Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Good Reading: crime contents in March

As I said last year, one of the magazines I write reviews and books-related features for is Good Reading, the Australian-based "magazine for book lovers". Each month the magazine has dozens of reviews of new or recent books, news from around the literary world, and several features articles (including author interviews, literature-related travel articles, overviews of different sub-genres, and much more). It's a cool magazine, and I am proud to write for them.

As you can imagine, I concentrate mainly on crime/thriller fiction when it comes to my contributions to Good Reading. However, each month I'll give you a heads-up on ALL the crime or thriller-related content in the upcoming issue (ie not just my articles/reviews). For the March issue which is now on the shelves, that includes:

"In the footsteps of cheerful ladies" (by Judry Broad and Jill Diedrich) - a 2-page travel article looking at the country of Botswana, as so ably evoked by Alexander McCall Smith in his 'No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency' novels. This interesting feature looks at the links between the real-life country and the world in McCall Smith's novels.

"Scary Tales" (by Craig Sisterson) - a 2-page article on internationally bestselling Kiwi crime writer Paul Cleave, in which the Christchurch-based author shares some fascinating insights, including what drove him to get into the minds of conflicted, troubled, protagonists, what he really thinks of his home city (which comes across so darkly in his stories), and how his life changed and he made the switch from unpublished horror manuscripts to bestselling crime novels.

Anyone can view Good Reading's books database online, which includes information about the book, a note of which issue it was featured in, and a snippet from the review (subscribers can see the full reviews). The crime/thriller books reviewed in the March issue are outlined below - the reviewers this month are myself (CS), Brooke Walker (BW), Linda George (LG), Clive Hodges (CH), Melissa Wilson (MW), and Daniel O'Brien (DO).

By Alison Brennan (3 1/2 stars - BW)
When by-the-book FBI agent Megan Elliott realises that the murder victim she's investigating carries military ID, what seemed to be a simple murder enquiry turns a lot more serious. An unusual mutilation on the body causes Meg to suspect the murder is target specific, especially when she discovers another recently murdered soldier with the same disfigurement. She knows she's on to something - only then she's suddenly pulled off the case and threatened by military police, who take possession of the homeless body themselves. Forced to partner up with burn-the-book mercenary Jack Kincaid, Meg begins to realise all too soon that the killer's primary target is much, much closer to home.

A young couple are mown down in a hit and run incident. The girl is badly injured, the boy dies on the way to hospital. According to the sole witness the boy was in the middle of the road giving the approaching car the finger. Operation Melody is launched with DI Faraday at the helm.And reveals a mother driven to desperation by the attacks on her son...and a link to a terrible crime from the early 80s that the victim does not want investigated. The investigation will rip apart a happy family but the high-ups are desperate for their 'Cold Cases' to be cleared up. Whatever the cost.And round it all circles ex-DC Paul Winter who has his own reasons for keeping the lid on an old crime.

Gabriel Allon brought down the most dangerous man in the world. But he made one mistake. Leaving him alive . . . Spy turned art restorer Gabriel Allon is trying to resume his honeymoon in the secluded hills of Umbria with his new wife, Chiara, when shocking news reaches him from London. The defector and former Russian intelligence officer, who saved Gabriel's life in Moscow Rules, has vanished without a trace. British intelligence suspect the defector was always a double agent, but Gabriel is convinced otherwise.

When the body of a young woman is discovered in a derelict cottage in the middle of Los Angeles National Forest, Homicide Detective Robert Hunter finds himself entering a horrific and recurring nightmare. Naked, strung from two parallel wooden posts, the victim was sadistically tortured before meeting an excruciatingly painful death. All the skin has been ripped from her face - while she was still alive. On the nape of her neck has been carved a strange double-cross: the signature of a psychopath known as the Crucifix Killer. But that's impossible. Because two years ago, the Crucifix Killer was caught and executed.

It starts with a trip to a local amusement park. David Harwood is hoping a carefree day at Five Mountains will help dispel his wife Jan's recent depression, black moods that have led to frightening thoughts of suicide. Instead, a day of fun with their four-year-old Ethan turns into a nightmare. When Jan disappears from the park, David's worst fears seem to have come true. But when he goes to the police to report her missing, terrified that she's planning to take her own life, the facts start to indicate something very different. The park's records show that only two tickets were purchased, and CCTV shows no evidence that Jan ever entered the park at all. Suddenly David's story starts to look suspicious - suspicious enough for the police to wonder if she's already dead, murdered by her husband. To prove his innocence and keep his son from being taken away from him, David is going to have to dig deep into the past and come face to face with a terrible childhood tragedy...

It's April, 1988, a month before Kinsey Millhone's 38th birthday and she's alone in her office doing paperwork when a young man arrives unannounced. He has a preppy air about him and looks as if he'd be carded if he tried to buy booze, but Michael Sutton is 27, an unemployed college drop-out. Twenty-one years before, a four-year old girl disappeared. A recent reference to her kidnapping has triggered a flood of memories. Sutton now believes he stumbled on her lonely burial when he was six years old. He wants Kinsey's help in locating the child’s remains and finding the men who killed her. It’s a long shot but he's willing to pay cash up front and Kinsey agrees to give him one day. As her investigation unfolds, she finds out Michael Sutton has an uneasy relationship with the truth. In essence, he's the boy who cried wolf. Is his current story true or simply one more in a long line of fabrications?

A jilted bride weeps on an empty beach, a local doctor is attacked in an isolated churchyard - trouble has come at a bad time to Morfi, just as the backwater village is making headlines with a visit from a national government minister. Fortunately, where there's trouble there's Hermes Diaktoros, the mysterious fat man whose tennis shoes are always pristine and whose investigative methods are always unorthodox.

It's tough being a Detective Senior Sergeant in the Sex Crimes unit. DSS Stevie Hooper is fighting to balance the seamier side of being a cop with her role as a mother. And her latest case is not going to make it any easier.

Jay Porter is not the lawyer he set out to be, but he's long since made peace with the American Dream and carefully tucked away his darkest sins. Jay believes he can make a fresh start in Houston, Texas, until the night in a boat out on the bayou when he impulsively saves a woman from drowning - and opens a Pandora's box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of the tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston's corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.


So it was an interesting month on the review front - in terms of my own reviews, I had the highest and equal lowest-rated books, and my fellow reviewer Daniel O'Brien was pretty unimpressed by a book that has been shortlisted for several prestigious crime writing awards.

Have you read Good Reading? What do you think of the magazine? What crime/thriller authors would you like to see interviewed and featured in future? Have you read any of the books or authors reviewed of featured? What do you think of them? Do you agree with the ratings? Suggestions, thoughts, and comments welcome.

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