The Twist of a Knife ~ by Anthony Horowitz

I just kept going on to #4 in the Horowitz and Hawthorn series.  The thing about Hawthorn is that he gives nothing about himself away.  Horowitz is to write his biography but that can’t really be done without some knowledge about the subject, like his wife and child etc.  But Hawthorn is a detective, a very private one, and what he wants his biography written about is how he detects like Sherlock Holmes – brilliantly.  They’re funny books and the who-done-its of them are excellent.


The Twist of a Knife
by Anthony Horowitz
Read by Rory Kinnear 8h 31m
Rating – A / mystery – Private Investigator
(#4 in A Hawthorne and Horowitz series)

The Word is Murder is the first book in the series, The Sentence is Death is the second and after those comes. A Line to Kill and finally there is The Twist of a Knife.  (And I’m hoping for at least a couple more.).

The author, Horowitz, has written himself into the books as the 1st person main character which some readers love but others don’t like so much. And yes, there are a few souls (moi) for whom it took a bit of getting used to, but I ended up loving it.  It’s a take-off on his Sherlock Holmes books which were

This time Horowitz himself is the main suspect for the murder of Harriet Throsby, a sharp-tongued theater critic who will be missed by almost no one, including her daughter. Throsby gave Horowitz’s play a thorough trashing.  Meanwhile, sprinkling some salt on the wound, the arresting officer is (ta -da) Cara Grunshaw with her seething resentment against Horowitz. He calls his last hope, the one-and-only, Hawthorne 

Again, a long list of characters and easy to get mixed up.  There are time frames and personal relations and lots of tiny details for which Horowitz is known, but at this point I think of huge interest to readers are the secrets of Daniel Hawthorne.

Now at some point I’ve got to read the more direct Sherlock Holmes spins.  

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The Sentence is Death – by Anthony Horowitz

It’s possible that the more books I read books by Anthony Horowitz the more I enjoy them and I think this may be one of his most enjoyable adult mysterie,  but I haven’t read them all yet.   

The Sentence is Death
by Anthony Horowitz 
2019 / 
Read by Roy Kinnear 8h 36m
Rating – A+  / mystery 
(A Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery, Book 2

Sad to say that my second in the Hawthorn and Horowitz series was actually #3. My bad for not paying attention.  So now I’m listening to #2 with #4 on the Wish List.  Yay!  Should I just plunge right in? 

The conceit here, as in several other books by Horowitz, because it seems to work for him, is that Hawthorne is a a kind of celebrity detective and uses Horowitz, a well-established crime writer (as the author is in real life), as his biographer. But Hawthorne pays Horowitz to follow him around as Hawthorne attempts to solve murders under contract with the police department. Horowitz’s job is to write Hawthorne’s biography, but he’s not happy about this arrangement.  Horowitz is the first person in this and Hawthorne is an arrogant and very mysterious, secretive may be a better word, character (so to speak.  It’s a spin on Sherlock Holmes. 

The victim this time is Richard Price, a divorce lawyer who has been clobbered with a bottle of wine and dies. Who? why? The unhappy ex-wife of a client is a distinct possibility.  Hawthorn is on the investigation from the start and, at Hawthorn’s request, Horowitz is shadowing him to write a biography.  The story slowly gets complicated and there are 56 characters and this link came in handy:

The narration is very difficult for awhile but I did get used to it and I’ll look forward to listening to Ray Kinnear in the next book of the series.

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A Deadly Feast ~ by Lucy Burdette

This series takes place in Key West, Florida where Thanksgiving is coming up along with the wedding of the Hayley Snow, the series protagonist who works as a food writer.  But a few days earlier a woman dies on a seafood tasting tour. Was it poisoning?  And Hayley’s fiancé, a police detective, is called to a case he can’t talk about. 

A Deadly Feast 
by Lucy Burdette 
Read by Laura Jennings 6h 35m
Rating:   B / cozy holiday mystery 
(#9 in the Key West Food Critic series)

With the groom being a police detective, crime and secrets are scattered all through the tale.  And overall it’s a good story – the plot is clever and twisty, the characters nicely defined and the writing is adequate for a cozy mystery.  

But (!) there’s too much romance and too much cooking chatter.  It feels intrusive.  

