Saturday, March 1, 2014

Love Story, With Murders by Harry Bingham

The blurb:
D.C. Fiona Griffiths is facing the prospect of a dull weekend when the call comes in, something about illegal dumping in a Cardiff suburb. But when she arrives on the scene she finds, in a garage freezer, a severed human leg, complete with a pink suede high-heeled shoe.
South Wales police are able to ID the body part as that of a young woman who went missing five years earlier; a young woman who once made a living as an exotic dancer. All at once, Fiona’s job as a detective and her role as a loving daughter collide: Fiona’s father owns a Cardiff strip club and was once deeply involved in the local crime scene.
Still in recovery from a devastating psychotic breakdown, Fiona is wary of exploring a path that might end at her father’s door . . . yet her obsessive approach to criminal investigation leaves her no other option.
But Fiona’s specialty is not the living, it is the dead. And as she is just starting to get into the murdered girl’s head, a severed hand is found—and this one is male. 
Soon, police are swamped with an increasing number of body parts found in and around suburban gardens, sheds, and garages. Media attention is intense, and investigators are working from a list of hundreds of persons of interest. When the department identifies the second victim, Fiona struggles to connect him with the dead stripper. What do the victims have in common? And why this macabre method of disposing the corpses?
The answers may be more than Fiona can handle. Because in order to solve the riddle of these hideous murders, D.C. Fiona Griffiths will have to delve into the mysteries of her past—and hope she comes out intact . . . and alive.

Love Story, With Murders drew me in from the very start. A police procedural set in present day Cardiff, Wales, we're given a sense of the place, history and culture in subtle ways throughout the book.

The story opens with the discovery of a frozen leg in an old woman's freezer. Fiona stays up all night trying to determine the victim's identity. A hand appears in the next day or so - but it belongs to a different person altogether. Though there are no apparent links between the two victims, the police hunt for whatever might tie them together. The search leads to unexpected and believable paths - and to a fascinating story.

The story is told from the point of view of PC Fiona Griffiths who comes across as determined, obsessive, and with some sort of psychological condition that keeps her distant from the world. She doesn't want to be removed from people and is aware of her condition, she makes an effort to connect with her colleagues, with the families of victims, with those affected by the murders that she's investigating. Fiona's personal life is complicated - her father is one of the more powerful criminals in the area, but has always kept his home life separate from his work. He does try to do so while responding to his daughter's requests for information. Her boyfriend is also in the police - a kind, good man and Fiona is always wondering why he's with her. But she cares for him too and shows it in her own way. Fiona's willingness to reach out to the people she cares about comes across clearly and I found her very sympathetic.

You don't have to have read the earlier novel, Talking to the Dead, to enjoy and lose yourself in Love Story, With Murders.

  • ISBN-10: 0345533763 - Hardcover $27.00
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (February 18, 2014) 400 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Prime Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
Harry Bingham is an author and literary consultant who runs the U.K.’s largest literary consultancy firm, The Writers’ Workshop. He resides in Oxfordshire, where he is at work on the next novel in the Fiona Griffiths series.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Garibaldi's Biscuits by Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman's Garibaldi's Biscuits is a playful account of how the famous General Garibaldi and his army forced the French Bourbon invaders to their knees in Italy.  

Garibaldi's soldiers use pizzas for belt buckles to hold up their pantaloons and eat them when they're hungry.  The Garibaldi army attacks with water balloons and sheer courage.  The defeated army and the conquerors meet at grandparents' Garibaldi's home for a meal - and for special biscuits baked by grandmother Garibaldi.  

Garibaldi's Biscuits is a fun, fanciful story with pictures to delight kids and adults.
  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1st - 3rd
  • ISBN-10: 0761455787 - Hardcover $17.99
  • Publisher: Two Lions; First American Edition edition (March 1, 2009), 32 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.