TBR Thursday 348…

Episode 348

A week or two ago, I made the mistake of saying that the porpy and I intended to finish up some anthologies from previous years that have been lingering half-read before acquiring any new ones. The Laughing Gods of Bookworld couldn’t pass up that chance, could they? Seven – I’ve received seven anthologies of vintage crime and spookiness since I made that foolish statement! So despite me still powering through books at an unprecedented rate, the TBR has gone up FIVE to 176, and the porpy is demanding higher wages and regular rest breaks! 

Here are a few more that should make me smile soon…

Spooky Anthology

Ghosts from the Library edited by Tony Medawar

Courtesy of Collins Crime Club. I’ve loved the Bodies from the Library series of vintage crime anthologies that CCC and Tony Medawar have been doing for the last few years, so I’m super excited to see them branching out into ghost stories from the pens of some of the great mystery writers. The porpy and I can’t wait to get into this one!

The Blurb says: It is said that books are written to bring sunshine into our dull, grey lives – to show us places we want to escape to, lives we want to live, people we want to love. But there are also stories that can only be found in the deepest, darkest corners of the library. Stories about the unexplained, of lost souls, of things that go bump before the silence. Before the screaming.

And some stories just disappear. Stories printed in old newspapers, broadcast live on the wireless, sometimes not even published at all – these are the stories you cannot find on even the dustiest of library shelves.

Ghosts from the Library resurrects forgotten tales of the supernatural by some of the most acclaimed mystery authors of all time. From Arthur Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr to Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier, this spine-chilling anthology brings together thirteen uncollected tales of terror, plus some additional surprises.

Close the windows. Draw the curtains. Just don’t let the lights go out…

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Historical Fiction

The Colony by Audrey Magee

Courtesy of Faber & Faber via NetGalley. I’m so far behind with review copies at the moment. I’ve had this for months, picked purely on the basis of the blurb, and in the interim it’s been longlisted for the Booker, and shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction! Does that make it more or less likely that I’ll love it? We’ll soon see!

The Blurb says: It is the summer of 1979. An English painter travels to a small island off the west coast of Ireland. Mr. Lloyd takes the last leg by currach, though boats with engines are available and he doesn’t much like the sea. He wants the authentic experience, to be changed by this place, to let its quiet and light fill him, give him room to create. He doesn’t know that a Frenchman follows close behind. Jean-Pierre Masson has visited the island for many years, studying the language of those who make it their home. He is fiercely protective of their isolation, deems it essential to exploring his theories of language preservation and identity.

But the people who live on this rock–three miles long and half a mile wide–have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken, and what ought to be given in return. Over the summer, each of them–from great-grandmother Bean Uí Fhloinn to widowed Mairéad to fifteen-year-old James, who is determined to avoid the life of a fisherman–will wrestle with their values and desires. Meanwhile, all over Ireland, violence is erupting. And there is blame enough to go around.

An expertly woven portrait of character and place, a stirring investigation into yearning to find one’s way, and an unflinchingly political critique of the long, seething cost of imperialism, Audrey Magee’s The Colony is a novel that transports, that celebrates beauty and connection, and that reckons with the inevitable ruptures of independence.

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Domestic Thriller

Unfaithful by JL Butler

Courtesy of HarperCollins. Sometimes HC send me books that look great (see Ghosts from the Library above). Other times they send me ones that don’t sound like my kind of thing at all! The odd thing is that sometimes the great-looking ones turn out to be not-so-great, and occasionally the not-my-kind-of-thing ones turn out to be fun, so I’m always willing to at least try them. This is a not-my-kind-of-thing one…

(Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to read this without picturing the prominent Labour politician Rachel Reeves in the starring role. Does the author not know about her? The editor?? The publisher???)

The Blurb says: A FATAL attraction…
Rachel Reeves has it all. The perfect family, a rich husband, and a gorgeous home. But when her only child flies the nest, Rachel feels lost – and succumbs to a mind-blowing one-night stand.

With a DEADLY twist…
Instantly regretting her infidelity, Rachel cuts ties with Chris. But he won’t let her go that easily. She erases him from her life – until a text changes everything.

And an UNFORGETTABLE end…
Someone knows what she did.
And they’re ready to destroy her entire life because of it.
 

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Crime

Catch Your Death by Lissa Marie Redmond

Courtesy of Severn House via NetGalley. Another one that might turn out to be not-my-kind-of-thing, although this time I chose it for myself on the grounds that it sounds like it could be fun! I don’t know the author at all but she seems to have a solid fan base and high ratings. This is the 6th book in a series.

The Blurb says: When Cold Case Detective Lauren Riley’s partner, Shane Reese, runs into an old friend, he’s invited to a school reunion at a new luxury spa and resort. Lauren’s also invited and it sounds like a perfect weekend getaway, except it brings up painful memories for Reese – like the unsolved murder of his high school friend Jessica Toakese seventeen years earlier.

The prime suspects will be at the reunion. Among those suspects is Reese, who has kept his involvement a secret from Lauren and the entire police force. As the friends reminisce an intense snowstorm traps them inside and tensions rise. After a heated confrontation, one of the party is brutally murdered and Lauren believes it’s connected to Jessica’s death.

But who could the murderer be: the jealous husband; the regretful trophy wife; the abused failed actor; the true crime podcast host; the drunken louse; the insecure millionaire; the desperate spa owner . . . or the Cold Case detective?

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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?

TBR Thursday 347…

Episode 347

I’m racing through books at the moment, with the result that my TBR is still shrinking despite the arrival of new books – down 1 again this week, to 171! –  and my list of unwritten reviews is getting out of control! Still, between this week’s rather heavyweight selection of books and the US Open starting next week I think it’s safe to assume I’ll be slowing down!

Here are a few more that should reach the final round soon…

Winner of the People’s Choice

The winner took a huge early lead this week and although the other books fought back gamely they were never able to catch up. They all looked good this time which always makes for fun voting! And the one You, The People, have chosen looks like it could be excellent – good choice, People! Since I like to run three months ahead with these polls, the winner will be a November read. And the winner is…

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

The Blurb says: In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.

In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Ásta, the pastor’s wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head. Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland, she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity, but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of loving.

The Sealwoman’s Gift is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories – Icelandic ones told to fend off a slave-owner’s advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die. And there are others, too: the stories we tell ourselves to protect our minds from what cannot otherwise be borne, the stories we need to make us happy.

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Lit-Crit

Honoré de Balzac: My Reading by Peter Brooks

Courtesy of Oxford University Press. Regulars will know from my scrappy reviews that I don’t really research the classics I read to any great extent, nor do I read much literary criticism. But, since I have included my first Balzac on my new Classics Club list, when I spotted this in the OUP’s latest catalogue I thought it might be fun to read it first. Apparently there’s a whole series of these for different classic authors…

The Blurb says: A book on the experience of reading Honoré de Balzac’s La Comédie humaine which recounts the process of Peter Brooks’ own discovery of Balzac.

A personal account of coming to terms with Balzac: moving from more classical and restrained authors to the highly-coloured melodramatic novels of the Human Comedy, which give us the dynamics of a new and challenging world on the threshold of modernity. This volume shows readers how to read, and to love reading, Balzac, and how to engage with his vast work.

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Classic in Translation

Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

So obviously I’ll then have to read my first Balzac before I forget everything I’ve just read! No idea how I’m going to fit this in, to be honest, but at least it doesn’t look like quite as much of a brick as I feared it might be!

The Blurb says: Monsieur Goriot is one of a select group of lodgers at Madame Vauquer’s Parisian boarding house. At first his wealth inspires respect, but as his circumstances are reduced he is shunned by those around him, and soon his only remaining visitors are two beautiful, mysterious young women. Goriot claims that they are his daughters, but his fellow boarders, including master criminal Vautrin, have other ideas. And when Eugène Rastignac, a poor but ambitious law student, learns the truth, he decides to turn it to his advantage. Père Goriot is one of the key novels of Balzac’s Comédie Humaine series, and a compelling examination of two obsessions, love and money. Witty and brilliantly detailed, it is a superb study of the bourgeoisie in the years following the French Revolution.

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Vintage Crime

Crook o’Lune by ECR Lorac

Courtesy of the British Library. I’m always delighted when a “new” ECR Lorac pops up in the BL’s Crime Classics series, and this one sounds as intriguing as always…

The Blurb says: It all began with sheep-stealing. A hateful act among the shepherds of the fells, and yet not a matter of life and death. Then came arson and with the leaping of the flames, death and disorder reached the peaceful moors.

Holidaying with his friends the Hoggetts in High Gimmerdale while on a trip to find some farmland for his retirement, Robert Macdonald agrees to help in investigating the identity of the sheep-stealers, before being dragged into a case requiring his full experience as Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard.

Drawing on her own experience living in Lunesdale, Lorac spins a tale portraying the natural beauty, cosy quiet and more brutal elements of country living in this classic rural mystery first published in 1953.

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Gaskell on Audio

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell read by Juliet Stevenson

Another one for my Classics Club list. I may or may not get on with the audiobook – I’ve struggled a bit with Juliet Stevenson’s narrations in the past – so if it doesn’t grab me I’ll abandon it and read a paper copy later. But fingers crossed – maybe this will be Stevenson’s chance to win me over! And after galloping through the books on the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge, I intend to take plenty of time over this one!

The Blurb says: Written at the request of Charles Dickens, North and South is a book about rebellion; it poses fundamental questions about the nature of social authority and obedience. Gaskell expertly blends individual feeling with social concern, and her heroine, Margaret Hale, is one of the most original creations of Victorian literature.

When Margaret Hale’s father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience she is forced to leave her comfortable home in the tranquil countryside of Hampshire and move with her family to the fictional industrial town of Milton in the north of England. Though at first disgusted by her new surroundings, she witnesses the brutality wrought by the Industrial Revolution and becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers. Sympathetic to the poor she makes friends among them and develops a fervent sense of social justice. She clashes with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, who is contemptuous of his workers. However, their fierce opposition masks a deeper attraction.

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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 346…

Episode 346

A big drop in the TBR this week – down 3 to 172! I might even get below the magic 170 soon, if I don’t fall at the last hurdle…

Here are a few more I should run into soon…

Crime

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

My Looking Forward posts have made me thoroughly ashamed of all the books lingering on my TBR that I acquired because I’d enjoyed the author before. So I’m going to try my hardest to fit some of them into my reading schedule, starting with this one from Belinda Bauer, which I acquired in 2015!

The Blurb says: Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body. Every day after school, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven goes digging to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged eleven and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery.

Only Steven’s Nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her. Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it’s too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he’ll do it.

So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer . . .

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Maigret on Audio

The Misty Harbour by Georges Simenon read by Gareth Armstrong

The last three for the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge. Having unexpectedly raced through the longest book left on my list over last weekend, it’s now looking possible that I might actually finish the challenge on time! First up, another admirably short Maigret, read as usual by the excellent Gareth Armstrong…

The Blurb says: A new translation of Georges Simenon’s gripping tale of lost identity. A man picked up for wandering in obvious distress among the cars and buses on the Grands Boulevards. Questioned in French, he remains mute… A madman?

In Maigret’s office, he is searched. His suit is new, his underwear is new, his shoes are new. All identifying labels have been removed. No identification papers. No wallet. Five crisp thousand-franc bills have been slipped into one of his pockets.

Answers lead Maigret to a small harbour town, whose quiet citizens conceal a poisonous malice.

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Greene on Audio

The Quiet American by Graham Greene read by Simon Cadell

One I haven’t read before from Graham Greene. It was the narrator as much as the book that made me choose this one as an audiobook – I have fond memories of the late Simon Cadell as an actor. The blurb sounds interesting too, though, and I’m intrigued to find out what it is that makes it “controversial”…

The Blurb says: “I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused,” Graham Greene’s narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous “Quiet American” of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas. As young Pyle’s well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer. But Fowler’s motives for intervening are suspect, both to the police and himself, for Pyle has stolen Fowler’s beautiful Vietnamese mistress.

Originally published in 1956 and twice adapted to film, The Quiet American remains a terrifiying and prescient portrait of innocence at large. 

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Christie on Audio

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie read by Hugh Fraser

What better incentive to get to the end of the challenge than a Christie/Fraser/Tommy and Tuppence mystery! There are aspects of creepiness in this one that shiver my spine whenever I think of them…

The Blurb says: While visiting Tommy’s Aunt Ada at Sunny Ridge Nursing Home, Tuppence encounters some odd residents including Mrs. Lancaster who mystifies her with talk about “your poor child” and “something behind the fireplace”.

When Aunt Ada dies a few weeks later, she leaves Tommy and Tuppence a painting featuring a house, which Tuppence is sure she has seen before. This realization leads her on a dangerous adventure involving a missing tombstone, diamond smuggling and a horrible discovery of what Mrs. Lancaster was talking about.

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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 Tuesday) 345 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 345

(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 2020, and a rather odd selection this month, all historical fiction but very different from each other. I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a November read. I picked up The Sealwoman’s Gift in a charity shop on impulse, mainly because I used to like the author’s father when he presented Mastermind on TV! I also bought Cold Mountain there on the same day, but it was on my wishlist since I’d previously enjoyed another of his books, Nightwoods. I loved Neil Munro’s The New Road, so acquired Doom Castle and it’s now on my Classics Club list. A Suitable Boy is one I’ve long wanted to read but its excessive length means it keeps getting shoved aside.

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Historical Fiction

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

Added 11th January 2020. 5,160 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.16 average rating. 365 pages.

The Blurb says: In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.

In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Ásta, the pastor’s wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head. Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland, she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity, but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of loving.

The Sealwoman’s Gift is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories – Icelandic ones told to fend off a slave-owner’s advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die. And there are others, too: the stories we tell ourselves to protect our minds from what cannot otherwise be borne, the stories we need to make us happy.

* * * * *

Historical Fiction

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Added 11th January 2020. 234,132 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.88 average. 449 pages.

The Blurb says: Based on local history & family stories passed down by Frazier’s great-great-grandfather, Cold Mountain is the tale of a wounded Confederate soldier, Inman, who walks away from the ravages of the war & back home to his prewar sweetheart, Ada. His odyssey thru the devastated landscape of the soon-to-be-defeated South interweaves with Ada’s struggle to revive her father’s farm, with the help of an intrepid young drifter named Ruby. As their long-separated lives begin to converge at the close of the war, Inman & Ada confront the vastly transformed world they’ve been delivered.

Frazier reveals insight into human relations with the land & the dangers of solitude. He also shares with the great 19th century novelists a keen observation of a society undergoing change. Cold Mountain recreates a world gone by that speaks to our time.

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Historical Fiction

Doom Castle by Neil Munro

Added 26th January 2020. 31 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.48 average. 360 pages.

The Blurb says: “No pomp, no pleasant amenities; the place seemed to jut into the sea, defying man’s oldest and most bitter enemy, its gable ends and one crenellated bastion or turret betraying its sinister relation to its age, its whole aspect arrogant and unfriendly, essential of war. Caught suddenly by the vision that swept the fretted curve of the coast, it seemed blackly to perpetuate the spirit of the land, its silence, its solitude and terrors.”

This was the Count Victor’s fist sight of Castle Doom. His mission to Scotland from France in 1755 brought him into this wild land of danger and mystery, where he met the haunting Count Doom, the lovely Olivia, the dastardly Simon MacTaggart – and gothic jeopardy armed with claymores, dirks, and bagpipes.

Here is the most unusual historical novel you will ever read, by a Scot worthy to sit at the right hand of the throne of Sir Walter Scott!

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Historical Fiction

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Added 29th January 2020. 45,879 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.12 average. 1553 pages. 

The Blurb says: Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find—through love or through exacting maternal appraisal—a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multi-ethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humour and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.

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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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TBR Thursday 344…

Episode 344

Well, I was doing well, racing through some shorter books and feeling confident. But then at the last moment a parcel arrived! The result – the TBR remains perfectly balanced for another week on 175…

Here are a few more I should get to soon…

Horror

Queens of the Abyss edited by Mike Ashley

It will soon be time for the porpy to come out of hibernation in preparation for the spooky season! Before acquiring any new anthologies or collections this year, he wants to try to finish the few that are lingering on our TBR, which we’ve dipped into in past years for Tuesday Terror! posts but not read all the way through. This is the first of those…

The Blurb says: It is too often accepted that during the 19th and early 20th centuries it was the male writers who developed and pushed the boundaries of the weird tale, with women writers following in their wake—but this is far from the truth. This new anthology follows the instrumental contributions made by women writers to the weird tale, and revives the lost authors of the early pulp magazines along with the often overlooked work of more familiar authors. See the darker side of The Secret Garden author Frances Hodgson Burnett and the sensitively-drawn nightmares of Marie Corelli and Violet Quirk. Hear the captivating voices of Weird Tales magazine contributors Sophie Wenzel Ellis, Greye La Spina, and Margaret St Clair, and bow down to the sensational, surreal, and challenging writers who broke down the barriers of the day. Featuring material never before republished, from the abyssal depths of the British Library vaults.

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Fiction

The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux

Possibly the last book for my cursed Wanderlust challenge, assuming I manage not to abandon it! I don’t think I’ve read anything by Paul Theroux before, but I’m pretty sure I saw the film of this one many moons ago. Don’t remember anything about it though! Sounds great…

The Blurb says: The Mosquito Coast – winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize – is a breathtaking novel about fanaticism and a futile search for utopia from bestseller Paul Theroux.

