Category Archives: book review

Book Review; The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith

cuckooA full 400 page gumshoe!

Cormoran Strike is a damaged Private Detective in London. He is ex-Army, ex-Afghanistan and failing at what he does.

Robin Ellacott, newly engaged and looking for an office job, is sent to Strike’s office by a temp agency for a one week position.

Three months earlier a super-model had fallen to her death and the arrival of Robin coincides both with major changes in Strike’s lifestyle and a client who wants the death investigated.

Now for a story within the story. I read most books on an electronic book. Last night I began reading and suddenly, at 1;30am, on page 378, the reader ran out of power and turned off! The frustration was intense!

Through societal disfunction, multi-generational family disfunction, sudden wealth and celebrity shenanigans the plot seemingly wanders widely but fascinatingly.  By page 378 all is beginning to fall into place with the loose ends being gathered. All the time Robin is finding ways to extend her position without allowing the Temp Agency to know.

The final 40 pages tie everything up neatly and leave room for the Cormoran/Robin investigation team to return in what I hope will be a series. And no! I don’t do spoilers for tales as good as this! I won’t even suggest that you look closely at the title.

The only think I will say is that there is a knife involved near the end and I was half expecting a lightning flash scar to be inflicted. Because, while this is a First Crime Novel, it is not a first novel.

It is a captivating entry into the annals of crime fiction and the flaws of Muggles. I look forward to the next in the series.

There had better be a next in the series!

I have to rate it at 4.8 stars out of 5. It lost a little because it sent my reader flat  🙂



Book Review; Love Versus Goliath, Robyn Oyeniyi

Australia is having an embarrassing shouting match at the moment.

Despite our reputation as the country of the “Fair Go” we have always had a problem with newcomers. Despite Governments recognising their value to the Nation the average man-in-the-street has always been suspicious of new immigrant groups. Things appeared to be changing forty years ago but since 1996 some of our political leaders have used that suspicion to gain and hold power.

The country of the “Fair Go” has rapidly turned into the country of “Go Away”.

In a world filled with refugees, some of whom are refugees from wars Australia has helped create, we are now a nation of concentration camps filled with terrified, helpless human beings.

“Love Versus Goliath” is the story of one of those people. John Oyeniyi, facing certain death in his Nigerian homeland, was looking to create a safe home for his family elsewhere.

After following bad advice he tried India and then Australia but was caught up in the Asylum Seeker quagmire. Speaking some English but understanding less, confused and drugged by the officials holding him in captivity, his story appeared disjointed and seemed to differ on retelling. He was slated for “removal”. Deportation to Nigeria where death awaited him.

In one of those strange twists life sometimes takes, he met an Australian woman who thought she could see some problems with his treatment. Robyn set out to help John and unexpectedly fell in love with him.

His inevitable deportation took place and Robyn went to Nigeria to marry her love.

This book is the result of the bureaucratic bungles, lies and incompetence which all had to be overcome by Robyn, in Australia and John, in Nigeria before they could set up a safe home with each other.

Gut-wrenching and almost unbelievable, my Country is revealed as having inbred racism and stubborn inertia within its public service. This tale reveals the hidden underbelly of systemic race discrimination within Australia’s Government and its officials.

If you feel like sitting down with someone and listening to a story over a coffee, this is just the book for you. It is written simply and feelingly. Robyn has succeeded in sharing her life and her feelings in compelling, conversational language.

Read it with a belief in Australia’s fairness and you will end up angry. Read it as a love story and you will be satisfied that there is a caring cupid in this world. Read it with the attitude that refugees should not be a part of Australia and you may just have to face a crisis of conscience.

Love Versus Goliath, Robyn Oyeniyi; 274pp approx $10 available as an Ebook from a variety of sources listed at  

Book Review; Albert of Adelaide, Howard L Anderson

I was led to this novel by Cathy of Kittling Books.

From the premise, a platypus escapes from the Adelaide Zoo and heads north looking for the “Old” Australia, I expected a lot of whimsy and Richard Bach stuff.

What I got was an easy-to-read, hard-to-put-down novel of life and death in a fantastical setting. A world of fantastic animals doing far too human things.

There are so many parallels with modern Australia and its rather strange politics. These are probably accidental as the author is from New Mexico with only a passing acquaintance of “Old” East Coast Australia. Yet he has found the unmentionable underground racism, the naive acceptance of the greediness of the “Bosses”, the bullying of those with the printing presses and the paradoxical mateship so necessary to survive the harshness of the Australian desert.

I am not going to spell out the subtle references in the book. I shall leave those for other readers to discover. In fact, I have this feeling that every reader will bring something of themselves to the meanings of this tale. This is possibly the hardest task for a story-teller and it is achieved easily by Anderson.

Moving away from the feelings and ideas engendered, the actual plot is strongly influenced by the “Old Wild West” of America. Battles and feuds and twistings of the Law abound with blood and injuries and death. All set in an authentic Australian desert landscape.

I recommend that all my Australian readers grab hold of this book and spend several hours looking for “Old” Australia. Then consider just how close to or far from “New” Australia that vision truly is.

Ruffling the perceptions of my place in the world is the greatest gift a writer can give. My equilibrium, like that of a spinning top, has been disturbed and when it stops wobbling I shall be in a new place.


Publisher: ALLEN & UNWIN ISBN: 9781742379029, Aust Pub.: July 2012
Hard cover
Pages, 288 $AUD 26.99;  Kobo Books Epub Pages, 288 , $15.09

Book Review; The Suspect, Michael Robotham

The Suspect is a great big one-sitting read of 339 pages.

From a rooftop in London to an explosive finale, Joseph O’Loughlan has his normal life disrupted and then destroyed.

He appears to have the perfect life – a beautiful wife, a loving daughter and a successful career as a clinical psychologist. But even the most flawless existence is only a loose thread away from unravelling. All it takes is a murdered girl, a troubled young patient and the biggest lie of his life.

The plotting is tight, the story is scarily possible and the villain is unexpectedly close.

Authors with prestigious names such as Rendell, Rankin and La Plante would not be upset to have this novel as a part of their ouvre.

I have come to Michael Robotham late. He published this, his first crime novel, in 2004. The advantage is that this means there are now a number of Robotham crimes to savour.


Book Review; Pohon Setan, Ben Brown

Available as an Amazon Ebook for Kindle, 167 pp $1.99

While beginning and ending in Australia this is a tale of horror set in Indonesia.

Who better to document horrors than journalists and we meet one of the old school. Almost a Dickensian caricature yet totally believable, Bill Redcliff shepherds a group of young journos on what seems like a simple fact-finding mission in Java.

When things go wrong, over-sexed ex-S.A.S Bradley Munroe is brought into the action.

There is lust and love, the Pohon Setan are truly horrific and the violence is pyrotechnical in its intensity. The bane of Australia’s current political life, an evil people smuggler makes an appearance and, at the end, there is a hint of the modern Murdoch Press in action.

I read it in a single sitting, working my way through the first couple of pages then suddenly forgetting everything around me.  Definitely a 4/5 read.

As a bonus, there is a short story included with the novel. A completely different type of story, set in the future, “Rescue Unit 867a“. This is an intense little event which still manages to raise some fascinating questions about artificial intelligence. The Good Doctor would have been proud to write this one.

Book Review; Lessons of Evil

A disturbing début novel by Linda Myers.

Based around a cluster of multiple personality patients this story raises interesting and worrying questions about the influence of cults in our society.

Tense and surprisingly hard to put down, I was trapped in this book  from the start. Not to say I read it in one sitting. The subject and the writing is intense and I needed some breaks from the emotional stress. Now, a week after I finished reading “Lessons of Evil”, it is still exercising my mind. I am looking at the many cults of which we are becoming aware with a new vision.

Laura Covington sets up in a community health clinic in Oregon and begins treating a patient who seems to have multiple personalities. Events lead to a remote religious commune and its leader, Abishua. Several commune members live and work in the town where unexplained murders begin to occur. With a rising death toll, the local Police Force seems unable to make progress and Laura’s son falls into danger.

Enough said. This is an excellent read and worth a lot more than the $3.99 it costs from Amazon and eBookit.

Note: I have been a long time reader of the author’s blog. There I watched “Lessons of Evil” grow from an idea into reality. While Linda writes on her blog with great humour and compassion, this novel stunned me with its professionalism and ability to shock.

Book Review; Plum Pudding Murder, Joanna Fluke

Christmas and Plum Puddings go together. So do Elves, Christmas trees and holidays. Joanna Fluke has brought all of them together in this tale of justifiable murder. To top it all off, Moishe the cat has an insanity attack and the recipes are irresistible.

Larry Jaeger, owner and promoter of “The Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot” is murdered and Hannah Swenson, cookie store owner, again has to find the killer. At the same time she has to cope with her mother’s urgings to marry, her cat which develops a bad case of Christmastreeicide and her feelings about the two men in her life, Norman the dentist and Mike the detective.

Before a tense and dangerous confrontation with the murderer, Hannah treats us to a number of Christmas treats. Of special note is the Triple Threat Chocolate Cheesecake Pie.

This is the ninth book in the series but only the second I have read so I have lots more enjoyable reading to come.

Book Review; Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Joanna Fluke has created Hannah Swensen who is in her early thirties and has flaming frizzy red hair. Let it just be said that I am a complete sucker for redheads!

Hannah is the oldest of the three daughters of Delores Swensen and runs the Cookie Jar, a bakery in the small Minnesotan town of Lake Eden. She lives with a stray orange-and-white cat named Moishe while she ponders on whether to marry Norman the dentist or Mike the detective. Her mother keeps urging her to make up her mind.

In the first Cookie Jar mystery, “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” Ron LaSalle, the beloved delivery man from the Cozy Cow Dairy, is found murdered behind her bakery with Hannah’s famous Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies scattered around him.  Determined not to let her cookies get a bad reputation, she sets out to track down a killer. One serendipitous clue after another helps Hannah to the truth.

In the meantime the bonuses in this story are the mouth-watering recipes which are scattered through the pages. They are not “bare-bones” recipes but fully explained delights which are extremely tempting. In fact there are three story lines in the novel. The murder, the recipes and Delores urging her daughter towards marriage.

Lake Eden is now rapidly becoming as dangerous for its residents as Midsomer. Murders just keep on happening and Hannah keeps solving them despite the best efforts of the Lake Eden Police Department. If you survive the murder rate, you will probably succumb to the calorie intake from the Cookie Jar!

Hannah owes much more to Miss Marples than to Mickey Spillane and the setting is of the classic English Village style.

Yes, I am already reading another Hannah Swenson mystery, mouth watering.

Book Review; Capable of Murder

With “Capable of Murder”, Brian Kavanagh has presented the reader with a classic English village mystery in 188 pages.

The first of the Belinda Lawrence series. which seems now to total four novels,

In this, the introductory story, Belinda inherits a village house from a Great Aunt who has died unexpectedly. While the death appears accidental, Belinda has her doubts. There is an obligatory older recluse and the standard cast of suspicious characters. After additional murders and the necessary bit of immorality, finally the mystery is solved. In between there are break-ins and talk of maps and gardens and Capability Brown.

At an ePub price of around $5 per tale it has an attraction. I shall probably follow the series to the end. I am a sucker for English Village Mysteries set in locations similar to Midsomer.

Lightweight but good fun.

Book Review; Drawing Conclusions

Donna Leon’s twentieth and latest Commissario Brunetti tale is again an interesting insight into the machinations of the Italian Justice system.

Late one night, Brunetti is suffering through a dinner with Vice Questore Patta and his nasty Lieutenant Scarpa when his telefonino rings. A old woman’s body has been discovered in an apartment by her neighbour when she went to pick up her mail. Brunetti sees some signs of force on the old woman—the obvious wound on her head, what could be a bruise near her collarbone—but they could just as easily have been from the radiator near where she fell. When the medical examiner rules that the woman died of a heart attack, it seems there is nothing for Brunetti to investigate. But he can’t shake the feeling that something may have created conditions that led to her heart attack, that perhaps the woman was threatened.

With the help of his side-kick, Inspector Lorenzo Vianello and the computer-savvy Signorina Elettra Zorzi, Brunetti gets to the truth, and finds some measure of justice.

Once again a well constructed mystery with insights into Brunetti’s private life thrown in for good measure.

This novel again confirms Donna Leon as one of my “must read at all costs” authors.

Book Review; The Girl of His Dreams

Donna Leon writes of Venice.

Along with the police who attempt to keep civilisation alive despite the best efforts of criminals and politicians.

Commissario Guido Brunetti works to solve crime yet also manages to be a family man. Sometimes world-weary, he is kept grounded by his wife Paolo and family.

The Girl of His Dreams was published in 2008 and is the 17th in the series. This is a good thing! I can go back to book 1 and follow a new literary friend.

What is the plot? A young girl is found drowned in the Grand Canal and there are many ramifications which flow from this event, criminal and political. Secondly, an old friend asks Brunetti to look into the activities of a religious leader. Completely separate from the first storyline yet while the two stories never intersect, they each provide a reason for Brunetti’s family life to be shown.

So, it is a well written book, with interesting characters and including glimpses of the outside world. What is there not to like?

Nothing. This novel has restored my faith in literature. After two failed tales and the subsequent poor reviews, I am enthused by this tale of a City I have often dreamed of visiting.

If you haven’t already found Donna Leon’s work, look out for it. You will not be disappointed.

Book Review: The Mayan Prophecy

I had been wondering at the sudden assumption in society that the world was due to end in 2012. I finally got around to reading the book.

I was left with the same feeling that last great societal delusion gave me. “The Da Vinci Code” was another work of badly written fiction which tapped into America’s “Need to Believe”. And as America goes, so goes the rest of the Western Civilisation. Although I am beginning to see that phrase as an oxymoron.

Steve Alten has written a book which requires a major suspension of disbelief along with an ability to ignore a number of internal contradictions. I’ll mention just one. The nasties crashed into the Earth 65 million years ago. Somehow the goodies AND the nasties lay around doing nothing for some 64,975,000 years and then suddenly began “Doing things”. Yeah! Right!

While the plot has some coherence, the characters are, to put it mildly, off the planet. High levels of World Government are all shown as largely incompetent. While this is probably true, I would prefer not to have it pointed out quite so graphically.

As with Dan Brown’s novels, if you are happy simply reading words and not thinking then this may be the book for you. Alternatively, should you be weary of your current belief system, then you will find a new, apocalyptic set of beliefs here. If you have any sense, then I would suggest finding something else to read.

No, I don’t want to read the sequel. I have better things to do with my time.

Book Review; Land of the Painted Caves

This is the conclusion of the Earth’s Children series.

After 31 years, Jean, I feel you won’t be too upset by the familiarity, the final book has been written, published and read. The series is complete and many of the loose ends have been tied together. So why am I left feeling unfulfilled?

Somewhere along the line, Jean, you lost the story-telling knack and this time simply wrote down a series of events, visits and descriptions. Yes, I began this final book with anticipation, struggled though the middle and finished, hoping against hope for a final burst of brilliance. And was disappointed.

“The Plains of Passage” was the other “travelling” book in the series. I had hoped you had learned to overcome the boredom of a journey and insert some excitement into this final volume. Alas, this last effort reads as though you had decided against telling a story and chose instead to lecture your readers.

There are all the essential parts of a good novel included in “The Land of the Painted Caves” except they lack the tale-teller’s spark. The human interest is shallow, the human conflict contrived and not essential to the progression of the story. Even the twist near the end is simply an obvious “loose-end” being tied up. The only parts where you show passion is in your descriptions of the cave paintings.

I will not include spoilers in this review and I wish I had been able to be positive about this effort.

Unfortunately, Jean, have I finished 31 years of reading  your work which began with a huge adoration and has ended with an unexpected and most unwelcome let down.

Then again I am just a single reader. There will be many more who will love it.

Macabre Humour

I enjoy wandering through second-hand book stores. Sometimes I find genuine treasures. Unluckily, most store owners recognise the gems before I spot them. A case in point was a very expensive book I found a while ago. At $115 it was a little rich for me although it was an almost mint copy published in 1972.

In 1963, illustrator and author Edward Gorey published an alphabet book so delightfully subversive that it destroyed the very premise of the genre — making children feel comfortable and inspiring them to learn — that it took the macabre humor genre to a new level.

From ““A is for Amy who fell down the stairs,” to “Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin.”  The Gashlycrumb Tinies was a delight for those with twisted minds.

Anyway,  I came home, made a note on my “to do” list. A few days ago I found that note  and did some googling. I found this version on one of the aggragator sites which I will not publicise here as it leads to so many other sites, not all of which are suitable for children.

The Gashlycrumb Tinies

The Gashlycrumb Tinies

I just found “another site which has just published a tribute entitled A Very Gorey Alphabet Book “ to this twisted genius. How dare he use  the ultimate title for this subject!!!
Cyberspace is becoming coincidental.

Book Review; And Another Thing

Mostly funny.

And Another Thing (Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy part six of three); Eion Colfer, 340pp, Pub Michael Joseph, 2009.