May 31, 2014

Book Review - Watching You by Michael Robotham

An engrossing tale of Marnie, who is going through a really bad time and deserves our sympathy ….or does she. No sooner than a hypothesis is developed than it is shattered by another possible explanation. Who is Marnie? Why does she feel she is being watched? Why do accidents happen to people who threaten her? How can Robotham's detectives, retired cop, Vincent Ruiz, and therapist Joe O'Loughlin, untangle the troubled history of this complex woman. Nothing is simple in this compelling mystery. Wendy

May 30, 2014

Book Review - The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, who has made a confident and clever entry into mystery writing, creating one of the most intriguing private detectives I've read in a long time. Cormoran Strike is in financial trouble but agrees to take on an investigation into the death of a famous model's apparent suicide. The family is complicated and secretive, the investigative team is quirky, flawed and intelligent. The plot twists are elegantly constructed and the denouement unexpected. Her writing for grown-ups is very grown-up, indeed! Wendy

May 29, 2014

Book Review - Mallee Sky by Kerry McGinnis

Kerry McGinnis was one of three current female Australian writers profiled on ABC's Landline program in late 2013 and this story shows her love of the great dry landscape, the wide blue sky and her understanding of the rewards, dangers and heartbreak of Aussie farming. Kate is returning to the mallee after her marriage falls apart. A marriage she made just after her father's death. "Her eyes caressed the passing scenery, taking in the shifting shades of the mallee and the rusty gold of the wheat and barley. Here and there between the crops sheep grazed, their new wool already darkening, and over all stretched the endless reach of the sky." Gradually we learn why she left and married in haste as family secrets are revealed and Kate's future is threatened. Good entertainment. Wendy

May 28, 2014

Book Review - Predator by Faye Kellerman

One of the most bizarre set-ups for a suspicious death, an old man is found dead in the apartment he shares with a fully grown tiger. A recluse and rather strange animal enthusiast, Hobart Penney is not mourned y his family, but his wealth does generate a surplus of motives for his killing. Police procedural stalwart, Pete Decker is in his usual form as The veteran Kellerman ticks all the boxes once more. Wendy

May 27, 2014

Book Review - The Lost Boy by Camilla Lackberg

Several storylines eventually collide with unexpected results. Follow the clues as potential embezzlement flies under the radar, a man is assaulted which may or may not have to do with his connection with a women's refuge, drug deals, his childhood sweetheart or a subsequent murder. The detective's wife investigates an island ghost story and her family deal with the aftermath of the shocking death of a child. This team of detectives is brilliantly realized and you can just imagine yourself at those excruciating team meetings with their ineffective boss, the competent second in command and the tangle of private and public lives. A master story-teller does it again. More, please! Wendy

May 25, 2014

Book Review - Silken Prey by John Sandford

Lucas Davenport is back with a new mystery to solve and a tight deadline as political smear plumbs new depths. With the election imminent, has the candidate really been looking at child porn or is it a clever scheme by his opponent, a rich and driven young woman. Unfortunately, we have to drag in the obligatory private computer wiz to hasten the plot along. Still, it is an entertaining ride. Of course, American voters would never elect a murderous psychopath, would they? Wendy

May 24, 2014

Book Review - Never Go Back by Lee Child

Once you are hooked by Jack Reacher, you are committed to needing the latest one as soon as possible. Reacher is intelligent and extremely competent at whatever he does, including beating up bad guys! He has Holmesian ability to immediately deduce background, intent and ability at one look . His planning of how to win a fight against greater numbers of men (its generally but not always exclusively men) has geometric precision. His ability to win is greatly enhanced by his understanding of human and particularly military behaviour. He mostly always gives the bad guys an opportunity to go away before he unleashes mayhem. Too bad most of them are too stupid or cocky to take it. An innate sense of justice and compassion for the vulnerable direct his actions. As an ex Military Policeman, Reacher is a loner who conveniently keeps finding battles to engage in – this time it involves losses from military supplies, or does it? They recently made a film from a Jack Reacher novel and cast Tom Cruise in it. I hope Lee Child got lots of money so he could look away. One of the things that makes the battle-scarred Reacher intimidating is his size . 'Both men looked more than six feet and two hundred pounds. Smaller than Reacher, but not by much.' I don't intend to see the movie. For me, Tom standing on a box just wouldn't cut it - although the library holds it in the DVD collection if you are interested - it's called Jack Reacher. Wendy

May 22, 2014

Book Review - Unseen by Karin Slaughter

I have previously enjoyed Slaughter's crime novels very much and I was puzzled at how long this one took to get going. I'm not sure if it was about a 1/3 or ½ way in when it started to actually come together and I think she has seriously miscalculated the plotting to let the opening go on so long. If you persevere (and I only did because I am a fan), you get to an intricate collection of deceptions that eventually turn into as satisfying a plot as a story that involves drugs, prostitution and pedophilia can be. Agent Will Trent's burgeoning relationship with Dr Sara Linton hits a few bumps in the road and hangs in the balance but the process of being with her has changed him forever. Sara's rocky relationship with Detective Lena Adams continues and they are all caught up in the maelstrom of violence as various investigations crash together at the end. Wendy