Allie Fox is going to re-create the world. Abominating the cops, crooks, junkies and scavengers of modern America, he abandons civilisation and takes the family to live in the Honduran jungle. There his tortured, messianic genius keeps them alive, his hoarse tirades harrying them through a diseased and dirty Eden towards unimaginable darkness.

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James on Audio

Cover Her Face by PD James read by Daniel Weyman

Another couple for the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge! I’m falling behind now and losing my impetus, so I may or may not get to these in time. This one is a replacement for Neverwhere, which I abandoned after five minutes due to the mumbling of the cast drowned out by the ridiculously overpowering sound effects – ugh! I loved PD James back in the day – for years she was an autobuy on publication day for me. I didn’t love her later books quite so much – her style dated quite badly, I think. But I thought I’d go back to where it all began and see if my enthusiasm can be revived…  

The Blurb says: From P. D. James, one of the masters of British crime fiction, comes the debut novel that introduced Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh. Set against the English countryside, Cover Her Face is a classic murder mystery filled with James’ trademark plot twists, intrigue, and suspense.

Though the Martingale manor house has hosted the annual St Cedd’s Church fête for generations, this year feels different. On top of organizing stalls and presiding over luncheon, the bishop, and the tea tent, Mrs Eleanor Maxie now also has to contend with the news of her son’s sudden engagement to the new parlour maid, the sly and sensuous single mother Sally Jupp.

Sally has quite a reputation as a ruthless social climber, and no one at Martingale seems too happy about the engagement. But the Maxie family barely has time to contend with her wily ways – on the following morning the whole village is shocked by the discovery of Sally Jupp’s body.

Investigating the violent death at the manor house, Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh becomes embroiled in the complicated passions beneath the calm surface of English village life.

In Cover Her Face, award-winning P. D. James meticulously plots a complex story of family secrets and suspicion. 

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Heller on Audio

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller read by Jilly Bond

This is another replacement, for Reginald Hill’s Death’s Jest Book. Long story, but basically there’s one audiobook in the Dalziel and Pascoe series missing on Audible, the one before this, and I had intended to re-read the paper copy of it by now – hasn’t happened yet, so I have to postpone this one for a while. However, I loved the film of Notes on a Scandal and have been meaning to read the book for years, so I’m happy with the exchange!

The Blurb says: A lonely schoolteacher reveals more than she intends when she records the story of her best friend’s affair with a pupil in this sly, insightful novel.

Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary existence; aside from her cat, Portia, she has few friends and no intimates. When Sheba Hart joins St. George’s as the new art teacher, Barbara senses the possibility of a new friendship. It begins with lunches and continues with regular invitations to meals with Sheba’s seemingly close-knit family. But as Barbara and Sheba’s relationship develops, another does as well: Sheba has begun a passionate affair with an underage male student. When it comes to light and Sheba falls prey to the inevitable media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend’s defense—an account that reveals not only Sheba’s secrets but her own.

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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 343…

Episode 343

Another drop in the TBR this week – down 2 to 175! This is mainly because I’m running out of steam on the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge and drifting back to paper books…

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

Factual

Homage to Caledonia by Daniel Gray

One of the last few books for my Spanish Civil War challenge. While it’s true that Scottish support went pretty overwhelmingly to the Communists/Republicans, I’ll be interested to see if the book acknowledges that there was support for the Fascists/Nationalists too, as readers of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie will be aware. Sometimes we like to airbrush bits of history out…

The Blurb says: Thirty-five thousand people from across the world volunteered to join the armed resistance in a war on fascism. More people, proportionately, went from Scotland than any other country, and the entire nation was gripped by the conflict. What drove so many ordinary Scots to volunteer in a foreign war?

Their stories are powerfully and honestly told, often in their own words: the ordinary men and women who made their way to Spain over the Pyrenees when the UK government banned anyone from going to support either side; the nurses and ambulance personnel who discovered for themselves the horrors of modern warfare; and the people back home who defied their poverty to give generously to the Spanish republican cause.

Even in war there are light-hearted moments: a Scottish volunteer drunkenly urinating in his general’s boots, enduring the dark comedy of learning to shoot with sticks amidst a scarcity of rifles, or enjoying the surreal experience of raising a dram with Errol Flynn. They went from all over the country: Glasgow, Edinburgh. Aberdeen, Dundee, Fife and the Highlands, and they fought to save Scotland, and the world, from the growing threat of fascism.

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Crime

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

I loved the first book in Griffiths’ new Harbinder Kaur series, The Stranger Diaries, but for some unknown reason I missed this second one when it was released. And now the way too prolific Griffiths has already produced a third! I need to learn how to speed read! 

The Blurb says: The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death.

But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…
And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…
And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…

Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

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Du Maurier on Audio

The Rendezvous and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier read by Edward de Souza

Another couple for the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge! First, another collection of stories. I prefer du Maurier as a short story writer than a novelist, on the whole. I don’t know Edward de Souza well, but his narration of this collection gets heaps of praise from Audible reviewers!  

The Blurb says: A happily married woman commits suicide for no apparent reason; a young man tries to break some important news to the beautiful girl he had hoped to marry; a con girl plays the same bold game too often and a novelist embarks on a romantic adventure but is woefully disappointed.

In all these stories, glimpses into personal lives are vividly portrayed, but they are all written with warmth and are wonderfully evocative.

This collection includes 14 of du Maurier’s short stories.

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Hardy on Audio

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy read by Samuel West

Having loved Timothy West’s narration of Trollope last week, now here’s his son narrating Hardy! I’ve listened to Samuel West before, narrating Brighton Rock, and I thought he was wonderful, so I’m expecting great things of this one. It’s the longest remaining book on my challenge…

The Blurb says: In this classically simple tale of the disastrous impact of outside life on a secluded community in Dorset, Hardy narrates the rivalry for the hand of Grace Melbury between a simple and loyal woodlander and an exotic and sophisticated outsider. Betrayal, adultery, disillusion, and moral compromise are all worked out in a setting evoked as both beautiful and treacherous. The Woodlanders, with its thematic portrayal of the role of social class, gender, and evolutionary survival, as well as its insights into the capacities and limitations of language, exhibits Hardy’s acute awareness of his era’s most troubling dilemmas.

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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 342…

Episode 342

Phew! A little flurry of finished books and no new arrivals means the TBR has fallen this week, down 2 to 177!

Here are a few more that are reaching the top of the heap…

Winner of the People’s Choice

It became even more exciting than usual this month when the poll suddenly stopped working halfway through! Happily, although they weren’t showing up on the blog the votes were being recorded on Crowdsignal’s site, the poll host, where I was also able to delete the myriad of multiple votes from people who’d tried several times to get their vote to record. So I think the final result is accurate! Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper put up a very strong performance but in the end it was pipped at the post by just one vote. The winner is…

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Blurb says: Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Never Let Me Go breaks through the boundaries of the literary novel. It is a gripping mystery, a beautiful love story, and also a scathing critique of human arrogance and a moral examination of how we treat the vulnerable and different in our society. In exploring the themes of memory and the impact of the past, Ishiguro takes on the idea of a possible future to create his most moving and powerful book to date.

Good choice, People! It’ll be an October read.

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Fiction

Dr. B. by Daniel Birbaum

Courtesy of 4th Estate via NetGalley. I picked this one purely on the basis of the blurb, but sadly it’s getting pretty negative ratings on Goodreads. However given my track record of disagreeing with the majority on books, maybe that means I’ll love it! Maybe. 

The Blurb says: In 1933, after Hitler and the Nazi Party consolidated power in Germany, Immanuel Birnbaum, a German Jewish journalist based in Warsaw, is forbidden from writing for newspapers in his homeland. Six years later, just months before the German invasion of Poland that ignites World War II, Immanuel escapes to Sweden with his wife and two young sons.

Living as a refugee in Stockholm, Immanuel continues to write, contributing articles to a liberal Swiss newspaper in Basel under the name Dr. B. He also begins working as an editor for the legendary German publisher S. Fischer Verlag. Gottfried Bermann Fischer had established an office in Stockholm to evade German censorship, publishing celebrated German writers such as Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig.

Immanuel also becomes entangled with British intelligence agents who produce and distribute anti-Nazi propaganda in Stockholm. On orders from Winston Churchill, the Allied spies plan several acts of sabotage. But when the Swedish postal service picks up a letter written in invisible ink, the plotters are exposed. The letter, long a mystery in military history accounts, was in fact written by Dr. B. But why would a Jew living in exile and targeted for death by the Nazis have wanted to tip them off?

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Queen of Crime

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Courtesy of HarperCollins. Sometimes out of the blue HarperCollins send me a couple of Christies. I don’t know why – they don’t seem to be new editions. New print-runs maybe? Anyway, whatever the reason I always enjoy getting them – nice covers! This one has always been a favourite – how could it not be, with such an iconic title? 

The Blurb says: When the Bantrys wake to find the body of a beautiful, young stranger in their library, Dolly Bantry knows there’s only one person to call: her old friend Miss Marple.

Who was the young girl? What was she doing in the library? And is there a connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are discovered in an abandoned quarry?

Miss Marple must solve the mystery, before tongues start to wag, and the murderer strikes again.

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Jerome on Audio

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome read by Ian Carmichael

Another couple for the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge! First, one of my favourite books of all time. I’ve read it so often I practically know it by heart but it still makes me cry with laughter and even at one point – the same point every time – actually cry. Ian Carmichael, who was once a wonderful Bertie Wooster, seems like a very appropriate choice for narrator…

The Blurb says: A comic masterpiece that has never been out of print since it was first published in 1889.

Martyrs to hypochondria and general seediness, J. and his friends George and Harris decide that a jaunt up the Thames would suit them to a ‘T’. But when they set off, they can hardly predict the troubles that lie ahead with tow-ropes, unreliable weather forecasts and tins of pineapple chunks – not to mention the devastation left in the wake of J.’s small fox-terrier Montmorency. Three Men in a Boat was an instant success when it appeared in 1889, and, with its benign escapism, authorial discursions and wonderful evocation of the late-Victorian ‘clerking classes’, it hilariously captured the spirit of its age.

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Forster on Audio

Howard’s End by EM Forster read by Edward Petherbridge

Why have I never read or seen Howard’s End? Baffling. Since Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I didn’t get along, I abandoned it and am swapping this one in to replace it. This one is on my Classics Club list. I fell in love with Edward Petherbridge many years ago, when he played a wonderful Newman Noggs in a fabulous RSC stage production of Nicholas Nickleby which was filmed for TV – a very rare event back in 1982. So I’m looking forward to his narration as much as to the book – fingers crossed!

The Blurb says: Howards End is the story of the liberal Schlegel sisters and their struggle to come to terms with social class and their German heritage in Edwardian England. Their lives are intertwined with those of the wealthy and pragmatic Wilcox family and their country house, Howards End, as well as the lower-middle-class Basts.

When Helen Schlegel and Paul Wilcox’s brief romance ends badly the Schlegels hope to never see the Wilcoxes again. However, the family moves from their country estate, Howards End, to a flat across the road from them. When Helen befriends Leonard Bast, a man of lower status, the political and cultural differences between the families are exacerbated and brought to a fatal confrontation at Howard’s End.

Considered by some to be Forster’s masterpiece it is a story about social conventions, codes of conduct, and personal relationships in turn-of-the-century England.

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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 341…

Episode 341

Not only is the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge wrecking my reading of normal books, but now I’m falling behind on the challenge too! So the TBR is up again – only by 1 to 179, but I know for a fact that there’s a parcel on the way…

Guess which of these dogs I feel like? Anyway, here are a few more that should be keeping me awake soon…

Fiction

At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón

I added this to my TBR years ago, presumably because it was recommended or I had seen a glowing review – can’t remember! However I’m still desperately trying to fill the South America box in my Wanderlust challenge, so hopefully this will do the trick – the unnamed country is apparently a fictionalised Peru… 

The Blurb says: Nelson’s life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another man, his brother has left their South American country and moved to the United States, leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can’t seem to get off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot President, a legendary play by Nelson’s hero, Henry Nunez, leader of the storied guerrilla theatre troupe Diciembre. And that’s when the real trouble begins.

The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he’s never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.

Vintage Crime

The Seat of the Scornful by John Dickson Carr

Courtesy of the British Library. I loved Carr’s Inspector Bencolin books but so far haven’t enjoyed the Dr Gideon Fell ones nearly so much. I keep hoping though, and as always the blurb sounds good…

The Blurb says: Judge Horace Ireton didn’t care about the letter of the law. He was interested in administering absolute, impartial justice as he saw it. To some, his methods of meting out justice made him seem hardly human, for they were coldly calculated – the same type of “cat and mouse” technique that he used in his chess games with Dr. Gideon Fell, the elephantine detective. The system, as he explained it, consisted in “letting your opponent think he’s perfectly safe, winning hands down: and then catch him in a corner.” But the system was not infallible. One day Judge Ireton was found with a pistol in his hand, beside the body of his daughter’s fiancé, a man he had every reason to dislike, as many people knew; and he found that when one was on the inside looking out, the game had to be played differently.

(P.S. I’ve skipped the BL’s May release because it has finally happened that it’s one I have previously read and reviewed. It’s Green for Danger by Christianna Brand, and it’s excellent – highly recommended! Here’s my review.)

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Miss Silver on Audio

Latter End by Patricia Wentworth read by Diana Bishop

Another couple for the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge! I recently read a standalone mystery by Wentworth and thoroughly enjoyed it, so want to try her long-running Miss Silver series. I don’t know this narrator but reviews are good and if I enjoy her, zillions of the books are available on audio… 

The Blurb says: Things had never been quite the same at Latter End since Lois had taken over. Suddenly life seemed to be an endless succession of bitter family rows which Lois, needless to say, invariably won.

More than one person at Latter End found themselves stretched to the limit by Lois and her bullying, and it was only a matter of time before somebody snapped. It was unthinkable of course . . . but if anyone ever murdered Lois Latter, it would be very embarrassing to discover just how many people might have wished her dead.

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Trollope on Audio

The Warden by Anthony Trollope read by Timothy West

I love this book and have read it many times over the years, so I’m looking forward to listening to it this time. It’s read by Timothy West whom I haven’t previously listened to as a narrator but have always enjoyed as an actor. I hope he’s good, since I seem to have acquired his narrations of several hefty classics! This one is reasonably short though…

The Blurb says: Trollope’s witty, satirical story of a quiet cathedral town shaken by scandal – as the traditional values of Septimus Harding are attacked by zealous reformers and ruthless newspapers – is a drama of conscience that pits individual integrity against worldly ambition.

In The Warden Anthony Trollope brought the fictional county of Barsetshire to life, peopled by a cast of brilliantly realised characters that have made him among the supreme chroniclers of the minutiae of Victorian England. It is the first book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire.

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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 Tuesday) 340 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 340

(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 – moving in to 2020, and a reasonably varied bunch this month though heavy on crime. I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be an October read. I loved the first book I read by William Shaw and abandoned the second, so Salt Lane could go either way. I acquired The Charing Cross Mystery because I’d enjoyed Fletcher’s The Middle Temple Murder. For some reason I’ve read very little Kazuo Ishiguro, so bought Never Let Me Go in a bid to correct that. And Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper is on the TBR and on my Classics Club list because I loved Henderson’s A Voice Like Velvet. These all have the potential to be great reads, I think… 

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Crime

Salt Lane by William Shaw

Added 1st January 2020. 2,233 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.02 average rating. 452 pages.

The Blurb says: DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing – resentful teenager in tow – from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty.

The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.

It will take an understanding of this strange place – its old ways and new crimes – to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

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Vintage Crime

The Charing Cross Mystery by JS Fletcher

Added 1st January 2020. 185 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.56 average. 268 pages.

The Blurb says: When a retired police inspector suddenly drops dead in a train carriage arriving at Charing Cross station, young London barrister Hetherwick finds himself the key witness to the murder. Thrust into the centre of this terrifying mystery, Hetherwick must unveil the disturbing truths of the case and locate the nefarious culprit. Fans of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ will be enthralled by this 20th century crime classic, a gripping tale of mystery and suspense that will have them on the edge of their seats till the very end.

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Fiction

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Added 10th January 2020. 578,195 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.84 average. 275 pages. 

The Blurb says: Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

Never Let Me Go breaks through the boundaries of the literary novel. It is a gripping mystery, a beautiful love story, and also a scathing critique of human arrogance and a moral examination of how we treat the vulnerable and different in our society. In exploring the themes of memory and the impact of the past, Ishiguro takes on the idea of a possible future to create his most moving and powerful book to date.

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Vintage Crime

Mr Bowling Buys a Newspaper by Donald Henderson

Added 10th January 2020. 338 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.55 average. 215 pages.

The Blurb says: In Raymond Chandler’s favourite novel, Mr Bowling buys the newspapers only to find out what the latest is on the murders he’s just committed…

Mr Bowling is getting away with murder. On each occasion he buys a newspaper to see whether anyone suspects him. But there is a war on, and the clues he leaves are going unnoticed. Which is a shame, because Mr Bowling is not a conventional serial killer: he wants to get caught so that his torment can end. How many more newspapers must he buy before the police finally catch up with him?

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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!)

There’s a problem with the poll, as you’ve probably discovered! However the votes are being recorded at Crowdsignal, the poll host, even if it shows as still buffering. Thanks for voting and sorry for the problem – hopefully I’ll be able to work out the winner from the Crowdsignal records, and if not I’ll base it on the preferences in the comments. So if your vote doesn’t seem to record, please also tell me your choice in the comments. UPDATE: Problem now resolved and the poll is working normally.

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TBR Thursday 339…

Episode 339

Due to me spending so much time listening to audiobooks for the 20 (Audio)Books Of Summer challenge, not to mention Wimbledon, my reading of “proper” books has slumped dramatically, yet they continue to pop through the letterbox! Result – the TBR is up 7 to 178! Help!! I knew it would all start to go wrong again…

Here are a few more that should reach the top of the pile soon…

Vintage Crime Anthology

Bodies from the Library 5 edited by Tony Medawar

Courtesy of Collins Crime Club. I’m always delighted when one of this series of anthologies pops through the door, so I’m glad to see the publisher describing them as “annual” in the blurb, suggesting they intend to continue producing them…

The Blurb says: The Golden Age still casts a long shadow, with many of the authors who were published at that time still hugely popular today. Aside from novels, they all wrote short fiction – stories, serials and plays – and although many have been republished in books over the last 100 years, Bodies from the Library collects the ones that are impossible to find: stories that appeared in a newspaper, magazine or an anthology that has long been out of print; ephemeral works such as plays not aired, staged or screened for decades; and unpublished stories that were absorbed into an author’s archive when they died . . .

Complete with fascinating biographies by Tony Medawar of all the featured authors, this latest volume in the annual Bodies from the Library series once again brings into the daylight the forgotten, the lost and the unknown, and is an indispensable collection for any bookshelf.

Historical Fiction

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

Courtesy of Serpent’s Tail via NetGalley. I read a biography of John Wilkes Booth some years ago, and while I enjoyed it, I remember thinking at the time that the rest of his family actually sounded considerably more interesting than him! So I really like the sound of this one and am happy to see it’s getting pretty high ratings so far…

The Blurb says: In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin some thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear ten children over the course of the next sixteen years. Junius Booth–breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor, and master of the house in more ways than one–is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws frighteningly closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.

As the tenor of the world shifts, the Booths emerge from their hidden lives to cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and criminal disasters begin to take their toll, and the solemn siblings of John Wilkes Booth are left to reckon with the truth behind the destructively specious promise of an early prophecy.

Booth is a startling portrait of a country in the throes of change and a vivid exploration of the ties that make, and break, a family.

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Crime

Autopsy by Patricia Cornwell

Courtesy of HarperCollins. I loved the first few Kay Scarpetta books but eventually grew tired of them – there’s only so often a forensic pathologist and her family can be targeted by a crazed killer in every book before it becomes just a tad unbelievable! It must be twenty years since I read one. So I’m not sure whether this one will work for me or not – only one way to find out!

The Blurb says: Forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta has returned to Virginia as the chief medical examiner. Finding herself the new girl in town once again after being away for many years, she’s inherited an overbearing secretary and a legacy of neglect and possible corruption.

She and her husband Benton Wesley, now a forensic psychologist with the U.S. Secret Service, have relocated to Old Town Alexandria where she’s headquartered five miles from the Pentagon in a post-pandemic world that’s been torn by civil and political unrest. Just weeks on the job, she’s called to a scene by railroad tracks where a woman’s body has been shockingly displayed, her throat cut down to the spine, and as Scarpetta begins to follow the trail, it leads unnervingly close to her own historic neighborhood.

At the same time, a catastrophe occurs in a top secret private laboratory in outer space, and at least two scientists aboard are found dead. Appointed to the highly classified Doomsday Commission that specializes in sensitive national security cases, Scarpetta is summoned to the White House Situation Room and tasked with finding out what happened. But even as she works the first crime scene in space remotely, an apparent serial killer strikes again. And this time, Scarpetta could be in greater danger than ever before.

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Maugham on Audio

Rain and Other Stories by W Somerset Maugham read by Steven Crossley

A couple more for the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge! It was the narrator as much as the author that attracted me to this one, Steven Crossley being the wonderful narrator of the Shardlake books that I’ve been enjoying so much. However since I acquired this, I’ve read and enjoyed The Painted Veil, so I’m looking forward to spending more time with Maugham, especially since several of you commented on how much you’d enjoyed his short stories.

The Blurb says: W. Somerset Maugham is one of the best-loved short story writers of the last 100 years. In this collection of his finest short work Maugham takes the listener to the sun-drenched Pacific islands where the Governor mercilessly abuses the inhabitants; to the story “Rain”, in which the Reverend and the prostitute play out one of the most famous finales ever written; to the studies of chauvinistic Colonels, and snide conversations in Edwardian drawing rooms, as well as at the gates of heaven. As an introduction to one of the greatest writers in the English language Steven Crossley’s reading is the perfect place to start.

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Gaiman on Audio

Neverwhere: A BBC Radio Full Cast Dramatisation

First swap for the challenge! Sadly the full cast adaptation of Mansfield Park was dire – badly adapted, lots of irritating incidental music and Billie Piper sounded as if she was suffering from sinusitis! So I quickly abandoned it and am swapping it for this one which I acquired years ago when I was going through a brief Gaiman phase. Not sure if this will work for me either, but we’ll see! It certainly has a stellar cast list…

The Blurb says: Beneath the streets of London there is another London. A subterranean labyrinth of sewers and abandoned tube stations. A somewhere that is Neverwhere…. An act of kindness sees Richard Mayhew catapulted from his ordinary life into the strange world of London Below. There he meets the Earl of Earl’s Court, faces a life-threatening ordeal at the hands of the Black Friars, comes face to face with the Great Beast of London, and encounters an Angel. Called Islington. Accompanied by the mysterious Door and her companions, the Marquis de Carabas and the bodyguard Hunter, Richard embarks on an extraordinary quest to escape from the fiendish assassins Croup and Vandemar and to discover who ordered them to murder her family – all the while trying to get back to his old life in London Above. Adapted for radio by the award-winning Dirk Maggs, this captivating dramatisation features a stellar cast including David Harewood, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Anthony Head and David Schofield. Contains over 25 minutes of additional unbroadcast material, including extended scenes, bloopers and outtakes.

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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 Tuesday) 338 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. I’ve been reading up a storm recently (Editor’s note: I wrote this before Wimbledon crashed my reading to zero) and have banned myself from acquiring books from NetGalley for a few months (Editor’s note: I wrote this before acquiring two books from NetGalley this week) to catch up with all my other reading. Has it worked?

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

Woohoo! I don’t think I’ve ever been this much on target halfway through the year! I have reduced the target for the Spanish Civil War challenge – see below – and the Wanderlust challenge is still wandering on, six months after the original deadline. But overall I’m happy with these figures.

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The Classics Club

I’ve been racing through my new Classics Club list so far, partly because a couple of the recent People’s Choices have been CC books. I’ve read five this quarter and had three left still to review at the end of last quarter, including the final two for my first list. I’m finally up to date with CC reviews, for the first time in ages…

First List

89. Children of the Dead End by Patrick MacGill – Ugh! I abandoned this misogynistic fictionalised memoir halfway through. Mr MacGill dislikes women nearly as much as I dislike him. 1 star.

90. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – I saved this re-read of a favourite as a treat for myself for finishing the first list, and a treat it certainly was! 5 stars.

90 down, 0 to go!

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Second List

2. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – A deliciously ambiguous story of missing girls, that manages to be entertaining and unsettling in equal parts. 5 stars.

3. Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo – After way too much architectural detail in the first half, the thrilling story in the second half won me over! I also enjoyed reading this along with fellow bloggers in a Review-Along. 5 stars.

4. Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth – This satire on Anglo-Irish landowners is a rather slight novella, mildly entertaining, but I felt it didn’t live up to its reputation. 3 stars.

5. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens – although this re-read was my annual Christmas Dickens, I didn’t get around to reviewing it until May! As always, a great read, even though it’s not quite in Dickens’ top rank. 4 Dickensian stars, which glow brighter than normal stars.

6. The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham –  Set in colonial Hong Kong, this tells the story of initially empty-headed Kitty Fane when her husband drags her into a cholera zone in China. Well-written and thought-provoking. 4½ stars.

7. Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar – dark but not quite noir, this is well written, and alongside the murder mystery element takes a thoughtful look at the shame of a respectable woman succumbing to alcoholism in her later life. 4 stars.

One or two duds, but mostly some great reading in this quarter’s classics reading!

7 down, 73 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

I’ve read three for this challenge this quarter and had two left still to review from the quarter before. I’ve reviewed three and still have another two not yet reviewed…

49. The Z Murders by J Jefferson Farjeon. More a thriller than a mystery, involving a chase across England in pursuit of a lurid serial killer. Fast-paced and entertaining. 4 stars.

50. The Grell Mystery by Frank Froest. Written by a genuine ex-top cop, this has too much of a feel of being a memoir for it to work well as a mystery novel. Interesting rather than entertaining. 3 stars.

51. The House by the River by AP Herbert. A great little story about the psychological effects of murder on the murderer and his loyal friend, unfortunately buried in a mass of description and digression. 2½ stars.

Still very much a mixed bag, this challenge, and I’m considering giving it up once I’ve read the remaining books I’ve already acquired for it.

51 down, 51 to go!

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Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge

I’ve started plenty of books for this challenge, but most of them have ended up on the abandoned heap pretty quickly. I finished just one…

10. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Zafón does a wonderful job of depicting a city in the aftermath of civil war, but first and foremost this is a great story, wonderfully told. 5 stars.

As a result of my increasing disappointment and irritation with many of my choices for this challenge, I’ve decided to read the remaining three books I already own, cancel the other ones from my wishlist, and then draw a line under it.

10 down, 3 to go!

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The People’s Choice

People's Choice Logo

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

April – Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. Plenty of layers in this ambiguous tale – mild horror, some humour, and a true mystery at its heart. 5 stars.

May – The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton – A book that follows the plot of Vanity Fair remarkably closely – very remarkably closely – and yet fails to duplicate any of the humour or insightful satire of the original. A generous 2 stars.

JuneThe Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham. An excellent character study combined with a colonial setting in this tale of a woman who traps herself in marriage to a man she doesn’t love. 4½ stars.

Two out of three ain’t bad! Well done, People – you did great! Keep up the good work! 😉

6 down, 6 to go!

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Wanderlust Bingo

I’ve read three books for this challenge this quarter and had one still to review from the previous quarter. I’ve reviewed three, with one still to come. The blue boxes are books from previous quarters, and the orange are the ones I’m adding this quarter. If you click on the bingo card you should get a larger version.

GibraltarKilling Rock by Robert Daws – 5 stars. The unique setting of this last outpost of Empire provides an added level of interest to this police procedural series. I’ve slotted it into the Free Square.

Sahara/North Africa – Biggles Defends the Desert by Capt WE Johns – 5 stars.  A WW2 adventure for flying ace Biggles and his squadron, as they fight to ensure the safety of Allied planes crossing the desert. Unsurprisingly, I’m slotting it into the Desert box!

Hong Kong/China – The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham – 4½ stars. The colonial backdrop of Hong Kong provides the initial setting while the meat of the story takes place in the Chinese interior, so a perfect fit for the Far East box.

Three excellent books this quarter but this challenge is cursed! I keep picking interesting looking books that turn out to be duds. So I’m dropping my initial plan to fill all the boxes only with books I recommend or I could still be trying to fill the last three boxes sometime in the next millennium!

22 down, 3 to go!

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Overall, a great quarter and I’ve made some progress on all my challenges – hurrah! Thanks as always for sharing my reading experiences!

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

TBR Thursday 337…

Episode 337

As anticipated, the tennis is playing havoc with my reading, but happily I haven’t had time to acquire many books either. So the TBR is remaining steady on 174…

(I’m behind with reading posts and answering comments too – sorry! I blame this chap!)

Anyway, here are a few more books I’m hoping to catch up with soon… 

Winner of the People’s Choice

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Wow, another one vote victory! Cloudstreet and Winter in Madrid ran neck and neck all the way through but in the end Cloudstreet broke the tape! Toni Morrison was never in contention but I suspect that’s because she had two entries which split the pro-Morrison vote. Excellent choice, People – I’m looking forward to it! It will be a September read.

The Blurb says: Hailed as a classic, Tim Winton’s masterful family saga is both a paean to working-class Australians and an unflinching examination of the human heart’s capacity for sorrow, joy, and endless gradations in between. An award-winning work, Cloudstreet exemplifies the brilliant ability of fiction to captivate and inspire.

Struggling to rebuild their lives after being touched by disaster, the Pickle family, who’ve inherited a big house called Cloudstreet in a suburb of Perth, take in the God-fearing Lambs as tenants. The Lambs have suffered their own catastrophes, and determined to survive, they open up a grocery on the ground floor. From 1944 to 1964, the shared experiences of the two overpopulated clans — running the gamut from drunkenness, adultery, and death to resurrection, marriage, and birth — bond them to each other and to the bustling, haunted house in ways no one could have anticipated.

* * * * *

Historical Fiction 

Privilege by Guinevere Glasfurd

Courtesy of John Murray via NetGalley. I enjoyed Glasfurd’s first novel, The Year Without Summer, so I’m hoping this one will be just as good. Certainly sounds interesting…

The Blurb says: After her father is disgraced, Delphine Vimond is cast out of her home in Rouen and flees to Paris. Into her life tumbles Chancery Smith, apprentice printer sent from London to discover the mysterious author of potentially incendiary papers marked only D . In a battle of wits with the French censor, Henri Gilbert, Delphine and Chancery set off in a frantic search for D ‘s author. But who is D and does D even exist?

Privilege is a story of adventure and mishap set against the turmoil of mid-18th century France at odds with the absolute power of the King who is determined to suppress opposition on pain of death. At a time when books required royal privilege before they could be published – a system enforced by the Chief Censor and a network of spies – many were censored or banned, and their authors harshly punished. Books that fell foul of the system were published outside France and smuggled back in at great risk.

Costa-shortlisted author Guinevere Glasfurd has conjured a vibrant world of entitlement and danger, where the right to live and think freely could come at the highest cost.

* * * * *

Wodehouse on Audio

The Mating Season by PG Wodehouse narrated by Jonathan Cecil

Another batch for the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge! Can’t go wrong with Wodehouse! And Jonathan Cecil is the perfect narrator for the Jeeves and Wooster books. A bit of light relief to keep my spirits up through the challenge!

The Blurb says: At Deverill Hall, an idyllic Tudor manor in the picture-perfect village of King’s Deverill, impostors are in the air. The prime example is man-about-town Bertie Wooster, doing a good turn to Gussie Fink-Nottle by impersonating him while he enjoys fourteen days away from society after being caught taking an unscheduled dip in the fountains of Trafalgar Square. Bertie is of course one of nature’s gentlemen, but the stakes are high: if all is revealed, there’s a danger that Gussie’s simpering fiancée Madeline may turn her wide eyes on Bertie instead.

It’s a brilliant plan – until Gussie himself turns up, imitating Bertram Wooster. After that, only the massive brain of Jeeves (himself in disguise) can set things right.

* * * * *

Eliot on Audio

Silas Marner by George Eliot narrated by Andrew Sachs

Fortified with Wodehouse, I hope to have the strength to get through this one, which is one of those books I feel I should read more than actually wanting to. One for my Classics Club list, and on the upside, it’s reasonably short!

The Blurb says:  Falsely accused, cut off from his past, Silas the weaver is reduced to a spider-like existence, endlessly weaving his web and hoarding his gold. Meanwhile, Godfrey Cass, son of the squire, contracts a secret marriage. While the village celebrates Christmas and New Year, two apparently inexplicable events occur. Silas loses his gold and finds a child on his hearth. The imaginative control George Eliot displays as her narrative gradually reveals causes and connections has rarely been surpassed.

* * * * *

Rumpole on Audio

Rumpole’s Return by John Mortimer read by Robert Hardy

I suspect I’ll need a bit of a mood lift after Silas Marner! Rumpole is always fun, and while I’d have liked Leo McKern to narrate them (the actor who played Rumpole on TV), I love Robert Hardy and think he’ll be an excellent substitute…

The Blurb says: Has Rumpole hung up his wig for good? Can it be? Yes, the beloved barrister is now retired (though far from retiring) and gently ripening to a rosy hue in the Florida sunshine. But a colleague’s casual request for advice on a difficult case sends him winging back across the Atlantic, and before he’s through, our hero will come up against a fanatical religious cult and a mysterious letter written in blood.

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 336 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 336

(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 another batch of four – the final books from 2019, and all fiction this time. I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a September read. Amazon had a Kindle daily deal on all Toni Morrison books and I bought, I think, five of them – I’ve read three and still have Jazz and The Bluest Eye to go. Australian blogger Rose is a fan of Tim Winton, and when I asked her where I should start with him, she recommended Cloudstreet. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid will be a re-read, to tie in with my Spanish Civil War challenge. I do have a preferred choice this month, but I’m not telling you which!

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Fiction

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Added 10th November 2019. 26,843 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.86 average rating. 229 pages.

The Blurb says: In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, shoots his teenage lover to death. At the funeral, Joe’s wife, Violet, attacks the girl’s corpse. This passionate, profound story of love and obsession brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of black urban life.

* * * * *

Fiction

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Added 10th November 2019. 207,795 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.09 average. 208 pages.

The Blurb says: Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison powerfully examines our obsession with beauty and conformity—and asks questions about race, class, and gender with her characteristic subtly and grace.

In Morrison’s bestselling first novel, Pecola Breedlove—an 11-year-old Black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.

* * * * *

Fiction

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Added 1st December 2019. 22,625 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.00 average. 426 pages. 

The Blurb says: Hailed as a classic, Tim Winton’s masterful family saga is both a paean to working-class Australians and an unflinching examination of the human heart’s capacity for sorrow, joy, and endless gradations in between. An award-winning work, Cloudstreet exemplifies the brilliant ability of fiction to captivate and inspire.

Struggling to rebuild their lives after being touched by disaster, the Pickle family, who’ve inherited a big house called Cloudstreet in a suburb of Perth, take in the God-fearing Lambs as tenants. The Lambs have suffered their own catastrophes, and determined to survive, they open up a grocery on the ground floor. From 1944 to 1964, the shared experiences of the two overpopulated clans — running the gamut from drunkenness, adultery, and death to resurrection, marriage, and birth — bond them to each other and to the bustling, haunted house in ways no one could have anticipated.

* * * * *

Historical Fiction

Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom

Added 18th December 2019. 15,624 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.85 average. 549 pages.

The Blurb says: 1940: The Spanish Civil War is over, and Madrid lies ruined, its people starving, while the Germans continue their relentless march through Europe. Britain now stands alone while General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war.

Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett: a traumatized veteran of Dunkirk turned reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of old school friend Sandy Forsyth, now a shady Madrid businessman, Harry finds himself involved in a dangerous game – and surrounded by memories.

Meanwhile Sandy’s girlfriend, ex-Red Cross nurse Barbara Clare, is engaged in a secret mission of her own – to find her former lover Bernie Piper, a passionate Communist in the International Brigades, who vanished on the bloody battlefields of the Jarama.

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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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TBR Thursday 335…

Episode 335

Another major drop in the TBR this time – down 3 to 174! I suspect this might be the last drop for a while – concentrating on audiobooks for #20BooksOfSummer means I’m falling way behind with my usual reading. And since I’ve never admitted to my audiobook stash in my TBR, they don’t count as drops when I read them! What a tangled web we weave…

TRIGGER WARNING!
MAJOR ARACHNOPHOBIA ALERT!

OOPS! SORRY! TOO LATE…

Here are a few more that should be scuttling my way soon…

Fiction

The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

I loved Daniel Mason’s collection of short stories, A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth, so added this to my TBR. It sounds very different but just as interesting, and it might even tick one of the elusive final boxes for my Wanderlust challenge

The Blurb says: One misty London afternoon in 1886, piano tuner Edgar Drake receives an unusual request from the War Office: he must leave his quiet life and travel to the jungles of Burma to repair a rare grand piano owned by an enigmatic army surgeon. So begins an extraordinary journey across Europe, the Red Sea, India and onwards, accompanied by an enchanting yet elusive woman. Edgar is at first captivated, then unnerved, as he begins to question the true motive behind his summons and whether he will return home unchanged to the wife who awaits him. . .

An instant bestseller, Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner has been published in 27 countries. Exquisitely told, this classic is a richly sensuous story of adventure, discovery, and how we confront our most deeply held fears and desires.

Thriller

Confidence by Denise Mina

Courtesy of Random House Vintage via NetGalley. I enjoyed the first book in this series, Conviction, although at the time I had no idea it was going to be the first book in a series! It was lighter than the other Denise Minas I’ve read, so I’m hoping this one too will be a fast-paced entertaining thriller…

The Blurb says: When Lisa Lee, a vulnerable young woman, vanishes from a pretty Scottish seaside town Anna and Fin find themselves at the centre of an internet frenzy to find her.

But Lisa may not be the hapless victim her father thinks. She had an unsuccessful YouTube channel and her last film showed her breaking into an abandoned French Chateau with other UrbExers and stumbling across a priceless Roman silver casket. One day after Lisa vanishes that casket gets listed for auction in Paris, reserve price fifty million euro and a catalogue entry that could challenge the fundamental principles of a major world religion.

On a thrilling chase across Europe, Anna and Fin are caught up in a world of international art smuggling, billionaire con artists and religious zealotry.

* * * * *

Capote on Audio

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote read by Michael C. Hall

A little splurge of shorter audiobooks to keep me going with the #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer challenge, starting with this classic which I’ve not only never read, but have also never seen the movie! 

The Blurb says: Golden Globe-winning actor Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) performs Truman Capote’s provocative, naturalistic masterstroke about a young writer’s charmed fascination with his unorthodox neighbor, the “American geisha” Holly Golightly. Holly – a World War II-era society girl in her late teens – survives via socialization, attending parties and restaurants with men from the wealthy upper class who also provide her with money and expensive gifts. Over the course of the novella, the seemingly shallow Holly slowly opens up to the curious protagonist, who eventually gets tossed away as her deepening character emerges. 

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote’s most beloved work of fiction, introduced an independent and complex character who challenged audiences, revived Audrey Hepburn’s flagging career in the 1961 film version, and whose name and style has remained in the national idiom since publication. Hall uses his diligent attention to character to bring our unnamed narrator’s emotional vulnerability to the forefront of this American classic.

* * * * *

Greene on Audio

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene read by Andrew Sachs

This was the first Greene I read, back when we were given it as a set text in school when I was around 14 or 15, I think. While being forced to analyse books to death was often enough to put me off an author for life, in this case it was the beginning of a life-long love affair…

The Blurb says: In a poor Mexican state in the 1930s, the Red Shirts have viciously persecuted the clergy and murdered many priests. Yet one remains – the ‘whisky priest’ who believes he’s lost his soul. On the run and with the police closing in, his routes of escape are being shut off, his chances getting fewer. But compassion and humanity force him along the road to his destiny…

Andrew Sachs reads Graham Greene’s powerful novel about a worldly Roman Catholic priest and his quest for penitence and dignity.

* * * * *

Austen on Audio

Mansfield Park (Full Cast Dramatization) adapted from Jane Austen starring Billie Piper

I’ve had this kicking around for ages, but wanted to re-read the book before I listened to it – which I have recently done. Sounds like fun – I’ve enjoyed a few of these full cast dramatizations from Audible… 

The Blurb says: Adopted into the household of her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price grows up a meek outsider among her cousins in the unaccustomed elegance of Mansfield Park. Soon after Sir Thomas absents himself on business, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive at Mansfield, bringing with them London glamour and the seductive taste for flirtation and theatre that precipitates a crisis.

Directed by Tamsin Collison. With Matt Addis, Lucy Briers, James Corrigan, Scarlett Courtney, Rosalind Eleazar, Jennifer English, Emma Fielding, Ash Hunter, Joel MacCormack, Harry Myers, Esme Scarborough, Lucy Scott, Bert Seymour and Natalie Simpson.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

Classics Club Spin #30 – result!

It’s number…

It’s from the Scottish section…

It’s set in Sutherland…

It’s about the Highland Clearances…

Its title is a Bible quote…

It’s 160 pages…

It’s…

Consider the Lilies by Iain Crichton Smith

The Blurb says: When she rose in the morning the house at first seemed to be the same. The sun shone through the curtains of her window. On the floor it turned to minute particles like water dancing. Nevertheless, she felt uneasy…

What had the girl said? Something about the ‘burning of houses’. They just couldn’t put people out of their houses, and then burn the houses down. No one had ever heard of that before. Not in the country…”

In this modern classic, from one of Scotland’s greatest writers, Consider the Lilies captures the thoughts and memories of an old woman who has lived all her life within the narrow confines of her community during one of the cruellest episodes of Scottish history – the Highland Clearances.

Written with compassion, in spare, simple prose, Consider the Lilies is a moving testament to the enduring qualities which enable the oppressed to triumph in defeat.

* * * * *

Thanks, Spin Gods!

TBR Thursday 334…

A thirteenth 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 second batch for 2022 and the thirteenth overall…

Calamity Town by Ellery Queen

This one just failed to win a recent People’s Choice poll, but here it is getting its day in the sun anyway. I read a few Ellery Queens back in the previous millennium, and liked rather than loved them. It’s been a long time though, so I’m keen to see how they strike me now… 

The Blurb says: Looking for trouble, Ellery Queen descends on a small town.

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.

Challenge details

Book No: 93

Subject Heading: Across the Atlantic

Publication Year: 1942

Martin Edwards says: “Wrightsville life, and the passions swirling within its troubled first family, are splendidly evoked, and the literary quality and style of the novel meant that it represented a landmark in the long series of mysteries written by and starring Ellery Queen.”

* * * * *

Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman

A new author to me, but not a new story – apparently this is the book that became the classic Ealing comedy film, Kind Hearts and Coronets…

The Blurb says: Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal is a 1907 darkly comic novel written by Roy Horniman, telling the tale of the eponymous anti-hero’s campaign to cut back his family tree and inherit the aristocratic status of his hated relatives.

Told from his condemned cell, the story charts – in surprisingly lurid detail – how Rank goes from the status of poor relation, to advancing in life by killing off the six relatives standing in the way of him succeeding to his family seat.

Set against a backdrop of Edwardian snobbery, upper-class ritual, and casual antisemitism, Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal is darker than the film it went on to inspire.

It is also a fast-paced, engaging, and beautifully-rendered thriller – both disturbing and funny in equal measure.

Challenge details

Book No: 5

Subject Heading: A New Era Dawns

Publication Year: 1907

Edwards says: “Horniman devoted much of his life to vigorous campaigns for unpopular causes, and overall, it seems fair to regard his book as a condemnation of anti-Semitism, rather than some form of endorsement of it, while there is something quite modern about the book’s flourishes of irony.

* * * * *

The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club

This collaborative effort sounds like it could easily be a hot mess, but it has pretty high ratings on Goodreads and I’m hoping for a lot of fun seeing how each author approaches it…

The Blurb says: Inspector Rudge does not encounter many cases of murder in the sleepy seaside town of Whynmouth. But when an old sailor lands a rowing boat containing a fresh corpse with a stab wound to the chest, the Inspector’s investigation immediately comes up against several obstacles. The vicar, whose boat the body was found in, is clearly withholding information, and the victim’s niece has disappeared. There is clearly more to this case than meets the eye – even the identity of the victim is called into doubt. Inspector Rudge begins to wonder just how many people have contributed to this extraordinary crime and whether he will ever unravel it…

In 1931, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and ten other crime writers from the newly-formed ‘Detection Club’ collaborated in publishing a unique crime novel. In a literary game of consequences, each author would write one chapter, leaving G.K. Chesterton to write a typically paradoxical prologue and Anthony Berkeley to tie up all the loose ends. In addition, each of the authors provided their own solution in a sealed envelope, all of which appeared at the end of the book, with Agatha Christie’s ingenious conclusion acknowledged at the time to be ‘enough to make the book worth buying on its own’.

The authors of this novel are: G. K. Chesterton, Canon Victor Whitechurch, G. D. H. Cole and Margaret Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane and Anthony Berkeley.

Challenge details

Book No: 27

Subject Heading: Play Up! Play Up! and Play the Game!

Publication Year: 1931

Edwards says: “In her introduction, Sayers explained the authors approach: “Here, the problem was made to approach as closely as possible to a problem of real detection. Except in the case of Mr Chesterton’s picturesque Prologue, which was written last, each contributor tackled the mystery presented to him in the preceding chapters without having slightest idea what solution or solutions the previous authors had in mind. 

* * * * *

The Medbury Fort Murder by George Limnelius

Another author I don’t know at all! Sounds a bit grim…

The Blurb says: The Medbury Fort Murder, first published in 1929 for the Crime Club, is a ‘golden-age’ murder mystery involving the killing of an unpopular British Army officer stationed at an out-of-the way post in England. Loathsome Lt. Lepean is found with his throat cut and his head nearly severed from his body in a locked room at the isolated Medbury Fort situated on the Thames. Lepean was not at all admired among his fellow soldiers. The arrogant, sneering soldier was a known user of women and is revealed early on to be a ruthless blackmailer. There are at least four men who had very good reason to kill Lepean, two of them were being blackmailed. Was it one of them who slew the soldier or someone else?

Challenge details

Book No: 30

Subject Heading: Miraculous Murders

Publication Year: 1929

Edwards says: “The cast of suspects is small, but Limnelius handles his narrative with aplomb, engaging the reader’s sympathy with both the hunters and the hunted. His no-nonsense treatment of sex and violence is hardly in keeping with the lazily conventional view of Golden Age fiction as ‘cosy’, and the attention he pays to characterisation is equally striking.”

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 333…

Episode 333

After last week’s dramatic rise, the TBR has had an equally dramatic fall this week, partly due to some quick reads aided by an abandonment or two! Down 5 to 177! That’s better!

So sorry I’m behind with answering your lovely comments and reading your lovelier posts. Blame Rafa and his pals! I’ll catch up soon, promise!

Anyway, here are a few more I should get to once the tennis is over… a crime week this week!

Crime

The Truth Will Out by Rosemary Hennigan

Courtesy of Orion via NetGalley. No particular reason for this one – I just liked the sound of the blurb. Plus I always enjoy reading an occasional debut novel in the hopes of finding a new favourite author…

The Blurb says: Dara Gaffney is fresh out of drama school when she lands the leading role in the revival of Eabha de Lacey’s hugely successful yet controversial play.

Based on the true story of the death of Cillian Butler, many claim that Eabha had an ulterior motive when she penned it. Cillian’s death remains a mystery to this day, and Eabha and her brother, Austin, the only witnesses.

As the media storm builds and the opening night draws closer, the cast find it harder and harder to separate themselves from the characters.

As the truth of Cillian’s fate becomes clear, Dara’s loyalty to her role will be irrevocably questioned as the terrible history starts to repeat itself…

Crime

The Dark by Sharon Bolton

Courtesy of Orion via NetGalley. So excited to see the return of Lacey Flint, one of my favourite detectives! Can’t wait to snuggle down with this one! 

The Blurb says: When a baby is snatched from its pram and cast into the river Thames, off-duty police officer Lacey Flint is there to prevent disaster. But who would want to hurt a child?

DCI Mark Joesbury has been expecting this. Monitoring a complex network of dark web sites, Joesbury and his team have spotted a new terrorist threat from the extremist, women-hating, group known as ‘incels’ or ‘involuntary celibates.’ Joesbury’s team are trying to infiltrate the ring of power at its core, but the dark web is built for anonymity, and the incel army is vast.

Pressure builds when the team learn the snatched child was just the first in a series of violent attacks designed to terrorise women. Worse, the leaders of the movement seem to have singled out Lacey as the embodiment of everything they hate, placing her in terrible danger…

* * * * *

Vintage Crime Short Stories

The Edinburgh Mystery and Other Tales of Scottish Crime edited by Martin Edwards

Courtesy of the British Library. Isn’t it nice of Martin Edwards to put together an anthology of Scottish stories just for me? 😉 I thought the BL had dumped me since it’s been a while since I received a parcel from them, so I was doubly delighted when this one popped through the letter-box!

The Blurb says: From the dramatic Highlands to bustling cities and remote islands in wild seas, the unique landscapes and locales of Scotland have enthralled and shaped generations of mystery writers. This new collection presents seventeen classic stories, spanning a period from the 1880s to the 1970s, by a host of Scottish authors alongside writers from south of the border inspired by the history and majesty of the storied country.

Featuring vintage tales by Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson and Baroness Orczy together with mid-twentieth-century mini-masterpieces by Margot Bennett, Michael Innes and Cyril Hare, this anthology also includes a rare Josephine Tey short story, reprinted for the first time since 1930.

* * * * *

Maigret on Audio

The Flemish House by Georges Simenon read by Gareth Armstrong

For some reason the Maigret novels seem to me to work particularly well as audiobooks, perhaps because of the short length, and certainly because of the excellent narrations by Gareth Armstrong. I pick them up randomly when they turn up in Audible sales, so there’s no logic to my reading order. This is no. 14 in the series according to Audible, no. 15 according to Goodreads. Take your pick! #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer

The Blurb says: A new translation, by David Bellos, of this chilling novel, set on the Belgian border.

“She wasn’t an ordinary supplicant. She didn’t lower her eyes. There was nothing humble about her bearing. She spoke frankly, looking straight ahead, as if to claim what was rightfully hers. ‘If you don’t agree to look at our case, my parents and I will be lost, and it will be the most hateful legal error….'”

Maigret is asked to the windswept, rainy border town of Givet by a young woman desperate to clear her family of murder. But their well-kept shop, the sleepy community, and its raging river all hide their own mysteries. 

* * * * *

Shardlake on Audio

Heartstone by CJ Sansom read by Steven Crossley

An extra one this week to kick off #20(Audio)BooksOfSummer. This is the longest one on my list so I’ll get it out of the way while my enthusiasm is high(ish)! A re-read of a favourite, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Steven Crossley’s narrations of this series so far…

The Blurb says: Summer, 1545. England is at war, and Matthew Shardlake is about to encounter the most politically dangerous case of his career. While a massive French fleet prepares to attack, every able-bodied man is being pressed into military service. Meanwhile, an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr asks Shardlake to investigate claims of “monstrous wrongs” committed against a young ward of the court. Shardlake’s inquiries take him and his loyal assistant, Jack Barak, to Hoyland Priory and Portsmouth, where the English fleet is gathering. There they uncover a startling link between the ward and a woman incarcerated in Bedlam. With a fantastic backdrop of wartime intrigue and a dramatic finale onboard one of Henry VIII’s great warships, Heartstone is certain to catapult this internationally bestselling series to greater prominence.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

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?

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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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?