TBR Thursday 332…

Episode 332

Good grief! After weeks of doing really well, it’s all gone horribly wrong! Books have been arriving at an alarming rate and tennis season has started so reading has slumped accordingly. The result – *gulps* – is that the TBR has shot up by SEVEN to 182! *faints*

In other news, WordPress sent me one of their little notifications yesterday…

I know – some of you are saying “Is that all?” and others are saying “Wow! People viewed half a million posts on this blog?” while most of you are saying “Who cares about stats anyway?” Well, I agree it’s all meaningless, and most of the people doubtless got here by accident and promptly scuttled away again as quickly as they could, but still. Half a million views! Okay, it took over nine years and nearly two thousand posts, but still…

Since I don’t have the skill to blow my own trumpet, Louis Armstrong has kindly stepped in.

Anyway, here are a few more books I’m hoping will blow me away soon… 

Winner of the People’s Choice

The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

Well, People, the voting was incredibly close this month and no book took a decisive lead at any point. But finally it all came down to one vote, and The Mask of Dimitrios pulled off a shock late victory! Excellent choice, People – I’m looking forward to it. It will be an August read. 

The Blurb says: English crime novelist Charles Latimer is travelling in Istanbul when he makes the acquaintance of Turkish police inspector Colonel Haki. It is from him that he first hears of the mysterious Dimitrios – an infamous master criminal, long wanted by the law, whose body has just been fished out of the Bosphorus. Fascinated by the story, Latimer decides to retrace Dimitrios’ steps across Europe to gather material for a new book. But, as he gradually discovers more about his subject’s shadowy history, fascination tips over into obsession. And, in entering Dimitrios’ criminal underworld, Latimer realizes that his own life may be on the line.

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Scottish Classic

Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott

One from my Classics Club list. Since Dickens is my traditional Christmas read, I’m planning to make Scott my new traditional summer read – for the five years of the challenge at any rate! I’m always ashamed of how little Scott I’ve read, so it’s time to start remedying that…

The Blurb says: On the auspicious night that Guy Mannering is shown to the house of the Bertrams of Ellengowan, the Bertrams’ heir is born, and Mannering, a skeptical astrologer, predicts the child’s future. Five years later the prophecy is fulfilled, and the heir, Harry Bertram, becomes the centre of a plot to rob the boy of his inheritance. Harry’s subsequent struggles are set against a backdrop of chaos and upheaval in a socially fragmented Scotland where everyone, from landowners to gypsies, is searching for their rightful place.

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Crime

The Midnight Lock by Jeffery Deaver

Courtesy of HarperCollins. When Deaver started out many years ago, I was an early fan. Then he introduced his long-running Lincoln Rhyme character and I didn’t like the whole premise of the series, so I stopped reading Deaver. However recently I’ve enjoyed a few of his thrillers, and now HarperCollins have sent me his latest Lincoln Rhyme, so I’m interested enough to see if the characters have developed and hopefully changed over the intervening years… 

The Blurb says: When a woman arrives home to her Manhattan apartment to find that her personal items have been rearranged while she slept, police initially dismiss her complaint. Nothing was stolen, and there’s no sign of breaking and entering. But when the same woman turns up dead, Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are brought in to investigate the murder. They soon learn that the murderer calls himself “the Locksmith.” He is obsessed with locks, slipping into homes in the dead of night and tying his victims up with knots or locks, ultimately strangling them.

Their hunt for the killer is interrupted when an internal investigation in the police force uncovers what seems to be a crucial mistake in one of Rhyme’s previous cases. He is removed from the case, and must investigate the Locksmith in secret to untangle the mysteries behind the psychotic killer before he can set his ultimate trap. 

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Fiction

Shadow Girls by Carol Birch

Courtesy of Head of Zeus via NetGalley. I loved Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie a decade or so ago, but then for some reason she fell completely off my radar and I’ve read nothing by her since. So when this one turned up on NetGalley, I grabbed it. The blurb sounds good, but it seems to be getting rather mixed reviews so far. We’ll see! 

The Blurb says: Manchester, 1960s. Sally, a cynical 15-year-old schoolgirl, is much too clever for her own good. When partnered with her best friend, Pamela – a mouthy girl who no-one else much likes – Sally finds herself unable to resist the temptation of rebellion. The pair play truant, explore forbidden areas of the old school and – their favourite – torment posh Sylvia Rose, with her pristine uniform and her beautiful voice that wins every singing prize.

One day, Sally ventures (unauthorised, of course) up to the greenhouse on the roof alone. Or at least she thinks she’s alone, until she sees Sylvia on the roof too. Sally hurries downstairs, afraid of Sylvia snitching, but Sylvia appears to be there as well.

Amid the resurgence of ghost stories and superstition among the girls, a tragedy is about to occur, one that will send Sally more and more down an uncanny rabbit hole…

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

Looking forward to…

Episode 5

Another selection in my occasional looks back at old reviews which I finished by saying something along the lines of “I’ll be looking forward to reading more of her work/this series/his books in the future” to see if I actually did read more and, if I did, did I like the ones I looked forward to as much as the ones that made me look forward to them?

Let’s see then…

Now You See Me by Sharon (SJ) Bolton

First reviewed 25th March 2013. This is the first in Sharon Bolton’s excellent Lacey Flint police procedural series. Although I only gave it four stars, I felt the series showed a lot of potential. I said “I’m glad I stuck with the series because in the next one, Dead Scared, Lacey came into her own in a big way.” So Bolton went on my list to remind me to read her next one. But did I?

I certainly did! I’ve read all the Lacey Flints and most of the standalone thrillers Bolton has published since then. While the Laceys were consistently good – in fact, the series continued to improve as it went along – I’ve had a more mixed response to her thrillers, finding some of them great but actually abandoning one or two. When she’s on form there’s no one to touch her, though. Her most recent one, a standalone, was typically great – The Pact. Currently my TBR has three of her books on it: a recent one that I just haven’t found time to read yet, The Craftsman; one from her back catalogue from before I discovered her, ditto, Blood Harvest; and excitingly, her new one, out this month, The Dark – the first new Lacey book in years! Even with the occasional disappointment along the way, Bolton is a firm favourite, right up at the top of the current heap of contemporary crime writers.

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And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

First reviewed 3rd April, 2013. The story of one Afghan family and their descendants as they become part of the diaspora caused by the never-ending wars in Afghanistan. I loved Hosseini’s writing, and said “Within the first few pages of this book, the reader knows s/he’s in the hands of a master storyteller.” I immediately wanted to read everything he’d written. But did I?

Well, not entirely. I quite quickly read the book he’s best known for, The Kite Runner, and though I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it to the same degree. This isn’t really Hosseini’s fault – over the last decade I have gradually developed a reluctance to read the zillions of books written by emigrants or descendants of emigrants who haven’t lived as an adult in the country about which they choose to write as if with some insider knowledge. Hosseini left Afghanistan as a young child and didn’t visit it again until around the time The Kite Runner was published, and therefore his books are clearly based on research or vicarious information rather than first hand knowledge and experience. Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with that, but I have come to prefer books written by people who live or have lived in the country they’re writing about, or who write clearly from the perspective of an outsider. The “immigrant experience” has surely also been done to death in recent years, and unfortunately The Kite Runner has that theme too. The result is that I’ve never got around to acquiring the only other book he has published to date, A Thousand Splendid Suns, also about Afghanistan, and I’m not sure I ever will. It’s not you, Mr Hosseini, it’s me.

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You Have to Tell by J Sanclemente

First reviewed 7th April 2013. To be honest, this one has faded completely from my memory. My review tells me the plot is a cross between an international conspiracy and a murder mystery. I gave it four stars and said “this is a good first novel, enjoyable and even thought-provoking, and I look forward to seeing more from this author in the future.” But did I?

I did not! I have never consciously thought of the book or the author since the day I posted my review. So I had a look to see what else he had published in the interim, and discovered that I had been wrong about this being a first novel. Apparently he’s written loads in his native Spanish, and this was merely the first to be translated. And, as far as I can see, the last! If any of his books ever happen my way again, I’d happily read another, but he’s no longer on my list to look out for.

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A Dark and Broken Heart by RJ Ellory

First reviewed 9th April 2013. This is a thrilling noir novel told from the perspective of an anti-hero of epic proportions – the man with the dark and broken heart of the title. I said “This is a superbly told and completely compelling roller coaster of a story – bleak, often violent, but never without the possibility of redemption.” I loved it so much it won the FF Award for Best Noir Thriller of 2012, the prize as always being that I guaranteed to read the author’s next novel. But did I?

I did! Ah, RJ Ellory – one of the more problematic authors on my list. He has a history of using pseudonyms to praise himself online, which might be forgivable, though posting five star reviews of your own books seems a bit… well, let’s be kind and call it quirky. What’s rather less forgivable is that he has also been caught out using pseudonyms to leave unfairly negative reviews on the books of rival authors. And yet he does write wonderful thrillers! Not all the time – a bit like Sharon Bolton, I swing from loving some of his books to being rather disappointed with others. And there’s no doubt his reputation now means he has to work harder to get my somewhat reluctantly-given approval – one reason I prefer to know as little as possible about the authors of the books I read! I’ve read maybe half a dozen of his books, some of them pre-blogging, and have City of Lies, reputed to be one of his best, sitting on my TBR. It’s been there for a long time though… must try to get over my reluctance…

* * * * *

A much more mixed batch this time – one forgotten, a couple I’ve grown reluctant about, though for very different reasons, and the wonderful Sharon Bolton! Three more men, and one woman. Thank goodness the woman is the one that is most firmly still on my list! (If you know anything bad about her, please, please, don’t tell me! 😉 )

Have you read any of these authors?
Are they on your “looking forward to” list?

TBR Thursday 331 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 331

(A reminder of The People’s Choice plan. Once a month, I shall list the four oldest books on the TBR, then the next four, and so on, and each time you will select the one you think I should read, either because you’ve read and enjoyed it, or because you think the blurb looks good. And I will read the one you pick within three months! If I begin to fall behind, I’ll have a gap till I catch up again. In the event of a tie, I’ll have the casting vote.)

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OK, People, time for another batch of four! Still in 2019, and an interesting mix this time, I think. I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be an August read. A recent Rebus novel, In a House of Lies  by Ian Rankin slipped through my net when it was released and has been lingering ever since. I added Home by Marilynne Robinson because I loved Gilead a few years ago – it’s still the only one of hers I’ve read. Similarly, The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo was added because I loved her later The Night Tiger.  I acquired The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler on the recommendation of a blogger who later disappeared from the blogosphere – I’ve included it on my new Classics Club list.   I’ll be quite happy to read any of these, so you really can’t go wrong… 😉

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Crime

In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

Added 23rd March 2019. 13,972 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.11 average rating. 370 pages.

