The Deadly Dance (Agatha Raisin, #15) by M.C. Beaton

bookshelves: cotswolds, paris, published-2004, series, mystery-thriller, tbr-busting-2014, autumn-2014

Read from September 07 to 08, 2014

 

Read by Donada Peters

Description: Infuriated that her holiday was ruined by a mugging, Agatha Raisin decides to open up her own detective agency. The romance-minded sleuth is thrilled by visions of handsome fellow gumshoes and headline-making crimes—but soon finds the only cases she can get are a non-glamorous lot of lost cats and an errant teenager. But when a wealthy divorcée hires the agency to investigate a death threat against her daughter Cassandra, Agatha thwarts a vicious attack on the heiress bride. Now Agatha is in hot pursuit of the culprit. But when the groom’s father turns up dead, Agatha must untangle a growing list of suspects, from Carsely’s quiet village lanes to Paris’ most fashionable streets. Soon the willfully undaunted Agatha is in trouble with French and British police; on the outs (again) with old friends—and dead in the sights of a murderer.

Aggie is an annoying protagonist however one gets used to her to the point of addiction. This is the one where Ms Raisin cooks a Christmas dinner in the village hall for her neighbours.

3* – The Quiche of Death
3* – The Vicious Vet
3* – The Potted Gardener
3* – The Walkers of Dembley
3* – The Murderous Marriage
2* – The Terrible Tourist
3* – The Wellspring of Death
3* – The Wizard of Evesham
3* – The Witch of Wyckhadden
3* – The Fairies of Fryfam
3* – The Love from Hell
3* – The Day the Floods came
3* – The Case of the Curious Curate
3* – The Haunted House
3* – The Deadly Dance

The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

 

Description: Veteran Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) shows once again he’s a master of the political thriller by taking a simple but completely original idea and turning it into a compelling story. The unnamed Obama-like U.S. president, disgusted by the horrors wrought by illegal drug trafficking, decides to bring the entire weight and resources of the federal government against the international cocaine trade. He first declares drug traders and their cartels to be terrorists, subjecting them to new and extensive legal procedures, then he brings in ex-CIA director Paul Devereaux to head the team that will implement the effort. Devereaux, known as the Cobra from his operations days, is old school–smart, ruthless, unrelenting, and bestowed by the president with free rein to call in any arm of the government. Forsyth lays out how it would all work, and readers will follow eagerly along, always thinking, yes, why don’t they do this in real life? The answer to that question lies at the heart of this forceful, suspenseful, intelligent novel.

Didn’t capture my undivided attention; it was on in the background and that was where the bland content let it stay.

5* The Day of the Jackal
4* The Odessa File
3* The Fourth Protocol
3* The Dogs of War
4* The Devil’s Alternative
2* The Afghan
2* The Cobra
3* The Kill List
5* The Shepherd

Dark Fire

bookshelves: historical-fiction, re-visit-2014, radio-4, summer-2014, tudor, mystery-thriller

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 04, 2008 to September 05, 2014

 

1ST ENCOUNTER – PAPER READ: Not quite as good as the first Matthew Shardlake story, nevertheless a good tale with full attention paid to historical detail.

2ND ENCOUNTER – BBC radio dramatisation:

R4 in ten episodes HUZZAH!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04f9frh

BBC description: Gripping dramatisation of C. J. Sansom’s atmospheric Tudor crime novel set during the last days of Thomas Cromwell.

London, 1540, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake has lived quietly in the three years since he was asked by Cromwell to investigate a murder at Scarnsea monastery on England’s south coast (a story told in “Dissolution”). But his quiet life is soon forgotten as he rushes to solve two very different but urgent mysteries: save the life of a young girl accused of a terrible murder; and, discover who has stolen the last precious batch of Greek Fire, a mythical weapon of mass destruction.

Accompanied by Cromwell’s man – the young and impetuous Barak – Shardlake desperately searches for clues against the backdrop of a hot and stinking London summer.

A fast and furious crime drama, “Dark Fire” features ethical dilemmas, intriguing characters and a luminous historical setting. Starring Justin Salinger as Shardlake, Bryan Dick as Barak and Robert Glenister as Thomas Cromwell.

Written by C. J. Sansom
Dramatised by Colin MacDonald
Produced and directed by Kirsteen Cameron

1/10 Dramatisation of CJ Sansom’s Tudor crime novel, featuring lawyer detective hero Shardlake

2/10 Thomas Cromwell summons Shardlake, and engages him to undertake a deadly secret mission.

3/10 The search for the stolen Greek Fire intensifies as Shardlake questions the key suspects.

4/10 Shardlake and Barak’s investigation leads them to the ruins of St Bartholew’s monastery.

5/10 Shardlake focuses on helping Elizabeth Wentworth, accused of murdering her young cousin.

6/10 Whoever is behind the Greek Fire theft will do anything to keep it from the Earl of Essex.

7/10 With Shardlake’s lack of progress, Cromwell reveals that he fears losing the King’s favour

8/10 Trapped inside the burning house, Shardlake witnesses the destructive power of Greek Fire.

