Monday, 28 January 2019

A Reading Update and My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 11

"You need to put these books away, Mister!"
January has been an excellent reading month so far. I finished my 10th book this morning, a tense, suspenseful mystery. I've also started one more. I think I can read one more at least by the end of the month.

Now that sounds interesting, Daddy. Read some more!
I'll update the book I just finished and provide a synopsis of the new book. Also I'll continue with my look at the mystery genre with my 10th installment of English detectives. So with that preamble, let's get a move on.

Just Finished

1. Undone by Karin Slaughter (Will Trent #3). This had been on my Goodreads bookshelf the longest. Glad that I finally got around to it.

"Undone is the 3rd book in Karin Slaughter's Will Trent suspense series. I had greatly enjoyed her first series, the Grant County books, featuring coroner Sara Linton as the central character. I'd read the first two books in the Will Trent series and enjoyed them but not as much as the Grant County books. Probably one of my difficulties with total enjoyment was wrapping my head around the main character, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) detective, Will Trent. Trent has so many issues, the main one being dyslexic, meaning he has great difficulty even reading, figuring out his left from his right (meaning it's difficult just getting from  A to B), etc. But even so the stories themselves were highly interesting mysteries.

The 3rd book, Undone, was excellent. It's only problem was maybe being somewhat too long, but even with that minor complaint, it was easy to get into, an interesting, creepy, unsettling mystery, and the story just flowed. The other nice thing was that Sara Linton, one of my favorite characters in a mystery series, was in this story. She had just started working in the ER at Grady County and is immediately involved with the mystery.

So what is the basic story? A naked woman is hit by a car driven by two elderly people. It turns out she's near death, appears to have been tortured cruelly for a long time and by the time she is brought to Grady County, she's in a coma and the doctors are struggling to bring her back. Even though it appears to be a local police department case, Rockford County, Will Trent and his partner, Faith Mitchell, GBI detectives, get involved, causing interdepartmental headaches and friction. While Faith is at the hospital, Will discovers where the body has been kept (in a hole in the ground - not just a hole... but a scary place as you'll discover) and also discovers she wasn't the only victim.

So there you go. This starts a frustrating, intense investigation, with Will and Faith treading on the toes of other jurisdictions, with the help of their fantastic boss, Amanda Wagner (I love her. She's grumpy, smart, down to earth, strong - willed and scares the pants off people when she needs to.. including her own detectives). The case involves one of the creepiest serial killers I've yet to read about. The descriptions of his / her actions are just intense enough to give you the shivers. Will and Faith deal with their own problems and each other. Sara has her own issues, which I won't get into if you haven't read the Grant County series because they relate to incidents that take place there. (By the way, you should read Grant County before you dive into this series)

It's a long story, as I've mentioned, but it doesn't really seem to be as you move through the investigation, the character interactions and the final, exciting finish. It's been so nice to get back into Karin Slaughter's stories again. You'll love the characters and curl into a ball as you move into the story.. *shudder*... Great stuff (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Hard Truth by Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon #13). I moved down 5 places from the oldest book on my list to pick this one. I'll keep moving down 5 places as I do this particular challenge.

"Just days after marrying Sheriff Paul Davidson, Anna Pigeon moves to Colorado to assume her new post as district ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park. When two of three children who'd gone missing from a religious retreat reappear, Anna's investigation brings her face-to-face with a paranoid sect--and with a villain so evil, he'll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 11
In my last entry I featured authors, Anthony Horowitz (Sherlock Holmes), Val McDermid (Kate Brannigan) and John Mortimer (Rumpole).

Caro Peacock
1. Caro Peacock - Liberty Lane. Caro Peacock is a new author for me. I've purchased the first book in her Liberty Lane Victorian mystery series, featuring detective Liberty Lane. Since 2007, she has written 9 books in this series. I have the first book on my shelf.

a. Death at Dawn / also A Foreign Affair (#1 / 2007).

"The year is 1837. Queen Victoria, barely eighteen, has just ascended to the throne of England, and a young woman named Liberty Lane has just had her first taste of true sorrow. Refusing to accept that her gentle, peace-loving father has been killed fighting a duel, she vows to see justice done. . . .

The trail she follows is a twisting and dangerous one, leading the spirited young Englishwoman into an intricate weave of conspiracy. Contacted by secret agents, she is asked to pose as a governess in order to infiltrate cold, rambling Mandeville Hall and spy on its master, Sir Herbert Mandeville, who is at the center of a treasonous plan.

Nothing at the hall is what it seems, and every turn reveals another deceit, another surprise, another peril, leaving Libby to wonder who to trust and embroiling her in a deadly affair that could destroy the young queen and place Libby herself in mortal peril. . . ."

