Books

The Darkest Evening – Ann Cleeves

Making her way home through a blizzard, DCI Vera Stanhope comes across an abandoned car, the door open, the driver clearly gone but in the back a small boy.

Taking the boy into her safety she then makes her way to the nearest house.

That house happens to be Brockburn, a big house, slightly worse for wear and one Vera recognises from her past. This is where her father, Hector grew up.

Inside the house is a party and Vera is about to interrupt them.

Outside in the snow is a dead body.

Are all of these occurrences related?

It is all pointing to a new investigation for Vera and her team, including Joe Ashworth, Vera’s closest colleague and Holly, desperately trying to impress and live up to Vera’s expectations and her own.

I always enjoy a ‘big house’ type mystery and this one is no different, peeping behind doors we see secrets of Vera’s relatives as well as the comings and goings of those that live on and near Brockburn.

By nature of the setting, the wilds of the Northumberland setting and the fact that it is December, Christmas is round the corner it is a dark book – the unknown is a dark place as is revisiting parts of Vera’s past which have an affect on perhaps the way she deals with the investigation and all of the potential suspects.

Nothing is quite as it seems and everyone is holding something in the dark, but through the shadows, Vera stumbles across the truth. Will it be the one her family accept?

In the main I know of Vera from the ITV series broadcast in the UK. The books are better but with that knowledge of the wonderful Brenda Blethyn’s portrayal you can hear her voice and smile wryly at her put downs as she gets to the truth. If you ever want a detective’s character to pop from the page then Ann Cleeves Vera Stanhope is a mighty fine example.

A must for all fans of Cleeves, Vera and good old fashioned detective stories.

 

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Darkest Evening, the ninth DCI Vera Stanhope book is out now. 

 

 

 

Books

Parish Notices

I hope you are all well in your part of the parish? Trying to stay upbeat and smiley in this part of the parish, especially as it seems that there are changes (and not good ones) on the horizon. I don’t want to bring everyone down with that and to be honest, I am exhausted thinking and discussing it. So what better solace than some books.

You might have missed some of these in recent months

London. Rush Hour.

Seven people started their day thinking it was going to be what they knew.

What they did not know was that they would never get to work.

Seven seemingly random people stabbed.

What connected them all?

Full Review here

The reader is treated to a skilfully written novel, the clues are all there, and whilst I had the wrong person for a while, I did have the right reasons but the most obvious simply passed by Susan Ryeland as well as me! If the lead character can be fooled as much as the reader – the author must be on to something.

A must for all fans of great murder mysteries.

Full Review here

In a retirement village where the facilities are seemingly far superior than your average holiday resort, there is plenty to keep you occupied with various clubs, fitness activities, visits and committee meetings. Just a word of warning, do not park where you shouldn’t!

Much will be made of this book simply because of who it is written by. Richard Osman has a very acerbic wit which is evident in this book and for me it resembled a Wodehouse novel in parts, very character rich. There are plenty of references to typical British places, products and behaviours and it very much centres the setting as well as the plot in that of a British cosy crime novel.

Full Review here

Anyone taking on the task of taking Hercule Poirot and carrying on his tales is gong to always come in for some criticism – not least because it can never be the same. Very true but in a world where nothing is ever going to be the same, it is refreshing to revisit a familiar character doing what he does best – using the little grey cells to solve crime.

If you can think of the best Christie you have read and team it with the best David Suchet Poirot adaptation you have seen then you have captured the essence of this book (and Hannah’s three previous Poirot novels). It works, don’t ask me how it just does.

Full Review here

I promise you there is no reason that I appear to have been on some sort of killing spree with my reading but there is more to come…..

Making her way home through a blizzard, DCI Vera Stanhope comes across an abandoned car, the door open, the driver clearly gone but in the back a small boy.

By nature of the setting, the wilds of the Northumberland setting and the fact that it is December, Christmas is round the corner it is a dark book – the unknown is a dark place as is revisiting parts of Vera’s past which have an affect on perhaps the way she deals with the investigation and all of the potential suspects.

Full review coming to soon to this blog.

The reading has taken a lighter turn as the Christmas books are stacking up fast and I am after some joyous, happy reading for a while.

How’s things in your parish?

Books

The Killings at Kingfisher Hall – Sophie Hannah

Anyone taking on the task of taking Hercule Poirot and carrying on his tales is gong to always come in for some criticism – not least because it can never be the same. Very true but in a world where nothing is ever going to be the same, it is refreshing to revisit a familiar character doing what he does best – using the little grey cells to solve crime.

In this case, Poirot is waiting to board a coach to the Kingfisher Hill Estate. The coach is full and whilst he intends to sit with his friend and colleague Inspector Catchpool of Scotland Yard, the ramblings of a woman who thinks she will be killed if she sits a certain seat means that the journey Poirot and Catchpool take is very different.

Whilst one of them sits next to someone convinced they are going to be murdered, the other site next to someone who confesses to having done such a thing.

It is all very unsettling for Poirot, especially when the real reason for going to Kingfisher Hill is at the bequest of Richard Devonport. His fiancee is waiting to be hanged – for killing his brother Frank Devonport. The rest of the Devonport family are not to know why Poirot is really there.

But when another disclosure prevents Poirot from remaining undercover and unnoticed it seems that there is much to learn about the Devonport’s and the Kingfisher Hill Estate.

With numerous confessions, lies and truths littered throughout the book, it seems that it can only take Poirot to the right answer – which it turns out has been obvious from the beginning of his quest.

Can you see what Poirot can see?

Poirot’s nature, his use of his little grey cells, the way that his sidekick, Catchpool’s seemingly innocent in what is taking place round him and with some twists along the way, make it for an entertaining and intriguing read. Likeable and loathsome characters, changeable sympathies with the people along the way, the reader is drawn right in to the puzzling mystery.

If you can think of the best Christie you have read and team it with the best David Suchet Poirot adaptation you have seen then you have captured the essence of this book (and Hannah’s three previous Poirot novels). It works, don’t ask me how it just does.

Sophie Hannah’s novels are the closet we are ever going to get to wishing for more Agatha Christie stories – they are a must for all Golden Age Crime fans.

 

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Killings at Kingfisher Hill is out now. 

Books

The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

In a retirement village where the facilities are seemingly far superior than your average holiday resort, there is plenty to keep you occupied with various clubs, fitness activities, visits and committee meetings. Just a word of warning, do not park where you shouldn’t!

One of the clubs is the aforementioned title The Thursday Murder Club – four members, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim. All of these four bring something different to the club as they investigate unsolved cases from the past.

Elizabeth has connections with pretty much everyone or anyone, she clearly worked in mysterious ways in her past life. Joyce is a former nurse, useful for some of the medical elements. Ron or ‘Red Ron’ as known to many is a former union leader and can antagonise with the best. And quiet Ibrahim, former psychiatrist, who works without and question and methodically to find all the answers.

Of course little do they know, that a murder is going to happen in their little world – but so it does.

Now it is time for The Thursday Murder Club to use all their wit and wiles to solve the murder or at least direct the police in the right direction.

Much will be made of this book simply because of who it is written by. Richard Osman has a very acerbic wit which is evident in this book and for me it resembled a Wodehouse novel in parts, very character rich. There are plenty of references to typical British places, products and behaviours and it very much centres the setting as well as the plot in that of a British cosy crime novel.

The book is clearly dominated by the murder story line but it also focuses on the thoughts and feelings of those in the retirement village as well. The Murder Club all have personal histories of their own and how they come to be gathered all together in this village. Osman deals with it gracefully and it adds a richness to the story.

A great fun light-hearted read which everyone will be talking about. I do hope there is more from Osman.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Thursday Murder Club is published on 3rd September.

Books

August Roundup

So what was your August like – as you planned? Or like most people’s taking it as it comes. As the world around us changes, pivots, tilts and decides what is going to happen next I have sought much solace from being at home, reading, crafting and just being. Luckily enough now I can go back swimming which has been an absolute balm to soothe and has helped my mental health no end. As I go back to work and wait to find out what happens in terms of hours and contracts I just hope that all the things that help me continue to do so.

August was a real mix of books and were just what was needed – Louise Candlish – The Disappearance of Emily Marr has been sat on my shelf for awhile and as I make some dents in these books I picked this one up. The first I have read by this author and it was different from perhaps what I am used to and was a great change, I must seek more of her work out. Sometime you need a book that finishes and you just don;t know what happens!

Of course when it comes to murder mystery you have to know what happens, otherwise what would be the point! The book you will no doubt see a lot of is Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club. Sadly the formatting on the advanced copy was poor and that did make it harder to read, but once I got over my fastidious and got into the book I was hooked. If you want a book that says everything about being British – then this is it.

Of course if you want fastidious then look no further than Hercule Poirot. I can accept a tribute to such a great character and a great author and I know there are some naysayers out there but Sophie Hannah – The Killings at Kingfisher Hall is an excellent novel and a great introduction to good old fashioned golden age murder mystery.

Sticking with the golden age theme then picking up Anthony Horowitz – Moonflower Murders which took be back to Atticus Pund and his author Alan Conway, it is a novel within a novel. And if you think that can’t possibly work – trust me it does.

A book with no definite chapters can be a troubling read – it can work and it can fail spectacularly and reminds me of a colleague who writes emails and notices in a stream of what I can only call verbal diarrhoea. However when it works it works brilliantly as it does with Lissa Evans – V for Victory. A book that takes you to the heart of the conclusion of the war on the home front and the devastation still be wrought across London.

If you want devastation then imagine not having enough hay to feed the animals for the next year, or enough lambs to be able to sell or breed. Imagine doing that miles from any where and with nine children in tow. Well known on the television for their programme on Channel 5. I picked up Amanda Owen – The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen – A Year in the Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess and Amanda Owen – Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess as a treat for not having a holiday this year. Amazing, what a life and again there is many critical of her chosen life and the way she has decide to raise her children – but I feel that they will be more well rounded adults than many of their generation to come. Their playground is acres of land and if that is the only way you can enjoy the outdoors then I implore you to read the books and watch the programmes.

Books are a great place to escape to other places and what better than to experience Holly Martin – Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls who manages to always achieve this and throws in a big dollop of romance too. I am booked into visit Jewel Island again I hope.

I also want to go and stay in Christie Barlow – Starcross Manor or even the little B & B in Heartcross because I know I will be welcome and there will be plenty of people to catch up on and you can walk for miles, breathe the fresh air and reconnect with nature.

Of course it can be whatever season you wish but what better than a Katie Fforde – A Rose Petal Summer where I was taken from London to Scotland to France and all back again. I simply enjoy Katie’s novels and they are just like old friends, pick one up and you are immediately whisked away.

Talking of old friends what about when you have made a pact with your oldest friends that it is the three of you forever? What happens to Ruth Jones – Us Three life has a funny way of making it a lot harder than you imagined and perhaps only giving you things you can actually deal with. Some friendships are just not meant to be forever.

Friendship betrayal and forgiveness can lead to all sorts of disaster and even escaping to Helen Rolfe – The Little Cottage in Lantern Square can have consequences . When it threatens your whole world surly the answer is to confront it head on and not run away again?

I don’t think I was disappointed with any of these books they all proved to be the right books at the right time. Serendipitous you could say!

How was you August?

 

Books

Moonflower Murders – Anthony Horowitz

I first met Atticus Pund in Magpie Murders, I thought it was a one off, it seemingly started at the end of what could have been a series of books. However four years later Atticus is back and his creator Alan Conway long since dead is still making an impact from beyond the grave.

Susan Ryeland, former editor of Conway’s novels of Atticus Pund has recovered from her ordeal in the first novel, (this works as a standalone without prior knowledge of the first book) and is living with her boyfriend Andreas in Crete, slogging away in a hotel. It is a far cry from the world of publishing.

That is until two people turn up at the hotel, Lawrence and Pauline Trehearne – they want Susan to help them. They think she must have some prior knowledge to help with the disappearance of their daughter Cecily.

How can Susan help someone she has never met before?

It turns out that Cecily was reading Atticus Pund Takes the Case by Alan Conway and believes it holds the answer to a murder that took place on her wedding day at the Branlow Hotel. Before Cecily can tell anyone why she disappears.

Susan sees this as an opportunity to return to England, to think over what her life has become and to perhaps escape Andreas and the slog of the hotel work and temperamental staff and stagnant relationship.

Being paid by the Trehearne’s is an added bonus and surely the answer will be obvious within the book she has edited.

As Horowitz tried out successfully in Magpie Murders, we are treated to a book within a book, a novel within a novel, a murder within the investigation of something else. Everything clearly hidden in plain sight and in the style of the great Golden Age authors.

Can you work out the clues in Atticus Pund Takes the Case?

Can you work out what Susan has discovered through all her investigation?

The reader is treated to a skilfully written novel, the clues are all there, and whilst I had the wrong person for a while, I did have the right reasons but the most obvious simply passed by Susan Ryeland as well as me! If the lead character can be fooled as much as the reader – the author must be on to something.

It would be a great delight if there were more of these novels from Horowitz. I am sure there is much Atticus Pund has to tell us.

A must for all fans of great murder mysteries.

 

Thank you to the publisher via Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Moonflower Murders is out now. 

 

 

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Six in Six 2020 – My Choices

Here are my choices for this years Six in Six – there is still time to join in and it is looking like a bumper year of blogs taking part!

Six Classic or Modern Mysteries

  1. Rachel Rhys – Dangerous Crossing
  2. Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party
  3. Sophie Hannah – The Mystery of the Three Quarters
  4. Agatha Christie  – A Murder is Announced
  5. Sara Sheridan – Highland Fling
  6. John Buchan – The Thirty Nine Steps

Six book covers that stand out

Six books I have enjoyed the most

  1. Brenda Davies – The Girl Behind the Gates
  2. Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party
  3. Sandi Toksvig – Between the Stops
  4. Ali McNamara – Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop
  5. Katie Fforde – A Country Escape
  6. Veronica Henry – A Wedding at the Beach Hut

Six authors I read last year – but not so far this year

  1. Lucinda Riley
  2. Trisha Ashley
  3. Liz Fenwick
  4. Sarah Bennett
  5. Ann Cleeves
  6. Jessica Fellowes

Six books from the past that drew me back there

  1. Lorna Cook – The Forbidden Promise
  2. Nancy Revell – Triumph of the Shipyard Girls
  3. Jennifer Wells – The Lost Girls
  4. Jane Johnson – The Sea Gate
  5. Fern Britton – Daughters of Cornwall
  6. Jessie Burton – The Muse

Six books set in or near a beach

  1. Carole Matthews – Sunny Days and Sea Breezes
  2. Veronica Henry – A Wedding at the Beach Hut
  3. Heidi Swain – The Secret Seaside Escape
  4. Cathy Bramley – A Match Made in Devon
  5. Helen Pollard – The Little Shop in Cornwall
  6. Phillipa Ashley – A Perfect Cornish Escape

I think I am quite pleased with my choices and 2020 in terms of reading has been good. Of course some books fit in more than one category because they were great and worth reading. Some average books of course but lots that were above average, I hope the next six months is just as interesting!

As I said at the beginning – still time for you to join in!

 

Books

An Expert in Murder – Nicola Upson

This is the first Josephine Tey novel and having read her second first I thought I would go back to where it started.

Nicola Upson has come upon the idea of using a real life author as a character in this crime series. Tey is not used as the main solving character that falls to Detective inspector Archie Penrose, but Upson weaves in the relationship that Josephine Tey has with his family, and him as well and what all links them together.

Tey happens to bump into a fan of her work on the train south from Inverness, and they strike up an instant friendship for the duration of the journey. However, tragedy strikes when the young girl is found dead, some moments after having said goodbye to Josephine. In steps Archie Penrose and he begins to discover that the murderer has left a number of odd clue that seem to all relate back to Josephine and her(written under a pseudonym) current play running in the West End, Richard of Bordeaux.

We are taken into the wonderful age of the Thirties; the Great War still has memories for a number of people, despite the threat of something else brewing over on the continent. The theatre is beginning to take off and plays, actors and agents are all fighting for something spectacular to put on. However amongst all this joy, there are many harbouring secrets and lies and another death causes Penrose much heartache as he realises that maybe Tey is the intended victim all along. The outcome is probably not what you would expect despite having worked some of it, it still came as a slight surprise, now I think I may have missed a clue or two, or maybe it is just the strength of Upson’s writing which took me to the end of the story without working it out in the first few pages.

Thrilling and exciting story, with many lovely characters, Penrose’s cousin Lettie and Ronnie bring humour to the blackest of moments and fit in very nicely with the back story. There are some racier moments put yourself as if you were in reading this in the Thirties, homosexuality was still illegal, and there is no hint but directness about what is going on between some of the cast in the theatres. I am sure it would have made some question such a book, however we are reading this in the twenty first century and perhaps now look at things differently, with the knowledge that we now have.
Yes it has elements of Agatha Christie and the ilk – but so what. It is a different way of making the basic murder mystery genre work and I think successfully, certainly to keep me reading once I was gripped by the whole story.

This review was first published on Amazon in early 2010 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging. 

Books

June Roundup

What a start to the summer, as lockdown eases and we wait to see what happens next. It has sometimes been an absolute necessity to escape into the pages of a good book. Even better when you make a dent not just in your netgalley list but books on shelves too.

There are some nice gaps on the shelves now as I read Ken Bruce – Tacks of My Years. Published over ten years ago now, I think I picked it up in a charity shop. As a keen Radio 2 listener, it was great to put some background to the man who has probably been with me throughout my childhood and now my adulthood. A lot has happened in those last ten years and I wonder what Ken would write about now?

Another one gone is Jessie Burton – The Muse. The first book of this author that I have read, despite having watched The Miniaturist when it was televised a few Christmas back. Interestingly a book featuring black characters, set in the 1960s with mixed race relationship and the strange possibility of women being better than men at something came at the time when the Black Lives Matter was taking over the news broadcasts. I had no idea when I picked up the book to read. I was intrigued, it was wonderfully written and the story set in 1930s Spain just before revolution was most fascinating.

Finally a recent purchase which was on the shelf for hardly a moment Katie Fforde – Thyme Out. When all else fails and you are feeling out of sorts, Katie Fforde is bound to cheer and she did with a book I had not read before, so another one ticked of the oeuvre!

Reading old books and books that have been on my shelf for a while is incomplete contrast to the recent books that I have read and the ones that have yet to be published. I was somewhat disappointed with Tilly Tennant – The Waffle House on the Pier, it could have been a lot more and had a bit more to it. Tilly’s books are rather a hit or a miss with me in recent years.

In contrast an author who I came back to and have enjoyed immensely since those first novels is Ali McNamara – Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop. This books is glorious, of course being set in Cornwall as many a book is nowadays does help but the dual narrative, the mystery and the wonder that is crafts makes it a must book for me.

Another place slightly closer to home is the Isle of Wight and it was a coincidence that is where I was taken with Carole Matthews – Sunny Days and Sea Breezes. A wonderful tale of boats, beaches and bossy friends. Guaranteed sunshine without leaving your house!

You need the sun if you are going to run a festival so it seems that everything is in there favour in Katie Ginger – Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay. I wait in trepidation in how winter and Christmas is going to come to Swallowtail Bay.

Two books which don’t fit into any particular genre but I feel must be read for many different reasons, some I have yet to even work out myself.

Rachel Joyce – Miss Benson’s Beetle, the latest took me very much back to the debut novel. It had that gentleness of it, despite the plot and you could almost feel yourself out there on a expedition yourself, in uncharted territory – a bit like the book.

This has to be on all my lists for 2020, Brenda Davies – The Girl Behind the Gates. It is a difficult read but it is one that must be read. It is both a disturbing but fascinating read and one is compelled to be drawn in and wince at the injustice, the treatment and more than anything the reality hat this actually happened. You need a strong constitution to read it.

Quite a mix of books, which is the best way. Sometimes reading too much of the same, can result in nothing more that a regurgitation of plot, setting and character. I like to think this month I have captured plenty of variety.

Which leads me on very nicely to more variety in the shape of the 2020 Six in Six meme. Click here to see all about it and please join in if you can. You just might add some more books to your list.

Books

Murder at the Playhouse – Helena Dixon

Kitty Underhay is definitely on track to be a popular favourite amongst fans of cosy mysteries and with this her third adventure.

Kitty having still not made it up with Matthew Bryant the debonair ex Army Captain and now private investigator from the previous two novels, she finds herself rather lost and missing him.

Matthew is much in the same mood, but that is all forgotten when a knock at his door reveals the police come to arrest him for murder.

Kitty rushes to his aid.

The deceased is a young actress on the cusp of something bigger, Pearl Bright, found strangled with one of Matthew’s bootlaces. There is a straightforward believable explanation from Matthew.

Stanley Davenport a theatre impresario and on verge of a knighthood is as well as Matthew’s neighbours seemed convinced it his him and that there is no need to look any further, especially not at Stanley Davenport and his family and associates seem to have a lot to hide.

Kitty manages through Mrs Craven to get to know the Davenport’s and she finds herself centre stage with helping with a local theatre show for a charity. Being this involved means she might be able to get to the truth if it all plays out right.

It will be alright on the night – surely?

Regular characters are back, including the insurmountable Mrs Craven as well as Kitty’s maid at the hotel, Alice who is a great character and I am pleased she is featuring more dominantly. Her sound advice and obvious observations are a great for Kitty.

The sub plot of Kitty’s missing mother is still throughout this book and Matthew is kept occupied with this and we start to find out a bit more of what might have happened to her.

All in all a great mystery with good characters both likeable and absolutely dreadful that you love them and the continual mystery makes we excited to read book four!

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Murder at the Playhouse is published on 30 June. 

Catch up with Kitty from the beginning:

Murder at the Dolphin Hotel

Murder at Enderley Hall