Saturday, 31 December 2011

Prime Time by Liza Marklund

On the last day of 2011, I pulled this book off my shelf at random and found a receipt tucked in the pages which told me I bought the book back in 2009.  Well, considering that it is my first Liza Marklund read, I'd better make time for it and there is no time like the present.

P/S  Happy New Year to all and may we look to another good year filled with love, health, hope and joy and happy reading!

Paperback blurb:  Thirteen people are spending the shortest night of the year in an isolated manor house to film a prime time TV series.  On the morning of Midsummer's Eve, the brightest star in Swedish television is found shot to death in a mobile control room.

The murder turns newspaper reporter Annika Bengtzon's world upside down.  One of the suspects is her best friend.

As Annika is drawn into the ensuing investigation, her boyfriend Thomas accuses her of letting her family down.  And Anders Schyman, her boss, involves her in a public power struggle.

Meanwhile, there's a killer on the loose - and a terrifying drama about to unfold in the public eye.

About the author:  Liza Marklund is a print and television journalist.  She lives in Stockholm with her husband and three children.  Prime Time is the third book in the series published in 2002.  She is the author of four other Annika Bengtzon thrillers:

Paradise aka Vanished (2000)
The Bomber (2001)
Studio 69 aka Studio Sex/Exposed (2002)
Red Wolf (2003)

The sixth book in the Annika Bengtzon thriller will be out in the year 2012 entitled Last Will.  More information can be found on her website, Wikipedia and her Facebook fan page.  

A video review of her books and Sweden's thriller queen herself:

Rating:  4/5

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Looking for Chet Baker (An Evan Horne Mystery, Book 5) by Bill Moody

How about going off tangent and reading about a sort-of private investigator whose day job is to play the piano in smoky jazz clubs but who loves to solve mysteries in the music world?  If you are interested in jazz music and jazz musicians and mysteries in the music world, do check this series out.  This book did not give me a buzz like the other crime books I normally read as it is not heavy enough for me although I have enjoyed getting to know a unique character in Evan Horne.  Happy reading.

Paperback blurb:  Pianist Evan Horne's European interlude lands him a gig in Amsterdam, where the old jazz clubs are alive and well.  But here he unexpectedly finds himself reliving the last days of legendary blues trumpeter Chet Baker, who died under mysterious circumstances.  Did Baker fall from a hotel balcony or was he pushed?  The answers lead Horne on an odyssey into one of the greatest mysteries of the jazz world - and beyond.

Horne's longtime buddy Ace Buffington, in Amsterdam researching the late jazz great's life and tragic death, has disappeared.  Ace's trail parallels that of Baker's last days, so Horne does what he does best:  improvise.  He finds himself following the same path into Baker's dark - even dangerous - past and confronting his own deep-rooted melancholy.  In the smoky clubs and on the mean, exotic streets of Amsterdam, Horne hits all the right notes in a world where playing it by heart can make you a legend as easily as it can get you killed.

About the author:  Professional jazz drummer Bill Moody has played and/or recorded with Jr Mance, Maynard Ferguson, Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, and Lou Rawls.  He lives in northern California, teaches creative writing at Sonoma State University, and is active in the Bay Area jazz scene with the Terry Henry Trio and Dick Conte's trip and quartet.  Looking for Chet Baker is first published in 2002.

Other books in the Evan Horne mystery series are

Solo Hand (1994)
Death of a Tenor Man (1995)
The Sound of the Trumpet (1996)
Bird Lives! (1999)
Shades of Blue (2008)
Fade to Blue (2011)

The New York Times' review.

Mystery Reader's review.

Who's Chet Baker? by Wikipedia.

Rating:  2/5

Monday, 26 December 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fanny Flagg

I love reading this book.  It gives one a warm homely feeling on this mild post-Christmas day in the United Kingdom.  It is a book about women, familial relationships, life and food and its charm is in its wit and entertainment value.

Basically, eighty-year-old Mrs Cleo Threadgoode who resides in a nursing home, went down memory lane with plenty of tales to tell a visitor at the nursing home, Evelyn Couch, about her life in the thirties when the Whistle Stop Cafe provided good barbecues, good coffee, love and even an occasional murder.

I am glad I picked it up and highly recommend it.  This is one of those books where you can safely say "They don't write books like these anymore". The narrative is richly poignant.  Includes delicious southern recipes when the story comes to an end.

About the author:  Fannie Flagg, born Patricia Neal, began writing and producing television specials at the age of nineteen, and went on to distinguish herself as an actress, novelist and scriptwriter.

She starred on Broadway in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1980, and appeared in films including Five Easy Pieces, Stay Hungry and Grease.

She is the author of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man (1981), which spent ten weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (1987), which became a worldwide bestseller, and was made into a much loved film with a prize-winning screenplay co-written by Flagg herself.

She lives in California and in Alabama.

Flagg talks about her bestselling novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe:

Or if you prefer watching the movie (1991), here is the trailer:

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Hell (Prison Diary series, Volume 1) by Jeffrey Archer

The evening of Christmas Eve is spent reading about the stark reality of life in Britain's jails by a bestselling author who was himself incarcerated.  

Jeffrey Archer was sentenced to four years' imprisonment at 12.07pm on Thursday 19 July 2001.  Within six hours, Prisoner FF8282, as he is now known, is on suicide watch in the medical wing of Belmarsh top security prison in south London.  This, he discovered, is standard procedure for first-time offenders on their first night in jail.  By 6am the next morning, Archer has resolved to write a daily diary of everything he experienced while incarcerated because "I have a feeling that being allowed to write in this hellhole may turn out to be the one salvation that will keep me sane".

Hell (first published in 2002) is a diary of Archer's first three weeks in jail and a raw account of life in a top-security jail in Britain.  It is also an indictment of the British penal system.  The tales of his fellow inmates - many of whom are in for life - are often moving tales of hopelessness.  But there are those too, who, no matter what their previous histories, attempt to live their prison lives with dignity and integrity.

Hell should be of interest to anyone concerned with the improvement of our penal system, whether they are concerned citizens, politicians or workers in the prison service.

The other two books in the Prison Diary series are Purgatory (Volume 2, 2003) and Heaven (Volume 3, 2004).

Happy Christmas Eve!

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Catacombs of Paris by Gilles Thomas with Diane Langlume

I slotted in a visit to the Catacombs of Paris ( when I was there for a brief holiday recently and had an out-of-this-world experience walking through an underground world filled with millions and millions of skulls and bones.  It is not the usual tourist destination that people would go and see if they are not into the macabre.  It was not as cold as one expected perhaps because the wonderment of the place took away any discomforts of the body.  If you should happen to be in Paris, do pay it a visit.  I bought the above book from the bookshop situated at the exit (above ground) but there are others you can choose from, in both French and English.  History is intriguing.

Book blurb:  Paris, the City of Light, also has its share of darkness.

Beneath the capital, a subterranean labyrinth of former quarries holds the remains of six million Parisians, moved here after a decision in the late 18th century to close cemeteries within the city walls to protect public health.

This guide accompanies visitors through the vast maze of sombre galleries and narrow corridors where limestone was once mined, and leads them between the walls of bones and macabrely romantic compositions of this fascinating "empire of death" that is the Ossuary.

A moving testimony to the history of Paris, the unique Catacombs extend an invitation to explore a realm where time stands still.

About the author:  Underground historian, co-edited the work Atlas du Paris souterrain (Parigramme, 2001) which won Thomas the Haussmann Prize 2002.  He also provides services as a technical consultant for feature films - such as Ratatouille-, documentaries (BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic...), journalistic, literary and academic projects.

Further reading on the Paris underground:

Caroline ARCHER, Paris Underground, New York, Mark Batty, 2005.

Valerie BROADWELL, City of Light/City of Dark (Exploring Paris Below), Bloomington, XLibris, 2007.

