Weekend Reading

6 books leapt into my hands during a quick trip into the Library. Yes, all in the New Section when you walk in. And mostly new to me authors.

Both the title and the cover attracted me to this book : A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray (the third book of the series, so now I have to read the other two!). Edwardian time travel back to 1300 Orkney with Scottish myths. Then I discovered that this is a pseudonym for Beatriz Williams, whose books I discovered in December, and proceeded to devour as great escapism.

A Hunter in Winter by Conor Brady A Joe Swallow mystery. This is the third in a series, set in Ireland 1888. Wonderful evocative writing with fascinating characters and political intrigue. Great quote:“All for the empire upon which the sun will never set….Because God couldn’t trust the English for what they’d likely do in the dark.”

Gin and Panic by Maia Chance was a delightful romp during prohibition NYC. This is also the third in the Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries. The author is writing her PhD dissertation on nineteenth century American literature.

And perhaps the most timely is Lockdown by Laurie R. King. I highly recommend ALL her books and was disappointed that this book wasn’t more popular. It’s a hard, difficult US subject, a high school lockdown, but King is an amazing detailed writer of psychological suspense.

Will finish the other two tomorrow or Monday of the long holiday weekend.

Happy reading!

(They will be returned Tuesday if you want to check them out!)

The Butler Did It!- Again!

Title: Judgment of Murder by CS ChallinorPublisher: Midnight Ink Nov 2016

Genre: cozy, mystery, English historical, British mystery, Scottish barrister, 

4+ stars

It’s the 100th anniversary of Agatha Christies first published novel and cozies are all the rage again. They provide good reading and are multi-layered nuanced entertainment. The Solution depends on observation not technology and there is little graphic violence or sex.

Author:

Challinor was born in the US, educated in Scotland and England (joint Hons in Latin, French) and currently lives in Florida. She also holds a diploma in Russian from the Pushkin Institute in Moscow. Challinor is a member of the Authors Guild, New York, and writes the critically acclaimed Rex Graves mystery series featuring the Scottish barrister-sleuth. The cozy series begins with: Christmas is Murder (September 2008, Midnight Ink Books, a Kindle best seller), and continues with Murder in the Raw (2009), Phi Beta Murder (2010), Murder on the Moor (2011), Murder of the Bride (2012, a Mystery Guild book club pick), Murder at the Dolphin Inn (2013) Murder at Midnight (2014) and Murder comes Calling (2015). I particularly appreciate the understated humour and banter between Rex and and his fiancé Helen d’Arcy (schoolteacher) and have enjoyed the series more with each new book. Challinor keeps most readers guessing as she cleverly spreads suspicion and clues and red herrings. Cozy fans will enjoy this traditional series featuring a witty, charming and engaging sleuth. Her light touch makes them entertaining reads, perfect for cold winter nights. JoM will make a lovely Christmas gift.

Story Line:

An old colleague Lord Gordon Murgatroyd, the infamous Judge Murder, dies in England, but his daughter Phoebe, newly widowed, suspects foul play. Rex Graves QC develops his prosecutorial expertise to sleuth his way through possible method and probable motive and near death. His trusty likable colleague Alistair helps investigate and even saves Rex at one point. Both are caught up in another regional case with abducted girl(s), linking cold cases, murderers and suspects. Rex does like to announce the murderer in a denouement, continuing the Golden Age style. Challinor’s mysteries are a welcome and charming modern take on Agatha Christie. I felt this one was more multilayered although they remain descriptive stories. Reading enjoyment may benefit from knowledge of previous cases and character development. 

Read On:

Anne Cleeland (Shetland), Deborah Crombie, Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, MC Beaton (Hamish McBeth), Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness), Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby), Alexander McCall Smith (Sunday Philosophy Club), Paige Shelton  (Scottish bookshop), Sophie Hannah (Poirot)

Quotes:

The golf could wait. Murder could not.

In the event he was on a wild goose chase, he thought he might as well do some sightseeing and make the most of his sabotaged weekend.

Miss Bird had been their housekeeper since he was a boy, and she and his mother persisted in calling him by his given name, instead of its derivative “Rex,” which he preferred. Now that they were well into their eighties he had lost all hope of their changing the habit.

She spoke in the genteel tones of Morningside ladies, which Rex often thought belied a razor sharp mind that had lost none of its acuity in her advancing age.

“Well, I wish you’d just hurry up and marry the woman. You know how I love weddings.” Rex gazed at his friend in mild frustration.

I’m aboot as lethal as one of these chips.” 

