The story is decent, the characters have enough little twists to keep them interesting and I love mysteries. However, I found the mystery of Poet's Co...moreThe story is decent, the characters have enough little twists to keep them interesting and I love mysteries. However, I found the mystery of Poet's Cottage lacking in suspense and its solution a bit too neat and out of the blue.
I honestly thought there was going to be something more to the mystery. Pennicott has all the ingredients for a truly awesome, thrilling tale with a cast of tricksy characters that might just be the murderer, plus a horrifically fascinating revelation about the murderer – but it never quite lives up to that promise. It might have been the speed that I read the closing chapters, but I felt the solution was never made explicit enough – there was a scene in which the murderer was revealed, not named, and I had to keep reading on to get confirmation.
(view spoiler)[Well, to find out who did it since he/she were such an insignificant, forgettable character in a book stuffed with characters that demanded attention. (hide spoiler)]
The style of writing wasn't really my cup of tea and I did struggle to keep track of the more minor characters. Ultimately, I felt that there was a lot of potential that Poet's Cottage didn't live up to. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Not far in, I wasn't too hopeful that I'd finish this book, much less enjoy it as much as I did. Anna Romer's writing style to me seemed a bit clunky...moreNot far in, I wasn't too hopeful that I'd finish this book, much less enjoy it as much as I did. Anna Romer's writing style to me seemed a bit clunky and amateurish. However, braving the early chapters that set up the location, I found the mystery at the heart of the tale that kept me rapt in the story and very forgiving of the occasional bit of clumsy writing.
The main appeal of the book was the mystery. It became swiftly apparent that Romer has an incredible skill in crafting a mystery (or mysteries) with enough twists and turns that kept me guessing and desperate to work out what was going on. The tension levels are raised until a truly satisfying ending, with only a few niggles for me.
(view spoiler)[Cleve's supposed death – he is shot, put in a car which is then sunk in a lake. Yet he somehow survives even though his wife and son never see him surfacing from the lake? And then somehow manages to survive for decades without anyone knowing? I also would have liked more information on whose body it was in the truck that everyone thought was Cleve's. (hide spoiler)] And then there's the fact that even though it's 2005, no one seems to have a mobile phone? At one point, someone makes a point about how there's no "cell" reception out in the bush... but no one seems to have one so why would they care about reception? If mobiles are the norm, why aren't they using them? And, for that matter, why are Australians calling mobiles cell phones? Is this a Queensland-only thing?
(okay that one's a bit petty)
And I really couldn't warm to Bronwyn, the protagonist's eleven-year old daughter. This is really petty because she's eleven years old and has just lost her father, but I never understood her motivations and often felt that she came across as annoying, bratty and ignorant instead of the bright-beyond-her-years that we're constantly told she is. In addition, I thought the love story of Audrey and Danny could have easily been cut – it was cute, yes, and not objectionable, but added very little to the story.
I wouldn't be shy of picking up Anna Romer's next book. The mystery at the heart of Thornwood House were incredibly engaging, and I think that Romer has potential as a writer. My main niggles with the book are fairly minor and petty and with such a tight and tense plot, the occasional bit of clumsy prose didn't throw me off. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
By no means a light or happy tale, Burial Rites focuses on the last months of Agnes Magnusdottir's life before she is executed for murder (the last pe...moreBy no means a light or happy tale, Burial Rites focuses on the last months of Agnes Magnusdottir's life before she is executed for murder (the last person ever executed in Iceland). Author Hannah Kent has done a stunning, though supremely brutal, job in writing this tale.
Roughly speaking, the narrative is divided into two main view-points. The first is the viewpoint of the Reverend Tóti, who prepares Agnes for her execution and the family at Kornsá with whom she stays in the months prior. These sections of the narrative provide an outside view of Agnes. The second is written in the voice of Agnes herself, and it is there that Kent shines as an author. In all honesty, these were my favourite sections of the novel they were so beautifully realised and enthralling.
Kent also re-creates Iceland in the 1800s so brilliantly that one feels immersed. One could feel the cold and darkness of its brutal winter.
The character of Agnes is presented ambiguously. She is neither an guiltless victim of her co-accused nor "an inhumane witch". While one never knows whether she was truly guilty in Kent's tale, she is undeniably human and very sympathetic. So much so that when the inevitable happens, it's like a kick to the teeth.
In short, this is an amazing read, incredibly beautiful and just. Amazing. I'm a bit speechless. (less)
I'm not really qualified to make comments about The Cuckoo's Calling as being an awesome literary effort or an innovative crime novel. Yeah, I studied...moreI'm not really qualified to make comments about The Cuckoo's Calling as being an awesome literary effort or an innovative crime novel. Yeah, I studied crime fiction at university and at school, but the two lessons I got out of them was one, my taste in crime authors isn't necessarily a good thing (I love Christie but my instructors thought she was terrible) and two, I can't write crime novels to save a life.
Having made that disclaimer: I loved The Cuckoo's Calling. It was a fantastic read, Galbraith (aka J. K. Rowling) got me hooked within the first pages and it was supremely difficult to put the book down. So often my thought process was "just one more chapter, oh look, the next chapters only a few pages, let's finish that one too..."
And as a mystery that keeps you guessing? The Cuckoo's Calling delivers. I had my suspicions and my theories, but was ultimately proved wrong on all accounts. (view spoiler)[All right, I considered the possibility that the client was the murderer, but very quickly dismissed it after not being able to work out a motive without borrowing from the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Retired Colourman(hide spoiler)]. As a crime novel, I don't think it was particularly innovate but then that's not what I go looking for in a crime novel (but then I love Christie so what do I know, hey?). It would have been interesting to see a little bit more of the aftermath of the reveal, but I was content with where the story and the promise of a sequel.
I enjoyed Galbraith's character work, though only Cormoran Strike gets a decent dollop of it. I actually spent quite a bit of time wishing that we could have had some time Lula Landry alive because she came across so vividly. Even thinking about the sequel makes me a bit wistful about leaving behind a few of the characters that made up The Cuckoo's Calling. However, I wished that Galbraith had spent a bit more time exploring and developing the character of Robin. I loved the inherent contradiction in her character – a romantic who wants to be a private detective – but I wanted to see more about her.
I don't want to go into comparisons with Rowling's other work as they're ultimately very different books, both in genre and execution. That said, I found The Cuckoo's Calling a more enjoyable and gripping read than The Casual Vacancy.
So, The Cuckoo's Calling is a fine crime novel that's staying on my shelves and I'm going to keep an eye out for Galbraith's future novels. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A nice, light and fluffy piece of reading. I liked the characters and premise, but I find the plot really that interesting. I felt I was watching Cori...moreA nice, light and fluffy piece of reading. I liked the characters and premise, but I find the plot really that interesting. I felt I was watching Corinna rattle around in her life, rather than watching a mystery unfold before me. The few breaks in POV didn't really add enough tension to make me feel like I was reading a crime novel. Still, it's light and fluffy and I like hearing from Corinna's POV.(less)
It's been over two years since I first stepped inside the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, that wonderful, intriguing world, and to rejoin that world with...moreIt's been over two years since I first stepped inside the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, that wonderful, intriguing world, and to rejoin that world with The Prisoner of Heaven was a chance I couldn't resist. I loved The Prisoner of Heaven, every single page, and found it more enjoyable than my memories of The Angel's Game, though it doesn't quite reach the heights of The Shadow of the Wind.
But, because it has been over two years, my memory's a little rusty on everything that happened in the previous instalments so it took me awhile to connect up the dots (or indeed recognising David Martín as the protagonist of The Angel's Game). I can imagine, though, that reading these books one after the other would be an extraordinary experience (and, for that reason, I'm putting the whole series on my re-read pile).
Against this book also is the fact that it feels like a book to fill a gap, to keep things moving or set them up for when the fourth book comes out. Some mysteries are teased, but never solved, a confrontation with the man who appears to be the chief villain (Mauricio Valls) feels like a unfulfilled promise, and the ending verges towards a cliffhanger. It's an annoyance, but for me it verges on minor.
Still, the writing is perfect, and the suspense is tight – typical hallmarks of a Carlos Ruiz Zafon book – and there's no way I'd willingly miss a chance to enter the Cemetery of Forgotten Books again (if only I could get my hands on The Rose of Fire...). (less)
I picked this up after enjoying the television adaptations of Bad Debts and Black Tide starring Guy Pearce. The series differs in a number of ways, in...moreI picked this up after enjoying the television adaptations of Bad Debts and Black Tide starring Guy Pearce. The series differs in a number of ways, including the fact that Pearce does not resemble the Jack Irish that author Peter Temple describes. But that's really a moot point here.
Bad Debts reads like a class hardboiled crime novel, though taken out of its typical setting and relocated in Melbourne, Australia, during the 1990s. The hero-detective, Jack Irish, is suitably cynical and world-weary enough, and the world he inhabits is grim and suspenseful. The mystery is complex, constantly bringing up questions that lead to more questions before bringing things to an explosive head. But the mystery is not just the sole focus of the story – woven into the story are subplots dealing with Jack Irish's everyday life, to references to his daughter and late wife, to his cabinetmaking hobby and more. This makes for an altogether richer story and character.
I'm sorry if that sounds like a lot of wankery. I was forced to study crime fiction at both high school and university, so I tend to get excited every time I can actually use that knowledge. :P
Maybe it was because I had already seen the miniseries adaptation, but I didn't find Bad Debts that engaging to begin with – which is why it's a four stars, not five. Still, when the action did start to heat up, I was glued to the pages. In my opinion, it is a fine detective story in the tradition of the likes of Raymond Chandler. (less)
A bit of fun and a nice quick read to build up my reading tally (I'm no longer falling behind, yay!). Not exactly my idea of spectacular writing or st...moreA bit of fun and a nice quick read to build up my reading tally (I'm no longer falling behind, yay!). Not exactly my idea of spectacular writing or storytelling, but engrossing enough. (less)
I don't make it a habit to read crime fiction, but if I see one of P. D. James' novels going cheap, I usually pick it up. The Private Patient was such...moreI don't make it a habit to read crime fiction, but if I see one of P. D. James' novels going cheap, I usually pick it up. The Private Patient was such a buy, and while I'm not going to hang onto my copy, it was an enjoyable read.
James writes in the "cosy", closed-room subgenre of crime, but she doesn't conform to the conventions of the subgenre entirely. She bulks up on characterisation of a variety figures, feautirng the detectives, the suspects and the victim(s) – it may not be up to the standard of other genres, but it is much stronger than the stalwarts of cosy crime fiction. This can backfire: at the start of The Private Patient, I felt like I was treading water, reading almost a hundred pages of character set up and potential clues before the premise of the book – the murder – to get started.
The other way that James doesn't conform to the subgenre is the solving of the mystery. Sometimes it's neatly sewn up, other times it remains "off the record". Here, I found myself frustrated because it felt as though I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. James neatly solves the mystery, then undermines this solution, only to hint at the "real" solution, including some clues that even the detectives don't remark on. Even if we take the "real" solution James hints at as reality, there is still a lot left unanswered. It's very frustrating, and right up until the end, I was waiting for some little remark to bring the mystery to an end.
On a more positive side, The Private Patient is an engrossing read, with a mystery that kept me guessing until the end. (less)
Kate Lyons' The Water Underneath is an enjoyable read, exploring the lives of three women across three different generations.
I picked up an uncorrecte...moreKate Lyons' The Water Underneath is an enjoyable read, exploring the lives of three women across three different generations.
I picked up an uncorrected proof at the local Vinnies for 50 cents, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time nitpicking details. But I feel like that was an incredible buy because the story is so engaging. However, I have to point that the blurb lies: it's not really a "road movie" and it's not a "murder mystery" either. Don't get me wrong – there are elements of both, but that's all there is.
The majority of the story focuses around the lives of the characters, which are fascinating on their own, without the added bonus of a "murder mystery". I did find the way the timeline would jump around a little annoying, and initially, I found it hard to work out who was who and their direct relationships. However, this probably would have been better had the story been expanded and more structured. (less)
As a crime story, this is disappointing – the camera is always slightly off to the side of the crime and its solving, focusing on the people solving t...moreAs a crime story, this is disappointing – the camera is always slightly off to the side of the crime and its solving, focusing on the people solving these crimes and their relationships instead. Yet it's still an utterly amazing piece of writing. I don't have the words to explain how marvellous Dorothy Porter's writing is.(less)