5 March 2015

Review: THE KIZUNA COAST, Sujata Massey

  • first published 2014
  • e-book review copy kindly supplied by the author
  • available for Kindle from Amazon
  • #11 in the Rei Shimura series
  • author website
Synopsis (author website)

When a devastating earthquake rocks Japan’s northeast coast, a tsunami follows and Rei Shimura is swept into her most rugged adventure yet.

The mystery begins with an SOS from Rei’s friend, the antiques dealer Mr. Ishida, trapped among thousands of displaced and dead on the Tohoku coast. Rei rushes to Tokyo, where she discovers Ishida Antiques may have been burglarized. Rei takes Mr. Ishida’s abandoned dog, Hachiko, on a volunteer bus to the ravaged town of Sugihama.

But Mr. Ishida’s got more work for her, since he lost contact with his antiques apprentice Mayumi and is frantic with worry. He won’t leave Sugihama without knowing the fate of the troubled 19-year-old girl from a famous lacquer-making family.

My take

Sujata Massey says
    Because of the real framework of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, this book could probably qualify as a modern historical novel within the Rei mystery series.
As Rei Shimura ventures to the Tohoju coast in search of her mentor Ishida-san as a Helping Hand volunteer vivid description builds of the impact of the tsunami on coastal towns and villages, and of the way the Japanese community works together to rebuild lives. There is an authentic feel to the narrative which told me things about the tsunami that I had no way of knowing: the pervading smell of the rotting fish left behind as the water retreated, the stories of people who survived while those with them were washed away, the after shocks that continued for days, and so on.

Against this background Massey has woven the story of the search for Mayumi who disappeared after the earthquake, and then of Rei's search for justice.

It is always a delight to discover an author and enjoy your first read so much. It is like making a new friend.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Sujata Massey was born in England to parents from India and Germany and grew up mostly in St. Paul, Minnesota. She holds a BA in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and started her working life as a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun. After leaving the newspaper, she moved to Japan, where she studied Japanese, taught English and began writing her first novel, The Salaryman’s Wife. This novel became the first of many in the Rei Shimura mystery series, which has won Agatha and Macavity awards and been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark awards. Her August 2013 release, The Sleeping Dictionary, is a trade paperback with Simon & Schuster’s Gallery line, and also an audiobook published by Dreamscape. It’s the first in a series of historical suspense novels featuring Bengali women who each play a role in making modern India.
Sujata’s books have been published in more than 18 countries, and if she could redo her youth, she would have double-majored in history and a foreign language and spent a gap year (or two) abroad. Currently, she’s based near Washington, D.C. and can be contacted through these Internet sites: Facebook, Togather, and sujatamassey.com.

2 March 2015

Review: BY ITS COVER, Donna Leon

  • first published by William Heinnemann 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-434-02303-5
  • 237 pages
  • #23 in the Guido Brunetti series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

In the pages of Donna Leon's internationally bestselling Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries, the conversations of the Brunetti family have often turned to topics of art and literature, but books are at the heart of this novel in a way they never have been before.

One afternoon, Brunetti gets a frantic call from the director of a prestigious Venetian library. Someone has stolen pages out of several rare books. After a round of questioning, the case seems clear: the culprit must be the man who requested the volumes, a visiting American professor. But the man fled the library earlier that day, and after checking his credentials, it becomes clear that he is not who he said he was.

As the investigation proceeds, the suspects multiply. And when a seemingly harmless character turns up brutally murdered, Brunetti must question his expectations about what makes a man innocent, or guilty.

My Take

One of the things I enjoy about the Guido Brunetti novels is the way that they introduce issues that are of concern to the citizens of Venice as well as the focus on the crime being investigated.

Only a few pages into BY ITS COVER Brunetti is in a police boat on its way to a library where a theft has been discovered. Turning into the Grand Canal, there ahead of them is a huge cruise ship, perhaps eleven storeys high, with a wash that is causing waves to sweep over the landings and footpaths. This was an issue that hit the headlines in 2014 when cruise ships were first banned, and then when the ban was overturned by Venetian authorities because of the effects it would have on tourism.

