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.
So, the good news is that I made it to Washington DC unscathed. The bad news was that changing time zones threw me a bit loopy and the worst news (for you anyway!) is that I spent my days off sightseeing. So on Friday I walked 20 kilometres around the National Mall and then fell asleep exhausted. Sorry, not sorry!
The Corpse at the Crystal Palace by Carola Dunn
P is for Peril by Sue Grafton
Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton
R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Bridges Burned by Annette Dashofy
Fear by Bob Woodward
Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Foster
S is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Two proper books bought – including that copy of Fear I promised myself in the Washington post – and two ebooks. Positively restrained considering what I used to get up to on nightshifts!
Bonus picture: the Reflecting Pool at about kilometre 13 on Friday!
Luckily for me – although it didn’t seem so at the time, I didn’t manage to finish Early Riser in time for it to make last week’s WiB. I had 50 pages to go on the Sunday night and ended up finishing it on Monday morning. This made it eligible for this week’s BotW and meant that I could write this nice and early before the last minute madness descended ahead of my departure for DC. Hopefully by the time you read this I’ll be in the US and starting work – but I’m writing this a week earlier with a to-do list the length of my arm. However I’m fairly confident that nothing else I finish this week will pip this to the post – and if anything does run it close I’m sure I’ll manage to write about it at some point!
Early Riser is the latest novel from Jasper Fforde and his first new book in four years – and his first new adult novel in six years. It’s a standalone novel and it’s in a different alternative universe to his other work too. I’m a big fan of Jasper Fforde – I’ve read most of his books but I think that the long hiatus between books means that I’ve never had a chance to properly write about him here because I glommed on pretty much everything he has written before I started writing this. Anyway, to the plot:
Charlie Worthing is about to start his first season as a Winter Consul. Every year, the human population hibernates for four months to escape the bitterly cold weather. But some brave souls are needed to protect the sleeping – and Charlie has volunteered to be one of them. To stay awake during the winter means you need to be very committed – but also a little bit mad as Charlie soon discovers. One of his first tasks is investigating an outbreak of viral dreams – where people are having the same dream right down to the little details. And then the people who’ve had the dream start dying. And then Charlie starts having the dream – and bits of it seem to be coming true. Is it just winter narcosis – or is soething more sinister going on. Charlie sets out to find out the truth – but he’ll need to brave Villains and Nightwalkers and the seemingly less-than-mythical WinterVolk to do it.
If you’ve read and Jasper Fforde before you’ll know that his thing is creating bonkers parallel universes to our own and then just dropping you straight into them and leaving you to work out what’s going on. In the Thursday Next series is a world where the Crimean War never ended, where literature is venerated and where – if you have the right skills – you can actually get inside a book and wander around the story. In Early Riser he does the same thing. After a lovely diagram of a Dormitorium opposite the title page, you find yourself on a train with a dead woman who is playing the bouzouki. And it only gets weirder. This was probably the slowest starting of Fforde’s books for me – but that might be because I started reading it as an egalley (from NetGalley) which had all the footnotes out of sync with the pages – and boy do you need the footnotes at the start to help you get your head around the new world that you’ve found yourself in. But after I’d bought myself an actual copy of the book* everything got a lot easier and started to make more sense.
And it is a rollicking good adventure. There are lots of twists and turns and I really didn’t see many/any of them coming. Charlie is an engaging accidental hero and you sympathise with him as he bumbles his way through his first winter, running into complications and obstacles at every turn. I really like the worlds that Jasper Fforde creates – I don’t know where his ideas come from but they’re so clever and subversive. If you had pitched this to me before I’d read any of his stuff I would have chalked it up as not for me. But I trust him having read and loved the Thursday Next series and the Nursery Crime series and so was prepared to take the leap into this with him. I’m so glad I did – and I hope lots of other people are reading it too.
In the author’s note at the end of the book, he thanks readers’ patience for sticking with him in the long gap and says he hopes it won’t be such a big gap to the next book. I may hate waiting, but I’ll gladly wait if we get books like this at the end of it. I just hope that the next one is the eighth Thursday Next book…
Early Riser is out now in hardback and on Kindle and Kobo if you’re in the UK. I’ve seen copies in all the proper bookshops – Foyles Charing Cross have several display piles of it – so you should be able to lay your hands on it fairly easily. It’s due for release in the US on February 12th 2019 – and should be available to preorder at your bookseller of choice – there are some handy links on Jasper Fforde’s website to help you whether you’re in the UK or in the US.
*I went to Foyles during a lunchbreak one of my weekend working days in August. I was meant to be just having a look around, but they’d had a signing with Jasper Fforde a week or two earlier and they had one signed copy left – among piles of unsigned ones on various displays. I took it as a sign that I should buy it for myself.
Bonus Picture: My Dormitorium postcard that came with my hardcover!
A good week in reading. In case you missed my post on Saturday, I’m on my way to the USA for a couple of months for work – so normal service may be slightly disrupted while I find my feet. I do have a bunch of posts scheduled to help with the first week, but I can’t write BotW or WiB posts before I’ve read the books…
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
In Glorious Technicolour by Francine Stock
The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump by Robert Sears
Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare by Gabourey Sidibe
Star by Star by Sheena Wilkinson
P is for Peril by Sue Grafton
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
A couple of books bought – but I have got a long plane ride to deal with!
A short and sweet BotW post this week. I didn’t finish as much as I wanted last week – and some of what I finished was never going to be a contender for a slot here. But the Cornish Coast Murder perked me up at the end of the week and snuck in under the wire.
The Cornish Coast Murder sees an armchair murder mystery novel enthusiast with an actual real life crime on his doorstep. Reverend Dodd and his friend Dr Pendrill meet up once a week to talk detective fiction and open their latest delivery from the library. But one night during their chat, a panicked phone call comes through from a neighbour, Ruth Tregarthen saying that her uncle has been shot. There are no obvious clues and the police seem baffled so Reverend Dodd starts to help investigate the crime using his knowledge of crime fiction to help him.
This is the first in the Inspector Bigswell series – and the second John Bude* that I’ve read. This is a nice fun read – but it’s not as complex or ingenious as some of the authors that Reverend Dodd reads with his friend. I had a fair idea where it was going – and although I wasn’t entirely right it meant that I wasn’t as entirely gripped as I am with some similar books. But this was Bude’s fist book so perhaps that’s not surprising that it’s not perfect – and certainly the other Bude I’ve read (the Sussex Downs Murder)* was more complex – although the solution to that is rather cliched now. Anyway – it’s an enjoyable read and a if you’ve got an interest in Golden Age crime novels it’s well worth a look.
My copy of the Cornish Coast Murder was the rather pretty British Library Crime Classics edition – so you may well be able to find it in your local bookshop. I’ve certainly seen them in various Waterstones. The Kindle edition is free if you’re in Kindle Unlimited or it’s £2.99 to buy.
*Editors note: I realised after I posted this that Sussex Downs was also a BotW – back in June last year. I am nothing if not predictable!
This week’s BotW is the new Laurie Graham, which managed to sneak into the world without me noticing. At least I noticed it just after it was released, so I’m only posting this 12 days after release. Anyway, regular readers of this blog will be aware of my long-standing love for Laurie Graham’s books. Gone with the Windsors is one of my all-time favourites – and I consider it (and her) an under-appreciated gem. Her last book, The Early Birds was a Reccommendsday pick last year and The Grand Duchess of Nowhere was one of the first books that I reviewed for Novelicious back in the day. I have most of her books as actual books and they live on my downstairs bookshelf (for easy access) and I have all the ones I don’t have physical copies of on ebook. And a couple of them as both. I even have two paperback copies of Gone with the Windsors. Ahem.
Anyway, at the start of Anyone for Seconds, former TV chef Lizzie Partridge runs away from home in a desperate bid for sympathy and attention. She’s fed up of her life – she’s the wrong side of sixty and ever since she lost her TV gig, after throwing chocolate mousse at the presenter of Midlands This Morning, nothing seems to have gone her way. Her partner has left her, her mother is driving her mad, she doesn’t seem to ahve anything in common with her high-power lawyer daughter – and now her last bit of work (a magazine cookery column) has been axed as well. Over the course of her wet week in off-season Aberystwyth, she has a bit of an epiphany and starts to think there might be a new future in the offing. Then her nephew’s TV producer girlfriend comes up with the idea of reuniting her with her former nemesis for a new TV show. Is Lizzie’s life looking up?
Lizzie’s earlier adventures, leading up to the infamous mousse incident, are the subject of one of Graham’s earlier books, Perfect Meringues, which came out 21 years ago. Those days were the tail end of the era when local TV news could make you into a big star – my local bulletin used to have its own chef, who I think did a good line in cookery demonstrations to WIs across the East of England At any rate I’m fairly sure one (maybe two) of the recipes I copied out of my mum’s cookbook when I was first getting into cooking came from one he did for the Northampton Federation. And pretty much every year at panto season you’ll spot a semi-familiar face on a poster who’s still managing to live off their local TV fame of yesteryear. And this makes Lizzie and her friend Louie’s adventures terribly believable and very, very funny.
I read this book as my treat for my weekend working train journeys and it was an absolute delight. Graham has a brilliant eye for the ridiculous and manages to skewer this sort of fading fame very well. And Lizzie’s inner voice is pure Graham – funny, dark, sarcastic and with an observant eye on others, but not as much self-awareness as she thinks. I could have read pages more of the exploits of Lizzie and her friends – there are definitely a few things left not as resolved as I could have wanted. There aren’t enough books with leading ladies who are over 60, and Lizzie is definitely not a fading old lady in a twinset and pearls. She’s spunky and fun and not done with life and love yet – and anyway she hasn’t got a bank balance to sit back and retire. And even if she had, her mother wouldn’t let her and, after all what would she do – her daughter doesn’t want Lizzie’s help as she raises her gender-neutral, sugar-free future genius son. This was perfect book to beat my end of summer blues.
My copy of Anyone for Seconds came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in hardback, Kindle and Kobo. I have no idea how easy it will be to find in bookshops – but you should be able to order it and I definitely encourage you to check out Graham’s books. If you want to read Perfect Meringues first, it’s on Kindle and Kobo for £3.99 which seems to be about the standard price for all of Graham’s books at the moment – except for this new one.