Saturday, March 31, 2018

Dead and gone

‘I want you dead and gone,’ Carrie hissed.

‘Dead or gone.’


‘If I’m dead, I’ll be gone,’ Lawrence said. ‘There’s no need for the ‘and gone.’ And if I’m gone, there’s no need for me to be dead.’

‘That’s exactly why I want you gone!’

‘But not dead?’

‘Dead and gone! Dead or gone! I don’t care as long as you’re not here. Permanently.’

‘There’s no need for melodramatics.’ Harry crossed his legs.

‘I’ve had enough, Harry. I want you to leave.’

‘Carrie, I …’

‘Dead and gone!’ Carrie swung the vase with all her might. ‘Dead and gone!’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Review of The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham (Orion, 2015)

Fiona Griffiths did not join CID to investigate minor payroll frauds. She wants something more juicy, like a murder, or possibly a manslaughter. She’d like to pass the task on, but then she discovers the body of a woman starved to death. Shortly after, the man who set up the fraud is found murdered. But the fraud is still being committed and it’s more extensive and lucrative than initially thought. Fiona wants justice for the starved woman and she’s prepared to go undercover to gain vital evidence. After being trained in the basics of payroll accountancy and completing the toughest course in Britain’s police force, she starts work for an insurance company, taking the persona of a victim of domestic abuse seeking to get her life back on track. The criminal gang are looking for a vulnerable victim and Fiona is perfect. But as she’s drawn into their world she realises that they are more organized and ruthless than she’d anticipated. And moreover, the more she performs as her new persona, the more her identity fractures. It’s not just a case of whether she’ll survive but, if she does, which of her personas survives with her.

The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths is the third book in the series about a young police officer who suffers from Cotard’s Syndrome. While highly competent and driven, Fiona lives almost outside herself and has trouble identifying emotions or how people expect her to behaviour, constantly second-guessing what she should do or say in any situation. This gives her a vulnerability, yet at the same time she pushes boundaries and is not easily managed. She’s a wonderful literary creation, an engaging, complex, multidimensional, and often surprising character. In this outing, she trains to go undercover and then penetrates a sophisticated, careful and ruthless criminal gang who are perpetrating an enormous accounting fraud against several companies. The undercover work is challenging and places her fragile identity under pressure. The plotting is excellent, with Bingham spinning a multi-layered tale that also twists and turns and creates plenty of tension. The hook is a crime that is relatively unusual in crime fiction and is ingenious in its conception and implementation. The police procedural elements are very nicely done – rather than the formulaic boss and sidekick, Bingham provides the full panoply of units, forces, personalities, roles, procedures, and politics that operate during a major investigation. The undercover training and deployment instinctively feels realistic. Indeed, just about the whole book feels steeped in realism, though Fiona’s family life, with her father formerly being a major crime lord, has the feel of a plot device, and the denouement is also somewhat souped-up to be a dramatic finale. Nonetheless, this is a superb read and I’ve a keen sense of anticipation for reading the next instalment.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review of Tokyo Station by Martin Cruz Smith (2002, Pan)

December 1941. Harry Niles is living in Tokyo and running a bar. Harry is about as Japanese as an American can get having grown up in the city and attended a local school and is fluent in the language and culture. As a child he was left to fend for himself, his missionary parents travelling the country looking for souls to save. Bullied at school, he learned to look out for himself and sought sanctuary running favours at a down-at-heel theatre and living at the fringes of the underworld. Twenty years on, Harry is still running rackets and hustling to get by. As war approaches that hustle includes openly supporting the ambitions of the Japanese for a Pacific empire in order to secure passage out of the country, while also working to undermine this ambition by feeding them misinformation designed to stop them attacking the US. It’s a dangerous game as it annoys his fellow Americans, while he’s never really trusted by his hosts. Even in love he is living with his Japanese girlfriend, while also conducting an affair with the wife of a British diplomat. But the only side Harry is on is his own. Except the evidence is somewhat to the contrary. While in China in 1937 he helped run the international protection zone in Nanking and save the lives of numerous Chinese from the holocaust being wrought, and on the eve of hostilities he’s helping the German he worked with in Nanking and his Chinese bride leave the country. As he makes his own preparations, his nemesis from Nanking, Lieutenant Ishigami has arrived in the city and he wants Harry’s head.

Tokyo Station follows the raconteur, Harry Niles, in the lead up to the attack on Pearl Harbour and his attempts to leave the country before hostilities break out, while also avoiding a revenge attack of Lieutenant Ishigami, a man he humiliated four years previously in Nanking, and two agents from the Japanese ‘thought’ police. Harry is a classic anti-hero – a selfish, charismatic, seemingly amoral schemer who skirts on the edge of the underworld, but nonetheless does try to help and nudge things for the greater good, though he usually has an angle at play even when he’s helping others. The strength of the story is the characterisation, especially Harry, his Japanese girlfriend Michiko, and Ishigami, plus the use of a smattering of real-world political and military characters, the sense of place and time, and the rich descriptions of Japanese culture and history in the inter-war period and in the lead up to hostilities with the US. Smith does an excellent job of detailing the context for the plot, which while engaging and entertaining felt very much a thriller as envisaged by a screenwriter rather than being rooted in a more grounded realism. That’s no bad thing as it makes for compelling reading, though some of it felt overly-stretched in places and the ending felt a little incomplete.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

I was very saddened to hear of the recent death of Philip Kerr. His Bernie Gunther series remains a favourite; one of the few series I would buy in hardback on release so I could catch up with Bernie's tangled and mangled life. There was a large gap between the original trilogy (1989-91) and the next 9 books (2006-17), but it was worth the wait. There's one more due for release shortly, Greeks Bearing Gifts, and he has a number of other novels. Here are my reviews of his books on the blog.

Prussian Blue
The Lady from Zagreb
A Man Without Breath
Field Grey
Prague Fatale
If the Dead Rise Not 
The Other Side of Silence 

My posts this week:
Review of Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart
Review of The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle
Can I go home now?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Can I go home now?

The woman sighed. ‘Can I go home now?’

‘No.’ DC Swale lent forward. ‘Sheila Long is in intensive care because of you. Why haven’t you been caring for her?’

‘I have been.’

‘If you had, she wouldn’t be half-starved and surrounded by piss and shit.’

‘That’s nothing to do with me.’

‘You’re paid to look after her.’

‘I’m paid to clean the house.’

‘You’re employed as her carer.’

‘On a zero hour contract on minimum wage; that doesn’t cover wiping arses.’

‘You should have called social services.’

‘So you’ve already said.’

‘She was disabled. Alone.’

‘Can I go home now?’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review of Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart (Minatour, 2015)

1708. Li Du, an imperial Chinese librarian living in exile, enters the Chinese city of Dayan near to the Tibetan border. He finds the city bustling with visitors who have flocked to Dayan to see the emperor who will shortly be visiting to demonstrate his divine powers by commanding the moon to eclipse the sun. Li Du has little interest in seeing the emperor once again and simply wants to receive the permission of the local magistrate to head north. To his surprise, however, the magistrate is his cousin, sent from Beijing to administer a difficult province. He is invited to stay the night before leaving the next day and to attend the evening banquet attended by visitors to the city. During the meal, a Jesuit priest flees the room and shortly afterwards is found dead in his room. Li Du suspects foul-play, but the magistrate is adamant it was a natural death. Insisting on investigating, Li Du soon discovers it was murder, but his cousin wants the affair hushed up for fear of upsetting the emperor’s plans. At first Li Du agrees to the magistrates wishes, but his sense of injustice will not him leave the case and local rumours force his cousin to allow him to try and find the murderer. And with intrigue and old rivalries and foreign visitors in the magistrate’s palace there are plenty of suspects.