Other issues raised: Brunetti's father in law is investing his considerable wealth in companies outside Italy; it seems that the theft of the pages from rare books is only the tip of the iceberg, and that the case that Brunetti is investigating is one of a systematic looting of Venetian treasures; Brunetti questions what is most valuable in these books - their text or the pictures that illustrate them - and why people collect them anyway.

This was an excellent read, certainly one of Donna Leon's best.

My rating: 4.7

I have also reviewed
ABOUT FACE
THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
4.4, A QUESTION OF BELIEF
4.5, BEASTLY THINGS
4.4, QUIETLY IN THEIR SLEEP
3.9, THE JEWELS OF PARADISE
4.8, DRAWING CONCLUSIONS
4.6, DEATH IN A STRANGE COUNTRY

Series
Guido Brunetti
1. Death At La Fenice (1992)
2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
3. The Anonymous Venetian (1994)      aka Dressed for Death
4. A Venetian Reckoning (1995)      aka Death And Judgment
5. Acqua Alta (1996)      aka Death in High Water
6. The Death of Faith (1997)      aka Quietly in Their Sleep
7. A Noble Radiance (1997)
8. Fatal Remedies (1998)
9. Friends in High Places (1999)
10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)
11. Wilful Behaviour (2002)
12. Uniform Justice (2003)
13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)
16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
18. About Face (2009)
19. A Question of Belief (2010)
20. Drawing Conclusions (2011)
21. Beastly Things (2012)
22. The Golden Egg (2013)
23. By Its Cover (2014)
24. Falling in Love (2015)

What I read in February 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2015
I managed to keep up a rate of a book every two days this month, with some excellent titles.
I've been reading mainly books from my local library and some vintage crime fiction e-books.
An attempt to read outside the crime fiction genre did not work for me.
  1. 4.3, A SLEEPING LIFE, Ruth Rendell - British police procedural, vintage fiction
  2. 5.0, HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN, Louise Penny  - Canadian author
  3. 4.0, DEATH OF A LIAR, M.C. Beaton - British cozy 
  4. 4.5, THE ART OF KILLING WELL, Marco Malvaldi - translated from Italian 
  5. 4.9, THE BACK ROAD, Rachel Abbott 
  6. 4.6, BEAST IN VIEW, Margaret Millar
  7. 4.5, MURDER ONE, Robert Dugoni - US courtroom drama 
  8. 3.8, THAT AFFAIR NEXT DOOR, Anna Katherine Green - vintage fiction
  9. 4.5, THE TERRORISTS, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - translated
  10. 4.3, DEAD HEADING, Catherine Aird - British cozy 
  11. 2.0, THE BRONZE HORSEMAN, Paullina Simons - NOT crime fiction
  12. 4.7, THE DARK ROAD TO MERCY, Wiley Cash 
  13. 4.4, ANGLE OF INVESTIGATION, Michael Connelly
  14. 3.8, THEY FOUND HIM DEAD, Georgette Heyer - vintage fiction  
My Pick of the Month went to  HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN by Louise Penny

Check what others have chosen for this month.

1 March 2015

Review: MEDEA'S CURSE. Anne Buist

  • first published by Text Publishing Melbourne 2015
  • ISBN 9-781922-182647
  • 366 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

Forensic psychiatrist Natalie King works with victims and perpetrators of violent crime. Women with a history of abuse, mainly. She rides a Ducati a size too big and wears a tank top a size too small. Likes men but doesn’t want to keep one. And really needs to stay on her medication.

Now she’s being stalked. Anonymous notes, threats, strangers loitering outside her house.

A hostile former patient? Or someone connected with a current case? Georgia Latimer—charged with killing her three children. Travis Hardy—deadbeat father of another murdered child, with a second daughter now missing. Maybe the harrassment has something to do with Crown Prosecutor Liam O’Shea—drop-dead sexy, married and trouble in all kinds of ways.

Natalie doesn’t know. Question is, will she find out before it’s too late?

Anne Buist, herself a leading perinatal psychiatrist, has created an edge-of-the-seat mystery with a hot new heroine—backed up by a lifetime of experience with troubled minds.

My Take

At first I found the characters and events of this story hard to get sorted. Natalie King leads a complex and busy life working on cases where mothers have been accused, even convicted, of murdering their children. It is all made more complex by her own bipolarism, supposedly kept under control by medication, if she remembers to take it. What happens when she doesn't is frightening to say the least. Natalie reports regularly to her supervisor Declan who attempts to provide therapy and controls to keep her focussed, but he can only work with what she tells him, or guess at what she is hiding from him.

