Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears Review: Fans Will Love It, But If You’re New Then Don’t Let This Be Your Introduction

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Regular blog readers will know that I’m a big fan of Kerry Greenwood’s amazing Miss Fisher novels, centred around the exploits of the eccentric, affluent lady detective.

The TV series has garnered significant acclaim, and with good reason. It’s a masterpiece of writing, directing, acting and production. Although it bears little similarity to the book series on which it is based, it is still every bit as enjoyable. It also showcases an unusual female protagonist, who is a woman of independent means and an older age than is normally showcased in the media, but who proves herself to be every bit as energetic and fantastic as her younger counterparts.

The film is an extension of this, which was partially crowd funded by eager fans and came out earlier this year. Alone, the film is a triumph, and showcases the beauty and majesty of the roaring 1920s. The costumes, settings, acting and dialogue are all particularly praiseworthy, with Essie Davies doing a great job as the sartorially perfect titular character.

In comparison to the series, however, it falls significantly flat. There’s no time in the movies runtime, which at an hour and forty odd minutes, is short by comparison to most films nowadays, doesn’t allow for enough time to develop new characters or introduce viewers to the new circumstances of the existing cast members.

There’s also a notable absence of many of the favourite characters from the series, some of whom are only involved briefly at the beginning, which means that we’re hastily introduced to a new cast of characters. As the series relies on a formula, which works impeccably well, the absence of these characters makes it feel a little rushed.

The plot feels especially hastily put together, in comparison to all the splendour of the costumes and the wry wit of dialogue. It begins with the exhilarating rescue of a young woman from a prison in Palestine, which, seemingly kills the lady detective.

As expected, she isn’t dead, and reappears with a flourish in the early scenes of the movie. She and her inspector friend Jack Robinson, who had come to England to attend her memorial alongside the now free prisoner and the Uncle who involved Phryne Fisher in the first place, are quickly thrust into an adventure involving ancient curses, huge gemstones and wars in the Middle East.

The thrills come thick and fast, with Miss Fisher darting about, jumping from trains and throwing herself from rooftops at an alarming rate from the very beginning. Those gripping scenes are enjoyable and bold, but what happens in between isn’t as thrilling as you’d want it to be.

With many nods to the series, this film is great for fans, but newcomers who’ve never heard of Miss Fisher will struggle to understand the hype, as the limited time frame allows for limited development of either existing or new characters. The jokes and character banter have been long established in the series, so you’ll really love some of them if you’re a big fan like me (I laughed out loud at many). This doesn’t make for a great film, however, meaning that many viewers will struggle to get what’s going on. In terms of cinematic prowess, the movie puts costumes and settings ahead of bold camera shots and crisp editing, meaning at times it can look a little amateurish. If you’re a fan, or a big lover of period costumes, then you won’t notice, but if you’re searching for searing cinematic shooting then this isn’t your film.

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As a standalone crime movie, Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears is interesting, but not particularly well rounded. The plot basically revolves around stopping a curse and finding out who stole cherished jewels from a temple many years ago; unlike most of the series and books, there’s really not masses more to it than that. Usually there are twists and turns all the time, but in the film it’s just a straight line towards the finish point, peppered with a few red herrings and unconvincing threats that don’t really lead anywhere.

Bolstered ancient tombs and the British army’s war in Palestine, as well as a railway deal gone south, the plot meanders around the world with a final twist involving a character we’ve barely seen, and whose involvement is, frankly, preposterous. The result is incredulity from watchers and, honestly, a lack of interest in the overall outcome.

Once the perpetrators have been revelled and the full extend of the banality is out in the open, I was bored and sad that the movie hadn’t turned out to be the masterpiece that I’ve been waiting for. I still love it, particularly as it continues to showcase masterful acting from Davis and Nathan Page, who plays Jack Robinson, but it didn’t turn out as great on its own as I would’ve liked.

