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Reviews

Nov 2005

Judith Cutler - Life Sentence

‘…the different themes relate together in a very satisfying way..’

Synopsis:
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 of money.

Review:
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.

CrimeSquad Rating


Catherine Sampson – Out of Mind

“Definitely a writer to watch out for.”

Synopsis:
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 her attention.

Review:
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.

CrimeSquad Rating

P. D. James – The Lighthouse

‘…you have here a well-rounded novel, the whole package.’

Synopsis:
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 unpopular.

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.

Review:
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.

CrimeSquad Rating


Peter Tremayne - Master of Souls

“The old legal systems seem amazingly modern and remarkably fair.”

Synopsis:
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 fascinating.

Review:
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.

CrimeSquad Rating


Laura Lipman – The Power of Three

“…the real drama that was played out in the school is not revealed until the final chapters.”

Synopsis:
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.

Review:
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 entertaining read.

Reviewed by: S. W.

CrimeSquad Rating