Books

By the Pricking of My Thumbs – Agatha Christie

Tommy and Tuppence Beresford visit an unpleasant aunt in a home. From this typically unlikely beginning, murder and all kinds of excitement develop, to the point when Mrs Beresford meets the mass killer in the secret room of the house.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes

Divided into four books we are back with Tommy and Tuppence who are drawn into a rather peculiar mystery. And if the cover of the edition I read is anything to go by, something quite frightening or perhaps something desperately wicked.

I knew the story, but not the actual story. My warped version came from a television adaptation (more on that later) so I had a rough idea of the story and knew whodunnit. Perhaps not the right way to tackle a book but I wanted to know what happened and how the conclusion was reached.

I have always found Tuppence Beresford a bit wishy-washy, and this book lived up to that, but actually I think this part of her character which is what enables her to go off on these hunches when she remembers houses from trains, that later reappear in pictures and what elderly old women say when incarcerated in rest homes. None of it seems relevant or useful to Tommy Beresford but when you have been married as long as he has to Tuppence he knows there is perhaps a grain of something in her thought process.

We have the facts early on, but despite me knowing the answer I could not see how it was all going to come together.  Is that the beauty of Christie? I just think it might be.

Tuppence gets into some scrapes, but she is on to something and it takes a bit of Tommy’s past skills to find out where she is when she fails to come home to him. Of course Tuppence’s task is a simple one, to return a picture to its rightful owner, Mrs Lancaster after she gifted it to Tommy’s Aunt. How can one picture cause such trouble?

This is only the second Tommy and Tuppence that I have read and I have to confess they are a funny pair and in this book, they have aged. The only characters of Christie to do so within real-time of the books being published I learn.

I got into Tommy and Tuppence when back in 2015, an adaptation of a couple of their novels was made by the BBC with David Walliams and Jessica Raine. I enjoyed them, but didn’t hit the mark with the critics and subsequently was not recommissioned. Shame because I liked it. However they did not pick this particular story to adapt, but it has been adapted by ITV within the Marple series.

Some things you need to know:

Miss Marple does not appear in the original story in any way shape or form. There might be some veiled references to the innocent observations of little old ladies but no Miss Marple.

The book is set much longer after the Second World War, and neither of them were still involved with the security services anymore.

Tuppence is not an alcoholic who feels she has missed out on life and been passed over, because she is a woman, a mother and now suffering badly with empty nest syndrome.

Additional storylines of American Air Force, turning village girls heads does not appear, film premieres with precocious children are not part of the plot either. And the names of the villages are very different.

I could go on, but I won’t. However for a Sunday night television drama and without causing much offence it is a reasonable programme and it has everything I suppose you need in such a thing.

However like a lot of things it cannot beat the book – this is the case with By The Pricking of My Thumbs. Although perhaps choose your choice of cover carefully, mine is creepy and the back cover has a picture of Christie herself, staring out at me from my bedside table. I am not sure that the cover conveys the right message. I do prefer something much less weird.

I read this book as part of the 1968 Club which is run by Simon and Karen. I have joined in nearly all of them and have found it a great way to make a dent in the back catalogue of Christie. She wrote so much!

 

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Books

October Roundup

So there goes October, a funny month. The weather cannot make its mind up, I have been full of cold and yet I am still swimming outside! And so begins the countdown to Christmas and the reading continues apace with it.

Lily Graham – Christmas at Hope Cottage is one of those magical Christmas stories that fill you with hope and food. There is some magic food happening on the tables of Hope Cottage.

Of course you need a drink with Christmas and it will depend on what your favourite tipple might be. I expect you can guess what mine is? Catherine Miller – Christmas at the Gin Shack sees us return to octogenarian Olive and her friends as they discover more about Gin and friendship in difficult times.

If you only have time for a few short stories then turn to Katie Fforde – The Christmas Stocking and other Stories, if you are a fan of this author you will recognise some but still read them because they are brilliantly written and capture the spirit of Christmas is just the right amount of pages. The new stories are just as capturing.

It cannot all be about Christmas in October, which is why I have gone back a bit to Summer and picked up a book that has been sitting on myself for an age. Cressida McLaughlin – The Canal Boat Cafe, why I had not read this sooner when I enjoy the author I do not know. However I was transported away to the freedom of a Canal Boat and the wonderful Summer who is struggling to make a go of a very different lifestyle, especially when it seems many are against her. I am also thrilled to see that two short stories, Christmas themed of course are due out following on from this story so I read it just at the right time.

Another book which was a sort of serendipity to me was Poppy Dolan – The Woolly Hat Knitting Club. I love crafts and in the middle of doing quite a bit of knitting, for myself and for others. In particular the little babies born at my local hospital. If you are a fan of knitting then this book is a must and if you want to knit something yourself then get in contact and I can direct you to some great patterns. I am looking forward to seeing what Poppy writes about next.

I always enjoy getting into a saga and I have this year with Nancy Revell and the Shipyard Girls series. I have read books one and two and was thrilled to be able to get hold of book three. Nancy Revell – Secrets of the Shipyard Girls is a good read and it was lovely to be back amongst women that you have grown to know and admire as war still rages and loves still has to conquer all, no matter what stands in its way.

Sometimes with all these ‘nice’ reads as I call them, you need something which is a bit more meaty with the odd dead body or two. So I was intrigued by what is to be a new series of books by an author I have heard of but not read, publishing under a different name is how I came to get M.B.Shaw – Murder at the Mill. It sounded promising but for me did not really live up expectation. I think I have read too many Agatha Christie.

Which leads me to the 1968 club and my choice which was Agatha Christie – By The Pricking of My Thumbs. I try and participate when I can in these clubs as it is a useful way for me, to be able to make my way through Christie’s catalogue!

So that is it for October, my netgalley shelves are positively bowing with the weight of books that I have requested and I have more actual books wandering around my house looking forlorn by not being read. So time for more reading.

Books

The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz

A woman walks into a funeral directors to arrange her funeral.

Six hours later she is dead.

Coincidence?

Murder?

A private detective, Daniel Hawthorne has been called in by the police to help with this case. A consulting detective like Holmes or Poirot but with a character and manner all of his own. So gruff and strange I could not be anything but fascinated by him. Hawthorne is private in many ways, we know little about him and whilst he was once a police inspector, it takes us a while to find out what happened.

The narrator of this story, is drawn into Hawthorne’s world.

The narrator is in fact an author, who has used Hawthorne before to help in his research in previous novels and television adaptations. Here you can quite easily think Watson to Holmes, Hastings to Poirot. Except this author, this narrator, we all know.

It is in fact Anthony Horowitz.

All of a sudden, The Word is Murder becomes part autobiography, part fiction and part fact and it was actually fascinating to learn all about Horowitz’s world as an author and script writer, to  the idiosyncrasies of the publishing and television world. A parody but actually not  – more a reality, a truth.

But just like us as readers, Horowitz is drawn to Hawthorne and the murder of the woman hours after arranging her funeral. He is reluctant to become involved but something draws him back to Hawthorne, because it is not just the murder to unpick Horowitz needs to understand the detective as well. Without that surely he will never have a book.

This is an interesting book, where you have to remind yourself when you are reading, what bit could be true and what part was the fiction of the story being weaved by Horowitz as he helped Hawthorne (not a real person) complete his investigation.

I chose not to go into much detail about the murder in this review, mainly because I am always too frightened of giving some obvious clue and rendering anyone else reading the book as a pointless exercise.

A cleverly crafted novel which will appeal to fans of murder mysteries. I would not put it down as a thriller but it is certainly a page turner. Very different to Magpie Murders published last year but both of these books have the potential to be developed further.

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

The Word is Murder is out now. 

 

 

Books

September Roundup

I hate to say it but after a lovely summer of reading, I have hit the Christmas reading already – what I hear you cry. It is still autumn and we haven’t even put the clocks back yet.

But the nights are getting darker earlier and I am waking up on int he dark to drag myself out to go swimming before work, so it can only mean that Christmas is really on its way. I even confess to having made a couple of lists for presents.

So the festivities have started with Holly Martin – Christmas at Mistletoe Cove. I really do like Holly’s books and read this series of books which concludes with Christmas on the Scilly Isles.

Funnily enough, coincidence perhaps, the next Christmas read was Phillipa Ashley – Christmas on the Little Cornish Isles: The Driftwood Inn. This also happens to be set on the Scilly Isles. It is the first in a new series of books from this author who I have to say produces books which are a great read.

Christmas funnily enough is covered in Judith Kinghorn – The Snow Globe but rather than being contemporary, this takes you back to the mid 1920s. Romance is around, but sometimes the choices you make are not always ‘seen’ to be the right ones.

So with Christmas out-of-the-way, let’s get back to summer and something a bit more warming and Katie Fforde – Summer of Love. I am a fan of Katie’s work and whilst I read the new books when I can if I can get hold of a copy, I am busy working my way through her back catalogue. Still got a few books to get through yet.

Summer makes you think of swimming and if you are lucky, lidos. I chose The Lido Girls  – Allie Burns when it appeared as a choice on netgalley. But the book was not for me and I abandoned it, the first this year and felt as I normally do quite ruthless, but some books just don’t work and when you have lots more to read then I feel I cannot waste time ploughing through a book which I get no enjoyment from.

I know I am going to get enjoyment and a laugh from Sarah Millican – How to be Champion and was thrilled when it popped up on netgalley. Even more thrilled to be approved and read a copy. If she makes you laugh, then without any doubt this book will too. I am going to get a copy for myself as I didn’t get to see the pictures and the formatting was a bit adrift on my kindle, so it did make for disjointed reading. But a ‘champion’ book!

I have noticed when you pick books up from netgalley that they can start you discovering one place and you have to go back and keep reading more about it, that is certainly the case with a few of the books I have got hold of lately. Which is why I chose and have read Ellen Berry – The Bakery on Rosemary Lane which takes us back to the Yorkshire village where new business are popping up and contentment is being found.

Looking back over the year I have read quite a lot of contemporary womens fiction. You get drawn certain ways with books and you just have to keep reading them. I know some are very similar it setting and style. If the writing is good, the plot believable and the characters three-dimensional then I carry on reading. Now and again I do like to throw in something different and this month besides an autobiography it was Anthony Horowitz – The Word is Murder. A different take on a murder mystery book and one which involved the author himself. Confused, you could well be but it is worth sticking with as it is a cleverly constructed novel.

So quite a good month for reading but there is plenty more to read so I must get on…..

Books

August Roundup

Anyone who is a regular to this blog will know that August is one of the bumper months of reading for me as I have around three weeks off work. This August has been no exception and as you will be able to see from the list of books below, I have been busy. The majority have been reviewed but there are some that have been read for sheer pleasure or fascination.

I have seen many blogs mention Susan Hill – Howards End is on the Landing, but had yet to read it. It is one of those books, that you can pick up read a chapter, which are like small essays and then put it down comfortably for a fortnight without thought and pick it up again to learn some more. Fascinating but not the book I thought it was going to be.

I do love a good saga, and Daisy Styles – The Code Girls was going to give me that. I liked the premise and I thought perhaps I was going to get more of the codebreaking than the cooking I did get, it was a pleasurable diversion apart from one thing – the historical mistakes. Poor research is unacceptable especially when people who could well be reading books like this probably remember the events.

This did not happen through the book, but in the first 15 pages or so – it was stated that Clement Attlee was the prime minister who announced the war, that the Dunkirk evacuation from the North Sea was on the Normandy beaches. At this point the book nearly flew out the window. I kept reading because I was under the impression it would be perhaps interesting – it was passable for a wet afternoon. Realistically if these ‘Code’ girls were as clever as they were portrayed they would not have been stuck in the kitchens. I am now in the process of writing to Penguin (publisher) because of what I feel is a very poor example of a book. It is this which has put me off reading any more from this author.

Thank goodness for Roald Dahl – The Witches. A childhood read which I wanted to go back and enjoy and I did, what pleasure it gave me when I was a child and read and reread and just the same as an adult. Although looking back I am surprised I was not frightened of such creatures!

If you have read my previous posts then you will know that I was spending my summer vicariously in different places that’s the wonder that is books, novels and stories! It was surely a mere coincidence that a lot of them had Summer in the title!

Holly Martin – Summer at Buttercup Beach, second in a trilogy meant I had to read Holly Martin – Spring at Blueberry Bay first so I knew what was happening and it is only a couple of weeks until the final book is published and I can return to Hope Island.

Jennifer Bohnet – Summer at Coastguard Cottages was one of my favourite summer reads as was Lily Graham – Summer at Seafall Cottage (or The Cornish Escape). I recommend both of these authors wholeheartedly, you will get a really good read.

I was disappointed with two books I read in August, both from authors I had not read before; Jen Mouat – Summer at Bluebell Bank and Fiona Walker – The Weekends of You and Me. They had the potential to be much more than what they were.

My holiday type reads did not just involve sun, there was a sprinkling of murder as well. Robert Thorogood – Death Knocks Twice took me away to the Caribbean and the television programme Death in Paradise on which these books are based.

Italy was my destination for a wedding, Tilly Tennant – A Wedding in Italy and to catch up on the goings on there from when I visited earlier in the year. I am growing to love Tilly Tennant books, but some are much stronger than others and I do wonder is perhaps writing a series is not always the right way to go.

If I am going to stay in a B&B I want it to be a boutique one, no candlewick bedspreads and nylon sheets for me, with doors shut at 930pm sharp! So I want to go to Jennifer Joyce – The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea, even out of season I am sure it would be delightful.

Bizarrely reading some of these women’s fiction, light reads whilst engaging can lead you wanting to read something with a bit more meat, a bit of a page turner in a different way. That is why Joanna Barnard – Hush Little Baby, her second novel was the book I chose. Much better than her first, something which can be very difficult to achieve.

Historical Fiction is a real love of mine and I always say I must read more, then get diverted by a million and one other books, but when I do go back I revel it. Despite receiving the book last year and putting off reading it, not because it was going to be awful, but because I knew I would lose myself in it and not want the book to end I finally got round to reading, Lucinda Riley – The Shadow Sister. Easily my favourite of the year and will be hard pressed to beat. So much is contained within the pages, that the writing of the review needs to be considered and thoughtful.

Tracy Rees – The Hourglass is recommended by Lucinda Riley and because I have read her other books I knew I was going to get a cracker of a book. This is different from the previous two, but sweeps not that far back into the past. But far enough back to show the changes that have happened. Cannot wait for this author’s next one.

As the month closes I am reading another historical fiction book, which I have been lost in and will become my first finish of September. The nights are drawing in and there is more than enough for me to be reading.

 

 

 

 

Books · Jottings

Summer Holidays

In a bid to work my way through a number of books languishing on my kindle thanks to the wonder that is netgalley and also the ones residing on my shelves I thought I would set myself a little task and that was to go on a summer holiday via the medium of books.

So allow this post to take you to lots of different places, to stay in some rather interesting accommodation and perhaps have a summer holiday vicariously. Hopefully some of the links are not too tenuous!

So browse this brochure and tell me perhaps where you fancy going?

The Place – Elba, an island in Tuscany, Italy.

The Book – The Thousand Lights Hotel – Emylia Hall

……I was transported to Elba, to the beautiful hotel, the intense heat and warmth of the sun. The sea as it was calm in the morning as Kit went to break the surface, to wake herself up, to find what she was looking for. Even down to food and the welcome that hotel gives…….

The Place – A fictional island, Greece

The Book – The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach – Kat French

…..A distillery is hidden beneath the Villa and part of the deal is to keep producing the islands famous spirit – gin and to make sure that the island and the islanders never run out. For if it did, the consequences could be catastrophic……

The Place – Loire Valley, France

The Book – Summer at the Little French Guesthouse – Helen Pollard

…..drip the sunshine into the pages and the rolling hillsides, even the delicious food prepared in the guesthouse has you salivating as you can almost taste the chilled white wine, easing away your troubles……..

The Place – Dorset, UK

The Book – The Once in a Blue Moon Guesthouse – Cressida McLaughlin

….. immediately checked into the guest house, can smell the bacon cooking as you wait for your breakfast and relax into each specially selected room after the exciting day you may have experienced…..

The Place – Cornwall, UK

The Book – Summer at Seafall Cottage – Lily Graham

…..find my own cottage and just experience the simple view, ever-changing through the windows that look out across the sea. I want to be able to read in comfort a book such as this as the weather does its worst. Knowing that tomorrow is a new day and something else may be discovered…….

The Place – A Fictional Island, Caribbean

The Book – Death Knocks Twice – Robert Thorogood

….taking you away to where the sun shines, the water is warm and the chance of death could be quite high!…..

The Place – Fictional Seaside Town, North West Coast, UK

The Book – The Little Bed and Breakfast by the Sea – Jennifer Joyce

….A pier…arcade machines…A fish and chip shop…devour the salty chips…ice cream van which specialises in different flavours…A beach, cliffs, coves and breathtaking views of the sea and the landscape.

The Place – Fictional Island, Scilly Isles, UK

The Book – Spring at Blueberry Bay – Holly Martin

…The book completely took me away to Hope Island, and its scenery and residents, and the wonder that is Holly Martin’s writing….

The Book – Summer at Buttercup Beach – Holly Martin

…A book for the perfect escape, along with the wonderful setting and the beauty that can be seen not just in love but also in the surroundings and the art that can be created through the medium of glass……

The Place – Devon Coastline, UK

The Book – Summer at Coastguard Cottages – Jennifer Bohnet

….where you can enjoy coming together with a community who do not judge your choice, your life and you can enjoy a glass of something chilled and toast the day as the flag shifts and the sun sets over the sea……

Thank you for stepping into the pages of my brochure and as for my real summer holiday, it is now over and I am back at work, counting the days to my next break.

Books

Death Knocks Twice – Robert Thorogood

This is the third ‘Death in Paradise’ novel and this time the challenge for DI Richard Poole, stuffy english detective in his woollen suits in the Caribbean and his rather more laid back team, of Camille, Fidel and the Dwayne.

An unknown man is found dead, shot twice in an old shower room at the Beaumont’s coffee plantation. The door is locked from the inside, the window as well. He could not possibly have been murdered.

Could he?

As DI Poole employs his propensity for such unexplainable acts it seems that perhaps there is more to this unknown man than first thought. The coffee plantation, seems to be running at a loss and the Beaumont family are at odds with each other as well as what to do for best about the plantation.

Of course the truth is obvious, when you know where you are looking, but with every good detective novel there has to plenty of red herrings, plot twists and perhaps another murder. Who is telling the truth?

Of course methods of detection are notoriously slow on such a  laid back Caribbean island and DI Poole has to result in some old fashion research and plenty of patience. He knows if he was back in England, wet dreary England he would not be in this predicament.

But when the answer is revealed… it is time to gather everyone together and ‘name the murderer’!

As with the previous two novels, this encompasses the bygone era of crime writing such as Christie and simply transports it to somewhere warm and appealing. With humorous characters and someone one is never going to fit in and chooses to remain the odd one out. Of course there is another plot running through this and that is the bootleg rum which is being sold on the island, and it might even mean the grumpy english man in his woollen suit might need to go undercover as a proper islander……

A good whodunnit, taking you away to where the sun shines, the water is warm and the chance of death could be quite high!

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

Death Knocks Twice is out now. 

You can also read the first two novels A Meditation on Murder and The Killing of Polly Carter

I hope these books are successful enough to warrant more, because when the tv series is not on, these are a wonderful stop gap.