Jade Dragon Mountain is the first book in the Li Du mystery series set in China at the start of the eighteenth century. Li Du is an accomplished scholar and former imperial librarian who has been exiled for the misdeeds of a friend. During his exile he has wandered the fringes of China learning about its people and history. In this opening tale he finds himself in Dayan, a city in the mountainous border area with Tibet, a few days before the visit of the emperor and a solar eclipse. Also visiting the city are four rare foreigners – an elderly Jesuit who is an accomplished astronomer, an ambassador of the East India Company, a younger Jesuit who has an interest in botany, and an Arabian storyteller. When the elderly Jesuit is poisoned in the magistrate’s palace, Li Du starts an investigation. While most of the story concentrates on Li Du’s attempt to solve the crime, Hart also uses the setting in the local magistrate’s palace and the visit of the emperor to detail Chinese history, politics and its isolationist position in relation to the West at the time, as well as Chinese customs. This strays close at times to schooling, but manages to stay on the right side of the fiction/faction divide and provides nice context. The characterisation is nicely done, especially Li Du, Hamza the Arab storyteller, and Lady Chen, the magistrate’s consort. In terms of the plot, the tale is a little slow and staid for the first two thirds, with some nice moments and the narrative occasionally enlivened by the stories told by Hamza. In the latter third, it shifts gear, with a double denouement that elevates the whole book – there’s a particularly nice and satisfying ‘aha moment’ when all the careful plotting clunked suddenly into place and the cleverness of what seemed a relatively pedestrian mystery becomes clear. Overall, an entertaining tale with an interesting lead character and setting.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review of The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle (2017, Cheyne Walk)

Florence, 1937. At the studio of the self-declared Maestro, Isabella meets a young English man, Freddie, who shares her dream of becoming a great artist. Also amongst their group are Oskar, a German Jew, and Fosco who seems enamoured with fascism. Isabella and Freddie fall in love and marry, but the war soon separates them. While Isabella stays in the city, Freddie has returned to England and joined the RAF, flying harrowing bombing sorties over occupied Europe. Oskar, his wife, and daughter, Esme, are in Paris. When the round up of Jews takes place in 1942, Oskar and Esme manage to escape, heading south to Italy. In Florence, Isabella finds herself entangled with the local resistance, the brutal fascist authorities, and the German occupiers, unsure of who to trust, including her old enemy, Fosco. In turn, both Oskar and Freddie make their way back to the city, both via circuitous and dangerous routes.

The Way Back to Florence is a tale of love during war between an Italian woman and English man, and between a father and his young daughter. The characterisation is excellent, both in relation to the three lead characters, but also the supporting cast, with Haybittle creating a deep sense of affinity for Isabella, Freddie and Oskar and their plights. The tale is told as a multi-layered narrative, involving a number of entwined threads, and doesn’t pull any punches with respect to the harrowing experiences of the lead characters – being betrayed, flying over German cities at night, brutal interrogations, surviving concentration camps, being caught in the role of collaborator. Indeed, the tale is loaded with a deep sense of realism, tension and affect, so that just as the characters cycle through a gamut of emotions, so does the reader. And while the story is complex and involves a number of twists and turns, there is no sense of awkward plot devices. The result is a visceral, engaging, thoughtful and at times traumatic story of love, loyalties, compromises, and survival.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

Two consecutive mornings of digging stones out of the ground with a crowbar, shifting them to where a new wall will be, preparing foundations, and placing a few in position. I can confirm they are bloody heavy and awkward to move and that the job involves muscles that a desk job has just about fully atrophied. I'm probably going to be as stiff as a board for the next week. Worse still, I've barely made a dent into the job!

My posts this week
Review of The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
New working paper: Smart urbanism and smart citizenship
Review of The Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Coterill
We're not all savages

Saturday, March 17, 2018

We're not all savages

Craddock placed his hands on his knees.

‘Jesus, Craddy,’ Kiley said. ‘What’s the rush?’

‘He’s … he’s in Mulligans.’

‘Who is?’


‘Mickey Halligan’s in Mulligans?’ Kiley was already heading for the door.

‘Hold up, Tom,’ Carter said. ‘You want to go charging into Mulligans on Paddy’s day? It’ll be bedlam already. We go in there and it’ll turn into a riot.’

‘So, what do you suggest?’

‘We wait until he leaves, then trail him back to his hidey hole.’

‘Great, hours of boredom as everyone else gets pissed. I’d prefer the riot.’

‘Yeah, but we’re not all savages, Tom.’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review of The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan (Minatour, 2015)

Esa Khattak of Toronto’s new Community Policing unit is asked to look into the death of Christopher Drayton, a seemingly successful businessman who has emigrated to Canada from Italy. The death looks like an accident, but Khattak’s friend in the Justice Department believes that Drayton might be Drazen Krstic, a commander of the Dragan Corps and perpetrator of war crimes in Bosnia, including the Srebrenica massacre. Afraid of a media scandal for allowing a wanted war criminal to legally migrate to the country and failing to act on anonymous tip-offs, Khattak is asked to undertake a low-key investigation until he is sure that it is Krstic that is dead. Along with his sergeant, Rachel Getty, he probes Drayton’s life and seeks information from the local, immigrant Bosnian Muslim community. Muddying the waters of the investigation is Drayton’s gold-digging girlfriend, whose only concern is to make sure she inherits his estate. Khattak is also somewhat blinded by his infatuation with the owner of a museum to which Drayton was thinking of donating a sizable sum and a strained relationship with his former best friend, who is one of Drayton’s neighbours; and Getty has a sideline trying to find her runaway brother.  As it becomes clear that Drayton is Krstic, Khattak and Getty try to work out if Drayton was pushed, and if so who by.

The Unquiet Dead is a police procedural that tells two intertwined stories. The first is the investigation into the death of Christopher Drayton, a businessman who has fallen to his death on some local bluffs. The second is a set of vignettes of war crimes committed in Bosnia in the early-to-mid 1990s and the impotence of the UN forces in protecting Bosnian Muslims from murder and rape. There are three links between the two threads – Christopher Drayton is suspected to be Drazen Krstic, a commander of the Dragan Corps, responsible for the Srebrenica and other massacres; Esa Khattak, the investigating police officer was a volunteer civilian in the former Yugoslavia; and there is a small Bosnian Muslim community now living in Toronto. In addition, some of the evidence are bits of written testimony as to the crimes committed during the war. Khan’s intent is clearly to tell the tale of the war crimes, the lack of protection provided by the UN forces at the time, and the subsequent lack of formal justice, through a fictional lens in which the suspicious death of suspected war criminal is investigated. As a strategy it partly works, but the other elements added to the telling in order to create a wider story felt clunky and weak. Khattak’s strained relationship with his former best friend who is a neighbour of the victim, and the backstory of Rachel Getty who is Khattak’s sergeant and still lives with her abusive father, played like character plot devices. Khattak’s former partner and Drayton’s girlfriend are over-the-top caricatures of scheming, bitchy women. The police procedural elements also just did not ring true – Khattak is meant to be head of a new high powered unit, yet he can find time to spend a couple of weeks on a single investigation, with just one supporting officer, and no other cases or pressures or contact with other team members. The result was a read that drew attention to a harrowing modern-day holocaust, but which had a few too many awkward plot devices, one-dimensional characters, and some lack of realism.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review of The Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Coterill (2008, Soho Press)

Dr Siri, the reluctant national coroner of Laos in the aftermath of communist victory in 1976, has had to travel to a national congress in a remote district. Afterwards he is commanded to journey through the jungle with his cowardly and hectoring boss, Judge Haeng, where they are attacked by a Hmong family. Haeng disappears into the undergrowth where he is ill-equipped to survive, while Siri is kidnapped. The elder of the family wants Yeh Ming, the thousand year old shaman that inhabits Siri’s body, to exorcise a devil from his daughter before they head to the Thai border to escape persecution on ethnic grounds and for siding with the anti-communists. Meanwhile, back in Vientiane, Nurse Dtui is keeping an eye on the mortuary in Siri’s absence. Her first task is to stop a booby-trap corpse blowing up the building and its occupants. Then, along with Madame Daeng, Siri’s financee, she starts to investigate, soon finding herself chasing a deadly woman known as The Lizard.

