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Showing posts with the label crime

Writing Wipptee — a little mystery, a little romance

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 It's five years since I moved to the country, and I've wanted to write about it since the first day. I've always been a city girl, and I imagined the country as a quiet, somewhat behind the times, place. I was so wrong. There's a boiling cauldron of politics, and while retail is limited, there's no shortage of informaton or internet access. And the idea that people live and die in their native town isn't true either. People move all over the place. There's constant change. Another shock — the country is industrial. Trucks, machinery, warehouses, factories, and now wind and solar production, are everywhere. Some of the great issues of our time converge in the country. Animal rights, farm invasions, the right to protest, the destructive potential of agriculture, people's lifelong dedication to landcare and land repair, and mining rights, create a potent mix of conflicting views. In this book I try to capture some of this, against Maddison Debranz's qu

Reading journal: Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin

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Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Series: DI Hillary Greene Date read: November 2018 I read this because I’m writing a death on a canal story (working title, Yass Canal), and I need all the information I can get. DI Greene lives on a canal narrowboat, so is the natural person to be assigned to a corpse found in a lock. Good solid plot, with an outcome not easily guessed. The point of view switches between characters a bit too frequently, which can be confusing, but overall, a good yarn. I also read Book 2 in the series, Murder at the University , and it was just as good.

Reading journal: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

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Genre: Mystery Published: 2017 Series: Hawthorne Date read: October 2018 A woman arranges her funeral, then, that very night, is murdered. Horowitz, in his own person, is dragged unwillingly into the investigation, under the pretext of writing up the case as it’s investigated by Daniel Hawthorne, a man he hardly knows and doesn’t like. I love the circularity of the story, the idiocy of Horowitz out of his depth in a real investigation, and the wonderful array of red herrings. I would never have guessed or even imagined the identity of the killer. Great story from a master of the art.

Reading journal: The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood

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Genre: Mystery Published: 2018 Series: Corinna Chapman Date read: November 2018 Corinna and her lovely Daniel must solve the mystery of the kidnapped dog, the sad returned soldier, and the girl who has lost the ability to speak. A bit lower on the suspense scale than other books in the series, but there is a satisfying explosion. Nice to see Corinna and Melbourne on the page again.

Reading journal: The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L Sayers

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Genre: Crime Published: 1930 Date read: July 2018 This has been sitting on the shelf for decades, but I don’t remember ever reading it before. It’s not the kind of thing you would forget. The story is told through a series of letters and documents, apparently known as an epistolary novel. The basic set-up is this: an older man and his younger wife’s lives are upset when two young men, artists, move into their house as boarders. The wife may or may not have an affair with one of them. Portraits are painted. An older female companion is gratuitously denigrated and then vanishes from the plot for no apparent reason. There is suspicion, then angry words, and in due course the older man, an expert on fungi, nevertheless dies of what appears to be mushroom poisoning. A long-absent son returns and pursues evidence that this was no accident. The style is dreadful and there is no suspense. I could hardly care enough to read to the end, so unpleasant were all the characters. And I do

Reading journal: Pashazade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

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Genre: Science Fiction (alternate history/crime) Published: 2001 Series: Arabesk Trilogy Date read: March 2018 An extraordinary story, wonderfully written. Ashraf al-Mansur, known to his friends as ZeeZee, travels to the free city of El Iskandryia, part of the Ottoman Empire in this alternate future where power lies in the hands of Berlin, Istanbul and Moscow. He’s lived most of his life in institutions, boarding schools, hospitals and prisons, with a brief career working for Chinese triads in Seattle. So it’s a surprise to be broken out of prison and given a passport and ticket for Africa, where an aunt he didn’t know he had has brokered a marriage for him. The story weaves together crimes, culture clashes, and a cast of fascinating characters. The other books in the trilogy are Effendi , a brilliant and terrifying story about child soldiers and artificial intelligence, and Felaheen , in which Raf explores his biological heritage. Grimwood (who also writes under

Reading journal: Murder Takes the High Road by Josh Lanyon

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Genre: Crime/Romance Published: 2018 Date read: April 2018 Carter Matheson, a librarian from California, joins a bus tour of Scotland for fans of crime author Dame Vanessa Rayburn. The tour visits locations used in Vanessa’s books. Carter isn’t enjoying the tour, mainly because his ex is also there with his new partner. There are compensations though; Carter is attracted to another passenger John Knight, and there is something mysterious going on behind the scenes which he is determined to expose. I enjoyed this book very much. Lots of suspense, poor Carter suffering miseries on the romantic side, and a not particularly surprising exposé at the end. Shades of Agatha Christie. Josh Lanyon is a prolific author who produces work of varying quality, but this one is most enjoyable.

Reading journal: And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic

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Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Series: Caleb Zelic Read: March 2018 Caleb Zelic returns in this sequel to Resurrection Bay . He is struggling to keep his investigation business going without his old partner, and when a young woman asks for his help moments before her death he is reluctant to take the case. Instead, he wants to pursue his relationship with his ex-wife Kat, so he returns to his home town. Things aren’t going well at home, with arson and racial tension dividing the town and evidence of a drug war behind the scenes. Caleb can't help himself, and his investigation again brings danger to his loved ones. Eventually he has to choose between Kat and pursuit of the criminals. As in the first book, we see Caleb struggling with his hearing impairment, and with his father’s internalised harsh criticism. Caleb has to learn to ask for help, the one thing he has spent a lifetime avoiding. Great story, a step up from Resurrection Bay. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

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Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Read: February 2018 A gripping story about a murder in a large Australian country town. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is investigating the death of an old school friend, a woman for whom she had an unhealthy obsession. As the investigation progresses, the consequences of decisions and actions made in the past come back to haunt Gemma. Traumatic events from her teenage years are slowly revealed to be integral to solving the case. I stayed up very late to finish this, as it was too difficult to put it down. The book is written in the present tense, which I usually find difficult, but in this case it seemed completely appropriate and easy to read. One word of warning. If you’re reading an ebook version, my copy didn’t open at the beginning (a prologue labelled “now”), instead leaping ahead to Chapter 1. Reading the prologue would have helped! Fast paced, lots of twists and turns and emotions, recommended.

Reading journal: The Boy Next Door by Josh Lanyon

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Genre: Crime/Romance Published: 2017 Read: February 2018 A readable novella about Merle Madison, former boy detective and now aspiring real private eye, and his childhood friend, now estranged lover, Police Chief Isaac Ramsey. The style is conversational and humorous, the mystery just juicy enough to matter, and the conflict (leading to reconciliation, if there was any doubt) between the two men is wonderfully done. Recommended.

Reading journal: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

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Genre: Mystery/Historical Published: 2018 Read: February 2018 Perveen Mistry is one of the first women lawyers in India, working in her father’s practice in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1921. Paperwork around an inheritance leads her to help three Muslim widows living in seclusion and vulnerable to exploitation. A second thread of flashbacks exposes the collapse of Perveen’s own marriage some years earlier. A meaty story with many interesting characters and a firm historical background. Massey describes India under British rule, long before independence or partition. As a lawyer Perveen must deal with the languages and legal systems appropriate to particular religions and ethnic groups. Massey depicts this rich cultural mix as well as exploring the strictures around women and marriage. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

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Genre: Crime Published: 2015 Series: Caleb Zelic Read: March 2018 Caleb Zelic is an investigator looking into warehouse thefts in Melbourne. Things go wrong, a friend is killed, witnesses are disappearing, and Caleb’s partner has become unreliable. Deaf from childhood, Caleb has relied, perhaps too much, on Frankie’s help, and now he’s out on his own, trying to succeed in a world of sounds that he can often only guess at. Caleb retreats to his home town of Resurrection Bay and reconnects with his separated wife, his brother and his childhood friends. But the bad guys follow, and Caleb’s pride has put those he loves in danger. And he’s not prepared for the shocking betrayal that makes him doubt his own judgement. A great book, plenty of pace and character-driven action, and insight into how the world operates for a person with hearing impairment. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: Come to Grief by Dick Francis

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Genre: Crime Published: 1995 Series: Sid Halley Read: January 2018 This is the third story featuring Sid Halley, a jockey forced from racing after a catastrophic injury to his hand. Instead, he has become a successful investigator. In this harrowing story he tries to find the sick individual who is mutilating horses, and is horrified to discover that the culprit is a friend. Sid’s problems begin after he has solved the crime, with heavyweights behind the scenes going to great lengths to discredit him and ruin his reputation. Sid also helps a sick child and a teenager on the edge in this excellently written book. This is one of Dick Francis's best books, in my opinion, with an engaging plot, real danger and emotional depth. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood

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Genre: Crime Published: 1991 Series: Phryne Fisher Read: January 2018 Set in Australia in the 1920s. Phryne Fisher, a lady of independent means and an amateur sleuth, travels by train to rural Ballarat with her companion to collect Phryne’s new car.   The passengers are gassed, and one is murdered. Phryne flirts with university students and identifies the killer in a tense and suspenseful scene. At the same time, she adopts a girl who has lost her memory and unravels a nasty plot exploiting children. Features, among other things, a crackingly beautiful car, an appalling boardinghouse, and an oily hypnotist. Great story, and the TV adaptation, while simplified, is still pretty good. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: Death by Water by Kerry Greenwood

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Genre: Crime Published: 2005 Series: Phryne Fisher Read: December 2017 It’s the 1920s, and amateur sleuth, Phryne Fisher, embarks on a voyage from Melbourne to New Zealand aboard the cruise ship SS Hinemoa. Her task is to find out who is stealing valuable jewellery from the first class passengers. Much drama, with interesting descriptions of the ship and of Milford Sound in New Zealand. Phryne is assisted in her job by Māori crew. But jewel thieves are not the most deadly criminals aboard, and tantalising snippets reveal a connection with the tragic sinking of the Titanic. I wish this lovely ship was real. Recommended.

