So this week got away from me somewhat. Can’t really explain what happened, except that my brain was frazzled and all I could cope with was binge watching old seasons of Drag Race on Netflix. There may or may not be a BotW post tomorrow – it depends if I can actually write more than a sentence about any of these. Fingers crossed this week is better.
Another week, another crime pick. I know. Sue me. At least I read this in March so that makes it one crime recommendation a month which is not quite so bad. Or am I grasping at straws? It wasn’t even the only classic crime book I read last week – I also read Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon, which is another in the BritishLibraryCrimeClassicsseries, which I have recommended a lot. This one however is from Agora books, who are also have a lot of more forgotten mid-century crime on their lists, including the Inspector Appleby series, which I have read a couple of, and some of the lesser known Margery Allinghams. Anyway, I stumbled across this little gem last week and I’m unreasonably annoyed that none of the author’s other books seem to be available anywhere.
Answer in the Negative is a 1950s-set murder mystery, featuring a crime solving couple. It’s not the first in the series as it turns out, so I’m not quite sure how they came to be a thing, but Johnny is an ex-Commando and Sally is his wife. His family have a shop that sells books and he works there when he’s not solving mysteries. This particular mystery is a poison pen set in the National Press Archives on Fleet Street. Toby Lorn, a friend of the couple, asks them to investigate letters that are being sent to one of the archive assistants. Frank Morningside is not popular in the office, so the pool of suspects is fairly large. As well as increasingly nasty letters, there have been schoolboy-style pranks. Johnny and Sally start investigating at the archives, posing as researchers, but just days into the investigation, things take a sinister turn.
This is a well put together mystery, which a good and varied cast of characters. I really like office-set mysteries – Murder Must Advertise is one of my favourite of the Peter Wimsey series. You get to find out what working life was like in the period and I like that there’s a cast of characters to draw from a bit like a country house mystery. But unlike country house mysteries the cast tends to be a bit more varied – less toffs with a grudge, more people from across the social spectrum. This is no exception – you’ve got office boys, young women on the lookout for a husband, stuffy spinsters, ex-soldiers and more. It makes for an intriguing mystery and although I developed suspicions about the culprit it has plenty of twists to keep you guessing. My only real problem with it was that it felt like it was set in the interwar period – whereas actually it was set in the 1950s. If it wasn’t for mentions of bombsites and the fact that Johnny was a Commando (who were only created in World War II) it could have been in an office two doors down from Pym’s Publicity.
This edition Answer is in the Negative came out towards the end of February, and I read it via Kindle Unlimited, but it’s also available to buy on Kindle. I can’t seen any other editions (except for super-pricey secondhand/collectible ones) and I can’t find it on Kobo either sadly. But if you’re a Kindle reader – especially one with unlimited – it’s worth it. I’m hoping that the recent release date means that more of the series will appear at some point too.
I finished the last of the longrunners! It’s been a bit of a week – three nights away from home for work (including one in Manchester), but managed to get a bit of reading in – especially on the trains. Anther busy week coming up – I’ll keep you posted. And in case you missed it yesterday, here’s the February stats.
Another week, another crime pick, and another British Library Crime pick, so what if it’s been less than a month since I last picked one – I couldn’t help myself because this was so clever and so readable.
The Colour of Murder is told in two parts. The first, Before, is a psychiatric report on John Wilkins. Told in his own words, it sets out his life, his unhappiness in his marriage and his job, his mysterious blackouts when he drinks, and his flirtation with a local woman. The second part, After, is the story of Wilkins’ trial for murder. It’s really unusual for a murder mystery in that for half of the book you don’t know who the victim is and you also don’t see any detection at all. And that is beauty of it – it lets you draw your own conclusions – or perhaps more accurately make your own assumptions – all the while adding more details and information.
It’s quite hard to talk about this book because it would be easy to say too much, but I don’t think it’s giving away a lot to say that John is a massively unlikeable man. He’s unhappy in almost every part of his life, but you don’t really feel much sympathy for his because he’s so awful even in his own words. His wife isn’t much more likeable according to him, but she has all the disadvantages of being viewed through his self-obsessed eyes – as well as suffering from the lack of opportunity and independence that a stay at home wife had in the 1950s.
I absolutely raced through this, it’s not long but it’s also a massive page-turner. The writing is so clever that I kept changing my mind about what was happening. I read it via Kindle Unlimited but it’s also available to buy from all the usual sources.
A really bookish week – but lots of nights spent away from home, which affected the reading somewhat. Had a wonderful time on Monday night listening to Ben Aaronovitch talk to Temi Oh about Rivers of London and his writing. I nearly got all the still reading books finished – but then I had to head down to London ready for more earlies on Monday – and my copy of Bellweather Rhapsody is a hardback and I didn’t have space in my luggage, so that didn’t happen. Next week…
Three books bought – one impulse purchase online, and then at Foyles for the Ben Aaronovitch talk, I bought a hardback copy of False Value so I could get it signed – even though all my other copies are paperback so it won’t match – and I bought Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra Two too. And then four ebooks bought – including Guards! Guards! which doesn’t really count because I’ve already read it, but I wanted a kindle copy because I love it and it was on offer, Meat Cute (which you can see up above I’ve already read because I have been waiting for this for so long) and She Said by Jodi Cantor and Megan Twohey because that was also on offer, and having read Ronan Farrow’s book about Harvey Weinstein, I want to read theirs too.
Bonus photo: from the aforementioned Ben Aaronovitch and Temi Oh chat at Foyles. They have signed copies of False Value if you want them…
An * next to a book title indicates that it came from NetGalley.
Burnout is a topic on lots of people’s minds. Anne Helen Peterson‘s essay about Millennial Burnout just over year ago started a conversation – and she has been writing a book about the subject ever since (it’s due out in September). This week’s book of the week looks at female burnout and stress.
The blurb for this is: “This groundbreaking book explains why women experience burnout differently than men – and provides a simple, science-based plan to help women minimize stress, manage emotions and live a more joyful life.The gap between what it’s really like to be a woman and what people expect women to be is a primary cause of burnout, because we exhaust ourselves trying to close the space between the two.” I think this is quite an accurate description of what is inside the book without sounding either too way out or too serious. Emily and Amelia are identical twins – Amelia is a choral director and Emily is a sex educator and between them they explain the science and emotions behind female burnout.
As has been noted in the past, I have mixed results with self help and self improvement type books, but I actually found this really quite helpful. To use an Americanism, it’s quite validating in some ways to see things that you have experienced or suspected talked about in a “proper” book. I particularly liked the section on the stress cycle and how dealing with your stress doesn’t necessary mean actually solving the problem that is causing you stress per se but actually finishing the cycle and releasing the stress somehow. I’ve already started implementing some of the ideas from this, although I actually need to sit down with some of the worksheets on other areas.
I’m also midway through reading Tiny Habits at the moment and the two are proving to be quite a good pairing for me. One is tackling my stress, the other one is helping me figure out how to change a few things about my life without increasing my stress with unrealistic goals or trying to do too much too fast.
My copy of Burnout came via NetGalley, but you should be able to order it from all good bookseller or buy an ebook copy from all the usual sources (Kindle, Kobo). And if you like this, I’ve also read Emily Nagoski’s other book Come As You Are abut female sexuality. And if you’re not quite sure if this is one for you, there are episodes of the Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast for each book with interviews with Emily (both) and Amelia (for Burnout), which will give you a bit of an overview – here’s the Burnout one, this is Come As You Are (NB it’s at times like this I realise how long I’ve been listening to Smart Bitches!).
Bonus photo: the very boring kindle cover – hence my use of the Apple Books cover up-post!