21 September 2017

Review: THE GOOD PEOPLE, Hannah Kent

Synopsis (publisher)

The fires on the hills smouldered orange as the women left, pockets charged with ashes to guard them from the night. Watching them fade into the grey fall of snow, Nance thought she could hear Maggie's voice. A whisper in the dark.

"Some folk are born different, Nance. They are born on the outside of things, with a skin a little thinner, eyes a little keener to what goes unnoticed by most. Their hearts swallow more blood than ordinary hearts; the river runs differently for them."

Nóra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her four-year-old grandson, Micheál. The boy cannot walk, or speak, and Nora, mistrustful of the tongues of gossips, has kept the child hidden from those who might see in his deformity evidence of otherworldly interference.

Unable to care for the child alone, Nóra hires a fourteen-year-old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow's house.

Alone, hedged in by rumour, Mary and her mistress seek out the only person in the valley who might be able to help Micheál. For although her neighbours are wary of her, it is said that old Nance Roche has the knowledge. That she consorts with Them, the Good People. And that only she can return those whom they have taken ...

My Take

I guess you could argue that this isn't really crime fiction, but in the end a crime is committed, even if only through ignorance.

The setting is Killarney 1825. Nora Leahy is brought to the edge of her tether when her husband Martin dies suddenly out in the fields. As the villagers gather together in Nora's hut for the wake, they talk about the signs observed at the time Martin died: four magpies sitting together in a field; the fact that he died at the crossroads where they bury suicides; that as he fell the hammer at the blacksmith's could be heard; and as the men carried his body home lights could be seen towards the woods. These are taken as signs that the fairies, The Good People, had a hand in his passing.

After the priest has left, Nance Roche, regarded by some as a witch, arrives to keen over Martin's body and Nora invites her into the hut. Nora has already delivered her four year grandson, who is disabled, to a neighbour so that those coming to her hut do not see him.

The novel tells the story of how Nora and Nance attempt to cure the boy, of how they become convinced that he is a changeling, left by The Good People, in the place of her actual grandson.

The author tells readers that this work of fiction is based on a real event that occurred in the summer of 1825 in County Kerry. The novel explores what might have been behind the case and it makes fascinating reading.  The time frame is pre-potato famine, and already crops are failing and people are barely subsisting. They tend to blame events on external forces and rely on people such as Nance Roche for herbal cures, poultices, and superstitious beliefs to support them when they are ill or injured.

My Rating: 4.7

I've also read 4.5, BURIAL RITES

17 September 2017

Review: THE SUSPECT, Michael Robotham - audio book

 Synopsis (author website)

Joseph O'Loughlin appears to have the perfect life - a beautiful wife, a loving daughter and a successful career as a clinical psychologist. But nothing can be taken for granted. Even the most flawless existence is only a loose thread away from unravelling. All it takes is a murdered girl, a troubled young patient and the biggest lie of his life.

When an unknown young woman is found dead with multiple stab wounds – all of them self-inflicted – the police ask Joe to help them understand the crime. Are they dealing with a murder or a suicide? Reluctantly, he agrees to help and the brutalised body he views at the mortuary turns out to be someone he knows: Catherine Mary McBride, a nurse and former colleague.

At the same time, Joe is grappling with a troubled young patient, Bobby Moran, whose violent dreams are becoming more real. As Bobby's behaviour grows increasingly erratic, Joe begins to ponder what he's done in the past and what he might do next. Is there a link between his terrible dreams and Catherine McBride?

Caught in a complex web of deceit and obsessed by images of the slain girl, Joe embarks upon a search that takes him into the darkest recesses of the human mind. Ultimately, he will risk everything to unmask the killer and save his family..


My Take

If you follow my blog you will know that I have read this title before, much closer to the date of original publication (2004).

It is the book that introduced British psychologist Professor Joseph O'Loughlin and his creator Australian writer Michael Robotham to the crime fiction world. Now the Joseph O'Loughlin/ Vincent Ruiz series has 8 titles and Robotham has produced another 4 stand-alones. He has won many awards, been translated into a myriad of languages, and even become the basis of a German TV series. (What an irony it will be if in Australia we have to view a translated version!)

Listening to this excellent audio version, unabridged of course, has given me a new appreciation of what a startling new voice Robotham was.  The writing is crisp and tight, the plot multi-stranded, but somehow all coming together at the end.

So, if you haven't read any of this series yet, there is no better place to start - at the beginning.
I will be downloading the unabridged version of #2 in the series: LOST (aka THE DROWNING MAN).

Rating: 5.0

I've also reviewed
BOMBPROOF
SHATTER #3
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME #4
5.0, THE WRECKAGE #5
4.8, SAY YOU'RE SORRY #6
5.0, WATCHING YOU #7
4.8, IF I TELL YOU... I'LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger
4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES
5.0, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS   
 

15 September 2017

Review: CRIMSON LAKE, Candice Fox

  • this edition published by Penguin Random House Australia 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-14-378190-5
  • 389 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author website)

12.46: Thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop
12.47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her
12.52: The girl is missing . . .

Six minutes – that’s all it took to ruin Detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of Claire’s abduction, he escapes north, to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

Amanda Pharrell knows what it’s like to be public enemy number one. Maybe it’s her murderous past that makes her so good as a private investigator, tracking lost souls in the wilderness. Her latest target, missing author Jake Scully, has a life more shrouded in secrets than her own – so she enlists help from the one person in town more hated than she is: Ted.

But the residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair’s every move. And for Ted, a man already at breaking point, this town is offering no place to hide . . .

My Take

Amanda Pharrell and Ten Conkaffey must surely rate among the oddest detective duo ever created. Amanda is a convicted killer while Ted is an ex-detective, accused of  child abduction, but not convicted. Importantly, not acquitted either. He has spent 8 months on remand, then released without conviction, leaving a broken marriage, trying to find anonymity in far North Queensland.

Amanda is running a detective agency and both she and Ted have been pointed towards each other. Her current case is that of a missing, almost certainly dead, writer. Amanda is being employed by Stella, Jake Scully's wife. She primarily wants evidence that Jake is dead so that she can claim his life insurance and get on with her life.

Once Ted teams up with Amanda he becomes an object of interest for the locals and in particular two local policemen who try to make things as unpleasant as possible for him. Journalists and local media make plenty of the new detective partnership and local hoons visit Ted's house regularly.

A very gritty book, full of North Queensland steaminess and danger.  Several mysteries to be solved. Good reading.

My rating: 4.6


I've also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN

About the author

Candice Fox is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from Sydney’s western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings. The daughter of a prison parole officer and an enthusiastic foster-carer, Candice spent many of her early Christmases travelling to a Sydney correctional facility in the family minibus to knock on prison cell windows, run around the razor-wired yard and eat fruitcake prepared by inmates. While her mother and stepfather developed an ever-growing mob of Sydney’s most disadvantaged children throughout her later youth, entertainment had to be cheap. She spent her school holidays exploring free, open spaces – farms, bushland and cemeteries.
As a cynical and trouble-making teenager, her crime and gothic fiction writing was an escape from the calamity of her home life.
Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen. At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and taught high school through two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees. In 2015, she began collaborating with best selling author James Patterson on a series of books featuring Detective Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue.
Candice’s books Hades, Eden and Fall are published with Random House Australia and are in multiple translations. Hades and Eden both won Ned Kelly Awards presented by the Australian Crime Writers Association.

14 September 2017

Review: THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY, Caroline Overington

  • this edition published by Harper Collins Publishers 2016
  • ISBN 978-0-7322-9975
  • 332 pages
Synopsis (back cover)

Loren Wynne-Estes appears to have it all: she's the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who's landed a handsome husband, a stunning home, a fleet of shiny cars and two beautiful daughters ...

Then one day a fellow parent taps Loren on the shoulder outside the grand school gate, hands her a note ... and suddenly everything's at stake.

Loren's Facebook-perfect marriage is spectacularly exposed revealing an underbelly of lies and betrayal. What is uncovered will scandalise a small town, destroy lives and leave a family divided.

But who is to be believed and who is to blame? Will the right person be brought to justice or is there one who got away?

My Take

The blurb on the back of the book tries very hard not to reveal any plot details, and so I think I should follow that line. That makes reviewing it extremely hard.

The book is set in a suburb of Los Angeles with deep social divisions demarcated by the river that runs through the suburb. Loren and her family(husband and twin girls aged 5) live on High Side but she was born on Low Side. When she was young her mother left her father for another woman who already had a daughter Loren's age, Molly. Loren eventually goes to work in New York where she meets a man from High Side. She returns to Los Angeles and and they eventually marry.

The story is told by a number of narrators: Molly, a journal that Loren wrote, a journalist interviewing Loren's husband David, and the judge in a trial where David is being tried for murder,

It is a book that holds the reader's interest throughout but I guarantee that most readers will not predict the ending.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Caroline Overington is a two-time Walkley Award-winning journalist who is currently a senior writer and columnist with The Australian. She is the author of two non-fiction books, Only in New York and Kickback which is about the UN oil-for-food scandal in Iraq. Since then she has had her first novel Ghost Child published in October 2009 to great acclaim.

She has written eleven books, including LAST WOMAN HANGED, which won the Davitt Award for True Crime Writing in 2015.  Caroline has also profiled many of the world's most famous women, including Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton.

I've also read
4.4, SISTERS OF MERCY
4.5, NO PLACE LIKE HOME
4.7, I CAME TO SAY GOODBYE
4.5, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?

11 September 2017

Review: JOURNEY TO DEATH, Leigh Russell

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2150 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (February 9, 2016)
  • Publication Date: February 9, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B014KVMWQ4
Synopsis (Amazon)

A deadly secret lurks in an island’s history, buried deep but not forgotten. And it is about to come to light.

Lucy Hall arrives in the Seychelles determined to leave her worries behind. The tropical paradise looks sun-soaked and picture-perfect—but as Lucy soon discovers, appearances can be very deceptive.

As black clouds begin to gather over what promised to be a relaxing family break, Lucy realises that her father stands in the eye of the coming storm. A shadow from his past is threatening to destroy all that he holds dear—including the lives of his loved ones.

A dark truth is about to explode into their lives, and that truth is going to hit them right between the eyes.

My take:

Leigh Russell is quite a prolific author with 16 Books published since 2009. JOURNEY TO DEATH is the first of 3 in the Lucy Hall series.

Lucy Hall comes to the Seychelles with her parents just after a romance breakup. She has sustained an emotional collapse and her parents are trying to help her recover.

While they know that her father was evacuated (forcibly) from the island 30 years before, his wife and daughter know little about his personal life at that time. Their idyllic holiday is shattered when the wife, Angela, disappears. In the meantime Lucy begins to think that someone is targetting their family.

The main narrator of the tale is Lucy and we see the action mainly through her eyes. However occasionally the reader is told what is happening to Angela, and the tension and suspense ratchet up.
In the long run the story was handled well, and I feel tempted to follow Lucy into the second book in the series.

My rating: 4.4
About the author (Fantastic Fiction)
LEIGH RUSSELL is described as "a brilliant talent" by Jeffery Deaver. CUT SHORT (2009) was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger Award for Best First Novel. Road Closed (2010) was listed as a Top Read on Eurocrime. With Dead End (2011) Leigh's detective Geraldine Steel was Number 1 on amazon kindle's bestseller chart for female sleuths.

10 September 2017

Review: THE QUEEN'S CORGI: ON PURPOSE, David Michie

  • first published in 2016 by Coach Books.
  • ISBN 978-1-4019-5069-9
  • 186 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if newspapers did more to share stories and insights that were really meaningful? Things that might help people lead more purposeful lives.’ The Queen glanced over at him, uncertainly. ‘Tricky business, persuading the media to lift their sights from terror and trivia. Every one of us has tried.’ Pushing myself up so that I was balancing on my rear end, I fixed Kate with a pleading expression. She was a soft touch when it came to scones. There was a pause while the family glanced in my direction. Before Kate said, ‘Well, not every family member.’


Rescued from unscrupulous breeders who plan to destroy him because of his floppy ear, when the Queen’s littlest corgi arrives at Windsor Castle, he finds himself in a world of red carpets, gilded chambers – and not a pile of dirty laundry to be seen.

Charming his way into the affections of the royal household, Nelson offers a dog’s-eye view of life with the Queen. He eavesdrops on her encounters with celebrities, philanthropists and advisers, catching rare insights into the secrets of a purposeful life. Through one of Her Majesty’s most mysterious advisers, he discovers how the ancient ways and powerful symbols continue to exert a transformative presence. He also becomes familiar with the Queen’s most surprising quality: her gentle but firm expectation that everyone she encounters is striving to be the best that they can be.

The Queen’s Corgi bursts with zest, humour and adventure. Romping through the litany of Nelson’s misdemeanours are a warm-heartedness and deep wisdom sure to delight anyone who has known the smiling face and warm tongue of a dog. It is not by chance that you hold this book in your hands.

My Take

Not my usual fare, and definitely not crime fiction.

This is very similar in format to the Michie's other book that I have read THE DALAI LAMA'S CAT, a fictional vehicle for David Michie's Buddhist philosophy.

It makes for interesting reading and puts Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the Royal family in interesting light. The Queen is portrayed as a deep and empathetic thinker, as are the younger members of the family.

The novel is a series of events involving Nelson, the young Corgi, which test human tolerance and illustrate Buddhist concepts.

My rating: 4.2

I've also read 4.2, THE DALAI LAMA'S CAT

7 September 2017

Review: DARK PLACES, Gillian Flynn

Synopsis (publisher)

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben.

Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

My take

Libby Day's life has been a disaster - at 7 years of age she testified that her brother Ben, then 15, had killed her mother and and two sisters. The murders were horrific and Libby, the youngest of the family, was left traumatised. She first of all lived with her aunt and then in foster homes. Ben went prison for life and has been there for 25 years. Libby, haunted by the possibility that she was wrong in her testimony, has never wanted to visit him.

When Libby is contacted by Lyle from the Kill Club, she is not sure what he wants. She agrees to visit the club and finds that many of its members think that Ben was innocent of the crimes and certainly of the other things that Ben was accused of. To her own horror, she finds that she wants to know the truth, and paid by money provided by members of the Kill Club agrees to visit Ben in Gaol and then to track down people who might know what actually happened.

There is a lot of tension generated in the book as we read on two time frames: the present mainly through Libby's eyes, and a chronology of what happened in the last days and hours before the murders.

In places this is a very noir read, a truly nasty picture of what growing up in an impoverished family in Kansas in the mid 1980s was like. This book did remind me of Truman Capote's IN COLD BLOOD, also set in Kansas, and left me wondering if it was based on a true story. I'm still wondering: the Kill Club certainly exists. The novel also reminded me of SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE which I read a month or so back.

From Wikipedia: The novel deals with class issues in rural America, intense poverty and the Satanic cult hysteria that swept the United States in the 1980s. Dark Places was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and won the Dark Scribe Magazine Black Quill Award for Dark Genre Novel of the Year. It was also listed on the New York Times Best Seller List for hardcover fiction for two consecutive weeks. A film adaptation of the novel was released on August 7, 2015.

My Rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.8, GONE GIRL
4.2, THE GROWN UP 

2 September 2017

What I read in August 2017

A moderate month in terms of the number of books read, although some very good books.
 My pick of the month was WOLVES IN THE DARK by Gunnar Staalesen

This is the second I have read in the Varg Veum series, translated from Norwegian.  There are not many of the Staalesen titles available in English although he appears to be a very popular author.
He recently won the Petrona Award for WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE.

See what others have read this month.

1 September 2017

Pick of the Month: August 2017

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2017
Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for August 2017, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
e.g.
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.


31 August 2017

Review: GOODWOOD, Holly Throsby

Synopsis (publisher)

A delightful debut novel of secrets and small town obsessions from Australian musician and songwriter, Holly Throsby.

It wasn't just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called 'a high density of acquaintanceship', everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped.

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It's a place where it's impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood's most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don't just disappear.

As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.

Rich in character and complexity, its humour both droll and tender, Goodwood is a compelling ride into a small community, torn apart by dark rumours and mystery. 
 
My Take
 
An interesting novel just on the edge of crime fiction. The reader is never sure whether a crime has taken place or not. I found it a read that you had to take slowly just so that you wouldn't miss anything important.
 
We see life in the small town of Goodwood in rural Victoria through the eyes of Jean Brown, in her final year of high school. Rosie White, a year older than Jean, is the first to disappear. Her mother goes to wake her one Sunday morning and her bed is empty and her window wide open. Rumours fly thick and fast and the town is divided in opinion on whether she has run away or whether she has been taken, and is even perhaps dead.
 
The town residents largely regard the town as a safe haven, somewhere where crimes can't occur, where young people can largely roam without fear of attack. In fact a number of the residents including Jean's mother have returned to Goodwood after a time away. It is a small town where everybody knows everybody-else, and most "nasty" characters are identified and avoided.

Jeanie doesn't always understand what she has observed and she is distracted by the arrival of a new girl in town. 

When a second person disappears, it seems that something is seriously wrong. The town has turned into a place of danger.

A lovely read, lots of humour, and still enough mystery to keep this crime fiction addict engaged.
 
My rating: 4.4

About the author
Holly Throsby is a songwriter, musician and novelist from Sydney, Australia. She has released four critically acclaimed solo albums, a collection of original children's songs, and an album as part of the band, Seeker Lover Keeper. Goodwood is Holly's debut novel.

28 August 2017

Review: THREE WEEKS TO SAY GOODBYE, C.J. Box

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 834 KB
  • Print Length: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Corvus; Main edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848872917
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848872912
  • ASIN: B003MQM782
Synopsis (Amazon)

They're so sorry...
They've made a terrible mistake...
There's nothing they can do...
They have to take your daughter away.

You have three weeks to say goodbye.

After years of trying for a child, Jack and Melissa McGuane adopted a beautiful baby girl. Nine months later, a call from the adoption agency plunges them into every parent's worst nightmare: the father never signed away his parental rights, and now he wants his daughter back.

The biological father is a sullen eighteen-year-old with gangland connections, and, even worse, is the son of a well-connected federal judge who is prepared to use the full weight of his influence to get what he wants. Together they wage a harrowing campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at destroying the McGuanes before they can fight back.

Jack and Melissa know that the boy has no love for his daughter, but what they don't know is why he and the judge want the girl so badly. With three weeks until they must legally hand over.

My Take

This is one of the titles that has been sitting on my Kindle for a number of years. C.J. Box is one of those authors I have heard mentioned often - he has captured many awards - but I have never read anything by him. THREE WEEKS TO SAY GOODBYE is a standalone.

The central theme is why would the federal judge who is the biological grandfather want to take on a baby when his son has no interest in the child. Why is he fighting so hard to get her?

This scenario truly would be the worst nightmare of adoptive parents who think they have everything sewn up, and who have fallen in love with their adopted child. Then add in friends and relatives who are literally prepared to do anything to help, and the mix becomes explosive.

For the most part the book held me. However the plot does illustrate how the most peaceful of people can be driven to violence when pressured. In a way the final stage of the plot was inevitable and logical, considering all that happened, but somehow I was disappointed.

The book has whetted my appetite for more by this author.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
C. J. Box is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over twenty-two novels including the Joe Pickett series. He won the Edgar Alan Poe Award for Best Novel (Blue Heaven, 2009) as well as the Anthony Award, Prix Calibre 38 (France), the Macavity Award, the Gumshoe Award, the Barry Award (twice), the Western Heritage Award for Literature, and 2017 Spur Award for Best Contemporary Western. The novels have been translated into 27 languages. Open Season, Blue Heaven, Nowhere To Run, and The Highway have been optioned for film and television. Millions of copies of his novels have been sold in the U.S. alone.

Box is a Wyoming native and has worked as a ranch hand, surveyor, fishing guide, a small town newspaper reporter and editor, and he owned an international tourism marketing firm with his wife Laurie. In 2008, Box was awarded the "BIG WYO" Award from the state tourism industry. An avid outdoorsman, Box has hunted, fished, hiked, ridden, and skied throughout Wyoming and the Mountain West. He served on the Board of Directors for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and is currently serving on the Wyoming Tourism Board. He lives in Wyoming. 

25 August 2017

Review: THE RESISTANCE MAN, Martin Walker

  • format: Amazon (Kindle)
  • File Size: 2238 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (June 6, 2013)
  • Publication Date: June 6, 2013
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780870736
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780870731
  • #6 in the Bruno Chief of Police series
Synopsis (Amazon)

In south-west France, WW2 casts the longest shadow when some rare bank notes are discovered, notes that may have links to the legendary Neuvic train robbery in 1944 in the sixth internationally-bestselling case for Bruno, chief of police

In St Denis, Bruno, chef de police, can't get a moment's rest. Some rare bank notes have come to light that may have links to the legendary Neuvic train robbery in 1944. The investigation is fraught with issues.

Bruno is also dealing with a wave of local burglaries, which have brought his old flame, Isabelle - and their complicated history - back to the town.

Worse is to come. Tasked with piecing together these past crimes, Bruno now finds he has the more pressing matter of a body on his hands. He must now trace the links between past and present to restore peace in St Denis.

My take

This is quite a lengthy series now, and this title comes in about the middle. Once again, as I often do with a series, I recommend that you read the titles in order. There is a development of characters and scenarios that have "history" and you will really get the best out of the book if you know what has gone before.

These are a different sort of "police procedural" simply because the French justice system works differently to that of the UK and the USA.

The books are rich in culture and descriptive recipes, as well as strong character development.

In this one the past meets the present when an elderly resistance fighter dies and an old banknote from a train robbery is found in his possession. Burglary mixes with murder and terrorism giving the plot of very modern flavour.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.6, BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE 
4.6, THE DARK VINEYARD
4.6, THE CROWDED GRAVE
BRUNO and LE PERE NOEL: a Christmas Short Story
4.5, THE DEVIL'S CAV

Series
Bruno, Chief of Police Investigation
1. Bruno, Chief of Police (2008)
     aka Death in the Dordogne
2. The Dark Vineyard (2009)
3. Black Diamond (2010)
4. The Crowded Grave (2011)
5. The Devil's Cave (2012)
5.5. Bruno and the Carol Singers (2012)
     aka Bruno and le Pere Noel
6. The Resistance Man (2013)
7. Children of War (2014)
     aka The Children Return
7.5. A Market Tale (2014)
8. The Dying Season (2015)
     aka The Patriarch
9. Fatal Pursuit (2016)
10. Templars' Last Secret (2017)
11. A Taste for Vengeance (2018)

Biography

Former foreign correspondent in USSR, USA, Europe and Africa for the Guardian (UK), author of histories of the Cold War and 20th century USA, and of studies of Gorbachev, Clinton, the extreme right etc.
Now I write mystery stories set in the Perigord region of rural France, home of truffles, foie gras, great cheeses and wonderful wines.
In 2013, I was made a chevalier of foie gras, in the confrerie of pate de Perigueux, and also an honorary Ambassador of the Perigord, which means I get to accompany the traveling exhibition of the Lascaux cave as it goes on display at museums around the world. I also help promote the wines of Bergerac at international wine fairs, and was chairman of the jury for this year's Prix Ragueneau, the international culinary prize,
The hero of my mystery stories is Bruno, a French country policeman and former soldier who was wounded while serving it UN peacekeepers during the siege of Sarajevo. Bruno hunts, cooks, tries never to arrest anyone and, hates to carry his gun (but sometimes must. He loves his basset hound, his horse and a complicated array of firmly independent women.
The Perigord also contains more medieval castles per square kilometre than anywhere else on earth and is home to the prehistoric paintings of the Lascaux cave. Most of what we know of prehistory comes from this valley of the river Vezere, where humans have lived continuously for some 70,000 years or more. Devoted to the area and his adopted home of the small town of St Denis, Bruno instinctively understands why our ancestors chose this spot

20 August 2017

Review: ANOTHER ONE GOES TONIGHT, Peter Lovesey - audio book

 Synopis (Audible)

Peter Diamond, the Bath detective brilliant at rooting out murder, is peeved at being diverted to Professional Standards to enquire into a police car accident.

Arriving late at the scene, he discovers an extra victim thrown onto an embankment - unconscious and unnoticed. Diamond administers CPR, but no one can say whether the elderly tricyclist will pull through. But why had the man been out in the middle of the night with an urn containing human ashes?

Diamond's suspicions grow after he identifies the accident victim as Ivor Pellegrini, a well-known local eccentric and railway enthusiast. A search of Pellegrini's workshop proves beyond question that he is involved in a series of uninvestigated deaths. While Pellegrini lingers on life support, Diamond wrestles with the appalling possibility that he has saved the life of a serial killer....

My Take

Another intriguing read from a master story teller.

Peter Diamond is delegated to assist a Professional Standards team after a police car is involved in a serious accident just at the end of its shift. The station has received a call about a naked man and the squad car is on its way to investigate when the driver swerves to avoid hitting an object. It rolls, the young driver is killed, and his passenger seriously wounded. There are many other things that Diamond would rather be doing than investigating colleagues.

However near the scene he discovers an elderly man, also seriously injured, presumably hit by the police car, and he begins to take a personal interest. But what was he doing out at that hour of the morning? The more Diamond and his team investigate, the more intriguing it becomes, especially after they work out that a number of elderly people have met untimely ends, albeit from supposedly natural causes.

The narration by Peter Wickham is particularly adept, with good distinguishing between characters.

I've been following this prolific British crime fiction author since 1972 when I was hooked by his debut novel WOBBLE TO DEATH. Check him out on Wikipedia.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

MAD HATTER'S HOLIDAY
SKELETON HILL
THE REAPER
5.0, STAGESTRUCK
5.0, COP TO CORPSE
4.5, THE HEADHUNTERS
4.8, THE TOOTH TATTOO
4.7, DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN
4.7, THE STONE WIFE



 

14 August 2017

Review: THE LEGACY, Yrsa Sigurdardottir

  • this edition published by Hodder & Stoughton UK 2017
  • first published in 2014 as DNA
  • translated from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb
  • ISBN 978-1-473-62152-7
  • 455 pages
Synopsis (publisher)

The first in a thrilling new crime series from international bestseller and prizewinning author Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

The first in an exciting new series from the author of THE SILENCE OF THE SEA, winner of the 2015 Petrona Award for best Scandinavian Crime Novel.

The murder was meant as a punishment - but what sin could justify the method?

The only person who might have answers is the victim's seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died. And she's not talking.

Newly promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja and the Children's House for their expertise with traumatised young people. Freyja, who distrusts the police in general and Huldar in particular, isn't best pleased. But she's determined to keep little Margret safe.

It may prove tricky. The killer is leaving them strange clues: warnings in text messages, sums scribbled on bits of paper, numbers broadcast on the radio. He's telling a dark and secret story - but how can they crack the code? And if they do, will they be next?

[From the bestselling Queen of Nordic Noir, THE LEGACY, is the first in a new serieswith intriguing, flawed investigators, and crimes as chilling as they come]

My Take

I came away from this novel feeling that the author didn't quite play fair with the reader, that essential information in solving the case wasn't revealed until the very last chapters - or maybe I just didn't pick up on it.

There are three horrendous murders eventually, all connected, and the clues the murderer is leaving don't help the police investigation much. So much depends of the answers given by Margret, the young daughter of the first victim, who was hiding under the bed during her mother's murder. Margret needs to be interviewed carefully so that her evidence is not tainted.

The other clues are found by some students who are interested in short wave radio transmissions.

The plot develops in complexity and from that point of view it is satisfying reading.

Euro Crime has labelled this as the first in The Children's House series, with a second THE RECKONING due in 2018. Fantastic Fiction confirms that we will meet Huldar and Freyja again.

My rating: 4.5

I've already read
4.8, SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME
5.0, THE SILENCE OF THE SEA
4.5, ASHES TO DUST
4.5, THE UNDESIRED
4.8, WHY DID YOU LIE?


13 August 2017

Review: THE FLOATING ADMIRAL, Agatha Christie et al - audio book

Synopsis (Audible)  

Inspector Rudge does not encounter many cases of murder in the sleepy seaside town of Whynmouth. But when an old sailor lands a rowing boat containing a fresh corpse with a stab wound to the chest, the Inspector's investigation immediately comes up against several obstacles. The vicar, whose boat the body was found in, is clearly withholding information, and the victim's niece has disappeared. There is clearly more to this case than meets the eye - even the identity of the victim is called into doubt. Inspector Rudge begins to wonder just how many people have contributed to this extraordinary crime and whether he will ever unravel it....

In 1931 Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and 10 other crime writers from the newly formed Detection Club collaborated in publishing a unique crime novel. In a literary game of consequences, each author would write one chapter, leaving G. K. Chesterton to write a typically paradoxical prologue and Anthony Berkeley to tie up all the loose ends. In addition, all of the authors provided their own solutions in sealed envelopes, all of which appeared at the end of the book, with Agatha Christie's ingenious conclusion acknowledged at the time to be 'enough to make the book worth buying on its own'. The authors of this novel are G. K. Chesterton, Canon Victor Whitechurch, G. D. H. Cole and Margaret Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane and Anthony Berkeley. 
First edition cover

From Wikipedia
As Sayers explained in the introduction to the book, "Each writer must construct his instalment with a definite solution in view—that is, he must not introduce new complications merely 'to make it more difficult' ... [E]ach writer was bound to deal faithfully with all the difficulties left for his consideration by his predecessors."

My Take:

This novel tends to prove that having a lot of famous authors doesn't necessarily make for a better novel.

As the novel develops, each author adds various plot elements such as "discoveries", new characters, and red herrings, so that by the last chapter the stage is very cluttered indeed. It was Anthony Berkeley's job to pull it all together at the end and to "make sense of the mess". The reader isn't really given a lot of help in deciding which things to eliminate from consideration and by the end we have two bodies, and a police Inspector who appears to be totally confused. The result is that the final chapter is more like a novella, very long, and final plot is very complicated.

It does help that the narrator, David Timson, is so good and provides a sense of continuity with his voice, as well as distinguishing cleverly between characters. I'd like to be able to say that I recognised the various styles of the authors, but I'm not sure that I did. You are told at the beginning of each chapter who has been responsible for this chapter.

I have talked to fellow readers about this concept, particularly in relation to teams of writers responsible for novels. Just recently we came across an Australian novel written by 5 authors, and two writers in a team like Nicci French, Michael Stanley, and Charles Todd are quite common.

My Rating:  4.2

7 August 2017

Review: WOLVES IN THE DARK, Gunnar Staalesen

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2333 KB
  • Print Length: 276 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS (May 9, 2017)
  • Publication Date: May 9, 2017
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B06ZYL9CB4
  • translated by Don Bartlett from Norwegian
Synopsis (Amazon)

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum's life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts.
When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he's accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material ... and who is seeking the ultimate revenge. When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest - and most personal - case yet.
Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world's foremost thriller writers.

My Take:

The last four years of his life, since Karin's death, have been a nightmare, and now Varg Veum is entering an even worse one.

The police have identified him as one of four men who are part of an international paedophile ring. His lawyer wants him to think over the last four years and try to work out who could be responsible. At first Varg can't think of anyone, and then he remembers various cases that he took on, none of which were successful, where someone may have come out harboring a grudge. For the reader it reveals just what Varg has been up to in the last four years and with him we begin to work out who may be responsible for his current situation.

An excellent read that really gets you in.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read
4.8, WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE

5 August 2017

Review: A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE, Shari Lapena

  • this edition published by Transworld Press 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-5930-7741-2
  • 288 pages
  • author website
Synopsis (book cover)

Why would you run scared from a happy home?

You’re waiting for your beloved husband to get home from work. You’re making dinner, looking forward to hearing about his day. That’s the last thing you remember.

You wake up in hospital, with no idea how you got there. They tell you that you were in an accident; you lost control of your car whilst driving in a dangerous part of town.

The police suspect you were up to no good. But your husband refuses to believe it. Your best friend is not so sure. And even you don’t know what to believe . . .

My Take

One of those novels that hooks the reader right from the beginning.

When Tom Krupp comes home a little later than he had intended, he knows from the open front door, and the absence of his wife Karen, that something is very wrong. His wife's mobile phone and purse are in the house, and it looks as if she left in the middle of preparing dinner. Her car is gone.

A little later a policeman turns up to tell him that his wife has had an accident. At hospital Tom finds that Karen is heavily concussed and appears to have severe amnesia. When she was admitted she was unable to give her name and she kept repeating the name Robert.

The police decide to charge Karen Krupp with reckless driving - she did run some red lights - but they are not convinced by her story of amnesia. They decide to take a closer look at things, to work out why she was driving so badly.

Tom is not convinced by the amnesia angle either and he wonders what Karen is hiding. He searches the house for clues about what might have sent her out that night.

A very readable book, with a few hidden twists.  The ending still came out of left field.

My Rating: 4.5

About the author
Shari Lapena is the internationally bestselling author of THE COUPLE NET DOOR. She was a lawyer and an English teacher before turning her hand to fiction.
She lives in Toronto.

Review: DON'T LET GO, Michel Bussi

  • this edition first published in Great Britain by Wiedenfeld & Nicholson 2017
  • translated from French by Sam Taylor
  • ISBN 978-1-474-60179-5
  • source: my local library
  • 324 pages
Synopsis (Amazon)

Picture the scene - an idyllic resort on the island of Réunion. Martial and Liane Bellion are enjoying the perfect moment with their six-year-old daughter. Turquoise skies, clear water, palm trees, a warm breeze...

Then Liane Bellion disappears. She went up to her hotel room between 3 and 4pm and never came back. When the room is opened, it is empty, but there is blood everywhere. An employee of the hotel claims to have seen Martial in the corridor during that crucial hour.

Then Martial also disappears, along with his daughter. An all-out manhunt is declared across the island. But is Martial really his wife's killer? And if he isn't, why does he appear to be so guilty?

My Take:

There are several narrators in this story: Martial Bellion, his small daughter Sopha, police investigator Captain Aja Purvi, her sergeant Christos Konstantinov, just to name a few.

Liane Bellion's disappearance from her hotel room is treated very seriously right from the beginning, particularly because of the blood stains on the bed and the floor. It seems that her husband Martial is in the clear until it is discovered that he visited the bedroom shortly after Liane went there. His access to a laundry trolley seems to indicate that he may have disposed of her body before he roused hotel staff to her disappearance.  And then suspicion lands squarely on him when both he and his daughter go missing.

I found the structure of the book distracting, particularly because there are places where French or Creole terminology is used in the text, with footnotes in English. As the reader, you are not sure whether it is important for you to remember this, whether that term will appear again.

However there were a number of mysteries to be solved, and the plot had many twists, with the effect of raising the tension and level of mystery. The final explanation and plot resolution is ingenuous and I began tossing up a number of denouements from about half way through.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read
4.8, BLACK WATER LILIES
4.5, AFTER THE CRASH 

1 August 2017

What I've read in July 2017

I've had an excellent month of reading with some really good reads
  1. 4.5, LET THE DEAD SPEAK, Jane Casey
  2. 4.1, Cherringham 1-3, Costello, Neil & Richards, Matthew - audio book
  3. 4.2, STORMY COVE, Bernadette Calonego - audio book
  4. 4.8, THE THIRST, Jo Nesbo 
  5. 4.8, BIG LITTLE LIES, Liane Moriarty 
  6. 4.4, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE, Sarah Schmidt 
  7. 5.0, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, Michael Robotham
  8. 4.5, AFTER THE CRASH, Michel Bussi
  9. 4.4, A STRAITS SETTLEMENT, Brian Stoddart
  10. 4.7, THE CHALK PIT, Elly Griffiths
  11. 4.6, MASK WARS (aka CRIME ON THE FENS), Joy Ellis
Without a doubt my pick of the month was THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS by Michael Robotham.
He is in my opinion the top of Australian crime fiction authors. 

See what others have picked this month
 

Pick of the Month: July 2017

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2017
Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for July 2017, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
e.g.
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.


31 July 2017

Review: MASK WARS aka CRIME ON THE FENS, Joy Ellis

  • this edition first published in Great Britain 2010, MPG Books Group
  • ISBN 978-0-7090-9021-2
  • source: my local library
  • 223 pages
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A NEW CRIME THRILLER WITH A COMPELLING DETECTIVE WHO WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO AVENGE HER DAUGHTER

THE DETECTIVE DI Nikki Galena: A police detective with nothing left to lose, she's seen a girl die in her arms, and her daughter will never leave the hospital again. She's got tough on the criminals she believes did this to her. Too tough. And now she's been given one final warning: make it work with her new sergeant, DS Joseph Easter, or she's out.

HER PARTNER DS Joseph Easter is the handsome squeaky-clean new member of the team. But his nickname "Holy Joe" belies his former life as a soldier. He has an estranged daughter who blames him for everything that went wrong with their family.

THEIR ADVERSARY is a ruthless man who holds DI Galena responsible for his terrible disfigurement.

The town is being terrorised by gangs of violent thugs, all wearing identical hideous masks. Then a talented young female student goes missing on the marsh and Nikki and Joseph find themselves joining forces with a master criminal in their efforts to save her. They need to look behind the masks, but when they do, they find something more sinister and deadly than they ever expected . . .
This is an exciting and absorbing crime thriller that you won't be able to put down from start to thrilling finish

THE SETTING The Lincolnshire Fens: great open skies brood over marshes, farmland, and nature reserves. It is not easy terrain for the Fenland Constabulary to police, due to the distances between some of the remote Fen villages, the dangerous and often misty lanes, and the poor telephone coverage. There are still villages where the oldest residents have never set foot outside their own farmland and a visit to the nearest town is a major event. But it has a strange airy beauty to it, and above it all are the biggest skies you've ever seen.

My Take

These days it is very unusual for me to complete reading a book in one sitting, but I did!

I was interested in the setting: the last novel I read was also set in the Fens, but the two settings could not be more different. This one is a police procedural with a Detective Inspector being given a "last chance". She likes to work alone, is driven by a need to rid the streets of drug pushers. Her newly assigned DS has also been given a last chance to prove himself. A new posting, and 4 weeks to prove they can hit it off. Needless to say they both have "history" and a few problems.

One thing I do know is that this won't be the only title in this series that I will read.

I like the two main characters and also their assistants who make up the rest of their supposedly dysfunctional team. Two cases get tackled in this novel: a rash of robberies and assaults being carried out by gangs wearing hideous masks, and a huge drug shipment coming into a nearby port in the Wash.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Joy Ellis grew up in Kent but moved to London when she won an apprenticeship with the prestigious Mayfair flower shop, Constance Spry Ltd.
Many years later, having run her own florist shop in Weybridge, Ellis took part in a writers workshop in Greece and was encouraged by her tutor, Sue Townsend to begin writing seriously. She now lives in the Lincolnshire Fens with her partner Jacqueline and their Springer spaniels, Woody and Alfie. 

Review: THE CHALK PIT, Elly Griffiths

  • first published in Great Britain 2017
  • source: my local library
  • #9 in the Ruth Galloway series
  • ISBN 978-1-78429-680-5
  • 362 pages
Synopsis (author)

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they were recently buried, DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands. The boiling might have been just a medieval curiosity – now it suggests a much more sinister purpose.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

My Take

Yet another excellent read in the Ruth Galloway series. I should emphasise that this is a continuing series: the characters grow and age and their relationships change and develop. And so my recommendation to readers is that you try to read the books in order.

here is the list from Fantastic Fiction
1. The Crossing Places (2009)
2. The Janus Stone (2010)
3. The House at Sea's End (2011)
4. A Room Full of Bones (2011)
4.5. Ruth's First Christmas Tree (2012)
5. A Dying Fall (2012)
6. The Outcast Dead (2014)
7. The Ghost Fields (2015)
8. The Woman in Blue (2016)
9. The Chalk Pit (2017)
10. The Dark Angel (2018)

In 2016 Elly Griffiths was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library for services to crime fiction and I think it is true to say that by having a forensic archaeologist as the central character she has broken new ground in the genre.  Dr. Ruth Galloway is both clever and intuitive. There are a range of characters both in the police and among their relatives and friends who are very well drawn and engaging.


My rating: 4.7

I've also read
4.6, THE CROSSING PLACES
4.6, THE JANUS STONE
4.6, THE HOUSE AT SEA'S END
4.5, A ROOM FULL OF BONES
4.8, DYING FALL- audio book
4.5, THE GHOST FIELDS, Elly Griffiths - audio book
4.7, THE OUTCAST DEAD, Elly Griffiths - audio
4.7, THE WOMAN IN BLUE   

27 July 2017

Review: A STRAITS SETTLEMENT, Brian Stoddart

  • this edition published by Crime Wave Press 2016
  • #3 in the Le Fanu series
  • ISBN 978-988-14584-8-3
  • 265 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (publisher)

In the third instalment of the Le Fanu Mystery series, the intrepid superintendent is promoted to Inspector-General of Police in 1920s Madras, which proves to be more boring than he had envisaged.

Instead of pushing papers across his desk, Le Fanu focuses on the disappearance of a senior Indian Civil Service officer and an apparently unrelated murder. As the two incidents intertwine, the world weary detective is drawn into the worlds of indentured labor recruitment and antiquities theft..

But as bureaucratic politics make his position vulnerable, his superiors send the intrepid policeman across the Bay of Bengal to pursue the cases in the Straits Settlements. Le Fanu immediately becomes embroiled in the activities of secret societies and the British colonial intelligence services.

The appearance of a mysterious Chinese woman renders his professional life uncertain as he wonders anew about the British imperial future.

My Take

I think it helped, this being #3 in this series, that I had already read the first two, so that I was familiar with many of the characters that occur in the earlier books.

What I particularly like about these stories is the authentic feel to the historical setting, which is, rather vaguely, Madras in the 1920s. The Indian Civil Service is losing its grip because of the independence movement and the protests about Imperialism. Le Fanu has risen to the level of Inspector-General of Police mainly because Major Jepson has taken his sick wife back to England. Le Fanu expects to job to be a lot more interesting than it is, but it does bring status with it.

Nevertheless he jumps at the chance to do some real investigation, rather than his usual pen pushing, and the trail eventually leads him to the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, and with that the tantalising offer of a new job.

Stoddart has left himself plenty of room for #4.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read
4.6, A MADRAS MIASMA - #1
4.3, THE PALLAMPUR PREDICAMENT -#2





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