The Franchise Affair – Josephine Tey

Robert Blair is a village solicitor, some who deals with conveyance, wills and all manner things not very criminal.

One afternoon, when planning to go home he answers the phone to Miss Marion Sharpe who asks for his help. Why? She and her mother have been accused of kidnapped and incarcerating a fifteen year old girl for a month in the attic of The Franchise.

What begins is one of literatures best classic crime novel, The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey. Did Marion Sharpe and her mother commit the crime? Throughout the book I kept changing my mind, there was the doubt the evidence was too damming but there was the doubt as well. It even looked like they would not be charged but not be acquitted either and forever have it hanging over their heads forever.

We see the evidence, we see the counter evidence and we then see the conclusion. But is it the one that everyone was excepting?

This is a really well written book, which twists and turns with each page and only took me three nights to finish! The characters are light and funny, but at the same time quite serious. Aunt Lin, Robert’s Aunt and Mrs Sharpe were well written and made me chuckle more than once, in that direct manner that younger people do not get away with. The girl who was kidnapped and beaten has no availing qualities by the description that Tey gives us, but I think this is a clever tool to make us as readers start doubting her. Robert Blair carefully unpicks all the information that he collects with help from friends, family and locals and then puts everything back into order. Restoring order and justice.

This is the first Tey I have read, having been introduced to her work through the Nicola Upson books which use Tey as a character in a book. I look forward to reading some of her other work.

I loved this book for many different reasons. The cover – you just cannot beat Penguin covers. Simple but effective. The mystery – I really have got into classic crime, ‘golden age’ crime whatever you want to label it with. I think the justice in me likes to see the good be treated as such and the bad dealt with correctly. A very ‘black and white’ kind of view, but I have been called a ‘black and white’ person before so I think it all fits. The book – actually belongs to my mum, who has read it and loved it and therefore it is something we share together. Now I have read it, I know my mum will want to reread it again. That is the joy of books.


50 Harbor Street – Debbie Macomber

We are back in Cedar Cove, for the fifth time with Debbie Macomber and this time, it is all about marriages and relationships and the testing of them.

Roy and Corrie, the local private detective and his wife have been receiving anonymous postcards and then other gifts and they do not know who it is. But something is niggling at both them about an issue in the past and they both do their own investigating and come to the same conclusion which will suddenly change their family forever.

Roy and Corrie’s daughter Linette is a new resident to town as she starts work at the new medical centre. She has her sights set on the new doctor, Chad there she knows from her past, but he has sights on Gloria, Linette’s next door neighbour and friend. Gloria does not want to lose this newly found friendship. Linette feels she settles for second best with Cal who works on the horse farm with Cliff Harding but then something happens and she realises that maybe second is better than first.

Cliff and Grace are seemingly lurching between everything and nothing in their relationship. Is it on or is it off? Grace takes matters into her own hands and makes a choice which only she knows is the best one, whilst her daughter Maryellen thinks it is the wrong one. But it looks like Grace will start to think like her daughter very soon.

Maryellen is pregnant and her husband Jon is delighted, but then an enforced five month complete bed rest means that Maryellen has to give up her work and it is left to Jon to bring in the money, run the house and look after their daughter. His work as a photographer suffers as he goes back to cooking in the local restaurant The Lighthouse but then something happens which leaves Jon and the owners Seth and Justine Gunderson without an income………

And we move to 6 Rainier Drive where the story picks up.

These books are really great to get into and it does not matter if you have not read the previous ones. You are among friends, there is enough background information for you to relate the characters to each other and it just means that you have more books to read to get the full story!

I feel guilty about reading these books, because they are in some ways like soap operas on the television. And I do not watch them. However, they leave you with that feel good feeling and I know the place and the characters are all my own imagination and not how someone may have interpreted it for the screen. So bring on the guilt and I have 6 Rainer Drive ready to go!


The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage – Enid Blyton – Revisited

I have been having a rather reminiscing look back at childhood reads and in particular what has stood out is Enid Blyton books. I discovered that many had been ‘rewritten’ to bring in line with more modern ways of thinking. Or not thinking in my opinion. I have reread the first Famous Five book and talked about that here. So for my next Enid Blyton was the first Five Find Outer’s book – The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage.

This is the book where we are introduced to Fatty, Larry, Pip, Daisy, Bets and Buster the dog! Larry and Bets are brother and sister and so are Pip and Daisy. The outsider is a bored child who is staying at the local hotel with his parents is Fatty or Frederick Algernon Trotteville, his initials spell out FAT. I am sure calling a child Fatty is not right and goes against all these new versions of Blyton. But hang that, this is proper Blyton! The local policeman who obviously does not like children especially ones that interfere in investigations is Pc Goon known as ‘old clear-orf’ because that is his opening line whenever he sees the children one step ahead of him in the investigation.

