2 September 2015

What I read in August 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month August 2015
Another good reading month, including a couple of books that were not crime fiction.
  1. 4.7, THE BURNING MAN, Christopher Fowler
  2. 4.7, A SIEGE OF BITTERNS, Steve Burrows
  3. 1.5, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, Umberto Eco 
  4. 4.5, SUMMERTIME, ALL THE CATS ARE BORED, Philippe Georget
  5. 4.5, THE SECRET CHORD, Geraldine Brooks - not crime fiction
  6. 4.3, THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF, Helen Garner - not crime fiction
  7. 4.2, THE SLAUGHTER MAN, Tony Parson - audio book 
  8. 4.5, BURIED, Jussi Adler-Olsen - translated 
  9. 4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES, Michael Robotham - Aussie author 
 My Pick of the Month was CLOSE YOUR EYES by long standing favourite Australian author Michael Robotham.

See what others have chosen this month

Review: BLOOD REDEMPTION, Alex Palmer

  • this edition published by Harper Collins Australia 2012
  • ISBN 0-7322-7131-2
  • 481 pages
  • #1 in the Harrigan and Grace series
  • winner Canberra Critics Circle Award 2002
    winner Davitt Award 2003
    Winner Ned Kelly Award Best First Novel 2003
  • Available for Kindle from Amazon
Synopsis (publisher)

Matthew Liu sees his parents gunned down on a lonely Sydney backstreet. A young woman, the killer, stares him in the face before fleeing the scene. When the police arrive, all they find is the discarded gun.

Detective Inspector Paul Harrigan's unit is pitched into a high-profile investigation with little to go on. Who is the young woman? How can she have vanished into thin air? When DC Grace Riordan follows up a connection between one of the victims and a termination clinic, pieces start to fall into place, but Grace is forced to confront some personal demons.

Harrigan has demons of his own to contend with. Burned badly in the past for refusing to turn a blind eye to police corruption, he suspects that his current team and investigation is being subtly sabotaged. then he discovers that his own son is in email contact with the killer and that the young woman's bloody rampage is far from over. And with a single phone call the killer draws Harrigan and Grace into her trap. 

My Take

For most of the novel the reader knows who shot Matthew Liu's parents, and after the first chapter we are pretty sure we know why.  But we don't know a lot about what drove Lucy, a 19 year old, to commit murder, and the role of others in commissioning this act.

Grace Riordan is a new member of Paul Harrigan's team, and he doesn't know a lot about her, except that she has been recruited through a Graduate Entry scheme. He is amazed when the Assistant Commissioner, "the Tooth", offers to move Grace on into Public Affairs. She has obviously has already touched a nerve, and that makes Harrigan even more determined to keep her, and hope that she fulfills the potential he has already seen.

Paul Harrigan's son is "the Turtle", a teenage boy who suffered oxygen deprivation at birth, and is confined to a wheelchair. Harrigan is horrified to find that Toby has been having a an email correspondence with the killer whom he knows as "the Firewall."

This is a gritty noir novel, set in Sydney, written with an assurance of style unusual in a debut novel, and very readable.

My rating: 4.5

31 August 2015

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month August 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 August  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 -
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.

29 August 2015

Review: CLOSE YOUR EYES, Michael Robotham

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1498 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (August 6, 2015)
  • Publication Date: August 6, 2015
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • #8 in the Joe O'Loughlin series
Synopsis (Amazon)

I close my eyes and feel my heart begin racing
Someone is coming
They're going to find me

A mother and her teenage daughter are found murdered in a remote farmhouse, one defiled by multiple stab wounds and the other left lying like Sleeping Beauty waiting for her Prince.

Reluctantly, clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin is drawn into the investigation when a former student, calling himself 'the Mindhunter', jeopardises the police inquiry by leaking details to the media and stirring up public anger.
With no shortage of suspects and tempers beginning to fray, Joe discover links between these murders and a series of brutal attacks where his victims have been choked unconscious and had the letter 'A' carved into their foreheads.

As the case becomes ever more complex, nothing is quite what it seems and soon Joe's fate, and that of those closest to him, become intertwined with a merciless, unpredictable killer . . .

