Monday, 28 January 2013

Midnight in Peking by Paul French

This very well-researched and -written book is not just about a horrifying true story of a murder that haunted the last days of old China, but it is also the book that finally solved a 1937 murder of a British teenager - Pamela Werner - as well as an evocative account of the dying days of colonial Peking (Beijing).  It is a highly recommended read.  I do not rate non-fiction books.

The author says it best:

About the author:  Born in London, Paul French has lived in China for over ten years.  He is a widely published analyst and commentator on China, specifically on modern Chinese history and contemporary Chinese society.  His books include a history of North Korea, a biography of Shanghai adman and adventurer Carl Crow, and a history of foreign correspondents in China.  Midnight in Peking is French's latest book published in 2011.  He is the author of the blog China Rhyming.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Open Season (The Joe Pickett Novels) by C J Box

Open Season (2001) is the award-winning debut which combines a truly intriguing crime novel with a modern-day western set in Saddlestring, Wyoming.  It won the Anthony Award, the Gumshoe Award, the Barry Award and the Macavity Award in the Best First Novel category and is highly recommended to all and sundry.

Paperback:  There's nothing unusual about the sound of a gunshot in Twelve Sleep County.

But when game warden Joe Pickett hears two sharp cracks ring out months before the hunting season opens, it's his job to investigate.

Badly paid and poorly housed, Joe is also deeply unpopular.

So when the poacher who fired the shots gets off scot-free, the locals are delighted.

And then the poacher turns up dead in Joe's backyard.

Charged with investigating the first murder he's ever encountered, Joe is soon out of his depth.

How did the the dead man get to his horse?

What was in the empty cool box by his side?

And why do his colleagues want to sweep the case under the rug?

About the author:  Charles James Box is the New York Times bestselling American author of the Joe Pickett series, three stand-alone novels and a number of short stories.  The author lives in Wyoming. Check out his official website for more information and updates.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Shattered by Kathryn Casey

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that homicide was the leading cause of death in pregnant women and new mothers, followed by cancer.  This story confirms the study.

Shattered (2010) is a true, detailed and meticulously researched account of a horrific murder which occurred fourteen years ago in Katy, a prairie town half an hour west of Houston, Texas.  Some of the following are taken from the paperback blurb.

Family, faith and football was king in this small, quiet suburb of Houston.

David Temple, a former high school and college gridiron star-turned-coach, had a fairy-tale marriage to bright, vivacious Belinda Lucas, a teacher at the local high school who was so warm and popular her colleagues called her "The Sunshine Girl."

The fairy tale ended savagely on 11 January 1999 when Belinda's lifeless body was discovered in the master bedroom's walk-in closet.  Her skull had been shattered by a 20-gauge shotgun blast at close range.  She was eight months pregnant.

There was no damning evidence - no murder weapon, no ballistics evidence, no DNA evidence, no incriminating fingerprints and no witnesses - directly linking the brutal murder to husband David, who stood by emotionless and dry-eyed as police searched the crime scene.

But a dogged eight-year investigation - pushed by the victim's parents who were not satisfied with the slow progress of the Temple murder case - would expose a shocking history of cruelty and domination, infidelity and rage, as the scandalous truth was revealed about love betrayed and innocent lives shattered.

In 2007, after an epic courtroom battle and a 90-minute jury deliberation, David Temple was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment - to be eligible for parole in 2037, when Temple will be sixty-nine years old - and also fined $10, 000 for the murder of his wife and unborn baby.

In September 2012, his attorneys filed a motion that pointed to a new witness, who heard another suspect admitting to burglarizing the Temples' home and firing a shotgun.

However, this is the end of the road for David Temple for the judge dismissed the motion and there will be no new trial for him.

About the author:  Kathryn Casey is a Houston-based journalist who has written for Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Reader's Digest, Texas Monthly and many other publications.  She is the author of six other true crime books and three fiction books.  Shattered was awarded True Crime Book Reviews' Readers Choice Awards in 2010 and remains one of the Top 100 bestseller list on  Visit the author's website for more information and updates.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A Season For The Dead (The Detective Nic Costa series) by David Hewson

Looking for a suspense-filled Italian crime fiction book or series?  This is the first in a nine-book series.

Paperback:  While Sara Farnese pores over ancient texts in the silent Vatican reading room, a brutal murder is taking place in a nearby church.

Then suddenly a crazed man arrives in the Vatican carrying a bloodied bag.

He walks up to Sara's desk.

He has something he would like her to see.

Soon Sara is inextricably linked to a series of horrific and cunning murders, each one in some way symbolizing the death of a Christian martyr.

Into this climate enter Detectives Costa and Rossi, enlisted to track down the killer, and to protect Sara from the horrors she is doomed to confront.

About the author:  David Hewson was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Times before giving up journalism entirely in 2005 to concentrate on writing fiction.  A Season for the Dead (2003) is the first novel in an Italian crime series set in Rome featuring Detective Nic Costa.

Hewson is also the author who recreates the Bafta-winning Danish TV series The Killing into literary form - The Killing (2012) and The Killing II (2013).  Both books are available in shops now.  The author lives in Kent, England.

More information and updates can be found on the author's website.

Rating:  4/5

Monday, 21 January 2013

Exile by Richard North Patterson

Exile (2007) by Richard North Patterson is an engrossing book which culminates in a tense and startling trial with international ramifications.  It is simply brilliant and a highly recommended read.

Paperback:  From one of America's most compelling novelists comes the mesmerizing story of a trial lawyer who must defend the woman he loves against a charge of conspiring to assassinate the Prime Minister of Israel.

David Wolfe's life is approaching an exhilarating peak:  he is a successful San Francisco lawyer, he is soon to be married and he is being groomed as a future Congressman.

But when the phone rings and he hears the voice of Hana Arif - a Palestinian woman with whom he had a secret affair at law school - he begins a completely unexpected journey.

The next day, while visiting San Francisco, the Prime Minister of Israel is assassinated by a suicide bomber;  soon Hana herself is accused of being the mastermind behind the murder.

Now David faces an agonizing choice:  will he, a Jew, represent Hana - who may well be guilty - or will he turn away the one woman he can never forget?

David's quest takes him to Israel and the West Bank, where, in a series of harrowing encounters, he learns that appearances are not at all what they seem.

About the author:  Richard North Patterson is the author of nineteen bestselling and critically acclaimed novels.  Formerly a trial lawyer, Patterson was the SEC's liaison to the Watergate special prosecutor and has served on the boards of several Washington advocacy groups dealing with gun violence, political reform and women's rights.  Fall from Grace (2012) is Patterson's latest book.  He lives in San Francisco and on Martha's Vineyard.  Check out his website for more information and updates.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham

Only three sentences into the book and I can tell it holds the promise of yet another exceptional albeit chilling story by Robotham.  Say You're Sorry (2012) is Robotham's eighth novel and the fifth book in the clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin series.  Highly recommended.

Hardcover:  Two missing girls.  Two brutal murders.  One person who knows the truth.

When best friends Piper and Tash disappear one Sunday morning, the investigation captivates a nation but the teenage girls are never found.

Three years later, during the worst blizzard in a century, a husband and wife are brutally killed in the farmhouse where Tash once lived.  

A suspect is in custody, a troubled young man who can hear voices and claims that he saw a girl that night being chased by a snowman.

Convinced that Piper or Tash might still be alive, clinical psychologist Joe O'Loughlin persuades police to reopen the investigation, but the closer he gets to the truth the more dangerous it becomes.

One girl is counting on them and she's running for her life.

About the author:  Michael Robotham started his career as a journalist but then became a ghostwriter, writing many bestselling autobiographies in collaboration with politicians, pop stars, psychologists, adventurers and showbusiness personalities.  His thrillers have been translated into twenty-two languages and he has twice won Australia's Ned Kelly Award for best crime novels.  He was shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger in 2007 and 2008 and was also shortlisted for the inaugural ITV3 Thriller Awards.  Do visit his website for more information and updates.  

Booktopia (Australia's leading online bookstore) talks to Michael Robotham about Say You're Sorry:

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Forgotten (Special Agent John Puller, Book 2) by David Baldacci

Baldacci's stories never fail to thrill me.  This page-turning book is highly enjoyable, in fact, all of Baldacci's books I have read so far are equally, if not more, good.  Zero Day (2011) is the first in the Special Agent John Puller series if you would like to start from the beginning.  I highly recommend this series and look forward to the third book.

Hardback:  Military criminal investigator John Puller is drawn closer to home when his aunt is found dead in her house in Paradise, Florida.

The local police have ruled the death as an accident, but Puller finds evidence to suggest that she may well have been murdered.

On the surface the town lives up to its name, but as Puller digs deeper he realizes that this town and its inhabitants are more akin to Hell than Paradise.

His belief is confirmed as evidence of strange and inexplicable events come to light.

And when Puller learns the truth about what is happening in this once sleepy town, he knows that his discoveries will impact far wider than Paradise.

About the author:  David Baldacci is a worldwide bestselling novelist.  With his books published in over 45 different languages and in more than 80 countries, and with over 110 million copies in print, he is one of the world's favourite storytellers.  His family foundation, the Wish You Well Foundation, a non-profit organization, works to eliminate illiteracy across America.  He is still a resident of his native Virginia.  Do visit his website and his foundation for more information and updates.

His other books are:

The Camel Club series

The Camel Club (2005)
The Collectors (2006)
Stone Cold (2007)
Divine Justice (2008)
Hell's Corner (2010)

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell series

Split Second (2003)
Hour Game (2003)
Simple Genius (2007)
First Family (2009)
The Sixth Man (2011)

Shaw series

The Whole Truth (2008)
Deliver Us From Evil (2010)

John Puller series

Zero Day (2011)
The Forgotten (2012)

Will Robie series

The Innocent (2012)

Other novels

True Blue (2009)
Absolute Power (1996)
Total Control (1997)
The Winner (1997)
The Simple Truth (1998)
Saving Faith (1999)
Wish You Well (2000)
Last Man Standing (2001)
The Christmas Train (2002)
One Summer (2011)

Rating:  5/5

The Essentials

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

A book trailer is just as good.  Feel the suspense and the terror.  There is a terrific story waiting to be read here.

Hardback:  A man is moving down a street on Manhattan's Lower East Side, scanning the storefronts, taking in his surroundings, when he sees something in a third-floor tenement window.

A woman's face, distorted with terror.

Thomas is convinced he's witnessing a murder.

Except that things aren't quite as simple as that.

To some people, Thomas Kilbride wouldn't exactly be the most reliable of witnesses, and it's going to be very difficult to persuade the police to investigate.

Because Thomas was never actually there.

And the murder was months ago.

But Thomas trusts his eyes.

And that could be his biggest mistake.

About the author:  Linwood Barclay is married with two children and lives near Toronto.  He is a former columnist for the Toronto Star and the author of several international bestsellers, including the Richard and Judy Summer Read winner and number one bestseller, No Time for Goodbye (2007).  His next novel, Never Saw It Coming, is available on 31 January 2013.  Visit his official website for more of his works and the latest information/updates.

The author reads an excerpt (Chapter 5) from Trust Your Eyes (2012):

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Night Rounds (An Inspector Irene Huss Investigation) by Helene Tursten

Hardback:  Irene Huss is a former Ju-Jitsu champion, a mother of twin teenage girls, the wife of a successful chef, and a Detective Inspector in the Violent Crimes Unit in Göteburg, Sweden.

