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. 

* * * * *

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.)

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

Dalziel and Pascoe on Audio

Arms and the Women by Reginald Hill read by Jonathan Keeble

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

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

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 329…

Episode 329

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

(The wonderful Andy Capp drawn by cartoonist Reg Smythe)

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

Crime

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

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

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

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

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

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

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

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Fiction

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruif Zafón

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

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

* * * * *

Adventure

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

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

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

* * * * *

Rebus on Audio

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin read by James Macpherson

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

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 328…

Episode 328

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

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

Winner of the People’s Choice

Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Factual

The Ship Asunder by Tom Nancollas

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

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

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

* * * * *

Fiction

Edgware Road by Yasmin Cordery Khan

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Crime

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who holds the key?

* * * * *

Crime

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

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

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

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

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

Why don’t they want to find Rose Janko?

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 327 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 327

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

* * * * *

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

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Crime

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

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

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

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Calamity Town by Ellery Queen

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

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

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

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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 326…

Episode 326

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

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

Crime Anthology

The Perfect Crime edited by Vaseem Khan and Maxim Jakubowski

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

The Blurb says: Around the world in 22 murders…

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

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

Fiction

The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews

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

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

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

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

Something has awoken, and now it will not rest.

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

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Classic Crime

Vanish in an Instant by Margaret Millar

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

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

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

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Vintage Crime on Audio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday (on a Friday) 325…

A twelfth batch of murder, mystery and mayhem…

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

The Grell Mystery by Frank Froest

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

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

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

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

Challenge details

Book No: 60

Subject Heading: The Long Arm of the Law

Publication Year: 1913

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

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The Mystery of the Skeleton Key by Bernard Capes

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

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

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

Challenge details

Book No: 15

Subject Heading: The Birth of the Golden Age

Publication Year: 1919

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

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The House by the River by AP Herbert

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

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

Challenge details

Book No: 73

Subject Heading: The Psychology of Crime

Publication Year: 1920

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

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Background for Murder by Shelley Smith

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

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

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

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

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

Challenge details

Book No: 100

Subject Heading: The Way Ahead

Publication Year: 1942

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

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 324 and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

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

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

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

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The Classics Club

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

First List

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

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

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

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

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

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

88 down, 2 to go!

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Second List

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

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

1 down, 79 to go!

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

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

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

46 down, 56 to go!

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Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge

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

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

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

9 down, indefinite number to go!

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The People’s Choice

People's Choice Logo

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

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

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

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

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

3 down, 9 to go!

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Wanderlust Bingo

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 down, 6 to go!

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

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

TBR Thursday 323…

Episode 323

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

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

Winner of the People’s Choice

The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham

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

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

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

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

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Crime

I Have Something to Tell You by Susan Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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Historical Fiction

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

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

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

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

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

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

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Vintage Crime

Death of a Bookseller by Bernard J Farmer

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

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

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

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

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 322 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 322

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

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

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

American Classic

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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

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

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

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Short Horror Stories

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

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

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

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Fantasy Adventure

The Land That Time Forgot Trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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

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

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

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English Classic

The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham

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

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

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

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

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

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VOTE NOW!

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

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Classics Club Spin #29 Result

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

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

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

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TBR Thursday 321…

Episode 321

I’ve read very little over the last few weeks so needless to say the TBR has started to climb again… up 2 to 180…

Here are a few more I should reach soon…

Crime

Streets of Gold by Margot Kinberg

Hot off the press, a brand new novella from my friend and fellow blogger, Margot Kinberg! I’m writing this post on the 15th, the book is/was published on the 16th, and depending on when the pre-order turns/turned up on my Kindle, I may well have read it by the time you’re reading this on the 17th! Good luck, Margot – great blurb, great cover . . . can’t wait to get stuck in! 🍾🍾🍾

The Blurb says: Fifteen-year-old Staci Mckinney thought that leaving home would solve her problems. At least it would get her away from her disgusting stepfather, Nick. But it’s not long before Nick becomes the least of her worries. It’s not easy to live on the streets. It’s a daily struggle to find food and a place to sleep, especially during a Philadelphia winter. Things get even harder when Staci witnesses two men dumping a body. When they see her, too, she has no choice but to go on the run.

Philadelphia City Councilman Daniel Langdon thought everything would be alright, even after the ‘road rage’ incident that led to a death. After all, nobody knew what happened. Except some kid saw him and his assistant dumping the body. Now he’s going to have to find the girl before she gets the chance to talk to anyone about what she witnessed.

Fiction

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

For a while it seemed everyone was reading and raving about this one so I acquired it, but of course never got around to reading it. The time has come! I’m hoping it’ll fill a box on my Wanderlust Bingo card…

The Blurb says: Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiralling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavour will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

* * * * *

Historical Fiction

The Clockwork Girl by Anna Mazzola

Courtesy of Orion via NetGalley. This sounds as if it could thrill my Gothic-horror-loving soul or repel my fantasy-hating soul (aren’t I lucky to have more than one soul?), but I did enjoy her previous book The Story Keeper, despite it being full of folklore. So we’ll see! 

