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 a-shameful-murder-by-cora-harrison

Meet Miss Marple in Another Guise

Review of A Shameful Murder by Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison introduces us to a rather unlikely sleuth, the Reverend Mother Aquinas, in this historical murder mystery. It is set in Cork, Ireland in the early 1920s, contrasting the extreme differences between rich and poor in those turbulent times.

When a dead body is mysteriously washed up in the floods at the convent's gates, Mother Aquinas is hot on the case! She is intrigued as the young lady is dressed in her affluent evening finery, and in her handbag is a rather exclusive invitation.

As she is used to teaching the numerous poor children of Cork, the Reverend Mother is delighted to assist a member of the Civic Guard, who was actually one of her former pupils. Together they unravel all the clues until the truth is finally discovered regarding the identity of the killer and the victim.

I feel that the author has created her heroine in a similar mould to Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, who sniffs out the truth in an unassuming fashion. I award this novel four stars as the historical background can envelop the mystery.

—Galadriel

 

Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating

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Enjoyable Evocation of the Western Mystique

Review of Dark Places by Reavis Z Wortham

As I began this story I was shocked to see that this is the fifth Red River Mystery and I’ve read none of them until now. Does that make me a bad person? Nope, not yet awhile, y’all.

I was perplexed by the writer’s statement of intent at the beginning of the book. Alarm bells go off in my head. If you have the need to explain your work there may be something fundamentally lacking. I’m one of those who believe in subjective interpretation of a piece of art whatever it may be, music, sculpture, painting, writing etc. I believe an audience should be credited with enough intelligence to figure it out for themselves. So I was bristling a little before I even started the novel.

And then…this writer quoted, in its entirety, the Navajo Prayer of Healing. And just like that reeled me right in and I couldn’t escape.

So, I enjoyed this book. At times it seemed like a pastiche of so much that has gone before. The ghosts of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Scout and Jem Finch, and I’m sure I spotted Idgie Threadgood, all wandered in and out from time to time.

The dialogue was tight. I could hear the Texan drawl as I read. In fact you have to forgive me, y’all, cus I just cain’t stop writin’ like a Texan!!

The fact that the town was called Chisum made me me think of John Wayne and the western feel was sustained throughout. I don’t think I pictured many of the male characters without a Stetson.

This is experienced writing, it’s storytelling and it’s maybe a tale the like of which you’ve heard a thousand times with different names and different places but none of that detracts. There can be comfort in familiarity.

There’s a wonderful soundtrack running through and complementing the narrative which I felt could have been made more of, but that’s because I’ m an ageing hippy who can relate to all the music references and I loved them. Loads of characters; some I believe starred in previous Red River stories, young and old, so it’s a book accessible to a wide audience.

There’s a dual narrative here, the crime of which we are party to right from the start, and another issue which derives from the crime but runs alongside independently. The two stories are quite skilfully interwoven and you’re never taken away from either one for very long. In a sense the reader can just sit back, enjoy the story and see how a resolution is figured out, It’s undemanding cerebrally. There’s plenty of action, plenty of humour and plenty of heartache. But it’s all tidied up by the end of the tale.

I still can’t figure how I’ve missed Reavis Wortham!! Does it make me a bad person? Nope, cus I just done read me this one. But reckon as how I better git me some more Red River Mysteries y’all.

– Whizz

 

Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating

 skeleton-plot-by-j-m-gragson

Detective Tale Generates Tedium, not Thrills

Review of Skeleton Plot by J.M. Gregson

Plodding and lethargic, this is a real disappointment as this story has all the right ingredients for a thrilling murder mystery.

When 16-year-old Damon unearths a skeleton while turning over his grandfather’s vegetable plot it is soon linked to a disappearance that happened more than twenty years ago. Identifying the victim is easy for Detective Chief Superintendent Lambert and Detective Sergeant Hook; however, unravelling her life and the circumstances of her death prove much more complicated. A number of prominent figures with shady pasts seem to be involved, but what is the truth and who has the most to hide?

An undemanding read, this had all the right ingredients for a thriller but it failed to deliver. It was slow and plodding; conversations were laboured, with the detectives revisiting key suspects on numerous occasions, but somehow gaining very little new information. It could be argued that they were sensitive, intelligent police officers, who used their brains rather than their brawn, but I found them lacklustre and I doubt the crime would’ve been solved had it relied solely on their investigative prowess.

I found the story to be unlikely and frustrating: how often do petty drug dealers grow up to become bigwigs in the world of education? And there was such a disappointing ending: it was almost like an episode of Scooby Doo where the perpetrator admits everything in the final scene, in one lengthy confession.

This is the first of the 28 Lambert and Hook police procedurals that I’ve read, and I can’t help but wonder if Gregson has lost his way somewhat. They can’t all be this dire, can they? Maybe Lambert and Hook are downshifting towards retirement; perhaps if I was a devoted reader who had followed their story from the beginning I’d have more sympathy for the seemingly lethargic duo. But I’m not, and Skeleton Plot has certainly not inspired me to go back to get know them any better!

~Anouk

 

Star Rating: Two Stars

2-Star Rating

 the-mistake-i-made-by-paula-daly

Blackmail and Moral Turpitude in Middle England

Review of The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly

Roz Toovey is a single mother to 9-year-old George and is a physiotherapist; she is also in a terrible financial mess with bailiffs knocking on the door and her landlord evicting her for non-payment of rent. At this moment her life couldn’t be any worse; at least that’s what she thinks.

Roz is separated from her pathetically immature husband Winston and due to losing her own private practice, is now working at a group practice in the private sector, where her every move is monitored by the creepy Practice Manager, Wayne.

Attending her sister Rachel’s birthday party she meets Scott and Nadine Elias, Rachel’s latest and very rich friends.

The following Monday Scott arrives at the clinic with a proposal for Roz, an indecent proposal! He claims to find her both attractive and fascinating and asks her to spend a night with him. In return he will pay her £4000, the answer to Roz’s prayers in her current predicament.

After initially turning Scott down, Roz decides that she can do as he asks; after all it is no strings, no one will get hurt and Scott is a lot more attractive than some of her one night stands.

Of course nothing is ever as string free as it appears and Roz finds herself trapped by Scott and his demands. Add to this some good old fashioned blackmail, a murder, her son George’s disturbed behaviour and you have a very enjoyable thriller, albeit of the gentler kind. There are no homicidal maniacs wielding axes, but you don’t need that when a thriller is set in comforting middle England; what you have is down to earth threat and reaction, and for Roz it is certainly thriller enough.

An entertaining read, but not for anyone who wants shock, horror and lashings of gore.

– Pashtpaws

 

Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating

 liar-of-dreams-by-libba-bray

Magical, atmospheric, but hard to follow

Review of Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams is the second in the ‘Diviners’ series by fantasy writer Libba Bray. It’s the much anticipated follow-up to the award winning The Diviners, set in 1920s Manhattan, following the story of Evie O’Neill, a girl with a gift.

We join Evie having outed herself as a diviner, with the ability to read the past. She’s become a media sensation, and is known as ‘America’s Sweetheart Seer.’ Elsewhere in the city, increasing numbers of people are falling victim to the mysterious ‘sleeping sickness,’ a frightening disease seemingly caused by a killer in the dreamworld.

This is a magical, atmospheric novel, full of horror alongside humour. For me, reading this book without having any knowledge of the series, and without having read The Diviners, I found it rather confusing, with too many characters and an extremely complex plot. For fans of the series and of Bray’s distinctive style, I can definitely see why this book is a hit, but I’d recommend people to read the series in order.

-- Laura

 

Star Rating: Three Stars

3-Star Rating

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