Thursday, 17 August 2017

JULY 2017 - READING LIST AND PICK OF THE MONTH

July's 5 STAR PICK OF THE MONTH!

Another slight fall away with my reading in the month. That's two months in a row now, from 13 read in May to 9 in June to 8 books completed in July - and a couple of short ones included in that figure as well.

Partly explained by an impending house move and the need to empty the attic of an embarrassing quantity of books. Hopefully August sees a bit more of a settled home environment and a bit of an upsurge in my reading.

The eight were...

Paul Heatley - FatBoy (2017)  (5)

Chris Thomas - Enter the Dark (2017) (4.5)

Tom Leins - Skull Meat (2017) (4.5)

Anthony Maguire - Sorry Time (2017) (4)

Ace Atkins - The Fallen (2017) (3)

David Owen - 13-Point Plan For A Perfect Murder (2016) (4)

S. W. Lauden - Crosswise (2016) (3.5)

Turlough Delaney - The Pact (2015) (3)


1 - 5 STAR READ and obvious selection for my Pick of the Month - Paul Heatley's FatBoy!

2 of the 8 rated 4.5 STARS, 2 at 4 STARS, 1  a shade less at 3.5 and 2 at 3 STARS



More useless trivia......

8 different authors,

6 of the 8 were new-to-me authors....... Paul Heatley and David Owen I've read before.

I still have unread books from 4 of these authors on the shelf, in the tubs or on the Kindle...Paul Heatley and David Owen again, and S. W. Lauden and Ace Atkins

Gender analysis - 8 male reads, no females - deja-vous.


I think 3 authors are English, 1 from Ireland, 1 from Australia, 2 from the US and 1 originally from Zimbabwe but living in Australia for 30-odd years.

All 8 were fiction reads - 7 novels and 1 novella/long short story.

All were published this decade - 5 from this year, 2 from 2016 and 1 from 2015. No nostalgia or GA nonsense for me!

3 of the 8 books were pre-owned - 2 came via the publisher and 3 from the author, 1 was free from a reviewer site, but I ran out of time reading it, so had to buy it to finish.

Favourite cover? Ace Atkins - The Fallen



Second favourite - Anthony Maguire's Sorry Time



My reads were this long - 114 - 315 - 44 - 325 - 370 - 298 - 158 - 151

Total page count =  1775 (2107 in June)

6 Kindle reads, 2 paperbacks,

1 < 50,
0 between 51 < 100,
3 between 101 < 200,
1 between 201 < 300,
3 between 301 < 400,
0 > 400 pages

Ace Atkins - The Fallen was the longest read at 370 pages.


DAVID OWEN - 13-POINT PLAN FOR A PERFECT MURDER (2016)


Synopsis/blurb…..

Tasmania's rise and rise as a tourist destination makes the island an ideal location for the cashed-up international polo set, jetting in from Europe, Buenos Aires, Shanghai and LA for their late summer carnival and relaxathon in the world's latest clean-green hotspot. They play fiercely and party hard at the swish Polo Palace, built near beautiful beaches through the largesse of an island-loving, polo-mad billionaire Bahraini businessman.

So when this idyll is gruesomely interrupted by the murder of Sebastian Wicken, a dashing and wealthy Englishman famous for wielding his stick and ball, Pufferfish, aka seasoned Detective Inspector Franz Heineken of the Tasmanian Police Force, is called to investigate. And investigate he does.

For starters, what possible relationship could there be between this visiting bludgeoned aristocrat and Tassie's worst-of-the-worst career villain, psychopathic Morgan Murger? What ghastly behaviour unites them in blood?

Pufferfish and his offsiders Rafe and Faye work double time to try and fathom who did what to whom, and why - while keeping an antsy tourist industry at bay - but then the strange intrusion of a quavery voice from rural England, being Sebastian's aunt Eugenie, deepens the mystery.

Meanwhile Faye, against advice, has got herself personally involved in the theft of a stamp album from a workingclass primary school. Silly kids and all that. Except it's no ordinary stamp album, sucking in and mightily distracting Pufferfish from the politically-charged polo mess.

As if all of this is not enough, an old Pufferfish flame, diminutive beauty Milly de Havilland cruises back into town from his distant past, when she'd given great comfort to the then young Dutch throwaway cop Franz Heineken, an emotional wreck washed up on remote Tasmania's shore. And, as it happens, Pufferfish's close de facto Hedda is currently overseas ...

13-Point Plan is the seventh Pufferfish book in total and my third outing with our intriguing Tasmanian detective Franz Heineken. It’s been a long while since I read the first couple and memory of the previous two outings is dim. Within a few pages though, I felt like I was catching-up with an old acquaintance.

We have an exotic setting of Tasmania, our older slightly grumpy detective and a couple of younger underlings and a murder site with two bodies – one a low-level criminal and the other a globe-trotting high-living polo player – what’s the connection apart from the fact they’re both dead – if there is one.

Heineken and his team try to solve both murders; all the while Heineken buffering his colleagues from a bit of political interference – after all it wouldn’t pay to upset the rich and powerful and unduly affect the influx of mad money into the Tasmanian economy – while also keeping at arm’s length or further an old flame from way back when. The arrival of said former beau, somewhat inconveniently coinciding with the absence of his current amour.

Another act, a schoolboy theft of a stamp album, also draws some attention from our enigmatic detective, albeit reluctantly. An interesting diversion from our two murder victims.

More cerebral than action driven, this mystery was enjoyed and savoured and read at a pedestrian pace as opposed to raced through. All the better for enjoying Pufferfish’s pithy observations and philosophy. The narrative style is instantly recognisable as author David Owen – well it is if you’ve enjoyed him before.

Regarding murder, we, whose job it is to know, almost always know, soon after a murder and frequently prior to the act, who committed the crime, because most are domestics. Or the victim and villain knew one another. Or the motive is the clue, especially revenge.     

At our conclusion…..

IN THIS BUSINESS, we generally delude ourselves that we’ve seen all there is to see, know all there is to know, until a new set of criminal behaviours comes along and washes that experience away, and we have to start all over again, and work it out. Only then do you think you know everything, for a while.

Enjoyed and savoured, entertained and satisfied. I won't be leaving it as long again next time before revisiting Tasmania and Pufferfish.

4 from 5

X AND Y and THE DEVIL TAKER sit on the paperback pile, which means I read PIG’S HEAD and A SECOND HAND way back when. 

NO WEATHER FOR A BURIAL and HOW THE DEAD SEE (the 5th and 6th series books) are on the Kindle. An eighth Pufferfish ROMEO’S GUN hit the shelves recently.


Author David Owen was born in Zimbabwe and emigrated to Australia in the 80s. For a bit more on him and some reviews of his books, see his page on Aust Crime Fiction website. 

Read in July, 2017
Published - 2016
Page count - 298
Source - review copy from author! (How has he ever heard of me?)
Format - signed paperback




Tuesday, 15 August 2017

2 BY STANLEY ELLIN

A blog feature which I haven't run for about a year or more returns with the highlighting of a couple of Stanley Ellin books in my collection.





















Ellin was an American mystery writer from New York.
Born in 1916, he died at the age of 69 in 1986. He's probably better known for his short stories than his novels. A few of his short stories were filmed for an Alfred Hitchcock mystery series.



Stronghold (1974)

James Flood, just released from a Florida prison, has a desperate scheme. He and his recruits, all hardened criminals, will move in upon a prominent upstate New York family, holding the Hayworth women as hostages while awaiting delivery of a four-million-dollar ransom. Flood expects no resistance. Marcus Hayworth, small-town banker and leading member of the Quaker community, is convinced he can subvert Flood's plan. Instead of going to the police, he will bring his family's crisis before his meeting, asking the Quaker community to back him in nonviolent opposition. Subsequent events isolate both hostages and captors within the Hayworth house, waging a war of nerves that involves more than a clash between good and evil. For Flood cannot be taken for granted. Much deeper than the profit motive is his need for revenge, a most urgent and specific need. And Hayworth's principles have never been put to the ultimate test.


The Blessington Method (1964)

"What is The Blessington Method? There is, you see, a society called The Society for Gerontology, and its primary concern is with the tragic situation of aging. BUT... the problems that the society attempts to solve are not the ones that bother old people. Take Mr. Treadwell. Although he's only forty-seven and in the pink of health, he has an old-age problem. His seventy-two-year-old father-in-law lives with him... and looks as if he will live on forever. Now, for seemingly impossible problems, problems like Mr. Treadwell's, The Blessington Method offers a most perfect solution. If you think there's no crime worse than cold-blooded murder, prepare yourself for the shock of your life."

Includes 9 more short stories of the macabre.






Not sure when I will get around to reading these two, but I'd better not read them after dark. The old Penguin text doesn't agree with my aging eyesight!

Not sure which I prefer the sound of most - on balance probably the novel as opposed to the short story collection.

I did read Mirror Mirror on the Wall from him back in 2013 - thoughts here.

Monday, 14 August 2017

S. W. LAUDEN - CROSSWISE (2016)



Synopsis/blurb......

Tommy Ruzzo is a disgraced NYPD cop who follows his coke fiend girlfriend back to her hometown in Florida. She leaves Ruzzo high and dry just before he's named Head of Security at Precious Acres, a beachfront retirement community populated by wisecracking New Yorkers. Ruzzo is stranded among the local losers until the day he discovers a murdered senior citizen on the Precious Acres bocce ball court.

The bodies pile up as Ruzzo uncovers a dangerous trail of clues that brings everybody in his new world under suspicion.

"The suspense starts on the first page and doesn't let up. A unique setting with unforgettable characters." 
- Terrence McCauley, author of SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

The first in a two book series (so far at least) from S. W. Lauden and featuring an ex-cop Tommy Ruzzo. Ruzzo left New York in disgrace and is working as security at a retirement community in Florida. Some of his retirees start getting killed and Ruzzo works with the local law to try and catch the killer.

In a nutshell, enjoyable but not especially memorable if I’m honest. It’s quite a busy book. Ruzzo’s ex-girlfriend, Shayna Billups and the cause of his disgrace flits in and out, still managing to lead Ruzzo around by his pecker. Her ex-husband is also on the scene, someone with contacts to the top cop involved in the case - Sgt. Badeaux. Ruzzo’s mystery employers also have an agenda of their own. There’s a crossword clue theme which runs through the book which keeps pointing to the next victim, I think. This facet didn’t particularly work for me.

I think I was thrown a bit when reading. The publisher Down and Out Books have a habit of back-loading their editions with extended samples of other books in their canon. I forgot this, so when the tale ended around the 80% mark it caught me unawares.  

Interesting main character and an enjoyable setting. A fair bit of humour on display and some great scenes involving Ruzzo and Shayna, Ruzzo and Badeaux and Ruzzo and his employers – maybe a case of some of the parts being more enjoyable than the whole.

3.5 from 5
I have the second in the series – Crossed Bones to get to at some point. 

The author also has another series to his name featuring Greg Salem - Bad Citizen Corporation and Grizzly Season are out so far, with Hang Time coming early next year.

S. W. Lauden has his website here. He's on Twitter - @swlauden

Read in July 2017
Published –
Page count – 158
Source – purchased copy

Format - Kindle  

JOHN PRESTON - A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL (2016)


Synopsis/blurb.......

The shocking true story of the first British politician to stand trial for murder

Behind oak-panelled doors in the House of Commons, men with cut-glass accents and gold signet rings are conspiring to murder. It's the late 1960s and homosexuality has only just been legalised, and Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal party, has a secret he's desperate to hide. As long as Norman Scott, his beautiful, unstable lover is around, Thorpe's brilliant career is at risk. With the help of his fellow politicians, Thorpe schemes, deceives, embezzles - until he can see only one way to silence Scott for good.

The trial of Jeremy Thorpe changed our society forever: it was the moment the British public discovered the truth about its political class. Illuminating the darkest secrets of the Establishment, the Thorpe affair revealed such breath-taking deceit and corruption in an entire section of British society that, at the time, hardly anyone dared believe it could be true.

A Very English Scandal is an eye-opening tale of how the powerful protect their own, and an extraordinary insight into the forces that shaped modern Britain.

The first bit of non-fiction I’ve read for a while and an eye-opening account of one of the most famous trials in Britain in the 70s. As a teenager of 15 or 16, I can vaguely recall the headlines of the time as Liberal politician Jeremy Thorpe was acquitted of murder at the Old Bailey. I was kind of hoping he got off because my mum and dad always voted Liberal. I was too young to really comprehend what it was all about.

John Preston is not a Jeremy Thorpe fan and his account portrays Thorpe as unlikable, conniving, and someone shorn of any scruples or decency. We see the background to Thorpe’s political career and his rise to prominence in the Liberal party. There are allegations of male rape made against Thorpe. Thorpe was homosexual at a time when it was illegal to indulge in sexual relations with other men and would also have been political suicide if the public became aware of his sexual leanings. Many homosexuals were at great risk of blackmail. Blackmail is at the heart of Thorpe’s downfall.

I read this late last year and what sticks with me if I’m honest is the sense that the author has it in for Thorpe. Perhaps rightly so. It’s a masterclass in character assassination. The book was probably unpublishable before Thorpe died in 2014. You can’t libel a dead man.

Other characters in the book merit great sympathy, especially Peter Bessell. Bessell was a fellow Liberal MP and slightly in awe of Thorpe. Thorpe repeatedly takes advantage of Bessell’s naivety and amenable nature throughout the book. The trial sees Bessell’s reputation trashed and his reputation eviscerated. Unfairly so.
John Preston

Was Thorpe guilty? Did the establishment put the fix in so one of their own got off? I wasn’t necessarily convinced, but I wouldn’t be unduly surprised if they had. They were some notable miscarriages of justice in the 70s – The Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven.

An interesting read. Inevitably there’s a fair bit of he said, she said. On the whole a bit of a hatchet job, but an entertaining one.

4 from 5

Read in November, 2016
Published – 2016
Page count – 340
Source – review copy from publisher Penguin Viking
Format - paperback

Saturday, 12 August 2017

ERIC BEETNER - THE YEAR I DIED SEVEN TIMES BOOK 2 (2014)


Synopsis/blurb........

Ridley has already died once trying to find his missing girlfriend, Miho. When a mysterious phone call rouses him from his recovery he is off on the trail of clues again. Reenergized for the hunt, Ridley will follow clues all the way across the country and enter a world darker than he imagined and face off against men--and women--more vicious than he expected. 

This time Ridley has traveled a long way--and death is there to meet him. But it will take more than dying to keep him from finding the truth. 

Book #2 of this thrilling adventure is more non-stop action. Watch for book #3 in April. 
Also available in a collector’s edition print edition.   

The second installment of Eric Beetner's The Year I Died Seven Times was read in November 2016.
In the first we meet Ridley and join him on his quest to track down his missing Japanese girlfriend Miho. Obviously he's been unsuccessful thus far and episode one ends with his death.

Or does it? Well no. Clinically dead for six minutes and successfully revived and recovered, Ridley has sunk into a state of torpor and depression. His friend advises him to forget Miho and move on, but our love sick puppy isn't prepared to do that.

A pleading phone call out of the blue, from Miho demanding his help re-energizes our man. He's going to rescue his girl, but is bereft of clues as to where to start.

Back into the lion's den and the Ginza House where his girlfriend worked is a good a place as any.

A narrowly avoided ass-kicking, a clue on a napkin and a plane ride from LA to New York to another Ginza Lounge; a stake-out, a proper ass-kicking this time from a bunch of girls and Ridley's getting closer to the truth but closer to danger.

Our tale doesn't end well with our man getting beaten, hand-cuffed and some bladder loosening electric-shock treatment as the Ginza masters want answers. A cracked pipe, with a bang on the head and the introduction of some liquid to our electrically charged basement brings our second installment to a close.

Great character, interesting scenario, a bit of humour, 40 pages long, what more do you need to entertain you.

4.5 from 5

This one's no longer available as an individual episode or installment, but has been re-released as a single book in it's entirety.

Episode one was looked at here - The Year I Died Seven Times: Book 1 (2014)
About time I dusted off number 3

Eric Beetner has his website here.
A ton of his books too numerous to mention sit on the kindle awaiting a read.

Read in November, 2016
Published - 2014
Page count - 40
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Friday, 11 August 2017

TURLOUGH DELANEY - THE PACT (2015)



Synopsis/blurb…..

"Delaney ratchets up the suspense till the book seems poised to explode from the tension."
What's the difference between violent justice and brutal revenge?

A Dublin funeral, and three friends come together on a solemn mission to strike back against the city’s drug dealers. For Santy it’s a sacred duty to the community. For Leo, it’s an opportunity to indulge violent tendencies and pay off some debts at the same time. For Dean? Unemployed and still living at home, it isn’t as if he has anything better to do than go along with his friend’s plan.

But not everyone is playing straight, and there is more to uncover than just the name of the next target on the list. Between vengeance, idealism and greed, each begins to question the motives of the others. And when the Garda start nosing around it’s clear that somebody’s been talking, but who?

They’re about to find out that some secrets are buried for a reason.

"More than the sum of each brilliant part, The Pact is a brutal, funny and cleverly weaved together slice of hard-boiled crime. A time bomb of tension." -Paul Brazill (author of The Guns of Brixton and Cold London Blues)

Number Thirteen Press are building a list of 13 quality crime novellas by 13 different authors, published consecutively on the 13th of each month. For more information go to 

I’m a big fan of this particular publisher and intend over the next year (yes it will take me that long) to read all thirteen of their offerings. Turlough Delaney's The Pact was my sixth outing in this venture.

Having hailed from Dublin over 50 years ago myself, I’m always happy to read a crime tale set in my old home town. Married with a tale of drug dealers and low-life characters and a gang of vigilantes, I was sure I was onto a winner.

I liked elements of the tale…….the plot itself and the differing motivations of the characters involved. I enjoyed the increasing levels of tension in the relationship between them as Santy seemed intent on controlling the other two involved in the cause – Leo and Dean. I enjoyed the involvement of the Gardai into our vigilante tale and the intimation that the authorities were keen to curb our seekers of justice, less in the pursuit of law and order, more in the protection of a politician with some dubious sexual habits.

I liked the pubs and nightclubs, the funerals and the involvement however peripheral of family. I liked the bookies and the incidental violence, and the strange goings on at the knocking shop out of town.

Where it fell down for me was the unevenness of the time line. Usually I don’t mind dipping backwards and forwards in time during a narrative, and when it’s done well it adds to my enjoyment of the book. Here, I found it confusing. Perhaps some tiredness when I was reading didn’t help and maybe my mental faculties weren’t razor sharp, but there was no signposting indicating the chopping and jumping about of the story and for me it would have been helpful if there was. 

I was left with the impression that the pages in the manuscript got knocked on the floor by accident and were picked back up in a somewhat haphazard fashion.  Maybe the story would have read better chronologically, maybe it wouldn’t.

3 from 5

Turlough Delaney is an enigma wrapped up in a riddle. No author website or photo I can find.

Read in July, 2017
Published - 2015
Page count - 151
Source - review copy from Chris at the publisher - Number 13 Press
Format - Kindle