The Blurb says: Everyone has something to hide
A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still – both for his family and the police – is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.

Everyone has secrets
Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now – after a decade without answers – it’s time for the truth.

Nobody is innocent
Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus.

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Fiction

Home by Marilynne Robinson

Added 27th April 2019. 24,611 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.03 average. 325 pages.

The Blurb says: Jack Boughton – prodigal son – has been gone twenty years. He returns home seeking refuge and to make peace with the past. A bad boy from childhood, an alcoholic who cannot hold down a job, Jack is perpetually at odds with his surroundings and with his traditionalist father, though he remains Boughton’s most beloved child. His sister Glory has also returned, fleeing her own mistakes, to care for their dying father. A moving book about families, about love and death and faith, Home is unforgettable. It is a masterpiece.

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Fantasy

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Added 23rd August 2019. 28,329 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.80 average. 368 pages. 

The Blurb says: Seventeen-year-old Li Lan lives in 1890s Malaya with her quietly-ruined father, who returns one evening with a proposition – the fabulously wealthy Lim family want Li Lan to marry their son. The only problem is, he’s dead. After a fateful visit to the Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also her desire for the Lims’ handsome new heir. At night she is drawn into the Chinese afterlife – a world of ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, monstrous bureaucracy and vengeful spirits. Enlisting the help of mysterious Er Lang (a dragon turned clerk) Li Lan must uncover the secrets of the ghost world – before she becomes trapped there forever.

Drawing on traditional Malayan folklore and superstition, The Ghost Bride is a haunting, exotic and romantic read perfect for fans of Empress Orchid and Memoirs of a Geisha.

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Spy Thriller

The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

Added 8th October 2019. 8,827 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.92 average. 244 pages.

The Blurb says: English crime novelist Charles Latimer is travelling in Istanbul when he makes the acquaintance of Turkish police inspector Colonel Haki. It is from him that he first hears of the mysterious Dimitrios – an infamous master criminal, long wanted by the law, whose body has just been fished out of the Bosphorus. Fascinated by the story, Latimer decides to retrace Dimitrios’ steps across Europe to gather material for a new book. But, as he gradually discovers more about his subject’s shadowy history, fascination tips over into obsession. And, in entering Dimitrios’ criminal underworld, Latimer realizes that his own life may be on the line.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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VOTE NOW!

(Click on title and then remember to also click on Vote, or your vote won’t count!)

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Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….It was 28th April. Wet, naturally, the grass percolating water as John Rebus walked to the grave of his father, dead five years to the day. He placed a wreath so that it lay, yellow and red, the colours of remembrance, against the still shining marble. He paused for a moment, trying to think of things to say, but there seemed nothing to say, nothing to think. He had been a good enough father and that was that. The old man wouldn’t have wanted him to waste his words in any case. So he stood there, hands respectfully behind his back, crows laughing on the walls around him, until the water seeping into his shoes told him that there was a warm car waiting for him at the cemetery gates.
….He drove quietly, hating to be back here in Fife, back where the old days had never been ‘the good old days,’ where ghosts rustled in the shells of empty houses and the shutters went up every evening on a handful of desultory shops, those metal shutters that gave the vandals somewhere to write their names. How Rebus hated it all, this singular lack of an environment. It stank the way it had always done: of misuse, of disuse, of the sheer wastage of life.

~ Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

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….The second photograph is from the wedding itself. In it, the newly-weds pose in front of a glossy, cream trailer, holding hands, but standing apart. A dog is a moving blur behind them. Chrome trim winks in the sunlight, and both have their eyes slightly narrowed against the glare. Rose has had her hair done – permed, lightened and arranged into blonde flicks that frame her face. The high neck of her wedding dress hides the birthmark. She smiles nervously. Her new husband, Ivo Janko, wears a black suit; he is blade-thin with longish, slicked-back dark hair, high cheekbones and large, dark eyes. He’s very good looking, and looks as though he knows it. He does not smile – his expression appears arrogant, even hostile. He seems to be leaning away from her, his body tense, his chin lifted. Studying his face in the photograph – looking for clues – I decide that his expression is due less to arrogance than nervousness. They are both very young, after all, and are marrying a person they hardly know. Who would look at ease?

~ The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

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….Crusade and pilgrimage strengthened linkages between northern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. And around the time that the crusades began, trumpets resembling the one found at Billingsgate began to appear in European art. Arabic influence is shown in the decorative knobs along its length, grafted onto a straight-stemmed form of Byzantine origin. Although we cannot be certain, it seems highly probable that returning crusader fleets carried the archetype into Europe, whence it was honed and replicated by the brassworkers of Nuremberg and Paris.
….No home-grown instrument, then, the ships trumpet, but one that originated in the Holy Land. It embodies a peculiar crossover between the prosaic business of ship-signalling and the potent symbolism of the crusade. And as the only surviving example of its kind, the Billingsgate Trumpet powerfully commemorates the furthest from England a mediaeval ship would go, limited by seaworthiness, circumscribed by piety.

The Billingsgate Trumpet
Found during excavations in 1984, and kept in the Museum of London

~ The Ship Asunder by Tom Nancollas

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….“I want to take you to Pakistan.”
….Suzie looked up. “Khalid, do you? You’ve never said that before.”
….Even as he said it, he knew it was a terrible idea.
….It just wouldn’t work. His cousins would be charming, wrapping Suzie up in clothes and jewellery and taking care of her, and whispering in his ear about her prettiness, spoiling Alia with everything she asked for. But there was something that he’d find too difficult, pulling him in two directions. It wasn’t their fault. Just the artifice, pretending again that he belonged there, when things had moved on so much. This was his life now. He had created something that couldn’t be exported.
….His mother called every week from Karachi to ask him about the family, and sometimes he put Alia on the phone. It was all kind of excruciating because of the language. The incantation of the same words, Mashallah, Khuda Hafiz, and his little girl’s blank expressions when she heard Urdu, which made him guilty for not teaching her more, and not knowing quite who this grandmother was or where the voice came from. The worst was when Alia held the phone away from her ear with a scrunched-up nose and refused to speak at all.

~ Edgware Road by Yasmin Cordery Khan

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So… are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 330…

Episode 330

Running late… no time for GIF searching. Just time to say, TBR up 2 to 175! 

Here are a few more I should get to soon… 

Science Fiction

The Origins of Science Fiction edited by Michael Newton

Courtesy of Oxford World’s Classics. Another in their lovely hardback series, many of which are anthologies of classic horror or science fiction, all with OWC’s trademark introductions and notes. I’ve loved all the ones I’ve read so far, so have high hopes for this one…

The Blurb says: This anthology provides a selection of science-fiction tales from the close of the ‘Romantic’ period to the end of the First World War. It gathers together classic short stories, from Edgar Allan Poe’s playful hoaxes to Gertrude Barrows Bennett’s feminist fantasy. In this way, the book shows the vitality and literary diversity of the field, and also expresses something of the potent appeal of the visionary, the fascination with science, and the allure of an imagined future that characterised this period. An excellent resource for those interested in science fiction, and also an essential volume for understanding the development of the genre.

In his introduction, Michael Newton draws together literary influences from Jonathan Swift to Mary Shelley, the interest in the irrational and dreaming mind, and the relation of the tales to the fact of Empire and the discoveries made by anthropology. He also considers how the figure of the alien and non-human ‘other’ complicated contemporary definitions of the human being.

Fiction

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

Courtesy of Bloomsbury Publishing via NetGalley. No reason for this one – I just liked the sound of the blurb. And I love the cover, though of course I’d never be shallow enough to allow that to sway me… 😉

The Blurb says: Cushla Lavery lives with her mother in a small town near Belfast. At twenty-four, she splits her time between her day job as a teacher to a class of seven-year-olds, and regular bartending shifts in the pub owned by her family. It’s here, on a day like any other – as the daily news rolls in of another car bomb exploding, another man shot, killed, beaten or left for dead – that she meets Michael Agnew, an older (and married) barrister who draws her into his sophisticated group of friends.

When the father of a young boy in her class becomes the victim of a savage attack, Cushla is compelled to help his family. But as her affair with Michael intensifies, political tensions in the town escalate, threatening to destroy all she is working to hold together.

As tender as it is unflinching, Trespasses is a masterfully executed and intimate portrait of those caught between the warring realms of the personal and political, rooted in a turbulent and brutally imagined moment of history – where it’s not just what you do that matters, but what you are.

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Fiction

Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda

One obliquely for my Spanish Civil War challenge. I loved the only other book I’ve read by this author – In Diamond Square – and was tempted to add this one by Jane’s review. It isn’t directly about the war but Jane tells us that “the cover blurb says that it can be seen ‘as an allegory for life under a dictatorship’”. It sounds totally weird and possibly wonderful… or possibly not! We’ll see…

The Blurb says: Death in Spring is a dark and dream-like tale of a teenage boy’s coming of age in a remote village in the Catalan mountains; a place cut off from the outside world, where cruel customs are blindly followed, and attempts at rebellion swiftly crushed. When his father dies, he must navigate this oppressive society alone, and learn how to live in a place of crippling conformity.

Often seen as an allegory for life under a dictatorship, Death in Spring is a bewitching and unsettling novel about power, exile, and the hope that comes from even the smallest gestures of independence.

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Dalziel and Pascoe on Audio

Arms and the Women by Reginald Hill read by Jonathan Keeble

Continuing my slow re-read of my favourite police procedural series, this is Book 18, and we’re now reaching the later books I’ve only read a couple of times before, so am vague about the plots. I have a feeling this one falls into the lighter category – more humour and less concentration on social issues. But I could be wrong! We’ll see!

The Blurb says: Ellie Pascoe is a novelist, former campus radical, overprotective mother–and as an inspector’s wife, on high alert of suspicious behaviour. When she thwarts an abduction plot, her husband, Peter, and his partner, Andrew Dalziel, assume a link to one of their past cases. An attack on Ellie’s best friend, Daphne, and a series of threatening letters from Ellie’s foiled kidnappers prove them wrong. Packed off to an isolated seaside safe place, Ellie, Daphne, and their bodyguard, DC Shirley Novello, aren’t about to lie in wait for the culprits’ next move. They’re on the offensive. No matter how calculated their plot of retaliation is, they have no idea just how desperately someone wants Ellie out of the picture. Or how insanely epic the reasons are. 

