Books

Fatal Frost – James Henry

Crime Fiction Alphabet – F is for Frost

It is 1982, the world is focussing on events happening on islands at the bottom of the South Atlantic. But in Denton, the locals are focussing on something much closer to home, a murder. A young girl is found in woodland near a railway track. A first glance suicide?

Then whilst enjoying a round of golf at the new refurbished club house and course Superintendent Mullet is called to something at the ninth hole – a body, this time a young boy, positioned in a particular and peculiar way.

Detective Sergeant ‘Jack’ Frost and his colleagues are busy working on a spate of burglaries which happen to be rife in Denton. Resources are split thinner when these bodies appear and the hunt is now on for the killer.

With officers off sick, and on courses for new fangled computer equipment and the introduction of the area’s first ‘black’ officer, tensions are running high. This is a CID which thinks nothing of a few pints at lunchtime and going back to work. Of smoking in offices, and using rather heavy handed tactics with suspects. This is very much a police force of the 1980s, one that lives up to stereotypes but has no doubt a large element of truth within in. The author captures it very well.

Personal lives of these officers seem to take a back seat, and when they try and reach out for something other than work, they find it has already gone. Work is their saviour especially in the case of DS Frost.

When the dead boy’s sister goes missing, personal lives don’t exist as time is now running out to solve this murder and link them if there is a link. But for Frost and his colleagues they need to juggle the burglaries and the rather dubious massage parlour which is under the spotlight. Superintendent Mullet wants answers to everything and now.

Can Frost make sense of this jumble and get a result? Only by reading the book will you inevitably find out.

And yes, if you think the name is familiar it is the same Frost that David Jason plays on the television. This is set before Frost became an inspector.  You can obviously see the dislike  Superintendent Mullet has of Frost and more than likely the way he conducts his investigations and his lack of paperwork. I am sure Frost made Inspector on his policing and not his paper pushing.

This is the second book in a prequel to R.D.Wingfield’s original Frost novel and you have no need to have read these or the first, the book stands alone very well on its own.

I read one of Wingfield’s books many years ago when the television programme came out , but have little recollection of the book although the programme at the time kept faithful to the novel that I do remember.

I am always very wary of prequels they can go badly wrong, but I think this captures the policing of the eighties well and also has the relevant amount of red herrings and twists to make it a believable read where belief has no need to be suspended. A good crime novel as I say without having to know anything about the main character or R.D.Wingfield’s work.

This is the second novel and James Henry is the pseudonym in this case of just one author James Garbutt. The first novel First Frost is actually written by two authors James and Henry Sutton. I am intrigued at how that works when you actually write the novel?

I will add First Frost to my ever-growing wish list and also perhaps the original Frost novels too.

I read this as part of The Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

Books

A Dangerous Inheritance – Alison Weir

This is the story of two women, years apart suffering in love and captured by a mystery that still remains unsolved to this day.

Kate is the illegitimate daughter of Richard. Upon birth she is taken into the care of her father and step mother and never knows growing up with her mother. Richard is a powerful man and has a reputation to uphold. Others do not think the same and he has to face the ultimate challenge. Kate is in awe of her father and does not want to admit he has committed any murders but there is evidence to suggest otherwise and everyone else has their own very differing opinion. Even her own marriage becomes a cause of some heartache. Not only is her marriage not a love match but one of possessions and lands, her husband was chosen for her, her true love moved miles North away from her. Allegiances are formed and changed very quickly when Richard dies and suddenly Kate is the daughter of a usurper and a murderer? 

Katherine is the younger sister of an infamous woman whose death pushes her now into the limelight. Falling in love with a man whose family is happy for them to marry but until one politic issue is sorted out they cannot consummate the marriage. Secret meetings are convened and interrupted and in her new home she discovers the portrait of a lady in blue, beautiful with a necklace, her name is Kate. Katherine feels some sort of other worldly affinity with this unknown lady and upon the discovery of some hidden notes a murder mystery unfolds for Katherine. Events turn and as Katherine falls in and out of favour with senior family members her marriage is declare annulled and Katherine has to start again. Her second love Ned results in a consummation and a male heir, but where is the proof of their marriage? Now there is more danger for Katherine and the safest place for her and for her warring family is locked away from everyone else. The ghosts of the pasts are now haunting her and asking her something, can Katherine solve the mystery.