The remaining books in the series are -
- Death of a Dancer (2008)
- A Corpse in Shining Armour (2009)
- When the Devil Drives (20011)
- Keeping Bad Company (2012)
- The Path of the Wicked (2013)
- Friends in High Places (2105)
- Fool's Gold (2017)
- The Killing Site (2018)

Anne Perry
2. Anne Perry - Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. I have discussed Anne Perry in a previous entry, in my English police section, featuring William Monk. Perry started the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series in 1979 with The Cater Street Hangman and since that time has written 32 books in the series. When you combine that with her William Monk series of 24 books, plus sundry other series and standalones, Anne Perry, who was born in 1938, as Juliet Hulme, has had a pretty successful career. I've read three of the series so far and also seen the movie based on The Cater Street Hangman. It's been a long time though and I need to get back to reading both of Perry's series.

a. The Cater Street Hangman (#1 / 1979).

"Panic and fear strike the Ellison household when one of their own falls prey to the Cater Street murderer. While Mrs. Ellison and her three daughters are out, their maid becomes the third victim of a killer who strangles young women with cheese wire, leaving their swollen-faced bodies on the dark streets of this genteel neighborhood.

Inspector Pitt, assigned to the case, must break through the walls of upper-class society to get at the truth. His in-depth investigation gradually peels away the proper veneer of the elite world, exposing secrets and desires until suspicion becomes more frightening than truth. Outspoken Charlotte Ellison, struggling to remain within the confining boundaries of Victorian manners, has no trouble expressing herself to the irritating policeman. As their relationship shifts from antagonistic sparring to a romantic connection, the socially mismatched pair must solve the mystery before the hangman strikes again.
" (4 stars)

b. Ashworth Hall (#17 / 1997).

"When a group of powerful Irish Protestants and Catholics gather at a country house to discuss Irish home rule, contention is to be expected. But when the meeting's moderator, government bigwig Ainsley Greville, is found murdered in his bath, negotiations seem doomed. To make matters worse, it appears the late Greville may have led a less than savory personal life.

Unless Thomas Pitt and his wife, Charlotte, can root out the truth, simmering hatreds and passions may again explode in murder, the home rule movement may collapse, and civil war may destroy all of Ireland. . . ." (3 stars)

c. Long Spoon Lane (#24 / 2005).

"Early one morning, Thomas Pitt, dauntless mainstay of the Special Branch, is summoned to Long Spoon Lane, where anarchists are plotting an attack. Bombs explode, destroying the homes of many poor people. After a chase, two of the culprits are captured and the leader is shot . . . but by whom?

As Pitt delves into the case, he finds that there is more to the terrorism than the destructive gestures of misguided idealists. The police are running a lucrative protection racket, and clues suggest that Inspector Wetron of Bow Street is the mastermind. As the shadowy leader of the Inner Circle, Wetron is using his influence with the press to whip up fears of more attacks–and to rush a bill through Parliament that would severely curtail civil liberties. This would make him the most powerful man in the country.

To defeat Wetron, Pitt finds that he must run in harness with his old enemy, Sir Charles Voisey, and the unlikely allies are joined by Pitt’s clever wife, Charlotte, and her great aunt, Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould. Can they prevail? As they strive to prevent future destruction, nothing less than the fate of the British Empire hangs in precarious balance." (2 stars)

The other books by Anne Perry, including both series and her other books can be found here

James Runcie
3. James Runcie - Sidney Chambers. I first discovered this series from the TV series based on the books. Jo and I enjoyed it very much. I've since discovered the books, set in Grantchester near Cambridge in 1950's and featuring clergyman / detective Canon Sidney Chambers. I have read the first and have two more of the six books in the series. Runcie was born in Cambridge in 1959 and is a novelist, playwright, documentary film maker and television producer.

a. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (#1 / 2012).

"A nice collection of short story mysteries that became the Grantchester TV series. Sidney Chambers is the new vicar of Grantchester and finds himself helping the local police inspector, Geordie Keating, solve a variety of mysteries, and, at the same time, trying to keep up with parish work and also trying to find himself. The mysteries are interesting, from the murder of a local lord at a play, the theft of a ring, and the forgery of art treasure. Often against his will, Sidney becomes involved in these mysteries and uses his intellect and inspiration to help solve the crimes. The stories have a nice feel to them and the characters are always interesting. Excellent introduction to Sidney Chambers. The books are as interesting as the TV series." (4 stars) 

b. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night (#2 / 2013).

"The loveable full time priest and part time detective Canon Sidney Chambers continues his sleuthing adventures in late 1950's Cambridge. Accompanied by his faithful Labrador Dickens, and working in tandem with the increasingly exasperated Inspector Geordie Keating, Sidney is called on to investigate the unexpected fall of a Cambridge don from the roof of King's College Chapel; a case of arson at a glamor photographer's studio; and the poisoning of Zafar Ali, Grantchester's finest spin bowler, in the middle of a crucial game of cricket. As he pursues his quietly probing inquiries, Sidney also has to decide on the vexed question of marriage. Can he choose between the rich, glamorous socialite Amanda Kendall and Hildegard Staunton, a beguiling German widow three years his junior? To help him make up his mind Sidney takes a trip abroad, only to find himself trapped in a complex web of international espionage just as the Berlin Wall is going up.

Here are six interlocking adventures that combine mystery with morality, and criminality with charm.

c. Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins (#4 / 2015).

"The loveable full-time priest and part-time detective, Canon Sidney Chambers, continues his sleuthing adventures in 1960's Cambridge. On a snowy Thursday morning in Lent 1964, a stranger seeks sanctuary in Grantchester's church, convinced he has murdered his wife. Sidney and his wife Hildegard go for a shooting weekend in the country and find their hostess has a sinister burn on her neck. Sidney's friend Amanda receives poison pen letters when at last she appears to be approaching matrimony. A firm of removal men 'accidentally' drop a Steinway piano on a musician's head outside a Cambridge college. During a cricket match, a group of schoolboys blow up their school Science Block. On a family holiday in Florence, Sidney is accused of the theft of a priceless painting.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Sidney's new curate Malcolm seems set to become rather irritatingly popular with the parish; his baby girl Anna learns to walk and talk; Hildegard longs to get an au pair and Sidney is offered a promotion.

The remaining 3 books in the series are -
- Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil (2014)
- Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation (2016)
- Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love (2017)

There you go. I hope one or two of the above books / series interest you. Have a great week.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

A Saturday Reading Update and My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 10

Schnauzers rough housing... (Old photo)
I finished another book this morning as Clyde and I were watching FA Cup football. January as been a good reading month so far. I hope I can continue this way throughout the year.

I'll update my latest book completion, let you know what I've started since, update my latest book purchase (one arrived yesterday in the mail) and continue with my look at the mystery genre.

New Book

1. A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor (The Chronicles of St Mary's #2). I was just introduced to this series. The first book was nicely different.

"Book Two in the madcap time-travel series based at the St Mary's Institute of Historical Research that seems to be everyone's cup of tea. In the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary's series, Max and the team visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas A Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches. But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St Mary's - an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy History itself to do it."

Just Finished

1. When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh (Inspector Alleyn #26).

"The Inspector Alleyn mystery series by Ngaio Marsh is one of the classics, like Agatha Christie's mystery books or those of Josephine Tey... to name a few. I've enjoyed 13 of the books so far, all entertaining and excellent mysteries. When in Rome is one of the later books, originally published in 1970 and it finds Alleyn on his own, working undercover for Scotland Yard and Interpol in Rome.

Alleyn is trying to find out about the drug syndicates, led by a man known as Ziegfeldt. His syndicate has changed its routing of drugs and Alleyn believes his contact in Rome is a man by the name of Sebastian Mailer, a British citizen. Mailer has other side lights besides dealing drugs; they include blackmail and murder.

Mailer organizes a tour of the city, which includes visits to shady night spots. Alleyn instigates himself into one of the tours. The other members of the tour all have their own secrets; maybe being blackmailed or trying to purchase drugs from Mailer. It's an interesting group and becomes more interesting when a body is found and Mailer disappears.

There is your kernel of the story and mystery; and Alleyn must tred carefully and ensure he doesn't interfere or upset the Italian authorities in their own investigation. Marsh almost sets the story up as a play, as she does in many of her stories. She provides the Cast of characters and then enjoyably presents them and develops them.

As in all the Alleyn mysteries I've read so far, the Inspector is smart, intuitive and capable. He must work without his intrepid sidekick, Fox for this one, although we do see him briefly even just as a correspondent to Alleyn. As well, his love, Troy is only another character we see at the end of Alleyn's correspondence, but that suffices for this story. As always, enjoyable and caringly presented. It's not necessary to read in sequence although I'd suggest reading the first few to get comfortable with the story style and the various characters that people Marsh's excellent mystery series. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Sleeping Beauty by Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer #17). I started reading this series just in the past couple of years and have enjoyed the books I've read so far very much.

"In Sleeping Beauty, Lew Archer finds himself the confidant of a wealthy, violent family with a load of trouble on their hands--including an oil spill, a missing girl, a lethal dose of Nembutal, a six-figure ransom, and a stranger afloat, face down, off a private beach. Here is Ross Macdonald's masterful tale of buried memories, the consequences of arrogance, and the anguished relations between parents and their children. Riveting, gritty, tautly written, Sleeping Beauty is crime fiction at its best."

Bill's Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 10

Anthony Horowitz
1. Anthony Horowitz - Sherlock Holmes. English screenwriter and novelist Horowitz has been successful in a number of Young Adult series; Alex Rider, The Power of Five, etc. I was interested in his Sherlock Holmes books; he has also written two James Bond books as well. I've read the first Sherlock Holmes book and enjoyed it. I've got the 2nd one on my book shelf.

a. The House of Silk (2011).

"For the first time in its one-hundred-and-twenty-five-year history, the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate has authorized a new Sherlock Holmes novel.

Once again, THE GAME’S AFOOT…

London, 1890. 221B Baker St. A fine art dealer named Edmund Carstairs visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson to beg for their help. He is being menaced by a strange man in a flat cap – a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America. In the days that follow, his home is robbed, his family is threatened. And then the first murder takes place.

Almost unwillingly, Holmes and Watson find themselves being drawn ever deeper into an international conspiracy connected to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston, the gaslit streets of London, opium dens and much, much more. And as they dig, they begin to hear the whispered phrase-the House of Silk-a mysterious entity that connects the highest levels of government to the deepest depths of criminality. Holmes begins to fear that he has uncovered a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of society." (4 stars)

b. Moriarty (#2 / 2014).

"Sherlock Holmes is dead.

Days after Holmes and his arch-enemy Moriarty fall to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls, Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase arrives in Europe from New York. The death of Moriarty has created a poisonous vacuum that has been swiftly filled by a fiendish new criminal mastermind who has risen to take Moriarty's place.

Ably assisted by Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard, a devoted student of Holmes's methods of investigation and deduction, Frederick Chase must forge a path through the darkest corners of the capital to shine light on this shadowy figure, a man much feared but seldom seen, a man determined to engulf London in a tide of murder and menace.

Author of the global bestseller The House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz once more breathes life into the world created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With pitch-perfect characterization and breathtaking pace, Horowitz weaves a relentlessly thrilling tale that teases and delights by the turn of each page.

The game is afoot . . .

Val McDermid
2. Val McDermid - Kate Brannigan. I've highlighted other series by McDermid in other sub-genres; the Wire in the Blood series especially under British Cops. Kate Brannigan is a private investigator and McDermid has written six books in this series, from 1992 - 1998. I have one book in the series so far and look forward to trying it.

a. Clean Break (#4 / 1995).

"Kate, a Manchester-based private investigator, is definitely not amused when thieves steal a Monet painting from a stately home where she has arranged the security. The theft is clearly the work of professionals: they penetrate alarm systems, enter quickly, grab only what they have come for, and disappear into the night. Kate feels responsible. And, according to her contract, she owes Henry Naismith, owner of Birchfield Place, thirty hours of her time to try to find his Monet. The police will search, too, but Kate has sources that the authorities could never touch. And if finding a missing Monet isn't difficult enough, Kate must also confront a deadly case of industrial sabotage. Someone may be intent on putting the Kerrchem company out of business. What seems at first to be a simple instance of blackmail soon turns into a shocking case of murder."

The remaining books in this series are -
- Dead Beat (1992)
- Kick Back (1993)
- Crack Down (1994)
- Blue Jeans (1996)
- Star Struck (1998)

John Mortimer
3. John Mortimer - Rumpole of the Bailey. John Mortimer lived from 1923 - 2009 and was a barrister, screenwriter, dramatist and novelist. He was a prolific writer who was maybe most noted for his series of books featuring barrister, Rumpole. The books consisted of short stories based on the TV series and a variety of novels.I've read two of the collections and have a number of others on my bookshelf.

a. Rumpole and the Age of Miracles (1988 / from Season 5 plus one additional story)

"The lovable, irreverent, claret-swigging, Wordsworth-spouting criminal lawyer returns to the fray to fight new battles against injustice, in Rumpole and the Age of Miracles. Rest assured, Horace Rumpole, whose fame depends on an unsurpassed knowledge of blood and typewriters an on never having his clients plead guilty, is as outspoken, witty, and cynical as ever in these continuing adventures. (Publisher’s description)

Contents: Rumpole and the bubble reputation — Rumpole and the barrow boy — Rumpole and the age of miracles — Rumpole and the tap end — Rumpole and the chambers party — Rumpole and Portia — Rumpole and the quality of life" (3 stars)

b. Rumpole of the Bailey (1979 / All episodes of Season 1)

"Horace Rumpole, the irreverent, iconoclastic, claret-swilling, poetry-spouting barrister-at-law, is among the most beloved characters of English crime literature. He is not a particularly gifted attorney, nor is he particularly fond of the law by courts if it comes to that, but he'd rather be swinging at a case than bowing to his wife, Hilda--"She Who Must Be Obeyed." In this first title of the popular series featuring Rumpole, all of the major characters who occupy the Rumpole stories make their introductions: the sneaky, slightly effeminate Erskine-Brown; the bumbling Guthrie Featherstone; and various and sundry other lawyers and clerks whose lives weave in and out of these stories. These six stories include the Younger Generation, the Alternative Society, the Honourable Member, the Married Lady, the Learned Friends, and the Heavy Brigade." (3 stars)

The remaining Rumpole books are (asterisk for those I have) -
- The Trials of Rumpole (1979) *
- Rumpole's Return (1980) *
- Regina v. Rumpole also published as Rumpole for the Defence (1981) *
- Rumpole and the Golden Thread (1983)
- Rumpole's Last Case (1987)
- Rumpole à la Carte (1990) *
- Rumpole on Trial (1992) *
- Rumpole and the Angel of Death (1995)
- Rumpole Rests his Case (2001)
- Rumpole and the Primrose Path (2002) *
- Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders (2004) *
- Rumpole and the Reign of Terror (2006)
- The Anti-Social Behavior of Horace Rumpole (2007)

Well, there you go folks. This took me a bit longer than normal to prepare as Jo and I were catching up on the first episode of Season 3 of Cardinal. Excellent show. 


Thursday, 24 January 2019

A Reading Update and My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 9

I went to my 2nd physio today; leg stretches and acupuncture on my spine and hip. It's hard to tell if it's improving anything. It doesn't feel worse anyway.

I finished one more book this morning and have started one other. That is the third book in my 12 + 4 Neglected Series challenge. I'll update those books, add a new one that came in the mail today and then continue with my ongoing look at the mystery genre, featuring mysteries with English detectives.

New Books

1. Pavane by Keith Roberts (1968) (Science Fiction / Alternate History). I discovered this author at the back of another book I finished this year. It seemed like it might be interesting.

"An ever-expanding sub-genre of sf is devoted to "alternate worlds" or "alternate histories": fiction in which a crucial event goes differently than in the world we know, & history is changed. Keith Roberts's Pavane ('68) is set in a backward 20th century molded by the assassination of Queen Elizabeth I & the triumph of a militantly antiscience Catholic Church."

Just Finished

1. Dekok and the Dead Harlequin by A.C. Baantjer (Inspector Dekok #3).

"Dekok and the Dead Harlequin is the 3rd book I've read in the Dutch series by crime writer A.C. Baantjer featuring Amsterdam police inspector, Dekok, and his partner, Dick Vledder. This story started off with an interesting premise.

Dekok and Vledder receive a letter from accountant Pierre Brassel indicating he will shortly murder someone and asking for a meeting. At the meeting, discusses how he could commit the perfect murder and while he is there, tells them to call a local hotel and ask for Jan Brets. Surprisingly, they discover that this person has just returned to his room and has been murdered; it seems Brassel now has the perfect alibi.

DeKok and his able partner now begin an investigation into this murder. What is the connection between Brassel and Brets? What was Brets doing at the hotel in Amsterdam when he lived in Utrecht? Brets is a known criminal and slowly it becomes apparent that he was planning a robbery and murder in Amsterdam.

Things don't add up for the two investigators but slowly clues begin to fit together. It's interesting how Dekok works, like many fictional detectives, using his intuition more than forensic information. There are some leaps in intuition and sometimes the facts come without explanation. But it's still an interesting story with a unique premise. The characters are interesting and the story moves along nicely. The locale, Amsterdam, is also interesting to visit. I've enjoyed the books in the series so far and will continue to explore the series. Worth trying. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Cold Streets by P.N. Elrod (Vampire Files #10).

"Vampire detective Jack Fleming's latest venture - the Lady Crymsyn nightclub - has become the favorite haunt for Chicago's elite. But amongst his patrons lurk a smarmy blackmailer and a dangerous up-and-coming mobster from New York - both unaware how deadly Jack can be when blood is spilled..."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 9

In my last entry I highlighted the books of Dick Francis, Frances Fyfield (Sarah Fortune) and Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike). Who do we have in the mixer today?

Jonathan Gash (AKA John Grant)
1. Jonathan Gash - Lovejoy. John Grant wrote the Lovejoy mystery series under the pseudonym Jonathan Gash. Lovejoy is an antique dealer who can be somewhat shady in his dealings. I first heard of the series as a TV series starring Ian McShane as the irrepressible Lovejoy. I discovered only recently that it was also a book series. There are more than 20 books in this series. I've read the first two so far and have a few others on my bookshelves awaiting my attention..

a. The Judas Pair (#1 / 1977).

"The Judas Pair by Jonathan Gash is the first book in the Lovejoy mystery series and my first attempt at reading them as well. I had enjoyed the British TV series featuring Ian McShane as antique dealer, Lovejoy. McShane played Lovejoy as a bit of a rogue and having read the story now, I think he probably portrayed him reasonably accurately. Lovejoy is a shady character and you get the impression that the majority of these dealers are all a bit shady. They love the trade and it is a part of their lives.

This initial story involves the Judas Pair, a pair of hand guns supposedly made by a famous gun smith. This fabled 13th pair of guns has never been found, except by the man who hires Lovejoy to find them as they were used to kill his brother. It's a bit of a convoluted story that results as Lovejoy begins to explore who might have wanted the guns and who killed the man. At the same time we find out a bit about the antique business, some of the tricks of the trade, which make the story more interesting. We also learn more about Lovejoy and also about his relationships.

The story is a bit gritty, in part to Lovejoy's personality. The book is interesting and moves along nicely and as you get used to Lovejoy and his personality, you find yourself being drawn in more and more. I'm glad I finally started this series and I will be looking to continue it. (4 stars)"

b. Gold from Gemini (#2 / 1978).

