The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah

It goes without saying that for another author to take on one of the most prolific and famous writers of the twentieth century they are going to face a lot of criticism. Some for simply carrying on the baton and some for how different the work is to the original.

In this case Sophie Hannah has been authorised to write a new Hercule Poirot story. The Monogram Murders is the result.

I enjoyed it. Maybe that is because I have not perhaps read enough Agatha Christie, maybe because I actually enjoyed the story and the fact that the main detective just happened to be called Hercule Poirot. And I came to the book not expecting an Agatha Christie novel.

The story is told from Scotland Yard detective Edward Catchpool’s point of view. He knows Hercule Poirot, in fact they are currently sharing the same residence, as Poirot has decided he needs a rest. So he moves out of  his residence to a boarding house across the road. 

Catchpool tells Poirot about a coffee-house where he subsequently can be found as regular as clockwork. It is there that Jennie in a state of some distress finds him. She claims that once she is dead, then justice will be done. However nothing must be done to stop her demise happening.

Of course it sets those little grey cells working and Poirot cannot help but want to know why Jennie has strong convictions about such justice.

Upon return to his current residence, Poirot discovers that Catchpool has been at the scene of three murders, in three rooms in a prestigious London hotel – The Bloxham Hotel. Something about what he says makes Poirot think that the distressed girl and these murders have to be linked. And of course only Poirot is going to unpick all the clues, red herrings and very strange statements that witnesses are making.

There were times I admit to being very confused with the plot, not because I was trying to work out ‘whodunnit’ simply because at times the story was not flowing right. I did persevere and it became clearer in the end. I had worked out some elements and red herrings and I was quite with Poirot when he questioned the validity of how someone knew they had seen the right person. All very cryptic but necessary in a murder mystery novel, set in the 1920s, regardless of its author.

For all the criticism this book is getting, I have enjoyed it. Hannah has really only used Poirot and placed him with another ‘sidekick’, to tell a story and I think that is done well and is sufficient. If she had gone and also taken the voices of Captain Hastings, Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon then maybe she would have bitten off more than she could chew as this would be a step too far.

If you come to the book having never read Christie, but been a fan of Hannah, then I implore you to read the originals. You will find some gems. If being a Christie aficionado then you may not enjoy this book so much, but give it a go and have an open mind. I really believe she has not tried to rewrite history and write a Christie novel, she has just written a story with a well-known famous character in it. I think it works, others don’t. That is the joy of reading.

I assume the estate were content with the book to have let it get this far, so I make this assumption and then get on with enjoying a story. And whilst I would admit to it not being as good as Sebastian Faulks homage to Jeeves and Wooster in Jeeves and the Wedding Belles I did not come to this book with the expectation that I am going to be reading an Agatha Christie. 

It is always a very brave thing for an author to do – write about a well-known and well-loved character. Many have done it before and I am sure many will continue to do so for years to come. 

Have you read this? Do tell me what you think? 

 

Right Ho, Jeeves – P.G.Wodehouse

If you have never read a Wodehouse book before or a Jeeves and Wooster one, then I feel this is a good place to start, despite it being the sixth novel for these wonderful characters to feature.

I am a fan of these two and this actually stems from watching the television series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. I then much later on read the books and was hooked. This is actually a reread for me, because in a piece of zealous sorting I got rid of them all.

This is a full length novel and introduces you to a lot of familiar characters. We do not have just Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, but also there is Aunt Dahlia Bertie’s softer aunt compared to Aunt Agatha.

Aunt Dahlia needs some money for her publication Milday’s Boudoir and needs to make sure Tom Travers her husband is kept sweet and willing to provide. Trouble is they have a house full of lovebirds at Brinkley Court.

Tuppy Glossop is in love with Angela, Bertie’s cousin. Trouble is he is the jealous sort and is convinced there was someone else whilst she was away in the South of France. (It was only Bertie!) They bicker and fight and Angela takes great delight in pointing out Tuppy’s voracious appetite.

In a bid to avoid presenting awards at a school, Bertie sends an old school friend Gussie Fink-Nottle, a quiet sort of chap with an encyclopedic knowledge of newts. Who always happens to “find themselves treading upon Life’s banana skins”, especially when it comes to his choice of woman – one Madeline Bassett a friend of Angela.

There is much you need not know about dear Madeline Bassett but you do need to know that her head is full of fairy dust, she is not a female who takes your breath away from Bertie’s opinion. However, her conversational opening gambit normally starts with asking you “if you don’t sometimes feel that the stars are God’s daisy-chain”, she is a woman very suited to Gussie.

Trouble is when you stay at Brinkley Court you have to run the risk of becoming infatuated with Anatole the cook’s wonderful food. It is the only thing that keeps many a person going including Uncle Tom, Tuppy and even Bertie himself.

When the lovebirds in residence seem to have fallen out with each other and Bertie too, what better way to show their love than by not eating, it is of course all Bertie’s idea.

It is bound to cause trouble.

It is bound to be Jeeves who not only solves the problem of a temperamental cook such as Anatole but also the lovebirds as well.

It is bound to be poor old Bertie who is the buffoon who is readily saved by life’s problems by Jeeves, including wearing a white mess-jacket with brass buttons on and being seen in public.

Whilst it is quite clear “[we] Woosters are ingenious, Jeeves, exceedingly ingenious.” it is really the quiet well-mannered, shimmering magic of Jeeves that keeps Bertie on the straight and narrow away from marrying women such as Madeline and wearing white mess jacket’s in public.

A good read, no matter how many times you have read it or even seen the television adaptation – it is true Wodehouse, true Wooster and most of all true Jeeves!

Have you met?

Having just read The Ladies of Lyndon by Margaret Kennedy and the fact that the phenomenon that is Downton Abbey is back on our screens and I do love a big house in a story, I thought it was about time to introduce you to three ladies!

Of course these ladies are designed by someone else but they were created by me over a period of time. (I first had the idea in May 2013!)

In a big house you need to keep everything clean. I am not talking about the really dirty jobs, you probably have a daily in for that, but you need a maid for the more finer things. Of course she has to be dressed in uniform and have the correct underwear on and of course have shoes on….

IMG_0204Obviously all hair has to be kept up and the length of skirt must be appropriate.

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Even though you have a uniform, you must keep it tidy, what better way than with an apron….

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Of course it must be tied neatly at the back!

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You certainly cannot go around without anything appropriate on your head and it must be tied on securely.

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Then there is the final inspection

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Of course this lady cannot possibly do all the work so they have employed a daily to come and ‘do’. Her standards still have to be maintained though with the correct colour underwear and something over her hair.

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Matching skirt is ideal and you can have a pocket to keep your duster in and always to hand and you can show some of your hair providing it is kept swept up in a curler or two

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Of course arms and hands will help with the dusting

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And then when you are set you are ready to dust…..

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Now of course we need to be doing all this cleaning and ‘maiding’ for someone, probably the lady of the house really. And she can wear whatever colours takes her fancy, but I feel this lady likes purple…

IMG_0478Matching skirt and perfectly coiffure hair.

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A contrasting colour for the cape and of course a rather brightly coloured hat

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And when you have money you can afford to have flowers in your hat!

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And so here are three ladies. They don’t have names, although in the Jean Greenhowe knitting pattern book they are from, she has named them.

It was never my intention to actually write these posts, the story behind the photos is I take pictures as I am going along so my mum can see what I am doing. The wonders of the iPad means instantly she can see what I have made. So the photos end up telling a story of how they all evolved. The same is happening now with the Cowboy I am knitting, perhaps he might be coming to a ranch near you soon?

There was no other reason for knitting them other than to challenge myself and enjoy a hobby. So now what do I do with them?

 

 

The One Plus One – Jojo Moyes

Imagine yourself in a car, with your daughter, your step son, a rather large slobbering dog and a man you hardly know. What would it be like? Then drive from the south of Britain to Scotland. Avoiding all motorways and not exceeding a speed limit of 40 miles of hour, it all sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Actually it turns out to be the turning point for Jess Thomas.

Jess is trying to hold her life together, she has two jobs and two children who are frightened of life, step son Nicky is being bullied and is trying to be different in a world that wants you to fit in with a stereotype. Tanzie, is a young maths whizz and has the opportunity to better her future by going to a private school. Trouble all of this needs money. Jess sees an opportunity and makes a decision.

Ed Nicholls has money, in fact he has quite a lot of money. But Ed has made a mistake and any decisions that he once made are taken away from him, he has nothing now.

Thrown together in this car, they discover who they are and also a lot about each other and what is important in life and it seems the answer might not necessarily be money.

Trouble is, money is what Ed has and Jess is in need of it. Can they both look past this?

This is the first Moyes that I have read, and was the choice of my book club. The main part of the story is the car journey and for me, I found this both moving and funny. I admit to laughing out loud to some of the things that Tanzie says. Her maths brain never seemingly being able to switch off. However outside of this car journey, it did rather slow down for me and sort of lost its momentum in moving the story on. It is at these points I felt the book could have been a lot shorter than it actually was and I could not really believe that Jess could let her husband walk away for two years without actively trying to do something about it. She was determined to do right for her kids why not her husband? That was probably the only part where I felt that actually maybe this was not quite believable, but this is only a small point and my opinion.

What I can say about this book, is how it is very much a book of its time, the main characters are human they have strengths and weakness and Moyes shows how all these things shape a person and how they can ultimately help you change and find out who you really are and want to be. That was certainly the case with Nicky. We see how social media and technology is playing a dangerous part in our lives, Nicky seems to be the victim of such behaviour. Families are no longer the two point four children they are an amalgamation of the various parts of our lives and somehow it works, even for Jess in the end. Even the slobbering dog has a part to play is the new family life.

Yes this is a book about romance at its core and sometimes that is all a book needs, but not in this case it gives you more and shows you that togetherness is important and the people around you who you love. Money can only enhance it, it cannot bring it. A book of 2014 and if you want to know about social culture then this would be a good example.

As I say in my review, this is the first Jojo Moyes I have read. I am aware of Me Before You but have never read it, I think perhaps I need to, so I can compare to this latest work. Have you read Me Before You? 

A Place For Us (Part 3) – Harriet Evans

So part two ended with more than one cliffhanger, that as a reader you just wanted to keep turning the page to find out more. But patience means you had to wait for part 3. Then as you being to immerse yourself in the story it does not solve the mysteries immediately in fact Harriet Evans very cleverly by not referring to them until a few chapters in.

We are taken back to Martha and David’s earlier years before they came to Winterfold, before the children, before everything happened.

If you think by now we know the whole story then as a reader you are mistaken. You may well have guessed some elements which I did, but my reasoning behind these choices was very wrong. There is more to come and part three is going to show us.

Whereas everyone was coming from far and wide to gather in Winterfold, this part sees them all flee. They are trying to get away and make sense of all that has recently happened and the discoveries of the past.  I think fundamentally they are trying to find themselves without that they cannot understand what has gone on in their family home.

All the elements remain from the beginning of the story, chapters are told from the each of the characters and you still get to see the whole picture. The tension is still building and whilst you have to remember what has come before, the real desire is to what is going to happen next. There are still secrets to be told and resolutions to make and I am wondering how this is going to happen in part four.

I am enjoying this experience of the serialisation of a novel. But now I am desperate to know what happens and if I was reading this as whole novel, I know I would not be able to put it down!

Thank you to the publisher for the first part and then allowing me the privilege of the second and third part via netgalley. 

 

The Ladies of Lyndon – Margaret Kennedy

This book which was written in the mid nineteen twenties about an age some ten years earlier and subsequent periodic years after is very much a reflection on what life must have been like for the upper classes.

Lyndon is the country house where it seems all the ‘ladies’ are either connected or visit through the course of the book. For my review I have decided to concentrate on the ‘characters’ as I think it is their interaction which stands out for me in this book.

Agatha becomes the mistress of Lyndon when she marries Sir John Clewer, she is only young and it is a marriage that has been strongly constructed and devised by her own mother Mrs Agatha Cocks and John’s stepmother the Dowager Lady Marian Clewer.

James Clewer, is Sir John’s brother and he is labeled as ‘odd’, ‘strange’. His mother died whilst giving birth to him and this has then been given as the reason why he is talked about in hushed whispers and treated as the family embarrassment.

Dolly is the maid and is of course of another class to all of others we meet in this novel. However, she causes a stir and marries James. This in itself adds to the whispers of James however, it is their relationship which is shown as the most settled and was a union of simple love without any form of interference. It is this which Agatha aspires to throughout.

Gerald Blair is the cousin of Agatha. An eminent doctor and the man who shakes Agatha’s emotions and reawaken feelings from the past.

Cynthia  is the child of Marian Clewer and Sir John’s father. Again marriage is of course the ultimate goal but she is resentful of what Agatha gets when she marries, the title, the name, the husband, the house. Cynthia marries older and to a man who makes money because of war and wants to show it all off.

Lois is Marian’s daughter from her first marriage, and is someone who sees marriage as a step away from her mother. She settles for Hubert and by the end of the book it seems that perhaps all might be well for her.

This is a book about society, attitudes, social interaction, about where you marry and your position in life.  It is not about love and whilst I believed in James and Dolly, if you were looking for romance in this novel you would not find it.

The book is created in a way of watching people, at times I felt I was being rather voyeuristic and glimpsing these lives which were not actually very nice ones, I got no joy in watching and seeing this people suffer. The book captures I think a snapshot of a period in history and if you were researching this era, then this would be a book which would give you quite an insight.

I read this book as part of Jane’s Margaret Kennedy Reading Week. This was my first foray into MK and at the moment I am not sure if I would read any of her others. It is a book which I enjoyed but I didn’t all at that same time. Perhaps I should have started with another one? 

However I am pleased I challenged myself to read it and join in. Of course by doing so, you not only get to look at the other books available but also meet some new bloggers along the way. Thank you to Jane for hosting and pointing my reading in another direction. 

 

The Seafront Tea Rooms – Vanessa Greene

If you are looking for a novel full of strong warm female friendships, romance and gossip all washed down with tea and cake. Then look no further than Vanessa Greene’s new novel.

The Seafront Tea Rooms is in Scarborough, it is frequented by locals and the occasional tourist and passers-by. Those from outside the area, know nothing of it and the owner wants it to remain that way.

Charlotte visits by chance, whilst researching a journalist piece on the best tea rooms, in the hope that this will then secure her the editors job at a London based food magazine. Nursing a broken heart and a lot of anger with her sister, she seeks some sort of comfort in this seaside town and it’s tea rooms.

It is here that she meets, Kat a local single mum who is struggling to make ends meet whilst looking after her dinosaur mad son Leo. Kat has an affinity with the Tea Rooms and it is the place that she can be just Kat.

Another outsider and a complete novice to the British obsession with tea although has a complete affinity with anything pastry made is Seraphine a French Au Pair who is across improving her English ready to return to France after the summer to take up a teaching job.

Between the three of them, a friendship is formed and they all pitch in as the summer progresses and they learn a lot about each other. More importantly they learn about themselves and that it sometimes takes an outsider to make you realise what is literally under your nose all this time. There is plenty of romance and some rather tense situations as all three characters have to juggle some life changing decisions and revelations. Encompassing all of this is an abundance of tea and cake.

If you don’t want tea and cake when you start this book, you will by the end!

Vanessa Greene is an author who if she continues to produce such work as this one and her début novel The Vintage Teacup Club is going to be up there with the likes of Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde and Carole Matthews. If you like these authors then you will like Vanessa Greene.

Thank you to netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

2014 is my year for Vanessa Greene, my only one disappointment now is I have read everything she has written and will now have to wait for her next novel. 

This latest one I read within 24 hours. I think that is a testament to the writing, which has captured me and made me carry on reading because I wanted to stay with these characters, I wanted to share in their tea and cake and catch up on their lives and I felt I was part of their friendship.