Things become more complicated though when it appears that at least one of the fathers of the dead or missing children may be connected to a pedophile ring. Most of what Natalie knows is told to her in confidence and she struggles to know what she can pass on to the police without endangering her clients, to say nothing of endangering herself.


Throughout my reading of this novel I could not get out of my head MOTHERS WHO MURDER by Xanthe Mallett, a true crime book that I read last year. MOTHERS WHO MURDER looks at a number of Australian cases where the author feels there has been the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. I feel that this book and MEDEA'S CURSE have the same starting point in the real world, with the latter fictionalising a response from real events.

Anne Buist writes with an authority and confidence that makes the reader sure that these things do happen, even if they rarely surface in my world. This makes for a gritty and noir novel, not for the faint hearted.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Professor Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has over 25 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry. She works with Protective Services and the legal system in cases of abuse,kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Medea’s Curse is her first mainstream psychological thriller.

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month February 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2015
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 February 2015, 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 -
e.g.
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.


28 February 2015

Review: THEY FOUND HIM DEAD, Georgette Heyer - audio book

Synopsis (Audible.com)

The 60th birthday party of Silas Kane was marred by argument and dissension among his family. And then, the morning after the celebrations, Kane is found dead at the foot of a cliff. The theory that Silas accidentally lost his way in the fog is confirmed when the coroner returns a verdict of death by misadventure.

But then Kane's nephew and heir is murdered and threats are made on the next in line to the fortune, throwing a new and sinister light on Kane's death. All clues point to an elderly lady of eighty as the killer. But as the redoubtable Superintendent Hannasyde delves further into the case he discovers that nothing is quite as it seems

My Take

It takes quite a while for Superintendent Hannasyde to make an appearance, in my estimation about half the novel has passed before he is called in, and then only after the second death.

Meanwhile the reader has explored the Kane family. I may have found this less confusing if I had been reading with my eyes rather than my ears. The author has the tendency to refer to characters sometimes by first name and sometimes by surname. It took me quite a while to work out they were not two different people. I think perhaps which name is used depends on the character's role in the family and applies particularly to Mrs Kane (senior)'s companion.

We accept the interpretation that Silas Kane was murdered while on his evening walk, pushed over a cliff in the fog, readily enough but all theories are confounded when his heir is shot while sitting at his desk in the study. His distraught wife has a lover but as she will not inherit there seems no reason to suspect him or her. Attention focusses on who will now be the heir, and a dodgy investment scheme lurks in the wings.

As I noted in my review of an earlier Heyer detective novel, the language seems a bit dated but the plotting is tight, and the characters, although some are abysmal people, or perhaps because they are, are quite realistic. 

My rating: 3.8

I've also reviewed
3.8, A BLUNT INSTRUMENT 

 

23 February 2015

Review: ANGLE OF INVESTIGATION: Three Harry Bosch Stories, Michael Connelly

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 415 KB
  • Print Length: 98 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (October 11, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005SDPHM0
Synopsis (Amazon)

LAPD Detective Harry Bosch tackles three tough cases that span a legendary career in this never-before-collected trio of stories.

In CHRISTMAS EVEN, the case of a burglar killed in mid-heist leads Bosch to retrace a link to his past. In FATHER'S DAY, Bosch investigates a young boy's seemingly accidental death and confronts his own fears as a father. In ANGLE OF INVESTIGATION, Bosch delves into one of the first homicides he ever worked back as a uniformed rookie patrolman, a case that was left unsolved for decades. Together, these gripping stories span Bosch's controversial career at the LAPD, and show the evolution of the haunted, legendary investigator he would become.

My Take

From the reviews on Amazon, it seems that die-hard Michael Connelly fans won't particularly like these short stories, because they are short, lacking a bit in character development, and have pretty simple plot lines.

On the other hand if you are looking for some good quality quick reads, then they may hit the spot, as they did for me.

My rating: 4.4

I've also reviewed
THE OVERLOOK
THE BRASS VERDICT
THE CONCRETE BLONDE
4.3, THE REVERSAL
4.4, SUICIDE RUN  

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