The Curse of the Pogo Stick is the fifth book in Dr Siri series set in Laos in the 1970s, which I’ve slowly been working my way through in non-sequential order. In this outing, Siri is kidnapped by a Hmong family who want him to draw on his inner shaman to exorcise a devil from a daughter and lift the curse of a pogo stick sourced from the US military. Meanwhile, Nurse Dtui, Inspector Phosy, Madame Daeng and Civilai take on a Royalist terrorist, The Lizard, who is targeting the coroner’s office. Of the six books I’ve read so far, this is weakest. While it has its moments, my sense was the book was a bridge between entries in the series rather than being a full developed story in its own right (which I also said about the previous book in the series). The issue I think is that story consists of two shorter tales, one underdeveloped and the other also slightly under-cooked, that run in parallel. The thread involving Siri’s usual gang of helpers and The Lizard was particularly weak, largely due to a change in telling of the story. In the first hundred pages or so the thread was told in the present, running side-by-side with Siri’s adventure. It then disappeared, re-emerging near the end as a tale told in retrospect once Siri is back with the gang. That gap and the change in storytelling style simply didn’t work for me and the tale felt weak and lacking in intrigue and twists and turns. Siri’s thread while having more substance felt too static once he gets to the Hmong village and the denouement felt curtailed. My sense was that tale needed more movement and tension, which might have been created if the judge had played a more confrontational role and Siri had gone on the journey towards the Thai border with the family for at least part of the way. What saves the book are the characters, which are a delight, and the world that Coterill has created, which is always interesting to visit.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service

I've spent the morning rebuilding a dry stone wall that had collapsed. It was a relaxing puzzle fitting it back together. I was also contemplating which book to read next. I think I might go with either Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart or The Strange Death of Fiona Griffiths by Harry Bingham. Seventeenth century China or modern day Wales? I'm still deciding.

My posts this week:
A tribute to Bernadette
Review of Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer
Review of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Before the reckoning

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Before the reckoning

‘Keith?’ The relief was evident in her voice.

‘Everything’s turned to shit, Cass.’

‘You went back to the Galleon?’

‘I was feeling lucky. I could feel it in my bones, Cass. I nearly had it all back again.’

‘And then you lost the lot!’

‘I had a flush; all he had was two pair.'

‘So, you won?’

‘Yes and no. It was Tommy Dolan.’

‘You took Tommy Dolan’s money to pay back Hogg?’

‘And now I’m in deeper shit.’

‘Fuck, Keith.’

‘But I cleared the debt. Look, pack a bag and meet me in Galway. Let’s party before the reckoning.’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Review of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (Abacus, 2009 Swedish, 2012 English)

Allan Karlsson never wanted a hundredth birthday party with the mayor and local press, so an hour before the event he climbs out of the window and wanders into town in his slippers. He finds himself at the bus station where he buys a ticket to get on the first bus. While he waits a young man asks him to mind his suitcase while he goes to the toilet. When the bus comes before the man returns, Allan gets on, taking the suitcase with him. And so his adventure starts, having taken fifty million kroner from a criminal gang. It soon involves a couple of murders and an elephant. But Allan is used to escapades and taking things in his stride.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is a comic crime caper meets Forrest Gump told through three strands that eventually meet at the denouement. The first strand follows Allan’s escape from an old people’s home on the day of his hundredth birthday and subsequent adventure involving a suitcase of cash, a career thief, a criminal gang, an eternal student turned hot-dog seller, a reclusive woman and her elephant, and a couple of murders. The second tracks the hunt for Allan by a police detective and prosecutor who are hampered by incompetence and vanity, and a criminal boss who has dim-witted accomplices. The third maps out Allan’s life, which has involved a couple of journey’s around the world, meeting several world leaders, several incarcerations, and key contributions to the nuclear age. The concept is a nice one and the story starts out well, with a strong hook and a lightly comic touch. Comic crime capers are usually held together with plot devices, with the humour, pace and larger-than-life characters papering over the unlikely twists and turns. Allan is a wonderful character that rejects politics and religion and has a devil-may-care attitude to life, however, he cannot quite compensate for the creakiness of the plot, especially towards the end, when unlikely and silly occurrences are substituted for the absurd. Moreover, the humour becomes a bit tedious after a while. The result is a tale that starts well, but cannot sustain the feel-good formula to the conclusion.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Review of Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer (Bantam, 2011)

