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Thursday 30 May 2013

‘The Honey Guide’ by Richard Crompton

Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 
14 February 2013. 
ISBN: 978-0-297-86796-8

A classic detective is created in this book - a loner with serious problems in a corrupt system. He tries to act in the way that he feels is right though accepting that his methods are flawed. He has a young assistant to whom he can expound his ideas. He struggles against his own limitations, his haunting memories and the desire of his superiors that he does not cause any upset in a dangerous political situation. The setting is profoundly different from that of the modern classic detective like Ian Rankins creation, Rebus; here we are in Kenya at the time of the election of December 2007. The policeman is Mollel, a former Masai warrior. with a powerful back story, now working in a subordinate role in the Nairobi police force.

There is a serious crime - the murder and mutilation of a young Masai woman while events are boiling up towards the election with allegations of fraudulent intentions by the government. Mollel s travels around the city in pursuit of his investigation reveal so many features of the Kenyan society with its tribal divisions. Richard Crompton is a British journalist with a deep knowledge of Kenya. This is a good crime novel with its solid background, good characterisations, and intriguing puzzle.
It is described as the first Mollel mystery so we can hope to see our clever, tenacious and classically flawed hero again.
Reviewer: Jennifer Palmer
As mentioned above this is a first detective story with the promise of more to follow.

Richard Crompton lives in Nairobi, Kenya, with his wife and their three young children. A former BBC journalist, Crompton left London several years ago when his wife, a human rights lawyer, was offered a job in Rwanda helping to prosecute the perpetrators of genocide.

Jennifer Palmer.  Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic.
I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

‘Tigers in Red Weather’ by Liza Klaussmann

Published by Picador,
9 May 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4472-1207-2

The book covers a period from December 1944 through to October 1969.  The story is told by five members of the same family.  Although the book is split into sections, each section being written in the first person by that family member, the time period in each section is not chronological.  Thus piecing together the story is rather like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Although murder is part of the story, it is in essence about relationships. In the opening section it is September 1945 and we meet the two cousins, Nick and Helena, in the house in Elm Street Cambridge Massachusetts, on the eve of change. Helena is off to Hollywood to be married for the second time, and Nick is to travel to be reunited with her husband Hughes who has been serving overseas. They console each other about living so far apart with the promise that they will meet up every summer at their houses on Martha’s Vineyard, and from then on most of the story takes place at Tiger House on Martha’s Vineyard.

But neither of their lives work-out as they had envisaged. Each time they meet up at Tiger House, the glamour and sophistication is much in evidence, but below the surface simmers, jealousy, infidelity and many secrets.  When one summer, violence disrupts their reunion, mistrust and suspicion arrive at Tiger House to fester unfettered among the already complex passions that have grown up over the years.

The overriding feeling is tension. In a way unlike many books the tension doesn’t build up, it’s just there, right from the beginning tension smoulders behind every conversation, at every meeting, it is almost tangible.  The ending was, gripping and unexpected.

This is an amazing debut. Complex and well plotted, I cannot wait to see where Liza Klausssmann takes us next.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Liza Klaussmann worked as a journalist for the New York Times for over a decade. She received a BA in Creative Writing from Barnard College, where she was awarded the Howard M. Teichman Prize for Prose. She lived in Paris for ten years and she recently completed with distinction an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, in London, where she lives. She is the great-great-great granddaughter of Herman Melville.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

‘A Wanted Man’ By Lee Child

Published by Dell,
May, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-440-24631-2

The action in this newest in the Jack Reacher series begins with a body discovered in what is apparently an abandoned pumping station in rural Nebraska, an eyewitness able to give only scant details of the two men he saw with the victim, and who drove away in a bright red car afterwards.  Very shortly thereafter, in addition to the local police, representatives of several governmental agencies designated by groups of letters such as CIA and FBI descend on the area.  An alert is quickly put in place on all highways along the area interstates for the two men.

