Click a logo below for more information...
 
 

Reviews

December 2007

M. C. Beaton - Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye

"...this is a marvelous addition to a series that will surely be able to hold its own for many years to come."

Synopsis:
Agatha Raisin is dreaming about two things. Having a white Christmas is one of them - and it is only October! The other, of course, is James Lacey sharing that perfect white Christmas with her, his eyes looking into Agatha's, sparkling with love and admiration. Then Agatha wakes up and comes down to earth with a big bump! She has been sent a letter from Mrs. Tamsworthy who lives in a huge manor house and owns the rest of the local village, much to the chagrin of the local villagers. She thinks a member of her family wants her dead and she wants Agatha to investigate. Soon the old lady is dead and Agatha has the pick of a hateful family to choose from and find a murderer.

With her newest member of her detective agency, Toni Gilmour, in tow, Agatha starts to dig deep into the family history and finds that there are a few more skeletons to be discovered – and not all of them have been nicely put away in a wardrobe!

Review:
This is the eighteenth Agatha Raisin adventure and it appears that the redoubtable Agatha is showing no signs of running out of steam. Nor has she lost any of her pleasant manner when telling people where to poke it! Agatha has a lot on her plate in this latest offering. Not only does she have what seems to be a strange old woman in a manor house feeling she is certain to be knocked off her perch, but she has taken a seventeen year-old under her wing in the form of Toni Gilmour. It is very pleasing to see the maternal side of Agatha. Not only is she busy, but, despite it being October, she is already dreaming about the huge Christmas dinner she is going to lay on for most of the villagers whom she has grown to like and love in her strange way. And, of course, James Lacey features largely in the proceedings…or does he?

With the help of the wonderful Sir Charles Fraith, who I have to admit is my favourite because he is so incorrigible, self-centred and yet quite charming as well, despite his loathing to spend any of his own money, they set out to investigate. The characters of the book, especially the Tamsworthy family and the local villagers, are a real menagerie of monsters. The plot is even more convoluted than normal and is a real corker, but Agatha manages to bring everything to a conclusion with her usual bumbling ways. The book rounds off with the dinner and even Mrs. Bloxby, another of my favourites, stands up for herself and finally shows that there is more to the woman than simply supplying casseroles at the drop of a hat. She has always been a sort of a silent partner where Agatha is concerned, and I would love her to feature more heavily in a future novel. At the dinner Agatha gets her fondest wish by James being there with her. But what are her true feelings for the man she has always adored? Be prepared for yet another sharp turn of events in the relationship between Agatha and James. As always, Beaton supplies the laughs at Agatha's expense, but this is a marvelous addition to a series that will surely be able to hold its own for many years to come.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Susan Hill - The Man in the Picture

"… a short, sharp tale that delivers a perfect tingle to the spine."

Synopsis:
When Oliver visits his old tutor, Theo Parmitter, in Cambridge on a cold January night, little could the young man know that his old mentor would tell him a tale that would have far reaching consequences that he could never imagine. For Theo has owned a painting for many decades now, one he has been loathed to look at and, yet, has resisted all attempts from others to purchase it from him. The scene is of a carnival in a famous square in Venice. The painting has been known to draw the observer into its colourful scenery, in a very deadly way…

As Theo begins his tale, Oliver also hears of the Countess' tale and the strange life and loves that had dominated her life and the horrible revenge upon her. Soon, Oliver finds that the story affects him strongly - and that the painting is not finished with its evil deeds.

Review:
This is a short tale of only 145 pages but what is packed within those pages delivers more astonishment and punch than some 600 page novels I have read, if not more! Susan Hill is fast becoming respected as the M. R. James of the 21st Century. I just wish she would write this sort of tale with more regularity. With The Woman in Black under her belt and still resonating over the decades; and The Mist in the Mirror (which I absolutely loved and recommend to anyone who loves a chill sent down their spine), The Man in the Picture is another wonderful addition to this author's chilling work.

With Hill's latest offering, we have a short, sharp tale that delivers a perfect tingle to the spine. The author sets the scene perfectly. One can feel the heat from the log fire crackling away as the woeful tale begins to be spun on a cold winter's night. The writing is sublime and never superfluous, every word seems weighed and kept in only if it is deemed necessary to continue the plot. The reader feels that with every passing scene they are physically there. The words and sense of doom tick away like a metronome, no matter how hard you try the sense of inevitability can never be stopped.

