cozy crime, crime, mystery, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Antipodean mysteries

So as you know from the weekly lists, I’m on a big old re-read of Phryne Fisher mysteries at the moment, so I’ve taken my inspiration for this week’s Recommendsday from that!

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Lets start with something set just after Phryne – the first book in the Rowland Sinclair series is set in the 1930s. Like Phryne, Rowland is spending money and causing scandal – he’s the son of a well-to-do Sydney family – but rather than embracing a life of gentlemanly pursuits, he’s an artist. I’ve only read one of this series, I have the second book on the kindle and a couple more on the physical to read pile (see Books Incoming) but the first one sees Rowland investigating the death of his uncle – the only other Bohemian-y member of the family. This has politics and tensions and you see some of the same factors you see on the rise in Europe at the same time at play in Australia. It’s not witty like Phryne, and it’s further towards the thriller end of the spectrum than the cozy, but I liked it (as you can tell from the fact I have more waiting to be read!

Murder in the Telephone Exchange by June Wright

This was a really interesting murder mystery, written in the late 1940s and set in an Australian telephone exchange: When Maggie finds one of her unpopular colleagues with her head smashed in, she finds herself drawn into the mystery – not just because she was the person who found the body, but because she’s not sure that the police are on the right track. But soon the danger is increasing and someone else turns up dead. I read this a couple of years ago and loved the setting, liked Maggie, I though the mystery was clever and tense and packed with suspense. I’ve been looking for something else set in a telephone exchange ever since. And then…

A Matter of Love and Death by Carmen Radtke

I read this the other week: and it’s a murder mystery with a telephone exchange! Frances overhears a threatening message while she’s on shift at the exchange and thinks it might be linked to a robbery where a man died that she sees in the paper a few days later. Along with her family’s new lodger Phil and nightclub owner Jack, they decide to investigate. This is the first in a series that has gone through several covers and a change in author name and is trying to do quite a lot, but it was in Kindle Unlimited and wasn’t a total bust!

I’m fairly sure I read a contemporary murder mystery set in the outback not that long ago, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called or who wrote it, so I can’t look up what I thought of it on Goodreads! And I called this Antipodean mysteries – so I ought to mention a New Zealand-set book or two – so here’s a reminder that Ngaio Marsh set some of the Inspector Alleyn series in her home country. Vintage Murder sees Roderick investigating a murder at a cast party after the first night of a play. He is somewhat taken with the leading lady – which always makes me smile because this is the trip to that he’s on ship home from when he meets Agatha Troy in the next book in the series (Artists in Crime). Marsh sends Alleyn back to New Zealand during the Second World War and that’s where we get Colour Scheme – victim lured into boiling mud (yuck), complete with espionage and counter espionage – and Dyed in the Wool – a country house-style murder mystery but set on a farm and where the victim turns up packed in a bale of wool (also yuck). And even later in the series there is Photo Finish, with an opera diva who is taken to an island by her boyfriend to escape the paparazzi, where she plans a performance of a piece written specially for her by her younger lover and who is then murdered. And an honourable mention should go to A Surfeit of Lampreys, which starts off in New Zealand before the action moves to London and the murder happens, and Opening Night (also known as Night at the Vulcan) where the leading lady is newly arrived from New Zealand.

You’re welcome!

historical, mystery, series

Mystery series: Guy Harford

Happy Friday everyone. Here I am with another Friday series post about a historical mystery series, although as there are only three books so far, it’s more of a trilogy…

So T P Fielden’s three Guy Harford books follow an artist who is reluctantly drawn into the orbit of the Royal Family during World War Two. Guy finds himself in London after an Incident in Tangier. Officially he’s employed by the Foreign Office, but in reality he’s mostly doing the bidding of Buckingham Palace. Across the course of the three books, he solves murders and travels at home and abroad as he tries to find the killers.

Now there are several series that do something similar to this – royal-adjacent Second World War mysteries – but what makes these particularly interesting is that T P Fielden is the pen name of Christopher Wilson, who is a noted royal biographer and commentator. Now admittedly most of his books focus on the more modern royals, but the serial about the household make these something a bit different. And he also wrote the 1950s-set Miss Dimont mysteries which I have also really enjoyed.

There are only three of these so far, but we haven’t yet reached the end of the war, so there may still be more. I think I got the first of these as a Kindle First Reads pick, but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment, so if you’re a subscriber you can read them very easily. And if you like them, you have the option of Miss Dimont to follow on with!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Book of the Week, Forgotten books, mystery

Book of the Week: Death of a Bookseller

I know it’s only a few weeks since I did a while recommendsday about British Library Crime Classics, and there was another one in the May Quick Reviews, but I’m back again with another one…

When Sergeant Wigan stops to help a drunken man at the end of a late shift, he makes a new friend and discovers the world of book collecting. Soon he is beginning his own collection, following the advice of Michael Fisk, who makes his living scouring book shops and sales for valuable books. When Fisk is found dead, Wigan is seconded to CID to help investigate and use his newly acquired knowledge of the second hand and antiquarian book trade to track down a killer.

This a great pick for the 100th BLCC book. And not just because it’s about a bookseller and the book trade. The mystery is really good but it also has a side of the murder mystery you don’t usually see – the convicted man and what happens to him. In my beloved Strong Poison you see Harriet Vane in prison on remand, but she is innocent and eventually freed*. But what happens to the man who is convicted? It adds a darker edge and a sense of urgency to the book, and an aspect that is easy to forget now that capital punishment is no longer a thing in the UK.

My copy came via my Kindle Unlimited subscription but you should be able to get hold of this through all the usual sources for British Library Crime Classics – including the British Library Bookshop.

Happy Reading!

* Technically, yes this is a spoiler, but a) Strong Poison was published in 1930 b) Peter is trying to clear Harriet from the start of the book, to the point where it’s in the blurb and c) I refuse to believe that anyone who has been hanging around here for any length of time has missed my whole Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane situation.

historical, mystery, series

Mystery series: Lady Hardcastle

The new Lady Hardcastle book came out last week and I’ve just finished it so it seems like an ideal week to feature the series here!

These are Edwardian-set mysteries, following the widowed Lady Hardcastle and her lady’s maid. Lady Emily is in her forties and spent most of her marriage abroad with her husband who was in the diplomatic service. She moved to the countryside with the faithful Florence hoping for a quiet life – but they keep stumbling across murders! The books are written in the first person from Florence’s point of view and this gives you a fun perspective on the somewhat eccentric and very headstrong Emily. As you go through the series you discover more about what the two women got up to abroad, which explains why they’re good at solving murders. And the core duo get some regular assistants as the books go on too.

The duo live in the Gloucestershire and their village and the surrounding area provides the settings for the various murders so that it doesn’t seem like the Edwardian version of Midsummer! The series are fun, lightly comic, easy to read, very bingeable and the Edwardian setting makes a change from the various Victorian and 1920s series that are more common.

With the latest release, there are eight books in the series, with a ninth already planned for the autumn. As you can see from the picture, I own a couple and then they’re all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so perfect for a binge. And if you’re not in KU, they are somewhat of a bargain at the moment: books one and two are 99p (or free in Kindle Unlimited) A Quiet Life in the Country is the first and In the Market for Murder is the second.

Happy weekend!

bingeable series, historical, mystery

Bingeable series: Lady Emily

Another historical mystery series this week, because it’s been oh, two whole weeks since I did a historical mystery (as opposed to just a mystery). This week I’m moving a bit further back in time than the 1930s to talk about Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series of late Victorian (and eventually early Edwardian) mysteries.

In the first book in the series we meet Emily Ashton, who only married her husband to escape her mother and then was widowed six months later when he was killed in an accident on safari. But two years after his death, she discovers that the man she thought was indifferent to her at best was actually in love with her and she becomes fascinated with this new perspective on him. His journals also reveal him to be a collector with an interest in antiquities and she starts to learn more about them to try and understand him more. And of course then she’s drawn into danger and secrets and stolen artefacts and we go from there.

There are now fifteen books in the series (with a sixteenth coming in the autumn) following Emily as she moves through Victorian society in town and in the country, at home and abroad, solving mysteries wherever she goes. There is a romantic subplot through the first few novels before Emily remarries and becomes part of a duo – and gains a bit of diplomatic status to help her on her way. There are a few similar lady detective type series set in this period, and these ones tend towards the creepier and suspension end of the range. They also don’t really have the same wit as my favourite Lady Julia Grey, and the love interest here is not Brisbane. But they are a very fun way to pass an afternoon and very easy to move on from one to the next.

I’ve read thirteen of the fifteen currently available – with the first two on kindle and the rest paperback. The only reason I haven’t read the latest ones is that they haven’t crossed my path at a sensible price yet – or via the library. They’re sitting on my kindle watch list waiting though. And I live in hope that eventually the later books in the series will turn up in The Works the way the earlier thirteen did.

You can pick these up on Kindle fairly easily – book 1 (And Only To Deceive) is £1.99 as I write this and although you should really read them in order, I have to point out that Dangerous to Know (book 5) is only 99p!

Happy Friday!

mystery, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: More British Library Crime Classics!

One of the consequences of the Great Steam Scald of Sunday was reading some more of British Library Crime Classics while I couldn’t hold a paperback. Of course as soon as I could I abandoned them in favour of Attack and Decay. But I’ve been planning this post for a while and I’ve now finished the other books I wanted to review so here we are!

Post after Post-Morton by E C R Lorac

When a member of a family of writers dies, it is initially thought to be a suicide – until her brother receives a letter from the deceased, which had got delayed in the post. He calls in Superintendent Macdonald to find out the truth behind his sister’s death. I’ve reviewed a couple of Lorax’s books here before (These Names Make Clues, Murder by Matchlight and Murder in the Mill Race as well as Crossed Skis under one of her other pen names ), and this one is right up there. It has plenty of twists and turns as Macdonald tries to prove whether it was murder or suicide.

The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude

Fancy a murder carried out with a bow and arrow? Read this! There’s no shortage of suspects either as several residents of the titular square are keen archers and the murdered man is very unpopular. Solving this is Superintendent Meredith (last seen on this blog in The Lake District Murder) helping out a friend while on holiday. The setting is part of the charm of this – you can really picture the houses clustered around the square and their residents and their resentments and jealousies.

Deep Waters edited by Martin Edwards

This is one of the BLCC’s themed collections – all of the stories here have a nautical theme. There are a bunch of names in this who I have read full length novels from, but by a miracle not any of the other three authors in this post! There is also a huge range of styles of mystery – the authors including Arthur Conan Doyle, Christopher St John Sprigg, Edmund Crispin, Michael Innes and more. They also tend towards the shorter end so if you don’t like one it’s over quickly!

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr

A blazing body is seen running around in the battlement of Castle Skull near Koblenz – but who did it. The castle is a maze of passages and awash with legends and stories of magic and ghosts. There is a small pool of suspects, and two detectives competing to solve figure it all out. This is the least Verity of all of these – but I include it because although it’s not precisely my thing, it is a good creepy, chillery, thrillery mystery. Atmospheric is probably the word.

All of these were in Kindle Unlimited when I read them, so if you keep a list of books to borrow from that, otherwise the British Library shop is doing Three for Two on the paperback versions.

Enjoy

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?!

LGTBQIA+, mystery

Mystery series: Josephine Tey

Another week, another post about a mystery series. This time it’s Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey mysteries as the new one comes out next week (and I’ve even read it!

This is another mystery series based on a real life person solving mysteries, usually murders – in this case the crime writer Josephine Tey. She was a playwright as well as a novelist – and the first book in the series is set in the final week of the run of one of her plays, when a woman Josephine met on the train to London is murdered and the detective investigating thinks Josephine may be at risk. In the grand tradition of the books of the era, the detective, Archie Penrose, is connected to Josephine and becomes part of the cast of regular characters.

As you may have surmised these have their roots in the golden age detective novels that I love but several are also inspired by real crimes. And perhaps is the latter that means that these are always darker than you expect and on the edge of being too dark or bleak for me. I have read seven of the ten in the series and one of my reviews on goodreads say things like “these are consistently grimmer than I want them to be”. I’ve also read them out of order – and my note on the first says that if I’d read that one first, I might not have continued with the series. All of which I realise sounds a bit down on them. But for all that they are on the edge for me on the grim scale, I know that my line is a long way back from the sort of thrillery, psychological crime that a lot of other people really like – and this is closer to the historic version of that. And I do really like the 1930s world that you see in the books, so here’s a bit more about book 10 to show you what I mean.

Dear Little Corpses starts as the mass evacuation of children takes place in London. Josephine and Marta are at Josephine’s cottage in Suffolk where the village is preparing for an influx of children. In London, Archie is investigating the death of a rent collector before heading down to visit them for the village fete and so Josephine can meet the woman that he has started seeing. But at the fete a young girl goes missing without a trace and the search for her threatens to expose long hidden secrets in the community. The portrait of the village waiting for the evacuees is great and this also goes over into Essex and places that I am actually familiar with and I’m a total sucker for that. But I spent a lot of this hoping that it was going to all turn out ok and thinking that this was going to be one of the less bleak books in the series – and then boom, the ending happened and it was every bit as bad as it could be and a little bit more. And that’s the story of the series: I go in wanting it to be much closer to the lighter, cozy mystery end of the historical crime series spectrum than it is and at the end.

At some point I will read the biography of Josephine Tey that I have sitting on the to be read bookshelf and see how the facts of her actual life stack up to the books, but for now I can’t really vouch for that either way. If you want to dip your toe in the water and see if they suit you, I have some suggestions: London Rain was the first in the series that I read, and is the one I have liked the most – and I don’t think it’s just because it’s set around the recording of a radio play. The Death of Lucy Kyte is the first one set in the village that also features in Dear Little Corpses, and Fear in the Sunlight is set in Portmeiron and features Alfred Hitchcock and the 1930s film industry. So there are plenty of options. As you can see from the cover montage, they’ve been through two designs for the covers so they should be fairly easy to get hold of – Dear Little Corpses came from NetGalley but I’ve had copies of others in the series from the library (ebook and actual book) as well as the charity shop and the dearly departed magic bookshelf at work.

Happy Friday everyone

bingeable series, mystery

Mystery series: Flavia de Luce

Another Friday, another post about a series here on the blog, another new post title. Today’s series is the Flavia de Luce historical mystery series, inspired by the fact that I was writing about young detectives yesterday – and Flavia is about as young a detective as you can get, although this series is definitely for adults. I last wrote about Flavia in 2016 so it’s been a while…

At the start of the series, it’s 1950 and eleven year old Flavia has a passion for chemistry and poisons and a running feud with her two older sisters. Their mother is dead, their father eccentric and their house is crumbling around them. When Flavia stumbles over a dying man in the first book she is more fascinated than horrified and the series goes from there.

In my Goodreads review of the first book I said that Flavia could occasionally be a little too all knowing, but as the character develops, she gets to a good balance of preternaturally clever but not too all knowing and annoying. And a lot of that is because although she is very book smart, her understanding of people is about what you would expect of someone her age, so there are things – quite a lot of things sometimes – that she just misses or doesn’t understand at all.

There are ten novels in the series, and as there hasn’t been a new one since 2019, I suspect that may be the lot – certainly the last book in the series isn’t my favourite and Flavia was not quite her usual self in it, so it may be that Alan Bradley has got fed up of her or gone as far as he wants with her. Or the delay could just be because of the pandemic. Because we all know that covid has messed up a lot of things.

These are usually fairly easy to get hold of – I picked up a lot of them from The Works, and read the last two from the library, but I see them all the time in bookshops. As you can see from the picture, there has been a redesign/rejacketing exercise done – in my picture the right hand side are the original style, the left the new. And obviously they’re on Kindle and Kobo as well as audiobooks – most of them read by Sophie Aldred, who if you’re my age you will remember from children’s TV and if you’re a bit older will remember as Ace from Doctor Who. You’re probably best reading them in order, but I didn’t and it didn’t really bother me too much – although it was a bit of a pain jumping from slightly more developed Flavia back to the less evolved version!

Happy Weekend!

mystery, new releases, Young Adult

Out This Week: The Agathas!

I actually read this one earlier this week so wanted to give it a mention today as depending on where you are it is either out today or in the last few days. The Agathas is a YA Murder mystery set in a California town where the citizens are divided between the haves and have nots. Alice is one of the haves, but after she went missing last summer after her boyfriend dumped her, her friends don’t want to know her. Iris doesn’t live in a mansion and her mum works in a bar. She’s been assigned to tutor Alice. Then Brooke, one of the popular girls who used to be Alice’s friends, disappears. Soon the two girls are investigating – Alice because her ex boyfriend is the main suspect and Iris, well because Brooke’s grandmas is offering a reward. Can they figure out what really happened the night that Brooke Donovan disappeared?

I really enjoyed this – it’s a twisty high school Murder mystery with an interestingly flawed cast of characters and a crime fighting duo who bring out interesting sides to each other. Also I’m so glad I’m not a teenager now and that I didn’t go to American high school. It sounds awful.

My copy came from NetGalley, but you can get it in Kindle or Kobo now or in paperback. And the good news is that it’s listed as the first in a series…