11 February 2016

Review: LOCK NO. 1: Inspector Maigret #18

  • Vformat: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 646 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Tra edition (April 2, 2015)
  • Publication Date: April 2, 2015
    originally published 1933
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • #18 in the Maigret series
Synopsis (Amazon)

A new translation of Georges Simenon's novel set in claustraphobic provincial town, book eighteen in the new Penguin Maigret series.

Cars drove past along with the trucks and trams, but by now Maigret had realised that they were not important. Whatever roared by like this along the road was not part of the landscape. ... What really counted was the lock, the hooting of the tugs, the stone crusher, the barges and the cranes, the two pilots' bars and especially the tall house where he could make out Ducrau's red chair framed by a window.

Penguin is publishing the entire series of Maigret novels in new translations. This novel has been published in a previous translation as The Lock at Charenton.

My take

Maigret is called to investigate what has happened in this small provincial town on the outskirts of Paris. Somebody has apparently attempted to murder Ducrau, a local businessman whose business concerns are the basis of the town's economy. He has been stabbed in the back and then tossed into the canal. By chance he is rescued and seems little the worse for wear but Maigret senses that events have not run their course, so he hangs around.

Indeed Ducrau's son then commits suicide and a lock keeper is murdered, so there is a case to sort out.

Maigret has applied for and been granted early retirement (that came as a surprise to me as this is relatively early on in the series), so this will very likely be his last case. He doesn't particularly want to return home as Mrs Maigret has been packing up the house, even the bed, and they are moving to a cottage on the River Loire. Ducrau thinks he sees a kindred spirit in Maigret and offers him a job on his retirement, more or less as a security officer. But Ducrau is not a nice man and Maigret can't see himself working for him. In fact he is looking forward to his retirement, he thinks.

This is quite a heavy, dark feeling, novel. While Ducrau runs his businesses in a very hands-on way, and is well known, he is far from popular. His family and servants live in fear of him, and many people have reason to wish him harm. This is a fairly "typical" Maigret novel, with lots of psychological overtones.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read
4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD

9 February 2016

Review: EVEN THE DEAD, Benjamin Black

  • published by Penguin Random House 2015
  • ISBN 978-0-241-19734-9
  • source: my local library
  • #7 in the Quirke series
  • 262 pages
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)

A suspicious death, a pregnant woman suddenly gone missing: Quirke's latest case leads him inexorably toward the dark machinations of an old foe

Perhaps Quirke has been down among the dead too long. Lately the Irish pathologist has suffered hallucinations and blackouts, and he fears the cause is a brain tumor. A specialist diagnoses an old head injury caused by a savage beating; all that's needed, the doctor declares, is an extended rest. But Quirke, ever intent on finding his place among the living, is not about to retire.

One night during a June heat wave, a car crashes into a tree in central Dublin and bursts into flames. The police assume the driver's death was either an accident or a suicide, but Quirke's examination of the body leads him to believe otherwise. Then his daughter Phoebe gets a mysterious visit from an acquaintance: the woman, who admits to being pregnant, says she fears for her life, though she won't say why. When the woman later disappears, Phoebe asks her father for help, and Quirke in turn seeks the assistance of his old friend Inspector Hackett. Before long the two men find themselves untangling a twisted string of events that takes them deep into a shadowy world where one of the city's most powerful men uses the cover of politics and religion to make obscene profits.

Even the Dead—Benjamin Black's seventh novel featuring the endlessly fascinating Quirke—is a story of surpassing intensity and surprising beauty.

My Take

Let me say first of all that I haven't read all the titles in this series (see the list below). While EVEN THE DEAD is not a stand alone, there is enough background detail in it to assist the new reader, and perhaps to encourage them to read previous titles.

Quirke has not been in to work for some months but his assistant feels in serious need of his opinion about the death in a burning car in Phoenix Park. This appears to be the prompt that Quirke needs to get back to work but even then he does not appear to take up the reins full time. He in turn consults his friend Inspector Hackett and they pursue the clues as they arise.

There is a lot of exploration of relationships: Quirke's with his own daughter Phoebe, Phoebe's own with her new boss, Quirke's with his half brother Malachy Griffin, new friendships, and eventually Quirke gets confirmation of his own parentage.

Another good read, and another author for you to look for if you haven't already "discovered" him.

My rating: 4.7

I have also read

Benjamin Black is the pseudonym of John Banville.
Among the awards John Banville's novels have won are the Allied Irish Banks fiction prize, the American-Irish Foundation award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize. In 1989 The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and was awarded the first Guinness Peat Aviation Award; in Italian, as La Spiegazione dei Fatti, the book was awarded the 1991 Premio Ennio Flaiano. Ghosts was shortlisted for the Whitbread Fiction Prize 1993, The Untouchable for the same prize in 1997. In 2003 he was awarded the Premio Nonino. He has also received a literary award from the Lannan Foundation in the U.S. He won the Man Booker Prize 2005 for The Sea

Macavity Awards Best Novel nominee (2007) : Christine Falls

Edgar Awards Best Novel nominee (2008) : Christine Falls

The Quirke series
1. Christine Falls (2006)
2. The Silver Swan (2007)
3. Elegy for April (2010)
4. A Death in Summer (2011)
5. Vengeance (2012)
6. Holy Orders (2013)
7. Even the Dead (2015)

7 February 2016

Review: COFFIN ROAD, Peter May

  • first published by Quercus 2016
  • ISBN 978-1-78429-309-3
  • 390 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

A man stands bewildered on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris. He cannot remember who he is. The only clue to his identity is a folded map of a path named the Coffin Road. He does not know where this search will take him.

A detective from Lewis sits aboard a boat, filled with doubt. DS George Gunn knows that a bludgeoned corpse has been discovered on a remote rock twenty miles offshore. He does not know if he has what it takes to uncover how and why.

A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her scientist father's suicide. Two years on, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. She does not yet know his secret.

My Take

Peter May has become, for me, one of those authors I know I will enjoy. The plots are often multi-stranded, quirky, and sometimes connected to some environmental issue. Like this one is, but you'll have to read some of the book at least to find out which issue.

Neal Maclean comes back to consciousness lying saturated on a deserted beach. His vest tells him he has been in a boat. He knows this is the Hebrides but nothing else. He staggers to his feet and makes his way to a cottage. An elderly woman addresses him by name and walks him to his own cottage. He is met by a dog that recognises him. From that point on he ransacks his cottage for clues to his identity and some neighbours help him fill in some of the details while he waits for his memory to return.

From that point on you always know that this subplot is going to connect somehow to the other two outlined in the blurb on the back of the book, but, as you expect, the path is not straightforward. You race to read on, to make the connections for yourself.

I seem to be saying it a lot lately, but this is another excellent read. Peter May is another to put on your list of authors not to be missed.

My rating: 4.9

I've also read
4.8, RUNAWAY  

4 February 2016

Review: WHAT SHE NEVER TOLD ME, Kate McQuaile

  • source: Review copy from Hachette Australia at NetGalley
  • first published in Great Britain in 2016, publication date March 8, 2016
  • pre-order available from Amazon
Synopsis (Publisher)

What do you do when you find out that your whole life could be a lie?

I talked to my mother the night she died, losing myself in memories of when we were happiest together. But I held one memory back, and it surfaces now, unbidden. I see a green postbox and a small hand stretching up to its oblong mouth. I am never sure whether that hand is mine. But if not mine, whose?

Louise Redmond left Ireland for London before she was twenty. Now, more than two decades later, her heart already breaking from a failing marriage, she is summoned home. Her mother is on her deathbed, and it is Louise's last chance to learn the whereabouts of a father she never knew.

Stubborn to the end, Marjorie refuses to fill in the piecesof her daughter's fragmented past. Then Louise unexpectedly finds a lead. A man called David Prescott . . . but is he really the father she's been trying to find? And who is the mysterious little girl who appears so often in her dreams? As each new piece of the puzzle leads to another question, Louise begins to suspect that the memories she most treasures could be a delicate web of lies.

My Take

I know the year is only a month old, and I've only read 15 books so far, but this really is the best I've read so far, and it will be hard to beat. You know what happens when a book grabs you, and you seize every opportunity to read a few more pages?

Written in the first person, this novel gets you in right from the first word. There are little puzzles for the reader to solve as we try to fill in the story of Louise's life. At her mother's funeral she meets an uncle whom she can't remember ever meeting before. He has some photographs he would like to give her and she promises to visit him. But the solicitor who holds the will can't answer the most desperate question Louise has: how to find her father. She knows his name but nothing else.

A great read, with lots of twists and turns, believable characters and scenarios.

My rating: 4.9

About the author
Kate McQuaile is a graduate of the Faber novel-writing course. She lives in London and works as a journalist, but is originally from Drogheda in Ireland.

