Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018, The Classic Club

The Lodger – Marie Belloc Lowndes


Talk about setting the scene! We first meet Mr and Mrs Bunting fretting over their lack of money. These respectable ex-servants now run a boarding house, the only problem is, they have no boarders. Money is tight and many of their prized possessions have been sold, or pawned, although Mrs Bunting would never lower herself to enter a pawnbrokers shop. The pair are hungry and down to their last pennies.

The boarding house is on the Marylebone Road in a very foggy London circa 1913 but it has been furnished nicely. It is just before Christmas when the couple decide to put the light on in the hallway and a stranger, with little luggage knocks at the door.

Mr Sleuth is just the sort of lodger the couple want in Mrs Bunting’s opinion. She judges him to be a gentleman, and so although he is a bit fussy about keeping his rooms locked, oh and only wants Mrs Bunting to serve his food, and he’s a vegetarian, but he’s paying a handsome sum for the privilege which means Mr Bunting can go back to buy the daily paper and his tobacco.

Those daily papers are filled with stories of murders, bodies found with a note from ‘The Avenger’ Mrs Bunting is seriously unimpressed with everyone’s, well mainly Mr Bunting’s, salacious interest in the case, something only increased by their young friend, Joe who is serving with the Metropolitan Police and not at all adverse to giving titbits out about the investigation. But even with the intrepid Joe playing his part the bodies keep on mounting. With the arrival of Mr Bunting’s teenage daughter Daisy who Joe has taken a shine to, Mrs Bunting begins to suspect their lodger of being The Avenger. She doesn’t know what to do as I suspect she is secretly in agreement of doing away with those fond of drink which seem to be the main victims. That said she doesn’t want to be an accessory after the fact and of course, as the papers say, this could be Jack the Ripper.

This slow burning novel is mesmerising. Even this level-headed reader some one hundred years into the future couldn’t help but be drawn into Mrs Bunting’s mounting apprehension and horror. This middle-aged woman is a fascinating character, even more so than Mr Sleuth with his Bible reading and odd habit of prowling the streets in the fog doesn’t quite compete. She is one of those women of a certain age who seem to relish having no enjoyment in life and looking down on those who do. The only pleasure she seems to approve of is Mr Bunting’s chair, bought as a treat for him to sit in after a hard day’s work. Her attitude to young Daisy is so cutting at times that it seems that Daisy is quite unlike modern teenagers who I’m sure would, in the main react in any other way other than helping Mrs Bunting sweetly with her chores, which is what this lovely girl does. It’s not as though she doesn’t have a spark to her personality which is shown by a visit Joe takes her on to the Black Museum, although sadly for the pair Mr Bunting gate-crashed this romantic trip.

As a classic piece of crime fiction with a psychological bent, this has to be up there with the best and so I urge you to take a trip through the foggy streets of London to revel in the descriptive and yet modern feel to the writing. There on those streets or perhaps upstairs in the boarding house, you will find out the truth of the matter!

The Lodger is number 31 on The Classics Club list and the fifth of my fifty choices that I’ve read and reviewed.


First Published UK: 1913
Publisher: The Crime & Mystery Club; UK
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Classic Fiction
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

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!


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


Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Manipulated Lives – H.A. Leuschel

Short Story 3*s
Short Story

This is a compilation of five novellas each demonstrating the different ways those who seek to manipulate others operate. The author has used a number of different types of relationships to expose the psychology of such a partnership and although the end results are disturbing, it is often the case that the beginning there were no great big warning lights and claxons.

Although the tie in this anthology is the manipulator the characters are quite distinct, as to a certain extent is there particular brand of abuse. In the first tale we meet the narcissist old and ill in a hospital bed and his story alternates with his visitor. This clever tale gives us a picture of a life lived bending other’s to this man’s will using any means possible to reach his object, reflecting on a life right back to childhood. In the second story Tess and the Tattoos we have an elderly woman contemplating the choices she’s made in her life whilst the third, The Spell has younger characters, a woman, a man and a young child which is once more a reflective tale. The fourth story is Runaway Girl, and probably my favourite of the collection has a 15 year old girl as the subject whilst the last story is the story of a woman who comes to motherhood fairly late in life.

The author has clearly researched her subjects, one has to hope from a safe distance and as all of these stories are reflective it is entirely appropriate that the traits we know are associated with manipulators are replayed by the narrative although I have to confess this reflective nature made me feel less involved with the actual events because the very nature of recollection is to put a spin on things to be told ‘I should have realised…’ didn’t adequately give me any sense of when the realisation came, what the subject told themselves through those first signs etc but this is a personal preference possibly due to wanting to know whether I would have spotted anything, given the same situation.

What this book does give us is a chance to relate this wide selections of both the perpetrators of this trait and their victims to those characters we all know for whom this style is the one they prefer and of course in certain situations it is one that is held in high regard. Only yesterday a job advert went out with one of the key skills was ‘An influencer’ now putting aside the business jargon, what the company wants is someone who can persuade a whole room full of people (if not the entire office, company and maybe even the world) to be persuaded that what is being proposed is the only right course of action – the same skill as a man convincing a woman that of course she wants to be at his beck and call to the detriment of the rest of her life, or the young boy who convinces his mother that he can do no wrong!

Sometimes it is hard for authors working on a themed collection like this to separate the voices out and I was a little worried when we came to Runaway Girl who was much younger than the rest of the characters in the book, would the author be able to switch away from the almost cold and distant narratives of the previous narrators to the naturally more impulsive actions of a teenager, and she did, which is possibly why I enjoyed this story the most as the mixed emotions of the moment came shining through.

I’d like to thank the author for forwarding me a copy of this book, it has been a unique experience for me as I rarely read novellas and never before have I read an anthology built around a personality type.

First Published UK: 28 June 2016
Publisher: Independent Publishing
No of Pages: 274
Genre: Short Story – Psychological
Amazon UK
Amazon US