Twofer: Mo Hayder Monday, Apr 25 2011 

Readers first met DI Jack Caffery in the unusual novel Birdman, about a series of ritualistic killings. He next appears in Hayder’s , a genuinely frightening thriller. With Ritual and its follow-up Skin, Hayder has introduced a new character to work alongside Caffery. Police diver Flea (Phoebe) Marley, 26 and skinny, with a head of wild hair and widely spaced blue eyes that make her look even younger.

In Ritual, Flea  finds a severed hand while diving in a dense, muddy area of Bristol’s wharf. When Caffery is called in on the case, it is soon established that the hand belongs to a recently disappeared young man.

As the two search for his abductor, they find themselves poking into Bristol’s dark underworld. A waitress near the dock claims to have seen a young, naked man on the dock the night before the murder. As they investigate the area, filled with drug addiction and street kids prostituting themselves for their next hit, they stumble across a disturbing African ritual which appears to be connected. The plot comes together in swift ripples and more dives for Flea, that are accompanied by hallucinations of her mother calling for her. Both of Flea’s parents died in a freakish diving accident,which adds to her background and to the plot.

Skin features the unlikely twosome once again. Still bothered by hallucinations, Flea is becoming aware that her feelings for Caffery are stretching beyond their professional boundaries.

A decomposed body of a young woman is found near railroad tracks. Initially thought to be a suicide, Caffery doesn’t agree. While he investigates, Flea’s diving in an abandoned quarry brings her close–too close–to a macabre sighting. Or was it narcosis?

And then there’s the matter of Flea’s brother, Thom, a young man under the spell of an older woman, Mandy, who orders him around. As the investigation increases, another young woman goes missing, and Thom’s trouble becomes Flea’s trouble. Where will Caffery stand in all this? Can Flea turn Mandy into a friend instead of a foe?

Hayder’s books are entertaining and haunting, and even with a touch of the macabre in these two, will keep you riveted.

Millie Wonka Monday, Apr 18 2011 

Millie is a writer friend of mine who has the handle on turning the commonplace and everyday into the funny and absurd.

After much convincing, she’s just launched her new blog: http://milliewonka.wordpress.com.

Do yourself a favor and have a 30 second laugh at one of her amusing stories. It’s a great way to start or end your day!!

Started Early, Took My Dog Monday, Apr 18 2011 

Jackson Brodie is a most reluctant private investigator. His personal life is as perplexing to him as is his recent case. He is one of my favorite characters in literature these days, a man who’s professional life is in direct contrast to his complicated personal life.

Tracy Waterhouse is supplementing her pension from the police force by working as the head of mall security when she makes an impulsive purchase, setting into motion one helluva ride for Tracy, one that will have you rooting for this most unlikely heroine.

Jackson Brodie is trying to find the biological parents of an adopted woman raised in Australia. Her text messages to Brodie alone are the work of great invention by Atkinson, as we come to know this character we never see. Women confuse and perplex Brodie, including his new client.

How these two disparate stories overlap shows Atkinson at her best, in this fourth offering featuring Brodie. Dogs figure here: pursuers by, accompanied, neglected and adopted. Then throw in an elderly actress, slowly sinking into dementia. And the children: there are children here, too, some at risk, others waiting to be loved. There is also a tragedy from the past the needs to be unraveled, involving a police cover-up.

In the hands of a less skilled writer, these threads might have become confusing, but Atkinson keeps you turning pages long after you should have put the light out. She gets the varied voices and mental streams just right, as the past haunts all three of these people.  Even the changes in voice are revealed to be a deliberate device, affecting the plot.

It all works out in the end, with the important questions answered. This is a highly original novel from a writer at the top of her game.

A Red Herring Without Mustard Monday, Apr 11 2011 

All of the Flavia de Luce novels have the unusual aspect of being perfect mysteries for adults that would also intrigue young adult readers, and this third installment, A Red Herring Without Mustard, is in the same fine category.

Alan Bradley does his usual tip-top job of showing us Bishops Lacey, a quintessential English country town, bringing 1950 to life.

