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Elly Griffiths Mark Bailey Reviews

Review: The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths (2017)

Elly Griffiths – The Vanishing Box (2017)

Quercus, Hardcover, 368 pages

Published: 2nd November 2017

ISBN13: 978-1784297008

The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths
The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths

The Vanishing Box is the 4th in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by Elly Griffiths (probably best known for the Ruth Galloway novels).

It is Christmas 1953 and Max Mephisto & his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome, an achievement only slightly marred by one of the less-than-savoury supporting acts – a tableau show of naked ‘living statues’ a la the Windmill Theatre. This might seem to have nothing in common with DI Edgar Stephens’ investigation into the death of a quiet flowerseller who was left by her killer posed as Lady Jane Grey at her execution.

If there is one thing that the old comrades have learned it is that, in Brighton, the line between art and life – and death – is all too easily blurred.

 

Once again there is excellent characterisation, especially of the 5 main protagonists (Max Mephisto, DI Edgar Stephens and his 2 sergeants, Emma Holmes and Bob Willis; Ruby – Maxs daughter and Edgars fiancée ) all who contrast with each other nicely. Personally I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the recent of the Magic Men and even Max seems to be less prominent than before.

The mystery element is well handled with twists and turns but a very fair outcome – I guessed the type of killer, although not the name,  very early on.

What really makes these books for me is the high level of accurate detail from the 1950s which creates a convincing world.

My copy was provided by the publishers, Quercus, via Netgalley.

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Mark Bailey Reviews Simon Brett

Review: The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett (2017)

The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett (2017)

The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett
The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett

Kindle & Hardback: 192 pages (September 2017)

Publisher: Creme de la Crime (trade paperback & cased), Severn House Digital (Kindle)

ISBN: 978-1-78029-101-7 (cased)

978-1-78029-508-4 (trade paper)

978-1-78010-919-0 (e-book)

THE LIAR IN THE LIBRARY is the 18th of the Fethering series of novels by Simon Brett.

Successful author Burton St Clair has been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library. Knowing that his old friend Jude lives in the area he invites her to come along although they haven’t met for twenty years. Jude quickly finds that St Clair hasn’t changed and is still very much a ladies man with an overly large ego and a shaky relationship with the truth.

Jude didn’t suspect that the evening would end in sudden violent death (although she should have at least suspected that it might have given her previous investigations with her friend Carole).

Jude finds that, because of evidence from St Clairs ex-wife about an alleged affair that Jude had with St Clair, that she has become the main suspect. So she has to enlist the help of her neighbour to solve the murder so she does not get arrested for committing it.

 

As with the previous Fethering novels you get a good solid character driven novel in an interesting milieu with characters who are believable if perhaps a teensy bit over the top and an interesting whodunit at its heart although you don’t get a key clue as to motive until quite some time into the novel.

This is a nice traditional cozy mystery with just a little bit of dark humour and I would recommend as a nice light read although I personally do prefer Simon Bretts other 3 series (Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter and Blotto & Twinks).

My copy was provided by the publishers, Severn House, via Netgalley.

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Anthony Horowitz Mark Bailey

Review: The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz (2017)

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz (2017)

Century, Hardcover, 400 pages

Published: 24th August 2017

ISBN-13: 978-1780896847 (cased)

 

The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz (2017)
The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz (2017)

The Word is Murder is the first in a series of crime novels by Anthony Horowitz starring Detective Michael Hawthorne

 

The story starts with the strangling of a wealthy woman six hours after she’s arranged her own funeral (presumed to be burglary gone wrong) and a very private detective contacting an author who met the detective when working on a television script.

The author (Anthony Horrowitz) then takes us on a journey to uncover how this woman died as the sidekick to Hawthorne – an ex-Police detective who is working with the police again.

 

As you may well have gathered from the brief synopsis of the start of this novel it seems to be a rather intriguing mix of fact and fiction. Some of the details seem based upon real people with the names and some details changed.

This blurring of fact and fiction adds another level to what is a very competent whodunnit with lots of twists and turns but a sense of fair play. You can see Anthony Horowitz’s background in the film & TV industry here as the style of writing is very visual but you can figure out what is going on. I suspect it may well be optioned for film & TV somewhere down the line.

I would recommend this as a good read although the blurring of fact and fiction could well irritate some readers.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley.

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Andrew Wilson Mark Bailey

Review: A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson (2017)

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson (2017)

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson (2017)
A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson (2017)

Simon & Schuster UK, Hardcover, 416 pages

Published: 6th April 2017 (e-book), 18th May 2017 (UK – cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1471148217 (cased)

 

Agatha Christie is in London to visit her literary agent being preoccupied and flustered in the knowledge that her husband Archie is having an affair. She is about to board a train when she feels a light touch on her back which causes her to lose her balance – she then feels someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train.

What should have been her lucky escape is nothing of the sort as a a terrifying sequence of events begins as her rescuer is not a guardian angel but a blackmailer determined to exploit her talent for murder to kill on his behalf.

 

This is very readable if you are fan of Agatha Christie as the characters refers back to our own work and it is a very good plot which does engage you. However, I have some issues with this book as I didn’t really agree with the characterisation of Agatha Christie for most of the time as I found it hard to believe that, no matter what the circumstances, she would consider committing the murder. This could be argued as artistic license perhaps on the part of the author.

 

What is undoubtedly true is that this book is very well researched – the non-fiction “Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days” by Jared Cade is perhaps an interesting after-read to learn more about the disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926.

 

It will be interesting to see what direction Mr Wilson takes Agatha Christie in for the next book “A Different Kind of Evil”.

 

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley.

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Mark Bailey Reviews Sally Spencer

Review: Sally Spencer – The Hidden (2017)

Sally Spencer – The Hidden (2017)

Sally Spencer – The Hidden (2017)
Sally Spencer – The Hidden (2017)

Severn House, Hardcover, 192 pages

Published: 31st March 2017 (UK)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8707-8 (cased), 978-1-84751-812-5 (trade paper), 978-1-78010-876-6 (e-book)

 

Death in Disguise is the 12th in the DCI Monika Paniatowski Police Procedural series by Sally Spencer.

The prologue has the daughters of PC Michael Knightly finding the body of a woman in the grounds of a local country house – he recognises her as DCI Monika Paniatowski.

Her team believe that the girl found dead in the woods is the victim of a ritual killing by a secret society in the heart of Whitebridge. But without Paniatowski to back them up they are forced to treat it as a domestic by the ambitious DCI ‘Rhino’ Dixon. Therefore Meadows, Crane and Beresford operate by themselves – cutting corners, ignoring procedure, and running the risk that their careers could be brought to an abrupt and dramatic end.

Monika knows who the killer is and also knows that he is stalking her daughter Louisa but there is nothing she can do about it as she is one of the killer’s victims too and is lying in a coma – hearing everything, but unable to move or speak!

 

This is a good solid police procedural which is well researched and plotted and you are kept engaged as the plot twists and turns. The absence of Paniatowski is an issue but the other characters make up for it especially DS Kate Meadows and Louisa Paniatowski.

Again, I would recommend it to fans of police procedurals in general but especially those set in Britain.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers on NetGalley.

 

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Mark Bailey Simon Brett

Review: Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations by Simon Brett (2016)

Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations by Simon Brett (2016)

Mrs Pargeter's Public Relations by Simon Brett (2016)
Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations by Simon Brett (2016)

This is the 8th of the Mrs Melita Pargeter novels by Simon Brett and is published just 2 years after the last one (MRS PARGETER’S PRINCIPLE).

 

Mrs Pargeters generosity gets the better of her when she accompanies her friend, Jasmine Angold, to a charity reception for PhiliPussies – a charity that seeks to rehabilitate stray cats from the Greek island of Atmos into caring English homes. There is a shock for Mrs Pargeter when she meets a woman who claims to be the sister of her late husband. This meeting leads to some unwelcome digging into past secrets, a body being found in Epping Fores and an eventful trip to Greece.

 

The two main parts of the enjoyment of a Mrs Pargeter book are still here – the light comedy and the characters. The associates of the late Mr Pargeter (and now their children) are realistic up to a point but they have a light comic twist whilst Mrs Melita Pargeter herself is a force of nature who has huge loyalty to her late husband’s memory although she might just be suspecting more now that not everything he did was entirely within the letter of the law.

I was less convinced about the plot this time (the device that can beat all electronic and mechanical locks was more than a bit hard to believe in) and the violence level is higher than has been usual for this series. I still like it but not as much as I did its predecessors.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Severn House Publishers for a review copy.

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Elly Griffiths Mark Bailey

Review: Elly Griffiths – The Chalk Pit (2016)

Elly Griffiths – The Chalk Pit (2016)

Elly Griffiths – The Chalk Pit (2016)
Elly Griffiths – The Chalk Pit (2016)

Quercus, Hardcover, 384 pages

Expected publication: 23rd February 2017

ISBN13: 978-1784296599

The Chalk Pit is the 9th in the Ruth Galloway Mystery series by Elly Griffiths.

In the underground tunnels beneath Norwich boiled human bones have been found by Dr Ruth Galloway. The finding that they are relatively recent and not a medieval curiosity means DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.

DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper with the only lead being the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might just be a figure of speech, but the discovery of the bones and the rumours that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers give cause for concern.

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. Another woman goes missing and the police are under pressure to find her. The dark secrets of “The Underground” seems to be the key – can Ruth and Nelson uncover its secrets before it claims another victim.

 

I am a big fan of the Ruth Galloway novels but I do feel that they are best enjoyed in sequence but you can probably pick up most of the background needed to enjoy the novel as you go along.

As usual there is the excellent characterisation that one expects in Elly Griffiths’ books that gives you believable albeit flawed but ultimately likeable ongoing main protagonists (Ruth Galloway, Harry Nelson & Judy especially in this one although Kate is coming to the fore). There is also the usual sufficiently twisty plot to keep you engaged whilst giving yiu a chance to solve the mystery before the protagonists do and there is a well-researched backdrop to hang the story on.

As I have stated about previous Ruth Galloway mysteries- if you do have a liking for modern cozies with perhaps a little hint of grit then I would strongly recommend this to you.

 

Thanks to Quercus and Netgalley for the review copy.

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Adrian McKinty Mark Bailey

Review: Adrian McKinty – Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly

Adrian McKinty – Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly

Adrian McKinty – Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly
Adrian McKinty – Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly

Trade paperback: 353 pages (January 2017 in UK)

Publisher: Serpents Tail  ISBN: 978-1781256923

This is the sixth Sean Duffy novel set in and around Carrickfergus in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

 

It is 1988. Detective Inspector Sean Duffy is on holiday in County Donegal with his girlfriend and baby daughter visiting his family in the Donegal Gaeltacht. He is called back to Carrickfergus where a man has been shot in the back in the Sunnylands Estate with an arrow. Uncovering who has done takes Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave. Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs and with his relationship with his girlfriend on the rocks, Duffy needs all of his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.

 

 

Once again, this a very assured police procedural with multiple serious themes (the peace process is still in the background along with the ongoing war (both in Ireland and elsewhere – the Gibraltar shootings provide a spark to more rioting), economic regeneration (or the lack thereof in Carrickfergus) is in the middle and another cover up in the foreground) and great writing which is strongly literate but still keeps you engaged & turning the page.

Finally Duffy’s life seems to be on upswing but for how long.

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Ben Aaronovitch Mark Bailey

Review: Ben Aaronovitch – The Hanging Tree

Ben Aaronovitch – The Hanging Tree

Ben Aaronovitch – The Hanging Tree
Ben Aaronovitch – The Hanging Tree

Gollancz, Hardcover, 400 pages

Published: 3rd November 2016

ISBN13: 978-0575132559

 

This is the 6th PC Peter Grant novel by Ben Aaronovitch.

PC Peter Grant or the Folly don’t usually deal with suspicious deaths even when they occur at exclusive parties in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. However, Lady Ty’s daughter was there and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.

Peter and DC Guleed are plunged into the alien world of the super-rich where basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market.

This is the sort of environment where any sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean – but this is Peter Grant we’re talking about. He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week . .

 

This is, in part at least a return to form after Foxglove Summer as Ben Aaronovitch is more comfortable writing about London and its environs than the countryside.

The story rattles along with plenty of action sequences, plot twists and some laugh out loud one liners. The mystery element is resolved very nicely and the Faceless Man narrative is moving forward – hopefully towards some resolution. But that partly is the major issue in that it feels like it has been cut in two with a second novel forthcoming to tidy up the loose ends.

 

Categories
Elly Griffiths Mark Bailey

Review: Elly Griffiths – The Blood Card

Elly Griffiths – The Blood Card (2016)

Elly Griffiths – The Blood Card
Elly Griffiths – The Blood Card

Quercus, Hardcover, 384 pages

Published: 3rd November 2016

ISBN13: 9781784290269

 

The Blood Card is the 3rd in the Stephens and Mephisto Mystery series by Elly Griffiths (probably best known for the Ruth Galloway novels).

 

It is Brighton, England – Elizabeth II’s coronation is looming, but the murder of their wartime commander, Colonel Cartwright, spoils the happy mood for DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto.

A playbill featuring another deceased comrade is found in Colonel Cartwright’s possession along with a playing card, the ace of hearts: the blood card.

The wartime connection and the suggestion of magic mean that Stephens and Mephisto to be summoned to the case by a colleague of their late commander.

This causes Edgar’s ongoing investigation into the death of Brighton fortune-teller Madame Zabini to be put on hold. Max is busy rehearsing for a spectacular Coronation Day variety show – his television debut – so it’s Edgar who is sent to New York, a land of plenty worlds away from still-rationed England on the trail of a small-town mesmerist who may provide the key but he is silenced first. Edgar’s colleague, DS Emma Holmes, finds the clue buried in the files of the Zabini case, that leads them to an anarchist group intent on providing an explosive finale to Coronation Day.

Now it’s up to Edgar, Max and Emma to foil the plot, and find out who it is who’s been dealing the cards .

 

Again there is excellent characterisation, especially of the 5 main protagonists (Max Mephisto, DI Edgar Stephens and his 2 sergeants, Emma Holmes and Bob Willis; Ruby – Maxs daughter and Edgars fiancée ) all who contrast with each other nicely.

The mystery element is well handled with twists and turns but a fair outcome – the only caveat would be with the detour to America which slows the plot down a bit.