May 21, 2014

Book Review - Flesh Wounds by Chris Brookmyre

The hard men of Glasgow are not so different from the samurai of ancient Japan, trapped by their culture and position in society into a brutal dog-eat-dog world, albeit a world with its own version of honour and 'face', where people can only make life choices on the basis of what they know and what is available to them. This story also concerns a young person trying to find the truth of her parenthood. Intelligence, opportunity, leadership and payback all fit within a corrupt and frightening milieu, where the upper crust in search of drugs and other illicit thrills rub shoulders with the hard men and women of the criminal classes. Brookmyre effortlessly transports us to the Glasgow underworld and the 'polis' who try to control it. Flavoured with Scottish dialect, this is a torturous tale of political maneuvering, violent death and ongoing sorrow and loss. Perhaps the longer you live, the more your choices are compromised but some in this story try to act rightly despite or perhaps because of their past acts; and I found myself caring that they did. Wendy

May 19, 2014

Book Review - Child of Vengeance by David Kirk

Set in pre-Shogunate Japan, where the samurai live with death and with honour in a brutal feudal society. A boy is abandoned by his samurai father and raised by his uncle, a monk. When his father returns, Bennosuke must either accept the way of the samurai or deny his birthright. Life is not really that simple however, as he learns. Musashi Benkei was a warrior of ancient legend, a huge man who wielded a staff like no other. The tale went that he held a bridge single-handedly in order for his Lord and his family to perform dignified seppuku [ritual suicide], slaying dozens of the enemy as they came at him. He died on his feet with his staff still in his hands, run through a score of times and riddled with arrows. Not one man had passed him, and both his, and his Lord's honour were assured. It was held as a paragon of a good death. Bennosuke wondered whether Musashi had ever hit a man until his skull burst open. But then, the slaughter was always so very clean in the old tales; evil men came to the hero, and then they were dead. …. Bennosuke looked upon the blood spattered on his kimono, and saw it had dried a dirty, muddy brown. From Shogun by James Clavell to The Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn, I have been drawn to tales of this period in Japanese history. The juxtaposition of profound thought, appreciation of beauty, physical and mental discipline, family loyalty & love, political chicanery and brutal violence can be very powerful. David Kirk adds lustre to the genre, although action predominates over philosophy. Wendy

May 15, 2014

Book Review - Joyland by Stephen King

Devin Jones spent a summer at working at Joyland, earning money for college and growing up. 'This is a badly broken world, full of wars and cruelty and senseless tragedy….you have been given a priceless gift this summer, you are here to sell fun. In exchange for the hard-earned dollars of the customers, you will parcel out happiness. Children will go home and dream of what they saw here and what they did here. I hope you will remember that when the work is hard… or when the people are rude, as they often will be.' His reminiscence is bitter sweet as he recalls a colourful cast of characters of all ages and conditions, where friendship, loss and love are all part of the ride. Some people lasted his lifetime, some were just for the summer, but what he learnt over the summer, stayed with him forever. Charming. Wendy

May 12, 2014

Book Review - No Man's Nightingale by Ruth Rendell

Both the author and her fictional detective, retired Inspector Wexford are not getting any younger but when Wexford's local vicar is murdered, his experience and local knowledge are called upon by those still in the police force. Wexford's need to keep worrying at a problem, until he understands it, is fully utilized here. Where would this English villages be without the ubiquitous garrulous cleaner, sharing secrets and stories across all her clients? Wexford's compassion is to the fore when dealing with the daughter of the murder victim. Settle down for another good outing with Inspector Wexford. Wendy

May 11, 2014

Book Review - Wrongful Death by Lynda LaPlante

Another in a series. DCI Anna Travis is once more battling to find personal and professional distance from DCS James Langton. Add in an abrasive FBI profiler on a research assignment in London and the sparks fly as a previously closed case is re-opened when a young criminal discloses new information. LaPlante is fimly in control and is deservedly a best seller. Wendy

May 09, 2014

Book Review - Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French

This series just gets better and better although you can start with this story, as the back story is sufficiently explained, it is helpful to have experienced the layers of the developing relationships. Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist, must be one of the most melancholy of crime heroines and her habit of taking long walks and her introspectivity frequently infuriate her friends and colleagues. Here is a marvelously twisty tale about a woman who is inexplicably killed in her front room. She is a nondescript wife and mother. She is a nice person. She apparently has no secrets. She is universally loved and admired. So why was she killed? The answers will rip this loving family and other people in their orbit to shattered pieces until even case hardened police are sickened by what they uncover. A parallel investigation by an ageing journalist combines to a shocking climax. Engrossing! Wendy

May 08, 2014

Book Review - Stranded by Alex Kava

This might have over 300 pages but the type is large and the story not terribly complicated. It is however, a competent outing for FBI agent Maggie O'Dell and her partner Tully as they track down a serial killer who is targeting people who stop at highway rest areas. The inclusion of handsome Ryder Creed, a cadaver dog handler, and a couple of his gorgeous dogs adds interest, colour and movement. 'He was tall, broad –shouldered, and wore a white t-shirt that stretched over a lean and muscular torso with arms to match. His Levis telegraphed more of the same..[Grace, the Jack Russell terrier, also wasn't what Maggie was expecting]… She seemed so spirited, so playful, so ordinary. …it was hard to imagine this energetic dog spent a good deal of her time looking for dead people.' Creed, Grace, Maggie and Tully all face danger in tracking down and capturing the killer. Wendy

May 07, 2014

Book Review - Knit Kimono Too by Vicki Square

From elegant linen sleeveless tops to big thick warm coats, this book contains garments that have had their design genesis in the timeless lines of Japanese kimonos. Featuring some new textured stitches, lace coveralls, warm cables, interesting surface embroidery as well as some quite simple garter stitch patterns, there is something here for all ages and interests. One design harks back to the Heian period, (794-1192) when the colour palette of your fashionable 12 layer kimono was determined by your rank in society as well as by the season, eg soft pale greens in spring, deep purples and grays in winter etc. a lovely book to read through and maybe to knit something from! Wendy

May 06, 2014

Book Review - It Happens in the Dark by Carol O'Connell

I have been a fan of the Kathy Mallory detective stories from the beginning. In this novel, the author weaves a complicated plot about a play where an unseen ghostwriter is rewriting the script and many formerly well-known participants are desperate for their next time in the limelight of celebrity and success. But which of them will benefit from a dead body being found at each of the first three nights of production and why is the ghostwriter now targeting Detective Mallory? Layers and layers of trickery and sleight of hand unfold as the police investigate the many unlovely characters who appear to have motive and opportunity to commit the murders. I was exhausted by the end and not sure I would ever go to the theatre again. A very different plot well executed.

Book Review - It's Raining Men by Milly Johnson

Three friends have booked a luxury spa retreat but the booking is mixed up and they end up in a strangely isolated, unfriendly village where they are astonished that the natural beauty and luscious local produce aren't more widely appreciated. Each of the women has their own romantic problems and there are coincidentally three brothers who own key properties including the cottage where they are staying. More depth than your usual Chicklit, with some unlovely characters causing mayhem and some lovely romantic moments blended with just a touch of magic which keep this seaside holiday story humming along. Understanding the village story helps each of the friends to find their happy ending. Wendy

May 04, 2014

Book Review - Sex, Drugs and Meditation: a Memoir by Mary-Lou Stephens

A ten day meditation retreat in almost absolute silence sounds positive but during this testing time, the an Australian musician reflects on her life and the many mis-steps and foolish choices she has made. Drugs, sex, stealing and lying have all played a part in her life thus far. Having pulled out of the downward spiral enough to land a radio job she is finding fulfilling, along comes an unfair and talentless boss, the catalyst that sends her to the retreat and also makes her stay once it gets difficult. I'm not sure that her recounting of the process would encourage me to do a similar retreat, but it was interesting to see how mentally stripping back to just your own self crystallises your choices and sets up a platform for future life decisions. Wendy

May 03, 2014

Book Review - The Raven's Eye by Barry Maitland

We can claim this English born author as an Aussie now as he moved here in 1984. His series with Brock and Kolla have a justified reputation as tautly plotted character driven thrillers. Gritty police procedurals meet psychological drama and the best battles are sometimes inside the police force as old fashioned coppers come to terms with modern technological policing. In the Raven's Eye, a tight-knit narrow boat community refuses to give up its secrets after one of them dies in an apparent suicide. Secrets that will lead to more deaths, expose corruption and place DI Kathy Kolla at considerable personal danger. I have read all his novels and they are all terrific. Although Brock and Kolla's story has evolved through them all, you can read this as a stand-alone if you are new to this writer. Wendy

May 01, 2014

Book Review - Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans

A deeply satisfying but easy read chronicling Elle's development from gawky social misfit to sophisticated New York editor. Finding her feet in the publishing profession, surviving a doomed love affair and coming to terms with her family history, Elle acquires a veneer of sophistication but secretly dreads revealing her real self. Full of insights into the publishing industry and including a marvelous publisher who insists she reads Georgette Heyer, one of my all time favourite authors. The tension between 'good' literature versus commercial sellers is realistically portrayed. Mistakes don't necessarily mean you miss out on the happy ending!