Since May, in an attempt to catch up with reading books I already own, I’ve been avoiding buying any more books. If you don’t count the secondhand copy of The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey that I bought for 20p off the trolley at the hospital I stuck it out until last weekend when I gave in and bought three books.
Well, I went in Waterstones for a coffee and so I had to browse the books. It would be a sad day if I ever come away from a bookshop without even wanting to buy one book, but that just doesn’t happen. This time there were plenty I could have bought but I restricted myself to three. I didn’t pick them for their covers but when I realised they are practically the same colours I thought there’s obviously a theme here. They’re all historical mystery/crime fiction and two of them are books that have been on my wishlist for a while.
- Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
- The Death Maze by Ariana Franklin
- A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin
The first two books have been on my wishlist for ages.
I have started to read Company of Liars, which is set in 1348 at the time of the Plague. Nine strangers brought together on Midsummer’s Day (which is today!) travel together through England trying to escape the plague. The group includes Camelot, the relic- seller, a one-armed story teller, a strange, silent child and a painter and his pregnant wife. They each have a secret and it’s not just danger from the plague that threatens them.
The Death Maze (published in the USA as The Serpent’s Tale) is Ariana Franklin’s second book featuring the Italian doctor, Adelia Aguilar. Set in the 12th century Henry II is on the throne and when his mistress Rosamund Clifford dies a painful death by poisoning, his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is the main suspect. Henry sends for Adelia to investigate.
The third book, A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin, attracted me because it’s about the Princes in the Tower, believed to have been killed by their uncle Richard III in 1483. I’m sure there are many books on this subject; I’ve read just two – a novel, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey and a non-fiction book The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir – both of which are extremely good. I was also drawn to this book by the author’s name – Emma writes a blog which I’ve been reading recently – This Itch of Writing.
Tey’s The Daughter of Time is probably the best historical mystery novel I’ve read so I’m hoping The Franchise Affair will be just as compelling reading as The Daughter of Time. This one is crime fiction in which a lawyer defends two women accuse of kidnapping and is based on the real life 18th century case of Elizabeth Canning. Our local hospital has been a good source of secondhand books for me recently – there are trolleys of books for sale in all the waiting areas – and the waits have been long!
And to round off, my current Agatha Christie book is The Thirteen Problems, a satisfying collection of stories of unsolved mysteries, featuring Miss Marple. The first stories are told at Miss Marple’s house on Tuesday evenings after dinner and then the setting moves to Colonel and Mrs Bantry’s house (who feature in The Body in the Library) where a slightly different group of guests including Miss Marple, entertain each other with tales of mystery and murder.