Category Archives: Crime-Mystery

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid

Image Description: book-cover of the Auido-book format of The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid. The title text and the author text (in white) take up most of the cover, the cover has a yellow sepia-tint to it, but I think it's a picture of farm-yard or pasture with a delapidated brick building in it.
Title: The Mermaids Singing (Book #1 of the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Series)
Author: Val McDermid
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
Format and Price: Audiobook at $14.95
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

About The Author:
Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies. She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010. In 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award. She writes full-time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.

About The Book:
You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…Up till now, the only serial killers Tony Hill had encountered were safely behind bars. This one’s different – this one’s on the loose.Four men have been found mutilated and tortured. As fear grips the city, the police turn to clinical psychologist Tony Hill for a profile of the killer. But soon Tony becomes the unsuspecting target in a battle of wits and wills where he has to use every ounce of his professional nerve to survive.A tense, beautifully written psychological thriller, The Mermaids Singing explores the tormented mind of a serial killer unlike any the world of fiction has ever seen.

General Observations:
~The Sliding Scale of Plot VS Character: The novel actually manages to have a great mixture of Plot and Character, although, I personal feel it does fall towards the Character end of the spectrum. Due to the nature of Dr Tony Hill’s work, the reader does spend a lot of time inside psychologist’s head. but I found this interesting and engaging.

I really enjoyed the dual perspective of Dr Tony Hill and Inspector Carol Jordan, they work well together and bounce off each others strengths and weaknesses, however, I wish the novel didn’t dwell so much on the Unresolved Sexual Tension between them. I hope the 2nd book doesn’t focus on this as much, but I suspect this will be a long-standing feature of the series.

~Time Marches On: Most of the book centers around moving towards new methods or technology like computers and psychological profiles, and away from old problematic methods the police force have become accustomed to using, however, this book was published in 1995, and I found it rather jarring to read about “cutting edge technology” that involved CD-ROM drives and saving documents to floppy disks. In fact, it made me laugh a little bit, okay fine, I laughed a lot.

~Problematic Elements: The book gave me the impression that labels such as transgender and transsexual either mean the same thing or are interchangeable, but from the small amount of research I’ve done, these labels are not interchangeable (for more information on labels, here’s a link). This could just be a combination of language changing over time and me looking too much into it, however, I feel it’s better to mention this kind of stuff up front, that way it doesn’t creep up on people unexpectedly.

While I don’t want to spoil the ending, I’m also unsure about the Villain in question, there are parts me that think it’s great. There’s clearly been a lot of thought put into it and it’s a great plot twist, but there’s also a part of me that finds it questionable. If you’ve read the book, let me know in the comments section below what you think.

In conclusion, a good first book into a series, engaging female main-character, and the plot is gripping and interesting, however, I recommend the paperback format over the audio-book, the voice-actor was okay, but I suspect the voice actor might not work for everyone.

Available for Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Want You Gone by Christopher Brookmyre

Image Description: book cover of Want You Gone by Christopher Brookmyre. The book-cover depicts a shadowy silhouette in the mid-background standing on a long concrete driveway/runway, behind the shadowy silhouette is a CBD landscape (lots of differently shaped buildings). The cover looks like it was a photo taken from the passenger seat of a car. The cover also has a blue tint over the whole cover with the title of the book in yellow text and white text for the author title.
Title: Want You Gone (Book #8 of the Jack Parlabane Series)
Author: Christopher Brookmyre
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
Format and Price: Audiobook at $14.95
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Author:
Christopher Brookmyre is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author. His debut novel was Quite Ugly One Morning, and subsequent works have included One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, which he said “was just the sort of book he needed to write before he turned 30”, and All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye (2005).

About The Book:
Sam Morpeth is growing up way too fast, left to fend for a younger sister with learning difficulties when their mother goes to prison and watching her dreams of university evaporate. But Sam learns what it is to be truly powerless when a stranger begins to blackmail her online, drawing her into a trap she may not escape alive.
Meanwhile, reporter Jack Parlabane has finally got his career back on track, but his success has left him indebted to a volatile source on the wrong side of the law. Now that debt is being called in, and it could cost him everything. Thrown together by a mutual enemy, Sam and Jack are about to discover they have more in common than they realise – and might be each other’s only hope.

General Observations:
~Engaging Plot: The plot is excellent, the pacing is brilliant, and the chapters are revealing enough but not too much. Those last few chapters with Sam and Jack separating had me enthralled, I just had to how they resolved the issue and what happened next.

~Dual Narration: This audio-book has two narrators, a female voice-actor for chapters from Sam’s point of view and a male voice-actor for chapters from Jack’s point of view, I felt that the two voice-actors working together captured the two distinct characters view-points and worked well together.

~Character Development: Sam is a character who spends a lot of time inside her own head,
chapters exploring her character could have been boring, but the interesting thing about Sam is that how she is online is very different to her IRL experience, something Sam has a keen awareness of. It’s great to see such a young woman of colour presented as flawed but relatable dealing with realistic problems and under goes a huge amount of positive character development. I don’t want to spoil too much but Sam definitely earns her happy ending.

By contrast, it’s kind of enjoyable to see a character like Jack brought down to normal, one of the joys of Adulthood is the level of freedom an adult has, and it’s good that Jack is reminded over the course of the novel that freedom may be a right, but it’s also a privilege. I really enjoyed Jack’s partnership with Sam, they fed off each other’s strengths and (once they put their egos and personal feelings aside) they worked well together and were engaging to read.

~Problematic Elements – Bullying: Through out the novel, Sam is regularly bullied by a group of girls, predominately the leader of the pack which is Keisha. After a bad bullying session, Sam gets revenge on Keisha, which results in an incident of major public humiliation for Keisha, this results in Keisha making a suicide attempt and ends up hospitalised.

When Sam finds out what Keisha has done because of her actions, Sam feels bad about it (because she’s not a terrible person), Sam feels remorseful for her actions. But Keisha is never really held accountable for her shitty behaviour. What Sam did was not okay and definitely unacceptable behaviour, but it’s presented in an unequal manner, the character resolution between Sam and Keisha is a False Equivalence.

I had planned to do a YouTube Video about this particular problematic element of the book, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I disliked how the situation was resolved between Keisha and Sam, and I’ll leave it at that.

All in all, a contemporary crime novel solved by combining hacking skills and investigative journalism, the plot is intriguing and has good development, and if it wasn’t for the problematic bullying issues, I’d have given this five stars.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible| Book Depository | Kobo Books

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Title: Knots and Crosses (Book #1 of the Inspector Rebus Series)
Author: Ian Rankin
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group Limited
Format and Price: Audiobook at $14.95
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Author:
Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987; the Rebus books are now translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, and opted to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.

About The Book:
Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders…and he’s tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain’s elite SAS. Now he’s an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn’t just one cop trying to catch a killer, he’s the man who’s got all the pieces to the puzzle…

General Observation:
~Two Lines, No Waiting: There are two main plots going on this novel: the first one is the missing persons/murder case and the second plot is the drug trade operation that Rebus’s brother is involved in. From the beginning, the two plots don’t seem related at all, but as the novel progresses, the reader discovers just how interconnected these two plots are.
The plotting in general is phenomenal, all of the flashbacks and things mentioned link back to each other. In saying that, I do feel as though Rebus’s confusion and hesitation to seek out a hypnotist in the first place was a little drawn out, it could have been sped up a little.

~Multiple Points of View: Ian Rankin, while excellent at plot, is very character-orientated and If there is one detraction from this novel is that there are so many points of view. Some of them are necessary to further the plot, but some of the alternative points of view (like the reporter) helped to slow down the pace of the plot, rather than make the story more complicated and interesting, however, I’m willing to recognise that this could just be me. Maybe the reporter character has more relevance in later books.

~A Product of It’s Time: While it’s pretty clear early on that Inspector John Rebus is suffering from PTSD, the reader isn’t privy to all the details at first, but over the course of the novel, the PTSD and Dissociation that Rebus has been experiencing is explained (let’s just say, shit gets dark very quickly).
Nowadays, there are rules and procedures put in place to prevent this sort of situation from occurring. People in Rebus’s line of work (including social workers and nurses) would be given regular psyche evaluations and regular therapy sessions to manage PTSD (or at least this is the case in Australia).

All in all, it has a great plot, combined with an in-depth look at an interesting main-character, which has resulted in a great start to an interesting Scottish Crime series, I’m looking forward to Hide and Seek, the second book in the series.

Trigger Warnings: This book contains scenes I would describe as torture and military violence, as two characters are treated like Prisoners of War in a Terrorist Camp, the actions in those scenes are described in graphic detail.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody

Image Description: the book cover of Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody.
Title: Dying In The Wool (Book #1 of the Kate Shackleton Series)
Author: Frances Brody
Social Media: Blog, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Piatkus
Format and Price: Paperback at $7.31
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Author:
Frances Brody’s highly praised 1920s mysteries feature clever and elegant Kate Shackleton, First World War widow turned sleuth. Missing person? Foul play suspected? Kate’s your woman. For good measure, she may bring along ex-policeman, Jim Sykes. Before turning to crime, Frances wrote for radio, television and theatre, and was nominated for a Time Out Award. She published four sagas, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award in 2006.

About The Book:
Take one quiet Yorkshire village, Bridgestead is a peaceful spot: a babbling brook, rolling hills and a working mill at its heart. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens. Until the day that Master of the Mill Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again. Now Joshua’s daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers? Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles. So who better to get to the bottom of Joshua’s mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed.

General Observations:
~Novel Research: After a long time-period away from the Genre, I’ve recently been attempting to re-immerse myself with the Crime genre, specifically Scottish Crime Novels written by Scottish Authors (I thoroughly enjoy listening to Scottish voice-actors via audio-books). I thought it might be a good way to do indirect Novel Research and maybe help me get back into writing.

It turns out that, despite the novel time-period being after World War One, the novel is set in Leeds (in the United Kingdom), which is only one hour and forty-five minutes away (I know, only an Australian could think that isn’t too long a car-trip). It was interesting to get some history of the area.

~Sliding Scale of Plot VS Character: Due to the Historical Fiction elements, this novel is mostly Kate Shackleton and her assistant Jim Sykes interrogating/weaselling information out of people, which means the book leans slightly more towards the Character end of the spectrum. This is fine when it’s done well and I believe Frances Brody does this well.

It seems, at times, that Kate Shackleton’s interrogation process is like pulling teeth, but this is more because her subjects are reluctant to reveal what they know, which is often the case. The plot had excellent pacing, not giving the reader all the clues at once, but enough to keep the reader engaged, and while the ending was a little predictable, the resolution was satisfying enough and it tied up enough loose ends.

All in all, the Historical Fiction elements and Crime combining into an interesting and engaging narrative, I’ll be looking into book two of the series and I’m happy to recommend to anyone looking for some escapism.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil
Title: Career of Evil (Book 3 in the Cormoran Strike series)
Author: Robert Galbraith
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter
Publisher: Sphere (Ebook) and Hachette Audio UK (Audio-book)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Format and Price: E-book at $17.99 or $14.99 via Audiable (membership price)

About The Book:
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them… Career of Evil is the third in the series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A mystery and also a story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

Trigger Warning: This book contains mentions of Rape, Sexual Assault, Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), Parental-Child sexual abuse, Incestuous sexual abuse, domestic violence, ableism and Body integrity identity disorder

Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers for the novel Career of Evil

Aspects of the Novel I Enjoyed:
~Musical Theme: At the start of every chapter in the Cormoran Strike series, there’s a verse of prose, such as: Robert Galbraith uses quotes from Elizabethan-era plays like The White Devil by John Webster (a revenge tragedy play) to preface chapters in The Silkworm, but in the novel Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith chooses to use lyrics of Blue Oyster Cult, which I enjoyed because I actually know a few songs by Blue Oyster Cult (it turns out J.K. Rowling is a big fan of Blue Oyster Cult and Pattie Smith). My only disappointment was that there was no mention of more Cow-bell.

~Plot-Twist: While the plot takes a longer time than usual to get going (more on this later), however, once the plot begins to gain momentum, I wanted to keep reading, I had invested 17 hours of my time into this audio-book, I wanted to know how all the pieces came together, however, because the ending has such a super-twist ending and while the puzzle pieces do fit together brilliantly in the end, I can see how some readers might see it as an arse-pull.

~Character Development and Expansion: This novel very much centers around Strike’s past, his previous cases with the UK Military Police and his Dark-and-Troubled childhood with his mother, because of the Blue Oyster Cult references. Leda (Strike’s mother) was a huge fan of Blue Oyster Cult and is known in-universe as a super-groupie to various UK-based rock-bands, which is why buried childhood memories are triggered in Strike when a piece of paper with Blue Oyster Cult lyrics written on it was discovered inside the box that contained the severed leg. The reader finds out about Strike’s childhood, Leda’s death (which had previously only been vaguely discussed) and the reader is introduced to Shankers (a shady-gangster character Leda rescued and took in when Strike and Shankers were teenagers).

I enjoyed reading about this character background information about Strike and consequently Shankers, it was engaging and I enjoyed Shankers as an addition to the book (I hope he continues to be a regularly occurring side-character). I think Strike, Shankers and Robin all work well together and Shankers and Robin are good foils for each other. The reader also finds out what transpired to make Robyn leave university and have a long stay at home recovering (more on this further down), it was a little predicable but it was still good to know those missing puzzle pieces of Robyn’s character that had only previously been hinted at.

Aspects of the Novel I had Problems with:
~Change in Narrative Style: This is the first Cormoran Strike Novel where the reader gets to experience chapters from the point of view of the perpetrator, I think it helps to keep the slow plot from stalling, but the guy is utterly repulsive and, while I understand that those chapters are supposed to be repulsive, I found them difficult to read, especially since he targets vulnerable women.

~Slow Plot: The Cormoran Strike series has always been a series that has a stronger emphasis on character than on plot, and while Strike’s and Robyn’s characters and back-stories are being explored and developed, the plot appears to suffer because of it. The plot crawled by in places and I was often asking “what is the point of this chapter?”. While Strike did lampshade the long waiting period between new items of usable information, the last five chapters did make up for the slow pace by going at break-neck speed, I had to re-listen to a couple of those chapters to fully understand what was transpiring.

~Show, Don’t Tell – Part 1: During the investigation of Donald Laing, Noel Brockbank and Jeff Whittaker, Strike and Robyn travel around the UK to interview various agents of exposition and the various interviews show Laing and Brockbank’s potential criminal history. The problem with these perpetrators is that their crimes happened in the past, so either the author has to use flashbacks to show or have a small side-character tell the reader information Strike would already know.

So how does an author make a male character come across as evil or irredeemable with little to no effort? The author presents both male characters mentioned not just as rapists, but rapists with a brutal history of not being held accountable for their actions. I understand that in the UK, the reality is that conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator (and that’s just civilian cases of rape. Military cases of rape have an even lower rate of conviction and are processed outside the civilian justice system in the UK), however, there is a fine line between highlighting the fact that violent men often have a history of minor crimes leading up to more serious crimes and using rape as a cheap shock-tactic to establish Villain Credentials.

With the exception of Holly Brockbank, the reader isn’t introduced directly to Laing’s ex wife or Brittany Brockbank (women who have been brutally abused by Laing and Brockbank), the reader only knows them through Strike’s flashbacks, and as soon as the ex-mother-in-law is done giving background information, both of these characters disappear from the novel. The pain and suffering these women have been forced to experience is used to cause personal drama and anguish for Strike and I can’t help but find it distasteful. Rape victims and survivors shouldn’t be used as props for the development of other characters.

~Show, Don’t Tell – Part 2: Over the course of the novel, Robert Galbraith continues to use the overused unresolved-sexual-tension between Robyn and Strike as a form of conflict between Robyn and Matthew. I was tired of Matthew’s insecurities by the end of The Silkworm and I got the impression that at the end of The Silkworm, Robyn and Matthew had sat down and had a discussion about Robyn’s career path and Matthew had eventually realised the truth of the situation, that Robyn wasn’t romantically inclined towards Strike, that she enjoyed investigative work and wanted to seriously pursue it for her own merits. It turns out, I was wrong and Matthew continues to be an insecure arse-hat through out Career of Evil as well (which got old very quickly).

It’s eventually revealed that when Robyn and Matthew attended University, Robyn was attacked and raped. Robyn eventually left university and developed agoraphobia, however, while Robyn was processing and recovering from being physically attacked and raped, Matthew had cheated on Robyn for 18 months with his university friend. When Robyn found out about this, she terminated the relationship, Matthew also said some extremely insensitive things towards Robyn, however, by the end of the novel their relationship is on the mend and Robyn and Matthew are going through with the wedding. I feel as though they got married at the end of the novel, not because they had resolved their problems but because The Plot Says So. The reader doesn’t get to view the conversation where Robyn and Matthew make-up and resolve their problems so, in my view, it comes across as forced.

In conclusion, this was a conflicting novel for me. I felt the elements of rape and sexual assault were handled clumsily by the author and the relationship problems between Robyn and Matthew could have been handled better. Although the mystery plot itself was well-thought out, complex and intriguing, I have contemplated not continuing with the series, however, Lethal White (the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series) will be coming out this year (the official publishing date is currently unknown). I think I’ll wait for Lethal White to come out and see whether or not the series is redeemable. If there’s a continuation of the Matthew/Robyn/Strike relationship drama, I won’t be continuing with the series.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books | Audiable

The Cormoran Strike series:
01. The Cuckoo’s Calling
02. The Silkworm
03. Career of Evil

Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. There is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book.
Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. There is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book.

~‘Horrific statistics’: Male rapes common in UK army, MoD data reveals – RT Question More

~More than 200 allegations of rape and other sexual attacks made by military personnel against their colleagues by Wills Robinson

~Military rape: Fighting the invisible war inside the Armed Forces by Radhika Sanghani

~Rape Crisis England & Wales: Headline statistics 2015-16

~Reported rapes in England and Wales double in four years by Vikram Dodd and Helena Bengtsson

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Image Description: The book cover of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. The cover is a picture of a red-brick alley-way with a red-tile flooring, at the end of the alley-way is the black silhouette of a tall man in trench over-coat with his back towards the viewer.
Image Description: The book cover of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. The cover is a picture of a red-brick alley-way with a red-tile flooring, at the end of the alley-way is the black silhouette of a tall man in trench over-coat with his back towards the viewer.
Title: The Silkworm (Book 2 in The Cormoran Strike series)
Author: Robert Galbraith
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group. Imprint: Sphere
Format and Price: Audio-book at $30.73 (for non-members) or $14.95 (for members) – I got it as part of the free 30-day trial via Audible (although I do have the book in Ebook format as well)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

About The Book:
When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.
And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before . . .

General Observations:
~Read Diverse Books 2017: The Cormoran Strike series main character is Cormoran Strike, who was previously a soldier in the armed forces and eventually became an investigative officer within the army. During a tour of Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike was in the back of a jeep when the car he was traveling in hit a land-mine and blew up, the result was that Cormoran Strike lost half a leg and left the army shortly after. Readers might be thinking that a white British man missing half a leg might not count as a representation of Diversity, but I will argue that it’s a good depiction of a physical disability.

The disability is shown as having a realistic impact upon the character Cormoran Strike (how it affects him physically and mentally, such as the PTSD moment while he was being driven in the car) and upon the plot of the novel (Cormoran Strike is forced to acknowledge that because of his leg injury and prosthesis, there are just some tasks he can’t do and has to delegate them to Robin). The Cormoran Strike series acknowledges the difficulties and side-effects of having a physical disability, but it also acknowledges that it’s still possible to lead a relatively happy and successful life and I would consider Cormoran Strike successful.

~Door-stopper Material: The physical paperback is about 400 pages and the audio-book is 17 hrs and 16 mins, reading the Cormoran Strike series is a long-term investment of your time. Am I saying it’s an unworthy investment of your time? No. But the sheer size of the book was one of reasons I delayed reading this book and why I eventually decided to go the route of audio-book instead. The audio-book was enjoyable to listen to and I was able to listen to my book as well as perform other valuable tasks at the same time.

~Make or Break: There is a small flaw with the Cormoran Strike series, the characters withhold evidence or thoughts from the reader in order to build suspense for the main case and, while I know some readers of crime fiction who find this intolerable, I was willing to tolerate it, however, this might not be the case for everyone. The majority of the novel has a slow-build-up type of pace, which means all the pieces of the puzzle are slowly being put together and key information is being with-held for the final confrontation. I feel this results in the ending coming across as a bit rushed in comparison to the rest of the narrative pace.

~The Sliding Scale of Plot VS Character: In basic terms, some writers choose to focus more of the plot elements of a book (events that happen leading the character and the reader towards a narrative destination or journey) and the plot is what drives the book, while some authors choose to focus more on the character elements of the novel (how the character feels or reacts to an event), the character (how they think and feel) is what drives the novel, the event is secondary to the method in which the character acts or reacts to the event.

I would consider In the Woods by Tana French to be at the far end of the Character-Focus scale. How the officers felt, thought, and how they interacted with other characters in the novel was the focus of In the Woods and thus presented as more important than the crime itself. I don’t enjoy that kind of novel, I’m more of a plot-orientated reader and writer.

I feel that the Crime/Mystery/Thriller genre is more suited to plot-oriented focus, however, while Robert Galbraith’s writing style does sit slightly more towards the Character-Focus end of the scale, I feel that Robert Galbraith blends the elements of plot and character together in a better attempt at balance. The Cormoran Strike series does have more characterization than plot, but I feel that there is enough plot to keep the reader engaged and the characterization is interesting enough to persuade the reader to continue.

~Authentic Sources of Conflict: While there are slow moments in the books where the personal elements of the main characters Comoran Strike and Robyn’s lives, such as Cormoran Strike’s ex-girlfriend Charlotte getting married and how he feels about that, Robyn’s fiancé Mathew’s insecurities and dislike that Robyn’s job despite the fact that it is a high priority to her, and the personal conflict between Cormoran Strike and Robyn about where they stand professionally and whether or not Cormoran Strike will give Robyn Surveillance and Tracking training.

I think the Strike/Charlotte relationship was resolved as best the circumstances could allow and Robyn and Mathew (after having several arguments about the subject) were able to to come to an understanding about Robyn’s career choices. These conflicts were perhaps dwelt upon longer than they should have, but they were conflicts that needed to be acknowledged and addressed, I also felt they were resolved to a satisfying conclusion.

~Alternative Character Interpretation: While this could just be my personal interpretation, Leonora Quine (the murder victim’s wife) came across as someone with undiagnosed Autism, she was direct and perhaps a little too honest (or at least Cormoran Strike seemed to think so), her method of grieving (wanting to speak with the private detective she hired and making sure he was okay) is seen as odd to other people.

They were all expecting her to break down sobbing and when she didn’t perform to the police’s standards, she was considered suspicious. Leonora Quine did show outward signs of grief and distress, it was mostly centered around how she and her daughter had been forced out of their usual routine, which is very important to Autistic people. I’m not sure, perhaps it’s just me, I’d be happy to discuss it in the comments section.

In conclusion, an enjoyable suspenseful addition to the Cormoran Strike series with good character development, I’m looking forward to the third installment – Career of Evil (links below).

The Cormoran Strike Series:
01. The Cuckoo’s Calling
02. The Silkworm
03. Career of Evil

Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. There is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book.
Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. There is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book.

Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun

Did She Kill Him by Kate Colquhoun
Title: Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery, and Arsenic
Author: Kate Colquhoun
Social Media: Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Rating: 3 out of 5
Source: Supplied by Collins Booksellers – Bacchus Marsh

About The Author:
Kate Colquhoun was born in Ireland in 1964. She is married to literary agent David Miller and lives in west London. They have two sons.

About The Book:
In the summer of 1889, young Southern belle Florence Maybrick stood trial for the alleged arsenic poisoning of her much older husband, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick.

‘The Maybrick Mystery’ had all the makings of a sensation: a pretty, flirtatious young girl; resentful, gossiping servants; rumours of gambling and debt; and torrid mutual infidelity. The case cracked the varnish of Victorian respectability, shocking and exciting the public in equal measure as they clambered to read the latest revelations of Florence’s past and glimpse her likeness in Madame Tussaud’s.

Florence’s fate was fiercely debated in the courtroom, on the front pages of the newspapers and in parlours and backyards across the country. Did she poison her husband? Was her previous infidelity proof of murderous intentions? Was James’ own habit of self-medicating to blame for his demise?

Historian Kate Colquhoun recounts an utterly absorbing tale of addiction, deception and adultery that keeps you asking to the very last page, did she kill him?

Aspects I Liked and/or Enjoyed
~Vivid Descriptions: Though I’m not a reader that enjoys lots of description, the author described everything in such a detailed way that I had no problems visualizing the era (food and fashion seemed to be the most prominent) and the environment (the Battlecrease House was often described and the author included a map). I suppose it also helps that I’m a massive Downton Abbey fan

~Detailed Research: The author has clearly done a lot of research, there’s a huge amount of effort put into the book, with footnotes and references at the end, there’s also direct quotes from people (written in italics).

~The Feminist Agenda: Lets be clear about one thing, the reason Florence Maybrick is on trial in the first place is because of the time-period, Victorian society’s attitudes towards Adultery (which is still a problem in modern British society) and the civil and legal rights of Women (which at the time were pretty non-existent). This trial would never have occurred in modern society, regardless of whether she was guilty. It was pretty clear that Florence Maybrick was on trial for Adultery and not Attempted Murder.

Aspects I Had Problems With
~Slow Plot: It took a long time to get into the flow of the plot and key elements, like Florence’s pregnancy and miscarriage, were not always clear. It took ages to get the trial stage, which was were I felt the novel had most of the momentum.

~Forgone Conclusion: In my opinion, James Maybrick’s arsenic addiction sort of made it a moot point, it didn’t matter if she killed him because he was going to kill himself anyway. As the author established, there was literally arsenic in everything during the Victorian era and very little technological ability to either improve/combat the situation or conduct conclusive testing. While I don’t think Florence Maybrick killed her husband, from my perspective she didn’t stand to gain anything from his death but would have gained a lot by keeping him alive, it was only a matter of time before James Maybrick’s death by arsenic occurred.

Overall, it’s a detailed and comprehensive read, however while I enjoy crime and mystery, I’m not a big fan of the true crime genre, which is generally more depressing (I read books to get away from reality, not to be reminded of it). However, I am happy to recommend it to either true crime enthusiasts or readers interested in gender studies.

Interview with Kate Colquhoun

RMFAO Genre Challenge 2016

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