Book Review: Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

What’s it about?

Evidence that clears the name of a boy sentenced for killing his adopted mother arrives too late to save his life – so who did kill her?

According to the courts, Jacko Argyle bludgeoned his mother to death with a poker. The sentence was life imprisonment

But when Dr Arthur Calgary turns up a year later with the proof that confirms Jacko’s innocence, he is too late – Jacko died behind bars from a bout of pneumonia.

Worse still, the doctor’s revelations re-open old wounds in the family, increasing the likelihood that the real murderer will strike again…

My thoughts

I’d originally seen the ITV drama adaptation but hadn’t linked it to this book so things did seem familiar as I was reading.  I did remember who’d dunnit and so was reading from a different perspective.  I was looking for the clues and red herrings that were there for the reader to have a stab at working it out – these are incredibly subtle so it’s no wonder I never pick up on them.

This is a standalone Christie and doesn’t feature either of her well known detectives so has a different feel from the usual Poirot and Marple mysteries, somewhat less formulaic.

I didn’t find it to be a fast-paced thriller but more of a slow Sunday afternoon stroll towards the deductions at the end that read like a game of Cluedo.

I didn’t find any of the characters really likeable, they’re all a bit pompous but there’s still something that made me read on.  It may well have just been my desire to work it out all out with my insider knowledge.  Still worth the read if you’ve not come across it before.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Right, so there’s my thoughts on the book, if that’s sufficient for you, great you can move on because now I’m going to have a moan about how different the tv adaptations have been.  So if you’ve not seen them, then there may be spoilers!

To my knowledge there are 2 TV versions, first done by ITV in 2007 and later by the BBC this year.

The first thing I noticed, in all 3 versions, Jacko dies in a different way: he’s hanged, dies of pneumonia and most recently he’s beaten to death.

ITV decided to make it a Marple mystery, I guess so they could incorporate it into the TV series that was showing at the time.  It doesn’t really add or take away from the story.  Although ITV did decide to have Gwenda murdered, whereas in the book it’s Philip, but the BBC decided to keep Philip as a victim but change the method of murder.

The latest offering by the BBC changed Dr Calgary’s back story so that he’s a much less credible witness and they’ve gone all out in making this a much darker, sinister adaptation with hints of police conspiracies, child abuse and then a whole completely different ending and one I thought wasn’t all cut and dried.  I’m not 100% sure who the BBC had pegged as the actual murderer.

The acting is superb in this most recent version and the way that it’s been filmed is dark and brooding.

I do wonder what the thinking is behind the reasons for changing victims and endings.  Is it that the original book wasn’t deemed mysterious or gripping enough?

Have you seen any of the adaptations or what’s your take on changing plots etc?

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author Website

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 352
Publisher: Harper Collins

Book Review: The Fear Within by J.S Law

What’s it about?

A teenage sailor disappears on HMS Defiance, an infamous closed case reopens, and Lt. Danielle Lewis fights for truth and survival in this high-octane military thriller

After events on board the submarine HMS Tenacity, Lieutenant “Dan” Lewis of the Royal Navy’s Kill Team was warned not to pursue those responsible. She should walk away, stop investigating, but her thirst for justice means she can’t let it go.

But even as Dan defies the order, continuing to track a sailor on the run, her investigative skills are needed on a new case. A young naval Wren has gone missing from the warship HMS Defiance. Last seen going on board, but never seen leaving, there is no trace of the girl and Dan must work her way through a web of witness accounts to uncover what might motivate her to run, or what might motivate a predator to take her.

Following in the wake of the missing girl, Dan soon closes in on her quarry, but is forced to question whether she is the one who was being hunted all along.

My thoughts

I’d read the first book in the Lieutenant Dani Lewis series, originally known as Tenacity, now known as The Dark Beneath, why the change of name I don’t know but there’s another blog post altogether.  Anyway, I digress, I’d enjoyed that first book as the setting was so different and so was very appreciative to be approved for a request via Bookbridgr!

This is kind of a standalone novel but I think you’d be wise to read the first in the series as this does heavily reference the first book even though it’s a new case.

From the opening chapter I had an idea of how the main character, Dani, would play out, she simply cannot follow orders and it beggars belief that she’d be allowed to get away with what she does. Putting herself and her team in danger on more than one occasion, secret missions and insubordination….okay okay it adds to the drama and some poetic licence is needed but with an institution such as HM Royal Navy…mmmm not so sure on that!

This book has a lot of different crimes going, and I’m wondering now if all of what it involved was overkill; serial rape and murder, drug smuggling, torture, stalking, kidnapping and vigilantism so prepare yourself, I found this a lot more hard-hitting than the first.

I didn’t like the torture scenes, I know I know you’re not meant too but honestly if I’d have been watching this on tv I would have turned over.  There’s a couple of scenes where a character is subject to some pretty horrific treatment and whilst this character is not a very nice person at all, I still felt sorry for him – is that normal?!

Overall it was an okay read but I found that I just don’t gel with the main character, Dani, at all.  I should, because she is a confident strong lead but she just rubs me up the wrong way and for that reason I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Connect via Twitter | Website

Small print for info
Source: ARC
No of pages: 432
Publisher: Headline

Book Review: The Whistler by John Grisham

What’s it about?

We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens….

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption. 

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.

What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.

But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

My thoughts

After recently struggling to get through a couple of books of short stories, I was looking on the shelf for a book I knew I could read in a weekend and this was the lucky pick.  Grisham’s legal thrillers are my go-to read as they always hit the spot and are my favourites.

I’m four behind in Grisham’s latest legal offerings and although this one is not a court room based thriller, there is still of course, the legal plot line albeit in a different sense.  I was instantly drawn to Lacy and her partner Hugo characters; you know the type, underpaid overworked Government workers trying to put the world to rights in the face of adversity (shady dealings, bribery, money laundering and witness tampering to name but a few) so you’ll be rooting for them every step of the way.

I found it interesting reading regarding the Indian reservation and casino plot lines which had me thinking if there is any truth in the roots of this book (not all the wrongdoing but to do with the laws, and way of the land etc).

As per the Grisham norm it’s cleverly thought out, there’s plenty of action where every chapter feels like a cliffhanger and plenty of bad guys to loathe but then how do you find them when you don’t know who they are….therein is much of the story!  However, much as I enjoyed this book and raced through it, it’s not in the same league as A Time to Kill or The Firm.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 416
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks

Book Review: Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

What’s it about?

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it. 

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

 

 

 

My thoughts

I do love a good courtroom drama with all its tension, suspense and anticipation so really looked forward to this book.  I’ve seen so many reviews, snippets and high praise just lately which prompted me to get on with the ARC I received some time ago.

From the outset I found the majority of the book to be highly addictive.  Told in turn by Holly, Sophie, James and Kate we see how a sexual assault affects those involved and is in effect a breakdown of the repercussions – herein the anatomy of such a scandal.  Given the subject matter it’s not an enjoyable read; in particular the evidence given by the victim is quite brutal and is exactly what you hear of in real trials and the victim and their actions being put on trial themselves.

The book flips back and forward between the early 90s and 2017.  I quite like a dual timeline but this one did confuse me now and again as it’s date specific.  Reading it an ARC on a Kindle is not so easy if you can’t easily flip back and compare the dates.

I liked all the build up, the courtroom scenes and the pomp and ceremony that comes with the British judicial system, this is good stuff.  However, for me, once the verdict had been given, it all went downhill and lost pace and I kind of lost interest.  All the culmination of the trial and the evidence and the did or he didn’t he and then….anticlimax!

That said, I did have a conversation with my daughter and she pointed out to me that had the book ended with the trial and the verdict, I probably would have been unhappy with that and wanted more, to find out what happened next etc.  This is exactly what the author has done, but it left me flat.  Probably because I didn’t like Sophie’s character, or James’ obviously, so wasn’t empathetic at all towards them.  As I’m writing this I’m having difficulty putting my feelings into words, but let me just say it’s no Apple Tree Yard but still a decent enough legal drama!

p.s I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority here!

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author links: Website | Twitter

Small print for info
Source: Advanced Reading Copy – many thanks!
No of pages: 400
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

Book Review: The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P.D James

What’s it about?

P. D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a short story for Christmas, and four of the best have been drawn from the archives and published here together for the first time. From the title story about a strained country-house Christmas party, to another about an illicit affair that ends in murder, plus two cases for detective Adam Dalgliesh, these are masterfully atmospheric stories by the acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’. 

 

 

 

 

My thoughts

This was our book club pick for December and one which we’ll be discussing next week.  I couldn’t wait till then to post my thoughts on my first PD James experience so here we are.

There are four short stories in this book ranging from about 30 – 40 pages.  The first two in the book, The Mistletoe Murder and A Very Commonplace Murder, I thought were brilliant.  Given they were roughly 30 ish pages each they both left me feeling as satisfied as if I’d read a full size novel in the plot, characters and reveal.  I should have seen it coming…of course I should but regular readers know I never do.  Although I have suspicions, I do tend to accept everything at face value and  don’t question EVERYTHING I read – hey ho!  This is why I thought these 2 stories were excellent, to be able to get all the info you need, create the suspense and deception in such a short amount of pages – bravo! (Reminded me of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected).

However, I wasn’t as enamoured with the second half of the book, the Detective Adam Dalgliesh mysteries.  There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the mysteries, I just didn’t really gel with him.  It was all a little too neat and wrapped up too quickly.  I’d definitely read more of James’ work but wouldn’t make a point of reading the Dalgliesh books unless someone could convince me otherwise.  Of course, I’m assuming she has written other things beside Dalgliesh because I don’t actually know.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book just for the first 2 stories and at the time of writing I paid about £3.50 so worth it.  As a side note this edition is quite stunning.  It has a gorgeous lino print by Angela Harding to the cover and overall a very rustic feel and texture which I really liked.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Author link: Biography 

Small print for info
Source: Purchased
No of pages: 136
Publisher: Faber & Faber