Paroled rapist Richard Knox decides he wants to make a new life in the Aberdeen, forcing Granite City’s finest to protect him from an outraged populac...moreParoled rapist Richard Knox decides he wants to make a new life in the Aberdeen, forcing Granite City’s finest to protect him from an outraged populace. Meanwhile MacBride's recurring hero DS Logan McRae is under the cosh from all directions: his superiors are overloading him and questioning his attitude; he’s hitting the drink increasingly hard; he’s spending more time before Professional Standards than dealing with his massive caseload packed with counterfeit money and goods, murder, flashers, and robbery; and the local crime lord is leaving him envelopes of cash...
MacBride’s touch for character interaction and team dynamics (complete with realistic if coarse language and off-colour humour) is once again to the fore, as he delivers another solid instalment in an excellent series. Readers can’t help but feel for (and follow) beleaguered McRae, as he tries to weather the storms both natural and political, solve several cases, pull himself from his malaise, and decide if he even wants to remain a cop.
Not the best in the series, but a good read nonetheless - with several ongoing issues between recurring characters moved forward (or moved, anyway). I still miss DI Insch, but DI Steel is once again at her entertaining foul-mouthed best, McRae also has more to cope with in terms of his barely-competent colleague 'Beardy' Beattie being promoted to DI ahead of him, and several other colourful characters are also introduced. An entertaining and enjoyable read that isn't quite as brutal as the recent Blind Eye and Flesh House, but still has plenty of MacBride's usual mix of grimness, gore, and guffaws.
Died in the Wool is one of four Alleyn tales Marsh set in her native New Zealand, and is made even more interesting as it was actually published durin...moreDied in the Wool is one of four Alleyn tales Marsh set in her native New Zealand, and is made even more interesting as it was actually published during the Second World War, and incorporates aspects, issues, and perspectives on the war climate into the murder mystery plotline. Being written before Marsh would have even known when or how the war would end, some of the settings and characterisations can give insights into New Zealand at that time that no recently written historical novel, no matter how well researched, can match.
One summer evening in 1942, formidable Member of Parliament Florence “Flossie” Rubrick goes to the wool shed on her high country property to rehearse a patriotic speech, and disappears. Three weeks later, she’s found – dead inside a bale of wool at an auction. Inspector Alleyn, in New Zealand on war security matters, comes to the high country sheep station more than a year later, after Rubrick’s husband has also passed away from illness, and tries to piece together what really happened to the polarising MP, based on the testimonies of several acquaintances. At the same time, concerns are raised about the top-secret security work being carried out by two young men – have the blueprints for the new anti-aircraft device been leaked?
In effect, Marsh has transported the classic British ‘country house’ murder mystery, with its closed environment and small amount of characters – all of whom have a motive for killing the victim, into a rural New Zealand setting during the war. But she also does a few things differently that help Died in the Wool stand out. Alleyn arrives months after the murder, so can’t rely on the crime scene clues and observations usually available to detectives – instead he has to weigh the differing recollections of the residents (each has its own chapter, eg “According to Terence Lynne”). This device gave Marsh not only a different structure and investigative method, but the opportunity to ‘voice’ varying views and concerns about what was going on during the war, through her different characters.
In general, Marsh’s plots weren’t quite as intricate as Christie’s puzzles, but she was the superior writer when it came to setting, description, and giving her characters more depth and layers. Compared to today’s crime novels, the pace is somewhat languid, and at times, the language used dates the book, but decades after it was published, Died in the Wool remains an absorbing, enjoyable read.
It’s 1838 and part-Maori Wiki Coffin is scheduled to embark with the US Exploring Expedition from Virginia when he’s mistakenly arrested for murder be...moreIt’s 1838 and part-Maori Wiki Coffin is scheduled to embark with the US Exploring Expedition from Virginia when he’s mistakenly arrested for murder before being tasked with surreptitiously investigating the expedition, on the high seas, to find the real killer. Druett marvellously combines mystery and history in a unique crime novel setting. Wiki is a terrific and engaging lead, the book is drenched in maritime colour and detail, and the murder mystery itself twists to a satisfying end.(less)
This book was quite different to the crime/thriller novels I usually read, but I found myself hooked, and really enjoying it.
It is reminiscent of tha...moreThis book was quite different to the crime/thriller novels I usually read, but I found myself hooked, and really enjoying it.
It is reminiscent of that classic mid-20th century American noir, with its dishevelled hero, mean and gritty streets, and situations that unfold into all sorts of unplanned bad places and outcomes.
Recacoechea's writing probably shines most in his evocation of La Paz, the highest capital city in the world - a bustling city full of change and history, and the sense of disconnect and desperation felt by the 'hero'.
AMERICAN VISA is quite a different book, and won't necessarily be enjoyed by all crime and thriller fans, but there is plenty of merit, interest, and thought-provoking themes to be found within its pages. (less)
WHITE FOR DANGER by David Stevens (1979) starts in New Zealand and heads to Antarctica, as renowned writer and adventurer Logan Adams is roped into ta...moreWHITE FOR DANGER by David Stevens (1979) starts in New Zealand and heads to Antarctica, as renowned writer and adventurer Logan Adams is roped into tagging along with his brother-in-law's Antarctica expedition - his brother-in-law was the sole survivor of a previous mission, and he's determined to go back and find the two men left behind, that he believes are still alive and were taken to a hidden city on the frozen continent.
Dr Dan Rinaldi is a clinical psychologist and consultant to the Pittsburgh PD, specialising in treating victims of violent crime – survivors of robber...moreDr Dan Rinaldi is a clinical psychologist and consultant to the Pittsburgh PD, specialising in treating victims of violent crime – survivors of robbery, kidnapping, or worse. After six months, he’s finally made something of a breakthrough with Kevin Merrick, a drug abusing and self-harming college student who seemingly at last has started to open up about his traumatic past. However, recently Kevin had started to worryingly mirror Rinaldi in dress and manner, struggling to find his own sense of identity and instead mimicking his therapist. Rinaldi wants to work through this with Kevin, but after the breakthrough session, Kevin is murdered in Rinaldi’s parking lot.
Palumbo’s writing is wonderful, full of pithy yet vivid description, and good, layered characterisation. His prose comes alive off the page, further fuelling an exciting story. The characters, not just the complex, cares-too-much hero Rinaldi, but many of the supporting cast (“beer keg in a wrinkled blue suit” Sergeant Polk, his partner Detective Lowrey, attractive free-spirited ADA Casey Walters, and more), are memorable, well-drawn, and fascinating on a number of levels. Mirror Image tears along at a terrific, tense pace, but never feels ‘breezy’ – there’s depth in every page. Layers of subtext and intrigue twist on themselves, ensnaring the reader as Palumbo takes us on a thrilling ride. Put simply, this is one of the very best debut novels I’ve read in the past decade. Highly recommended. (less)
Although he is best known for his Yorkshire-set Inspector Banks mystery novels, Peter Robinson has been writing acclaimed short stories for twenty yea...moreAlthough he is best known for his Yorkshire-set Inspector Banks mystery novels, Peter Robinson has been writing acclaimed short stories for twenty years. The Price of Love brings together ten such stories, along with a brand-new 110-page DCI Banks novella.
Many of the short stories have been published in prior ‘themed’ crime anthologies edited by the likes of Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Anne Perry and Otto Penzler, and they veer from the First World War to present day, from police procedural to noir to touches of horror, and from Robinson’s childhood home of Yorkshire to his modern-day abode in Toronto (and several places in between). In “Cornelius Jubb” a black US soldier is accused of rape while stationed in WWII Yorkshire; in “The Magic of Your Touch” a jazz musician pays a heavy price for unearned success; in “Blue Christmas” Banks investigates a crime other than murder.
Despite the range, and the way in which Robinson ‘experiments’ with different things in some of the stories (as he explains in the afternotes), The Price of Love is a cohesive collection with few weak points. Readers will prefer different stories depending on their own tastes, rather for any glaring quality reasons. An enjoyable read that you can dip into, story by story, at your leisure. (less)
A New Jersey town is rocked when 17-year-old Hayley McWaid, captain of the high school lacrosse team, disappears without a trace. Meanwhile social wor...moreA New Jersey town is rocked when 17-year-old Hayley McWaid, captain of the high school lacrosse team, disappears without a trace. Meanwhile social worker Dan Mercer’s life is turned upside down when he’s outed and publically shamed as a sexual predator on ambitious reporter Wendy Tynes’ nationally-televised news program ‘Caught in the Act’. Even when the evidence against him is tossed out, his old life is gone for good; but that’s the least of his troubles as the town turns on him and his estranged family. Violently. Tynes finds herself questioning her own instincts and the motives of everyone around her, and as she digs deeper to find the truth, all sorts of skeletons start coming out of all sort of close.
Coben has built his name on ‘pulse-pounding’ tales where secrets of the past come terrifyingly to bear on the present, and he delivers once more with Caught. Pages will whir, and lights will stay on, as readers are kept up late at night by this cracking thriller. Some may find the plot a little too intricate, with too many characters, issues and aspects brought together - everything from paedophilia to embezzlement to murder to the dangers of social networking websites to underage drinking - but there’s no doubt it’s an exciting and entertaining story that gallops along. And in amongst the mayhem, Coben raises several interesting issues and philosophical questions, including ruminations on good intentions with bad outcomes, forgiveness, and redemption. (less)
Our colonial forbears made long journeys across vast oceans in search of a better life. By and large they found what has been called a ‘model society...moreOur colonial forbears made long journeys across vast oceans in search of a better life. By and large they found what has been called a ‘model society at the end of the world’, but like any society, the land of the long white cloud had its underbelly.
It’s some of the people that have made up that underbelly that award-winning journalist Brownyn Sell has focused on in her latest book. Law Breakers & Mischief Makers provides short vignettes of some of the misfits, swindlers, love rats, escaped convicts, murderers, charlatans, highwaymen, dodgy politicians, and other shady characters who have speckled New Zealand’s history.
And let’s be honest, whether it’s literature, drama, or history – it’s the ‘bad guys’ that can intrigue us the most – good stories often need great villains, whether it’s Shakespeare’s Iago, Richard III and MacBeth, or Darth Vader in Star Wars.
Sell has combed historic newspaper reports to compile an interesting collection of great Kiwi ‘villains’, and Top of the South readers will find a few recognisably ‘local’ characters, such as the Burgess gang of Maungatapu Murders infamy, and visionary if tainted settlement founder Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
Sell has done a good job mixing the famous (baby farmer Minnie Dean, Aramoana gunman David Gray) with the somewhat forgotten but equally fascinating (cross-dressing swindler Amy Bock, flamboyant Otago superintendent James Macandrew who declared his own house a prison to avoid going to the real gaol for unpaid debts). However the short chapters can leave readers wanting a little more.