julesjones: (Default)
67) Francis Durbridge -- Tim Frazer Gets The Message [audiobook]

Abridged on 2 CDs and read by Anthony Head. Another case for engineer turned spy Tim Frazer. British intelligence agent Miss Thackery was last heard of in Asia, so why has she turned up dead in the Welsh countryside? And is her murder linked with the disappearance of a German scientist who was working at the British government? Another enjoyable 1960s espionage novel, splendidly read by Anthony Head.


68) Mary Stewart -- The Moonspinners

1960s romantic suspense. A young woman working at the British Embassy goes to Crete for an Easter break with her cousin, and walks into a cover-up of a murder and a witness in hiding. The mystery is not in whodunnit, but why. An excellent romantic suspense with a vivid sense of place.


69) Dick Francis -- Flying Finish

Lord Henry Grey holds down an ordinary office job, to the horror of his family who think that he should solve the family financial problems by the traditional method of marrying an heiress in search of a title -- or as he calls it, prostituting himself. He hasn't told his family about his other activities -- amateur jockey, and semi-amateur pilot. When he shifts jobs into working for a bloodstock shipping agent, nobody thinks he'll stick to it. But Grey not only sticks with the job, he inconveniences other people by doing so, and by being bright enough to notice that there's something very odd going on.

Another solid suspense novel from Francis, as ever tied into the world of horse-racing, and with a good romance sub-plot.


69) Paul Doherty -- Corpse Candle

Thirteenth of the medieval mystery series starring Sir Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the King's Seal. I'm not familiar with the series and this one's a long way into the run, but I found that Doherty does a good job of introducing his characters to new readers. Corbett is sent by the King to investigate the death of Abbot Stephen of St Martin's-in-the-fields, an abbey in a remote area plagued by bandits. It's a locked room murder mystery that leaves Corbett initially baffled, but then he finds himself with more murders to investigate, providing both more clues and an incentive to find the killer fast. Very enjoyable, and I'd like to read more of the series.


70) PD James -- Cover Her Face [audiobook]

Full cast dramatisation from BBc Radio 4 of the first Adam Dalgliesh mystery, on two CDs. Very well done, and with the original novel being fairly short, this one doesn't have to leave out large chunks of the book, even if if it is still abridged.


71) Mary Stewart -- This Rough Magic

Another romantic suspense from Stewart, this one set on Corfu and themed around Shakespeare's Tempest. I enjoyed it a lot, but felt that the heroine was rather more blatantly collecting plot coupons than in some of Stewart's books.

julesjones: (Default)
Fifth installment of the series about Inspector Singh of the Singapore police, forever being shipped off elsewhere to get him out of his superiors' hair. This time he's on compulsory sick leave, and thus can't claim pressure of work to avoid being dragged by Mrs Singh to a family wedding in India. But the Singhs arrive only to find that the bride-to-be has disappeared. The last thing her immediate family want is the police involved, because of the social stigma -- the obvious motive for the young woman's disappearance is to avoid an arranged marriage. For the family patriarch, worried about his granddaughter's welfare as well as her reputation, an investigation by a family member who just happens to be a member of another country's police force is a much more appealing prospect.

Then a corpse turns up, and the local police are involved whether the family likes it or not. But Singh keeps digging, and finds a tangle of motives that he's not willing to ignore.

Once again Flint has blended a police procedural with a sensitive look at the ramifications of a real life tragedy. This book is deeply rooted in Sikh culture, and that includes the ongoing after-effects of the 1984 riots and massacre in India. But the latter does not overwhelm the book -- it is only one strand in a complex story about a complex society. A particular feature of the book is that it is quite openly an outsider's view of India, complete with an outsider's prejudices and reactions -- but the outsider here is not a white European, but a member of the Indian diaspora of Singapore. Singh finds India at once both alien and familiar, and this colours his reaction to the things he encounters during his investigation.

Singh is a joy of a character to read about, and Flint has created yet another fascinating twist to her series hook of a police inspector who frequently ends up investigating murder well outside his official jurisdiction. The Singaporean Sikh is a marvellous addition to the ranks of maverick detectives in mystery fiction, and I'm very much hoping that there will be a sixth book in the series.

julesjones: (Default)
68) Alan Hunter -- Landed Gently

Fourth in the Inspector George Gently series, and the first that I've read. This one was first pubished in 1957, and this affects some of the background details, but doesn't make much difference in the basic plot.