The Blurb says: Paris, 1750. In the midst of winter, as birds fall frozen from the sky, a new maid arrives at the home of a celebrated clockmaker and his clever, unworldly daughter. But rumours are stirring that Reinhart’s uncanny mechanical creations – bejewelled birds, silver spiders – are more than mere automata. That they might defy the laws of nature, perhaps even at the expense of the living…

But Madeleine is hiding a dark past, and a dangerous purpose – to discover the truth of the clockmaker’s experiments and record his every move, in exchange for her own chance of freedom.

Meanwhile, in the streets, children are quietly disappearing – and Madeleine comes to fear that she has stumbled upon a greater conspiracy. One which might reach to the heart of Versailles…

* * * * *

Dalziel and Pascoe on Audio

On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill read by Jonathan Keeble

Continuing on my re-read of my favourite crime series, and we’ve reached the book that I have long called my top favourite crime novel of all time. Which makes me nervous to re-read it in case for some unaccountable reason I suddenly don’t like it any more! 😂 Happily, I’ve already started it and it’s still wonderful, and now that I’m used to Jonathan Keeble as narrator, I’m enjoying him very much…

The Blurb says: Into thin air…

Three little girls, one by one, had vanished from the farming village of Dendale. And Superintendent Andy Dalziel, a young detective in those days, never found their bodies–or the person who snatched them. Then the valley where Dendale stood was flooded to create a reservoir, and the town itself ceased to be . . . except in Dalziel’s memory.

Twelve years later, the threads of past and present are slowly winding into a chilling mosaic. A drought and dropping water table have brought Dendale’s ruins into view. And a little girl has gone missing from a nearby village. Helped by Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe, an older, fatter, and wiser Dalziel has a second chance to uncover the secrets of a drowned valley. And now the identity of a killer rests on what one child saw . . . and what another, now grown, fears with all her heart to remember.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

Christie Week: TBR Thursday 320…

Episode 320

Well, due to current events my reading has fallen away to nothing again this week, but fortunately book arrivals also seemed to have stalled, so the TBR remains static on 178.


To tie in with this week’s Christie theme, here are a few of the books patiently waiting in my Audible library. Don’t know exactly when I’ll get to them, but given the levels of stress I feel every time I watch the news I don’t think it will be long!

Miss Marple

A Pocketful of Rye narrated by Joan Hickson

This is one of my favourites so I know the story inside out, but that never stops me enjoying it! And Joan Hickson is the perfect narrator for the Miss Marple books… 

The Blurb says: A handful of grain is found in the pocket of a murdered businessman! Rex Fortescue, king of a financial empire, was sipping tea in his ‘counting house’ when he suffered an agonising and sudden death. On later inspection, the pockets of the deceased were found to contain traces of cereals. Yet, it was the incident in the parlour which confirmed Miss Marple’s suspicion that here she was looking at a case of crime by rhyme!

* * * * *

Standalone

Endless Night narrated by Hugh Fraser

It’s so long since I last read this I remember almost nothing about it, but the reviews suggest it’s quite a spooky one…

The Blurb says: Gipsy’s Acre was a truly beautiful upland site with views out to sea, and in Michael Rogers it stirred a child-like fantasy. There, amongst the dark fir trees, he planned to build a house, find a girl, and live happily ever after. But as he left the village, a shadow of menace hung over the land, for this was the place where accidents happened. Perhaps Michael should have heeded the locals’ warnings: “There’s no luck for them as meddles with Gipsy’s Acre.” Michael Rogers is a man who is about to learn the true meaning of the old saying “In my end is my beginning”.

* * * * *

Tommy & Tuppence

N or M? narrated by Hugh Fraser

I’ve always had a soft spot for Christie’s lesser known ‘tecs and have read most of the T&T books several times over the years. But for some reason not this one – I think I’ve only read it once, long, long ago when the world was young…

The Blurb says: It is World War II, and while the RAF struggles to keep the Luftwaffe at bay, Britain faces an even more sinister threat from “the enemy within”: Nazis posing as ordinary citizens.

With pressure mounting, the Intelligence service appoints two unlikely spies, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Their mission: to seek out a man and a woman from among the colourful guests at Sans Souci, a seaside hotel. But this assignment is no stroll along the promenade. After all, N and M have just murdered Britain’s finest agent.

* * * * *

Hercule Poirot

Three Act Tragedy narrated by Hugh Fraser

Another favourite of mine, although that’s partly because there’s a cheesy but fun adaptation of it (called Murder in Three Acts) that I love because it stars Peter Ustinov outrageously over-acting as Poirot, Tony Curtis, who was one of my earliest heart-throbs, Emma Samms, who at that time was best known for starring in Dynasty (yes, I did love Dynasty – sue me! 😉 ), and Jonathan Cecil as Hastings (now my favourite narrator of the Jeeves and Wooster books)!

The Blurb says: At an apparently respectable dinner party, a vicar is the first to die…

Thirteen guests arrived at dinner at the actor’s house. It was to be a particularly unlucky evening for the mild-mannered Reverend Stephen Babbington, who choked on his cocktail, went into convulsions and died. But when his martini glass was sent for chemical analysis, there was no trace of poison — just as Poirot had predicted. Even more troubling for the great detective, there was absolutely no motive!

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 319…

Episode 319

I suddenly finished a couple of lengthy reads and, along with my usual shorter ones, that meant a big slide in the TBR since I last reported – down 5 to 178! Good excuse for one of my favourite gifs!

Here are a few more I’ll be diving into soon… 

Winner of the People’s Choice

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

The winner went into an early lead this month and, despite valiant attempts by both Angelou and Simenon, neither was able to catch up. It was close in the end, though – The Custom of the Country won by just two votes! An excellent choice, People! I so nearly put this one on my new Classics Club list but just didn’t have room for it, so I’m glad of the push to read it anyway. It will be a May read.

The Blurb says: Considered by many to be her masterpiece, Edith Wharton’s epic work is a scathing yet personal examination of the exploits and follies of the modern upper class. As she unfolds the story of Undine Spragg, from New York to Europe, Wharton affords us a detailed glimpse of what might be called the interior décor of this America and its nouveau riche fringes. Through a heroine who is as vain, spoiled, and selfish as she is irresistibly fascinating, and through a most intricate and satisfying plot that follows Undine’s marriages and affairs, she conveys a vision of social behavior that is both supremely informed and supremely disenchanted.

* * * * *

American Classic

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

A few weeks ago Mallika at Literary Potpourri posted about some upcoming literary anniversaries, one of which is the centenary of Jack Kerouac’s birth, which will fall on 12th March. So since this one is on my new Classics Club list I thought I’d try to co-ordinate my review for his big day. IF I manage to finish the book in time, that is, and IF I like it – it would be rather mean to celebrate the day with a ranting one-star… 😉

The Blurb says: On The Road swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat. Now recognized as a modern classic, Kerouac’s American Dream is nearer that of Walt Whitman than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, and the narrative goes racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and passion.

* * * * *

Thriller

The Cult by Abby Davies

Courtesy of HarperCollins. An unsolicited one that I probably wouldn’t have chosen for myself. However I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying Davies’ last book, Mother Loves Me, also sent on spec, so I’m keen to see if she can surprise me again!

The Blurb says: A hidden community…

Thirty years ago, in the English countryside, a commune was set up. Led by Uncle Saviour, it was supposed to be a place of love, peace and harmony. But what started out as paradise turned into hell.

A shocking abduction…

Now, two young children have vanished from their home in the middle of the night. Their parents are frantic, the police are at a loss.

A twisting case…

DI Ottoline is leading the search – her only clue a mask found in the woods. Could the key lie in events that took place decades ago, when a dream of a new way of life became something far more sinister?

* * * * *

Christie on Audio

Miss Marple’s Final Cases narrated by Joan Hickson

I’m still enjoying Wolf Hall but sometimes I’m not in the mood to listen to something that requires that much concentration, so I’m alternating it with this one. Ms Hickson and Ms Christie are a more delicious combination than even coffee and chocolate cake…

The Blurb says: First, the mystery man in the church with a bullet-wound. Then, the riddle of a dead man’s buried treasure…the curious conduct of a caretaker after a fatal riding accident…the corpse and a tape-measure…the girl framed for theft…and the suspect accused of stabbing his wife with a dagger.

Here are six gripping cases with one thing in common: the astonishing deductive powers of Miss Marple.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 318 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 318

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

* * * * *

OK, People, time for the next batch of four! Still all from 2018, and another varied bunch. I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a May read. I added 2010: Odyssey Two after loving 2001: A Space Odyssey. I pick up any Maigrets that show up as Kindle or Audible sales so there are always one or two on my TBR – don’t know why I haven’t read Maigret Enjoys Himself since I’ve read ones that I acquired much later. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was acquired as part my Great American Novel Quest (even though it isn’t a novel!) but got left behind with a few others when I ran out of steam on that challenge, and I incorporated the stragglers into my main TBR. This also applies to my last pick, The Custom of the Country. 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…

Science Fiction

2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C Clarke

Added 1st November 2018. 53,964 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.93 average rating. 320 pages.

The Blurb says: When 2001: A Space Odyssey first shocked, amazed, and delighted millions in the late 1960s, the novel was quickly recognized as a classic. Since then, its fame has grown steadily among the multitudes who have read the novel or seen the film based on it. Yet, along with almost universal acclaim, a host of questions has grown more insistent through the years [FF says: I’ve deleted the host of questions since they are a host of spoilers for the original book! I’ve left just the last one…]

Would there be a sequel?

Now all those questions and many more have been answered. In this stunning sequel to his international bestseller, Clarke has written what will truly be one of the great books of the ’80s. Cosmic in sweep, eloquent in its depiction of Man’s place in the Universe, and filled with the romance of space, this novel is a monumental achievement.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Maigret Enjoys Himself by Georges Simenon

Added 1st December 2018. 697 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.85 average. 176 pages.

The Blurb says: When Maigret’s holiday plans go awry he and his wife spend their vacation in Paris, on the condition that he has nothing to do with work. However a case involving the death of a doctor’s wife intrigues Maigret and he assiduously follows its development in the papers. He cannot resist playing a few tricks on his colleague Janvier who is running the case and along the way Maigret uncovers something that is crucial to the murderer’s discovery…

Penguin is publishing the entire series of Maigret novels in new translations. This novel has been published in a previous translation as Maigret’s Little Joke.

* * * * *

Memoir

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Added 24th December 2018. 464,332 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.26 average. 317 pages. 

The Blurb says: Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.

* * * * *

Classic Fiction

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

Added 24th December 2018. 11,509 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.04 average. 370 pages.

The Blurb says: Considered by many to be her masterpiece, Edith Wharton’s epic work is a scathing yet personal examination of the exploits and follies of the modern upper class. As she unfolds the story of Undine Spragg, from New York to Europe, Wharton affords us a detailed glimpse of what might be called the interior décor of this America and its nouveau riche fringes. Through a heroine who is as vain, spoiled, and selfish as she is irresistibly fascinating, and through a most intricate and satisfying plot that follows Undine’s marriages and affairs, she conveys a vision of social behavior that is both supremely informed and supremely disenchanted.

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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 317…

Episode 317

The TBR is staying stable on 183 this week – 2 out, 2 in. But now that the tennis is over for a while I should be able to do some serious catching up! 

Here are a few more I’ll be racing through soon…

Factual

Their Finest Hour by Winston Churchill

I loved The Gathering Storm, the first volume in Churchill’s six-volume history of the Second World War. In fact, I loved it so much it won the FF Award for Best Factual 2021! So I’m looking forward to finally getting to volume two, though at this rate it’ll take me longer to read the books than it took for Churchill to win the war…

The Blurb says: One of the most fascinating works of history ever written, Winston Churchill’s monumental book The Second World War is a six-volume account of the struggle of the Allied powers in Europe against Germany and the Axis. Recounted through the eyes of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Second World War is also the story of one nation’s singular, heroic role in the fight against tyranny. Here you will find pride and patriotism in Churchill’s dramatic account and with reason–having learned a lesson at Munich that they would never forget, the British refused to make peace with Hitler, defying him even after France had fallen and it seemed as though the Nazis were an unstoppable force.

What lends this work its tension is Churchill’s inclusion of primary source material. We hear Churchill’s retrospective analysis of the war, but we are also presented with memos, letters, orders, speeches, and telegrams that give day-by-day accounts of the reactions as the drama unfolds. We listen as strategies and counter-strategies unfold in response to Hitler’s conquest of Europe, his planned invasion of England, and his assault on Russia. All contrive to give a mesmerizing account of the crucial decisions that must be made as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

In Their Finest Hour, Churchill describes the invasion of France and a growing sense of dismay in Britain. Should Britain meet France’s desperate pleas for reinforcements or husband their resources in preparation for the inevitable German assault? In the book’s second half, entitled simply “Alone,” Churchill discusses Great Britain’s position as the last stronghold against German conquest: the battle for control of the skies over Britain, diplomatic efforts to draw the United States into the war, and the spreading global conflict.

In 1953, Churchill won the Nobel Prize for Literature due in no small part to this awe-inspiring work.

* * * * *

Short Stories

The Impostor and Other Stories by Silvina Ocampo

Courtesy of Serpent’s Tail. Susan over at A Life in Books is a terrible temptress with her regular “Books to Look Out for” posts, and on this occasion resistance proved to be futile! Sounds deliciously strange…

The Blurb says: Whimsical and sinister, each story by Silvina Ocampo is like a knife of spun sugar that can still pierce between your ribs. A thief breaks into the house of a psychic with disastrous results, a bride has her personality subsumed by the previous occupant of her home, and two men switch destinies for a change of pace.

The Impostor offers a comprehensive collection from one of the twentieth century’s great forgotten woman writers. Here are tales of doubles and living dolls, angels and demons, a beautiful seer who writes the autobiography of her own death, and much else that is mad, sublime, and delicious.

With an array spanning the length of Ocampo’s career, these haunting stories are among the world’s strangest and best.