So, in ending my second ever film review, I just have to say that I again have a similar opinion of this as I did Kenneth Branagh’s version of Murder On The Orient Express: while this looks like Miss Fisher, it most certainly isn’t the same. Turning a series as great as this into a film changes it fundamentally, and in many cases not for the better.

While this film is an intriguing concept and interesting story, which has been exquisitely executed, I’d like to see the series return again, rather than a feature length sequel. Miss Fisher And The Crypt Of Tears isn’t a fitting end to the Miss Fisher franchise, so I sincerely hope there’s more. Thankfully, the cliff-hanger at the end of the film suggests that there will be; with any luck we’ll get a forth series, not another film.

5 Crime Fiction Series I Think Are Overrated And What You Should Read Instead

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As a crime fiction blogger, I read a lot of books. When I say a lot, I mean A LOT. I’m always reading something and getting into a new series from an author I’ve never heard of or haven’t read before.

Many of these books I love, but some I just like, and many I feel are completely overrated. Here’s a list of five sets of crime fiction books that aren’t worth your time. Check out my reviews to see some crime fiction novels that are good, so you can find something fun to read!

5. The Logan McRae Series: Don’t get me wrong; I love Stuart MacBride. Some of his books are amazing, but the Logan McRae series has gone on far too long. It’s simply no longer any fun. The initial novels were intriguing and gripping, but the later ones are simply formulaic and boring. The character is now just a caricature that runs around after increasingly deranged killers without a single psychological scratch. He’s fine despite everything he’s seen and been through, which is, frankly, insane.

4. The Cormoran Strike Books: J.K. Rowling did a very good job with the Harry Potter books, but her detective novels, written under an assumed name, are frankly dire. Rowling tells you one thing, and then shows you another, making the narrative hard to follow and the characters flimsy. The plots show some promise, but many of the books are too long and filled with absurdities to actually be enjoyable. Most people are only reading them because of their love for Harry Potter; if you’re not a fan, there’s no point.

3. The Extended Millennium Series: Stieg Larsson’s original trilogy was a masterpiece, but the later books aren’t worth bothering with. They’re too convoluted and they don’t have the cultural impact that the first three novels did. So, don’t get me wrong, the first three books are great, but in my humble opinion the later books aren’t interesting. New writers are just trying to capitalise on the hype that Larsson’s trilogy earned.

2. The Cadfael Chronicles: The TV series of these books was boring, and the books are downright dull. You could use them as a sleep aid if you’re struggling with insomnia. The books centre on a Benedictine monk who solves crimes in a very sedate way. He very rarely does anything at any form of pace, meaning that the novels drag on much longer than they should.

1. The Agatha Raisin Novels: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Agatha Raisin is wonderful on TV but vile in the books. She’s a sassy, sophisticated woman on the screen, but in the books she’s an oversexed, unprofessional fool who blunders her way through investigations and ends up stumbling over the truth entirely by accident. The book series isn’t worth reading; just watch the show.

This list is just my humble opinion on some of the crime fiction series that I think are overrated. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line on social media.

Never Mind Death In Paradise, What Keeps Drawing Us Back To Morse?

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Recently I’ve noticed a lot of online commentators talking about why Death In Paradise, the locked-room mystery show set on a fictional Caribbean island, is still going.

The show hasn’t been very good in years, and it’s plots are getting increasingly boring and formulaic. After all, there’s only so many times you can create a closed murder scene with a set number of suspects before the stories simply become absurd.

Like Midsomer Murders, the show is unlikely to die any time soon. It’s a twee, repetitive show that features comically bumbling detectives and a reassuring formula. It appeals to those who don’t like change and want to watch something they know they’ll enjoy and won’t have to think too hard about.

By contrast, another longstanding show, part of an even longer standing series, is also back: Endeavour, the Inspector Morse prequel. Unlike Death In Paradise, Endeavour is actually a great show. It’s intelligent, well-written, beautifully scripted and masterfully acted by some of the UK’s best small screen actors.

The question is, why does Colin Dexter’s protagonist keep coming back? After all, we already had a sequel, the less well received Lewis, which focused on the work of Morse’s former Sergeant, turned Inspector and was set in the present day.

By contrast, Endeavour is set in the 1960s and start of 1970 and tells the story of how the taciturn, ingenious Inspector got to where he was when we first saw him on our screens in his original series.

The series isn’t based on the books, and whilst author Colin Dexter supervised the filming of the early shows, his ill health and eventual death means that the show is now entirely removed from the series of books on which it is based.

So, what is the enduring appeal behind Morse and why do so many people keep tuning in to find out more about him?

Part of it, I believe, is that the character is so entirely relatable. The inspiration for many other, similar characters, his Swedish counterpart, Inspector Wallander, Morse is a grumpy, belligerent investigator who acts as a blueprint for almost every other grumpy, belligerent investigator.

So much so, in fact, that many share the same traits as Morse. Dexter’s popular protagonist is the reason why so many detectives love opera, crossword puzzles and drinking heavily. His red Jaguar became his symbol, much like the cars of later detectives such as Wallander’s Peugeots, Starsky and Hutch’s Ford Gran Torino and Gene Hunt’s Audi Quattro. 

It’s little wonder, then, that crime fiction fans are keen to find out more about the adventures of the original detective that sparked or, in some cases, cemented so many of these renowned genre tropes.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, Morse has a strange relationship with TV. Dexter reimagined some of the episodes of the show into his books, and some of the episodes were written completely for the series and never turned into books.

The show also differs drastically from the books. In the books, Morse is significantly younger than his Welsh Sergeant, a former boxer who tolerates his young boss at first but grows to enjoy spending time with him. On TV, Sergeant Lewis is a young Geordie who works with a curmudgeonly older Inspector.

Despite this, viewers took to the show, which displayed enough of the formula to be attractive to them but bent it enough to be unique and inventive.

It’s this combination of tradition and originality which, I think, is the reason behind the enduring success of the Inspector Morse TV franchise. Lewis had a long run, managing 9 series before it was eventually shelved, and Endeavour is now on its 7th series, and whilst it is indicated that it will soon have to end, as we’re almost reaching the point in time when the original Inspector Morse series began, it’s unclear how many more series there will be.

In all then, it’s the unique way that Dexter and the TV writers managed to combine traditional crime fiction tropes with original thinking that has made Morse such a longstanding TV favourite. With few avenues left to go on now that a prequel and a sequel have been done, I can only hope that rather than a remake, in the future TV bosses commission new shows that have the same winning combination.

Keeley Webb Interview: “A lot of my ideas have come from dreams”

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Today I speak to suspense writer Keeley Webb about her work and how she came to create such gripping narratives.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime and suspense writing?

I’ve always had a fascination with criminal psychology. I watch a lot of crime documentaries and tend to be drawn to thriller novels. I wanted to write about things I’d be interested in reading myself.

What is your background and how did you become a published author? 

My background is varied. I’ve had some interesting jobs and worked with some real characters! From selling adjustable beds and chairs at 17-years-old, to assessing eligibility for WWII medals to the next of kin of deceased soldiers; whilst working for the MOD. I also used to sell boiler and cooker spares at a plumber’s merchants.

I gave up work at 26 years old to have a family. I’m now lucky enough to be Mum to two lovely children, and a crazy Staffordshire bull terrier.

In 2017, after seven months in hospital following a stroke my maternal grandmother passed away. During this time, I’d used writing as an outlet for my grief. At the same time, a close friend published her first book and encouraged me to have a go.

My first book, Death Made Me, although hard to put in just one genre, was published in June 2017 under paranormal suspense.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

A lot of my ideas have come from dreams, and of course real life inspires characters, an overheard conversation or something on the television can spark a train of thought.

I write when the mood takes me, I could never work to a schedule and force myself to write. I usually have a vague idea and then the story flows as I start to type. If I’m struggling with it, I close the laptop and walk away. Or, I start on another book!

 

It was during a break from writing the sequel to Death Made Me that Whispers in the Wine Cellar was born.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Oh, so many amazing authors to choose from, but I think for me it would be Karin Slaughter. Her books are amazing, and I’m a real fan. I’m nowhere near her league though so, I can’t see it ever happening.

What do you like to read yourself and how does this shape your own writing?

I’m always drawn to crime stories first, but if a blurb catches my attention, I’ll read it. I think the more I read the more it makes me want to write, regardless of content. Every time I read a book the magic of someone else’s imagination, and ability to take me into another world with their words is inspiring.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m still working on the sequel to Death Made Me. I have a lot of readers waiting on that. I can only apologise for my brain; it’s easily distracted and there’s at least another 3-5 novels cooking away in there. I’m hoping to finish the sequel this year and at least one other book.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I’m not waiting on anything. I have a very packed kindle library of amazing books just waiting to be read.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just to say that authors love reviews. If you love a book please leave a review, tweet about it, let people know. It’s the best way to thank the author. With so many good books out there it’s hard to be seen at times. And I’d like to thank you for your time and effort. Great questions, thanks so much.

Thanks to Keeley for answering my questions, it’s been great!

New Insight Proves Book Research Every Bit As Relevant As Any Other Form Of Research

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New knowledge that many serial killers are the Taurus star sign has recently been uncovered by British crime fiction writer David Jester.

This insight proves that the research authors do for books is every bit as valuable as any other kind of research, including the academic kind.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the research authors undertake for books is being disregarded, often as unimportant or not worth it.

For example, in recent years there has been a surge in the reduction and demand for return of authors’ advances, which were designed to help them to afford to dedicate their time to the planning and researching of their book, and then to be recouped from the profit it eventually made.

This, combined with the fact that almost every bloody article I read about researching fiction books these days seems to basically just tell people to Google it, then clear their browser history, shows that not enough is understood or known about the importance of researching a book thoroughly.

I was once told by an incredible poet that ‘you can’t write about what you don’t know’, and that’s always stuck with me. If I didn’t know about something, I couldn’t write about it properly, even with a cursory search online.

As a corporate copywriter, I’ve therefore dedicated myself to learning everything there is to know about the markets, industries and companies I write about. Before I even start typing, I’ve put in many hours of research, even if it wasn’t necessarily done with this particular piece in mind.

The same goes for authors, particularly those in niches like crime fiction, who have to understand topics across a variety of sectors such as forensics, the police force, modern technology and more. They need to do thorough research and really understand their subject matter before they write about it if the resulting book is to be worth reading.

Then, there’s the fact that some of this research could have an impact on the world and its understanding in general, as evidenced by this new insight into the star signs of serial killers.

This research could have a bearing on the way we view and even investigate crimes, and it’s all thanks to a writer.

In all, it’s these two main factors, the brilliance of well researched literature and the potential benefit that any research can have on the world as a whole, that are the key reasons why publishers, readers and the literary community as a whole should respect the time and energy writers put in to researching their books.

 

 

 

A Death In Mayfair Review: Another Incredible Addition To A Phenomenal Historical Crime Series

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As long-time readers of my blog will be aware, I’m a big fan of Mark Ellis’ Frank Merlin series, which began with Stalin’s Gold, continued with Prince’s Gate, and moved on to Merlin At War, which is where we pick up from in the latest part of the saga, A Death In Mayfair.

Set slightly later in the Second World War, Ellis’ latest novel touches on Pearl Harbour, the cinema scene at the time and London’s gangs, who emerged during the Blitz and become key players in the city’s criminal underworld.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of historical crime fiction. Or at least I wasn’t, until I read Mark Ellis’ books.

Ever since I’ve come to look out for crime fiction novels set during the Second World War, although I’ve never found any other writer who can hold a candle to him in terms of characterisation, recreating war torn London and generally just keeping me hooked until the very end.

As such, I was excited to read this latest novel and find out what’s in store for Merlin and London, which plays as a big a role as any character in Ellis’ work.

We return to the tales of Frank Merlin, Scotland Yard’s finest, right after he becomes a father for the first time with his new wife, whom we’ve already met as his girlfriend in previous books.

Sonia and the baby are out of London visiting her parents, so readers get the Detective Chief Inspector all to ourselves. He’s just nabbed a couple of heavies from an important gang in a raid, but his good luck is interrupted when the powers that be order him to investigate the death of film star Laura Curzon.

This beautiful starlet had just returned from Hollywood when she fell to her death from the balcony of her flat. Merlin is ordered by on high to investigate, whilst also dealing with the corpse of a mystery young girl found in a bombed building who was strangled before being preserved in the ruins of the property.

The two cases quickly become connected, and in the course of his investigations Merlin and his team encounter everything from corrupt Hollywood bigwigs through to child prostitution, black mass and beyond.

Somehow, despite all of those interlinking ideas and various plot strands, Ellis masterfully keeps A Death In Mayfair’s readers hooked throughout. The plot moves at a quick pace, but it’s surprisingly easy to keep up with everything that’s going on.

One of the main reasons for this is Ellis’ exceptional characterisation, which is once again the defining feature of his work. Each character has been meticulously defined, but without dumping info on the reader all at once. Somehow you just connect with the characters, and that’s a rare achievement for a writer.

The only issue I have is with the dialogue, which in places is patchy. Other than that, the novel is enlightening and fascinating, showing readers a unique glimpse into war torn London at a time when relations in Asia and closer to home, in Germany, were strained and when Britain was blighted by rationing and other social problems.

It’s also a thrilling police procedural, with Merlin and his ever-intrepid team working doggedly to uncover several mysteries, all of which quickly intertwine to become one big tangle of criminality, debt, drugs and general debauchery.

To summarise, if you’re looking for an enticing novel to get you through the bleakness of the end of an English winter, then look no further than A Death In Mayfair. Mark Ellis has once again created an intriguing mystery that will have you hooked.

 

 

Mary Higgins Clark Obituary

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This year is beginning to feel cursed: this is the third obituary I’ve written in 2020 and it’s only the start of February.

Unfortunately, yesterday, 31st January 2020, prolific mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark died at the age of 92. 

Whilst that is, undoubtably, a good age, and Higgins Clark clearly lived her life to the fullest, this is still a sad time for mystery lovers, who will miss her exceptional writing, thrilling plots and deeply human characters.

Throughout her long and illustrious career, Higgins Clark wrote an incredible number of books. The majority were standalone mystery novels, but she did create the Alvirah and Willy Meehan series about a husband and wife team who solve fiendish murders. 

Her other most revered series was the Laurie Moran books, which focused on the producer of a show about unsolved crimes. 

These books, as well as many of her standalone novels, made Higgins Clark such a success that she was branded the “Queen of Suspense” by many readers and critics, who both adored her works and found them thrilling and gripping.

Most of her novels revolved around women overcoming odds, uncovering truths and getting out of hideous situations, and these tales of resilience really resonated with her audience.

She drew a lot on her own life for inspiration for tough women, with the author’s childhood and early career were blighted by money worries, sickness among members of her close-knit family, and rejections of her early works.

In her early years, Higgins Clark was a secretary, and later a flight attendant to make ends meet. She had an exciting early life travelling the world, before she married and settled down to family life and decided to take up writing again.

Although her initial attempts to become a literary success were fruitless, Higgins Clark eventually found success as a mystery and suspense novel writer. Before this she wrote short stories and radio scripts, where she learned to write succinctly and to put an impressive amount of detail into just a few paragraphs.

Many of her books, including The Cradle Will Fall and A Cry in the Night were turned into successful TV shows or films, with some of her works even achieving critical acclaim on the stage, which is a rare success for a writer. 

Her works translate so well because they are universally understandable, deeply emotional and completely gripping. Readers are unable to put the books down and audiences are entranced by these phenomenal stories.

As such, whilst the world lost yet another genius in the early months of 2020, Mary Higgins Clark will reman remembered for many decades to come thanks to her vast library of work.