Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Nameless Dead (An Inspector Benedict Devlin Mystery, Book 5) by Brian McGilloway


The Nameless Dead (2012) is the fifth and latest book in the superb Inspector Benedict Devlin mystery series set in Ireland.

Paperback:  Declan Cleary's body has never been found, but everyone believes he was killed for informing on a friend over thirty years ago.  Now the Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains is following a tip-off that he was buried on the small isle of Islandmore, in the middle of the River Foyle.

Instead, the dig uncovers a baby's skeleton, and it doesn't look like death by natural causes.  But evidence revealed by the Commission's activities cannot lead to prosecution.  Inspector Devlin is torn.  He has no desire to resurrect the violent divisions of the recent past.  Neither can he let a suspected murderer go unpunished.

Now the secret is out, more deaths follow.  Devlin must trust his conscience - even when that puts those closest to him at terrible risk.

About the author:  Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1974, and teaches English at St Columb's College, Derry.  He lives near the Borderlands with his wife, three sons and daughter.  Shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award, he was also shortlisted for the Best Crime Novel award at the 2009 Irish Book Awards.  Brian wrote a short story for Radio 4's Red Herrings series broadcast in November 2010.

Rating:  4/5

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Chosen Dead by M R Hall


The Chosen Dead (2013) is the fifth and latest excellent Coroner Jenny Cooper series.

Hardback:

"I've already told you, Mrs Cooper.  I don't believe in conspiracies."

"But you'll let me know what you find."

He nodded, and then, with all the effort of contradicting beliefs to which he had held fast for years, said, "Do you think I'm in any danger?"

"I don't know how to answer that question," Jenny said.

When Bristol Coroner Jenny Cooper investigates the fatal plunge of a man from a motorway bridge, she little suspects that it has any connection with the sudden death of a friend's thirteen-year-old daughter from a deadly strain of meningitis.

But as Jenny pieces together the dead man's last days, she's drawn into a mystery whose dark ripples stretch across continents and back through decades.

In an investigation which will take her into the sinister realms of unbridled human ambition and corrupt scientific endeavour, Jenny is soon forced to risk the love and lives of those closest to her, as a deadly race to uncover the truth begins.

About the author:  M R Hall is a screenwriter, producer and former criminal barrister.  The Flight (2012) is the fourth novel in his excellent Jenny Cooper series, following Gold Dagger-shortlisted debut The CoronerThe Disappeared and The Redeemed.  Educated at Hereford Cathedral School and Worcester College, Oxford, he lives in Monmouthshire with his wife and two sons.  Aside from writing, his main passion is the preservation and planting of woodland.  In his spare moments, he is mostly to be found among trees.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 21 June 2013

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn


Hardback:  

The Days were a clan that mighta lived long
But Ben Day's head got screwed on wrong
That boy craved dark Satan's power
So he killed his family in one nasty hour

Little Michelle he strangled in the night
Then chopped up Debby:  a bloody sight
Mother Patty he saved for last
Blew off her head with a shotgun blast 

Baby Libby somehow survived
But to live through that ain't much a life 

(Schoolyard Rhyme, circa 1985)

Red-headed and blue-eyed Libby Day was just seven years old in 1985 when her older brother massacred her entire family while she hid in a cupboard.  Her evidence helped put him away.  Ever since then she has been drifting, surviving for over twenty years on the proceeds of the 'Libby Day fund'.  But now, at thirty one years of age, the money is running out and Libby is desperate.  

When she is offered $500 to do a guest appearance, she feels she has to accept.  But this is no ordinary gathering.  The Kill Club is a group of true-crime obsessives who share information on notorious murders, and they think her brother Ben is innocent.

In a brilliantly interwoven plot set in Kansas City, Missouri, Gillian Flynn keeps the reader balanced on knife-edge, alternating among Libby, as she delves into her family's past, mother Patty, and Ben, a social misfit and Devil worshiper, as he plummets towards destruction.

Is Ben really capable of murder?  That is the question.

About the author:  Gillian Flynn's first novel, Sharp Objects (2006), was the winner of two CWA Dagger Awards and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award, and an Edgar.  Her second, Dark Places (2009), was published to great critical acclaim.  A former writer and critic for Entertainment Weekly, her novels have been published in twenty-eight countries.  She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.  Go to her website for more information and updates.

