Monday, 26 November 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred:

(a)  when a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time;  or
(b)  when his notice of resignation is received;  or
(c)  on the day of his death...

(Charles Arnold-Baker, Local Council Administration, Seventh Edition)

Hardback:  A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J K Rowling's first novel for adults.

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...

Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the Parish Council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.

Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

About the author:  J K Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, have been translated into 73 languages and have been turned into eight blockbuster films.

As well as an OBE for services to children's literature, J K Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France's Legion d'honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University.  She supports a wide range of charitable causes and is the founder of Lumos, which works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.

Here is the esteemed author in her first live appearance on the publication of The Casual Vacancy in September 2012:

Rating:  4/5

Friday, 23 November 2012

Last To Die (The New Rizzoli and Isles Thriller, Book 10) by Tess Gerritsen

Again, I must say this is one of the topmost gripping crime thrillers I have ever encountered and crime-writing at its very best.  I highly recommend reading this series.  Oh, and don't forget to watch the television series of Rizzoli and Isles if you haven't already - they are so good - it is one of those rare and exceptional times when reading the book and watching television work so well together.

Hardback:  Three children, strangers to each other, are brought together by seemingly motiveless and extreme acts of violence.

Orphaned and alone, they are taken in as students at Evensong, a boarding school for emotionally traumatized children in the remote Maine wilderness.

Is it a place of safety or a place of danger?

Forensic pathologist Maura Isles already has a connection with the school - Julian 'Rat' Perkins, the 16-year-old boy she met during a previous case, is now living there.

But she suspects that the Evensong founders may be using the school for their own agenda.

And her concerns grow when Detective Jane Rizzoli is asked to investigate yet another attempt on the life of one of the orphans at the school.

What both Jane and Maura soon discover is that even a school protected by locked gates and acres of forest cannot shut out a gathering threat.  When three blood-spattered twig dolls are found hanging from a tree, they wonder if the threat comes from outside the school or from within.

About the author:  Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen is also a physician, and she brings to her novels her first-hand knowledge of emergency and autopsy rooms.  Her thrillers starring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the hit TV series Rizzoli and Isles.  But Tess's interests span far more than medicine and crime.  As an anthropology student at Stanford University, she catalogued centuries-old human remains, and she continues to travel the world, driven by her fascination with ancient cultures and bizarre natural phenomena.  She lives in Maine with her husband.

The next and eleventh Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles book, Die Again, will be out on 18 December 2014.

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarratano

I find Vodka Doesn't Freeze (2008) about paedophiles and child abuse alarming but at the same time, greatly admire Dr Leah Giarratano for what she does.  I bought this book from Abbey's Bookshop in Sydney during my travels to Australia.  

Paperback:  When a middle-aged man is brutally murdered in the dunes overlooking a children's pool, it's immediately clear to Sergeant Jill Jackson that this was no ordinary victim:  someone has stopped a dangerous paedophile in his tracks.

Knowing first-hand the impact of such men on their prey, Jill is ambivalent about pursuing the killer, but when more men die - all known to police as child sex offenders - she is forced to face the fact that a serial killer is on the loose.

As the investigation deepens, Jill unearths a long-established Sydney paedophile ring - a club of wealthy men who have thought until now that they are untouchable.

Despite the deaths of some of its members the club is still operating, and until Jill can shut it down children are still in grave danger.

As she faces predators and their victims, a psychotherapist losing her mind, and her own nightmares come to life, Jill is forced to decide whether or not she really wants to catch this killer.

About the author:  Dr Leah Giarratano has had a long career as a psychologist.  An expert in psychological trauma, sex offences and psychopathology, she has had many years' experience working with victims and psychopaths.  She has worked in psychiatric hospitals, with the Australian Defence Force, and in corrective services with offenders who suffer severe personality disorders.  She has assessed and treated survivors of just about every imaginable psychological trauma, including hostages; war veterans;  rape, assault, and accident victims;  and has worked with police, fire and ambulance officers.

