Truth and Lies Review: A Nail-Biter From Start To Finish

truth and lies caroline mitchell

Another awesome Blog Tour post for you today! This time I checked out Caroline Mitchell’s latest novel Truth and Lies, in which the hunt for a kidnap victim turns sinister when it links to a decades old case and a manipulate psychopath who is trying to use her knowledge of the burial places of her victims as leverage.

Drawing on the author’s background in the police, the novel focuses on DI Amy Winter, who is still reeling from the loss of her beloved father when she learns a shocking revelation: she is in fact the daughter of renowned serial killer Lillian Grimes. Grimes leverages her position as Amy’s mother and the wife of a serial killer to manipulate her and those around her, and as Amy battles this and fights to uncover the truth behind a high profile kidnapping startling truths are revealed.

Much like Emelie Schepp’s brilliant debut novel Marked for Life, Truth and Lies revolves around Amy’s struggle to keep her past from destroying her present, and in so doing entering into a web of deceit that threatens to upend everything she has worked so hard for. Her relationships with her adoptive family and her friends are tested, and Mitchell’s exceptional characterisation shines through here, as we see many well-honed, multi-dimensional characters and relationships being put to the test by both this latest kidnapping and Lillian Grimes’ shocking revelations.

There are twists throughout the novel, and whilst at first I was annoyed that certain revelations were made too early, I gradually came to realise that the novel is so deviously plotted that it would have been difficult to confine all the twists to the final pages.

Being so hard to put down, this book is one to consume quickly, and as such I would thoroughly recommend Truth and Lies to anyone embarking on a late holiday, or anyone who simply fancies a gripping page-turner. There’s also a great cliff-hanger ending, so I’m definitely looking forward to the next instalment and can’t wait to find out what will befall DI Winter in the future!

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Peter Corris: The Godfather Of Australian Crime Fiction Is A True Loss To The Genre

Peter Corris

It is with a heavy heart that I offer this tribute to the man often known as the ‘The Godfather of Australian Crime Fiction’, Peter Corris, who died on 30th August.

His career in crime fiction spanned nearly 40 years, with his first novel published in 1980. He retired from writing last year due to the onset of blindness, which was developing as a result of type-1 diabetes, a condition he had suffered from for many years.

Born and educated in the Australian state of Victoria, Corris went on to attend a number of Universities, including the University of Melbourne, as well as Monash University, before he gained his PHD in History at the Australian National University. Having enjoyed careers in journalism and academia, Corris set about writing crime fiction, and quickly gained acclaim for his Cliff Hardy novels, which centered on hardboiled detective and his work as he uncovered a range of gritty and often gruesome crimes. Comparable to many of the classic hardboiled detectives, Hardy is a great example of the genre, and his books are a treat for any crime fiction fan.

Alongside his Hardy novels, Corris also wrote novels featuring characters Ray Crawly, Richard Browning and Luke Dunlop. His vast body of work remains central to the Australian crime fiction space, and his work will live on as a memory of this skilled author who could expertly craft a thrilling novel that always hooked readers from the first page to the final full stop.

Corris’s death aged 76 came on the eve of him being named as the inaugural winner of the Sydney Crime Writers Festival Danger Lifetime Achievement Award, which was recognition for his vast back catalogue including more than 100 novels. This great writer will be sadly missed, and his contribution to the Australian crime fiction genre will never be forgotten.

Five Classic Children’s’ Authors Who Turned To Crime Fiction

children's books

Having recently reviewed (and loved) Bodies From The Library, a Golden Age anthology featuring a short story by Winnie The Pooh creator A.A. Milne, I realised that there are a surprising number of children’s writers who have moved into writing crime fiction. As such, I decided it was high time I picked out five favourites and shared them with you, in case you didn’t realise or were simply intrigued by the prospect.

The reason for this shift in an author’s genre is simple: both children’s literature and crime fiction share the same formulaic nature, which makes them both eminently suitable for an author keen to stick to a way of writing. It is with great pleasure that I share a selection of authors who have all chosen this path, and explore their enduring popularity.

5. Anthony Horowitz: Perhaps most well known for his young adult fiction, Horowitz has also written a number of Sherlock Holmes novels, including the innovative and intriguing The House of Silk. The author, whose Alex Rider series is a cult favourite among teenagers, has also created a James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis, and as such has proved his versatility and skill at creating engaging characters and unique plots.

4. J.K. Rowling: Writing under the now defunct synonym Robert Galbraith, Rowling created her Cormoran Strike a few years following the conclusion of her world-renowned and beloved Harry Potter series. Although not incredibly well received, the Strike novels have now been turned into a TV series and remain popular with fans, with a new book scheduled for release later this year.

3. Sophie Hannah: Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Alongside her gripping thrillers and reimaginings of Agatha Christies famed Belgium sleuth Hercule Poirot, Hannah has also written books for children, including a super cute collection of poems called The Box Room. Her latest novel is another Poirot story, The Mystery Of Three Quarters, which I reviewed HERE.

A-A-Milne

2. A.A. Milne: As previously mentioned, the author of the timeless Winnie The Pooh books also wrote crime fiction, which featured in a number of publications. Although his furry creations became a burden to him, as they caused a rift between him and his son, Christopher Robin, and also became what he was predominantly known for despite his being a prolific author, his crime fiction stories remain a real treat.

1. Michael Bond: As well as his renowned Paddington Bear series, this prolific writer also created the innovative detective Monsieur Pamplemousse, who, alongside his dog Pommes Frites, solve a range of baffling puzzles. An undercover food researcher for a culinary guide, Pamplemousse and his faithful pet are a unique detective team that make for great light reading.

 

Bodies From The Library Review: A Perfect Example Of An Anthology Done Right

bodies from the library

Fans of Golden Age fiction, or those studying this intriguing topic, need look no further for a compendium on the subject than Bodies From The Library, which offers not only a selection of heretofore unnoticed or, in some cases, unpublished, stories, but also an excellent introduction by Tony Medawar.

Anthologies are a great way to get into new authors, and with the recognisable names such as Agatha Christie and A. A. Milne tucked safely at the end, there’s much to discover for even avid crime fiction fans. Whilst it may be tempting to skip to the end and read in the wrong order just to see a familiar name, I’d advise against it- there are some real gems throughout this invigorating read, which takes its name and purpose from an annual crime fiction conference held at the British Library.

Among the real corkers is a brilliant short story by J. J. Connington, a name I’d previously never heard, but have since been enthralled by, so much so that I’ve used an Amazon voucher I was given recently for my birthday to investigate some more of his work. Big names jostle for attention against virtually unheard of names and pseudonyms, and with insight and knowledge the anthology provides a great way to get to dig out some new reads, as well as learn more about old favourites.

There’s something for everyone in this charming anthology, with really great script ‘Calling James Braithwaite’ by Nicholas Blake, and another by Ernest Bramah; a longer, cunningly plotted mystery called The Girdle of Dreams by Vincent Cornier; and a short and sweet tale of murder and misdirection, namely The Euthanasia of Hilary’s Aunt by Cyril Hare. As a post-script, each tale is accompanied by a short biography of its author, as well as the heritage of the story itself, making the book both engaging and educational.

And of course, there is the revered story from the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie. Originally published in 1922 in the Australian publication Home Magazine, the story is one not often found in collections, and as such is a real treat for Christie fans. Whilst it might be tempting to skip straight to it and avoid the rest of the book, as explained earlier, I would sincerely urge you not to. There is so much in this unique collection that deserves to be read, and I promise you will not regret reading it from cover to cover.

To summarise, whilst there are some less interesting stories, the majority are utterly riveting, and as already mentioned there is something for every reader regardless of their preference. If you’re a fan of Golden Age crime fiction, you’ll love Bodies From The Library.

South by Southwest Wales Review: A Nice Try Let Down By Inconsistencies

south by southwest wales

There’s something about thriller writing that leaves authors partial to creating absurd titles for their work. I’ve noticed it a lot over the years since I started studying crime fiction and thrillers at University. It’s a great idea, as a catchy, truly different title draws the reader in. Unfortunately, this does also give the reader high expectations, which aren’t always met.

A great example of this is David Owain Hughes’ novel South By Southwest Wales, which offers the promise of a humorous thriller and gives only confusion and disinterest. I should start by saying that Hughes is a really lovely guy, and a great writer of horror stories, but in this novel he loses the reader in a big way.

What quickly becomes apparent quickly to the reader, is how inconsistent the novel is. Whilst Hughes tries hard to get across his message that Cardiff is not Chicago, and it doesn’t need a Private Eye like Valentine, we are quickly confronted in the first few pages with a jazz joint and a scene in which a man sleeps with a hooker in an alleyway next to an tramp who is injecting heroin into his arm. All of this would suggest not only that the Cardiff Hughes is portraying is remarkably similar to Chicago, but that it could really use a decant PI to have a whip round and clear it up.

Much like J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike novels, in South By Southwest Wales readers swiftly notice the difference between what the author tells us and what they are actually portraying, and in this case the difference is stark. As a result, the novel offers an unnerving, unbelievable undertone that makes it hard to take seriously.

Now, I agree, with a title like South By Southwest Wales there is room for argument that Hughes never intended the novel to be taken seriously, but that is definitely up for debate. Neither fish nor fowl, neither entirely funny nor thrilling, the novel often comes up short.

Whilst the dialogue is sharp and the one-liners, many of which are not entirely original, are ever-present, there is definitely something lacking in protagonist Samson Valentine. He’s no Sam Spade, and he’s certainly no Philip Marlowe, and frankly he’s a bit of a let down. Underneath all that bravado and tough talk is a very boring character with delusions of grandeur. In hardboiled detective fiction, which I believe this is aiming to be, the central detective is everything, and as such the novel lacks an anchor and as such floats along blindly attempting to be both satirical and enticing, and failing at both.

Overall, being neither incredibly funny nor breath-takingly thrilling, South By South Westwales is a let down on all fronts, but with some witty one-liners and a not-bad plot there is something for you to get your teeth into if you are so inclined.

Five Great Books To Read In The Heat Wave

beach reading 2

Apparently the hot weather is set to last until October, so I’ve created a list of five great books for you to read as you laze about and recuperate. If you’re lucky enough to have the holidays off then here’s your chance to get some quality reading in, if not then you’ll have something to read on your days off, or when you’re having trouble getting to sleep in the heat. Either way, have a look at my selection of the top pick for you to enjoy this summer!

5. Money In The Morgue: Stella Duffy’s finished version of Ngaio Marsh’s final Inspector Allyen novel is a triumph, and is ideal for any Golden Age crime fiction fans. As I mentioned in my review HERE, Marsh’s unique style seeps through, and the novel’s unique plot makes for a gripping page-turner that will keep you entertained throughout the summer and beyond.

4. Fingers In The Sparkle Jar: For those who prefer non-fiction to novels, this honest memoir is the perfect beach read. Nature expert Chris Packham shares an intimate portrait of his childhood through the story of his relationship with a hawk he trained as a young boy. His vivid descriptions of his upbringing and surroundings during this time are the perfect anecdote to the sticky summer heat.

Now You See Her Hi-Res Cover Image3. Now You See Her: For fans of a really good juicy thriller, you can’t go wrong with Heidi Parks’ novel which charts the disintegration of a friendship when a young child disappears whilst in the care of her mum’s best friend. I’ve already reviewed the novel HERE, and I was incredibly impressed by how intense and gripping it is, making this ideal for keeping you occupied as you lounge around the pool or sip sangria on the beach.

2. Mythos: Stephen Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths is a great sunny weather read, transporting readers to Greek climes of times gone by. Fry puts his expertise to good use, and the result is a great way to learn more about this fascinating culture and history.

1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: Not the style of novel I’d usually pick, but this is a great book that is captivating from the get-go, and as relatable as it is laugh-out-loud funny. Charting a small section of the life of the titular character, Eleanor, the book explores her fixation with a singer and the understanding this gives her of her own life and situation. It’s a great read and one I would thoroughly recommend.

The Mystery of Three Quarters Review: Another Great Adventure for Sophie Hannah’s Poirot

the mystery of three quaters

Poirot’s latest outing is a true representation of the Queen of Crime’s work- with a convoluted plot and a range of odd characters, the novel has all the classic hallmarks of a true Poirot mystery.

Sophie Hannah’s incarnation of Agatha Christie’s pristine, pedantic Belgium sleuth is an intriguing portrayal of human drama and emotion, although the limited number of murders is almost disappointing for fans of Christie and her vast body counts.

The mystery begins with an irate woman waiting for the detective outside his home. She accuses him of writing her a letter in which he claims to know that she has murdered a man named Barnabas Pandy- a man she claims not to know. Shortly afterwards, a man arrives with a similar story.

So begins an intriguing tale of misdirection and mayhem, all set against the usual backdrop of British institutions: the private boy’s school, the stuffy lawyer’s office and the vast country pile.

With four letters sent in total, Poirot delves into the mystery and soon discovers lies, deceits and many generally strange goings on. Hannah skilfully embodies many of Christie’s renowned tropes, however the reduced body count plays on my mind throughout the novel. Despite this, it is a well-done impersonation of the Queen of Crime, and readers will be impressed by how quickly they are hooked by this engaging mystery.

Twee, quaint and at times just a little absurd, The Mystery of Three Quarters gives readers everything they look for in a traditional Christie. Poirot’s on going fixation throughout the novel with a café owners’ ‘church window cake’, (which is basically a Battenberg cake under a different name) and its supposed relevance to his case is one of the lighter moments of the novel, which, like many of Christie’s own creations, often dresses up incredibly dark moments and calculated deceptions as whimsical and merely something to be observed.

It is in her characterisation that Hannah truly excels, creating a range of characters that are in equal parts pitiable and utterly vile. The majority of her suspects have few attributes to recommend them as even remotely decent human beings, and yet Hannah manages to make them vaguely sympathetic, giving the reader something to ponder alongside the mystery itself.

When all’s said and done, readers will be hard pressed to find any reason not to believe that The Mystery of Three Quarters was actually written by Christie, thanks to Hannah’s skilful characterisation and attention to detail. That’s all anyone really wants when reading a reincarnation of a character who original author is long dead, and the book not only succeeds in this area, but triumphs thanks to its ingenious plotting and exceptional characterisation.