As with any good James story, Hill does not wrap the ending of this tale up in pretty paper and a bow. There is a sense that the malevolence continues - is merely abated for now - and could rise again at any time. If you want to give your loved one a little extra for their Christmas stocking, then you can do no wrong with this little gem which will certainly thrill and chill in equal measure on a very dark, winter's night. Enjoy!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Thomas Perry - Silence

"… a real cat and mouse thriller…"

Synopsis:
Six years ago Jack Till helped Wendy Harper disappear. But now her ex boyfriend and former business partner, Eric Fuller, is being framed for her presumed murder in an effort to smoke her out, and Till must find her before tango-dancing assassins Paul and Sylvie Turner do.

The Turners are merely hired to do a job, though, and prefer to remain anonymous. When their identities are compromised, finishing the job is no longer enough. Their fee just went up.

Review:
This was my second book by Perry and as with the first book,
Nightlife, Silence lost none of the excitement.

It's a real cat and mouse thriller that will leave you waiting to get to the end as soon as possible to find out who, when and why. Also thrown into the mix are the slightly odd characters of the hit men. All very strange but… somehow it works! This book offered plenty of twists and was fast paced all the way through, although I was a little disappointed that one twist that was thrown in had been left slightly unanswered as to the person's motives or reasons.

I also enjoyed the ending. It was almost left open for the reader to decide what will happen. A welcome change from the usual ending of everything being placed 'neatly in a box.' Overall another great book from Perry that comes highly recommended.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Jane Huxley - Summer Night, Winter Moon

""

Synopsis:
Trevor Snow's wife, Antonia has not been seen for many days since walking her dog in Regents Park. Now the police have found the body of a woman dragged from the lake. It seems that they are now dealing with a murder of a young, beautiful woman who had the command and love of not one, but two men.

As the investigation begins afresh, the spotlight of suspicion falls on the two main men in her life: her husband, Trevor and his best friend, Dante. What were the circumstances that lead up to that fateful summer evening with its full moon and deadly intentions in someone's heart?

Review:
Summer Night, Winter Moon is a marvellous tale that begins with the present and rewinds back to the initial meeting between Antonia and the man who is to become her husband, Trevor. Huxley has tried a brave and different approach by starting the story when the crime has committed and works her way backwards, so that she builds the blocks of the three relationships in retrospect. This could have been a disaster, but thankfully, this writer is competent enough to bring it off with some panache.

Huxley's writing has some memorable metaphors within this neat, little tale and really builds up the emotion felt, especially by the main protagonist, Trevor. It really is his heart rending tale that we are reading, a tale of a man madly in love with a woman who has realised she has married the wrong man. There are no huge surprises here, no denouements or last second twists, although Huxley does have a final ace up her sleeve for the end of this novel, but the depth of the writing propels you along for what is going to be a sad but gripping tale from the outset. This is a story of a love for the wrong person, a raging jealousy and its deadly consequences.

Summer Night, Winter Moon is a short novel well told and with a feeling for the main characters that populate this novel. This is a writer who I am sure will get better as she gathers more novels under her belt. For anyone who loves to try something different, then I would certainly press this book in their hand and tell them to give it a go. I am sure they would not be disappointed.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Michael Pearce - A Dead Man in Tangier

"Nothing is quite as it appears on the surface."

Synopsis:
Set in Tangier in 1912, the murder of a well-known member of the foreign community is dealt with in an unusual way. The chairman of the International committee is the British Consul and he calls in an external investigator, Seymour of Scotland Yard, to look into the circumstances of the death. The Moroccans, the French, the Arabs and the British are all involved in Tangier and it proves quite difficult for Seymour to untangle the complicated interrelationships. By accident he picks up a couple of the local hard men as bodyguards - a lucky accident as it turns out.

Monsieur Bossu, the unlucky victim, had his finger in several financial and amorous affairs and there are those around who do not want any investigation of the circumstances surrounding his death. Seymour makes friends with many in the community, and a little more than friends with Chantale, the half French and half Moroccan receptionist at his hotel. Eventually all is satisfactorily concluded.

