22nd Apr 2022
You know when you pick up a Sarah Bailey, you’re not only in the hands of a master storyteller, but going to be drawn into a twisty, twiney dark tale with flashes of humour, well-drawn characters and spine-tingling moments. In other words, buckle up and hang on- or, as I did, donned the pyjamas, settled into a cosy chair and read… and read… and read…
Years earlier, journalist Olive Groves covered a story where a young woman was murdered and one of her housemates was convicted and served time for the crime while the other one simply vanished. It’s a gruesome mystery that fascinated folk at the time and still does. The case obsessed Olive. So, when the missing housemate is found dead on a remote property nine years after she originally disappeared, Olive once again becomes involved, determined to unearth the truth. Only, this time, she’s given a side-kick – the precocious yet competent Cooper Ng, who produces a successful podcast and wants to add this case to his repertoire.
As Olive and Cooper work the story, and try and iron out the wrinkles in their professional relationship, new facts and secrets are uncovered, ones that both throw doubt upon original findings and shed new but very, very dangerous light on their current investigation. As more questions than answers arise, a dark threat grows, one that hovers not just over the case, but Olive and Cooper’s lives…
This is a fabulous fast-paced and unputdownable read that I devoured in no time at all. I loved that not only is it a great crime read, but the book also explores the changing nature of journalism – how it’s moved from what we might term the street-beat or “gum-shoe” style of covering stories by moving into the landscape and meeting and talking to people face to face, “feeling the story”, to not only relying on screens, media releases, Google and phone calls, but the growing dominance of podcasts and the older generation of workers’ resistance to this new form. It was so well done. Utterly plausible, thrilling and with a great and flawed heroine in Olive, this is thriller/mystery writing at its best.
Tags: Australian fiction, crime, journalism, murder, mystery, podcasts, The Housemate by Sarah Bailey
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22nd Apr 2022
From the moment LJ Ross’s marvellous series about aristocratic copper DCI Ryan and his close-knit team appeared, I’ve been a huge fan. The plots are solid, the countryside and other settings beautifully drawn and the characters – well, they’re what really make this series sing. Bamburgh, no. 19 in what’s now a hugely successful series for Ross, is yet another good addition to the ongoing story of Ryan, his wife, Anna, his investigative team: Frank and his wife, Denise, Melanie and Jack… or, it would be, except I have one small gripe.
Don’t get me wrong – the writing is still good; the characters interact with each other in familiar and heart-warming ways, making the bonds they’ve developed over the years and many cases rock solid… or are they? When the book opens we already know from the last one that the killer of Melanie’s sister, Gemma, years ago, has left his DNA on a victim from the previous book – a Thai woman who survived brutal injuries and captivity. Melanie is driven to identify this killer and bring him to justice and while the professional in her demands this occur, it’s far more personal reasons that provide her motivation and give her cause to be deceptive. Nothing wrong with all that – it’s in keeping with her character and the way in which her sister’s murder has not only torn her family apart, and haunted her for years, but also set her on her current career path.
Concomitant with the hunt for Gemma’s killer (who is suspected to have left behind a string of victims over the years), is the investigation into the suspicious death of a wealthy and popular old woman who owns a great deal of property and has left it to one of her loyal workers. Again, all good.
What bothered me about this book (and I really loathe being critical because it’s so readable) is the fact it’s the third book in this fine series to use almost identical plot and character development to drive the story. Seriously. The ideas – the structure, the character, the psychopathy of the villain, the ability to fool peers and family for decades, everything, have been used not once, but twice before. In fact, when a new character was introduced, I had the fleeting thought, ‘oh, please don’t make this person behave like…’ Well, Ross did. I even eye-rolled when it became evident the storyline was the same. I mean, how many times can a small police station tolerate this kind of thing? Even one of the characters makes a joke about it towards the end. Not sure that lets Ross off the hook. It’s just as well the characters are so damn loveable and, after 18 books, we’re invested in them, and the overall story so gripping you keep reading. But I confess to feeling disappointed that, yet again, this particular plot device and type of character was deployed.
I think it’s well and truly time to retire it – but not, please, Ryan and co. They still have work to do and cases to solve! And I’ll look forward to reading their next adventure.
Tags: Bamburgh by L.J. Ross, crime, DCI Ryan, DNA, history, murder, psychopath, serial killer
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21st Apr 2022
When I first started reading The Maid, by Nita Prose (is that a real name? If so, it’s perfect for a writer or the editor she used to be!), I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. It was a wee bit hard to get into to start with, but once it hit its rhythm and I understood the idiosyncrasies and marvellous differences of the lead character, Molly Gray, the maid of the title, it came together perfectly. I also realised how clever Prose was being by almost denying the reader easy access to the story. It’s as if we’re forced to walk in Molly’s shoes and see the world through her eyes. Molly, someone who perceives things differently, confusing signals and taking people quite literally, has always relied on her grandmother to function as a kind of mediator. Only, when the book opens, her grandmother and tether to the world, has died, and all alone, Molly must forge on, sometimes being artless and other times being incredibly insightful, but often without realising either.
Grief-stricken and missing her beloved gran terribly, Molly nevertheless takes great pride and pleasure in her work as a hotel cleaner, working hard and flawlessly to provide great service for guests and her boss. But when she finds a wealthy guest dead in his suite one day, her orderly world is thrown into disarray, especially when she is viewed as a suspect.
As Molly becomes entangled with those who don’t have her best interests at heart, seeking to protect those she believes her friends, she finds herself in real trouble. But what Molly, sweet, kind and honest, hadn’t counted on are the real friends she’s made along the way – and not just at the Regency Grand where she works. Perhaps together those who care about her can clear Molly’s name and find the real killer.
This is a heart-warming story of difference, perseverance, and kindness and how easy it is for those who don’t fit within society’s definition of “normal” to be exploited, but also rise above the machinations and deceits of others. You find yourself rooting for Molly, fighting in her corner and, like her other true friends, demanding justice.
An easy, charming read that also serves as a “locked room” mystery as Molly, her friends, the police, and the reader work to uncover the murderer.
Tags: difference, exploitation, kindness, murder, Otherness, outsider, The Maid by Nita Prose
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20th Apr 2022
Whenever I learn there’s a new Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway book, I become all tingly with excitement. These are my lexical comfort food, my not-guilty pleasure, into which I escape the moment the book is in my hot little hands. With this latest one, however, I deliberately kept it at arm’s length – knowing it would be a terrible distraction – until I’d met a very important deadline. It was to be my reward. Well, meet it I sort of did and now the book is devoured and I’m left hungry for more. Again.
The latest in this wonderful series – The Locked Room – which just gets (if it’s possible) better and better, sees Ruth, Nelson, Judy, Cathbad and the entire crew in the throes of Covid and lockdown. As you can imagine, this makes doing their respective jobs nigh on impossible and, when a dead body is found and someone has Ruth in their sights, an already difficult job becomes even harder. But, when a dearly beloved character falls deathly ill with Covid, everything else becomes insignificant, that is until someone else goes missing and finding them before the killer strikes again forces Nelson and co to act.
While I found the criminal/mystery plotline in this book a little weaker than in others, it’s the interpersonal relationships – their growth, the changes in certain characters and how they relate to each other and the choices they make that I just adore. This book is no exception and certainly, with Covid, Griffiths has used the pandemic and the enforced lockdowns and isolation, and the social and personal changes they enforced, as not only something every reader can relate to (missing family and friends, longing for open air, a face-to-face conversation, the trials of home-schooling, working from home, venturing to shops, uncertainty about rules) , but as an opportunity for many of her characters to do some long overdue self-reflection – and it works a treat.
Overall, another fantastic addition to a completely addictive series. Now to wait impatiently for the next one!
Tags: Covid, crime, England, isolation, murder, mystery, Ruth Galloway, THE LOCKED ROOM BY ELLY GRIFFITHS
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13th Apr 2022
The latest instalment in Michael Connelly’s series featuring Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch, The Dark Hours, sees the retired detective, Bosch, take a back seat as Ballard, still doing the night shift or dark hours, attempts to solve two crimes: the murder of a former gang member at a benign New Year’s Eve celebration, and the brutal rapes of three women.
With a lazy partner in sexual crimes keen to hand the workload to Ballard, and homicide breathing down her neck and about to take the gang murder from her, Renee turns to someone she can trust to have her back. When it looks as if the murderer may have friends in high places, never before has a friend been something Ballard needs so much…
Yet again, a fantastic, wonderfully plotted novel that not only reveals the inner workings of the police in two different specialities, but also incorporates contemporary issues like Covid and the insurrection around Trump’s defeat. These give the novel an immediacy and frisson that succeed in ratcheting up the tension and sense of reality.
Connelly never disappoints. Already looking forward to the next in the series.
Tags: crime, Harry Bosch, Los Angeles, murder, night shift, Renee Ballard, THE DARK HOURS by MICHAEL CONNELLY
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