The other books in the Detective Jill Jackson mystery series are

Voodoo Doll (2008)
Black Ice (2009)
Watch The World Burn (2010)

Rating:  2/5

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Farm Fresh Murder (A Farmers' Market Mystery) by Paige Shelton

Farm Fresh Murder (2010) is the first in a delicious mystery series and if you like a combination of cosy and crime, then read this delightful book.  It comes with mouth-watering recipes you can make at home too!

Paperback:  Becca Robins leads a simple life, making jams and preserves on her very own farm.

But when there's a murder in her quaint little town, she goes from making jam to being in one.

Becca is late for her stall time at Bailey's Farmers' Market.  By the time she arrives, the normally lush and lively market has turned into a crime scene, with a murdered peach vendor as the featured item of the day.

Cranky old Abner Justen sells wildflowers and is like a father to Becca.  It seems he's also the number one suspect, seen arguing with the victim just days before.

As Becca seeks the truth, she comes to realize that life in the friendly farmers' market is filled with bushels of secrets and deceits.  To preserve her own life, she'll have to sniff out the murderer before he spoils the market for everyone.

About the author:  Paige Shelton spent lots of years in advertising but now writes novels full time.  She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, son and the cutest dog in the world.  When she's up early enough, one of her favourite things is to watch the sun rise over the Wasatch Mountains.  Check out her website for more updates.

Other books in the Farmers' Market Mystery series are

Fruit of All Evil (2011)
Crops and Robbers (2011)
A Killer Maize (2012)

plus an e-book, Red Hot Deadly Peppers (2012, mini mystery).

Rating:  2/5

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Killing by David Hewson (based on the BAFTA award-winning TV series by Soren Sveistrup)

It is true that trying to turn an epic television crime drama tragedy into an epic crime book is no easy feat, especially in a country which the author had never been before, but David Hewson did it, and did it expertly and splendidly too!  The book is very well-written and an excellent read.  I enjoyed it so much I cannot wait for the next book.  Grab your copy now!

"The book is an excellent read in which the author manages to dig deeper into the characters without having to rewrite their original television characterisation.  For those who haven't seen the series, this is a very cleverly constructed and beautifully written crime drama;  for those who already know the ending, a new twist awaits." - Irish Times

Paperback:  Sarah Lund is looking forward to her last day as a detective with the Copenhagen Police department before moving to Sweden.

But everything changes when nineteen-year-old student Nanna Birk Larsen is found raped and brutally murdered in the woods outside the city.

Lund's plans to relocate are put on hold as she leads the investigation along with fellow detective Jan Meyer.

While Nanna's family struggle to cope with their loss, local politician Troels Hartmann is in the middle of an election campaign to become the new mayor of Copenhagen.

When links between City Hall and the murder suddenly come to light, the case takes an entirely different turn.

Over the course of twenty days, suspect upon suspect emerges as violence and political intrigue cast their shadows over the hunt for the killer.

About the author:  David Hewson is well-known for his crime-thriller fiction set in European cities.  He is the author of nine novels in the highly acclaimed Detective Nic Costa series, which are set mostly in Rome.  His most recent novels include The Fallen Angel (2011) and Carnival for the Dead (2012) - set in Venice.  He has spent time in Copenhagen researching and writing the novel of The Killing (2012).  The Killing II will be published in 2013.

The Killing, created by Soren Sveistrup and produced by DR - Danish Broadcasting Corporation - has won prestigious awards throughout Europe including a BAFTA, Best European Production at Monte Carlo TV Festival and numerous International Emmy nominations.  It was highly acclaimed in the UK and became a cult phenomenon when it was shown on BBC4 in 2011.

The English trailer of The Killing:

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Watching The Dark (The New Chief Inspector Banks Novel) by Peter Robinson

It is always a pleasure to read Robinson's Chief Inspector Banks novel series.  Highly recommended.

Hardback:  Banks is back - and this time he's investigating the murder of one of his own.

Detective Inspector Bill Quinn is killed by a crossbow in the tranquil grounds of a police rehabilitation centre, and compromising photos are found in his room.

DCI Banks, brought in to investigate, is assailed on all sides.

By Joanna Passero, the Professional Standards inspector who insists on shadowing the investigation in case of police corruption.

By his own conviction that a policeman shouldn't be deemed guilty without evidence.

By Annie Cabbot, back at work after six months' recuperation, and beset by her own doubts and demons.

And by an English girl who disappeared in Estonia six years ago, who seems to hold the secret at the heart of this case.  He occasionally teaches crime writing at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies.

About the author:  Dr Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between Richmond and Canada.

Watching the Dark (August 2012) is the twentieth book in his bestselling Inspector Banks series.  He has also written two collections of short stories - Not Safe After Dark:  And Other Stories (1998) and The Price of Love:  And Other Stories (2009), and three standalone novels, the most recent of which is number one bestseller Before the Poison (2011).

The critically acclaimed crime novels have won numerous awards in Britain, the United States, Canada and Europe, and are published in translation all over the world.

Do visit his website for the latest update and his bibliography.

Peter Robinson talks about his latest Inspector Banks novel:

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going

"...I have lived through many economic and political crises in the region and the world.  These have crystallised some fundamental truths for me that we forget or ignore at our peril." - Lee Kuan Yew, 2010.

Lee Kuan Yew's name is nearly synonymous with modern Singapore.  Prime Minister for 31 years from 1959 to 1990, he remains in the Cabinet as Minister Mentor, a post created for him.

He has been in the public eye for 60 years, as a revolutionary leader who steered Singapore to independence, as a determined Prime Minister who transformed the country, and finally as an elder statesman.

Younger Singaporeans have all heard of him.  But to them he is something of a mythical figure - a Founding Father, detached and distant and revered and feared all at once.

Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going (2011) picks up from his memoirs of 2000 as Lee engages a group of journalists over issues that a younger, more critical population has raised in the intervening years.

Each chapter is presented in a question-and-answer format preceded by an introduction.  From Singapore's geopolitical realities and the nature of leadership and the ruling party, to the contentious issues of race and religion, Lee fields them all in his inimitable style, blunt, often politically incorrect.

Readers will hear from Lee, the unapologetic believer in strong government, in genes as destiny, and in the view that economics trumps freedom.

They will also meet Lee the private man, the devoted caregiver to an ailing wife and proud father and grandfather.

Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going is a close-up look at Lee as he argues his views, drawing from a lifetime's worth of experience and insight.

Some of the questions posed to Lee are:  Why is he so hard on his political opponents?  Will Singapore become a democracy?  Could the People's Action Party ever lose its grip on power?  Are younger leaders up to the mark?  Will growing religiosity change Singapore for the better or worse?  How will rising giants China and India affect its fortunes?

The writers:

Han Fook Kwang is Editor of The Straits Times.  He joined the paper in 1989 after a stint in the Singapore Government Administrative Service.  He is co-author of the book Lee Kuan Yew:  The Man And His Ideas (1998).

Zuraidah Ibrahim is Deputy Editor of The Straits Times.  She oversees the coverage of Singapore news, supervising the News, Political and Money Desks.  She is previously the Foreign Editor.

Chua Mui Hoong is Deputy Review Editor of The Straits Times.  She is the author of Pioneers Once More:  The Singapore Public Service 1959-2000 (2010) and A Defining Moment:  How Singapore Beat Sars (2004).

Lydia Lim is Deputy Political Editor of The Straits Times, where she has worked since 1999.  Previously, she was a current affairs producer and broadcast journalist.

Ignatius Low is Sunday Times Editor and supervising editor of the Money Desk of The Straits Times. He served in the Singapore Government Administrative Service from 1996 to 1999.

Rachel Lin is a Singapore Press Holdings scholar.  She has been with The Straits Times for three years and is with the Political Desk.

Robin Chan is a Singapore Press Holdings scholar.  He has been with The Straits Times for two years and is with the Money Desk.  Robin Chan grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Stephanie Yeow is Deputy Picture Editor of The Straits Times.  She led the visual team for this book.

I purchased this book (priced at RM85) from mph bookstore during my travels in Malaysia.  It is currently unavailable on or any of the major bookstores in the UK.