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Murder in Keswick
William Todd
The Case of the Deadly Doppelganger
Lucy Banks
The Temptation of Forgiveness  - Donna Leon

It is very difficult to maintain the same quality throughout a longstanding series as this one(this is number 27...). And although that the storyline is still very good,the development of the characters is too detailed(looks,hand movement, breath taking,frowned eyebrows...).But this is unfortunately not exactly an added bonus. It does not lead to more understanding, more depth...

That said,one of the main characters is the city of Venice and Venice fulfils its role to perfection!

 

The Manton Rempville murders - Julian Worker

A man is found murdered among the ruins of a medieval monastery. The weapon used is an ancient sword belonging to the nearby Hall. It is obvious that the culprit must be found among its inhabitants, domestics or guests. 

This is a strange one,everything points to a country setting in the ,say thirties (gardeners,butler,youngster down from Eton...)but the inspector and his sidekick are using cell phones,e-mails, hi-tech DNA research. The thing is,it doesn't enrich the story,it has no real added value.

And it just drags on an on(I can imagine the reader tapping her or his fingers on the table!)

And to top it off, the denouement leaves one with a whole list of questions...unanswered questions...

Son of zeus - Glyn Iliffe

Heracles(Hercules)is the son of Almecedes and Zeus (who slept with her while pretending to be her husband Amphitryon). As a birthday present Zeus gives his son immeasurable physical strenght(he lets Hera nurse him without her knowledge so he acquired this supernatural power of the goddess herself). Well,Zeus's good lady wife,the goddess Hera,is not  best pleased with this dalliance and even less with the outcome. So Hera, who's middle name is revenge,works out a plan to get rid of this abomination. Meanwhile,Heracles has sowed some of his wild oats and is settled with his loving wife Megara and and their 3 children in Thebes when disaster strikes,in a fit of madness, he kills his 3 sons. After wandering for a while he asks the oracle of Delphi for advice. She tells him in no uncertain terms that if he wants to find out the truth about that night of madness and wants to find some redemption, he has to perform certain labours. For this reason he becomes a slave to his cousin who is king of Tiryns(also thanks to the lovely Hera ). Of course Hera does not want Heracles to find out the truth nor find any atonement so she has her hand in the choice of these famous labours.
This is historical fiction based on Greek mythology but it reads as a fantasy story(the lion of Nemea,a white hind with golden antlers and a seven headed snake)albeit with a sad and bitter undertone. One can not help but feel sorry for this giant who's life is manipulated by the whims of the gods. This is the first part of the trilogy (3 labours done,9 more to go)but it is not the classic retelling of the myth,Heracles and the other characters are so much more than individual parts of this myth. Yes,I think I will probably follow Heracles his further adventures...

Crook's Hollow - Robert Parker

Someone is trying to kill Thorn Loxley,the estranged youngest son of a farmer dynasty. And then they try again and he decides to deal with this ordeal all by himself. This rural community is somewhat in turmoil.There are developers on the horizon and Thorn owns the deeds to a piece of land that is needed so this company can create a housing estate. The other grounds are owned by another farmer dynasty, the Crook family and needless to say,they are at daggers drawn. And so the attempts to murder Thorn continue... The storyline is not bad and it has a certain potential but none of the characters feel real,they are all so shallow. The book(not really the story)feels immature. And the end is absolutely over the top. Really over the top. Sometimes a good editor is a blessing...

The Dark Angel (Ruth Galloway Mysteries) - Elly Griffiths

Ruth Galloway,a forensic archaeologist,goes to Italy at the request of a Italian colleague (and a former one-night stand). Bones have been found at an excavation that raise a lot of(historical)questions. While Ruth stays in a medieval village in the Lazio region,she is confronted with the strange behaviour of certain characters and of course,murder.
This is the 10th book in this series and as with all series,the quality is somewhat variable. The mystery of the Dark Angel feels like a frame story to the story of Ruth's relationship with the father of her daughter,a married D.I.,who's wife is pregnant but perhaps not by him(on/off,on/off, I want you,no,I don't....)Perhaps closure of this particularly relationship might be a good thing for both the characters and for the storyline.

(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living - Mark Greenside

An American buys a house in Brittany (it really doesn't matter, it could have been Provence,Dordogne,Auvergne...)and is confronted with the inhabitants and their very local habits. Fair enough,but what I don't get is that the author has spent 2 months every year in Brittany for 25 years and his vocabulary still doesn't reach beyond bonjour and bonsoir.. A copy of French for Dummies would be very appropriate. The result is that both the author and the French sound like complete idiots. Not very respectful towards your adoptive country,is it? And there are some grammatical errors (not the author's)for instance : probléme instead of problème. Apparently the editor also needed a copy of French for Dummies ). Still,there are some passages in this book that definitely made me smile,always a good thing...but it has been done before and so much better...

 

Dark waters - Mary-Jane Riley

Two men are found dead on a little cruiser moored in the Norfolk broads(small waterways surrounded by marshes,meadows and woodland).
At first sight it looks like a suicide pact,although a strange one as both men don't seem to have a lot in common. Alex Devlin,a not so very successful journalist,is intrigued by the setup and starts digging....the past has an ugly habit to emerge when you don't expect it...
What makes this a fabulous read,apart from a very good storyline that keeps you guessing,is the personality of the main character. Yes,she is a nosy journalist,but she is not a monster,she feels guilt,empathy,compassion. It is a welcome change to all the detectives,inspectors,reporters,amateur sleuths who are arrogant, so sure of themselves, rude or absolutely obnoxious...I really liked it!

Broken Bones - Angela Marsons

D.I.Kim Stone is a rather well known character(especially to crime (book)lovers) and this is the seventh in the series. The book consist of several storylines that do relate (more or less)to each other. There is a serial killer targeting sex workers, an abandoned baby,a frozen unknown man, illegal workers and a missing young girl. And although it works,it is also the main problem.Four policepeople (including D.I.Stone)take on this whole load of misery. 

It just doesn't feel right. There is just too much going on. 

Mind you, the outcome of one of the cases is surprising and very interesting. 

The Well of Youth: The Last Prophecy Series 1 - E.J.Dawson

Although this is listed as a fantasy story it is much more an adventure story. True, the story is set in an imaginary world but it is a very recognisable one. Professor Holloran went missing when he left on a mission to follow some ancient texts referring to a well of youth, allegedly giving eternal life to the lucky drinker of this magical water. So the government sends out a dashing female captain, the professor's favourite student Andy and another scholar named Osewyn to find both the professor and the well. What follows is an adventure that features a marvellous ship called Juggernaut, an encounter with a Kraken,pirates,ice covered landscapes, huskies and colourful characters. This is the first in the trilogy and as said before, it is a great adventure story.

The Gate Keeper - Charles Todd

Set in the early twenties,this book just breathes golden age with a very modern twist. A very perturbed inspector, suffering from post-war trauma, finds himself involved in a mysterious murder(a man stops a car in the middle of the night and shoots the chauffeur ). Not only does he needs to solve the case,he is also confronted with a certain animosity from the villagers and the local constabulary. This is a perfect read for lovers of the British detective story (villages,gentry, murder...)but this is definitely not a soppy read. Good story,right atmosphere and good characterisation. Very good.

A Necessary Evil - Abir Mukherjee

Calcutta, 1920.India is going trough an agitated period. The Congress Party is having more and more supporters and even non-followers believe that the British Rule is past its use by date.In these confusing times,Prince Adhir,crown prince of Sambalpore is murdered after an official ceremony with the Viceroy. Soon after this,the killer takes his own life. Captain Wyndham and his Indian sergeant Surendranath(a Harrow and Cambridge man no less and a friend of the murdered prince)find that all tracks lead to Sambalpore, a small kingdom with the added benefit of fabulous diamond mines.There is definitely no lack of suspects,reasons or intrigues and the investigation is not as obvious as expected. 

The outcome is surprising and interesting. But what makes this an absolute wonderful book is the atmosphere. The colonial house of the British Resident,of course the palace of the Maharaja,the temples,the religious festivals,the lifestyle of this royal family,eunuchs and the zenana, the monsoon period,a golden locomotive loaded with bottles of champagne that runs the length of the dinner table,the gossip and the decline of both the British Raj and these small kingdoms. A wonderful Indian mystery story!

Murder Has A Motive - Francis Duncan

A classic setting,an enchanting English village with well defined residents and of course murder! Luckily Mordecai Tremaine is visiting some friends in this village and as an amateur sleuth he is more than willing to lend a helping hand to inspector Boyce. It is a nice classic detective story but perhaps a bit long winded (and some clues were not very hard to miss!!)

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.