crime, series

Mystery series: Christy Kennedy

For the first series post of the new year (yes I spent nearly two weeks looking back at 2022 and looking ahead to 2023), we’re going back in time to the late 1990s and a London-set mystery series from a time before smart phones and being able to google anything you don’t know.

Inspector Christy Kennedy is from Ireland but his patch is Camden, in North London and across the series he investigates a series of murders across his patch. He’s also involved with a local journalist ann rea (her spelling/capitalisation) who isn’t quite as convinced about the relationship as he is. The first book in the series was I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass, which sees Christy investigating a record producer who has gone missing and later turns up dead, but the second book, Last Boat to Camden Town, is actually a prequel where you see ann and Christy meet during the investigation into the death of a doctor found dead in a canal. Paul Charles worked in the music industry for years – managing bands, being an agent and programming the accoustic stage at Glastonbury, so when the books are dealing with the music industry – and they often are, see also the titles – it’s from an actual position of knowledge from someone who was there at the time and that’s the sort of detail that I love.

And it’s delightful – although a little bit disturbing – to see 90s London in a book and realise how much everything has changed. I mean I know that everything has changed over the last *gulp* 25 years, but this is definitely an era that I remember – although I wasn’t reading crime fiction at the time – so it’s weird to see how much things have changed over just a portion of my lifetime! When I first read these, it did send me on a bit of a 90s crime jag – if you were around this blog at the time you may remember me doing these and the Sam Jones mysteries around the same sort of time as each other – and I’ve since been picking up the Liz Evans’ Grace Smith series whenever I spot them too. There’s something about this sort of era that means that murder mysteries really work – maybe it’s because a lot of the stuff that’s been written now has gone super gruesome or psychological and I’m not up for that, or maybe it’s just that because it’s in the past it gives me a bit of a remove from stuff and means I can deal with it a bit more. Anyway, I love discovering old crime series that I missed – so do stick any more you can think of in the comments.

Buying this series is where it gets tricky – I read the first five of the series when Fahrenheit Press republished them nearly six years ago. I’ve since picked up the sixth, and have just ordered the seventh while I’ve been writing this and then there are another two after that that I haven’t read. I’m just going to point you at Paul Charles’s own website and the info he has there and hope that’s the best option!

Have a great weekend everyone!

new releases, previews

Out Today: new Amy Lea

Actually this is another of those strange split releases that we seem to be getting so much now as the Kindle edition was out on the 10th, but the paperback is out today. Exes and O’s is the next book in the series that started with Set On You last year. This features unlucky in love Tara, who is revisiting her exes to try and find her shot at a second chance romance with her new flatmate Trevor as her sidekick. I have this on the to-read pile, but haven’t got to it yet, because: Meg Langslow binge, although writing this has reminded me why I really wanted to read it. It’s blurbed by Beth O’Leary and Ali Hazelwood if that helps you make your decision in the absence of a review from me!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Even More British Library Crime Classics

Continuing on from the cozy crime BotW pick yesterday, lets have some more murder mysteries today. After all, it’s been whole month since I recommended a British Library Crime Classic, so it must be time for some more – Happy Wednesday everyone!

Seat of the Scornful by John Dickson Carr

A very dislikeable judge is found holding a gun by the body of a murder victim. He says he didn’t kill his daughter’s fiancée but all the evidence seems to suggest that he did. Gideon Fell investigates a crime that turns into a game of cat and mouse. This is really strong on creating a set of characters that you feel that you’d understand and although the denouement feels very of its time, I did enjoy it.

Death on the Riviera by John Bude

This is another in the Inspector Meredith series and deals with an investigation into a currency racket on the French Riviera. Side note: I feel like the French Riviera gets more than its fair share of murder mysteries from this era – there are a lot of them in the Inspector Littlejohn series, as well as a few Agatha Christies and that’s just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head. If only Peter Wimsey had investigated down there we could have the full set. Anyway, this has an eccentric English woman with a house full of bohemian guests and quite a lot of the requisite glamour from the setting, but the solution is… a lot to deal with and I wasn’t sure if it all quite worked over all. Still if you like John Bude, definitely worth checking out, as it’s been out of print for yonks.

Mystery in the Channel by Freeman Willis Crofts

This is a little bit different – a seemingly impossible murder on a boat that turns into a financial mystery. The story opens with a ferry between Newhaven and Dieppe spotting a seemingly deserted yacht – and then spots what looks like a body on deck. When the crew investigates, they find not one but two bodies on board – but no sign of the murder weapon. Once the investigation gets underway, the victims are identified as two key figures in one of the largest financial houses in the country. Inspector French of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate and after a bit more digging it emerges that the firm is in trouble – on the brink of collapse. A huge sum of money is missing – and so is one of the other partners in the business. Were the dead men fleeing the country? And if they were, where is the money and who killed them? I really enjoyed this – and the denouement is really clever and fast paced. I’m not normally a boat person (save Swallows and Amazons) but this explains everything in simple enough terms for a non sailor like me to understand and yet is really quite complex. Definitely worth a look.

Enjoy the rest of the week everyone!

Book of the Week, cozy crime

Book of the Week: A High-End Finish

New year (yes it’s still a new year even if we’ve hit the middle of the month), new cozy crime series for me and something different to talk about in today’s BotW. And you know I love a cozy crime series. So here we go.

A High-End Finish is the first in a series of cozy crimes featuring Shannon Hammer, a contractor specialising in Victorian homes in her town of Lighthouse Cove on the Northern California coast. In this first book, Shannon finds a dead body in the basement of a house that she’s working on – and becomes a suspect in a murder inquiry as she went on a blind date with the victim a few days earlier – and was heard threatening him after he wouldn’t take no for an answer. The town’s new police chief doesn’t seem inclined to believe that she had nothing to do with the murder, so Shannon starts investigating herself with the help of her friends, her nosy neighbours and a crime writer who has just moved to town.

This is a really nice set up for a new series but because there are a lot of characters to introduce and backstories to set up, the detecting is not quite as well developed as you would like and I thought the solution was a bit, ho hum. BUT I really liked Shannon, her friends and the town itself so I forgive it – because first books in series are often like this – either they don’t do a good enough job of setting up the side characters or the mystery isn’t as good as you want it to be. This usually settles down in book two – especially if it’s an established author starting a new series (which Kate Carlisle is). Luckily I picked up the next book in the series (in fact the whole series so far) second hand last month (as seen in Books Incoming) so it’s a good thing I liked them and I can also go straight on to book two to see if the problems get ironed out.

It is nice to have a home improvement/contractor theme for a cozy series though – as previously mentioned, I’m a bit cookery cozied out, and as I’m not usually into the supernatural sometimes it feels like there aren’t a lot of choices for me beyond that. Still hopefully these will keep me busy for a few weeks (at least).

As previously mentioned, my copy of A High-End Finish came via one of my Facebook book groups, but they’re available on Kindle and Kobo as well as in paperback. As they’re American Mass Market Paperbacks though, you may have trouble finding them in stores in the UK – so your best bet might be ordering from Book Depository or similar.

Happy Reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week in Books: January 9 – January 15

Another insanely busy week with a lot going on. But I started a new cozy crime series and continued the Meg Langslow binge so it’s all going well in the grand scheme of things!

Read:

Owl Be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews

A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews

Enter a Murderer by Ngaio Marsh

Better Late than Never by Jenn McKinlay

A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle

Started:

Death Spins the Wheel by George Bellairs

Still reading:

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Going With the Boys by Judith Mackrell

The Empire by Michael Ball*

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd

Rogues by Patrick Radden Keefe

The Charity Shop Detective Agency by Peter Boland*

A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong by Cecilia Grant

A couple of books bought. As a special treat to myself!

Bonus photo: a few boxes from my parents’ garage arrivedcontaining a lot of old school and uni work. Astonishing how much work I actually did at uni, considering most of my memories are of hanging out in the student radio station!

*next to a book book title indicates that it came from NetGalley. ** indicates it was an advance copy from a source other than NetGalley.

not a book

Not a Book: Madoff – Monster of Wall Street

The latest entry in my catalogue of media about scams is the new Netflix documentary about Bernie Madoff which we binged last weekend.

If you’re not old enough to remember (lucky you!) Bernie Madoff was a Wall Street financier who was sentenced to more than a century in prison after it was discovered that the investment business that he had founded and ran was just a giant Ponzi scheme.

A Ponzi scheme (named after an Italian businessman who ran a fraud on this basis in the 1920s) is a scheme were early investors are paid dividends using money from new investors. The investors obviously don’t know this – and the schemes can keep going as long as new investors keep bringing in money. In the case of the Madoff scheme, he took in billions of dollars from investors and kept the scheme going for close to 20 years (in its final form at any rate) despite nearly being caught by regulators at various points.

This is a four part Netflix documentary that takes you through Madoff’s entire business career, complete with interviews with people who worked at the firm, investors and people who tried to expose what he was doing. It’s a mix of dramatisation, interviews and archive footage and it has one of the clearest explanations that I’ve seen of exactly how he pulled the scam. It should come with a warning though: at one point it shows the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11 2001, which is not something you see often on TV here in the UK and I find really quite upsetting every time I see it.

Anyway, that aside (and I really don’t think they needed to show it), it’s an excellent documentary about one of the biggest financial scandals in history, but also about how it fits into the wider financial system of the time. Very much worth your time.

The pile

Books Incoming: Mid-January edition

You’ve already seen the Christmas arrivals, but here are the other things I have acquired since the last books incoming. And it all looks much more out of control than it really is – basically because someone on one of my book Facebook groups was selling the Kate Carlisle cozy series for very little so I just bought them. The Mary Roach was a long time want that I thought I had preordered in paperback but seemed not to have done and then everything else came from the same trip to the little shopping centre – four from The Works and the Liz Evans from the charity book stall. Job’s a good un!

Have a great Saturday everyone!

The pile

State of the Pile 2023 edition

So the key thing here is that the photo is of the pile in front of the tbr book case. Because that’s where we are at. I’ve expanded beyond the shelves. And that’s before this month’s Books Incoming pile gets added. What can I say. I have expanded beyond the space I had allotted myself. So I have a new motto – although I haven’t told Him Indoors this yet – and I am attempting to embrace it:

That said, I would like to get the pile back down to something that can be contained in the bookshelf. However, I would also like to reduce the NetGalley list and I suspect I can do one or the other, but probably not both. Hey ho. The thing is, Reading is my relaxation and my escape. And the more I try and force myself to read something the less fun it becomes. And that is the fundamental struggle I wrestle with as I continue to acquire ever more books…

Book previews

Anticipated Books 2023

Lets start with authors I love who have new things coming. And the first is Andrew Cartmel – I love the Vinyl Detective books and he has what appears to be a related/in the same world book coming – The Paperback Sleuth: Death in Fine Condition is out in early June and I already have it preordered. A couple of days later there is a new Rivers of London novella (which I also have preordered) – it’s called Winter’s Gifts and that’s about all we know so far. I also have the Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers preordered – I can’t remember where I heard about it at this point, but it’s set in 1946 and is about a young woman taking on Big Tobacco and sounds really intriguing.

There’s a new Max Tudor book out later this year, but before that GM Malliet has the second book in her Augusta Hawke series out – I have it on NetGalley, although I haven’t read the first in the series yet! In fact I have quite a lot of stuff on NetGalley waiting for me. I’d been doing really well at being restrained, and then suddenly a whole bunch of stuff dropped and I got a little request happy. So I have the new Tom Hindle after I enjoyed A Fatal Crossing last year and the new Emily Henry because I loved Book Lovers so much it made my end of year list. Most of the rest are cozy crimes though – for me to try out and see if I like.

And after I had pulled together most of this post, Lucy Parker announced the title of her new book. Which is very, very exciting. You may remember that I binge reread the London Celebrities series last year in the absence of a new Lucy Parker book and this is the much awaited sequel to Battle Royal – which you may remember was a book of the week back in 2021. Yes I’ve got to wait until August for Codename Charming but I will wait happier knowing that it’s coming. The blurb says it’s a fake relationship with a grumpy sunshine couple and I am *very* excited. And it gives me a good excuse to reread Battle Royal too. Bonus.

This has ended up being shorter than I expected – despite the late arriving Lucy Parker – but I’m hoping that’s because the rest of the new books I’m going to love this year haven’t been announced yet! Here’s hoping…

books on offer, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: January Kindle Offers

A new year and a new batch of Kindle offers for your delectation today. And it’s quite a good one so if you weren’t as lucky as me and Santa didn’t bring you what you told people you wanted, you might be able to pick some fresh reading material up in the offers.

One of my all time favourites is back on sale for 99p – Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I’d love to get something new from her in 2023, but as it’s only three years since The Starless Sea came out and it was nearly triple that between The Night Circus and that, I’m trying not to get my hopes up! And Bridget Jones’s Diary is also 99p – it’s been years since I read it (rather than watched the film!) but it was such a huge part of my reading back in the day – even if I haven’t read either of the two most recent sequels! Another book that I read ages ago and loved is on offer too – Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. I didn’t love his follow up A Gentleman in Moscow, but I have the latest one, The Lincoln Highway, on the Kindle TBR and I must try and get to it soon.

This month’s 99p Georgette Heyer is The Quiet Gentleman – which is from the more mysterious end of her romance books and features Actual Peril at times. On the contemporary romance front, if you read and enjoyed the O’Neil Brothers books after I wrote about them before Christmas, Holiday in the Hamptons from Sarah Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series is 99p. I bought myself the new Mary Balogh while writing this – Remember Love is the first in a new series for her and I’ve had a good history with her historical romances – right back to my Essex days. There’s also one of the recent Lisa Kleypas’s – Devil’s Daughter – which is the next generation sequel to her fan-favourite Devil in Winter.

If you’ve been reading Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels after I wrote about them last summer, The Taming of the Queen (about Katherine Parr) is the one on offer at the moment. It’s not a great month on the crime/mystery offer front though. Or at least not if you read the sort of mysteries that I do – all the books on offer are the sort with dark and brooding covers with ominous shadows on them or bare branches, which is an indicator that they’re too psychological or gruesome for my tastes! A Spoonful of Murder is on offer though, which is one of the crop of if you like Richard Osman… that are now appearing and which I’ve got on the physical to-read pile but haven’t got around to yet!

Happy Wednesday!