9/10 Shardlake and Barak finally discover who lies behind the plot to bring down Cromwell.

10/10 Held at knifepoint, can Shardlake and Barak escape to warn the Earl about the plot?

Of course it was lovely to revisit via radio but I have to say, there ain’t nothing better than curling up with this series in its full paper glory. The Shardlake books are my favourite hist-fic, hands down.

5* Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
4* Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake, #2)
5* Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)
5* Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4)
4* Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake, #5)
TR Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake, #6)

3* Dominion
5* Winter in Madrid
3* The Lost Prophecies (The Medieval Murderers, #4)

The Noble Outlaw (Crowner John Mystery #11) by Bernard Knight

 

Paul Matthews narrates

Description: When Matthew Morcok, a former master saddler, is found mummified above a renovated school, the authorities call on Sir John de Wolfe and coroner’s clerk Thomas de Peyne to stop what is fast becoming a campaign of terror. Later victims include a master glazier, who’s strangled, and a candle maker impaled through the eye. John’s work is complicated by the conflict between his shady brother-in-law, Richard de Revelle, and Nick of the Moor, an outlaw who returned from the Crusades to find his estates expropriated by de Revelle and de Revelle’s cronies. John makes an arduous wintertime journey into Dartmoor to meet Nick, who’s actually a knight, Nicholas de Arundell. Nick’s plight so moves John that he takes the outlaw’s case to England’s Chief Justiciar for resolution.

A good, solid series so long as the episodes are not encountered back-to-back. Knight’s style is rather old-fashioned and brutish, however he does give us an interesting over-arching personal story with Nesta and Matilda.

3* The Tinner’s Corpse (Crowner John Mystery #5)
3* The Grim Reaper (Crowner John Mystery #6)
3* Fear in the Forest (Crowner John Mystery #7)
3* The Witch Hunter (Crowner John Mystery #8)
3* Figure of Hate (Crowner John Mystery #9)
3* The Noble Outlaw (Crowner John Mystery #11)
TR Crowner Royal (Crowner John Mystery, #13)
3* A Plague of Heretics (Crowner John Mystery #14)

This Gun for Hire by Graham Greene

 

Read by Patrick Tull

Description: Raven is a man dedicated to ugly deeds. When Raven is paid for killing the Minister of War with stolen notes, he becomes a man on the run. Tracking down the agent who double-crossed him, and eluding the police simultaneously, he becomes both the hunter and the hunted.

The novel ties into Greene’s later, more famous work, Brighton Rock. Pinkie Brown’s assassination of Kite, the Colleoni’s rival mob boss, sets the events of Brighton Rock in motion in much the same way that Raven’s assassination of the Minister of War sows the seeds for global conflict in A Gun For Sale.

Thoroughly enjoyed this ride. Three and a half smoking hand guns

Raven: the cold-hearted assassin for hire with hidden decency and a personal sense of justice. Extremely sensitive about his harelip.

Mather: stalwart police detective trailing Raven, with many of the same characteristics. Joined police for stability of the routine.

Anne: a chorus girl who is engaged to Mather, is used by Raven as a shield. The two develop a fragile friendship that may or may not be real.

Cholmondeley a.k.a. Davis: a grossly sensual man who acts as the agent of a masonic corrupt steel tycoon, Sir Marcus, and betrays Raven. Anne tries to help Raven get revenge upon him.

Saunders: a decent police detective with a heavy stammer. He is Mather’s loyal protégé who plays a vital role in the novel’s climax.

3* The Quiet American
4* The End of the Affair
3* Our Man in Havana
4* Brighton Rock
4* Travels With My Aunt
3* The Third Man
4* The Human Factor
4* A Burnt Out Case
4* Monsignor Quixote
3* The Captain and the Enemy
3.5* This Gun for Hire

The Captain and the Enemy by Graham Greene

 

Description: Victor Baxter is a young boy when a secretive stranger known simply as “the Captain” takes him from his boarding school to live in London. Victor becomes the surrogate son and companion of a woman named Liza, who renames him “Jim” and depends on him for any news about the world outside their door. Raised in these odd yet touching circumstances, Jim is never quite sure of Liza’s relationship to the Captain, who is often away on mysterious errands. It is not until Jim reaches manhood that he confronts the Captain and learns the shocking truth about the man, his allegiances, and the nature of love.

Read by Kenneth Branagh

I see there are many luke-warm reviews and ratings on this, yet I thought the writing exquisite, as always, and the story suspenseful. Not much longer than novella length, ‘The Captain and the Enemy’ is easily done and dusted in a day; be warned though, it does become rather absurd in the final part.

Who, or what, is King Kong.

3 strong wins at backgammon.

3* The Quiet American
4* The End of the Affair
3* Our Man in Havana
4* Brighton Rock
4* Travels With My Aunt
3* The Third Man
4* The Human Factor
4* A Burnt Out Case
4* Monsignor Quixote
3* The Captain and the Enemy
CR This Gun for Hire

Under Orders (Sid Halley, #4) by Dick Francis

 

Read by Martin Jarvis and I like him!

Cheltenham is a lovely racecourse.

