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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-11-05 03:09
Book Review: A Room Full of Bones
A Room Full of Bones: A Ruth Galloway Mystery - Elly Griffiths

Book: A Room Full of Bones

 

Author: Elly Griffiths

 

Genre: Fiction/Mystery

 

Summary: When Ruth Galloway arrives to supervise the opening of a coffin containing the bones of a medieval bishop, she finds the museum's curator lying dead on the floor. Soon after, the museum wealthy owner is also found dead, in his stables. These two deaths could be from natural causes, but once again Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson cross paths during the investigation. When threatening letters come to light, events take an even more sinister turn. But as Ruth's friends become involved, where will her loyalties lie? As her convictions are tested, Ruth and Nelson must discover how Aboriginal skulls, drug smuggling, and the mystery of "The Dreaming" hold the answers to these deaths, as well as the keys to their own survival. -Mariner Books, 2012.

 

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review 2017-11-02 04:34
The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa, translated by Ho-Ling Wong
The Moai Island Puzzle - Ho-Ling Wong,Alice Arisugawa

Alice Arisugawa is the third Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan author I’ve tried. I thought Arisugawa would also be my first female honkaku mystery author, but I didn’t bother to research that and, as it turns out, the author is actually male.

He also wrote a male character named after his pseudonym into The Moai Island Puzzle. I don’t like when authors write themselves into their own books, even if all they and their character have in common is their names, so this was a bit of a red flag for me, but I figured I’d let it pass. I was really hoping this book would be as good as the one that led me to it, Soji Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders. Or even Yukito Ayatsuji’s The Decagon House Murders, which had some issues but was still decent.

The Moai Island Puzzle starts by introducing readers to the members of the Eito University Mystery Club. The club’s only female member, Maria Arima, invites the other members to take a week-long holiday at her uncle’s villa on a tiny island. Only Alice Arisugawa (the narrator) and Jiro Egami are able to join her, but that doesn’t mean they’re alone: ten of Maria’s family members and family friends also take a holiday on the island at around this time every three years or so.

Alice and Egami arrive at the island with every intention of having fun. In particular, they’d like to solve the puzzle that Maria’s grandfather left behind. Before he died, Maria’s grandfather had several wooden moais, statues similar to the ones on Easter Island but much smaller, installed all over the island, each facing in a different direction. These statues are somehow the key to finding a treasure that Maria’s grandfather left behind.

Hideto, Maria's beloved cousin, was supposedly close to solving the puzzle three years ago but drowned before he could locate the treasure. Maria would like to finish what he started. Unfortunately, just as a typhoon is about to reach the island, a couple people are found shot to death inside a locked room. Was it suicide, or murder?

First off, I would like to say that I was frustrated with how determined these characters were to believe that a double suicide was a possibility in this situation. One of the victims was shot in the chest, one of them in the thigh, and there was a blood trail across the entire room. The window was closed, and the door was locked with an overly tight latch. Both victims were shot by a rifle, which was nowhere to be found in the room. Several characters kept theorizing that one of the victims shot the other victim, then themselves, and then somehow threw the rifle out the window and then shut the window. It took ages for someone to finally ask whether the rifle was even outside somewhere - no one had bothered to look. Granted, it was raining and a typhoon was coming, but I doubt a dying person would have been able to throw the rifle very far.

I suppose you could argue that they all clung to the “it was a double suicide or murder-suicide” theory so hard because they didn’t want to believe they were on the island with a murderer, but so many of the facts just didn’t fit. And I just shook my head at the characters’ behavior. Even past the point they should’ve started keeping a better eye on each other, they were busy getting drunk or spending time on their own. That was one of the book’s weaknesses: too many characters had no alibi.

You’d think that should have helped muddy the waters, but it was combined with the fact that there were also few clear motives. All I had to do was think about a likely motive that Arisugawa (the author) was very carefully not bringing up, and I basically figured out the identity of the murderer. I had hoped that I was wrong and that the motive I suspected was actually a red herring. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.

I wasn’t able to figure out how the murders were committed on my own, but part of the problem was that I didn’t care. I didn’t care about the characters, I had trouble caring about their family/relationship drama, and their conversations bored me. The final revelations didn’t change my mind about any of that.

The second part of the moai puzzle made sense to me, but the stuff the characters had to do to get to that part seemed like a stretch. And I didn’t buy that Egami was able to figure out everything about the murders the way he did, all on his own. His explanation for the locked room portion of the mystery, in particular, angered me more than shocked me. Without including spoilers, all I can say is that I had trouble believing the character would have done something like that, especially considering the way their relationships had been described.

All in all, this wasn’t worth the effort it took to read it. Very disappointing.

Additional Comments:

I noticed a few editing errors in the first 50 or so pages - sloppy verb tenses, and an instance of “peak” instead of “peek.”

The thing that bugged me the most, though, was the book’s very first illustration, a map of the island. I had thought it was the same map the characters had received, but they kept referencing marks on the map that indicated the locations of the moais, and the book’s illustration had no such marks. I still don’t know whether this was an error or whether it was deliberate on the author’s part. In the end, the marks wouldn’t have helped any (they were included later, albeit separate from the map), but the fact that they weren’t there made it feel like the author was keeping basic information from readers, and it was annoying.

Oh, and unrelated to all of that: I’m pretty sure that a normal, living snake wouldn’t feel sticky to the touch.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-10-22 17:32
A Room Full of Killers by Michael Wood
A Room Full of Killers: A gripping crime thriller with twists you won’t see coming (DCI Matilda Darke Series, Book 3) - Michael Wood

The third book in Michael Wood’s darkly compelling crime series featuring DCI Matilda Darke. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid.

Eight killers. One house. And the almost perfect murder…

Feared by the people of Sheffield, Starling House is home to some of Britain’s deadliest teenagers, still too young for prison. Now the building’s latest arrival, Ryan Asher, has been found brutally murdered – stabbed twelve times, left in a pool of blood.

When DCI Matilda Darke and her team investigate, they uncover the secrets of a house tainted by evil. Kate Moloney, the prison’s manager, is falling apart, the security system has been sabotaged, and neither the staff nor the inmates can be trusted.

There’s only one person Matilda believes is innocent, and he’s facing prison for the rest of his life. With time running out, she must solve the unsolvable to save a young man from his fate. And find a murderer in a house full of killers…

 
**********
 

I thought before I read this book that I was quite hardened when it came to crime novel that I could deal with quite a lot (except harming of animals and children), but there were really tough parts in this book that was hard for me to get through and that were the chapters that were the POV of the children, the murderers.

A Room Full of Killers is a dark and tragic book that I devoured. It's engrossing, but at the same time is it not an easy book to get through. DCI Matilda Darke has a lot on her plate, with the release of a book concerning a kidnap case that she was in charge of that went wrong. Also, she is still not completely over her husband's death 18 months earlier. And, now this case at the Starling House. A teenager is dead, and who could have done it? The question of why someone murdered him is perhaps not hard to understand since Ryan Asher is a convicted murderer, but someone got him out of a locked room. Matilda then meets one of the inmates, Thomas, and Matilda is convinced that the young boy is innocent of the crime he is said to have done. Now she wants to find Ryan's murdered and at the same time is she trying to get Thomas free.

I found the book thrilling and intense and the last part of the book had some really great twist to the story. I was a bit surprised on how Matilda could believe someone to be innocent by just looking at him. I mean quite literary just instantly believe his innocent without knowing much about the case. I'm not a police, but appearance can be deceiving, but I guess I much more cynical. Still, it added drama to the story. The side story with the kidnap case was also interesting and I'm really curious to see the impact it will have in the next book. If the kidnapping will be solved. I'm also quite eager to get the two previous books to read!

A Room Full of Killers is an excellent thriller. The characters are well-developed and interesting to follow and the case is interesting and I love the ending!

 
I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a free copy through NetGalley for an honest review! 
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review 2017-10-22 03:27
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada, translation by Ross and Shika Mackenzie
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders - Ross MacKenzie,Soji Shimada,Shika MacKenzie

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders starts off with a “last will and testament” written by Heikichi Umezawa in 1936. In this document, he detailed his belief that he is possessed and how he came to the realization that killing six of his daughters and nieces would solve his problems. Using their zodiac signs as a guide, he’d take one body part from each young woman and construct Azoth, the perfect woman.

The story then fast forwards to about 40 years later. Kazumi, a mystery fan, is describing the facts of the Tokyo Zodiac Murders to his friend Kiyoshi, an astrologer and occasional detective. The six young women were, in fact, killed and mutilated in the manner described in Heikichi’s will, but Heikichi couldn’t possibly have done it: he’d been dead for several days prior to the murders. In addition to Heikichi’s murder and the Azoth murders, one of Heikichi’s other stepdaughters was also killed. No one is sure whether that murder was related to the others or not.

After Kiyoshi takes on a client with a distant but potentially embarrassing connection to the case, Kiyoshi and Kazumi end up with a one-week deadline to solve a mystery that no one else has managed to solve in 40 years. Diagrams included throughout the text invite readers to solve the mystery along with them.

If you like trying to solve mysteries before a book’s fictional detective does, you really need to give this a try. It’s an excellent puzzle, and the author even interjects a couple times in order to let readers know when enough information has been included to allow them to solve the mystery. Of course, he interjects late enough that readers have more information than they need, muddying the water a bit, but that’s part of the fun.

The first part, with Heikichi’s will, was particularly strong. Heikichi casually describing why he needed to kill his daughters and nieces was incredibly creepy. I promise, though, that that’s as creepy as the book gets. Although the description of how the murders were actually accomplished was horrifying, the book’s overall tone didn’t have much of a feeling of creepiness, horror, or even urgency to it. Yes, Kiyoshi only had a week to solve the mystery, but the only things at stake, really, were his ego and reputation. Most of the people directly affected by the Tokyo Zodiac Murders were long dead.

There were a few times when I started to lose interest as the book became a little too “two guys talking about the facts of the case,” but for the most part those facts were really interesting. I had all kinds of theories about who might have killed Heikichi and how, how Kazue, Heikichi’s eldest stepdaughter, was involved, and who had killed the other women. None of my theories fit all of the facts of the case, and all my theories were torpedoed after Shimada included one particular document.

Kazumi, who was basically Kiyoshi’s Watson, had some ideas of his own that sounded promising, but I was fairly certain that he’d miss the key detail that would bring everything together. By the time Kiyoshi finally announced that he’d solved the murders, both Kazumi and I were thoroughly lost. It got to the point where I felt like Shimada was practically shoving the finished puzzle under my nose and I still couldn’t solve it. It was frustrating and fun at the same time. If it hadn’t been for work and sleep, I’d probably have read the last part of the book, where everything was finally revealed, all in one go. I can confidently say that I’d never have figured everything out on my own. There were aspects that stretched my suspension of disbelief, but, even so, the solution was really good.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable mystery that kept me guessing until the final revelation. It was very deliberately structured like a puzzle that readers were invited to solve along with Kiyoshi and Kazumi, but, despite the author’s two interjections, it still didn’t feel quite as detached as a couple similar mysteries I can think of. Kiyoshi and Kazumi had some life to them and didn’t just feel like pieces on the author’s gameboard. I particularly enjoyed their conversation about Sherlock Holmes and well-known mystery authors, and Kazumi's enjoyment of various locations in Japan made me wish I could visit them myself.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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