Sunday, October 15, 2017

Deep Water: Christine Poulson

Description from Christine Poulson's web site:
When patent lawyer Daniel Marchmont agrees to act for Calliope Biotech, he doesn’t know what he’s getting into. The first lawyer on the case is dead, and a vital lab book is missing. Daniel and his wife Rachel are hoping biotechnology will also provide a cure for their daughter Chloe, who suffers from a devastating genetic disorder. Then the unimaginable happens, and they face a moral dilemma that threatens everything.
Meanwhile young researcher Katie Flanagan suspects something is very wrong in the lab. But knowledge is dangerous when someone is playing a perilous game . . .
I had never thought about the many aspects of pharmaceutical research and development. There are those who need the drugs, to improve their lives or maybe even save them. There are the researchers, who are fighting for time and money to complete their research. And the companies who fund the research with the hope of high return on the investment. I liked how this novel showed that all of these wants and needs can lead to misunderstandings, battles for power, and greed... and possibly murder.

There are a lot of characters, but the novel centers around Daniel Marchant's family and Katie Flanagan's research mishaps, and I had no trouble keeping the other characters straight. Daniel's involvement is complicated because the lawyer that he replaces on the case against Calliope Biotech was his ex-wife. Katie ends up living on Rachel Marchant's boat when she loses her flat. The  main characters all have their problems and the personal issues add to the story rather than detract.

There is a good level of tension throughout and the pacing is terrific. The setting is very nice too. The biotech industries are located in Silicon Fen in the area around Cambridge, England.

Poulson's next book, Cold Cold Heart, a sequel to Deep Water, is due out in the UK in November and in the USA in January 2018.  I am excited about the setting: an Antarctic station and I will be getting my copy as soon as it is available.

See also Moira's review at Clothes in Books and a review and interview at Promoting Crime Fiction.


 -----------------------------

Publisher:  Lion Hudson, 2016
Length:      250 pages
Format:     Trade paperback
Series:      Katie Flanagan, #1
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Medical thriller
Source:     I purchased my copy


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bodies Are Where You Find Them: Brett Halliday

This novel is the fifth book in a series of over 70 novels about Mike Shayne, the tough and determined private investigator. The first thirty novels in the series were written by Davis Dresser, using the pseudonym Brett Halliday. The remaining novels were written by other authors, still using the same pseudonym.

There were two reasons that I read this as my first Mike Shayne novel. It was the earliest novel I had in the series, and I wanted to start close to the beginning. Also, this novel was inspiration for the film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and I wanted to see how much they resembled each other.


Mike Shayne is a hard-boiled, unsentimental private detective in Miami, Florida. The only thing he is sentimental about is his new wife, and she is not around for very much of this story. She is sent off to New York on a vacation that they were supposed to take together, but Mike must remain behind to work on a case related to a prominent politician who is running for Mayor.

While Shayne is getting ready to go on the trip with his wife, a young woman comes to his office with some information on the Mayoral candidate, Burt Stallings. She is very inebriated and passes out before she can tell Shayne her secret. He leaves her alone and when he returns she is dead, strangled with one of her stockings. Afraid that he will be arrested for her murder before he can prove his innocence, he sends his friend,  reporter Timothy Rourke, to get a car to move her. When they both return, the body has disappeared.

While all of this is going on, Stallings comes to Shayne and demands that he find his stepdaughter, who has been kidnapped. It seems obvious that the dead body in his bedroom must be the kidnapped stepdaughter, and Shayne has to figure out what is really going on.

After finishing the book, I moved on to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which we had viewed several times before. I hadn't expected there to be so many similarities between the book and the film. The main differences I noted were the setting (Miami vs Hollywood) and the time (1941 vs 2005).

In the book, the woman's body pops up when least expected. The subject is serious but the tone of the novel is light. Eventually some of the clues lead Shayne and Rourke to a sanitarium, and in the end the motive for the murder is money. These elements all exist in the movie also, just rearranged and updated to fit current times.

In the book, Mike Shayne is the detective and his sidekick is a reporter and friend. In the movie, Gay Perry (played by Val Kilmer) is the detective and Harry Lockhart (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) is his sidekick, pulled into the story first because he is getting experience for a role in a movie as a private detective, and then later because his childhood friend, Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), now an aspiring actress, is involved. The events in both the book and the movie are chaotic, confusing, and seemingly random but as with most private detective stories, the pieces all come together in the end.

I enjoyed both the book and the film. The actors in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang are wonderful, and the story is a lot of fun. There are thrills combined with comedy and romance, and allusions to Raymond Chandler's books. The chapter titles in the movie are all taken from Raymond Chandler novels or stories: "Trouble is My Business", "The Lady in the Lake", "The Little Sister", "The Simple Art of Murder", and the epilogue, "Farewell, My Lovely". And to top it off, it is set at Christmas.

The poster for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is from enigmabadger via Flickr.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:  Dell, 1959. Orig. pub. 1941.
Length:     183 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Mike Shayne, #5
Setting:     Miami, Florida
Genre:      Mystery, private detective
Source:     I purchased my copy.





Saturday, October 7, 2017

Malicious Intent: Kathryn Fox

Summary from the author's website:
Dr Anya Crichton, a pathologist and forensic physician, finds work is sparse for the only female freelancer in the field. Between paying child support, a mortgage and struggling to get her business off the ground, Anya can’t yet afford to fight her ex-husband for custody of their three-year-old son, Ben. 
After her expert evidence helps win a high-profile court case, Anya is asked by lawyer Dan Brody to look into the drug overdose of a young Lebanese girl. While investigating, Anya notices startling coincidences in a number of unrelated suicides she’s been asked to examine by friend and colleague, Detective Sergeant Kate Farrer. 
This is the first novel in the Dr. Anya Crichton series, set in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. A big plus is the strong female protagonist, balancing family responsibilities with dedication to her work. I like this author's writing style; after building the story up to the main investigation, the pacing and tension kept me reading.  The main character's personal circumstances and backstory make the story more realistic and credible, although usually I prefer less of that in a mystery.

My main problem with this book is that I don't like the descriptions of forensic examinations. For some reason I can handle some violence and grit in books, but the realities of autopsies are unappealing. I did appreciate the detailed description of Crichton's considerate handling of the examination of a rape victim. I had forgotten that forensic physicians perform evaluations on victims of crimes involving physical abuse to record the evidence. So, overall, a book covering very interesting topics that sometimes were a challenge for me to read about.

The author is a  physician with a special interest in forensic medicine. This novel won the 2005 Davitt Award for Best Adult Novel. The series consists of seven novels so far, and Fox has also written a book with James Patterson, titled Private Sydney.

Some other resources:


This is my second book read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2017.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:  HarperCollins, 2006 (orig. publ. 2004)
Length:      345 pages
Format:     Trade paperback
Series:      Dr. Anya Crichton, #1
Setting:     Sydney, Australia
Genre:      Medical thriller
Source:     I purchased my copy

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Emperor's Snuff Box: John Dickson Carr


As far as I know, I have never read any mysteries by John Dickson Carr (or any under his other pseudonym, Carter Dickson). Many bloggers have spoken highly of his books and encourage me to try one and finally I did. I think this one was a very good choice. It is a standalone novel, not one of the series novels featuring the well-known detectives Dr. Gideon Fell or Sir Henry Merrivale.

As I started reading the novel, it seemed like a romance. Eve Neill is living in France, divorced from her first husband, Ned. She lives across the street from her fiancé, Toby, and his family. One night her ex-husband sneaks into her house to beg her to return to him, and they see someone attacking her fiancé's father, Sir Maurice Lawes. Ned falls on the stairs as he leaves the house, but seems fine and returns to his lodgings. Because Eve does not want to reveal that her ex-husband was in her house, she does not share information she has about the crime, until it is too late, and incriminates herself.

The detective in this story was a "specialist in criminal psychology," Dr  Dermot Kinross. I liked that character a lot. The Lawes' family is full of very aggravating people. I was out of patience with Toby's family for not trusting Eve, and with her for caring what they thought under the circumstances, but the story is told so well that none of my nitpicks deterred my enjoyment. The mystery plot is very clever and also fun to read. I have acquired several other books by Carr and I will be trying more of them out.

Here are some reviews from other bloggers: At Tipping My Fedora, Clothes in Books, and In so many WORDS... 

This book is submitted for the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt in the "Brunette" category.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:  Pocket Books, 1946, orig. pub. 1942.
Length:   198 pages
Format:   paperback
Setting:   France
Genre:    Mystery
Source:   I bought my copies.

Monday, October 2, 2017

August and September Reading

I skipped a reading summary for August so this is a combo summary for August and September. I read ten books in August and seven in September. As usual most of the books were crime fiction. I read several of these books specifically so that we could go ahead and watch film or TV adaptations (Blue Lightning, Hammett, The Case of the Rolling Bones, and One Shot).

My project for the next few months is to read books by Jane Austen, as a part of the Jane Austen Read All A-Long at James Reads Books.  So far it has been a great experience. In August I read Pride and Prejudice (a re-read actually). In September I read Mansfield Park, which was totally new to me. And now I am reading Emma.

And these are the crime fiction books I read:

Blue Lightning (2010) by Ann Cleeves
Blue Lightning is the fourth book in the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. Jimmy Perez is a Detective Inspector in the Shetland Islands. The book takes place on Fair Isle, where Perez grew up.  My thoughts are here.

Dead Skip (1972) by Joe Gores
The DKA Files series by Joe Gores features a group of investigators who work for Daniel Kearny Associates, a firm specializing in repossessions of vehicles whose owners have defaulted on their loan payments. The setting is in and around San Francisco. Dead Skip is the first novel in the series. I enjoyed it and will continue reading the series. My thoughts are here
Hammett (1975) by Joe Gores
This is a fictionalized version of events in Samuel Dashiell Hammett's life in 1928, when Hammett was no longer a private detective and was trying to support himself with his writing. An old colleague tries to get him involved in a high profile case in San Francisco. My thoughts are here.

Malicious Intent (2004) by Kathryn Fox
Set in Sydney, Australia, this is the first novel in a series starring Dr. Anya Crichton, a pathologist and forensic physician, who begins working as a freelancer. Dan Brody, a defence lawyer, asks her to look into the drug overdose of a young Lebanese girl. Forensic investigations are not my favorite subjects in mysteries, but this was an exciting read and my interest never lagged.

The Emperor's Snuff-box (1942) by John Dickson Carr
This is a standalone novel, not one of Carr's series books. Eve Neill is living in France, divorced from her first husband. She lives across the street from her new fiancé's family. One night her ex-husband sneaks into her house to beg her to return to him, and they see someone attacking her fiancé's father. I enjoyed this book immensely.

Dr. No (1958) by Ian Fleming
James Bond is sent to Jamaica to follow up on the disappearance of two agents, one of them being the Head of Station, John Strangways. This was a very entertaining novel and I enjoyed it even more since the movie is a favorite. My post is here.
Deep Water (2016) by Christine Poulson
Deep Water is about a legal fight to assert a company's claim to a drug patent, and the deaths that may or may not be related to it. This novel shows the many aspects of pharmaceutical research and development. There are those who need the drugs, to improve their lives or maybe even save them. There are the researchers, who are fighting for time and money to complete their research. And the companies who fund the research. This sounds complex, and there are a lot of characters, but they all feel real and the pacing is terrific. 

Winter Ground (2008) by Catriona McPherson
When a circus comes to spend the winter at the neighboring estate to Gilverton, Dandy Gilver is asked to investigate some worrisome pranks and practical jokes. Then one of the pranks results in a death, and the question becomes, was it an accident or not? Set in 1925 at a country house in Perthshire, Scotland. The setting is great, the characters are interesting, and it is set around Christmas and the New Year.

The Case of the Rolling Bones (1939) by Erle Stanley Gardner
This is the 15th Perry Mason novel in a series numbering over 80 books. A 70-year-old man (Alden Leeds) is institutionalized in a sanitarium by his relatives who don't want him to marry a younger girlfriend from his past.  His niece (Phyllis Leeds) thinks that Alden is being blackmailed and goes to Perry Mason for help. My post is here.

A Capital Crime (2010) by Laura Wilson
It is the 1950s in London; Detective Inspector Ted Stratton is a widower with grown children. The story begins with the suspected murders of a woman and her child. But it is also about the post-war changes in England and family relationships. Overly long, but I enjoyed this third book in the DI Ted Stratton series.
Close Quarters (1947)
and Smallbone Deceased (1950) by Michael Gilbert
Close Quarters was Michael Gilbert's first mystery novel and also the first in the Inspector Hazelriggs series.  Smallbone Deceased  is the fourth in the series and regarded by many as his best book. I love the way Michael Gilbert writes and both books are enjoyable reads. Smallbone Deceased was especially good, though.
Wicked Autumn (2011) by G. M. Malliet
Max Tudor is the vicar of the very small village of Nether Monkslip, and the star of this amateur sleuth mystery. However, he was previously an agent for MI5, so he has a bit of experience. He gets called on to help in a behind-the-scenes role when a prominent member of the Women's Institute dies during the Harvest Fayre. A bit too cozy for me, but I plan on reading more in the series.

One Shot (2005) by Lee Childs
This is the ninth Jack Reacher novel, and I read it because it is the basis for first Jack Reacher film. I loved this book; it is only the 2nd Jack Reacher book I have read. Now I will be  reading more of them.

The Nightrunners (1978) by Michael Collins
Coincidentally, this is the ninth Dan Fortune novel. Dan Fortune is a one-armed private detective based in New York. In this story he starts out tracking down a business man's brother, who is a compulsive gambler, but soon realizes that the story is much more complex. Michael Collins was a pseudonym for Dennis Lynds. Lynds was from New York like his protagonist, but he moved to Santa Barbara when he was 41 and several of the books in the series are set there. I will be tracking down more of them.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Case of the Rolling Bones: Erle Stanley Gardner

Description from the back of my paperback edition of The Case of the Rolling Bones:
Perry Mason sat quietly in his office and complained to Della Street that life was dull. Two minutes later he was neck deep in trouble. It involved Alden Leeds, black sheep of the Leeds family. It seemed that when Uncle Alden was much younger he had run away to Alaska. There he had struck gold and become entangled with a Klondike dance-hall girl. Now that girl had reappeared and staked a claim on Alden. His heirs took one look at her and objected strenuously.
And this is only the start of a very complicated story starring Perry Mason, the famous and talented defense lawyer, and his lovely secretary Della. The plot of TCOT Rolling Bones is so complex even now I could not hope to explain it to you. There are confused identities, multiple aliases, and the story leads all the way back to Alden Leeds' early days as a prospector in Alaska.

My favorite part of a Perry Mason novel is always Perry and Della and the way they work together. Here are the descriptions of those two in The Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book:
Perry Mason, who likes to puzzle with human problems, and gets a lot of encouragement. 
Della Street, who is not only Perry's Girl Friday but all the other days of the week.
Due to the complexities of the plot and me getting completely lost in it, I would not say this is my favorite Perry Mason novel. Of course, I have only read two of them in the last few years, so I don't have much to compare to. (I read many books from the series when I was a teenager.) The other one I read recently, The Case of the Restless Redhead, published in 1954, had a more straightforward plot (comparatively). It did involve Perry juggling the evidence; I had forgotten that he has no problems doing that and getting away with it.

So, not my favorite, but still an entertaining read. Many people liked this one a lot, so I don't want to discourage anyone from reading it. John at Pretty Sinister Books has written a wonderful review with lots of detail, and his post features three lovely covers different from mine.

We have been watching episodes from the Perry Mason TV series. In the first season, a large number of the episodes are based on the novels, and the last episode of that season is an adaptation of TCOT Rolling Bones. As you would expect when you shorten the story to  a one hour episode, the story is greatly simplified in the TV show, but it doesn't lose any of its charm.

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason is very entertaining, always so sure of himself. Barbara Hale as Della is terrific, and it is fun to see the cars and clothes from the 1950s. In this episode, Perry and Paul Drake (a detective who often works for Perry) go to Reno, Nevada via airplane, and it was also fun to see the old airplane, a Douglas DC-4. The California settings are good too.

-----------------------------

Publisher:   Pocket Book edition,1947. Orig. pub. 1939.
Length:      218 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Perry Mason
Setting:      Southern California
Genre:       Legal Mystery
Source:      I purchased this book.