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Posts Tagged ‘murder’

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I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated extremely well by Michele Moran.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale in Dublin, one of the occupants is found dead, having lain undiscovered in her home for three months. When it becomes obvious that her death was no accident, detectives Frank Brazil and Emma Child suspect that the culprit is one of her neighbours. As they interview the residents, it becomes clear that each of them had secrets which Olive had discovered, and all of them had reason to have killed her.

The narration alternates between all of the neighbours (seven houses in all) including Olive herself from beyond the grave, and the two detectives. This sounds like a lot of characters to keep straight, but Jo Spain did a super job of giving each character a distinctive voice. It’s true that Olive was clearly a deluded and often deeply unpleasant character, but I’m not sure that this is a community anyone would want to be part of! Some of the neighbours had more damaging and salacious secrets than others as you would expect, and each of them had had a falling out with Olive.

My favourite characters were the two detectives, who despite being of different eras and opinions, formed a respect and appreciation for each other.

I was kept guessing right until the end, and the ending itself did come as a surprise. Overall, a great listen and I would definitely read or listen to more by Jo Spain.

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I listened to this audiobook over the course of a week. It’s narrated by Lisa Coleman, who did an excellent job. This psychological crime thriller is apparently the eighth in a series featuring DCI Tom Douglas, and had I known that going in, I may well have skipped it; I have always felt that book series needed to be read in order from the beginning. However, it didn’t matter one iota – clearly there is a backstory to Tom’s personal life but it’s all explained clearly enough, and this book could actually serve as a standalone novel.

The story centres, and is largely narrated by, Anna Franklyn – mother, wife, headteacher, and a respected member of the community. As she is driving to work one day, Anna hears a voice from her past on a phone in radio show – that of her ex-boyfriend Scott, who says he is going to phone back in a weeks time and tell the story of himself and his lost love ‘Spike’ and their tragic relationship. The only problem is….Scott died 14 years earlier, taking Anna’s most guarded secrets with him…and now it seems he is here and ready to expose her past. Anna has a week to find out what happened to Scott, and to stop him ruining her life.

The narrative jumps forwards and backwards between Then (14 years earlier) and Now, and also includes chapters written in the third person which focus on the police investigation.

I actually really enjoyed this book. Yes, it is fairly implausible, and I did guess the twist about halfway through, but it was a well told story which did a good job of illustrating how a young naive woman found herself in such a predicament all those years ago. I HATED the character of Scott, but he was far from the worst character in the story. I felt sorry for Anna, but also wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip! I’m not going to reveal any spoilers because the ending, although partly predictable, was still written well, and there was in fact one final twist which I didn’t expect.

My only niggle is that sometimes things were over explained. For example, there is a poker game that happens at one point where every play seems to be explained in detail. Unless you play / understand poker, this bit is all unnecessary filler – it would be enough to explain who won and who lost. But still – a minor niggle.

Overall, excellent narration and an enjoyable storyline (kept me listening for the most part anyway) made me give this a thumbs up, and I would definitely read / listen to moron this series.

 

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The Body in the Lake is the seventh episode/novella/installment – whichever you want to call it – in the Cherringham Cosy Crime Series. Laurent Bourdain, the mayor of a French village has been invited to Cherringham to pave the way for the twinning of the two small villages. A celebration party at Repton Hall (a large manor house owned by Lady Repton, who has appeared in a previous Cherringham mystery) turns to debauchery and ends with Monsieur Bourdain’s body being found floating in the lake at the manor.

Naturally there are plenty of suspects and an arrest is soon made, but our amateur detectives Sarah and Jack think that the wrong person is in custody and set out to solve the crime for themselves.

As with all the Cherringham series, Neil Dudgeon excellently narrates this episode and the story is enjoyable, although not the best so far but they can’t all be the best. Another fun slice of life in the sleepy Cotswold village with all sorts of secrets lurking below the surface…

 

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Described as Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day, by way of Agatha Christie, this is a twisty, confusing book with a brilliant premise.

The formerly grand Blackheath House is hosting a party, and the hosts’ daughter Evelyn is going to die at 11.00pm. It’s murder, but it won’t look like murder and until the culprit is brought to justice by Aiden, a young man who is visiting the house, the day is going to repeat itself over and over. But as if that wasn’t enough of a mystery, every day Aiden will wake up in the body of a different party guest, seeing the party and the crime through a new set of eyes. He will have to use the clues that he picks up in each persona to piece together what happens and work out who kills Evelyn. Only then will be free to leave Blackheath.

Right, so I have very mixed feelings about this book. I was very much looking forward to reading it; I like the whole Groundhog Day scenario, as well as the idea of seeing the same day through different eyes and perspectives. The writing itself was eloquent and often quite poetic – there were occasions when a sentence really caught my attention just by how beautifully it was phrased. But my goodness this book is confusing and I can’t help feeling the author got a little bit too clever with the idea, and tried to cram almost too much in. (I am in awe at the planning he must have made to get the timeline in order!) With every day starting over, every ‘host’ was somewhat affected by the actions of the previous host, and the times and locations of certain events became quite hard to follow. I would genuinely recommend keeping a notebook nearby and jotting down when key events happened, because it gets very convoluted, with most characters literally not being who they seem.

Despite all this, I still found myself drawn in and didn’t feel like giving up – this is partly due to the aforementioned writing style. I will say that the ending when it came was excellent, very clever and to my mind unpredictable.

I’m not sure if I would read another book by this author. Possibly, but I’ll be sure to keep that notebook handy next time!

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This was John Grisham’s first novel, and also the first of his which I have read, although I have seen a number of films based on his works (including the adaptation of this book).

Carl Lee Hailey – a black man living in Clanton, Ford County, Mississippi – finds out that his daughter has been raped by two white men, and murders the rapists in revenge. He stands trial for murder and is represented by young lawyer Jake Brigance. The county is fiercely divided between those who think Carl Lee’s actions were justified and he should be acquitted, and those who think he should face capital punishment for what he did. The Ku Klux Klan are determined that Carl Lee must hang and embark on a campaign of harassment and intimidation. Soon the sleepy Ford County is divided into two sides, both willing to go to any lengths to win this war.

I can see why Grisham is such a popular writer – his story flows easily and this is one of those books where you pick it up with the intention of reading a few pages and hours later you’re still reading. I am unsure of my feelings regarding Jake – I was ‘on his side’ re Carl Lee, but his politics in general put me off him somewhat. I did however like the characters of Lucien Wilbanks – Jake’s mentor, an alcoholic but a smart man, and Harry Rex, another lawyer who helps Jake.

Some of the scenes were disturbing, especially those regarding the KKK, and there is prolific use of the n word, which I found extremely jarring. But the story itself was gripping, and I would definitely read more by John Grisham.

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This is the fifth ‘episode’ in the Cherringham Cosy Crime Series featuring amateur detective Sarah Edwards, and retired New York cop Jack Brennan. I have enjoyed this series very much so far and this episode was just as good as the ones before it.

Otto Brendl, jeweller and puppeteer, who performs Punch and Judy shows for the annual school fair, is found dead, of an apparent heart attack. However, when Jack sees a familiar tattoo on Otto’s body, he starts to suspect that the death was not an accident, and he and Sarah delve into the man’s mysterious past.

Narrated excellently, as always, by Neil Dudgeon, this was an enjoyable slice of Cotswolds drama. I love Jack and Sarah’s characters, and look forward to the next instalment.

 

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This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series, and they just keep getting better and better!

This one dives straight into the story when Strike’s partner Robin has a severed girl’s leg delivered to the office. Strike immediately and correctly deduces that whoever sent it is trying to send him a message and four suspects come to mind. While the police believe they know which one it is and concentrate all their efforts on that person, Strike is convinced it is one of the other three, and he and Robin focus their investigation on those. Meanwhile, the killer – whose identity is not revealed until the end, but who does narrate certain chapters of the book – is committing other horrendous crimes in London, attacking and mutilating women, leaving a trail of bloodshed in his wake.

As Strike and Robin get drawn further into their investigation, they soon find themselves heading towards real danger.

Considering these books were written by the same mind that created the Harry Potter series, Robert Galbraith aka J K Rowling, takes the reader to some very dark places. This has been a theme in all of the Strike novels, especially this one and the preceding book ‘Silkworm’. If very gory scenes are not your thing, then be warned that this might not be a book for you. However, she writes a great story, and is very capable of springing surprises on the reader and maintaining tension throughout. The relationship between Strike and Robin kicks up a notch in this book, despite remaining platonic, and Robin is still with the odious Matthew.

Strike himself has always been a fascinating character despite his somewhat questionable social skills, and Robin has always been immensely likeable – this is maintained in this third instalment of their work. I’m reluctant to reveal more about the plot for fear of revealing any spoilers, but if you like thrillers, and/or have enjoyed the previous Strike novels, I would definitely recommend this one.

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The Pale Horse is a BBC production, based on Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name. It was scripted by Sarah Phelps, whose previous Christie adaptations have been the subject of some controversy, due to her changing of plot details. I have read a fair few Christie novels, but not this one. And judging by some of the reviews I have seen of this mini-series, that is all to my favour!

The story – in this adaptation – revolves around antique dealer Mark Easterbrook, who is informed by the police that his name was found on a list of several names, which was inside the shoe of a dead woman. The rest of the people on the list are dying in mysterious circumstances and Mark grows very concerned for his own safety. Three women, who people believe to be witches, are clearly mixed up in it all somehow; can Mark figure out what is happening in time to save himself?

I actually really enjoyed most of this mini-series. It was spread over two one-hour long episodes, and for the first hour and 50 minutes, I was entertained and eager to find out the truth. The last 10 minutes however went somewhat awry and at the very end I was pretty confused. I quickly jumped online to see what other people had thought, and was gratified to see that I was not the only one who felt flummoxed! But while a bad ending can ruin a previously good show, in this case I still felt satisfied overall. This is no small part due to Rufus Sewell as Mark Easterbrook. He brings all facets of the character’s personality together – in the beginning Mark seems quite a sympathetic and relatable character, but as we get to know him, he is actually revealed to be deeply unpleasant. His mounting fear was very believable, as was the resentment of his young wife Hermia (Kaya Scodelario), and the scepticism of the police officer investigating (Sean Pertwee). Bertie Cavel was also excellent as Mr Osborne, another man who has his name on the list.

Production values were very high – this was a beautiful looking, glossy and colourful drama. I also thought that the tension was well maintained throughout and I didn’t guess the truth behind the mystery.

If like me, you have not read the book, then I would suggest giving this a go. The last ten minutes notwithstanding, it was an enjoyable watch with great acting.

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I am reviewing these two TV movies (made for the Hallmark Channel) together, as they are the first two films in a new mystery series and feature the same main characters.

Jeff Jackson (Jesse Metcalfe is a former Boston PD detective who has retired early and moved to Martha’s Vineyard where he grew up and now hopes to live a quiet life. Zee Madeiras is a Doctor on the Vineyard and former childhood friend of Jeff. Her father is the Vineyard Chief of Police, who asks for Jeff’s help in solving crimes. In A Beautiful Place to Die, a young man is found floating in the harbour and it becomes apparent that he was murdered…the night before he was seen arguing with the children of a wealthy businessman, but they are not the only people with a reason to want him dead. As the suspects mount up, Jeff and Zee find themselves uncovering secrets and facing danger…

In Riddled With Deceit, a rare and expensive emerald brooch, which was stolen years before from the family of Zee’s best friend, is returned, only to be promptly stolen again. Jeff and Zee assist the police with looking for the thief, but before long it has also turned into a murder enquiry…

If you are a fan of murder mysteries set in beautiful places – for me, I love shows like Midsomer Murders, set in the Cotswolds; Death in Paradise (Caribbean), Shakespeare and Hathaway (Stratford-upon-Avon) – then this is the series for you. Admittedly all of the above examples are English shows, but if those are your kind of thing then I think you would enjoy these two movies. Although set on Martha’s Vineyard, they were not filmed there – but the scenery is beautiful nonetheless and the mysteries are engaging enough to keep you interested, while still being a fairly undemanding and fun watch.

If you want a really gritty realistic crime drama, then maybe give these a miss, but otherwise, see what you think – you might enjoy them!

(NB: These films are based on books from Phillip R Craig, who wrote a series of Martha’s Vineyard Mystery books. I’ve not read any of them, but might be tempted to give one a whirl).

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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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