Judith Cutler - Life Sentence
‘…the different themes relate together in
a very satisfying way..’
Chief Superintendent Frances Harman is faced with solving
the problem of who has raped and inflicted terrible injuries
on an unknown woman now lying in a coma in hospital. The victim
is visited regularly by the man who discovered her lying by
the side of the road and who is now racked with guilt for
not having done a better job in resuscitating her. At the
same time Fran has personal issues involving her increasingly
aged and difficult parents and her own approaching retirement.
On a more positive note her old friendship with a colleague
may be developing into something more.
The various strands of the investigation involve kidnapping,
disappearance and identity theft in the pursuit of large sums
This is a crime story where the different themes relate together
in a very satisfying way. The story moves along at a good
pace and keeps the reader’s attention completely. I
particularly liked the portrayal of Frances Harman. She is
a very sympathetic character facing the difficulties of her
position and age with great determination, whilst still being
affected by the attitudes of her parents.
Reviewed by S. D.
Catherine Sampson – Out of Mind
“Definitely a writer to watch out for.”
Robin Ballantyne is a journalist producing a programme on
people who go missing, but she becomes increasingly concerned
about a colleague who has recently disappeared. The media
corporation that she works for may be hiding something but
Robin is convinced that her work as a war reporter has some
bearing on her disappearance. Meanwhile, as a single mother
of young twins, Robin finds her blossoming romance difficult
to sustain as work while other family concerns compete for
This is the second novel by Catherine Sampson and I felt that
perhaps I really should have read the previous book first.
There were a number of references to the action in the first
novel and it would have been interesting to see how the relationship
between Robin and her lover Finney initially developed. However,
I immediately engaged with Robin’s character and her
situation. Her professional investigations take her as far
as Cambodia but it is when at home, in her domestic setting,
that the book is most interesting.
All of the characters are well drawn, even those who only
make a brief appearance, suggesting that Robin Ballantyne
and her family and friends will be around for future novels.
Definitely a writer to watch out for.
Reviewed by: S.W.
P. D. James – The Lighthouse
‘…you have here a well-rounded novel, the
Dalgliesh and his small team of Kate Miskin and Benton-Smith
are sent to Combe Island off the coast of Cornwall. The island
is used for people who have stressful careers and need to
retreat from life, as we know it. However, the tranquillity
of the island has been shattered by the suspicious death of
one of its visitors. One who has made themselves extremely
Commander Dalgliesh has to tread a very fine line as noted
dignitaries are booked to use the island in the near future
and do not wish any unnecessary publicity. The Commander not
only has to keep the matter quiet for as long as possible,
but needs to catch a killer. And quickly. Then something happens
that puts Dalgliesh in danger.
It appears that with age and experience, the amazing P. D.
James’ novels just seem to get better and better. With
nearly all her novels, James can take up to nearly 100 pages
to set the scene of one of her murders. With writing such
as James’, that is no bad thing. You sense that not
one word is superfluous and everything from the murder right
down to the merest detail has its necessary place in the novel.
From the start when we are introduced to the main players,
you can smell the acrid tang of salt from the crushing waves
of the sea. P. D. James has always said that her novels are
more about the places where the murders take place, rather
than the actual catching of the perpetrator. This is true.
Her novels have been set among others in a Murder museum,
a church, a hospital and now a remote island with a lighthouse.
Therefore, you have here a well-rounded novel, the whole package.
A sense of place with a cast of three-dimensional characters
and an extremely good plot that will satisfy even the sturdiest
of crime reader.
Reviewed by: C.S.
Peter Tremayne - Master of Souls
“The old legal systems seem amazingly modern and
This is the latest in a series of books set in seventh century
Ireland and featuring Sister Fidelma and Brother Eadulf. Sister
Fidelma holds a highly respected position in the Irish legal
system as an investigator par excellence who has the powers
to question and search for the truth in various situations.
In this story, two apparently separate murders – of
Abbess Faife, leading a band of her sisters on a pilgrimage,
and of the Venerable Cinaed, in his abbey - are found linked
with a longstanding feud between two families. Fidelma has
a keen intellect and a comprehensive knowledge of law and
history, which lead her to the discovery of the killer. This
is all set against a background of Irish church history and
social conditions at the time, which is both detailed and
I loved this book. As always I particularly like historical
mysteries, which also inform about the conditions of the time.
Fidelma is a feisty character who has no truck with some of
the changes coming as the Roman church vies with the old Celtic
tradition. The old legal systems seem amazingly modern and
remarkably fair. A really enjoyable read.
Reviewed by: S. D.
Laura Lipman – The Power of Three
“…the real drama that was played out in the
school is not revealed until the final chapters.”
Three schoolgirls are found in a locked toilet at Glendale
High in Baltimore. One is dead, one seriously injured and
the third has relatively minor injuries to her foot. She assures
the police that she in not responsible for the shooting, but
the unconscious girl she identifies as the killer cannot necessarily
be proved to be responsible. The police work to unravel this
complex case and the events, which led up to the killing.
I enjoyed this novel very much! At over 400 pages the book
is quite long and I wondered how the suspense could be maintained
through to the end as it is apparently clear who the victims
and the murderer are. However, the plot is intricate and the
lives of the girls, their parents and their peers are retold
in detail and the real drama that was played out in the school
is not revealed until the final chapters. A number of thrillers
have now been set in the context of high schools shootings,
but the plot was neither gratuitous nor superficial. A highly
Reviewed by: S. W.