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads, NetGalley UK or Audible UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 329…

Episode 329

No change in the TBR this week – remaining steady on 173. This is mainly because I’ve had less time for reading since, despite my better judgement, I seem to have been obsessively watching the Depp/Heard trial. My verdict? Well, here’s a visual representation of how I see their relationship…

(The wonderful Andy Capp drawn by cartoonist Reg Smythe)

Here are a few more I should be battling with soon… 

Crime

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

Courtesy of HarperCollins. Dervla McTiernan is one of those authors I’ve been meaning to try for years but have never managed to fit in, so I was pleased when this one popped through my letterbox from the good people at HarperCollins. Happily too, it’s a standalone, so I’m not going to be jumping into the middle of an established series!

The Blurb says: For fans of the compulsive psychological suspense of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a mother daughter story—one running from a horrible truth, and the other fighting to reveal it—that twists and turns in shocking ways, from the internationally bestselling author of The Scholar and The Ruin.

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Fiction

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruif Zafón

One for my sadly neglected Spanish Civil War challenge. There’s every possibility I’ll hate this because of the fantasy elements, but there’s also every possibility I’ll love it if the zillions of glowing reviews can be depended on! We shall see!

The Blurb says: Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

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Adventure

Biggles Defends the Desert by Capt. W.E. Johns

OK, you have no idea the trouble I’ve had trying to fill the annoying Desert box on my Wanderlust Bingo challenge! I have searched and acquired and abandoned and searched, and I’m at the point of despair. So then I remembered Biggles! I loved Biggles so much as a child, and that heroic pilot and his faithful team went everywhere making the world a better, safer place by beating mostly the Germans, but also anyone else who didn’t realise the British way of life is best, the British upper lip is the stiffest, and Britain rules supreme! Oops, sorry – anyway, I was sure he must have fought somebody in at least one desert in his time (and the book will be quick and short) and I wonder if I’ll still love him… I suspect I probably will!

The Blurb says: It’s the Second World War and Biggles is in the desert, defending the vital air-route from the West coast of Africa to the Middle East. Urgent stores, dispatches and important officials and officers are regularly flown over this route, but lately a number of planes have unaccountably failed to arrive at their destinations. They’ve disappeared on route and Biggles is there to find out why – and stop it happening again.

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Rebus on Audio

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin read by James Macpherson

The fact that I am about to listen to the very first Rebus book, a series second only to the Dalziel and Pascoe books in my affections, and all narrated by the wonderful James Macpherson, SHOULD NOT be taken to mean that I intend to listen to the entire series in order! I mean, there are 23 of them and still counting, so it would be silly – extremely silly – to embark on such a task….

The Blurb says: ‘And in Edinburgh of all places. I mean, you never think of that sort of thing happening in Edinburgh, do you…?’ ‘That sort of thing’ is the brutal abduction and murder of two young girls. And now a third is missing, presumably gone to the same sad end. Detective Sergeant John Rebus, smoking and drinking too much, his own young daughter spirited away south by his disenchanted wife, is one of many policemen hunting the killer. And then the messages begin to arrive: knotted string and matchstick crosses – taunting Rebus with pieces of a puzzle only he can solve. 

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads, Amazon UK or Audible UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….There was a line-up at the luggage counter, and they took their places at the end of it. To Mrs. Hamilton, who was quick to sense atmosphere, the big room had an air of excitement gone stale, anticipation soured by reality.
….Journey’s end, she thought. She felt stale and sour herself, and the feeling reminded her of Virginia; Virginia at Christmas time, the year she was eight. For weeks and weeks the child had dreamed of Christmas, and then on Christmas morning she had awakened and found that Christmas was only another day. There were presents, of course, but they weren’t, they never could be, as big and exciting and mysterious as the packages they came in. In the afternoon Virginia had wept, rocking herself back and forth in misery.
….“I want my Christmas back again. I want my Christmas!” Mrs Hamilton knew now that what Virginia had wanted back were the wild and wonderful hopes, the boxes unopened, the ribbons still in bows.

~ Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

* * * * *

From Churchill’s tribute in the House to Neville Chamberlain, on his death…

….At the lychgate we may all pass our own conduct and our own judgments under a searching review. It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values. History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with the shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.

~ Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

* * * * *

….Emily Gaunt was coming down the stairs to her bedroom, fresh from her bath. Emily Gaunt was a pleasant person, well-proportioned, and, for a housemaid, unusually fair to see. Her eyes, like her hair, were a very dark brown, and there was a certain refinement in her features. Her hair was hanging about her shoulders and her face – usually pale – was rosy from her bath. In the absence of a dressing-gown or kimono, she wore an old coat of Cook’s over her night-gown. Cook was skinny and Emily was plump, so that Cook’s coat was far from meeting where it ought to have met. There was a great deal of Emily’s neck and Emily’s night-gown to be seen.
….Stephen, so far, had taken little notice of Emily, except that one evening he had smiled at her for some reason and she had smiled at him; but at this moment, in the special circumstances of this lovely evening, she seemed in his eyes surprisingly desirable. In the half-light from the dining-room it was easy to forget that she was a servant. She was merely a warm young female creature, plump and comely, and scantily clad.
….And there was no one else in the house.

~ The House by the River by A.P. Herbert

* * * * *

….She turned back into the room, and going to her writing-table laid Mrs. Fairford’s note before her, and began to study it minutely. She had read in the “Boudoir Chat” of one of the Sunday papers that the smartest women were using the new pigeon-blood notepaper with white ink; and rather against her mother’s advice she had ordered a large supply, with her monogram in silver. It was a disappointment, therefore, to find that Mrs. Fairford wrote on the old-fashioned white sheet, without even a monogram—simply her address and telephone number. It gave Undine rather a poor opinion of Mrs. Fairford’s social standing, and for a moment she thought with considerable satisfaction of answering the note on her pigeon-blood paper. Then she remembered Mrs. Heeny’s emphatic commendation of Mrs. Fairford, and her pen wavered. What if white paper were really newer than pigeon blood? It might be more stylish, anyhow. Well, she didn’t care if Mrs. Fairford didn’t like red paper—SHE did! And she wasn’t going to truckle to any woman who lived in a small house down beyond Park Avenue…

~ The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

* * * * *

….The sea was no longer oil-smooth. Little waves were forming on the tops of the swell, making patterns of white as they broke. I knew I hadn’t much time. I cupped my hands round my mouth and shouted: “Mary Deare! Ahoy! Is there anybody on board?” A gull shifted his stance uneasily on one of the ventilators, watching me with a beady eye. There was no answer, no sound except the door to the after deck-house slatting back and forth, regular as a metronome, and the bump of the lifeboat against the port side. It was obvious that she was deserted. All the evidence of abandonment was there on the deck – the empty falls, the stray pieces of clothing, a loaf lying in the scuppers, a hunk of cheese trampled into the deck, a half-open suitcase spilling nylons and cigarettes, a pair of sea boots; they had left her in a hurry and at night.
….But why?
….A sense of unease held me for a moment – a deserted ship with all its secrets, all its death-in-life stillness – I felt like an intruder and glanced quickly back towards Sea Witch. She was no bigger than a toy now in the leaden immensity of sea and sky, and the wind was beginning to moan through the empty ship – hurry! hurry!

~ The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 328…

Episode 328

A few books have arrived courtesy of various well-meaning publishers, plus I had a little spree to celebrate… er… Spree Day! As a result, despite some serious reading, the TBR has leapt back up by 3 to 176! I blame booksellers!

Here are a few more I’ll be browsing soon… 

Winner of the People’s Choice

Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

Well, People, a shock result this time! Calamity Town romped into a lead early on, but soon both White Nights and Death in the Tunnel started to fight back. The voting continued right through to yesterday afternoon with the lead changing several times. And the result? All three won! They all ended up with exactly the same number of votes, and even The Glass Key put in a good race though it never got into serious contention! So, the casting vote is mine. A difficult choice! I’ll probably be reading Calamity Town at some point this year anyway since it’s on my Murder, Mystery, Mayhem challenge. And since You’ve given me some fairly hefty ones this year so far, I’m going for the shorter of the other two.  It’ll be a July read, Great choice, People, even if You did leave me to do the hard bit… 😉 

The Blurb says: On a dark November evening, Sir Wilfred Saxonby is travelling alone in the 5 o’clock train from Cannon Street, in a locked compartment. The train slows and stops inside a tunnel; and by the time it emerges again minutes later, Sir Wilfred has been shot dead, his heart pierced by a single bullet.

Suicide seems to be the answer, even though no motive can be found. Inspector Arnold of Scotland Yard thinks again when learns that a mysterious red light in the tunnel caused the train to slow down.

Finding himself stumped by the puzzle, Arnold consults his friend Desmond Merrion, a wealthy amateur expert in criminology. Merrion quickly comes up with an ‘essential brainwave’ and helps to establish how Sir Wilfred met his end, but although it seems that the dead man fell victim to a complex conspiracy, the investigators are puzzled about the conspirators’ motives as well as their identities. Can there be a connection with Sir Wilfred’s seemingly troubled family life, his highly successful business, or his high-handed and unforgiving personality? And what is the significance of the wallet found on the corpse, and the bank notes that it contained?

* * * * *

Factual

The Ship Asunder by Tom Nancollas

Courtesy of Particular Books. I loved Nancollas’ first book, Seashaken Houses, the story of some of the rock lighthouses around Britain’s shores. This one sounds just as fascinating, and I’m hoping it inspires my imagination just as much… 

The Blurb says: If Britain’s maritime history were embodied in a single ship, she would have a prehistoric prow, a mast plucked from a Victorian steamship, the hull of a modest fishing vessel, the propeller of an ocean liner and an anchor made of stone. We might call her Asunder, and, fantastical though she is, we could in fact find her today, scattered in fragments across the country’s creeks and coastlines.

In his moving and original new history, Tom Nancollas goes in search of eleven relics that together tell the story of Britain at sea. From the swallowtail prow of a Bronze Age vessel to a stone ship moored at a Baroque quayside, each one illuminates a distinct phase of our adventures upon the waves; each brings us close to the people, places and vessels that made a maritime nation. Weaving together stories of great naval architects and unsung shipwrights, fishermen and merchants, shipwrecks and superstition, pilgrimage, trade and war, The Ship Asunder celebrates the richness of Britain’s seafaring tradition in all its glory and tragedy, triumph and disaster, and asks how we might best memorialize it as it vanishes from our shores.

* * * * *

Fiction

Edgware Road by Yasmin Cordery Khan

Courtesy of Head of Zeus via NetGalley. No particular reason for this one – I picked it simply on the grounds that the blurb sounds quite appealing…

The Blurb says: 1981. Khalid Quraishi is one of the lucky ones. He works nights in the glitzy West End, and comes home every morning to his beautiful wife and daughter. He’s a world away from Karachi and the family he left behind.

But Khalid likes to gamble, and he likes to win. Twenty pounds on the fruit machine, fifty on a sure-thing horse, a thousand on an investment that seems certain to pay out. Now he’s been offered a huge opportunity, a chance to get in early with a new bank, and it looks like he’ll finally have his big win.

2003. Alia Quraishi doesn’t really remember her dad. After her parents’ divorce she hardly saw him, and her mum refuses to talk about her charming ex-husband. So, when he died in what the police wrote off as a sad accident, Alia had no reason to believe there was more going on.

Now almost twenty years have passed and she’s tired of only understanding half of who she is. Her dad’s death alone and miles from his west London stomping ground doesn’t add up with the man she knew. If she’s going to find out the truth about her father – and learn about the other half of herself – Alia is going to have to visit his home, a place she’s never been, and connect with a family that feel more like strangers.

* * * * *

Crime

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Courtesy of HarperCollins. An unsolicited one. I had a fairly lukewarm reaction to Foley’s The Guest List, but with enough enthusiasm to be interested to try her again, and the Paris setting appeals…

The Blurb says: Welcome to No.12 rue des Amants

A beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine.

Where nothing goes unseen, and everyone has a story to unlock.

The watchful concierge
The scorned lover
The prying journalist
The naïve student
The unwanted guest

There was a murder here last night.
A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three.

Who holds the key?

* * * * *

Crime

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

One from the TBR backlog. This is currently the book that has lingered longest – I bought it in January 2013. I loved her earlier The Tenderness of Wolves, so don’t know why it’s taken me so long to finally get around to this one, though the fact that it’s 533 pages might have something to do with it…

The Blurb says: Rose Janko is missing. It has been seven years since she disappeared, and nobody said a word.

Now, following the death of his wife, her father Leon feels compelled to find her. Rumour had it she ran off when her baby boy was born with the family’s genetic disorder. Leon is not so sure. He wants to know the truth and he hires a private investigator to discover it – Ray Lovell.

Ray starts to delve deeper, but his investigation is hampered by the very people who ought to be helping him – the Jankos. He cannot understand their reluctance to help.

Why don’t they want to find Rose Janko?

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

Looking forward to…

Episode 4

Another selection in my occasional looks back at old reviews which I finished by saying something along the lines of “I’ll be looking forward to reading more of her work/this series/his books in the future” to see if I actually did read more and, if I did, did I like the ones I looked forward to as much as the ones that made me look forward to them?

Let’s see then…

Noon by Aatish Taseer

First reviewed 16th March 2013. This novel is semi-autobiographical, echoing the author’s own life as a young man with an Indian mother, an absent father in Pakistan, and a Western education. While it’s a little too episodic to quite hold together as a novel, I was impressed by Taseer’s insight and his effective and compelling storytelling. I said “I will certainly look out for more from this author in the future.” But did I?

I did! I read his next novel, The Way Things Were, and was delighted to find all the promise of his debut fulfilled in this huge and ambitious book, full of profound insight, brilliant characterisation and beautiful language. It uses one family as a vehicle for an intellectual contemplation on the political and cultural state of India more than half a century after Independence, and a kind of call for the country to rediscover its pre-Empire roots and build on that to move forward to a new, distinctively Indian future. Personally I feel it should have won the Booker that year, 2015, and it’s a sign of how pointless these awards are at finding the best books that it wasn’t even longlisted. Taseer seems to write more non-fiction than fiction, so I’m still patiently waiting for his next novel…

* * * * *

Equilateral by Ken Kalfus

First reviewed 16th March 2013. Kalfus plays with early science fiction, empire and colonialism, and the arrogance of science in this novel about a man building a gigantic triangle in the desert sands of Egypt in order to communicate with the canal-building Martians. I said “Even the geometry becomes magical in this author’s gifted hands as the red planet reprises its eternal sci-fi role as a place of mystery and wonder.” The five stars I gave it ensured Kalfus a place on my looking-forward-to list. But did I?

I most certainly did! I’ve read everything he’s written since, and all bar one of the books on his back catalogue, and loved them all. If I had to name a single favourite contemporary writer, Kalfus would be the one. A master of the short story form as well as rather quirky novels, he ranges widely across politics, science fiction, contemporary life, but in every case the often-humorous business of being human in a messy world lies at the heart of his writing. He makes me laugh, and cry, and think, which is surely what all fine fiction should do. My only complaint about him is that he is remarkably unprolific, but I’m delighted that he has a new novel coming out in May, 2 A.M. in Little America – it’s on pre-order, of course!

* * * * *

A Season for the Dead by David Hewson

First reviewed 18th March 2013. This is the first in a series set in contemporary Rome and featuring a young police detective, Nic Costa. I said “A very enjoyable read. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.” But did I?

I did! Well, at least, I read the second in the series, The Villa of Mysteries, and again enjoyed it well enough, though finding it a bit over-padded. I then read a different style of book he wrote along with AJ Hartley – a novelisation of Macbeth, and found it somewhat pretentious, failing to meet the artistic heights the authors were aiming for. It was also overly long. Then I read The Killing, Hewson’s novelisation of the hit Scandi TV series of that name. Overlong doesn’t even begin to describe it! Padded to over 700 pages, it managed to make something that had been thrilling to watch into a cure for insomnia, I’m afraid. I didn’t review it on the blog – I was too bored. I might still read another in the Nic Costa series at some point, but sadly Hewson has slipped off my must-read list.

* * * * *

Bitter Water by Gordon Ferris

First reviewed 21st March 2013. This is the second in Ferris’ four-part Douglas Brodie series, which was one of the earliest Kindle self-publishing sensations. Tartan Noir at its finest, the series is set in Glasgow in the years after WW2. Brodie, still trying to come to terms with his wartime experiences, has become a crime journalist and an unintentional amateur detective. I said “In my view, Ferris is the most exciting new Scottish crime writer on the scene” and the five star rating put Ferris firmly on my list to read more of, but did I?

I did! I had already read his earlier books about another character, Danny McRae, set in the same time period but in London, and I went on to read the remaining books in the Brodie series. While they do work as standalones, together they build to show Brodie dealing with the aftermath of war and what we would now call post-traumatic stress, and the third book in particular, Pilgrim Soul, takes us into the darkness of the Holocaust as Brodie investigates a case set among Glasgow’s Jewish community, reviving his memories of his work as an interrogator for the post-war war crimes trials. The final book, Gallowglass, has its own plot, but also lets us see whether Brodie will have the strength to find a way to live with his experiences. Really a wonderful quartet. Since then Ferris has written a couple of books set in contemporary India. I enjoyed Money Tree, though I felt it veered a little too close to the polemical, and haven’t yet read the second, Only Human. Selfishly, I wish he’d return to post-war Glasgow crime. However, he hasn’t published anything for four years now, so I’d be glad to see anything from him at this point!

* * * * *

Three favourites among this batch! No wonder I can’t keep up with my TBR! I am beginning to notice just how male my list of authors to follow is looking – hopefully a few more women will elbow their way on in future batches…

Have you read any of these authors?
Are they on your “looking forward to” list?

The Z Murders by J Jefferson Farjeon

Race into danger…

😀 😀 😀 😀

Richard Temperley arrives at Euston station after an irritating journey on the night train. The man with whom he’d shared a carriage had snored loudly all night, keeping Richard awake. Now it’s three in the morning, and the porter suggests he should go to a nearby hotel where they will let him snooze in the smoking room until day properly breaks. Richard thinks this sounds like a good plan till he gets to the smoking room and discovers the snoring man has beaten him to it. But oddly the man is no longer snoring. Possibly because he’s been shot dead…

This is a thriller rather than a mystery, mostly involving long journeys across England by rail and road in pursuit of the mysterious villain who is bumping people off, apparently randomly, and leaving a small piece of enamelled metal in the shape of a Z as his calling card. The reader meets the villain long before Richard does, but although we know who he is and gradually what he’s doing, we still don’t know his motive until near the end. Richard’s motivation is much easier to understand – he caught sight of a beautiful young woman leaving the smoking room just as he went in, and he’s fearful that the police will assume she did the deed. So rather than helping the police with their enquiries like a good little citizen, he sets off to find the woman and, that achieved, to try to save her by finding out what’s going on. Meantime the police go about their business and it becomes a race as to whether the police or Richard and the woman, Sylvia Wynne, will arrive at the unknown destination first, and whether any of them will get there in time to stop the villain from fulfilling his mission.

Like a lot of thrillers, the story in this is well beyond the bounds of credibility and the villain is completely over the top in evilness. However, I really enjoyed Farjeon’s writing which in the descriptive passages is often quite literary, but in the action passages is fast-paced and propulsive. He’s very good at creating a sense of place and atmosphere, and several times he gets a real sense of creepy impending horror into the story. Richard’s exhaustion in the first chapters is very well done, leaving him a bit woozy and not thinking too clearly. Both Richard and the mysterious Sylvia are likeable characters and their dialogue is fun in that snappy style of the era, and this reader was happy to overlook Richard’s unlikely love at first sight and hope for their romance to blossom.

Challenge details:
Book:
71
Subject Heading:
Multiplying Murders
Publication Year: 19
32

As I said, the villain is over the top (Martin Edwards describes him perfectly as “lurid”), but that doesn’t prevent him from being scary! Farjeon gives the villain a disability to make him seem freakish – not unusual for that time, but not such comfortable reading now. However, it is effective even if it adds to the incredibility of his actions. He lacks all sympathy for others and in return it’s impossible for the reader to have any sympathy for him. A real baddie with no ambiguity in the characterisation, he made me shudder more than once!

J Jefferson Farjeon

Unfortunately Farjeon spoils it a bit at the end by having the villain and his accomplice reveal the motive, which has been the main mystery, through a conversation with each other, rather than either Richard or the police working it out. But the thriller aspect works well and I found the pages turning quickly as Richard and Sylvia raced towards danger. I’ve only read one Farjeon novel before, Thirteen Guests, and had a similar reaction – good writing and an interesting set-up, but let down a little by the way he resolves the mystery without the detective showing any particular brilliance. However, in this one I felt he developed a much more effective atmosphere of tension and danger that made me more willing to overlook any flaws. Overall I found it fast-paced and entertaining and, while it may not yet have made Farjeon one of my favourite vintage crime writers, I’ll certainly be happy to read more from him.