Jack Reacher is variously described here as ex-military, specifically a former major in the Criminal Investigation Division of the Military Police, now unemployed and essentially homeless, self-described, most pertinently here, as “just a guy, hitching rides.”  On the same mid-winter night, he has been standing at the side of an on-ramp for over an hour when he is given a ride in a car with two men and a woman inside, his ultimate destination being Virginia.  That destination and his present appearance, the main feature of which is a badly broken nose, are the aftermath of events at the end of the last book in the series; an imposing figure overall, the broken nose is probably the main reason why it took so long for him to be offered a ride.

Initially the points of view alternate between Reacher and Julia Sorenson, the FBI Special Agent first called to the crime scene, a very capable 25-year Bureau veteran out of the Omaha field office.  Eventually their paths cross, and they work together to get to the bottom of what turns out to be anything but your average murder. 

The book is everything one can expect in a Lee Child/Jack Reacher novel, including terrific plotting and characterizations, and especially Reacher himself, who, when asked by one of the men in the car that picked him up, “You don’t like to be pushed around, do you, Mr. Reacher?” responds “I don’t know.  I’ve never been pushed around.  If it ever happens, you’ll be the first to find out whether I like it or not.”  He demonstrates once again his vast knowledge of relatively arcane trivia, such as the population and area codes of almost any spot in the United States.  It’s great to have him back, and the novel, one I swiftly devoured, is highly recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Lee Child is one of the world's leading thriller writers.His novels consistently achieve the number one slot in hardback and paperback on bestsellers lists on both sides of the Atlantic, and are translated into over forty languages.His debut novel, Killing Floor, was written after he was made redundant from his television job in Manchester, and introduced his much-admired maverick hero, the former military cop Jack Reacher.Born in Coventry, he now lives in America.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Friday 24 May 2013

‘If You Were Here’ by Alafair Burke

Published by Harper,
June, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-06-220835-4

In her ninth novel, and second standalone, Alafair Burke introduces McKenna Jordan, a writer for the fictitious NYC Magazine.  Before her marriage five years ago, she was McKenna Wright, who had spent four years as an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, a job she lost in the aftermath of a police officer’s shooting of a 19-year-old youth, there being a question as to whether or not the boy had been unarmed, the gun found nearby planted.  McKenna’s zealous investigation into that incident, accusing the officer of homicide and perjury, ultimately caused her disgrace and ended her prosecutorial career.  This was soon followed by another, only slightly less traumatic event, when one of her best friends, beautiful West Point grad [and daughter of a two-star general] Susan Hauptmann, disappeared without a trace.

Now, all these years later, a cell-phone photo comes into McKenna’s hands showing a mysterious Superwoman, a female crime victim who had plucked her attacker’s body from the subway tracks to safety, who McKenna believes is that same friend, who she had become convinced was long dead.  Susan, an athletic 32 years old who had been deployed in the Middle East prior to the time of her disappearance, could have easily been capable of the feat in the subway station.

There ensue a series of bizarre and seemingly unrelated incidents that this reader never saw coming, including but not limited to a mysterious private operative [hitman?  private detective?  something else altogether?], a dead cop, someone hacking into and forging e-mails, and no clue as to who is pulling the strings.  The author somehow manages to tie them all up in a relentlessly intriguing plot.

Another well-written book by this author [who gives a tip-of-the-hat, without needing to name his completely recognizable protagonist, to Lee Child, which I loved], and recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Alafair Burke is a graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.
She is the author of “two power house series” (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Alafair’s novels grow out of her experience as a prosecutor in America’s police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and have been featured by The Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Chicago Sun-Times.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Donna Leon

When Donn Leon visited London last month I had the great pleasure of meeting and talking with her. It was a most enjoyable conversation
Donna Leon was born in Montclair, New Jersey of Irish/Spanish descent. She first went to Italy as a student in 1965 returning regularly over the next decade while pursuing a career as an academic in the States and then later in Iran, (where she taught English to helicopter pilots for three years), China (teaching literature at a university near Shanghai) and finally Saudi
Arabia.  Donna then decided to move to Venice permanently, where she has now lived for more than twenty five years. 
Her novels are all set in Venice, featuring police Commissario Guido
Brunette and are widely praised, a
mongst other things, for her ability to create a remarkable sense of place, and to conjure up the sights and smells of

Q Donna, could you tell me about The Golden Egg, your twenty-second book, this latest book? Where did the idea of the mystery surrounding the death of a middle-aged, deaf and mute man originate?
A Well, I am always intrigued as an American that we never have to account for ourselves. In America we don’t have to have a residence, we don’t have to report to the police when we change city, we don’t have to
declare ourselves to the administration of the city. I am always been intrigued the way Italians, well, not only Italians, but Europeans, are always documented. There’s permission to be in that place, there’s the resident’s
permit, there’s the this, there’s the that, they are much more paper controlled than Americans are, and I wondered what would happen if someone slipped through the paper clips and how far in life, and how easy it would be for someone just not to exist in Italian society. The idea was also aided by the fact that there are so many
illegal people and immigrants in Italy; they flood in from everywhere.   That’s also true of Spain, Portugal and France. So I just started fooling around with the idea of a person who didn’t exist.  The only way that  person would come to the attention of the authorities is on his or her death. What does the city do upon the discovery of a dead person who doesn’t exist. And so this is a death, the person is taken to the hospital, here’s his name, here’s his address, but there is no birth certificate – this person does not exist. I just followed that, trying to
figure out how that would have happened.

Q Tell us about police Commissario Guido Brunette. Is he based on any one person or is he mainly imagination? How did he come about?
A He’s not based on anyone. I had the good sense when I wrote the first book to know that I would be working and living with this person for however long it would take me to write this book, and I had no idea how long it would take me, so I chose to create a person who I would find simpatico, and Brunette after twenty-two years is simpatico, he’s intelligent, he’s decent, he’s quick witted, he’s funny, he’s tolerant and a good  father, he’s a good husband. He’s a reader of the things that I read, so he had all of those qualities which would make a man attractive to me.  And after twenty-two years he still remains attractive, for those qualities.

Q What influenced your decision to write about a male detective, as opposed to a female?
Because it’s much easier. If the source of authority is female, much of the time must be spent justifying her power, although I am a woman you must answer this question, although I am a woman I am going to put you in jail.
 Q You had a relatively long academic career in the United States and in several other countries before your first book was published in 1992.  Had you always wanted to write? 
A No, absolutely not.  I got the idea for this book completely by accident when I was at an opera in Venice La Fenice.  I was backstage with a conductor friend and  discussing another conductor who had died. And  we were thinking of who, why, what.  I realised it was a great idea for a novel.   It hadn’t  previously crossed my mind to write a book, but I had read a lot of crime fiction at graduate school and I wrote a book using what I had stored unconsciously about the patterns of crime. The book then sat in a drawer for a year and a half, because all I had wanted to do was write the book, I wasn’t interested in publication.

But a friend nagged me into sending it in to a competition which it won and then I was offered a contract. The result was Death at La Fenice, which was published in 1992.

Q           Was this before or after you moved to Venice?
A           It was after. I had been there for sometime.

Q           So what prompted the move to Venice.
A           I don’t know.  My life has been very much the result of impulse. Because luckily my parents never
instilled in me any sense of ambition or responsibility, I just wanted to have a whole lot of fun and do interesting stuff.  So I had taught in Iran for some years, China, Switzerland, and then Saudi Arabia.  Saudi was such a
horrible experience that I then  decided to go to Venice to find a job. I had there very good friends at the level of family and I contacted then and asked to stay with them in Venice while I found a job, as I wanted to stop moving around and grow up. So I moved to Venice, I found a job, by then I spoke Italian. Soon I was absorbed into the family and I stayed. Then in 1990 I got the idea for the book, and that changed my life. This is one of the reasons I am not pretending to be cavalier about this. It just fell on me.  It was nothing I ever wanted, if it went away tomorrow, it wouldn’t make any difference to me.  It was great fun, a great run for twenty- two year, doing a job that was fun and making a lot of money doing it.

