17 January 2017

Review: WIN, LOSE, OR DRAW, Peter Corris

  • published January 2017, Allen & Unwin Australia
  • #42 in the Cliff Hardy series
  • source: my local library
  • format: e-pub
  • ISBN: 9781760294786
 Synopsis (Allen & Unwin Australia)

A missing teenager, drugs, yachts, the sex trade and a cold trail that leads from Sydney to Norfolk Island, Byron Bay and Coolangatta. Can Cliff Hardy find out what's really going on?
Will one man's loss be Hardy's gain?

'I'd read about it in the papers, heard the radio reports and seen the TV coverage and then forgotten about it, the way you do with news stories.'

A missing girl, drugs, yachts, the sex trade and a cold trail that leads from Sydney to Norfolk Island, Byron Bay and Coolangatta.

The police suspect the father, Gerard Fonteyn OA, a wealthy businessman. But he's hired Cliff to find her, given him unlimited expenses and posted a $250,000 reward for information.

Finally there's a break - an unconfirmed sighting of Juliana Fonteyn, alive and well. But as usual, nothing is straightforward. Various other players are in the game - and Cliff doesn't know the rules, or even what the game might be. He's determined to find out, and as the bodies mount up the danger to himself and to Juliana increases.
My Take
When Juliana Fonteyn disappears she is an underage teenager. By the time her father hires Cliff Hardy to find her the case is already 18 months old, and other investigators have tried to find her and failed. In her father's estimation they have largely been concerned with how much they will be paid. In Cliff Hardy he hopes he has found someone who really cares. And there is new evidence that Juliana is still alive - a photograph taken on Norfolk Island.

Even so the investigation doesn't go smoothly and after fruitless weeks Hardy tells Gerard Fonteyn that he is giving up. And then there is yet another breakthrough.

This relatively easy read reflects the fact that the Australian author is most accomplished. This is #42 in a very popular series, although I have read very few of them before. Something I can see I should remedy in 2017.

My rating: 4.4 

I've also read

About the author
Award winning Australian author Peter Corris has been writing his best selling Cliff Hardy detective stories for nearly 40 years. He's written many other books, including a very successful 'as-told-to' autobiography of Fred Hollows, and a collection of short stories about golf.

16 January 2017


Synopsis (Quercus)

No one keeps more secrets. No one is better at hiding them.

Haunting, evocative and beautifully written, THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN will grab you and not let you go until the last page. Full of twists and turns, with an ending you will never see coming and characters that will stay with you long after the book is finished, THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN is a gripping psychological mystery perfect for fans of Emma Cline's THE GIRLS and Clare Mackintosh's I SEE YOU.

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she's found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie's dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del's, Hattie's high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life. . .

Wonderfully evocative of its Midwestern setting and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this is a book about manipulation of relationships and identity; about the line between innocence and culpability; about the hope love offers and the tragedies that occur when it spins out of control.

My Take

Each chapter has a heading like this: HATTIE / Saturday, March 22, 2008.
The first part of the heading tells the reader who is telling this part of the story, and the second, of course, is the date of their telling. Quite often I ignore chapter headings but in this case they are the clue not only to the timeline of the story, but also to who is speaking. Part of the reader's job is to get the timeline in order.

We see the action and events from three points of view, and of course the character who is speaking doesn't always know what the other characters know. This lets the reader fill in the gaps and accumulate what looks like a complete picture.

Hattie Hoffman has always envisaged that she will escape the claustrophobia of her home town . She wants to become an actress and go to New York. In a sense she has always been an actress: she herself recognises that she is always playing a part, changing like a chameleon according what her audience, her friends, her parents, want or expect to see.

So this is the story of Hattie's coming of age, but even as Hattie falls in love, she is playing a part, and tries to manipulate those around her, seriously underestimating the impact she is having on those around her. Her own expectations are a combination of immaturity and her growing sexuality. Hattie has a lot of secrets, and those closest to her are amazed at what comes out when Sheriff Del Goodman investigates the circumstances surrounding her death.

And just when I thought the plot was sorted, there was a very peculiar twist.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Mindy Mejia was born and raised in Minnesota, and has held a succession of jobs, from apple orchard labourer to global credit manager. THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN is her first novel to be published in the UK. Find out more at www.mindymejia.com

Launching Global Reading Challenge for 2017

Today I have created a blog site for the 2017 Global Reading Challenge.

As in previous years there are three levels to the challenge, and while all my own reading will all be crime fiction, participants can choose their own fiction parameters, and 7, 14 or 21 books.
GRC2017 is organised around 6 continents and then a 7th "continent" is chosen by the participant.
Titles need to be read in 2017.

Sign up on the home page of the blog and then return throughout the year to the various continent pages to record your reading.

Please promote GRC2017 through your own blog and reading circles.
Feel free to use the logo on your own blog.

Crime fiction set in India in the decline of the British Raj

I thought I would point out some interesting novels that I have read recently, all set in the British Raj.

The list may be useful if you are doing something like the Global Reading Challenge, or perhaps a Historical Reading Challenge.

Click on the link for my review.

Gaind, Arjun: 4.3, A VERY PUKKA MURDER
Maharaja Sikander Singh, Light of Heaven, Sword of Justice, Shield of the Faithful, sole ruler of Rajpore, is slow to rise the morning after the 1909 New Year's Ball.
But news of a murder galvanizes him. Major William Russell, the English Resident of Rajpore, is dead in his bed.

Koula, Sudha: 4.3, THE TIGER LADIES - this one is not crime fiction, but provides interesting historical detail about life in Kashmir.

Mukherjee, Abir: 4.4, A RISING MAN 
Calcutta, 1919. Captain Sam Wyndham, a former Scotland Yard detective new to India, is confronted with a highly charged case: a senior British official has been found murdered, in his mouth a note warning the British to quit India, or else...


Stoddart, Brian: 4.6, A MADRAS MIASMA
Madras in the 1920s. The British are slowly losing the grip on the subcontinent. The end of the colonial enterprise is in sight and the city on India's east coast is teeming with intrigue. A grisly murder takes place against the backdrop of political tension and Superintendent Le Fanu, a man of impeccable investigative methods, is called in to find out who killed a respectable young British girl and dumped her in a canal, her veins clogged with morphine. 

15 January 2017

Review: NO SHED OF EVIDENCE, Charles Todd ~ audio book

Synopsis (Audible.com)

In this absorbing new entry in the acclaimed New York Times best-selling series, Scotland Yard's Ian Rutledge is caught up in a twisted web of vengeance and murder.

On the north coast of Cornwall, an apparent act of mercy is repaid by an arrest for murder. Four young women have been accused of the crime. A shocked father calls in a favor at the Home Office. Scotland Yard is asked to review the case.

However, Inspector Ian Rutledge is not the first inspector to reach the village. Following in the shoes of a dead man, he is told the case is all but closed. Even as it takes an unexpected personal turn, Rutledge will require all his skill to deal with the incensed families of the accused, the grieving parents of the victim, and local police eager to see these four women sent to the infamous Bodmin Gaol. Then why hasn't the killing stopped?

With no shred of evidence to clear the accused, Rutledge must plunge deep into the darkest secrets of a wild, beautiful, and dangerous place if he is to find a killer who may - or may not - hold the key to their fate.

My Take

I have followed this series from the beginning, but have not read them all.

This story takes place in the early 1920s when 4 young women are accused of attempting to murder a young man in the river. Unfortunately he dies, and th charge become murder. Rutledge finds that he knows one of the accused, which does compromise him a little.

Memories of the war are still very raw, and some characters are physical reminders of what happened. 

Simon Prebble does a superb job of the reading.

In the second half of the book, the authors have decided to introduce a second plot. My guess is that they felt they didn't have enough leeway to bring the main plot to a satisfactory ending, but it does have the effect of diverting attention a bit, at the same time as providing explanation for some unresolved earlier events.

Hamish makes fewer "appearances", perhaps a sign that mentally Rutledge is mending.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read
4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD - Bess Crawford series
4.7, A LONELY DEATH -#13

14 January 2017

Review: A VERY PUKKA MURDER, Arjun Gaind

  • format: Kindle (.mobi from author)
  • also available on Amazon
  • Series: The Maharajah Mysteries (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; Reprint edition (November 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1464206457
  • ISBN-13: 978-1464206450
  • Source: review copy as e-book from author
Synopsis (Amazon)

Maharaja Sikander Singh, Light of Heaven, Sword of Justice, Shield of the Faithful, sole ruler of Rajpore, is slow to rise the morning after the 1909 New Year's Ball.

But news of a murder galvanizes him. Major William Russell, the English Resident of Rajpore, is dead in his bed.

A lover of luxury cars and beautiful women, Sikander's deepest passion is for mysteries. As a clock starts ticking, Sikander must overcome obstacles, false trails, and the growing hostility of the English Establishment, even as he learns that Major Russell was not as pukka as he liked to pretend. Will the Maharaja work through a surplus of suspects and motives before the British shut him down and cover up the truth?

Like Sherlock Holmes, Sikander wields careful and deliberate logic to crack puzzles that leave less intelligent men confounded. Here is such an opportunity, and well timed - for the Maharaja, resigned to another year of indolence, is almost fatally bored.

My Take

Crime fiction set in the declining years of the British Raj in India, but very much from an Indian point of view. There are characters in here who illustrate the very worst, and most corrupt elements, of the administration. The British have survived the Indian Mutiny (1857) and, convinced of their racial superiority, will survive for another four decades until 1947. Administration in Rajpore in the Punjab in 1909 is a precarious division of power between the Maharajah and the British Resident, found dead in his bed behind a locked door.

Nearly all of those we meet in the British administration are incompetent or corrupt, but are they murderers? For Sikander Singh this is a splendid opportunity to exercise his detection skills, and there seem to be no lack of suspects. His position as Maharajah allows him through doors that other Indians would not be able to access, but even then there are impenetrable barriers.

The structure of the novel is based on best Golden Age crime fiction, with a maze of plot threads, and a plethora of red herrings. As this novel is intended to be first in a trilogy, there is a lot of what I would term "background material", which sometimes is a bit tedious, but it paints a rich picture of the times and the setting. The character of the Maharajah is well developed.

At the end the Maharajah holds a Poirot-like denouement in which the major suspects are dismissed one by one.

A good, interesting, read.

My rating: 4.3

About the Author
Arjun Raj Gaind is one of India's best known comic book writers. He is the creator and author of the critically acclaimed, best-selling graphic novels, Empire of Blood, Reincarnation Man, The Mighty Yeti, Project: Kalki, Blade of the Warrior: Kshatriya, and A Brief History of Death. A Very Proper Murder is his debut novel, the first in a trilogy featuring the adventures of Maharaja Sikander Singh, set against the backdrop of princely India during the heyday of the British Raj.

The author describes his main character as "a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Peter Wimsey".

11 January 2017

Review: SUMMERTIME DEATH, Mons Kallentoft

  • this edition published 2012 (originally published in Swedish 2008) by Hodder & Stoughton
  • translated into English by Neil Smith
  • ISBN 978-1-444-72156-0
  • 486 pages
  • #2 in the Malin Fors series
Synopsis (Amazon)

In this chilling crime novel starring the elusive, tough-as-nails Swedish police superintendent Malin Fors, a combustive summer turns deadly.


The tiny town that Detective Malin Fors calls home is plagued by a sweltering heat wave and resulting raging forest fires. It is the hottest summer anyone can recall, and it’s about to become the most violent and grim, too. A teenage girl is found naked and bleeding in a city park, without any recollection of what has happened to her. Next, another grisly discovery is made on a lakeside beach, and the whole town is on edge. A serial killer walks among them, and while the families of Link√∂ping withdraw to protect their young, Malin must uncover the secrets behind these crimes, potentially putting herself and her own family at risk in the process.

My Take

This novel was a little more noir, even grisly, than my normal choice of reading.

Having just survived a hot spell here, I could empathise with the skeleton investigation team which takes on the first case. The victim has amnesia so has no clue as to what has happened to her., and the team really has nothing to work on. Her parents have only just discovered she is missing.

Malin Fors' mind is distracted by the fact that her daughter Tove, approximately the same age as the first victims, has gone on a holiday to Bali with her father.

The central theme of the story is the relationship between fathers and their daughters.

Those who like a bit of paranormal in their crime fiction will undoubtedly like this book berrter than I did. The victims' voices, italicised, provide a commentary on the investigation, and that really stretched the bounds of credibility for me. So, just at the moment I probably won't be looking for #3.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read 4.3, MIDWINTER SACRIFICE


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