26 November 2016

Review: MAGPIE MURDERS, Anthony Horowitz

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1819 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (October 6, 2016)
  • Publication Date: October 6, 2016
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01EG5HLR4
  • Text-to-Speech:  
Synopsis (Amazon)

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway's latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life. She's worked with the revered crime writer for years and his detective, Atticus Pund, is renowned for solving crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s. As Susan knows only too well, vintage crime sells handsomely. It's just a shame that it means dealing with an author like Alan Conway...

But Conway's latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript there lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.

From Sunday Times bestseller Anthony Horowitz comes Magpie Murders, his deliciously dark take on the cosy crime novel, brought bang- up-to-date with a fiendish modern twist.

My Take

MAGPIE MURDERS is one of those "peeling an onion" books: There are two main stories, one contained inside the other, but at the same time Anthony Horowitz pays tribute to those successful writers of cozies, particularly those who have managed to sustain a credible detective over a number of titles. Here is his take on an Agatha Christie-style book, and the reader can't help but recognise that Atticus Pund has a lot in common with Hercule Poirot.

Both stories have a time of denouement: we eventually find out who was responsible for the murders in Alan Conway's novel, and then the finale of the story in which editor Susan Ryeland in the central character.

So the book also contains some interesting reflections on writing cozies, why readers like them, why the television public can't get enough of murder, and how writers often come to hate their main protagonist, even when killing them off is the equivalent to killing the golden goose. There is even a passage when the editor Susan Ryeland wonders how those protagonists, among them Morse, Rebus, Poirot, Wimsey, Marple, Poirot, felt when they realised their time was coming to an end.

So there was a lot to like about this book, a lot to think about, although I found it slow going at the beginning, and it is quite long.

A warning for Kindle users: on my paper-white kindle, the book that Susan Ryeland is reading, Alan Conway's Magpie Murders, is rendered as a "softer" print, which I found quite hard to read. It is almost as if the Kindle is trying to display it as grey. It wasn't something I noticed when reading on the iPad app, but there various parts of the book were rendered in a different font, indicating a different "voice", a different part of the book.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

About the author (from Amazon)

Anthony Horowitz's life might have been copied from the pages of Charles Dickens or the Brothers Grimm. Born in 1956 in Stanmore, Middlesex, to a family of wealth and status, Anthony was raised by nannies, surrounded by servants and chauffeurs. His father, a wealthy businessman, was, says Mr. Horowitz, "a fixer for Harold Wilson." What that means exactly is unclear — "My father was a very secretive man," he says— so an aura of suspicion and mystery surrounds both the word and the man. As unlikely as it might seem, Anthony's father, threatened with bankruptcy, withdrew all of his money from Swiss bank accounts in Zurich and deposited it in another account under a false name and then promptly died. His mother searched unsuccessfully for years in attempt to find the money, but it was never found. That too shaped Anthony's view of things. Today he says, "I think the only thing to do with money is spend it." His mother, whom he adored, eccentrically gave him a human skull for his 13th birthday. His grandmother, another Dickensian character, was mean-spirited and malevolent, a destructive force in his life. She was, he says, "a truly evil person", his first and worst arch villain. "My sister and I danced on her grave when she died," he now recalls.

A miserably unhappy and overweight child, Anthony had nowhere to turn for solace. "Family meals," he recalls, "had calories running into the thousands&. I was an astoundingly large, round child&." At the age of eight he was sent off to boarding school, a standard practice of the times and class in which he was raised. While being away from home came as an enormous relief, the school itself, Orley Farm, was a grand guignol horror with a headmaster who flogged the boys till they bled. "Once the headmaster told me to stand up in assembly and in front of the whole school said, 'This boy is so stupid he will not be coming to Christmas games tomorrow.' I have never totally recovered." To relieve his misery and that of the other boys, he not unsurprisingly made up tales of astounding revenge and retribution.

Anthony Horowitz is perhaps the busiest writer in England. He has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. He writes in a comfortable shed in his garden for up to ten hours per day. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he has also written episodes of several popular TV crime series, including Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. He has written a television series Foyle's War, which recently aired in the United States, and he has written the libretto of a Broadway musical adapted from Dr. Seuss's book, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. His film script The Gathering has just finished production. And&oh yes&there are more Alex Rider novels in the works. Anthony has also written the Diamond Brothers series.

17 November 2016

Review: THE MISTLETOE MURDER and Other Stories

  • printed in Australia by Griffin Press
  • published 2016 by Faber & Faber
  • ISBN 978-0-571-33134-5
  • 136 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Amazon)

Four previously uncollected stories from one of the great mystery writers of our time--swift, cunning murder mysteries (two of which feature the young Adam Dalgliesh) that together, to borrow the author's own word, add up to a delightful "entertainment."

