Reviews Published

Friday, December 30, 2016

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder

Joseph Finder writes fast-moving thrillers and believable characters. "Guilty Minds" is a Nick Heller book, and, as usual, the premise is alluring: Heller is engaged to halt a smear campaign, and he only has hours to figure out what's really going on.


The chief justice of the Supreme Court is about to be defamed by a powerful gossip website called Slander Sheet, which specializes in dirt on celebs and politicians. Their top reporter has written an exposé claiming that he had liaisons with an escort, a young woman willing to appear on video and tell the world her salacious yet convincing tale. But the chief justice is not without formidable allies, and his greatest supporter is determined to stop the story in its tracks.
Nick Heller is a private spy—a private intelligence operative based in Boston, hired by lawyers, politicians, and even foreign governments. Known as both a maverick and a dedicated, high-powered investigator, he’s called to Washington, DC, to help out in this delicate, potentially explosive situation.
Nick has just forty-eight hours to prove the story about the chief justice is baseless. But when the call girl is found murdered, the case takes an unexpected and dangerous turn, and Nick resolves to find the true mastermind behind the Slander Sheet story before anyone else falls victim to the maelstrom of political scandal and ruined reputations predicated upon one carefully concealed secret.   


"Moana" is so good, it's up there with Shrek and Inside Out and Up when it comes to my favourite animation movies. Here are some of the reasons you should see it:

  • It's got a strong female lead, a role model who is concerned about those around her, and not about her looks.
  • She's not a princess - she's the chief's daughter.
  • It'll make you want to visit the Pacific Islands.
  • It'll make you laugh.
  • There is a twist in the plot.
  • They tried hard to limit the number of songs.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Gender Experiment by L.J. Sellers

The Gender Experiment by L.J. Sellers is a gripping suspense novel, taking the reader into the dark underbelly of science experiments performed on pregnant women. The book also asks important questions about our attitude towards persons who are gender-fluid (the currently accepted term for people who used to be called hermaphrodites).

Blurb: Taylor Lopez works in a morgue and discovers a statistically highly improbable number of bodies with certain physical characteristics. Teamed up with an ex-journalist, she investigates the deaths. With the clock ticking on Phase 2 of the experiment, can they get to the truth in time to save innocent lives?  

Send in the Clowns by Julie Mulhern

Send in the Clowns by Julie Mulhern is the 4th book in The Country Club Murders series. As usual, it delivers on the promise of 1970s cosy murder mystery set among those richer than many of us: bridge at the country club, designer labels, art, a murder with not too much gory detail, great character development and no swear words.  

This is a perfect holiday read, be it Halloween, Christmas, or any other time of the year when you want to put your feet up and not put the book down until the very last page.

Pure escapism. With who-dun-it elements and a women's lib movement thrown in for fun.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Night School by Lee Child

Reasons to read the book:

  • It’s by Lee Child
  • It’s about Reacher
  • Reacher is young and still in the army
  • He gets to act all clever and heroic, with a few fights thrown in for the fans
  • Featuring  Neagly
  • It’s a cool slice of pre-911 history
  • You get to see a lot of Hamburg, Germany, and suddenly you understand Brexit a little better


Reasons not to read the book:

  • If you think all the Reacher thrillers are the same, this one follows suit. (Now that’s a plus in my opinion, because you get what you expect and paid for, but I know some people might see it differently.)
  • If you need to solve the mystery before Reacher does, you’re out of luck. The cryptic clue will be of no help to the readers.
  • Once you read it, you have to wait a whole year for a new one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

“Home” by Harlan Coben

Overall impression: “Home” by Harlan Coben is the 11th Myron Bolitar thriller (published in September 2016). The good news is, no, the very best top of the world news is, Win is back. This time more than just in a cameo role, he is all over the book and a few chapters are even written in his point of view.  With guest appearances from Mickey, Ema and Spoon, it is guaranteed delight dedicated fans of all ages (but especially those who love Win as much as I do).


What I loved about the book: In case you didn’t get the memo, it was Win. Was, is, and always will be. Also, the pacing is first-class with believable dialogue.


What I didn’t love: The plot is similar to  one of Mr Coben’s previous novels.


What I both loved and didn’t love: The jokes are the same as every other MB book (MB Sports reps, El and Al, Mee). A lot can be said for the nostalgic value of the familiar, however, I probably would have enjoyed the book more if the humour got a bit updated.


Is it a stand-alone? You can read it as a stand-alone and not miss anything plot-wise, though the book is richer if you know Myron’s back story.


So what is it about? A decade ago, kidnappers grabbed two boys from wealthy families and demanded ransom, then went silent. No trace of the boys ever surfaced. For ten years their families have been left with nothing but painful memories and a quiet desperation for the day that has finally, miraculously arrived: Myron Bolitar and his friend Win believe they have located one of the boys, now a teenager. Where has he been for ten years, and what does he know about the day, more than half a life ago, when he was taken? And most critically: What can he tell Myron and Win about the fate of his missing friend?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Flash Point by Colby Marshall

Flash Point by Colby Marshall is the long-awaited third installment in the Dr Jenna Ramey series. Book sellers classify it as a psychological thriller, and it is that, but it's also a lot more. In addition to being a thriller, Flash Point is a frightfully clever book, with numerous puzzles and a "who-dun-it" mystery. The writing style is both beautiful and easy to digest. And although the current danger is averted at the end of the book, the over-arching danger of the bigger story leaves the reader hungry for more.

The Verdict: Read it!

The Plot: Twelve assassins kill everybody inside a bank in Washington, D.C. Instead of stealing, though, they leave something behind: an encrypted message hiding the location of the next attack. Jenna needs to profile a dozen killers while keeping her daughter safe.

What I liked best: The literary puzzles.

Characters: If you haven't met her yet, you will fall in love with the doctor who sees emotions as colours.

Can this book be read as a stand-alone: Yes, if this is the only book in the series you have access to, you can start here.

Final thought: If you had to be a character from a classical novel, whom would you choose?

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

I'm fussy about my historical fiction. It's not that I don't like it, I do. The problem is, many authors take their poetic license too far, making 19th century heroines act like today's girls or mentioning matches in Ancient Rome books... or falling into the contrasting trap of speaking in Chaucer's English .

So it took me a while to pick up Tess Gerritsen's Bone Garden. I needn't have worried, In Tess's skilled hands, 1830 Boston comes to life with ease and authenticity. Ok, I wasn't around at the time, but the world feel real. You can feel the cold. Your nostrils fill with the stench. You scratch your head when you read about the lice.

Oh, did I mention it's also a first-rate thriller? And, unusually for my, I didn't guess the killer's identity.

Friday, September 02, 2016

How to get away with murder

So, after months of looking for the next TV series to watch (The Mentalist's overarching story was too slow moving, Orphan Black too scary, Scorpions not enough like Sherlock), we've stumbled onto a winner.

You know it's a winner when it's midnight, you have to get up at 6, you still have to make school lunches and do the laundry, you haven't had a good night's sleep since 2002, and you say "just one more episode".

"How to get away with murder" pulls you in from the second scene (I didn't care for the first scene with the bonfire). It's fast-paced, outrageous, gripping. After six episodes I haven't found a character I could call a protagonist, nor indeed one I'm rooting for, but - strangely - it doesn't matter. The mystery and the plot make up for the lack of endearing story people in this case.

Other reviewers compared HTGAWM to LOST, and in its flashback structure and dark bits it's definitely a match, so here's hoping that Sawyer rocks up soon.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Truly Madly Guilty

Liane Moriarty's books are just awesome. I almost said "just keep getting better and better" but that would imply that her earlier books are in some way inferior. And so, her latest offering "Truly Madly Guilty" is just as much of a masterpiece as "Big Little Lies" or "What Alice Forgot".

I pre-purchased "Truly Madly Guilty" and read it on the day it came out (luckily I was on annual leave). While the author sticks to tried-and-tested themes in most of her books (mystery, family, love, family love, infertility, parenting), she never fails to amaze me with the richness of her characters. In her latest book we have a professional cello player, a hoarder, a woman with an unusual past who made a fortune on real estate (I'm being purposefully vague here to avoid spoilers), a charming larger-than-life extrovert, an intriguing child/teen. As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to start at the beginning in order to be with them again.

Now, a caveat. If you're expecting a gritty thriller along the lines of Gone Girl or the Jack Reacher series, you'll be disappointed. Liane Moriarty doesn't rely on gore, shock or the yuck-factor to keep you reading. Her pacing is more psychological, her delivery compassionate, and the power of her observation of the human nature second-to-none.

OK, I'll stop gushing now.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Catch Me If You Can - the book

I never realised "Catch Me If You Can" the movie was based on a book. I went to see it when it was showing on the big screen (primarily because Leo di Caprio said "I concur" so sexily in the trailer) and loved it, but only now have I happened upon the original semi-biography in book form.

The book is well-worth a read, even if (or perhaps especially if) you've seen the movie. The two are quite different, but in a good way. Neither is an accurate reflection of reality - and it doesn't matter.

Some cool quotes:

  • “Former police chief of Houston once said of me: “Frank Abagnale could write a check on toilet paper, drawn on the Confederate States Treasury, sign it ‘U.R. Hooked’ and cash it at any bank in town, using a Hong Kong driver’s license for identification.” 
  • “I learned early that class is universally admired. Almost any fault, sin or crime is considered more leniently if there’s a touch of class involved.” 
  • “It’s not what a man has but what a man is that’s important.” 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow by Fiona Barton is a page turner. I don't usually pick up books where children go missing, and - warning - this is one of those, but I started reading before I realised.

Please don't expect "Gone girl" or "Girl on the train". I'm not sure why the publisher decided to slot this book with the other two - nor indeed what "Gone girl" has in common with "Girl on the train". They're all British. They all have female protagonists. They all have black covers. Therein end the similarities.

The blurb, for those who need one:

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...
But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.
There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. 
Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. 
The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Scorpion - TV series

Scorpion - to watch or not to watch? I like stories about genius misfits such as Sherlock and The Big Bang Theory. Scorpion's dialogue isn't as clever as Sherlock's, and it's not as charming as The Big Bang Theory. At least the plot seems less formulaic than The Mentalist, and it's not as cringy as the IT Crowd.

3 episodes down. Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Person of Interest - Season 5

Person of Interest has had its ups and downs. More ups and the downs weren't deep valleys, more like lower hills. Season 5 is going strong. My favourite so far is Episode 4, titled 6,741.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

We were liars

"We were liars" by E. Lockheart is the kind of book that sends me to online book club chats because I can't wait for my next face-to-face bookclub meeting. It's the kind of book that stays with me for weeks. And, despite the sad themes, it's the type of book I'm glad to have read,

I'm not saying anything more on purpose. But here's the blurb:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Blindspot Season 1

*** SPOILERS ***

So I've finished watching season 1.

Overall feeling: addictive
Consistency: good writing, though towards the last quarter the plots seemed a bit too unbelievable (e.g., shoot a lot of innocent students because you hate one person?)
Favourite moment: the anniversary treasure hunt
Least favourite moment: David getting killed
Biggest question: why not relate the information directly to the FBI, without all the puzzles?

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Clouds in My Coffee

"Clouds in my Coffee" is the third book in the Country Club Mystery series by Julie Mulhern. I like the protagonist, the plot is fast-moving enough to make the reader want to swallow the book in a sing sitting, while the light style of writing fits well with the cosy murder mystery genre.

Blurb: When Ellison Russell is nearly killed at a benefactors’ party, she brushes the incident aside as an unhappy accident. But when her house is fire-bombed, she’s shot at, and the person sitting next to her at a gala is poisoned, she must face facts. Someone wants her dead. But why? And can Ellison find the killer before he strikes again? 

Add in an estranged sister, a visiting aunt with a shocking secret, and a handsome detective staying in her guesthouse, and Ellison might need more than cream in her coffee. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Black-eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin is an intelligent thriller, written in language that's rich and beautiful and very, very readable.

The premise is as simple as it is brilliant: a survivor of a brutal serial killer is wondering whether the right man is on death row for the crimes. The themes range from motherhood, through the morality of the death penalty to the fallibility of eye-witness statements.

I appreciate that the author chose not to dwell on the victim's ordeal at the hands of the serial killer. Some things are best left to the imagination. The thriller is all the more thrilling this way.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Die of Shame

Mark Billingham, the author of "Die of Shame" is a comedian. I remember the first time I heard him speak (as a writer, not as a Seinfeld), he mentioned his book titles were intended to make the job easy for the reviewers, as in:

  • "Lifeless" - a perfect title for this piece of rubbish novel
  • "Buried" - it certainly should be.
He continued the theme with "Good as Dead" and "The Dying Hours". And now - "Die of Shame". What was he daring critics to say?

And now, the actual review.

"Die of Shame" is not a Tom Thorne novel. Tom makes an appearance in the very last chapter (Phil cameos earlier), but the Detective Inspector who leads the murder investigation is a new face, Nicola Tanner. Refreshing that it's a woman, and I'm looking forward to seeing her personality develop in future books.

I liked the experimental structure of the book. I liked the idea: a group of addicts meets every Monday night for their therapy session, and then one of them is murdered (for a while, we don't even know which one). What I didn't like were the characters. Not a single one of them. OK, they're addicts, and they've done some terrible things. But they're not - nice. You know? I wouldn't want to be friends with them. I wouldn't want to meet them for lunch. I actually didn't care who'd done it, I just wanted him or her to do it again, until nobody of the group was left.

Don't get me wrong, it's actually a good book. Good plot and all. I wouldn't die of shame if I'd written it.

Monday, May 09, 2016

We are all completely beside ourselves

What can I say about "We are all completely beside ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler that'll convince you to read it? Come on, imagine that elusive, magical something, the one thing that'll make you reach for a book, no questions asked. Now imagine I've just said it about this book. And read it.

(There is a very good reason I'm not telling you what the book is about. If you don't know, you'll want to be surprised.)

Friday, April 29, 2016


I"m watching a new TV series. Think "Prison Break" meets "Blacklist" with a touch of Harlan Coben's "The Five".

A woman with full body tattoos is found in a travel bag in Times Square - alive, but with full-blown amnesia. One of the tattoos is the name of an FBI agent, who soon discovers that her body is a map of crimes about to be committed. But why this specific FBI agent?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Find Her (Detective D.D. Warren Book 8) by Lisa Gardner

(Have I ever mentioned how long it took me to get into Lisa Gardner's books? I read samples of her texts in writing courses, and I loved her voice, yet every time I picked up one of her stories, the violence and inherent sadness in the blurb made me put it right down again.

Eventually I succumbed. Started with "Catch me", because the writeup seemed the least tragic. Loved both the story and the respectfully gentle, non-sensationalist way, in which Ms Gardner deals with brutal events. Read the rest of the series in random order, which messed up the character arc a little bit, particularly D.D.'s love life, but it didn't matter. Her books rock.)

So, "Find Her". I read it as soon as it was published, back in February. As always with this author, I got a plot full of intrigue, originality, heart, real yet quirky characters, and a pace that kept me up the whole night, turning the pages with one hand and propping up my eyelids with the other.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fool Me Once

“Fool Me Once” (2016) by Harlan Coben is a brilliant read.

Now, before I tell you more, a digression. I had it on pre-order as soon as it became possible, with the release date diarised… only to be caught out by the time difference between New Zealand and America, which meant I had to wait an extra day. Miss Patient I was not, as you can imagine.

And while I (don’t) have your attention, here’s another digression. The poor author had spent 6-9 months of his life writing the book. I read it in two evenings. (Could have made it one evening, but I wanted to prolong the pleasure.) It doesn’t feel fair, somehow.

All right, onto the review. The book contains all the essential bestseller elements that Coben is so good at: a character you’re immediately cheering for, a murder mystery, a family secret, a moral dilemma (should you use webcams to spy on the nanny?), a sense of impeding danger. It even has Win as a cameo – and if you don’t know Win, don’t read this book just yet, first read any of the Myron Bolitar thrillers (I like Promise Me and The Darkest Fear the best).

The blurb – I know you want it:

Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Every Fifteen Minutes

"Every Fifteen Minutes" by Lisa Scottoline is a psychological thriller in which a ruthless sociopath sets out to destroy the life of a suburban dad.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Country Club Murders

The Country Club Murders by Julie Mulhern are set in 1970s in Kansas City. Don't let the time period fool you: they are written in modern language and with modern pacing. They are very much cozies, and they're a breath of fresh air after my diet of gory thrillers.

I've read Deep End and Guaranteed To Bleed. The next book is coming out in May 2016.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

So I read this awesome mystery book about dimentia....

... It's called Elizabeth Is Missing.

(Read more here:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey is a murder mystery as seen through the eyes of a woman suffering from memory loss (dementia). Reminiscent of the movie Memento, it's a riveting - if dark - read. While looking for Elizabeth, we're taking back to the protagonist's post-WW2 childhood where another girl went missing....

I loved the way the author took us into the mind of somebody who can't remember words, the last hour, or her own daughter. Both sad and funny, this makes for one memorable book.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Book of Everything - the Play (based on a Novel by Guus Kuijer)

I've just seen "The Book of Everything" in the theatre. The play was so brilliant (making full use of live drama tricks like chalk-drawn props, audience participation, and on-the-stage production of sound effects) that I can't imagine how the book could possibly do it justice.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival 2016

It's with a touch of sadness I'm writing this farewell to Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival. It's our family tradition to attend the event every year. Or, I should say, it's been our tradition. It will be no more.

The event's got too big, and moving it from Albert Park to the Domain did not help matters. The bigger venue simply attracted more people, which resulted in more queuing time to buy dinner. The less-central location meant fewer public transport options, fewer parking choices, and more traffic jams.

The vendors are probably happy. But, as a friend has put it: "In future, nobody will go to the Lantern Festival because it's too crowded."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Agent Dallas Thriller series by LJ Sellers

"The Trigger", "The Target", "The Trap". Three titles in the series so far, and I can't get enough of agent Jamie Dallas, a fun-loving but damaged heroine who'd rather work undercover than have a relationship that's anything more than sex-deep.

Fast-paced and well-plotted. I can't wait for #4.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

"The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs" by Matthew Dicks (The author of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend) is a book about bullying by social exclusion, and how its effects can potentially haunt you your whole life. The issues are serious, but the style makes for an enjoyable read.

Told from the perspective of a 40+ old woman, the book nevertheless has passages that can help teens identify and deal with emotional bullying.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Cellar - Minette Walters

The latest long-awaited novel - more of a novella - from the author of The Ice House, The Scold's Bridle and The Dark Room is a different kettle of kippers. Yes, it's still crime fiction. Yes, it's still a mystery. You can even call it a detective novel(la).

Told from the point of view of one of the victims, however, it's not a police procedural. It's not a thriller. I would never in a million years guess it to be a Minette Walters, the way a Lee Child is a Lee Child and a Harlan Coben is a Harlan Coben. In a way, it's more of a Tess Gerritsen than the latest Tess Gerritsen (Playing with Fire).

It's a good book. Well paced. Interesting characters.

Just not what I expected.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Abominable Bride - Sherlock

I love Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock. New Year's special episode, "The Abominable Bride", was no exception. I know some people had an issue with it


going back and forth between the historical and the contemporary setting, some even found it confusing. Apart from the obvious plagiarism of the Inception concept, I couldn't fault it. Even the ghost was scary.