19 April 2018

Review: DARKTOWN, Thomas Mullen

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1169 KB
  • Print Length: 385 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 150113387X
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (September 13, 2016)
  • Publication Date: September 13, 2016
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01D9013IU
Synopsis  (Amazon)

Darktown is a relentlessly gripping, highly intelligent crime novel set in Atlanta in 1948, following the city's first black police force investigating a brutal murder against all the odds.

Atlanta, 1948. In this city, all crime is black and white.

On one side of the tracks are the rich, white neighbourhoods; on the other, Darktown, the African-American area guarded by the city's first black police force of only eight men. These cops are kept near-powerless by the authorities: they can't arrest white suspects; they can't drive a squad car; they must operate out of a dingy basement.

When a poor black woman is killed in Darktown having been last seen in a car with a rich white man, no one seems to care except for Boggs and Smith, two black cops from vastly different backgrounds. Pressured from all sides, they will risk their jobs, the trust of their community and even their own lives to investigate her death.

Their efforts bring them up against a brutal old-school cop, Dunlow, who has long run Darktown as his own turf - but Dunlow's idealistic young partner, Rakestraw, is a young progressive who may be willing to make allies across colour lines . . .

My take

The creation of Atlanta's first black police force in 1947 comes about as a result of a promise the Mayor made to the African-American population in return for their votes in the mayoral elections. It is certainly not welcomed by the white police force who on the whole are determined that it will fail. The black population is not sure that it wants the black police force either. Some of the members of the new police force were soldiers during World War II, while others never left the USA. Throughout the novel they are constantly assessing whether they have made the right decision in becoming a policeman. The role is very challenging, the are meant mainly to just patrol the streets. If they need to arrest anyone they have to call a white patrol car or wagon to transport the person being arrested.

The background is held together by a story that links both white and black officers - that of a black girl who recently came to Atlanta from the country for work, and is then found dead.  Two black officers had seen her alive and in the company of a middle-aged white man. Although they are not supposed to investigate crimes they try to find out who killed the girl, but each step they take seems to make things worse for her family.

Very interesting, with an authentic historical feel.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Thomas Mullen is the author of Darktown, an NPR Best Book of the Year, which has been shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Southern Book Prize, the Indies Choice Book Award, and has been nominated for two CWA Dagger Awards; The Last Town on Earth, which was named Best Debut Novel of 2006 by USA Today and was awarded the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for excellence in historical fiction; The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers; and The Revisionists. His next novel, Lightning Men, which follows the characters from Darktown two years later, will be published in September 2017.
His works have been named to Year’s Best lists by The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kirkus Reviews, The Onion’s A/V Club, The San Diego Union-Times, Paste Magazine, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and Amazon. His stories and essays have been published in GrantlandPaste, The Huffington Post, and Atlanta Magazine. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and sons.

14 April 2018

Review: A SPOT OF FOLLY, Ruth Rendell

  • this edition published by Profile Books 2017
  • ISBN 978-1788160148
  • source: my local library
  • 210 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

Ten and a Quarter New Tales of Murder and Mayhem.
Previously uncollected and unpublished: new short stories from a master of psychological suspense. Introduction from Sophie Hannah.
New and uncollected tales of murder, mischief, magic and madness.

Ruth Rendell was an acknowledged master of psychological suspense: these are ten (and a quarter) of her most chillingly compelling short stories, collected here together for the first time.
In these tales, a businessman boasts about cheating on his wife, only to find the tables turned. A beautiful country rectory reverberates to the echo of a historical murder. A compulsive liar acts on impulse, only to be lead inexorably to disaster. And a wealthy man finds there is more to his wife's kidnapping than meets the eye.

Atmospheric, gripping and never predictable, this is Ruth Rendell at her inimitable best.
The stories are: Never Sleep in a Bed Facing a Mirror; A Spot of Folly; The Price of Joy; The Irony of Hate; Digby's Wives; The Haunting of Shawley Rectory; A Drop Too Much; The Thief; The Long Corridor of Time; In the Time of his Prosperity; and Trebuchet.

My Take

No two of Ruth Rendell's short stories are ever alike, although in some cases one or two became the basis of a later novel.

She was obviously fascinated by links with history and elements of the supernatural. Each of the short stories is polished and they are mostly under 20 pages. There are 3 ghost stories in this collection, although one is only a matter of lines long. Most have an unexpected twist.

Highly recommended.
The introduction by Sophie Hannah raises some interesting points.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
FROM DOON WITH DEATH - Wexford #1
4.5, A NEW LEASE OF DEATH- Wexford #2
4.6, THE BEST MAN TO DIE - Wexford #4
4.3, A SLEEPING LIFE, Ruth Rendell  - Wexford #10 
4.7, PUT ON BY CUNNING - Wexford #11
4.6, THE VAULT- Wexford #23 
4.5, NO MAN'S NIGHTINGALE- Wexford #24   
Stand-alones 
PORTOBELLO
4.7, THE MONSTER IN THE BOX
4.5, A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES
4.5, THE SAINT ZITA SOCIETY
4.6, THE MASTER OF THE MOOR

4.4, DARK CORNERS

Review: FATTY O'LEARY'S DINNER PARTY, Alexander McCall Smith - audio book

Synopsis (Amazon)

When his loving wife, Betty, plans a trip to Ireland for Fatty O'Leary's 40th birthday things go wrong almost immediately: the seats in economy class on the plane are too small; Irish bathroom furniture is not as commodious as he'd have liked. And all the time Fatty must put up with the unthinking cruelty of strangers.

My Take

Like many generously built people Fatty O'Leary is a most forgiving man. He has very few malicious bones in his body and he quickly forgets indignities once they have been surmounted, most of the time. His trip of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare, and indeed progresses from one nightmare to another, all caused mainly by his generous proportions, but Fatty, an antiques dealer from Arkansas, soars above it all. His wife Betty deserves a medal.

This was a lovely entertaining read, not, I should point out, crime fiction.
Steven Crossley does a wonderful job of the narration.

My rating: 4.4

I have also read 
TEA TIME for the TRADITIONALLY BUILT
THE MIRACLE AT SPEEDY MOTORS

THE DOUBLE COMFORT SAFARI CLUB
4.5, THE SATURDAY BIG TENT WEDDING PARTY
4.5, THE LIMPOPO ACADEMY OF PRIVATE DETECTION
4.6, THE MINOR ADJUSTMENT BEAUTY SALON
4.5, CHANCE DEVELOPMENTS
4.5, PRECIOUS AND GRACE
4.5, THE WOMAN WHO WALKED IN SUNSHINE
4.4, THE HANDSOME MAN'S DE LUXE CAFE 

13 April 2018

Review: THE DETECTION COLLECTION, members of the Detection Club

  • this edition published in 2014 by Harper Collins
  • edited by Simon Brett, President of the Detection Club
  • ISBN 978-0-00-758389-8
  • 224 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

This volume of short stories by the cream of British crime writing talent celebrates 75 years of the quintessential Detection Club.
Contains
The Part-Time Job, P.D. James
Partnership Track, Michael Ridpath
A Toothbrush, H.R.F Keating
The Sun, the Moon, the Stars, John Harvey
'Going Anywhere Nice'?, Lindsey Davis
Between the Lines, Colin Dexter
The Life-lie, Robert Barnard
The Woman from Marlow, Margaret Yorke
Toupee for  Bald Tyre, Robert Goddard
The Holiday, Clare Francis
Fool of Myself, Reginald Hill

My take

Most of these short stories are quick reads, about 20 pages long, and among the authors are a number of bestsellers, as well as winners of both Diamond and Gold Daggers. The stories appear to have all been written for the occasion, and are previously un-published.

I think the best were The Part-Time Job, by P.D. James and Between the Lines, by Colin Dexter

My rating: 4.3


9 April 2018

Review: MURDER ISN'T EASY, Richard Hull

  • source: publisher, Ipso Books
  • File Size: 2438 KB
  • Print Length: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Ipso Books (March 29, 2018)
  • Publication Date: March 29, 2018
  • Originally published 1936
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07B9LGQ9N
  • available at Amazon
Synopsis (publisher)


Three men, three motives, one murder. Who will come out on top? No one ever said murder was easy.

Nicholas Latimer considers himself indispensable to advertising agency NeO-aD  unlike his partners Barraclough and Spencer. Sometimes Nicholas thinks it would be better if he was running it by himself. If only some unfortunate accident would befall his colleagues

Paul Spencer has just about had it with Latimer's incompetence and wilful time-wasting. Spencer knows for a fact that he is the cog that keeps NeO-aD rolling, and wishes that Barraclough would take a stance and get Latimer out of the way.

And Barraclough? He just wants to do his job without the constant bickering of his two insufferable colleagues.

When a new client presents an opportunity for the company to hit it big, Latimer contemplates taking matters into his own hands. He hasn't considered, however, that Spencer and Barraclough might have plans of their own

Filled with so many twists and turns that you won't be able to keep track, this underrated crime classic gem will keep you guessing until it s final conclusion. With a hilarious prose style and richly developed characters, Murder Isn't Easy is a gripping page turner that we think you would love.

My take

Unusually this novel is written from 4 points of view.  Each of the partners in NeO-aD is convinced that he is the essence of the company, and the others are a waste of space, and even perhaps hampering the company from it's true development.  Each considers that he could run the company without the others, with minimal help from the office staff. It has got to the stage where each person is considering how to get rid of the others. And so it becomes a case of murder, but who will murder who? And will they get away with it?

The book is divided into four distinct sections and eventually the deed is done. But who actually committed the murder? It is up to police Inspector Hoopington of Scotland Yard to finally deduce  what happened. He manages with considerable help from one of the office staff whom each of the partners under-rated.

This is a bit of Golden Age crime fiction with a less than straight forward plot and some unusual plot twists.
  
My rating: 4.2

About the author
(1897 - 1973)

Richard Henry Sampson FCA, known by the pseudonym Richard Hull, was a British writer who became successful as a crime novelist with his first book in 1934.

5 April 2018

Review: THE GIRL BEFORE, J P Delaney

  • this edition published by Quercus UK 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-78648-028-6
  • 406 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Quercus UK)

Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?

Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there - and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before.
As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma's past and Jane's present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

My Take

An absolutely mesmerising read.

The chapters are alternately titled Then: Emma and Now: Jane and begin with Emma, recently the victim of a burglary, flat-hunting, and finally viewing a remarkably cheap house at One Folgate Street in Hendon. The owner is a famous architect and there is a rather complicated landlord-tenant agreement, involving a lengthy questionnaire, and interview, and then a list of conditions the tenant must agree to abide by.

1. Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

Jane, who follows Emma as the tenant, brings her own recent tragedy with her. She becomes very curious about what happened to Emma. In both cases the architect Edward Monkford, becomes part of their lives. Not only does he design minimalist living spaces but he tries to follow the same principles in his own life, and expect those he becomes involved with to do the same. Not only is the house at One Folgate Street itself amazing, behind it is constant technology that assesses how well the residents are doing.

This book just keeps you reading, to solve the mysteries. The characters are well drawn and interesting.

My rating: 5.0

About the author

THE GIRL BEFORE is the first psychological thriller from JP Delaney, a pseudonym for a writer who has previously written bestselling fiction under other names. It has been published in forty-one countries. A film version is being brought to the screen by Academy Award winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment.

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