2 February 2016

Review: MURDER ON THE HOUR, Elizabeth J. Duncan

  • source: review e-book from NetGalley
  • to be published April 2016 by Minotaur Books, 304 pages
  • #7 in the Penny Brannigan Mystery series
  • available for pre-order from Amazon.
Synopsis (NetGalley)

The residents of Llanelen are brimming with excitement. Antiques Cymru, a regional take on the popular national TV show, is coming to the Welsh town and people are flocking from miles around, hoping their attic treasures turn out to be worth a fortune. On the day of filming, quiet local sheep farmer Haydn Williams brings a generations-old long-case clock for evaluation, while the woman he's always admired from afar, Catrin Bellis, turns up with a cherished handmade quilt. Will either hear surprising good news about the value of their family heirlooms? By the end of the day, Catrin turns up dead, her quilt missing.

Who could have wanted this shy, quiet woman - who had been overshadowed by her parents for her whole life - dead? Delving into Catrin's past, spa owner and amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan is surprised to discover that Catrin had at least one enemy. And as Penny's romantic life heats up with a new love interest, she realizes that a mysterious document hidden in Haydn's clock could hold the key to a long-forgotten secret and a present-day murder.

Murder on the Hour is a light-hearted traditional mystery featuring a charming heroine set in an enchanting Welsh town

My take

All of the novels in this series are set in the small fictional Welsh town of Llanelin and feature Penny Brannigan, part owner of a local beauty salon known as The Spa, her friend and partner Victoria, and D.I. Gareth Davies.

In MURDER ON THE HOUR, Gareth Davies has recently retired and Penny isn't seeing so much of him. The main action centres around the coming of popular national tv show, Antiques Cymru, to the town. People search for an object or two they can present for evaluation and maybe a chance to be featured on television.

The novel has all the elements of an entertaining cozy, and works quite well as a stand-alone, although I undoubtedly would have been better off had I read any of the earlier novels. Nothing happens in this small town without most of the residents being aware of it, and yet a murder takes place, and there are few clues why.

My rating: 4.3

About this author
Elizabeth J. Duncan has worked as a writer and editor for some of Canada's largest newspapers, including the Ottawa Citizen and Hamilton Spectator. She lives with her dog, Dolly, in Toronto where she teaches in the public relations program at Humber College. She enjoys spending time each year in North Wales and is the first Canadian writer to win the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. The Cold Light of Mourning, her first novel, is also the winner of the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant and was shortlisted for an Agatha and an Arthur Ellis Award.

Penny Brannigan Mystery (Fantastic Fiction list)
1. The Cold Light of Mourning (2009)
2. A Brush with Death (2010)
3. A Killer's Christmas in Wales (2011)
4. A Small Hill to Die On (2012)
5. Never Laugh As a Hearse Goes By (2013)
6. Slated for Death (2015)
7. Murder on the Hour (2016)

What I read in January 2016

January 2016
I've made a cracking start to the year as you will see from the list below: quite a few Aussie authors, an d a number of new-to-me authors.

January 2016

  1. 4.4, KING OF THE ROAD, Nigel Bartlett - Aussie author
  2. 4.3, THE DROWNING POOL, Ross Macdonald  
  3. 4.3, GOOD MONEY, J. M. Green - Aussie author
  4. 4.5, EDGE OF WILD, D.K. Stone 
  5. 4.8, THE BLOOD STRAND, Chris Ould 
  6. 4.3, GHOST GIRLS, Cath Ferla- Aussie author 
  7. 4.5, ONLY TIME WILL TELL, Jeffrey Archer 
  8. 3.5, DUCK SEASON DEATH, June Wright - Aussie author 
  9. 4.2, THE CRIME AND THE CRYSTAL, Elizabeth Ferrars - set in Adelaide 
  10. 4.2, VENGEANCE IS MINE, Joanne Fluke - set in Minnesota 
  11. 4.2, THE UNFUR-TUNATE VALENTINE'S SCAM, Alannah Rogers - set in New Hampshire 
  12. 4.4, OLMEC OBITUARY, L.J.M. Owen - Aussie author, debut novel, beginning of a series 
  13. 4.4, THE CASE OF THE VELVET CLAWS, Erle Stanley Gardner - #1 in the Perry Mason series. 
 My Pick of the Month was THE BLOOD STRAND by Chris Ould

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.

See my review 

See what others have chosen for Pick of the Month.

1 February 2016

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month January 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 January 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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