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review 2017-07-20 22:34
Too Good to Be True - Ann Cleeves,Kenny Blyth,Macmillan Digital Audio
Why did I read it? I have listened to most of the Shetland series, so, naturally, I was interested in this short, crime story featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez.
What's it about? Jimmy's ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to come to the borders, to Stonebridge, where the local teacher has died. Although the police think Anna committed suicide, rumours have it that Sarah's husband, the good doctor was Anna's lover and he murdered her. Jimmy just wants to get home to Shetland; instead he reluctantly agrees to look into the matter because Sarah is so distressed.
What did I like? Well, the audio recording was clear, and without error. Kenny Blyth did an excellent job as narrator. A very short listen, with quick character development of both the people, and the village of Stonebridge. Jimmy is very much on his own on this one, and that makes a nice change. He also seems a little sharper in this story.
I did like the shorter chapters, and the writing seemed tighter in this story, compared to the longer books. It was a pleasant way to pass a day's commute.
What didn't I like? Oh dear. One particular line gave the whole thing away, so there was no real revelation at the end. I'm wondering if this is becoming a habit with the author, as I found the same thing in the last offering Cold Earth.
It wasn't the best crime storyline, if I'm honest, as the motive/reason for the teacher's death has been employed by many a crime writer, and it felt a little tired.
I did wonder if perhaps this was just an exploration of Jimmy's past, with a death thrown in, to set up some future book?
Would I recommend it? If you a reader of the Shetland series, then, yes.
If you're a fan of crime fiction, have read widely in the genre, and haven't read any of Ann Cleeves's other books, then don't start with Too Good To Be True, as it's not her best.
If you've not read much crime fiction before, would consider yourself a bit squeamish (no graphic descriptions here), and are thinking of a quick dip into the genre, then you may enjoy Too Good To Be True, as it certainly doesn't require knowledge of the other books in the series


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review 2017-07-11 22:56
Small Death in the Great Glen
Small Death in the Great Glen - A. D. Scott,John Keating

Why did I read it? One of the members of the Read Scotland 2017 group read, and reviewed it. After reading the synopsis, and the reviews, including the negative ones, and noting it was available in audio format, I decided to listen to it.


What's it about? A young boy goes missing in a Scottish Highlands town on his way home from school. The next morning he is found in a canal, and his two young companions claim he was snatched by a 'hoodie crow', a creature from folklore. No-one takes the girls story seriously, and blame is foisted on a foreigner who has jumped ship to escape the troubles in the Poland of the 1950s. The accusations begin to affect another Polish settler that first helped the fugitive, and his Italian fiancé’s family, who are still viewed at outsiders. Slowly, the staff of the Highland Gazette start to see through the 'hoodie crow' guise, and piece together the last hours of the tragic, young Jamie's life.


What did I like? This is not your typical crime novel. It's very slow paced, exploring the minutiae of life in a small town, in the Highlands of Scotland, in the 1950s. An exploration of the psychology of the town's inhabitants, as well as the culture. The behaviour of the (small) townsfolk is exposed: secretly knowing and even acknowledging the problems of others, but scared of being ostracised if they dare speak openly, or interfere; the lack of charity, or forgiveness of the Presbyterian inhabitants, and the suffering endured because of this attitude. Doing what is seen to be right, rather than what is right. The investigation into the assault, and murder of the young boy serving as a means to expose what lies beneath the surface of the town’s respectability.


The characters, though many, are whole, flawed, and well developed. Each with their own storyline, it was clear that the author intended more than one book about these characters, and the town.


I liked the descriptive phrases, the time taken to set a scene. I liked spending time with the various characters, and their private worlds, and inner thoughts. I also like that for all that description, the author refrains from going into details of various crimes found in the book. The reactions of the characters to what they see, and hear is enough to get the gist.


The audio recording was clear, and without issue.


What didn't I like? The author did have a tendency to go roaming, and take a very long time to return to the [a?] central plot. This did become a bit tedious at times.


I first encountered the narrator, John Keating, in the Irish Country Doctor series. While he did his best to provide appropriate accents for some characters, there was the odd issue of pronunciation that stood out. Sometimes his voice characterization worked; other times it just didn’t.


Now, the ending: It was particularly disappointing. I am still not sure if ended the way it did, in one very short, chapter, because the author wanted the reader to empathise with the disappointment of one of the main characters; or it was laziness and a quick way to wrap the whole thing up. Either way, I found it dis-satisfactory.


Would I recommend it? If you're a crime reader, and you like the sole focus to be on the investigation, and only the characters directly involved with said crime, then this isn't for you. If you like fast paced stories, that race you to the end perched on the edge of your seat, then this book isn't for you. If you like to just glimpse a character, or place as it is relevant to a storyline, then this also may not be the book for you.


If you like to take your time exploring a place, its people, and its culture, revelling in the everyday, the ordinary lives, then this could be a book for you. It is primarily a crime novel, but it is also the story about a particular time, and place.

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review 2017-06-19 21:38
Cold Earth: Shetland, Book 7 - Ann Cleeves,Kenny Blyth,Isis Publishing Ltd

Why did I read it? I have enjoyed the Shetland series by Anne Cleeves thus far, and, as it is summer and I have time spare until next semester, I thought I'd pick up where I'd left off.


What's it about? While attending a funeral, a landslide occurs ripping through the cemetery and destroying "Tain", a nearby croft house, thought to be uninhabited.  While checking on the damage, Jimmy Perez finds the body of a woman.  Initially thought to be a victim of the landslide, upon discovering the woman was dead beforehand, Jimmy asks Willow Reeves to head up the murder investigation.


What did I like? The narration was clear, and without fault.  The narrator, Kenny Blyth was decent, and good with accents.


I loved re-visiting Jimmy, Willow and Sandy, and mainland Shetland.  As always, the descriptions of people and places were illuminating, and I felt right there with the characters.  Anne Cleeves is very good at evoking an atmosphere.


What didn't I like? As the narrator, Kenny Blyth was a little disengaging; I found myself drifting away from the audio book, and had to rewind and re-listen a few times.


I'm not sure what it was - the narration, the plot - but the whole story seemed to just drag on, and on, though, oddly, the murder is solved in a few days.  I generally like this series, but I wasn't gripped at all. 


I'm afraid, too, I guessed the culprit almost from the first meeting. This has not always been the case with the Shetland series, so I was disappointed.


Would I recommend it? Oh yes, to fans of the Shetland series, and those who like crime fiction, but start at the beginning of the series as this is not a stand-alone book, given prior knowledge of some of the characters is required in order to understand certain situations.

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photo 2017-06-15 15:45
Rewind … because part of us will always be seventeen years old.
Karen Alexander lives in California and has it all: teenage children who allow her to be seen in public with them now and then, a successful architect husband who still kind of fits into his I Hate Maggie Thatcher T-shirt, and a teaching career she loves, especially in the school holidays. And she has Carol—her official Best Pal since their days of platform shoes, flicked-out hair, lip gloss shoplifted from Woolworths, Ally’s Tartan Army, and dancing to ABBA and "The Hustle" at the local disco.
Thirty-five years later, they worry more about a good foundation to cover the wrinkles, a reliable hairdresser to cover the grey, stylish but comfortable shoes, shapewear that gives them the semblance of a shape, and husbands who fall asleep on the couch.
Back in Scotland for a funeral and a cringe-worthy sixtieth birthday party, Karen runs into her teenage crush, Bobby Henderson, the former local punk rocker and all-round bad boy who broke Karen’s sixteen-year-old heart by not noticing her. When he walks into the party in his leather jacket and winks at her, Karen’s heart skips a beat like it was 1978. Is the first cut really the deepest? Has Karen spent the last thirty years with the wrong guy?
Can you rewind the tape of love, and if you can, should you?
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review 2017-06-14 23:28
A collection of easy to read, short, crime fiction tales
Offshore: a short story collection - Ann Cleeves

Why did I read it? I enjoy Anne Cleeves' Shetland series, and I also like the television serialisation of her Vera novels, so a collection of short stories to dip into during short breaks sounded good.

What's it about? A collection of short, crime fiction tales featuring some of the characters from Anne Cleeves' books, Willow Reeves, Jimmy Perez, and Vera Stanhope.

What did I like? The stories were short, complete and were well written, holding my attention the whole way through; some even managing a twist in the tale.  

What didn't I like?  There were too few stories?  Sorry, but that's about all I could find to dislike.   

Would I recommend it?  If you are a fan of Anne Cleeves, then, yes, I would recommend them, though they are only available in ebook form.  If you enjoy crime fiction, but don't have the time to read an entire novel, then this may be for you, too.

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