Review:
This is an eye-opening view of Tangier in the early twentieth century. As a player in the story, and a linguist who can communicate with the locals, Seymour is able to give us an atmospheric and detailed description of the tensions and relationships.

Nothing is quite as it appears on the surface. Part of the pleasure of reading crime novels set in a foreign country and in a different era, is the insight you get into a completely different world, and this novel provides that in abundance. The characters are well drawn, and I particularly liked the descriptions of Mustapha and Idris, his self appointed bodyguards.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Patricia Cornwell - Book of the Dead

"… one of her most entertaining in recent years."

Synopsis:
Someone is going around and putting sand in people's eye sockets after they have gouged them out. This character calls himself 'The Sandman' and the target that puts him squarely in the limelight is the murder of a new American Tennis champion, Drew Martin. Her death in Italy had created outrage and Scarpetta and Benton are brought in to help with the swift capture of this heinous maniac and stop his evil, insidious ways.

At the same time, Scarpetta has the corpse of a young boy in her morgue who was killed in the same way as Drew Martin. What connects a nameless unknown with a rising Tennis star? Then a woman who lives in a mansion is found murdered in exactly the same way. It is through her story that Scarpetta begins to get close to the killer, begins to uncover exactly what has been going on and discovers how it has swayed the high emotions that have been clearly evident in her office between herself and Marino. By the end of this case, there will be many casualties, some dead, some still alive…barely.

Review:
Cornwell has suffered a certain amount of criticism in the last few years for not being consistent with her plots. Although I wouldn't say Book of the Dead is her strongest, it is certainly one of her most entertaining in recent years. Let us start with the title. The actual Book of the Dead is the morgue log which is only referred to near the start of the novel and not actually essential to the plot. So why the title? I cannot say. I am not sure whether Cronwell is bored with her character, let us hope not, but it seems that she is certainly putting them through their paces. Lucy has her own health worries, as does Rose, Scarpetta's faithful receptionist/assistant. Scarpetta and Benton are finding it a strain on their relationship to maintain the status quo whilst working and living on either end of the States. The most surprising and most wounded of the tribe has to be Marino. Cornwell certainly puts this poor man through the wringer, making the man plummet to new depths of despair and making him seem genuinely unwelcome and unwanted.

The plot of this new novel is more cohesive than previous novels when tighter editing would perhaps have been advisable. The only worry is that, despite Cornwell keeping up a high degree of suspense, she blows it by having the apprehension of the killer over and done with in a few sentences. It did make me feel slightly cheated. However, this book is a marked return to form and even though Cornwell seems to have shaken the box and scattered the cast to the far corners of the earth, I will be very interested as to where she takes her readers next and what she does with her characters. Let us hope she won't be too vicious with them – she has to remember that we have got very attached to some of them over the years and, despite crime fans realising there has to be change, they will not be thrilled to have huge changes brought about on people they feel they have grown up with over the years. If you want to see a glimmer of the old Cornwell/Scarpetta duo, then Book of the Dead will certainly deliver.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating:

Francis Durbridge - Send for Paul Temple

"… a wonderful introduction into the almost forgotten world of Paul Temple."

Synopsis:
Over the past six months there has been a wave of jewel robberies involving diamonds worth thousands of pounds. When the last robbery is perpetrated, the night watchman is savagely attacked. His last words before dying are, 'The Green Finger'. What is the significance of these last words that propels Paul Temple into the case with the approval of Scotland Yard?

As Temple begins to get involved there is another savage murder and the mysterious goings-on at a local public house come under the spotlight of suspicion as Temple begins to investigate… Soon Temple is forced to decide who is friend and who is foe before he can finally unveil who is the mastermind behind one of the biggest jewel gangs of the decade.

Review:
This 2 disc CD is a wonderful introduction into the almost forgotten world of Paul Temple. This was a time when the criminals were not quite so vicious or brutal as today's villains, fictional or real and one might even think about liking them as people - despite their dirty deeds.

The plot for Send for Paul Temple is a simple one to follow and the dialogue can appear a bit clunky and dated for 2007. However, with the marvellous vocal talents of Anthony Head at the helm, the actor transforms what could be a very low-brow affair in to a marvellous piece of theatre. This is certainly one for the fans.

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating: