Friday, 11 January 2019

Reading Update and My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detectives Part 3

Happy Puppies - an old picture
It's a beautiful sunny day today, a nice change from the windy rainy conditions we just went through. Bonnie is feeling much better. We've had to extend her antibiotics one more week, but everything is improving. She's currently lying between Jo and I on the couch asking for someone to scratch her tummy. Clyde is on the floor looking at us..

I finished my second book last night and have started another. This falls under my Random Number Generator (AKA Goldilocks) challenge. I'll update that and continue my trip through the mystery genre with 3 more UK detectives.

Just Finished

1. A Blunt Instrument by Georgette Heyer (Inspector Hannasyde & Sgt Hemingway #4).

"A Blunt Instrument is an Inspector Hannasyde / Sgt Hemingway mystery (#4) by Georgette Heyer. It was a nice mix of interesting characters, humor and a twisty sort of plot.

Ernest Fletcher is found murdered in his study by a Constable Glass. Suspicious because he saw a man leaving the house by the garden gate and he investigates and discovers the body. this brings in Inspector Hannasyde and his assistant, Sgt Hemingway, both of Scotland Yard. They both find Glass to be a mite strange; Glass constantly quoting scripture to them and the suspects.

The suspects include Fletcher's nephew, Nevil, a bit of a gadabout; Helen Fletcher, a neighbour whose IOU's Fletcher held; her sister Sally, a budding mystery author, and Helen's husband, John. There are also a couple of mystery men who need to be discovered.

The story moves along at a reasonable pace, but does seem to spin its wheels at times. Who are these mystery men? There is lots of discussion about the timings of the various suspects that I kind of lost in the wind. But the characters are all interesting and there is humor as they interact. I kind of figured out the actual murderer but that presumed knowledge didn't negatively impact my enjoyment of the story. I do like Georgette Heyer's mysteries so far. (3.5 stars)"

Currently Reading

1. Without Fail by Lee Child (Jack Reacher #6). This was book #636 on the Random Number Generator.

"Skilled, cautious, and anonymous, Jack Reacher is perfect for the job: to assassinate the vice president of the United States. Theoretically, of course. A female Secret Service agent wants Reacher to find the holes in her system, and fast-because a covert group already has the vice president in their sights. They've planned well. There's just one thing they didn't plan on: Reacher."

My Ongoing Look at the Mystery Genre - English Detective Part 3

Alan Bradley
1.  Alan Bradley - Flavia de Luce. Alan Bradley was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada but has set his mystery series featuring young sleuth, Flavia de Luce in 1950s England. I've read the first two of the ten books in this series and have the 3rd on my bookshelf.

a. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (2009).

"I had mixed emotions as I read this book; at times I quite liked it, at times Flavia kind of irritated me. But ultimately, the success of a book is that it keeps you reading to find out how it will all wrap up. And Alan Bradley has produced an interesting, well-paced book. Flavia and her sisters are fun to read about, the games the play against each other, or more likely how the two older play against Flavia and vice versa. Dogger is an interesting friend to Flavia and I liked the Police Inspector. Overall, I did enjoy and I think I'll try to read more about Flavia and see how she and her family grow and develop. (4 stars)"

2. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag (2010). I read this in December.

"The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag is the second Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley. I read the first about five years ago and left this sitting on my shelves much too long. The Flavia series is quite unique. 11 - year old Flavia is a young girl living with her two older sisters and widowed father in Bishop's Lacey.

The series is set just after WWII, offering an interesting setting as well. Flavia is 'precocious', spending much of her time in her late uncle's laboratory exploring poisons and figuring out ways to get back at her sisters, who can be merciless towards her. And yet, even with all that, they remain a family, bound together with familial ties. Flavia spends much of her time on her own, wandering the local countryside on her faithful bicycle, Gladys, a memory of her dead mother. Flavia's father struggles to control his three daughters, spends a lot of time hiding away with his rare stamp collections. A family of loving misfits, I'd describe them.

Flavia, in her wanderings discovers an old mystery involving the hanging death of a young boy of the couple on the neighboring farm. As well, she meets a wandering puppeteer and his lovely assistant, whose van breaks down. Without the money to get it repaired, they agree to hold a show with the puppets at the local church. They are a mysterious pair. Rupert Porson, it turns out has spent time in Bishop's Lacey in the past. He also has a damaged leg, supported with steel braces. He has a show on the BBC, Snoddy the Squirrel, but has run away from that. Nialla is his assistant. Is she his lover? Their relationship is a fractious one.

Flavia finds herself in the mix of this relationship, helping set up the show, while at the same time exploring the other mystery. A sudden death throws the whole thing into a tumult. And of course, Flavia is determined to assist Inspector Hewitt with his investigations. So much goes on in this story, it is rich with characters and story lines. Flavia is an excellent investigator, finding out things that the police seem unable to.

I've grown to like Flavia; she's quirky without being too irritating. Her family are all unique and different. Throw in the faithful staff, Dogger and Mrs. Mullett, as well as the addition for most of the story of Aunt Felicity, and you've got a rich, fascinating cast of characters. The supporting neighbors and friends all add to the story. It's a book I found I could put down easily but at the same time, when I picked it up again, I became once more engrossed the wonderful world of Bishop's Lacey. (Good book titles too) (3.5 stars)"

c. A Red Herring Without Mustard (2011).

"'You frighten me,' the Gypsy said. 'Never have I seen my crystal ball so filled with darkness.' So begins eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce's third adventure through the charming but deceptively dark byways of the village of Bishop's Lacey. What the fortune teller in fact claimed to see was a vision of Flavia's mother, Harriet, who died on a mountainside in Tibet when Flavia was less than a year old..."

The remaining books in this series are -
- I Am Half Sick of Shadows (2011)
- Speaking from Among the Bones (2013)
- The Dead in their Vaulted Arches (2014)
- The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse (2014)
- As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (2015)
- Thrice the Brinded Cat hath Mew'd (2016)
- The Grave's a Fine and Private Place (2018)
- The Golden Tresses of the Dead (2019)

Simon Brett
2. Simon Brett - Fethering. Simon Brett is responsible for 3 quite different mystery / detective series. I've tried them all and have enjoyed them as well. I'll cover two of the series in this thread. The Fethering books are set on England's south coast and feature friends and sleuths Carole Seddon and Jude Nichols. There are 18 books in this series.

a. The Body on the Beach (2000).

"This is the first book in the Fethering mystery series by Simon Brett and I enjoyed it very much. It was well-paced, with enough action to keep me reading and with two likable characters who I hope to find out more about. Carole Seddon is a retired public servant who has settled in the seaside town of Fethering, located near Brighton on England's southeast coast. Carole lives a routine life, walking her dog, following the routines and mores of the other retired people who have settled there. A new neighbour, Jude, arrives to unsettle Carole's routine and to bring along some excitement and friendship. The other change is the discovery, by Carole, of a body on the beach, which starts the chain of events that make up this story. It wasn't a perfect story, but it was entertaining and I will continue to read this series and take a chance on the others written by Simon Brett. Glad that I finally got a start on this series. (3 stars).

b. Death on the Downs (2001).

"This is the 2nd book in Simon Brett's Fethering mysteries, featuring amateur sleuths, Carole Seddon and her neighbour, Jude. I liked this one more than the first; Brett has found his way now that he's got over the introduction phase of the series. The characters are familiar and interesting and the case was also enjoyable. Carole finds a cache of human remains while taking shelter from a walk on the Sussex Downs. This starts an investigation into possible suspects by the two friends, which ultimately leads to threats on Carole's life. Well-paced and most entertaining and I'm looking forward to reading more in the Fethering series and also giving a start to Brett's Charles Paris and Mrs. Pargeter series as well. (3 stars)"

c. The Torso in the Town (2002).

"Amateur sleuths Jude and Carole take on their third case when a terrible discovery is made in the cellar of a grand old house. Grant and Kim Roxby had hoped that their first dinner party at Pelling House would make an impression with their new neighbors. And the next day it's certainly the talk of the town of Fedborough. For their guests - including the couple's old friend Jude - had been enjoying a pleasant meal before they were rudely interrupted by a gruesome discovery. A human torso hidden in the cellar. Jude races home to Fethering and her friend Carole with the news. And soon the pair are back in Fedborough, questioning the locals. But they can't help but wonder why a town so notoriously distrustful of outsiders is proving so terribly amenable to their enquiries..."

The remaining books in the series in the book can be found at this link

3. Simon Brett - Charles Paris. Paris is a separated, slightly successful actor who finds himself involved in solving crimes. It was also an interesting radio drama starring Bill Nighy as Paris. There are 20 books in the series and I've read one so far and have a few awaiting my attention.

a. A Comedian Dies (#5 / 1979).

"A Comedian Dies by Simon Brett is the first Charles Paris mystery that I've read (it is the 5th in the series). I have read 3 or 4 of the Fethering series and enjoyed them. My wife used to listen to BBC radio dramatizations of the Charles Paris books, starring Bill Nighy as Paris. That is what got me interested in Simon Brett's books.

Paris is a struggling actor who gets involved solving mysteries. He has an on again / off again relationship with his wife and an on again / off again relationship with his career. The story starts with Paris and his wife attending an afternoon variety show where there is a bit of excitement; the lead performer, an up and coming comedian is electrocuted as he starts his act. The police say it was an accident, but being nosy and drawn to mystery, Paris comes to believe that, in fact, the comedian was murdered. Thus begins his rambling investigation of all of the people involved in the show. He picks up and drops suspects faster than a hot potato.

At the same time, Paris has been offered a TV job with an aging comic who is trying to reinvigorate his own career. Paris juggles this new job with his continuing investigation. It's an interesting story and an interesting conclusion. (3.5 stars)"

b. Cast, In Order of Disappearance (#1 / 1975).

"Who killed Marius Steen, the theatrical tycoon with a fortune to leave his young mistress Jacqui? Who killed Bill Sweet, the blackmailer with compromising photographs? Charles Paris, a divorced actor, takes to detection and the results are comic and dramatic."

c. So Much Blood (#2 / 1976).

"Charles Paris returns again, in a fringe show at the Edinburgh Festival, with another nubile girl to provoke him, and his accommodating wife to console him, and a gory murder to challenge him in So Much Blood.

Edinburgh and the Festival are both background and foreground with Charles, flitting between a re-visualized Midsummer Night's Dream, a mixed-media satire, a late-night revue, and his own one-man show on Thomas Hood—and with a fading pop star as the first victim, a bomb scare in Holyrood Palace, and a suicide leap from the top of the Rock. Charles copes splendidly with the Festival, with his affair with the girl with the navy eyes, and with a most complex murder investigation."

The remaining books in this series can be found at this link.

I'll continue next entry with the 3rd Simon Brett series, featuring Mrs. Pargeter.

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