historical, mystery, series

Mystery series: Guy Harford

Happy Friday everyone. Here I am with another Friday series post about a historical mystery series, although as there are only three books so far, it’s more of a trilogy…

So T P Fielden’s three Guy Harford books follow an artist who is reluctantly drawn into the orbit of the Royal Family during World War Two. Guy finds himself in London after an Incident in Tangier. Officially he’s employed by the Foreign Office, but in reality he’s mostly doing the bidding of Buckingham Palace. Across the course of the three books, he solves murders and travels at home and abroad as he tries to find the killers.

Now there are several series that do something similar to this – royal-adjacent Second World War mysteries – but what makes these particularly interesting is that T P Fielden is the pen name of Christopher Wilson, who is a noted royal biographer and commentator. Now admittedly most of his books focus on the more modern royals, but the serial about the household make these something a bit different. And he also wrote the 1950s-set Miss Dimont mysteries which I have also really enjoyed.

There are only three of these so far, but we haven’t yet reached the end of the war, so there may still be more. I think I got the first of these as a Kindle First Reads pick, but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment, so if you’re a subscriber you can read them very easily. And if you like them, you have the option of Miss Dimont to follow on with!

Have a great weekend everyone!

book round-ups

Kindle Unlimited Review of the Year

I promise we’re nearly at the end of the retrospective posts, but before I was finally done with 2021, I wanted to have a look at my Kindle Unlimited Membership last year and how it went. When I first tried KU, I wrote a whole post about it just before the end of my initial free trial period, and promised to check in every now and again and let you all know how it is going, and it’s been 18 months since that initial post and I haven’t. So consider this a check in.

Now obviously the first thing to say, is that I’m still a member and I’m still paying for it. I added the KU column to the monthly stats post last year, and if I’ve been tracking it right with my tags on Goodreads, I read 86 books via KU last year – which sounds like a lot. Now a reasonable number of those were short stories or novellas, mostly ones that are part of the various Amazon originals series. But where it’s been invaluable is supplying me with classic murder mysteries.

A selection of covers from BLCC books that were BotW picks

The British Library Crime Classics series rotates its titles in and out of KU as do the some of the publishers of George Bellairs and other of the other more forgotten of the Golden Age authors. This is how I’ve managed to work my way through so many Inspector Littlejohn books, but also sample new authors. And that has lead to BotW posts like The Christmas Card Crime, Murder in the Basement, The Secret of High Eldersham and Smallbone, Deceased as well as to entries in the Mini Review posts.

Then there’s the obvious help it gave me to complete my Read the USA challenge. When it came to panic stations to get it finished from November onwards, I was able to source a lot of the missing states using KU titles. Now that’s not to say that they were all good – in fact some of them I actively disliked – but the point was that I wasn’t paying money for them, aside from my KU subscription and otherwise, I would have been!

Some of the KU books that have made it into Mini Review posts

On the same front, it’s helped me sample a lot of new series – again, without spending any (extra) cash. I quite often get if you like x then try y recommendations that turn out to have books in KU. I run an Amazon wish list that’s just books that are in KU (or have previously been in KU that I’m hoping will come back around again) to help reduce decision fatigue – and also reduce the risk of impulse buying when my defenses are low!

So while I don’t think the membership is helping me reduce the physical to-read pile, I do think that I’m getting the value for the subscription. For me that is mostly coming from the ability to get the really good classic crime novels whenever I want them – so I don’t mind quite as much if some of the other stuff isn’t as good. Now I know the KU pot doesn’t work like that when it’s being distributed to authors, but there’s not a lot I can do about that, so it is what it is! But as it stands, I’m happy with the value I’m getting out of it, so it stays for a while longer at least.

Surviving the 'Rona

Surviving Coronavirus: Kindle Unlimited

So I started a Kindle Unlimited trial at the back end of last year – the trial is about to end, so I thought now was a good time to do a little review, plus given the situation that we’re in at the moment, where people may have more time on their hands to read books but less money to spend on them, then it seemed like a good time to do a little recap. The first thing to note with this – as will any free trial – is that you need to diarise when you need to cancel your trial so that you don’t get charged if you don’t want to. I use Google Calendar for this – with a note on the actual date and a string of reminders ahead of time to make me do something. It’s also good if you have an annual subscription to something at a special rate that you want to haggle with to keep rather than pay the full price (hello New York Times). So my first point is that it’s only free if you remember to cancel it. And if you don’t cancel it, it’s only worth having if you are using it, so you need to work out a way of keeping track of what you’re reading. I’ve done this by creating a tag in Goodreads that I add to books from the service that I finish. It also really helped with writing this post!

Covers of Left-Handed Death, The Case of the Famished Parson, He Dies and Makes No Sign and The Colour of Murder

Next a quick primer for those who don’t know: how does Kindle Unlimited (KU) work? Well it’s a bit like a library – you can borrow up to ten books at a time from the included titles. And it’s super easy to know which titles are include because if you’re in the programme it’ll prioritise the option to read with Kindle Unlimited over the option to buy, and if you’re not in the programme it’ll be asking you if you want to read it for free by starting a trial. Once you’ve finished a book, you return it – and if you’re at the limit it’ll then let you borrow another one. If you belong to a library that does ebook loans via Libby this may sound familiar to you, but the difference is that the loans don’t have an expiry (you’ve got them til you give it back) and when you do give it back, it disapears from your Kindle completely – unlike libby loans which stay there and just tell you the loan has ended if you try to read it after the end of your loan.

Covers of Answer in the Negative, Murder in the Mill-Race and the Case of the Demented Spiv

So, how have I got on? So far (with about a week to go of the trial) Kindle Unlimited I’ve read 23 books and threehave them have been written about in Book of the Week posts (Murder by Matchlight – which also is about KU title Murder in the Mill Race), Answer in the Negative and Case of a Demented Spiv). I’ve also binged on a couple of series from Beth Byers – one of which I’m sure I’ll get around to writing about at some point soon. But it is a bit of a process of trial and error. Some of the stuff is really good, some of it is… less so. I’ve had a few total failures, but I’ve got better at working out from the description whether things are going to work for me or not.

Collage of my current KU titles

My perception before I tried the service was that it was mostly authors that I’d never heard over but there are some big names available – the Harry Potter books are currently in KU.  However I’ve found it’s particularly good for finding and trying forgotten Golden-Age Crime writers – as you may have noticed from the BotW. I’ve also found its handy to check back regularly to see if titles by authors you like have gone in (or out) of the programme. For example there is a different selection of George Bellairs novels available this week than there was last time I checked, there’s a  Molly Thynne novel now that wasn’t there when I checked when I returned the one I read last week. There’s a Rhys Bowen standalone novel currently available and there’s a rotating selection of British Library Crime Classics books available. I have had less sucess so far with romance and non-fiction, but perhaps that’s because I’ve read less of them using KU so far so the algorhythm isn’t suggesting the right things to me.

I still haven’t quite decided if I’m going to pay for it monthly – and if I do i’ll have to keep it under review to make sure I’m using it enough, because goodness knows I already have a lot of books to read, but I’ve enjoyed it while I’ve had it. If you’ve got KU, please put your recommendations in the comments!

Happy Reading!