My mini-reviews from the Herald on Sunday – 4 July 2012

Curious  English Words and Phrases
Max Cryer – Exisle Publishing - $29.99
Max Cryer has been everywhere and done everything it would seem. A well-known broadcaster and entertainer ceratinly but in a long career he has been a schoolteacher, a compere and TV host, as well as a singer in London, Las Vegas and Hollywood.
But these days he is best known as a wordsmith, a seasoned researcher and writer on all aspects of the English language. He hosts a weekly radio slot on the subject and of course he writes books and this his latest is another useful and fascinating look at our language and how we use it. I was especially interested in the origin of the saying “guts for garters”!

The Raupo Dictionay of Modern Maori
P.M.Ryan  - Raupo - $59.99
This is an updated and significantly revised edition of Father Ryan's The Raupo Dictionary of Modern Maori published by Penguin Books this month. It is a substantial hardback containing over 50,000 entries divided into Maori/English and English/Maori sections.
It incorporates an easy-to-use guide to the pronunciation of te reo Maori and even contains a Maori proverbs section complete with translations and interpretations. Also included are separate lists giving Maori translations of seasons, months, days of the week, parts of the body, NZ and overseas place names, and personal names.

Cocaine Blues
Kerry Greenwood – Allen & Unwin  
The first of Phryne's adventures from Australia's most elegant and irrepressible sleuth.
The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher - she of the green-grey eyes, diamantine garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions - is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, she decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia. 
Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism - not to mention erotic encounters.
 Light, frothy, and enormously entertaining fun is how I would sum it up, and the good thing is there are several more in the series. And having visited Melbourne just a few weeks back I was intrigued and impressed with the author's description of that great city in a 1920's setting.
Can't wait to see the ABC TV series.

XO The Kiss of Death
Jeffery Deaver –Hodder & Stoughton - $36.99
Kayleigh Towne is a beautiful and successful singer-songwriter, and Edwin Sharp is her biggest fan. When she replies to one of his fan letters with 'XO', Edwin is convinced she loves him, and that her latest hit song 'Your Shadow' was written for him. Nothing Kayleigh or her lawyers can say persuades him otherwise.
Then the singer gets an anonymous phone call; it's the first verse of 'Your Shadow' playing. Soon after, one of the crew is horribly murdered. Kayleigh's friend Kathryn Dance, a special agent with the California Bureau of Investigation, knows that stalking crimes are not one-off occurrences, and, sure enough, more verses of the song are played as warnings of death to follow.
This is Deaver at his very best, I rate him as the top US contemporary writer in this genre. But this book is a must not only for crime fiction readers but for popular music buffs as well. There is an enormous amount of information imparted within the story about the celebrity status enjoyed by leading musos, the problems that arise from this status, stalkers, instant recognition, paparazzi etc. Also much about rehearsals, roadies, setting up in huge venues, illegal downloading of music; in fact it is a great inside look at a leading musician's life (albeit a fictional one) and I found it totally fascinating. Twists and double twists I couldn’t put it down, the best crime fiction I have read all year.