunday Times. He is the author of five non-fiction books in addition to his bestselling fiction. 

22 December 2016

Review: THE BANK MANAGER, Roger Monk

  • first published by the Horizon Publishing Group 2016
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-922234-573
  • 337 pages
  • source: my local library
  • paperback also available from Amazon
Synopsis (Publisher)

Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw is transferred  to a country town.

Just an ordinary, average Australian country town where nothing ever happens — except blackmail, fornication, embezzlement, revenge, avarice, brutality, snobbery, rape … and murder.

Like any other ordinary, average Australian country town.

My Take

We first met DS Brian Shaw in Roger Monk's first crime fiction book, THE BANK INSPECTOR.
I felt his character emerged rather more clearly in THE BANK MANAGER.

The year is 1950. Superintendent Matthews of  the South Australian Police Headquarters decides to try stationing detectives in different regions in the state. This will mean when a serious crime occurs a detective will not have to be sent out from Adelaide, he will already be more or less on the spot.
Brian Shaw's boss Inspector Williams breaks the news to him that he will be reporting to the Midway police station on Yorke Peninsula as officer in charge of all detective functions.

Shaw does not have very long to settle in. The day after he arrives the manager of the Midway branch of the Great Southern Bank disappears on his way back from visiting a local agency. His car mysteriously turns up in his garage overnight but there is no sign of Frank Anderson.

I very much enjoyed this carefully plotted story. There is a good sense of South Australian country life just after World War Two, and some interesting characters.  Brian Shaw is seen by some families as an eligible bachelor, and receives a number of social invitations which gives the reader a good idea of the structure of this country town.

Unfortunately there is no sign of an e-book, but South Australians at least can easily get a copy of both titles through their local library. I look forward to the next in this series.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read 4.8, THE BANK INSPECTOR

19 December 2016

Review: THE CATALYST KILLING, Hans Olav Lahlum

  • first published in Norwegian 2012
  • firts published in UK by Pan Macmillan 2015
  • translated by Kari Dickson
  • 405 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-230-76955-7
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

1970. Inspector Kolbjørn Kristiansen, known as K2, witnesses a young woman desperately trying to catch a tram only to have the doors close before her face. The next time he sees her, she is dead - her body found between the tram tracks. It seems she has been shot . . .

As K2 begins to investigate, with the inestimable help of his precocious assistant Patricia, he discovers that the whole affair started two years earlier, when a group of politically active young people set out on a walking tour in Valdres. One night, it seems, the charismatic leader Falko Reinhardt vanished. This latest victim was Reinhardt's girlfriend.

It doesn't take K2 long to realise that to solve the present-day murder he must go back in time, perhaps further than 1968. But as he and Patricia begin to unravel the events behind this mystery, the detective fails to notice that his young assistant has her own problems to face. . 

My take

As he did with THE SATELLITE PEOPLE Lahlum has explored a theory about the cause of homicide, i.e. that often a first killing sets off a chain reaction, and is the catalyst for further killings.

The real brains behind investigator K2 is without doubt his young assistant Patricia. She prompts him with questions to ask, lines of enquiry to take, and people to investigate. However the end result of this is that often the reader is also playing catch up, and we do not have the full facts, so it is very hard for us to solve any of the mysteries. I eventually found this quite frustrating. It is a method which involves K2 chasing a number of red herrings, often at great length, only to find that track is a dead end. Patricia meanwhile sits smugly in her wheel chair waiting for K2 to come to the right conclusion.

It is obviously a carefully plotted novel, and the political setting in 1970 would mean a lot more to Norwegian readers.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read

13 December 2016


  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1005 KB
  • Print Length: 230 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Published by CUSTOM BOOK PUBLICATIONS (April 21, 2015)
  • Publication Date: April 21, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00WH96NX0
Synopsis (Amazon)

Skyla Merrick is always in some kind of trouble …

In disgrace and suspended, the Cornish-born detective witnesses the first of the bizarre deaths while visiting Arthurs Bay, a coastal fishing village with bigger ideas. The director of a local climate change research facility, Edwina Ling, is number one.
Skyla relishes the opportunity to restore her fortunes but false evidence and her personal demons deceive her and she chases the wrong suspect.
Then there is another, and then another death …
Her one-time lover helps resolve her confusion and assists her pursuit of the murderer with renewed clarity. Colleagues quietly follow their own investigations and pursue the money trail. And then there is the confrontation between the developers and conservationists …

When Skyla and local police officer Hugh Fitzpatrick bring their work together, she sees the solution.

But can she catch the killer?

My Take

The setting of this story is the southern coast of Australia, somewhere in Victoria, a fictitious fishing village called Arthurs Bay where a climate change research facility is located. The Southern Institute of Marine Exploration (SIME) is hosting a convention on climate change and a controversial paper which disputes the impact of climate change on local fish stock is to be presented.

On the eve of the presentation of this paper the director of the institute, Edwina Ling, is murdered and suspended detective Skyla Merrick is one of those present at her death. Skyla is reinstated to her rank of detective and is put in charge of the investigation into the murder. Skyla brings with her a whole lot of emotional baggage which impacts on her ability to conduct an investigation.

There are a lot of local issues running in the background, disputes between fishermen and organic vegetable growers, an impending Food Festival, long standing local rivalries, to cite a few. Essentially the fishermen dispute the findings of the research paper, saying that not only are fish stocks dwindling, but that the type of fish now in the area has changed, and that that change is due to the impact of global warming.

Published in 2015, the book focusses on some pretty topical issues, especially in the light of political opinion, both local and international, that climate change is much overrated, and that global warming is unproven.

The novel is carefully plotted, but perhaps an attempt was made to cover too many "issues", and that resulted in quite a number of plot threads, and inevitable red herrings. In the long run, there were just too many strings running off the main plot. and it felt rather as if the author was becoming bogged down in complexity in a desperate attempt to come to a resolution. I also found the number of characters a bit distracting.

Nevertheless an interesting read.

My rating: 3.5

About the author

David Kilner was born in London and grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where he lives with his wife, Pauline, and two Maltese Shih-Tzu crosses. With the help of the dogs, they raised two daughters. Now retired, he spent most of his career in the social welfare sector where he became expert at writing social welfare policy and was awarded a Doctorate for his work on social housing. These days he enjoys volunteering with community organisations and writing local history studies. Many of his non-fiction works have been published, both in social welfare and in history. He began writing crime fiction several years ago and has previously published two short stories with Detective Sergeant Skyla Merrick in the lead.

6 December 2016

Review: DEATH IN AUGUST, Marco Vichi

  • first published in Italian 2002
  • translated into English 2011 by Stephen Sartarelli
  • published by Hodder & Stoughton
  • ISBN 978-1-444-71221-6
  • 207 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #1 in the Inspector Bordelli series
Synopsis  (Italian Mysteries)

Florence, summer 1963.

Inspector Bordelli is one of the few policemen left in the deserted city. He spends his days on routine work, and his nights tormented by the heat and mosquitoes.

Suddenly one night, a telephone call gives him a new sense of purpose: the suspected death of a wealthy Signora. Bordelli rushes to her hilltop villa, and picks the locks. The old woman is lying on her bed - apparently killed by an asthma attack, though her medicine has been left untouched.

With the help of his young protégé, the victim's eccentric brother, and a semi-retired petty thief, the inspector begins a murder investigation. Each suspect has a solid alibi, but there is something that doesn't quite add up . .

My Take

Unencumbered by a wife and family, Inspector Bordelli likes to spend the August holiday season at work, even if it does mean incredible heat, and mosquitoes.

This is almost a Golden Age style mystery: there is no blood and gore, just a dead body and a mystery about how she died.  As Inspector Bordelli tracks down the beneficiaries of the dead woman's will, he and his young assistant settle on the murderer, but the problem is to prove it. He revisits the scene of the death frequently and makes a surprise discovery, and eventually gathers some concrete evidence.

This is to be the first book in the series and the author takes a lot of care in creating the Inspector's persona: he is 53 years old, fought the Nazis in World War Two, and already sees himself as an old man. He has a lot of friends among criminals and ex-soldiers. There is a lovely scene at a dinner party where a number of them tell stories from the war.

I was impressed by the careful plotting and the eventual resolution of the mystery.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Marco Vichi was born in Florence in 1957. The author of eleven novels and two collections of short stories, he has also written screenplays, music lyrics and for radio, and collaborated on projects for humanitarian causes. His novel Death in Florence won the Scerbanenco, Rieti and Camaiore prizes.

Inspector Bordelli
1. Death in August (2011)
2. Death and the Olive Grove (2012)
3. Death in Sardinia (2012)
4. Death in Florence (2013)
5. Death in the Tuscan Hills (2016)

5 December 2016

Review: SALT CREEK, Lucy Treloar

  • this edition: EasyRead Large Edition
  • published in 2015 in Picador for Pan Macmillan Australia
  • ISBN: 978-1-45876-590-1
  • 569 pages
  • source: my local library
  • author website: http://lucytreloar.com/salt-creek/
Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)


From the winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Pacific Region) and the 2013 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award
"Salt Creek introduces a capacious talent" The Australian

Some things collapse slow, and cannot always be rebuilt, and even if a thing can be remade it will never be as it was.

Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.
Once wealthy political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make connections where they can: with the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock route - among them a young artist, Charles - and the Ngarrindjeri people they have dispossessed. Over the years that pass, an Aboriginal boy, Tully, at first a friend, becomes part of the family.
Stanton's attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people's homes and livelihoods, and unleash a chain of events that will tear the family asunder. As Hester witnesses the destruction of the Ngarrindjeri's subtle culture and the ideals that her family once held so close, she begins to wonder what civilization is. Was it for this life and this world that she was educated?

My take

First of all I note that this is NOT crime fiction, although there are mysteries.

A work of fiction, it is loosely based on inherited stories from the author's family, and includes some characters who actually existed, as well as some fictional creations.

It is set in the period 1855-1874. The Finch family who have been in the colony of South Australia for a few years, move from Adelaide to Salt Creek on the Coorong. They are a large family, 6 children initially, but things do not go well. There is a history of "bad blood" between the white settlers and the local aboriginal tribe, including the massacre of the survivors of the wreck of the Brig Maria. Details are left sketchy, but somehow Mr Finch was involved in the punishment meted out.

One of the issues is how the aborigines should be treated: Mr Finch believes in equality, but somehow that does not always come out in his treatment of others. There are references to George Taplin's attempts to civilise them through the mission at Raukkan.

The environment is a harsh one and members of the Finch family die and others go to the Victorian goldfields to seek their fortune. Meanwhile Mr Finch sinks further and further into debt, always balancing one "investment" against the meagre profit from another.

A very good read that seems to me to depict the history of these times with sensitivity and accuracy.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Lucy Treloar was born in Malaysia and educated in Melbourne, England and Sweden. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing program, Lucy is a writer, editor, mentor and creative writing teacher and has plied her trades both in Australia and in Cambodia, where she lived for several years.
She was awarded an Asialink Writer’s Residency to Cambodia (2011) to undertake research and to work on her first adult novel, then titled Some Times in Life. Lucy is the winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (Pacific), the 2012 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award and a 2013 Varuna Publisher Fellowship. Her short fiction has appeared in Sleepers, Overland, Seizure, and Best Australian Stories 2013, and her non-fiction in a range of publications.
Lucy’s debut novel, Salt Creek (Pan Macmillan) was published in 2015 to critical acclaim. It has won the Dobbie Award, the Matt Richell Award for New Writer, and the Indie Award for Best Debut, and has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction and the Readings Prize for New Australian Writer.
Lucy is an Artist in Residence at Melbourne’s Arts House – see Creative Spaces. (Here’s the information page.) If anyone’s looking for an office or studio to write in, Creative Spaces is the place to find it.

2 December 2016

Review: A WOMAN MUCH MISSED, Valerio Varesi

  • first published in Italian 2004, 
  • first pubished in Great Britain in 2015
  • translated by Joseph Farrell
  • Commissario Soneri #4
  • ISBN 978-0-85705-345-9
  • 270 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

A few days before Christmas, with Parma gripped by frost and fog, Ghitta Tagliavini, the elderly owner of a guesthouse in the old town centre, is found murdered in her apartment.

The case is assigned to Commissario Soneri, but the investigation holds a painful, personal element that sends waves of nostalgia sweeping through him. Tagliavini's guesthouse is where Soneri met his late wife Ada, and where the young couple spent unforgettable hours in each other's company.

But the present can embitter even the sweetest memories. An old photograph of Ada with another man sends Soneri into a spiral of despondency, ever more so when he realises her death may be linked to Tagliavina's lucrative sideline as a backstreet abortionist and faith healer.
Though Soneri would like nothing more than to be allowed to drop the case, he doggedly persists, uncovering at last, along with the truth behind Tagliavini's death, rife corruption at Parma's rotten heart and a raft of ghosts from Italy's divisive past.

My Take

This wasn't the easiest book to read.  A murder investigation is tangled with political overtones and Commissario is drawn back to an old stamping ground.  He recognises the dead woman as the landlady of the student house where his now dead wife used to board. In latter years the guesthouse has become a bordello and Soneri comes to wonder if that was its role when his wife lived there.

Complicating things is that Italy's two police forces are constantly trying to score easy points at the other's expense and Commissario Soneri, part of the state police force, feels constantly under threat from the officers of the carabinieri.

I hung in there until everything was resolved and the murder mystery was solved, but I can't say I enjoyed the book.

My rating: 4.2

1 December 2016

What I read in November 2016

November 2016
A pretty "small" month, reading wise. Some books that took me quite a while to read, but a couple of really good ones.
  1. 4.8, THE SOLDIER'S CURSE, Tom & Meg Kenneally
  2. 4.1, ENTANGLEMENT, Zygmunt Miloszewski 
  3. 4.4, PAST TENSE, Margot Kinberg
  5. 4.3, THE MISTLETOE MURDER, P.D.James 
  6. 4.7, MAGPIE MURDERS, Anthony Horowitz
My pick of the month was a new-to-me Australian author:

See what others have chosen this month.

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month November 2016

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2016
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 November 2016, 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.


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