Reading this book again, I now realise what a fairly adult theme the mystery was. A cottage is burnt down whilst the owner is away, and there are plenty of suspects but there is something about the owner that is a bit strange and would he have benefitted from the insurance payout? The children work it out in the end, and the humour of them chatting about it being overheard by a man fishing results in them putting Pc Goon in his place when they are actually given the honour of having solved the mystery first!

This is true Blyton, plenty of golly’s and goshes. The children having tea and only being allowed on bike journeys when they are deemed old enough. Being allowed out for hours on end as long as they were back for tea. Adults not knowing where they really were or what they were up to, even at night they went sneaking off.  All that lemonade, sandwiches and cakes, my mouth is watering already. It is very different to the Famous Five, because rather than the children going off on adventures, the adventures happen to the Five Find Outers right on their doorstop. There is also the gravitation of the children towards each other rather than being thrust together all family as in the case of the Famous Five. Of course there is a dog because really it is the dog that is the most loved character!

I have to confess that I did not enjoy this book as much this time round. Perhaps as an adult I have a more cynical view and memories have faded as I really did enjoy these as a child and found them most intriguing and also funny especially the character of Fatty and his great ability to mimic and dress up in later books.

I cannot remember the cover of the book I read as a child, the one shown at the top of this post is the version of the book I read and I think it is awful, the cartoons of the children especially. Thanks to the wonderful Enid Blyton website all published editions of the books are shown and I think this was the one that I read.

Going against the grain of my aim to review every book I read on Amazon, I have chosen not to with this book, mainly because I wanted to mention so much more about the plot and how actually these books are a trip down memory lane for me. I want to continue this adventure back into Blyton and think next stop is either the first Malory Towers or St Clare’s stories – the original’s of course.


The Silver Locket – Margaret James

This is the story of Rose Courtenay, brought up in a big mansion house in Dorset she is destined for one thing, to marry who her parents think is most suitable and live her life accordingly exactly like theirs. Rose is different she wants more from life, and decides the only way to get this is to break free from family constraints.

So she becomes a nurse, first of all in London and then as the story progresses further afield in France and Russia. But The Great War has started and Rose has to face on a day to day basis the horrors that war brings with it. Work becomes her focus after the male distraction of Alex Denham and Michael Easton from back home is brought to the fighting fields of the France.

Rose’s heart tells her one thing, her head another and after some rather soul searching episodes, she makes a decision but is it the right one and will the injured party be prepared to forget or will Rose’s life be made even more difficult? Wrong love affects people you love and sacrifices have to be made. But then right love brings its own challenges.

The Silver Locket, a rather tenuous title for this book is basically a love story set on the background of war. A rather common theme for novels and one I have always enjoyed in the past.  I think Margaret James handles the setting of the scene and capturing the war scenarios very well and they produced some evocative descriptions. However, this aside, there is a lot of weaknesses to the story. Both Alex Denham and Michael Easton seem to be mere fleeting acquaintances from Rose’s past when they are thrown together again because of the war. All of a sudden it seems more happened in the past that the reader was not previously made aware of, too much assumption on the author’s part for me. I felt I was missing something, but going back over it, it was not there to miss. The sentence structure is somewhat ‘loose’ and I had on a number of occasions reread sentences until I could make sense, this really spoilt the book for me. It did not flow more stumbled along which did not make for easy reading or a book you could lose yourself in.

This is the first in what is to be a trilogy of books, the second The Golden Chain (can you see a theme?) is out in May 2011 and I would read the book if offered because there was something niggling away at me at the end of this book which made me want to find out what happened to the three characters  but I would not part with money to read it.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me to receive and review this book.  I am sure many others enjoyed this book and the reviews reflect that on Amazon but it was not completely for me, which is why I gave it 3 stars.

I am intrigued by the title, especially as I learn that it was previously released in 2005 as The Morning Promise. The new title reflects on something in the book that is mentioned in a kind of ‘blink and you will miss it’ way. The Morning Promise does not make sense either to the story line. The second book The Golden Chain was previously published as The Long Way Home and the third book new title yet unknown but originally called The Penny Bangle.


Domestic Arts

Cooking is somewhat a chore but it can also result in some great achievements. And for me I cheer my achievements no matter how small even domestic achievements such as cooking. If you have never tried this before try it soon, you will have no idea what a positive effect it can have.

Cakes are quite a common feature in my kitchen, but I always like to try something different and so this time it was all about carrot cake.

It is much moister than the chocolate cake, probably due to the carrots, it has mincemeat and honey in as well but no butter or flour. Weetabix and Scan Bran bulk it out and eggs bind it all together. I think it could have been cooked for perhaps a bit longer, but none the less it was different and it was tasty.

The remaining pieces of scan bran I wanted to use to cover some Scotch Eggs in. Rather a messy creation perhaps but it was worth it. Hard boiled eggs, fat free sausages out of their skin and placed round the hard boiled eggs, rolled in beaten egg and then dipped in the crushed scan bran. Please note here crushing Scan Bran is quite a challenge, especially when I was trying to avoid using the food mixer. I like cooking but not washing up!  So into the bag sealed with the rolling pin and bash away on the carpet floor. At least my downstairs neighbour was not in, he would have thought I was committing a murder!

Into the oven and then 25 minutes or so later out they came…..

They were delicious cold but really lovely warm as well. I will be visiting this recipe again and again I feel.


Recently Procured

A small use of my thesaurus and Recent Acquisitions becomes Recently Procured!

A day off from work brought about a chance to go and poke about in some charity shops which are in the vicinity of the butchers who supply me with my fat-free burgers and sausages! And you cannot go poking about without buying one or two.

Debbie Macomber – Old Boyfriends Part of The Blossom Street Series previously released as Susannah’s Garden

Lucy Cavendish – Samantha Symthe’s Modern Family Journal The first book in the trilogy. I have already read the final book and was suitably impressed.

Debbie Macomber – A Good Yarn Again part of The Blossom Street Series, just need to make sure I read them in the correct order.

M.C. Beaton – Death of a Maid A Hamish Macbeth Mystery from the creator of Agatha Raisin. Book 22 in the series, but I just wanted to see what they were like having watched the television series back in 1995!

Carola Dunn – Requiem for a Mezzo The third book in the Daisy Dalyrmple series. Cosy Mysteries! I have not read the second but I am sure either that will not be a problem or by the time I get to reading this one, I may have located and read the second!

Griff Rhys Jones – Semi-Detached Autobiographical book and one for some reason I have missed and I do enjoy listening to Griff.

Very top of the pile is a Persephone Classic Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski book I won recently whilst taking part in Persephone Weekend.

Standing up on the side is Michael Caine – The Elephant to Hollywood A Christmas present for my dad which he has now read and enjoyed (always a bonus) and has passed onto me to read!

Behind this pile of books, you can see my book shelf with books spilling off to the side and also some of my cross stitch made into cushions which ‘pose’ all round my flat.

Now to get on with some reading!

Crafts · Cross Stitch

Some more Cross Stitch

More? Suddenly I have visions of Oliver Twist in mind “Please, sir, I want some more”.

But no this is more cross stitch, after completing the Somebunny last week I wanted something else small and enjoyable to stitch whilst watching the television. So I went searching through all the patterns I have and come across some Margaret Sherry. I say some Margaret Sherry with tongue in cheek as I have rather a lot of patterns from magazines by this wonderful designer. I have also stitched her designs before and if I could find the photos I would show you, perhaps another day.

Here is the little cat, poking out of a mug. The back stitch is worth it when you see him slowly coming to life!

Now I have yet to finish this one up and tossed around either a coaster or a card. I am settling on a card at the moment, but wouldn’t he look rather funky on my kitchen wall? And there are another 3 to stitch……


Numbers not Words

Have you ever stopped to think how much of our lives are made up of numbers and not words? What do I mean by this, well having decided to have a Friday off work, fairly last minute for me but I knew I needed it as I think I would never have made it to the holiday off work in April without going pop!  I was obviously calculating holiday days and lieu time. (Numbers)

Plus I work with numbers everyday being a Treasurer. Which has suddenly opened up a whole new meaning to my job as I try to define it for those who are not sure. For varying differing reasons I do not want to be too specific about what I do, not because it is highly dangerous or very exciting in fact not really exciting at all, although I have some very hilarious tales I could share, of which I am tempted but currently decline to do. But I have signed the Official Secrets Act because I work with sensitive information. A Treasurer is defined in 3 (number) online dictionaries as:

a person who is responsible for an organization’s money

a person appointed to look after the funds of a society, company, city, or other governing body

One who has the care of a treasure or treasure or treasury; an officer who receives the public money arising from taxes and duties, or other sources of revenue, takes charge of the same, and disburse it upon orders made by the proper authority; one who has charge of collected funds; as, the treasurer of a society or corporation.

I am not sure which of the three definitions above is most accurate but it is certainly a combination of all 3. (Number!)

So the purpose of all of this is to map out a day of dealing with numbers and not words.  From morning to evening….

My Lumie Light is set for 0525 and the radio alarm for 0530 set to BBC Radio 2. The snooze button is hit once or twice and this only gives me another 9 or 18 minutes in bed. Ablutions completed, breakfast varies day to day but for purposes of this post I will pick a random breakfast 2 Weetabix and 250ml of milk plus 1 cup of tea and 1/2 (do fractions count) a grapefruit. Eaten whilst completing a sudoku puzzle which is just full of numbers! Then when the 0630 news is read and the vibrant and rather bouncy Chris Evans says it’s 632 then it is time to be washing the dishes and heading out the door. Plenty of numbers so far and I have not even left the house yet.

I look at the clock of the car noting that it is currently 1 minute fast and also the temperature. Then for the journey, involving 2 A roads, 1 Motorway and 1 B road to get to my workplace destination. If the pips have gone for the 7 o’clock news whilst I am parking the car then I have made good time and ready to start work.

Turning the computer on, and following the same routine. Cracking the number combination safe to get the keys to access the other number combination and key safe, then onto to the 3rd number combination safe. Whilst stopping to run the banking on the card machine which requires a numeric password. Back to the computer and enter the password which in these ever security conscious days has numbers in as well as letters and other characters. Logging into required programmes starts another password combination and away we go with the days work.  Do not need to turn on Radio 2, this has already been done for me.

The days work involved unique numbers allocated to different people,  common numbers allocated to recurring events, suppliers, stock items, assets, bank accounts, cash, number of emails to answer, number to send, number to ignore and invariably more passwords. A trip to my other office involves more door combinations and safe combinations and more of the same.

Tea is always around 0930 and 1000 and this normally involves a biscuit or 2 and I will have counted these in my daily allowance for my eating plan. Between 1130 and 1200 the post arrives. Then 1145 the lunchtime rush begins until about 1320 when it finishes and I get to eat my lunch. Although I invariably check the clock when I hear the news at 1pm to remind myself that it is nearly lunchtime. 30 minutes for lunch. A chance for some reading interruptions permitting. Then 1350 hits and time to take dirty plates and cutlery back to the kitchen and then when it hits 1400 there is only 2 hours of work left! The afternoon carries on with many more numbers and then it is 1600 and time to do all the opening up in reverse and back out onto the road.

Checking the clock in the car, remembering that it is 1 minute fast and the temperature and how it has risen (sometimes fallen) to what it was when I left the house that morning, what time was it again oh yes sometime between 0647-0700. Depending on what day it is and what has happened during the day actually depends on when I leave so maybe an extra 15-30 minutes are added on to the day.

Then it is off to the gym for either 1 of 3 activities, classes, training or swimming. Let me stick to the swimming. 40 lengths of the 25m pool equals 1 km. Add in the fact that I aim to do it between 20-25 minutes then the activity is complete. Back into the car, yes the clock is still 1 minute fast and then it is how long will it take to get home baring mind that the traffic has hit rush hour point.

Home at last, then what. Well cooking whatever is decided for tea and the paraphernalia that goes with this, watching the clock to make sure everything is cooked and not burned or undercooked, them pesky numbers again. Whilst this is happening then the BBC 6 o’clock news is on followed by The One Show! Is that enough numbers? Not quite, whatever happens if I am stitching I am counting, if I am knitting then I am counting and then it is bedtime and that is probably the penultimate set of numbers. The final look at numbers will be the Lumie Light clock as I take my glasses off and put them on the bedside table and turn the light to sunset as I drift off to sleep having had enough of numbers for today but tomorrow will bring more of the same….

I am sure there are more numbers I missed during this average day and for those that made it to the end there are exactly 1109 words.


The Chemistry of Death – Simon Beckett

Young doctor comes to a village on the Norfolk Broads, when the local doctor is injured in a car accident which killed his wife. The young doctor, David Hunter is treated as an outsider despite being in the village for more than 3 years. His past still holds him back but time begins to heal when he meets local school teacher, Jenny and a relationship starts.

The village is small and contained, nothing much to write home about a local pub, The Lamb and a church where a very pious Reverend Scarsdale holds court to an empty congregation.  A village where you think nothing happens…… until a body is found.

The body is of a young woman, found in the marshes where there is very little of the body to establish initially who it is and David Hunter’s past comes back to haunt him as he was an expert in forensic anthropology, for the uninformed as I was, the title of this first book in which became a series ‘The Chemistry of Death’. How the body decomposes, breaks down, what happens to different parts of it and how you can tell certain things by the chemistry of this breakdown and also the flies and the insects which feed off this death. I warn you if you are of a very delicate disposition then this book might be a bit gruesome for you. But from that comes a fascinating insight into another way of finding a killer. When another local woman goes missing, the race is on to find out exactly what is going on and David Hunter gets more involved than he wants to be when his new relationship is threatened.

Simon Beckett, an author I have never come across before but am so glad I did weaves a very cleverly plot and although it did take me time to be convinced by David Hunter once I was I was hooked. It was a long journey where I felt I was hurtling head on to find the killer when suddenly the brakes were applied and a complete u turn was taken and I went hurtling on towards something else. The book drew me in and there was no way I could guess who it was and that made the book the book even more enticing.

If you like your crime books and perhaps bored of having the detective as the protagonist then this could be the book for you. Enjoy finding out for yourself! While I move onto the next book in the series.

This is the third and final book I chose in the Transworld Crime Caper. And like when you see the 3 for 2 offers in bookshops, it is always the third book which you unsure what to choose therefore I went out on a limb to pick this one. I admit to being unsure about it when I started but it got me in the end and I was hooked! A thriller without the detective being the main character (as I say in my review above). It reminded me somewhat of Silent Witness, in the fact that the pathologist becomes very involved in the cases. I always think it is somewhat unbelievable but maybe it is not that far from the truth. It was a bit gruesome, more than I would normally have chosen to read but it was all relevant and not there to merely ‘sex’ the  book up which makes it more believable and realistic, especially when you are dealing with the characters emotions.

I was in two minds on whether I wanted to read subsequent books featuring David Hunter, but once the pace picked up I am definitely interested in reading the next one in the series Written in Bone, which Nikki-Ann has just recently reviewed on her blog as she has discovered the talent of Simon Beckett.


Pieces of My Heart – Sinead Moriarty

This is the story of Ava and her family, her workaholic husband Paul, teenage daughters from both ends of the spectrum quiet and studious Ali and loud and strong Sarah, her widowed father set loose to find his sexual mojo and a best friend who is helping Ava run a party planning business for kids when she hates them. What we have is another excellent book from Sinead Moriarty with such a mixture of characters you cannot help but like and love.

However, Moriarty does deal with serious issues, and in this book it is eating disorders. Told only from the point of view of Ava who is trying to be all things to all people and is nothing to herself. Ava tries to keep the family together but she is battling at every turn. Not only does she blame herself for her daughter Ali’s descent into Anorexia she has to try and get the support of her husband who believes that there is nothing wrong but just the need for a good meal. Paul has a lot to learn and as the story progresses and unfolds we learn how difficult anorexia is not just for the sufferer but also for the family and those close to them. Ali’s sister Sarah is kicking out at everything and everyone as the whole focus is on her sister and her illness, and she treats the problem head on, much to Ava’s disgust.

You have to remember that we are only getting one person’s perspective (Ava) on the situation but this does not distract from the seriousness of the issue. It was for me thoroughly well researched and I learnt a lot about eating disorders which perhaps I did not know. There are moments of hope when you believe that perhaps Ali has turned a corner but then this hope is lost when we learn the tricks that Ali uses to make it look like she is gaining weight. The family reach rock bottom and have to look towards the future and getting themselves back on track.

Do not think this book is full of gloom; it is full of wonderful warm Irish humour. Sarah, in her own unique way in dealing with her sister is as funny as is her determination to be an actress because she as the X factor and the self tanning experiences with her new boyfriend are “just so like, so cool”, made me laugh out loud. The experiences of Ava’s party planning business with precocious demanding 6 year olds! Moriarty has a unique gift in making you laugh with the family at the most humorous moments. For example Ava’s father and his live in, pregnant, pole dancing, large chested Polish girlfriend brought tears of laughter. But also making you cry when you see how distraught Ava is when she has to let her go and realise she needs help in helping her daughter Ali recover.

A great read, and if you have never read Sinead Moriarty before you could do no wrong with starting this book and discovering a great talent that is sharing the shelf with Marian Keyes easily.

A great book which took me two days to read. I was absorbed straight away. I found it a touching subject but also struggled with the review. I wanted to be clear about the eating disorder and not sound flippant about such a condition, I hope I have done it justice. I believe Sinead Moriarty has certainly done her research and this makes for a much fuller well rounded plot. I look forward to her next book.