Posted in Biography, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Non-Fiction

18 Tiny Deaths: The Untold Story of Frances Glessner Lee and the Invention of Modern Forensics Bruce Goldfarb 3*#Review @bruce_goldfarb @Octopus_Books #18TinyDeaths #ForensicScience #Biography #nonfiction #RandomThingsTours @annecater

For most of human history, sudden and unexpected deaths of a suspicious nature, when they were investigated at all, were examined by lay persons without any formal training. People often got away with murder. Modern forensic investigation originates with Frances Glessner Lee – a pivotal figure in police science.

Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962), born a socialite to a wealthy and influential Chicago family, was never meant to have a career, let alone one steeped in death and depravity. Yet she became the mother of modern forensics and was instrumental in elevating homicide investigation to a scientific discipline.

Frances Glessner Lee learned forensic science under the tutelage of pioneering medical examiner Magrath – he told her about his cases, gave her access to the autopsy room to observe post-mortems and taught her about poisons and patterns of injury. A voracious reader too, Lee acquired and read books on criminology and forensic science – eventually establishing the largest library of legal medicine.

Lee went on to create The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death – a series of dollhouse-sized crime scene dioramas depicting the facts of actual cases in exquisitely detailed miniature – and perhaps the thing she is most famous for. Celebrated by artists, miniaturists and scientists, the Nutshell Studies are a singularly unusual collection. They were first used as a teaching tool in homicide seminars at Harvard Medical School in the 1930s, and then in 1945 the homicide seminar for police detectives that is the longest-running and still the highest-regarded training of its kind in America. Both of which were established by the pioneering Lee.

In 18 Tiny Deaths, Bruce Goldfarb weaves Lee’s remarkable story with the advances in forensics made in her lifetime to tell the tale of the birth of modern forensics.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Octopus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This biography explores significant forensic science developments and Frances Glessner Lee’s role in them. Focusing predominately on North American forensic science, the book sets the scene by highlighting defects of the legal-medico and Coroner’s system, before the development of modern forensic science.

Details of Frances Glessner Lee’s ancestry, upbringing and life, show how remarkable her legacy is, at a time when women were sidelined by society. This is a biography of a notable woman, interwoven with developments in forensic science. For those who enjoy historical biographies, her life is intrinsically interesting. Frances’ interest in making miniature figures and pieces is documented, something which she later used for teaching purposes in forensic science.

Early developments in forensic science and crimes and the development of the medical examiner role and autopsy are explored through case studies and historical characters. Lee’s role in developing a department of legal medicine is documented in detail. As are the model scenes she creates, these are illustrated.

This is a factual, interesting biography, which will appeal to those, interested in the origins of, and players in, forensic science in North America.

Bruce Goldfarb

Bruce Goldfarb is the executive assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland, US, where the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are housed. He gives conducted tours of the facility and is also a trained forensic investigator. He began his career as a paramedic before working as a journalist, reporting on medicine, science and health.

He collaborated with Susan Marks – the documentary filmmaker who produced the 2012 film about Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshells titled Of Dolls and Murder.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Death in Smoke Barbara Elle 3* #Review @barbaraelleauth #TheCapeMysteries @LoveBooksGroup #Lovebookstours #Mystery #MurderMystery #cozymystery #psychological #Suspense #BookReview #BlogTour #WednesdayMotivation

She stumbled on a bloodied body buried in a snowbank. Will a cold case in Kansas lead her to the killer?

Against a canvas of crime and murder, artist and detective Leila Goodfriend investigates two brutal murders that happened a thousand miles—and decades apart. 

As she unravels the truth about these two violent killings, she tracks a trail of blood and revenge, littered with smoke screens and stone relics of a perilous past. From Cape Cod to a casino in Kansas, Leila has to trust her instincts. And her developing relationship with Detective John Grace is put to a new, dangerous test. 

Despite the detective’s warnings, Leila puts her life at risk, obsessed with proving her friend’s innocence, at least of murder. 

She exposes new suspects and clues, and in the end, reveals a dark, deadly secret from her own past.

Amazon UK

Goodreads

In her stunning debut thriller, Death In Vermilion (The Cape Mysteries Book 1), acclaimed author Barbara Elle paints a clever and twisted picture of women and sisters, whose lives are entwined by a brutal murder in a Cape Cod town. Who can you trust?

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

All the attributes of a murder mystery with the added dimension of psychological insight into the main protagonist. This story has a dramatic setting, eclectic characters, dry humour, and grisly murders. Leila, an artist, and amateur sleuth is a complex, relatable character.

Interesting twists enliven a simple, gently paced plot characterised by conflict and danger. This story is a fusion of cozy murder mystery and psychological suspense, character-driven, with a good sense of place and time.

Barbara Elle

Barbara Elle fell in love with books and writing at a young age, honing her writing chops as a copywriter at major publishers publishers and as a freelance journalist.

Growing up in Boston, but she became a New Yorker as an adult. Her writing draws on people and places she remembers, setting The Cape Mysteries on Cape Cod, a place of memories. 

Barbara Elle continues collecting characters and plots, often travelling the world with her touring musician husband, bass player and musical director for rock and roll icon Cyndi Lauper. In her travels, Barbara has explored Buddhist temples in Beijing, crypts in Vienna and Kabuki Theater in Tokyo.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime

#Payback Claire MacLeary 4* #Review @SarabandBooks @ClaireMacLeary @LoveBooksGroup #Lovebookstours #HarcusandLaird #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #BookReview

When police are called to a murder scene at the home of Aberdeen socialite Annabel Imray, they find themselves under pressure to get a conviction, and fast. Meanwhile, local PIs Wilma Harcus and Maggie Laird are at rock bottom, desperate for income. As Maggie contemplates replacing Wilma with an unpaid intern, an eccentric widow appoints them to search for her lost cat – and Wilma goes off-piste to negotiate a loan, with terrifying terms.  As the fear caused by a series of sinister break-ins escalates, Maggie blames the aggressive language in public discourse for inciting violent crime. But before long, she finds she is in the danger zone herself.

Will Wilma manage to save her?

Amazon UK Waterstones Saraband

I received a copy of this book from Saraband in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Wilma Harcus and Maggie Laird are a private investigation team. As different, as it’s possible to be, the two women look out for each other, have a strong friendship and success rate. Despite, all of this the business is struggling and money is needed urgently. Maggie (the cautious, sensible one), thinks about selling her assets to keep meet the bills. Wilma, (the free spirit), goes for a less conventional and ultimately dangerous alternative, which has consequences for her friend.

This is the fourth book, in the Harcus and Laird series. It’s my first encounter, with the team and I find it, full of action, humour and solid investigation. Although the characters have history and previous cases are alluded to, it doesn’t detract from this story.

The characters are engaging and realistic. The story is cleverly plotted and the divergent investigations interweave to produce a strong ending.

Payback is enjoyable crime fiction, with a strong sense of place, humour and team dynamic.

Claire MacLeary

Claire MacLeary lived for many years in Aberdeen and St Andrews, but describes herself as “a feisty Glaswegian with a full life to draw on”. Following a career in business, she gained an MLitt with Distinction from the University of Dundee and her short stories have been published in various magazines and anthologies. She has appeared at Granite Noir, Noir at the Bar and other literary events. Claire’s debut novel,Cross Purpose, was longlisted for the prestigious McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award 2017, and Burnout was longlisted for the Hearst Big Book Award 2018.Runaway is her third novel and continues the Harcus & Laird series.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Humour, Murder Mystery

Burying Bad News Paula Williams 4* #Review #Much Winchmoor Mysteries @PaulaWilliams44 @darkstrokedark @crookedcatbooks @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #cozymystery #MurderMystery #VillageLife #Somerset

One severed head, two warring neighbours – and a cold-blooded killer stalks Much Winchmoor. There’s the murder made to look like a tragic accident, and a missing husband. Could he be victim number two?

The tiny Somerset village is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country, and once again, reporter/barmaid/dog walker Kat Latcham finds herself reluctantly dragged into the investigation.

Things are looking bad for Ed Fuller, the husband of one of Kat’s oldest friends. Kat’s convinced he’s innocent – but she’s been wrong before.

Has Kat come across her biggest challenge yet?

Fans of Janet Evanovich could well enjoy this “funky, modern day nosey detective” transported to the English countryside. The third Much Winchmoor mystery is, as always, spiked with humour and sprinkled with a touch of romance.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Much Winchmoor, is a quirky, country village in Somerset. It’s full of eccentric, gossipy characters, and more murders than you would expect in such a sleepy village. This is the third in the series, but there is sufficient narrative on the inhabitants, for it to be enjoyed as a standalone read.

The characters are relatable. The picturesque setting at odds with the heinous crimes. The insights into village life are astute and accurate. The plot has a multitude of suspects and false leads and an intelligent, likeable and an unlikely amateur sleuth. This is a winning mix, for an English murder mystery, and it works well here.

Paula Williams

Paula Williams is living her dream.  She’s written all her life – her earliest efforts involved blackmailing her unfortunate younger brothers into appearing in her various plays and pageants. But it’s only in recent years, when she turned her attention to writing short stories and serials for women’s magazines that she discovered, to her surprise, that people with better judgement than her brothers actually liked what she wrote and were prepared to pay her for it and she has sold over 400 short stories and serials both in the UK and overseas.

Now, she writes every day in a lovely, book-lined study in her home in Somerset, UK, where she lives with her husband and a handsome but not always obedient rescue Dalmatian called Duke.  She still writes for magazines but now writes novels as well.  She is currently writing the Much Winchmoor series of murder mysteries, set in a village not unlike the one she lives in –  although as far as she knows, none of her friends and neighbours have murderous tendencies.

A member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association, her novels often feature  a murder or two, and are always spiked with humour and sprinkled with a touch of romance.

She also writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the writers’ magazine, Writers’ Forum.  And she blogs about her books, other people’s books and, quite often, Dalmatians at paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com. 

She gives talks on writing at writing festivals and to organised groups and has appeared several times of local radio.  In fact, she’ll talk about writing to anyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen.

But, as with all dreams, she worries that one day she’s going to wake up and find she still has to bully her brothers into reading ‘the play what she wrote’.

Blog Facebook author page Twitter Facebook Instagram

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Literary Fiction, Noir, Short stories

Two Lives Tales of Life, Love and Crime Stories from China. A Yi #Translator Alex Woodend 3* #Review @alexwoodend @flametreepress @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #noir #CrimeFiction #China #Love #Life #ShortStories #TwoLivesStoriesFromChina #Secrets #BlogTour #BookReview

Seven stories, seven whispers into the ears of life: A Yi’s unexpected twists of crime burst from the everyday, with glimpses of romance distorted by the weaknesses of human motive. A Yi employs his forensic skills to offer a series of portraits of modern life, both uniquely Chinese, and universal in their themes. His years as a police officer serve him well as he teases the truth from simple observation, now brought into the English language in a masterful translation by Alex Woodend. The stories include Two Lives, Attic, Spring, Bach, Predator. 

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Flame Tree Press in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A collection of literary fiction short stories, set in China and translated from Chinese. The collection focuses on crime and darker aspects of life and love. The unique and well-written stories explore Chinese society and the complexity of its individuals.

Crime features in most of the stories. The author’s knowledge of forensic science colours many of the stories, which are often explicit and graphic. Descriptions of violence and its results make some of the stories closer to horror fiction, but the underlying theme is, what people as individuals and en masse are capable of, given the right provocation.

The stories give the reader a sense of life in China. Like all short stories, some are easier to relate to than others, but if you are looking for something different, and can accept graphic descriptions, this is worth reading.

A Yi (author) is a celebrated Chinese writer living in Beijing. He worked as a police officer before becoming editor-in- chief of Chutzpah, an avant garde literary magazine. He is the author of several collections of short stories and has published fiction in Granta and the Guardian. In 2010 he was shortlisted for the People’s Literature Top 20 Literary Giants of the Future. A Perfect Crime, his first book in English was published by Oneworld in 2015. He is noted for his unsentimental worldview, and challenging literary style.

Alex Woodend (Translator) is a writer/translator whose fascination with Spanish and Chinese began at Franklin & Marshall College. He continued his studies at Columbia University where he wrote his Masters on early post-Mao literature. Translator of The Captain Riley Adventures , Murder in Dragon City, and other works, he currently lives in New York.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Mystery

Living Candles Teodora Matei 4* #Review @TeoMatei2 @CorylusB @Lovebookgroup #Lovebookstours #BlogTour #BookReview #Mystery #Romania #CrimeFiction

The discovery of a woman close to death in a city basement sends Bucharest police officers Anton Iordan and Sorin Matache on a complex chase through the city as they seek to identify the victim. As they try to track down the would-be murderer, they find a macabre trail of missing women and they realise that this isn’t the first time the killer has struck. Iordan and Matache hit one dead end after another, until they decide they’ll have to take a chance that could prove deadly.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of the book from Corylus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Finding the person who left a woman hanging from a pipe in a basement proves difficult for police detectives Jordan and Matache. The two detectives have a good working relationship, Jordan is a police commander, with a troublesome private life. Matahce is a talented, young chief inspector, living the good life.

The story is fast-paced and follows along police procedural lines. The setting in Romania, adds interest for the reader, as the forensic departments, and other aspects of the police investigative team are distinctive. There is a good cast of characters, with insights into the personal lives of the two main detectives. The characters are realistic, and the plot is well thought out. The reader investigates the crime alongside the detectives, finding out information when they do. This immersive quality makes it an enjoyable read.

TWITTER

Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish fiction translated into English. The people behind the company have very different backgrounds, but what brings us together is a deep appreciation of crime fiction and a strong interest in books from countries that so have been under-represented in English.

It took a while before it turned out that everyone’s thoughts had been on similar lines – that we wanted to take a chance on presenting some of the great European crime fiction that wouldn’t normally make its way into English. With a mixture of language, translation and other skills between the four of us, it seemed the logical next step to take.

The first Corylus books are a pair of Romanian crime novellas, Living Candles by Teodora Matei and Zodiac by Anamaria Ionescu.

There’s more to come in 2020 – starting with Romanian novelist’s Bogdan Teodorescu’s Sword, a powerful political thriller that has already been a bestseller in Romania and in its French translation. Sword will be available in May and will be followed later in the year by the first of two books by Icelandic crime writer Sólveig Pálsdóttir. The Fox will be available in the second half of this year, followed by Shackles in 2021.

And there’s more to come, with a novel by Bogdan Hrib set partly in Romania and partly in the north-east of England, a second novel from Teodora Matei, and we’re talking to more exciting writers from across Europe about what we can do together…

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Historical Crime Fiction

Arrowood and the Thames Corpses Mick Finlay 4* #Review @mickfinlay2 @HQStories #BlogTour #BookReview #HistoricalCrimeFiction #Victorian #London

South London, 1896.

William Arrowood, Victorian London’s less salubrious private detective, is paid a visit by Captain Moon, the owner of a pleasure steamer moored on the Thames. He complains that someone has been damaging his boat, putting his business in jeopardy.

Arrowood and his trusty sidekick Barnett suspect professional jealousy, but when a string of skulls is retrieved from the river, it seems like even fouler play is afoot.

It’s up to Arrowood and his trusty sidekick Barnett to solve the case, before any more corpses end up in the watery depths . . .

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A run of the mill case for Arrowood and his assistant takes a sinister turn, leading to many bodies, and connections to a cold case. This is a dark, gritty historical crime thriller, set in Victorian London, which doesn’t shy away from the deprivation and danger. Graphic descriptions portray the setting, and ethos of the time, make it grisly reading but add to the historical authenticity.

Arrowood is enigmatic and not at all glamorous. but his knowledge of psychology sharpens his detective skills. His life is chaotic, but his crime-solving is exemplary. There are touches of humour in this story that lighten the noir quality, and the crime-fighting team, have a good dynamic.

Atmospheric, authentic and absorbing, with a cleverly crafted plot, and a cast of believably flawed historical characters.