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BOOK REVIEW: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Wednesday, September 06, 2017



The Blurb (From Goodreads):

In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

My Thoughts:


"Lizzie Borden took an axe,
and gave her mother forty whacks;
when she saw what she had done,
she gave her father forty-one."


This chilling children’s playground rhyme was inspired by the true-life story of Lizzie Borden, who was – in 1892 - tried but then acquitted for murdering her father and stepmother with an axe. The case was never solved, and still continues to interest more than a hundred years after the event.

Sarah Schmidt says that she was inspired to write Look What I Have Done after Lizzie Borden came to her in a dream. I’m always fascinated by novels inspired by dreams, as so many of my own books begin in this way, and so I was eager to read her take on the well-known story.

The novel is told in alternating first-person accounts by Lizzie, her sister Emma, the Irish housemaid Bridget, and a loutish young man who seems to have been hired by the sisters’ maternal uncle to hurt or attack their father in some way. None of the voices seem particularly reliable, and so it is hard to ascertain the truth of what has happened. The atmosphere in the house is claustrophobic and cloying, with many descriptions of the stench of rotting meat and over-ripe pears. Lizzie’s voice is awkward and childish and gleeful in turns, and – although Sarah Schmidt does not attempt to answer the question of who was truly the murderer – by the end of the book, I felt sure that it was Lizzie and that her acquittal was a miscarriage of justice.

For another wonderfully eerie, historical mystery check out my review of Wolf Winter by Cecila Ekback.

Please leave a comment - I love to know your thoughts!


BOOK REVIEW: The Dying Season (The Patriarch) By Martin Walker

Monday, August 14, 2017



The Dying Season (Bruno, Chief of Police #8), AKA The Patriarch
by Martin Walker

The Blurb (from GoodReads):

When Bruno is invited to the lavish birthday celebration of World War II flying ace and national icon Marco “the Patriarch” Desaix, it’s the fulfillment of a boyhood dream. But when the party ends in the death of Gilbert, Marco’s longtime friend, it’s another day on the job for the chef de police. All signs point to a tragic accident, but Bruno isn’t so sure. There is more to the Desaix family’s lives and loyalties than meets the eye. There is Victor, the Patriarch’s son, Gilbert’s old comrade-in-arms and sometime rival; Victor’s seductive wife, Madeleine, whose roving eye intrigues Bruno even more than her fierce political ambitions; Yevgeny, another son, an artist whose paintings seem to hold keys to the past; and the Patriarch himself, whose postwar Soviet ties may have intersected all too closely with Gilbert’s career in Cold War intelligence.

Bruno is diverted by a dangerous conflict between a local animal rights activist and outraged hunters—as well as meals to cook, wine to share, and an ever more complicated romantic situation. But as his entanglement with the Desaix family grows and his suspicions heighten, Bruno’s inquiries into Gilbert’s life become a deadly threat to his own.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoy this series of contemporary crime novels by Martin Walker, partly because of its setting in the picturesque Dordogne and partly because of its hero, the gentle and good-natured police chief, Bruno. He is kind to dogs and children, cooks amazing French feasts, and falls into bed with various beautiful women, sometimes rather to his dismay.

Despite the emphasis on food and love, and the slow pace of the books, these mysteries cannot be described as ‘cosy’ as they always illuminate some dark aspect of French life. In this book – the eighth in the series – there are confrontations between environmentalists and hunters protecting their age-old traditions, and a powerful man with links to Russia and Israel. A great, light read.

You might be interested in my review of the previous book in this series, Children of War, you can read it here.

Please leave a comment - I love to know your thoughts!

BOOK REVIEW: Lost by Michael Robotham

Sunday, April 02, 2017

BLURB:

Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz doesn't know who wants him dead. He has no recollection of the firefight that landed him in the Thames, covered in his own blood and that of at least two other people. A photo of missing child Mickey Carlyle is found in his pocket--but Carlyle's killer is already in jail. And Ruiz is the detective who put him there.

Accused of faking amnesia, Ruiz reaches out to psychologist Joe O'Loughlin to help him unearth his memory and clear his name. Together they battle against an internal affairs investigator convinced Ruiz is hiding the truth, and a ruthless criminal who claims Ruiz has something of his that can't be replaced. As Ruiz's memories begin to resurface, they offer tantalizing glimpses at a shocking discovery.



MY THOUGHTS:


Lost is the second in a series of taut contemporary psychological thrillers written by Australian writer Michael Robotham and set in London. The first in the series, The Suspect, was told from the point of view of psychologist Joseph O’Loughlin. Lost picks up the viewpoint of Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz, who was a minor character in the first book, and tells his story as he battles amnesia to try and discover the truth behind a lost child. It’s a really intriguing premise and works brilliantly well, because Michael Robotham is as much interested in the psychology of the viewpoint character as he is in the mystery they are trying to solve. I’m planning to read my way through the whole series (though I may bite my nails down to the last knuckle – the books I’ve read so far are seriously creepy and utterly compelling.)

BOOK REVIEW: The Dry by Jane Harper

Saturday, March 11, 2017


BLURB:

Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well...

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret... A secret Falk thought long-buried... A secret which Luke's death starts to bring to the surface...


MY THOUGHTS:

Set in a small Australian country town, The Dry is a tense, compelling and atmospheric murder mystery, as well as an astonishingly assured debut from English-born novelist Jane Harper. It won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015, and has since been sold in more than 20 territories and – wait for it – has been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea's production company, Pacific Standard. It deserves all its acclaim. The story itself is brilliant: Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to his home town to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend. The town is in shock. Luke Hadler killed his wife and son, and then turned the gun on himself. Or so it is believed. Aaron begins to have doubts. But his investigation is hampered by the skeletons of his own past – and the people of that small outback town have long memories …

World-class crime writing with an evocative and powerful Australian setting puts this novel in a class of its own. Read it. 

BLOG POST: The Leopard – Jo Nesbo

Thursday, January 12, 2017

THE BLURB (from GoodReads)

In the depths of winter, a killer stalks the city streets. His victims are two young women, both found with twenty-four inexplicable puncture wounds, both drowned in their own blood. The crime scenes offer no clues, the media is reaching fever pitch, and the police are running out of options. There is only one man who can help them, and he doesn't want to be found. Deeply traumatised by The Snowman investigation, which threatened the lives of those he holds most dear, Inspector Harry Hole has lost himself in the squalor of Hong Kong's opium dens. But with his father seriously ill in hospital, Harry reluctantly agrees to return to Oslo. He has no intention of working on the case, but his instinct takes over when a third victim is found brutally murdered in a city park.

The victims appear completely unconnected to one another, but it's not long before Harry makes a discovery: the women all spent the night in an isolated mountain hostel. And someone is picking off the guests one by one. A heart-stopping thriller from the bestselling author of the The Snowman, The Leopard is an international phenomenon that will grip you until the final page



MY THOUGHTS:


I’ve heard a great deal about Jo Nesbo and similar Nordic-noir crime novels, but have not yet read any. 


So I borrowed The Leopard from my brother, and so was drawn into the dark, cold and sinister world of Harry Hole, Norwegian detective and alcoholic. There are dead women, murdered in horrible ways, secrets and betrayals galore, and lots of unexpected twists. It’s a big book, but the pace never flags. I do wish, though, that I had read earlier books as there are lots of references to past characters and cases (in particular, the previous book The Snowman.) So I might have to track down the first book in the series!


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!

BOOK REVIEW: The Suspect – Michael Rowbotham

Friday, January 06, 2017

THE BLURB (from GoodReads):


London psychiatrist Joseph O'Loughlin seems to have the perfect life. 

He has a beautiful wife, an adoring daughter, and a thriving practice to which he brings great skill and compassion. But he's also facing a future dimmed by Parkinson's disease. 

And when he's called in on a gruesome murder investigation, he discovers that the victim is someone he once knew. Unable to tell the police what he knows, O'Loughlin tells one small lie which turns out to be the biggest mistake of his life. Suddenly, he's caught in a web of his own making.



MY THOUGHTS:


I bought this book for my brother’s birthday and then borrowed it from him. It’s the first in Michael Rowbotham’s bestselling contemporary thrillers featuring psychologist, Joseph O’Loughlin. I’ve read the third in the series, Shatter, and reviewed it thus: ‘Chilling, powerful and superbly written. Highly recommended for the brave.’ I’ve been wanting to read the rest of the series ever since, and so naturally decided to start with the first.

Michael Rowbotham deserves every prize and accolade he’s ever won. The Suspect was just nail-bitingly suspenseful and surprising as you could wish for. Brilliantly constructed and executed, I was kept guessing right up to the very end. Joseph O’Loughlin is a brilliant character – flawed and yet empathetic, he has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and so is struggling with his own body as much as with the murderer who seems to know his every move. Engrossing stuff.


BOOK REVIEW: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Friday, October 28, 2016

There’s been a lot of buzz about this book, which has been a global bestseller. I’ve also really liked other books in this new genre they’re calling the ‘domestic thriller’ (books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty and The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton). So I read this ahead of Paula Hawkins’s appearance at the Sydney Writers Festival. I enjoyed it immensely. It’s told from the point of view of three different women, but the primary narrative is the story of Rachel, a divorcee and a drunk, who catches the same train every day. She looks out on to the backyard of a row of houses in an aspirational suburb and imagines the lives of the people within. One day she sees something … and so we enter a world of lies, deceit and murder, set in a world instantly recognisable to most of us. A really good quick read.

BOOK REVIEW: PARAGON WALK; RESURRECTION ROW; RUTLAND PLACE by Anne Perry

Friday, June 10, 2016

Anne Perry is acknowledged as the Queen of Victorian murder mysteries, with clever plots, engaging characters, and a great deal of period atmosphere. I’ve read a few of her books over the years, and am now reading my way through her first series (The Inspector Pitt Mysteries) in order.

Paragon Walk is the third book in the series, and sees Inspector Pitt and his unconventional upper-class wife Charlotte investigating the rape and murder of a seemingly ordinary young woman. However, dark secrets lurk behind the elegant facades of Paragon Walk, and Charlotte’s relentless digging sees her facing mortal danger.  

In Resurrection Row, a corpse is found sitting at the reins of a hansom cab … a corpse that simply will not stay buried. A really intriguing mystery that tests Inspector Pitt and his wife Charlotte in unexpected ways. 

Rutland Place begins with a series of petty thefts, and escalates to bloody murder and a troubling denouement. Once again, Charlotte uses her upper-class family connections to dig out secrets that her policeman husband Thomas Pitt simply could not access.

This is not a series to read for pace and suspense. Anne Perry is much more interested in the interior lives of her characters, and in probing the hypocrisy of the Victorians’ attitude to gender, class, and sexuality. The mysteries are always intriguing, nonetheless, and most importantly – it’s quite hard to guess the murderer!

BOOK REVIEW: WHY KINGS CONFESS by C.S. Harris

Monday, February 01, 2016


THE BLURB:

The gruesome murder of a young French physician draws aristocratic investigator Sebastian St. Cyr and his pregnant wife, Hero, into a dangerous, decades-old mystery as a wrenching piece of Sebastian’s past puts him to the ultimate test.


Regency England, January 1813: When a badly injured Frenchwoman is found beside the mutilated body of Dr. Damion Pelletan in one of London’s worst slums, 

Sebastian finds himself caught in a high-stakes tangle of murder and revenge. Although the woman, Alexi Sauvage, has no memory of the attack, Sebastian knows her all too well from an incident in his past—an act of wartime brutality and betrayal that nearly destroyed him.

As the search for the killer leads Sebastian into a treacherous web of duplicity, he discovers that Pelletan was part of a secret delegation sent by Napoleon to investigate the possibility of peace with Britain.

Despite his powerful father-in-law’s warnings, Sebastian plunges deep into the mystery of the "Lost Dauphin”, the boy prince who disappeared in the darkest days of the French Revolution, and soon finds himself at lethal odds with the Dauphin’s sister—the imperious, ruthless daughter of Marie Antoinette—who is determined to retake the French crown at any cost.

With the murderer striking ever closer, Sebastian must battle new fears about Hero’s health and that of their soon-to-be born child. 

When he realizes the key to their survival may lie in the hands of an old enemy, he must finally face the truth about his own guilt in a past he has found too terrible to consider.... 


WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK:

WHY KINGS CONFESS is the latest in a series of historical murder mysteries set in Regency England, featuring as its amateur detectives a lynx-eyed viscount with a troubled past and a strong-willed bluestocking noblewoman, the daughter of the viscount’s greatest enemy. 

The plots are always devious and surprising, the setting is suitably dark and foggy, and the interplay between the characters is fascinating.

As always, if this series is new to you, start with the first, called WHAT ANGELS FEAR. 

I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK TOO!

REVIEW: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Wednesday, November 04, 2015



The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel 
by Anthony Horowitz


The Blurb

In freezing London, November 1890, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a man unnerved by a scarred-face stalker with piercing eyes. A conspiracy reaches to the Boston criminal underworld. The whispered phrase 'the House of Silk' hints at a deadly foe. Authorized by Doyle's estate.


What I Thought

Anthony Horowitz is a big favourite in our family. My sons love his Diamond Brothers and Alex Rider books, my husband read and enjoyed his James Bond novel, and I am madly in love with the TV series he’s worked on, particularly Foyle’s War. And I’ve read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. So of course I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it on the shelves. I enjoyed it immensely. I really liked how faithful Anthony Horowitz was to the original feel and flavor of the books. “Pitch-perfect” was how I described it on twitter.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT - I LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK


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