Flavia is the most unflappable and clever eleven-ear old to appear recently. With her two older sister still terrorizing her, Flavia often retreats to her chemistry lab and the concontions she makes there for revenge. But this is a small part of the action, as Flavia is determined to find out who bludgeoned an old Gypsy woman she stumbles across in the woman’s caravan, only hours after she has sent Flavia a message from her dead mother Harriet.

The addition of a missing baby, an unusual religious sect called The Hobblers, and a subterranean maze of tunnels underneath Flavia’s home at Buckshaw all make their appearance.  So does Inspector Hewitt, Dogger and Mrs. Mullet. There’s a young gypsy, too, as well as a possible ring of antique thieves. It all comes together, as it surely should, under Flavia’s investigative genius.

I was pleased to see Bradley gave Flavia a vision of her mother she hadn’t seen before, although the true nature of this seems at first to be lost to Flavia, although it is not to her Colonel (ret.) father, the quietly-suffering, pedantic stamp collector.For fans of this young sleuth, Bradley doesn’t disappoint. For new readers, start at the beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to get the full flavor of the lovely Flavia de Luce, chemist and crime investigator extraordinaire.

 

HRF Keating: In Memoriam Sunday, Apr 3 2011 

Instead of the usual review, this week features the obituary of the wonderful writer HRF Keating, who died on Monday, March 28th.  His second protagonist, Detective Harriet Martens (The Hard Detective and six others) is a personal favorite of mine, a woman who has pulled herself up through the rank’s of a man’s world.

But there’s no question Inspector Ganesh Ghote is for whom Keating will be most fondly remembered. The Indian detective brought more empathy and pathos to a story than any hard-boiled detective ever had.  It is with fond memories and deep regret that I share this wonderful article by Mike Ripley, of the UK Guardian, and hope that readers unfamiliar with Keating’s work will be inspired by the man to pick up one of his wonderful novels.