Kate is Katherine Plantagenet daughter of Richard III. Katherine is Katherine Grey, sister of Lady Jane Grey, the Queen who reigned for nine days. The murder mystery – the two young princes (Edward V and his brother Duke of York ) who have become synonymously known as the Princes in the Tower.

This is their story which sits apart and weaves together, as Alison Weir takes us between their lives, their family disputes, war and religion and their love lives. I did have to keep referring back to the family trees at the front of the book and the similar names do cause some confusion, obviously not something that can be altered by the author without losing all meaning. After a while though you begin to relate the names and characters to the different eras and suddenly there is no need for reference.

This is an excellent book which warrants time to sit back and enjoy and if you have loved Weir’s previous fiction then you will love this one just as much. There is no need to have read An Innocent Traitor first, if you have it merely adds more substance and background to this one. If you haven’t then you have another wonderful book to catch up on.

This did take a long time to read from when I got it back in April and got my lovely hardback copied signed by the author. I think because it is so cumbersome to be carting about it, the book did remain sat on my bedside table more than it should have done. For that I feel guilty. This is only the second Alison Weir novel I have read, the first being Innocent Traitor and it always reminds me of how much I love history, (that is why I took it to degree) and especially Tudor history.

This book took me to another part of history that I had not really considered or covered, Richard III and The Princes of the Tower. My only image of the princes is the tableaux in Madame Tussauds. Now my interest is piqued and I want to know more about then, and also about the time and the other characters such as Richard et al.

I have Phillipa Gregory’s latest novels which are based at the same time as this one but I am reluctant at the moment to pick them up as I feel I would suddenly reach saturation point and get completely confused with all the history. However knowing they are there ready to read is great and I hope to get to them some time soon.

Also to read is Jospehine Tey’s The Daughter of Time which features Richard III and was mentioned by Alison Weir in her talk. 


 

Books · Witterings

Jane Austen House Museum

Along with P.D. James new novel Death Comes to Pemberley (currently remains unread) which I won last year through a competition on the newbooks magazine website came two complimentary tickets to the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton. I also set visting here as one of my challenges for 2012. Chawton is only a forty minute or so car journey from me through some lovely countryside, country lanes and villages all festooned with bunting and flowers. I am lucky with the fact that both the sea and the countryside are within in spitting distance from where I live. 

Anyway, with a plethora of Bank Holidays I thought I would take up the chance to go and have a look before the tickets expired. So with my mum in tow (and dad chauffeuring) off we went. I was not sure what I was expecting but I think if I sum up that I am glad I did not pay for the tickets that probably says it all.

It is a very nice house, larger than you think from the outside and the garden was lovely despite the rather unseasonably chilly and windy weather. The garden was set out with lots of names of the plants which were common in the Nineteenth Century and the benefits of all these flowers and herbs. The mint was particularly aromatic and I spent a lot of time sniffing trying to distinguish between peppermint, applemint, spearmint and the like. The lavender another favourite spot.

You cannot take pictures in the house but for me there was not a lot to show you. A lot of the artefacts were replica or were there because they were ‘of the time’ with no link even tenuous to Jane Austen. I think it was to give a feel and atmosphere if you will of the kind of house Jane lived in for the last eight years of her life before her untimely death. There was plenty on the walls to read but it did not capture me that much that I wanted to spend absorbing it all in.

Jane Austen arrived in Chawton, at thirty-three and took possession of the cottage that is now the house together with her mother and sister Cassandra and a long-time family friend, Martha Lloyd. It is set in a lovely village, (although the rest was shut for the bank holiday!) and I could quite easily have dreamt many a day away about living there and becoming involved in village life and creating romances as Jane did. But for Jane the house was where most of her preparation for publication of her most famous works was done as well as writing some of them.

There is little to see with exact items and the museum acknowledge that it is a small collection, although the jewellery was beautiful as was the quilt stitched by Jane and her mother which was kept in correct lighting to protect from damage (hence the reason for no photographs). I loved the quilt. That was a small part, a lot is excerpts or photos from other collections (including all the visual media that Austen has generated) and some of the furniture belonged to other Austen family members. As I say it gives a sense of the time and place, compared to what fills our rooms and homes today it is very sparse but I think has a particular draw. Imagine writing by quill and ink on such a small table on paper, when now we have computers, laptops and tablets either on desks or balanced on our laps. How times have changed and are still changing. There is something though ‘quiet’ about the place when you realise here is the home where an author created another world and characters that we are still talking about, studying and watching on the screen both big and small today. That is some achievement, regardless of the fact that I was disappointed by the place.  I can see why many find it an enthralling place to visit, but for me I was not captured enough; maybe I need to read more Austen than the one I have read? Perhaps then I will revisit and see it all very differently?

I smiled at the gift shop, very small and compact and with lots of stuff you could buy. I was tempted by the second Cora Harrison book Jane Austen Stole my Boyfriend because I liked the first. But knowing I could buy it cheaper online, I held back. As is ever though when I go visiting or my mum does I always get a bookmark and that is what I came back with. There was a lot of ‘Mr Darcy’ memorabilia if you will, mugs, mats, cards, bookmarks, posters (actually Colin Firth) to name a few. However my mum summed it up very well. What do I need any of this for? I have my very own Mr D’Arcy. And so she does as that is our family name.

Books

Book Club #2 – Room – Emma Donoghue

So book two and get together two of my book club. Sadly with two people missing. Which was a shame, they were missed and I know they both enjoyed the book. L even text me one night with a message “he’s escaped”, rather bleary eyed the following morning, it too me a while to realise quite exactly what she was on about!

M had not read the book, she found getting into Jack’s voice very difficult and actually we could see why and admire Emma Donoghue for carrying that voice throughout the book without it ever faltering. Whilst you could say that not having read the book is a hindrance, it actually meant we could tell the story again from all our points of view and what we liked and disliked. M went away with a complete picture of the book and may perhaps even try and power through it, because actually a lot of the book is less about the actual ‘room’ but the rehabilitation and reintroduction into society. I think agreement was that we all found it quite a challenge to read and it is a book which will stay with you, it is a powerful story. Some glad they had finished it and could move on to something else.

I did print a list of questions but actually we chatted around it all without really needing to refer to them which is good (I think!). Points covered and I know I have missed plenty!  – the issue of breastfeeding a child. Society seemingly frowns on anyone breastfeeding after a year so C, our midwife amongst us (not compulsory at any book club meeting) informs us that actually children are not really weaned until around 3 years. However I realised why Ma was doing it, the child would have nourishment and everything needed when food was in short supply and then there was the bond of mother and child. I personally found it a bit odd that Jack knew exactly what he was doing and the difference between right and left and which was better. Then when Jack came out, the long hair made everyone assume he was a girl. How modern day society affects us somewhat subconsciously.

The concept of Sunday treat were cleverly thought out extras that Ma got not just to make their time less uncomfortable in Room but to help Jack’s education.  Crayons, pens would have dried up and stopped working, Ma had to think of the long term when making a choice. Why not scissors to cut their hair, but then hindsight in reading the book I realised that they could be used as a weapon to harm Old Nick – Ma was clever. What would you ask for as a Sunday treat?

The escape of Jack to seek help, from development of the plan and then teaching Jack through one words for him to remember what to do, brought observation that this happened in the middle of the book. I was worried that the book was going to be all about them being imprisoned and the last few pages would be, the escape, the capture and punishment of Old Nick and their rehabilitation. To me Jack was reborn once he escaped. Could Jack have really been able to do that or was it all a bit too easy? But he knew nothing else and was reliant on Ma so he would do it.

Again we observed thanks to L that we never found out Ma’s name. We had done it again – Rebecca being our previous read! We knew she had one, because Jack had difficulty in understanding that she was called something else other than Ma. Was that to detract from Jack’s story? Probably not, C said that Ma was an important character just as Jack was. Everything she did was for him; even the press conference was for him, to enable him to have a future. Of course the media have another agenda. (See more of the questions on the list covered without us realising it)

Jack’s questioning of the world brought inevitably came what we teach children. As S said children are like sponges they absorb all the time, but then when they have to question it, things become rather more difficult to explain. Jack was questioning, and when Ma began to tell the truth – why a plane could be seen from the skylight and also on the television, to Jack Ma was lying?

The structure that Ma gave Jack was crucial in his development for when he came out of room; getting up, counting out cereal, fitness, playing, reading the same three books, playing which ever games. Jack needed the structure once outside, which is why he wanted to return to the “room”. I had found on the Room website a diagram which gives you an idea of the layout of the room and also the why and how of writing Room makes for interesting reading.My review of the book can be found here.

A bit of a book swap and cups of coffee and tea a few nibbles makes a lovely way to spend an evening, and it is good to know that some struggled with the book, some loved it, others not so keen. I think we are all agreed that it is a book which stays with you.

And now for something completely different for the next book – Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L.James. See you all in a few weeks for the next round up. Please feel free to comment with any suggestions of books.

 


Books

Crime Fiction Alphabet – E is for Enid Blyton

Rather than an actual book review, for this weeks Crime Fiction Alphabet I thought I would reflect on something that occurred to me whilst I was considering books to read for the challenge. When did I start reading Crime Fiction? Was it in my childhood or much later? Childhood books automatically mean a mention to Enid Blyton.

I have vague recollection of reading a Nancy Drew book when I was younger but could not begin to tell you much about them as they were American and then I was rather snobby about reading books set in America . Then I suddenly realised what were the Famous Five, Secret Seven, and Five Find Outers books – mystery books but there was a crime normally involved, and always the presence of the police or a responsible adult at some time.

Certainly in the case of the Five Find Outers there are the wonderful conversations with Mr Goon the local policeman who thought the nosey, interfering children and their dog (of course) were a simple nuisance. But his superior Inspector Jenks always praising the thought and results that these children got.


I recently picked up a Famous Five books (Five go off in a Caravan) and read the book, looking for crime within, a different approach than just reliving a childhood book. First of all it had been changed ever so slightly in terms of words used but no matter, this is a post about the crime. Two men from the travelling circus that the children come across are suddenly very upset that they have befriended one of their group and also that they have parked their caravans in a place where they seem to have a rather keen interest.

With a bit of subterfuge, knowing that the men must be up to no good. One of the children watches events, and suddenly discover that their caravans are in fact covering something underground – a cave.

A cave with what looks like stolen goods.

The inevitable, threat and danger looming, the children make an attempt to capture, whilst the men make an attempt at escape. There is the danger of drowning, starving in the cave and even being shot. With Blyton good overcomes evil. The denouement; the police appear and the men are taken away. The children thanked for the police had been interested in these two men for some time but could not find out what was going on. It takes four children and a dog to do that in a matter of days, with ginger beer, ham sandwiches, boiled eggs and cake.

And so without me realising whilst I was growing up, consuming these books I had already started to take an interest in crime fiction. It was many years probably only the last five where I have actually consciously picked up a crime genre novel. Now I read quite a few!

This post is part of The Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

Books

Ghostheart – R.J. Ellory

This is the story of Annie, a thirty year old that lives a rather quiet and obviously lonely life in New York.  Her sole means of occupying her time is the bookshop she owns and runs which has certainly more books than customers. The rest is spent with her neighbour a fifty plus ex journalist, Jack Sullivan who drinks to forget the horrors he has seen. A rather quirky friendship which is born out of wanting something more out of life and not finding it – in Annie’s case her father and who he was. In Jack’s case, a family; love.

However, fate has a funny way of working and Annie finds love, deeply, quickly and falling immensely from a great height when David Quinn appears in her book shop, her bed, her life and her conscience. Is David all that he seems?  Annie does not want to think of the old adage ‘too good to be true’ or actually is she merely cynical over men and past relationships. Look at her father, he left when she was seven and her and her mother never heard from him again.

In turn Jack becomes the father figure, that he always wanted to be and finds that actually it is a lot tougher than he would ever imagined.

When a stranger appears at the book shop with a tale to tell having known her father, Annie feels that she now has a link and can find some peace within herself.

This book is also the story of Harry Rose, a survivor of Dachau who is brought to America by the same officer who liberated him. Harry has seen the worst of people and the best. The way to survive is to obliterate those who cause harm and hurt.

We watch as Harry moves amongst the gangsters of fifties into the sixties, protection rackets, illegal betting, prostitution, no stone is left unturned by Harry’s life as he knows there is no God and that the world is bad. Harry learns trust from all those he keeps company with, he pays his dues and collects accordingly, always polite and on time. A man with a reputation not to be questioned. But with trust there is still no faith and when the worst of people is shown, Harry can commit the worst himself.

Friendships come and go but one man Johnnie Redbird is in it with Harry for the long haul; they have witnessed much and know that either of them could bring the other one down. The sign of a friendship which can be picked up immediately even if years have passed but the years have passed and the America they live in has changed and so have Harry and Johnnie. Will the trust in their friendship last to the end?

When a stranger appears at a bookshop, he has a story to impart and Harry and Johnnie will live on.

I admit to struggling with the first twenty or so pages and was at the point of giving up, but as soon as I started to learn about Harry and his life I was hooked. Suddenly I was captured by the whole plot and how could two seemingly different people, in different eras have possible any ties whatsoever. As the pieces slowly started to slot into place, I guessed, I was wrong, I guessed again what the denouement would be but was only half wrong and I cared about all the characters whether they were flawed or not, I wanted the end but I did not want it to. This is a crime book, but it is also so much more. A worthy read.

I met R.J. Ellory at the newbooks magazine Readers Day back in April and have never read any of his books before. Even though I knew one was a choice for the Richard & Judy Book club a few years back. However, having listened to him talk I was immediately interested in what he had written an d when the opportunity came I went and purchased one of his books. There was no thought in the one I chose, I just merely picked one. I felt it did not matter which it was and so duly signed by author who was most amiable especially as I admit to not having read any of his books I came home with said book and it has taken me until now to read it. 

I am so glad I have and also so interested in his other work as well. It fascinates me that a Birmingham ‘lad’ can write such wonderful fiction which is based in America. I wonder how American readers feel about it? I cannot believe I was so close to putting this book to one side and perhaps trying to tackle it at a later time. Tackle was not the word needed at all once I was hooked. I loved all the references to events and well know personalities (including politicians) within the book which placed the story of Harry Rose well, and gave you a real sense of what life was like at the time without having to go into great detail. I think this stems from my history degree.

I look forward now to reading some of his other books, and will cherish this copy signed by the author on my book shelf for many years to come.

Books

Jottings #7 – Walking, Whining and Wearing thin?

Walking

As you are reading this I will have either already started, be in the middle of or finished the Rowan’s Hospice Moonlit Memories Walk. I am only doing the 5 mile walk, but all the money goes to a local charity to me and I think nearly everyone knows some that has benefited greatly from the hospice.

Whining

I am not sure if you have read any of or been following the story of Martha Payne who started her own blog (with help from dad) as a project to record pictures of her school dinners. The idea being that she could share with friends and family what she had eaten that day. It also gave an insight for her family to see why she came home hungry some days. She took photos and gave them ratings. What was the harm?

Well apparently, a newspaper took up the story and the press coverage inferred that the dinner ladies would be getting fired! In step the council and Martha was told she was no longer able to take pictures. Bureaucracy at its best if you ask me. The council should have taken issue with the newspaper and what they inferred not banned the child. Not only is Martha educating others, giving feedback she is educating herself. Followers from around the world send in pictures of their school dinners with ratings. Martha’s challenge is to find where some of these far-flung places are on a globe/in an atlas.

Then the infamous ‘U-Turn’ the ‘egg on the face’ moment, the council have overturned the ban. Presumably because it  went global. The support of Jamie Oliver, Nick Nairn, being broadcast on BBC News was probably enough bad publicity for the council.

I despair at this country sometimes and those that we elect to run it or say they know what is best.

Please go and read the article that started this furore here and then if anything head over to the NeverSeconds blog and started reading and following! There is a link there to Mary’s Meals which is where Martha has been wanting to raise money, which started from her cake sale at school. It has surpassed the £7k target by thousands! Well done Martha, well done all that have donated and I think this story is going to run and run and I hope more inspired children with a little help from parents, friends and relatives take up similar mantles. These children are our future.

Wearing Thin?

I was never a great fan of Richard and Judy but I was of their book club. It got people reading, talking about books and introduced me and many others to some fantastic authors that I still continue to read. I was disappointed when they left Channel 4 as I did not have access to their new home.

Then when the programme stopped, what was to become of the book club and the books. It was without a doubt a great way of influencing the book world as such by their choices. And as this article in the Daily Telegraph this week says they might be losing their influence because of the media chosen to advertise their books. There is no major announcement they just seem to have slipped onto shelves relatively quietly. I do wonder why? Do we need TV book shows? Quite frankly in my opinion yes and I think that is the fundamental flaw. They reached a lot more people that way. I can see it being quite cheap television really as well.

In the meantime, I hope they continue to push and promote wonderful books and authors and that perhaps once their deal with WHSmiths comes to an end (I wonder how long it is?) there might be another opportunity for them to make more of a mark.