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Santa’s Little Yelpers ~ by David Rosenfelt

I’ve read 7 of the 26 Andy Carpenter novels and 6 of those have been the Christmas books.  I really should read more of the series because they’re “legal thrillers” (of a sort) and kind of fun. I can get some of these from my library. They’re quite popular. And although there have regularly recurring characters and some overarching plot development, the plots independent. 

Santa’s Little Yelpers
by David Rosenfelt
2022 /
read by Grover Gardener 6h 41m
Rating B+ / legal crime

This one was just released on October 11 of this year and it’s read by Grover Gardner so I had to get it. ! It’s old home week.  

Andy Carpenter’s former client Chris Meyers was wrongfully convicted of something, even now when he’s been released from  jail, he continues to deny doing. Upon release he began working at Andy’s dog shelter. Then one of the witnesses against him comes to Chris and reveals that he lied in court.  Chris goes to Andy for help and the next thing we know the informer is killed and Chris is incarcerated again. It seems this informer was working for a mob boss and the troubles are much deeper than they appear. 

These are fun books with complex crimes and trials. 

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The Years of Rice and Salt ~ By Kim Stanley Robinson

Oh my what a grand book! But it does get long and seems kind of repetitive after about the half-way mark (perhaps that’s part of the ultimate point).  I haven’t read a sci-fi book this good since the trilogy “Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin, or maybe it was 2041 also by Robinson a few years ago.  This is essentially a series of interrelated novellas which tell the history of the world from about 1350 AD and on to the near future,  And it all comes together at the end. 

The Years of Rice and Salt
By Kim Stanley Robinson 
2003 – 784 pages
Read by Bronson Pinchot 25h 56m
Rating: 9 / literary sci-fi fantasy – alt history

The stories start in the 14th Century when the Black Plague had just made its way through Asia and Europe killing  about 1/3 to 1/2 of the population and worst in Europe. It lasted about 25 years. Due in part to that plague the Christians didn’t make a lot of headway out of Medieval times while the Muslims managed to expand and thrive in many areas. The Mongol leader, Temur Khan, a Muslim, fought his way to Western France where the book’s first protagonists, Bold and Psin, are just getting ready to fight him when lightening strikes their tent and kills them. Their deaths put them in the Bardo, a kind of purgatory for reincarnations which is a regular feature of the novel. It serves as an intermission between incarnations and eras. There are 10 books with each containing several chapters and each with an accompanying trip to the bardo. The characters are named according to their function, for instance names beginning with the letter B are “believers” while P is for the “wanderers.” 

At about 25% I’d been getting too distracted by my real life, so I bought the Kindle version to go with the audio. The audio has really excellent narration and sometimes I like to read and listen at the same time or going back and forth. It keeps me very focused and I can go back for sentences or names or whatever I like.  Also,  the Kindle version has maps and graphics as well asr chronologies and cast lists but you can find it online (see the links at the bottom of this post).   

At any rate The Years of Rice and Salt is a collection of 10 novellas (loosely defined), in which there are usually several chapters. The first concerns Bold,  a very small cattleman, and Kyu, a black boy, who passes as Bold’s slave. They have both run away from the Mongols and get as far as Nanking and Beijing when the Emperor dies and …. Lots of thriller-type adventures with intermissions in the bardo –  Most of the Books include a “B…” character and an “I…”character and then come the “K…” characters (see below). 

The Books are mainly in chronological order for about 700 years, starting in 1400 AD and going to a few years beyond the current years. There is a time line in the book and also at the link showed at the bottom of this post. A very brief synopsis is also included.

The Books each deal with one or more specialties of human knowledge from geography to history and physics,  medicine, philosophy, religion, technology, society,  etc. It’s a very broad survey and includes alternate history without being entirely speculative. If you want to know what’s factual and what’s not you’ll have to do your own little searches via Google or whatever.  (I’ll tell you that I don’t think the Chinese made it to the California coast-lol!) This is alternative history with a certain emphasis on science so … 

My favorite Books are #s 1 “Awake to Emptiness,” 3 “Ocean Continents,” 5, “Widow Kang” and maybe others, #9 “ Nsara,” for instance. 

In some ways, The Years of Rice and Salt reminds me of The Incarnations by Susan Barker (2015)

And there was a TV show moons and moons ago which used the trope of arch-enemies across time being reincarnated to fight again (?).  I’m glad I read this book, but I’m also glad to be finally getting on to other things.
(Synopsis by Book – 10 books) 

B the believer (faith)
K the rebel (action)
I the scientist (thought)
S the corrupt leader (laziness)
P the wanderer (humility)
Z the warrior (strength)

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Dead Man’s Tale ~ by Ellery Queen

I read this book to complete the letter Q in the Alphabet Challenge of crime novel authors at 4-Mystery Addicts.  I think it might have been the last letter I had yet to cover.  (Yes, I know “Ellery Queen” was not a real life author, but rather the pseudonym of several people plus the eponymous main character they created.)  Also – I think this may be a atypical Ellery Queen novel. 

Dead Man’s Tale
By Ellery Queen (Stephen Marlowe)
1961 (
Read by Mark Peckham: 4h 56m
Rating: A / hard-boiled crime

Estelle Street, Barney Street’s new widow, is very annoyed. Instead of leaving his fortune to her he left it to one Milo Hacha, a Czech who sympathized with the Allies and saved Barney’s life in WWII.  Now Estelle’s lover, Steven Longacre, is under her orders to go to Europe and hunt Milo down. Steve is to return with the news that Milo is dead (however he can do that). But when Steve gets there he’s told that Milo is dead already, but Longacre needs more evidence than somebody’s say-so. 

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A Passage North ~ by Anuk Arudpragasam

This was disappointing.  I might have enjoyed it when I was younger, in the 1980s or something, but now?  It was included in the Booker Prize short list for 2021 and the Booker Prize reading group finally got to it on our year-long schedule. So I’ve been looking forward to this book since the lists were announced about 14 or 15 months ago,  I’ve read books about Sri Lanka and its ugly Civil War before but not books like this one. Michael  Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost and Reef by Romesh Gunesekera were great. 

A Passage North
By Anuk Arudpragasam
Read by Neil Shah: 9 hrs and 15 mins
2021 (304 pages) 
Rating – 7 / Literary Fiction

A Sri Lankan family gets a phone call informing them that their aging Grandmother’s personal caretaker, on leave with her own family in Northern Sri Lanka, has died suddenly. She fell in a well and broke her neck.

The grandson goes to the war-torn North to check for the family. While on the bus he thinks and remembers.He has just gotten an email from an old girlfriend so he remembers his time with her. And he thinks about love and life and yearning. Then he thinks about the poverty of the people in the North who are fighting for their own government and he knows he, personally, has it very easy – what should he do?.  He remembers the caretaker how the caretaker mourned her sons.  

Imo, this was an overly ambitious and ultimately depressing book.  Arudpragasam writes very well but he seems to really like his own voice, too..  I did finish it – 


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A Fatal Inversion – by Barbara Vine

This year I’ve been doing the author ABC challenge at the 4-Mystery Addicts reading group. The goal os to read authors with last names from A to Z and it goes for a year, Now, in Novemeber, I found I was only missing letters N and V so after a bit of checking, I decided to go with A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell).  I’ve never read Vine, the name Ruth Rendell used for several years. Both nameswon awards including an Edgar for this old, sometimes called classic, novel.  

A Fatal Inversion 
by Barbara Vine
Read by William Gaminara: 2020 – 
10 hrs and 13 mins
Rating: B+  / mystery 

And I’m glad I chose this because it was a whole lot better than I expected. And I read somewhere later that it’s a kind of classic of the type and era – like PD James and Scott Turow. and I can see that. The novels are slower moving but quite suspenseful thanks to intelligent writing and nicely developed characters.

Anyway, I was listening and had to go back over parts I wasn’t sure of – sometimes whole chapters but a print version was never necessary.  It starts out simple enough, but gets complicated as a not terribly sensible girl shows up at the home of a young man who has just inherited a small estate and is getting ready to go to university. And then more characters are added plus the Adam and his buddy who brought the girl end up hosting a kind of spontaneous commune of sorts. Meanwhile, Adam’s father is quite upset with him because the grandfather left the estate to Adam..

The deeper complication is that the main line of the plot unfolds a decade later when the bodies of a young woman and a baby are dug up in what was a private pet cemetery at the estate. Who were these corpses and who was responsible? Adam and company don’e actually remember a whole lot from those days and they have a lot to lose.

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N is for November

I see by a blog I follow that the challenge/meme/whatever “Spell the Month in Books” is being hosted by Jana at  .      

And this being November that means Nonfiction!  I read quite a lot of nonfiction so I think I’d like to try it and see what I come up with.  I read all of the books on my list in the past 18 months, The oldest is the R book, Robert E Lee and Me, which I read in June, 2021. (The links are to my reviews on this site.)

N.  Noise:  
A Flaw in Human Judgement 
by Daniel Kahneman, Oliver Sibony, Cass Sunstein

O. On Juneteenth
by Annette Gordon Reed

V. The Viking Heart: 
How Scandinavia Conquered the World 
By Arthur Herman

E. Empire of Pain:
The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
by Patrick Radden Keefe

M. The Misbegotten Son: 
A Serial Killer and His Victims:
The True Story of Arthur J. Shawcross
By Jack Olsen

B. Bloodlands: 
Europe between Hitler and Stalin 
By Timothy Snyder

E.  Entangled Life: 
How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Share Our Futures
by Mervin Sheldrake 

R. Robert E Lee and Me: 
A Southerner’s Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause
By Ty Seidule

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Apeirognon ~ by Colum McCann

This is a highly acclaimed literary novel based on a true story about Jews and Palestinians and their forever conflict.  The story here is mainly about two fathers who are grieving the killing their young daughters, both mind-numbingly tragic, during the Israeli-Palestinian conflict although at very different times and places.  And the girls and their families are quite different, too, with one being Jewish and the other  Palestinian. 

by Colum McCann 
2022 – 468 pages
Read by the author
Rating – 9 / literary historical fiction 
(Both read and listened)

Rami Elhanan is a Jewish graphic artist and the father of Smadar, age 13, killed by a suicide bomber in 1997.   Bassam Aramin is a Palestinian scholar and activist and the father of 10-year old Abir who was killed by a single and deliberate, random shooting in 2007. They are both Israeli.

Collum McCann puts the stories of these two men together because in the current time frame they travel around speaking of the importance of peace in Israel. How can two men who hated each other’s presence in “their” country and were victimized by them and wanted revenge most of all, realize they have to go on from their grief and forgive and remember and teach.

The lack of chronology and alternating the main characters in the 1001 chapters of varying length got me totally confused.  I started over twice, but I finally got that much (barely) and just kept going anyway, although I did check back sometimes and/or check with Google.  The reason I was confused was mostly due to the lack of chronology and the alternating characters. The situations are so much alike and that is McCann’s point.

These girls and their fathers also had unfamiliar names and I couldn’t tell which girl was Jewish and which was Palestinian. (Again, to emphasize, they are both Israeli – and to McCann’s point, does it matter?.)  

Then! After the half-way point, Chapter 500, comes Chapter 1001 and then back to 500 for the count back down. I think there’s a point there, too – something about a cycle.

Imo, this confusion was deliberate on the part of the author.  He wants us to see them both as human beings first and as Israeli second. They are both innocent little girls from largish, good families and are deeply loved. McCann shows us the similarities. 

Another theme is the oppressive nature of the Israeli government.  Citizens (both Israeli and Palestinian) have to stay where they’re assigned. Going elsewhere involves a lot of paperwork and strip searches even if you have business in the another sector. The armed guards are suspicious of everything. Bassam was a prisoner for many years.

The story keeps going back and forth in time describing bloody and angry situations as the men remember the past and think about their daily lives. This is interspersed with rather philosophical insights or historical information.  

 And the history – (if that’s what 30+ years is) so many names and places and incidents are true.  But this can’t be labeled as nonfiction because McCann imagined parts of a story line using real historical people. I usually dislike that but in this case he says he got their permission.  Okay fine.  And that leaves me on the fence of not knowing whether some person or incident is true.  That’s fine, too, because I look it up. If I find it to be truthful enough – kudos to the author for the research.  If it’s not true well that’s fine too and kudos to the author for inventing it.  (I just like knowing.)  

So we find all sorts of tidbits in this book ranging from Phillips Petit (the high wire walker who also appeared in “Let the Great World Spin”) to Mordechai Vanunu (an Israeli whistle-blower) to Jorge Borges (writer) and Einstein (Jewish physicist)  and from song birds to the Soviet’s bombing of Finland in WWII.  It’s almost like one of those “encyclopedic” novels popular in the 1980s and ‘90s.  

Enjoy! I would read it again but it can be pretty draining.

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The Shadow Murders – by Jussi Adler Olsen

I’ve been following this series since it started and I love those early books.  The later ones got darker and grimmer and it seemed the characters lost some of their quirky flavor. But the plots continued to be excellent.  The writing is good.

The Shadow Murders
by Jussi Adler Olsen 
Translated by William Frost 
Read by Graeme Malcolm 13h 11m 
Rating: A + / Scandi-noir  
#9 in the Department Q series 

Department Q is the “cold case” department of the Copenhagen Police Department. Carl Merck, an older and more experienced officer is in charge and he reports to Chief Marcus Jacobsen who very much appreciates Department Q, but can’t seem to get them much funding, Carl has three very quirky deputies, Assad, Rose and Gordon assigned to his unit. Despite their oddities, the four click and make a great team.  

This time the twist is Covid which really messes with schedules, interviews, and gathering evidence. It’s quite annoying to everyone. Also, the countdown goes date by date in month prior to Christmas (and had I known this I might have saved the book for my December Holiday readings – ah well …) 

The tale starts with an older woman’s suicide – or what looks like a suicide until Chief Marcus realizes that what it looks like is a case he had about 30 years prior. So it’s referred to the open minds and cramped spaces of the basement where Department Q lives There, after some thorough and intuitive investigating, the team comes up with the fact that there has been an unsolved murder every other year for the past 35 or so years. And these are a lot more than random murders there is a definite method to the horror.. It gets good – er – evil.

The characters in The Shadow Murders seem less quirky than they were in the prior Detective Q  books, but it has some very funny little parts. I think maybe the plot itself is better in hits book, and it’s still definitely noir in the old Scandi- fashion with religious allusions and a nut-case on the loose. It gets gritty and tension-packed, too. I enjoyed it tremendously. (*Note – Child abuse may be a trigger factor.)

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Lucy by the Sea ~ by Elizabeth Strout

What an incredible addition to Strout’s oeuvre! Her last 7 books are not really a true series, but some of the characters appear in several of the prior books going all the way back to Olive Kitteridge. This book is much better for those readers who have been following Strout’s work, but if you haven’t done that I think you will also enjoy it.

Lucy by the Sea
by Elizabeth Strout – 2022
Narrated by: Kimberly Farr 8h 19m
Rating: 8.75 / contemporary fiction

And just as a little bonus, Olive Kitteridge shows up in Lucy by the Sea.  LOL!  (A number of the characters live in the same small town.) But Lucy’s sister and others also live not too far away.  

That’s okay. Each book is different and this is the book I’ve been looking forward to since April of 2020 when Covid was suddenly all over the place. I’ve read several other novels where the pandemic is used as a kind of theme or plot device. Here the pandemic is used to masterfully develop characters, plot, and Strout’s usual themes of family, especially mothers, marriage, are intertwined with those of connections, “lockdowns,” and home.  

But this is Lucy’s story.  Lucy is the protagonist in My Name is Lucy Barton as well as in Anything is Possible, and Oh William but she appears in other of Strout’s novels.  These books are each stand-alone and marvelous in their own rights. 

Lucy has been divorced from William, her first husband,  for a number of years (Oh, William),  and now her second husband has recently died. The pandemic arrives and William, who is still a friend,  insists she come with him to visit mutual friends in Maine. Meanwhile Lucy’s daughter Becka and her husband are having serious difficulties while Christie, their other daughter, seems to be doing fine. 

And Covid is up and running in the US, increasing daily. So quarantine becomes the order of the day with William being far more concerned than others. And then the couple starts worrying about other matters they see happening during that whole difficult year.    

But the tale deals gently with very difficult current issues and I’d love to have time to read it again. 


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