HRF Keating published more than 50 novels over half a century. Photograph: Nicola Kurtz/National Portrait Gallery London
The crime writer Henry Reymond Fitzwalter Keating, who has died aged 84, was more than happy to be known simply as Harry, although publishers always billed him as HRF Keating. Over half a century, he published roughly 50 novels. More than two dozen of these featured his best-known hero, the unassuming Indian policeman Inspector Ganesh Ghote, who also appeared in short stories, and television and film adaptations of Keating’s books. Timid, nervous and deferential, Ghote was neither a detective genius like Sherlock Holmes nor a streetwise tough-guy like Philip Marlowe. He was always underestimated by his enemies but his great strength was a combination of integrity, perseverance and an overwhelmingly benevolent interest in people.
Keating wrote several books before creating Ghote. His first novel, Death and the Visiting Firemen, was published in 1959. It was followed by more witty and slightly surreal novels, with intriguing titles such as Zen There Was Murder (1960) and The Dog It Was That Died (1962). However, Keating’s highly contrived plots and acute sense of whimsy failed to find favour in the US. In a deliberate move to break into the American market, he decided he needed a solid detective hero and an interesting location. As he described the process: “I sat down with the atlas and when I got to ‘page India’ I thought that looked interesting.”
The result was the first Ghote novel, The Perfect Murder (1964), which won the gold dagger for fiction, awarded by the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA). It was an outstanding success in America, being declared book of the year (as early as April) by the influential critic Anthony Boucher. Keating never saw Ghote as a long-term prospect, think- ing that there were potentially two or three more books in the series. But readers began to demand a book a year, and Keating wisely stayed loyal to his most unlikely detective and became, or so it was assumed, an expert on all things Indian.
His gentle manner and a particularly luxuriant beard gave Keating something of the aura of a guru. In fact, he had never been anywhere near India. Things, as he said “were going quite nicely without having to face the actuality” when, one morning in the 1970s, the postman delivered a letter from Air India offering a flight to Bombay (now Mumbai) so that he might see the country he had been describing in convincing detail for the best part of a decade.
Although reassured that his Inspector Ghote books had many fans in India, it was with some trepidation that Keating steeled himself for his arrival with a much-rehearsed speech starting: “One small step for Inspector Ghote …” Instead, he stepped out of the aircraft with the immortal words: “God, it’s hot.”
In 1988, The Perfect Murder was adapted for a film, directed by Zafar Hai and produced by Ismail Merchant, with a cameo role for the author. But the gentle Indian policeman, who constantly worried about what people thought of him, was considered an unfashionable protagonist for the 1990s and, on the advice of agents and publishers, Keating ended Ghote’s career with the novel Breaking and Entering (2000). He then created a British female detective, Harriet Martens, who was to star in seven novels, commencing with The Hard Detective (2000). The audio-book versions of the novels were read by Keating’s wife, the actor Sheila Mitchell, whom he had married in 1953.
Ghote was gone but not forgotten and, despite having deposited most of his research files and notes in a Kensington recycling bin, Keating resurrected him in Inspector Ghote’s First Case (2008) and A Small Case for Inspector Ghote? (2009), two prequels set in the early 1960s, when the influence of the British Raj was still a tangible memory. Keating deliberately chose a historical setting, realising that the Ghote of Bombay, as originally envisaged, could not exist in modern Mumbai.
Apart from his own crime fiction, which won him numerous awards – including a second gold dagger for The Murder of the Maharajah (1980), and, in 1996, the CWA’s diamond dagger for lifetime achievement – Keating established an awesome reputation as an expert on the genre. He served as chairman of the CWA (1970-71); president of the Detection Club (1985-2000), a group of mystery writers; and chairman of the Society of Authors (1983-84).
As a critic, he reviewed crime fiction for the Times from 1967 to 1983. He treated as a challenge the restriction of having no more than 30 words per book to encapsulate his opinion and always preferred to recommend rather than revile titles. He wrote and lectured on Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes; edited the critical surveys Crime Writers (1978) and Whodunit? (1982); and wrote the guide Writing Crime Fiction (1986).
Bravely, and controversially, he chose his personal favourites from the genre in Crime and Mystery: The 100 Best Books (1987). In 1977 he had identified the first of what he thought would be “a considerable stream” of more violent thrillers in the work of a then unknown author, James Patterson. He also predicted great things for a British crime writer, Jacqueline Wilson, who was soon to turn from crime to children’s fiction.
Never comfortable with computers or the internet, Keating retained a great affection for fountain pens and letter-writing. In 1980, he acted as a go-between for Glidrose Productions, owners of the rights to the James Bond novels, to recruit the thriller writer John Gardner to continue the franchise. Gardner later recalled that the Keating approach had come “handwritten, on Basildon Bond notepaper”.
In 2000, Keating and I were asked to jointly compile the 100 best crime novels of the 20th century for the Times and, with only two exceptions and virtually no argument, the list was agreed, with justification for each title, amicably and to deadline, by post. To mark his 80th birthday in 2006, the Detection Club produced an anthology of new crime stories in his honour, The Verdict of Us All. The contributors list – including Colin Dexter, PD James, Reginald Hill and, with his first short story for 30 years, Len Deighton – showed the respect and affection felt for Keating.
Keating was born in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, and educated at Merchant Taylors’ school in Middlesex and Trinity College Dublin, where he read English and French. He was said to have written his first story, entitled Jim’s Adventure, aged eight, the framed first page of which, picked out with two fingers on his father’s typewriter, had pride of place in his study.
After training as a journalist with the Westminster Press Group in Slough, Keating joined the Daily Telegraph in 1956 and settled in Notting Hill, west London, where he was to remain in the same house for more than 50 years. The Perfect Murder, and three of the other early Inspector Ghote titles, will be republished next month.
He is survived by Sheila; his children, Simon, Piers, Hugo and Bryony; and nine grandchildren.
• Henry Reymond Fitzwalter Keating, writer and critic, born 31 October 1926; died 27 March 2011

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.