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A Hunt in Winter: A Joe Swallow Mystery
Conor Brady
Dig Two Graves: A Gripping Crime Thriller (The Detective Solomon Gray Series Book 1) - Keith,  Terry NIXON,  Allison STONES,  BUSBY

10 years ago, sergeant Gary's six year old son disappeared at a fun fair. Needless to say that this tragedy had a deep impact on Solomon Gray and his family. Now he is investigating the suicide/murder of a sixteen year old boy and the murder of a priest(who was well known to his wife).The thing is, I just couldn't connect with Solomon Gray. He is aggressive, keeps vital information to himself, lies,is arrogant, self centered...He is just thoroughly unpleasant(in any normal police station he would have been put on indeterminate leave a long time ago). That said,his character is extremely well elaborated while the other characters are cardboard figures, pastiches perhaps. One has the impression that the story is not so important, that it comes second to the development of the character of Solomon Gray...

Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek - Anthony O'Neill

7 years after the death of Mr.Hyde and the mysterious disappearance of Dr.Jekyll,the doctor reappears in London and lays claim on all of Dr.Jekyll 's assets. Mr.Utterson, chief beneficiary of the doctor's estate, knows that this Dr.Jekyll is a fraud. He,and only he, read the confession of Dr.Jekyll. Unfortunately, he kept everything to himself so not to sully the good doctor's name. The impostor (is he?)wriggles his way back into society. His esteemed friends are all convinced that he is the real Dr.Jekyll. Only Mr.Utterson remains more than sceptical. And then accidents, deathly accidents, start to happen. Mr.Utterson is more than ever determined to unmask this fiend. But will he succeed...?

This is a very well written (short)novel,it keeps the reader's attention, there is an increasing tension and the return of Dr.Jekyll is not to be dismissed lightly. 

Death Comes By Amphora - Roger Hudson

Athens,461 BC. A young man comes to Athens only to find that his uncle has died under mysterious circumstances. Pretty soon it is clear that murder is the keyword and the hunt for the culprit(s) starts in earnest. Athens is in turmoil, two factions,the radicals,with Pericles as a leading figure(who believe in a distribution of power among the entire population, except slaves(!)...)and the aristocrats,heads of military families and so on..(who believe that only a very few, and very well connected, are entitled to lead,to take decisions. ..)are at daggers drawn. History,of course,tells us which faction did eventuality win and consequently led to Athens Golden Age and to something called democracy. 

The historical aspect of the story is very well researched. But,because it is such a dominant part of the story,the mystery story tends to be put aside. After a while one is no longer sure there is a mystery at all and it becomes a tad long winded. A firmer editing might have been a good idea. 

The Coven (Beatrice Scarlet) - Graham Masterton

1758,London.Beatrice Scarlet,a widow, works in a refuge for "fallen"women. But then some of these young girls (who,after a rehabilitation period,are sent out to factories )disappear.

Although the title implies witches and witchcraft (so does the cover by the way),this is more of a mystery story with some dark/horror undercurrents. But after a rather slow start it is definitely a thrilling read and mostly well written.This also happens to be the second book in this new series. 

Only comment,perhaps certain scenes (rape scenes mainly)might have been a little less graphic. 

Lady Macbeth - Nicholas Freeling

The storyline is not a bad idea(a woman goes missing after a quarrel with her husband and her neighbours ask Henry Castang to look into her disappearance )but the fact that every chapter is told by a different character makes it difficult to keep one focused. The whole story tended to wander. And I can't say that Henry Castang, the police inspector, actually charmed me or kept my interest. 

Simply Pho: A Complete Course in Preparing Authentic Vietnamese Meals at Home - Helen Le

There are some magical dishes on this planet and pho is definitely one of them.A very tasteful and savoury broth served with fragrant "toppings"such as rice noodles,bean sprouts,fresh herbs, lime juice,sliced chillies,spring onions...and so much more.You just know it is going to taste fabulous.

So this a cookbook about pho,but not just pho.There are also recipes for several different spring rolls,crispy roasted porc,noodle dishes,vegetarian(and vegan)alternatives,condiments and not to forget, the famous Vietnamese sandwich,bánh mì.

The recipes are not unduly complicated and therefore well within everybody's reach.Of course you'll need many different ingredients but then Asian cuisine, in general, tends to use just more than pepper and salt.  

As for the photographs, they are really mouth watering and just cry out:try me!

Very well, pho is on the menu next week !

A Grave Misunderstanding: A Simon Grave Mystery - Len Boswell

Well,this is in the first place a locked room mystery and to be frank, it is not a bad one but...there are some inconsistencies,the story feels as if it is written in the fifties(manor house, crust free sandwiches, butler, gardener, maids...)but apart from the family the manor is also inhabited by a dozen or so robots (androids).And the there is the author's ideas about women,they are either drop dead gorgeous (and very sexy)or the ravages of time are clearly visible (and mentioned ).Great!

Furthermore, as this is supposed to be a comedy (I suppose, not really quite sure what it is)the brilliant, witty humour completely bypassed me (and I mean completely !)

2 stars for the murder mystery....

 

 

Graƫlfire - Stephen Chamberlain

This is basically a different version of the Holy Grail story. Here the grail(Graël)is a stone from a different universe.The book consist of two storylines and it constantly switches between those two. One happens in present day Switzerland were Lena and a mysterious stranger, Raphael, are looking for a lost Graëlstone once believed to be in the possession of the Cathars. Of course they are not the only ones looking for this stone...The other storyline is situated in the Languedoc and northern Italy in 1245. Here the Cathars are fleeing from the horrible Inquisition . We follow the story of Gideon ,another mysterious stranger, who is looking for the Graëlstone believed to be kept in hiding, by the Cathars, since the fall of Montségur, their stronghold.

Well, it starts very promising,very exciting, a strange mix between fantasy, adventure and mystery but unfortunately it doesn't keep its promise. It just drags on and on, a bit of a never-ending story and I had a hard time actually finishing it. It really is too bad because a new take on the Grail myth is always interesting.... 

The Sin Collector (Masha Karavai Detective Series) - Shelley Fairweather-Vega, Daria Desombre

A brilliant law student (still very much perturbed by her father's mysterious murder and slightly obsessed with serial killers )manages to find herself an internship at Moscow's police headquarters .As bodies (both of unsolved murders in the past as in the present )turn up in different parts of Moscow, Masha discovers a strange pattern relating to medieval texts,maps, New Rome and Heavenly Jerusalem. The storyline is good, the characters are believable and it is a new twist on "the serial killer ".There is however one comment I would like to make, as Moscow plays such a prominent role in this story,a map of the city would have been helpful,handy...As it is,all the characters revolve around maps with different gates, walls and parks...but the reader(not a resident of Moscow) feels a bit lost. 

Grief Cottage: A Novel - Gail Godwin

After the death of his mother, 11 year old Marcus is sent to his mother's aunt who lives in a beach house on an island in South Carolina. A derelict cottage (and it's sad story)attracts his attention.It is in this cottage that he "meets"a ghost. The ghost of a 15 year old boy,who disappeared during a hurricane in the fifties. But this is in the first place a story about the ghost of a beloved (and departed )mother.It is the ghost of grief and bereavement.I think this is a marvellous story,the pace(probably too slow for some )depicts so well the lazy summer and the slow adjustments of this boy to his new situation,to his aunt,to his new life. Grief cottage is a well chosen title !

The Travelling Bag: And Other Ghostly Stories - Susan Hill

This book is actually a collection of 4 short stories:A Travelling Bag,Boy Twenty-one, Ann  Baker and The Front Room. And although they do not occur in a 19th century setting they do have a very Victorian atmosphere. They are absolutely delightful (if one can speak of a delightful ghost story?)If you like your ghost stories bloody, gory and very frightful, then this is definitely not for you. But if you like a ghostly (and mysterious)twist at the end of a good and captivating story,then this is a perfect read!

 

Heaven's crooked finger - Hank Early

Earl Marcus returns to his birthplace, a very rural area in North Georgia, after rumours of sightings of his father(after his death )have reached him. He left this area, his father and especially a rather weird (we're talking ordeals by snakes here)and intense evangelical church community where his father was a very charismatic preacher and leader, some 30 years previously. Not much has changed,the church still has fervent followers, moonshine is still drunk and the whole area still feels pretty isolated from the rest of the world. To make matters worse, young girls go missing and return completely disoriented, anxious and with strange marks on their bodies.

This is a very atmospheric novel,one can feel the claustrophobic sensation and the threat of approaching thunderstorms.But as the story evolves,the storyline starts to unravel and the last half/quarter of the book could do with some serious editing. Pity...

Nine Lessons: A Josephine Tey Mystery - Nicola Upson

There's a serial rapist  on the loose in Cambridge (we're talking inter-war period !)where Josephine Tey is taking care of her friend's house. Meanwhile a body (apparently burried alive)is found in a London churchyard and certain clues are left with this victim .But as more bodies are discovered they all seem to lead to Cambridge, more precisely to King's College and their famous choir.

Fact is, I never read anything by Josephine Tey but I liked the idea of having a real(crime)writer on the premises .The interaction between Miss Tey and a very gallant (and still smitten )inspector is adorable (not corny, not sugary,just from time to time awkward ).The mystery (a serial KILLER on the loose )is of a very sound quality. I,personally, enjoyed it. Who needs more...

The Shock: A disturbing thriller for fans of Jeffery Deaver - Marc Raabe

A woman is abducted in France. Her friend finds her cell phone and with this information he follows her back home to Berlin. There the chase for the abducter, who turns out to be a serial killer, starts in earnest. The storyline is good, up to a certain point,and then it starts to wander. But the style,the writing is lacking something. Perhaps it is due to the translation (it was originally published in German).All in all,after a good start, a bit of a disappointment. 

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau - Graeme Macrae Burnet

This book was written before the highly successful "His Bloody Project "(shortlisted for the 2016 Booker Prize )and it has some of the same characteristics. The atmosphere and setting (in this case a small Alsatian town) have a surreal touch. It feels as if the whole town is caught in a dark time stop (although Mulhouse and Strasbourg,both very much alive, are in the vicinity). Furthermore, the whole town seems to be inhabited by thoroughly unpleasant and yes, slightly weird people(a bartender who hardly says a word, a desk sergeant who's not inclined to do any work, people in bars just staring at nothing (or their glass)).

This book is,although very well written, difficult to classify. The best description (that I can give)is a written film noir with undertones of Patrick Süskind and Simenon. 

The Silent Companions: A Novel - Laura  Purcell

After the untimely (and mysterious )death of her husband, Elsie is sent to her husband's ramshackle country manor. The manor is surrounded by a bleak scenery, an hostile village and a decrepit church.That should be enough to make one feel a bit tense but there is more:a 17th century diary, strange wooden figures and many,many secrets .This is in every sense a classic ghost story (haunted house, forbidden rooms,noises in the night...)but what makes this special is the fact that the ghostly part is very good but there is also an excellent mystery story underneath.