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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Review: The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

The House of Unexpected Sisters (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #18)The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again we have a delightful story about gentle people and the author uses the story to explore forgiveness.

Those readers used to McCall Smith's bent for philosophy, and who enjoy thinking about what he writes, will enjoy this new episode of the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency. Precious Ramotswe adored her father and treasures his memory. In this story she has to re-examine her ideas on the problems of first impressions and what forgiveness really means.

Easy reading, lots to think about and a book to enjoy many times.

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Review: The Rat Catchers' Olympics by Colin Cotterill

The Rat Catchers' OlympicsThe Rat Catchers' Olympics by Colin Cotterill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am still laughing. The idea of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, in 1980, sending a team to the Olympic games in Moscow, which were boycotted by most of the Western world, is hilarious. They didn't have athletes. In fact the Russians come to train them. The trainer's advice to the boxers, 'Take the hit, then lie on the mat until the counting is finished' gives you some idea of the standards.

If you have not met Colin Cotterill's Dr Siri Paiboun, his wife, and misfit/crazy companions you are missing a chance to poke fun at politicians, politics, bureaucracy, and the human race. And laugh out loud as you read.

Siri is an elderly retired coroner, his companions are all a little odd, his wife is delightful. When news breaks that a Laotian team is heading to Moscow there is no way Siri is going to miss out. Forbidden by the government as not a good representative for their country he manages, by devious means, to be the only doctor available.

Of course when they get to Moscow for the 1980 Olympic Games they soon find themselves involved in a murder mystery. One of their team is accused of murder, and it soon becomes a race between Siri and the Moscow authorities to clear up the muddle and clear the Laotian team.

And the rats? Well that is one competition they don't lose.
One of the better Siri novels and well worth a read.

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Thursday, 8 February 2018

Review: 'Dogstar Rising' by Parker Bilal

Dogstar Rising (Makana, #2)Dogstar Rising by Parker Bilal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is number two in a series I've had problems getting from the library. Finally I have managed to find the later ones in the series. And the novels do improve as the author becomes more confidant in his writing style and more comfortable with his main character. Certainly the series is well worth reading.

'Dogstar Rising' is an unusual mystery novel set in contemporary Egypt. Young boys are turning up dead and mutilated. In the muddle that is Eygpt's mix of cultures someone is trying to stir up trouble and blame the Coptic Christians.

Investigator Makana, a mystery man from the Sudan, a refugee form the war there, becomes involved when he sees a murder. He finds a thread linking that murder to those of the boys. Suddenly the police and state security services are breathing down his neck and all hell breaks loose.

Tightly written, the second in a series, and well worth a read for the exotic locations.

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Thursday, 1 February 2018

Review: 'The Dry' by Jane Harper

The DryThe Dry by Jane Harper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'The Dry' is meant to be the first of a series. Author Jane Harper will have a hard time coming up with a plot as good as this one is. I wish it was a stand alone book because what the plot does is sort out the main character's past and set him free. To me that's a complete and finished story. What else can one do with that character now? Still that's the author's problem. And she's a lovely tight writer with a sharp eye for thriller plot details.

'The Dry' is set in contemporary Australia, the action takes place in the drought stricken outback. Aaron Falk, who works for the government unravelling tax frauds receives a note saying his old friend, Luke, is dead, and demanding he come to the funeral. The past has reached out to terrify him. Twenty years ago as a teenager he was accused of murder, and Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father were chased out of town despite Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But they weren't, and now Luke is dead, and someone is threatening Falk.

What a great set up for a story and it carries on as cleverly. This author is no slouch when it comes to writing a tight and twisty plot for Falk and the local police officer are puzzled over Luke's supposed suicide and begin to investigate. And then all sorts of nasty little secrets start popping up and the murdered girl's family are intent on revenge.

The setting, a drought stricken farming community, only adds tension to the story and the author includes some lovely details of the outback and outback life.

Altogether a great read for any whodunit fan and well worth reading by any reader who likes a well written, better than most, unusually original story.

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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Review: The Sixteen Trees of the Somme

The Sixteen Trees of the SommeThe Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant! And full marks to the translator who kept the rhythm and lyrical prose in his English translation. This really is a must read for the prose, the story and the ideas.

It's a good job the cover clearly states 'novel' because I could easily believe that this novel was faction, based on a true story. It isn't, but it ought to be! Set in Norway, and the Shetland Isles, with a brief trip to France and the Somme, author Lars Mytting's research is solid. He certainly got the upper middle class Scottish attitudes spot on. His descriptions of the battlefields are haunting.

I don't want to give away the plot or the importance of the sixteen trees because really the novel is about a young man growing up, breaking out of his shell, and becoming what he chooses to be.

Edvard is orphaned when he is three. He has vague memories and his grandfather won't tell him anything. After his grandfather dies he takes a physical journey to find out what happened and in doing so he has to make decisions and choices which will make him become the Edvard we hope he will become. He could easily have made different choices but we readers are glad he didn't.

It is a book to savour, reread and marvel over. Readers who like a good intelligent challenging read will enjoy this novel. I found myself thinking about it for days after I'd returned it to the library.

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Review: The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

The Blood Card (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #3)The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

A pleasant read for all who enjoy a bit of a puzzle, and a murder mystery set in the 1950s in the U.K.
This novel is one of a series and whilst you can read each book on its own it is more fun to follow the main characters from the start, in the first novel, when they all worked together in a special secret WWII unit.

The story revolves round Mephisto's magical work - this time he is actually appearing on the new venue of T.V. - and his sidekick, Stephens, the police officer. We begin with a murder and end with magical tricks. Great fun. A nice light read for entertainment.

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Review: The Kite Runner by Khaled_Hosseini

The Kite RunnerThe Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One can see why this book became a best seller. The setting and the two main characters certainly would pull in most readers who are not aware of Afghanistan's history or culture. After 9/11 it would be a book to read to try and understand why.

It is a very personal story and very human. Who doesn't try to wipe out an error and all reminders of it? It's a novel which makes one well aware of how necessary the truth is to avoid further disasters.

Written in good plain English with a careful selection of words and some choice pieces of description which make things like the kite running vividly 3D this is a novel to savour. If I find the ending a trifle too pat it is my personal opinion. I dislike too much sentiment and find American novels often err that way.

This is a novel which will become a classic and rightly so because of its subject matter. It's not a difficult read and is a book which should be on all readers' to read lists. Read it, understand a little more about our difficult world, and enjoy the story.

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Review of Anne Perry's latest Monk novel: 'An Echo of Murder'

An Echo of Murder (William Monk Mystery, Book 23): A thrilling journey into the dark streets of Victorian LondonAn Echo of Murder (William Monk Mystery, Book 23): A thrilling journey into the dark streets of Victorian London by Anne Perry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'An Echo of Murder' is another terrific read from a terrific writer. Good writers like Anne Perry use their skills not just to tell a great story but to make readers think. These writers use their craft to highlight things we should all be thinking about today. She does this without being too obvious or 'in your face' with the ideas, ideals and important thoughts which are current to 2017-18. Thank goodness for writers like Anne Perry who can use their skills to point readers to modern problems. They have a gift with words and use it for good.

The story begins with a horrific murder, a well respected Hungarian immigrant is killed in a terrifying manner. The Hungarians are immigrants. The local community wants them out, they, of course, have never been violent. Racism, intolerance, violence and prejudice rear their ugly heads. Sound familiar?

An ex-army surgeon, who has found his way home to England 11 years after he was left for dead on a Crimean battle field, is struggling to make his life make sense. He has moments of terror when he doesn't know what he does. He gave his health and sanity for the country and do they reward him? Sound familiar?

Dr Fitz worked with Hester during the Crimean war and of course when he is accused of the murders she is going to save him. The ending in the courtroom is quite something. Sir Oliver at his best.

It's a pleasure to see how the characters change and grow in each novel. Scuff is now nearly qualified as a doctor, Hester has to face her buried past, William Monk faces his own nightmares.
Fans of the series will be delighted. Readers who like historical mysteries should try Anne Perry's novels and any one who enjoys a good story, well written and well told will enjoy this novel.

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