Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Go To Sleep – Helen Walsh

Contemporary Fiction
3*s

Well… this is quite a difficult review to write because this read made for quite uncomfortable reading even though it is now over a quarter of a century since I had my first child but here goes!

Rachel is looking forward to giving birth to her first child. She’s probably not quite ok with being a single mother but she’s prepared, or so she thinks. She’s bonded with her bump and looking forward to welcoming her child into the world complete with a doting grandfather and his second wife. Ok, being the product of a one night stand isn’t ideal but having weighed up the odds, she’s decided not to inform the father who has a chance of a new life away from Liverpool.

In these early chapters we learn more about the baby’s father who she first met as a teenager. Reuben was black and Rachel believes that this was why her father didn’t like him, you see this is a book that is as much about Rachel’s life before a baby, as after and as the book roll on, this is something I appreciated more and more. This background gives the reader real context to her struggle with life after Joe is born.

Before Joe is born, Rachel works as a support worker for truanting children supporting them helpfully back to school or if not into alternative training so she’s no pushover, but has a life dealing with truculent teenagers prepared her for life with a helpless baby? This beginning showing a woman passionate about her work coupled with a splash of jealousy about the woman who is standing in for her during her maternity leave, gives us a great insight into Rachel’s character and what she feels is important in life. Rarely do we hear about the doubts a woman has stepping away from the workplace in such an honest way and better still the points made are done with subtlety.

Labour begins, in fits and starts and Rachel contacts the hospital, she’s turned away, she’s not far enough gone to be admitted. So we got to this bit and my long-buried memories surfaced…
I take out my mobile, ring the hospital. The voice that greets me tries to be reassuring but never gets beyond dismissive:

How far apart? You’ve had how many?

Suffice to say labour isn’t as Rachel imagined and then baby doesn’t sleep. The language fits perfectly with the frustration she feels with the gap between what she imagined life would be like, and the reality.

Evening. The lights turned down low, the ward calm and ordered, all the babies washed and fed and winded, all of them ready for sleep; all except Joe. Joe fights it, struggles, bleats. Unable, unwilling to settle, champing on my chafed and throbbing chest, he writhes and burns  and gets angrier and angrier. I am so tired now – desperately achingly tired.

This is an incredibly brave book to write, far from the sentimental picture usually portrayed of early motherhood. Life with a child that doesn’t sleep can be like hell on earth. I remember one awful night when I threatened to throw my daughter out of the window, words said in pure frustration and I hasten to add, not acted upon, but it is tough to be in charge of an infant in the dead of night who won’t be consoled. The author accurately portrays this and although I was horrified at some of Rachel’s actions as she was clearly suffering with postnatal depression as well as exhaustion, my judgement was tempered.

I’m glad I read this book long after the event, and perhaps this book should be given out to young women who believe that a baby will fit into their lives like a beautiful accessory but then, nothing can quite prepare you, so perhaps those of us can read with a wry smile, is the best audience after all.

Go to Sleep was my fifteenth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017, this one having been bought in April 2015 so fits the bill!

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First Published UK: 2011
Publisher: Cannongate Books
No of Pages:  320
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Monster in the Box – Ruth Rendell

Crime Fiction
4*s

The Monster in the Box is the twenty-second of Ruth Rendell’s books to feature Chief Inspector Reg Wexford and here he is, in the present, although nowhere near as old as he’d have to be if he’d aged in line with his first appearance back in 1964 in From Doon With Death!

Pleasingly in what turned out to be Wexford’s last outing as a paid policeman, although he does appear retired in both The Vault and No Man’s Nightingale, he gives the reader an insight into his early years right back to before he got married and his belief that a man who has stalked him on and off over the years from that time has reappeared. I was happily carried away with this nostalgia for times gone by which is wickedly edged with something far more sinister by way of this maybe stalker Eric Targo. Wexford’s first challenge is to be certain that it is the same man, as previously Targo sported a livid birthmark on his neck which he kept covered with a scarf and the man he’s recently encountered doesn’t have one, but then medical advances have been made in the intervening period. Wexford is concerned enough that he opens up to his close friend DI Burden over wine and a minimal amount of cashew nuts, for the first time that he believes that not only has Targo followed him through the decades, but that he is a serial killer. Wexford only reason for keeping this information secret is that he has not one scrap of evidence, but he’s determined to find some now!

