Books

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith – Ben Schott

Without a doubt I am a fan of Jeeves and Wooster, first brought to my attention from the television series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in respective roles. I think it is the only time I have actually gone and read a book (in fact more than one J & W story) after watching the programme.

But to this, a ‘homage’ to the great Wodehouse with all what you would expect in a tale of Wooster ups and downs, aunts and Gussie Fink-Nottle’s, Madeline Bassett’s and the Drones Club. If you had a tick list of everything to be included in the book then this ticked all of them.

Having caught up with Schott’s first tale I find myself back with Bertie and him being K.C he is called upon a gain to help His Majesty’s Government. There are some rather unsavoury sorts in black shorts infiltrating the academic world and we are taken to Cambridge via a swift snifter to catch up with the goings on with at the Drones club.

We encounter the fairy like Madeline Bassett who is uncertain of her current beaus commitment to her and eyes up Bertie from a distance.

Aunt Agatha one of the more feared of Bertie’s aunts has a few choice words about his matrimonial status and seeks to rectify it. But when a scheme to perhaps put Aunt Agatha off reveals more than it should it seems Bertie might be able to escape with his status in tact.

Some dodgy turf accountants, taxmen and newt lovers, Bertie finds himself caught up where he doesn’t want to be. Though where ever he seems to be so does the delightful Iona who has caught his eye and also that of Jeeves.

Might things be about to change for them all?

This book is spiffing good fun and just the tonic for any dark, down day when you need some spark of light, some chink of normality, because this is as close as we are going to get to new Jeeves and Wooster stories from Wodehouse. I hope there are many more to come.

 

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

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith is out now.  

Books

Angel with Two Faces – Nicola Upson

Do you want a murder mystery story? Do you want it set in on an Estate which employs and houses a number of the village? Do you want characters such as the strange woman who seems to have the answer for everything? Do you want it set in the 1930s? Do you want it to resemble Miss Marple but with a touch of Daphne du Maurier bringing that mysterious edge? If you say yes to all these things or at least some of them then Nicola Upson’s second novel Angel with Two Faces is for you.

Upson uses the real life character of Josephine Tey and the real places of the Penrose Estate, Rowena Cade, Minack Theatre and location as a vehicle to show Inspector Archie Penrose on his local ground as opposed to the life in London. Penrose and Tey’s relationship is obviously dealt with in the first of Upson’s book. However not having read it(which I will now rectify) makes little difference to this story. Penrose has gone on holiday from London to his family home in Cornwall. He takes Tey with him for company and to enable her to work on her next book.

Penrose is launched into being a pall bearer at a local funeral of Harry Pinching, a young lad of the villager and worker on the estate whose body was dragged from the lake after being missing. However Harry’s death is not as straightforward as it seems and his two sisters, seem to have differing views on how he was.

With Harry gone, Penrose is also asked to step into his place in the local play the villagers are putting on at the famous Minack Theatre which is situated dangerously close to the edge of the cliffs of Cornwall. Here during the play he witnesses another murder, the curate Nathaniel holding onto his own demons is pushed off the cliff behind the Minack Theatre. His holiday turns into work as he feels he cannot just witness a murder and then leave it to others to investigate.

As Penrose starts to question the locals including his own relatives and starts to learn about his own past which has been kept hidden from him and others for years. Tey is his right hand woman in helping to discover much about the locals using her famous identity to her own advantage and learns things about Penrose and what he thinks of her along the way.

This is an excellent novel and the characters have depth and a back story which is the catalyst to the whole book. The characters of Harry and his sisters Morwenna and Loveday have similarities to the relationship Penrose has had in his past, with his cousins and this goes further back also with Penrose’s parents as well. There is other tales interweaved throughout, the relationship between Beth Jacks and her husband and the vicar. The missing of Christopher Snipe the village undertaker’s son. These stories are not as a diversion but they all are important to the main story – was Harry Pinching’s death murder or suicide and why would someone kill the curate, Nathaniel – what did he know and what was he hiding?

This review was first published on Amazon in 2009 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging. 

Books

The Mitford Trial – Jessica Fellowes

Louisa Cannon who we have met in the previous three novels in this series is set to marry policeman Guy Sullivan. I feel you need to have read all three to get the real sense of Louisa’s character development and how she has got to where she is now in this fourth book.

However the British Union of Fascists have other ideas about how Louisa and Guy are going to celebrate their wedding day.

This brings Louisa back in touch with The Mitford Sisters, who she thought she had left behind. Diana, now separated from her husband Bryan has started a love affair with Oswald Mosley and with her sister Unity obsessed with the beliefs and values of the Fascists, it seems that Louisa is going to be plunged into the darker side of politics and ever growing problems in Europe.

After first off refusing to accompany Diana, Unity and their mother on a cruise, Louisa funds herself compelled by an outside source to take up the offer and without sharing the truth with Guy she finds herself all at sea.

Onboard everything is not calm, with arguments, love affairs and fights, the atmosphere turns to murder and Louisa finds herself tangled amongst all the lies and deceit. The confessions and lies seem to permeate everyone and when the ship docks in Rome the culprits are removed.

Two years later the case is at court and everyone that was onboard seems to be a witness to something.

But what Louisa saw that trip still remains a mystery.

This is an excellent golden age crime novel, with the use of the Mitford sisters as the landscape to fictionalise the story of historic crimes. The murder like the ones before is based on the truth, information provided in the book (read at the end!)  so you can get a sense of time and place. Yet the growing unrest in Europe, the rise of Fascists and Unity’s compulsion to become close to Hitler is throughout the book and I am sure gives a great grounding into book five.

The narrative of this story goes between Louisa’s time on the cruise and the courtroom where the trial takes place, it also brings into play Tom Mitford, the brother of the infamous sisters who works as a lawyer and always appears in the background of their lives.

The concept works, as you hear evidence and the questions being asked of the witness you can go back and see what really happened. For me it felt like I was in the public gallery watching the trial unfold, a totally immersive experience.

A well written murder mystery perfect for fans of history and the gold age of crime. Long may they continue. Highly recommended.

 

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

The Mitford Trial is out now. 

 

 

Books

The Windsor Knot – S.J. Bennett

There is only one Queen of Crime (Agatha Christie if you don’t know) but what if the Queen was involved in solving crime. Well she needs to fill her days somehow between all the papers, visits and family battles surely?

After a small gathering of a select few people, a Russian pianist is found dead in his room in rather strange circumstances.

As the police, secret services and other government departments descend at Windsor Castle what originally looked like suicide is in fact murder and it needs to be kept to minimum information not just for the public but also for the Queen. She does not need to be bothered with such things.

But when her servants seem to be targeted as preparators because of their backgrounds or interests, the Queen is bothered and the so called Russian interference seems to be the obvious conclusion.

Helping the Queen is her new Assistant Private Secretary, a young dynamic former solider called Rozie, who has some very useful skills and had no idea about the Queen’s other interests until she realises why her predecessor left her certain instructions.

However, Elizabeth is a lot more canny than her faithful servants realise and when she can see that the police are heading in the wrong direction, she does in her inimitable way direct them back. Of course she makes it look like it was all their own idea!

This really is an exuberant take on the cosy mystery genre and has some good research done on it, to understand the workings of the the Royal Family and also the descriptions of Windsor Castle. There are some humorous moments and it had me laughing out loud and what seems like the absurdity of it all but then do we really know what goes on behind palace walls?

Perfect for fans of crime, the Royals it is all just terribly British and l loved it!

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

The Windsor Knot is out now. 

Books

Murder on the Dancefloor – Helena Dixon

It seems that even if Kitty Underhay tries to live a normal life, murder seems to follow her around. In this her fourth outing, murder is found at the dinner table at the Imperial Hotel. Kitty and her close friend Captain Matt Bryant are also at the table.

The victim it seems has ingested potassium cyanide and is a pompous unpopular local councillor Harold Everton.

He previously has spoked to Matt and asked him if he could help with something in his capacity as a private investigator.

Also at the table is the councillor’s downtrodden wife, his equally downtrodden daughter, a nephew who seems to have money, a married solicitor who was always advising Everton as well as a brother and sister hotel owners who seem to want answers from Everton as to why planning applications were not being approved.

It is a lot for the police to check through and Kitty and Matt soon find themselves embroiled in the affair and when an accident turns out to be murder it seems that perhaps those who know too much might be the next victim.

Are Kitty or Matt in danger?

This is an equally interesting read to the previous books in the series. It can be read as a standalone and is a good introduction to the series, you meet all the main characters. Kitty’s grandmother, Mrs Treadwell, her bumptious and annoying friend Mrs Craven who makes me smile every time she appears on a page. Then there is Alice, an employee of the hotel but also when needs must she comes to Miss Kitty’s aid as a confidante, friend and ladies maid when the role suits.

What perhaps you don’t get a sense of is the back story which runs through this story and we start to get some answers about Matt’s past and his experiences of war. Plus the disappearance of Kitty’s mother is also investigated more and it seems more questions are raised than answers given. It is therefore reassuring to know that there will be more Miss Underhay.

Great for fans of historical mysteries, with plenty of diversions and twist with a bit of threat involved, these really are gentle reads but show the spark that Kitty has and how perceptions are changing about women in more dominant roles. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

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

Murder on the Dancefloor is published on 28 October. 

 

 

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

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.