Book of the Week, mystery, new releases

Book of the Week: Attack and Decay

Yes yes I know, so many rules broken here – I finished this on Monday AND I wrote about the series on Friday, so this is a short post today.

The latest book in the series sees our intrepid crew making a trip to Sweden so the Vinyl Detective can assess and acquire a rare audiophile copy of a controversial death metal record. There’s no hunting involved – they know where the record is and the owner is prepared to sell it to them, so this should be a nice easy trip, with plenty of time to scour the local charity shops for records, designer clothes and crime fiction novels, right? Wrong. Soon bodies are turning up in various gruesome ways – and it looks like the killer is taking his inspiration not from the Scandi Noir but from the death metal.

The mystery is good, the gang is fun, the residents of the town add to that, the writing is witty and the references to crime novels are great. I’m assuming there are some death metal references in there too, but I know even less about that genre than I did about folk music! The only downside of having read this in week of release is that now I have to wait until the next one comes. Still at least my dad can borrow it now – I hadn’t finished it when he came over at the weekend and so he has to go home empty handed!

As I said on Friday, you should be able to get these from any good bookshop, but I do suggest reading the series in order.

NB – Rules broken today:

  • Finished on a Monday
  • Not the first in the series
  • Repeating an author too soon
  • Repeating a series too soon

I reckon you could probably count it as two – because three of them are around repeats of different types right?!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 16 – May 22

So. Here’s a funny thing. My week in reading was going swimmingly, until Sunday afternoon, when I managed to give myself a steam scald on my thumb while doing the ironing (while watching Miss Marple) which meant I spent the rest of the day with my left hand wrapped in an ice pack and couldn’t hold a paperback. So that meant I couldn’t finish either Attack and Delay or Miss Moriarty, I Presume, and thus this week’s list looks shorter than I was expecting. I also have a slight problem for my book of the week pick tomorrow, because everything I did finish is either a reread or something that I didn’t quite like enough to recommend. So watch this space people….


Lord of the Silent by Elizabeth Peters

Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood

A Comedian Dies by Simon Brett

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J Taylor*

Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood

Silhouette in Scarlet by Elizabeth Peters


Attack and Delay by Andrew Cartmel

Cinderella Goes to the Morgue by Nancy Spain

Deep Water ed Martin Edwards

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr

Still reading:

Paper Lion by George Plimpton

Plan for the Worst by Jodi Taylor

Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare*

Miss Moriarty, I Presume by Sherry Thomas

Very well behaved, nothing bought, but then given the size of the Books Incoming pile, that’s probably a good thing!

Bonus photo: Another week on, and the blossoms are all gone. So pretty, but over so fast!

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley


not a book

Not a Book: Hot Fuzz

Happy Sunday everyone. Another movie post today, because why not! It’s been the sort of week where I fancy watching a film that I know is going to make me laugh, and Hot Fuzz is one of my favourites from more recent times. And yes, I know that it’s closer to 20 years old than it is to ten now and I’m desperately trying to ignore that fact.

Hot Fuzz is the second in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy and is a comedy buddy cop action film. When overachieving PC Nicholas Angel is promoted to sergeant, it comes with a move to a small town in Gloucester. When he gets there, he’s frustrated by his new colleagues and their lazy ways and focus on keeping crime stats low rather than enforcing the law. Then a series of gruesome murders takes place and he starts investigating, dragging his reluctant new partner (and son of the Inspector) Danny along with him.

This references so many cop films you wouldn’t believe. And I know I haven’t spotted all of them because cop movies aren’t one of my main genres. But it’s incredibly funny even if you haven’t. There are so many lines from this that will just stick in your head for ever more. The trouble is, most of them have swear words in them so when I was trying to pick one for this post it got tricky. In the end I picked this one and had to leave out who says it because that’s a slight spoiler!

You’re not seriously going to believe this man are you? Are you? He isn’t even from round here!

Hot Fuzz

It’s one of those movies where once you’ve seen it, if you come across it on TV you’ll just end up watching it again. And you can find it on an ITV channel every other week. Although we did discover when we found it on Sky Movies that there are a few shots that the ITV edit leaves out – mostly in the mug shot sequence near the end. It’s also got an amazing cast: Simon Pegg before he was in Star Trek, Olivia Colman long before she won an Oscar, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Martin Freeman and possibly the most famous Cate Blanchett cameo in film! Oh and there’s chases like this:

Anyway, if you’re having the sort of week where you need to watch lots of shootings in incongruous settings with plenty of one liners, this is my choice.

We just sat through three hours of so-called acting constable and their kiss was the only convincing moment of it.

Nicholas Angel

Happy Sunday everyone

The pile

Books Incoming: May edition

Another bumper crop – because not only did a bunch of preorders arrive since last month’s post, but there that charity book sale at work the other week and we know that I can’t resist a book sale. So the Hannah Rothschild, Intoxicating Mr Lavelle and Small Miracles (dead centre) are from the booksale. Mean Bab and Attack and Decay were pre-orders of new releases and the Nancy Spain was a preorder of the new edition. Top right is Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons In Chemistry which I just keep hearing about and The Young Pretenders is the lastest of my Persephone a month subscriptions (which already bought me Miss Buncle Three and A House in the Country). The Jenn McKinlay? Well that was a total impulse purchase after I was doing some rearranging on the back bookcase and realised that I was way behind with the series…

And finally we have my copy of Chalet School and the Island – the last but one to complete my set of paperback reprints – a collection more than a decade in the making! Will the last one come this year? I can only hope!

Series I love

Series I Love: The Vinyl Detective

This week’s Series I Love post is Andrew Cartmel’s Vinyl Dectective – in honour of the sixth instalment which came out this week. It was on my preorder list so it turned up on Tuesday (along with Selma Blair’s memoir) and I’m already getting stuck into it. It’s five years since Written in Dead Wax was a BotW so it’s time for a revisit

The series follows the Vinyl Detective (we don’t know his name) a record connoisseur and audiophile who earns a living by hunting out rare records and selling them on to other collectors. In the first book of the series it’s an elusive jazz record and in each book we’ve had a different genre – psychedelic rock, wartime big band music, electric folk, punk and now Scandi death metal. The series also has a regular gang around our detective – and a regular antagonist in their quest for rarities. I won’t say more about who they are because it spoils some of the plot of the first book! Oh and there are cats.

There’s always a degree of peril – more peril than you would expect in record collection to be honest as the guys have escaped death a few times now. There’s also a lot of wit and charm and plenty of in jokes and references to the music that the book is centred on. In fact I’m fairly sure I miss some stuff because I’m not a super fan of any of the genres that the books have covered so far. Sadly boybands of the 90s and early 2000s didn’t really release music on vinyl, so unless there’s a Queen inspired instalment i may never quite understand the full extent of the references – but there are plenty for the casual observer of music over the years.

Andrew Cartmel writes for the Rivers of London graphic novel series, so it’s probably not a surprise that his style of writing appeals to me. I did try to pick a favourite, but I’ve found it really hard. I loved the punk one but I do wonder if that is recency bias, becuase it’s the most recent. So then I thought it was probably the big band one, but then I remembered the folk one is very clever and then I realised that that is half the series, which is ridiculous. You probably do want to start at the beginning though – because it sets the whole gang up as well as being very funny. And then you can pretty much do what you want – read in order or read as your musical tastes dictate. And if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, the first book Written in Dead Wax is available in that at the moment, so there’s no excuse there either. They also should be fairly easily available from bookshops – I’ve certainly seen them in the mystery sections of all the ones i’ve been in recently (that’ll be Foyles and Waterstones!).


books I want

Recommendations wanted: Audiobooks

Him Indoors and I like to listen to audiobooks together and I’m after some recommendations please. In the past it was mostly non fiction – we’ve done Simon Schama, Greg Jenner, the Time Travellers Guide series and Mary Beard – with a side of Norse Mythology, Sherlock Holmes, PG Wodehouse and Raffles. Early in the pandemic we started Amelia Peabody – but we’re nearing the end of our third go through them and I think we might need something different next. Please give me your recommendations – you already know what I like but his reading is mostly non fiction or adventure-y mystery things. He’s done about half the Steph Plum series on various holidays but I’ve struggled to find another series that he likes as much as the Amelia audiobooks – I’ve tried Phryne Fisher, various classic mystery series, the Parasol Protectorate and Rivers of London. It also needs to be not to violent – because we all know I can’t cope with that, especially if there’s a chance I might fall asleep listening. The audiobook of the Simon Sebag Montfiore’s Romanovs gave me nightmares when I tried that at the hostel in the pre-pandemic times! Help me please – suggestions in the comments.

(The picture is a screenshot of part of my audible history with some stuff we tried and liked (and didn’t like) back in the pre-Amelia era!)


Recommendsday: Set in Boarding schools

Long time readers of this blog will be aware of my fondness for Girls Own books – particularly those set in boarding schools. I’m fairly sure that I would have hated boarding school in reality but I love reading about them – particularly the ones set in the first half of the twentieth century. A result of this is that I do love an adult book set in a boarding school and showing the other side of things. So for recommendsday today, here are some adult books set in schools of various types.

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie

Let’s start with a classic murder mystery. An exclusive girls school is thrown into chaos when an unpopular games mistress is found shot dead in the sports pavilion. This is a Hercule Poirot novel, but he actually only appears very late on in this – which has school politics and international espionage among the options for the motive for the murder. I remember first reading this as an early teenager – around the same time as I was reading all the Girls Own books and being sort of horrified at the idea of a murder at a boarding school. It’s a much later Poirot novel – for all that I didn’t realise that when I first read it and the TV version of it is really quite different because it had to be moved back to the 1930s. Worth’s look if you’ve never read it.

Poison for Teacher by Nancy Spain

It’s only a few weeks since I picked Death Goes on Skis for a Book of the Week, so it’s perhaps a bit naughty to be picking Nancy Spain again, but I think if anything I liked this even more. Miriam and Natasha find themselves undercover at a boarding school to try to work out who is trying to put the school out of business. But while they are there, a teacher is poisoned and it all gets complicated. This has awful children, horrible teachers, seething rivalries – professional and personal – and a staff play that causes nothing but trouble. It’s really, really funny.

Summer Half by Angela Thirkell

Also funny, but without any murders is Angela Thirkell ’s Summer Half, which I still think is one of the funniest of all of her Barsetshire books. It has a serious teacher getting himself engaged to featherbrained girl who is clearly going to cause him nothing but problems and everyone in the book is hoping that he’ll some how manage to escape. Schools – and teaching – has changed a lot since this was written but it’s all still recognisable.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Let’s jump forward to the more recent past. Preplis about a scholarship student at a fancy New England Boarding school. Yes, I wanted to smack some sense into Lee for at least the second half of the book, possibly longer but that may have been because I could see some of the elements of my own character in her – the ones that I try hardest to overcome and she’s making no effort to do so, (or because she doesn’t try and make the most of the opportunity that she made for herself) But this did feel like a very realistic and truthful portrait of what life in a modern (ish) co-ed boarding school might have been like – in the time immediately before computers and mobile communication took over. This was Sittenfeld’s debut, and although I’ve enjoyed other books of hers more (the first or hers I read was Eligible, I’ve read almost all of her backlist and buy the new stuff as it comes out) but if you haven’t read it it’s worth a look.

I recently read Charlotte Mendelson’s Almost English – which is about a scholarship girl at an English country boarding school – which wasn’t for me, but I think others will like it- my problems was around not liking any of the characters enough to go with them while they made stupid decisions all over the place! And to finish I’m going to throw a few mentions in to stuff I’ve written about recently that also fits in here: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, which sees our heroine stuck in a boarding school in Canada. And then there is Murder in the basement which was a BotW six months ago, and so I can’t really write about at length again – yet!

Happy Wednesday!

Book of the Week, historical, non-fiction

Book of the Week: Ask a Historian

I offer you a non fiction book this week – and after a few weeks where I’ve been recommending new (or newish) releases, here’s one that’s not quite as new a release because it came out in October…

Anyway, Greg Jenner’s latest book does exactly what it says on the tin – it answers fifty questions from history that are the sort of thing that most people actually want to know – as opposed to the sort of history people thing they ought to know. So you can find out how women dealt with their periods in the past – but also how historical periods got their names, where history starts and pre-history ends and why people are so obsessed with the Tudors (see also the question about how many nipples Anne Boleyn had) and then more horrible histories type stuff like how much horse manure was created each day in London or what the Flintstones got right. And because it’s fifty questions it makes for great bite sized reading – I read a couple of questions a night before bed.

As I’ve mentioned before, Greg and I overlapped at the same university and we did student radio at the same time although in different departments (I was news and he was speech) so we didn’t really hang out together although we were in the Langwith bar at the same time a few times after the weekly meeting. I really like the niche he’s carved himself as a public historian – he is incredibly knowledgable but wears it very lightly and his writing style is fun and accessible. And he’s the sort of history writer who wants to appear like he knows it all right off the top of his head – he’s not afraid to show his working and tell you which historians or other experts he spoke to in the main text and not hidden in the footnotes. And if there’s something you’re particularly interested in, there’s always a further reading list at the back – complete with notes about which are the more academic books as opposed to the more lay person friendly ones. As well as working for the grownups, I think this is also the sort of book that would appeal to a kid who read horrible histories and is now looking for something else fun and historical. It’s got a few swear words in it, but I think that teens and tweens will love that (and parents: they’ve heard all the words already at school, that ship has sailed)

My copy (complete with signed book plate) came from Big Green Books, but it should be fairly easy to get hold of from any reasonably sized book shop as well as on Kindle and Kobo. And if you read it and like it, then try Greg’s other books Dead Famous (definitely more for the adults) and A Millions Years in a Day. And as a bonus Greg reads his own audiobooks, which is always delightful – if you listen to his podcast You’re Dead to Me you know what he sounds like and it would be weird for it not to be him narrating!

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: May 9 – May 15

I was in the office all five days last week, so plenty of reading time on the trains. Despite that, the excitement of Eurovision on Saturday along with some time fixing the fence in the garden mean the list is probably shorter than it could have been. I’ve accidentally started rereading the Vicky Bliss series (so the link to Elizabeth Peters isn’t entirely right because it takes you to the Amelia Peabody post) as well as working my way through the NetGalley books and a relisten to one of my favourite Pratchetts.  And I finished the week with another E C R Lorac, which continue to be really entertaining whenever I come across them.


Fire Court by Andrew Taylor*

Ask a Historian by Greg Jenner

The Truth by Terry Pratchett

Dear Little Corpses by Nicola Upson*

The Fake Up by Justin Myers*

Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters

Street of the Five Moons by Elizabeth Peters

Post after Post-Mortem by E C R Lorac


Miss Moriarty, I Presume by Sherry Thomas

Still reading:

Paper Lion by George Plimpton

Plan for the Worst by Jodi Taylor

Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare*

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J Taylor*

Well there was a book sale at work and it could have got a bit messy except I could only fit three books in my bag. And a couple of preorders arrived too.

Bonus photo: How quickly flowers fade – remember the wisteria from the other week? Here it is last week, starting to go over.

An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley