Monday, 30 July 2012

Killing Orders by Sara Paretsky

Years ago, V I Warshawski's Aunt Rosa treated the detective's beloved mother in an unforgiveable way.  Now, after she's accused of stealing $3 million from the Dominican priory where she works, Rosa calls upon the ties of blood to clear her name.

V I is not prepared to forgive so easily.  She doesn't want the case.  Until suddenly no one else - the FBI, a threatening phone caller, and even Aunt Rosa herself - appears to want her on the case either.

The stakes are higher than she could have realised.

V I Warshawski is tough, attractive and funny.  Her specialty is financial crime.  This is a good 'un.

Killing Orders (1985) is the third book in the V I Warshawski novel series.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Deadlock by Sara Paretsky

Boom Boom's body was found floating near the docks, chewed up and spat out by a ship's propeller.  More like brother and sister than cousins, V I Warshawski and Boom Boom looked out for each other.  Boom Boom grew up to be an ice hockey hero, and Vic a private eye.

Right from the beginning, the evidence is circumstantial - how could Warshawski possibly find out exactly how her cousin died?

Deadlock (1984) is the second book in the V I Warshawski private detective series set in Chicago.

Rating:  3/5

Monday, 23 July 2012

Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto

Forty-five-year-old Inspector Imanishi Eitaro is a Haiku poet, gardener, and the most dogged and worn-out homicide detective of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Agency.

Since he had been assigned to the Kamata Railroad Yard Murder case - where an unidentified dead body had been found under a train - he had come home late every night.  

The unidentified dead man had been strangled, his face viciously battered to an unrecognizable pulp and his gray hair matted with blood.  The victim had been wearing a cheap suit, shirt and underwear and looked like a poor labourer.

Thus a tantalizing yet simplistic thriller unfolds.

Inspector Imanishi Investigates (1961) is Seicho Matsumoto's police procedural debut first published under the Japanese title Suna no Utsuwa (Vessel of Sand).

The New York Times Book Review praised Seicho Matsumoto as a master crime writer amongst the likes of P D James and Georges Simenon.  His thrillers teach Japanese strategy and offers readers an intriguing insight into the mores and habits of Japanese society (San Francisco Chronicle).

Brief byte on the author:  Seicho Matsumoto (1909-1992) was a prolific and highest-earning Japanese crime fiction writer of his day.  He debuted as a writer after reaching the age of forty with the historically based Saigo-satsu (1950) and Aru Kokura Nikki Den (1952).  He then went on to establish his unique style of detective fiction with the works Me no kabe (1957) and Ten to sen (1958).  Well-known non-fiction works include Black Fog over Japan (1961) and the Unearthing the Showa Period series (1964-1971).  Eight of his novels have been adapted to films - Castle of Sand (1974) is considered one of the masterpieces of Japanese cinema.  He is the winner of the Akutagawa Literary Prize in 1952, the Kikuchi Kan Prize in 1970 and the Japanese Mystery Writers' Prize in 1957.  

Inspector Imanishi Investigates is translated from the Japanese into the English by Beth Cary.

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A BYOB Reminder

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky

 (from the blurb)  Meeting an anonymous client on a sizzling summer night is asking for trouble.  Especially when the client lies and tells V I Warshawski he's the prominent banker John Thayer, looking for his son's missing girlfriend.  But V I soon discovers the real John Thayer's son - and he's dead.

As V I begins to question her mysterious client's motives, she sinks deeper into Chicago's darker side:  a world of gangsters, insurance fraud and contract killings.

And while she must concentrate on saving the life of someone she has never met, it becomes clear that she is in danger of losing her own.

Indemnity Only (1982) is Paretsky's debut and introduces one of the world's best-loved and successful female private investigators.  There are currently fifteen books in the V I Warshawki series, Breakdown (2012) being the latest.  Do check out the author's website for more information and updates.

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Butcherbird by Geoffrey Cousins

Book blurb:  Set in the boardrooms, yachts and waterfront mansions of Australia's most decadent city, The Butcherbird (2007), is a boisterous thriller about corruption, greed, malice, betrayal in the corporate world.

Jack Beaumont, architect turned property developer, is as surprised as the next person when he is approached by insurance tycoon Mac Biddulph to become the new CEO of HOA, the largest home-insurer in Australia.

Seduced at first by the lure of power, Jack soon finds that beneath the glamourous facade of Sydney business elite lies a convoluted network of corruption.

Out of his depth, and pursued by piranhas in a fish tank full of money, Jack must unravel the elusive threads or become ensnared himself.

About the author:  Geoffrey Cousins is one of Australia's best known business and community leaders.  His corporate life includes periods as CEO at George Patterson and Optus in addition to positions on ten public companies including PBL and Telstra.  He was the founding chairman of the Starlight Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Art among many other community involvements.  The Butcherbird is his first and only novel.

This book was priced at A$19.95 and purchased from Dymocks in Sydney.

Rating:  2/5

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Frozen Assets by Quentin Bates

This is a solid start to a promising Nordic crime fiction series.  It has convincing characters - the protagonist is a "big fat lass with a face that frightens the horses and known to every man and his dog as Gunna the Cop" - and a great rural setting, with lots of insight into Icelandic corruption, politics, economy, social issues, amongst others.  For a debut, Bates writes like an old hand.  If you are looking for a well-paced thriller to read this summer, I would recommend none other than Frozen Assets.  

Blurb:  An unidentified body is found floating in the harbor of a rural Icelandic fishing village.  Was the stranger's death an accident or something more sinister?  It's up to Officer Gunnhildur, a sardonic female cop, to find out.  Her investigation uncovers a web of corruption connected to Iceland's business and banking communities.  Meanwhile, a rookie crime journalist latches on to her, looking for a scoop, and an anonymous blogger is stirring up trouble.  The complications increase, as do the stakes, when a second murder is committed.

About the author:  Quentin Bates lived in Iceland for ten years.  In 1990, he moved back to the UK where he became a full-time journalist at a commercial fishing magazine.  He and his wife frequently return to Iceland, where they have many friends, including several in the Reykjavik police.

Frozen Assets (USA) aka Frozen Out (UK) (2011) is Bates' debut in the Officer Gunnhildur mystery series set in a fictional village in Iceland.  It is followed by Cold Comfort (2012).

For more information, go to

Rating:  5/5

Sleeping Partner

Without Books...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

There Is Nothing Else To Do

Torn Apart by Peter Corris

Peter Corris' books are unmistakably Australian in its characterisations and settings.  Torn Apart (2010) is the thirty-fifth book out of thirty seven in the Cliff Hardy detective fiction series.  Written in a unique and simple style, it is an enjoyable and entertaining read.  The protagonist is a semi-retired and ill of health private detective but is as resolute as ever in fighting for justice and tracking down wrongdoers.  If you are interested in PI stories and all things Australian, then I highly recommend this excellent piece of fiction.  Don't forget to check out the others in the series too.  I bought Torn Apart from Kinokuniya in Sydney.  

Blurb:  Hardy has never been much of a family man, so when he meets his second cousin Patrick Malloy it's like being hit with a left hook to the solar plexus - Malloy is his double.  Cliff and his cousin become friends and head overseas to attend a gathering of the Irish Travellers - the gypsy-like folk from whom they are descended.

On their return, a shotgun blast shatters their camaraderie.  But who was the bullet aimed at, Malloy or Hardy?  And why is Malloy's ex-wife, Sheila, now making her presence known to Hardy?

Hardy has his enemies and Malloy's to consider as he searches for a killer.  Clues point in many directions - to Sheila's motives, to Malloy's suspect business dealings, to old scores being settled.  The search takes Hardy to a paramilitary training camp and to a meeting of Traveller descendants in Kangaroo Valley;  everyone seems to have an interest and the playing style is ruthless.

Hardy is de-licensed and out of work...but this investigation is personal.

About the author:  Peter Corris is known as the 'godfather' of Australian crime fiction through his Cliff Hardy detective stories.  He has written in many other areas, including a co-authored autobiography of the late Professor Fred Hollows, a history of boxing in Australia, spy novels, historical novels and a collection of short stories about golf.

In 2009, Peter Corris was awarded the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction by the Crime Writers Association of Australia.  He is married to writer Jean Bedford and lives in Sydney.  They have three daughters.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 6 July 2012

Dare To Be A Champion: Lee Chong Wei by Datuk Lee Chong Wei

This is the book I have been waiting for!  No matter that his Number One position has dropped to second place in recent weeks, he is still one of the best and most talented badminton players this century has ever produced.  He is Lee Chong Wei.  His name alone is an international brand which needs no further introduction.  He is Malaysia's "Hero of The Nation".  

Dare To Be A Champion (2012) charts his humble childhood from the discovery of his love of badminton to his rise to fame, to becoming the World No 1 badminton men's singles player in the BWF World Ranking - from 21 August 2008 to 14 June 2012 - and lastly, to what the future holds for this promising young man. 

Dare To Be A Champion is published in two languages - Mandarin and English - and can only be acquired in Malaysia and neighbouring countries.  I thought the English version did not do justice to a subject as iconic as Dato' Lee Chong Wei - the translation is stilted and simple, as if written for a very young reader.  For a world-famous personality as Dato' Lee, I would expect a more informative and in-depth research into his personal as well as professional life.  Instead, the contents are sparse and reads through too quickly.  Some information are superfluous.  Perhaps the Mandarin version is a better buy/read although fans of Dato' Lee Chong Wei would no doubt find this book a pretty impressive memento.  

(update)  Dato' Lee Chong Wei did Malaysia proud by winning the silver medal in the men's badminton singles final against China's Lin Dan at the London Olympics on 5 August 2012.  He is now the country's first double Olympic medallist and I wholeheartedly congratulate him on his well-fought achievement.  Well done, Dato' Lee Chong Wei!