Gently is invited to spend Christmas at a country house. On the train down he meets a young American from a US Air Force base, who has wangled himself an invitation to the neighbouring country house. Lt Earle has an interest in both the tapestry workshop based at Merely, and in the young woman who runs the workshop. Gently likes the man, and isn't happy to hear that he's been found dead at the bottom of the grand staircase on Christmas morning. At first glance it looks like an accident, but Gently isn't satisfied with first appearances. He soon shows that it's not an accident, and then isn't satisfied with the suspect preferred by his hosts.

For a short novel, there are a surprising number of red herrings and plot twists. The clues are there, but neatly buried in competently written distractions. I'm inclined to find some more of this police procedural series.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
Here's the first of July's books:

66) Reginald Hill -- An April Shroud

Fourth in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. The previous book focused on Peter Pascoe and his involvement as a witness rather than a policeman, after finding his friends murdered. This one focuses on Andy Dalziel finding himself in a similar situation. The difference here is that Dalziel finds himself amongst strangers, and it's not entirely clear for some time whether there is a crime at all, and if so what it is.

Dalziel is supposed to be going on holiday after attending Pascoe's wedding, but finds himself stranded by a flood, and invites himself to stay with the funeral party who rescue him. The newly widowed Bonnie Fielding has more troubles on her mind than the loss of her husband -- their fledgling Banqueting Hall business needs to be up and running soon, or the business, and the family, will be bankrupt. Dalziel gets entangled in what at first seems like an entertaining diversion, but when more corpses appear, he has unpleasant choices to make.

A good read in its own right, but I found it even better when I read it in sequence. This book develops Dalziel as a character, showing him as off-duty as he gets, and telling us something about him as a person as well as a policeman.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
64) WJ Burley -- Wycliffe: Death In A Salubrious Place [audiobook]

Abridged audiobook on 3 CDs of the fourth book in the Wycliffe series. Jack Shepherd (Wycliffe in the tv series) does a good job on reading, and while I was familiar with the plot from reading the book some years ago, I think the abridgement should work reasonably well for someone coming to it fresh.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
62) Reginald Hill -- Ruling Passion

Third of the Dalziel and Pascoe books. At the end of the last book Peter Pascoe had got back together with old flame Ellie, and now they're invited to spend a weekend with four of their old university friends. They're late because Peter's been tied up with a serial burglary case that looks as if it's escalating to violence.

What they find when they finally arrive is a scene of carnage. Three people are dead, the fourth is missing in circumstances that lead the local police to make him chief suspect. Pascoe's involvement in the case is officially as a witness, but he can't help but get involved in the investigation, even if unofficially. These are his friends, after all, and he can't believe that one of them could really have changed so much as to commit murder. As the case progresses, Pascoe finds his ambiguous status of use to the official investigation, but an ever increasing source of frustration for himself. And Dalziel wants him back in Yorkshire, the more urgently because the burglary case has turned very nasty indeed.

The nature of the plot means that the book focuses strongly on Pascoe, with Dalziel largely present as a supporting role. It nevertheless shows the growth in the relationship between the two men, in a story that twists and turns until the various plot strands finally come together. This is a superb study of a policeman struggling and frequently failing to retain his professional detachment in the face of a crime that strikes only too close to home.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
57) Reginald Hill -- An Advancement of Learning

Re-read of the second Dalziel and Pascoe novel, previously reviewed as follows:

[2006-04-04] The second Dalziel and Pascoe novel sees the pair at a college of higher education after the discovery of a corpse under a statue's foundation block. Naturally, life gets even more complicated, and not just because they have to wade through both student and staff politics in their pursuit of the truth. Fresh corpses are provided, and it's up to Dalziel and Pascoe to decide which were murder and which were suicide, ideally without becoming corpses themselves.

Dalziel has no time for students, and the feeling's mutual. But Dalziel doesn't let his dislike lead him into underestimating his opponents, while the students make the mistake of thinking that Dalziel's a fascist pig and therefore stupid. Pascoe's feelings are more ambiguous, as he was a graduate recruit to the police force. His former university friends don't approve of his choice of his career, and his liberal sympathies don't always endear him to his colleagues, but this case reassures him that being a copper was the best way for _him_ to change the world for the better. The pair's different experiences and views combine to form a formidable team in this setting, something they'll need to deal with the criminal they're trying to pin down. Even near the end, it seems that it may be a case of knowing who and how without having quite enough evidence to prove it...

