And I’ve already got my copy of Amongst Our Weapons in my grubby little hands as you can seee! I told you that I’d got a signed copy pre-ordered from Big Green Books – and they appear to have some of them left if you’re in the market. As it’s the ninth book in the series, it’d be breaking all my rules if it ends up being a Book of the Week – but I’m not ruling it out, although if previous books are anything to go by, you really need to have read at least some of the others to get the most out of. So instead, I’m going to remind you that I have a Series I Love post about them from two years ago from not long after the False Value came out.
It’s nearly the end of March and I’m back to some classic crime and another British Library Crime Classic for this week’s pick.
This is the first of John Bude’s Inspector Meredith series and sees the detective investigation what appears to be the suicide of one of the co-owners of a petrol station in a deserted corner of the Lake District. The dead man was due to get married and as Meredith investigates he discovers a plan to emigrate after the marriage. And when he digs a bit deeper he discovered suspicious going’s on at the garage. What follows is a complicated plot involving all sorts of aspects of rural life that I can’t really go into with spoiling things!
This isn’t the first book in this series I’ve read and the Sussex Downs Murder was a book of the week as well when I read that five years ago. I’ve had this on my radar and been wanting to read this and waiting for this to come into my hands for a while. It’s really cleverly done, a little bit bonkers in its own way and also a lovely window onto 1930s life, which I really enjoyed. Definitely worth a couple of hours of your life if you can get hold of it. I’ve got the next book, The Cheltenham Square Murder, lined up to read already.
My copy came from the Willen Hospice bookshop, but it’s available on Kindle, Kobo and from the British Library themselves. It was in Kindle Unlimited when I started writing this post, but it’s dropped back out now and the cover has even changed. A couple of the other books in the series are in KU at the moment though, so if you want to try some John Bude, there is that option for you if you’re a subscriber.
Pinch, punch, first day of the month, white rabbits etc. Welcome to February everyone. Despite the fact that January is my birthday month, it does always feel like a bit of a slog to get to the end of the month, but we’ve made it through and into Freburary, which always feels like it rattles by at speed. All the usual goodies coming up on the blog this week – monthly stats, mini reviews etc. But first: a book of the week review.
In a week that saw most of my “reading” actually be revisiting audiobooks that I have listened to before, mostly from series that I have already written about so it’s a good thing that this was really good – even if it’s a sort of rule breaker because it’s not a first in series book! This is the third in the Ministry is Murder series, which features a Minister’s wife in small town Ohio. There are five books in the series – the newest of which is from 2010. In Beware False Profits, Aggie and her husband’s trip to New York is disrupted when a member of their congregation goes missing on a work trip there. And when they get back to Emerald Springs, the mayor’s wife is murdered at an event for the local foodbank – which is run by the missing man.
What I really like about Aggie is that she has an excuse for snooping – as a minister’s wife she has an excuse for being involved in the locals lives – especially as you need to keep your congregation happy to keep your job. And that’s another reason I like the series – it’s an insight into a way of life. I nearly wrote a profession, but that felt wrong – even though Aggie isn’t the one with a vocation, it’s her husband. I should add that it’s definitely not a Christian cozy – because I read one of those at the end of last year and this doesn’t have the detail of the sermons or biblical verses to reflect of that that did. Anyway there are a lot of cozy crimes featuring bakers and small businesses and the like and although Aggie also has a side line in house flipping, the ministry side of things gives it a nice twist. And the actual mysteries that need to be solved are good too. All in all a very nice way to spend an afternoon or two on the sofa.
Now because these are an older cozy (and boy does it feel weird to be saying that about something that was published this century!) they’re not available in Kindle – so in the UK you’re likely to be looking at picking them up from Amazon or second hand. I found the first in this series in a second hand bookshop – I think maybe one at a National Trust house, but subsequently I’ve bought from Amazon when the prices have been acceptable – I see that the first two at the moment are insanely expensive there though. So maybe one to add to your list to watch out for the next time you’re mooching around a charity shop!
Happy Friday everyone! It’s the end of another week and I am back with another series I love post. Yesterday I was talking about my search for a new historical cozy crime series, so today I’m doing one of my reliable favourite contemporary cozy mystery series.
So Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery series follows Mel Cooper and her friend Angie DeLaura as they run the Fairytale Cupcake Bakery. Along with their friend Tate, they’ve been stumbling across bodies for thirteen books now, with a fourteenth due this year. I’ve read eleven of them as you can see from the photo, which is – unusually for me – somewhat out of order*. Over the course of the series the cast of secondary regular characters and getting the bakers out and about so that you’re not constantly wondering how a cupcake bakery can stay in business if a bodies keep turning there!
You mostly see the action from Mel’s perspective, but because you have the trio of main characters, you’re able to get personal life developments for each of them – which also helps the series avoid falling into the pitfalls of an endless love triangle for the heroine (see Steph Plum) or an endless on off relationship for the heroine (see Agatha Raisin) or marrying the heroine off very quickly and landing her with kids the author doesn’t know what to do with! The complexity of the murders can vary a little – depending on how much running plot stuff is going on – but they pretty much always manage to avoid the Too Stupid To Live pitfall, although Mel and or Angie do find themselves one on one with the murderer at the denouement with alarming regularity!
But as a calming way to pass a few hours, they are fairly hard to beat. I keep meaning to try out one of the cupcake recipes at the end, but the combination of having to turn the measurements into British (how much *is* a stick of butter in metric?) and the fact there are only two of us in our household and cupcakes need eating quickly means that I’ve never got around to it. They do always sound like they should taste good though – which isn’t a given for cozy crime recipes.
When I started buying these, they were only available in the American mass market paperback editions that you see in the photo. But the good news (for you, not me because now I’ve started in physical copies you know I’ll carry on**) is that you can now get most of them in Kindle!
* and yes it does bug me that the spines changed mid series and so they don’t all match.
** yes, I did indeed buy book 12 while I was writing this post!
Amid the flurry of end of year posts, here is something completely different and that has been months in the making. It’s taken me a while to get this down in writing in a way that I’m anywhere near happy with and I’m still not sure I’m quite there. So why am I finally posting it now? Well, I was writing my end of 2021 post and it was starting to touch on some similar ground, so I thought I ought to get this out there first.
One of my very earliest posts on this site was about my love of Peter Wimsey. And over the years since then I have reread and relistened to the series over and over. But until the summer it had been years since I had Gaudy Night – in full at least and not as a radio play. But then I treated myself to the audiobook in August and listened to it. And I was enjoying it so much that I got the book off the shelf too. And then I realised that I was behind on my podcasts because I wanted to carry on listening to Gaudy Night rather than listening to them. And when I got to the end, I started all over again. And now I have a lot to say about it and Spoilers ahoy, not just for Gaudy Night but for most of the rest of the Wimsey books. Be warned.
A reminder, if you need it, that Gaudy Night is the third of four books featuring Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey. It is the book where Harriet’s relationship with Peter moves towards a resolution. The final book of the quartet sees the pair get married and Gaudy Night is the bridge that explains how they got from the tetchiness of the murder at Wilvercombe (which was already a step on from her mistrust and confusion in Strong Poison) to a point where Harriet has realised that she is in love with him and that taking a chance on another relationship might be the right thing to do.
She fell a victim to an inferiority complex, and tripped over her partner’s feet. ‘Sorry,’ said Wimsey, accepting responsibility like a gentleman. ‘It’s my fault,’ said Harriet. ‘I’m a rotten dancer. Don’t bother about me. Let’s stop. You haven’t got to be polite to me, you know.’
Worse and worse. She was being peevish and egotistical. Wimsey glanced down at her in surprise and then suddenly smiled.
‘Darling, if you danced like an elderly elephant with arthritis, I would dance the sun and moon into the sea with you. I have waited a thousand years to see you dance in that frock.’
‘Idiot’ said Harriet.Have His Carcase
I have had the audiobooks of a lot of the other books in the series for years. In fact Busman’s Honeymoon was one of my earliest picks on Audible and I soon picked up as many of the others as I could that were read by Ian Carmichael. But he didn’t read all of them, so I filled in the gaps using radio adaptations of the series – again starring Ian Carmichael as Peter. I had Murder Must Advertise read by someone else, and Five Red Herrings read by Patrick Malahide (in a delightful crossover with my love of the Inspector Alleyn TV adaptations) but until thus summer I didn’t have either Have His Carcase or Gaudy Night in full on audio. But as I was working through audiobooks at some pace, I decided to take a chance on the Have His Carcase that Audible were offering. Now I have reread Have His Carcase a few times – because I think it’s a particularly well worked mystery – but I’d stuck to the radio play version because of my attachment to Ian Carmichael narrating. But actually after a little bit I got used to Jane McDowell, and although the code breaking section makes no sense to me as audio (it’s hard enough on paper), because it was told from more Harriet’s side than Peter’s the female narrator grew on me. So I bought Gaudy Night.
The thing it is easy to forget reading now is that Sayers spaced out the Peter and Harriet with other novels with just Peter and the poor readers at the time had no idea what was going to happen – if anything – between them. So when you realise Strong Poison (1930) was followed by Five Red Herrings (1931), it adds the context that perhaps the reason Peter has gone off to Scotland is perhaps to clear his head after Harriet’s trial. Have His Carcase is next (1932), when Harriet finds a body on the beach and Peter comes down to solve the crime (as she thinks) but also as the reader knows, try and make her situation better. Then it’s Murder Must Advertise, which focuses on Peter in his advertising alter ego but with a blink and you’ll miss it nod to what is going on with Harriet.
Wimsey put down the receiver. ‘I hope,’ he thought, ‘she isn’t going to make an awkwardness. You cannot trust these young women. No fixity of purpose. Except, of course, when you particularly want them to be yielding.’
He grinned with a wry mouth, and went out to keep his date with the one young woman who showed no signs of yielding to him, and what he said or did on that occasion is in no way related to this story.Murder Must Advertise
Then the following year was the Nine Tailors before (at last) Gaudy Night in 1935. And early in Chapter 4 of Gaudy Night, Sayers sets out for you what has been going on in the background all along. I’m struggling to think of another series with a moment quite like it – where an author says “by the way, while these mysteries were going on, there was also something I didn’t tell you about”.
Was it too late to achieve wholly the clear eye and the untroubled mind? And what, in that case, was she to do with one powerful fetter which still tied her ineluctably to the bitter past? What about Peter Wimsey?Gaudy Night
And then across the course of 500 pages, Harriet tries to solve a poison pen mystery at her old college, but decide exactly what about Peter Wimsey. She works her way through her hang ups after her disastrous relationship with Philip Boyes and starts to come to a better understanding of who she is and what it is about her that has caused Wimsey to propose to her once a quarter for years on end. And the reader understands him better for it too.
I have listened to the radio play version of Gaudy Night more times than I care to count, because even though Ian Carmichael is really quite old by that point, he doesn’t sound it and it is such a clever mystery as well has having a great setting in Oxford. But as I listened to it unabridged, I realised both how cleverly that radio adaptation had been done and how much had been taken out from the original novel. Reggie Pomfret’s whole plot strand is neatly snipped out and part of the evolution of Harriet’s feelings goes with it. And because it is a radio play you also lose the internal side of Harriet’s world and of course the glorious set up explaining what had been going on in the background with Harriet and Peter was missing too – because how on earth do you jump through a time line like that in a radio play?
After I finished Gaudy Night, I bought the Jane McDowell Busman’s Honeymoon and listened to that as well for the contrast with the Carmichael that I have listened to so many times. And it was interesting, but then I went back to Gaudy Night again. And again.
And so here we are, several months on. And I’ve probably listened to it in full half a dozen times. And my edited highlights half a dozen more: that chapter four description of the three years between Wilvercombe and Harriet’s return to her old college for the Gaudy. Her first encounter with St George and her subsequent discoveries about Peter’s relationships with his family – and then Peter’s reaction to that. His arrival in Oxford and their afternoon on the river. The chess set. The resolution of the mystery. The resolution. What it is about Gaudy Night that means it is what my brain needs at the moment I don’t know. But it is.
I’ve written bits and bobs here about the pandemic, but it’s been a rotten nearly two years for everyone. And it turns out that my brain had decided that the best way to get away from what’s happening in the real world and to help it relax, is to listen to the same audiobooks over and over again. Gaudy Night. Busman’s Honeymoon. Sylvester. These Old Shades. Artists in Crime. Death in a White Tie. And that’s ok by me, even if it does mean I’m months behind on podcasts I previously listened to religiously. But hey. These aren’t normal times. As is evidenced by the fact that I’ve just written the longest thing I’ve ever put on this blog to dissect my obsession with Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. Now if you’ll excuse me, Harriet is trying to write a letter to Peter about St George…
Cheating again this week because I finished this on Monday, but really there is only so long you can recommend Christmas-themed books for and the first week of January is past that limit, but also seems a little early to be starting putting together the Christmas-themed books post for 2022, although to be fair, I have started it in the spring before!
The Christmas Card Crime is another of those charming British Library Crime Classics collections that I mentioned in my Christmas books post last week. So yes, it’s also slightly cheating to be picking this for BotW so soon after that post – although in fairness I did read the other one in November so it seems less recent to me! This has less of the names that the casual crime fan will have heard of and but many of them are regulars in the BLCC stable – like E C R Lorac and John Bude – and some of them are more towards the thriller/chiller end of the mystery spectrum. Most are good, a couple didn’t suit me but overall it was a nice way to spend a post-Christmas afternoon hiding from the rain. It should be noted that there is one story in here that overlaps with A Surprise for Christmas – and it’s one of the really good ones, so I was glad I had borrowed them both from Kindle Unlimited rather than bought them outright.
You can get The Christmas Card Crime as an actual paperback from the British Library shop or you can get it on Kindle – it will reappear on other platforms once it has rotated out of the KU selection.
As mentioned yesterday, most of my books last week were to help finish my Read the USA challenge for the year. And among them were a bunch of books that were first in series and a couple that were pitching themselves at people who like the Stephanie Plum series. And today’s pick is one of them.
Davis Way has just landed a new job: working for the Bellissimo Casino’s security team. But when she starts work, she soon runs into her ex-husband, her doppelgänger and a rigged slot machine game. Investigating what is going on sees her stuck behind bars and struggling to clear her name, until her landlord rides to the rescue. But can they figure out who is trying to frame Davis and will they be able to clear her name?
So there’s a lot going on in Double Whammy, and you’re going to have to suspend your disbelief a little. Well a lot. Also it maybe helps if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of how casinos work and the rules about them in the US. It’s also doing a lot of series set up so expect to meet a lot of characters to keep track of. And it moves fast. There’s a lot of plot. But I enjoyed it as long as I didn’t think too hard about any of it! Davis is an interesting mix of smart and stupid, she’s quite snarky and can be a bit mean at times but I liked what the book was trying to do.
This first came out a few years back and started as Henery Press series from that era when I was having so much luck with their books. Looking back at my goodreads I see I read book six back in 2017 and enjoyed it but thought I was missing a lot of backstory that would have made me enjoy it more. The double cover here is because I discovered I had an earlier edition on my Kindle already when I borrowed the latest one from Kindle Unlimited and it grouped the two of them together on my iPad! I assume I bought the first.l book after I read book six, meaning to go back to the start and then promptly got distracted and forgot about it. Gretchen Archer has written ten books in this series now and all but the newest one are in KU at the moment, so once I’ve sorted out this pesky reading challenge I intend to read book 2 to see what happens next. And then who knows what might happen!
So as mentioned the Double Whammy is in Kindle Unlmited at the moment, which means it’s not on other vendors in ebook. I can see Amazon offering a paperback version, but I have no idea what sort of edition that is, and I’ve never seen one of these in a store in the UK (or the US when I was out there) so I suspect ebook is going to be the way forward.
As we hurtle towards the end of the year, this week’s book of the Week is the first in a cozy crime series that I picked up as part of my fifty states challenge for the year. Technically I finished it on Monday, but a lot of the other stuff I read last week was from series I’ve written about before – or didn’t like enough to write about.
Leslee Nix – Nixy to her friends – goes to Lilyvale to check in on her aunt. One of the local detectives has been calling her after a series of kitchen explosions at Aunt Sherry’s house and he wants Leslee to go and find out what’s going on before officials have to take more notice. Aunt Sherry shares her house with five friends – who call themselves the Silver Six. When Sherry arrives in town, she finds them in the midst of hosting a craft fair, with products that they’ve all made. But when a property developer who has been trying to bully Aunt Sherry into selling her house turns up dead, Nixy finds herself investigating to try and clear her aunt’s name.
This has a lot of the cozy crime tropes – small town, a police detective who is interested in the heroine, a quirky group of friends and a hobby/pastime – in this case crafting of various kinds for the aunts. The mystery is quite a good one – the victim is a horrible person so there are plenty of suspects and Nixy being new in town makes her snooping easier and explains why everyone has to tell her all about themselves. It is doing a fair bit of set up introducing the characters as the first in the series, but it’s actually relatively late in the book that it starts dealing with Nixy needing to stay in town – rather than returning to her job at an art gallery in Houston. And even writing that I think you’re probably going to have an idea how that’s going to work! There are a few bits that are a little bit mad, and there are two characters who confusingly had the same first name which threw me when the second one turned up late on, but all in all a fun way to spend a few hours and I’ll pick up the next one so that I can see what happens next.
I bought my copy in paperback from Amazon, but as it’s a US mass market paperback, I suspect that’ll probably be the only place you can get a physical copy. But it’s also available in Kindle and Kobo.
I mean I would say that this is slightly cheating but you know that already because I told you yesterday that I hadn’t quite finished this because I went to see Jools Holland, so you already know that I finished this on Monday. But I did read most of it last week and it is my favourite thing I (mostly) read last week so it’s fair game for this.
These Names Makes Clues is a classic closed group mystery. Detective Inspector MacDonald is invited to a treasure hunt at the house of a well-known publisher. Along the other guests are writers of mysteries, romances and other books all with pseudonyms to hide their identities as part of the game. But before the night is over, one of the guests has been found dead in the telephone room and MacDonald is suddenly involved in an investigation filled with fake names and complicated alibis.
I really enjoyed this. I’ve recommended some books by E C R Lorac before and this is right up there. There are plenty of mysteries among the cast of suspects, even though some of them are revealed quite late on which is verging on cheating for the rules of Golden Age mystery writing but I forgave it because it’s a proper thrill ride towards the end as it all unravels. If you have kindle unlimited this is definitely worth a look as it’s currently in the rotation of British Library Crime Classics included in your membership in the UK.
My copy of These Names Make Clues came from the British Library bookshop during my book buying spree on my London trip in mid-October, but as mentioned above it’s available on Kindle Unlimited at the moment – which means I can’t find it on other ebook vendors, but when the unlimited period ends it may well pop up on Kobo again.
Why, hello. I bet you weren’t expecting this were you? What do you mean you were? Am I that predictable? Yes. I am. We all know I am. It’s why you love me. I know you love me really. Deep down. Definitely. Probably. Maybe. Sometimes. Perhaps.
This is the sequel to The Thursday Murder Club, which you can’t possibly have missed over the course of the last year – even despite the pandemic. Written by Richard Osman of Pointless and House of Games fame; the first book sold loads, it’s been everywhere that sells books and some places that don’t usually sell them. And it was a Book of the Week here too.
The Man Who Died Twice finds our gang of pensioners with a fresh set of troubles. A figure from Elizabeth’s past has reappeared and it’s going to be a real headache. Joyce and Ron are eager to help out, but Ibrahim has some issues of his own to resolve. There are diamonds, mobsters, spies, drugs and a collection of bodies that threatens to grow at speed. It’s all really quite dangerous. Will the foursome manage to solve the find the diamond, solve the murder and take their revenge?
First of all it’s lovely to be back in the Thursday Murder Club world. I was a bit worried about whether this sequel would be able to live up to the first, but actually it’s a joy. The characters continue to be a delight – and the more we find out about them the more I like them. And because the central foursome are already established we also get to see some more of their non-retirement complex friends and see some more potential plot strands develop. And of course we learn more about Elizabeth, Joyce, Rob and Ibrahim. I really, really enjoyed it – and for once I managed to pace myself and make it last a bit as well!
My copy of The Man Who Died Twice came via NetGalley but it’s out now in hardback as well as Kindle and Kobo and will be available absolutely everywhere. Foyles have even got some signed copies. And I suspect it’s going to be an awful lot of people’s go to book gift this year. As I write this, it sits at the top of the best seller list, while its predecessor is on top of the paperback chart. Domination indeed.