My Take

Fans of Michael Robotham have been waiting anxiously for the return of Joe O'Loughlin and I don't think they will be disappointed.

Robotham has become an expert in complex plots and with getting inside the minds of both perpetrators and victims. The structure of the book is interesting - the plot is narrated mainly through the eyes of Joe, but there are some large sections, italicised, from the point of view of the perpetrator. At first the reader does not know who this person is, and then you find yourself listing and discounting suspects. I have to admit that I didn't guess correctly even though there were plenty of clues.

Joe is still fighting Parkinsons and his daughters are growing. Charlie has finished school and ready for university, but what course has she chosen and where?

And excellent read, again.

My rating: 4.8

I've also reviewed
SHATTER (audio)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger 

Author website

Mini Review: LOST (#2) & SUSPECT (#1)

DI Vincent Ruiz is near retirement age and is known in the force as a bit of a loose cannon. He is head of London's Serious Crimes Group. He has a fixation on a missing child case theoretically solved three years earlier. Although a body was never found, someone has been convicted of Mickey's murder. Ruiz is convinced they got it wrong, that the child is still alive. Ruiz is fished out of the Thames, more dead than alive, a dreadful bullet wound in his leg, the top joint of one of his fingers missing, and amnesia. He has no idea what happened. In a sense this is a sequel to Robotham's first novel SUSPECT, with the same two main characters, Ruiz and psychologist Joe O'Loughlin. Whereas SUSPECT focussed on O'Loughlin's predicament, LOST focusses on Ruiz. LOST won the 2005 Ned Kelly Award for best mystery by an Australian author.

Joseph O'Loughlin series
1. The Suspect (2004)
2. Lost (2005)      aka The Drowning Man
3. Shatter (2008)   aka The Sleep of Reason
4. Bleed for Me (2010)
5. The Wreckage (2011)
6. Say You're Sorry (2012)
7. Watching You (2013)
8. Close Your Eyes (2015) 

26 August 2015

Review: BURIED: Department Q Book 5, Jussi Adler-Olsen

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1252 KB
  • Print Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (February 26, 2015)
  • Publication Date: February 26, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • translated by Martin Aitken
  • also published as THE MARCO EFFECT
Synopis (Amazon)

Over three years ago, a civil servant vanished after returning from a work trip to Africa. Missing, presumed dead, the man's family still want answers.
It is one of the many unsolved crimes facing Department Q, Denmark's specialist cold case unit headed up by Detective Carl Morck. But what Carl doesn't know is that the key to the investigation can be found right here in Copenhagen...
Fifteen-year-old Marco Jameson is tough, smart and very suspicious of police. Sleeping rough and hiding in the shadows is his way of life. But what does he know worth killing for - and will the police find him before whoever he is running from?

My Take:

This novel raises a number of interesting modern issues including corruption and fraud among agencies delivering international aid to third world countries; organised crime in cities like Copenhagen targetting tourists; and the relationship in police departments between those who deal with current and cold cases.

In BURIED current cases and unsolved crimes overlap, and there are those who think Department Q is over-resourced and needs watching.  The staff of Department Q are certainly odd, at times presenting an impression of dysfunctionality, but their talents are varied and they each have their own areas of expertise and complement each other well. Carl Morck tries desperately to keep them under control.

My Rating: 4.5

I've also reviewed

Review: THE SLAUGHTERMAN, Tony Parsons - audio book

  • #2 in the Max Wolfe series
  • print published 2015
  • Narrated by: Colin Mace
  • Length: 7 hrs and 23 mins 
  • Unabridged Audiobook
Synopsis (Audible)

On New Year’s Day, a wealthy family is found slaughtered inside their exclusive gated community in north London, their youngest child stolen away. 

The murder weapon is a gun for stunning cattle, leading Detective Max Wolfe to a dusty corner of Scotland Yard’s Black Museum devoted to a killer who thirty years ago was known as the Slaughter Man. But the Slaughter Man is now old and dying. Can he really be back in the game?  

