Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Family Secrets – Derek Malcolm


This non-fiction book tells the tale of a supremely unhappy family, one that is marred by a secret of the highest order, a murder.

Film critic Derek Malcolm tells the story of the murder committed by his father from the distance of many years. This rather strange tale tells the story of Derek’s early years, his relationship with his father who loves his country sports and his mother who craves attention. There are moments of pathos surrounding his school years where the couple, who at times lived apart, visited him. Awkward moments where any signs of a less than affluent nature were kept hidden as much as possible. There is no doubt that this was a different time, and the rules were very different indeed.

Despite the tone of the book, very much stiff-upper-lip, the reader can only wonder how Derek coped with the warring couple who were his parents. There seemed to be no bond between them and yet the two stayed together in disharmony throughout his childhood albeit in different locations for a while. As an only child I can only imagine that school was his salvation and his success in later life is testament that even a strict boarding school aged a tender four is possibly better than living in a domestic war zone. Anyway mummy sent him fond messages on the back of postcards… Of course she was busy entertaining her male friends and lapping up the attention.

“Isn’t this a nice picture? Much love, Mummy”

A possible source of the disharmony at home is an event in 1917 when Douglas Malcolm, on leave from Western front determined to save his wife, Dorothy’s honour by killing a man who she was having an affair with. This was seemingly a planned event, Dorothy had asked Douglas for a divorce, he declined. The scene in the Paddington boarding house where the confrontation took place was quite probably not a pretty one.

More than thirty years later Derek stumbles across the details, something his sixteen year old self didn’t feel the need to share with his father. he Judges and the Damned was the book and while browsing through the Contents pages Derek reads, ‘Mr Justice McCardie tries Lieutenant Malcolm – page 33.’ But there is no page 33. The whole chapter has been ripped out.

The most interesting part of the book in my opinion was the murder trial itself. I can’t imagine a court would take the same view nowadays or even that any man claiming to murder another to save his wife’s honour would achieve anything but incredulity. But that was the defence. That’s not to say that the standing of the two men involved didn’t also play its part in the snobbishness of the courtroom.

This was an interesting story, told almost completely without emotion, as if Derek Malcolm was telling the tale to men very much of his background and his standing. The upper lip is often so stiff I felt the words could barely make their way out as we are told of bullying and beatings at Eton as if these are real badges of honour. Of course to a man of his time, they probably were but I can’t deny there was a gap between the raconteur and his audience.

First Published UK: 2003
Publisher: Hutchinson
No of Pages: 224
Genre: Non Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (August 5)

After my less than sterling reading performance in recent weeks I finally got back into the swing of things again with 4 books read! Yay. In addition I have been hooked (belatedly) on the Netflix series The Staircase which although clearly not an unbiased account of a murder trial in the US, makes for riveting watching.

This Week on the Blog

A busy week on the blog with my reviews of books I read back in June still being written and posted – I really do need to get on top of these – with this in mind the week started with a review for Child’s Play by Reginald Hill, the 9th in the Dalziel and Pascoe series.

My excerpt post came from a genealogical mystery series; Letters from the Dead by Steve Robinson.

Then it was 1 August (already!) and time for my Five of the Best featuring my reviews written in July from 2014 to 2018.

Thursday was publication day of the eBook of Little Liar by Lisa Ballantyne and I timed my review to coincide with this date.

The result of the Classic Club Spin #18 was number 9 so Friday’s post shared my pre-reading thoughts on The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The second of my backlogged reviews, Master Georgie by Beryl Bainbridge was shared yesterday.

And finally, earlier this morning I was part of the Blog Tour for the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2018. Sadly I didn’t manage to read a book this year so I was even more delighted to be included.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Before the Poison by Peter Robinson, one of his standalone mystery stories featuring a fictional murder trial set in 1950s Yorkshire in England. This story comes to the attention of Chris Lowndes a composer for films who has bought the house which was the scene of the murder on 1 January 1953  of Dr Ernest Fox.

This fictionalised account of a murder trial in the 1950s hit just the right note with the details about the key players really coming alive, it was hard to believe that all this was fictional perhaps because the author had clearly done his research so the details were spot on with key references such as Albert Pierrepoint, the most famous of hangmen, adding hooks to hang the case on.  

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover


After years of Hollywood success composer Chris Lowndes wanted only one thing: to take his beloved wife home to the Yorkshire Dales.

But Laura is gone, and Chris is on his own.

He welcomes the isolation of Kilnsgate House, and the beauty of the dale. And it doesn’t surprise him that a man died there, sixty years ago.

That his wife was convicted of murder.

That something is pulling him deeper and deeper into the story of Grace Elizabeth Fox, who was hanged by the neck until she was dead . . . Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

My final book token spent means that I now own a copy of a book that had been on my wishlist for quite some time. A non-fiction book Family Secrets by Derek Malcolm.


‘Some people’s secrets should never be told. The secret, though, that surrounded my parents’ unhappy life together, was divulged to me by accident . . .’

Hidden under some papers in his father’s bureau, the sixteen-year-old Derek Malcolm finds a book by the famous criminologist Edgar Lustgarten called The Judges and the Damned. Browsing through the Contents pages Derek reads, ‘Mr Justice McCardie tries Lieutenant Malcolm – page 33.’ But there is no page 33. The whole chapter has been ripped out of the book.

Slowly but surely, the shocking truth emerges: that Derek’s father, shot his wife’s lover and was acquitted at a famous trial at the Old Bailey. The trial was unique in British legal history as the first case of a crime passione, where a guilty man is set free, on the grounds of self-defence. Husband and wife lived together unhappily ever after, raising Derek in their wake.

Then, in a dramatic twist, following his father’s death, Derek receives an open postcard from his Aunt Phyllis, informing him that his real father is the Italian Ambassador to London . . .

By turns laconic and affectionate, Derek Malcolm has written a richly evocative memoir of a family sinking into hopeless disrepair. Amazon

From NetGalley I have a couple of very exciting looking books.

A Double Life by Flynn Berry is already available in eBook format and will be published on 9 August 2018 in physical format.


Some wounds need more than time. They crave revenge.

Claire’s father is a privileged man: handsome, brilliant, the product of an aristocratic lineage and an expensive education, surrounded by a group of devoted friends who would do anything for him.

But when he becomes the prime suspect in a horrific attack on Claire’s mother – an outsider who married into the elite ranks of society and dared escape her gilded cage – fate and privilege collide, and a scandal erupts.

Claire’s father disappears overnight, his car abandoned, blood on the front seat.

Thirty years after that hellish night, Claire is obsessed with uncovering the truth, and she knows that the answer is held behind the closed doors of beautiful townhouses and country estates, safeguarded by the same friends who all those years before had answered the call to protect one of their own.

Because they know where Claire’s father is.

They helped him escape.

And it’s time their pristine lives met her fury. Amazon

I was also lucky enough to receive a copy of The Night She Died by Jenny Blackhurst which will be published on 6 September 2018 in eBook format and in November as a physical copy.


On her own wedding night, beautiful and complicated Evie White leaps off a cliff to her death.

What drove her to commit this terrible act? It’s left to her best friend and her husband to unravel the sinister mystery.

Following a twisted trail of clues leading to Evie’s darkest secrets, they begin to realize they never knew the real Evie at all… Amazon

What have you found to read this week?


Since I managed to read 4 books this week and only acquire 3 the total is dropping like a stone back to 170!
Physical Books – 112
Kindle Books – 41
NetGalley Books –16
Audio Books –1


I have added 2 reviews of my own books this week so even though I spent 1 token last week I  1 book token in credit!