My Week in Books: 18 April 2018

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

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A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: I’ve made some progress with Little Dorrit, my Classics Club spin book. I’ve met the Meagles family with their spoiled daughter, Pet and her maid and companion, the wonderfully named Tattycoram, and also Arthur Clennam, recently returning to England from China. Arthur goes to his family home, a dark decrepit house in London where his mother lives, his father having recently died. But I haven’t met Little Dorrit yet – still a long way to go in this book.

Little Dorrit

I’m also reading Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith, which is what it says in the title. I’ve nearly finished this book, which is fascinating, even though it is so long winded.

Description:

‘Adrian Gray was born in May 1862 and met his death through violence, at the hands of one of his own children, at Christmas, 1931.’

Thus begins a classic crime novel published in 1933 that has been too long neglected – until now. It is a riveting portrait of the psychology of a murderer.

Each December, Adrian Gray invites his extended family to stay at his lonely house, Kings Poplars. None of Gray’s six surviving children is fond of him; several have cause to wish him dead. The family gathers on Christmas Eve – and by the following morning, their wish has been granted. 

This fascinating and unusual novel tells the story of what happened that dark Christmas night; and what the murderer did next.

I’ve recently finished  A Dying Note by Ann Parker, her latest book in the Silver Rush Mysteries, which was published on 3 April 2018.

I loved this book, set in the autumn of 1881 in San Francisco, where Inez Stannert is making a new start in life, managing a music store. All is going well until the body of a young man, Jamie Monroe, is found washed up on the banks of Mission Creek canal.

I posted my review on Monday and gave it 4 stars.

What do you think you’ll read next:

Will it be Time is a Killer by Michel Bussi, which was published on 5 April 2018 and in last week’s post was the book I said I might read next? Or will it be something else? I still don’t know.

Description:

‘One of France’s most ingenious crime writers’ SUNDAY TIMES

‘Bussi breaks every rule in the book’ JOAN SMITH

It is summer 1989 and fifteen-year-old Clotilde is on holiday with her parents in Corsica. On a twisty mountain road, their car comes off at a curve and plunges into a ravine. Only Clotilde survives.

Twenty-seven years later, she returns to Corsica with her husband and their sulky teenage daughter. Clotilde wants the trip to do two things – to help exorcise her past, and to build a bridge between her and her daughter. But in the very place where she spent that summer all those years ago, she receives a letter. From her mother. As if she were still alive.

As fragments of memory come back, Clotilde begins to question the past. And yet it all seems impossible – she saw the corpses of her mother, her father, her brother. She has lived with their ghosts. But then who sent this letter – and why?

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’m featuring The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas, one of my favourite authors. I’ve read some of her Commissaire Adamsberg books and loved them. This one is the first in the Three Evangelists series.

The Three Evangelists (Three Evangelists, #1)

It begins:

‘Pierre, something’s wrong with the garden,’ said Sophia.

She opened the window and examined the patch of ground. She knew it by heart, every blade of grass. What she saw sent a shiver down her spine.

Blurb from the back cover:

The opera singer Sophia Siméonidis wakes up one morning to discover that a tree has appeared overnight in the garden of her Paris house. Intrigued and unnerved, she turns to her neighbours: Vandoosler, an ex-cop, and three impecunious historians, Mathias, Marc and Lucien – the three evangelists. They agree to dig around the tree and see if something has been buried there. They find nothing but soil.

A few weeks later, Sophia disappears and her body is found burned to ashes in a car. Who killed the opera singer? Her husband, her ex-lover, her best friend, her niece? They all seem to have a motive.

Vandoosler and the three evangelists set out to find the truth.

∼ ∼ 

This looks so different from her Adamsberg books – and yet at the same time so similar – quirky, with eccentric characters and with a mystery to solve.

What do you think – would you read on?

A Dying Note by Ann Parker

Poisoned Pen Press|3 April 2018|319 pages|e-book |Review copy|4*

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor

Harper Collins UK|5 April 2018|448 p|e-book |Review copy|5*

My Friday Post: A Dying Note by Ann Parker

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week’s book is A Dying Note by Ann Parker, her latest book in the Silver Rush Mysteries, which was published on 3 April 2018. I’ve just finished it, so my review will up soon.

 

It begins:

Not my hands!

Throat crushed, blood gurgled, words choked so they screamed only in the mind.

A dramatic opening to this novel set in 1881.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

56%:

Inez allowed herself to consider what life might have been like if she, her then-husband Mark Stannert, and their business partner, Abe Jackson, had come all the way to San Francisco as originally planned. Perhaps they would have built a drinking and gaming establishment to capture some of the fortune from gambling fever that clutched the golden city.

But that was not what happened. Seduced by the possibilities in the silver mining boom town of Leadville they had lingered in the city in the clouds, then settled in.

Description (Goodreads):

It’s autumn of 1881, and Inez Stannert, still the co-owner of Leadville, Colorado’s Silver Queen saloon, is settled in San Francisco with her young ward, Antonia Gizzi. Inez has turned her business talents to managing a music store, hoping to eventually become an equal partner in the enterprise with the store’s owner, a celebrated local violinist.

Inez’s carefully constructed life for herself and Antonia threatens to tumble about her ears when the badly beaten body of a young musician washes up on the filthy banks of San Francisco’s Mission Creek canal.

~~~

This is a fascinating historical mystery – I loved it.

What do you think? Have you read it – or are you planning to read it?

My Week in Books: 11 April 2018

This Week in Books is a weekly round-up hosted by Lypsyy Lost & Found, about what I’ve been reading Now, Then & Next.

IMG_1384-0

A similar meme,  WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: I’m reading three, Little Dorrit, Saint Thomas’s Eve, but my main book – the one I’ve been read most of the time this week is

 A Dying Note by Ann Parker, her latest book in the Silver Rush Mysteries, which was published on 3 April 2018

Description:

It’s autumn of 1881, and Inez Stannert, still the co-owner of Leadville, Colorado’s Silver Queen saloon, is settled in San Francisco with her young ward, Antonia Gizzi. Inez has turned her business talents to managing a music store, hoping to eventually become an equal partner in the enterprise with the store’s owner, a celebrated local violinist.

Inez’s carefully constructed life for herself and Antonia threatens to tumble about her ears when the badly beaten body of a young musician washes up on the filthy banks of San Francisco’s Mission Creek canal. Inez and Antonia become entangled in the mystery of his death when the musician turns out to have ties to Leadville, ties that threaten to expose Inez’s notorious past. And they aren’t the only ones searching for answers. Wolter Roeland de Bruijn, “finder of the lost,” has also been tasked with ferreting out the perpetrators and dispensing justice in its most final form. Leadville’s leading madam Frisco Flo, an unwilling visitor to the city with a Leadville millionaire, is on the hook as well, having injudiciously financed the young musician’s journey to San Francisco in the first place.

Time grows short as Inez and the others uncover long-hidden secrets and unsettled scores. With lives and reputations on the line, the tempo rises until the investigation’s final, dying note.

I’ve recently finished 

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor, published on 5th April 2018

Description:

Somewhere in the soot-stained ruins of Restoration London, a killer has gone to ground…

The Great Fire has ravaged London, wreaking destruction and devastation wherever its flames spread. Now, guided by the incorruptible Fire Court, the city is slowly rebuilding, but times are volatile and danger is only ever a heartbeat away.

James Marwood, son of a traitor, is thrust into this treacherous environment when his ailing father claims to have stumbled upon a murdered woman in the very place where the Fire Court sits. Then his father is run down and killed. Accident? Or another murder…?

Determined to uncover the truth, Marwood turns to the one person he can trust – Cat Lovett, the daughter of a despised regicide. Marwood has helped her in the past. Now it’s her turn to help him. But then comes a third death… and Marwood and Cat are forced to confront a vicious and increasingly desperate killer whose actions threaten the future of the city itself.

I’ll post my review soon – I loved this book, following the story that began with The Ashes of London.

What do you think you’ll read next:

Now the difficult part – what to read next! I say difficult because I often change my mind when the time comes to start another book. At the moment I’m thinking it could be:

Time is a Killer by Michel Bussi, which was published on 5 April 2018

Description:

‘One of France’s most ingenious crime writers’ SUNDAY TIMES

‘Bussi breaks every rule in the book’ JOAN SMITH

It is summer 1989 and fifteen-year-old Clotilde is on holiday with her parents in Corsica. On a twisty mountain road, their car comes off at a curve and plunges into a ravine. Only Clotilde survives.

Twenty-seven years later, she returns to Corsica with her husband and their sulky teenage daughter. Clotilde wants the trip to do two things – to help exorcise her past, and to build a bridge between her and her daughter. But in the very place where she spent that summer all those years ago, she receives a letter. From her mother. As if she were still alive.

As fragments of memory come back, Clotilde begins to question the past. And yet it all seems impossible – she saw the corpses of her mother, her father, her brother. She has lived with their ghosts. But then who sent this letter – and why?

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny

The Tenderness of Wolves

Quercus| 2006|450 p|2.5* rounded up to 3* on Goodreads

The Tenderness of Wolves was first published 2006 when it won the both the Costa First Novel Award and the Costa Book of the Year. It has been on my TBR shelves since May 2007 when I first heard about it and thought it sounded fantastic. And yet it has sat on my shelves ever since, mainly because it’s in such a small font. And then at the beginning of March I included it in my S and T post of TBRs and encouraged by the comments  began to read it.

Stef Penney is a screenwriter and the author of three novels: The Tenderness of Wolves, The Invisible Ones (2011), and Under a Pole Star (2016, winner of the 2017 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize). She has also written extensively for radio, including adaptations of Moby Dick, The Worst Journey in the World, and, mostly recently, a third instalment of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise series.

It’s set in Canada in 1867 beginning in a small place called Dove River on the north shore of Georgian Bay, narrated in part by Mrs Ross in the first person present tense (*see at the end of the post) and also occasionally in the third person past tense. Mr and Mrs Ross were the first people to settle in Dove River – the name she gave to it. Other people came later and settled near the river mouth.

It begins dramatically as she describes the last time she saw the French-Canadian trapper, Laurent Jammet alive ‘he was in Scott’s store with a dead wolf over his shoulder‘. He was the Ross’s closest neighbour and the next time she saw him was in his cabin, lying dead on his bed, his throat cut and he had been scalped. Francis, the Ross’s adopted teenage son is missing and is immediately suspected of being the murderer. But Mrs Ross is convinced of his innocence. With no police force as such it is the Hudson Bay Company (the Company) employees and the local magistrate, Andrew Knox who lead the investigation. William Parker a half Indian tracker is also a suspect and is taken into custody. But Knox isn’t convinced Parker is guilty and releases him. Parker and Mrs Ross then set off to follow her son’s tracks into the wilderness.

That’s it in a nutshell, but it is much much more complicated than this. There’s a large cast of characters and at first I found it confusing, unsure of their identity and how they interacted. In fact some of them are just minor characters that don’t feature in the main plot, which is a problem when you’re trying to sort out who is important.

Following Mrs Ross and Parker are the Company employees, Donald Moody and Jacob, another half Indian. Then there is Thomas Sturrock, who says he had business with Jammet who had agreed to sell him something. He describes himself as a lawyer and an archaeologist by inclination and the object he is looking for is a bone tablet inscribed with strange markings that could be some sort of writing. Sturrock was also involved in the search for two young girls who years earlier had disappeared from their home presumed to have been abducted by Indians. Added into the mix are Susannah and Maria Knox, Andrew’s teenage daughters, a group of religious Norwegian settlers, and the employees of the Company, some of them very strange, in an isolated outpost deep in the wilderness.

This is one of the most difficult books to summarise in a coherent way and without giving away too many spoilers.

The plot moves very slowly, switching between locations and characters as very little progress is made in the search for the murderer. I found it frustrating. I never quite acclimatised myself to the use of the present tense which kept distracting me from the story. But when the pace picked up nearer to the end of the book I was keen to find out what happened – and by that time I had worked out who all the characters were. But I was left with a few questions – I really would have liked to know more about the relevance and meaning of the bone or ivory tablet, for example.

Overall, despite my criticism of this book, I did enjoy it and the descriptions of the landscape and climate set it in geographic context, but it just took so long to read particularly with so many sub-plots to hold in my head! I think some of the sub-plots that don’t contribute much to the story could easily have been developed into books in their own right. And the ending seemed so abrupt. I’m not sure I want to read any more of Stef Penney’s books.

* I want to analyse why I find the use of the present tense a problem as I hardly notice it in some books but in others such as this one I find it so irritating that it clouds my judgement. Perhaps it will help if I write my thoughts in a separate post … *