I treated myself to this the day before my flight, and what greater treat to read for part of my flight (I slept and watched two documentary films* too) than the first Daisy Dalrymple book in quite a while. Long term reader may remember my long time love of Daisy – which has spawned my (mostly unsuccessful) quest for more similar sort of mysteries.
We rejoin Daisy and her family as they prepare for a visit from the long lost relatives she discovered in a previous book (Heirs of the Body). As part of the visit they make a trip to the Crystal Palace, where they stumble upon a body. Of course Daisy can’t help but get involved in the investigation. Over the course of the investigation there’s nightclubs, showgirls and Russian emigrés. Meanwhile in the background there’s a chance of a promotion for Alec. Can Daisy solve the crime? And is Alec ready for a new job?
It’s always nice to be back in Daisy’s world and this is particularly fun because there’s a lot of familiar faces showing up here from earlier books, some of whom we haven’t seen for a really long time. It’s not my favourite book in the series, but that was mostly because I wanted a bit more from the actual mystery. But as far as historical cozy crime series go, it’s hard to beat Daisy.
You should be able to get this in ebook from all the usual places like Kindle and Kobo, but I suspect the physical book will be harder to find in bookshops unless you order it in. Do yourself a favour though, if you’re new to Daisy and go back at start at the beginning and Death at Wentwater Court. It’s the sort of series where it’s worth it.
It’s that time of the year when I look back at what I read the previous year and look at whether my habits have changed at all. And as previously mentioned, this post is slightly later than it should have been because we’re already into 2018. Sorry about that.
I think this year I’ve grown more slightly more consistent – if I was writing an obsessions post this year from scratch, several of last year’s obsessions would still be on it. One of those would definitely be Fahrenheit Press.I had their subscription again this year and it’s given me another swath of great books to read. My Dad is currently working his way through the Christy Kennedy series (and thinks they should be made into a TV series) and I can’t wait to see what they dish up this year. I do hope the subscription is going again this year…
Another of my 2016 obsessions which has endured is Girls Own fiction. I’ve widened the pool of authors that I read again this year – adding some more classic authors like Elsie J Oxenham to my reading and to my little collection upstairs and some more obscure ones too. Some were good, some were… not, but I had a wonderful time reading them.
My pace of working through The Chronicles of St Mary’s series has slowed somewhat this year – not because I’ve gone off them, but because I’m catching up to the end of the series – and as we all know I’m a terrible binge reader with no will control who would one click through to the next book without thinking and I’m meant to be regulating my book purchases. I’ve read a lot of the short stories and extras this year but no more of the actual novels. Writing this has reminded me that I’ve got one waiting to be read on the kindle so you may well see that popping up on a Week in Books post soon!
Well this is one obsession that has well and truly endured this year – I’ve read another eleven of Sarah Morgan’s books this year – ranging from her new releases, through recent series and right back as far as some of her medical romances. And she’s been the gateway into me reading a lot more contemporary romances this year than I would have expected. Of that, more in my 2017 obsessions post – which will be coming soon.
And this final obsession is the one that hasn’t really endured. I don’t think I’ve read a single Book with Brontes in it this year, unless we count Trisha Ashley’s The Little Tea Shop of Lost and Found which is set in Bronte country. Publishing goes in phases and fads and clearly one of last year’s phases which hit my reading pile was the Brontes. As I’m not a particular fan of the Bronte’s I haven’t been looking out of anything else about them this year, and so I’m not surprised that it’s died off somewhat as an obsession.
So there you had it: Verity is still reading lots of crime and noir, Sarah Morgan and has a lingering fondness for time travelling historians. Tune in to my next post to find out what I was obsessed with in 2017!
A quickie and a bit of a cheat for this week’s BotW – I’ve been busy writing the Christmas gift posts and reading the books to put in them. I’ve written about Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series before, although it’s the first time I’ve made one Book of the Week – mostly because the point when I was glomming on the early series was before I started writing BotW posts the way that I do now.
Anyway, Gone Gull is the 21st book in the series and sees Meg and her family spending the summer at her grandmother’s newly established craft centre. Meg is teaching blacksmithing, her husband is teaching acting and helping look after the children, her grandfather is teaching ornithology and her dad is on hand two. But it looks like someone may be trying to sabotage the centre and then one of the teachers is found dead. Soon Meg is investigating and trying to work out who has it in for Biscuit Mountain.
One of the joys of this series is the crazy extended family and almost all the regular characters in the series are here – there’s not much of Meg’s mum or brother, but that’s fine because it’s nice to get to know Meg’s Grandmother Cordelia better. The problem for a lot of long running murder series is that often it seems like the detecting character is the harbinger of doom (aka don’t be friends with Jessica Fletcher or you’ll end up dead) but one of my favourite things about this series is the way that Andrews manages to find different locations to take her characters so that it doesn’t feel quite so dangerous in Meg’s home town! It was also really nice to see Meg back at her anvil – her blacksmith business was prominent in the early books in the series, but had faded into the background somewhat while the twins were little.
These books fall at the humorous end of the cozy crime spectrum – they’re not laugh a minute, but as the pun-based titles suggest there’s plenty of fun in these – with eccentric characters and strange set ups. I’m nearly up to date with the series now – I thought I was bang up to date, but the Christmas book (How the Finch stole Christmas) came out at the end of October, although I suspect it’ll take a while before I can justify buying it.
As always with posts about series, I think you’re best starting at the beginning – a Murder with Peacocks is the first one and although it’s out of print new, there are secondhand copies on Amazon and it’s under £4 on Kindle as I write this. But actually, these are stand alone – the thing you miss by not going back to the start is the building of the cast of characters and Meg’s relationship. As well as meeting her ever expanding extended family over the course of the books, Meg doesn’t hurry into marriage – or into having children – which makes for a really fun journey for her and for the reader. I think a reader could have fun wherever they start the series – so what ever you decide:
I’ve got renovations and building work on the mind at the moment – I wonder why – and so this week’s #Recommendsday post is about books featuring renovations or building projects. Let’s start with some murder mysteries.
First, a classic: Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie. New Zealander Gwenda and her husband have just moved into her new house, but as she starts to modernise it, all she does is uncover the house’s history. As far as she knows, she’s never been to England before, so why does she have a creeping dread every time she uses the stairs – and why are all the things that she wants to do to the house, features that the house used to have? It’s creepier than many of the Miss Marple books – and although it’s very good, it’s not my favourite of the Miss Marple stories, but I think that might be partly because the copy that we had at home when I was little had a cover with a pair of knitting needles stuck in someone’s head.
The fourth book in the Aurora Teagarden series, The Julius House, has a big renovation project in it when Roe’s husband to be buys her a notorious house where a family disappeared from some years previously. Roe is an amateur sleuth, fascinated by real life murders she can’t resist trying to figure out what happened to them. Houses feature a a few of the books in this series: in book two, A Bone to Pick, Roe inherits a house from a friend, and in book 3, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse, she has a go at selling real estate and keeps stumbling over corpses.
Not quite a renovation, but Karen Rose Smith’s Caprice de Luce series features a house stager who solves crime. I’ve only read one of them – but as house stagers are something we really don’t have in the UK, I found her job fascinating, even though I had a couple of quibbles with the mystery. I have more in the series on my Amazon watch list though, so I liked it enough to want more.
Now, on to romance…
I’ve mentioned Jill Shalvis a few times recently, but the first book in her Lucky Harbor series – Simply Irresistible – features a heroine who is trying to renovate and relauch her late mother’s guest house. It’s a romance – and her contractor is her love interest and it’s fun and romantic and everything that you would expect from a Jill Shalvis novel.
Among Katie Fforde’s novels, there are a couple that have renovation projects – including Practically Perfect, where the heroine is an interior designer who is doing up a tiny cottage to showcase her skills and slightly tangentially one of my all time favourites of hers, Stately Pursuits – where house sitting turns into an attempt to save the house from redevelopment by getting it into a state where it can pay its own way as a historic home (and venue) open to the public.
And a couple more to finish:
I read Nick Spalding’s Bricking It a couple of years ago and laughed consistently the whole way through. It features two siblings trying to renovate a house they’ve inherited from their grandmother, with the added complication of taking part in a reality TV show. It’s got a cast of hilarious secondary characters and I loved the live TV scene – even though my inner broadcasting nerd (hello day job!) wasn’t sure if it would actually have been able to go down the way it did. Writing this has made me wonder why I haven’t read more of Nick Spalding’s stuff since.
And down here and not with the cozies because I’ve mentioned this series recently already, but the sixth Meg Langslow mystery, Owls Well That Ends Well, sees Meg start the renovations to the big old Victorian house that is such a centre piece for the rest of the series.
If after all that you want more buildings in books, I wrote a #Recommendsday about books with amazing houses back at the end of May.
Send me your suggestions for more renovation books in the comments or on Twitter – I’m @WildeV.
It’s renovation chaos here: half of the contents of our house is in storage and we’re camped out in one room. So this week’s BotW is going to be short and sweet I’m afraid.
Death around the Bend is the third in the Lady Hardcastle cozy crime murder mystery series by T E Kinsey. I read the first one a few weeks back and picked up the third on a Kindle deal, and read it on the commute last week. The set up for the series is that Lady Emily Hardcastle is a widow with a somewhat more exciting past than is usual in the Edwardian era. She and her trusty maid Florence have moved to the English countryside for a bit of peace and quiet and relaxation but don’t seem to be getting much of it.
In book three, Emily and Florence have been invited to a friend’s estate for a weekend of racing – but it’s car racing, not horses. Lord Ribblethorpe has gone mad for motor cars and has set up his own racing team, complete with a track in the grounds of his estate. When a driver is killed during a race, the police think it’s an accident but Emily and Florence aren’t convinced and can’t help but try and solve the crime. With Emily asking questions above stairs, Florence is sleuthing below stairs. Then another body is found.
This is fun and fast moving (and not just because of the cars). I like the dynamic between Emily and Florence – and particularly that the story is told by Florence. I picked up the first one as part of my ongoing quest to find other series that scratch my Phryne Fisher and Daisy Dalrymple itch and it does this quite nicely – although it’s set earlier than either of those two series. Unfortunately there are only three books in the series (at the moment at least) so I only have one left to read, but hey ho, you can’t win them all.
All three Lady Hardcastle mysteries are on Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member (I’m not) but the two I’ve read have come around on discount deals at various points too (that’s how I got them!). You can find them all here.
Well ladies and gentlemen a real treat for you here today. You’ve already read the interview, but I was lucky enough to been given* a copy of the new Danny Bird mystery by Derek Farrell – which is out today. You may remember that I enjoyed Dannys 1 and 2 so much that they made it into my favourite books of 2016 post so I was delighted to be asked if I could review it for release day and juggled my posting schedule accordingly!
A recap of the story so far: Danny’s trying to turn a geezer pub in a dodgy bit of south London into a gay bar. He’s helped by a motley crew of friends and workers and hindered by that same crew, and also the fact that the Marq is owned by a local mobster who demands his cut. Setbacks so far include: a diva dropping dead just before she was due to perform in the bar and a wake with a larger body count than it should have had.
We rejoin Danny as he tries to juggle a seance featuring a heath inspector and the (optimistically named) First Annual Fancy Dress Halloween Party at the Marq. And then a body turns up. Again. But this time it’s in the cellar, so that makes a change. Soon Danny and the gang are trying to solve a 20-year-old murder with gangland connections. Meanwhile Lady Caz has got some issues with her family that need sorting out and Danny’s a bit worried that the catering freezer in the kitchen is about to give up the ghost, which isn’t great when you serve food and have Environmental Health on the premises.
So, probably most important thing in a story like this is the mystery and whether it holds up. And this does: there are plenty of suspects and with a link to one of the staff at the pub and the body being found on the premises, there are genuine reasons for Danny to be involved in trying to figure out whodunnit. Next you need an engaging hero and Danny definitely is that. He’s funny and loyal, and as a reader you’d like to go on a night out with him and persuade him to be your friend**. Danny’s also tougher than he looks and will do anything he can for his friends and to keep his pub in business – in that order (I think). And almost every good detective needs a sidekick and Lady Caz is a great one: she is posher and drunker than ever in this installment and the subplot with her family is excellent too. There’s plenty of witty repartee and a lot of pop culture references. I’m not sure there’s a oneliner that beats the “Poirot on poppers” from book two, but to be fair, that was a work of genius.
There’s also a nod to the detective fiction author’s problem of how to create corpses for their hero, when two passers by mention that bodies just keep turning up at the Marq, but in this case because this body is 20 years old, it helps avoid the Jessica Fletcher effect.*** I’m hoping that the increased involvement of Chopper the mobster in this book and the widening of some of the character’s backstories/families will help avoid this happening to Danny as the series goes on, because I’m not sure how many more bodies can turn up at the Marq before Danny’s business drops off so much that he goes out of business!
As regular readers will know, I read a lot of cozy crime novels, which is a particularly American genre, and I’d describe this as cozy adjacent – there aren’t any cupcakes or crafters here, but there is a (murder) mystery story that gets solved without too much blood and gore or psychological thrillery-ness. This isn’t as noir as many of the Fahrenheit books, but it does have the sly and subversive world view that you find from the Fahrenheit gang. It’s fun and funny and won’t leave you terrified to go out of an evening.
Death of a Devil is out today: here’s the magic link.
*Translation: Begged and screamed until I got one early even though I have a Fahrenheit Press subscription so would get on on/near release day.
**Well as long as you don’t have to see any bodies or get arrested.
***So many bodies start turning up around Jessica that you start to wonder if she is the problem/an Angel of Doom/killing them herself. There are many theories.
A shorter BotW post this week, because you’ve already had three great books from my reading last week in my Summer Reading post! But I finished Picture Miss Seeton on Sunday afternoon and wanted to give it a mention.
A retired art teacher, Miss Seeton witnesses a murder after leaving a performance of Carmen. Despite only getting a shadowy view of the killer, she manages to draw a picture that enables Scotland Yard to identify him. Soon she’s facing peril in the rural cottage she’s just inherited, where the villagers are also taking an interest in the new arrival.
This really scratched my itch for cozy crime with added humour. Miss Seeton is a wonderful send up of elderly lady detectives. She’s impossible to shock, utterly unflappable and practises yoga in her free time. She’s always one step ahead of the police and always manages to be in the right place at the right time to pick up the vital clue. I found the switching points of view occasionally a bit jarring or confusing, but I forgave it because I was having so much fun reading about Miss S’s adventures. It was a perfect book to read while recovering from nightshifts.
I’m fairly sure I’ve seen some Miss Seeton’s at the library (or maybe in the discount bookshop) so I suspect I may be reading more of her adventures in the near future. Picture Miss Seeton is available on Kindle and Kobo and should be available (probably to order) from all the usual sources.