Rex commended his friend’s foresight, without fully comprehending how he had been able to run with a crowbar secreted in his coat, but now wasn’t the time to ask.”

“Your mother must be so proud of you, as am I. I suppose you could go about incognito but you’re a hard person to disguise.”

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. Most in the series available from Rochester Public Library.

Being the 13th


Title: Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron

5 Stars *****

Publisher: Soho Crime 320pp

Genre: regency mystery, historical fiction, Jane Austen, mystery series

Author: Francine Stephanie Barron Mathews (b 1953) is a mystery writer and has written several series. As Francine Mathews, Merry Folger is a police officer in Nantucket while the Caroline Carmichael series are spy thrillers based on Mathews CIA analyst career. Her descriptive writing was influenced by one of her Princeton professors, John McPhee (one of my favourite non fiction writers!). As Stephanie Barron she writes the Jane Austen mysteries, presented as lost diaries edited by Barron. They are extremely well researched, witty, charming and a lovely homage to Jane Austen. I cannot believe it has been 20 years since the first novel. Worse, this novel takes place in November 1815 and Jane died in 1816. Barron writes for the thinking reader. These are gentle, entertaining mysteries with careful staging and intricate characters. You will enjoy the wit, charm and satire of Jane Austen in this beautiful homage. There are many Austen spin offs: Barron is my personal favourite.

Story line:

Being the 13th novel in the series.

The battle of Waterloo has left the British economy in shreds, and Henry Austen is nearly bankrupt. Jane is editing her proofs of Emma while nursing her beloved brother in London. There are wonderful quotes from Emma throughout. Jane hears the two words Waterloo Map from the young, dying Calvary officer Col McFarland and sets out to unmask the poisoner. Jane’s keen observations and wit provide interesting details of social conventions, daily life, and personal reflection that make this a wonderful period piece. Misdirection gives a nice twist at the end.

I still miss Lord Harold Trowbridge, her previous romantic interest and fellow sleuth (5 books ago) but delighted to see her reacquainted with the fascinating artist Raphael West. This is a rather fast paced two weeks in her life. Persuasion is next! 

Read on:

Laurie King’s Mary Russell mysteries as period diaries.

For period mysteries : Nicola Upson, Jacqueline Winspear, Deanna Raybourn, Barbara Cleverly, or Anne Perry.

For intricate historical novels: Diana Gabaldon, Susanna Kearsley.

Quotes:

Opening line: There can be few things more lowering to the female sensibility than to be caught in a shower of rain at exactly the moment one desires to appear to advantage.

Closing line: But as I watched West’s equipage pull away from Hans Place, I felt a blank pit of loneliness just below my heart. And hoped, for all of us, in the promise of spring.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library.

Short stories for summer!

Note: The British Library is republishing many of their Classic Crime and Spy novels, with the Poisoned Pen Press responsible for the U.S. editions. There were twelve published in 2015 and 12 more in 2016. They will be available in trade paperback and Ebook. Many of these books have been out of print or difficult to find. Some of these Golden Age Crime writers are perhaps unknown to the American audience. Each book features stunning cover art pertinent to the era (20/30s Britain). Of note, Martin Edwards provided guidance for this project as the archivist for CWA (and for Detection Club). Two books feature short fiction edited by Edwards. I have always valued the Poisoned Pen’s collection of mysteries for providing excellent reading experiences; there are over 700 titles. I am looking forward to the reissue of all the British Library Crime Classic novels. I read the following as ARCs from Netgalley, and wish to thank both publishers for bringing these works to light.

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Genre: English mystery, cozy, mystery, British Library crime classics,

Title: Resorting to Murder: Holiday Murders edited by Martin Edwards 286 pp. 4 stars***

This collection of 14 short stories is again presented in chronological published order (1910-1953). These are not action dramas but puzzles and will provide lovely armchair travel to Europe (UK, Switzerland, France). As a themed anthology it is more diverse than expected, given the authors and time period. Several feature well known detectives/sleuths: Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is present in The Adventure of Devil’s Foot, and his brother in law E.W. Hornung’s Dr John Dollar in A Schoolmaster Abroad, and H.C. Bailey’s The Hazel Ice has Mr Fortune, surely the precursor to Lord Peter Wimsey. I simply loved Helen Simpson’s humorous A Posteriori and Basil Thompson’s The Vanishing of Mrs Fraser. I wrote notes twelve of the stories!

I enjoyed this entertaining series far more than the previous short story anthology, although once again there are vastly different writing styles. Both may lead you to a new author, and both make wonderful summer reads. Short stories are perfect for the beach, the hammock, the commute to work, the plane trip, or by the pool. Don’t forget the Pimms to set the stage. It might just be your cup of tea. It is great to have a chance to read these stories. There is much to chose from and I think you will find many enjoyable reads.

Although sleuths go on vacation, murder never does.”

Title: Capitol Crimes edited by Martin Edwards 343 pp. 3 stars***

Martin Edwards has published 16 crime novels and 50 short stories. He is also the archivist for the Crime Writers’ Association as well as the Detection Club. He is a consultant to the British library in their reissuing of the crime writers of the golden era and as such, selected 17 short stories, set in London. They have been arranged in chronological order from 1893 Case of the Lady Sannox (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) to 1946 You Can’t Hang Twice (Anthony Gilbert).

This also illustrates the gradual transition from amateur detective to police procedural. You will find some interesting reads: Campion by Margery Allingham in the Unseen Door, Stealer of Marble by Edgar Wallace, or The Hands of Mr Ottermole by Thomas Burke. I found this edition to be more of a hodgepodge of less readable work, certainly not their best work. Some haven’t stood the hands of time, feeling very dated (manners, class), ‘vintage prose’ even! But as an introduction to their body of work, you might discover a new author.

The Rochester Public Library does not have the last books of short stories; it it does have several similar books that Edwards has edited for the CWA, including Deadly Pleasures 2013, Guilty Parties 2014, and Golden Age of Murder 2015.

Ghostly Summer Read!

Title: The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths. 4stars****Publisher: Houghton Mifflin. 385pp. 

Genre: mystery, English mystery, murder mystery, historical, mystery, series

Author:

Elly Griffiths is a British novelist of the Ruth Galloway English crime series. The Galloway books need to be read in order for character development and overarching story. Her first book was The Crossing Places, with The Ghost Fields being the seventh. This book takes place two years after the last (The Outcast Dead), but there is not a lot of personal development. These novels were inspired by her husband who became an anthropologist and her summer holidays in Norfolk; they now live in Brighton. She read English at King’s College and worked in publishing. Her writing is often poignant, atmospheric and compelling. Griffiths recently wrote a stand alone new 1950s crime novel The Zig Zag Girl that I also recommend. 

Story Line:

The title comes from the deserted Air Force bases from WWII, as well as ancient burial sites from the Bronze Age (Galloway’s specialty) to the English Civil War. There were 37 airfields In Norfolk alone, with several shadow fields too. This particular ghost field is near the isolated Blackstone Manor where a WWII airplane, with body onboard, is discovered during an excavation. However, the pilot has a bullethole in his forehead and DNA that matches the local aristocracy. This is a cold case investigation with complications and present danger, of course building to an action packed ending with Ruth being in immediate danger in the terrible St Jude storm. There wasn’t much mystery for me as simple arithmetic would have narrowed the suspects. I think they should have provided the genealogy at the end of the book, not at the beginning. 

Dr Galloway is forensic anthropologist and professor which lives in a Norfolk salt marsh.

Ruth is accomplished, intelligent, a dedicated professional and a single mother. But she is still insecure and less self aware/too critical. She’s 45 with a five year old daughter just starting school. I usually enjoy catching up with these characters, but Ruth has not moved on from DI Nelson, although he remains married. I no longer care about their relationship. And then there seem to be numerous affairs. As always Cathbad has his moments, now a family man living with Judy and their son and new daughter. The Blackstock’s are a positively quirky, eccentric English manor family (I liked that one branch of the Blackstock family had emigrated to Vermont, and should have stayed!)

The bleak, lovely Norfolk landscape still plays a central role in these novels and l love the wildness, beauty, history and nature. The British weather (unrelenting heat to wind, rain and flood) is so much more enjoyable from my sunny summer lounge chair. It’s an easy summer read. Enjoy!

Read On: (mysteries in Norfolk)

Elly Griffiths The Crossing Places  in order

Simon Beckett Dr David Hunter, forensic scientist in The Chemistry of Death

PD James Devices and Desires Adam Dagliesh series

American mysteries: Kathy Reichs Tempe Brennan series, an forensic anthropologist

Quotes:

Opening line: It is the hottest summer for years. A proper heatwave, the papers say.

She thinks of sea sprites …and the ghosts of dead children singing under the sea.

Mrs Galloway was her mother. A formidable born-again Christian living in South London, within sight of the promised land.

The women in that family are worth ten of the men.

I’m sorry Frank, but there’s someone else. I think there always will be. 

