Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Books set in Devon and Cornwall

Did I go on holiday last week? Yes. Did it inspire this post? Absolutely yes. You are very welcome.

Let’s start with the obvious: Daphne du Maurier. There are a whole host to pick from – but I’m going to go for Jamaica Inn because we drove past the turn for it and gosh blimey is the moorland there desolate and creepy – I don’t think I would be brave enough to read the book while staying anywhere near there!

Next up, previous BotW pick 1949’s The Feast – which I think is due for a rementiok because it’s so good. This isn’t creepy like the Du Maurier, but it is thrilling in a different way. Ignore any introduction your edition might have until after you have read it and meet the guests at the Pendizack Hotel in the run up to a fatal cliff collapse (and that’s not a spoiler because it opens after the collapse and then jumps back in time.

Still in Cornwall but written more recently we have Carola Dunn’s Cornish mysteries. As well as writing the Daisy Dalrymple series, Dunn also wrote four books featuring Eleanor Trewynn, a widow running a charity shop in a fictional coastal village in the 1960s. I’ve read three of the four and really enjoyed them. And this has reminded me to try and get hold of the final one!

Crossing the border into Devon, yesterday I wrote about a murder mystery tied to a fictional Golden Age crime series so I would be remiss not to include an actual Golden Age Crime novel as Agatha Christie set a lot of her novels in the county – as she lived there for many years (and her house is on my list of places to visit at some point). I’ve picked Sleeping Murder, because the theme of today is creepy and I’m still traumatised by the cover of the edition of Sleeping Murder my mum had when I was little which features a woman with a knitting needles stuck in her eye. You’re welcome.

I’ve only read a three of Ian Sansom’s County Guides novels but one of them is Death in Devon (book 2 of five) which sees the prolific author and professional know it all Stanton Morley and his assistant on a trip to the county where they end up solving a murder at a boys school. And finally I started with a creepy atmospheric book with moors and I’m going to finish with a book set on a different moor – Lorna Doone. Full disclosure: I’ve only ever read abridged children’s versions of this – and as it’s 800 pages long I’m not planning on changing that, but if you want a classic may be think about trying this story of star crossed lovers on as moor in the late 19th century.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

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, 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 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!

bookshelfies

Bookshelfie: More Classic Crime

Following on from the mostly Twentieth Century Crime shelf, here we have… even more mostly twentieth century crime! The Inspector Alleyn built up over time as I read them so they did used to share a shelf with Lord Peter. And as mentioned before, the Margery Allinghams did too. You can also see a couple of actual Josephine Teys (not the Nicola Upson ones!), some Edmund Crispin and a few more bits of classic crime. Then it gets a bit random… Glitter and the Gold as mentioned in the Vanderbilt recommendsday, and a few bits and bobs of non fiction – including Peter Crouch, which is Him Indoors’s not mine, but I have to give him some shelf space somewhere right?

mystery, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: More British Library Crime Classics!

One of the consequences of the Great Steam Scald of Sunday was reading some more of British Library Crime Classics while I couldn’t hold a paperback. Of course as soon as I could I abandoned them in favour of Attack and Decay. But I’ve been planning this post for a while and I’ve now finished the other books I wanted to review so here we are!

Post after Post-Morton by E C R Lorac

When a member of a family of writers dies, it is initially thought to be a suicide – until her brother receives a letter from the deceased, which had got delayed in the post. He calls in Superintendent Macdonald to find out the truth behind his sister’s death. I’ve reviewed a couple of Lorax’s books here before (These Names Make Clues, Murder by Matchlight and Murder in the Mill Race as well as Crossed Skis under one of her other pen names ), and this one is right up there. It has plenty of twists and turns as Macdonald tries to prove whether it was murder or suicide.

The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude

Fancy a murder carried out with a bow and arrow? Read this! There’s no shortage of suspects either as several residents of the titular square are keen archers and the murdered man is very unpopular. Solving this is Superintendent Meredith (last seen on this blog in The Lake District Murder) helping out a friend while on holiday. The setting is part of the charm of this – you can really picture the houses clustered around the square and their residents and their resentments and jealousies.

Deep Waters edited by Martin Edwards

This is one of the BLCC’s themed collections – all of the stories here have a nautical theme. There are a bunch of names in this who I have read full length novels from, but by a miracle not any of the other three authors in this post! There is also a huge range of styles of mystery – the authors including Arthur Conan Doyle, Christopher St John Sprigg, Edmund Crispin, Michael Innes and more. They also tend towards the shorter end so if you don’t like one it’s over quickly!

Castle Skull by John Dickson Carr

A blazing body is seen running around in the battlement of Castle Skull near Koblenz – but who did it. The castle is a maze of passages and awash with legends and stories of magic and ghosts. There is a small pool of suspects, and two detectives competing to solve figure it all out. This is the least Verity of all of these – but I include it because although it’s not precisely my thing, it is a good creepy, chillery, thrillery mystery. Atmospheric is probably the word.

All of these were in Kindle Unlimited when I read them, so if you keep a list of books to borrow from that, otherwise the British Library shop is doing Three for Two on the paperback versions.

Enjoy

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Lost Heirs part 1

Inspired by the latest Veronica Speedwell, today’s Recommendsday is books featuring lost heirs. They’re a staple of the mystery and romance genres, which as you know are two of my favourites, so I’m splitting the recommendations up and I’ve still had to restrain myself!

And this week we’re starting with mystery novels – where lost heir plots tend to revolve around whether a mysterious or reappeared person is who they say they are or if they are a fake. It’s a think that actually happened in history – Perkin Warbeck for example – but I’m mystery novels it’s usually an inheritance rather than a crown that the possible pretender is about to come into. It’s not a plot you can really do in the age of DNA, or at least it requires some creativity. So let’s start with a Golden Age Classic – Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar. In it a man called Brat Farrar appears and claims to be Patrick Ashby, the eldest son of the Ashby family who disappeared when he was 13 and thought to have drowned. He knows Patrick’s mannerisms and the story of his early life and it seems like he may pull it off, until secrets start to emerge…

Sweet Danger is my favourite of all the Albert Campion books (I think), and I listen to the audiobook or read it at least once a the year. In it Albert is trying to find the lost heir to a tiny Balkan principality and meets the family who claim they’re the rightful heirs. There’s also a ruthless crime Lord, witchcraft and the start of a romantic strand in the series – which I promise is not the main reason I like it! It’s actually a really good adventure caper as well as a mystery – and there’s no actual murder. You could also probably make a case that Agatha Christie’s Nemesis is a lost heir book in a way as well – as the mystery that Miss Marple is trying to solve is whether a a deceased millionaire’s son murdered a young woman or not – the son in question having disappeared.

Most historical mystery series will do a lost heir – or variation thereon at some point. In the Phryne Fisher series it happens fairly early on in the series – within the first half dozen in fact – and as the blurb is a little bit cryptic about it I shall be too, but you can probably work it out. The Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series has one relatively early on too – Justice Hall – the sixth in the series but really to appreciate it you need to have read the previous book O Jerusalem too, and they work really well back to back. In the Daisy Dalrymple books it happens much later in the series – Heirs of the Body is the 21st mystery (out of 23) and the whole plot revolves around finding which of four options is the heir to the viscountcy in Daisy’s family.

I’m fairly sure there are more of them that I’ve forgotten about – I’ve been mulling it over before I fall asleep at night and I’m fairly sure I haven’t remembered all the options I came up with, but that’s always the way with things that come to you as you drop off to sleep! But as I said, I have another post planned, and even if it’s meant to be all romances, I can always throw a mystery in if I remember something amazing…

Happy Wednesday