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Three mysteries, detective stories all set in Japan. From three different time periods too, which makes interesting reading.

The Devil’s Flute Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

This was a very different story, set in 1947, post war Japan. Viscount Tsubaki, a brooding composer, has died and his family is in mourning. His daughter thinks there’s something odd about the death and contacts Kosuke Kindaichi, a private investigator for help. When he comes to their house, the family has decided to gather for divination, to conjure the spirit of the dead Viscount. The sound of flute is heard, and another death.

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was again a very different mystery, a musical one in a way. The owner of the flute is dead and yet it keeps playing music. And when it does, someone dies. Who plays it and why? Kindaichi has to investigate the family and travel to other locations to search for the secrets. While the time and culture described in the book are obviously very different, the people are still people, wanting to protect themselves, their family, and keep their secrets hidden, well-hidden indeed.

I’ve read the previous Kindaichi stories which have been translated to English, starting with Honjin Murders, which was a locked screen mystery. Second was The Inugami Curse, about murders in a wealthy family after reading a will. Third one, The Village of Eight Graves, set in a small village with a terrible curse. Fourth book Death on Gokumon Island, a small island with fisherman and former pirates. I’ve liked them all and can highly recommend all of them. They are very different, the first 3 are before the war, the other two after the war.

 

 

Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto

This one is set in Tokyo in the 1960s. A body is found under the train, and the face is so badly damaged, the police can’t figure out who the victim was. Inspector Imanishi is called to investigate the death. He spends a lot of time questioning people and draws empty, until there are just a few coincidences too many.

 

 

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Slow moving to start, a lot of pondering. But the Inspector keeps investigating, checks things multiple times as he doesn’t have much to go on. The descriptions of Tokyo music and arts scene, and his travels by train, interviewing people in distant villages. Unreliable witnesses.  A very twisted case starts to unravel and the resolution I didn’t see coming.

 

 

 

 

A death in Tokyo by Keigo Higashino

This one is set in modern time, 2020 Tokyo. A seemingly drunk man staggers on Nihonbashi bridge late at night and collapses under a statue of a mythical beast known as Kirin. Except, he wasn’t drunk, he had a knife stuck in his chest. A city police saw the man staggering and collapsing, goes to investigate and sees the knife. He reports the issue to the Tokyo police. Another person dies, while attempting to flee from the police. He’s found to have the wallet of the stab victim in his pocket. Case closed? No, the detective Kaga thinks there’s more to it and gets on to investigate what actually happened on the bridge.

 

 

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Again, a different police investigation in Japan. This one has a bit of a western crime novel feel to it. Inspector Kaga wasn’t really supposed to investigate, his superiors don’t like him. They want the case closed quickly, as the guy was found with the dead man’s wallet. No other suspects, so why keep digging? The media in Tokio gets involved as well, the press can judge and haunt before everything is known. But Kaga thinks there’s more to it than that and keeps at it. There are loads of twists and turns, family secrets too.

 

Read this week

Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen

A man drives his car, in high speed, through remote snowy roads in northern Finland. There’s a flash in the sky, and something falls through the roof of his car. That something turns out to be a meteorite, which turns out to be very valuable. Many in the village see an opportunity to use it for their own benefit. The village pastor, Joel, is going through a crisis of a lifetime but agrees to help others anyway.

 

 

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Antti Tuomainen has done it again. This is a total mad cap story set in a small, very cold, wintry village in Finland with quirky and yet ordinary people. Some more likeable than others. It’s a story with black humor, utterly bizarre events, faith lost or otherwise, and how small things can turn into murder and crime. And I loved it.

 

 

 

 

The Food Detective by Josie Welford

The Food Detective is set in a small town in the idyllic West Country, UK. A newcomer, Josie Walker, runs a pub and has become an appreciated member of the community, until it all changes. Josie, who is a fantastic cook, has great plans to change her pub to a restaurant. But getting the kind of meat she wants turns out to be a problem. She has a past, and when a now former policeman who put her husband in jail shows up in the village things start to go sideways. The former copper is now an inspector for the Food Standards Agency.

 

My review: ⭐⭐⭐

This is a good story, a bit slow moving in the beginning, it picked up speed after Nick, the former copper showed up. The story is set around the time of the Mad Cow Disease gripping the UK, so it is a bit old. The villagers were not all fully fleshed out, and Josie’s back story was a bit in the dark too. It felt like this was book #2 in a series instead of book #1. But all and all, plot was good, and the resolution was somewhat unexpected.

 

Read this week

Portsmouth Murders by Pauline Rawson

(prev published as Tide of Death)

 

Detective Inspector Andy Horton is on his morning run along the beach when he discovers a naked dead body which has been beaten to death. Andy’s second day at work doesn’t get any better after that. He had been suspended for a rape he said he didn’t commit. Most of his colleagues don’t want to work with him.  Then more murders happen. The woman, who accused him and who he wants to find to clear his name, has vanished. A shady businessman, who has a boat in the same marina where Andy has his boat, seems to have some very close links to the police. The story is set in town of Portsmouth on the South Coast of England.

While this seems to follow the classic trope of a troubled policeman, with family issues and problems at work, the main story is into solving crimes. The characters are pretty solid, although some of the dialogue is on the woody side, with way too many comments about people’s weight. The plot is otherwise good, loads of secrets to uncover, and the ending tied just about all the loose ends nicely.

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

The Girl in the Photo by Heidi Amsinck

A ninety-year-old Irene is found murdered in her own home in a very affluent part of Copenhagen, Denmark. It looks like a burglary gone wrong as her very expensive necklace was missing. Irene’s daughter hires an investigating journalist named Jensen (Jensen only wants to use her last name) to find the missing necklace. Jensen is reluctant at first but gets on the case with the help of her editor’s nephew, Gustav.

Two more attacks on elderly, an older man killed on his allotment and an older woman is attacked and beaten in a care home. Copenhagen Police Inspector Henrik gets busy investigating the crimes. The trouble is, his and Jensen’s path and their aims collide. The case is complicated by the fact that Henrik and Jensen have a lot of history, romantic history.

 

This was yet another story about a troubled policeman, also thrown out by his wife. While the plot was ok, I wasn’t really a fan the way it was told. And, I guessed the culprit halfway through. There was also way too much repetition about the relationship/love/lack of love between Jensen and Henrik. Most of it could have easily been edited out. I scrolled past as it stopped being interesting. I wasn’t fan of the characters either, they didn’t ring quite believable. Quite likely this book would’ve been better if I had read the first book, “My Name is Jensen”.

My review: ⭐⭐

Read recently

The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths

Very sad to read the last of the Ruth Galloway book. A skeleton is discovered by builders when they’re renovating a coffee shop. They call Ruth. Ruth has issues, trying to save her department at the university from closing, and her relationship with Nelson. The remains are modern, but they turn out to be of an archeology student missing since 2002. Cathbad gets involved too, and then he disappears. Trails lead to Neolithic mines.

It was a very good read, as always. Ruth’s and Nelson relationship goes up and down. He is married after all. Elly Griffiths manages to tie a lot of loose ends. On one hand I wish there were more books about Ruth and Nelson to come, on the other hand, I think the ending was just perfect.

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Please note that the cover for the UK is different. Much better in my opinion.

 

 

 

Last Respects by Catherine Aird

Last Respects is #10 of Calleshire Chronicles books. First published in 1980ies. I’ve read the previous ones, mostly pretty good reads. Solid plots, mostly believable characters. Detective Inspector CD Sloan is a good one. What is a bit odd is that his assistant, Constable Crosby is always made to be not very good at anything and he drives way fast too. And yet, he seems to be rather solid PC if somewhat plodding.

In Last Respects a local fisherman finds a body floating about in the river. Police is called to investigate, they haul the body back to dry land. It then turns out that the cause of death was not by drowning and CD Sloan gets involved. A few more deaths, and unfortunately I was able to figure out who did it well before CD Sloan.

Catherine Aird’s writing while otherwise solid, but is littered with adverbs. When the body was found, “I’ll have to report it to the Headquarters, said Ridgeford importantly…” response a bit later “Sorry, Mr Ridgeford,’ lied Horace fluently.” “And, the policeman added drily..” While not all adverbs are bad but having them in every other sentence it gets a bit tiring. Times have changed in that regard.

My review: ⭐⭐

 

 

 

Going Zero by Anthony McCarten

This one wasn’t my typical read as it’s more of a thriller. The premise is interesting though, especially if you’re interested in any sort of technology. The story reminded me of one of my favorite TV shows, “Person of Interest”. In it, like in this book, someone has created a massive machine or a surveillance program to find people before or after they commit crimes. In “Person of Interest” the machine didn’t say if the person was the perpetrator or the victim.

In Going Zero, the CIA is partnering with a Silicon Valley techie, Cy Baxter, who has created a program called FUSION. The purpose of FUSION is to do surveillance, to “save lives”.  Before it’s rolled out, it needs to be tested. Ten people have been selected to be part of the test. At the appointed time, all ten will get a message “Going Zero” after which they have just two hours to disappear, turn off their phones, get off the grid. The purpose of FUSION is then to find them. One of the contestants is a librarian, and she’s initially thought to be the easiest to be found. But she’s giving Cy Baxter and FUSION run of their money, for her own reasons.

The plot was good. Granted, it was a bit unbelievable, but the story flowed pretty well. The author is a screenwriter, so he knows how to keep the speedy pace. It’s twisty, with rapid turns, and plenty of action. The ending was rather good, somewhat surprising too.

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

Read this week – The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

I’ve heard so much about this one, and I’m sure most of you have read The Silent Patient already. I finished it in few hours the other day, and now I’m a bit on the fence about it. It was selected by Amazon editors as Best Thriller 2019. (as mentioned I’m late into this one)
The Silent Patient is a psychological thriller/mystery.
Alicia’s life seems to perfect. She’s a famous painter and married to a photographer, Gabriel. They live in a nice house in London. One evening her husband returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times, and then she stops speaking altogether. She refuses even to speak in her own trial. She’s sent to a mental hospital
It’s a pretty quick read. The story is written from the POV of a psychotherapist, Theo. The premise was good, Theo gets a job in the hospital where Alicia has been for eight years. She’s never said a word. He wants to treat Alicia to get her to talk again. Theo then goes onto describing what he does, and what happens. The final twist was pretty good. But, I had issues concerning the descriptions of the patients, methods and the hospital. The writing was a bit sloppy too, a lot of poorly written dialogue and a lot of the side plots or red herrings weren’t tied up in the end. And the big WHY, as in why Theo wanted to get her to talk was left dangling, so the beginning and the end didn’t really tie up.
When I’m two minds about a book, I go to Goodreads and read reviews there to see if I’m the only one. This book has a staggering 1.5million (!!!) ratings and 137K reviews, and 56K of those are 5 stars! So clearly a lot of people liked it.
I checked the 1-star ones, of which there are 2500. And most of those reviews had very valid concerns how mental illnesses and treatments were described in this book. The 1star reviewers were also very disappointed with lack of research by the author. For an author, that kind of reviews are very bad if they’re about your own book, but very helpful and educational to read as what not to do, if they’re about someone else’s book.
Have you read it, and if so, what did you think?
My review: ⭐⭐

Read this week – Women Without Mercy

Women without Mercy by Camilla Läckberg

After hearing good things about Camilla Läckberg, I decided to give her a try. I borrowed Women Without Mercy. As I was in a hurry to get something to read, I didn’t read the blurb. Instead, I downloaded it and jumped right into reading it.
The story about three different women was initially engaging so I kept on reading for bit more than an hour, and then all of a sudden, the story was done, the end! It turned out that this book is a novella, and the ending was not very exciting at all, I’m sorry to say.
After I finished it, I went to Goodreads and read the blurb there, and it basically gives away most of the story. The point of the blurb is to entice the reader to buy and read the book, right? In this case, most of the book is already given away in the blurb and when it comes to the murder part, those are just thrown in with loads of loose ends.
It looks to me that this book was started as a good idea, based on the classic “Strangers on the train” but didn’t quite manage to bring a good start to an equally good finish.
My review: ⭐⭐

Read this week – Murder and Medling

Murder and Medling by Ovidia Yu

If you haven’t read Ovidia Yu’s Singapore Mysteries, you’re missing out, methinks. They’re good ones for a few hours of armchair travel to a different part of the world.
They’re lighter mysteries, with Rosie Lee solving crimes in Singapore. She’s the chef and the owner of a restaurant in Singapore, an opinionated lady of certain age, with a lovely Filippino maid Nina as sidekick. You learn quite a bit about food and life in Singapore, which is a wonderful city where I’d love to go for a visit again.
My review: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
I just finished the latest in the series, Meddling and Murder (#4) where Aunty Lee (as Rosie Lee is known), is having issues with Nina who, Aunty thinks, should marry a detective. Nina, doesn’t want to, and Aunty lends her out to a sister of a friend whose own maid’s gone missing. A couple of murders later, Aunty manages save Nina and find out the killer, just in time.
I give this one 3.5 stars, it should get 4, as the story is pretty good, but in this book there’s an issue with lack of indication who is talking to who and where. Towards the end one has to read carefully to keep up. I didn’t figure out the guilty party until near the end, but the end was still a nice surprise.
While you can read this one as a standalone, you’re better off starting from the first of the series, Aunty Lee’s Delights.  You’ll get to know the characters better and get a feel for the place too.

Read this week – Silverview

Silverview by John Le Carré

I’ve read just about all John Le Carré’s books and liked them too. Most of them start a bit slow until the story catches a thread at a time and gets going. This one, his final book, started rather slow too. A small-town bookshop owner meets a slightly over-inebriated gentleman who claims to have known his father. A woman with a baby delivers a letter to a London house. She’s been told to wait for a response. These two incidents then start a whole process of actions in typical Carré manner, to find out if there’s been a leak in security and if so, who the culprit is. The book was completed by Le Carré’s son after the author’s death.

 

My review ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The story is low key, nothing much really happens. Most of it is told as memories by multiple people to explain the behaviour and motivations of different people in the past. How spies get to be spies and how they stop, or can a spy actually stop being a spy? And typically to Carré, everybody has their reasons for doing things, staying in the shadows. The book is short, only 200 pages. I liked it.

Read this week – Riccardino and The Cook of the Halcyon

Review of the last Montalbano books, The Cook of the Halcyon and Riccardino

Admission, I’ve read all Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri. And watched the TV-series. Most of the books have been excellent and the TV series has made them alive. Those of you who haven’t read them/watched them yet, you really should.

The two last books are a bit different. The Cook of the Halcyon was apparently written for TV and then it became a book instead. Riccardino was written already 2004, as Mr. Camilleri wanted the series to end his way. When he lived longer than he expected to, he updated it later.

The Cook of the Halcyon by Andrea Camilleri

This is the next to last book, #27. The title is a bit odd. Halcyon is actually a huge yacht, a pleasure boat, Montalbano sees in the harbor, and he gets interested in it as they are loading an awful lot of pricy food on it, good wines and other drinks too. Then he sees a beautiful woman, who he had seen earlier boarding the boat and plot thickens. Throw in a murder or two, an American and even FBI in need of help, and things get complicated, very fast.

My review: ⭐⭐⭐

This wasn’t the best of the Montalbano books, I’m sad to say. It’s rather different. As mentioned, it was originally written for TV. It’s still pretty good, plenty of murders and action and the ending was a surprise. But it was lacking the usual Montalbano flair of plotting and character, it read a bit more like an action thriller type which would have likely been great on TV but as a book it lacked nuance and sometimes it goes rather over the top.

 

 

Riccardino by Andrea Camilleri

This is the last book in Montalbano series, the final episode, #28. It was written well before Andrea Camilleri died. He sent it to his publisher saying to keep it in the drawer and publish it after his death.
The book starts with Montalbano receiving a call. Not as usual by Catarella but from someone named Riccardino who asks him when he’s going to show up. Montalbano who doesn’t like being woken up early in the morning, says, 10 minutes and hangs up. Clearly it was someone who had dialed a wrong number. Soon later, Montalbano gets another call, about a murder, someone had been shot right infront of his friends. And off we go, the usual Montalbano style.

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The book starts the usual Montalbano fashion, he visits the site of the murder, he starts to interview people, but he’s not supposed to handle the case. It’s going to be handled by an upstart from the Flying Squad instead! Montalbano gets a visitor, a fortune teller, who wants to report a strange case of a truck driver leaving packages in an odd place. Montalbano sets out to investigate but then he gets the murder case back because of the bishop insists on it. To complicate matters further, the Author enters in the book complaining that Montalbano isn’t handling things well and may not be up to the job any longer. The “real” Montalbano feels he’s losing to TV Montalbano, that he’s losing the plot and he’s not happy about it.

This book is written a bit differently for sure. Adding the Author in the story makes it rather multilevel in a way. I’m two minds about it whether it’s good or bad. Mostly it works, as Camilleri is a good writer, and the basic story is still classic Montalbano. The ending was very unexpected. It’s an enjoyable read, and a sad read. I’m really sad that the series has come to an end. RIP Mr. Camilleri, RIP Montalbano.

 

Read this week – Atlas Shrunk

Atlas Shrunk by Jon Philip Rosenberg

It’s 2008 and the presidential election is coming up in the USA. It’s going to be historic. The economy is in a tailspin. The candidate who looks like he could win, is not going to, as he’s found dead, in a room, locked from the inside.

An investigation into his murder leads to a deep dive into banks around the world, their records and a murder.

My review: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It’s a bit a change of pace to read something about another disasterous time, the worldwide financial crisis when we’re currently midst of another worldwide crisis, the Covid pandemic.
Rosenberg’s story about big banks and murder, the crisis and the cover up, assasination and how linked all the systems are worldwide. It’s a good story, it flows nicely. I liked it. The characters are mostly well done, and the story is rather belieavable, I’m sorry to say, as it’s rather scary when you start thinking about it.
It’s a good read, if you’re in KU, as the price even for an ebook is a bit too high to my liking.