Q Are the ideas for your books sparked by real events and people, or do ideas just come to you? Or a
mixture of both?
A It’s both. Sometimes things happen. In Death in Judgement Brunetti is asked to investigate snuff films, real porno films where the woman is killed. That idea came to me in the early nineties when I read an article
explaining or rather stating that snuff films were being made in Bosnia, that Bosnian women were being raped and murdered. I was so repelled by this that I knew that this possibility would function largely in the next book.

Q Oh! And the ever-resourceful Signorina Elettra, Patta's secretary, isn’t she wonderful? She arrived in the third book. Where did she come from?
A Wouldn’t you like one? She came because I was at a loss as to what was going to happen, and I wrote a scene in which someone knocked on Brunetti’s door, and I had no idea who this could be, and so I went out for a walk and when I came back the door opened and Signorina Elettra walked in.

Q That is wonderful, and leads me onto my next question which is probably two questions in one.  Do you plan your plots before you start writing?  And, if so, do your books change during the writing process, or do they pan out exactly as you originally planned?
A At the start of a book I have no idea. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t have a clue. 

Q But do you always know who is the murderer or does he/she emerge as the book unfolds?
A He or she emerges, I never have any idea.  In fact I am 240 pages into the next book and I have a victim but I don't know the killer.  It’s worked for twenty-two years, so I am sure that it will work again. I have a
certainty that as I continue to write it will become obvious to me. I just need to find the motive.

Q So do you ever have to go back once the murderer emerges and change him or her a bit?
A The only thing I have to do is change adjectives. When people have changed from good to bad, I have had to go back and change all the good adjectives, so that when the person is revealed to be a good person the people will be surprised and by the revelation of the good person being a bad person.

Q So you must a some point then as you get towards the end of the book say ‘Oh! You did it’. That’s very organic.
A Yes, and lucky.

Q Do you have a regular working day?
No, I don’t have a regular anything. I get up in the morning go and have a coffee with my best friend Roberta, whom I have known for more that forty years.  Then she goes to work, and I go back to my house and maybe I work. I force myself to sit in front of the computer. But during the day I am praying that people will drop by and say come out for coffee and then I say yeeees!

Q When embarking on a new book, what aspect challenges you the most?

A Physical description of what people look like. I find that difficult - always have. That I have to work at. Action, motion is OK for me. I do that easily. Physical description is hard, not the way they move, or the way  they dress. Just their faces.

Q           Do you have a favourite part of the writing process?
A           The funny bits, the conversations, the interchange between Signorina Elettra, Brunetti and Patta, who is a great figure of fun. He doesn’t understand why he is being sent up, he knows that he is, but he isn’t sure why.

Q Patta is so very suave. Don’t you think that  very good looking people can take themselves too seriously, as Patta seems to do?
A Absolutely

Q You have won several awards including a CWA Silver Dagger in 2000 for The ninth Brunetti novel, Friends in High Places. Do you have a favourite book of those you have written?
A Not really, maybe a couple of favourites.  I like The Golden Egg very much. The books are getting bleaker, I like Death in Judgement, very much but that’s dangerous because it’s about vigilante justice.  It was controversial, but I felt strongly about the subject matter.

Q German Television has produced a number of Commissario Brunette mysteries. Where you involved?
A In no way, and that was my choice. I don’t speak the language, so what am I going to say. I think that I have seen two of them maybe three.  They’re very German but they're OK.  I had lunch with the BBC yesterday,  and it looks as though our five year engagement is going to be fulfilled.  We have had a very long courtship, we were talking about the pre-nup. 

Q Oh! Very important. Will you take a greater role in that?
A Because the language is English and because I saw the German versions, I  might see what could better be changed.  I have told them that I will co-operate in any way I can to help them.  Not for my purposes but for their purposes.  Because I am a team player, and I would like this to be as good as it can be.

Q Are you in anyway influenced by other writers? 
A Not consciously, but I am sure that I am.  I read a lot of crime fiction.

Q Keeping a series going for 22 books and keeping it fresh and exciting is quite a feat.  Have you ever wanted or thought of writing a stand alone, or starting a new series?
A I did a stand-alone last year about music called The Jewels of Paradise.

Q Do you get back to America very often
A No, I was back there three years ago. I travel so much with book tours and related stuff. And a vast part of it is concerned with the music world. I am one of the managing directors of a Swiss Baroque Orchestra and I spend as much time with them as I can. I go to the rehearsals, the recordings, and I attend their series of concerts. I am very much committed to their success.

Q As you may know I am keen to promote new writers, so have you any golden tips for them?
A Read! And don’t just read crime fiction, read Jane Austin, read Dickens, read Trollope.

Thank you, Donna for taking the time to talk to me. It’s been lovely and informative to meet and chat with you.

The Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Series
Death at La Fenice (1992)  
Death in a Strange Country (1993)         
The Anonymous Venetian (UK 1994)             
Dressed For Death (USA 1994)
A Venetian Reckoning (UK 1995) 
Aqua Alta (1996) The Death of Faith (1997)
Death and Judgement (USA 1995) 
Quietly in Their Sleep (USA 1997)
A Noble Radiance (1998)            
Fatal Remedies (1999)  
Friends in High Places (2000)
A Sea of Troubles (2001)         
Wilful Behaviour (2002)  
Uniform Justice (2003)
Doctored Evidence (2004)         
Blood From a Stone (2005)
Through a Glass Darkly  (2006)
Suffer Little Children (2007)      
The Girl of His Dreams (2008)  
About Face (2009)
A Question of Belief (2010)        
Drawing Conclusions (2011)  
Beastly Things (2012)
The Golden Egg (2013)

Tuesday 7 May 2013

‘Reviver’ by Seth Patrick

Published by Macmillan,
20th June 2013.


some time in the not-too-distant future, and Seth Patrick delivers a logical exposition of how human beings have evolved to the point where they can revive the recently dead for a short while, in order to give testimony regarding the way they died and the person who killed them.  This has become increasingly important, in that such testimony is now permitted in murder trials round the globe.  But the ability to wake the dead is a poisoned chalice, hard on the revived dead, and harder still on the reviver, of whom there are very few.

Jonah Miller, our protagonist, is one of the top revivers in the world, and a key member of the FRS – the Forensic Revival Service in the United States.  As you read on, you can see the increasing signs of trouble looming in Jonah's psyche, especially when he begins to have longer and longer periods of 'possession' by the body he had revived, its memories, its terrors, its stresses attaching to himself in disturbing and incomprehensible fashion.

One death in particular is that of abducted Daniel Harker, a journalist who first highlighted the whole revival issue.   Harker is found bound and gagged – and dead.  It is determined that he died of thirst and starvation, after his kidnappers abandoned him to die.  The deceased Harker is thirsting for answers, particularly as to why they left him to his painful death, and in the process of finding out, invades the mind of Jonah Miller.  And then something ancient and evil, long-hidden and dangerous, makes its presence felt through the doorway provided by the revived dead …

That's a rough synopsis of the story.  But it doesn't begin to elaborate the fascinating details of reviving.  Seth Patrick has created an entire forensic discipline, all backed up with authentic (at least, to this non-scientist) and utterly believable detail.  I was completely absorbed by the weird take on the world he has created between the covers of this book.  Heartily recommended.

Reviewer: Susan Moody

Seth Patrick Seth Patrick was born in Northern Ireland.  An Oxford mathematics graduate, he works as a programmer in an award-winning games company.  He lives in England with his wife and two young children.  Reviver is his first novel. 


Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume  of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writer's Association, served as World President of the International Association of Crime Writers, and was elected to the prestigious Detection Club. Susan Moody has given numerous courses on writing crime fiction and continues to teach creative writing in England, France, Australia, the USA and Denmark.  In addition to her many stand alone books, Susan has written two series, on featuring PI Penny Wanawake (seven books) and a series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan.