The topic this week is Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To (You could take this opportunity to tell us what’s left on your seasonal TBRs from last year. Or books you were super excited about and then you didn’t get to them.)
I don’t like to plan what I’m going to read next as when I do I hardly ever stick to my plan. I have hundreds of unread books to choose from, so for this topic I just picked out ten of them from the shelves. These aren’t books I wanted to read specifically in 2020 – they’re are just ten of the books that I really wanted to read when I first got them – but have still not got round to reading them. These are all used books from Barter Books in Alnwick.
The Mouse Trap and Selected Plays by Agatha Christie is a book I’m really keen to read, particularly as it is now extremely unlikely that I’ll be able to see it on stage. It ran continuously from when it first opened in 1952 and ran continuously until March 16, 2020, when the stage performances had to be discontinued due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Croft, a Golden Age of British Crime Fiction. I’ve read several of these British Library Crime Classics, so this appealed to me. Dr James Earle and his wife live near the Hog’s Back, a ridge in the North Downs in the beautiful Surrey countryside. When Dr Earle disappears from his cottage, Inspector French is called in to investigate. At first he suspects a simple domestic intrigue – and begins to uncover a web of romantic entanglements beneath the couple’s peaceful rural life.
Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith are books I’ve been meaning to read for years! In Strangers on a Train Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno are passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. The Talented Mr Ripley, is the first novel to feature, anti-hero, