Over 550 book reviews with full author links

29 July 2012

Kerry Greenwood: The Castlemaine Murders

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The Delectable and Divine Detective - the Hon Phryne Fisher
Get ready to become addicted to this amazing series where the Hon Phryne Fisher, a unique, beautiful, stylish, sexy and larger than life character, romps through adventure after adventure as a private detective in Melbourne in 1928 and 1929.

In this mystery, Phryne visits a carnival and accidentally disturbs a mummified body of a person murdered during the 1852 Australian Gold Rush. To find out the identity of the body and how the murder happened, Phryne travels to Castlemaine in the goldfields and finds that the implications of the murder are still current. When Lin Chung (Phryne's long term Chinese lover) also goes to the goldfields to visit and manage his extensive family and explore ancient feuds, he finds that the two mysteries are intertwined.

I have read at least 12 books in the Phryne Fisher series and loved every one of them. The plots are ingenious and frequently outrageous. Phryne's has a fantastic family of helpers, including communist taxi drivers, a ladies maid who acts as assistant sleuth, a friendly police inspector and humble constables, circus performers, adopted daughters saved from white slavery, and hosts of lovers (including Lin Chung, her favorite). In this book we are also introduced to Phryne's sister from England who starts off as an aristocratic bore and slowly unveils as a caring Fabian socialist with an impoverished aristocratic sapphic partner.

Warning: to really understand this amazing group of characters you should try to read the series from the beginning - starting with Cocaine Blues.

Kerry Greenwood's classic writing style and fantastic vocabulary keeps you entertained and frequently searching for the dictionary. See how many of these words from an earlier books you would need to look up: "collop, evanescent, agape, polyphiloprogenitive, presbyter, durance, aesthetes, embonpoint, sola, pavane, iodoform, seethe, obsequies, tesserae, parterre, pornutopia, julep, effluvium, valerian, vindaloo, acolyte, genuflect, progenitor, sapphic, seeress, auguries, lascivious, epicene, hetaera, servitor, repining, epicene".

ANOTHER WARNING - Phryne Fisher books are addictive. When you have read one, you will want to read more.

Patricia Paris: This Time Forever (Glebe Point)

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This Time it didn't work properly
Romance novels are harder to write than thrillers because the characters and the plot must be believable. This one failed on both scores.

Delaney was a very modern girl but a 20-something virgin (almost unbelievable). Blake was at times a loving guy and at others a bit of a monster. Given his character, his intense feelings as a single unattached guy for his unknown child are hard to comprehend.

His demand to take the child on his own without any understanding of the child's feelings and his lack experience of child care is unbelievable and stupid.  The child was willed to Delaney by the mother so it is incredible that nothing was said of legal rights to the child or even proof of paternity (other than something like "Ben looks so like his father.")

The romantic chemistry between Delaney and Blake is puzzling and there really is no emotional feeling from their relationship  which changes from page to page.

If the book had been put together better  and the other character and legal issues covered improved the book might have been a more satisfying read. I find it difficult to understand the plethora of 5 star reviews. Given these issues the best that I can give it is 2 stars.

25 July 2012

William Diehl: Sharkey's Machine

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What a great 1970's thriller -highly recommended
This really is a page-turning action thriller with everything - WWII ambush, gold theft, drug and vice squad, a Mafia assassin, reasonably steamy sex and even a Presidential candidate! What more could be included in one thriller.

Even though the book was written in the late 1970's (the cops have to stop to find a phone box) the action is not out of date. Some may remember a film version with Burt Reynolds, Brian Keith and Rachel Ward.

Once you start reading this book you will want to read straight through to the action packed conclusion.

Kerry Greenwood: Cocaine Blues, Phryne Fisher #1

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The Delectable and Divine Detective - the Hon Phryne Fisher
The Hon Phryne Fisher is a unique, beautiful, stylish, sexy and larger than life character who romps through adventure after adventure in Melbourne in 1928 and 1929.  The descriptions of the time, fashions and the place are accurate and delightful.

The series has recently been released on Kindle in the U.S. so I am posting this review to encourage Americans to read this classic and addictive series.

Let me start by telling you something about Phryne (pronounced Fry-knee). She was born in Melbourne to impoverished descendants of an aristocratic and wealthy UK family. "I was born in very poor circumstances. Bitterly poor. Then (due to the Great War) several people died and I was whisked away into fashion and wealth. I enjoy it greatly." But Phryne was not content to live a life of wealth and luxury in England - she wanted action in her life and spent time in the seedy parts of Paris before heading back from England to Australia to help a family friend.

In the first book in the series we see her arrive in Melbourne and immediately assert her independence. Within hours of arrival she connects with a couple of taxi drivers who become her long time helpers, books into the Hotel Windsor with dozens of trunks full of the latest fashion, and goes out looking for more fashion. There she meets and helps a distraught young woman, Dorothy, planning to kill her employer's lecherous son with a kitchen knife. After cleverly helping Dorothy to embarrass the son without any injury, she asks her to become her maid. Dorothy quickly becomes Phryne's maid, personal assistant and close confident throughout the series.

Phryne then starts her many adventures and investigations. While set in the 1920's, Phryne is a very modern heroine who is always the centre of attention, relishes every one of life's moments and leaves a trail of satisfied lovers in her wake.

While much of Cocaine Blues is character development and scene setting, she starts her career as a private detective by tracking down the king of cocaine in Melbourne, a backstreet abortionist and a poisoner. In the course of her investigations she meets Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, who is intially suspicious of her activities but later on gains great respect for Thryne's skills and helps her with many investigations.

WARNING - Phryne Fisher books are addictive. When you have read one, you will want to read more.  In her next books she adds to her delightful "family" of helpers by setting up house (with housekeepers, cat and dog etc), extends her network of police contacts and satisfied lovers and even rescues 2 teenage children from white slavery and adopts them.  Please read on.....

21 July 2012

Mark Gimenez: The Governor's Wife

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A political thriller - not as good as his other books
Mark Gimenez is a talented author and I have really enjoyed his other legally targeted books. This book is more a political thriller, and IMHO not a very good or believable one.

There is great theatre in political thrillers set in the U.S. because the political and constitutional system is so complex and flawed that it allows authors a wide range of creativity. This time I think that Gimenez has gone too far with this creativity. While I am Australian, I closely follow U.S. politics because of the impact the US on the rest of the world, especially over the last very crucial 4 years.

The main character is a larger than life Republican Texas Governor with the ethics and morals of a tom cat, whose testosterone drives him to govern Texas like a cowboy from the Wild West. His political excesses and lies force his wife to move out of the Governor's mansion to make her mark on the world. She goes to work as a nurse on the border with Mexico where abject poverty goes side by side with the wealth and cruelty of the local drug cartel.

When hunting wildlife on a Texas billionaire's private ranch, the Governor's philosophy is expressed clearly - "Shit, let's kill something, see if that'll perk up our spirits." In the end he doesn't kill any game but instead kills 4 Mexicans youths tending a hidden cannabis plantation on the ranch who are about to rape a young Mexican girl. One of the youths is the son of the head of the drug cartel, who vows to kill the Governor in revenge.

Overnight, because of his actions, the Governor becomes a national hero and starts to believe that God has ordained that he could be the next President of the USA. His philosophy is "Buying control of the U.S. government is man's work, like coaching football and destroying the economy". During fundraising for PAC money for a Presidential campaign, a billionaire donor wants to know what he can get for his money - "I want to have sex with my mistress in the Governor's Mansion in the same bed Sam Houston slept in."

I am not questioning the politics involved (others who live in the US are more qualified to do that), only the credibility and believability of the characters and the plot. It was very hard to rate this book. The writing put it near the 4 star level, but the story and crediblity put it at 2 star or below. Because of my respect for Mark Giminez as an author, I compromised at 3 stars.

16 July 2012

Stephen Cody: Lying in State

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A good read for a first novel
This first novel was a pretty good taut thriller with legal undertones. Everything hinges around the Prologue about the suicide of a university student 20 years ago when he was placed under intense pressure by a State parliamentary committee.

Jack Sullivan is finishes his last case as a prosecutor and starts work with the major law firm headed by his father, Jim Sullivan, a former Governor of Florida. Jim hosts a fund raising function for an old friend who is a leading contender to become a Presidential candidate, and during the night Jim is killed by a shotgun blast.

While the death initially looks like suicide, the autopsy shows that it is murder. Jim's much younger second wife sleeps through the blast and the police start to suspect that she is the killer. Jack agrees to defend her when she is arrested on trumped up charges.

It soon becomes clear that Jim's murder is connected to the 20 year old suicide and the knowledge he gained when he was Governor.

While most of the book is well written, there are several places where the text continues without breaks between sections - elementary editing errors.

As I enjoyed this first novel, I look forward to reading his later books.

13 July 2012

Pat Riley: Executive Deception

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A great thriller - pure escapism with a really funny ending
This is complete escapism that is well worth reading. Sit back and enjoy this well written, page-turning, chilling but eventually extremely funny thriller.

Brian O'Brien, a Miami police sergeant and former life saver, rescues a man and his daughter when their car runs into a canal. O'Brien's life is changed when he becomes an instant hero and finds that the man he rescues may soon become the next president of Columbia.

What he doesn't know is that the accident was a failed assassination attempt by black forces in the US government who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims. O'Brien is soon set up on false charges and imprisoned for drug offences.

His lawyer and others who believe in his innocence help him to fight back. O'Brien's revenge on the hidden black forces inside the top of the US government is one of the cleverest and most amusing endings to any thriller that I have read.

This is a first novel and I look forward to enjoying more books by this author.

10 July 2012

Murray McDonald: Divide & Conquer

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Enjoyable and fast paced escapism
This is well written, page-turning escapism which grabs the attention and never lets go. The plot is complex and far fetched but made for good and entertaining reading.