* * * * *

Crime

Judas 62 by Charles Cumming

Courtesy of HarperCollins. One of the occasional unsolicited books HC send me, and this one sounds as if it could be good. It has pretty high ratings on Goodreads so far… 

The Blurb says: The second book in Charles Cumming’s gripping new thriller series surrounding BOX 88 – a covert intelligence organization that operates beneath the radar.
A young spy in one of the most dangerous places on Earth…

1993: Student Lachlan Kite is sent to post-Soviet Russia in the guise of a language teacher. In reality, he is there as a spy. Top secret intelligence agency BOX 88 has ordered Kite to extract a chemical weapons scientist before his groundbreaking research falls into the wrong hands. But Kite’s mission soon goes wrong and he is left stranded in a hostile city with a former KGB officer on his trail.

An old enemy looking for revenge…

2020: Now the director of BOX 88 operations in the UK, Kite discovers he has been placed on the ‘JUDAS’ list – a record of enemies of Russia who have been targeted for assassination. Kite’s fight for survival takes him to Dubai, where he must confront the Russian secret state head on…

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Post After Post-Mortem by ECR Lorac

Courtesy of the British Library. I’m always delighted to see ECR Lorac’s name pop up in the BL’s Crime Classics series, and this one sounds intriguing…

The Blurb says: “Now tell us about your crime novel. Take my advice and don’t try to be intellectual over it. What the public likes is blood.”

The Surrays and their five children form a prolific writing machine, with scores of treatises, reviews and crime thrillers published under their family name. Following a rare convergence of the whole household at their Oxfordshire home, Ruth – middle sister who writes ‘books which are just books’ – decides to spend some weeks there recovering from the pressures of the writing life while the rest of the brood scatter to the winds again. Their next return is heralded by the tragic news that Ruth has taken her life after an evening at the Surrays’ hosting a set of publishers and writers, one of whom is named as Ruth’s literary executor in the will she left behind.

Despite some suspicions from the family, the verdict at the inquest is suicide – but when Ruth’s brother Richard receives a letter from the deceased which was delayed in the post, he enlists the help of CID Robert Macdonald to investigate what could only be an ingeniously planned murder.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 316…

Episode 316

Woohoo! A small drop in the TBR this week, down two to 183! No idea how that happened, given that I’m still suffering from extreme exhaustion caused by the Australians’ unaccountable habit of scheduling tennis matches for the middle of the night! I’m still looking for an apprentice to train up as my hero for when Rafa ret… reti… no, can’t say it! Anyway, the shortlist is narrowing and this chap is the current frontrunner….

Félix Auger-Aliassime, for the uninitiated – Canadian, 21, being coached by Rafa’s Uncle Toni. Of course, he got beaten in the quarterfinals, but still, I have high hopes for him! He’s a pleasure to watch, and fights every point, just like Rafa. And he’s awfully pretty, though of course I’d never be shallow enough to notice such things… 😇

(I feel like one of these old rich men who pick their new young trophy wife before they divorce the old one…)

I’ll always love you best, Rafa!

Anyway, back to the books! Here are a few more I’ll be reading soon…

Factual

Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long by Richard D. White, Jr.

Back when I read and loved All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, I mentioned that I’d like to know more about Huey P. Long, the American politician whom some people think Warren used as his template for his anti-hero, Willie Stark. Kelly promptly headed me in the direction of this biography – thank you, Kelly!

The Blurb says: From the moment he took office as governor in 1928 to the day an assassin’s bullet cut him down in 1935, Huey Long wielded all but dictatorial control over the state of Louisiana. A man of shameless ambition and ruthless vindictiveness, Long orchestrated elections, hired and fired thousands at will, and deployed the state militia as his personal police force. And yet, paradoxically, as governor and later as senator, Long did more good for the state’s poor and uneducated than any politician before or since. Outrageous demagogue or charismatic visionary?

In this powerful new biography, Richard D. White, Jr., brings Huey Long to life in all his blazing, controversial glory. White taps invaluable new source material to present a fresh, vivid portrait of both the man and the Depression era that catapulted him to fame.

* * * * *

Scottish Classic

Children of the Dead End by Patrick MacGill

The very last book on my first Classics Club list comes from the Scottish section. I myself am of Scottish and Irish stock, with itinerant workers, extreme poverty and appalling living conditions a major part of my own not too distant family history. So this should be an interesting look at a subject I’m already well aware of on a personal and political level…

The Blurb says: Peopled with extraordinary characters, suffused with humour and yet unflinching in its portrayal of the near slavery of the poor in Scotland and Ireland, Children of the Dead End sold 50,000 copies a year in the 1920s. It was as influential in its own way as the work of social investigators such as Rowntree in bringing about change in British and Irish attitudes to poverty and destitution. Starting with an account of his childhood in Donegal, Ireland at the end of the 19th century, the story moves to Scotland where, living as a tramp, then working as a gang labourer, and for some years as a navvy at Kinlochleven near Fort William, Dermod Flynn (as he calls himself) begins to discover himself as a writer.

* * * * *

Crime

Soft Summer Blood by Peter Helton

Courtesy of Severn House via NetGalley. This is one of the last few ancient NetGalley approvals that I let slide after my trigger finger pressed that Request button too often in the early days, and has been lingering on my TBR since 2015! I’ve enjoyed previous books by Peter Helton so it’s annoying that I never got to this one. Time to put that right!

The Blurb says: It all seemed so simple: a murder; an obvious suspect; a shaky alibi: DI McLusky never had it so good. Until a second killing challenges all his earlier assumptions. With every new piece of evidence McLusky brings to light, the case becomes more complicated. Does it have its roots in a disappearance eighteen years earlier, or is it firmly based in the present?

Meanwhile, DI Kat Fairfield and DS Jack Sorbie are tasked with finding the daughter of a prominent Italian politician, who has disappeared while on a student exchange programme at Bristol University. Neither is overjoyed to be lumbered with a routine missing person’s case while McLusky heads a high-profile murder investigation. Until they find a dead body of their own…

* * * * *

Crime

Killing Rock by Robert Daws

I enjoyed the first two books in this Gibraltar-set series and again have let this third one linger too long…

The Blurb says: A wealthy household massacred in Spain.

Unidentified mummified remains found at the foot of The Rock. 

A US Congressman’s run for President hangs on events in Gibraltar.

What’s the connection?

Detectives Tamara Sullivan and Gus Broderick face the most dangerous and elusive murder investigation of their lives, and for Broderick, it’s about to become all too personal, with his career in real peril as his past comes back to haunt him.

Will Sullivan and Broderick’s partnership survive this latest case, as killers stalk the narrow streets of Gibraltar?

Killing Rock is the third thrilling novel in the bestselling Sullivan and Broderick crime series from Robert Daws.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 315…

Episode 315

Oh, no! The TBR has gone up again, by another 3 to 185! What’s going on?? Well, actually what’s going on is the Australian Open, which means I’ve had to go nocturnal, which means I’m an exhausted stupefied zombie most of the time, which means I’m hardly reading, which means I’m falling behind! So, in short, it’s this man’s fault!

Here are a few more I’ll be reading soon, if I can stay awake… 

Winner of the People’s Choice

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

There were only two books in the running right from the off this time and although Nine Coaches Waiting ran a good race, the winner took an early lead and stretched it throughout, romping home with several lengths to spare. I’m looking forward to this one which, as well as being the People’s Choice for April, is one of the books on my brand spanking new Classics Club list. Excellent choice, People!

The Blurb says: It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

* * * * *

English Classic

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

The last of the English classics on my first Classics Club list, I’ve been saving this re-read for a special reward to myself for reaching the end. (I still have three others to read, but because this one is the longest and I plan to read it slowly and savour it, I anticipate it’ll be the one I finish last.) I know this one isn’t a favourite for a lot of Austen fans, but I love it…

The Blurb says: Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawfords arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation.

Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen’s first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound.

* * * * *

Scottish Classic

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

The second last of my Scottish classics, and one of those books I don’t expect to enjoy at all but feel I ought to have read. (*sigh* I wish I could stop feeling that way about books – I blame John Knox.) However, my low expectations mean that if it surprises me, it can only be in a good way!

The Blurb says: No book is more associated with the city of Glasgow than No Mean City. First published in 1935, it is the story of Johnnie Stark, son of a violent father and a downtrodden mother, the ‘Razor King’ of Glasgow’s pre-war slum underworld, the Gorbals. The savage, near-truth descriptions, the raw character portrayals, bring to life a story that is fascinating, authentic and convincing.

* * * * *

Vintage Crime

Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley

Courtesy of the British Library. I’ve had a mixed reaction to Anthony Berkeley, but more positive than otherwise, so I’m looking forward to this one. I don’t think I’ve read any of his “inverted mysteries” before – a subgenre that can be great… or not great! We’ll see…

The Blurb says: At a costume party with the dubious theme of ‘famous murderers and their victims’, the know-it-all amateur criminologist Roger Sheringham is settled in for an evening of beer, small talk and analysing his companions. One guest in particular has caught his attention for her theatrics, and his theory that she might have several enemies among the partygoers proves true when she is found hanging from the ‘decorative’ gallows on the roof terrace.

Noticing a key detail which could implicate a friend in the crime, Sheringham decides to meddle with the scene and unwittingly casts himself into jeopardy as the uncommonly thorough police investigation circles closer and closer to the truth. Tightly paced and cleverly defying the conventions of the classic detective story, this 1933 novel remains a milestone of the inverted mystery subgenre.

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Scottish Crime

Still Life by Val McDermid

I really enjoyed the first few in McDermid’s Karen Pirie series, but the last couple have been too full of pro-separatist polemics and sycophantic adulation of her personal friend, our First Minister, (an adulation I do not share). (Isn’t it annoying when people who have chosen to be educated outside their country and then live outside their country and write about another country for most of their lives feel they have the right to tell those of us who have actually made our lives here how we should vote?) This one is make or break time – if it’s more of the same then it’ll be the last McDermid I read, but if she’s taken note of the criticism that many other Scots as well as myself have made over her thumping her political views at us, then I’ll be delighted to continue. It’s up to you, Ms McDermid… 

The Blurb says: When a lobster fisherman discovers a dead body in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, Karen is called into investigate. She quickly discovers that the case will require untangling a complicated web—including a historic disappearance, art forgery, and secret identities—that seems to orbit around a painting copyist who can mimic anyone from Holbein to Hockney. Meanwhile, a traffic crash leads to the discovery of a skeleton in a suburban garage. Needless to say, Karen has her plate full. Meanwhile, the man responsible for the death of the love of her life is being released from prison, reopening old wounds just as she was getting back on her feet.

Tightly plotted and intensely gripping, Still Life is Val McDermid at her best, and new and longtime readers alike will delight in the latest addition to this superior series.

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

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As promised, here is your reminder of the forthcoming Review-Alongs

16th February 2022 – Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Kelly and I have also agreed to do a mini Review-Along in March, which you are more than welcome to join if you fancy it…

23rd March 2022 – The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

And after that, the next Review-Along is…

20th April 2022 – Notre-Dame de Paris/The Hunchback of Notre Dame
by Victor Hugo

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 314…

Episode 314

Well, the New Year resolution to reduce the TBR has got off to a fine start – it’s gone up three to 182! Still, eleven and a half months to go…

Here are a few more I’ll be reading soon. A couple of Scottish writers this week, and all four books are from writers I’ve enjoyed before…

Factual

Unlocking the World by John Darwin

Courtesy of Allen Lane. John Darwin won the 2013 FF Factual Book of the Year Award for his excellent Unfinished Empire. The prize is that I will read the author’s next book. It’s taken a while for a new one to come along, and happily it looks just as interesting…

The Blurb says: Steam power transformed our world, initiating the complex, resource-devouring industrial system the consequences of which we live with today. It revolutionized work and production, but also the ease and cost of movement over land and water. The result was to throw open vast areas of the world to the rampaging expansion of Europeans and Americans on a scale previously unimaginable.

Unlocking the World is the captivating history of the great port cities which emerged as the bridgeheads of this new steam-driven economy, reshaping not just the trade and industry of the regions around them but their culture and politics as well. They were the agents of what we now call ‘globalization’, but their impact and influence, and the reactions they provoked, were far from predictable. Nor were they immune to the great upheavals in world politics across the ‘steam century’.

This book is global history at its very best. Packed with fascinating case histories (from New Orleans to Montreal, Bombay to Singapore, Calcutta to Shanghai), individual stories and original ideas, Darwin’s book allows us, for better or worse, to see the modern age taking shape.

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Scottish Historical Crime

The Heretic by Liam McIlvaney

Courtesy of HarperCollins. I’ve only read one of Liam McIlvanney’s books before, and found it a good read, though it suffered from my inability to stop comparing it unfairly with the great Glasgow-set crime novels of his dad, William McIlvanney. I’m happy to have a second chance and hopefully will be able to judge him on his own merits this time – I’ll try, anyway!

The Blurb says: Set in 1976, seven years after the murders recounted in Liam McIlvanney’s breakout novel, The Quaker, this new Glasgow noir novel is a standalone mystery featuring serial character, Detective Duncan McCormack.

McCormack has returned to Glasgow after a stint with the Metropolitan Police in London. The reason for his return is left a lurking mystery throughout. He is investigating a series of murders that seem at first to be the result of random bouts of violence among Glasgow’s poor and destitute. McCormack, however, has insight into Glasgow’s underground that many of his colleagues don’t. He has a secret of his own that he guards carefully but that takes him places and introduces him to people that prove essential to his investigations.

Mcilvanney’s The Quaker was named the Scottish Crime Fiction Book of the Year and a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. The Guardian called it “a solidly crafted and satisfying detective story.” McIlvanney is known for his well crafted plots, his deep characterization, and his stylish prose. The Heretic is no exception.

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Scottish Historical Fiction

Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig

Courtesy of Quercus via NetGalley. I’ve loved Greig’s writing in the past but have been less enamoured by the subjects he has chosen to write about – his books can be a bit too grief-laden for my tastes. This one, however, sounds right up my street, and my hopes for it are stratospheric! (Any blurb that includes the line “John Knox is dead” is already singing my song… 😉 )

The Blurb says: Embra, winter of 1574. Queen Mary has fled Scotland, to raise an army from the French. Her son and heir, Jamie is held under protection in Stirling Castle. John Knox is dead. The people are unmoored and lurching under the uncertain governance of this riven land. It’s a deadly time for young student Will Fowler, short of stature, low of birth but mightily ambitious, to make his name.

Fowler has found himself where the scorch marks of the martyrs burned at the stake can be seen on every street, where differences in doctrine can prove fatal, where the feuds of great families pull innocents into their bloody realm. There he befriends the austere stick-wielding philosopher Tom Nicolson, son of a fishing family whose sister Rose, untutored, brilliant and exceedingly beautiful exhibits a free-thinking mind that can only bring danger upon her and her admirers. The lowly students are adept at attracting the attentions of the rich and powerful, not least Walter Scott, brave and ruthless heir to Branxholm and Buccleuch, who is set on exploiting the civil wars to further his political and dynastic ambitions. His friendship and patronage will lead Will to the to the very centre of a conspiracy that will determine who will take Scotland’s crown.

Rose Nicolson is a vivid, passionate and unforgettable novel of this most dramatic period of Scotland’s history, told by a character whose rise mirrors the conflicts he narrates, the battles between faith and reason, love and friendship, self-interest and loyalty. It confirms Andrew Greig as one of the great contemporary writers of fiction.

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The Wolf Hall Trilogy on Audio

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

We waited so long for the final part of this trilogy that I felt I really needed to re-read the first two books before tackling the third. So since I’d heard that Ben Miles does a wonderful job of the narration, I decided to listen to them all. They’re incredibly long and as regulars will know I’m incredibly slow at listening to audiobooks, so this will be a kind of mini-challenge to listen to the whole trilogy this year. I’ve started this one and totally agree about Miles’ narration so far…

The Blurb says: Listen to the exciting new rendition of Wolf Hall, read by Ben Miles, who was personally cast by the author and played Thomas Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The winner of the Man Booker Prize and captivating first book in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy.

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk and later his successor.

Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events.

Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of character and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion and suffering and courage.

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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 (on a Wednesday) 313 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 313

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

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OK, People, time for the next batch of four, all from 2018 and an interesting list this time, I think.  I like to run three months ahead with these polls, so the winner will be a April read. The Cottage at Hope Cove is the only romance novel on my list, added because it was highly recommended by another blogger I followed back then, who specialised in romance. I added Picnic at Hanging Rock because I loved the film and wanted to read the book, and it’s now on my new Classics Club list. Mrs Ritchie was added because I enjoyed another book by the same author. And Nine Coaches Waiting is another that was added on the basis of a fellow blogger’s recommendation, this time Helen at She Reads Novels. There are a couple here I’d really like to read and a couple I’ll be happy to move off my TBR, so you really can’t go wrong! 😉

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Romance

The Cottage at Hope Cove by Hannah Ellis

Added 9th August 2018. 4,822 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.34 average rating. 337 pages.

The Blurb says: Lizzie Beaumont has it all: a great career, a wealthy fiancé, and the wedding of her dreams just months away. But when her fiancé puts work before her again, she sets off for a week in the picturesque town of Hope Cove. She’s hoping for time away from the chaos to find herself.

Instead, she finds Max.

When the gorgeous guy next door asks her for decorating help, Lizzie finds herself all too eager to please. The week she expected to drag suddenly flies by, and before she knows it, she has to return to her other life. The life with the impending marriage and the fiancé she loves.

Or does she?

One week with Max has left her questioning her life choices. Is her fiancé the man of her dreams, or just the man who asked? Now Lizzie must decide what her life will be. Will she go for the safe and predictable route, or take a chance on a man she hardly knows? No matter what she does, someone’s heart is going to break. She just doesn’t want it to be hers.

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Classic Historical Fiction

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Added 17th August 2018. 18,008 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.69 average. 189 pages.

The Blurb says: It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

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Scottish Fiction

Mrs Ritchie by Willa Muir

Added 6th October 2018. 1 rating on Goodreads, with a 5.00 average! 338 pages. 

The Blurb says: [FF says: For the first time ever, I can’t find a blurb for this book. Here’s an extract from the introduction in my copy instead.] Johnny and Annie’s marriage in Mrs Ritchie is also born out of deceit and disguise. The young Annie Rattray’s mask of gently wooing womanhood utterly blinds Johnny to the terrifying harridan within – and ultimately traps him into the baleful hell of a loveless and soul-destroying marriage. [FF says: Gosh! Despite this, Muir’s reputation is of a strong feminist, and that was certainly the feeling I had from her other novel.]

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Historical Suspense

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

Added 26th October 2018. 14,037 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.04 average. 342 pages.

The Blurb says: A governess in a French chateau encounters an apparent plot against her young charge’s life in this unforgettably haunting and beautifully written suspense novel.

When lovely Linda Martin first arrives at Château Valmy as an English governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, the opulence and history surrounding her seems like a wondrous, ecstatic dream. But a palpable terror is crouching in the shadows. Philippe’s uncle, Léon de Valmy, is the epitome of charm, yet dynamic and arrogant, his paralysis little hindrance as he moves noiselessly in his wheelchair from room to room. Only his son Raoul, a handsome, sardonic man who drives himself and his car with equally reckless abandon, seems able to stand up to him. To Linda, Raoul is an enigma, though irresistibly attracted to him, she senses some dark twist in his nature. When an accident deep in the woods nearly kills Linda’s innocent charge, she begins to wonder if someone has deadly plans for the young count.

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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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