My Take

As with the earlier title in this series, THE MURDER BAG, the narration in this novel is superbly done. The story is a little more gruesome and violent than the action in the earlier title. If you decide you want to read this one, I think it is worth recognising that it is part of a series, and reading THE MURDER BAG first, simply because of the character development of Max Wolfe and the team he belongs to, and of his relationship with his young daughter Scout. Both novels emphasise how tough modern policing in London can be.

The gruesome murder of the wealthy family connects with an old case and doubt is cast on whether the Slaughter Man actually committed the murders for which he has served time. The ex-con is now living with a group of "travellers" who have little respect for the police and things turn very nasty.

Tony Parsons is a writer worth following.

My rating: 4.2

I've also reviewed

Max Wolfe series
1. The Murderbag (2014)
     aka The Murder Man
2. The Slaughter Man (2015)
3. The Hanging Club (2016)
Dead Time (2015)

21 August 2015

Review: THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF, Helen Garner

Synopsis (Text publishing)

Anyone can see the place where the children died. You take the Princes Highway past Geelong, and keep going west in the direction of Colac. Late in August 2006, soon after I had watched a magistrate commit Robert Farquharson to stand trial before a jury on three charges of murder, I headed out that way on a Sunday morning, across the great volcanic plain.

On the evening of 4 September 2005, Father’s Day, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother, Cindy, when his car left the road and plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven and two, drowned. Was this an act of revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner’s obsession. She followed it on its protracted course until the final verdict.

In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. She presents the theatre of the courtroom with its actors and audience, all gathered for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth, players in the extraordinary and unpredictable drama of the quest for justice.

My Take

I have been aware of Helen Garner as a writer for many years, but not actually read anything by her during the life of this blog. While you may not see it as much of a movement to go from crime fiction to true crime, reading this book was part of my attempt to read a little more widely than usual.

Ten months after his car left the main road and veered into a dam, drowning his three young sons, Robert Farquharson was committed for trial on three counts of murder. A year passed between the committal hearing and the trial.  Farquharson spent that time on bail, a free man.

Helen Garner and a close friend's daughter, a sixteen year old taking a gap year, squeezed into the press seats with the journalists. The trial would take over five months and Garner was there every day. She takes the reader through the highs and lows of the court room, the mind-numbingness of evidence and expert opinions, and shows us clearly how difficult it is to get to the truth. Her account is detailed, but at the same time she struggles to keep an open mind, and we watch as she swings like a pendulum. By the time the jury goes out to consider its verdict we still don't know which way they will jump.

Garner takes us further than the original trial, into the second trial after the verdict of the first is declared invalid. She shows us clearly the effects not only on Farquharson, but on his former wife, and on the family and friends. 

There is nothing dry about this book. It reads as well as any crime fiction. Garner pays a lot of attention to character study, and she also tells us how what she is witnessing affects her personally.
My rating: 4.3

  • Shortlisted, Indie Book Awards, 2015
  • Longlisted, Stella Prize, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Kibble Literary Award, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Australian Book Industry General Non-Fiction Award, 2015
  • Shortlisted, NSW Premier's Literary Awards, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Colin Roderick Literary Award, 2015 
  • Shortlisted, Ned Kelly Awards Best True Crime, 2015
  • A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, 2014

  • About Helen Garner
    Helen Garner was born in 1942 in Geelong, and was educated there and at Melbourne University. She taught in Victorian secondary schools until 1972, when she was dismissed for answering her students’ questions about sex, and had to start writing journalism for a living.

    Her first novel, Monkey Grip, came out in 1977, won the 1978 National Book Council Award, and was adapted for film in 1981. Since then she has published novels, short stories, essays, and feature journalism. Her screenplay The Last Days of Chez Nous was filmed in 1990. Garner has won many prizes, among them a Walkley Award for her 1993 article about the murder of two-year-old Daniel Valerio. In 1995 she published The First Stone, a controversial account of a Melbourne University sexual harassment case. Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2004) was a non-fiction study of two murder trials in Canberra.

    In 2006 Helen Garner received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature. Her most recent novel, The Spare Room (2008), won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Queensland Premier’s Award for Fiction and the Barbara Jefferis Award, and has been translated into many languages.
    Helen Garner lives in Melbourne.


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