"Gold from Gemini is the second Lovejoy antique mystery by Jonathan Gash. Many, many years ago I'd enjoyed the TV series based on the books. It starred Ian McShane as Lovejoy and he was quite excellent in the role. He played him as a lady-killing rogue and in the books he is that, although not quite so lovable.

In Gold for Gemini, Lovejoy gets involved in a mystery that takes him to the Isle of Man in search of ancient Roman coins. He gets interested in this by chance; finding a painting by a deceased man, an excellent forgery that piques his interest in the man. Discovering that Roman coins had been stolen from the local museum and that they had been donated by the man, Lovejoy feels that there are more hidden someplace. He acquires diaries that the man had written and hopes these might provide clues to the location of the coins. He is threatened by one of the nieces of the man and her 'fixer' to turn over the diaries to them. A death of a fellow antique hunter adds to the mystery and a personal tragedy to Lovejoy adds to the tension.

Along with Janie, his rich mistress (one of many), and Algernon, a young protege, the journey finds them on the Isle of Man searching for the coins. The story takes great leaps which I sometimes find frustrating, but this is tempered with the interesting information on antiques and creating forgeries and both Janie and Algernon are interesting characters. The story moves along almost too quickly but I found the overall story and mystery interesting and a page turner. I'll obviously continue with the series and see how Lovejoy's character develops. (3.5 stars)"

c. The Grail Tree (#3 / 1979).

"In the world of antiques the Holy Grail is a holy terror - for almost every month someone claims to possess the original. So when an inebriated ex-clergyman confided to Lovejoy that he did indeed possess the cup, the resourceful antiques dealer knew just what to make of such a statement.The trouble was that someone else thought this version of the Grail was worth stealing - and now the owner was dead amid considerable carnage."

The remaining books in the series can be found here.

Tessa Harris
2. Tessa Harris - Dr. Silkstone. Harris was born in Lincolnshire and holds a History degree from Oxford. She has written 6 books in her historical mystery series featuring pathologist Dr. Silkstone. I've read the first book and enjoyed and have the 2nd book on my book shelf.

a. The Anatomist's Apprentice (#1 / 2011).

"The Anatomist's Apprentice is author Tessa Harris's first book in her historical mystery series featuring anatomist, Dr. Thomas Silkstone. Silkstone is a doctor from Philadelphia who moves to England to study under famed anatomist, Dr. Carruthers. Since Dr. Carruthers is now blind, Silkstone continues to teach at college and support Dr. Carruthers.

Silkstone becomes involved in investigating the death of Sir Edward Crick of Oxfordshire. His sister, Lydia comes to London to gain Silkstone's assistance in determining whether the death might have been murder.

This begins a sometimes convoluted investigation and tentative romance with Silkstone searching for clues to Edward's death and also to determine, if it was a murder, who might have perpetuated it. There are no shortage of subjects, Lydia's husband, possibly abusive and a womanizer; his friend, Lavington, who sticks his nose into so many parts of the investigation; maybe Hannah Lovelock, the maid whose daughter died recently?

It's not a perfect story; at times Silkstone seems helpless to do anything with actions taking part at will about him. His developing feelings for Lydia seem kind of incongruous. But those are minor things. All in all, it's entertaining and a fine start to a four books series (so far anyway). I won't hesitate to check out the other books. (3 stars)"

b. The Dead Shall Not Rest (#2 / 2012).

"The brilliant anatomist Dr. Thomas Silkstone returns in Tessa Harris's vivid and compelling mystery series set in 1780s London. . .

It is not just the living who are prey to London's criminals and cutpurses. Corpses, too, are fair game--dug up from fresh graves and sold to unscrupulous men of science. Dr. Thomas Silkstone abhors such methods, but his leading rival, Dr. John Hunter, has learned of the imminent death of eight-foot-tall Charles Byrne, known as the "Irish Giant," and will go to any lengths to obtain the body for his research.

Thomas intends to see that Byrne is allowed to rest in peace. Yet his efforts are complicated by concern for his betrothed, Lady Lydia Farrell, who breaks off their engagement without explanation. When Dr. Hunter is implicated in the horrific murder of a young castrato, Thomas must determine how far the increasingly erratic surgeon will go in the name of knowledge. For as Thomas knows too well, the blackest hearts sometimes go undetected--and even an unblemished façade can hide terrifying secrets. . ."

The remaining books in the series are -
-  The Devil's Breath (2013)
- The Lazarus Curse (2014)
- Shadow of the Raven (2015)
- Secrets in the Stones (2106)

John Harvey
3. John Harvey - Frank Elder. I've previously highlighted English writer Harvey's work in my section about English cops (Charles Resnick). Frank Elder is an ex-cop who now works as a private investigator who lives in Cornwall. I've read the first book in the series and have the next book ready to go. There are currently 4 books in the series.

a. Flesh and Blood (2004).

"Flesh and Blood by John Harvey is the first book in the Frank Elder mystery series. I have previously read the first book in his Charles Resnick series; Lonely Hearts and enjoyed it. This was so much better. As a matter of continuity, Resnick makes a brief appearance in this story.

Elder is an ex-cop who retired and moved to Cornwall; partly to get away from a broken marriage. The book starts with his daughter Katherine's visit and Elder's attempt to keep a relationship with his teenage daughter. Soon his life is turned upside down when an  ex partner, Maggie, advises him that Shane Donald has been released from prison. Donald was involved with a big case of Elder's; he and his mentor had kidnapped and abused and murdered a young girl. They were also assumed to have been involved in the disappearance of another young girl, whose body had never been discovered.
Elder begins to dig into his old investigation, visiting the mother of the girl, Susan Blakelock, and rehashing the evidence. We also follow Donald, now in a half way house and being monitored by a female probation officer.

Events take a quick turn for the worse; Donald runs away from the half way house, a young lady disappears. The question is whether Donald was involved. Things really start to take off; besides the old investigation, the police are desperate to find Emma, the young girl, to find Donald, etc. (I won't get into that story any more as there has to be some surprises for you). It's a tense, well-crafted and described story. It moves along at an excellent pace and keeps your interest at all times. I found the ending both realistic and satisfying. Great story! I was given this as a Xmas present and I'm so glad that I was. (5 stars)"

b. Ash and Bone (2005).

"When the take-down of a violent criminal goes badly wrong, something doesn't feel right to Detective Sergeant Maddy Birch. And her uneasiness is compounded by her belief that someone is following her home.

Retired Detective Inspector Frank Elder's daughter, Katherine, is running wild. Elder's fears for his daughter are underscored by guilt - it was his involvement in a case that led directly to the abduction and rape which has so unbalanced Katherine's life.

Persuaded out of retirement, Elder reopens a cold case which could have devastating repercussions for the crime squad itself. Elder's investigations take place against the backdrop of his increasing concern for his daughter. He must battle his own demons before he can uncover the truth."

The remaining books in the series are -
- Darkness and Light (2006)
- Body and Soul (2018)

So there you go pilgrims. See anything you like? Weekend shortly upon us. Have a great one!

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

A Tuesday Reading Update and My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 8

The week has started off pretty good. Bonnie had a check up yesterday and things are looking darn good with her. *knock wood*. I brought in a pee sample this morning to the vet and the vet was very happy with the result; no Addison's, no diabetes, etc. So we'll keep looking after her until her next appointment and they'll do a blood test then. But we're very relieved here at the old homestead.

It's been rainy and windy today. I much prefer that to what they're being hit with back east. Stay warm everyone in eastern Canada!

I finished one book over the weekend and have started another. This is from my Baby Bear Challenge (most recent books added to my Goodreads 'To Be Read' bookshelf). I picked the 10th most recent book for my next read. I'll update that and also continue with my look at the Mystery Genre.

Just Finished

1. Tank of Serpents by James Leasor.

"I started exploring James Leasor's writing as I wanted to check out his Dr. Jason Love spy / thriller series. I found this standalone novel recently at a small bookstore in Qualicum Beach and it sounded interesting.

Tank of Serpents was originally published in 1986. I had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around this one but ultimately it was different and interesting. The book starts in the present and drops back into the past to explain what led to the funeral of Captain Richard Blake. It's narrated by an unnamed person who attends the funeral but keeps himself out of sight of those others attending.

Blake was a wealthy gadabout who attends Oxford and basically takes advantage of his friends. I think it's unintentional as he's unaware that he is doing it. He's just a bit full of himself. When I say wealthy, actually he gives the appearance of being wealthy. His father is successful but Blake tends to use his friends' money to pay for anything. He's a heavy gambler, even at university and has considerable debts, which he doesn't really acknowledge to himself. When he is threatened by those bookies to whom he owes considerable money, he comes up with a scheme to pay them off, basically tricking his bank into lending him the money. As becomes a thread throughout the book, his plans go awry and he finds himself in further predicaments.

Ultimately to avoid these aggressive creditors, he joins the British army (WWII has just been declared) and we find him in Burma fighting the Japanese. There he meets Chet Bahadur Rana, a Nepalese Captain, who he goes on an attack with. Blake is severely injured and finds himself recovering in India, where his final plan takes place. Now, there is another thread throughout the book and that involves events in Nepal where the Rana family have over the years taken control of the country.

The final plan, which involves Blake helping British spies seeking influence in Nepal is the major story line. Yes, it is a wandering sort of story. How this ends up brings everything to its ultimately satisfying conclusion (in my mind anyway).

It took a little bit to get into this story but as it developed, I enjoyed it very much. There were irritations, such as Blake's trusting nature. How many times can these coincidences happen to a man?? But he is an interesting character who grows through the story. I also enjoyed discovering who the narrator was and the impact the narrator had on the resolution. All in all, quite enjoyable (3.5 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh (Inspector Alleyn #26)

 "On an exclusive guided tour of Rome's ancient ruins, a motley crew of tourists gets more than the price of admission. For amidst the serpentine passages of an underground crypt, the shady tour guide disappears, a mysterious murder occurs, and Inspector Roderick Alleyn-undercover on an international drug bust-must focus his keen eye on more than just Rome's breathtaking sights..."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 8

Dick Francis
1. Dick Francis - Various. British crime writer Francis lived from 1920 - 2010. He was also a former steeple chase jockey and most of his books centered around the horse racing scene. He wrote over 50 novels and they featured various investigators of one fashion or another. I've only recently begun to explore his books. I've yet to try one but I'm looking forward to it. I've purchased three of his books so far.

a. For Kicks (1965 / Daniel Roke)

"Daniel Roke, Australian who established a stud farm to raise orphaned siblings, accepts undercover stable lad job from the Earl of October, investigating steeplechase doping in England. At least ten horses win adrenaline-high stimulated, but regular lab tests show nothing. Gorgeous October daughters distract, detract, and fatally endanger. Tension builds into an explosive fight to the death."

b. Second Wind (1999 / Perry Stuart).

"Meteorologist Perry Stuart is offered a Caribbean hurricane-chasing ride in a small aeroplane as a holiday diversion. But he learns more secrets from the flight than wind speeds, and back home in England faces threats and dangers as deadly as anything nature can evolve."

c. Banker (1982 / Tim Ekaterin).

"Meteorologist Perry Stuart is offered a Caribbean hurricane-chasing ride in a small aeroplane as a holiday diversion. But he learns more secrets from the flight than wind speeds, and back home in England faces threats and dangers as deadly as anything nature can evolve."

France Fyfield
2.  Frances Fyfield - Sarah Fortune. Frances Fyfield (née Frances Hegarty) is a lawyer and crime writer. I have featured her Helen West mysteries in my thread on British cops. Sarah Fortune is a lawyer from a firm in London. There are six books in the Sarah Fortune series.

a. Perfectly Pure and Good (Sarah Fortune #2 / 1994)

"The author of Blind Date and Staring at the Light pens a taut psycho-drama that explores the dark borders between love and hate. Attorney Sarah Fortune is sent to a seaside town to sort out a family feud over an estate and ends up confronting a ghost from her own past."

The remaining books in the series are -
- Shadows on the Mirror (1989)
- Staring at the Light (1999)
- Looking Down (2004)
- Safer than Houses (2005)
- Cold to the Touch (2009).

Robert Galbraith
3. Robert Galbraith - Cormoran Strike. Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. There are 4 books currently written in the Strike series. I've read and enjoyed the first book very much.

a. The Cuckoo's Calling (2013).

"Many years ago I enjoyed JK Rowlings' Harry Potter books. When I heard that she was writing more adult themed books under the name of Robert Galbraith I kind of hesitated to try them. Moving from fantasy to mystery seemed a bit of a stretch to me. I was wrong, to put it bluntly.
The Cuckoo's Calling, the first book in Galbraith / Rowlings' Cormoran Strike series was a real pleasure to read. The book did have one other thing going against it in my mind, it was almost 600 pages. I read authors who seem to think that the more successful they get that maybe they need to make their books longer and longer. I think that I'm getting a bit lazy in my older years; a long book doesn't mean a bad book. Quality tells.

So moving on to the story. Cormoran Strike is a down-in-his luck detective working in London. We learn over the course of the novel that he's an ex-military policeman who lost a leg in Afghanistan, he's in terrible debt, his absent father is a rock star and he's just had a nasty break-up with his on and off again girl friend. A new temporary secretary, Robin, is added to his situation. How will he be able to afford her?

A new case is dropped on his door step, one that might help him get out of his debt situation. A famous model, Lula Landry, falls to her death from her apartment. The police call it a suicide but Lula's half brother thinks it's murder and hires Strike to investigate. There is a link between Strike and John Bristow; his older brother (also a suicide victim as a youngster) went to school with Strike and was a good friend.

Initially hesitant to take the case, Strike, as he gets into his investigation, begins to come around to the murder idea. There are many interesting qualities to Strike; his methodical investigative style, his ability to put things together as the evidence starts to come together, his gruff but caring manner. Robin, his secretary is slowly developed as well. While looking for other work, she begins to like working for Strike, her interest in being involved with the case and she also shows nice detective skills. They make a very nice team.

The case is also interesting, with many potential suspects and Galbraith paces everything nicely and keeps your interest up. She is an excellent writer with great descriptive powers and is a superb story teller. I'm so glad to finally have read this. The next Strike book now awaits my attention (5 stars)"

b. The Silkworm (#2 / 2014).

"When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives - so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before . . ."

The other books in the series are -
- Career of Evil (2015)
- Lethal White (2018)

 Well there you go. Kim's Convenience is on now. And the dog's are looking hungry. Enjoy your week.
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