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Posts Tagged ‘murder’

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The Birthday Mystery is the first in a series of cozy(ish) mysteries featuring cook Jenny Starling as an amateur sleuth.

Jenny is hired to cater the 21st birthday party of aristocratic twins Alicia and Justin Greer. However when she arrives she discovers that a young man has been killed on the premises of the Greer home. The death is thought to be accidental and the party proceeds. But another death during the evening shocks everyone, and as the cook, Jenny is aghast when she learns that the victim was poisoned. She soon sets out to help the police solve the mystery, and in the process secrets are uncovered.

Hmm, I have mixed feelings about this one. It started promisingly – Jenny seemed a likeable enough character, and it appeared to be an intriguing mystery, with enough suspects to keep the reader/listener (I listened to the audiobook) guessing, and plenty of red herrings. However, the constant references to Jenny’s physical characteristics soon became annoying; she is described at the beginning of the book as being 6’1″ in height, and probably slightly overweight, but the author rather patronisingly points out that despite this, Jenny is very attractive – this in itself was somewhat insulting, as if saying that it is unusual for an overweight person to be attractive. Still, okay, it’s not unusual for a writer to give a physical description of their character. But it felt as though Jenny’s appearance was being pointed out constantly. She was frequently referred to as being “Juno-esque” and I felt that the only reason to labour the point was that it became plot relevant somewhere down the line. It doesn’t.

Secondly, while it is a staple ingredient of cozy crime stories to have the main character as someone assisting the police who in all honesty has no right to get involved, in this case it lost it’s charm. Jenny seemed to forget that it wasn’t her job to investigate at all and took it as her right to solve the crime. To add insult to injury, she later reveals that she has known for ages who the perpetrator was – THAT’S WHEN YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO TELL THE POLICE!! Instead she kept the info to herself. Sigh. The last part just consisted of Jenny’s exposition to the police, as to the who, how and why of the crime. Frankly it was all a bit ridiculous.

Overall, while the book held my attention for the first two thirds, it ended up annoying me at the end. I also felt that it was not cozy enough for a cozy mystery, and not thrilling enough for a full-on thriller. It seemed somewhat caught in the middle. That said, it is only the first book in the series and maybe some of the kinks might be ironed out in subsequent stories.

This audiobook was narrated by Charlotte Worthing, who did a perfectly decent job.

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This is the third ‘episode’ in the Cherringham series and another enjoyable story.

Cherringham is preparing for it’s annual Christmas choir performance, when one of the women in the choir, Kirsty, dies of anaphylactic shock from eating a biscuit containing peanuts. It is originally thought of as a tragic accident, but Kirsty’s friend Beth has her suspicions and asks the unofficial detectives Jack and Sarah to investigate.

As always, secrets are unearthed and of course the truth is finally revealed.

Expertly narrated again by Neil Dudgeon, this series has continued to delight me, being undemanding enough to listen to while out running, but also keeping me guessing. Bring on episode 4!

 

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I listened to this audiobook over the course of two runs. Narrated brilliantly by Neil Dudgeon, who stars in Midsomer Murders (a favourite show of mine although I love the John Nettles episodes best, because well…John Nettles), this is a similar kind of story and I can actually imagine this would work really well as a TV series.

Sarah Edwards is a single mother, who moved back to Cherringham – a lovely little village in the Cotswolds – from London after her marriage broke up. She is shocked to hear of the apparent suicide of her childhood friend Sammi, but soon starts to suspect that Sammi may in fact have been murdered.

Jack Brennan is a retired New York Homicide Detective who has moved to Cherringham after his retirement, to live a quiet life with his dog on their boat. However, when the opportunity to get involved in solving a possible murder comes his way, he teams up with Sarah to find out the truth behind Sammi’s death.

I really enjoyed this book – it comes in at just under 3 hours, but happily there are several more episodes in this series, as well as a couple of fuller length novels.

If you like shows like Midsomer Murders or books like the Agatha Raisin series, I would highly recommend this. I enjoyed the narration but I think I would have equally enjoyed reading it as a physical book. I will definitely be listening to / reading more in the series.

 

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The first thing anyone who is considering reading this book needs to know is that it’s very long. The second thing is that it is very disturbing and takes the reader to some very dark places, covering subjects such as paedophilia, mutilation, and violence against women and children.

The story begins with young boys in Sweden being found mutilated and mummified. Detective Chief Inspector Jeanette Kihlberg is put in charge of the case and this leads her to seek out psychologist Sofia Zetterlund, in an attempt to find out who might be committing such crimes. It is impossible to say more without giving away some huge spoilers, so I will leave the premise there.

As for my own thoughts on the book, they are somewhat mixed. It started off extremely well (a note about the translation by Neil Smith – this was excellent; I often find translations clunky and off-putting, but this one was certainly very well done). The first couple of hundred of pages were gripping and kept me reading with great interest. However, after about a third of the way in, it started to get too long and too convoluted. The storyline jumps forward and backward, and there is a seemingly endless stream of characters, at least one of whom is a very unreliable narrator. It was sometimes hard to keep who was who clear in my mind and the only character I really felt on firm footing with was Jeanette herself, and her colleague Jens Hurtig. Jens was actually my favourite character throughout the whole story and the only one to whom I felt any sympathy.

Towards the end of the book I found myself just wanting to get finished with it. The dark subject matter was dragging me down and the over complicated plot line was tiresome. I think there was a lot that was really well done about this book, but some editing to rein it in would have been beneficial.

Other reviews have been mixed, so if Scandi-noir is your thing, you might enjoy it. However, for me personally, I think I’ll give this genre a  miss from now on.

 

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I listened to this audiobook, narrated by Tom Kotcher, over the course of several days. it is billed as the first in the Karen Pirie series, but Officer Pirie is very much on the periphery of this story (I suspect it was to ‘test the waters’ before writing a series based around a particular character).

It’s a book of two halves; the first half is set in 1978, when four students – who are known by their nicknames, Ziggy, Gilly, Weird and Mondo – in St Andrews stable across the body of a young woman named Rosie Duff, who is vaguely known to them. She has been attacked and left for dead. The police launch an investigation which fails to find the killer, but suspicion falls upon the four lads, and follows them around for the rest of their time at the university.

25 years later, the police reopen the cold case, but things take a strange turn when two of the former students are murdered and the remaining two decide that someone is taking revenge on them for the murder of Rosie. With the police not seeming to get anywhere, the two men decide to do some sleuthing of their own.

This is the first Val McDermid book I have ever read or listened to, and I have to say that I did enjoy it. Tom Kotcher did a good job narrating, with the exception of his American accent, which was pretty atrocious. Fortunately there are only a couple of American characters and neither of them feature very heavily, so that was not really an issue.

McDermid describes the tension and atmosphere extremely well, and I did feel that the four young men were all very distinctive; their relationships with each other were also well portrayed and formed a large part of the story. As for the mystery itself – I did actually figure out who the killer was when I was about a third of the way through, but nonetheless I still liked listening to the novel.

Based on this book, I would definitely try more by this author.

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I recorded this film months and months ago, because something about it intrigued me. I’m not sure what and it took ages for me to get around to watching it – somehow whenever I was trying to pick a film I fancied, I passed this one by. But finally I settled down to watch it, and wow! It FAR exceeded my expectations (and if you will allow me to be shallow for a moment, it also awakened me to the fact that Viggo Mortensen is a beautiful man!)

The story revolves around Chester McFarland and his wife Colette (Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst), who are holidaying in Athens. They meet up with Rydal (Oscar Isaac), an American tour guide, and hire him to show them around. Rydal is something of a con artist, but as the audience quickly learns, so is Chester. This fact catches up with Chester when some disgruntled victims of his hire a private detective to track him down and Chester accidentally kills him. Rydal stumbles upon Chester trying to hide the body (don’t worry, this all happens very early on, so there are no spoilers here) and not realising the other man is actually dead, helps Chester.

The two men are then inextricably bound to one another – both has the means to get the other into trouble, and also the motive – Rydal is clearly attracted to Colette, and the feeling seems mutual.

An uneasy alliance forms as the three of them are forced to stay together – I won’t say more as there are lots of twists and turns and the storyline deserves not to be spoiled for first time viewers.

I really liked this film – it’s basically an old fashioned thriller, done extremely well, with great actors. The main three are all excellent, with Mortensen and Isaac competing for who steals each scene (Dunst is also fantastic, but I think she was given less to work with). Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will like this; I feel sure that if Hitchcock were making movies today, this is the kind of thing he would come up with. It also looks stunning, the locations and the lighting were beautiful, and the music was reminiscent of thrillers from the 50s and 60s.

I was entirely unsurprised to discover after I had finished the film that it is based on a  book by Patricia Highsmith. It is undershot with just the right amount of tension, and you are never quite sure who if anyone will come out on top.

I highly recommend this film, and will also add the book to my reading list.

 

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A serial killer is terrorising the small Spanish village of Elizondo, targeting young girls. Inspector Amaia Salazar heads up the investigation, and returns to Elizondo where she grew up. People there are superstitious and believe that there are evil forces at work, and additionally Amaia has to deal with difficult childhood memories, and an uneasy relationship with her sister Flora.

I really enjoyed this book, although there was a lot going on – possibly a little too much – but somehow it worked. It was originally published in Spanish and I find that translations can sometimes feel a bit clunky; however, that was not the case here. Apart from the Basque setting, and the Spanish characters, you would not know that this was a translation. I liked Amaia a lot and thought she was a good main character. The mystery itself did get a bit convoluted, but not so much so that I couldn’t follow it easily. I enjoyed reading about the superstitious nature of the small village, and thought it was an interesting setting.

If you like crime fiction and enjoy an unusual setting, give this one a try – you could well enjoy it.

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