Description: It’s the third death on Cheltenham Gold Cup Day that really troubles super-sleuth Sid Halley. Last seen in 1995’s Come to Grief, former champion jockey Halley knows the perils of racing all too well-but in his day, jockeys didn’t usually reach the finishing line with three .38 rounds in the chest. But this is precisely how he finds jockey Huw Walker-who, only a few hours earlier, had won the coveted Triumph Hurdle.

Just moments before the gruesome discovery, Halley had been called upon by Lord Enstone to make discreet inquiries into why his horses appeared to be on a permanent losing streak. Are races being fixed? Are bookies taking a cut? And if so, are trainers and jockeys playing a dangerous game with stakes far higher than they are realistic?

Halley’s quest for answers draws him even deeper into the darker side of the race game, in a life-or-death power play that will push him to his very limits-both professionally and personally.

Opening: “Sadly, death at the races is not uncommon. However, three in a single afternoon was sufficiently unusual to raise more than an eyebrow. That only one of the deaths was of a horse was more than enough to bring the local constabulary hotfoot to the track.”

How lovely to find this dustying up in the storage boxes and I dive in with relish as it has been ages since an encounter with the wonderful Dick Francis.

4* Odds Against (Sid Halley, #1)
3* Whip Hand (Sid Halley, #2)
3* Come to Grief (Sid Halley, #3)
3.5* Under Orders (Sid Halley, #4)

4* Bolt (Kit Fielding, #2)

3* Proof
4* Dead Cert
4* Blood Sport
2* Shattered
3* Nerve
4* Decider
3* Straight
3* For Kicks
4* Bonecrack
3* Enquiry
3* Field of Thirteen

A Touch Of Frost by R.D. Wingfield

bookshelves: summer-2014, mystery-thriller, fradio, published-1992, series, britain-england

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from August 23 to 31, 2014

 

Book description: Detective Inspector Jack Frost, offically on duty, is nevertheless determined to sneak off to a colleague’s leaving party. But first the corpse of a well-known local junkie is found blocking the drain of a Denton public lavatory – and then, when Frost attempts to join the revels later on, the nubile daughter of a wealthy businessman is reported missing.

Sleepy Denton has never known anything like the crime wave which now threatens to submerge it. A robbery occurs at the town’s notorious strip joint, the pampered son of a local MP is suspected of a hit-and-run offence and, to top it all, a multiple rapist is on the loose. Frost is reeling under the strain, his paperwork is still in arrears and now, more than ever, his self-righteous colleagues would love to see him sacked. But the manic Frost manages to assure his superior that all is under control. Now he has only to convince himself..

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0082c6w

BBC description: 4 Extra Debut. Jack Frost is a tough and rude detective and does it all his way, but has he come a cropper? Stars Derek Martin and June Brown.

Denton Woods

I do so hope that R4x goes with some more from this series.

The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn

 

Description: The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask.

When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London – and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past.

Now the thief taker must find this murderous mastermind before the plague obliterates the evidence street by street. This terrifying pursuit will take Charlie deep into the black underbelly of old London, where alchemy, witchcraft and blood-spells collide.

In a city drowned in darkness, death could be the most powerful magic of all.

Opening: London, 1665
In the year of the Black Death London is a city of half-timbered houses and dark towers. In the narrow backstreets, astrologists predict the future, and alchemists conjure wonders. Traitors’ heads line London Bridge, where witches sell potions, and gamesters turn cards. The river flowing beneath lands a daily cargo of smuggler gangs and pirates.

Loved this from the very start: it is gory, graphic and dead gruesome. Many gizzard for dinner scenes so I suppose this is not for the squeamish, and the murdering hulk is terrifying so this is not for the shiverers either. Rest assured though, it is not a horror fic by any stretch of the imagination. The Thief Taker for all its grisly subject is written in a very upbeat fashion. I would loath to call it YA because lots of people have a very prejudiced mindset when it comes to that shelf. It is a highly enjoyable piece of hist-fic fluff.

Holborn Bridge: 1831 Drawn by Tho. H. Shepherd. Engraved by M. Woolnoth.

What a debut, and ike Oliver Twist, I’m asking for more of Charlie Tuesday. Three point five plague hoods rounded up for the sites that do not operate on half ratings.

Endorsed by my Peter James: ‘Quinn is a brilliant new talent!’
Images from the book

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

 

Description: How do you solve a crime when you can’t remember the clues?

Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Back home she finds the place horribly unrecognizable – just like she sometimes thinks her daughter Helen is a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud . . .

Some nice ratings around for this one already. Smashing.

I thought this an exceptionally clever debut novel, and we really get inside the mind of senile dementia. But what really is senile dementia if not just the notching up of internal dialogue to the exclusion of all else? Well it’s a safety hazard, that is apparent but not scary per se. I thought the grand-daughter dealt with it all better than daughter Helen.

However Healey did rather over-egg the pudding didn’t she, bet I wasn’t the only one screaming at the pages saying: ‘get the Foxtrot on with it, why don’t you.’

Like I said above, a clever debut where the some of the looseness should have been edited out. Three point five marrow flowers.

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