Amazon UK Link

TBR Thursday 327 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 327

(A reminder of The People’s Choice plan. Once a month, I shall list the four oldest books on the TBR, then the next four, and so on, and each time you will select the one you think I should read, either because you’ve read and enjoyed it, or because you think the blurb looks good. And I will read the one you pick within three months! If I begin to fall behind, I’ll have a gap till I catch up again. In the event of a tie, I’ll have the casting vote.)

* * * * *

OK, People, time for the next batch of four! Still in 2019, and a crime month this month, mostly vintage. I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a July read. I’ve had a mixed reaction to Ann Cleeves, but enjoyed the first in her Shetland series – White Nights is the second. I acquired Death in the Tunnel after enjoying another of Miles Burton’s books, The Secret of High Eldersham. I’ve enjoyed a couple of Dashiell Hammett’s books in the past, and occasional blog visitor Christophe recommended The Glass Key as one of his best. Ellery Queen’s Calamity Town is one of the books for my Murder, Mystery, Mayhem challenge. I’ll be quite happy to read any of these, so you really can’t go wrong… 😉

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Crime

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

Added 24th February 2019. 23,244 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.01 average rating. 392 pages.

The Blurb says: It’s midsummer in the Shetland Islands, the time of the white nights, when birds sing at midnight and the sun never sets. Artist Bella Sinclair throws an elaborate party to launch an exhibition of her work at The Herring House, a gallery on the beach.

The party ends in farce when one the guests, a mysterious Englishman, bursts into tears and claims not to know who he is or where he’s come from. The following day the Englishman is found hanging from a rafter, and Detective Jimmy Perez is convinced that the man has been murdered. He is reinforced in this belief when Roddy, Bella’s musician nephew, is murdered, too.

But the detective’s relationship with Fran Hunter may have clouded his judgment, for this is a crazy time of the year when night blurs into day and nothing is quite as it seems.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

Added 24th February 2019. 611 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.48 average. 190 pages.

The Blurb says: On a dark November evening, Sir Wilfred Saxonby is travelling alone in the 5 o’clock train from Cannon Street, in a locked compartment. The train slows and stops inside a tunnel; and by the time it emerges again minutes later, Sir Wilfred has been shot dead, his heart pierced by a single bullet.

Suicide seems to be the answer, even though no motive can be found. Inspector Arnold of Scotland Yard thinks again when learns that a mysterious red light in the tunnel caused the train to slow down.

Finding himself stumped by the puzzle, Arnold consults his friend Desmond Merrion, a wealthy amateur expert in criminology. Merrion quickly comes up with an ‘essential brainwave’ and helps to establish how Sir Wilfred met his end, but although it seems that the dead man fell victim to a complex conspiracy, the investigators are puzzled about the conspirators’ motives as well as their identities. Can there be a connection with Sir Wilfred’s seemingly troubled family life, his highly successful business, or his high-handed and unforgiving personality? And what is the significance of the wallet found on the corpse, and the bank notes that it contained?

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

Added 24th February 2019. 11,647 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.94 average. 214 pages. 

The Blurb says: Paul Madvig was a cheerfully corrupt ward-heeler who aspired to something better: the daughter of Senator Ralph Bancroft Henry, the heiress to a dynasty of political purebreds. Did he want her badly enough to commit murder? And if Madvig was innocent, which of his dozens of enemies was doing an awfully good job of framing him? Dashiell Hammett’s tour de force of detective fiction combines an airtight plot, authentically venal characters, and writing of telegraphic crispness. [FF says: What on earth is a ward-heeler?]

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Calamity Town by Ellery Queen

Added 16th March 2019. 535 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.77 average. 290 pages.

The Blurb says: At the tail end of the long summer of 1940, there is nowhere in the country more charming than Wrightsville. The Depression has abated, and for the first time in years the city is booming. There is hope in Wrightsville, but Ellery Queen has come looking for death.

The mystery author is hoping for fodder for a novel, and he senses the corruption that lurks beneath the apple pie façade. He rents a house owned by the town’s first family, whose three daughters star in most of the local gossip. One is fragile, left at the altar three years ago and never recovered. Another is engaged to the city’s rising political star, an upright man who’s already boring her. And then there’s Lola, the divorced, bohemian black sheep. Together, they make a volatile combination. Once he sees the ugliness in Wrightsville, Queen sits back — waiting for the crime to come to him.

* * * * *

NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

* * * * *

VOTE NOW!

(Click on title and then remember to also click on Vote, or your vote won’t count!)

* * * * *

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….As they turned into Grave Street they automatically walked in the centre of the roadway. There are some places where it is not healthy to walk at night on shadowed pavements. They moved without haste and without loitering, as men who know exactly what they have to do. From one of the darkened houses a woman’s shrill scream issued full of rage and terror. It was followed by a man’s loud, angry tones, the thud of blows, shrieks, curses, and brutal laughter. Then the silence dropped over everything again. The two [police]men had apparently paid no heed. Even had they been inclined to play the part of knights-errant in what was not an uncommon episode in Grave Street, they knew that the woman who had been chastised would probably have been the first to turn on them.

~ The Grell Mystery by Frank Froest

* * * * *

The eyes of the world were fixed upon the fate of the British Island, upon the gathering of the invading German armies, and upon the drama of the struggle for air mastery. These were of course our main preoccupations. In many countries we were presumed to be at the last gasp. Our confident and resolute bearing was admired by our friends, but its foundations were deemed unsure. Nevertheless the War Cabinet were determined to defend Egypt against all comers with whatever resources could be spared from the decisive struggle at home. All the more was this difficult when the Admiralty declared themselves unable to pass even military convoys through the Mediterranean on account of the air dangers. All must go round the Cape. Thus we might easily rob the Battle of Britain without helping the Battle of Egypt. It is odd that while at the time everyone concerned was quite calm and cheerful, writing about it afterwards makes one shiver.

~ Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

* * * * *

….Where was the sound coming from?
….I had no time to seek out a candle. I padded to the door. The upper floor was in darkness. The bedchamber doors were closed. But the noise came from Esther’s room.
….Feeling my way, conscious that it had been years since I had stumbled across the boards to my sister’s room, I reached for the handle.
….As I stepped into the room, adjusting my sight to the blackness, I realised the rumbling sound had been the scraping and thumping of Esther’s bed against the bare boards. The convulsions of her body moved the bed, her back arched towards the ceiling, with her head and upper limbs thrashing. From her mouth were torn incomprehensible utterances, rapid and confused, hardly words at all, like the cries of tormented souls. I was terribly afraid, but resisted the urge to sink to my knees, remembering my promise to my father – you look upon a man now – and went forward. She had to be caught in the throes of some evil dream.
….“Esther!” I cried. “Wake, Esther!”

~ The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews

* * * * *

….Thady begins his Memoirs of the Rackrent Family by dating Monday morning, because no great undertaking can be auspiciously commenced in Ireland on any morning but Monday morning. – ‘Oh, please God we live till Monday morning, we’ll set the slater to mend the roof of the house – On Monday morning we’ll fall to, and cut the turf – On Monday morning we’ll see and begin mowing – On Monday morning, please your honour, we’ll begin and dig the potatoes,’ &c.
….All the intermediate days between the making of such speeches and the ensuing Monday are wasted, and when Monday morning comes it is ten to one that the business is deferred to the next Monday morning. The Editor knew a gentleman who, to counteract this prejudice, made his workmen and labourers begin all new pieces of work upon a Saturday.

~ Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

* * * * *

I had only a small slit in a window in my cell but there must have been a larger window in hers because some nights the moonlight would come gushing broadly out of her cell, almost bright as day against the floor of the corridor down there. I’d roll over on my stomach, looking at the moonlight and knowing it had washed over her between window and corridor, and wondering how she looked with all that cream-colored hair curving against her pillow in the silver-blue light. I ached for the feel of her, for the smooth miracle of her beautiful body, for the color of her eyes near mine. Nona? Who was Nona? I wanted Virginia. She was a creature of moonlight, crazy as moonlight, all upthrusting radiance and hard silver dimples and hollows, built for one thing and only one thing and perfectly for that. I chewed my knuckles and wanted Virginia. I watched the moonlight spill down through the bars of the door of her cell and wondered how I’d ever thought I was sick of a thing as good as Virginia.

~ Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze

* * * * *

So… are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 326…

Episode 326

The TBR continues to fall, mainly because I seem to have been powering through the books for the last couple of weeks! (Wish I was also powering through writing the reviews!) Down 2 to 173…

Here are a few more I should reach soon (or am already reading) – lots of crime this week…

Crime Anthology

The Perfect Crime edited by Vaseem Khan and Maxim Jakubowski

Courtesy of HarperCollins. In fact, the vast majority of the contributing authors are either British or American, with one or two detours to exotic under-represented nations like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and one from Nigeria. So perhaps “diverse cultures” from “across the world” might be a bit of an exaggeration… 😉 Hopefully the stories will be enjoyable despite the marketing.

The Blurb says: Around the world in 22 murders…

MURDER
BLACKMAIL
REVENGE
From Lagos to Mexico City, Australia to the Caribbean, Toronto to Los Angeles, Darjeeling to rural New Zealand, London to New York – twenty-two bestselling crime writers from diverse cultures come together from across the world in a razor sharp and deliciously sinister collection of crime stories.

Featuring Oyinkan Braithwaite, Abir Mukherjee, S.A. Cosby, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, J.P. Pomare, Sheena Kamal, Vaseem Khan, Sulari Gentill, Nelson George, Rachel Howzell Hall, John Vercher, Sanjida Kay, Amer Anwar, Henry Chang, Nadine Matheson, Mike Phillips, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Felicia Yap, Thomas King, Imran Mahmood, David Heska, Wanbli Weiden and Walter Mosley.

Fiction

The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews

Courtesy of Raven Books via NetGalley. I must admit that the reviews I’ve seen for this have made me suspect it’s not going to be my cup of tea, but the blurb still sounds like fun, so we’ll see…

(Update: halfway through and loving it so far!)

The Blurb says: Norfolk, 1643. With civil war tearing England apart, reluctant soldier Thomas Treadwater is summoned home by his sister, who accuses a new servant of improper conduct with their widowed father. By the time Thomas returns home, his father is insensible, felled by a stroke, and their new servant is in prison, facing charges of witchcraft.

Thomas prides himself on being a rational, modern man, but as he unravels the mystery of what has happened, he uncovers not a tale of superstition but something dark and ancient, linked to a shipwreck years before.

Something has awoken, and now it will not rest.

Richly researched, incredibly atmospheric, and deliciously unsettling, The Leviathan is set in England during a time of political turbulence and religious zealotry. It is a tale of family and loyalty, superstition and sacrifice, but most of all it is a spellbinding story of impossible things.

