Tag Archives: Crime

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling, Robert GalbraithThe Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
(J.K. Rowling)

First Published: 2013

Pages: 550(Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Cormoran Strike #1

Rating:4/54/54/54/54/5

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts and calls in private detective Cormoran Strike to investigate.

Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his private life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s world, the darker things become – and the closer he gets to terrible danger.

Before I start, I’m going to admit that I only chose to read this book because the author is J.K. Rowling. I’m partial to a detective story now and then but, without a specific recomendation for Galbraith from someone I trust, I would probably not have picked this novel up on my own from among  the sea of bland identi-covers and samey-blurbs in my bookshop’s crime section.  But Rowling proved (to me at least) that she could write for adults with The Casual Vacancy and she’s proved she could write mysteries and sprinkle clues around ever since The Philosopher’s Stone, so I was interested to see what her crime debut would be like.

 

And it’s pretty good. A fairly standard crime novel, perhaps: a PI with a funny name, a dark history, and a disastrous personal life investigates a death everyone believes to be a suicide, proves it was murder and shows up the police. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or exceptional about the story, but it is a solid, enjoyable read, and that’s pretty much all I ask of my detective novels. Continue reading

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Death of a Red Heroine, Qiu Xiaolong

Death of a Red Heroine, Qiu XiaolongDeath of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

First Published: 2000
Pages: 464(Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: Inspector Chen #1

Rating: 2.52.52.52.52.5

SHANGHAI IN 1990. An Ancient city in a Communist country: looking to the future for its survival. Chief Inspector Chen, a poet with a sound instinct for self-preservation, knows the city like few others.

When the body of a prominent Communist party member is found, Chen is told to keep the party authorities informed about every lead. And he must keep the young woman’s murder out of the papers at all costs. When his investigation leads him to the decadent offspring of high-ranking officials, he finds himself instantly removed from the case and reassigned to another area.

Chen has a choice: bend to the party’s whishes and sacrifice his morals, or continue his investigation and risk dismisal from his job and from the party. Or worse . . .

How good does that blurb sound? A detective novel that takes place in Communist China! Unfortunately, and despite almost every other person I know enjoying it, I found it underwhelming. Proof, I guess, of just how subjective reading can be. It’s not a ‘bad’ book, it had a lot of promise, and it picked up in the middle after a slow start. But in the end it just wasn’t for me and I can, mainly, pinpoint this to four things; way too much exposition and introspection on unimportant details, obvious clues going unnoticed for far too long, descriptions and portrayals of female characters that consistently skeeved me out, all rather leading to a main character that was hard to feel anything for.

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The Unusual Suspects, Michael Buckley

The Unusual Suspects, Michael BuckleyThe Unusual Suspects by Michael Buckley
Illustrated by  Peter Ferguson

Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 290 plus afterword (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The Sisters Grimm #2

Rating:

For Sabrina Grimm, living in a community of fairy-tale characters means always being ready for trouble. And something is definitely wrong at her new school. The adults seem too angry, the kids seem too sleepy, and the gym teacher likes dodgeball way too much. Of course, her little sister, Daphne, is having the time of her life. (Who wouldn’t with Snow White for a teacher – she’s so good with little people!) But when Sabrina’s teacher, Mr. Grumpner, is found dangling in a giant spider’s web, even Daphne’s convinced Ferryport Landing Elementary has a monster problem. Can the Sisters Grimm solve the crime?

So, after reading a few stories in a row that didn’t quite ‘click’ with me I thought I’d pick up something nice, easy, and fun – and this proved to be exactly what I needed. Without spoiling the first book too much, The Sisters Grimm is a fractured fairy tale/fairy tale mash-up series following the adventures of  Sabrina and Daphne Grimm as they solve fairy-tale crime and try to track down their abducted parents. If I’m honest, it’s not the best-written of series so far, but it’s very fun, the ideas are good, and as a sucker for reimagined fairy tales I’m kinda moving towards loving it. Enough that I’ve already put in a library reservation for the next book anyway.

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Audiobook: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Read by Derek Jacobi

Series: Sherlock Holmes #3
Publisher:
BBC Audio
Time:
11 hours 7 minutes (unabridged)
Format: Audible Download – Short Story Collection

Story:
Narration:

Scandal, treachery and crime are rife in Old London Town. A king blackmailed by his mistress, dark dealings in opium dens, stolen jewels, a missing bride – these are cases so fiendishly complex that only Sherlock Holmes would dare to investigate.

Story:

For anyone new to Sherlock Holmes this is really the place to start. Doyle finally hits his stride with this collection of short stories. It’s a format that suits both the characters and the mysteries far better than the slightly drawn-out novels (with the exception of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is ace) and has the blessed relief of absolutely no obscenely long and involved story within a stories. It’s also, from memory, the most solid of the short story collections as a whole – Memoirs containing a couple of duds and later collections a little bit lackluster in comparison – even so, it’s a mixed bag. On second reading (or rather listening) there were stories I liked rather less than on my first read, but none that I actively dislike. Continue reading

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Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

Publisher: Gollancz (Orion Books)
Pages: 418 (Hardback)
Form: Novel
Series: Rivers of London/Peter Grant #3

Rating:

In Tufnell Park, North London, a pair of railway tracks dive under a school, taking trains from Kings Cross. Wet, filthy, dangerous. Lovely place. And one Sunday before Christmas a sweet (sort of) kid called Abigail took me and my long suffering colleague Lesley May down there to look for a ghost.

We found one.

And that was that, I thought, because come Monday I get to do some proper policing. Person Unknown has been stabbed to death on the tracks at Baker Street tube. Magic may have been involved. And sure enough, in the blood; vestigia, the tell-tale trail magic leaves.

Person Unknown turns out to be the son of a US senator and before you can say ‘International incident’, FBI agent Kimberley Reynolds and her firmly held religious beliefs are on my case.

And down in the dark, in the tunnels of London’s Underground, the buried rivers, the Victorian sewers, I’m hearing whispers of ancient arts and tortured, vengeful spirits. . .

Ok, before I start let me do my little happy dance. Wheeeeeeeeee! It’s out! And it’s good! The second book is almost forgiven!

Rivers of London (because I’m not American) is a series I have mixed feelings about. I got the first book as an impulse buy because of its beautiful cover (the UK editions are gorgeous) and spent a lovely day lying out in the park getting myself very sunburnt as I totally immersed myself in the story. I got home, book finished, and preordered the next two in the series straight away. In the over-a-year I’ve been waiting for this book to come out, however, the second in the series arrived and it was…well…no where near as good as the first book. In fact I barely liked the second book at all and was beginning to think that maybe I had been wrong about the series, maybe the first one wasn’t as good as I thought and I only enjoyed it so much because it was the first book I read for fun after sorting my life out and seeking help for my depression. Thankfully, with the arrival of Whispers Under Ground, I can rest easy that the series is good after all, very good, and that Moon Over Soho was just a blip in an otherwise very promising urban fantasy series.

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Audiobook: The Sign of the Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Read by Derek Jacobi

Series: Sherlock Holmes #2
Publisher:
BBC Audio
Time:
4 hours 50 minutes (unabridged)
Format: Audible Download – Novel

Story:
Narration:

The great detective’s melancholy mood is lifted by the arrival of attractive Mary Morstan at 221B Baker Street. Mary’s father vanished ten years ago. Four years later she began to receive, annually, a large, lustrous pearl. Now she has had an intriguing invitation to meet her unknown benefactor and urges Holmes and Watson to accompany her. The duo are confronted with a case that includes a wronged woman, a wooden-legged ruffian, hidden treasure, and a love affair.

Audible Product Description

Story:

A much more satisfying read/listen than A Study in Scarlet and one that seems to have learnt from the truly dire mistake of that story. Whilst there is a flashback here to the antagonist’s past and the motivations for his actions, it’s a lot shorter told as a confession – with all the bias and slant to be expected in first person narration – and fits in almost seamlessly with the style of the rest of the story. Also in its favour is the fact that the backstory is a lot more interesting in its own right. But there’s a whole mystery to solve before we get to that part so I’ll backtrack towards the beginning.

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Audiobook: A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Read by Derek Jacobi

Series: Sherlock Holmes #1
Publisher:
BBC Audio
Time:
4 hours 41 minutes (unabridged)
Format: Audible Download

Story:
Narration:

A Study in Scarlet introduced the great scientific detective, Sherlock Holmes, and Dr Watson, his friend and chronicler, to the reading public. This novel, a cornerstone in the annals of crime fiction, tells of their first meeting and how they set up in rooms together in baker Street. It is not long before the charismatic sleuth and his faithful companion are plunged into a dramatic mystery which starts with the discovery of a corpse in a deserted house and the letters RACHE scrawled on the wall in blood.

From the Collector’s Library Edition

Originally named A Tangled Skein, this is the first Sherlock Holmes story. The real strength and the unique quality of the novel lies in the introduction of Holmes and Watson to each other – and those dark early scenes when a corpse is discovered in a derelict house in southeast London. The ultimate crusader against crime and criminals, Holmes’ genius is revealed here for the very first time.

Audible product description

Story:

Well, the blurb puts it a lot better and a much more concisely than I was going to; praising the truly brilliant parts of the novel while tacitly admitting that the rest of the story, once it moves away from the Holmes/Watson relationship, simply isn’t very good.

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