Book of the Week, crime, detective, Forgotten books

Book of the Week: Green for Danger

Another week, another British Library Crime Classic pick – and I would apologise except that this is really really good and a new to me author so I’m not really sorry.

Green for Danger is set in World War Two, at a military hospital in Kent. At the start of the novel, a postman delivers seven acceptance letters to people who want to work at the hospital. A year later, he returns to the hospital as a patient, and dies on the operating table during what should have been a routine operation. At first it is thought to be an accident, but Inspector Cockrill is sent to double check. When he is stranded at the hospital during an air raid, events start to unfold that prove that Joseph Higgins’ death was no accident.

This is a really clever and atmospheric novel – enough to make you afraid of ever having an operation again, for all that it’s set in the middle of World War Two and technology has obviously changed and moved on since then. I didn’t guess who did it – but I probably could have done if I had tried hard enough because the clues were there if you thought about it hard enough. As I said at the top, this is the first Christianna Brand novel that I’ve read – having spotted this on the BLCC table at Waterstones in Piccadilly a couple of months ago and waited to see if it would rotate into Kindle Unlimited – which it has. And if they are all as good as this, I’ve got a treat coming, even if this is her most famous mystery. And I chose my words wisely there – because she’s also the creator of Nurse Matilda – which was adapted for screen by Emma Thompson and turned into Namny McPhee, which is one of my favourite kids films of the last twenty years. And not just because it has Colin Firth in it!

Anyway, the paperback of Green for Danger is fairly easily found: in the British Library shop, and I’ve seen it in several more bookshops since that first time in Piccadilly. And as I said it’s in KU at the moment, which means it’s off Kobo for a while, but should be back there at some point.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: The Last Hero

A bit of a different direction for this week’s pick. In fact I had plenty of options to chose from, so as there aren’t a lot of Terry Pratchett things I haven’t already read and even less of them in the Discworld, I’ve taken a rare opportunity.

This is a graphic novel about Cohen the Barbarian’s final quest – and the efforts of the wizards of Ankh Morpork to stop him before it leads to the end of the world. Cohen first appeared in The Light Fantastic and is leader of the Silver Hoarde – a band of elderly barbarian heroes. At the start of the Last Hero, Cohen and his friends are fed up of the infirmities that come with their advancing age so decide to climb to the top of the highest mountain on the Discworld and meet the gods that live there. Of course this isn’t all they want to do when they get there and therein lies the problem.

This isn’t long, but it is a lot of fun – partly because story features so many the side-ish regular characters that it’s always a delight to see again. It’s hard to say too much without giving the plot away, but obviously there is Vetinari, and also some of the key figures from the Unseen University, including Rincewind. And of course it is beautifully illustrated. I do love Paul Kidby’s Discworld art – I mean I have a print of his Errol the Dragon artwork on my wall at home – and there are some lovely extra touches here as well as the illustrations that tell the story. Basically it’s a lovely way to spend some time.

I bought my copy in paperback form, because that’s how I like to read stuff with illustrations, but it is available on Kindle and Kobo, although your experience with that may depend on what sort of reader you have to read it on.

Book of the Week, detective, Fantasy, Forgotten books

Book of the Week: Fire in the Thatch

I read two British Library Crime Classics last week, and it was a tough choice between the two – both of which are within the statute of limitations according to my own rules, but I’m going with Fire in the Thatch, because I read it quickest and I do like Lorac’s style – it’s so easy to read.

It’s towards the end of the Second World War, and a service man who has been invalided out of the forces takes a tenancy on a thatched cottage in rural Devon. Vaughan sets about putting the cottage and land in order, seemingly ready to make his life there. His landlord is a local farmer, whose son has been taken prisoner and has invited his daughter in law and baby grandson to come and live with them. But June is bored of the country and its company, and invites her friends to stay nearby, disturbing the peace of the rural idyll. And then Vaughan’s cottage burns down and one of his friends refuses to believe that it’s an accident. Inspector Macdonald is sent down from London to investigate whether there was a motive for murder.

Setting aside that I really liked the victim and wanted him not to be dead (it’s so much easier in a murder mystery when the victim is awful isn’t it?) this is a clever and twisty mystery, where I had figured out the who of the solution but not quite the why. Some of the motivation is a little of its time – sorry can’t explain more than that because of spoilers – but it’s not really any wilder than some of the stuff that goes on in some of the Girls Own stuff I read so I was prepared to go with it.

MacDonald is Lorac’s regular detective and his is calm and methodical and although you don’t always see much of his personality or personal life, he still manages to be engaging to the reader. This is one of a long series, not all of which are available on Kindle, but I’ve already written about several others – including Post After Post Mortem, These Names Make Clues and Murder By Matchlight.

Fire in the Thatch is £2.99 on Kindle at the moment in the BLCC edition, but there is another version for 99p, if you can live with the fact that the author’s name is spelt wrong on the cover. This is also the only version that I can find on Kobo. But the BLCCs do slowly rotate through Kindle Unlimited, so it may comethrough at some point. Several of the other Lorac’s are in KU at the moment though if you want to read them instead.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, reviews

Book of the Week: Carrie Soto is Back

I know, I know. I’ve already mentioned this a few times, and it was on the reading list for a while, so why is this book of the week now I’ve finally finished it? Well firstly, take a look at it: it’s a hardback. And that should explain why it’s taken me a while to read – I don’t take books in my work rucksack these days because I have a laptop in there but I especially don’t take hardbacks around because they get so battered and also hardbacks are just harder to read than paperbacks are – speaking as an integrate eat-and-read person, you cannot read a hardback while you eat your lunch!

Carrie Soto was the best tennis player in the world. When she retired at the end of the 1980s, she had the all time grand slam record. But just six years later, that record is about to be broken- so she decides to make a comeback to take back her crown and prove that she’s the best of all time. But being the best tennis player in the world is much harder when you’re in your late 30s and harder still when it feels like no one wants you to succeed.

Carrie is not a sweet and fluffy tennis player: the media nicknamed her The Battleaxe basically because she did things that in a man would have been celebrated, but women aren’t meant to do. Like saying you’re going to crush your opponents. And admitting that you were targeting an opponent’s injury. And her singular focus means that she’s not always easy to like as she creates a world where it’s her against everyone else – but you’re shown her history and her family so you get why she is the way she is and you’re hoping that someone will come along and break through her protective shell.

Carrie popped up as a secondary character in Malibu Rising and it’s amazing how much you end up rooting for her in this, given what she was up to in that. Taylor Jenkins Reid has said that is the final book in this particular universe and this is another story about a woman who is unapologetic about her ambition and wants to live life in her own way and on her terms. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the themes across the four books – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones and the Six, Malibu Rising and this – and that’s sort of where I’ve come down: they all look at women challenging the status quo in some way, but they’re all very different stories and told in different ways. Like the first two books, there is a lot here where you can pick which real life tennis players have provided some inspiration for various people and the world feels so real by the end of it you can’t quite believe that none of it is real. Excellent, engrossing reading – perfect for a sun lounger, if only you don’t buy the hardback version!

You should be able to get this basically anywhere. Seriously. I think it’s been front and centre in every book shop I have recently featured. And of course it’s in all the ebook formats too.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: When Stars Collide

We’ve made it to November – the year is nearly over. And I’ve got all the usual goodies this week for the end of the month – quick reviews tomorrow, stats later in the week and book of the week today when I’m back in my happy place of romance.

When Stars Collide is the latest in the Chicago Stars series – about players at a (fictional) NFL team in the Windy City. I’ve mentioned these before – as many of them are variants on my favourite enemies to lovers trope and this is no exception. And there’s no actual football in this really as all the action takes off in the off season.

Our football player is Thad, the team’s back up quarterback, who has had been sent out on a publicity tour for a luxury watch brand who sponsor the team. Unfortunately, there is someone else on the tour too: Olivia, an internationally renowned opera singer. He thinks she’s a diva, she thinks he’s an uncultured jock and has a grudge against him. But of course over the course of the tour things change. Because this is a romance!

This has got a bit of a suspense plot line to it – maybe more minor peril than actual romantic suspense but it adds a little extra something to the romance plot, although I would say don’t expect it to follow the Rules of mystery stories if that makes sense and isn’t too much of a spoiler. I really liked that Thad was never rude about opera – in fact he likes Olivia’s singing right from first hearing it – and that both of their careers are taken equally seriously. I’m fed up with romances where one or other of the partnership abandons all their long held career dreams because: love. This is definitely not that. What it is is a well put together romance with an interesting hero and heroine with just enough obstacles in their way for the reader to understand why it takes them a whole book to get together.

When Stars Collide is currently £1.99 on Kindle and Kobo. I suspect you probably won’t be able to get hold of it in a shop without ordering it it as it’s order only on Foyles website and has a two week lead time. But it should be orderable from your local if you want it.

Happy reading!

American imports, Children's books, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Cherry Ames – Boarding School Nurse

Back in the Girls Own niche this week, with one of my purchases from Book Conference and my first foray into the Cherry Ames series.

In case you didn’t guess from the title, Cherry is a nurse and each book in the series sees her taking on a different type of nursing job. The jacket of this one says it’s book six in the series, but it’s clear from reading it that it’s actually book 17, although the author situation is complicated (two different authors, across three periods and 25 years) so maybe we’ll let it off. I picked this up from the bargain box because I like boarding school books and I thought it might be a good way in to Cherry Ames, considering I never got into Sue Barton – who was her British nursing novel equivalent.

So our plot here is that Cherry has taken on a job as the resident nurse at a girls boarding school in Illinois. On her way to the school, she meets one of the other pupils, a new scholarship girl called Lisette who has a book she doesn’t want anyone to see the title of and a strange obsession with flowers and the school’s garden. Soon Cherry is trying to keep peace among the girls and ends up investigating a mystery with the strangely aloof Lisette. I don’t think any of you are going to read this, and the good reads summary gives it away any way so: Lisette is actually the headteacher’s niece, the school is in the former family mansion and Lisette has a diary written by their common relative which suggests that there is a valuable secret hidden somewhere in the school. The secret turns out to be the formula for a perfume, which Cherry, her new beau the local doctor and Lisette try to make to try and save the school which is struggling financially.

That’s a lot of bonkers isn’t it? And that’s before you mix in all the nursing that Cherry does, which includes but is not limited to: a broken arm, a preemie birth, a car crash and a student who makes herself ill to get out of doing exams. All in under 200 pages. It’s fast paced and kinda hilarious – it’s like Nancy Drew crossed with a nursing manual. And as a connoisseur of school stories, I can confirm that Cherry would not have lasted long at the Chalet School because she’s far too close to the students and not maintaining A Proper Distance! I had a hoot reading it, and it was worth every penny I paid for it. Which wasn’t many, because: bargain box, but you know what I mean.

If you want to try out any Cherry Ames, you’ll need to find a specialist book seller or try Abebooks.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, memoirs, new releases, non-fiction

Book of the Week: A Pocketful of Happiness

It’s a memoir for this week’s pick – and it’s really good but it’s also heartbreaking. So bear that in mind when picking a moment to read it – I ended up a snotty mess more than once.

Depending on how old you are, you’ll know Richard E Grant for something different. Withnail and I, Spice World, Girls or if you’re my sister me: Jack and Sarah. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2019 for his role in Can You Ever Forgive Me. But what I didn’t know was that he had one of those rare things: a long and happy marriage in showbiz. And I only found that out when I saw his post on social announcing that Joan had died. A Pocketful of Happiness is a memoir of his wife’s illness, intercut with stories from their life together.

Joan Washington was one of the acting world’s leading dialogue and accent coaches. She and Richard met when she taught him at acting school, soon after his arrival in the UK from Swaziland. Ten years older than him and recently divorced, they fell in love when she coached him to help iron out his accent and they stayed together for 38 years.

Richard’s love for Joan shines through in every page of this – but you can also see how loved she was by other people and how much impact she had on their lives. At the end Richard has included some of the tributes to her from people that she worked with – some of which were gathered when her friends tried to get her an honour from the Queen before she died. It’s a memoir of grief and nursing someone through a terminal illness – but it’s also full of wonderfully showbizzy stories. Richard’s unashamed joy at being nominated for an Oscar was obvious at the time – but in this you see the behind the scenes as he goes to the awards season events and meets every famous actor he’s ever dreamed of working with – but also his all time heroine: Barbra Streisand. The showbiz stories help break up the heavy bits but also tie together with the story of the last few months of Joan’s life. It’s one of the best actor memoirs I have recently read – and as you know, there have been a few on the pile!

My copy came from the airport, but it’s out now in hardback, Kindle, Kobo and audiobook – read by Richard himself.

Happy Reading!

Adventure, Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Killers of a Certain Age

I’m breaking the rules again with this week’s BotW a little bit, because I already flagged Killers of a Certain Age to you the day it came out. But I finally (because: shingles) finished it last week on holiday and now I want to write about it again! As I said in that post, this is Deanna Raybourn’s first contemporary adventure-thriller novel – although it does have some jumping back and forward in time in the way that her standalone novels do too.

To the plot: Billie and her three friends have spent their whole working lives working for the Museum – a network of assassins which was founded to hunt down escaped Nazis after World War Two, but has expanded its business into other people the world would be better without. To mark their retirement, the four women are sent on an all expenses paid cruise – but on day one, Billie spots a colleague from the organisation under cover, and realises that they are now the ones targetted for assassination. Thus begins their quest to stay alive – and to find out why their employer suddenly wants them dead.#

I was definitely expecting to be more nerve wracking than it ended up being – beause it’s actually a a charmingly murderous adventure caper, rather than a scary thriller type thing. I’ve been trying to explain what I mean, but the best that I can come up with is that it’s the cozy crime of adventure thrillers. Does that make sense? Billie, Mary Alice, Helen and Nathalie are a great gang to be following around for 300 pages and it makes such a change to see older women who are not just super competent, but super competant with modern technology and all that that entails. I liked the flashbacks to earlier in their career that explains how they became the women that they are today but I also liked the fact that they complain about their knees and that they’re not as young as they used to be. It felt very real and very relatable. I would say that I would like to be friends with them – except that I don’t think they do friends that aren’t assassins unless they want to kill you.

Killers of a Certain Age is an absolutely bargainous 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment – which is less than the pre-order price that I paid , so you really should go for it if you like cozy crime, or Steph Plum (and similar series) or Raybourn’s historical novels.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, reviews, romance

Book of the Week: The Dead Romantics

Did I finish this on Monday? Yes. Am I still writing about it? Absolutely. After the dumpster fire that was my late September I’m giving myself a pass on a lot of things. Anyway, this is fun.

Florence is a ghostwriter with a problem: after a messy breakup, she doesn’t believe in love any more – but she still has a book she has to finish and her new editor won’t give her an(other) extension. Then she gets a call from her mum: her dad has died and she needs to go home to help prepare for the funeral. But she’s been running from her small home town for a decade and she’s still not ready to deal with her issues with it. And then on her first night home, there is a knock at the door: it’s her editor. Except he’s a ghost and he doesn’t know why he’s there either.

Now regular readers will know that I’m not a paranormal or spooky reader usually. But I really liked Ashley Poston’s Beauty and the Geek series, I’ve heard a lot of hype about this and it was 99p and my defences are low at the moment so I couldn’t help myself. And I’m so glad I did. This is fun and funny and I loved Florence and her family and their funeral home and quirky ways. And Ben is lovely too I will admit that I was worried about whether there could be a happy ending (because he’s a ghost!) but I shouldn’t have been because it just works. And bonus points for the surprise Mulan reference.

We’re coming up to Halloween (I mean it’s October!) and if you want something seasonally appropriate but not scary or overly paranormal, this might well be the book for you. Especially if you like romance novel’s getting name checks. And if you’ve read the Beauty and the Geek series there are some Easter eggs for you too. Just delightful. Yes it made me cry, but if it hadn’t there would have been something wrong right? And it was worth it if you know what I mean.

As I said earlier, this is 99p on Kindle at the moment and it’s the same on Kobo. It came out in June so it’s still relatively new – but I haven’t spotted it in any of the bookshops yet* but Foyles have click and collect copies at the moment so I clearly haven’t been looking hard enough and you might be lucky.

Happy reading!

*and yes I did go back through my Waterstones Piccadilly photos, and no I didn’t take a picture of the P section of the romance shelves to double check

Book of the Week, detective, Forgotten books

Book of the Week: Til Death Do Us Part

There were a few options for this post this week, but in the end I’ve settled on a really good locked room mystery, because those are so satisfying when done right – and this is really done right!

Dick Markham is in love (again). The object of the crime writer’s affection is Lesley Grant, a new arrival in his village. But when she accidentally shoots and injures a fortune teller at the village fete, he is told a story about her that is very different from the one that she tells about herself. Cast into confusion, he is asked to take part in a scheme to expose her as a serial poisoner – only for the person accusing her to be found murdered in exactly the way that he was told Lesley kills her victims: in an impossible locked room set up. Then Gideon Fell arrives on the scene to try and untangle the mystery.

It’s been a while since I read a locked room mystery, and this one is so clever. It is the first Gideon Fell mystery that I have read – although I read another of John Dickson Carr’s novels earlier in the year, and gave another Fell lined up already. But I can see why this one in particular has such an impressive reputation. It’s really pacy and makes you feel completely off balance as a reader because it twists and turns around so much you’re never really sure what you think – or what you’re meant to think. And I can’t really say any more about it than that because it gives too much away – even writing the plot summary was tricky! Anyway, give it a look for yourself.

My copy of Til Death Do Us Part came via my Kindle Unlimited subscription, but it’s a British Library Crime Classic, so when it cycles out of KU it should be available on all the major ebook platforms. And of course you can buy it in paperback direct from the British Library Bookshop online.

Happy Reading!