TBR Thursday 250…

Episode 250

A huge drop in the TBR this week – down 3 to 205! The plan of reading all the shortest books is beginning to pay off. It’s so exhilarating!

Here are a few more that should slide off soon…

Winner of the People’s Choice Poll

The Old Buzzard Had It Coming by Donis Casey

It was exciting this week! For quite a while there was no clear leader and then gradually the eventual winner pulled away from the field and slowly developed a commanding lead. From the comments, many of you were attracted by the title. Me too! I’m sure that’s what made me buy it way back in 2015. Intriguing choice, People! I plan to read and review it by the end of October.

The Blurb says: Alafair Tucker is a strong woman, the core of family life on a farm in Oklahoma where the back-breaking work and daily logistics of caring for her husband Shaw, their nine children, and being neighborly requires hard muscle and a clear head. She’s also a woman of strong opinions, and it is her opinion that her neighbor, Harley Day, is a drunkard and a reprobate. So, when Harley’s body is discovered frozen in a snowdrift one January day in 1912, she isn’t surprised that his long-suffering family isn’t, if not actually celebrating, much grieving.

When Alafair helps Harley’s wife prepare the body for burial, she discovers that Harley’s demise was anything but natural—there is a bullet lodged behind his ear. Alafair is concerned when she hears that Harley’s son, John Lee, is the prime suspect in his father’s murder, for Alafair’s seventeen-year-old daughter Phoebe is in love with the boy. At first, Alafair’s only fear is that Phoebe is in for a broken heart, but as she begins to unravel the events that led to Harley’s death, she discovers that Phoebe might be more than just John Lee’s sweetheart: she may be his accomplice in murder.

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Short Stories

Thirst by Ken Kalfus

In recent years, Kalfus has become one of my favourite authors and I’m gradually working my way through his back catalogue. This was his first collection of short stories, I believe. This, and the next two books, are all from my 20 Books of Summer list…

The Blurb says: Distinguished by black comedy and an international perspective, Ken Kalfus’ stories frequently fold into each other and are most often about the abrupt dislocation of people bumping into different cultures, be they real, hallucinated, dreamed, or desired. His characters — which include an endless line of refugees fleeing Sarajevo with no particular destination, an Irish au pair plagued by her own psychosexual fears in a Paris science museum, and an entirely fictitious baseball league — are constantly thumping their heads against a shifting reality. Kalfus’ sympathetic portraits of human beings caught in the tectonic cultural shifts that disrupt our lives are frequently hilarious, consistently touching, and powerfully creative.

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Vintage Crime

The Spoilt Kill by Mary Kelly

After a little spate of books from authors they’d previously published, the BL seems to be back to adding “new” authors to their list, and it’s always fun not quite knowing what to expect. I like the idea of that corpse in the clay!

The Blurb says: Shentall’s, a long-established institution of the Staffordshire Potteries industry, is under attack. With its designs leaked to international competition and its prices undercut, private investigator Hedley Nicholson has been tasked with finding the culprit of the suspected sabotage.

But, industrial espionage may just be the beginning. Delving further into the churning heart of Shentall’s Pottery, Nicholson’s prying is soon to unearth rumours of bonds cruelly smashed to pieces, grievances irrevocably baked in stone and a very real body, turning and turning in the liquid clay.

First published in 1961, The Spoilt Kill received widespread critical acclaim and praise from contemporary crime writers such as Julian Symons. It was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger and remains a finely crafted masterpiece of the crime genre.

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Classic Fiction

Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Given my lifelong love affair with Jane Austen, I can’t think why I’ve never read this before. Time to correct that omission!

The Blurb says: Beautiful, flirtatious, and recently widowed, Lady Susan Vernon seeks an advantageous second marriage for herself, while attempting to push her daughter into a dismal match. A magnificently crafted novel of Regency manners and mores that will delight Austen enthusiasts with its wit and elegant expression.

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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?

PS New laptop arriving later so I’ll catch up on comments and your posts once I’m up and running – might be later today, might be three weeks on Tuesday, depending on how quickly I can get it all set up. If you hear loud sobbing coming from a northerly direction, send me chocolate! Typing on my old lappy has become nightmarish now that I have to bang repeatedly on the “y” key every time I need to use it. Have you ever tried writing reviews using only words without a “y” in them? It’s reall, reall annoing, I can tell ou!

TBR Thursday 249 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 249

(A reminder of the People’s Choice plan. Once a month or so, 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, time for the next batch of four! I’m finally coming to the end of 2014 and into 2015, strictly in order of acquisition or addition to the TBR in the case of re-reads. I was in a peak crime fiction phase at that time, so most of the books fall into that genre. Michael Russell and Donis Casey would be new-to-me authors, both on my TBR as a result of reviews from around the blogosphere. I went through a short-lived love affair with Neil Gaiman and still have a couple of his books on the TBR from that period – I’m willing to see if the love can be revived. And I enjoyed the first book in Camilla Lackberg’s Patrik Hedström series – The Preacher is the second book which of course I’ve never got around to reading!

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Crime

The City of Shadows by Michael Russell

Added 3rd December 2014. 619 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.87 average rating. 432 pages.

The Blurb says: Dublin 1934: Detective Stefan Gillespie arrests a German doctor and encounters Hannah Rosen desperate to find her friend Susan, a Jewish woman who had become involved with a priest, and has now disappeared.

When the bodies of a man and woman are found buried in the Dublin mountains, it becomes clear that this case is about more than a missing person. Stefan and Hannah trace the evidence all the way across Europe to Danzig.

In a strange city where the Nazi Party are gaining power, Stefan and Hannah are inching closer to the truth and soon find themselves in grave danger…

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Fantasy

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Added 24th December 2014. 348,164 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.09 average. 356 pages.

The Blurb says: Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall – named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristan Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristan vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

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Mystery

The Old Buzzard Had It Coming by Donis Casey

Added 5th February, 2015. 756 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.88 average. 184 pages. 

The Blurb says: Alafair Tucker is a strong woman, the core of family life on a farm in Oklahoma where the back-breaking work and daily logistics of caring for her husband Shaw, their nine children, and being neighborly requires hard muscle and a clear head. She’s also a woman of strong opinions, and it is her opinion that her neighbor, Harley Day, is a drunkard and a reprobate. So, when Harley’s body is discovered frozen in a snowdrift one January day in 1912, she isn’t surprised that his long-suffering family isn’t, if not actually celebrating, much grieving.

When Alafair helps Harley’s wife prepare the body for burial, she discovers that Harley’s demise was anything but natural—there is a bullet lodged behind his ear. Alafair is concerned when she hears that Harley’s son, John Lee, is the prime suspect in his father’s murder, for Alafair’s seventeen-year-old daughter Phoebe is in love with the boy. At first, Alafair’s only fear is that Phoebe is in for a broken heart, but as she begins to unravel the events that led to Harley’s death, she discovers that Phoebe might be more than just John Lee’s sweetheart: she may be his accomplice in murder.

* * * * *

Crime

The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg

Added 5th February 2015. 30,554 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.79 average. 419 pages.

The Blurb says: During an unusually hot July, detective Patrik Hedstrom and Erica Falck are enjoying a rare week at home together, nervous and excited about the imminent birth of their first baby. Across town, however, a six-year-old boy makes a gruesome discovery that will ravage their little tourist community and catapult Patrik into the center of a terrifying murder case.

The boy has stumbled upon the brutally murdered body of a young woman, and Patrik is immediately called to lead the investigation. Things get even worse when his team uncovers, buried beneath the victim, the skeletons of two campers whose disappearance had baffled police for decades. The three victims’ injuries seem to be the work of the same killer, but that is impossible: the main suspect in the original kidnappings committed suicide twenty-four years ago.

When yet another young girl disappears and panic begins to spread, Patrik leads a desperate manhunt to track down a ruthless serial killer before he strikes again.

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

TBR Thursday 248…

Episode 248

And the TBR drops back down 1 to 208! I seem to be stuck there…

Here are a few more that should escape from the quagmire soon…

Fiction

The Island by Ana Maria Matute

Courtesy of Penguin Classics via NetGalley. I might not normally have chosen this one, but I’ve been keeping my eye out for fiction for my Spanish Civil War challenge, preferably written by Spaniards, and this fits the bill. And that’s half the fun of challenges – being tempted to go off the well-worn path…

The Blurb says: “This is an old and wicked island. An island of Phoenicians and merchants, of bloodsuckers and frauds.”

Ana María Matute’s 1959 novel (original title Primera memoria) is a stifling story of rebellious adolescence, narrated by Matia, as she struggles against her domineering grandmother, schemes with her mercurial cousin Borja and begins to fall in love with the strange boy Manuel.

Steeped in myth, fairy tale and biblical allusion, the novel depicts Mallorca as an enchanted but wicked island, a lost Eden and Never Never Land combined, where the sun burns through stained glass windows and the wind tears itself on the agaves. Ostensibly concerned with Matia’s anxieties about entering the adult world, this internal conflict is set against the much wider, deeper, and more frightening conflict of the civil war as it plays out almost secretly on the island, set in turn against the backdrop of the Inquisition’s mass burning of Jews in previous centuries. These two conflicts shimmer at the edges of Matia’s highly subjective account of her life on the island, where life is drawn along painful and divisive lines.

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Vintage Crime

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Courtesy of Pushkin Vertigo via NetGalley. This and the next two are all from my 20 Books of Summer list. I’ve read and enjoyed a few contemporary Japanese crime novels but I think this is my first vintage one…

The Blurb says: Japan’s greatest classic murder mystery, translated into English for the first time.

In the winter of 1937, the village of Okamura is abuzz with excitement over the forthcoming wedding of a son of the grand Ichiyanagi family. But amid the gossip over the approaching festivities, there is also a worrying rumour – it seems a sinister masked man has been asking questions about the Ichiyanagis around the village.

Then, on the night of the wedding, the Ichiyanagi family are woken by a terrible scream, followed by the sound of eerie music – death has come to Okamura, leaving no trace but a bloody samurai sword, thrust into the pristine snow outside the house. The murder seems impossible, but amateur detective Kosuke Kindaichi is determined to get to the bottom of it.

