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Posts Tagged ‘murder’

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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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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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