One nurse lies dead and another vanishes after their hospital is hit by a blackout.

The only witness claims to have seen Nurse Tekla doing her rounds, but Nurse Tekla died sixty years ago.

Irene Huss of the Violent Crimes Unit has the challenge of disentangling wandering ghosts and complex human relationships to get to the bottom of this intriguing case.

About the author:  Helene Tursten was a nurse and a dentist before she turned to writing.  Other books in the Inspector Irene Huss series include Detective Inspector Huss (2003), The Torso (2006), and The Glass Devil (2007).  Night Rounds (2012) is the fourth book in the series.  The fifth book, The Golden Calf, will be released in English in February 2013.  Six other novels in this series are yet to be translated.  Tursten was born in Göteburg, Sweden, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.

(Night Rounds is translated from the Swedish into the English by Laura A Wideburg.)

Several films have been made based on Tursten's works produced by Illusion Films and Yellow Bird Films.  The production of more films have been underway since 2011.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 11 January 2013

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Hardback:  Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of the USA only four active federal judges have been murdered.

Judge Raymond Fawcett just became number five.

His body was found in the small basement of a lakeside cabin he had built himself and frequently used on weekends.

When he did not show up for a trial on Monday morning, his law clerks panicked, called the FBI, and in due course the agents found the crime scene.

There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies - Judge Fawcett and his young secretary.

I did not know Judge Fawcett, but I know who killed him, and why.

I am a lawyer, and I am in prison.

It's a long story.

About the author:  John Grisham is the author of twenty-five novels, one work of non-fiction, one collection of short stories, and three novels for young readers.  His works are translated into thirty-nine languages, and in 2011 he was awarded the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.  He lives in Virginia and Mississippi.

John Grisham talks about his latest unputdownable legal thriller, The Racketeer (November 2012), on the Today show:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 4 January 2013

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know: The Autobiography by Sir Ranulph Fiennes

(from the book)  "There is a Danish word, polarhullar, an ache for the polar regions, that grips the soul of a traveller so that nowhere else will ever again satisfy his or her appetite for the essence of 'over there and beyond'.  A victim of polarhullar will forever be drawn back to the very extremities of earth."

And there is no doubt, after reading his book, that Sir Ranulph Fiennes is a legitimate victim of polarhullar.  What an intellectually inspiring book and what an intellectually inspiring man.  I highly recommend this book.

Paperback:  Ranulph Fiennes has travelled to the most dangerous and inaccessible places on earth, almost died countless times, lost nearly half his fingers to frostbite, raised millions of pounds for charity and been awarded a polar medal and an OBE.  

He has been an elite soldier, an athlete, a mountaineer, an explorer, a bestselling author and nearly replaced Sean Connery as James Bond!

In his autobiography, he describes how he led expeditions all over the world and became the first person to travel to both poles on land.  

He tells of how he discovered the lost city of Ubar in Oman and attempted to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole - the expedition that cost him several fingers, and very nearly his life.  

The triumphs and the tragedies of a life lived at the limits of human endeavour are recounted with compelling honesty and passion by Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes OBE, 3rd Baronet, in his bestselling Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know (2008).

About the author:  Sir Ranulph Fiennes (born 7 March 1944) was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported.  

He is also a prolific writer.

In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971.  

He is the only person to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions.  

Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.  

In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for 'human endeavour and charitable services' because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £10 million for charity.

He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 Great Briton awards.

In December 2012, he was named 'The Men of the Year 2012' by Top Gear magazine.

More updates on Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his works can be found on his his official website.

Latest news:  Sir Ranulph Fiennes is leading a team of five other explorers in a six-month challenge across Antarctica in a quest to achieve a feat no man has ever managed - to walk in the near permanent darkness in temperatures of up to -80 degrees Celsius.  This expedition aims to raise millions of pounds in donations for the Seeing is Believing charity to tackle avoidable blindness.