Sean Fox, an ex CIA operative, returns from several years in Afghanistan as an independent contractor looking forward to some well deserved R and R. He is detained at the airport because official records show that he was visciously killed by a Mexican drug cartel 3 months before. Even more surprising, he learns that he is survived by a wife and small son who he has never met.

The son is kidnapped and very quickly Sean is fighting the Mexican cartel to release the son and protect the wife. Not only does he have to deal with the cruel and powerful Mexicans, but his return has triggered actons by intelligence agencies in both the U.S. and Russia. Before long Sean's struggle becomes an international one that will affect the future of the major world powers.

One reviewer pointed out some mistakes in US English usage but they were minor and didn't detract from the impact of the story.

Murray McDonald writes exciting thrillers. I enjoyed Critical Error and look forward to reading Scion.

07 July 2012

Mark Gimenez: Accused

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Super-riveting legal thriller
Within pages I was hooked by this page-turning legal thriller by Mark Gimenez. In his clear, concise style he sets out the major characters, their background and history in the first chapter and without missing a beat jumps straight into the action. I really enjoy legal thrillers and this was among the best I have read. It is a long time since I read a book that I had difficulty putting down.

A. Scott Fenney, a talented and dedicated Dallas lawyer, has not recovered from his beautiful wife, Rebecca, leaving him without warning 2 years before for Trey Rawlins, a rising star on the pro golf tour.  He thinks about her continually. His life centres around keeping his struggling small practice and loyal staff afloat, and lovingly caring for two 11 year olds - his daughter and an adopted African American daughter.

One morning he gets a call "Scott - it's Rebecca. I need you" asking him to defend her when she is accused of murdering the man she left him for. The evidence is damming as her fingerprints are found on the kitchen knife that killed Trey, and the police found her covered in his blood.

Fenney takes on Rebecca's case because he would never be able to live with himself and his daughter if Rebecca was sent to prison for years because of a poor defence. He gradually uncovers the real story behind Trey's golfing, financial and personal life, and the secrets he kept from Rebecca. Fenney delves into the financial rewards and the sexual temptations of the world of professional golf to find the answers.

The plot has as many twists and turns as a roller coaster in an earthquake, culmininating with one of the best a courtroom dramas I have read with many unexpected and surprising outcomes.

Gimenez is a talented writer with amazing character development skills and legal knowledge. I will definitely be reading more of his books.

05 July 2012

Chris Almeida & Cecilia Aubrey : Countermeasures

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Am I reading the same book as the other reviewers?
I read this book because it had a lot of good reviews - I can't imagine why there are so many 5 star reviews. The start was a promising techno/suspense but soon it changed into a pretty tame romance/suspense, and not a very good one at that.

Some parts of the plot were unbelievable. A small example; Cassandra James, a private security consultant (former CIA) and Natham (still CIA) visit the extremely secure NSA headquarters and express surprise when they have to hand in their guns before they are allowed entry. Then they are allowed to enter the most secure part of the NSA and talk to an analyst, Trevor Bauer, at his confidential workstation. Oh dear...

When Cassandra meets Bauer it is immediately clear that there will be a romantic tension between them.  When this happens I detected a clear change in style which suggests that the co-author has written the romantic and slightly steamy scenes. One reviewer thought the book was steamier than Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven't read that book but if this is correct then Fifty Shades must be a pretty tame affair.

I struggled to 60% and skipped to the "happy ending" and hints of future books in the same series. I won't be reading them.

04 July 2012

Melissa F Miller: Irretrievably Broken (Sasha McCandless #3)

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Disapointing compared with earlier Sasha McCandless adventures
Melissa F Miller's previous books showed great promise of developing Sasha McCandless into one of the better legal heroines around. After this book I felt disappointed that Sasha had not gained strength of character from her previous adventures, both legal and personally. At the end I didn't know where the character was heading.

Sasha McCandless is a skilled female lawyer who in previous books was able to face up to and overcome a range of legal and personal challenges. I had expected that this experience would have matured her character into a confident independent legal operator with the strength to choose her battles where she had the ability to stand on her own feet.

In this case, while she has limited experience of criminal law she allows her powerful former bosses to lure her into taking on a major homicide defence. The case is shonky and far fetched from the beginning and becomes more far fetched as the story progresses.

In previous books Sasha was helped by and became romantically involved with Leo Connelly, a Federal Aviation Marshal, who not only gave her personal support but used his investigative skills and clout to help her solve her cases. This time Sasha operates on her own because she was unable or prepared to make a commitment to this special relationship.

The ending was hurried and there were several evidence issues that were not fully explained. Without giving a spoiler, I believe that there was one very serious legal issue left outstanding at the end that should have been addressed.

While this was easy and well written it was not a memorable book. I was going to give it 3 stars but when I started wondering if my interest in reading further books in the series might be "Irretrievably Broken" I could only give it 2 stars.