Book Review – Crime Fiction

Book Review – Countdown to Death by Iain McChesney.

Countdown to death

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Wayzgoose Press for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, so I am a fan of Agatha Christie, no surprise there. And I do in fact have one of the older printed copies of her novel now known as ‘And then there were none’. But my copy is so old it is still called ‘Ten little N…’ yeah, I’m not going to type that word as it is not a nice one. But you get my point, right? If not, go google the original name. Anyhow, I love the tale and know it well. So when I asked to read ‘Countdown to death’ I was perfectly aware of what it was paying homage to and had a little trepidation as to whether it could pull it off.

It did. And it did it in a lovely and entertaining manner too. Very much in the fashion of the original tale, while also breathing a new life and a new voice into the tale. Mr McChesney wasn’t just repeating Ms Christie’s work, he is truly paying her a homage by taking the old story and not making it new… but simply making it modern… if that makes sense? Yeah, no it probably doesn’t make sense outside my head but let’s just go with it okay? It was a compliment and we will just run with that. 😉

Did I feel the need to go to an island with ten people and kill them off one by one to ensure I could truly review this book open and honestly? No, sadly I could not make that happen and I do know how that is seen as a flaw in my reviewing by some – that I can’t have an opinion without trying what the book is about first – but yeah, not in my budget and the closest islands I could use are either Granite Island or Kangaroo Island and both out of scope so ah well… Instead I just read it as the mystery it was, tried to see how identical to the original plot it would be, see if I could wade through the small school of red herrings and guess the killer and all in all have fun reading the book. No need to smash glass bottles or plot my revenge on people I feel have done me wrong before I could enjoy this tale!

And did I guess who the murder was? Yes, I did. To me it was a pretty obvious option, but the story was woven so well that I did have myself second guessing a few times, but in the end my original choice was proven correct. And, sadly, I figured it out rather early on. Unlike an Agatha Christie where it takes me most of the book to work it out. But never fear, it did not detract from the story, did not ruin the enjoyment of it all and it was nice to see how it was all explained and done in the end.

Plus I am a stinker and one of those annoying people who can watch a mystery for 5 minutes or read the first three chapters of a book and tell you whodunit. It’s the savant part of my idiot really – and yes, I am allowed to make such jokes about myself, I am neuro-diverse! 😀

As to the formatting and other “boring bits” side of things, there were a few typos and grammatical slip ups… but it was an ARC and so accepted. Plus I am a typo Queen and so don’t have the right to judge someone else on the odd slip up! It did not detract from my rating. Nor did the fact it sometimes seemed to get jumbled up and confused as to who was saying what. And I don’t mean those gorgeous snippets here and there deliberately meant to be ambiguous – those I liked. Just sometimes when they were all together talking, the formatting let down the narration as it wasn’t clear who said what. But hey, in some ways that is mimicking Ms Christie’s style too!

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Though I really do feel someone who has read the original Christie tale would get the same appreciation of it that I did. However, I really don’t feel reading ‘And then there were none’ is a prerequisite to reading or enjoying ‘Countdown to death’. I feel it is a good, solid and enjoyable story all on its own. A homage yes, but it is worthy of being its own entity too and could easily be enjoyed as such.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Possibly? I mean, I enjoyed it, loved it for the salute to the old crime thrillers and liked it for its own potential and talent. But right now I am not drawn to wanting to read it again and again at a later date – as I would with an Agatha Christie novel. ‘Countdown to death’ is good, very good. But for now is more a “borrow from library” level of tale for me. Sorry. I feel I am doing this book a great injustice in saying that, but I am being open and honest.

In summary: A well written mystery in its own right, but also a beautiful homage to the crime Queen herself.

Book Review – Death of a Ghost: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery by M. C. Beaton.

 

Death of a Ghost

3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

For the record I have been a huge fan of Marion Chesney (AKA M.C. Beaton) for at least a decade now… and not just of her Hamish Macbeth series… which is far, far better than the silly TV series.

And so I was thrilled to be given an opportunity to read the latest Hamish tale… even though I think I am now about 8 books behind in the series… Boy I’ve been slack! There, that is me being open and honest so please realise I am not a terrible person when it comes to the following constructive criticism… Uh oh.

So! As I’ve said, I am not as up to date with the series as I would have loved and so am not going to make comment on it referring to stuff I didn’t know as the only person I have to blame there is myself. But I have to say there was just something lacking in ‘Death of a Ghost’ that made it not seem that polished and finished as the other books I’ve read in the series. Though, this is the first time I’ve read an ARC of the series and so the less than polished to perfection feel could simply be due to that.

All the same I just found the story a little sketchy at times. You would have the major scene… followed by a few one liners that filled in the next few hours (sometimes days) until the next big major scene. It almost came across as notes and I expected to see the editors scribe on in the margin saying “to beef out later” or something. I really got despondent in the quality of the writing after a while as it really came across as if half the story (the boring filler bits) was just missing and the sketchy one liners therefore diminished the quality of the overall work.

I mean, all the usual “Hamishness” was there and it all seemed to fit the usual pattern of a Hamish Macbeth tale… but it simply felt half-finished to me. Perhaps I am just being a perfectionist and asking too much? I don’t know. But I will have to admit the sketchy quality of the writing has put me off being as eager to read other new works by Ms Beaton just in case this is common to her writing style these days.

Would I recommend this book to other?

Saying all of that, I would. But, of course, being the 35th book I would recommend those who have not read the series before start back at book one. And for those who have read the series… I wouldn’t mention my sketchiness concerns until after they’d read and to see if they saw it too or if I really was just being a bit of a book diva again.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Despite the flaws I perceived in it… Yes I would. I mean, I have bought most of the other books in the series and what sort of fan would I be if I didn’t ensure I had copies of all the books in the series?

In summary: Even after all this time, Hamish can still solve some of the cleverest crimes by jumping to conclusions and guessing. 😉

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves.

moth-catcher

4 out of 5 stars

 New disclaimer due to new Amazon rules: I was gifted a free electronic copy of this book by St. Martin’s Press, via Netgalley. I am not obligated, nor being forced, to post a review – I’m doing it of my own free will as I enjoy reviewing.

On advice from Amazon, and based on their emailed reply I can say – “My review is given voluntarily and the Author/publisher does not require a review in exchange for the book, or attempt to influence my review.”

 My Review:

 As with all the Vera Stanhope books I have read, I really enjoyed ‘The Moth Catcher’ as it is that level of true crime that suits me well. Not too dark and gritty, not too light and fluffy – just a perfect balance of realism and intrigue.

And, as with all Ms Cleeves books – that I have read – I also loved that she does not throw a whole heap of red herrings at you. Actually, with ‘The Moth Catcher’ I found myself creating my own red herring theories as the author left so many tantalising ideas and suggestions without actually being blatantly obvious at trying to confuse you with misdirection. Yes, you create the misdirection yourself while you’re trying to show you’re a clever clogs and figure it out before the end. I love that – so rare in a any crime book these days!

Hmmm, rereading that last paragraph it sort of makes sense to me… hopefully it does to others too! 😀

But, basically, what I am trying to say as this book had me guessing right until the end and when the ending came it made sense and fitted perfectly into the storyline and had me going “of course!” rather than it being so obscure it looked tacked on just to tease and confuse. However, it wasn’t just a book that had you guessing, it was enthralling you with a story at the same time, entwining the need to guess with the desire to enjoy and learn about the characters and their lives.

So many true crime books these days try and confuse and misdirect and curl the reader into knots that they look their skill in also telling a realistic tale. And they spend so much time doing this, there isn’t much of the storyline left to entertain and thrill. None of that nonsense with a book by Ms Cleeves! The intrigue is there, the pace sets off to allow characters – new and old – to develop around the reader and we are then swept off to the end where it isn’t so much wrapped up neatly and delivered to us, but pointed out and explained.

Loved it.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Lovers of the true crime genre would enjoy this story. Fans of Ruth Rendell would enjoy this book too. And, something I feel is true, although ‘The Moth Catcher’ is part of a series, if it was the first Vera Stanhope story you picked up – I feel you could still enjoy it as a standalone tale. But it would then make you eager to go buy the rest… or is that just me? 😉

Would I buy this book for myself?

 Yes I would. In paper format! *gasp* But that’s only because I have started the series in paper format and I am a stickler and would therefore want them all in that format. Though it is just as enjoyable as an ebook.

In summary: A good true crime read to settle yourself down with any chance you get – I highly recommend it.

Until next time,

Janis.

 

Book Review – Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves.

hidden-depths

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank a very lovely and generous friend who sent me this book as a gift. I am in no way being forced or feel obligated to make this review, I just want to because I can.

This is the first book in the Vera Stanhope novels by Ann Cleeves and shows her work in this book series was excellent from the word go.

Yes it has been made into a TV series but this book is far better than the actual episode it became as, quite frankly, the TV version was chopped changed and – in my opinion – ruined. So please don’t go judging my review of the book on your opinion of the show. There is no comparison – the book is better… as is most often the case. 😉

The story may seem to start slowly for some, but I enjoyed it as it really helped set the scene and introduce the reader to all the characters, to the location and so on. Really reminiscent of works by Ruth Rendell, Edith Pargeter – which is a compliment, as I absolutely love their crime stories too.

The characters are very real and so quite easy to relate to and get that much needed emotional connection that helps make crime stories all the more riveting. The setting is also well describe to help those of us foreign to that part of England really get  feel for what it’s actually like. All in all a it’s a great book. There were some good, subtle red herrings too, an essential part of all good ‘true crime’ books. I hate a crime book where it is all mapped out for you and you know who did it from the third page, despite the ocean of herrings then thrown at you… Thankfully, ‘Hidden Depths’ is not such a book.

Would I recommend this book to others?

 Yes I would. Lovers of this part of the crime genre spectrum will love ‘Hidden Depths’. And, as the first book in the series it is an excellent one for them to start with. Lovers of Christie, Pargeter, Rendell and the like would love this book.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I would… if I hadn’t already been gifted a copy. I am slowly collecting the paper versions of the entire series as it is just my sort of ‘true crime’.

In summary: A good pace, relatable characters, great setting – excellent book. I highly recommend people go grab a copy today!

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – A MUDDIED MURDER: A Greenhouse Mystery by Wendy Tyson.

2 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Henery Press for providing me with a free ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange or an open and honest review.

Please don’t take my low score to mean this was a terrible book… it wasn’t. It was also, to me, not an amazingly brilliant book either. It was… okay. Just way too slow in places – to the point I went off and read several other books in between chapters to break up the monotony.

The setting was good, the concept was good and the plot was good. But the pace was slow, it had a LOT of filler and padding in it that just wasn’t needed and seemed to me to be added to get it to the required word count and all in all there was just something there I felt was lacking. Which is a shame as the interesting bits did make out to be a good little cosy crime in the making.

I really am hoping this is just ‘first book of the series’ jitters, as I have a lot of faith in Ms Tyson’s writing and feel it should settle out and find its footing in the next book or so. And, in saying that, if I was asked to read the next book in the series, I would. As, you know, the book, writing and story weren’t that bad… just REALLY drawn out and long winded. Obviously I need a little bit faster a pace than the one offered here.

Would I recommend this book to others?

I might. As I keep saying, it had the promise to be a great little cosy crime. Maybe I just needed something a little faster paced at the time, I don’t know. If you like small town America, farming, cosy crime murder mysteries, you might like this book. But don’t say I didn’t warn you about the padding and snail’s pace plot.

Would I buy this book for myself?

No, I don’t think so. I see it as library quality… as in, if I saw it on the library shelf, I’d possibly read it again, maybe not. If I saw the next book in the series at the library, would I read it? Yes I would… I see good writing skills, a good imagination and some great ideas… hidden in all the extra plot padding. So I won’t rule Ms Tyson out as a cosy crime writer to look out for just yet.

In summary: Good idea, pace and excess plot padding made it too slow for me to really enjoy all in one sitting. Not ruling out the series though as this could really just be ‘first book of the series jitters’.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review -For The Love of Old Bones by Michael Jecks.

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Endeavour Press for providing me with a free ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, part of being open and honest is to admit here and now I have been a fan of Mr Jecks’ writing for about fifteen years. When I first stumbled onto my love of historical crime fiction, his name was one of a dozen on an online ‘best authors of historical crime fiction’ list I came across. I promptly printed it out, took to my library and scoured the shelves and hit gold. His Sir Baldwin and Bailiff Simon Puttock series has been a favourite of mine since then.

So, of course, I am now going to say I loved this series of short stories as some contained this duo. Other tales didn’t and they were just as good as it showed the talent of the author to be able to write a short story within the first person – and that first person not always being the same person. Yes, I see that sounds far more complicated than I wanted it to. Let’s just say Mr Jecks was able to create clear, well written and DIFFERENT stories without them all melding together and becoming hard to tell apart as the characters were all so similar. His characters aren’t similar; they stand apart from each other well.

Often, when you get a book of short stories all by the same author, the tales can tend to blend and become monotonous with the same tone, style, pace – but not with Mr Jecks! Yes there was a similarity in the tales due to when and where they were set… and that a murder was involved – we ARE talking crime fiction after all! But each story held its own, was well developed and definitely distinguishable from the others.

Loved it, my only real complaint is that I found it too short – and that is me being greedy and has nothing to do with the author or his work. But I could have happily kept reading the world he has woven of the 14th century and all the hardships, quirkiness and crimes that come with it.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Seriously, if you are a fan of – or even just interested in looking at – historical crime fiction, this is a great book to start with. It is made up of several short stories, each of which can be read independently of the others and, quite frankly, I don’t think you even need to have read other Sir Baldwin tales to still enjoy them. It is the perfect introduction to this genre and this author for those who have not tried either before… as well as being a satisfactory read for those of us who have been living off – and loving – historical crime fiction for years.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. Loved it, would happily add it to either my physical or ‘electric’ library and could go on about it, but fear I would start repeating myself.

In summary: Lovers of crime fiction – historical or otherwise – will enjoy this series of short stories. But it is also perfect as an introduction to the genre. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review -Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames.

3 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Henery Press for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for an open and honest review.

I’m going to start by saying that if I gave half stars, this book would really be a 2 and a half… but as I don’t, I bumped it up to 3 as it sat better with me than lowering it to a 2.

Don’t get me wrong, the story had some good moments… but they were few and far between. Maybe it was because it was pitched to me (my impression) as a cosy crime and it wasn’t. Maybe it was because it was more a spy thriller wannabe… and I’m never a fan of those. I just didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped.

I found the main character annoying with how she was such an expert on everything and had a bag full of spyware gizmos… but kept coming across as rather clueless.

The whole relationship between her and the main male character was also annoying as I believe there was meant to be a conflict, a mix of friction to interest the reader. There wasn’t. It just added to both character’s chopping and changing how they acted and reacted to not only each other, but the world around them.

I want to find some positives about this book… but instead I’m going to have to leave it at simply just not listing ALL the reasons I didn’t enjoy it.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Sadly I wouldn’t. But don’t listen to me! I see on Goodreads it has tonnes of 5 star reviews so obviously there are loads of people who liked it. I didn’t, but that’s just me. But I’m not into spy wannabe stories, even well written ones – which this was not – so I am not the best judge on this genre.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Again, sadly, I would not. It wouldn’t even make it into my ‘would read if found at the library’ level of enjoyment. I requested both this and the 2nd book in the series at the same time, and was sent the ARC for both… and because I’ve not enjoyed this first one I’ve marked the second one as DNF without even looking at it. There is the difference between first book of the series jitters, and just a story concept that doesn’t work. I got the feeling the 2nd book wouldn’t gel with me any better than the first and so I will not be returning to, or continuing with, this series.

In summary: You might like it if you like chick lit spy wannabe books, you might not. I found it waffled way too much, barely stuck to the story at hand, was extremely predictable and ended so abruptly it felt like the author had hit her word limit and just stopped. Sorry, not a book for me.

Until next time,

Janis.