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Book Review: I am Legend by Richard Matheson

Reviewed by Krista McKeeth

Recently I decided to pick up I am Legend by Richard Matheson, a book that I’ve come across often on lists of “should reads.” As a fan of vampires, I imagined that I would love the story and enjoy the process of reading through it. But I found a story that, for a while, really frustrated me.

The first half of the novel is heavy on the story setting and the inner monologue of Robert Neville – a man who spends his days making repairs on his sheltered house, finding supplies and killing sleeping vampires. His spends his nights, trying not to listen to the vampires outside his door calling his name and drinking to pass the time. I found the languid descriptions of this man’s every day life hard to get through even though the novel is a rather short read.

It was really the second half of the novel that  caught my attention. As the more active part began, the story truly unfolded about how this world has progressed, to the point where the reader is introduced to the possibilities of its future.

I was happily surprised that there was some great detail of the creatures and idea of what civilisation would be underpin their present state. It made perfect sense and I found it intriguing. I now know why this made it on so many lists and can see some connections between this book and others I have read that came after, and built upon similar ideas.

It turns out that I am happy to recommend this book as well; I am glad I pushed through the beginning to reach such an ingenious ending.


Book Review: The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham

Reviewed by Joelene Pynonnen

A party at gloomy Black Dudley Manor isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. But George Abbershaw’s good friend, Wyatt Petrie asked him along and the girl Abbershaw loves will be there.

It all seems like an innocent bit of fun at first. When Wyatt told the grisly story of an ancient family dagger and of the game that arose from it, it was only natural for the party guests to want to play. Though the whole thing gave Abbershaw a bad feeling, he could never have imagined that someone would use the game in the darkened house to murder Wyatt’s invalid uncle. But that is just what happened. And more alarmingly, some of the more sinister guests in the house immediately cover up the fact that a murder has occurred.

When those same guests declare the entire house hostage until a stolen item has been returned, the situation becomes critical. Especially since Abbershaw has destroyed the item in question.

Crime at Black Dudley is a fantastic, whimsical cosy mystery with a good dash of adventure. It has a lot of the ingredients of classic crime novels of the era. A large party of people – some with shady pasts, a crime syndicate, hidden passages, looming manors and antique artefacts.

Those elements are enough to keep me riveted, but Crime at Black Dudley has something unique about it as well. That something is Albert Campion. He’s not the usual stoic hero with high moral standing. Instead he’s a flippant, somewhat shady character with a high pitched voice and a habit of prattling incessantly. Unlike the other men trapped in the house, he employs his wits rather than his brawn and doesn’t hesitate to ask the women to look after themselves even going so far as to giving them a gun. From what I’ve read, it seems that Allingham’s detective hero was meant to be Abbershaw. But then Campion came along and stole the show. Campion’s character arc is much smoother than Abbershaw’s. It occurs naturally while Abbershaw’s is forced, making him a much better candidate for a detective series.

While this first book is a great adventure with plenty of atmosphere and a charming cast of characters, parts of it could be more polished. It begins well with a cosy crime feeling but flails around a little as it progresses. In some ways it feels like a mix between a children’s adventure story from the period and an adult crime novel. I like both genres so I found the whole thing thoroughly entertaining but I hope that later books are more firmly entrenched in adult crime.

I’ll definitely be looking into later books by Allingham. Campion is too refreshing a character not to.



Crime at Black Dudley – Margery Allingham

Vintage (1929)

ISBN: 9780099593492

Book Review: The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

No one has seen the Danner family for days. Little Marianne has not been in school. No one is around when the mechanic comes over to fix the engine of one of the farm machines. The postman hasn’t seen anything stir.

Soon it becomes apparent that something is very wrong at the Danner farm. When their neighbours are forced to investigate the family’s strange disappearance, they discover a grisly scene. The entire family and their maid are dead. No one particularly liked the tyrannical patriarch and his withdrawn family but who hated them so much that they would take to the family with a pick-axe, not even sparing the two children?

There’s something compelling about true unsolved stories. Especially those with so many questions attached. In 1922, Bavaria, locals discovered a grisly scene at a farm. All six residents were murdered, most of the corpses piled in the barn. No one from the farm had been seen for several days. But even more disturbing was the fact that in the days that the family lay dead, their animals continued to be fed, their fires laid. In the days before the family had been killed, the farmer had found boot prints in the snow. Ones that led to the house but not away. A newspaper that belonged to no one living at the farm was found too and a set of keys had gone missing. Additionally, when the bodies were discovered, a large amount of cash was found in the house, so robbery wasn’t the motive.

The mystery behind the deaths at Hinterkaifeck may never be solved. However, in Murder Farm a satisfying conclusion is imagined. 

The structure of this novel works well for the kind of mystery it is. Told from a variety of perspectives and in a few different formats, the murder mystery unravels slowly, one piece of evidence at a time. Much of the story is in the form of local testimony. Interspersed in these are devout prayers, the victims’ perspectives, and the unseen murderer’s perspective. As each tale is laid down, it builds a picture of the Danner family, the community and ultimately the mass murder.

While inspired by a true event, Murder Farm is not an attempt to perfectly recreate the original crime. It’s set in a different era; post-war Germany rather than the original 1922. And most of the names have been changed. But the eerie details that first captured people’s attention remain.

Murder Farm is a quick read that will satisfy anyone who has heard the original story. For those unfamiliar with the true events; after reading Murder Farm, you’ll want to know more.


The Murder Farm – Andrea Maria Schenkel

Quercus Publishing (January 2, 2009)

ISBN: 9781847247650

The One that Got Away by Simon Wood

 Reviewed by Krista McKeeth

Graduate students Zoë and Holli only mean to blow off some steam on their road trip to Las Vegas. But something goes terribly wrong on their way home, and the last time Zoë sees her, Holli is in the clutches of a sadistic killer. Zoë flees with her life, changed forever.

A year later and still tortured with guilt, Zoë latches on to a police investigation where the crime eerily resembles her abduction. Along with a zealous detective, she retraces the steps of that fateful night in the desert, hoping that her memory will return and help them find justice for Holli. Her abductor—labeled the “Tally Man” by a fascinated media—lies in wait for Zoë. For him, she is not a survivor but simply the one that got away.

With an unforgettable heroine, a chillingly disturbed psychopath, and a story that moves at breakneck speed, The One That Got Away is thriller writer Simon Wood at his finest. 

Kindle Edition, 295 pages

Published March 1st 2015 by Thomas & Mercer

Recommended to fans of Chelsea Cain

After abandoning her friend to the tortures of the Tally Man, Zoe is never the same. But once she puts herself in the middle of a new investigation, she becomes a target yet again for the man who has unfinished business. With the help of the police and her therapist, Zoe must trace her own steps in the past to try to connect a name to the murderer.

The story is told from different perspectives: Zoe is a timid, yet determined person; and the abductor, a very opinionated man who feels like he is doing the world a justice by teaching those with bad behaviours to pay for their bad manners.

What I loved most about this story was how it all wrapped up in the end. The backstory of the “Tally Man” and Zoe’s cleverness as she finds herself yet again in an undesirable situation. The fact that the perspectives jump characters really helped the pacing of the story as well as the unravelling of the plot. I am not sure I would have enjoyed a story told all in Zoe’s perspective as she is at times very unreliable, and well indecisive. I enjoyed the Tally Man the most, and would be extremely interested in reading a prequel of his childhood and the life that led him to this point in his life.

Part of the mystery is that the police don’t quite believe the crazy story that Zoe has told them. But she does find a friend in one of them who decides to listen to what she has to say as well has help her relive her past and locate Holli.

It was a story that I enjoyed and read through pretty quickly. A captivating read that keeps your attention and has an exciting backstory.



Book Review: Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen

Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

Molly Murphy had almost been resigned to the boring life of a village spinster. One fateful morning changes everything. Having committed murder in self-defence, she has no option but to flee. In the early 1900s in Ireland, the mercy of the law for an impoverished country girl is thin on the ground, especially when the victim is a British landowner’s son.

A combination of luck and wits, see Molly to the shores of New York. The only problem is that before the newly arrived immigrants are processed, one of the men from Molly’s ship is murdered. A man many of her fellow passengers saw her arguing with only days before. And if the authorities look too hard at Molly, there’s every chance they’ll realise that she’s the woman wanted for murder back home. Bluffing it out might not be enough this time. If Molly wants her identity to be safe, she’s going to have to solve this murder on her own.

Murphy’s Law, the first book in the Molly Murphy series, is a light and charming story. It won the 2001 Agatha Award, and it’s easy to see why. Fast-paced with a determined main character who pushes most of the action, this novel is compulsively readable.

The setting is novel. New York of the early 1900s, is a busy place, divided by ethnicity, class and morals. The bustling streets and dingy back alleys are vividly portrayed, making you feel as though you’re there.

There are faults to the story. Considering how clever Molly is meant to be, she fails to make many simple deductions. Coincidence features largely in solving the mystery too. But for entertainment the series is well worth exploring further.

Interplay between characters is wonderfully portrayed. I hope that a lot of the characters in the first novel turn up again. They add so much flavour to the story and really round Molly’s character out. Molly’s relationship with police officer Daniel Sullivan adds conflict but it’s also a nice touch. Her friendship with the children she brought over from Ireland also brings some authenticity to her character.

Murphy’s Law is a great start to a new cosy mystery series. I can’t wait to see what Molly gets up to next.


Murphy’s Law – Rhys Bowen

Minotaur Books (January 22, 2013)

ISBN: 9781250014085