This early entry in the series is a relatively simple police procedural, rather than the complex literary game to be found in some of the later novels, but still has Hill's characteristic style and wittiness. It's one for all fans of the series, whether your taste runs to the shorter novels or the long, psychologically complex ones, as it sets up some of the series background. Apart from developing Pascoe's character, it introduces two of the recurring non-police characters. Pascoe is reunited with old university friend Ellie Soper, whom he later marries: and this is the first appearance of Franny Roote, who reappears much later in the series as a major character in a story arc spanning several books. And it is, of course, an entertaining book in its own right.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
51) Edward Marston -- Railway to the grave

Seventh in the Railway Detective series, about a Victorian detective inspector specialising in railway crime in the early days of the railways. As usual with this author, enjoyable pulp fiction that I won't bother keeping but am glad to have read. In this one a retired Colonel commits suicide by walking into an oncoming train. Tarleton's wife went missing a few weeks earlier, and is presumed murdered. The case might have come to Robert Colbeck in the normal course of events anyway, but there is a personal link -- the dead man was a friend of Colbeck's superior officer, from Tallis's days as an army officer. Tallis wants his dead friend's name cleared, and the person responsible for both deaths found. Colbeck has to persuade Tallis to leave the investigation to him, because Tallis is far too emotionally involved to do a good job.

The series in general tends to fairly cardboard characters, and Tallis has been something of a stock stereotype in spite of being a regular character, but Marston has finally begun to flesh him out a little in this book.

I'd note that the author tries to reflect period mores and attitudes in his historical mysteries, and this does mean that some of the characters' reactions to various plot developments are not likely to sit well with much of my friends list. Colbeck himself is a broad-minded and humane man, but that simply means that he gets to clash with people who aren't, such as the local rector who has no intention of allowing a suicide to be buried in hallowed ground.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
36) Reginald Hill -- A Clubbable Woman [audiobook]

Abridged audio adaptation of the first book in the Dalziel & Pascoe series (which I've previously reviewed), on 3 CDs. It's read by Warren Clarke, who played Dalziel in the tv adaptation. This is a good abridgement, which from following along in places on the printed edition I thought cut about half the text while retaining everything needed for the plot, plus a good chunk of the characterisations. Clarke does an excellent job of reading.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
33) Inspector Singh Investigates: A Deadly Cambodian Crime Spree

The fourth of the series about the portly chain-smoking Inspector from Singapore's police service. This time Singh has been volunteered to hold a watching brief on behalf of ASEAN at the Cambodian war crimes tribunal. The idea is to kill two birds with one stone by 1) keeping him out of his superiors' hair and 2) providing a top murder cop as a delegate as a political exercise. Nobody expects Singh to actually *do* anything other than be obviously present, and he calls on his local counterpart purely out of politeness. Colonel Menhay has quite enough on his plate, between running an investigation into a serial killer who is targeting former Khmer Rouge, and heading up the security for the current trial at the tribunal. But then someone kills a tribunal witness. The UN liaison wants a top murder cop with no ties to Cambodia in joint charge to provide the investigation with credibility in the eyes of the world, and that cop is Singh.

Singh's experienced at working on secondment in other countries, but until now he's always had at least some grasp of at least one of the local languages. This time out he's far more reliant on help from the locals, particularly his interpreter/guide, and has to adjust his methods to suit. And then there are the ever-present ghosts of Cambodia's past, which must be faced to solve the murders in the present. Singh has confronted murder in bulk before, but never on the scale of genocide.

But Singh doesn't let these things deter him from his dogged pursuit of justice for the dead. A justice that requires that the right person be convicted of the crimes, and as ever, Singh is not willing to simply take the first convenient suspect that comes to hand.

As with the Bali book earlier in the series, Shamini Flint has taken a real life tragedy and woven a compelling murder mystery around it. If handled badly it could have been merely exploitative, but this book treats the subject of the Cambodian genocide with great sensitivity. And as with the earlier book, Flint has managing the difficult trick of blending a gentle humour through much of the book without trivialising the crimes she's writing about. Along the way we see how the apparently simple choices people make can haunt them for the rest of their lives. And once again we have the wonderful character of Inspector Singh, with an excellent supporting cast of one-off characters.

This is a powerful story, with characters who make you care about their fate. A worthy addition to the Inspector Singh series.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
Book 67

The fourth Superintendent Hannasyde book. Earnest Fletcher is found dead in his study, with a large dent in his head from a blunt instrument. On the surface he's a well-liked and respected man, but it soon becomes apparent that his nephew and heir is not the only one with a possible motive for killing him. Unfortunately for Hannasyde, some of the people with motives are also his best witnesses, and some of them also have good reason to try to protect some of the other people with motives. He has a number of precise statements of the time of various events in the half hour leading up to the murder, most of which are not compatible and some of which are almost certainly true. It's only after a second murder that he begins to suspect the truth...

I actually spotted the murderer straight off, which bothered me not at all, as part of the fun was trying to work out whether I was right. The story itself is great fun, with Heyer's usual collection of sharply drawn characters, and her usual odd couple romance in the background.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
Book 66

The 24th book in the Dalziel and Pascoe. Hill is once again playing entertaining literary games; this time around he's using the format of timed chapters giving overlapping strands of a story that plays out in just 24 hours, and playing on the musical theme of a fugue, with a book that's all about what happens as a man emerges from a fugue in the psychiatric sense. You don't need to understand exactly what he's doing to enjoy this story, but the techniques add depth to an entertaining police procedural.

The Fat Man has just returned to work after being nearly killed in a bomb blast two books back, but he's still not fully recovered, and the world has moved on in his absence. Thus when he gets a call for help, he's inclined to treat it as personal hobby rather than official case until he's sure what he's dealing with. But the case all too quickly snowballs, as a racketeer-turned-respectable sends in a team to ensure that the dead past stays dead.

There's ongoing development of the continuing characters, some beautifully drawn new characters, a lot of (often very dark) humour, and a brilliant twist at the very end. Not quite my favourite of the series (that's still Dialogues of the Dead/Death's Jestbook), but well up there.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
Book 64

Second in the Hamish Macbeth series. In this one, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, Hamish's friend and object of adoration from afar, brings her new fiance home to meet her parents and assorted house guests, most of whom have cadged an invitation because Henry Withering is a successful playwright and thus has snob value. Unfortunately one of the house guests is Captain Bartlett, boor, ladies' man, and all round cad. Bartlett is found dead by shotgun on the morning of a grouse shoot, apparently having made an all too common mistake of using the gun as a prop to get over a fence without making sure it was unloaded first. Hamish is unconvinced by this explanation, but Priscilla's father is determined to believe that it was an accident, and Priscilla's father is chums with the Chief Constable. Even when Hamish provides evidence that can't be ignored, he's initially pushed out of what has now become a murder investigation. But wiser heads prevail, and Hamish finds himself on the trail of a killer.

An enjoyable piece of light reading, though as with the first not one that inspires me to hunt down the titles I don't already have.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
Book 63

First in the long-running Hamish Macbeth mystery series. I picked up four of the early entries in the series a couple of weeks ago, as I was a fan of the 1990s tv adaptation but somehow had never seen the books before. Unsurprisingly, there are significant differences between tv and book in the details of the universe, but the tone is pretty much the same. Hamish is a gentle, lazy, laid-back crofter's son who has found a comfortable niche as the village constable in a remote Highlands village. But when murder comes to Lochdubh, he finds himself unwilling to be pushed aside by the city cops who have written him off as too lazy and stupid to be of use. And lazy Hamish may be, but stupid he certainly isn't.

The titular gossip is Lady Jane Winters, a member of the new class at the local fishing school. The students on the residential course are a mixed bag of people, all with their secrets to hide -- secrets Lady Jane is only too willing to hint at, making it clear that she knows more about each of them than they'd like. And when her corpse is all too literally fished out of the river by one of the class, it becomes clear that there's more than a spoilt fishing holiday at stake for someone.

It's an enjoyable enough book, although I think I liked the tv adaptation better. The characterisation feels a bit thin to me, even allowing for it being a fairly short novel. On the strength of this and the second one, I wouldn't be inclined to go out and explicitly collect the entire series as I have with some other mystery series, but I'd be perfectly happy to read any that came my way.

LibraryThing entry
julesjones: (Default)
Inspector Singh is back, but for a change his superiors aren't intent in temporarily ridding themselves of him by lending him to a neighbouring country's police force. This time the high profile murder is a lot closer to home, in the Singapore offices of an international law firm. The overweight, chain-smoking policeman in white trainers may be a disgrace to the force, but he's also very good at his job. Who better to lead the investigation into the brutal murder of the law firm's senior partner?

For once he has all the resources of the police force to call upon. This is a high profile case involving wealthy, influential expatriates who bring enormous value to the country, and the police administration wants it solved. But the flipside for Singh is being forced to treat the suspects a good more gently than he'd like. Not that Singh is into police brutality, but keeping both suspects and innocents with useful information off balance is part of his toolkit. He has to think of more devious means to achieve it than simply dragging them down to the nick for a surprise interview.

But as Singh starts digging, he keeps being handed potential motives. Mark Thompson had called a after-hours meeting at short notice of the senior lawyers in the office, and it's probable that someone killed him to stop him disclosing whatever it was he'd discovered was going on behind the scenes. Too many of the lawyers have something to hide, and their attempts to cover up their secrets only end up making each of them look potentially guilty of murder. Then there's the current wife and the ex-wife of the murdered man, each set on blaming the other, and with good reason. It's a long, slow process of solving each individual mystery, and Singh is going to need those resources he has on tap.

Singh has always been clearly portrayed as a Sikh, but in this book we see his home life, and his ties into the Sikh social network and culture. All the more so because by an unfortunate coincidence that causes him a great deal of grief during the investigation, the distant nephew of his wife who didn't show up to a "meet the local relatives" dinner turns out not to have done so because he was one of the lawyers called to the meeting with Mark Thompson. Singh's quite capable of keeping family and business separate, but others don't always see it that way.

The book as a whole does an excellent job of portraying Singapore and its particular blend of tension between expats and locals, and between different ethnicities. Even within the law office, sexism and racism amongst the expats from assorted countries provide fuel for crime -- and the racism isn't just whites considering themselves superior to locals.

Flint does a superb job of blending social commentary with a solidly written police procedural. Singh with his understanding of human nature has echoes of the best Miss Marple and Poirot stories, but he's very much his own man, in his own skillfully drawn setting. As with previous books, he's a joy of a character to read about, but here we learn more about him -- and about his home city. Flint has drawn on her own experience of being a Malaysian lawyer in Singapore to produce a richly detailed story with a cast of vividly written characters.

It's relatively light in tone, although it doesn't pull away from showing the harsher side of Singapore law, and there are some emotionally wrenching moments. A great read, and you don't need to have read either of the previous books in the series to enjoy this one.

ISBN: 978-0749929770
LibraryThing entry
The Singapore School of Villainy (Inspector Singh Investigates) at Amazon UK
at Play.com
Inspector Singh Investigates: Singapore School of Villainy Bk. 3 (Singh Investigates 3) at Amazon US
Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of Villainy -- Kindle edition (which is sold from Amazon US, but looks as if it might be available in the UK as well, along with the first two books in the series)
at The Book Depository
julesjones: (Default)
Placeholder for the first book of May in case I don't get around to writing the review. First book of a series about a Victorian era detective inspector at Scotland Yard. A wealth of period detail, particularly about the railways, and a wealth of purple prose. This is very much a pastiche of Victorian melodrama, and with more than a touch of Holmes-Watson stirred into the mix. Fun enough for me to keep reading the series, but I thought noticeably flawed.
julesjones: (Default)
Fifth in the Wycliffe series, first published in 1974. A prostitute is found murdered in her flat, in circumstances that suggest a sex crime. But it's obvious to Wycliffe's team that the suggestion is deliberate, and they need to consider other motives. The only clue they have initially is that the young woman was clearly well educated and intelligent, with a clientele willing to pay a premium for that. With that, they soon trace her real name and background -- the daughter of a well-to-do man, but both parents dead some years earlier, leaving only her and her brother.

As Wycliffe and his team trace the woman's professional and personal contacts, they find more than one motive for murder. But nothing seems to quite fit the normal patterns. Lily was exploiting pillow talk to make money, but not in a way likely to provoke murder. She had some dubious connections with a record of violence, but they seem well-satisfied with the relationship. There has to be something else the team aren't seeing, but it takes an arson attack and another death before Wycliffe has enough pieces of the puzzle to start to see a pattern. And even then, he's not sure if it's another pattern deliberately created for him to see -- and if so, what it's meant to hide.

Another well-constructed police procedural from Burley, with the clues laid out just clearly enough for the reader to stay slightly ahead of Wycliffe. As ever, much of the pleasure in the book is in the characterisations, giving it a good re-readability factor. However, I'd note that this is another title in the series which features a gay stereotype character and the normally tolerant Wycliffe's homophobia as a significant element.

LibraryThing entry
at the Book Depository
julesjones: (Default)
This book follows one of Burley's standard formats, with a flashback prologue showing the reader a motive for a crime, then showing the crime that first brings Wycliffe into the story, and following the process of solving the crime. Here the motive is the vicious bullying of a young teenager on a school trip, and the crime is the separate murders of two young women. At first there appears to be no link between the two murders, but as Wycliffe digs into their past, he starts to find connections. Connections that lead him to a motive, other potential victims, and a race to find the killer. It's not difficult for the reader to work out who the killer is, but the point of the story is to follow along as Wycliffe pieces together the fragments of information that might lead him to the next victim before the killer. It's an entertaining read with some interesting character sketches, although be warned that the prologue could be triggery for bullying victims.

LibraryThing entry
at Amazon UK
at Amazon US


julesjones: (Default)

April 2019

14151617 181920


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Active Entries

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags