Tag Archives: mystery

How to Forget by Marius Brill

DATE FINISHED: August 6th, 2012 

RATED: *** (3.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Mr Magicov makes a living by entertaining the old folks of Christchurch after a children’s party once went drastically awry and irrevocably altered his career path. Kate Minola, a magician’s daughter, is a career confidence trickster on the run from the FBI. When their paths unexpectedly cross, Kate promises Peter (Magicov) revenge on his own nemesis, and a share of a million pounds – but can he really trust a woman who has spent her life specialising in the long con?

THOUGHTS:  This book would make a great movie, Read more of this post

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The Little Hammer by John Kelly

DATE FINISHED: July 29th, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  When he is 9 years old, the artist despatches a paleontologist he meets on the beach by means of his hammer.  When he returns home, his saint-worshipping Grandmother colludes in covering up the crime, which has remained undiscovered as the artist enters his thirties – but it keeps re-surfacing, with the compulsion to confess jarring against the fact of getting away with murder.  Following a trip with the mysterious Billie Maguire during which the artist is filmed telling a farcical and falsified version of his life story, the statue of the Holy Infant of Prague finds its way to the Grandmother’s home in Ireland.  In her little village, miracles occur just as the artist’s life and mind begin to unravel.

THOUGHTS:  Told in the swirling Irish vernacular of the archetypal storyteller at the bar – “Would you believe me if I told you…?” – one would be forgiven for mistrusting the narrator from the beginning.   Read more of this post

Dreamland by Tom Gilling

DATE FINISHED: July 28th, 2012 

RATED: ***

SYNOPSIS:  A seven year relationship has washed up to nothing, a career in journalism has been equally lacking in impetus. When Nick, against his better judgment, agrees to lie about a speeding ticket to get an old friend off the hook, he has no idea just how much the incident will change his so-so life. The speeding ticket turns into a fatal hit and run, and with no evidence of his innocence, Nick takes to the road and picks up a stranger’s identity en route.

THOUGHTS:  My main reason for picking up this book was the author – he wrote the wonderfully light historical novel Miles McGinty, and I hoped he might bring a similarly light touch to this mystery thriller, Read more of this post

In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig

DATE FINISHED: July 18th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  Benedick is miserable: recently divorced, acting career in the doldrums, at war with his father, and barely able to look after himself, let alone his two young children (who ex-wife Georgie keeps insisting spend time with him). Taking refuge in the home of Ruth, the woman who raised him as one of her own, Benedick suddenly realises he can remember almost nothing about his real mother, who committed suicide when he was six years old. Inspired by a book of fairy tales written and illustrated by Laura, he embarks upon a quest to discover more about her, whether she was mad as many of her ‘friends’ seem to claim, and what drove her beyond the brink.

THOUGHTS:  In the sheer unlikeability of lead character Benedick, Craig sets herself for a potentially huge downfall – he is irritating, whiny, hypocritical, rude, quite simply unpleasant. Those readers who force themselves beyond this, however, will be rewarded Read more of this post

Bereft by Chris Womersley

DATE FINISHED: July 11th, 2012 

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  Quinn is a haunted man: once by his sister’s blood on his hands (and his knowledge of what happened to her before her death) and again by his experiences in the Great War. Returning home 10 years after running away from Sarah’s murder and the accompanying accusations, Quinn seeks redemption, but also fears for his own life at the hands of those who once knew him. Hiding in the hills, he is befriended by an edgy and curious young girl, Sadie, who convinces him that he needs to avenge his sister’s killer in order to move on with his life. But can he first tell his ailing mother the truth, and is he really capable of murder?

THOUGHTS:  There are many ghosts in this short novel, most of them still living. Read more of this post

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

DATE FINISHED: July 6th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  On Christmas Day, a young woman returns home after being missing without a trace for 20 years, but barely seems to have aged. Her only explanation is that she was taken by a stranger to a world just beyond ours, and 20 years passed in the real world while she spent only 6 months there. Her family cannot believe she has finally returned, but send her to a psychiatrist in an attempt to find out what really happened in the missing years. Is there a trauma her mind has blocked out, and constructed a fantasy so that she can deal with it – or has she really been ‘away with the fairies’?

THOUGHTS:  As ever, Joyce creates a faultlessly recognisable, comfortable middle class suburbia then overpaints the corners with shades of unreality. Read more of this post

A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside

DATE FINISHED: July 2nd, 2012 

RATED: **** (4.5)

SYNOPSIS:  Liv is raised by her extraordinarily self-contained artist mother on a tiny Norwegian island, where the summer nights are white and haunting, and her neighbour’s folk tales of trolls and huldra do not seem out of place. When two boys Liv has known from school drown within weeks of each other, the landscape of her eighteenth summer becomes laced with a heightened intensity, compounded by the appearance of an English man with secrets who is staying nearby, and the wild girl Maia who Liv knows spent time with the drowned boys before their death and seems to have a malevolent influence on those around her. Can she really be the huldra?

THOUGHTS:  This is an intensely dark and brooding story, simmering with suspense and seeped in rich imagery of the Norwegian landscape. Read more of this post

The Taint of Midas by Anne Zouroudi

DATE FINISHED: June 1st, 2012

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  Mysterious investigator Hermes Diaktoros travels to visit an old friend in his old village in Arcadia – a village now almost unrecognisable under the pressures of tourism and ‘progress’.  Unfortunately, he arrives just in time to discover his friend has been the victim of a fatal hit and run accident.  Initially, Hermes himself is prime suspect, but the local police soon come to realise that he will be an invaluable ally in solving the crime.

THOUGHTS:  My biggest concern with the first in this series of mysteries (The Messenger of Athens) was simply that it was lacking in actual mystery.  This second book promised to address that concern Read more of this post

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

DATE FINISHED: May 31st, 2012

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  On a small Greek island steeped in tradition and social ritual, a woman is found dead. The local police are happy to brush the incident aside as suicide or accident, but the sudden appearance of the mysterious Hermes Diaktoros forces the close-knit community to face what has happened in its midst. And although Hermes is not an agent of the law, he is nonetheless determined that the guilty will be brought to justice of one kind or another…

THOUGHTS:  I don’t often read crime fiction, but I don’t think this is the kind of book that would appeal to the average crime reader, anyway. Read more of this post

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

DATE FINISHED: May 2nd, 2012

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  In the 1930s, Harriet Baxter is an ‘old maid’ looking back on her acquaintance with the Gillespie family, back in the 1890s.  Following a chance encounter on a Glasgow street, Harriet’s friendship with the family grows over the following months, and she becomes an ardent fan of up-and-coming artist Ned Gillespie’s work.   When the Gillespies’ younger daughter disappears, however, relations become strained…

THOUGHTS:   If you have read any reviews of this book, it is impossible to approach it without the knowledge that Harriet is an ‘unreliable narrator’.   Read more of this post