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Fiction: Sychronised Reviewalong

A Month in the Country by JL Carr

Every review I’ve seen of this one has been glowing, so my expectations are stratospheric! I’m delighted that some of my blog buddies – Sandra, Christine and Alyson –  will be reading it at the same time, and we’ll be posting our reviews or, for non-bloggers, sharing our opinions in the comments of the reviews on 31st August. If you fancy joining in, you’ll be more than welcome! It’s very short…

The Blurb says: In the summer of 1920 two men, both war survivors meet in the quiet English countryside. One is living in the church, intent upon uncovering and restoring an historical wall painting while the other camps in the next field in search of a lost grave. Out of their meeting comes a deeper communion and a catching up of the old primeval rhythms of life so cruelly disorientated by the Great War.

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Fiction

All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan

Courtesy of Random House Transworld via NetGalley. I’m ashamed to admit that this one has been on my TBR since 2017 – one of the little backlog of review copies that got left behind. I don’t know why – it’s another most people have raved about – but somehow I have a kind of irrational feeling that I’m going to hate it, which is why I’ve kept putting it off. I hope I’m wrong!

The Blurb says: Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. At 33 years-old, she finds herself pregnant with the child of a 17 year-old Traveller boy, Martin Toppy, and not by her husband Pat. Melody was teaching Martin to read, but now he’s gone, and Pat leaves too, full of rage. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming, while the past won’t let her go.

It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a bold young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life. Following the nine months of her pregnancy, All We Shall Know unfolds with emotional immediacy in Melody’s fierce, funny, and unforgettable voice, as she contends with her choices, past and present.

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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 247…

Episode 247

A tiny increase in the TBR this week – up 1 to 209. So fortunately I’ve managed to avoid a book famine for yet another week – phew!

Here are a few more that will be on the menu soon…

Factual

A Vast Conspiracy by Jeffrey Toobin

Courtesy of William Collins via NetGalley. I wouldn’t normally be attracted to a book about a sex scandal, but I thoroughly enjoyed another of Toobin’s books on Patty Hearst, American Heiress, and I’m hoping that, although the blurb doesn’t say so, this one might explain the whole Whitewater thing which was behind the Clinton scandal, and which I never fully got to grips with at the time…

The Blurb says: The definitive account of the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandals, A Vast Conspiracy casts an insightful eye over the extraordinary ordeal that nearly brought down a president.

First published a year after the infamous impeachment trial, Jeffrey Toobin’s propulsive narrative captures the full arc of the Clinton sex scandals – from their beginnings in a Little Rock hotel to their culmination on the floor of the United States Senate with only the second vote on presidential removal in American history.

Rich in character and fuelled with the high octane of a sensational legal thriller, A Vast Conspiracy has indelibly shaped our understanding of this disastrous moment in American political history.

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Scottish Classic

Bull Calves by Naomi Mitchison

Another from the Scottish section of my Classics Club list and I bet you’ll never be able to guess what it’s about – the Jacobite Rebellions! It’s just as well really that the Rebellions happened or there would be pretty much no classic Scottish literature… 😉 It’s also vying for the award for Shortest Blurb, which is surprising, since it’s a brick-sized book…

The Blurb says: Over a summer weekend at Gleneagles, the Haldane family gather. It’s 1747 and a cautious Scotland is recovering from the ’45 rebellion. To the party the family bring their own suspicions and troubles, and the weekend takes a dramatic turn when one of them conceals a rebel Jacobite in the attic.

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Crime

Maigret and the Ghost by Georges Simenon

The first of the two Maigrets I’ve included on my 20 Books of Summer list, which I’m already falling seriously behind with. And an even shorter blurb! At this rate I’ll need to do a song and dance routine to fill up space at the end of the post…

The Blurb says: During an undercover case Inspector Lognon is shot in a room he was sharing with a beautiful woman who has since disappeared. Inspector Maigret retraces Lognon’s secretive last few days and is drawn into the darker side of the art world.

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Classic Fiction on Audio

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy read by Tony Britton

Sadly I didn’t get on with the narrator of the du Maurier I intended to listen to, so quickly abandoned it and have already started this one. So far Tony Britton is doing a marvellous job and I’m thoroughly enjoying the story, which I wasn’t sure if I’d read before, but am now sure I haven’t…

The Blurb says: In a fit of drunken anger, Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter for five guineas at a country fair. Over the course of the following years, he manages to establish himself as a respected and prosperous pillar of the community of Casterbridge, but behind his success there always lurk the shameful secret of his past and a personality prone to self-destructive pride and temper. Subtitled ‘A Story of a Man of Character’, Hardy’s powerful and sympathetic study of the heroic but deeply flawed Henchard is also an intensely dramatic work, tragically played out against the vivid backdrop of a close-knit Dorsetshire town.

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 246… 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. It was already beginning to go horribly wrong when I last reported at the end of March, and I fear my plaguophobia has made this my worst quarter since I started blogging and maybe for several years before that. However I haven’t given up all hope of finding my groove and making up for lost time in the second half of the year. Time to see just how bad the situation is!

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

 

Oh dear, most of the challenges have fallen badly behind, especially the Classics Club and the challenge to read some of the older books on my TBR.

However, while the TBR (books I own) remains stubbornly high, the combined TBR/wishlist figure is looking better. The mathematically-minded among you will realise that’s because books are gradually moving off the wishlist onto the TBR as I acquire them, and I’m not madly adding new ones. Mostly this is due to a lack of enthusiasm, but it’s also because I’m receiving almost no books for review at the moment, as my favourite publicity people remain furloughed. This is no bad thing since it’s allowing me to clear my feet of old overdue review copies a bit, but I do miss those parcels popping through the letterbox!

 

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in March, and since then I’ve broken out of quarantine three times but have only reviewed two of them so far – my reviewing slump is even worse than my reading slump!

On the Main Journey (made by the characters in Around the World in 80 Days) I spent a long visit in Egypt with the family of al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad in Naguib Mahfouz’s wonderful historical saga Palace Walkset in Cairo to the backdrop of the end of WW1 and the movement for independence. Then it was off to the Alps for a skiing holiday in the company of Carol Carnac in her Crossed Skis – a trip which, as is so often the way with vacations, promptly turned into a murder mystery. (Originally I had put Frankenstein in the Alps slot, but having now abandoned three books in my attempt to fill the Arctic slot, I’ve shoved Frankenstein into it and put this one in the Alps instead. All this world travelling gets quite complicated…)

To see the full challenge including the Main Journey and all detours, click here.

78 down, 2 to go!

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The Classics Club

I’ve only read three from my Classics Club list this quarter, and still have two to review, so just one review this quarter…

63. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers – The story of deaf mute John Singer who attracts a small group of broken and lonely people, each of whom finds his silence allows them to talk openly to him in a way they can’t to other people.  A profound and moving study of the ultimate aloneness and loneliness of people in a crowd, and of the universal human desire to find connection with another. The writing is beautiful, emotional but never mawkish, with deep understanding of the human heart and sympathy for human fallibility – a book that fully deserves its classic status. 5 stars.

Low on quantity this quarter, but high on quality!

63 down, 27 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

Although I’ve read several vintage crime novels, I’ve only actually read one for this challenge this quarter. To see the full challenge, click here.

37.  The Innocence of Father Brown by GK Chesterton – This is the first collection of Chesterton’s stories about the little Catholic priest who not only solves inexplicable mysteries but also cures souls as he goes along. I honestly don’t know what it is other people see in the Father Brown stories – they don’t work for me at all, and I abandoned this after the first four stories. 1 star.

37 down, 65 to go!

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Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge

This challenge really only started properly in June, so I’ve only read one book for it this quarter and unfortunately haven’t reviewed it yet. My enthusiasm is high though, so expect this section to be busier next time I report!

1 down, indefinite number to go!

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So not the most productive quarter but I still enjoyed most of the few books I read for my various challenges. Thanks as always for sharing my reading experiences!

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

TBR Thursday 245…

Episode 245

The TBR seems to be stuck permanently on 208 – every time I finish a book another one appears as if by magic!

book falls magically from shelf and bops girl on head

Here are a few more that should fall off the shelf soon…

Crime

Deadheads by Reginald Hill

Continuing with my slow re-read of my favourite crime series of all time, Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe. This is the seventh in the series…

The Blurb says: Patrick Aldermann inherits the splendid Rosemount House and gardens on the death of his aunt, and there he is able to indulge his horticultural passions without restraint.

When his boss, Dick Elgood, suggests that Aldermann is a murderer, then retracts the accusation, Peter Pascoe’s detecting instincts are aroused. How did an underachieving accountant make his way to the top of the company so quickly? And why do so many of his colleagues keep dropping dead?

Meanwhile, when not fielding politically incorrect insults from Superintendent Dalziel, Police Cadet Singh—Mid-Yorkshire’s first Asian copper—has dug up some very interesting information about Aldermann’s beautiful wife, Daphne, who’s now firm friends with one Ellie Pascoe…

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Fiction

The Abbess of Crewe by Muriel Spark

The next two are from my 20 Books of Summer. I can’t believe it’s two years since I added this to my TBR. I had every intention of reading lots of Spark’s books but at the speed I’m going I’ll need extra immortality pills. Maybe this one will inspire me to push some of the others up the priority list…

The Blurb says: The Abbess of Crewe is Muriel Spark’s razor sharp, wickedly humorous and surreal satire of a real life political scandal – reimagined within the claustrophobic walls of a convent. A steely, Machiavellian nun, secret surveillance, corruption, cloak-and-dagger plotting, rivalries and a rigged election all send the wonderful cast of characters into disarray as a chain of events unfold that become weirder and weirder.

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Vintage Crime

Weekend at Thrackley by Alan Melville

I’ve only read one other book by Alan Melville, Quick Curtain, and I was distinctly unimpressed. I decided not to read this one which I’d acquired at the same time. However, since then I’ve seen a few positive reviews of this one that have made me wonder if I was too hasty to write him off completely. We’ll see if this one can redeem him in my eyes…

The Blurb says: Jim Henderson is one of six guests summoned by the mysterious Edwin Carson, a collector of precious stones, to a weekend party at his country house, Thrackley. The house is gloomy and forbidding but the party is warm and hospitable – except for the presence of Jacobson, the sinister butler. The other guests are wealthy people draped in jewels; Jim cannot imagine why he belongs in such company.

After a weekend of adventure – with attempted robbery and a vanishing guest – secrets come to light and Jim unravels a mystery from his past.

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Fiction on Audio

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier read by John Castle

Book cover and link to Audible UKDespite always enjoying du Maurier, I’ve read surprisingly little of her work. Must admit this one sounds a bit like – *shudders* – a romance, but for once I’m hoping it’s maybe suffering from a touch of misleading blurb syndrome, and it does promise a pirate and some swashbuckling…

The Blurb says: Seething with disdain for the superfluous society in which she resides, Lady Dona St Columb abandons her husband and takes her two children away from the Court of Charles II, seeking a new life in the Cornish countryside.

Dona’s thirst for authentic human interaction and adventure is satiated upon arrival as she meets the enigmatic and entrancing French pirate, Jean Benout Aubery. Previously a wealthy landowner, Aubery reveals that much like Dona, he too left his old life behind in search of greater things. Described by Daphne du Maurier as the only romantic story she ever wrote, Frenchman’s Creek is an escapist tale of a woman’s search for swashbuckling adventure despite the responsibilities which tie her down and threaten to contain her.

Women’s freedom, a recurring theme in du Maurier’s work, is prevalent in Frenchman’s Creek and the story is said to have been written at a time when Daphne was eager to escape from the threat of war in 1941. A true tale of escapism, this audiobook delivers a powerful message about motherhood, romance and duty, and is continually propelled forward by the author’s incredible skill and imagination.

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 244…

A ninth 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. Here’s the second batch for 2020 and the ninth overall – some well known names in this batch!

The Killer and the Slain by Hugh Walpole

This will be my introduction to Hugh Walpole. It sounds dark and pretty terrifying – I may need to wake the porpy up for company…

The Blurb says: As boys, Jimmie Tunstall was John Talbot’s implacable foe, never ceasing to taunt, torment, and bully him. Years later, John is married and living in a small coastal town when he learns, much to his chagrin, that his old adversary has just moved to the same town. Before long the harassment begins anew until finally, driven to desperation, John murders his tormentor. Soon he starts to suffer from frightening hallucinations and his personality and physical appearance begin to alter, causing him increasingly to resemble the man he killed. Is it merely the psychological effect of his guilt, or is it the manifestation of something supernatural—and evil? The tension builds until the chilling final scene, when the horrifying truth will be revealed about the killer—and the slain.

Challenge details

Book No: 101

Subject Heading: The Way Ahead

Publication Year: 1942

Martin Edwards says: The Killer and the Slain is a compelling novel, very distantly reminiscent of James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), yet distinctive in its treatment of cruelty and murderous obsession…

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The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude

The British Library has re-issued several books by Bude now. It took me a bit of time to warm up to him but I loved the last couple I’ve read, so am looking forward to this one with great anticipation…

The Blurb says: Two brothers, John and William Rother, live together at Chalklands Farm in the beautiful Sussex Downs. Their peaceful rural life is shattered when John Rother disappears and his abandoned car is found. Has he been kidnapped? Or is his disappearance more sinister – connected, perhaps, to his growing rather too friendly with his brother’s wife?

Superintendent Meredith is called to investigate – and begins to suspect the worst when human bones are discovered on Chalklands farmland. His patient, careful detective method begins slowly to untangle the clues as suspicion shifts from one character to the next.

Challenge details

Book No: 35

Subject Heading: Serpents in Eden

Publication Year: 1936

Edwards says: “The Rother family farmhouse, Chalklands, and the surrounding area are convincingly realised, and in keeping with Golden Age tradition, a map is supplied to help readers to follow the events of the story after John Rother goes missing, in circumstances which at first (but deceptively) seem reminiscent of the disappearance of Agatha Christie…

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Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi by H Bustos Domecq

I’m not sure about this one at all – it sounds like a bit of a mish-mash from the blurb, and perhaps trying to be too clever. But low expectations mean that if it surprises me, it can only be in a good way!

The Blurb says: The first fruit of the collaboration of Borges and his long-time friend Bioy-Casares, Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi appeared originally under the pseudonym of H. Bustos Domecq. “Bugsy’s” prose style is not quite the style of either of the collaborators, but in this volume, at least, “he never got out of hand,” as Borges complained he did later.

In the first story, Parodi, who is himself in jail for homicide, is visited by a young man who seeks his help in solving a particularly baffling murder. In the second story, a killing takes place aboard an express train. One of the characters is a writer named Gervasio Montenegro, whom the discerning reader will identify as author of the book’s expressive foreword. In “Tadeo Limardo’s Victim,” a murdered man prepares for his own death. “Tai An’s Long Search” is a variation on Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.” In “Free Will and the Commendatore,” a cuckold takes elaborate and invisible revenge.

Challenge details

Book No: 98

Subject Heading: Cosmopolitan Crimes

Publication Year: 1942

Edwards says: “In-jokes abound; some are lost on a modern British reader, while Montenegro’s anti-Semitism represents the authors’ scorn for racism; Nazi-supporting extremists had previously suggested that Borges was secretly Jewish, and not a ‘true’ Argentinian… 

* * * * *

The Case of the Late Pig by Margery Allingham

I’ve never learned to love Margery Allingham though I don’t hate her stuff either. Maybe this will be the one that turns me into a wholehearted fan. Certainly the title is a major attraction!

The Blurb says: Private detective Albert Campion is summoned to the village of Kepesake to investigate a particularly distasteful death. The body turns out to be that of Pig Peters, freshly killed five months after his own funeral. Soon other corpses start to turn up, just as Peter’s body goes missing. It takes all Campion’s coolly incisive powers of detection to unravel the crime.

The Case of the Late Pig is, uniquely, narrated by Campion himself. In Allingham’s inimitable style, high drama sits neatly beside pitch perfect black comedy. A heady mix of murder, romance, and the urbane detective’s own unglamorous past make this an unmissable Allingham mystery.

Challenge details

Book No: 25

Subject Heading: The Great Detectives

Publication Year: 1937

Edwards says: “…the story is an example of Margery Allingham at her best. Its high spirits are not a means of disguising a thin plot, but complementary to an intriguing mystery. She was an unorthodox novelist, whose work was correspondingly uneven, but her admirers remain legion…”

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 243…

Episode 243

The TBR has remained steady over the last couple of weeks with a few drifting out and a few drifting in – still 208. The reading slump continues, the reviewing slump continues – fortunately, there hasn’t been either a chocolate slump or a cake slump, or life would be truly intolerable!

A couple of review-along announcements to start with:

  1. A Month in the Country review-along. This is one of my 20 Books of Summer and Sandra suggested we should read and review it at the same time. Sounds like a great idea to me, so we’ve set 31st August as the date for our synchronised reviews. Alyson and Christine (both non-bloggers at the moment, though I’m working on it 😉 ) have already joined in and anyone else is welcome to jump aboard! The rules are simple – either review it on your blog on 31st August or if you prefer leave your views in the comments section on my review and/or the reviews of anyone else who reviews it. I’ll put links to any other reviews on my own.
  2. Tender is the Night review-along. This didn’t win last week’s People’s Choice but Alyson suggested it would be fun to read it at the same time and discuss. Another great idea! Since then Sandra and Eva have said they might join in too, and again, anyone else is welcome! Same rules – we haven’t set a firm date for reviews yet, but I’m proposing 26th October. Anyone who’s thinking of joining in, especially you, Alyson, of course, please let me know in the comments if that date does or doesn’t suit you.

Doesn’t that all sound like fun? 😀

Here are a few more I might or might not miss dinner for…

Winner of the People’s Choice Poll

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

Excellent choice, People, especially since it will fit in well with my plan to read some lighter stuff for a while till my slump lifts! Tender is the Night stayed in the race but was always a furlong or two behind, and I fear the other two collapsed on the verge just a few yards from the starting line. This will be my introduction to Zouroudi and her detective, more or less, except for one short story I read and enjoyed in an anthology several years ago. It’s been on my TBR since 2014. I plan to read and review it by the end of August.

The Blurb says: Idyllic but remote, the Greek island of Thiminos seems untouched and untroubled by the modern world. So when the battered body of a young woman is discovered at the foot of a cliff, the local police – governed more by archaic rules of honor than by the law – are quick to close the case, dismissing her death as an accident.

Then a stranger arrives, uninvited, from Athens, announcing his intention to investigate further into the crime he believes has been committed. Refusing to accept the woman’s death as an accident or suicide, Hermes Diaktoros sets out to uncover the truths that skulk beneath this small community’s exterior.

Hermes’s methods of investigation are unorthodox, and his message to the islanders is plain – tell the truth or face the consequences. Before long, he’s uncovering a tale of passion, corruption and murder that entangles many of the island’s residents. But Hermes brings his own mystery into the web of dark secrets and lies – and as he travels the rugged island landscape to investigate, questions and suspicions arise amongst the locals. Who has sent him to Thiminos, and on whose authority is he acting? And how does he know of dramas played out decades ago?

Rich in images of Greece’s beautiful islands and evoking a life unknown to most outsiders, this wonderful novel leads the reader into a world where the myths of the past are not forgotten and forbidden passion still has dangerous consequences.

* * * * *

English Classic

The African Queen by CS Forester

One from my Classics Club list. I’ve seen a couple of reviews that suggest this is one case where the film perhaps is better than the book, but since the film is brilliant that’s hardly surprising! And happily, I have the DVD lined up for a re-watch after I’ve read it…

The Blurb says: As World War I reaches the heart of the African jungle, Charlie Allnutt and Rose Sayer, a dishevelled trader and an English spinster missionary, find themselves thrown together by circumstance. Fighting time, heat, malaria, and bullets, they make their escape on the rickety steamboat The African Queen…and hatch their own outrageous military plan. Originally published in 1935, The African Queen is a tale replete with vintage Forester drama – unrelenting suspense, reckless heroism, impromptu military manoeuvres, near-death experiences – and a good old-fashioned love story to boot.

* * * * *

Fiction

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

And finally! What other choice could I possibly make for the final book in my mammoth Around the World in 80 Books challenge? This will be a re-read from a long time ago, and Oxford World’s Classics have kindly provided me with a copy, so the intro and notes will make it even more fun to read…

The Blurb says: One night in the reform club, Phileas Fogg bets his companions that he can travel across the globe in just eighty days. Breaking the well-established routine of his daily life, he immediately sets off for Dover with his astonished valet Passepartout. Passing through exotic lands and dangerous locations, they seize whatever transportation is at hand—whether train or elephant—overcoming set-backs and always racing against the clock.

Around the World in Eighty Days has been a bestseller for over a century, but it has never before appeared in a critical edition. While most translations misread or even abridge the original, this stylish version is completely true to Verne’s classic, moving as fast and as brilliantly as Phineas Fogg’s own race against time. Around the World in Eighty Days offers a strong dose of post-romantic reality but not a shred of science fiction: its modernism lies instead in the experimental technique and Verne’s unique twisting of space and time.

* * * * *

Historical Fiction on Audion

Dissolution by CJ Sansom

Sansom’s Shardlake books are my favourite historical fiction series of all time. I’ve been meaning to re-read them for ages but never seem able to fit them in. So I decided to try the first one on audio since on the whole I prefer listening to books I’ve already read. The narrator is Steven Crossley – I haven’t come across him before but the reviews of his narrations are very positive…

The Blurb says: The first book in the best-selling Shardlake series. It is 1537, a time of revolution that sees the greatest changes in England since 1066.

Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Supreme Head of the Church. The country is waking up to savage new laws, rigged trials and the greatest network of informers ever seen. And under the orders of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent throughout the country to investigate the monasteries.

There can only be one outcome: dissolution. But on the Sussex coast, at the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control. Cromwell’s Commissioner, Robin Singleton, has been found dead, his head severed from his body. His horrific murder is accompanied by equally sinister acts of sacrilege.

Matthew Shardlake, lawyer and long-time supporter of Reform, has been sent by Cromwell to uncover the truth behind the dark happenings at Scarnsea. But investigation soon forces Shardlake to question everything that he hears, and everything that he intrinsically believes….

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 242 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 242

(A reminder of the People’s Choice plan. Once a month or so, 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, time for the next batch of four! I’m still working through books that I added to my TBR in 2014, strictly in order of acquisition or addition to the TBR in the case of re-reads. A nicely mixed bunch this week. I added The Messenger of Athens after enjoying a short story of the author’s which I came across in a crime anthology. The HP Lovecraft is a collection of short stories, and I’ve dipped into it from time to time for Tuesday Terror! posts and have probably read several more in various other anthologies, but I’m sure there will still be plenty in it I haven’t read before. Tender is the Night is a re-read from long, long ago, and is on my Classics Club list. And The Broken was added after I’d enjoyed another book by Cohen, just before I fell out of love with the domestic-thriller misery-fest style of novel. 

I’m intrigued to see which one you pick…

Crime

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

Added 13th July 2014. 1,457 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.49 average rating. 324 pages.

The Blurb says: Idyllic but remote, the Greek island of Thiminos seems untouched and untroubled by the modern world. So when the battered body of a young woman is discovered at the foot of a cliff, the local police – governed more by archaic rules of honor than by the law – are quick to close the case, dismissing her death as an accident.

Then a stranger arrives, uninvited, from Athens, announcing his intention to investigate further into the crime he believes has been committed. Refusing to accept the woman’s death as an accident or suicide, Hermes Diaktoros sets out to uncover the truths that skulk beneath this small community’s exterior.

Hermes’s methods of investigation are unorthodox, and his message to the islanders is plain – tell the truth or face the consequences. Before long, he’s uncovering a tale of passion, corruption and murder that entangles many of the island’s residents. But Hermes brings his own mystery into the web of dark secrets and lies – and as he travels the rugged island landscape to investigate, questions and suspicions arise amongst the locals. Who has sent him to Thiminos, and on whose authority is he acting? And how does he know of dramas played out decades ago?

Rich in images of Greece’s beautiful islands and evoking a life unknown to most outsiders, this wonderful novel leads the reader into a world where the myths of the past are not forgotten and forbidden passion still has dangerous consequences.

* * * * *

Weird Fiction

The Haunter of the Dark by HP Lovecraft

Added 1st January 2014. 2,833 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.06 average. 610 pages.

The Blurb says: They were removing the stones quietly, one by one, from the centuried wall. And then, as the breach became large enough, they came out into the laboratory in single file; led by a stalking thing with a beautiful head made of wax.’

From the dark, mind-expanding imagination of H P Lovecraft, Wordsworth presents a third volume of tales penned by the greatest horror writer of the 20th Century. Here are some of Lovecraft’s weirdest flesh-creeping masterpieces, including Pickman’s Model, The Shunned House, his famous serial Herbert West – Reanimator, and several classic tales from the Cthulhu Mythos, in which mankind is subjected to the unimaginable terrors known only to those who have read from the forbidden Necronomicon.

Also included in this compelling collection are the complete Randolph Carter stories, chronicling his adventures in this world and the realm of his dreams, where he faces perils beyond comprehension.

* * * * *

American Classic

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

Added 23rd November 2014. 108,150 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.82 average. 315 pages.

The Blurb says: Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick’s harrowing demise. A profound study of the romantic concept of character, Tender Is the Night is lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative.

* * * * *

Domestic Thriller

The Broken by Tamar Cohen

Added 3rd December 2014. 2,355 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.69 average. 273 pages. 

The Blurb says: Best friends tell you everything; about their kitchen renovation; about their little girl’s schooling. How one of them is leaving the other for a younger model.

Best friends don’t tell lies. They don’t take up residence on your couch for weeks. They don’t call lawyers. They don’t make you choose sides.

Best friends don’t keep secrets about their past. They don’t put you in danger.

Best friends don’t always stay best friends.

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

TBR Thursday 241…

Episode 241

Hallo, people! How have you been? Do you still remember me?? My little break seems to be turning into a lengthy sabbatical, so I thought I’d just pop in and say hi. Back soon – I hope you see that as a promise and not a threat! 😉 

Meantime, there’s been a HUMONGOUS drop in the TBR – down NINE to 208! Admittedly, I’ve abandoned seven in the last three weeks, so that may be something to do with it, but there have been a few excellent reads in there too. I’ll tell you all about them just as soon as I remember how to write reviews. 

Here are a few more I got from the prison library while I wait for my reprieve…

Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Labyrinth by Gerald Brenan

When I first posted about my Reading the Spanish Civil War challenge, I mentioned that I wanted to know more about the causes of the war, and was finding it hard to find anything written in English which tries to be objective, since there’s such a strong bias in most British writing towards the Republican side. Spanish buddy José Ignacio of A Crime is Afoot recommended this one, and from the blurb it sounds exactly what I’m looking for…

The Blurb says: Isolated from the rest of Europe politically as well as geographically, Spain is a difficult country for foreigners to understand. Yet when in 1936 the land was divided by the most disastrous civil war of this century, individuals and governments of many nations became involved. This book is an account of how and why things turned out as they did. The answers lie in the labyrinth of Spanish history between 1874 and 1936. Mr Brenan charts this labyrinth, disentangling and identifying the separate forces for disunity; he explains the part played by the Church, the army, and the various political parties – Anarchists, Anarcho-Syndicalists, Carlists and Socialists; and he shows how industrial unrest, unequal privileges, agrarian discontent, and provincial loyalties each had a share in producing a war in which ‘the vanquished were beaten and the victors defeated’.

* * * * *

Short Stories

A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason

Courtesy of Pan Macmillan via NetGalley. I don’t read many non-genre short stories and I don’t know this author at all. I just liked the sound of the blurb… 

The Blurb says: From the bestselling, award-winning author of The Winter Soldier and The Piano Tuner comes a collection of interlacing tales of men and women as they face the mysteries and magic of the world.

On a fated flight, a balloonist makes a discovery that changes her life forever. A telegraph operator finds an unexpected companion in the middle of the Amazon. A doctor is beset by seizures, in which he is possessed by a second, perhaps better, version of himself. And in Regency London, a bare-knuckle fighter prepares to face his most fearsome opponent, while a young mother seeks a miraculous cure for her ailing son.

At times funny and irreverent, always moving, these stories cap a fifteen-year project that has won both a National Magazine Award and Pushcart Prize. From the Nile’s depths to the highest reaches of the atmosphere, from volcano-wracked islands to an asylum on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, these are lives of ecstasy and epiphany.

* * * * *

American Classic

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

One from my Classics Club list. This massive Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is probably the one on the American section of my list that appeals most to me, although reading the blurb again now is giving me a mild resurgence of Post-Steinbeck Stress Disorder. I can but hope! I’m also told the film of the book is a noir classic in its own right (the 1949 version), so if I enjoy the book I shall seek out the movie…

The Blurb says: More than just a classic political novel, Warren’s tale of power and corruption in the Depression-era South is a sustained meditation on the unforeseen consequences of every human act, the vexing connectedness of all people and the possibility—it’s not much of one—of goodness in a sinful world. Willie Stark, Warren’s lightly disguised version of Huey Long, the one time Louisiana strongman/governor, begins as a genuine tribune of the people and ends as a murderous populist demagogue. Jack Burden is his press agent, who carries out the boss’s orders, first without objection, then in the face of his own increasingly troubled conscience. And the politics? For Warren, that’s simply the arena most likely to prove that man is a fallen creature. Which it does.

* * * * *

Thriller

Cold Kill by Rennie Airth

Courtesy of Severn House via NetGalley. Decades before he started writing his slow and thoughtful historical crime series, Rennie Airth wrote a one-off manic standalone comedy thriller called Snatch, which I loved. It was so different from his later work that I several times wondered if perhaps there were two authors with the same name. Now he’s back with another standalone thriller – not sure it’s a comedy though – and I’m wondering if he can recapture the fast-paced magic after all these years. Must be honest, early reviews are mixed…

The Blurb says: An American actress arrives in London to find herself the target of a ruthless assassin in this compelling standalone thriller.

Actress Adelaide Banks is swapping her native New York for London to spend Christmas with her widowed Aunt Rose. Rose wrote in her note that she was off to Paris for a few days and would be back in time for Addy’s arrival. But when Addy reaches Rose’s Knightsbridge address, no one’s home, and she has two unexpected callers . . .

Where is Rose, and what has she got herself entangled in? Dragged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse on the snowy streets of London, Addy finds herself navigating a dark underworld of ruthless assassins, rogue agents and international crime. Can she survive long enough to uncover the truth?

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 240…

Episode 240

Two in, two out this week, so the TBR total remains the same – 217. My reading slump is improving but the reviewing backlog is still growing! I may not be here again next week till I write a few more…

Here’s what should be reaching the top of the pile soon………………ish.

Fiction

The Moustache by Emmanuel Carrère

Courtesy of Random House Vintage via NetGalley. I loved Carrère’s true crime book, The Adversary, so couldn’t resist this even though I can’t quite imagine how two books could sound more different! I suspect this one may actually be more his usual style than the other was – it sounds intriguingly quirky…

The Blurb says: One morning, a man shaves off his long-worn moustache, hoping to amuse his wife and friends. But when nobody notices, or pretends not to have noticed, what started out as a simple trick turns to terror. As doubt and denial bristle, and every aspect of his life threatens to topple into madness – a disturbing solution comes into view, taking us on a dramatic flight across the world.

* * * * *

Science Fiction

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Courtesy of Orion via NetGalley. I’ve taken nearly 500 books from NetGalley over the years, and reviewed the vast bulk of them. However every now and then one gets left behind in the rush, so I have a dozen or so very old ones lingering still unread. This is one of them – it’s been on my list since 2016, I’m ashamed to say. It still sounds as intriguing as it did back then, and it’s had a lot of positive reviews. There seems to be a dispute among reviewers as to whether it should be described as science fiction or literary fiction, which makes it sound even better to me… 

The Blurb says: Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success, but when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crew mates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives?

* * * * *

Fiction

Love by Roddy Doyle

Courtesy of Random House Vintage via NetGalley. I’ve never read anything by Roddy Doyle and am not at all sure he’ll be my kind of author. But Cathy at 746 Books has been gradually wearing down my resistance with her great reviews of his books, the blurb sounds intriguing, and frankly I find the cover irresistible…

The Blurb says: One summer’s evening, two men meet up in a Dublin restaurant. Old friends, now married and with grown-up children, their lives have taken seemingly similar paths. But Joe has a secret he has to tell Davy, and Davy, a grief he wants to keep from Joe. Both are not the men they used to be.

Neither Davy nor Joe know what the night has in store, but as two pints turns to three, then five, and the men set out to revisit the haunts of their youth, the ghosts of Dublin entwine around them. Their first buoyant forays into adulthood, the pubs, the parties, broken hearts and bungled affairs, as well as the memories of what eventually drove them apart.

As the two friends try to reconcile their versions of the past over the course of one night, Love offers up a delightfully comic, yet moving portrait of the many forms love can take throughout our lives.

* * * * *

Vintage Science Fiction

The Man with Six Senses by Muriel Jaeger

Courtesy of the British Library. I loved Jaeger’s The Question Mark, previously also published by the BL, so am looking forward to this one…

The Blurb says: Hilda is besotted with Michael, because Michael has a gift. Through some mutation, his mind is able to perceive ‘lines of energy’ and ‘the vast ocean of movement’ – things beyond the limits of the five senses and perhaps even common understanding. But the gift, as so often in life, comes with a price. There are those who, in their resentment, come to covet the gift, threatening the blissful period of learning and freedom of thought that seemed so possible a future for Hilda and Michael. And then there are the expectations of society, whose demands for the idealised normal spell danger and disarray for the pair.

Muriel Jaeger’s second foray into science fiction sees her experimenting again with an impressive talent for blending genres. The Man with Six Senses is a sensitive depiction of how the different, or supernaturally able, could be treated in 1920s Britain, but also a sharp skewering of societal norms and the expectations of how women should behave – and how they should think. Thought-provoking and challenging, The Man with Six Senses still resonates today in a society whose expectations and structures still continue to trap those who fall outside the limits of acceptance.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 239…

Episode 239

A special edition this week – every book mentioned is either written, translated or published by one of the many talented friends I’ve made in this strange but rather wonderful online world! As regulars know, I’m in the middle of the biggest reading/reviewing slump in the history of the universe, so I hope that Margot, Matt and Marina Sofia will understand that it may be a while before I review these since I want to wait till my usual bookish enthusiasm is back in proper working order. I’m looking forward to each of them, though – don’t they sound great?

Not so good for the TBR however – up 3 to 217! But who’s counting…?

Crime in Translation 1

Living Candles by Teodora Matei

Marina Sofia of Finding Time to Write has started a new translating and publishing venture with a few like-minded friends. Corylus Books aims to present “some of the great European crime fiction that wouldn’t normally make its way into English”, particularly “crime fiction with a social dimension”. This is one of the first off the press…

The Blurb says: The discovery of a woman close to death in a city basement sends Bucharest police officers Anton Iordan and Sorin Matache on a complex chase through the city as they seek to identify the victim. As they try to track down the would-be murderer, they find a macabre trail of missing women and they realise that this isn’t the first time the killer has struck. Iordan and Matache hit one dead end after another, until they decide they’ll have to take a chance that could prove deadly.

If you enjoy travelling the world virtually through your crime fiction, then Living Candles is the perfect book to convey the atmosphere of the Romanian urban environment. Or at least the murkier side of it: the blocks of flats where the neighbours all know each other’s business, the pensioners gossiping on the bench outside the entrances, the machismo impregnating the atmosphere so thickly, you could cut it with a knife.” Marina Sofia

* * * * *

Historical Fiction

Atlantic View by Matthew Geyer

I first met Matt virtually several years ago now when we both glowingly reviewed Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary on Amazon US. An exchange of comments on each other’s reviews led me to discover that Matt had written his own novel, Strays, which I subsequently read and greatly enjoyed. Matt has recently started his own blog where he will be reviewing literary fiction as well as telling us about his own writing journey. This is his second novel, and I’m thrilled that he’s included a quote from my review of Strays on the back cover! 

The Blurb says: Set against the backdrop of the Obama presidential election, Atlantic View is the story of how Patrick Munchen loses his job, his wife and his way, only to discover an improbable new path with the support of his daughter, Megan. As the hope for change turns sour in the wake of another American election, the end of one way of life becomes the beginning of another.

* * * * *

Crime

A Matter of Motive by Margot Kinberg

Margot used to blog about crime fiction and has introduced me to a whole world of authors I didn’t know about over the years we’ve been blog buddies. Her blog is much missed, but if stopping blogging has given her more time for writing then I forgive her! Previously she has written four books starring her academic amateur detective, Joel Williams, the most recent being Downfall. This new one, though, is a departure from that series – a standalone.

The Blurb says: A man is dead in his car, slumped over the steering wheel. But who killed him? Ron Clemons is the last person you’d think would be murdered. His wife and son love him. His employees respect him. His business is doing well. His clients seek him out. But someone wanted him dead.The Clemons case is a golden opportunity for newly minted police detective Patricia Stanley to prove herself. It’s her first murder investigation and she wants to do well. But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, she has plenty to learn about handling a murder. And nearly everyone involved in this one is hiding something. Patricia faces her own challenges, too, as the investigation brings back the murder of an old love.

* * * * *

Crime in Translation 2

Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu

A second selection from Corylus Books, and this one is translated by our very own Marina Sofia herself! The paper publication has been held up due to the ongoing situation with the pesky plague, but the Kindle version is available for pre-order and will be out on 8th May. Another excellent reason for having a Kindle…

The Blurb says: As a shadowy killer stalks the streets of Bucharest, seeking out victims from among the Roma minority, the police are at a loss to track down the murderer, who always dispatches in the same manner – hence the Sword nickname the media are quick to give to the killer. As panic starts to take hold and inter-racial tensions begin to reach boiling point, those in government and those who want to be try to manipulate the situation for their own ends.

A bestseller in Romania and France, Sword is a tumultuous political thriller by journalist and political analyst Bogdan Teodorescu – echoing much of the fears and tensions of today’s political landscape.

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

So…what do you think? Are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 238…

Episode 238

A tiny little drop in the TBR this week – down 1 to 214! My reading slump continues, but even worse is my review writing slump – I fear I may have to furlough myself for a bit if things don’t pick up soon.

Here are a few that might reach the top of the heap soon…

Winner of the People’s Choice Poll

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

An excellent choice, people! It was an exciting race this time. The Cry shot into an early lead and for a while it looked unassailable. But then Elly Griffiths sneaked through on the inside lane and once she got her nose ahead there was no stopping her! She raced to a decisive victory! I’ve read and enjoyed several of the Ruth Galloway series and enjoyed them, up until the last couple when I thought the series had run out of steam. But I always intended to go back and read the couple of early ones I’d missed, so am looking forward to The Janus Stone – the second in the series. I’m planning to read it by the end of July.

The Blurb says: Forensics expert Ruth Galloway is called in to investigate when builders, demolishing a large old house in Norwich to make way for a new development, uncover the skeleton of a child – minus the skull – beneath a doorway. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain straightforward murder? DCI Harry Nelson must find out.

The house was once a children’s home. Nelson meets the Catholic priest who used to run the home. He tells him that two children did go missing forty years before – a boy and a girl. They were never found.

When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the children’s home, Ruth is drawn more deeply into the case. But as spring turns to summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the scent by frightening her half to death…

* * * * *

History

The Spanish Civil War by Stanley G Payne

I didn’t get off to a very good start with the factual side of my new Spanish Civil War Challenge, quickly abandoning the history book I’d chosen – The Battle for Spain by Antony Beevor – for being the worst written history book I’ve ever attempted to read. I’ve spent an age trying to find one that looks good and relatively unbiased, and which reviews suggest might be suitable for a beginner. I’m not convinced about any of them, to be honest, but I’ll start with this shortish one and have a couple of more detailed ones lined up… wish me better luck this time!

The Blurb says: This book presents an original new history of the most important conflict in European affairs during the 1930s, prior to the events that produced World War II – the Spanish Civil War. It describes the complex origins of the conflict, the collapse of the Spanish Republic, and the outbreak of the only mass worker revolution in the history of Western Europe. Stanley Payne explains the character of the Spanish revolution and the complex web of republican politics, while also examining in detail the development of Franco’s counterrevolutionary dictatorship. Payne gives attention to the multiple meanings and interpretations of war and examines why the conflict provoked such strong reactions in its own time, and long after. The book also explains the military history of the war and its place in the history of military development, the non-intervention policy of the democracies, and the role of German, Italian, and Soviet intervention, concluding with an analysis of the place of the war in European affairs and in comparative perspective of revolutionary civil wars of the twentieth century.

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Crime

The Cutting Place by Jane Casey

Courtesy of HarperCollins via NetGalley. A new entry in Jane Casey’s excellent Maeve Kerrigan series is always a much anticipated treat, and the reviews of this one suggest it’s particularly good…

The Blurb says: Everyone’s heard the rumours about elite gentlemen’s clubs, where the champagne flows freely, the parties are the height of decadence . . . and the secrets are darker than you could possibly imagine.

DS Maeve Kerrigan finds herself in an unfamiliar world of wealth, luxury and ruthless behaviour when she investigates the murder of a young journalist, Paige Hargreaves. Paige was working on a story about the Chiron Club, a private society for the richest and most privileged men in London. Then she disappeared.

It’s clear to Maeve that the members have many secrets. But Maeve is hiding secrets of her own – even from her partner DI Josh Derwent. Will she uncover the truth about Paige’s death? Or will time run out for Maeve first?

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Fiction

The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver

Courtesy of HarperCollins via NetGalley. I always think Lionel Shriver’s books look great, which begs the question why I’ve still never read one, especially since at least two of them have been skulking in my TBR for years. However this one is a review copy and therefore gets the priority treatment – time to break my Shriver duck!

The Blurb says: In Lionel Shriver’s entertaining send-up of today’s cult of exercise—which not only encourages better health, but now like all religions also seems to promise meaning, social superiority, and eternal life—an aging husband’s sudden obsession with extreme sport makes him unbearable.

After an ignominious early retirement, Remington announces to his wife Serenata that he’s decided to run a marathon. This from a sedentary man in his sixties who’s never done a lick of exercise in his life. His wife can’t help but observe that his ambition is “hopelessly trite.” A loner, Serenata disdains mass group activities of any sort. Besides, his timing is cruel. Serenata has long been the couple’s exercise freak, but by age sixty, her private fitness regimes have destroyed her knees, and she’ll soon face debilitating surgery. Yes, becoming more active would be good for Remington’s heart, but then why not just go for a walk? Without several thousand of your closest friends?

As Remington joins the cult of fitness that increasingly consumes the Western world, her once-modest husband burgeons into an unbearable narcissist. Ignoring all his other obligations, he engages a saucy, sexy personal trainer named Bambi, who treats Serenata with contempt. When Remington sets his sights on the legendarily grueling triathlon, MettleMan, Serenata is sure he’ll end up injured or dead. And even if he does survive, their marriage may not.

The Motion of the Body Through Space is vintage Lionel Shriver written with psychological insight, a rich cast of characters, lots of verve and petulance, an astute reading of contemporary culture, and an emotionally resonant ending.

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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 237 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 237

(A reminder of the People’s Choice plan. Once a month or so, 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, time for the next batch of four! These are all books that I added to my TBR in 2014 and it appears to be a crime week, purely by chance since I’m selecting them in strict order of acquisition. Three of these are authors I’d read and enjoyed before and the books were added as catch-ups (that worked well, eh?), while the fourth, The Cry, was added because it was getting so many rave reviews back then. I will read and review this month’s winner by the end of July.

Are you ready? Then, on your marks…get set…GO!

Crime

Punishment by Anne Holt

Added 1st January 2014. 3,021 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.70 average rating. 384 pages.

The Blurb says: One afternoon after school, nine-year-old Emilie doesn’t come home. Her father finds the backpack from her late mother, that would never be abandoned willingly. A week later, a five-year-old boy goes missing. And then another child.

Meanwhile, Johanna Vik, a former FBI profiler with a troubled past and a difficult young daughter, tries to overturn a decades-old false murder conviction. Police Commissioner Stubo lost his wife and daughter, has only his grandson left, and needs to solve the case. Johanna resists helping until the bodies return to their homes with notes “You got what you deserved”.

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Crime

The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

Added 1st January 2014. 4,274 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.79 average. 307 pages.

The Blurb says: When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.

Lies, rumours and guilt snowball, causing the parents, Joanna and Alistair, to slowly turn against each other.

Finally Joanna starts thinking the unthinkable: could the truth be even more terrible than she suspected? And what will it take to make things right?

The Cry is a dark psychological thriller with a gripping moral dilemma at its heart and characters who will keep you guessing on every page.

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Crime

The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Added 22nd January 2014. 3,100 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.67 average. 388 pages.

The Blurb says: An abandoned yacht, a young family missing – chilling crime from the queen of Nordic Noir.
The most chilling novel yet from Yrsa Sigurdardottir, an international bestseller at the height of her powers.

‘Mummy dead.’ The child’s pure treble was uncomfortably clear. It was the last thing Brynjar – and doubtless the others – wanted to hear at that moment. ‘Daddy dead.’ It got worse. ‘Adda dead. Bygga dead.’ The child sighed and clutched her grandmother’s leg. ‘All dead.’

A luxury yacht arrives in Reykjavik harbour with nobody on board. What has happened to the crew, and to the family who were on board when it left Lisbon?

Thora Gudmundsdottir is hired by the young father’s parents to investigate, and is soon drawn deeper into the mystery. What should she make of the rumours saying that the vessel was cursed, especially given that when she boards the yacht she thinks she sees one of the missing twins? Where is Karitas, the glamorous young wife of the yacht’s former owner? And whose is the body that has washed up further along the shore?

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Crime

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

Added 3rd July 2014. 17,758 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.92 average. 328 pages. 

The Blurb says: It’s been only a few months since archaeologist Ruth Galloway found herself entangled in a missing persons case, barely escaping with her life. But when construction workers demolishing a large old house in Norwich uncover the bones of a child beneath a doorway—minus its skull—Ruth is once again called upon to investigate. Is it a Roman-era ritual sacrifice, or is the killer closer at hand?

Ruth and Detective Harry Nelson would like to find out—and fast. When they realize the house was once a children’s home, they track down the Catholic priest who served as its operator. Father Hennessey reports that two children did go missing from the home forty years before—a boy and a girl. They were never found. When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is trying very hard to put her off the trail by frightening her, and her unborn child, half to death.

The Janus Stone is a riveting follow-up to Griffiths’ acclaimed The Crossing Places.

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

TBR Thursday 236…

Episode 236

Considering I’ve only managed to finish two books in the whole of April so far, it’s astonishing that my TBR has only increased by 1 – to 215! Imagine how much it would have dropped if only those pesky book-gods hadn’t stolen my reading superpower…

Here are a few more that I should be reading soon – ‘should’ being the operative word…

Historical Fiction

The Mauritius Command by Patrick O’Brian

I keep hearing great things about this series and a little trip to Mauritius will fit in well to my Around the World challenge. I’ve acquired the book and the audiobook, so am planning a full immersion – in the book, not the ocean!

The Blurb says: Captain Jack Aubrey is ashore on half-pay without a command — until his friend, and occasional intelligence agent, Stephen Maturin, arrives with secret orders for Aubrey to take a frigate to the Cape of Good Hope, under a Commodore’s pennant. But the difficulties of carrying out his orders are compounded by two of his own captains — Lord Clonfert, a pleasure-seeking dilettante, and Captain Corbett, whose severity can push his crews to the verge of mutiny.

Based on the actual campaign of 1810 in the Indian Ocean, O’Brian’s attention to detail of eighteenth-century life ashore and at sea is meticulous. This tale is as beautifully written and as gripping as any in the series; it also stands on its own as a superlative work of fiction. [FF says: Superlative? Gosh! 😲 ] 

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Fiction

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

Courtesy of Oxford World’s Classics. I’m still gobsmacked that I seem to have become a Conrad fan! I must say this one sounds as if it’s been written specially for me – bit of politics, bit of empire, exotic location. I would have used it for the Around the World challenge except that apparently it’s set in an imaginary country and, since I just used Ruritania, I feel I ought to fill my remaining slots with real countries! But I’m still tempted… if it’s good…

The Blurb says: One of the greatest political novels in any language, Nostromo re-enacts the establishment of modern capitalism in a remote South American province locked between the Andes and the Pacific. In the harbor [sic] town of Sulaco, a vivid cast of characters is caught up in a civil war to decide whether its fabulously wealthy silver mine, funded by American money but owned by a third-generation English immigrant, can be preserved from the hands of venal politicians. Greed and corruption seep into the lives of everyone, and Nostromo, the principled foreman of the mine, is tested to the limit.

Conrad’s evocation of Latin America–its grand landscapes, the ferocity of its politics, and the tenacity of individuals swept up in imperial ambitions–has never been bettered. This edition features a new introduction with fresh historical and interpretative perspectives, as well as detailed explanatory notes which pay special attention to the literary, political, historical, and geographical allusions and implications of the novel. A map, a chronology of the narrative, a glossary of foreign terms [FF says: like harbor… 🙄 ], and an appendix reprinting the serial ending all complement what is sure to be the definitive edition of this classic work

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Factual

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

I never confess to my audiobook TBR but there are books that have been lingering there for as long as any on my main TBR. I acquired this one in 2012! I’ve started listening to it already and it’s going well so far, but it’s too early to be sure… 

The Blurb says: We think of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign (1558-1603) as a golden age. But what was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory sit alongside the vagrants, diseases, violence, sexism and famine of the time? [FF says: So what’s changed? 😱 ]

In this book Ian Mortimer reveals a country in which life expectancy is in the early thirties, people still starve to death and Catholics are persecuted for their faith. Yet it produces some of the finest writing in the English language, some of the most magnificent architecture, and sees Elizabeth’s subjects settle in America and circumnavigate the globe. Welcome to a country that is, in all its contradictions, the very crucible of the modern world.

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Vintage Crime

Crossed Skis by Carol Carnac

Courtesy of the British Library. Carol Carnac is another pseudonym of the already pseudonymous ECR Lorac, who is one of my favourites of the authors the BL has done so much excellent work in resurrecting from obscurity…

The Blurb says: In London’s Bloomsbury, Inspector Julian Rivers of Scotland Yard looks down at a dismal scene. Here is the victim, burnt to a crisp. Here are the clues – clues which point to a good climber and expert skier, and which lead Rivers to the piercing sunshine and sparkling snow of the Austrian Alps. [FF says: Eh? Where’s the rest of the blurb? 🤔 ]

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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 235… and Quarterly Round-Up

TBR Quarterly Report

At the New Year, as I do every year, I set myself some targets for my various reading challenges and for the reduction of my ever-expanding TBR. I usually start off pretty well and then it all goes horribly wrong later in the year. However, due to a severe dose of plagueomania, for most of March I’ve been struggling to read anything except thrillers and mysteries, so I fear the horribly wrong bit has started early this year !

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

Actually I thought the reading targets figures might be much worse than they are. The classics are taking the worst hit as generally speaking they require the most concentration. The Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge won’t get underway properly until I finish the Around the World Challenge, which should happen in April but may drift to May.

However, the TBR figures are going in completely the wrong direction! After exercising iron willpower over new releases all last year I seem to have gone mad this year and have acquired about a million! Well, slight exaggeration but it won’t be if I keep going on like this. Must do better!

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The Around the World in 80 Books Challenge

Last check-in was in December, and this quarter I’ve done most of my travelling in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. One is still patiently waiting for me to review it – better do it soon before the holiday tan wears off! It’ll appear in the next round-up.

On the Main Journey (made by the characters in Around the World in 80 Days) I visited the Suez Canal only to find that I’d turned up in the middle of the Suez Crisis to witness the dying throes of the British Empire, in PH Newby’s Something to Answer For, the first ever Booker Prize winner.

I also had a few detours this quarter. First, I went to the Swedish island of Öland, where I got involved with the disappearance of a little boy many years earlier, in Johan Theorin’s excellent Echoes From the Dead. Off to Sicily next where I got caught up in Garibaldi’s attempt to unify Italy, spending some time with the decaying aristocracy in Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa’s The Leopard. Then I found myself in Ruritania, (which may have been a fictional country but is still probably better known than many a real one so I’ve decided it counts!) and had great fun with Englishman Rudolf Rassendyll as he impersonated the Ruritanian King in Anthony Hope’s swashbuckling adventure The Prisoner of Zenda. I also returned to China, a destination I’d already visited. I enjoyed the magically realistic look at life for the modern urban Chinese woman in An Yu’s Braised Pork so much I’ve decided to swap it in to replace the one I’d previously listed for China.

To see the full challenge including the Main Journey and all detours, click here.

76 down, 4 to go!

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The Classics Club

Although I’ve only read three from my Classics Club list this quarter, I had a backlog of four from the previous quarter still to review. So six reviews this quarter, and one still to review which will appear next time…

57. The New Road by Neil Munro – Set midway between the two major Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, this great adventure story tells of two men travelling north into Highland country at the time when General Wade was building his New Road as part of the effort to pacify the clans. Entertaining and very well written, although the heavy sprinkling of Scots language and rhythms combined with its assumption of familiarity with the historical context might make it a demanding read for non-Scots. But for me, 5 stars.

58. The Go-Between by LP Hartley – A re-read of a book I loved in my youth and happily I loved it just as much all over again. The narrator Leo looks back to the summer of 1900 from a distance of fifty years. The story he tells us is one of subtle gradations of class and social convention, of sexual awakening and the loss of innocence, and over it all is an air of unease created by the older Leo’s knowledge of the horrors of the wars which would soon engulf the 20th century, changing this enchanted world of privilege for ever. 5 stars

59. The House with the Green Shutters by George Douglas Brown – A miserable and misanthropic portrayal of small-town Scottish life in the mid-19th century. I admired the skill of it, and the use of language, but it’s not an enjoyable read. And, while it is undoubtedly insightful about some aspects of Scottish culture, it certainly doesn’t give a full or rounded picture. 3 generous stars.

60. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – No such reservations for this wonderful classic set during the Spanish Civil War. A love story, a story of the horror of war, of loyalty and comradeship, and surprisingly with a very strong female character at its heart, there is so much beauty in this book, side by side with so much brutality and so much tragedy. A real masterpiece – the descriptive writing is wonderful and the depth of insight into humanity and how people behave in times of war is breathtaking. 5 supernova-bright stars.

61. Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens – Set during the Gordon Riots of 1780, this is Dickens’ first attempt at the historical novel. The structure he uses is not wholly successful, but it’s filled as always with some delightfully original characters and also has some very fine mob scenes that hint at what would come in his later, and much better, A Tale of Two Cities. 4 stars because I’m comparing it to other Dickens’ novels, but would be 5 stars if compared to almost any other author’s work.

62. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – In this excoriating study of the horrors of colonialism in Africa, Conrad shows the devastating impact the white man has on both the society and the land of Africa, but he also shows that this devastation turns back on the coloniser, corrupting him physically and psychologically, and by extension, corrupting the societies from which he comes. Not an easy read, but more than worth the effort. 5 stars.

A fantastic quarter! I hope my next batch of classics are just as good!

Update to the list: I abandoned the third book in Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s A Scots Quair trilogy, Grey Granite, at too early a stage to review. (If you’re interested in why, here’s a link to my comments on Goodreads.) So I’m replacing it with The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson. Details will appear on a future TBR post.

62 down, 28 to go!

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Murder Mystery Mayhem

Although I’ve continued to read a ton of vintage crime, I’ve only actually read two for this challenge this quarter. To see the full challenge, click here.

35.  The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – When a rich old lady is killed in her country house, the various members of the household come under suspicion. This is the first book ever published by Agatha Christie and therefore our first introduction to the two characters who would become her most famous, Poirot and Hastings. Great fun to see how the Queen of Crime began! 4½ stars.

36.  Trent’s Last Case by EC Bentley – Another murder in a country house, this time of an American business tycoon. Trent is a journalist and amateur detective who soon thinks he knows what happened, but has his own reasons for not revealing his suspicions. From 1913, it’s an intriguing look at one stage on the road to development of the genre. 4 stars.

36 down, 66 to go!

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Reading the Spanish Civil War Challenge

Although this challenge hasn’t really started yet, it would be crazy not to link Hemingway’s classic to it…

1.  For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. This story of love set amidst war is one of the best known books in English about the Spanish Civil War. The wonderful writing and profound insight into Spanish culture and the realities of war mean it richly deserves its status as a major classic. A glowing 5 stars and a great way to start the challenge!

1 down, and who knows how many to go!

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Another great quarter’s reading, even if the last month has thrown me off track a little! Thank you for joining me on my reading adventures and…

Here’s to more great reading next quarter! 😀

TBR Thursday 234…

Episode 234

It seems very odd to me that my plagueophobia seems to be stopping me from reading but not stopping me from acquiring books! The TBR is back at 214 – up 6! 

(Nope, no reason for this gif other than that it makes me happy!)

So I’ve thrown my reading list out of the window (making sure no one was within six feet of it at the time, of course) and picked some lighter reading till I get back to normal…

Historical Crime Fiction

Execution by SJ Parris

Courtesy of HarperCollins via NetGalley. I read and enjoyed the first book in this series when it came out way back in 2011, and the second book has been lingering unread on my TBR since 2014. The series is now up to number 6, and tragically, despite being so far behind, I couldn’t resist… well, it’s about Mary, Queen of Scots, after all…

The Blurb says: The sixth Tudor thriller featuring Giordano Bruno: heretic, philosopher and spy. Perfect for fans of C. J. Sansom.

England, 1586.

A TREASONOUS CONSPIRACY
Giordano Bruno returns to England to bring shocking new intelligence to Sir Francis Walsingham. A band of Catholic Englishmen are plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth and spring Mary Queen of Scots from prison to take the English throne in her place.

A DEADLY TRAP
Bruno is surprised to find that Walsingham is aware of the plot, led by the young, wealthy noble Anthony Babington, and is allowing it to progress. His hope is that Mary will put her support in writing and condemn herself to a traitor’s death.

A QUEEN IN MORTAL DANGER
Bruno is tasked with going undercover to join the conspirators. Can he stop them before he is exposed? Either way a queen will die; Bruno must make sure it is the right one. [FF says: I wonder which Queen will die? Tense, isn’t it…? 😉 ]

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Crime

All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride

Courtesy of HarperCollins. I used to love this series in the early days but gradually I felt the characters evolved from being quirky to being outright cartoonish – I felt MacBride had bored of his own creations and wasn’t taking it seriously any more. So I gave up after book 8. However HC sent me this one – book 12 – and I’m happy to jump back in and see if he’s got back into his stride…

The Blurb says: Darkness is coming…

Inspector Logan McRae was looking forward to a nice simple case – something to ease him back into work after a year off on the sick. [FF says: Again? I’m sure this is at least the third book that has begun with Logan returning after a year off on the sick. Perhaps he should consider retraining. 🤔] But the powers-that-be have other ideas…

The high-profile anti-independence campaigner, Professor Wilson, has gone missing, leaving nothing but bloodstains behind. There’s a war brewing between the factions for and against Scottish Nationalism. Infighting in the police ranks. And it’s all playing out in the merciless glare of the media. Logan’s superiors want results, and they want them now.

Someone out there is trying to make a point, and they’re making it in blood. If Logan can’t stop them, it won’t just be his career that dies.

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Thriller

The Split by Sharon Bolton

Courtesy of Orion via NetGalley. A new thriller from Sharon Bolton is always a special treat – one of my favourite current authors…

The Blurb says: She’s got nowhere else to hide…and now he’s coming for her.

Two years ago Felicity Lloyd desperately signed up for an extended research trip working on the remote island of South Georgia.

It was her only way to escape.

And now he’s coming for her.

Freddie Lloyd has just got out of prison for murder and is on his way to where Felicity is hiding. And this time, he won’t stop until he finds her.

Because no matter how far you run, some secrets will always catch up with you…

Tense, gripping and with a twist you won’t see coming, [FF says: well, I will now since you’ve told me to expect it! 🙄] Sharon Bolton is back in an explosive new thriller about a woman on the run…

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Thriller

The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver

Courtesy of HarperCollins again. I was a huge fan of Deaver’s earliest books way back in the Dark Ages, but he lost me with his hugely successful and long-running Lincoln Rhyme series – I could never buy into the character, I’m afraid. So I’m delighted to see him starting a new series and can’t wait to see if this will revive the old magic for me!

The Blurb says: From the bestselling and award-winning master of suspense, the first novel in a thrilling new series, introducing Colter Shaw.

“You have been abandoned.”

A young woman has gone missing in Silicon Valley and her father has hired Colter Shaw to find her. The son of a survivalist family, Shaw is an expert tracker. Now he makes a living as a “reward seeker,” traveling the country to help police solve crimes and private citizens locate missing persons. But what seems a simple investigation quickly thrusts him into the dark heart of America’s tech hub and the cutthroat billion-dollar video-gaming industry.

“Escape if you can.”

When another victim is kidnapped, the clues point to one video game with a troubled past–The Whispering Man. In that game, the player has to survive after being abandoned in an inhospitable setting with five random objects. Is a madman bringing the game to life? [FF says: Oooh… 😲]

“Or die with dignity.”

Shaw finds himself caught in a cat-and-mouse game, risking his own life to save the victims even as he pursues the kidnapper across both Silicon Valley and the dark ‘net. Encountering eccentric game designers, trigger-happy gamers and ruthless tech titans, he soon learns that he isn’t the only one on the hunt: someone is on his trail and closing fast.

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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 233…

Episode 233

A massive drop of 5 in the TBR since I last posted two weeks ago – down to 208! I’ve been far too busy stockpiling chocolate and cat treats to acquire books! However, now that I have been sentenced to solitary confinement either I’ll be racing through the books on my TBR or I’ll be spending way too much time browsing the bookshelves on Amazon…

Here are a few that will reach the top of the heap soon…

Winner of the People’s Choice Poll

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

An excellent choice, people! Mind you, this whole thing is reminding me of how many seriously tempting books are lingering unread on my TBR so any of the four would have been excellent. The other three contenders all scored pretty evenly in the end, but this one took a clear lead from the beginning and never faltered as it sped towards the finish line.  I plan to read and review it by the end of June. 

The Blurb says: Penang, 1939. Sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton is a loner. Half English, half Chinese and feeling neither, he discovers a sense of belonging in an unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. Philip shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and in return Endo trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. The enigmatic Endo is bound by disciplines of his own and when the Japanese invade Malaya, threatening to destroy Philip’s family and everything he loves, he realises that his trusted sensei – to whom he owes absolute loyalty – has been harbouring a devastating secret. Philip must risk everything in an attempt to save those he has placed in mortal danger and discover who and what he really is.

With masterful and gorgeous narrative, replete with exotic and captivating images, sounds and aromas – of rain swept beaches, magical mountain temples, pungent spice warehouses, opulent colonial ballrooms and fetid and forbidding rainforests – Tan Twan Eng weaves a haunting and unforgettable story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love.

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Historical Fiction

Serena by Ron Rash

Although Serena didn’t win the previous People’s Choice poll, MarinaSofia mentioned that she had a copy in her TBR too, so we decided to read it and co-ordinate our reviews for the week beginning 13th April. Regular commenter Christine (who doesn’t blog… yet) is going to read it too and share her view in the comments. Anyone else who has a copy fishing about, or feels like acquiring one, is more than welcome to join us!

The Blurb says: The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains—but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband’s life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons’ intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.

Rash’s masterful balance of violence and beauty yields a riveting novel that, at its core, tells of love both honored and betrayed.

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Vintage Crime

Settling Scores edited by Martin Edwards

Courtesy of the British Library. A new anthology from the BL is always a treat and I vastly prefer reading about sport than participating in it! And look! I’m sure that’s Centre Court at Wimbledon on the cover! Plus, I’m always a sucker for the word ‘skulduggery’…

The Blurb says: ‘The detective story is a game between two players, the author… and the reader.’ – Ronald Knox

From the squash court to the golf links, the football pitch to the swimming pool and the race course to the cricket square, no court, grounds, stadium or stand is safe from skulduggery. Entering the arena where sport clashes with crime, this spirited medley of short stories showcases the greatest deadly plays and criminal gambits of the mystery genre.

With contenders by some of the finest writers in the field, including Celia Fremlin, Michael Gilbert, Gladys Mitchell and Leo Bruce, this new anthology offers a ringside view of the darker side of sports and proves that crime, naturally, is a game for all seasons.

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Thriller

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Courtesy of HarperCollins. Another of the little batch of contemporary thrillers and crime novels that HP kindly sent me, with perfect timing as it turns out since I’m not in the mood for heavyweight fiction at the moment. This isn’t one I’d have picked for myself necessarily, but it’s getting great reviews and there’s nothing like a murder or two to make the day seem a little brighter… 😉

The Blurb says: On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favours, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

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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 232 – The People’s Choice…

Episode 232

(A reminder of the People’s Choice plan. Once a month or so, 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, are we all ready for the next batch of four? Leaping ahead by a whole year, these are all books that I added to my TBR in 2013/4, so it’s about time I read one of them, eh? I will read and review this month’s winner by the end of June.

Are you ready? Then put on your flippers, adjust your snorkel and dive in…

Crime

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

Added 4th January 2013. 3,879 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.66 average rating. 449 pages.

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?

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Historical Fiction

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

Added 5th June 2013. 10,890 ratings on Goodreads, with a 4.23 average. 460 pages.

The Blurb says: Penang, 1939. Sixteen-year-old Philip Hutton is a loner. Half English, half Chinese and feeling neither, he discovers a sense of belonging in an unexpected friendship with Hayato Endo, a Japanese diplomat. Philip shows his new friend around his adored island of Penang, and in return Endo trains him in the art and discipline of aikido. But such knowledge comes at a terrible price. The enigmatic Endo is bound by disciplines of his own and when the Japanese invade Malaya, threatening to destroy Philip’s family and everything he loves, he realises that his trusted sensei – to whom he owes absolute loyalty – has been harbouring a devastating secret. Philip must risk everything in an attempt to save those he has placed in mortal danger and discover who and what he really is.

With masterful and gorgeous narrative, replete with exotic and captivating images, sounds and aromas – of rain swept beaches, magical mountain temples, pungent spice warehouses, opulent colonial ballrooms and fetid and forbidding rainforests – Tan Twan Eng weaves a haunting and unforgettable story of betrayal, barbaric cruelty, steadfast courage and enduring love. 

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Fiction Short Stories

Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga

Added 20th December 2013. 5,277 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.35 average. 353 pages.

The Blurb says: Welcome to Kittur, India. It’s on India’s southwestern coast, bounded by the Arabian Sea to the west and the Kaliamma River to the south and east. It’s blessed with rich soil and scenic beauty, and it’s been around for centuries. Of its 193,432 residents, only 89 declare themselves to be without religion or caste. And if the characters in Between the Assassinations are any indication, Kittur is an extraordinary crossroads of the brightest minds and the poorest morals, the up-and-coming and the downtrodden, and the poets and the prophets of an India that modern literature has rarely addressed.

A blinding, brilliant, and brave mosaic of Indian life as it is lived in a place called Kittur, Between the Assassinations, with all the humour, sympathy, and unflinching candour of The White Tiger, enlarges our understanding of the world we live in today.

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Crime

Frozen Out by Quentin Bates

Added 1st January 2014. 1,943 ratings on Goodreads, with a 3.60 average. 337 pages. 

The Blurb says: The discovery of a corpse washed up on a beach in an Icelandic backwater sparks a series of events that propels the village of Hvalvik’s police sergeant Gunnhildur into deep waters.

Although under pressure to deal with the matter quickly, she is suspicious that the man’s death was no accident and once she has identified the body, sets about investigating his final hours.The case takes Gunnhildur away from her village and into a cosmopolitan world of shady deals, government corruption and violence. She finds herself alone and less than welcome in this hostile environment as she tries to find out who it was that made sure the young man drowned on a dark night one hundred kilometres from where he should have been – and why.

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

TBR Thursday 231…

Episode 231

I seem to be in  major reading slump this week and not one of the 213 (up one) books on the TBR is calling my name! I can only hope the postman has gone on holiday and doesn’t visit till I get back in the swing…

Here are a few that hopefully will tempt me soon…

Lit-Crit

Scotland’s Books by Robert Crawford

I bought this ages ago in one of my periodic fits of feeling I ought to know my own literary heritage better. I assumed, wrongly, that it would be one of these list-style books, like 1001 Books Before You Die, etc. It turned out to be a hefty tome full of essays on various aspects of Scottish literature. Not what I was looking for at the time, so it has lain neglected on my shelves ever since. Time to bite the bullet and see if I can struggle through it… and maybe even learn something! 

The Blurb says: From Treasure Island to Trainspotting, Scotland’s rich literary tradition has influenced writing across centuries and cultures far beyond its borders. Here, for the first time, is a single volume presenting the glories of fifteen centuries of Scottish literature.

In Scotland’s Books poet Robert Crawford tells the story of Scottish writing and its relationship to the country’s history. Stretching from the medieval masterpiece of St Columba’s Iona – the earliest surviving Scottish work – to the imaginative, thriving world of twenty-first-century writing with authors such as Ali Smith and James Kelman, this outstanding collection traces the development of literature in Scotland and explores the cultural, linguistic and literary heritage of the nation. It includes extracts from the writing discussed to give a flavour of the original work, full quotations in their own language, previously unpublished works by authors and plenty of new research. Informative and readable, this is the definitive guide to the marvellous legacy of Scottish literature.

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Historical Fiction

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

Courtesy of HarperCollins via NetGalley. This one caught my eye because I’ve just finished reading a history of the Yorks, so for once I actually know who Elizabeth of York is! Better read it quick before I forget again… 

The Blurb says: Elizabeth of York, her life already tainted by dishonour and tragedy, now queen to the first Tudor king, Henry the VII.

Joan Vaux, servant of the court, straining against marriage and motherhood and privy to the deepest and darkest secrets of her queen. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, as conspiracy whispers through the dark corridors of the Tower.

Through Joan’s eyes, The Lady of the Ravens inhabits the squalid streets of Tudor London, the whispering walls of its most fearsome fortress and the glamorous court of a kingdom in crisis.

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Adventure

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

Courtesy of Oxford World’s Classics. When I saw they were bringing out a new edition of this adventure story, I couldn’t resist! Who doesn’t need a bit of swashbuckling in their lives every now and then? Doesn’t it sound like fun?

The Blurb says: ‘If love were the only thing, I would follow you-in rags if need be … But is love the only thing?’

Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda is a swashbuckling adventure set in Ruritania, a mythical pocket kingdom. Englishman Rudolf Rassendyll closely resembles the King of Ruritania, and to foil a coup by his rival to the throne, he is persuaded to impersonate him for a day. However, Rassendyll’s role becomes more complicated when the real king is kidnapped, and he falls for the lovely Princess Flavia. Although the story is set in the near past, Ruritania is a semi-feudal land in which a strong sword arm can carry the day, and Rassendyll and his allies fight to rescue the king. But if he succeeds, our hero and Flavia will have to choose between love and honour.

As Nicholas Daly’s introduction outlines, this thrilling tale inspired not only stage and screen adaptations, but also place names, and even a popular board game. A whole new subgenre of ‘Ruritanian romances’ followed, though no imitation managed to capture the charm, exuberance, and sheer storytelling power of Hope’s classic tale.

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Fiction on Audio

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

I loved Graham Greene when I was young, but have been rather disappointed by a couple of his books I’ve read recently. This has left me scared to revisit the ones I adored. This is one I’ve never read before and is considered one of his best, so fingers crossed it will revive my love. It’s narrated by Samuel West.

The Blurb says: A gang war is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Seventeen-year-old Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, he is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing Ida Arnold. Greene’s gripping thriller, exposes a world of loneliness and fear, of life lived on the ‘dangerous edge of things’.

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

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?