Read as an ARC from Netgalley

Purchased as an ebook for a reread. First edition in the Stowe Free Library summer book sale!

Murder takes a  Summer Vacation 

Note:The British Library is republishing many of their Classic Crime and Spy novels, with the Poisoned Pen Press responsible for the U.S. editions. There will be twelve published this year and 2016. They will be available in trade paperback and Ebook. Many of these books have been out of print or difficult to find. Some of these Golden Age Crime writers are perhaps unknown to the American audience. Each book features stunning cover art pertinent to the era (20/30s Britain). Of note, Martin Edwards provided guidance for this project as the archivist for CWA (and for Detection Club). Two books feature short fiction edited by Edwards. I have always valued the Poisoned Pen’s collection of mysteries for providing excellent reading experiences; there are over 700 titles. I am looking forward to the reissue of all the British Library Crime Classic novels. I read the following as ARCs from Netgalley, and wish to thank both publishers for bringing these works to light.

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, 3 to 3.5 stars***

Genre: English mystery, cozy, mystery, British Library crime classics,

1) Title: Murder in Piccadilly by Charles Kingston (1936, 2015) 314pp

Author: Charles Kingston (O’Mahoney) wrote 25 mystery novels between 1921 and 1945: Stolen Virtue (1921), many London settings (Poison in Kensington [read Dorothy Sayers review!] and The Highgate Mystery) to his last book Fear Followed On (1945). His prose is sparse with quite dry (black) humour, which might not translate well to the American audience, or this era. But they are quite atmospheric and generally easy reads.

Story Line:

This story introduced Chief Insp Wake, a rather grizzled, methodical, dour individual. There are seven in this series. The unsavory cast of English eccentrics made this difficult for me to appreciate as well as dated prose and London accents. This is a drawing room mystery exposing the seedy side of London (Soho nightclubs) with a jaundiced, cynical police force, “minor Bohemian” characters and an aristocratic bourgeois without principles. In the end I didn’t have much sympathy for either the idle rich or the murdered miser. It was hard to like characters that Kingston describes in such unflattering terms, with vices/ human traits. The first half sets the stage/scene with character descriptions/details which provide motive. There are fantastic details of the era, with a nice twist in the mystery solution. This is an interesting, realistic/historical look at London of the 1930s.

Read on:

 A Scream in Soho by John G. Brandon (also recently republished) or 

The Piccadilly Murder by Anthony Berkeley (1929)

Quotes:

…falling is love is like falling downstairs- you don’t mean to do either.

It was the crime of the year, something peculiar to London.

How often had Bobbie grumblingly adverted to the fact that everyday his uncle lived he, the misunderstood heir, lost a day’s income.

What’s the use mother, when I’ll have ten thousand a year when Massey dies of overeating?

…ears that resembled cauliflowers waiting their turn to be washed…

“…polygamy on the installment plan…” (Married four times)

2) Title: Capitol Crimes edited by Martin Edwards 343 pp.

Martin Edwards has published 16 crime novels and 50 short stories. He is also the archivist for the Crime Writers’ Association as well as the Detection Club. He is a consultant to the British library in their reissuing of the crime writers of the golden era and as such, selected 17 short stories, set in London. They have been arranged in chronological order from 1893 Case of the Lady Sannox (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) to 1946 You Can’t Hang Twice (Anthony Gilbert). This also illustrates the gradual transition from amateur detective to police procedural. You will find some interesting reads: Campion by Margery Allingham in the Unseen Door, Stealer of Marble by Edgar Wallace, or The Hands of Mr Ottermole by Thomas Burke. I found this edition to be more of a hodgepodge of less readable work, certainly not their best work. Some haven’t stood the hands of time, feeling very dated (manners, class), ‘vintage prose’ even! But as an introduction to their body of work, you might discover a new author. 

3) Title: Resorting to Murder: Holiday Murders edited by Martin Edwards 286 pp

This collection of 14 short stories is again presented in chronological published order (1910-1953). These are not action dramas but puzzles and will provide lovely armchair travel to Europe (UK, Switzerland, France). As a themed anthology it is more diverse than expected, given the authors and time period. Several feature well known detectives/sleuths: Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is present in The Adventure of Devil’s Foot, and his brother in law E.W. Hornung’s Dr John Dollar in A Schoolmaster Abroad, and H.C. Bailey’s The Hazel Ice has Mr Fortune, surely the precursor to Lord Peter Wimsey. I simply loved Helen Simpson’s humorous A Posteriori and Basil Thompson’s The Vanishing of Mrs Fraser. I wrote notes about twelve of the stories!

I enjoyed this entertaining series far more than the previous short story anthology, although once again there are vastly different writing styles. Both may lead you to a new author, and both make wonderful summer reads. Short stories are perfect for the beach, the hammock, the commute to work, the plane trip, or by the pool. Don’t forget the Pimms to set the stage. It might just be your cup of tea. It is great to have a chance to read these stories. There is much to chose from and I think you will find many enjoyable reads. 

“Although sleuths go on vacation, murder never does.”

The Rochester Public Library does not have the last books of short stories; it it does have several similar books that Edwards has edited for the CWA, including Deadly Pleasures 2013, Guilty Parties 2014, and Golden Age of Murder 2015.

Clever English Cozy

Title: Margery Allingham’s Mr Campion’s Fox. By Mike Ripley
Publisher: Severn House 272 pp
Genre: mystery, English mystery, English cozy, series, murder mystery
4 stars****
Author: Mike Ripley is an award winning British author of mysteries (Fitzroy MacLean Angel series) and historical novels (Legend of Hereward and Boudica). He also writes a brilliant column (March 2015 was his 100th: gems include an axiom of Raymond Chandler “…with agents, it’s enough that you let them live.” And “This column prides itself on being reliably unreliable.”) Working with the Margery Allingham Society he wrote the first Campion mystery in 40 years Mr Campion’s Farewell (2014). He is obviously a long time fan and finds her voice, not just of Campion and his companions but also of the English countryside. I read every Allingham, as well as Sayers, Marsh Tey and Christie. Lord Peter Wimsey was my favourite, but Campion developed his own following, not just as a similar detective (English, aristocrat, well educated, amateur sleuth helping Crown and Scotland Yard). Campion is an alias as he disliked his first name (Rudolph) and as a second son wouldn’t inherit so was encouraged by his grandmother (the Dowager) to be an adventurer. (His grandmother who demanded the Church of Scotland change its name in 1884.) Campion is an old french word for champion, but also may refer to martyr St Edmund Champion given other clues.
Story Line:
These are character driven novels, more adventure than mystery. The Danish Ambassador has requested personal help as his daughter has fallen in with a shady chap. Then they disappear, and of course a body turns up. Finally, Campion’s wife Lady Amanda Fitton has a larger role (she wants him retired, and isn’t altogether approving when her son gets involved). No spoilers, read and enjoy! Campion has aged in this series, he is now in his early seventies(?), but is still mentally sharp, full of wit and t wisdom of age. He recruits his unemployed actor son Rupert, which involves his interesting wife Perdita. I always look forward to any appearance of Lugg too, the reformed burglar/ butler “with the courage of his previous convictions”! Lugg is now Beadle of Brewers’ Hall.
I think you need to know the series in order to fully enjoy these books, but it does make a delightful entertaining read as a stand alone. Lovely details with village map and building facades. I do hope there is another sequel to follow to continue their lives. I loved the glimpses of London, Suffolk countryside, Gapton Spit, and the pubs. North Sea seaside, in November. I am also picturing Peter Davison from the 1989/1990 BBC adaptations of the first 8 novels. (Not forgetting Brian Glover as Lugg and Andrew Burt as Insp Oates).
Read On:
Mike Ripley Mr Campion’s Farewell (2014)
Margery Allingham from 1929-1969) in order! Novels and short stories
(Tiger in the Smoke (1952) and Death of a Ghost (1934) were among the Best 100 mysteries of the 20th century)
Dorothy Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey series
Josephine Tey Inspector Grant series
Julia Jones biographer Adventures of Mary Allingham
Note
Several authors have also taken on these previous characters including Jill Paton Walsh with the Lord Peter Wimsey and Sherlock (by so many!). But of note also are novels using authors: Josephine Tey is the subject of excellent mysteries by Nicola Upson.
Quotes:
From the preface “For the insatiable collector of trivia, British passport number 1111924, which I have allocated to Francis Tate in this story, was in fact issued to Mrs Margery Louise Carter (nee Allingham) in 1947.
Opening: “My wife’s people have never quite forgiven you for the Battle of Maldon, Mr Ambassador.” (991AD!)
Like most titles, a hindrance more often than an advantage…
I hope you took an improving book with you…
Immediately would do very nicely, sir.
I reckon he’s the only man in England to go into mourning when the halfpenny stopped bein’ legal tender.

Received/read as an ARC from Netgalley- thanks (I had missed last year’s publication and rectified that!)

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