Gillian Flynn talks about Dark Places:


Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 20 June 2013

To The Last Breath (True Crime) by Carlton Stowers


How...?  When...?  Why...? and a multitude of other questions that one asks when a death occurs but that it is the death of an innocent and helpless child raises the most important question of all:  Where/What is the motive?

The story started with an unprecedented event - an exhumation of Katherine Renee Goode (1991-1994) - in Alvin, Houston, Texas on 7 October 1994.  The fifty-two-year old pathologist who performed the second autopsy finally removed his surgical gloves and said, "Detective, you now have a homicide investigation on your hands."

How did this troubling case begin?

On 22 January 1994, Renee Goode, a happy and healthy two-year-old, was playing happily with her sisters, Michelle and Tiffany, and cousin, Christine, as the four of them enjoyed an impromptu slumber party - playing hide-and-seek, watching television, eating cookies and pizza - at the home of her father, Shane Goode.

The next day, she was dead.

Renee's mother, Annette Tollett, and grandmother, Sharon Couch, were convinced she'd been murdered and that they knew the identity of Renee's killer - her handsome father, Shane Goode, a manipulative, emotionally abusive man who displayed virtually no interest in Renee before she was born - referring to her only as 'Annette's baby' - or in the year-and-a-half after she was born.

(Annette and Shane were divorced in 1992.  Annette was awarded managing conservatorship of Renee.)

But to prove that someone is guilty of a crime is not easy.  It is necessary to establish that a crime has been committed or occurred.  To date, there were no physical evidence or suspicion of foul play, no history that marked Shane Goode as capable of such an unthinkable deed, no eyewitness, and to make matters worse, the medical examiner's final report said that the manner of death of Renee was undetermined.  The investigation ended there.

Naturally, both sides of the family were distraught but more so for Annette and Sharon.

Shortly after Renee's funeral, Shane's ex-girlfriend, Sunny Bradley, told Annette about a $50 000 life insurance policy which Shane took out on Renee before she was born.  This was the moment when the elusive motive came to light.

With the help of a courageous female police investigator and a determined Assistant District Attorney, Sharon launched a case against Shane, and had Renee's tiny coffin exhumed from Halletsville City Cemetery.

Her small corpse revealed two definitive findings - signs of haemorrhaging which could only have been caused by compressive asphyxia and what Renee's grandmother had suspected all along, that cold, calculating Shane Goode had murdered his own daughter to cash in on her death due to his financial hardship.  These findings gave forward motion to the case providing necessary cause for arrest and an indictment.

On 6 April 1995, after a three-hour deliberation, Shane Goode was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.  The jury's vote had been eleven to one in favour of guilty.  On a second ballot, the decision had been unanimous.  He is incarcerated in an Amarillo prison.

To The Last Breath (1998), an Edgar Award Winner for Best Fact Crime, is an impressive study of a truly troubling crime.  Carlton Stowers dedicated this book to Brandon, Renee's brother, who was born after Renee died.

About the author:  Carlton Stowers is the author of more than two dozen non-fiction books, including the Edgar award-winning and Opie award-winning (in the Reporting category) Careless Whispers (1986), the Pulitzer prize nominated Innocence Lost (1990), and Open Secrets.  Among his many accolades, he was named Dallas' Best Writer by the Dallas Observer and in 1997 was honoured as "Author of the Year" by the friends of the Duncanville Library.  He received a National Community Network Media Award for Exceptional Merit for an article he wrote on the deadly use of heroin by teens in Plano, Texas.  He has also written two books for children - A Hero Named George (1991) and Hard Lessons (1994) - which are being used by elementary schools as part of their drug and gang prevention program.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Open Secrets (True Story) by Carlton Stowers


How?  Who?  Why? - questions asked whenever a deplorable death occurred.

Open Secrets (1994) is a true story of love and jealousy, a tangled story of an unthinkable murder for hire, a far-reaching plot set in motion by an unlikely killer and expanded to include a remarkable cast of characters, which inevitably made international headlines.

In 1983, Rozanne Gailiunas was thirty-three years old, a registered nurse, and had lived at her rented Loganwood Drive home in Dallas, Texas, with her then four-year-old son, Peter III, since her June separation from her husband, Dr Peter Gailiunas.

A few months later, on 4 October 1983, Rozanne was found stripped, bound to her bed, and shot twice through the skull.  Her four-year-old son had been napping peacefully in the next room when she was killed.

From the start, the police thought that the crime scene did not make sense.  On the one hand, there had been no evidence of a break-in or a burglary.  On the other, the classic elements of a passion crime - a love triangle - were in place.  However, the fact that the victim was bound and gagged suggested the kind of planning that seldom accompanied a scorned lover's sudden rage.  Also, there was the fact that young Peter was in the house during the attack.

Almost immediately, two men fell under suspicion - Rozanne's estranged husband, Dr Peter Gailiunas and her lover, Larry Aylor - until in 1987, nearly five years after Rozanne's murder, a surprise informant (Joy's older sister, Carol), identified the mastermind behind the murder as Aylor's own wife, Joy, a woman so driven by jealousy and greed that she put out a contract on both Rozanne and later her own husband, Larry.

On 19 September 1988, Joy Aylor was indicted on five felony counts - capital murder, conspiracy to commit capital murder, and solicitation of capital murder - related to the murder of Rozanne Gailiunas and the attempted murder of Larry Aylor and was arrested.  The following afternoon, she went home after paying her bond money of $140 000.

Two years later, sometime in May 1990, several days before her pretrial hearing, she fled to Canada and Mexico.

On the run and managing to elude investigations for eight years, the two-year search for the socialite would eventually end in the south of France in the spring of 1991.  An anonymous tip resulting from a minor car accident led French authorities to a rented villa near Nice, France, where the elusive femme fatale was arrested on 16 March 1991.

On the evening of 4 November 1993, Joy Aylor aka "Devil Woman of Dallas" finally landed back at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport  following her long-delayed extradition back to the United States.

Her long-awaited trial got underway in August 1994.

Eighteen days later, the guilty verdict was read.  Judge Pat McDowell sentenced Joy Aylor to life in prison with eligibility of parole in March 2011 which was denied.  She remains incarcerated at the Mountain View women's prison in Gatesville, Texas.  She will turn sixty-five-years old in 2014.

The hitman, George "Andy" Anderson Hopper was convicted for the murder of Rozanne Gailiunas in March 1992 and sentenced to death by lethal injection on 8 March 2005 in Huntsville, Texas.  Witnesses at his execution claimed he was extremely remorseful for his actions.

Thus ended a hire-for-murder plot that took eleven years to bring to justice.

About the author:  Carlton Stowers is the author of more than two dozen non-fiction books, including the Edgar award-winning and Opie award-winning (in the Reporting category) Careless Whispers (1986), the Pulitzer prize nominated Innocence Lost (1990), and Open Secrets.  Among his many accolades, he was named Dallas' Best Writer by the Dallas Observer and in 1997 was honoured as "Author of the Year" by the friends of the Duncanville Library.  He received a National Community Network Media Award for Exceptional Merit for an article he wrote on the deadly use of heroin by teens in Plano, Texas.  He has also written two books for children - A Hero Named George (1991) and Hard Lessons (1994) - which are being used by elementary schools as part of their drug and gang prevention program.

Better Use Of A Walk-In Wardrobe


Definition: Lethologica


Sunday, 16 June 2013

E-book: Short Fuses (Four free short stories) by Stephen Leather


The short stories are

1)  Breaking In - where a burglar gets more than he bargained for when he breaks into a London house.

2)  Strangers On A Train - where a mugging on a train doesn't go to plan.

3)  Inspector Zhang and the Hotel Guest - where the Singaporean detective solves a mystery.

4)  Cat's Eyes - the backstory of a Bangkok go-go dancer.

About the author:  Stephen Leather is one of the UK's most successful thriller writers.  He was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Mail and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.  Before that, he was employed as a biochemist for ICI, shovelled limestone in a quarry, worked as a baker, a petrol pump attendant, a barman, and worked for the Inland Revenue.  He began writing full time in 1992.  His bestsellers have been translated into more than ten languages.  He has also written for television shows such as London's Burning, The Knock and the BBC's Murder in Mind series.  Two of his books, The Stretch and The Bombmaker, were made into movies.

Short Fuses (2012) is free on both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Rating:  3/5

Saturday, 15 June 2013

E-Book: Dancing Towards The Blade and Other Stories by Mark Billingham


Available together in ebook for the first time ever, this trio of brilliant short stories showcases the writing talent of number one Sunday Times bestseller Mark Billingham.

First story:  Dancing Towards The Blade

They are waiting for the boy on his way home, the racist thugs.  For Vincent, it is the latest in a string of violent events his family has faced since moving to England.  But Vincent knows something that the thugs don't:  he has in him the spirit of his father who, once upon a time in a far off country, also faced down fear to prove he was Grade A.

Second story:  Stroke Of Luck

During a summer cricket match, Alan meets Rachel, and they start a relationship - but soon Alan discovers he is having an affair with a married woman.  Though not a happily married one.  Rachel's husband abuses her physically and psychologically and Rachel is at her wits' end.  Alan vows to protect her - but her husband is not the only one who is a threat.  Rachel is being secretly watched.

Third story:  The Walls

When Chris spots a beautiful woman across a crowded restaurant on his business trip to Texas, he never imagines that she would be interested in him, let alone be waiting for him when he returns to his hotel later that evening.  As the two strangers talk, the true and haunting reason for their visits comes to light.

About the author:  Mark Billingham has twice won the Theakston's Old Peculier Award for Best Crime Novel, and has also won a Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British writer.  Each of the novels featuring Detective Inspector Tom Thorne has been a Sunday Times bestseller, and Sleepyhead and Scaredy Cat were made into a hit TV series on Sky 1 starring David Morrissey as Thorne.  Mark lives in North London with his wife and two children.

Dancing Towards The Blade (13 June 2013) is priced at £0.99 on amazon.co.uk and at $1.54 on amazon.com

Rating:  3/5

Thursday, 13 June 2013

"Are You There Alone?" by Suzanne O'Malley


"Are You There Alone?" (2004) is the unspeakable true crime of Andrea Yates which exposes the human mystery of the most horrifying crime in recent history and the legal drama surrounding it.

Hardback:  At 9.48am on Wednesday, 20 June 2001, Andrea Yates dialed 911.  Dorene Stubblefield, a dispatcher for the Houston Police Department, answered the phone.

"Are you there alone?"

"Yes," Yates said.  Suddenly there was more static, then another long silence.  Stubblefield wondered if she'd lost her.  The sound of panicked breathing returned.

"Andrea Yates?"

"Yes."

"Is your husband there?"

"No.  I'm sick."

"How are you sick?" Stubblefield asked.  Yates's answer was unintelligible.

"Andrea Yates, is your husband there?"

"No."

"Why do you need a policeman, ma'am?"

"I just need him to be here."

"For what?"

"I just need him to come."

                                                    + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

As a journalist, Suzanne O'Malley began covering the murders of Noah, John, Paul, Luke and Mary Yates hours after their mother, Andrea Yates, then 36 years old, drowned them in their suburban Houston, Texas, home in June 2001.

Over twenty four months, O'Malley interviewed or witnessed the sworn testimony of more than a hundred participants in this drama, including Yates herself;  her husband, Russell "Rusty" Yates;  their families;  attorneys;  the personnel of the Harris County district attorney's and sheriff's offices;  medical staff;  friends;  acquaintances;  and expert witnesses.

O'Malley argues persuasively that under less extraordinary circumstances, a mentally ill woman would have been quietly offered a plea bargain and sent to an institution under court supervision.

O'Malley's exclusive personal communications with Andrea Yates and her interviews with Rusty Yates allow her to offer fully realized portrayals of people at the center of this horrifying case and more importantly, she makes a critical contribution to our understanding of mental health issues within the criminal justice system.

O'Malley wrote in her Prologue that she "can trace the steps of Andrea Yates in exacting detail but to know the mind of Andrea Yates was the challenge."

                                                     + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

On 30 July 2001, Andrea Yates's attorneys filed Notice of Intent to offer insanity defense.

On 22 September 2001, Andrea Yates was found mentally competent to stand trial after the jury deliberated more than eight hours.

On 18 February 2002, Andrea Yates's murder trial began.

On 12 March 2002, Andrea Yates was found guilty of the murders of three of her five children after the jury deliberated less than four hours and sentenced her to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 2041 - when she would be nearly 77 years old - after the jury deliberated for thirty-five minutes.

However, a day after the guilty verdict, O'Malley's reporting regarding the mistaken testimony of a key prosecution witness contributed to a motion for mistrial and grounds for an appeal of Andrea Yates's conviction.

Andrea Yates and Rusty Yates divorced in 2004.

On 26 July 2006, after three days of deliberation, the Texas jury in her retrial found Andrea Yates not guilty by reason of insanity.

She is currently residing at a low security state mental hospital in Kerrville, Texas.

In May 2012, Andrea Yates's petition to attend weekly church service outside of the hospital is denied.

About the author:  Suzanne O'Malley's investigative reports on the Yates trial appeared in the New York Times Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine and on Dateline NBC.  She has written for the New York Times Book Review, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, Salon.com and Texas Monthly and has been a producer and consultant for NBC and MSNBC.  She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and lives in New York City and Houston.

Monday, 10 June 2013

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith


44 Scotland Street (2005) is the first book in the 'dry, funny, hugely entertaining, with its glittering cast of rogues, oddballs and innocents' 44 Scotland Street series.

Paperback:  Scotland Street occupies a busy, bohemian corner of Edinburgh's New Town, where the old haute bourgeoisie finds itself having to rub shoulders with students, poets and portraitists.  And number 44 has more than its fair share of the street's eccentrics and failures.

When Pat - on her second gap year and a source of some worry to her parents - is accepted as a new tenant at number 44, she isn't quite sure how long she'll last.

Her flatmate Bruce, a rugby-playing chartered surveyor, is impossibly narcissistic, carelessly philandering and infuriatingly handsome.

Downstairs lives the gloriously pretentious Irene, whose precocious five-year-old is in therapy after setting fire to his father's copy of the Guardian.

And then there is the shrewd, intellectual Domenica MacDonald, mysteriously employed but a sharp-eyed observer of the house's activities in her spare time.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe and educated there and in Scotland.  He was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and served on national and international bodies concerned with bioethics.  His books include works on medical law, criminal law and philosophy, as well as numerous books for children, collections of short stories, and novels including the award-winning The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and The Corduroy Mansions series.  He has lectured at various universities in Africa, including Botswana, where he lived for a time.  He is married to an Edinburgh doctor, and has two daughters.

Rating:  5/5

E-book: The Perils of Morning Coffee (An Isabel Dalhousie Story) by Alexander McCall Smith


The Perils of Morning Coffee (2011) is an Isabel Dalhousie short story exclusive to ebook which you can read in a day.

Kindle:  Summer in Edinburgh is a season of delicate sunshine and showers, picnics with loved ones in blossoming gardens and genteel celebrations of art and music.

But Isabel Dalhousie's peaceful idyll is broken when a single meeting over coffee with fellow philosopher Dr George McLeod brings an irate phone call from his wife, Roz, who implacably accuses Isabel of conduction an affair with her husband.

Wounded by the injustice of Roz's wild allegation and concerned both for her standing among the gossipy group of her scholarly peers and Roz's apparent state of hysteria, Isabel is minded to discover more about the McLeods and set the record straight before the bitterness in their marriage poisons her reputation.

She turns to Millie, an old acquaintance and a university colleague of George's, for insight.

Once again, in this engaging, intelligently observed novella, Alexander McCall Smith's sharp-eyed heroine Isabel is reminded to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions about the lives of others, and to value friendship wherever it's found.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is the author of over eighty books on a wide array of subjects.  For many years, he was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and served on national and international bioethics bodies.  Then in 1999 he achieved global recognition for his award-winning series The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and thereafter has devoted his time to the writing of fiction, including the 44 Scotland Street, Isabel Dalhousie and Corduroy Mansions series.  His books have been translated into forty-six languages.  He lives in Edinburgh with his wife, Elizabeth, a doctor.

The Perils of Morning Coffee is priced at £0.99 on Amazon (UK) and at $1.50 on Amazon (US).

Rating:  3/5

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (An Isabel Dalhousie series, Book 9) by Alexander McCall Smith


Hardback:  As a philosopher, mother, employer and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics - not to mention resident of Edinburgh, the birthplace of moral philosophy - Isabel Dalhousie is all too aware that to be human is to be responsible.

So when a neighbour brings her a new and potentially dangerous puzzle to solve, once again Isabel feels she has no option but to shoulder the burden of other people's difficulties.

A masterpiece painting has been stolen from the collection of Duncan Munrowe, an old-fashioned philanthropist and a very wealthy man.

As Isabel enters into ransom negotiations, a case where heroes and villains should be clearly defined turns murky:  the list of those who desire the painting - or the money - lengthens, and hasty judgment must be avoided.

Morals, it turns out, are like Scottish clouds:  complex, changeable and tricky to get a grip on;  they require a sharp observational eye, a philosophical mindset and the habit of kindness, and fortunately Isabel Dalhousie is in possession of all three.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is the author of over eighty books on a wide array of subjects.  For many years, he was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and served on national and international bioethics bodies.  Then in 1999 he achieved global recognition for his award-winning series The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and thereafter has devoted his time to the writing of fiction, including the 44 Scotland Street and Corduroy Mansions series.  His books have been translated into forty-six languages.  He lives in Edinburgh with his wife, Elizabeth, a doctor.

Rating:  3/5

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Such Good Boys by Tina Dirmann


From the paperback (true crime):

An Abusive Mother

Twenty-year-old college student Jason Bautista endured for years his emotionally disturbed mother's verbal and psychological abuse.

She locked him out of the house, tied him up with electrical cord, and on one occasion, gave him a beating that sent him to the emergency room.

His fifteen-year-old half brother, Matthew Montejo, also was a victim of Jane Bautista's dark mood swings and erratic behaviour, but for some reason, Jason received the brunt of her insanity and abuse until he decided he'd had enough.

A Son's Revenge

On the night of 14 January 2003, in Riverside, California, Jason strangled his mother.

To keep authorities from identifying her body, he chopped off her head and hands, an idea he claimed he got from watching an episode of the hit TV series The Sopranos.

Matthew would later testify in court that he sat in another room in the house with the TV volume turned up while Jason murdered their mother.

He also testified that he drove around with Jason to find a place to dump Jane's torso.

A Crime That Would Bond Two Brothers

The morning following the murder, Matthew went to school, and Jason returned to his classes at Cal State San Bernardino.

When authorities zeroed in on them, Jason lied and said that Jane had run off with a boyfriend she'd met on the Internet.

But when police confronted the boys with overwhelming evidence, Jason confessed all.

Now the nightmare was just beginning for him.

Verdict

On 4 February 2005, jurors pronounced twenty-two-year-old Jason guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to twenty-five years to life.

Less than a week later, on 11 February 2005, Matthew was sentenced to 749 days in jail for accessory to murder after the fact.  His sentence was reduced because he had testified against his older brother.

It is a sad story for all involved and especially for the two boys.

About the author:  In her long-standing career as a reporter, Tina Dirmann has covered some of the nation's biggest news stories, interviewing notorious criminals and profiling A-list celebrities.  She is a graduate of UCLA and worked for The San Bernardino County Sun and Riverside County's The Press Enterprise before joining the staff of The Los Angeles Times.  At The Times, she covered crime, courts, county politics and worked as a general assignment reporter on the state desk.  Before leaving The Times, Dirmann earned a spot among a small team of reporters named as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2000 Alaska Airlines crash, which killed 88 people.  In recent years, Dirmann switched gears from crime news to entertainment reporting, working as a staff reporter for US Weekly before becoming West Coast Senior Editor for Star magazine.  Such Good Boys (2005) is her first book followed by Vanished At Sea (2008).  She is currently working on a third book.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Never See Them Again (True Crime) by M William Phelps


M William Phelps wrote Never See Them Again (2012) as a tribute to the four murder victims and for us, his readers, hoping to answer that elusive question - Why do people kill?

Paperback:  In the summer of 2003, the Houston suburb of Clear Lake, Texas, was devastated when four young residents were viciously slain within the confines of their own home.

Police described it as "an outright carnage."

The two female victims were just eighteen years old, popular and beloved - but when a killer came knocking, it turned out to be someone they knew all too well and had been right under everyone's nose the entire time.

