Click a logo below for more information...
 
 
 

Reviews

April 2015

Ruth Downie - Tabula Rasa

"...an excellent plot with various twists and turns..."

Synopsis:
Medicus, Gaius Ruso and his British wife, Tilla are back in Britain in the north close to Hadrian's Wall where Tilla grew up. She has connections in the area and is slowly trying to build bridges where suspicion reigns. Her marriage to a Roman is considered doubtful and both her motives and that of Ruso are viewed with considerable misgivings.

When Ruso's clerk, Candidus disappears, tensions increase. Ruso is anxious to find him before the clerk's uncle and Ruso's friend, Albanus turns up. The search for him involves searching the local British homesteads and is handled badly, only upsetting the natives more.

Ruso and Tilla both try to keep the peace between the two sides but nothing is straightforward and some interesting developments keep them both on their toes and in and out of danger before finally all is resolved.

Review:
As always, Ruth Downie writes a very good story that keeps you entranced and connected until the very last page. Partly this is because the characters are likeable and intriguing with very definite personalities and views of their own. It really matters what happens to them. There is a touch of humour as Ruso deals with Roman regulations and red tape whilst pursuing his own idiosyncratic ways. His unusual marriage to Tilla is typical of his views and does sometimes complicate his life.

In addition, the background of Roman life that is given is fascinating. There is a great deal of research data on the life of the Roman soldier on Hadrian's Wall and this is used to put realism on the bones of everyday life. Add to that, an excellent plot with various twists and turns and you have an extremely enjoyable read.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Nadia Dalbuono - The Few

"...an exciting and compelling read..."

Synopsis:
Leone Scamarcio is a detective in the Rome police force. He is an unlikely candidate for the job as his family, and in particular his father, were dominant members of the Mafia. He is however determined to escape from that corruption and is ploughing a lonely furrow amidst the rip off corruption and fear that is Italy today.

When a file of extremely compromising photographs of high ranking government officials is given to him by his boss with instructions to deal with it under the radar, a young man implicated in these photographs is found dead in his apartment. Leads take him to Elba where a young American girl has gone missing and Leone finds himself with a very knotty problem where the slightest error could lead him to alert the press and alienate the very important politician who is influencing his boss.

The threads of corruption are deeply woven into the upper echelons of society and trying to confront the guilty and free the innocent becomes a very dangerous game for Scarmarcio. He is forced to make some unpalatable decisions to enlist people from his father's past. No one seems to be honest and everyone is hiding something.

Review:
Nadia Delbuono is writing this with both the detachment of an outsider and the understanding of a resident. As with Donna Leon, Delbuono clearly sees the terrible stagnation and immorality of the system. But Scamarcio is much more affected and frustrated than Leon's Brunetti. Brunetti's career and family carry on; Scarmarcio's way of life and existence is threatened by what he sees.

Those who hear of the antics of the real life ex-prime minister Berlusconi, wonder how this unbelievable behaviour of the political classes is almost accepted by the Italian people. 'The Few' is an exciting and compelling read, with the additional flavour of an insider's view of the civilisation that is Italy and comes highly recommended.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Andrew Williams - The Suicide Club

"‘The Suicide Club’ is an exciting thriller with a solid background of historical research..."

Synopsis:
A tale of the First World War, told not from the perspective of the soldiers in the trenches but from the viewpoint of a spy working firstly in the front line, intelligence gathering in Belgium, but then working in Staff HQ, ostensibly to help establish 'The Suicide Club', but in reality observing the workings of the intelligence officers reporting to Field Marshall Haig.

'The Suicide Club' is a small group of men trained to be dropped by balloon behind enemy lines and then report back on enemy activities. The general opinion of the likelihood of the success of this enterprise can be seen by the nickname, 'The Suicide Club'. Senior staff is convinced of the value of the operation.

Innes finds conflict between different factions in the officers. The experienced officers distrust the intelligence being passed to Haig and Innes even suspects that German double agents are deliberately feeding false information to the Brigadier reporting directly to Haig. The only way he can find out is to follow the contact back across enemy lines and observe what happens. This proves extremely dangerous and costly in terms of life. The terrible loss of life in the trenches drives on the need to establish the truth.

Review:
This gives a fascinating picture of how the prejudices and received wisdom of the officer class inform the decisions and strategic planning of the top. The value of genuine reliable intelligence is shown and the costly mistakes made when the information given is wrong are demonstrated. Communication between different groups is poor and unfailing optimism in the face of undeniable facts is proved to be catastrophic.

I really enjoyed the in-depth research and understanding of human nature that has been applied to this story. It gave me a greater insight into what actually happened. As usual, the simple formula that Haig was foolish and the War was 'bad' is not the answer. This book gives you several viewpoints to help you make up your own mind. The use of real people must have made Williams' fictional portrayal more difficult, but it also adds to the interest and reality of the story. Innes is a sympathetic character and the story drives on with excitement and fear for his survival. 'The Suicide Club' is an exciting thriller with a solid background of historical research and will greatly appeal to those who love a touch of reality to their Historical crime fiction.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Lee Weeks - Frozen Grave

"Weeks’ prose cannot be faulted in any way..."

Synopsis:
The first body is found in London's East End - a middle-aged woman, brutally murdered.

The second body turns up in a disused quarry, attracting the attention of DI Carter and DC Willis. They had interviewed the dead man, JJ Ellerman, about his links to the first crime, and somebody wanted to stop him talking.

And then the third body is found, and it becomes clear a serial killer is on the loose. What connects the victims? And who will the killer go after next?

Review:
I am a long time fan of Lee Weeks, although I admit this is the first of her Carter and Willis stories I've read. Because of this association and memories of the mercurial Johnny Mann I started this book with some excitement.

While Carter and Willis are both well drawn characters, they just didn't engage my interest in the same captivating way Johnny Mann had. Of the two, Willis was my favourite and while my words may seem harsh to some, it is important to bear in mind that I approached the book with expectations that were perhaps overly high. The other characters all worked well in their roles and the bad guy was beautifully portrayed.

The plotting is first class and leads the reader down a few blind alleys before the final standoff and there are enough goings on to entertain even the most easily distracted reader. Weeks' prose cannot be faulted in any way and while I miss Johnny Mann, I am prepared to give Carter and Willis a second try when perhaps I'll be a more receptive reader.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Lindsay Davis - Deadly Election

"This is another masterpiece from the Davis Roman stable."

Synopsis:
Flavia Alba has just returned to Rome after spending some time with her parents recuperating from a nasty illness. It is not the best time of year to return, as it is July and seasonably hot and steamy. Instead of taking things easy she dives into investigating the death of a decomposing body found deteriorating in one of the lots for sale in her family auction business. In doing this she comes into contact with Manlius Faustus, Aedile and good friend who helped her in her illness. He is busy supporting a candidate for office in the court of Domitian. This means boosting the reputation of his friend and discrediting all other candidates. To this end he asks Flavia to do some investigating of backgrounds.

Unfortunately it is not only the rival candidates who have shady secrets, but Faustus' friend is also not the solid family man he claims to be. The two strands develop together and even interlock in places. This means that the friendship between Flavia and Faustus is strengthened as they rely on each other to progress the investigations.

Review:
It is difficult to find something new to say about Lindsay Davis. As always she is the master of this time period and is immersed in both the broad and detailed history of ancient Rome. This means that little interesting facts are constantly emerging. Who knew that candidates were so called by the wearing of tunics whitened with 'chalk-candida', this being the Latin for white?

Add to that the fascinating characters. Flavia Alba is a delight who carries on the tradition of humorous one liners favoured by her father, Falco. The relationship with Manlius Faustus is highly entertaining. Even the animals are funny. This is another masterpiece from the Davis Roman stable.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Luke Delaney - The Jackdaw

"I could use just one word to describe this book – WOW!"

Synopsis:
A man who calls himself 'The Jackdaw' has been abducting financial sector workers from the City of London. Within hours of disappearing, the victims appear alongside a masked man on the Internet, bound to a chair in a barren room. He believes they must be punished for crimes of greed and incompetence that led to the banking crisis and the suffering of millions of ordinary working people.

The victims' crimes are broadcast to the watching thousands who must decide the verdict - a click on the like icon for a vote of guilty; a click on the dislike icon for a vote of not guilty.

Once the jury had decided, The Jackdaw will be the judge and executioner. DI Sean Corrigan and his Special Investigations Unit immediately inherit the case, and come under political pressure to solve it quickly. But as The Jackdaw's popularity grows, Sean realises he's hunting a clever and elusive adversary - one who won't stop until his mission is complete.

Review:
I could use just one word to describe this book – WOW! However, that would mean I was failing in my duties as a reviewer. Although, by the time you reach the final page and close the book, your first word will indeed be WOW, and you can add as many exclamation marks as you wish. This book is as close to a perfect thriller as you can get.

'The Jackdaw' is the fourth in the Detective Inspector Sean Corrigan series and the best yet. Corrigan is a detective with a gift - he can get inside the mind of whoever he is pursuing; digging deep into their darkest thoughts almost to the point of self-destruction. Corrigan is a man living on a knife edge. He's hard working, tense, complex, and brilliant.

Written by a former detective, Luke Delaney has created a classic protagonist and an interesting cast of characters. With his expert inside knowledge of the running of a murder investigation you actually feel a part of the team; as if the reader is working alongside the detectives to catch the killer. It's this unique style that makes 'The Jackdaw' a gripping page turner from beginning to end.

The antagonist is frighteningly original. His deeds are dark and violent and the way his actions are viewed through the eyes of different types of people around the country is a startlingly fresh approach, rather than just from the victim's POV.

The supporting characters are all equally rounded and complex as Sean Corrigan; Dave and Sally are particular favourites and the close relationship they have with their boss is, again, an original take. There is nothing at all cliché about this series of intensely thrilling novels.

A book of this length and magnitude deserved a good twist and a denouement crackling with excitement. Delaney delivers and has even set up a possible sequel with a potential killer in the wings. I hope this is the direction he's heading in.

Luke Delaney is a breath of fresh air to the crime fiction genre. He is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Alex Gray - Keep the Midnight Out

"...another enthralling and stunning read. "

Synopsis:
Detective Superintendent William Lorimer and his beloved wife, Maggie, are on holiday on the island of Mull. It is a peaceful retreat for them both and they love the rest and the wildlife they experience whilst there. Unfortunately this time the peace is ruined when Lorimer discovers the body of a young red haired man washed up on the shore near their cottage. Foul play is indicated by the strange way the body has been tied up.

Not only has their holiday been disrupted, but the way the body was bound has caused Lorimer to remember an old unsolved case, but relations with the local detective in charge could prove tricky. Lorimer plays everything by the book but nonetheless ends up being very much involved.

Review:
Here Alex Gray shifts the major focus of events from the grittiness of Glasgow to the idyllic surrounds of Mull. The nature of people and the horror of the crimes remain the same, however. In some ways the contrast between the beauty of the island and the ugliness of the deeds make things worse. The Lorimers are disturbed by the violation of their much loved retreat.

The connection to an earlier unsolved case of Lorimer's gives us an insight to the young man and to the sadness of the couple when the tragedy strikes them. Alex Gray seamlessly transfers her vivid descriptions of Glasgow to the lovely island of Mull. It is obviously another much loved place for her. The action is compelling and the plot carefully worked out. Many suspects are considered before the truth comes out. As always from this brilliant and very readable author, 'Keep the Midnight Out' is another enthralling and stunning read.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Lisa Gardner - Crash and Burn

"...a great read that will have you more determined than Nicky to get to the truth of what has happened to her..."

Synopsis:
I'm in hospital after crashing my car. I am afraid. The only thing that I can think about is Vero. I know I have to save her but why couldn't I find her? She's just a little girl.

The man standing in my hospital room tells me we are married but there is no Vero, that six months ago I suffered a traumatic brain injury which causes changes to my personality. I have dramatic mood swings, an inability to concentrate and large gaps in my memory. I'm much easier to anger these days. And I drink. Which, he says, explains the car accident and my confusion.

Now Sergeant Wyatt Foster is investigating. He has questions about the car accident. He has concerns about my husband. And he's worried about a missing girl.

He would like to know what happened to me. So would I.

My name is Nicky Frank. This is my life.

Watch me Crash and Burn.

Review:
The last Lisa Gardner book I read was 'Gone', a handful of years ago, so I was keen to read this new standalone novel, and 'Crash and Burn' IS a standalone novel. Whilst it does feature one of Gardner's serial protagonists Tessa Leoni, 'Crash & Burn' is very clearly Nicky's story. Any of Gardner's fans looking for the next in the series may be disappointed with this book, although there are a few little hints on where the next Leoni book is going. For anyone who hasn't read her books before, this is a good place to start, as it does introduce popular characters and showcase her writing well.

We first meet Nicky, lost, disorientated, escaping from the car she has just crashed, and desperately searching for Vero, the young girl she knows she has to find. After a fruitless police search for the girl we discover that Nicky has suffered several head traumas, and that Vero doesn't exist. So why does Nicky believe so vehemently that she does? And why does she fear her husband?

In 'Crash and Burn' Gardner layers these mysteries, on top of mystery after mystery, mixing the truths, lies and half lies deeply in the cracks of Nicky's fractured mind. It's been so cleverly done that reading Nicky's unravelling feels like untangling a string of Christmas lights. Just when you think you've got them all straight, you discover another bundle of knots, and you live through Nicky's frustration every time this happens to her.

It's a great read that will have you more determined than Nicky to get to the truth of what has happened to her, ensuring that the pages fly by.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

John Connolly - A Song of Shadows

"As usual, I ripped through this Connolly novel in just a few sittings..."

Synopsis:
Grievously wounded private detective Charlie Parker investigates a case that has its origins in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

Recovering from a near-fatal shooting and tormented by memories of a world beyond this one, Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to recover. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. She is hiding from the past, and the forces that threaten her have their origins in the Second World War, in a town called Lubko and a concentration camp unlike any other. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.

His enemies believe him to be vulnerable, fearful and solitary. But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone. For something is emerging from the shadows.

Review:
John Connolly, or JC as he's known in my house is one of those authors. You know, the ones who go straight to the top of your reading pile. Indeed, I no longer ask myself, can he keep it going, cos he just always does.

On reading the synopsis and discovering that this time around, Charlie Parker is investigating Nazi war criminals, I was hit with the thought – of course! And wondered why he hadn't gone there before. (At least I can't recall him doing so.) 'Cos our Charlie is the main man when it comes to hunting down real evil and they don't come much nastier than the men and women involved in Hitler's Final Solution.

As usual, I ripped through this Connolly novel in just a few sittings, rapt in this wonderful writer's world. NO ONE does atmosphere like JC and I love the way he suggests darker forces at play around us without crossing that line that stops us from suspending our disbelief.

Of course, Parker is recovering from serious wounds inflicted on him at the end of 'The Wolf in Winter' and this creates a different kind of vulnerability to the character (and therefore tension for you, the reader) and as you read you wonder, how the hell is he going to face up and beat the bad guys? You'll just have to read the book to find out.

I did feel there was a little more exposition this time than one normally gets when reading his books, but that's fine. He's John Connolly.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Oscar de Muriel - The Strings Murders

"...all the senses are involved as the sounds and smells of Auld Reekie come to life via the author’s wonderful prose."

Synopsis:
It is Edinburgh 1888. Inspector Ian Frey has been sent to Scotland from the Met to assist in the investigation of the death of a violinist in mysterious circumstances. The nature of the death has some similarities to the work of Jack the Ripper currently terrorising London and Frey has been sent to Scotland to nip any panic in the bud. He is working with Detective "Nine Nails" McGray under cover of a fictitious department specialising in the occult. Frey is a sceptic but McGray really believes in the supernatural. At first the two detectives do not get on as they are as different as chalk and cheese. Frey is pilloried for his fancy southern ways and in turn he cannot abide McGray's rough manners and life style. However they both contribute to the investigation of a series of macabre deaths linked to a particular valuable and historic violin.

