cozy crime, crime, mystery, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Antipodean mysteries

So as you know from the weekly lists, I’m on a big old re-read of Phryne Fisher mysteries at the moment, so I’ve taken my inspiration for this week’s Recommendsday from that!

A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentill

Lets start with something set just after Phryne – the first book in the Rowland Sinclair series is set in the 1930s. Like Phryne, Rowland is spending money and causing scandal – he’s the son of a well-to-do Sydney family – but rather than embracing a life of gentlemanly pursuits, he’s an artist. I’ve only read one of this series, I have the second book on the kindle and a couple more on the physical to read pile (see Books Incoming) but the first one sees Rowland investigating the death of his uncle – the only other Bohemian-y member of the family. This has politics and tensions and you see some of the same factors you see on the rise in Europe at the same time at play in Australia. It’s not witty like Phryne, and it’s further towards the thriller end of the spectrum than the cozy, but I liked it (as you can tell from the fact I have more waiting to be read!

Murder in the Telephone Exchange by June Wright

This was a really interesting murder mystery, written in the late 1940s and set in an Australian telephone exchange: When Maggie finds one of her unpopular colleagues with her head smashed in, she finds herself drawn into the mystery – not just because she was the person who found the body, but because she’s not sure that the police are on the right track. But soon the danger is increasing and someone else turns up dead. I read this a couple of years ago and loved the setting, liked Maggie, I though the mystery was clever and tense and packed with suspense. I’ve been looking for something else set in a telephone exchange ever since. And then…

A Matter of Love and Death by Carmen Radtke

I read this the other week: and it’s a murder mystery with a telephone exchange! Frances overhears a threatening message while she’s on shift at the exchange and thinks it might be linked to a robbery where a man died that she sees in the paper a few days later. Along with her family’s new lodger Phil and nightclub owner Jack, they decide to investigate. This is the first in a series that has gone through several covers and a change in author name and is trying to do quite a lot, but it was in Kindle Unlimited and wasn’t a total bust!

I’m fairly sure I read a contemporary murder mystery set in the outback not that long ago, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called or who wrote it, so I can’t look up what I thought of it on Goodreads! And I called this Antipodean mysteries – so I ought to mention a New Zealand-set book or two – so here’s a reminder that Ngaio Marsh set some of the Inspector Alleyn series in her home country. Vintage Murder sees Roderick investigating a murder at a cast party after the first night of a play. He is somewhat taken with the leading lady – which always makes me smile because this is the trip to that he’s on ship home from when he meets Agatha Troy in the next book in the series (Artists in Crime). Marsh sends Alleyn back to New Zealand during the Second World War and that’s where we get Colour Scheme – victim lured into boiling mud (yuck), complete with espionage and counter espionage – and Dyed in the Wool – a country house-style murder mystery but set on a farm and where the victim turns up packed in a bale of wool (also yuck). And even later in the series there is Photo Finish, with an opera diva who is taken to an island by her boyfriend to escape the paparazzi, where she plans a performance of a piece written specially for her by her younger lover and who is then murdered. And an honourable mention should go to A Surfeit of Lampreys, which starts off in New Zealand before the action moves to London and the murder happens, and Opening Night (also known as Night at the Vulcan) where the leading lady is newly arrived from New Zealand.

You’re welcome!

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!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Mysteries set on Cruise Ships

Well the clue is in the name this week – I am all about mysteries set on cruise ships. I nearly said books on boats and then ships, but I realised I could be more specific than that… and then even further – they’re all murder mysteries too!

Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare*

It’s 1936 and Lena is on the way to New York. She’s leaving her troubles behind and moving on from her job singing in a nightclub in Soho to a role on Broadway. But first she has to negotiate a luxury cruise ship journey and when a wealthy and aristocratic family take her under their wing things start to get complicated. Then someone dies. This has glamour, intrigue, a whole bunch of secrets and a slowly unravelling mystery. If you look at the list you’ll see it’s took me a while to read – but don’t let that distract you – really I started it, got distracted by other books and then came back to it and read most of it in a week. It would be a great book to read on a sunlounger this summer. But maybe not on a cruise ship!

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

It’s been a couple of years so it’s safe to mention A Dangerous Crossing again. It’s got a new cover since I read it, but this was a BotW back in 2017. A slight 1930s theme to the start of this post as this is the story of a journey from the UK to Australia in the summer of 1939. Lily, our heroine is going down under on an assisted passage scheme to work as a domestic servant (despite having previously said she wouldn’t return to service) and the journey throws her into contact with all sorts of people she wouldn’t normally have come across. The normal rules of society are suspended and there is a gathering sense of unease as the news from home gets worse at every port they stop at. It’s tense and twisty and I really enjoyed it once I got a chance to have a run at reading it. I’ve got another Rachel Rhys on the Kindle waiting to be read and this has reminded me that I really must get around to it…

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Still in the 1930s, but this time actually written in the 1930s with the granddaddy of all cruise ship Murder mysteries. If you’ve never read it, Hercule Poirot finds himself on a Nile cruise with a newly married couple and the wife’s former friend who used to be engaged to the husband. Murder ensues. I’ve been listening to this again on audiobook recently – I have the version read by Kenneth Branagh, which is really good and you’ll probably see it on next week’s week in books because I’m nearly finished it. I revisited it because I want to see the new film version and wanted to remind myself what was in the book as opposed to the 1978 film with Peter Ustinov and a very starry cast, or the 2004 TV version with David Suchet and Emily Blunt – both of which I’ve seen recently!

Several mystery series have books set on cruise ships too – Terns of Endearment in Donna Andrews’ Meg Langslow series sees the gang on a cruise holiday because Grandfather is due to give a lecture series. So of course there is a murder! I’ve said before that you really need to read these in order to understand who everyone is and all the running back stories but this is a relatively self-contained story, considering it’s the twenty fifth in the series!

And I haven’t quite reached it in my reread yet, but the fifteenth in Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series, Death by Water sees our heroine take a trip on cruise ship to catch a jewel thief. I also need to reread Ngaio Marsh’s Singing in the Shrouds, where Roderick Alleyn has to catch a multiple murderer who is attempting to make his escape on a ship to Cape Town. I remember it being a clever mystery but with some Of It’s Time attitudes that I didn’t make a note of in my goodreads review. And as ever if you have any more for me, put them in the comments!

Enjoy!

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.

historical, mystery, series

Mystery series: Lady Hardcastle

The new Lady Hardcastle book came out last week and I’ve just finished it so it seems like an ideal week to feature the series here!

These are Edwardian-set mysteries, following the widowed Lady Hardcastle and her lady’s maid. Lady Emily is in her forties and spent most of her marriage abroad with her husband who was in the diplomatic service. She moved to the countryside with the faithful Florence hoping for a quiet life – but they keep stumbling across murders! The books are written in the first person from Florence’s point of view and this gives you a fun perspective on the somewhat eccentric and very headstrong Emily. As you go through the series you discover more about what the two women got up to abroad, which explains why they’re good at solving murders. And the core duo get some regular assistants as the books go on too.

The duo live in the Gloucestershire and their village and the surrounding area provides the settings for the various murders so that it doesn’t seem like the Edwardian version of Midsummer! The series are fun, lightly comic, easy to read, very bingeable and the Edwardian setting makes a change from the various Victorian and 1920s series that are more common.

With the latest release, there are eight books in the series, with a ninth already planned for the autumn. As you can see from the picture, I own a couple and then they’re all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so perfect for a binge. And if you’re not in KU, they are somewhat of a bargain at the moment: books one and two are 99p (or free in Kindle Unlimited) A Quiet Life in the Country is the first and In the Market for Murder is the second.

Happy weekend!

book adjacent, book related

Book adjacent: Magpie Murders

Something a bit different today – and I’ve been watching the TV adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s novel Magpie Murders. I read the book back when it first came out and I really enjoyed it – but had no idea how they would manage to turn it into a TV series, so I got myself a Britbox subscription especially to watch it!

In case you haven’t read the book, a reminder of the plot: Susan Ryeland has been editing the Atticus Pünd novels for years. The series’s author, Alan Conway is not her favourite person, but she puts up with him because the series has been incredibly popular with fans of the Queens of Crime. But when she reads the latest manuscript, not only is the end missing, but she’s convinced that Conway has hidden another story within his new novel.

Now, what the book blurb doesn’t tell you, but the TV trailer does, is that Alan Conway ends up dead and that as she searches for the missing chapter, she’s also trying to figure out who killed him. I had no clue how they were going to make this work on screen because of the book-within-a-book nature of the story but it really clicks – with cast doubling their roles and different filters on the camera to make it even easier to tell the two apart – as well as the different costumes for the different time periods. I was a bit sceptical about whether the adaptation really needed six parts but it turns out that it sort of did – because there is a lot of plot with two parallel mysteries to a solve and not a lot to cut. Anthony Horowitz has adapted this himself from his novel -and it really works. As you can see from the trailer, a lot of the cast play two roles – the real people who knew Alan and their fictional equivalents in the book.

There are a lot of familiar faces in the cast and the performances are great. Lesley Manville makes a great Susan – tenacious about trying to find the missing chapter of the book, but guarded and prickly about her personal life. I’m not a Game of Thrones viewer, so I’m not sure I’d seen Conleth Hill in anything before I saw him in Holding, and then here he is again in this turning in another great – but very different – performance. I really hope they do the second in the series, The Moonflower Murders, and I also really hope that Horowitz writes a third. He does have two meta-murder mystery series though, and he seems to be doing more with the Hawthorne books – which is even more meta as a fictional version of Horowitz is in that one. I really can’t imagine how they would do a TV version of that. But I said that with the Atticus Pund series, so what do I know! There is a fourth Hawthorne book coming this summer which I’m already looking forward to reading.

As I said at the top, this one is on Britbox, which you can get direct from them or as an add-on to an Amazon Prime subscription. You get a seven days free trial, and there are a couple of other Britbox originals that I fancy having a look at, so I’ve gone beyond the trial for now!

Enjoy.

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.

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

Book of the Week, mystery, new releases

Book of the Week: Attack and Decay

Yes yes I know, so many rules broken here – I finished this on Monday AND I wrote about the series on Friday, so this is a short post today.

The latest book in the series sees our intrepid crew making a trip to Sweden so the Vinyl Detective can assess and acquire a rare audiophile copy of a controversial death metal record. There’s no hunting involved – they know where the record is and the owner is prepared to sell it to them, so this should be a nice easy trip, with plenty of time to scour the local charity shops for records, designer clothes and crime fiction novels, right? Wrong. Soon bodies are turning up in various gruesome ways – and it looks like the killer is taking his inspiration not from the Scandi Noir but from the death metal.

The mystery is good, the gang is fun, the residents of the town add to that, the writing is witty and the references to crime novels are great. I’m assuming there are some death metal references in there too, but I know even less about that genre than I did about folk music! The only downside of having read this in week of release is that now I have to wait until the next one comes. Still at least my dad can borrow it now – I hadn’t finished it when he came over at the weekend and so he has to go home empty handed!

As I said on Friday, you should be able to get these from any good bookshop, but I do suggest reading the series in order.

NB – Rules broken today:

  • Finished on a Monday
  • Not the first in the series
  • Repeating an author too soon
  • Repeating a series too soon

I reckon you could probably count it as two – because three of them are around repeats of different types right?!

Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Set in Boarding schools

Long time readers of this blog will be aware of my fondness for Girls Own books – particularly those set in boarding schools. I’m fairly sure that I would have hated boarding school in reality but I love reading about them – particularly the ones set in the first half of the twentieth century. A result of this is that I do love an adult book set in a boarding school and showing the other side of things. So for recommendsday today, here are some adult books set in schools of various types.

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie

Let’s start with a classic murder mystery. An exclusive girls school is thrown into chaos when an unpopular games mistress is found shot dead in the sports pavilion. This is a Hercule Poirot novel, but he actually only appears very late on in this – which has school politics and international espionage among the options for the motive for the murder. I remember first reading this as an early teenager – around the same time as I was reading all the Girls Own books and being sort of horrified at the idea of a murder at a boarding school. It’s a much later Poirot novel – for all that I didn’t realise that when I first read it and the TV version of it is really quite different because it had to be moved back to the 1930s. Worth’s look if you’ve never read it.

Poison for Teacher by Nancy Spain

It’s only a few weeks since I picked Death Goes on Skis for a Book of the Week, so it’s perhaps a bit naughty to be picking Nancy Spain again, but I think if anything I liked this even more. Miriam and Natasha find themselves undercover at a boarding school to try to work out who is trying to put the school out of business. But while they are there, a teacher is poisoned and it all gets complicated. This has awful children, horrible teachers, seething rivalries – professional and personal – and a staff play that causes nothing but trouble. It’s really, really funny.

Summer Half by Angela Thirkell

Also funny, but without any murders is Angela Thirkell ’s Summer Half, which I still think is one of the funniest of all of her Barsetshire books. It has a serious teacher getting himself engaged to featherbrained girl who is clearly going to cause him nothing but problems and everyone in the book is hoping that he’ll some how manage to escape. Schools – and teaching – has changed a lot since this was written but it’s all still recognisable.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Let’s jump forward to the more recent past. Preplis about a scholarship student at a fancy New England Boarding school. Yes, I wanted to smack some sense into Lee for at least the second half of the book, possibly longer but that may have been because I could see some of the elements of my own character in her – the ones that I try hardest to overcome and she’s making no effort to do so, (or because she doesn’t try and make the most of the opportunity that she made for herself) But this did feel like a very realistic and truthful portrait of what life in a modern (ish) co-ed boarding school might have been like – in the time immediately before computers and mobile communication took over. This was Sittenfeld’s debut, and although I’ve enjoyed other books of hers more (the first or hers I read was Eligible, I’ve read almost all of her backlist and buy the new stuff as it comes out) but if you haven’t read it it’s worth a look.

I recently read Charlotte Mendelson’s Almost English – which is about a scholarship girl at an English country boarding school – which wasn’t for me, but I think others will like it- my problems was around not liking any of the characters enough to go with them while they made stupid decisions all over the place! And to finish I’m going to throw a few mentions in to stuff I’ve written about recently that also fits in here: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, which sees our heroine stuck in a boarding school in Canada. And then there is Murder in the basement which was a BotW six months ago, and so I can’t really write about at length again – yet!

Happy Wednesday!