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!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Locked Room mysteries

Til Death Do Us Part was a BotW back in late September and it got me thinking about other locked room mysteries, so if you liked that, here is a selection of other similar mysteries for you to read after that. And yes, I’m being a bit cheaty because some of these have been Books of the Week – but over a year ago, so I’m claiming statue of limitations.

Seven Dead by J Jefferson Farjeon

An amateur thief on his first job stumbles on seven bodies in a locked room while robbing an isolated house by the sea. This is a clever locked room mystery that then evolves into a mad chase. I really enjoyed it and hadn’t worked out the solution until very late on, but the ending is rather far fetched – but there’s quite a lot of that about in books from this era!

The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson

Yes, this has been a BotW before but it’s nearly three years ago so I’m going to mention it again now, because I did read it in basically one sitting, and the setting in the Palace of Westminster makes it something a bit different even if it is quite traditional in other ways – amateur detective, friendly police officer, handy tame reporter etc. And Wilkinson knew what she was talking about when it came to the Parliamentary estate – she was an MP from the 1920s until her death in 1947 and served in Winston Churchill’s wartime cabinet.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Ok so it’s a locked compartment in train carriage, but it still counts and this is the granddaddy of the genre in many ways. I’ve read it, listened to the audiobook and watched the Albert Finney film so many times now I don’t think I’m even capable of writing about it rationally, but it’s a classic of the genre for a reason, and if you haven’t read it you should.

And that’s your lot for today – Happy Wednesday everyone.

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 round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: October Quick Reviews

As promised yesterday, here is this month’s batch of quick reviews – and stay til the end for the links to the other bits and bobs from this month.

The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Croft

The first of two British Library Crime Classics novels this month, this features a really intriguing series of disappearances. The Hog’s back of the title is a ridge in the North Downs near where Dr James Earl and his wife live. When the doctor disappears from his home, initially it seems like a domestic affair – with a husband giving up on an unhappy marriage, but then other people disappear mysteriously – including one of his house guests. Yesterday I mentioned that the suspense element of When Stars Collide doesn’t follow the rules of mysteries – well this not only follows the rules, at the end when Inspector French is talking you through his solution, it gives you the page numbers for the clues!

Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

The second BLCC is a variation on the locked room mystery – with the victim in a compartment on a moving train when he is shot. At first it seems like Sir Wilfred Saxonby has shot him self, but there’s no motive and soon inconsistencies appear and a murder investigation is underway. I had the solution- or most of the solution worked out before the end of this but it was still a good read, although if you’re only going to read one of these, maybe make it Hogs Back because that’s a totally baffling one for a long time.

The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatio Sancho by Paterson Joseph*

This was the very last book I finished in October and definitely deserves its mention here. This fits into the fictionalised real lives genre – in this case the life of a black writer and composer who lived in Regency London. As you might expect there are significant challenges facing him – and they are presented in this in the guise of a diary designed for his son to read when he is older (and it is suggested that Sancho will not be around to tell him them himself). Sancho was born on a slave ship and was given as a gift to three sisters who brought him up to be their servant before he escaped from them. I won’t say much more than that because it gives too much away – maybe I have already. The author is the actor Paterson Joseph who has spent two decades researching the life of his main character which he turned into a play before he wrote this novel.

And there’s a stack of other books I’ve written about – including older lady killers and other adventure stories, plenty of Halloween options if you still want spooky reading but also a really moving memoir and four series to get into

Happy Humpday!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: September Quick Reviews

As previously mentioned September was a very strange month, with a somewhat truncated reading list, so I don’t have a lot to talk about this month at all. After all I skipped a whole bunch of Books of the Weeks for various reasons. And so there are only two quick reviews for you today – sorry about that.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

When Bee gets her dream job working at NASA, her celebrations are cut short when she discovers that the co-lead on her project is Levi, her grad school arch-nemesis. When she arrives in Houston, her equipment is missing and the other staff are ignoring her, but maybe Levi might be on her side after all? I read this in The Week of Shingles and although I didn’t love it the way that I loved The Love Hypothesis, it was still exactly the book that I needed to read at the time. I’m a little fed up of Teeny Tiny heroines and Great Big Heroes – but that may be because I am 5’10” and no one is ever picking me up and carrying me around! I will never be tired of competency porn though, and Bee (and Levi) are very, very good at their jobs. I was expecting one strand of the plot to be A Bigger Thing in the resolution, but actually the whole of the end wrapped up very quickly – but it was very satisfying.