The tone of the book is entirely in keeping with the look back over the years and never more so than when describing the investigation into Elsie Carroll’s death which makes you realise just how unsophisticated the field was back then. Elsie’s husband John is tried for the murder but released on a technicality but Wexford suspects the killer was Targo despite his seemingly cast-iron alibi. Although the tone is reminiscent of older generations throughout time with the ‘well of course we didn’t have….’ And the ‘…. Hadn’t been invented then’ types of phrases the most evocative parts of the past are in the descriptions of the evenings spent by those in the neighbourhood at the time of Elsie Carroll’s death.

Intertwined with this storyline is one concerning Burden’s second wife, Jenny, and the new DS Hannah Goldsmith who are concerned that something untoward is happening with one of Jenny’s former pupils Tamima. This is a complex storyline includes a DS who has done all the awareness training and the way a Muslim family bring up their daughter makes for uncomfortable reading not because of the cultural sensitivities but the ham-fisted way the women go about trying to prove that there aren’t any, the result is that this aspect can either be viewed as an inspired way of trying to enlighten her readers to the obvious conflicts or as being borderline offensive. I took the former viewpoint but I’m not sure everyone would.

As always Ruth Rendell provides her most solid of policemen with a solid mystery, and a satisfying read. Granted, this isn’t up to the standard of some of her greatest books, but there is a proper mystery, the book moves forward at a steady investigative pace and the backwards look over Reg’s personal life was a really lovely and welcome touch.

The Monster in the Box was my fourteenth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I don’t know when I purchased this book but it was on a shelf of books that I planned to read before the end of 2014 – that target got missed!

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First Published UK: 2009
Publisher: Hutchinson
No of Pages:  288
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

Boy A – Jonathan Trigell

Crime Fiction
5*s

A hard-hitting yet compelling novel examining what it means to be imprisoned as a child and released under a false identity. Boy A is one of two boys tried and convicted of the murder of another child. Although there are echoes of a trial here in the UK this isn’t in anyway an examination of that crime with much of the book concentrating on what happens next.

Boy A chooses a new name, Jack Burridge, to preserve his anonymity which is part of the terms of his release and then with the help of his ‘uncle’ Terry who had been a member of staff at the home he was first sent to follow his conviction. One of the minimal number of people who know Jack’s true identity. Jack has a job but first he must learn what it is like to live in a world he last left as a child.

The book skips backwards and forwards through the time periods from before Boy A met Boy B to after he left the adult prison with his new name. Each chapter starts with a letter of the alphabet starting with A is for Apple. A Bad Apple. All the way through to Z, which is for Zero in case you are wondering. Just finding the titles that match the content of each chapter must have been a challenge and the sparse language used with its short sentences is perfect for the subject matter. This book feels like a work of art as well as a captivating tale.

Fortunately, given the tough subject matter, the torn sympathies as Boy A’s life is revealed through not just his own eyes, but later on, his father’s too, there are some humorous parts to the book too, most predictably when Jack meets a girl and the attraction is mutual, but most often it is bittersweet humour with a shared moment with a cellmate before his monotonous life rolls onwards.

As we see the horrors Jack endured in prison it is almost odd that my sympathies were highest when he starts his new job and makes friends, and of course a girlfriend Michelle. It is here that it becomes apparent how hard it is to hide your entire life up to a point in your twenties. As Jack becomes close to those around him, his enormous secret puts a boundary up between them as he unwillingly hands out lies to cover the truth.

But nor is this book just about Boy A, Terry and his life at the point where they overlap tells a different story, a fairly normal one of a broken marriage leading to a strained relationship with his own son as he also guards the truth and builds the lies of the life he hopes to see prove that rehabilitation is possible.

The way the stories of Boy A, his parents, Boy B, Terry the psychologist along with Jack’s new friends and his girlfriend all intertwine, create a thought-provoking and compelling read. The book is just the right length the author resisting the urge to brow beat the reader and the ending perfectly pitched. A book to ponder over and in the end marvel at how in the right hands, such an emotive topic can be explored.

Boy A was my thirteenth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I purchased this book in April 2015.

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First Published UK: 2004
Publisher: Serpent’s Tale
No of Pages:  256
Genre: Crime Fiction 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Scent of Murder – Felicity Young

Historical Fiction
4*s

The more I read of this historical crime fiction series featuring autopsy surgeon Dodi McCleland, the more I enjoy the sheer brilliance of the author carefully weaving historical details and behaviours into a well-plotted crime novel.

In this episode, Dodi is chaperoning her younger sister Florence to a weekend stay at Fitzgibbon Hall a country house near the hamlet of Piltdown. Also at the house is Florence’s love interest Tristram and his ghastly uncle Desmond. When a set of bones is found on a dried out waterbed in the grounds, Tristram hopes that this find will rival those of the Piltdown Man. With hunting with hounds not really Dodi’s idea of a good time she offers to take a look and it soon becomes clear the bones are of a young female, possibly a resident of the nearby workhouse.

The mystery is who is the girl and why was she shot in the back of the head and of course, who shot her? There really is only one way to proceed and that is to call on a detective to complement her medical knowledge. Yes, followers of the series will be delighted to hear that Inspector Matthew Pike makes an appearance even though Dodi is not at home. The pair’s relationship has matured although the sensibilities of the times means that it is still one of a clandestine nature. This lends a somewhat farcical scene when they come to meet in public yet are unable to act with anything beyond the professional façade.

The Scent of Murder is jam-packed with characters of all descriptions which means that some of them are pretty awful, some of them do awful things and some of them are outright baddies, oh and there are a few wise and kind souls but you have to look harder for them! In all seriousness I really do admire the way Felicity Young balances the fairly unlikeable characters with small gestures of kindness whilst never stooping to sentimentalise the realities of life at this time, particularly if you were a girl from the workhouse hoping for a permanent job as an under maid.

This series of books feel a lot more measured than contemporary crime fiction, but that doesn’t mean that they are without action, in each of the three books I’ve read there is plenty to keep you biting your nails as danger stalks the victims of this tale from all directions as the multiple strands pull together to expose all the dastardly goings on.

As in the other books in the series the victims are those that you would naturally choose from this era of history, women, children and the poor but the author is careful not to overdo the issues she is addressing. The focus in this book is the poor, particularly those who inhabit the nearby workhouse run by the Master and Mistress, who are as vile as any you might meet in a Dickens novel. This in contrast the opulent Fitzgibbon Hall with its hunting and well-stocked kitchen says all that needs to be said about the divide between rich and poor at this time.

The Scent of Murder is another book rich with detail for any lover of historical crime fiction.

The Scent of Murder was my twelfth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I purchased this book in September 2015.

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First Published UK: 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 243
Genre: Historical Fiction – Crime 
Amazon UK

Dodi McCleland Series

The Anatomy of Death
Antidote to Murder
The Scent of Murder
An Insanity of Murder

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Mother Knows Best – Netta Newbound

Psychological Thriller
4*s

This novella should be given to teenage daughters everywhere just to reinforce the fact that Mother really does know best! It should scare them stupid and hopefully mean that you don’t have to nag as much as twenty-one year old Ruby Fitzroy’s mother Sharon does.

“Sorry to be a pest, but Mother knows best.”

Ruby has been dumped by her boyfriend and after getting to know Cory Strong at the local gym decides to accept his offer of a date. He is good-looking and charming so what could possibly go wrong? Ruby knows her mother won’t see it that way so she leaves having only confided in her younger sister.

All goes well on the date, Cody is the perfect gentleman but when they come to leave when Cory is set upon by a burly stranger. Not the greatest ending to a lovely night out but they get into Cody’s car to go home and despite his injuries Cody manfully drives away.

Now I’m not going to lie, given that this is a short story, combined with that title and superbly creepy cover we all know that Ruby has made a mistake by not answering her mother’s texts while she is making eyes at Cory over the table, having deduced that her sister has cracked under the maternal pressure. Worse still she has shoved her phone into her bag giving her only the barest of details as to where she is before the violent confrontation. You don’t need to be a mother to know that this is not the wisest choice of Ruby’s life. But, and this is the real beauty of this book, things don’t go in quite the same direction as I expected…

Considering this is a novella the characters are amazingly well drawn particularly Kyle, Cory’s younger brother who really does stand out from the page and with the author having the confidence to allow the reader to read between the lines the build-up is full of tension.

It is a talented writer who manages to make you thing and then surprise you with something unexpected, and although I haven’t read any of Netta Newbound’s full length novels I have read some fantastic reviews of her work. Now I’ve read this example and been so impressed, despite really preferring the novel as a format, I will be selecting another from her back catalogue without delay.

Mother Knows Best was my eleventh read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I purchased this book in July 2015.

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First Published UK: 2014
Publisher: Junction Publishing
No of Pages:  125
Genre: Psychological Thriller – Novella 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Conversations We Never Had – Jeffrey H. Konis

Historical Fiction
3*s

I instantly got the feeling that Jeffrey Konis has written this beautiful book with a sense of guilt and regret. The pages are full of the stories he imagines his Grandmother’s younger sister, Grandma “Ola” would have told him if only he’d asked the questions, alongside this are a few too many descriptions of the hard work he was doing to establish himself at law school as justification for not doing so.

The first section describes Jeffrey moving into the brownstone house with Olga when she was an elderly lady, to help him out with accommodation while he studied and for him to provide company to the woman who had taken on his father following the end of the war when he was alone in the world. Olga took the young boy from the farm where he was found in Poland to America after surviving the Holocaust. It took me a while to become comfortable with the mix of fact and fiction in this book. This was mainly because it is presented as a story as told in parts by an elderly lady, complete with breaks where her memory fails or the details are simply too hard to express, when of course we know that these painful conversations never happened. However, there is a large element of truth regarding the ‘big picture’ which is sadly all too common to many Jewish families following the Holocaust.

Once the first section is over and Grandma Ola is describing what happened during the war, the trip by railway to a concentration camp being one of those that was only too realistic, then the details flowed off the page less self-consciously. The author delves back into Olga’s past from a childhood through to the early days when the Jews were viewed by suspicion by their neighbours right through to herref move to America and the fresh start with her husband and Jeffrey’s father.

The author also uses the book to explore the meaning of being a Jew in the modern world, including the exploration of whether marrying someone out of the faith is really feasible, for both parties, even should the woman choose to convert. This isn’t an author that doubts his faith, but rather is questioning what it means in terms of values that are shared in the community and that they are woven into the thread of the person from the earliest of days.

With its interview style the Jeffrey Konis adopts a somewhat more formal style than you would imagine family members would usually converse in although the author works hard to minimise this with descriptions of cookies served up each time he sat down with his imaginary notebook to listen to Olga’s stories.

I found that the part devoted to the war years easily the most powerful section of the entire book and perhaps because his questions became sparser allowing the imagined dialogue of Olga to proceed without interruption, the most readable section of the book.

An interesting book presented in a novel way that gets down and personal with a generation of people whose lives were changed forever.

This book is the ninth in my Mount TBR 2017 Challenge having been purchased in September 2016 to qualify.
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First Published UK: 2016
Publisher: Outskirts Press
No of Pages:  208
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie – Kathryn Harkup

Non-Fiction
5*s

This book was an absolute delight to read combining my love of Agatha Christie’s novels with a wealth of information about the poisons she chose to dispose of her victims. For any of my potential dinner guests who may be wary, do not fear, the author warns us off using the poisons she carefully and concisely explains at various points throughout the book!

Any present-day poisoner wishing to use some of the methods suggested by Christie will be disappointed to discover that even these underhand methods are unlikely to be successful, as increased checks and balances have since been put in place.

A is for Arsenic features the fourteen poisons deployed by the Queen of Crime in her various books, some of course were used more than once! She starts the book off by talking about Agatha Christie’s time as a working in the dispensary in her local Torquay hospital during World War I and her training to become as an apothecary’s assistant. It was here that she her interest in poison began and coupled with some inspiration of real-life cases many of her books featured some hapless person falling victim to one or other of her chosen poisons.

Each chapter starts off with a piece about the book, or books that the particular poison starred in followed by a bit about the discovery, chemical make-up and tests for presence of the poison featured. We then move on to how the poison kills, without I’m pleased to confirm overly descriptive passages concerning the symptoms which can be quite grim in reality. It is here that Kathryn Harkup indicates how Agatha Christie spared her readers too. For those who are on the receiving end of the poison, next up is any antidote or at the very least what your doctor should do to help support life while the body gets rid of the poison. We are then treated to some real life cases including Glasgow socialite Madeline Smith who was suspected poisoning of poor old Pierre Emile L’Anglier who came from Jersey because she was worried about him showing her love letters to her parents but instead stood accused of putting some grains of arsenic in his cocoa.

Despite the sometimes complex chemistry which the author manages to explain without sounding condescending but does so clearly enough that I could follow most of it, the book is for the most part pure entertainment – here is another warning about why you should resist the lure of poison:

But before you rush to take out hefty life-insurance policies on your closest and wealthiest relatives, or start growing foxgloves in your garden, remember that the drug is detectable even in minute quantities.

with comments from the side lines when things get a bit heavy:

The elderly spinster consistently displays a worryingly detailed knowledge of pharmaceuticals and poison.

I have to admit I really enjoyed the final part of each chapter which returns to Agatha Christie’s novels including the victim, the suspects and the potential methods employed to deliver the poison to the right person, at the right time.

Fortunately the murderer confesses, and even goes on to explain how the deed was done, the poison was added to Mrs Horton’s tea by one of her visitors. Arsenic trioxide is poorly soluble in cold water, but is much more soluble in hot water. By dissolving the arsenic in tea the killer was able to ensure that no suspicious gritty powder was left at the bottom of the cup.

I started by making a list of the books featured that I felt I simply must read right away, and then realised I would need to read Agatha Christie back to back for weeks to get through them all!! Well there are worse things I could be reading!

Finally as with any good reference guide non-fiction book, there are notes throughout each chapter and a handy table of all the novels and the methods of killing along with a bibliography at the end of the book. What more could a girl, fascinated by poisoners ask for?

This was my eighth read of 2017 towards my Mount TBR challenge as I bought this book in September 2016, and what a brilliant buy it was!

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First Published UK: 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma
No of Pages:  320
Genre: Non-Fiction 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Cut Short – Leigh Russell

Crime Fiction
3*s

I know, I really don’t need to be starting any new crime series as the ones I have on the go, and try hard to keep up with already fill up a fair few slots on the trusty spreadsheet, but this book was already on my kindle having been purchased three years ago.

Now I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t too sure about Geraldine Steel’s debut outing at first but reminded myself that it is hard to introduce a whole new bunch of characters with enough of a back story to make it into a full series and the plot was definitely an intriguing one.

In Woolmarsh following the breakup of a relationship and she’s looking forward to a quieter life than that she left behind, but it isn’t to be. No sooner has she moved into a gated apartment than a killer strikes leaving behind a woman hidden in the park for a small child to find. Not a great way for Geraldine to start her new life! Partnered with the affable DS Ian Peterson the pair along with the rest of the team are under pressure to apprehend the strangler, particularly when it isn’t long before he strikes again.

There are several strands to the story with one pertaining to someone vandalising Geraldine’s personal property and another narrative from a clearly disturbed man who talks to a woman called Miss Elsie which kept my interest when the police investigation inevitably stalled. All too soon the press are asking questions about the competence of the officers in charge and women are protesting about their safety.

The fact that this series is soon going to be up to book number nine leads me to believe that the character development that perhaps this book would have benefited from, the author having favoured dastardly plotting, will soon be realised. It is all too easy for these police procedurals to feel like a rehash of something done before and yet I did feel that this showed a lot of promise. Yes, Geraldine was prone to going home and drinking wine, but hey, so I’m sure do lots of her readers and they don’t have to wonder which member of this small town out and about strangling people even while the police are on every corner! She isn’t too beset by personal problems although she has the odd reflective moment, but on the whole she uses the fact that she’s single with no personal claims on her time to work. We are told, that she uses her attention to detail and great memory to put together the clues and in this case, it works.

In the first paragraph I alluded to the wealth of characters in this book which can be tricky to manage and Leigh Russell gets over this by introducing them throughout the book as they are required, in many ways this book is almost written for TV which led to a disjointed feel in parts but there was also an awful lot that appealed and I certainly found myself racing towards the ending.

I read this book as part of my Mount TBR Challenge 2017 – this is number 7 out of my target of 36 for the year but… I must put the series books aside as I’m very tempted to buy Road Closed which sort of defeats the point of the challenge.

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First Published UK: 2009
Publisher: No Exit Press
No of Pages:  435
Genre: Crime Fiction – Police Procedural
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Thirteen Problems – Agatha Christie

Short Stories 3*s
Short Stories
3*s

So after finally allowing Miss Marple into my life just last year with Murder at the Vicarage, I decided to try another book which featured this sharp, yet elderly spinster of St Mary Mead. What I didn’t quite appreciate was that The Thirteen Problems wasn’t really the second book in the series as denoted by Goodreads but a collection of linked, but essentially short stories, featuring the accidental detective.

The collection starts with The Tuesday Night club held at Miss Marple’s house where each of the six friends, including Miss Marpe’s nephew, Raymond West, the Vicar, Dr Pender, Former Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Henry Clithering, an artist, Joyce Lempriere and the solicitor Mr Petherick gather round while Miss Marple knits and they discuss a seemingly unsolvable problem which only they know the answer to. Amazingly, because I really doubt I could find one friend, let alone six, to come up with a mystery of this standard, they all have a story to tell.

Dr Henry Clithering kicks things off with a dastardly plot complete with poison where three people ate the poisoned food but only one died.

Raymond recounts his tale of Ingots of Gold complete with Cornish smugglers and a ship wreck.

Joyce’s tale is also set in Cornwall and features a missing woman and a mysterious puddle of blood on the pavement
Dr Pender recounts an odd fancy dress party where one of the guests is stabbed through the heart in front of witnesses but no-one knows how or where the weapon went.

The legal man Mr Petherick has a tale which involves spiritualists and a will made in their favour – another taxing mystery as who would want to alter a will made in their favour.

Miss Marple’s own tale is probably my favourite in the whole book and not only because it features poison but a play on words.

It is a whole year later before the second set of six mysteries are heard at a dinner party held by Colonal Arthur Bantry and his wife Dolly in St Mary’s Mead. The dinner party also has Sir Henry Clithering in attendance along with, actress Jane Helier and Dr Lloyd ( a doctor of medicine this time) and of course Miss Marple herself.

Arthur Bantry has a spooky tale of mediums and ghosts appearing to an anxious woman in the Blue Geranuium
Dr Lloyd’s story is set in the glamorous location of Gran Canaria and a drowning he happened upon.

Sir Henry Clithering’s tale is in part philosophical on the harm of being a suspect with no way of proving your innocence. His tale had four men one of whom must have committed murder but with no obvious solution all remained suspects.

Spousal murder is Miss Marple’s contribution is set in a hydro spa where the sharp-eyed spinster is convinced murder is about to be committed but could she stop it in time?

More poison, this time from foxglove leaves from Dolly who recounted this domestic murder which seemed one that was likely to backfire onto the perpetrator.

The final dinner party story is from Jane Helier who tells a muddled tale of her ‘friend’ and a burgled bungalow that tends towards the preposterous. Even better Jane doesn’t have a solution but all becomes clear in Miss Marple’s whispered response to her problem.

Finally we have a lone tale where Miss Marple approaches Sir Henry Clithering some months later when he is visiting the Bantry’s again. This time the mystery is firmly local with a young girl having drowned whilst in the family way. Miss Marple is convinced it is murder and not suicide and needs Sir Henry to insert himself in the local police investigation to ensure justice is done.

There were some very clever stories in the mix but I have to be honest, I prefer a full length tale and thirteen murderous plots from a small number of people l began to feel a little contrived.

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First Published UK: 1932
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages:  228
Genre: Short Stories
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

Historical Fiction 5*s
Historical Fiction
5*s

The Other Typist is Rose’s tale we hear of her life working as a typist in a Police Precinct in Brooklyn, her shared room in a Boarding House with the room divided by a curtain, the other half containing a woman who Rose possibly dislikes, but definitely feels superior to. In 1920s Brooklyn the Prohibition period is in force and the Police Commander has decided that his force should be arresting those running the latest speakeasy which has popped up and then melt away around the city.

Enter Odile, a beautiful graceful creature, one with bags of sophistication, beautiful clothes and an easy manner. Odile is the ‘other typist’ the newest to join the typing pool. Rose is instantly both bewitched and disapproving of Odile, well that is until Odile decides to befriend her which leads to a chain of events that Rose could never have predicted.

The two girls become friends and moving from typing up the statements and sometimes confessions of the local gangsters and crooks, the girls attend the very speakeasy the police force they work for are supposed to be bringing to justice. There is a real sense of place and time in The Other Typist. I could quite have easily joined them on a night out in a beaded dress and sipping the champagne cocktails which were strictly prohibited. I think the secret locations with passwords required to gain entry would only make a night of partying with the select few who were in the know all the more alluring.

Rose narrates her story with a distinctive voice. We hear that Rose was an orphan, who was bought up by nuns but clearly a clever girl; she was one of the lucky ones who got an education. She is so obviously Odile’s inferior on the social scale but Rose has a sense of superiority that outweighs, well nearly, these facts. Indeed Rose’s narrative strongly reminded me of Barbara Covett in Zoe Heller’s novel What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, both require a different label to ‘unreliable narrator’ I suggest ‘nebulous narrator’ is a far more accurate description as even at the end of the book, it was hard to separate the facts from the fiction. Rose’s sense of superiority is an overriding feature of her narrative style, and yet there is a sense that she realises that this is unfounded at times, all of which should make her unlikeable to her reader, but it didn’t, I felt a certain amount of fondness for this spiky young woman. Of course there are a number of other characters who have their parts to play but it must be remembered that all of these characters are viewed through Rose’s eyes, and Rose is only really watching one person, Odile.

Fairly early on in the book we learn that Rose is recounting her story from a hospital and so we get some sense of where the ending might lie, but the fun is entirely in the journey. So we follow Rose to work where she admires the Sergeant but isn’t quite so sure about the Lieutenant. Where she types faster than anyone else, naturally without making any mistakes. A life where she is able to judge how a particular interview will play out and yet she melts into the background where the police, all men of course, go about getting their confessions. We watch as her certainties about right and wrong unravel under Odile’s influence as she whirls around the dance floor with the latest contraband cocktail in hand until life whirls a little bit too fast and the wheels come off.

This was a superb story, even more so when you consider that this is the author’s debut novel and it was one which had me completely entranced with an ending has had me pondering for a good few days now. If like me you had this lingering on some TBR list of one description or another, don’t delay pull it out and read it!

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First Published UK: 2013
Publisher: Allison & Fig Tree
No of Pages:  369
Genre: Historical Fiction – Psychological
Amazon UK
Amazon US