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Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

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This audiobook, narrated by Todd Boyce, follows an unusual format, in that it starts at the end of the story and then goes backwards in time, with each chapter being set earlier than the previous one. It’s an interesting idea, and I’m not sure that it completely worked. The ending (or the beginning, as it were) was very satisfying and provided lots of ‘aha!’ and ‘wow!’ moments, but for the first few chapters (or indeed the last few!) it was confusing and somewhat frustrating. Jeffery Deaver has written some excellent books, and I don’t think this is one of them. It was good in the end, but I was tempted to give up on it after listening for the first hour or so.

Anyhow, the story revolves around a woman named Gabriella MacKenzie, sitting in a room with a man who is obviously there to look after her, while she anxiously awaits to hear if her kidnapped daughter Sarah has been rescued. Sarah was taken by a mysterious man named Joseph, who demands a huge sum of money and a mysterious document called The October List, which Gabriella’s boss has ownership of, and which contains details of people he had been dealing with in criminal financial activity. The boss has disappeared with the list and with Joseph’s – and several other people’s money – and Joseph wants it back. The story covers Gabriella and her new boyfriend Daniel’s attempts to retrieve the mysterious list and get it to Joseph before her daughter comes to any harm.

The narration was fine and the story was clever, but as mentioned above I’m not sure I would read something else written in this format. Normally when people are introduced into a story, there is some background or information provided about them which gives the reader an idea of the role they are going to play. Not so here however; characters are introduced with no explanation of how they fit into this story. It’s kind of like piecing together a jigsaw without ever having seen the picture you’re trying to make.

So a bit of a mixed bag. If you manage to get halfway through then it’s definitely worth sticking with it, but be prepared to be a bit lost at first.

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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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Book 6 in the Cherringham Cosy Crime Series does not disappoint. Readers (or listeners in my case) will be familiar with the format by now – something suspect happens in the village of Cherringham – which seems to have an awful lot of nefarious activity for such a beautiful picturesque place! – and amateur sleuth Sarah Edwards and retired NYC detective Jack Brennan set out to get to the bottom of things.

In this ‘episode’ Charlie and Caitlin Fox, who run Mabbs Farm, are having a run of spectacularly bad luck with livestock going missing, mysterious fires and all sorts of misfortunes. Caitlin, along with several villagers, believe that the reason is due to an ancient curse which was put on the farm, but Sarah and Jack believe the reason is a lot closer to home and decide to find out who is behind it.

As always, this was a light hearted mystery, and much to my pleasant surprise, just when I thought I had got it all worked out, the ending was a complete surprise. I really do recommend this series to all who enjoy cosy mysteries and TV programmes such as Midsomer Murders or Agatha Raisin. Excellent narration as always by Neil Dudgeon.

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In Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel, published in 2000, she tells the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase.

The book opens with a report of Laura’s death by possible suicide, shortly after the ending of World War II. An older Iris, writing from the tail end of the 20th century, tells the story of her current life, and also the story of her and Laura’s lives. There is a second narrative – that of Laura’s posthumously published novel The Blind Assassin, which is about two unnamed lovers and their clandestine meetings, during which the man entertains the woman with a rather macabre and violent sci-fi story set on the planet of Zycron.

Margaret Atwood is one of those authors who I love, even when I don’t love her. The Handmaid’s Tale was a solid 5/5 for me, whereas Oryx and Crake was something of a disappointment. But generally speaking I always get something from her books and rarely forget them.

The Blind Assassin was not at all what I expected and for the first part, I was not sure I was going to like it. But it kind of crept up on me and I realised that I was enjoying it. In all honesty I never really felt as though I got a handle on Iris despite her narrating much of the book. In fact, Laura was more of a rounded character – sure she was an enigma, but she was meant to be, even to those closest to her – despite being dead before the story started.

As always with Atwood, the language is intelligent and luscious, and often at times quite cutting. Nobody quite comes out of her books without some sort of mark by their name! I didn’t like the direction that Iris’ life took, but neither did she, so I imagine that was deliberate.

I would recommend this book to any fans of Margaret Atwood – although I probably don’t need to because they will have already read it. I felt always slightly detached from it; it was always a story with me on the outside looking in, instead of one of those books that you find yourself completely immersed in, but I liked it a lot for the writing and for never quite knowing where and how it was going to end.

 

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This collection consists of 55 short stories by Agatha Christie – it should be noted that less than half feature Miss Marple despite the title of the compilation, and also that all stories have also been published elsewhere. However, it’s great to have so many of Christie’s short stories gathered together in one volume. (There is also a collection of all the Poirot short stories – 51 in all – and a further one of more than 50 short stories featuring other detectives who Christie wrote about, such as Tommy and Tuppence, Harley Quin, and more.)

Essentially if you have read and enjoyed any Agatha Christie books or watched any film or stage adaptations and liked them, then you will probably enjoy reading this collection. I personally dipped in and out of it in between reading other novels, but you could just read it straight through.

As with all short story collections, some are better than others, and it comes down to people’s opinions. My favourite were probably Witness for the Prosecution, and Greenshaw’s Folly, despite the fact that the latter was a Miss Marple story and I am not overly keen on Marple (LOVE Poirot though!) There weren’t any that I really disliked, so overall I would call this book a successful read!

 

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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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The fourth instalment of the Cherringham series, was I’m happy to say, equally as good as the three that went before it. I love listening to these stories – they are ideal to keep me engaged during a long run or two, and I really like the central characters of Jack Brennan and Sarah Edwards.

In this ‘episode’, two men find a rare Roman artefact on a farm – it will be sold to the British Museum and the money will be divided between the two men, the farmer and  Lady Repton, who owns the farmland, making them all rich. However, the artefact is stolen and while the police blame a notorious gang of thieves, Jack and Sarah are not convinced. They set out to solve the mystery themselves, but with several possible suspects, it’s not an easy job.

As always, this was an enjoyable and undemanding listen. The mystery itself was well constructed and I did not guess the culprit. It’s not giving anything away to say that there is a part of the story where Jack has to pretend to be a Texan tycoon, which I enjoyed immensely.

Another great story from the Cherringham series.

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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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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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