Bats in the Belfry by E C R Lorac

I’ve recommended a few E C R Lorac books now – and this is another good one. For some reason I don’t have a photo of the British Library Crime Classic edition that I read, so you’ll have to make do with this Crime Club cover that the kindle edition has. Anyway this is the story of the mysterious disappearance of Bruce Attleton. Bruce had a dazzling start to his literary career but has fizzled ever since. He’s been receiving threatening phone calls and then when he’s suddenly called away to Paris he seems to vanish completely – until his suitcase is discovered in an artists studio in Notting Hill. Inspector MacDonald is the man in charge of figuring out what has happened. It’s clever and intricate and worth sticking with – also it appears I’ve read three of these that are next to each other in the series – this comes immediately after These Names Make Clues, which comes after Post After Post Mortem.

That’s it. I said there were only two. I don’t even have a lot of links for the month either, so rather than depress myself further at how badly September went, let’s end it here.

Happy Wednesday everyone.

book round-ups, Recommendsday

August Quick reviews

There’s definitely not as much to write about this month – because I’ve already written about so many books that I read in August! Still I have scared up three books to tell you about today so, yay me.

Quick Curtain by Alan Melville

I talked about a bunch of theatre-set books of various types in August – and here’s another which was part of my haul from the conference book sales. Alan Melville’s murder mystery is another that sees an actor murdered on stage in front of an audience. Where it differs from the Ngaio Marsh novels with a similar premise is the satirical slant it takes on the detecting. On that front it’s closer to Nancy Spain’s Cinderella Goes to the Morgue, although this does care about solving the crime! A very nice way to spend an afternoon.

Femina by Janina Ramirez*

This is a fascinating look at the Middle Ages via the lives of writings and artifacts left behind by some of the women who lived through the period. Some of the names were people I had heard of, but I knew very little about any of them except for Margery Kempe. This is easy to read, but incredibly well researched and has plenty of pictures of the artifacts being talked about. It also has a huge bibliography at the back if you want to go and read more about any of the women. Well worth a look, even if you don’t usually do books on the Middle Ages. I mentioned this on publication day and it’s taken me a while to finish – but that’s because my brain has been fried and I only had the concentration for small bursts. Luckily it’s broken down into nice bite-sized sections!

Knit to Kill by Anne Canadeo

This is more of a lesson in doing more research than a review, because I picked this up on Kindle Unlimited thinking it was a first in series – because it says it is in the title but when I started reading it it really confused me because it didn’t read like introducing a new set of characters. So off to Goodreads I went where I discovered it was actually the first since a change of publishers – and actually the ninth book about this set of characters. Then things made more sense. Remind me to research the KU stuff the same way I do the rest of the books in future!

And in case you’ve forgotten, here’s all the other books I talked about in August: Piglettes, A Time to Dance, Thank you for Listening, Husband Material, A Twist of the Knife, the Sadler’s Wells Series, Swallows and Amazons series, London Celebrities series, Amory Ames series, books set in theatres, late summer romances and Actor Memoirs.

Happy Wednesday!

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!

Book of the Week, detective, Forgotten books

Book of the Week: The Incredible Crime

As mentioned yesterday, not a lot of options this week for Book of the Week, but luckily I read a really interesting British Library Crime Classics book so all’s serene, even if slightly later in the day than recently!

Prudence Pinsent is the unmarried daughter of the Master of a (fictional) Cambridge college. On her way to visit her cousin in Suffolk, she meets an old friend who is investigating a drug smuggling gang and has connected it with both Prudence’s cousin’s estate and the colleges of Cambridge itself. Prudence is sure her cousin can’t be involved, so she decides she must investigate and find out who is.

I’ve written (at length!) about my love of Gaudy Night which is also set in a fictional college (at Oxford though, not Cambridge) and so the premise of this appealed to me a lot. And it’s funny and entertaining – and the mystery is good as well. Suffolk makes such an atmospheric setting for mysteries – like Sweet Danger by Margery Allingham – with eerie flats, fogs, water ways etc and then you have college life and academic personalities.

Lois Austen-Leigh is a relative of Jane Austen (several greats niece) and it is very tempting to say that the witty style must be a family trait. I haven’t read anything of hers before – as well as telling me about her famous relative, the forward said they have been very very rare until the British Library Crime Classics got hold of this, so I hope they publish some of the others too.

My copy came as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription, which means it’s only available as an ebook on Kindle at the moment, but you can buy the paperback direct from the British Library shop should you so wish.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, Forgotten books, mystery

Book of the Week: Death of a Bookseller

I know it’s only a few weeks since I did a while recommendsday about British Library Crime Classics, and there was another one in the May Quick Reviews, but I’m back again with another one…

When Sergeant Wigan stops to help a drunken man at the end of a late shift, he makes a new friend and discovers the world of book collecting. Soon he is beginning his own collection, following the advice of Michael Fisk, who makes his living scouring book shops and sales for valuable books. When Fisk is found dead, Wigan is seconded to CID to help investigate and use his newly acquired knowledge of the second hand and antiquarian book trade to track down a killer.

This a great pick for the 100th BLCC book. And not just because it’s about a bookseller and the book trade. The mystery is really good but it also has a side of the murder mystery you don’t usually see – the convicted man and what happens to him. In my beloved Strong Poison you see Harriet Vane in prison on remand, but she is innocent and eventually freed*. But what happens to the man who is convicted? It adds a darker edge and a sense of urgency to the book, and an aspect that is easy to forget now that capital punishment is no longer a thing in the UK.

My copy came via my Kindle Unlimited subscription but you should be able to get hold of this through all the usual sources for British Library Crime Classics – including the British Library Bookshop.

Happy Reading!

* Technically, yes this is a spoiler, but a) Strong Poison was published in 1930 b) Peter is trying to clear Harriet from the start of the book, to the point where it’s in the blurb and c) I refuse to believe that anyone who has been hanging around here for any length of time has missed my whole Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane situation.

Recommendsday

May Quick Reviews

It’s the first day of June – but it’s also a Wednesday so it’s time for some more quick reviews. This is a somewhat shorter post than usual this month (who knew that was even possible) because I’ve already talked about so many of the books that I read that weren’t rereads. But I have still managed to find some books to talk about! However I would say this is very much a post of books where I have a but in my thoughts about them!

Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley

So this was one I started when I was working on the British Library Crime Classic post and didn’t get finished in time because I got distracted by rereading Vicky Bliss! Anyway, this is another Roger Sheringham mystery (the next in the series after Murder in the Basement in fact) and is quite hard to write about without giving more spoilers than I should. Roger is attending a fancy dress house party where the theme is murderers when the horrible wife of one of the other guests is found murdered. Berkeley enjoyed playing with the genre and genre conventions – and if in Body in the Basement you spent a lot of the book trying to find out who the body is, in this he is playing with another aspect of the genre. I didn’t find it entirely satisfying and it’s not quite playing fair with the rules of the time either and that’s about all I can say – but if you read it you’ll probably be able to work out what my issues are. Aside from the spoilers issues, I’m not sure that Berkeley really liked women, but there are quite a few like that from his era so that’s not entirely unexpected.

Set on You by Amy Lea*

I read this in an incredibly busy week of new books so this got skipped at the time because I didn’t love it the way that I loved Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting or Book Lovers. Crystal is a successful curvy fitness influencer, Scott is her gym nemesis. But when her grandmother announces she’s getting remarried, it turns out that Scott is about to be part of the family. In the run up to the wedding the two grow closer, until the internet threatens to tear them apart. This is a romantic comedy where I liked the characters and I liked some aspects of the way their romance unfolded – but the start of the novel where they’re irritating each other didn’t work for me – and some of the resolution of it didn’t work for me either. But we know I have issues with pranks in novels (see previous reviews for some of the early Christina Laurens) but in between there was flirty, romantic fun with a main character who has more going on that just the romance, and a hero who is just about adorable once you find out what he is really like. Also I really liked the extended families. I will definitely watch out for more from Amy Lea.

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J Taylor*

I also just wanted to give a mention to Hotel Magnifique – which was not for me but I’m sure will suit other people. Jani and her sister get jobs at the magical Hotel Magnifique because Jani thinks it’s the way to a better future for them and an adventure as it moves from place to place each day. But behind the doors of the hotel, things are not what they seem and soon Jani is fighting to free herself, her sister and the other staff from the Magic. I was hoping for something similar to the Night Circus but YA and although it starts like that, it’s not how it carries on. I found the heroine quite hard to like, the magic is hard to understand and it all gets a bit brutal. The closest I can get for a description is the closest I can get is Dystopian YA Magic. And that’s still not quite right. I see some people comparing it to Caravel but it’s hard to tell without having read that. This has reminded me thatI really do need to try and read Caravel…

And that’s your lot. It’s a bank holiday here tomorrow, but you’ll get your stats as usual.