Reading journal: Too Easy by J.M. Green

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Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Series: Stella Hardy Read: December 2017 This is the second Stella Hardy story, and I loved it. Even the tag line is great — The road to hell has to start somewhere. Who wouldn't want to read on? Stella is a social worker in western Melbourne, a working class area with many immigrants undergoing significant social change. Her friend, Phuong, a police officer, needs help clearing her boyfriend of a corruption charge. Stella’s brother is in town, her own boyfriend is avoiding her, and some of her clients want her help. Things go downhill from there. Some great language. How about this?  “Phuong seized my hand with the force of a handcuff.”  Or this, “My heart hurdled the top rib.”  Or this,  “Up close, I saw that some hard years dragged at her cheeks.” J.M. Green is a great author and this is a wonderful book. Highly recommended.

Reading journal: The Māori Detective by D A Crossman

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Genre: Crime Published: 2017 Series: The Red Zone Mysteries Read: February 2018 This is a wild ride! Carlos Wallace, part-Māori, returns to Christchurch to work as a private investigator after his career in the New South Wales police force goes bad. There are plenty of plot strands, including in no particular order a lost dog, an unfaithful wife being blackmailed, a missing financier, an inheritance or two, a clairvoyant cousin, evil spies, looters who come to a sticky end, creepy old grannies with family history to share, Māori legends, a missing French girl, an international assassin, assorted gangsters, and a business partner, Ginny, in hiding from her abusive husband. Overshadowing everything is the city of Christchurch itself, ruined by earthquakes and in the throes of mourning and renewal. The Red Zone refers to areas restricted after the earthquakes, especially the CBD, which was cordoned off for safety reasons for years, and residential areas which were no longer s

Reading journal: Whip Hand by Dick Francis

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Genre: Crime Published: 1979 Series: Sid Halley Read: January 2018 Ex-jockey Sid Halley returns in this second book in the series. Now an independent investigator, he is on the trail of corruption in the Jockey Club, illegal syndicates that fix race results, and the mysterious failure of highly fancied favourites in big races. As if that wasn’t enough, his ex-wife has become involved in a fraud and he must find the perpetrator to protect her. His opponents use extreme violence to try to deter him, but Sid is made of sterner stuff and finds his courage in time to finger the criminals. I particularly like the description of a balloon race, where Sid finds himself in a tiny wicker basket thousands of feet up with someone as crazy about winning as he is himself. Great story, highly recommended.

Reading journal: The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey

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Genre: Crime Published: 1949 Read: December 2017 The action takes place in a small English village, one of the most dangerous places on earth if television is anything to go by. A staid solicitor, Robert Blair, is caught up in the defence of two women accused of abducting a teenage girl with the aim of forcing her to do domestic work for them. The girl is an innocent child with the media on her side, and Blair has to exert himself to prove her accusations wrong. This is a well-plotted and well-written story. The problems come with the subtexts — the author’s middle class concerns permeate everything. The servant ‘problem’, the stupidity and ignorance of rural people, the lack of class and pursuit of febrile thrills found in industrial city dwellers, the inevitable consequences of bad blood and the triumph of nature over nurture; all these pernicious ideas find their way into what would otherwise be an excellent yarn. In the end, unable to cope with an England that ha

Reading journal: Good Money by J.M. Green

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Genre: Crime Published: 2015 Series: Stella Hardy Read: December 2017 First in a series featuring Stella Hardy, a western Melbourne social worker who helps immigrant families. Stella is drawn into a frightening world of drug dealers and murder. Stella also has a new boyfriend with a drug problem and a missing neighbour to find, as well as irritating colleagues and bureaucracy at work. And nagging at her throughout is the fear that something she did in the past has come back to haunt her. I loved this book. It has great characters, a wonderful sense of place, and an exciting and convincing story of modern Australia. I love Stella, a person trying to do good but struggling with only average ethical standards which get her into trouble. There's a  little bit of Stella in most of us, I think. The story is set in Western Melbourne, a relatively economically deprived area with many immigrants. Recent political point-scoring in Australia has seen statements t