Review:
This is a very original and intriguing story. Never mind the logistics of whether the Met would be assisting the police in Scotland with its very different legal system. I derived the main enjoyment of the book via the relationship between the two policemen which is an intrinsic part of the investigation and thrust of de Muriel's story. The background knowledge of music and violins that de Muriel has adds authenticity to the plot. Old Edinburgh is described in detail and all the senses are involved as the sounds and smells of Auld Reekie come to life via the author's wonderful prose.

The plot is intriguing and provides a puzzle that Frey and McGray between them manage to unravel. By the end, Frey and McGray are developing a grudging respect for each other. 'The String Murders' was a highly entertaining and amusing first novel and I look forward to hearing more from this budding author.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Elly Griffiths - The Ghost Fields

"Whenever I finish a Ruth Galloway novel I want to go back to the beginning and start it again. Roll on book eight."

Synopsis:
Norfolk is experiencing a July heatwave when a construction crew unearths a macabre discovery - a buried WWII plane with a corpse in the cockpit. Evidence suggests to forensic archaeologist, Ruth Galloway that the skeleton did not come down with the plane. DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news.

Events are further complicated by an American TV company that wants to make a film about Norfolk's deserted Air Force bases, the so-called Ghost Fields, which have been partially converted into a pig farm run by one of the younger Blackstocks. As production begins, Ruth notices a mysterious man lurking close to the Blackstocks' family home.

Then human bones are found on the family's pig farm. Can the team outrace a looming flood to find a killer?

Review:
I love Ruth Galloway - intelligent, independent, strong yet vulnerable and socially awkward.

'The Ghost Fields' opens with a memorable and very original chapter that will linger long in the memory. It triggers a chain of events that tests Ruth's professional skills to their limits. However, she knows her stuff and that's why I love her - she's never complacent.

Elly Griffiths has created a very human and real protagonist. Ruth Galloway genuinely is my favourite non-detective solver of mysteries in the whole of crime fiction. Together with DCI Harry Nelson, they are a terrific double act; Galloway and Nelson deserve to be up there with Cagney and Lacey, Dalziel and Pascoe.

Griffiths is a natural thriller writer. She's created a wonderful set up and has a wealth of knowledge in archaeology. I feel like I'm learning something as well as being entertained. This seventh novel in the series is a fitting addition and it's great to see the supporting characters given more to do too; Judy, Dave, Michelle, and Cathbad who is a particular favourite of mine.

As the plot gathers pace, so does the tension, and when the flood waters rise we're given a thrilling race against time which Griffiths handles perfectly without descending into melodrama.

Whenever I finish a Ruth Galloway novel I want to go back to the beginning and start it again. Roll on book eight.

Reviewed by: M.W.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Darren E. Laws - Dark Country

"The plotting is sublime throughout..."

Synopsis:
Three related famous country and western singers are kidnapped over a period of 50 years. Only one body has ever been found.

Battling a debilitating illness, FBI agent Georgina O'Neil joins forces with newly licensed private investigator, Leroy La Portiere to find Susan Dark, the latest in the Dark family to go missing as she is on the verge of national stardom. But Georgina's search for the truth is hampered by an illness which is affecting her judgement. Is there one perpetrator or is this a series of elaborate copycat crimes?

The hunt to find Susan leads them deep into a densely forested area as they follow a bloody trail and a deadly cat and mouse pursuit that will have fatal consequences for all.

Review:
'Dark Country' is a twisted tale of loss and kidnapping. That the crimes span half a century and target a specific family made it one of the more intriguing titles on Mount To-Be-Read. Not once was I disappointed with the promise made by the blurb on the back. From first page until last, I was hooked as I followed Georgina & Leroy's struggles to get to the truth.

The plotting is sublime throughout and I freely admit to not being able to guess who was behind the kidnappings, such is Laws' talent for misdirection and trickery. The prose in Dark Country is beautifully formed to the point of almost being lyrical at times. This quality coupled with a unique author's voice makes 'Dark Country' an engaging read which will by turn challenge and entertain.

The lead characters carry the story well between them which is no easy task and I found myself drawn to peripheral characters more than is usual for me. All in all, 'Dark Country' is a wonderfully memorable read which will stay with me for many nights to come.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Paul E. Hardisty - The Abrupt Physics of Dying

"Wow. Just wow. Don’t need to say anything else really, but I will. This is a stunner."

Synopsis:
Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company's oil-processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die.

As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country's oil wealth, Yemen's shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is as it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA's most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead.

Review:
Wow. Just wow. Don't need to say anything else really, but I will. This is a stunner.

Claymore Straker is a young man damaged by war and losing all sense of himself in his employer's rush to make billions. He has a Damascene moment when he sees the results of his company's wilful greed and turns tables. And it's this moral charge of Clay's that grabs you and doesn't let up for the entire 442 pages. So, yes, it's a meaty read but one that pays you back in dividends for the time devoted.

The author knows his subject incredibly well but he doesn't hit you over the head with his knowledge. Instead he leads you through the tale, at a breakneck pace, littering the narrative with painful and thought-provoking truths. The sense of place is conjured beautifully and the author's fondness and respect for the people and the region comes across in spades. If you need a point of reference think, John Le Carre's 'A Constant Gardener'.

'The Abrupt Physics of Dying' is a thriller with heart and a conscience. Absolutely recommended.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Clare Donoghue - No Place To Die

"...Donoghue is a great and exciting writer... "

Synopsis:
Jane Bennett, senior Detective Sergeant for the murder squad at her London police precinct, is having a terrible day. Her boss, Detective Inspector Mike Lockyer has just returned to work after two weeks leave, though Jane knows it was really more like a suspension. He's still shaken by the loss of a victim in their last murder case, and Jane is still stung that Lockyer didn't trust her enough to confide in her about the case before it was too late.

But neither of them has the luxury of time to dwell on past grievances. Jane has just received a phone call from a good friend saying that her husband Mark Leech, a retired policeman, has disappeared. When Jane finds dramatic blood splatters in the laundry room, she knows Mark is seriously injured at best, and they don't have any time to waste. And then the body of a young girl is discovered in a tomb under a London greenway, and police resources are stretched even thinner - until it starts to look like the two cases might be related.

Review:
Whilst the plot and writing were on par with Donoghue's previous novel, I felt that the toning down of the characters took away some of the enjoyment from this book. In 'No Place to Die', Lockyer began to lose some of his hard edge, which made him Lockyer. I think I preferred the old and unimproved version: the person who was rude, and made statements that made me cringe, the person who didn't worry who he offended. Sadly, Donoghue has tempered Lockyer and I felt he had lost his edge. Although I am hopeful it will return in time for the next book.

'No Place to Die' sees Bennett and Lockyer looking for a killer of a young girl. Excerpts written from her perspective are included in the book, together with those of another victim. However, despite finishing the book, I am still unsure as to who the other victim was.

This review does feel more negative than positive, but that is not my intention. I may be harsh but only because Donoghue is a great and exciting writer and I feel she didn't quite push herself this time after the brilliant, 'Never Look Back'. I felt Lockyer had been 'tampered with' too much and that is purely why I downgraded this novel from a five. But a four rating is still very respectable. I did enjoy 'No Place to Die' and had I not had the comparison of Donoghue's brilliant debut to compare it to, then I would have most probably enjoyed it more. In future, I hope to see Lockyer return to his usual obnoxious self and less time spent around Bennett's family life as it seems to have little relevance to the story.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Donna Leon - Falling in Love

"Leon never disappoints."

Synopsis:
In a return to the first Inspector Brunetti novel, the world of opera and La Fenice is the centre of this mystery. The diva, Flavia Petrelli returns to sing the role of Tosca in the famous opera house. She is haunted by the appearance of masses of yellow roses everywhere, on stage, in the dressing room and even at her flat that is supposedly secure. She is so concerned that she calls on Brunetti as an old friend to help her. A pattern slowly emerges as various people close to Flavia suffer injury and Brunetti begins to track down the motivation and identity of the assailant. Even he is not safe. Meanwhile the wonderful Signorina Elettra is on strike as she is upset with the bosses for badly treating her friend Alvise. Luckily Brunetti is not included and she continues to use her very dubious methods to aid the investigation.

