23 April 2018

Review: DEATH AT THE DURBAR, Arjun Gaind

  • review copy supplied by author
  • #2 in the Maharajah series 
  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; Reprint edition (March 6, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1464209200
  • ISBN-13: 978-1464209208
Synopsis (Amazon)

December, 1911. All of India is in a tizzy. A vast tent city has sprung up outside the old walled enclave of Mughal Delhi, where the British are hosting a grand Durbar to celebrate the coronation of the new King, George V. From across India, all the Maharajas and Nawabs have gathered at the Viceroy of India's command to pay homage and swear loyalty to the King Emperor, the first monarch of England to travel out to India personally.

Maharaja Sikander Singh of Rajpore is growing increasingly bored, cooling his heels at the Majestic Hotel as he awaits George V's arrival. Just as his frustration is about to peak, a pair of British officers shoulders in. They insist that he accompany them to the British Encampment. Irked, but his curiosity piqued, Sikander agrees. To his surprise, they take him to the King Emperor's quarters where Sikander's old school friend, Malik Umar Hayat Khan, the Durbar herald, awaits. Malik Umar is serving Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy and the highest-ranked Englishman in the country. Lord Hardinge, overruling several subordinates, tells Sikander that his services as a sleuth are needed by King and country. Sworn to secrecy, Sikander is ushered into George V's personal chambers.

And there he finds the cause for his extraordinary summons - an exquisite nautch-girl, hanged until dead. Employing techniques he has learned from studying Eugene Vidocq and Sherlock Holmes, Sikander examines the scene and demonstrates the girl was not a suicide, but murdered.

Her death at the very heart of the encampment could ruin the enormously costly celebration and spark deep political repercussions in India and in England. Under this pressure, the Viceroy hands Sikander both the case to solve and a ticking clock - he must complete his investigation before George V arrives. And under the surveillance of one Captain Campbell of an elite British regiment.

The list of suspects and motives is too large, the number of hours for the task too few. But he gave his word and so the Maharaja must put his skills to work. In the end, Sikander wishes he had not.

My Take

King George V, Emperor of India, is about to arrive in Delhi for his very public coronation. The who's who of Indian society, Maharajahs and princes, and members of the British Raj, have arrived in their thousands. The Maharajahs and princes have set up pavilions and courts, all designed to show how rich and influential they are.

And in the middle of it all, in the King's own pavilion, an Indian dancer is found murdered. The King is due to arrive within 48 hours and Sikander Singh, Maharajah of Rajpore, who would much rather be a detective than a Maharajah, is asked by the Viceroy, to solve the mystery.

Blending fictitious with actual characters, the author presents us with a panoply of suspects, and authentic historical detail on a grand scale. I was impressed above all by the amount of research that must have gone into the writing of this book. The overall effect is sumptuous beyond measure.

If historical India is your "thing", then you will enjoy this.

My rating: 4.5

I have also read
4.3, A VERY PUKKA MURDER

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 Pukka Murder was 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.

Review: DOWNFALL, Margot Kinberg

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1197 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Grey Cells Press (March 16, 2018)
  • Publication Date: March 16, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B079T9KXYN
Synopsis (Amazon)

They Said It Was a Tragedy. They Said It Was an Accident. They Lied.

Second Chance is a Philadelphia alternative school designed for at-risk students. They live on campus, they take classes, and everyone hopes they’ll stay out of prison. And then one of them dies. When Curtis Templeton falls from a piece of scaffolding near the school, it’s called a tragic accident. A damned shame. A terrible loss. And everyone moves on.
Two years later, former police detective-turned-professor Joel Williams and two of his colleagues do a study of Second Chance for a research paper. When they find out about Curtis’ death, they start asking questions. And no-one wants to answer them.

The search for the truth takes Williams and his research partners behind the scenes of for-profit alternative education – and straight into the path of someone who thought everything would stay buried.

In the meantime, changes are coming to Tilton University. The School of Social Sciences is going to be the new home of a center for research on juvenile offenders. But not everyone is happy about it. YouthPromises, the company that’s underwriting the center, is a for-profit alternative program that has a stake in the outcome of any research the center does. What will that mean for the faculty? Williams finds himself caught in the controversy over the center, just as he’s finding out the truth about Second Chance

My Take

I think this is Margot Kinberg's best book yet. The characters came alive for me and there was just enough mystery to present some puzzles where the solution was not obvious until the very end. It was the perfect setting for Joel Williams to demonstrate his skills and intuition.

Recommended.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
PUBLISH OR PERISH
4.5, B - VERY FLAT
4.3, IN A WORD: MURDER  (edit)
4.4, PAST TENSE

22 April 2018

Review: THE SWITCH, Joseph Finder

  • this edition published by Dutton, 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-101-98578-6
  • 370 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Michael Tanner picks up the wrong MacBook in an airport security line, a mistake he doesn’t notice until he arrives home in Boston. Tanner’s curiosity gets the better of him, and he discovers that the owner is a US senator and that the laptop contains top secret files.

When Senator Susan Robbins realizes the mix-up, she calls her chief of staff, Will Abbott, in a panic. Both know that the senator broke the law by uploading classified documents onto her personal computer.

Hoping to avoid Snowden 2.0, Will attempts to gain Tanner’s cooperation and recover the laptop. When Will fails, he turns to an unscrupulous “fixer” for help. Meanwhile, the security agency whose files the senator has appropriated has its own, darker methods–and suddenly Tanner finds himself a hunted man, on the run, terrified for the safety of his family, in desperate need of a plan, and able to trust no one.

My Take

This story begins as a mistake anybody could make at an airport security line. When Michael Tanner opens up what he thinks is his MacBook at home  and discovers it isn't his, he also discovers that the owner uses their name to login and has left their password conveniently on the bottom of the computer on a post-it note.  He uses the password to log in to the laptop and that is when he discovers it contains sensitive material, and becomes aware of who it belongs to.

The Senator to whom the MacBook belongs rings her chief of staff in a panic, but does not admit she has left the password so conveniently on the laptop.  However chief of staff, Will Abbott, agrees to take the laptop she has brought back and to find out who it belongs to. Will manages to find someone to break into Michael's laptop and to work out how to contact him.

However when Will rings Michael Tanner he doesn't say he is ringing on behalf of the senator and Michael becomes suspicious and says he doesn't have the laptop.

That triggers off a chain of reactions with at least two groups of people trying to get hold of the senator's laptop. The story raises some moral questions too. What should Michael have done when he first discovered who owned the laptop he brought home by mistake?

The consequences are dire for both Michael Tanner and all those involved.

An engrossing read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
JOSEPH FINDER is the New York Times bestselling author of ten previous novels, including Vanished and Buried Secrets. Finder’s international bestseller Killer Instinct won the International Thriller Writer’s Thriller Award for Best Novel of 2006. Other bestselling titles include Paranoia and High Crimes, which both became major motion pictures

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


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