Emmanuel GAFFARD, Paris souterrain:  carrieres, catacombs, cryptes, egouts, tunnels/Beneath Paris:  Quarries, Catacombs, Crypts, Sewers, Tunnels (bilingual edition), Paris, Parigramme, 2007.

Tamara HOVEY, Paris Underground, New York, Orchard Books, 1991.

Alex MARSHALL, Beneath the Metropolis, New York, Carroll & Graf, 2006.

David L PIKE, Subterranean Cities.  The World Beneath Paris and London (1800-1945), Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2005.

Neil SHEA & Stephen ALVEREZ (photographer), "Under Paris:  Secrets Beneath the Streets", National Geographic, vol 219, no 2, February 2011, pp 104-125.

The Lincoln Lawyer Movie Trailer

Read the book ages ago.  Books are still the best if you want to get into the gist of a story.  Films are, to me, a source of light entertainment.  I have enjoyed watching it after a busy day of chores.  Also, Matthew McConaughey is one of my favourite actors.  Basically, a movie about a lawyer who conducts his business from the back of his Lincoln town car while representing a high-profile client in Beverly Hills.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Seasons Greetings 2011!

Nativity scene at Saint Sulpice Cathedral, Paris

This time of year is a special time of year when we strive to be our best through acts of giving, kindness and love to all and sundry.  A recent motto that has stayed with me ever since my return from Paris is:  Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.

2011 has been a wonderful year for me, discovering new authors and buying/reading their books as well as visiting bookshops in Tuscany, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, London and Penang.  I cannot be sure how much I spent on books this year alone.  My local library, as usual, is a great friend whenever I chose the option to borrow books rather than make a purchase.

On the other hand, professional book bloggers whom I follow have opened my eyes to a plethora of books which I did not have time to discover much less read but they are all within my sight.  I have enjoyed every aspect of it and look forward to more old and new discoveries in 2012.

Thank you especially to authors and followers who have left their comments on my blog.  Special mention goes to authors Matt Hilton, Jonathan Hayes and Dave Zeltserman.  They all write books I love to read.

It has been an absolute pleasure sharing my reading list with all of you.  In a nutshell, Jeffrey Archer's Only Time Will Tell (Clifton Chronicles Book 1, 2011) is the most sought after book according to the statistics.

I hope you are filled with joy and love and good health this season and in the new year to come.

Happy reading as always and happy holidays!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Litigators by John Grisham

This is another outstanding legal thriller with some funny moments by a favourite author of mine who is a master of the legal thriller and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  The Litigators was first published in the USA on 25 October 2011.  Do read it!

From the hardback flap:  He's escaped the job from hell.  Now he's got one hell of a job.

Oscar Finley:  street cop turned street lawyer.

Wally Figg:  expert hustler and ambulance-chaser.

David Zinc:  Harvard Law School graduate.

Together, this unlikely trio make up Finley & Figg:  specialists in injury claims, quickie divorces and DUIs.  None of them has ever faced a jury in federal court.  But they are about to take on one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the States.

David gave up his lucrative career at Chicago's leading law firm for this:  the chance to help the little guy stand up to the big corporations.

But if Finley & Figg have right on their side, why do his new partners feel the need to carry guns in their briefcases?  David thought he was used to cut-throat law from his days at Rogan Rothberg, but this is something else.

He knows he was right to get out.  He just may live to regret his new choice of firm...

Brief biography of the author:  John Grisham is the author of twenty-three novels, one work of non-fiction, a collection of short stories, and two novels for young readers.

His works are translated into thirty-nine languages, and in 2011 he was awarded the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

He lives in Virginia and Mississippi.

Trailer of The Litigators:

More information and reviews on the author's official website.

The Express (UK) review.

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Paris: Shakespeare and Company and George Whitman (12 December 1913 - 14 December 2011)

I was fortunate enough to visit Shakespeare and Company on my recent trip to Paris but unfortunately, a day late to ever hope to meet a truly remarkable man, bookshop owner and bookseller.  George Whitman passed away peacefully in his beloved bookshop at the grand old age of 98.  The bookshop is unique.  I love how Whitman did not modernize his bookstore but rather, kept it as it was.  I love the haphazard way he arranged his books.  I love how he filled every available space with books.  There are literally books everywhere, from floor to ceiling, under the stairs, everywhere.  I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my life there, reading and working in a bookshop such as Shakespeare and Company!  The bookshop's longstanding success is a truly remarkable feat because sadly, all too often, small businesses are shut down, forgotten, never to be seen again in this day and age.  I will tell my stories with the photos my husband took in his own way while I was standing in awe of the bookshop because it seemed like another world.  I would like to go back again and again.  (If the reader wants to read an article instead of looking at my amateurish photos, please scroll down below).

Leading upwards.

A very worn tattered armchair.

Reading sofa with well-used cushions.

A view of Notre Dame from the writer's desk.

A very old typewriter on a desk in a cosy nook.

 An old rattan chair with a hole in the middle in the cosy nook.

The view into the courtyard from the cosy nook.

My dream bedroom.

Messages and letters from happy customers.

Whitman's motto.

Literary wallpaper.

I bought a book from this section.

The floor of the bookshop on the ground floor.

Now for videos:

The literary world remembers the owner of Shakespeare and Company, George Whitman:

George Whitman, a great man:

He is survived by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman, present owner of Shakespeare and Company:

Articles on George Whitman and his legendary bookstore:

The Telegraph Part I.

The Telegraph Part II.

BBC News.

Cara Black (French writer).

May he rest in peace - George Whitman.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Death of a Mafia Don (Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara, Book 3) by Michele Giuttari

I brought this book to Paris as my holiday read - a little bit of Italy in France.  Anyone looking for an above average crime novel set in Florence, Italy must check this out.

A line from the book:  "...there are too many things these days we can't know.  The world used to be simpler:  the good guys were on one side, the bad guys on the other, and you played the game.  Things changed according to which side you were on, but once you'd chosen everything was very clear.  Not any more."

Paperback blurb:  "A huge explosion shook the buildings.  The thick walls of old churches from San Frediano to Santo Spirito shook, and the windows of the shops along the Ponte Vecchio, and the window panes in the Palazzo Pitti."

A bomb explodes in the centre of Florence, hitting the car of Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara of the elite Squadra Mobile.

The attack rocks the ancient city to its foundations.

Ferrara was clearly the target - and he did, after all, just controversially imprison notorious Mafia boss Salvatore Laprua.

A week later, another bomb explodes - bringing tragedy for Ferrara and a determination to find the culprit.

But that same morning, Salvatore Laprua is found dead in his prison cell.

So who is the mysterious influence behind the bombings - someone even the Mafia fears...?

An ingenious, gripping mystery, The Death of a Mafia Don (first published 2009) has been a bestseller in Italy and across Europe.  It offers a fascinating insight into the secret world of the Mafia, and life in Florence. The Death of a Mafia Don has been translated from the Italian into the English by Howard Curtis.

Michele Giuttari's official website.

Rating:  5/5

A Death in Tuscany (Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara series, Book 2) by Michele Giuttari

A gripping book to read during my holiday in Paris this week.  A clash of Italiano-Franco culture!

Paperback blurb:  In the picturesque Tuscan hill town of Scandicci, the body of a girl is discovered.

Scantily dressed, with no purse or other possessions, she is lying by the edge of the woods.

The local police investigate the case - but after a week the still haven't even identified her, let alone got to the bottom of how she died.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara, head of Florence's elite Squadra Mobile, decides to step in.

Because toxins were discovered in the girl's body, many assumed that she died of a self-inflicted drugs overdose.

But Ferrara quickly realises the truth is darker than that:  he believes that the girl was murdered.

And when he delves deeper, there are many aspects to the case that convince Ferrara that the girl's death is part of a sinister conspiracy - a conspiracy that has its roots in the very foundations of Tuscan society...

A cleverly plotted, atmospheric mystery, A Death in Tuscany (first published in 2008) has been a bestseller in Italy and has been translated into nine languages.