Review:
Brunetti is his usual self but I think probably even more disillusioned with the bureaucracy and corruption in the Italian state. The scary thing is that he takes it all for granted. He continues as a decent hard working policeman with a talent for understanding the people he deals with. He is sustained as always by his delightful wife and children, and protected in some way from the harsh realities by his connection to his wife's old Venetian family.

Venice is a major player in these books and Donna Leon gives us an insider's view of the Venetian reactions to the changes tourism has wrought on their beloved city. This insight is part of the appeal of the books. The author provides us once again with an entertaining mystery and an opportunity to catch up with the estimable Guido Brunetti. Leon never disappoints.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Karin Fossum - The Murder of Harriet Krohn

"...a complete change from the normal whodunit mystery with the story being told from the perspective of the killer..."

Synopsis:
How far would you go to turn your life around, and could you live with yourself afterwards?

On a wet, grey night in early November, Charlo Torp, a former gambler who's only recently kicked the habit, makes his way through the slush to Harriet Krohn's apartment, flowers in hand. Certain that paying off his debt is the only path to starting a new life and winning his daughter's forgiveness, Charlo plans to rob the wealthy old woman's antique silver collection. What he doesn't expect is for her to put up a fight.

The following morning Harriet is found dead, her antique silver missing, and the only clue Inspector Sejer and his team find in the apartment is an abandoned bouquet, Charlo should feel relieved, but he's heard of Sejer's amazing record – the detective has solved every case he's ever been assigned to.

Review:
'The Murder of Harriet Krohn' is the tenth Inspector Sejer novel to be translated into English, but chronologically is the 'missing' seventh novel from Fossum's series. It's a complete change from the normal whodunit mystery with the story being told from the perspective of the killer rather than the detective.

For me this made a fabulous change. Discovering the motives and drivers of the killer to do what he did, and follow his decent, first of all into the desperation that fuelled his murderous act, and then his subsequent thoughts and actions as he tries to come to terms with what he has done, make for a fascinating read.

Aside from the main theme of the murder, the broken relationship between Charlo and his daughter Julie, both the reasons behind it and his efforts to repair it make 'The Murder of Harriet Krohn' an addictive yet melancholy read, and despite knowing what Charlo has done throughout, and even disliking him as a person, you cannot help but feel for him and his situation.

The alternative perspective of this book means you don't need to have read any of the previous Inspector Sejer novels in order to be able to enjoy this one, and while some more traditional fans may not like it's direction, I personally think that by highlighting Fossum's understanding of the depths that desperation can make a person sink to will win her a lot of new fans.

Reviewed by: J.P.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Celia Dale - A Helping Hand

"...this is one of the most chilling and sinister books I have read in a long time. "

Synopsis:
Josh and Maisie Evans meet old Mrs. Fingal and her niece (though not by blood as she is quick to point out) who don't have the warmest of relationships, whilst on holiday in Italy. Having just 'lost' Auntie Flo, the Evans' offer Mrs. Fingal a room in their home, but the couple's intentions aren't as honourable as they make out. After all, they are only too willing to offer a helping hand, especially to vulnerable ladies of a certain age with wealth.

Review:
Originally published in 1966, I have to say this is one of the most chilling and sinister books I have read in a long time. There is no serial killer and nobody is flayed in a repulsive fashion. What Dale delivers in a quiet and insidious manner, is a tale of a respectable couple to the outside world, who take the elderly and weak under their wing in their final years. What people would never imagine is that they slowly grind down the will to live of their elderly charges, with the goal of fleecing them for every penny.

The Evans' slowly demoralise their victim under the guise of constant bedrest, suppress all outside contact by advising them to stay in their room all hours of the day and night and the final indignation - the removal of all their worldly goods without the 'victim's' knowledge. In some ways it is like solitary confinement – but with net curtains. There is a glimmer of hope with the unexpected arrival of a third party, but Dale does not deliver a book where everyone is saved. What Dale does is tell a malevolent story that could be all too true, with a sting in the tail, delivering a message that what goes around comes around. Despite being nearly fifty years old, 'A Helping Hand' does not feel dated, but feels still pertinent to today's society. I am sure that like me, you will have plenty to reflect on when you turn that final page. Horrifying and yet, sublime.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: