Archive for the ‘crime’ Category

A woman’s cryptic dying words in a Venetian hospice lead Guido Brunetti to uncover a threat to the entire region in Donna Leon’s haunting twenty-ninth Brunetti novel.

When Dottoressa Donato calls the Questura to report that a dying patient at the hospice Fatebenefratelli wants to speak to the police, Commissario Guido Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, waste no time in responding.

‘They killed him. It was bad money. I told him no’, Benedetta Toso gasps the words about her recently-deceased husband, Vittorio Fadalto. Even though he is not sure she can hear him Brunetti softly promises he and Griffoni will look into what initially appears to be a private family tragedy. They discover that Fadalto worked in the field collecting samples of contamination for a company that measures the cleanliness of Venice’s water supply and that he had died in a mysterious motorcycle accident. Distracted briefly by Vice Questore Patta’s obsession with youth crime in Venice, Brunetti is bolstered once more by the remarkable research skills of Patta’s secretary, Signora Elettra Zorzi. Piecing together the tangled threads, in time Brunetti comes to realize the perilous meaning in the woman’s accusation and the threat it reveals to the health of the entire region. But justice in this case proves to be ambiguous, as Brunetti is reminded it can be when, seeking solace, he reads Aeschylus’s classic play The Eumenides.

Trace Elements

Donna Leon

William Heinamannn

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan Butterworth

Brunetti is back!

Commissario Guido Brunetti and Claudia Griffoni are called to a hospice to hear the last words of a woman dying of cancer.  The story intrigues him enough to start digging for more information.

Vittorio Fadalto was the victim of a hit-and-run on his motorbike and drowned in a ditch.  But was he deliberately struck and killed?  He was a by-the-book scientist who worked at the company overseeing Venice’s water supply and testing it was safe for human consumption.  Why would anyone want to kill him?

The story flows well and has wonderfully descriptive wording, such as this description of the tech-genus secretary, Signora Elettra Zorzi.  “She looked at him in surprise, but then her expression changed to that of a leopard seal just noticing a baby penguin paddling in the water above it.”

The ending was a bit disappointing to me – as I enjoy seeing bad guys get their just desserts.  It does point out the difference between differences between guilt and responsibility though.

If you dream of travel in this Covid-19 world, the story is set in Venice in the middle of a heatwave and the richly expressive language puts you there, dripping with sweat alongside the locals, then this is the book for you.  If you just want a good story though, this is also the book for you.

A spellbinding standalone from a literary writer who turns the crime genre inside out, The Wych Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, if we no longer know who we are.

For me it all goes back to that night, the dark corroded hinge between before and after, the slipped-in sheet of trick glass that tints everything on one side in its own murky colours and leaves everything on the other luminous and untouchable.

One night changes everything for Toby. A brutal attack leaves him traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his uncle’s rambling home, the Ivy House, filled with cherished memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.

But not long after Toby’s arrival, a discovery is made. A skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden.

As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself.

The Wych Elm

Tana French


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Piper Mejia

Sometimes there is a novel that is not there to entertain, or to enlighten, but rather to refract the complexity of life. The blurb will have to believing The Wych Elm is a crime thriller, which it is, but it is also a reminder that no matter how close you are to your family, or how many good friends you have, no one really knows what can push a person to do terrible things.

Tana French’s protagonist Toby Hennessy prevents the reader from ever getting too close to understanding him, as he is also unable to understand himself. Using repressed memories, a head injury, along with almost a conceited outlook on the world Tana French draws us into one preventable but inevitable event after another as Toby’s past and present violently collide.

At times it is difficult to like any of the characters, and suspension of belief is almost impossible, however, we are compelled to keep reading because The Wych Elm is not about a tidy happily ever after but rather it is about a universal truth; that we can survive almost everything, even the darkest part of ourselves.

It’s all down to who you trust. Aiden O’Hara has been head of the family since he was kid, and he’s going to keep it that way. Jade Dixon is the one who watches his back. Mother of his son. The one who makes him invincible. But Jade’s been in the game a lot longer than Aiden. She knows no one’s indestructible. And when you’re at the top, that’s when you’ve got to watch the hardest. Especially the ones closest to you…


Supplied by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Reeva O’Hara is a fighter, pregnant at 14, she went on to have 4 more, all with different dads.  While she’s had a tough life, she loves her kids and they adore her.

Aiden O’Hara is the eldest and knows Reeva is a naive mess who attracts the wrong sort of men.   He steps up to look after the family and rises quickly in the London criminal underworld.

Jade Dixon is his lover, mother of his son, the only person he listens to.  In the underworld for much longer than Aiden, she knows no one is untouchable.

Aiden is a psychopath with no conscience though, and those closest to him know it.

This book is part of the successful formula of Martina Cole and enjoyable, though not her best work.  It kept me turning pages and the end was shocking to me as I didn’t see it coming.

A fun read.

Speaking in Bones

There is Kathy Reichs, herself a distinguished forensic anthropologist; there is the Bones of the TV series; and somewhere in between those extremes is the Bones of the novels. Speaking in Bones is an incredibly realistic novel with a sense of authenticity that is rarely found in detective fiction. It’s also very complex – there’s a lot going on, and the plot twists and turns as Bones works to figure out who did it – if indeed, they did it at all!

It begins with an amateur web sleuth connects a unreported missing person to an unidentified partial skeleton that Bones has previously examined, and finds a mysterious recording on a up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Which are part of the Appalachians, notorious as the home of weirdos and wacked-out religious sects, which as you may safely determine from the title are deeply involved in the plot of this mystery. No doubt that will offend some people, but…

I found this an intriguing and well-plotted mystery – Kathy Reichs writes about what she knows, and writes very well. It might not be science fiction, but it is very definitely fiction about real science.


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

five minutes alone

Theodore Tate is one of the ‘Coma Cops’ shot by a vicious psychopath six months ago. He has returned to the police force and is assigned to the case of a dead man who committed suicide by train. Or did he? Tate soon realises things aren’t so straightforward, as murder was the cause of death and the dead guy was also a bad guy, a convicted rapist whose last victim is still living in fear.   When more bad guys end up dead, he realises someone is helping rape victim’s exact revenge on their attackers.

Carl Schroder is the other ‘Coma Cop’ and life is not treating him well.  The bullet lodged in his head from a shooting six months ago hasn’t killed him but, almost as deadly, it’s switched off his emotions. Running across a recently paroled rapist he put away years ago, he follows him stalking the victim who put him in prison. After   saving her, he remembers a common plea cops get from the loved ones of victims – when you find the man who did this, give me five minutes alone with him. And finds a new mission.

Wow, this was my first book by Paul Cleave and am now hunting down the rest. You don’t need to have read previous novels to know what’s going on; just enough information is given to make the scene clear. The plot was tightly woven; leaving me breathless after each chapter, convinced death was looming only to have events snatch life back repeatedly. It must be hard, tracking   down a vigilante most people are cheering for! The dangers of vigilantism are also shown.   A well written book that makes you think.

Penguin Books

Supplied by 247 PR

Reviewed by Jan

If I Should Die

Territorial Army veteran Joseph Stark was badly wounded in an attack in Afghanistan that killed the rest of his unit. Returned to the normality of civilian life, he’s a Trainee Detective in Greenwich and does his best to ignore his army past, which is difficult when they keep calling. Seriously injured, Stark relies on painkillers and booze to keep him going but has consented to some hydrotherapy, where his therapist is an extremely attractive blonde.

A string of random attacks on the homeless occurs and the investigation soon links them to a gang of wanabe thugs. Even with CCTV and cell phone videos the police can’t prove anything though, and then one victim dies and it becomes a murder investigation. Then there’s another attack but this time the victim fights back…..

The storytelling is so vivid, the characters are so real, you can’t help but be drawn in. The plot is very strong and leads you to think one thing before suddenly – boom – you’re totally mistaken. This book is so well written and compelling, a fantastic debut novel that I could not put down. I am really looking forward to the next book!

Michael Joseph

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

the slaughter man


A wealthy family has just been gruesomely executed inside their exclusive gated community, their youngest child abducted. Detective Max Wolfe is assigned the job of hunting down the killer and bringing him to justice, aided by his homicide team. Quickly forming a theory that the family was targeted because they were too perfect, they are stunned when the crime’s M.O. matches one of 30 years ago. Could the killer be the same man?

The Slaughter Man had done his time and is now old and dying though. Could he really be back killing families? Could this be a macabre tribute by a copycat killer – or a contract hit that is intended to frame a dying man?

Then another boy disappears……

Again, I couldn’t put this book down and was a zombie the next day due to lack of sleep.   The story was told in three parts and the plot was fast paced and very very clever. Full of twists and turns, most of which I didn’t see coming, despite being a crime novel devotee. The ending was satisfying and wrapped things up nicely. Max needs to change jobs if he plans to keep his promise to Scout though.

Read it, the series is excellent but you don’t need to have read the first to get lost in this.


Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

Read my review of The Murder Bag here

bones never lie

Now, I enjoy the “Bones” TV series, so it stands to reason that I’d like the latest book in Kathy Reichs’ series of books featuring the forensic anthropologist, Tempe Brennan, and I did, but not for the reasons you might think. For one thing, it became quite obvious early on that the TV series and the book series have evolved in very different directions. These are not the novelisations of the TV programme, and the TV series is so loosely based on the books that Tempe Brennan can watch Bones on TV and be amused. There are major aspects of the book series that aren’t even touched on TV, like the Canadian connection. And of course the characters are different.

“Bones never Lie” is the story of a cold case, of a serial killer of young girls, and of how Tempe Brennan tracks down that murderer. Now, I must admit that I did accurately guess whodunit about half way through the novel, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not… Is it a sign that the author has dropped one too many breadcrumbs for the reader? Or is it deliberate? But that does not take away from the intense sense of verisimilitude one gets reading this novel. You see, Kathy Reichs is herself a forensic anthropologist, and is insistent on getting the science right. Which is something I appreciate. This is not science fiction, but it is fiction about science, and that works for me.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui


Annika Bengtzon is a journalist at Sweden’s second largest evening newspaper. Her husband is a mid-level bureaucrat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She is investigating violent deaths in Stockholm for news pieces that fit between the diet stories, celebratory gossip and sport articles that make up the staple of evening news. He is attending a conference of much worthiness but little importance in Kenya. Then he gets kidnapped and her life is turned on its head.

I am a newcomer to the Liza Marklund’s works and didn’t know whether to expert a police procedural mystery, as seems to be the norm these days or Swedish authors, or something else. I got something else.

Borderline is a tale of what happens when the journalist becomes part of the news story. When the journalistic ethic of dispassionate reporting is no longer possible for the journalist at the centre of the story. The plot is simple, but the story is Annika’s journey from confident woman one minute to desperate spouse the next to the slow climb back to confidence. In the background there was a murder mystery. But that was a mere piece of trivia for Annika, like the weight of a $1 million dollars in $20 bills.

I’m still unsure if I liked it or not.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Simon


Emmy Dockery’s sister died in a house fire eight months ago that was ruled accidental but she’s not convinced. She has uncovered a string of other fires that killed a person living alone and were ruled accidental. A research analyst with the FBI who is on unpaid leave after her boss accused her of sexual harassment, Emmy can’t get anyone to take her findings of a serial killer arsonist seriously and investigate.

After turning to her former fiancé, former special agent Richard Bookman, for help, Emmy meets with the Director of the FBI who assembles a preliminary investigation. Emmy and Books must find proof that the deaths were murders in order for a full investigation to occur, an almost impossible task as all the evidence looks to be normal fire damage. Is Emmy right and a clever monster on the loose or is she just a grieving sister unwilling to accept it was an accident?

A very clever plot that proceeded at a breathtaking pace and was full of misdirection and twists I did not see coming. The story itself was chilling; the arsonist was diabolically smart, planned things well and was horrifyingly sadistic. I thought I guessed the ending but then a new twist was thrown in and I as unsure. I eventfully was proven right but the new twist was never explained, leaving me confused as to why it occurred.

A must read for any fans of mysteries and thrillers, with a tiny splash of romance thrown in.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan