Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016

3 Poisoners, 2 Doctors and a Nursery Maid – My #20booksofsummer Roundup

20 Books of Summer 2016

Cathy at Cathy 746 has a yearly challenge to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2015 and finishing on 5 September 2016.

I’ll start by saying I didn’t finish all 20 books this year due to bad planning, a wedding and far too much work, but looking at the positives, I read some fantastic books and made some much-needed room on my bookshelf! The count of physical books on my shelf reducing from 94 to a mere 83 books.

Cathy’s rules are flexible but I challenged myself to read 20 books that I already owned as physical books before the challenge started – no review copies were included.

Did I stick to the rules? Well nearly the only exception was Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun which was a birthday present delivered in July! So that was just being polite, wasn’t it?

Of the 15 books I did read and review, I had just one DNF, with the Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton, with me concluding that this author’s style isn’t for me, 5 were non-fiction books – I only read 8 non-fiction books in the whole of 2015 but my interest in poisoners this year has definitely fuelled a surge this year.

The 3 suspected poisoners I read about this summer were:

Dr Adams who appeared in Jane Robins’s book The Curious Habits of Dr Adams. Dr Adams was arrested in 1956 under suspicion of killing a number of his patients in return for cars & money but his alleged crimes started many years previously. A fascinating five star read.

Gail Bell’s book The Poison Principle the subject matter was her paternal grandfather who was suspected of poisoning his two young sons in 1927. Gail Bell’s book took in real-life infamous poisoners and those in literature; who can forget the wicked witch and her poisoned apple in Snow White? in a wide-ranging and interesting read.

Florence Maybrick is one of the alleged poisoners that features frequently in lists of those women who poison – a real worry for Victorian society when a few fly-papers legally bought could see the demise of unwanted husbands and relatives. Kate Colquhoun’s book Did She Kill Him? was an immensely readable book which covered the entirety of Florence Maybrick’s life and was another five star read.


My greatest achievement was finishing the entire 640 pages of Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain which is the author’s memoir of the First World War as a VAD and beyond. This was more of a mixed bag with some of the book incredibly interesting and sadly, parts which my lack of knowledge rendered a bit of a slog. I actually started this read in mid-July and finally turned the last page at the end of September, proving once again that reading more than one book at a time just doesn’t work for me!

Noel Streatfeild’s book about life as an Edwardian Nanny, Tea by the Nursery Fire, was a bit of a mixed-bag, my conclusion being that this favourite children’s author had passed her best by the time she wrote this in 1976.


I had 2 books on my list that were a catch-up of series that I love – Sophie Hannah’s The Narrow Bed didn’t disappoint at all with an off-the-wall mystery with a literary base and gained five stars from me. Meanwhile Camilla Läckberg’s Swedish series featuring Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck often links past crimes with the present and Buried Angels was a superb mystery whose roots spread back to the beginning of the twentieth century.

Another series which I love and have read was written by the talented Reginald Hill and features Dalziel and Pascoe and Pictures of Perfection was book 13 in this series. Once again this author proved what a brilliant writer he was. An absorbing, clever and well-plotted read originally written in the early 1990s looking at a way of life that was dying out.


I also took in two older books by authors that I’ve discovered more recently;

L.P. Hartley’s The Shrimp and the Anemone is a dark look at two siblings in the inter-war period, frail Eustace and his bossy elder sister Hilda – this is the first in a trilogy and based on this read the following two will appear here before too long.

Beryl Bainbridge is slightly more contemporary and An Awfully Big Adventure is set in 1950s Liverpool with theatre life under the microscope of this sharp author. Another author who I will be reading more from in the near future this book also being awarded five stars.


And it wouldn’t be a summer list without one book entry from Agatha Christie and this year I chose The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The second doctor on my list narrates this novel about his patient who has been stabbed in the back. I concur that this is one of the best of Christie’s novels.

I stayed in the past with Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger which could be read as a ghost story, unless you are me, as I’m not a fan of ghosts in books (or anywhere else for that matter), who couldn’t resist this fantastic author’s work and read it at a slightly different level!


With the contemporary fiction on my list taking in the strange tale of two sets of twins in the aptly named The Twins by Saskia Sarginson, a couple recovering from the loss of their son set in Italy in Other People’s Secrets by Louise Candlish and a psychological thriller that is quite frankly still haunting me with You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, all in all it was a varied summer reading wise.


My aim is to keep the page devoted to 20 Books of Summer updated with the last 4 reads ready to beat this challenge in 2017 if Cathy is good enough to hold it again.

Top Read of 20 Books of Summer 2016

The question is how do you choose the best read when the subjects are as wide-ranging as the style of writing employed – the answer is it’s tough but in the end exceptionally easy based on the impact this book made – forever now linked to a pool in Crete where I sat and became absorbed by village life in Enscombe in Yorkshire.

The Top Read of 20 Books of Summer 2016 is Pictures of Perfection by Reginald Hill!


Pictures of perfection.jxr


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

34 thoughts on “3 Poisoners, 2 Doctors and a Nursery Maid – My #20booksofsummer Roundup

  1. Wow, I say you’ve done pretty well! I made myself read the Erika Falk books when I first moved to Sweden – in Swedish, in the hopes of taking my Swedish to the next level. I struggled through a few, but have always meant to go back and read them in English so I could enjoy them properly. They’ve been made into a series here – no idea if it’s ever made it to the UK (BBC 4 maybe?) but if you ever come across it, a good friend of mine plays Hedström!


  2. What a fantastic and intriguing set of books. Have read Testament of Youth and found it a powerful read that has stayed with me. I must read the Beryl Bainbridge book because I did spend some time researching Liverpool theatres and have a large collection of Liverpool theatre programmes.
    I didn’t finish my twenty books either but really enjoyed the challenge!


  3. You’re post heading would make a great film title, though probably not one I’d watch as it has a whiff of farce about it! You did well with your challenge and read a third of the books I’ve read all year. I’m in a distinct slump, despite having literally hundreds of fabulous books to go at. Hopefully a couple of weeks away with what I now discover is ‘ unreliable’ WiFi might kick start my mojo. Did She Kill is def bumped further up the wish list though.


    1. Thank you Jill – it seemed a shame to waste it, and no, I wouldn’t watch that film either haha. I hope you get your reading mojo back – Did she Kill Him? was really good, especially considering I knew quite a bit about Florence Maybrick already.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done. I’m up to book 52 of 100 to be read by the end of the year, hoping to get it done. Thanks for giving the Sophie Hannah a 5 stars, I took that one out of my local library just this week 🙂


  5. Can’t blame you, Cleo, for choosing the Hill as your best read. What a talented author he was! I’m impressed with the variety in your reading, and I’m so pleased you didn’t have too many disappointments. I think it’s a great idea, too, to mix in some re-reads with your new reads. All in all, sounds like you did have some fine reads this summer.


  6. 15 books read and new space on the bookshelf… well done! If you are still in the mood for NF about poisons/poisoners, I can recommend The Poisoner’s Handbook. It’s about the beginning of forensic science in the US. It’s a bit long in parts, but overall I found it very interesting and surprisingly entertaining.


  7. I’ve actually already read 2 of your books above. The Christie book and YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, which is indeed a twisty psychological book. Actually, I may have read that one twice – once in print and once listened on audio. I really need to read more of Reginald Hill’s series. I’ve only read one. Looks like you had success here!


    1. Although You Should Have Known didn’t get five stars it is one that has stayed with me, which is always a sign of a good book! Reginald Hill was an exceptional writer and I was particularly thrilled with this one – I do highly recommend him!


  8. Great post – I love how you organized it. I haven’t read Testament of Youth, but Sarah from Hard Book Habit put me on to the movie and it was so good! You’ll need the tissues, though.


  9. Congrats! You read a nice variety of books, and although I haven’t read most of these authors, I am now able to add more to my list. Of course, Sophie Hannah is also one of my favorites, and I have The Narrow Bed bookmarked. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Oh, and I almost forgot that I loved The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters, so The Little Stranger looks like one I should try…despite the ghost factor. And I started You Should Have Known…and now must return to it!


  10. You’ve done very well indeed, in spite of wedding and work. And a lovely mix of books too! I can imagine how hard it is to choose a favourite, as there is a bit of everything in there, to suit all moods, but you can’t go wrong with Reginald Hill, can you?


    1. Thanks Marina – I tried to go for variety to suit every mood but I failed to bargain for how little time I actually had to read this summer – Reginald Hill was an absolute genius and always a safe bet – Pictures of Perfection was an absolute delight.


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