The newly appointed Sgt. Dalgliesh is drawn into a case that is "pure Agatha Christie." . . . A "pedantic, respectable, censorious" clerk's secret taste for pornography is only the first reason he finds for not coming forward as a witness to a murder . . . A best-selling crime novelist describes the crime she herself was involved in fifty years earlier . . . Dalgliesh's godfather implores him to reinvestigate a notorious murder that might ease the godfather's mind about an inheritance, but which will reveal a truth that even the supremely upstanding Adam Dalgliesh will keep to himself. Each of these stories is as playful as it is ingeniously plotted, the author's sly humor as evident as her hallmark narrative elegance and shrewd understanding of some of the most complex--not to say the most damning--aspects of human nature. A treat for P. D. James's legions of fans and anyone who enjoys the pleasures of a masterfully wrought whodunit.

My Take

There are 4 stories in the collection published by P.D. James' Estate with a foreword by Val McDermid and a preface by P.D. James.

The Mistletoe Murder, first published in 1995
A Very Commonplace Murder, first published in 1969
The Boxdale Inheritance, first published 1979
The Twelve Clues of Christmas, first published 1996

The connecting theme is Christmas and "family" murders. By far the best of the lot is The Mistletoe Murder which is also the longest, and most fleshed out. They are quick reads however, so if you feel like a seasonal dabble, these may satisfy your urge. The last two are Dalgliesh stories, when he is still a young man.

My rating: 4.3

14 November 2016


  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2036 KB
  • Publisher: Text Publishing (August 29, 2016)
  • Publication Date: August 29, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
Synopsis  (Amazon)
It starts in a suburban backyard with Darren Keefe and his older brother, sons of a fierce and gutsy single mother. The endless glow of summer, the bottomless fury of contest. All the love and hatred in two small bodies poured into the rules of a made-up game.

Darren has two big talents: cricket and trouble. No surprise that he becomes an Australian sporting star of the bad-boy variety—one of those men who’s always got away with things and just keeps getting.

Until the day we meet him, middle aged, in the boot of a car. Gagged, cable-tied, a bullet in his knee. Everything pointing towards a shallow grave.

The Rules of Backyard Cricket is a novel of suspense in the tradition of Peter Temple’s Truth. With glorious writing harnessed to a gripping narrative, it observes celebrity, masculinity—humanity—with clear-eyed lyricism and exhilarating narrative drive.

My Take

This is a very cleverly written book,  and will particularly be enjoyed by Australian readers who like to read crime fiction and follow the fortunes of the Australian cricket team.

The main voice is Darren Keefe, middle aged, trussed up in the boot of a car, seemingly on his way to his execution. He's an ex-cricket player, the younger of two famous brothers, the elder of whom reached the pinnacle, the captain of the Australian XI. Darren always considered himself the better player but it was Wally who reached the heights. While Wally was calm and serene and reliable, Darren lived the high life, sometimes dropped from the team for disciplinary reasons, but recalled because he was so incredible on the field.

I kept thinking of cricketing brothers, the Chappells, the Waughs, and others, and cricketing bad boys, whose larrikinism has held us captive. So many incidents in the book tweaked half-remembered things in my brain, and the author has obviously been a keen observer of the sport. Like so many Australian cricketers the Keefe brothers pay a terrible price for their fame, and there is a dramatic twist in the tail when a final mystery is solved.

An excellent read.

My rating: 5.0

About the author
Jock Serong lives and works on the far southwest coast of Victoria. Formerly a lawyer, he is now a features writer, and the editor of Great Ocean Quarterly. His first novel, Quota, won the 2015 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel. His most recent novel is The Rules of Backyard Cricket.

10 November 2016

Review: PAST TENSE, Margot Kinberg

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 4625 KB
  • Print Length: 428 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0997889217
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Grey Cells Press (November 1, 2016)
  • Publication Date: November 1, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • #3 in the Joel Williams series 
Synopsis  (Amazon)

A long-buried set of remains…a decades-old mystery

Past and present meet on the quiet campus of Tilton University when construction workers unearth a set of unidentified bones.
For former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams, it’s a typical Final Exams week – until a set of bones is discovered on a construction site...

When the remains are linked to a missing person case from 1974, Williams and the Tilton, Pennsylvania police go back to the past. And they uncover some truths that have been kept hidden for a long time.

How much do people really need to know?

It’s 1974, and twenty-year-old Bryan Roades is swept up in the excitement of the decade. He’s a reporter for the Tilton University newspaper, The Real Story, and is determined to have a career as an investigative journalist, just like his idols, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. He plans to start with an exposé article about life on the campus of Tilton University. But does everything need to be exposed? And what are the consequences for people whose lives could be turned upside down if their stories are printed? As it turns out, Bryan’s ambition carries a very high price. And someone is determined not to let the truth out.

My Take

I thoroughly enjoyed this recently published title in Margot Kinberg's Joel Williams series.

The discovery of a skeleton leads to an investigation into the disappearance of a student 40 years earlier. And then one of the people the student was friendly with is murdered. So the police investigation hovers between the cold case and the present case, with the detectives becoming convinced that the two cases are related.

Once a detective, always a detective. Joel Williams can't help himself. Especially when he is the one who discovers the second body. Bringing a slightly different perspective to the investigation, as well as a good knowledge of the Tilton campus, Williams adds to what the police know and leads eventually to the arrest of a murderer.