About the author:  Written by former Florence police chief Michele Giuttari (1995-2003), it gives a unique insight into life and police work in Tuscany.

A review by The Independent.

A review from the Reviewing The Evidence blog.

A review from the Australian Crime Fiction blog.

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Dead Hand of History (A DCI Monika Paniatowski Mystery, Book 1) by Sally Spencer

This book reads like a cosy crime novel.  I am unsure what other readers thought about this book but to me, it falls into the category of a cosy mystery.  It is neither brilliant nor bad.  Enjoy!

Hardback blurb:  It will be no easy task to fill the shoes of a local legend like DCI Charlie Woodend, the newly-promoted Monika Paniatowski tells herself - particularly when he's still a very real presence in Whitebridge - but given a little time, she thinks she can grow into them.

Yet time is the one thing she does not have.

On her first day in the new job, a severed female hand is discovered on the riverbank.

And not only that, but the killer has already alerted the press, as if he is deliberately forcing Monika into the spotlight.

Only hours into the case, she finds she can no longer trust her colleagues - or even herself - and the urge to pick up the phone and bed Woodend for help becomes almost irresistible.

About the author:  Sally Spencer (a pseudonym used by Alan Rustage) worked as a teacher both in England and Iran - where she witnessed the fall of the Shah.

She now lives in Spain and writes full-time.

Having once been an almost fanatical mah-jong player, she is now obsessed with duplicate bridge.

As well as the Chief Inspector Woodend Mysteries, Severn House publishes the Inspector Blackstone series, also by this author.

The Dead Hand of History, a British police procedural, was published in 2009.  Other books in the DCI Monika Paniatowski mystery series are

The Ring of Death (2010)
Echoes of the Dead (2010)
Backlash (2011)

Reviewed at Paradise-Mysteries.

Rating:  2/5

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Snowman (Harry Hole, Book 7) by Jo Nesbo

I am steadily progressing through the intellectually satisfying Harry Hole series with The Snowman (2007).  The Snowman was awarded The Norwegian Booksellers' Prize 2007 for Best Novel of the Year and The Norwegian Book Club Prize 2007 for Best Novel of the Year.  Perfect title for the festive season and the clue in this one is so obvious that it is very easy to overlook it - a clue that hides in plain sight.  

More information and reviews at Jo Nesbo's official website.

For Harry Hole fans, Phantom (book 9) will be available in 2012.

Thumbs-up to this narratively gripping read!

Paperback:  A young boy wakes to find his mother missing.  Their house is empty but outside in the garden he sees his mother's favourite scarf - wrapped around the neck of a snowman.

As Harry Hole and his team begin their investigation they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years.

When a second woman disappears it seems that Harry's worst suspicions are confirmed:  for the first time in his career Harry finds himself confronted with a serial killer operating on his home turf.

Videos of Nesbo and The Snowman trailer:

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Accident by Linwood Barclay

I am a little slow on my reading this month even though there is a stack of bestsellers on my to-be-read pile.  Could it be the festive season or the excitement of taking two trips abroad that is slowing me down?  Or the onslaught of winter weather?  What can a bookworm do but carry on reading - this is the curse of a bookworm!  I have picked Linwood Barclay as my third book to read in December because he is engrossing, relentlessly pacy, hard to put down and utterly riveting.  Highly recommended.  Need I say more?

Hardback:  Milford, Connecticut is a quiet, orderly place to live, a good place to bring up kids.

But people are beginning to feel the bite of financial hard times.

And even normally law-abiding folks have started getting a little creative when it comes to making ends meet.

For Glen Garber, the recession has been particularly bad for his construction business, especially after a mysterious fire destroyed one of its buildings.

But Glen's troubles are about to escalate to a whole new level.

His wife Sheila has her own plans for getting them out of their financial jam, plans that seem to involve a secret network of Milford's wives and are about to pay off big-time.

And that's when the accident happens . . .

Suddenly, it looks as if the neighbours' 'get rich quick' schemes are more likely to get you dead, and Glen - no longer able to trust even the people he loves - must risk everything to find out what's lurking behind the town's idyllic facade before it's too late.

Because some accidents aren't accidents at all.

About the author:  Linwood Barclay is married with two children and lives in Toronto.  He is a former columnist for the Toronto Star and is the author of several international bestsellers, including the Richard & Judy Summer Read winner and number one bestseller, No Time for Goodbye (2007).  The Accident is a standalone novel published in September 2011 and is Number One on the UK Sunday Times bestseller  list for hardcover fiction.  For more information, check out Linwood Barclay's official website and his Facebook page.

Here are videos of The Accident:

Of the author:

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Detective Inspector Huss (Book 1) by Helene Tursten

From the hardback:  Detective Inspector Irene Huss is an investigator assigned to the Violent Crimes Unit in Goteborg, Sweden.

She is a wife and mother - her husband is a chef and she has twin daughters - and also a judo champion and an avowed feminist in a police department which is still adjusting to the presence of women as officers.

On a rain-drenched November night, she is called to the scene of the apparent suicide of a wealthy financier connected with the first families of Sweden.

His mangled body has landed on the icy ground, just feet away from an old lady walking her dog.

Did he fall?

Or was he pushed from the balcony of his luxurious duplex apartment?

Before Irene and her colleagues can determine what happened and why, she must tour contemporary Sweden, from the haunts of the highest echelon of Society to the drug addicts, skinheads, and motorcycle gangs that constitute a new threat to the country's liberal ethos.

About the author:  Helene Tursten, who lives in Goteborg, is a registered nurse and also a dentist.

When her dental career was curtailed by rheumatic illness, she turned to writing.

Detective Inspector Huss, her first novel, was published in Sweden in 1998 under the title Den Krossade Tanghasten.  Subsequently, Den Krossade Tanghasten was made into a film entitled The Torso (video)  produced by Illusion Film and Yellow Bird Films and has been very well received in Sweden.

Her mysteries have been translated into Norwegian and Danish and are bestsellers in Germany.

Detective Inspector Huss (2003) has been translated from the Swedish into the English by Steven T Murray.

My take:  Click onto Helene Tursten's fan website for more information on the Detective Inspector Huss series of which there are two other books in the series apart from this one, and they are The Torso (2006) and The Glass Devil (2007).  The fourth book, Night Rounds, will be published in 2012.

2011 is drawing to a close in under a month and I have discovered another excellent Swedish crime series which reads like a classic - well-researched and well-written.  I think it is perfect for the days leading up to Christmas.  It does take some time to finish perhaps because some of the translation is a bit stilted but I highly recommend this perfect police procedural.  Happy reading!

A review by Eurocrime.

A Book A Week review.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway

Blurb:  Midwinter.

A child is found wandering in an ancient woodland, her hands covered in blood.

But it is not her own.

Unwilling, or unable, to speak, the only person she seems to trust is the young officer who rescued her, Detective Sergeant Lucy Black.

Soon afterwards, DS Black is baffled to find herself suddenly moved from a high-profile case involving the kidnapping of another girl, a prominent businessman's teenage daughter.

Black's problems are not only professional:  she's caring for her increasingly unstable father, and trying to avoid conflict with her frosty mother - who also happens to be the Assistant Chief Constable.

As she struggles to identify the unclaimed child, Black begins to realize that her case and the kidnapping may be linked by events that occurred during the grimmest days of the country's recent history - events that also defined her own troubled childhood.

Little Girl Lost is a devastating crime thriller about corruption, greed and vengeance, and a father's love for his daughter.

My take:  This is another perfect read for the period leading up to Christmas.  McGilloway is an author to watch out for, mark my words, although I must say I expect writers of his calibre to write more complex plots, but it is not a big deal because his books do deliver and that is what matters.

An interview with the author about Little Girl Lost by tv3 Ireland.

If you want to know whether Little Girl Lost is a one-off or the start of a new series by McGilloway, do read this.

More information can be obtained from

Rating:  5/5