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Classic Crime

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

I read and enjoyed Millar’s The Listening Walls a couple of years ago so popped this one into the genre section of my Classics Club list… 

The Blurb says: Virginia Barkeley is a nice, well brought-up girl. So what is she doing wandering through a snow storm in the middle of the night, blind drunk and covered in someone else’s blood?

When Claude Margolis’ body is found a quarter of a mile away with half-a-dozen stab wounds to the neck, suddenly Virginia doesn’t seem such a nice girl after all. Her only hope is Meecham, the cynical small-town lawyer hired as her defence. But how can he believe in Virginia’s innocence when even she can’t be sure what happened that night? And when the answer seems to fall into his lap, why won’t he just walk away?

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Vintage Crime on Audio

Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze read by Malcolm Hillgartner

This went onto my wishlist years ago as a result of someone’s review – sadly I can’t remember whose. It may be too noir for me, but it gets great ratings, for the book and even more so for the narration.

(Update: halfway through and loving it so far!)

The Blurb says: She had the face of a madonna and a heart of dollar bills.

“I came back and searched dizzily under the trailer, muttering the way drunks do, and then I heard it. A shuffling around inside the trailer. The little tramp had knocked me in the head with her Southern Comfort and now she was in there loading up….She didn’t know I was alive.”

A legend among noir buffs, Chaze’s long-lost pulp classic is the dreamlike tale of a man after a jailbreak who meets up with the woman of his dreams – and his nightmares.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads, Amazon UK or Audible UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday (on a Friday) 325…

A twelfth batch of murder, mystery and mayhem…

This is a challenge to read all 102 (102? Yes, 102) books listed in Martin Edwards’ guide to vintage crime, The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books. (100? Yes, 100.) Because of all the other great vintage crime being republished at the moment, I’m going very slowly with this challenge and they’ve proved to be a bit of a mixed bag so far, though with more winners than losers. Here’s the first batch for 2022 and the twelfth overall…

The Grell Mystery by Frank Froest

Frank Froest apparently turned his hand to mystery writing after a long and successful career in the Metropolitan Police, writing two novels and some short stories… 

The Blurb says: The latest in a new series of classic detective stories from the vaults of HarperCollins involves the murder of a notorious criminal in the home of a famous millionaire. But there are no clues, no evidence. The police are convinced that someone may have just committed the perfect crime.

The Grell Mystery was first published in 1913 and selected as one of the launch titles for the Detective Club in 1929. It was written by former Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Frank Froest, who had turned in retirement to writing successful and authentic crime novels.

“If you like a thriller with plenty of exciting incident and a clever plot you will like this first-rate detective novel by Frank Froest. Chief Inspector Foyle was confronted with the most bewildering case of his career when Goldenburg, the crook, was found foully murdered in the flat of Robert Grell, millionaire. Here was what appeared to be a perfect crime without a clue that led anywhere. But Foyle was more than a match for the arch-criminal and his masterly deduction and determination brought him a splendid triumph.”

Challenge details

Book No: 60

Subject Heading: The Long Arm of the Law

Publication Year: 1913

Martin Edwards says: “…when Heldon Foyle, Chief of the C.I.D., reflects that sometime a police officer needs to ‘put a blind eye to the telescope’ and act in a ‘technically illegal’ way so as to do justice, there can be little doubt that this reflects Froest’s own attitude.”

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The Mystery of the Skeleton Key by Bernard Capes

Another new-to-me author and apparently this was his only venture into mystery writing…

The Blurb says: A body is discovered after a shooting party in the grounds of a country house in Hampshire. The police are called in, and a clever young detective, Sergeant Ridgway, begins to unravel a much more complicated and brutal case of murder than was first suspected. But has he met his match with Le Sage, a chess-playing Baron, who is convinced that the answers lie not in Hampshire but in Paris?

After 20 years of writing in various genres, The Skeleton Key was Bernard Capes’ crowning achievement, as he died shortly after completing the book.

Challenge details

Book No: 15

Subject Heading: The Birth of the Golden Age

Publication Year: 1919

Edwards says: “Introducing The Skeleton Key, G.K. Chesterton highlighted the quality of Capes’ writing: ‘From the first his prose had a strong element of poetry.’ Julian Symons, in his seminal study of the genre, Bloody Murder, described the book as ‘a neglected tour de force‘.”

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The House by the River by AP Herbert

And another author I’ve never met before. Apparently Fritz Lang made a movie of this one, so that has to be some kind of recommendation…

The Blurb says: After the inquest, The Chase had plenty to talk about. Mrs. Ambrose and Mrs. Church were kept very busy. For few of The Chase had been actually present in the flesh—not because they were not interested and curious and indeed aching to be present, but because it seemed hardly decent. Since the great Nuisance Case about the noise of the Quick Boat Company’s motor-boats there had been no event of communal importance to The Chase; life had been a lamentable blank. And it was an ill-chance that the first genuine excitement, not counting the close of the Great War, should be a function which it seemed hardly decent to attend: an inquest on the dead body of a housemaid from The Chase discovered almost naked in a sack by a police-boat at Barnes.

Challenge details

Book No: 73

Subject Heading: The Psychology of Crime

Publication Year: 1920

Edwards says: “Herbert’s brisk, yet at times lyrical, narrative benefits from a series of ironic vignettes . . . The reader knows the truth about the crime, but remains uncertain as to whether justice will be done or denied – and, if it is done, by what means. 

* * * * *

Background for Murder by Shelley Smith

And another author I don’t know! Martin Edwards sure digs up some obscure ones!

The Blurb says: Dr. Maurice Royd, the head of a psychiatric hospital, is found slumped over his desk with his skull caved in. But a lack of hard evidence leaves the local police stumped. The difficulty is that there are too many people who could have murdered Dr. Royd, too many people who wished him dead. Any one of that ‘bunch of crazies’ might have yielded to the impulse to do it.

Private Investigator Jacob Chaos is given the case by Scotland Yard. Now time is of the essence for Chaos as he tries to get the job done discreetly, hushing up any possibility of a scandal. But it seems there is quite a lot of funny business concerning the late Dr. Royd and digging any deeper seems to start stirring up trouble.

Before he knows it, Chaos inadvertently kick-starts a killing spree. Racing against the clock with an ever growing list of suspects, Jacob Chaos must work to unravel the twisted skeins hiding the truth and catch the audacious murderer…

Background for Murder is a classic whodunit and stark exposé of human horror in the tangled worlds of sanity and insanity.

Challenge details

Book No: 100

Subject Heading: The Way Ahead

Publication Year: 1942

Edwards says: “The story is . . . narrated by a private investigator, Jacob Chaos, in a wisecracking style influenced by the more ‘realistic’ American school of writers such as Raymond Chandler – and mental illness, abortion and sexual promiscuity are discussed more freely than in typical Golden Age mysteries. The result is a book reflecting a genre in transition…”

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All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.
The quotes from Martin Edwards are from his book,
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 324 and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year, as I do every year, I set myself some targets for my various reading challenges and for the reduction of my ever-expanding TBR. My reading dipped for a few weeks this quarter when the news took on such a grim aspect but I’ve now reached a point where I just can’t watch it any more, so my reading has returned more or less to normal, though with quite a few books finding themselves on the abandoned heap, as seems to happen in times of stress!

Here goes, then – the first check-in of the year…

Hmm, overperforming on some targets and underperforming on others, but overall that looks pretty good to me. But then the first quarter usually does when I haven’t yet had time to be diverted by new acquisitions! It will all go horribly wrong soon, I expect, but hey! Who’s counting? 😉

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The Classics Club

I’ve had a flurry of classics reading as I finished my first list and started my second. I’ve read seven this quarter and had three left still to review at the end of last quarter. I’m still miles behind with reviews, though, so again have three still to come next quarter…

First List

83. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester – Gosh, I hated this bad taste pulp science fiction from the 1950s – a vile book about a vile man doing vile things in a vile society. 1 star.

84. Rabbit, Run by John Updike – Gosh, I hated this misogynistic pile of drivel, an early example of the sex-obsessed, narcissistic bilge that too often passes for literature in these degenerate days! 👵 1 star.

85. The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham – A wonderfully atmospheric thriller making great use of the London fog, although let down a little by the ending. 4 stars.

86. The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr – I could see why this is so popular among “impossible crime” enthusiasts but that’s not my favourite sub-genre so for me it was a mediocre read. 3 stars.

87. Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin – Gosh, I hated this tedious book, filled with the mumboing and jumboing of religious maniacs. I enjoyed seeing all the contrasting views from my Review-Along buddies though! 1 star.

88. No Mean City by A McArthur and H Kingsley Long – Not a great novel, perhaps, but of interest for its look at the Glasgow slums of the era, and as the book that gave the city the hardman reputation that has inspired so much gang-obsessed fiction since. 4 stars.

88 down, 2 to go!

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Second List

1. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham – A thought-provoking meditation on post-apocalyptic societies and how we humans treat those we see as different, while also managing to be a tense thriller. Again I enjoyed reading this as a Review-Along. 4½ stars.

I also attempted to read On the Road by Jack Kerouac but quickly abandoned it – I’m too old for the dreary drink and drug fuelled “adventures” of overgrown adolescents, I fear. I’ve replaced it on my list with The Walls of Jericho by Rudolph Fisher.

1 down, 79 to go!

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I think “mixed bag” is the only way to describe this batch of classics! That’s what happens when you get to the last books on your list and find you’ve lost all enthusiasm for them… 😉

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

I’ve read two for this challenge this quarter but haven’t reviewed either of them yet…

46 down, 56 to go!

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Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge

I’ve read precisely none for this challenge this quarter, but reviewed one left over from the quarter before…

9. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee – Despite many beautifully written passages, I felt that the whole memoir had been so embellished it was difficult to see what was true and what was fictional. Plus I hated the way he talked about women and young girls. 3 stars.

I have lots of books lined up for this challenge – it’s just a matter of fitting them in!

9 down, indefinite number to go!

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The People’s Choice

People's Choice Logo

I’ve read three and reviewed three – hurrah, I’m on track with this challenge! So did You, The People, pick me some good ones…?

January – The Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell – I was conflicted as to how I felt about this colonial satire, a fictionalised version of the real Siege of Lucknow of 1857. But my appreciation grew in the later stages, so in the end I was glad to have read it. 4 stars.

February – The Chink in the Armour by Marie Belloc Lowndes – An entertaining vintage crime novel, set in a gambling town just outside Paris. Far too long for its content, but fun overall, with a likeable, if frustratingly naive, heroine and a sexy French Count. 3½ stars.

MarchThe Chrysalids by John Wyndham – Set in a world devastated by nuclear war, this excellent novel provides much food for thought on the subjects of evolution and humanity’s tendency to fear and persecute difference. 4½ stars.

Three interesting, varied and enjoyable choices, People – you did great! Keep up the good work! 😉

3 down, 9 to go!

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Wanderlust Bingo

I’ve read three books for this challenge this quarter and had two still to review from the previous quarter. I’ve reviewed four, with one still to come. I’ve also abandoned one or two that I had planned would fill boxes, but I’ve tentatively selected others to replace them – fingers crossed! The dark blue boxes are books from previous quarters, and the orange are the ones I’m adding this quarter. I still might shuffle them again before the end if I have to, but I’m hoping not. (If you click on the bingo card you should get a larger version.)

CanadaStill Life by Louise Penny – 3 stars. The setting is one of the main strengths of the book, so I’ve slotted it into the North America box.

Turkey – Stamboul Train by Graham Greene – 5 stars.  Really the book covers a journey right across Europe from Ostend to Istanbul on the Orient Express, so it’s a perfect fit for the Train box.

IndiaThe Siege of Krishnapur by JG Farrell – 4 stars. Krishnapur may be fictional, but the events are based on the real history of the Indian Rebellion, so this slots nicely into the Indian Sub-Continent box.

USAThe Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles – 4 stars. This wasn’t quite as much of a road trip novel as I expected, but spends enough time on the Lincoln Highway to justify slotting it into the Road box.

Still some way to go, but the end is nearly in sight…

19 down, 6 to go!

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Doing well on some challenges, falling behind on others – story of my life, really! 😉 Thanks as always for sharing my reading experiences!

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….He goes out of the back door, through the yard, across the common. He’s been walking with his daughter often enough to know her favourite route. Soon he is by the dried-up beck and climbing steadily along its bank up the dale.
….After a while when he is sure he is out of earshot of Liggside, he starts calling her name.
….“Lorraine! Lorraine!”
….For a long time there is nothing. Then he hears a distant bark. Tremulous with relief he presses on, over a fold of land. Ahead he sees Tig, alone, and limping badly, coming toward him.
….Oh, now the skylarks like aery spies sing, She’s here! she’s hurt! she’s here! she’s hurt! and the dancing butterflies spell out the message, She’s gone forever.
….He stoops by the injured dog and asks, “Where is she, Tig? Seek!”
….But the animal just cringes away from him as though fearful of a blow.
….He rushes on. For half an hour he ranges the fellside, seeking and shouting. Finally, because hope here is dying, he invents hope elsewhere and heads back down the slope. Tig has remained where they met. He picks him up, ignoring the animal’s yelp of pain.
….“She’ll be back home by now, just you wait and see, boy,” he says. “Just you wait and see.”
….But he knows in his heart that Lorraine would never have left Tig alone and injured up the dale.

~ On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill

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….Véronique opened a door to reveal what must be the doctor’s workroom, for it was full of lathes, a machine with a large brass disc, some sort of engine, shelves and cupboards stacked with boxes and books. Next to the long window stood a high workbench cluttered with callipers, hacksaws, odd woodhandled tools. Further implements hung from the walls – for clockmaking, she supposed, but some had the nasty look of instruments used for torture. The whole place had a distinctive, unfamiliar smell: part soot, part chemical, part mystery.
….“This is where he creates.” Véronique opened a drawer beneath the workbench and removed a small wooden box. Inside was a silver spider that Madeleine took at first for a brooch, but before she knew what was happening, it was running across the table towards her with the hideous furtive motion of the real creature, thin silver legs rasping on the wooden surface, and it was all she could do not to scream. Abruptly, when it was only a few inches away from her, the thing came to a standstill. Véronique smiled but her eyes remained watchful. “Wonderful, isn’t it? But it isn’t yet finished.”

~ The Clockwork Girl by Anna Mazzola

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This was a time when all Britain worked and strove to the utmost limit and was united as never before. Men and women toiled at the lathes and machines in the factories till they fell exhausted on the floor and had to be dragged away and ordered home, while their places were occupied by newcomers ahead of time. The one desire of all the males and many women was to have a weapon. The Cabinet and Government were locked together by bonds the memory of which is still cherished by all. The sense of fear seemed entirely lacking in the people, and their representatives in parliament were not unworthy of their mood. We had not suffered like France under the German flail. Nothing moves an Englishman so much as the threat of invasion, the reality unknown for a thousand years. Vast numbers of people were resolved to conquer or die. There was no need to rouse their spirit by oratory. They were glad to hear me express their sentiments and give them good reasons for what they meant to do, or try to do. The only possible divergence was from people who wished to do even more than was possible, and had the idea that frenzy might sharpen action.

~ Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

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….The brown pebble eyes ever on the alert for a bargain summed up the amazing place as ideal for a select and suitably expensive boarding school – better still a College – for Young Ladies. To the delight of the Bendigo house agent who was showing her over the property she had bought it then and there, lock, stock and barrel, including the gardener, with a reduction for cash down, and moved in.
….Whether the Headmistress of Appleyard College (as the local white elephant was at once re-christened in gold lettering on a handsome board at the big iron gates) had any previous experience in the educational field, was never divulged. It was unnecessary. With her high-piled greying pompadour and ample bosom, as rigidly controlled and disciplined as her private ambitions, the cameo portrait of her late husband flat on her respectable chest, the stately stranger looked precisely what the parents expected of an English Headmistress. And as looking the part is well known to be more than half the battle in any form of business enterprise from Punch and Judy to floating a loan on the Stock Exchange, the College, from the very first day, was a success; and by the end of the first year, showing a gratifying profit.

~ Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

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So… are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 323…

Episode 323

The TBR remains on its roller-coaster ride – this time down 3 to 177 (mostly due to a little spate of abandonments, I fear)…

(Love that gif so much!!) Here are a few more I’ll be dipping into soon… 

Winner of the People’s Choice

The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham

It was a bumper vote this month so thank you to all the People who participated! The Painted Veil stormed ahead in the first few hours and although Shirley Jackson ran a fantastic race she just couldn’t catch up with the frontrunner. The other two were sad also-rans, I fear, especially poor Edgar Rice Burroughs, who needs to think about getting a new trainer. I’m delighted – although I’d have been happy to read any of them, secretly this was the result I was hoping for. Well chosen, People! 

The Blurb says: Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful, but love-starved Kitty Fane.

When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive.

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Crime

I Have Something to Tell You by Susan Lewis

Courtesy of HarperCollins. An unsolicited one which, although the blurb makes it sound like a legal thriller, reviews tell me is more about relationship issues and marriage problems – not my kind of thing at all. It’s got very high ratings though, so we’ll see if she can win me over…
(I’ve already started it and am enjoying it so far…)

The Blurb says: High-flying lawyer Jessica Wells has it all. A successful career, loving husband Tom and a family she adores. But one case – and one client – will put all that at risk.

Edward Blake. An ordinary life turned upside down – or a man who quietly watched television while his wife was murdered upstairs? With more questions than answers and a case too knotted to unravel, Jessica suspects he’s protecting someone…

Then she comes home one day and her husband utters the words no one ever wants to hear. Sit down… because I’ve got something to tell you…

Now Jessica must fight not only for the man she defends, but for the man she thought she trusted with her life – her husband.

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Historical Fiction

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

I have long intended to try Allende’s work, and this one sounds like it might be an interesting addition to my Spanish Civil War challenge, plus I’d like to know more about this period of Chilean history…

The Blurb says: September 3, 1939, the day of the Spanish exiles’ splendid arrival in Chile, the Second World War broke out in Europe.

Victor Dalmau is a young doctor when he is caught up in the Spanish Civil War, a tragedy that leaves his life – and the fate of his country – forever changed. Together with his sister-in-law, the pianist Roser, he is forced out of his beloved Barcelona and into exile.

When opportunity to seek refuge arises, they board a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda to Chile, the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’. There, they find themselves enmeshed in a rich web of characters who come together in love and tragedy over the course of four generations, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.

A masterful work of historical fiction that soars from the Spanish Civil War to the rise and fall of Pinochet, A Long Petal of the Sea is Isabel Allende at the height of her powers.

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Vintage Crime

Death of a Bookseller by Bernard J Farmer

Courtesy of the British Library. This is the 100th title in the BL’s Crime Classics series, and the first appearance of this author of whom I have never heard! The blurb sounds intriguing though I’m surprised they didn’t go for one of their stars to celebrate the 100th book. But maybe Farmer is just about to become a new star – fingers crossed! Anyone heard of him?

The Blurb says: A rare gem of the mystery genre makes its first return to print since 1956.

An honest policeman, Sergeant Wigan, escorts a drunk man home one night to keep him out of trouble and, seeing his fine book collection, slowly falls in to the gentle art of book collecting. Just as the friendship is blossoming, the policeman’s book-collecting friend is murdered.

To solve the mystery of why the victim was killed, and which of his rare books was taken, Wigan dives into the world of ‘runners’ and book collectors, where avid agents will gladly cut you for a first edition and then offer you a lift home afterwards. This adventurous mystery, which combines exuberant characters with a wonderfully realised depiction of the second-hand book market, is sure to delight bibliophiles and classic crime enthusiasts alike.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

Looking forward to…

Episode 3

Another selection in my occasional looks back at old reviews which I finished by saying something along the lines of “I’ll be looking forward to reading more of her work/this series/his books in the future” to see if I actually did read more and, if I did, did I like the ones I looked forward to as much as the ones that made me look forward to them?

Let’s see then…

What Lies Within by Tom Vowler

First reviewed 5th March 2013. Part psychological thriller, part character study, and set in Dartmoor, this is a tense and atmospheric debut that crosses the border into literary fiction for the quality of the writing and depth of characterisation. I said “Vowler has already with this debut established himself as an author to watch.” But did I?

I did! I read his next book, That Dark Remembered Day, and was equally impressed, if not more so. Also marketed as a psychological thriller, and again in my opinion falling more into the literary fiction camp, the book is about the trauma of war and how the effects of the psychological damage done to active participants can ripple out through society and down through generations. It kept him firmly on my watch list. Vowler is not prolific – his third novel appeared just last year, Every Seventh Wave, and happily this time it is being more accurately marketed as a literary thriller. It’s currently lingering on my wishlist. (Note to self: buy it!)

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Six Years by Harlan Coben

First reviewed 6th March 2013. Coben is a master of the traditional action thriller form – the ordinary man or woman caught up in extraordinary events. The five stars he gained for this book and “the sheer enjoyment of this exciting, fast-paced and great fun page-turner” earned him a place on my list of authors to look forward to. But did I?

