Book of the Week, detective, Forgotten books

Book of the Week: The Lake Disrict Murder

It’s nearly the end of March and I’m back to some classic crime and another British Library Crime Classic for this week’s pick.

This is the first of John Bude’s Inspector Meredith series and sees the detective investigation what appears to be the suicide of one of the co-owners of a petrol station in a deserted corner of the Lake District. The dead man was due to get married and as Meredith investigates he discovers a plan to emigrate after the marriage. And when he digs a bit deeper he discovered suspicious going’s on at the garage. What follows is a complicated plot involving all sorts of aspects of rural life that I can’t really go into with spoiling things!

This isn’t the first book in this series I’ve read and the Sussex Downs Murder was a book of the week as well when I read that five years ago. I’ve had this on my radar and been wanting to read this and waiting for this to come into my hands for a while. It’s really cleverly done, a little bit bonkers in its own way and also a lovely window onto 1930s life, which I really enjoyed. Definitely worth a couple of hours of your life if you can get hold of it. I’ve got the next book, The Cheltenham Square Murder, lined up to read already.

My copy came from the Willen Hospice bookshop, but it’s available on Kindle, Kobo and from the British Library themselves. It was in Kindle Unlimited when I started writing this post, but it’s dropped back out now and the cover has even changed. A couple of the other books in the series are in KU at the moment though, so if you want to try some John Bude, there is that option for you if you’re a subscriber.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: The Family You Make

As I mentioned in Friday’s bingeable post, I read the new Jill Shalvis last week and although I finished it at the start of the week, somehow I knew it would be the pick, so I wrote this. And thank goodness I did because: covid.

When Levi Cutler gets stuck in a ski gondola in a snowstorm, his only companion is a mysterious stranger called Jane. When he calls his parents to say goodbye, he can’t bring himself to do it and instead lets his mum think he is happily settled and Jane is is girlfriend. But they survive. And now Levi’s family want to meet this girlfriend that he’s so happy with. Thus starts a fake relationship and off we go on one of my favourite tropes! Jane had a traumatic childhood and keeps people at a distance – that’s why she’s a travelling nurse who moves from trouble spot to trouble spot, stopping only to work the ski season near Lake Tahoe. The only person she has let get close to her (even if she won’t admit it) is Charlotte, her landlady and another fiercely independent woman who likes to keep other people at a distance. Charlotte definitely doesn’t need any help from anyone – especially not her annoying neighbour and co-worker Matteo…

I absolutely raced through this – it’s one of my favourite of Shalvis’ for a while. I haven’t always loved her Wildstone series, but this felt much more my sort of thing. I liked the primary and secondary romances and thought they both got about the right amount of time – too much plot in not enough time has been a recent problem for me with Shalvis – and and I liked the parallels between Jane and Charlotte’s lives and attitudes to relationships. And their different heroes are pretty good too. Plus Levi’s family is entertaining side show – I mean who doesn’t love meddling relatives – and it all ends on a nice heartwarming note. Plus it’s a ski resort romance that *isn’t* set at Christmas – which is a really rare find! There’s a sequel out at the end of June and I’mooming forward to reading it already.

My copy of The Family You Make came from the library, but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo and paperback, although as ever I’m not sure how easy the paperback will be to find – Foyles have it available to order (but not click and collect) but it looks like a supermarket sort of book, but I haven’t been into a big Tesco for a couple of years right now, so I guess we won’t know until it turns up in The Works in six months time (or not)!

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, historical

Book of the Week: Better Luck Next Time

And for the third week in a row I’ve picked something other than romance or mystery for BotW. Today we’re in the historical fiction portion of my reading life for one of my library books that was coming due and which I really did enjoyed as I read it over the weekend.

It’s 1938 and Ward is a cowboy working at a dude ranch just outside Reno that caters to women who are visiting town to get a quickie divorce. To qualify for a divorce, they need to satisfy the residency requirements and that’s where the Flying Leap fits in – we’re told it was even designed by a Hollywood set designer. Ward’s family lost their money in the Great Depression – which also forced him to drop out of university and he’s got the job at the Flying Leap because of his handsome good looks. No one at the ranch knows about his somewhat well heeled previous life and he likes to keep it that way, enjoying the assumptions that the guests make about him – they think he’s pretty but dumb and using his looks to try and get ahead. He, in return, thinks he has the women who visit the ranch all figured out, but one particular group are different. Among them is Nina, the heiress and aviatrix, back for her third divorce and Emily who says the bravest thing she has ever done is to drive to the ranch leaving her cheating husband behind. Over the course of their stay friendships and relationships are made and broken.

Don’t worry, it’s not miserable, for all that I’ve put broken in that last sentence. It’s a cleverly put together glimpse at the six weeks at the ranch that changed Ward’s life. It’s more bittersweet than anything else, if we’re using book blurb code phrases, and it is not a romance – if you’re a romance reader, I’ve described this as historical fiction for a reason! But if you want some 1930s hi jinx with an interesting premise that I hadn’t come across before, then this would make a great choice for your sun lounger or sofa.

As I said at the top, my copy of Better Luck Next Time came from the library but it turns out that I’ve managed to be accidentally timely as it comes ot in paperback this Thursday! It’s hard to work out if it’ll be available in stores, but I suggest it’s going to be an order in job as that’s what her other novels are on Foyles’ website. But of course it’s available on Kindle and Kobo as well as in audiobook from the usual sources.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Forgotten books

Book of the Week: Silver Street

I said yesterday that I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today – and here’s the answer – I finished this on Monday evening, so it’s a bit of a cheat but hey you’re used to that now!

Ann Stafford’s Silver Street follows a group of people from Armistice Day in 1918 through til 1932. Although initially unconnected, by the end their lives have all intertwined, mostly because of Alice Gedge a former ladies maid who ended the war as a supervisor of a group of clerks at a Ministry but who, when the men return becomes a “treasure” – aka a rather superior sort of daily maid to the residents of a building in Silver Street. Over the years the tenants include an elderly woman who likes to hold court for her birthday, a spinster who works as a social worker, two independent young women, a newly married couple and a single young man. And on top of that there’s Alice’s husband and her two children.

This is quite an every day story of normal people and normal lives – where there is no huge drama, I mean except your future happiness, but not death or peril if that makes sense. It’s not comic, but it’s not tragic – it’s closer to Barbara Pym than Miss Buncle but it’s another example of a novel by a women, first published in 1935 and now a bit forgotten and as such was right in my wheelhouse. And yes I know that Barbara Pam isn’t forgotten, but you know what I mean. I read it in two sittings – and it would have been finished for last week’s list if we hadn’t gone out for the day on Sunday and I didn’t have space in my bag to take it with me – even if I hadn’t borrowed it from someone and not wanted to mess it up!

My copy is on loan from a friend and this is going to be one of the harder books to get hold of I’m afraid – as it’s published by a small house and there is no ebook version. So if you want to read it, please buy it from Greyladies here. And mum, if you’re still reading and haven’t already messaged me to ask, yes, you can borrow it.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Playing for Love

After a few weeks of murder mystery picks of various types, I’m back with another romance book for this week’s BotW – and it’s even a new release! Check me getting new books read in a timely manner. I know. Astounding

Ever since her mum died, Samadhi has watched YouTube streams of video gamers to help her destress. Sam plays games herself as well, so when she’s selected in a contest to partner her all-time favourite streamer, Blaze, in a competition to promote a new game, it’s her lucky day. Except that in real life she’s trying to get her fashion business off the ground and she needs all her time to do that. Blaze is a swashbucking pirate type – with a big following and as well as wanting to make sure she doesn’t embarrass herself in front of the internet, she’s also got a bit of a crush. Ok, make that a lot of a crush. But what she doesn’t know is that in real life, Blaze is actually Luke – the shy guy from her office who has been helping her with her crowdfunding campaign. And of course Luke doesn’t know that Sam is Bravura. And every day as Luke is working up the courage to ask Sam out, Sam is falling a little bit harder for Blaze. How will the competition end – and will Sam realise who Luke is before it’s too late?

So I love a double identity/mistaken identity romance which is something I could list a whole bunch of historical romances with that trope but I’m going to save that til tomorrow (!) and obviously there are also films like You’ve Got Mail, Pillow Talk and Some Like it Hot. And this is a delight. I really appreciated that Luke never took advantage of the fact that he realised who Sam was first (which is my problem with You’ve Got Mail and Pillow Talk if I think too hard about it) and there is also plenty of competency porn and calling out of people being icky to women in the gaming world and in the bottom half of the internet. But the slow burn romance is the main attraction here – and it’s a delight to watch especially as I wasn’t quite sure how it was all going to work out.

This is the first book that I’ve read by Jeevani Charika – but she also writes as Rhoda Baxter and I’ve heard her interviewed before on the Smart Bitches podcast and have been meaning to try and read some of her books. And I enjoyed this so much that I’ll definitely be doing that. If they’re all as much fun as this, I’ve got some really good reading in front of me. I complain a lot about wanting more romantic comedies and how hard it is to find them – so I really enjoyed finding one and I’m hoping that the act of buying some of the back catalogue will help the algorithm put some more my way!

My copy of Playing for Love came from NetGalley, but it’s out now and is a bargain 99p on Kindle and £1.99 on Kobo as I write this. And it’s also coming out in paperback, but not until April – and don’t worry Foyles will let you preorder it.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases

Book of the Week: The Prize Racket

Oh I’m breaking rules again today. You know I am and I know I am but I don’t care because today I shall write about the new Stockwell Park Orchestra book because it made me laugh so much last week and I don’t care that it’s the fourth in the series…

We rejoin the lovable scamps from everyone’s favourite community orchestra soon after the viral excitement of their European tour. And more excitement is heading their way: firstly a poet wants to be artist in residence with them, then they’re approached to take part in a TV talent competition for classical music groups. And so we’re off on another adventure. Your favourite side characters are here – think terrible singers and handsome horn players – along with some newcomers. The running jokes are glorious. I love the group dynamic that they have and the sarcastic and slightly sly humour. And as a bonus you get the orchestra sight reading their way through Ruslan and Ludmilla overture (aka the theme from Cabin Pressure) and imagine their horror/come out in a cold sweat if you’ve ever had to play a piece with lots of runs and scales at speed on an instrument. I for one still have nightmares about the wind band arrangements of the Theme from Big Country (the clarinets get all the twiddly bits that the violins get at the start and then none of the delightful tune) and the Candide Overture (clarients get twiddly bits galore and endless shifts in rhythm and tempo to boot) and neither of those are anything like as bad as Ruslan and Ludmilla – although equally delightful when it’s going well!

As you can tell, I am a wind band veteran (photographic evidence here), so it makes it hard for me to predict how it will land for people who didn’t play instruments – and who never had to mime their way through difficult sections so they didn’t get picked on by the conductor but Isabel Rogers has created such an engaging group of characters that I think it will work for non musicians. And if you have a healthy scepticism about talent competitions then so much the better. I ate it up with a spoon and then went off to relisten to some Cabin Pressure because I had the theme stuck in my head (the Ottery St Mary episode if you’re interested) which only increased the joy. I can’t wait for the next one.

I had mine pre-ordered on Kindle and it’s also on Kobo, but it turns out you actually got it quicker if you ordered it directly from Farrago – who have it as both ebook and paperback.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Forgotten books, LGTBQIA+, mystery

Book of the Week: Death Goes on Skis

Yes I finished this on Monday. So yes it’s cheating. But it is a book set in a ski resort and I spent the part of my weekend that I didn’t spend in London watching the Winter Olympics so I am going with it!

Death Goes on Skis is one of a series featuring Miriam Birdseye, written in the years following the Second World War. Miriam is a revue artist and has a champagne lifestyle and a coterie of hangers on. This is the first in the series that I have come across (and isn’t it gorgeous!) but Good reads tells me it is the fourth in the series. It sees Miriam on holiday in a ski resort popular with Brits. Her fellow travelers include a ballerina and her night club owner husband, a playboy, his wife and their children and their governess and a wealthy couple whose family make their money from perfume. Most of these people are awful, but when they start dying in mysterious circumstances, Miriam and her friends investigate. But, crucially, they’re investigating because they are bored and not because they have a burning passion for justice or to see the criminal behind bars.

And that is the difference to other Murder mysteries of the era that I have written about – this is a farce and a (black) comedy and doesn’t quite follow the genres connections that you might expect. Think Evelyn Waugh does murder mysteries. And it works very well. You’re not going to like any of the suspects, and the children are truly awful, but it’s really quite entertaining. It also comes neatly broken up into nice small chunks, which makes it perfect for bedtime reading – which is mostly what I’ve been doing with it, although I did read some of it on the sofa on Monday night because I wanted to finish it!

If the name Nancy Spain sounds familiar, well that may be because she’s one of the women featured in Her Brilliant Career, but in brief she was a great niece of Mrs Beaton (of household management game) she went to Roedean and then became a journalist after being asked to write about women’s sport. She served in the WRNS in the war and afterwards started writing detective fiction. This got her a newspaper column and also turned her into a personality who appeared regularly on TV and radio. Her partner was editor of She Magazine, Joan Werner Laurie and they lived openly together in what sounds like a somewhat complicated household with the rally driver Sheila Van Damme. They were friends with Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich and she was the inspiration for a song. Spain and Laurie died in a plane crash at Aintree in 1964 – they had been travelling there to cover the grand national.

I bought my copy of Death Goes on Skis as a birthday present for myself, and I’ve already ordered another one of them, as Virago have helpfully reissued several of them now, all with delightful covers in this style. They’re also on Kindle and Kobo and in a matching audiobook to this from all the usual vendors.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, cozy crime, detective

Book of the Week: Beware False Profits

Pinch, punch, first day of the month, white rabbits etc. Welcome to February everyone. Despite the fact that January is my birthday month, it does always feel like a bit of a slog to get to the end of the month, but we’ve made it through and into Freburary, which always feels like it rattles by at speed. All the usual goodies coming up on the blog this week – monthly stats, mini reviews etc. But first: a book of the week review.

In a week that saw most of my “reading” actually be revisiting audiobooks that I have listened to before, mostly from series that I have already written about so it’s a good thing that this was really good – even if it’s a sort of rule breaker because it’s not a first in series book! This is the third in the Ministry is Murder series, which features a Minister’s wife in small town Ohio. There are five books in the series – the newest of which is from 2010. In Beware False Profits, Aggie and her husband’s trip to New York is disrupted when a member of their congregation goes missing on a work trip there. And when they get back to Emerald Springs, the mayor’s wife is murdered at an event for the local foodbank – which is run by the missing man.

What I really like about Aggie is that she has an excuse for snooping – as a minister’s wife she has an excuse for being involved in the locals lives – especially as you need to keep your congregation happy to keep your job. And that’s another reason I like the series – it’s an insight into a way of life. I nearly wrote a profession, but that felt wrong – even though Aggie isn’t the one with a vocation, it’s her husband. I should add that it’s definitely not a Christian cozy – because I read one of those at the end of last year and this doesn’t have the detail of the sermons or biblical verses to reflect of that that did. Anyway there are a lot of cozy crimes featuring bakers and small businesses and the like and although Aggie also has a side line in house flipping, the ministry side of things gives it a nice twist. And the actual mysteries that need to be solved are good too. All in all a very nice way to spend an afternoon or two on the sofa.

Now because these are an older cozy (and boy does it feel weird to be saying that about something that was published this century!) they’re not available in Kindle – so in the UK you’re likely to be looking at picking them up from Amazon or second hand. I found the first in this series in a second hand bookshop – I think maybe one at a National Trust house, but subsequently I’ve bought from Amazon when the prices have been acceptable – I see that the first two at the moment are insanely expensive there though. So maybe one to add to your list to watch out for the next time you’re mooching around a charity shop!

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, historical, historical, mystery

Book of the Week: Ashes of London

This week’s fiction book is a historical mystery that has been sitting on my Kindle waiting for me to read it for literally years. And as is so often the case, something I’ve been meaning to read for years turns out to be very good. So I’m owning up and writing about it!

So as The Ashes of London opens, the city is on fire. It’s 1666 and as the cover illustration suggests, the heart of the capital has gone up in flames. Among those watching St Paul’s cathedral going up in flames is James Marwood, who has been forced into a position as a government informer because of the actions of his printer father. In the aftermath of the fire he is drawn in to the investigation into a corpse found with his thumbs tied in a tomb that should have been empty. The investigation takes him back into circles that he would rather not be in but also brings him into contact with Cat Lovett. Cat is searching for her father but is also trying to escape from the people who are looking after her. But the secrets she is hiding are tied up with the answers that James needs.

Firstly an important warning: if you don’t read books with sexual violence in them, then avoid this. Spoiler alert, but in the interest of not letting people in for stuff they don’t want: there is an on page rape in this, which is over quickly but which forms part of Cat’s motivation going forward. I get why Andrew Taylor did it, but I wish he’d come up with another way of achieving the same thing. I’m going to read the second book in the series and I’ll update you if you can jump straight to that without missing too much background.

Now I’ve got that out of the way, I really liked the Restoration setting of this book and the slow drip, drip reveal of all the characters’ backstories. I don’t even think you need to know that much about the period to get the most out of it – as long as you know that Charles I was executed (in 1643) and that for nearly 20 years England was a republican commonwealth ruled by a Lord Protector. In 1660 the monarchy was restored and Charles II (son of the executed Charles) becomes king. And now I’ve told you do you do, and toh can get stuck into the intrigue and suspicion of the Restoration court, and in fact country. I liked the mystery, and the suspense and although ther is some violence and gore, it isn’t too graphic. If you’ve been a fan of the Tudor-set mysteries, and fancy a new scene then try this and if you do like it there are now four more books in the series. As I said at the top, I will read book two and take it from there.

As mentioned this has been on my kindle for ages and was actually part of the NetGalley backlog. But it’s on Kindle and Kobo for £2.99 as I write this and it should also be fairly easy to get hold of in paperback – Foyles have click and collect copies which is always a good sign!

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, new releases

Book of the Week: The Christie Affair

In a frankly shocking move to anyone who knows me, this week’s pick is a book that I mentioned in my upcoming books post, and that I’ve managed to read ahead of it’s release. I am however breaking one of my rules – because I’m writing about it nine days ahead of its publication date, and I usually try and wait for books to be published before I recommend them. But as the other books that I really liked last week were Christmas-themed books, and here we are in nearly mid-January. But I have a plan for dealing with that. I promise. Anyway, to the review.

Cover of The Christie Affair

If you’ve read anything about Agatha Christie’s life, you’ll probably have come across the mysterious incident in 1926 when she disappeared for 11 days after her husband asked her for a divorce because he had fallen in love with another woman. It sparked a massive hunt for her across the UK until she was found staying at a hotel in Harrogate. The newspapers reported that she was suffering from memory loss and Christie herself doesn’t even mention the incident in her autobiography. Nina De Gramont’s debut novel reimagines what happened, told from the perspective of the fictional Nan O’Dea. Nan is the woman who Christie’s husband is leaving her for – the Goodreads blurb describes her as “a fictional character but based on someone real, which is to say there was a woman who Archie Christie was leaving Agatha for – but that is about as far as the resemblance goes. The novel jumps backwards and forwards through time – showing the reader Nan’s tough upbringing in London and her escape to Ireland during the Great War alongside the hunt for Agatha and the events at the hotel that she’s staying at in Harrogate. Why has Nan infiltrated the Christie’s world and what is it she wants?

I really enjoyed reading this – but it’s so hard to explain why without revealing too much. In fact, I’ve tried three times just to write that plot summary without giving too much away. I think it’s fair to say that this departs a long way away from the actual facts of the Christie divorce fairly quickly. But the story sucks you in so completely that you end up googling to check which bits are real and which aren’t. It’s clever and enthralling and twistier than I expected it to be. There’s also a murder mystery plot in there that’s neatly reminiscent of something Christie herself wrote. I’ve written whole posts about fictionalised real lives, and if you like that sort of thing you should try this – although bear in mind those notes above about it not being what actually happened. It’s a thriller, it’s a mystery and it’s a romance. It’s also very easy to read and evocative. I read it on the sofa snuggled under a blanket wishing I was in front of a roaring fire, but I think it would also make a great read for the commute or a sun lounger. And it wouldn’t make a bad book club pick either. Well worth a look.

My copy of The Christie Affair came from NetGalley, but you can pre-order a signed copy from Waterstones, or the usual Kindle or Kobo editions. It is a hardback release, so the Kindle prices do match that, but if you’ve still got some Christmas book money to spend…

Happy Reading!