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!

historical, series

Series: Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels

Today is day two of the bumper bank holiday weekend here in the UK to mark the Platinum Jubilee. I wanted to write a post about a royal related series today to tie in, so I’m going back in history for Philippa Gregory’s historical novels about the Tudor Royals and adjacent families.

Covers of The Constant Princess, The Boleyn Inheritance, The Queen's Fool and The Virgin's Lover

Now this is a complicated series to write about because although they are lumped now together on Philippa Gregory’s website, on Goodreads and on Amazon as the Plantagenet and Tudor novels, they used to be two listed as two distinct series – the Tudor Court and The Cousins’ War. And I agreed with that because the Cousin’s War books have magic in them and the Tudor Court does not which to me suggests that they can’t really be seen as being in the same timeline. And the order that they were written is not at all the chronological order either. The magic issue is also one of the reasons why I haven’t read all of them – after the magic in The White Queen I didn’t fancy doing the others in that part of the series. The other is that as the series has gone on we’ve got into some of the figures where I know it ends badly (as in beheadings) and as we know I’m not always in the mood for that. I’d also not really appreciated exactly how many of them there are now – because I have been ignoring the potentially magic including newer titles…

So really I suppose I’m writing about the first five to be published: The Other Boleyn Girl, the Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover, the Constant Princess and the Boleyn Inheritance which cover (in the order I’ve given the titles) Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall, the changing fortunes of Henry VIII’s two daughters during the decade from the late 1540s to the late 1550s, Robert Dudley’s time as favourite of Elizabeth I, Catherine of Aragon’s time in England and the fourth and fifth marriages of Henry VIII. From this you can see that they are not exactly chronological – and have now ended up being (again in the order I gave the titles at the start of this paragraph) books 9, 12, 13, 6 and 10 in the amalgamated Plantagnet and Tudor series! There is a sixth book from this phase in Philippa Gregory’s career – The Other Queen, about Bess of Hardwick and Mary, Queen of Scots – which I haven’t read, but writing this post has reminded me that I would like to!

Anyway, I first read the Other Boleyn Girl back when I was at university and borrowed it off my sister in the holidays. I have a vivid memory of buying the Airport Paperback edition of The Virgin’s Lover at Stansted on my way to Tours during my year abroad and can see it now sitting on the bookshelf in my room in halls there. The others were bought either by my sister of me and we shared our copies between us – which probably explains why I don’t have any of them in my house anymore. I reread the Virgin’s Lover a few times during my time in Tours – because I didn’t have many books in English and buying more was expensive – and reread the others too at the time but I haven’t read any of them for a while.

Of course this means I’m not quite sure how they stand up these days, but I remember them as fun historical romps which were accurate enough in terms of the time line of things happening, but took a lot of liberties with what the actual people got up to. If you went to school in Britain, it would be nearly impossible not to know the vague outline of events – because as Greg Jenner says in Ask a Historian we have a national obsession with the Tudors. But even knowing what happens, it’s still a really good read to get there – and the books often focus on side characters whose stories intersects with the Big Figures rather than the figures themselves which means you can still hope for a happy ending (for Mary Boleyn in the Other Boleyn Girl for example) or for comeuppance (for Jane Boleyn for example!) as well as trying to work out where the liberties are being taken with the timeline and historical fact if you’re a history student!

I have two of the later books sitting unread on my kindle because they’ve been Kindle Daily Deals at some point – although I think little sister has read them – and once I get my new library card, I will look at filling in some more of the gaps in the Tudor section of the series without the risk of buying (more?) books with magic in them that I will give up on! You should be able to get hold of any of these very easily – Philippa Gregory is in practically every bookshop, they’re also often in the second hand and charity bookshops and they’re on all the ebook platforms too. They’ve been through several editions – the covers I have in the photo for the post are the current Kindle ones, which are totally different to the ones my old paperbacks had and there are several different styles that I’ve seen in the shops too.

Happy Friday everyone – whether it’s day two of the four day Jubilee weekend or the eve of the Whit weekend or just a normal Friday!

romance, women's fiction

New release: Book Lovers

I said on Tuesday that last week had been a good one for reading new stuff, and it was because here I am again with a new release that’s perfect for reading while sitting on a beach – or more likely in the garden (if the sunshine lasts).

Emily Henry’s new novel is about a New York book editor, who keeps getting dumped when here boyfriends go on business trips to small towns and fall in love. Nora is the before woman. When her sister drags her to a small town in North Carolina to spend a month, she encounters Charlie – her work nemesis. He’s the editing equivalent of her, but he turned down her biggest novel and she’s not over it. And they keep bumping into each other…

And it’s delightful. As you can probably tell, it’s a book for people who love reading romances and seeing someone do something different with the tropes and archetypes. It’s a romance, but it’s closer to the woman’s fiction end of the spectrum because Nora has some issues of her own to deal with and that along with her relationship with her sister takes up almost as much time as the romance does. It will probably make you cry, you will probably worry if there’s going to be a happy ending but it’s worth it in the end, even if I wanted a slightly longer epilogue (what’s new!).

My copy came from NetGalley, but Book Lovers is out today in paperback – it came out on Kindle and Kobo on the 3rd – because release dates are confusing and annoying. Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, romance, romantic comedy

Book of the Week: Roomies

Back with contemporary romance this week, because it’s only been two months since Death Goes on Skis was BotW so I can’t do Nancy Spain again yet, but don’t worry I will find a way to talk about Poison for Teacher, and this Christina Lauren is a good one too!

The heroine of Roomies is Holland, a MFA graduate who finds herself somewhat adrift after her muse deserts her. Instead of writing she’s working for her uncle, who has written the latest Broadway smash, and has a huge crush on a guitarist she’s heard busking in the subway. When Holland helps Calvin to get his big break, it turns out that his student visa is long expired and his chance to shine may be out of reach after all. So Holland offers to marry him, and so begins their attempt to keep him in New York and fool The Powers That Be that theirs is a genuine relationship. But as they live together in Holland’s apartment and find out more about each other, who is actually fooling who and is this relationship turning real?

Marriages of convenience are one of my favourite historical romance tropes, but you don’t get a lot of them in contemporary romance, so when you find one it’s a real treat. This is a bit slow to get started – I think because Holland’s infatuation with Calvin before she knew him made me a little uncomfortable, but once it does click it’s a lot of fun. There is a good group of supporting characters – Holland’s uncles are lovely and her boss is awful – and watching Holland figure out who she is and what she wants is a good counterpart to the romance. Christina Lauren’s books can sometimes be too cringe or have leading character that are too unprofessional for me to deal with, but Roomies manages to stick on the right side of that – just. It all wraps up a little quickly, and I wanted a little bit more closure on a few things, but all in all it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

My copy of Roomies came from the library, but it’s out now and you can get it on Kindle and Kobo and the paperback looks like it may be relatively easy to get hold of.

Happy Reading!

new releases, romantic comedy

Out today: Mad About You

Here’s a confession. I meant to read Mhairi McFarlane’s new book well in advance of its release date. But that pesky Covid thing that’s making me binge reread things I’ve read before got in the way. So I started this on Tuesday night, read about 50 pages before bed and thought “well I’ll keep reading it tomorrow and write a post saying I haven’t finished it yet but on past record I trust that it’s going to be great.” I’d even stated the draft of a post saying just that.

Except on Wednesday night I finished it. I was glued to my sofa reading it from the moment I put the dinner in the oven. I read 350 pages basically in one big gulp – ok I stopped to eat dinner and there were a couple of loo breaks in there too, but that’s it. The TV was in on the background, but I think Him Indoors could have been watching a gory movie and I wouldn’t have noticed. I stayed up late to finish it because I couldn’t bear to Lea it it to the train in the morning – and as it made me get all weepy at the end, I think I made the right choice. It’s that type of book.

And now I realise I’ve written two whole paragraphs without telling you what on Earth the plot is. So, here we go: Harriet is a wedding photographer in Leeds. Business is booming, but despite being around happy couples at work all day she doesn’t want a marriage of her own. When she finds herself in need of a new place to live, she moves in with Cal. He’s handsome and charming and his love life is also a complete mess. But is this the start of something good for both of them?

Now there’s a lot more to the plot than that – but I’ve tried to stick with not giving anything more away than the blurbs on Goodreads and Amazon do. Harriet is a brilliant heroine – she’s independent, resilient and smart and she and her friends have some great one liners. Cal is an attractive hero too – mysterious (until he’s not) with a ride or die best mate of his own. The Amazon strap line calls this a romantic comedy – and it is – but a big part of the book is a Harriet dealing with issues in her own past so that she can move on and move forward – and there are some tricky issues in there which definitely aren’t funny. But the resolution is punch the air brilliant and it all ends up alright in the end.

Now I realise in writing this that I’m doing myself out of a book of the week option on Monday, but hey, sometimes I break with my own rules and traditions – and it’s nice to mix it up a bit and do a review on release day – especially when it’s a book that I’ve enjoyed so much. Mad About You is out now in Kindle, Kobo and paperback. Enjoy!

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

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!

Book of the Week, detective, mystery, new releases

Book of the Week: The Man Who Died Twice

Why, hello. I bet you weren’t expecting this were you? What do you mean you were? Am I that predictable? Yes. I am. We all know I am. It’s why you love me. I know you love me really. Deep down. Definitely. Probably. Maybe. Sometimes. Perhaps.

This is the sequel to The Thursday Murder Club, which you can’t possibly have missed over the course of the last year – even despite the pandemic. Written by Richard Osman of Pointless and House of Games fame; the first book sold loads, it’s been everywhere that sells books and some places that don’t usually sell them. And it was a Book of the Week here too.

The Man Who Died Twice finds our gang of pensioners with a fresh set of troubles. A figure from Elizabeth’s past has reappeared and it’s going to be a real headache. Joyce and Ron are eager to help out, but Ibrahim has some issues of his own to resolve. There are diamonds, mobsters, spies, drugs and a collection of bodies that threatens to grow at speed. It’s all really quite dangerous. Will the foursome manage to solve the find the diamond, solve the murder and take their revenge?

First of all it’s lovely to be back in the Thursday Murder Club world. I was a bit worried about whether this sequel would be able to live up to the first, but actually it’s a joy. The characters continue to be a delight – and the more we find out about them the more I like them. And because the central foursome are already established we also get to see some more of their non-retirement complex friends and see some more potential plot strands develop. And of course we learn more about Elizabeth, Joyce, Rob and Ibrahim. I really, really enjoyed it – and for once I managed to pace myself and make it last a bit as well!

My copy of The Man Who Died Twice came via NetGalley but it’s out now in hardback as well as Kindle and Kobo and will be available absolutely everywhere. Foyles have even got some signed copies. And I suspect it’s going to be an awful lot of people’s go to book gift this year. As I write this, it sits at the top of the best seller list, while its predecessor is on top of the paperback chart. Domination indeed.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, Forgotten books, mystery

Book of the Week: The Secret of High Eldersham

Back with another murder mystery again this week. It’s another British Crime Classic, but it’s a new to me author so that makes variety right?!

Scotland Yard are called in to investigate the murder of the landlord of a pub in an East Anglian village known for its insular nature and hostility to outsiders. Samuel Whitehead was a stranger to the neighbourhood, but somehow he seemed to be making a reasonable go of it – right up until the point that someone stabbed him in is own bar around closing time one night. Detective Inspector Young is struggling to make inroads in the case, so he calls on a friend and amateur sleuth, Desmond Merrion, to help him solve the murder.

This is the first book by Miles Burton that I’ve read, but it has a number of recognisable Golden Age crime tropes – east Anglia and it’s villages being a bit strange (see also: a fair few Margery Allinghams, but particularly Sweet Danger, Sayers’ The Nine Tailors, the Inspector Littlejohn I read the other week) and of course the gentleman amateur detective. Burton’s Merrion has a military background – but this time it’s the navy, which is useful because there is a lot of sailing in this plot. It’s a bit uneven in places – the focus of the narrative switches abruptly to Merrion from Young, Mavis the love interest is a little bit of a one dimensional Not Like Other Girls character and the secret is, well. But if you’ve read a lot these sort of classic murder mysteries it’s worth a look – to see how someone different tackles all these things. I would read some more of these – partly just to find out what Merrion turns into and see if he evolves the way that some of the other similar characters did (but particularly Campion). The British Crime Library have republished at least one other of these so I’ll keep an eye out.

My copy of The Secret of High Eldersham came via Kindle Unlimited, but it’s also available as a paperback – which you can buy direct from the British Library bookshop as well as the usual sources.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, cozy crime, detective, fiction, mystery, new releases

Book of the Week: Death at Dukes Halt

I’m finishing the month as I started it, with another murder mystery book pick for my Book of the Week, in a slightly cheaty move because I finished it on Monday, but I’ve talked enough about Inspector Littlejohn recently already, and that was pretty much all I actually finished last week! But before I get down to my review of the new Derek Farrell, a quick reminder that tomorrow is the Mini Reviews and Thursday will be the August Stats.

Danny Bird is facing up to a scary prospect: a weekend at a country house to help Caz fulfill a promise to a dead friend. Pub manager Ali is chauffeuring them down to Dukes Halt where they find a mismatched set of weekend guests: a Hollywood actress, a right-wing MP and an Albanian gangster among them. Soon there’s a body in their midst and Danny is detecting again to try and clear himself and his friends. But he’s also trying to work out what happened at the house decades ago when he discovers an unhappy boy’s secret diary.

This is the fifth outing for Danny and the gang and it’s a good one. Farrell has taken Danny out of the Marq (the Asbo twins are left in charge of running a talent night while they’re gone and I look forward to seeing how that works out) and put him into a country house murder mystery in the grand tradition of the genre. It’s got everything you would expect from an Agatha Christie – but updated to the present day. In one of the earlier books in the series Danny is described as Poirot on poppers, which is a great line but doing Danny a slight disservice now because he is not the isolated external figure that Poirot is. He’s got friends, relationships, a perspective and that all comes into focus in this. You also see him more on his own in this that he has been in the previous series so there’s a lot more about who Danny is and what he believes in that you’re used to and that’s a really good development. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of witty banter and oneliners. The pandemic means there has been a longer break between full length books than I was hoping when I finished Death of an Angel (although Death of a Sinner did help) but I think Death at Dukes Halt has been worth the wait.

You can get Death at Dukes Halt direct from the publisher, Fahrenheit Press, who have it in various ebook formats and paperback. If you do get the paperback from them, you get the ebook with it as well which is nice – I started reading the paperback and then switched to the kindle so I could read it on the move. But you can also get it on Kindle.

Happy Reading!