I liked the characterisation of the detectives, and the empathy with their relationship. The plotting is tight and the plot threads are well carried through.

Highly recommended.
My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.5, B - VERY FLAT
4.3, IN A WORD: MURDER  (edit)

8 November 2016

Review: ENTANGLEMENT, Zygmunt Miloszewski

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 770 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press (July 2, 2010)
  • Publication Date: August 1, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003UESN48
  • translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones 
Synopsis (Amazon)

The morning after a group psychotherapy session in a Warsaw monastery, Henry Talek is found dead, a roasting spit stuck in one eye.

Public prosecutor Teodor Szacki, world-weary, suffering from bureaucratic exhaustion and marital ennui, feels that life has passed him by. But this case changes everything. Because of it he meets Monika Grzelka, a young journalist whose charms prove difficult to resist, and he discovers the frightening power of certain esoteric therapeutic methods. The shocking videos of the sessions lead him to an array of possible scenarios. Could one of the patients have become so absorbed by his therapy role-playing that he murdered Telak? Szacki’s investigation leads him to an earlier murder, before the fall of Communism.

And why is the Secret Police suddenly taking an interest in all this? As Szacki uncovers each piece of the puzzle, facts emerge that he’d be better off not knowing, for his own safety.

My Take

To be quite honest, I found this book rather heavy going. Initially I borrowed it from my local library but found the print a bit small, and so purchased it for my Kindle.

The plot centres around a group therapy weekend, with groups called constellations, in which they undertake role plays. In theory the three people participating in the weekend have had no contact with each other before. However when Henry Talek is found dead, it seems very likely that one of the others has murdered him, and that therefore there is some history connecting at least two of them. Talek's young daughter recently committed suicide and his son is very ill.

Public prosecutor Teodor Szacki consults other "experts" in this sort of therapy and gets pointers about what he should be looking for. He himself is having some sort of mid life crisis and becomes entangled with a young journalist. He learns from her that the secret police are taking an interest in his activities and his research.

Most of the story is told through Szacki's eyes, but there is an unnamed character who pops up occasionally who is having Szacki watched.

While everything got resolved in the end, I felt that, for me, it stretched the bounds of credibility and I struggled.
Perhaps it was just not my sort of book.

My rating: 4.1

About the author
Zygmunt Miloszewski, born in Warsaw in 1975, is an editor currently working for Newsweek. His first novel, The Intercom, was published in 2005 to high acclaim. Entanglement followed in 2007, and the author is now working on screenplays based on The Intercom and Entanglement as well as on a sequel to the latter, also featuring Teodor Szacki. 

7 November 2016

Review: THE SOLDIER'S CURSE, Tom Kenneally & Meg Kenneally - audio book

 Synopsis (Audible.com)

 A fast-paced, witty and gripping historical crime series from Tom Keneally and his eldest daughter, Meg.

In the Port Macquarie penal settlement for second offenders, at the edge of the known world, gentleman convict Hugh Monsarrat hungers for freedom. Originally transported for forging documents passing himself off as a lawyer, he is now the trusted clerk of the settlement's commandant.

His position has certain advantages, such as being able to spend time in the Government House kitchen, being supplied with outstanding cups of tea by housekeeper Hannah Mulrooney, who, despite being illiterate, is his most intelligent companion.

Not long after the commandant heads off in search of a rumoured river, his beautiful wife, Honora, falls ill with a sickness the doctor is unable to identify. When Honora dies, it becomes clear she has been slowly poisoned.

Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney suspect the commandant's second-in-command, Captain Diamond, a cruel man who shares history with Honora. Then Diamond has Mrs Mulrooney arrested for the murder. Knowing his friend will hang if she is tried, Monsarrat knows he must find the real killer. And so begins The Monsarrat Series.

My Take

This tale is fiction, set in an Australian penal settlement north of Sydney in 1825. It is extremely well read and the voice characterisation is excellent. However while it is fiction, the historical facts ring true.

The central character Hugh Monsarrat has known the freedom of being a ticket-of-leave man, but lost his ticket when he was found to have left his designated district. He is a victim of the British class system which excluded him from becoming an accredited lawyer in London. He was transported to Australia for forging documents and for passing himself off as a lawyer.

The characters of Monserrat and the other main characters in the story are convincingly drawn. The story felt a bit slow to begin with but gathered pace as more plot strands were introduced.


My rating: 4.8

2 November 2016

What I read (or rather, blogged) in the last month

Over October I finally caught up with blogging reviews of the books that I read while I was away in August and September.

So this list is rather long because it includes a bit more than I read in October.
My pick of the month though is  THE WRONG HAND by Jane Jago which asks a lot of questions about how we should treat child murderers especially once they have served their initial sentence. It asks whether they really knew what they were doing and whether they are capable of being set on a normal path. How far do we have an obligation to protect them from society?

See what other have picked this month.

1 November 2016

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month October 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 October 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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