August 1942 and American forces decide to start the process of pushing back the Japanese on land and sea, landing troops on the island of Guadalcanal, the largest island in the Solomons in the South West pacific. The marines quickly gain a toehold and control of the only airfield, but do not dislodge the Japanese from much of the island. However, neither navy has control of the sea, nor total superiority in the air. Determined to re-take the island the Japanese fly daily bombing runs from bases in New Britain and also send the Tokyo Express – a convoy of destroyers turned troop and cargo ships – on nightly runs to bolster and resupply their army. They also send larger formations that include battleships and cruisers to bombard marine positions, as well as submarines. Opposing them is a US fleet still adapting to being at war. What follows is a series of seven large night battles between US and Japanese naval forces, mainly between destroyers, cruisers and battleships, but also occasionally aircraft carriers and their aircraft. Both sides claim victories in the savage clashes that at their conclusion leave both with twenty four vessels sunk, however it is the US that retains Guadalcanal, with most Japanese soldiers evacuated through a Dunkirk-style rescue.

Hornfischer tells the story of the Guadalcanal campaign from the US naval perspective, seeking to rebalance accounts that focus more on the actions of the marines on the island. To that end he achieves that aim providing a detailed overview of both the administrative challenges and politics of naval command and the unfolding of each battle based on extensive research. While the command politics is rather dry in its telling, excavating the ins and outs of decision making and responsibility for follies, the battle engagements are more compelling, giving a sense of the chaos and carnage of clashes drawing on first-hand testimony. While Hornfischer does provide some rebalancing in the US account, it still suffers from imbalances. By focusing exclusively on the naval engagements, the battles on land and in the air are backgrounded. Moreover, it is still very much a US account and is laced with American patriotism that verges on jingoism – barely any mention is made of the wider war and political context in the Pacific and the role and action of other Allies, and the Japanese side of the battles are somewhat sketchy. In addition, while the story does provide a somewhat personal perspective of individual actors, they all remained somewhat thin, consisting mainly of descriptions of actions, rather than providing a sense of the person and their fate. As such, while book does largely succeed in its aims, albeit in a rather flat narrative, it would have been useful to read a more holistic account of the campaign. Overall, an interesting if narrow account of the taking and defending of Guadalcanal.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A tribute to Bernadette

I was very saddened to hear of the passing of Bernadette Bean who blogged her crime fiction reviews at Reactions to Reading and Fair Dinkum Crime. Although we never met, I corresponded with her for almost a decade via a Friendfeed group, later the Petrona Crime and Mystery Friends group on Facebook, via comments on blogs, and through email. I was very grateful when she generously took the time to read and comment on a work-in-progress, what was then titled 'Saving Siobhan' which eventually became 'Stumped'.

The great thing about Bernadette's blog and her correspondence was you could trust her to say exactly what she thought and to provide a reasoned rationale to support her views, and do so in an engaging manner. For someone trying to decide what to books to hunt down and read, those kinds of reviews are invaluable. It's also useful advice for an author as long as they're not too thin-skinned to take criticism and learn from the insights. And Bernadette had plenty of insight and I always felt she would have made a great literary editor.

Bernadette was foremost a champion of good reads and listens (see was an avid audio book listener). She was a fan of engaging stories that were well told. Like every reader she had her tastes and interests, but she'd give every book a fair assessment. She was also prepared to take a chance and read books by first-time authors and if she liked what she read she become their champion.

She also had her causes. She was an ardent supporter of female writers, fiction by Australian authors, and libraries (the picture above is from a recent protest to protect Norwood Library in Adelaide). I'd hazard she had the most encyclopedic knowledge of Australian crime fiction and had certainly read more work, by more Australian crime authors, bar her co-blogger on Fair Dinkum Crime, Kerrie Smith. And she was certainly a great ambassador for Australian crime fiction - enough so that I would import books only available in the Australian market (which is surprisingly difficult to do and still drives me crazy).

As a reader I owe her a great debt as the quality of my reading has increased immeasurably by hunting down books she recommended. Several of those books have made it onto my end of year 'best reads' list, including my top read of last year: The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong. Only a couple of weeks ago I ordered a couple of books she'd reviewed and I've shuffled Ausma Zehanat Khan's 'The Unquiet Dead' to the top of my pile and will do the same with Vaseem Khan's 'The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra' once it arrives to read in tribute. I'm going to miss her reviews and recommendations immensely, but will continue to revisit her archive to find new books to try.

If there is a heaven, then I imagine Bernadette has already discovered its extensive library and is holed up in the crime fiction section, working her way through the collection. And she certainly 'will not be shushed' while resident.

May she rest in peace.

Some other tributes can be found at:
Bernadette at A Crime is Afoot
Vale Bernadette at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist
A tribute to Bernadette in Oz at Mrs. Peabody Investigates
A Sad Loss at Euro Crime
A Tribute to Bernadette in Oz at Fair Dinkum Crime
RIP Bernadette at Reactions to Reading at Clothes in Books
Why’d You Go, Bernadette? at The Rap Sheet
RIP Bernadette Bean, blogger at Reactions to Reading by Patricia Abbot
A Tip of the Hat to a Revered Blogger at Ah Sweet Mystery Blog

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Lazy Sunday Service
Ireland has been suffering its worst winter weather for a few years, with record levels of snow in some parts of the country as Storm Emma swept in from the Bay of Biscay and met freezing Siberian winds. Given that we rarely receive snow, we're not really set up for it, with the country grinding to a halt with just a few centimetres. In this case, it's been a fair bit more than that (in some cases six foot drifts in roads and gardens - as per picture right from a newspaper) and the government officially shut the country from 4pm on Wednesday until Saturday morning, with everyone told to stay at home. Many non-primary roads still remain shut. What that's meant for me is more reading and writing time. It's still cold, but we're now into the thaw and flooding phase. Hopefully that'll pass okay and the country will get back to normal next week. Shame my reading time will be as well.

My posts this week:
Cursing is a kind of praying
February reads
Review of The Sentinel by Mark Oldfield
Review of The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Cursing is a kind of praying

‘What the fuck was that?’ Popowski muttered, wrestling with a jammed door.

‘Probably a gun magazine,’ Hansen replied. ‘Half the ship must be ablaze by now.’

‘Fuck! We’re trapped in a fucking sinking tin can.’

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be ...’

The two men glanced down at the man praying.

‘Sorry about the cursing, padre,’ Hansen said.

The pastor smiled. ‘Cursing is a kind of praying, son. And all prayers are welcome right now.’

‘Fucking, right,’ Popowski muttered. ‘But you can’t hustle on your knees, padre; but you can pray while pushing a fucking door.’  


‘On three, push.’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

February reads

My book of the month was Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, a historical literary crime tale set in Northern Iceland at the beginning of the 19th century. Would have been a perfect read to accompany the present inclement weather.

My posts this month:
The Sentinel by Mark Oldfield ***
The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson ***
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent ***.5
The Deep Dark Sleep by Craig Russell ***.5
The End of the World in Breslau by Marek Krajewski **
Thumbprint by Friedrich Glauser ****  
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent *****