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Wednesday 29 April 2015

'Murder at the Brightwell' by Ashley Weaver

Published by Allison & Busby,
23 October 2014
ISBN 978-0-7490-1731-6

An exciting mystery is in the style familiar from the 1930s novels of the mistresses of the genre - Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Dorothy Sayers.  The period detail is absolutely convincing and very appealing.  Indeed, one could describe it as stylised so beautifully is it done.  The clothes, the cigarette smoking, the swimming from the hotel's beach and the evening dinners followed by dancing, all smack of that particular time - the 1930s.  The enjoyment of British seaside hotels is interesting in our era where we take package holidays to exotic climes. 

Here we have Amory Ames visiting the hotel with a group of people with whom she has little in common.  She has agreed to help her erstwhile fiancĂ©, Gil to persuade his sister that her choice of future husband is unwise.  Amory is surprised that her charming and good looking but unreliable husband has followed to the seaside.  A murder of one of the group obviously causes some horror and Amory finds herself concerned to help to solve the crime, rather to the consternation of the police detective!
This is a satisfying read with an appealing heroine and I am pleased to see that other books in the series are being mentioned.
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This is Ashley Weaver's first crime novel.

Ashley Weaver is the Technical Services Coordinator for the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University. She lives in Oakdale, Louisiana.

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.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

‘The Whitstable Pearl Mystery’ by Julie Wassmer

Published by Constable,
5 March 2015.
ISBN (HB): 978-1-47211-648-2

Whitstable is a seaside resort on the North Kent coast and is famed for its oysters which have been gathered on its beaches since Roman times. Pearl Nolan, with the assistance of her mother Dolly and occasionally her son Charlie when he can spare time from his studies and his beautiful Italian girl friend Tiziana, runs an oyster bar. She also has set up a private detective bureau and it is to that that a Mr Stroud comes wanting Pearl to provide information about the financial status of Vinnie Rowe, a local fisherman. Pearl refuses; she hasn't taken to Stroud and, in any case, although she hasn't vouchsafed this to Stroud, Vinnie is an old friend and a supplier of oysters. She sets off to warn Vinnie but when she gets to his boat he is dead, entangled in the anchor chain. At this point enter Chief Inspector Mike Maguire, newly arrived from London and recently bereaved. Pearl with her knowledge of the fishing industry and the oyster trade is able to tell that the apparent accident is not an accident. Then Pearl discovers another body, this time that of Stroud.
As a former long-standing scriptwriter for the EastEnders, the author really knows how to keep the surprises coming and the reader enthralled. And she can also, with her experience as a writer of soaps, handle a large cast and their tangled personal relationships while at the same time painting a picture of  a warm and caring community. Not to mention the odd tasty fish supper recipe. This story, which is to be the first of a series, is very much for readers who like traditional British mysteries set in a traditional British seaside resort which incidentally sounds delightful and well worth exploring. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Julie Wassmer is a television drama writer who contributed for almost twenty years to the popular BBC series EastEnders. She published her autobiography More Than Just Coincidence in 2010, in which she describes finding her long-lost daughter after an astonishing twist of fate. It was voted Mumsnet book of the year. The Whitstable Pearl Mystery is the first in her series of crime novels, involving multi-tasking private detective-come-restauranteur, Pearl Nolan. Julie lives in Whitstable and is well known for her environmental campaigning.

Monday 27 April 2015

‘The Girl Who Wasn't There’ by Ferdinand von Schirach

Published by Little Brown,
15 January 2015.

Sebastian von Eschburg, born into an aristocratic family from the German province of Southern Bavaria, once rich but now no more so, had a pretty wretched childhood. His parents were more concerned in ensuring that his behaviour conformed with their notions of how children should behave than in showing him love. At the age of 10 he was sent to a Benedictine boarding school; there he was not particularly maltreated and he discovered the pleasures of reading, retreating into a world that was more acceptable to him than reality. He also discovered that his visual senses were especially strong, enabling him to see the world in a myriad of colours. But when his father kills himself his mother sells the family home and buys an equestrian centre. Soon she has a lover and there is little room in her life for Sebastian who more and more is thrown back on himself. He meets a former pupil of the school who has become a photographer; Sebastian is attracted to the medium, specifically the industrial images: 'no human beings in them, harsh photographs with a backdrop of pale gray skies.” He becomes a professional photographer, earning his bread-and-butter through wedding photographs, graduation ceremonies and the like, but also establishing a reputation as an art photographer. He starts a relationship with a woman called Sofia and she is the model in a number of daring photographs which are both erotic and surreal and really make his name. The narrative then shifts to Monika Landau, a public prosecutor who is presiding over the highly aggressive questioning of Sebastian on a charge of murder of a young woman – no name, no body but evidence through bloodstained photographs, moreover a charge to which Sebastian has confessed.

The narrative shifts again to Konrad Biegler, Sebastian's defence lawyer, a man of great experience who has featured in an earlier novel, The Collini Case. Biegler himself is going through something of  a mid-life crisis and has been despatched by his wife to a hotel in the mountains to sort himself out but when he hears of this case he hurries back, anxious to rejoin the world he knows. The hearing turns on the circumstances in which Sebastian's confession was made; if it was made under the threat of violence it is inadmissible no matter how willing Sebastian was to make it.

The author is a prominent defence lawyer in Germany. I found the chapters on the trial itself particularly interesting. The theme of the novel becomes apparent at the end; it is the contrast between reality and illusion, between deception and truth. The translation is excellent. Recommended.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Ferdinand von Schirach was born in 1964 in Munich, Germany. He is a German lawyer and writer. He published  his first short stories at the age of forty-five. Shortly thereafter he became one of Germany's most successful authors. His books have sold millions of copies worldwide and have made him "an internationally celebrated star of German literature." Schirach's books has been translated into more than 35 languages

Sunday 26 April 2015

'The Cat, the Vagabond and the Victim' by Leann Sweeney

Published by Obsidian,
18 September 2014.
ISBN 978-0-451-41542-4

This is the seventh in a series but this story is complete as a mystery even though previous events have obviously established some of the characters who become involved and their relationships.  The story centres around  Clyde, a cat who has travelled two hundred miles back to his home.  His cries on finding the dead body of his former owner alert neighbours to the event.  Jillian Hart who is heavily involved with a cat shelter and who makes cat quilts is asked to look after Clyde, who is now the centre of a media frenzy. 

This book would appeal, obviously, to those who like cats since Jillian has three cats with whom Clyde soon bonds.  The ability of Clyde to return to his home from miles away makes a fascinating beginning to the mystery of the murder of a man who was already dying of cancer.  Orange tabby Clyde manages to find another body and to become a target himself.  The relatives of the dead owner gradually assemble in the town of Mercy, South Carolina and prove to be a strange, disconnected group.  Jillian is a sympathetic person who becomes a confidante of some of the suspects and investigators and begins to formulate her own ideas about these happenings.  As is the fate of such characters she also us targeted by some very unsympathetic people!

In a nerve wracking climax all is solved. 
Reviewer: Jennifer S. Palmer
This series began with The Cat, the Quilt and the Corpse and this, the sixth subsequent adventure, a further tale, The Cat, the Sneak and the Secret is previewed at the end of this volume.

Leann Sweeney was born and raised in Niagara Falls and educated at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Lemoyne College in Syracuse, NY. She also has a degree from the University of Houston in behavioural science and worked for many years in psychiatry and as a school nurse; she now writes full time.
She began crafting fiction in 1980, fulfilling her lifelong dream. After perfecting her skills with classes and a small fortune in writing books, she joined MWA and Sisters in Crime. Now she’s the creator of two NAL/Obsidian mystery series: The Yellow Rose Mysteries and the Cats in Trouble Mysteries. The Cat, The Quilt and The Corpse, first in the Cats in Trouble Mysteries was the #1 bestseller on the Independent Mystery Bookseller’s List when it debuted and made several top twenty lists for 2009 at bookstores across the country.
Leann is married with two grown children. She lived in Texas from 1974 to 2012 and now lives in South Carolina with husband Mike.

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.

Saturday 25 April 2015

'The Dead Can Wait' by Robert Ryan

Published by Simon & Schuster,
9 October 2014.

The dramatic beginning has the soldiers involved in the development of a new weapon for the Great War dying in a mysterious way.  Dr Watson is requested by Winston Churchill to investigate what has happened.  In a rollicking thriller of John Buchan/ Rider Haggard style events move rapidly around the testing ground.  Finding out who can be trusted and who cannot is the crux of the situation.  Watson is worried about Holmes who is ill possibly mentally.

The story moves fast and furiously and very effectively - the violence is shocking when it comes. Watson has returned from the trenches where he was working for his old unit of the RAMC and is devoting himself to rehabilitating soldiers affected by shell shock.  He is taken to the country site of the work on landships but he faces a very difficult situation where he cannot be sure who is an enemy.

After various adventures Watson is in France and the book ends with the preparation for the obvious next adventure.
Jennifer S. Palmer
The first adventure of Dr Watson by Robert Ryan is called Dead Man's Land.

Robert Ryan was born in Liverpool and moved south to attend university. He graduated from Brunel with a M.Sc. in Environmental Pollution Science, intending to go into teaching. Instead, he spent two years as a mechanic for a Hot Rod team, racing highly tuned Fords (“the fag-end of motorsport”, as Bernie Ecclestone calls it) where he became addicted to the smell of Castrol R. Weaning himself off that, he became a lecturer in Natural Sciences in Kent, while dabbling in journalism. His articles on comic (or graphic novels as they were just becoming known) gurus Alan Moore and Frank Miller found their way into Nick Logan’s The Face magazine, which led to work for the American edition of GQ, The Guardian, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Arena. Eventually he took a position on staff at The Sunday Times as Deputy Travel Editor. It was while on assignment in Seattle that he came across the setting for his first novel, Underdogs – the ‘lost’ city beneath the sidewalks of downtown – that was called ‘Alice in Wonderland meets Assault on Precinct 13’ by Esquire.
He continues to contribute to The Sunday Times. He lives in North London with his wife, three children, a dog and a deaf cat.

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.