I’d already read several Coben novels over the years so he’s an author I always keep an eye on. However, excellent though he is, I find if I read him too often or too close together his books tend to begin to feel a bit samey. So he’s an occasional author for me, when I’m in the mood for a reliable fast-paced roller-coaster ride. I’ve read one other since this one, The Stranger, and currently have another on my TBR, Don’t Let Go, though I shamefacedly admit it’s been on there for far too long. (Note to self: prioritise better!)

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The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

First reviewed 8th March 2013. This was my introduction to Tóibín and I loved it. A retelling of the Jesus story from the perspective of his mother, it proved to be quite controversial, especially over the pond in America. I described it as “a very beautiful piece of writing and a master-class in story-telling” and the five stars I gave it put Tóibín on my looking-forward-to list. But did I?

I certainly did! I went on a Tóibín binge, in fact, quickly reading several of his back catalogue and loving them all. The pinnacle had to be the wonderful Nora Webster. However, I haven’t got on quite so well with his newer books. I was somewhat disappointed in House of Names, a retelling of the story of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and their children. And his latest one, The Magician, doesn’t appeal to me for the simple reason it’s about Thomas Mann, an author I’ve never read; this also being the reason I haven’t read The Master – Tóibín’s earlier acclaimed book about Henry James, in whose books I’ve only dabbled with middling results. I may one day read either of these if I ever feel I know and like those authors well enough to find books about them interesting. Tóibín remains on my list though – he’s a permanent fixture now, and I continue to look forward to reading any of his future books where the subject matter sounds like my kind of thing.

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American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

First reviewed 11th March 2013. Frankly I astonished myself by enjoying this one! It must have simply come along at a moment in time when my normal prudery controls had broken down. However love it I did, describing it as “Brilliantly written, extremely perceptive, amazingly funny – and most certainly not for the faint-hearted.” The five star rating put Ellis on my list to read more of, but did I?

I did… not! For a long time I kept Less than Zero on my wishlist, but every time my finger hovered over the Buy Now button I couldn’t bring myself to click. Clearly my prudery controls have re-booted and I now can’t imagine reading any more of his books and actually find it hard to believe I ever enjoyed American Psycho! Sorry, Mr Ellis – it’s not you, it’s me. I eventually removed him from my list…

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My first failure! I’m still looking at authors I had read and reviewed on Amazon before I began blogging, so my success rate is still quite high. But all those new-to-me authors I met as a result of bloggers’ recommendations should begin to appear soon, leading to an explosion in my TBR and therefore in my list of authors to look forward to, and I anticipate there will be many more failures to come…

Have you read any of these authors?
Are they on your “looking forward to” list?

TBR Thursday 322 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 322

(A reminder of The People’s Choice plan. Once a month, I shall list the four oldest books on the TBR, then the next four, and so on, and each time you will select the one you think I should read, either because you’ve read and enjoyed it, or because you think the blurb looks good. And I will read the one you pick within three months! If I begin to fall behind, I’ll have a gap till I catch up again. In the event of a tie, I’ll have the casting vote.)

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OK, People, time for the next batch of four! Now moving into 2019, and another varied bunch, though all classics of their genres. I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a June read. Another leftover from my old Great American Novel Quest, Catch-22 would be a re-read, although I can’t remember after so many years whether I enjoyed it or not first time round. I’ve dipped into The Lottery and Other Stories once or twice for Tuesday Terror! posts, but there are still many stories in it I’ve never read. I’ve loved Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom books and Tarzan, so acquired The Land That Time Forgot, and have now included it on my new Classics Club list. The Painted Veil was added after I watched and enjoyed the film and because shamefully I haven’t read anything by W Somerset Maugham. It’s also now on my CC list. I’ll be quite happy to read any of these, so you really can’t go wrong! 😉

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

American Classic

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Added 24th December 2018. 772,909 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.98 average rating. 466 pages.

The Blurb says: At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war.

His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he’s committed to flying, he’s trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he’s sane and therefore, ineligible to be relieved.

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Short Horror Stories

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

Added 5th January 2019. 69,128 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.05 average. 320 pages.

The Blurb says: The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in the 20th century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. “Power and haunting,” and “nights of unrest” were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson’s lifetime, unites The Lottery with twenty-four equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson’s remarkable range–from the hilarious to the truly horrible–and power as a storyteller.

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Fantasy Adventure

The Land That Time Forgot Trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Added 30th January 2019. 7,686 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.90 average. 259 pages. 

The Blurb says: All Three Classic Adventures from the Prehistoric World that Lives Today – The Land that Time Forgot; The People that Time Forgot & Out of Time’s Abyss.

Before Jurassic Park there was The Land that Time Forgot. In 1916 the great World War is raging on land and on the world’s oceans. On the high seas a ship falls victim to a marauding German U-boat. The vagaries of fate decree that soon the tables will be turned on the aggressors, and the survivors will take control. This story of war becomes something far more bizarre as the search for land and fresh water draws the polyglot crew into a subterranean channel which leads to an exotic, unknown world. When an enormous, amphibian reptile – of a type only known from distant prehistory – appears in living form and attacks, devouring a man in the process, the survivors realise that this is the start of a high adventure beyond anything they could have imagined..

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English Classic

The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham

Added 24th February 2019. 39,417 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.95 average. 280 pages.

The Blurb says: Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful, but love-starved Kitty Fane.

When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

The Painted Veil is a beautifully written affirmation of the human capacity to grow, to change, and to forgive.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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VOTE NOW!

(Click on title and then remember to also click on Vote, or your vote won’t count!)

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Classics Club Spin #29 Result

The Spin Gods picked no. 11, which means I’ll be reading Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth. Must be a mistake – a short book that I really want to read! Someone check if the Spin Gods have a fever… 😉

The Blurb says: During the 1790s, with Ireland in political crisis, Maria Edgeworth made a surprisingly rebellious choice: in Castle Rackrent, her first novel, she adopted an Irish Catholic voice to narrate the decline of a family from her own Anglo-Irish class. Castle Rackrent‘s narrator, Thady Quirk, gives us four generations of Rackrent heirs – Sir Patrick, the dissipated spendthrift; Sir Murtagh, the litigating fiend; Sir Kit, the brutal husband and gambling absentee; and Sir Condy, the lovable and improvident dupe of Thady’s own son, Jason.

With this satire on Anglo-Irish landlords Edgeworth pioneered the regional novel and inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814). She also changed the focus of conflict in Ireland from religion to class and boldly predicted the rise of the Irish Catholic Bourgeoisie.

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Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my recent reading in quotes…

….Just at that moment a girl, carrying a violin case, came running into Cumberland Street from Abbotsford Place closely pursued by four jeering youths. She wore a hat and was neatly dressed, but her skirt was rather longer than the prevailing fashion and she ran awkwardly, being a little bandy-legged.
….“Hey! See yon lassie carryin’ the fiddle?” shouted Johnnie excitedly. “That’s Lizzie Ramsey. Come on, Bobbie, let’s run. Be a sticker and don’t let those bastards get away w’ it.”
….Johnnie was pounding along the street before his friend knew what was happening. Bobbie ran after him, however, lagging a little when he saw that the four youths were “tough.” He thought they came from the Plantation district.
….The fact that Lizzy Ramsey was from Gorbals, while the four young men were not, was enough for Johnnie. His actions always ran ahead of his thoughts, and when he saw one of the four stopping Lizzie and beginning to twist the violin-case out of her hands, he was enraged and ready to “stick” for all he was worth
….“Nit the jorrie (Leave the girl alone)!” he yelled. “Nark it! Nark it!”

~ No Mean City by A. McArthur and H. Kingsley Long

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….“I have said that there are cases when the findings at the inquest are reconsidered. It is all a matter of available evidence. Let us leave that for the moment, but believe me when I say that if there is any possible way in which I can help you, I will. I understand your feelings on the subject of publicity, and your anxiety to spare your parents further distress, but you – and they – will agree that a wrong verdict cannot be allowed to stand.”
….Richard Surray looked at the lean, clear-cut face of the Chief Inspector and met the glance of his observant grey eyes. When he had first talked to Macdonald he had liked him, liked his clear, straightforward intelligence, his humanity and his anxiety to have a job done properly, without reference to his own personal prestige. Watching him now, Surray knew that there was an element of ruthlessness, too, in that clear mind. Macdonald was not the man to let sentiment interfere with his job. Humane he might be, but he would stop at nothing in the pursuit of justice, and to him justice could only be obtained by minute examination of the evidence – all the evidence, omitting nothing.

~ Post After Post-Mortem by ECR Lorac

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….The sound of voices nearby woke Staci up. She had no idea how long she’d slept, but she could tell that the sky was lightening. It must be close to dawn. She didn’t dare get up, in case whoever it was saw her. But by turning her head just a bit, she could see out from beneath the plastic bag. In a moment, the men whose voices she’d heard came into view.
….“Here’s good,” one of them said. He was tall and had a dark coat.
….The man with him grunted, “About time.” He was a little shorter, and it looked like he was wearing a parka. Together they were carrying a bunch of rolled-up blankets. Now, they put the blankets down. Tall Guy looked around. Staci didn’t even breathe as he glanced at the plastic bag. After a minute, he said, “Let’s get the hell out of here. It’s cold as a witch’s.”
….Parka Guy nodded. “Got that right.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets. At least he had gloves on. Staci’s own hands grew even colder as she thought about how warm those gloves must be. The two men took one more look around, then turned away and headed back where they’d come from.

~ Streets of Gold by Margot Kinberg

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As he crossed this awful square his dizziness cleared. After a few steps he had regained a sense of reality. He began to adjust to the atmosphere of the place. At the start fumes, a vapour, so to speak, had risen from his poet’s head, or perhaps, quite simply and prosaically, from his empty stomach and this, interposed between objects and himself, had let him glimpse them only through the incoherent haze of nightmare, through the obscurity of those dreams which blur every edge, distort every shape, piling up objects into disproportionate groups, inflating things into chimeras and people into phantoms. Gradually these hallucinations were succeeded by a vision less distraught and less exaggerating. Reality dawned around him, touched his sight, touched his feet, and bit by bit dismantled all the poetry of terror with which he had at first believed himself to be surrounded. He was forced to realise that he was not walking in the Styx but in the mire, that he was not being jostled by devils but by robbers; that it was not his soul that was at stake but quite simply his life (since he lacked the precious intermediary which so effectively conciliates thief and honest man: a purse). Finally, as he examined the orgy more closely and coolly, he fell from a witches’ sabbath to a tavern.

~ Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

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So… are you tempted?