In this gripping true story, M William Phelps delves into the heart of a baffling mystery to get to the truth of an act so brutal it took three years - with investigators trawling through nearly a dozen states halfway across the country - before the crime could be understood.

Could it be understood or couldn't it?  Did the story even partly answer that ambiguous question - Why do people kill?  You decide.

About the author:  Crime expert, lecturer and investigative journalist M William Phelps is the author of nineteen non-fiction books.  Winner of the 2008 New England Book Festival Award for I'll Be Watching You, Phelps has appeared on CBS's Early Show, Court TV, The Discovery Channel, Fox News Channel, CN8, ABC's Good Morning America, The Learning Channel, Biography Channel, History Channel, and is one of the stars of the Investigation Discovery hit series Deadly Women.  Radio America calls him "the nation's leading authority on the mind of the female murder."  His own series, Dark Minds, premiered on Investigation Discovery in 2012.

Profiled in such noted publications as Writer's Digest, NY Daily News, Newsday, Suspense magazine, Hartford Courant, and NY Post, Phelps has also consulted for the Showtime cable television series Dexter.  Touched by tragedy himself, due to the unsolved murder of his sister-in-law, Phelps is able to enter the hearts and minds of his subjects like no one else.  He lives in a small Connecticut farming community and can be reached at his official website.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Hidden Treasures by Fern Britton


Hidden Treasures (2012) is a heart-warming story of life and love set in the mellow Cornish countryside.

Hardback:  Helen Merrifield decides to put her old London life - and her philandering ex-husband - behind her and start afresh in the picture-postcard Cornish village of Pendruggan.

She soon makes a new set of eccentric friends, including Dorrie and Don from the pub, and Queenie, the salt of the earth Cockney postmistress.

Throwing herself into local life, Helen is surprised to find herself the love interest of the rather desperate vicar, Simon.

But she is also drawn to the dark and brooding local historian, Piran, who is helping her discover the secret behind a forgotten old Edwardian chest.

Meanwhile, Helen's best friend, Penny, decides that Pendruggan is the perfect setting for her new TV series.  When the cast and crew descend, the village is thrown into a tizzy, but Helen has her hands full fending off her ex, who is determined to charm his way back into her bed.

Should Helen hold on to the past?

Or will she find something to treasure in the golden Cornish sands?

About the author:  Fern Britton began her career in television in 1980.  In 1994, Fern became the presenter of Ready, Steady, Cook which led to presenting the iconic ITV flagship show This Morning. Her warmth, humour, empathy and compassion have made her incredibly popular and she has become a much sought-after presenter.  In 2008, she released her autobiography Fern:  My Story, which was a huge bestseller.  Her fiction debut, New Beginnings (2011), published to great acclaim in 2011.  Fern is deeply committed to a number of charities, in particular the Genesis Research Trust founded by Professor Robert Winston to help create healthy families.  She lives with her husband Phil Vickery, the well-respected chef, and her four children in Buckinghamshire.  Her third and latest book, The Holiday Home, is out now.

Here is Fern Britton introducing Hidden Treasures:



Rating:  4/5

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Hit by David Baldacci


The Hit (2013) is the second book featuring government assassin Will Robie, with non-stop action from New York City to DC, and from Dublin to Canada and the Middle East.  Highly recommended read.  The Innocent (2012) is the first book in the Will Robie series.

Hardback:  When government hit man, Will Robie, is given his next target he knows he's about to embark on his toughest mission yet.  He is tasked with killing one of their own, following evidence to suggest that fellow assassin Jessica Reel has been turned.  She's leaving a trail of death in her wake, including her handler.

The trap is set.  To send a killer to catch a killer.  But what happens when you can't trust those who have access to the nation's most secret intelligence?

About the author:  David Baldacci is a worldwide bestselling novelist.  With his books published in over 45 different languages and in more than eighty countries, and with over 110 million copies in print, he is one of the world's favourite storytellers.  David is also the co-founder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a non-profit organization, dedicated to eliminating illiteracy across America.  Still a resident of his native Virginia, he invites you to visit his official website, his Wish You Well Foundation, and to look into its programme to spread books across America.

Presenting David Baldacci:



Rating:  5/5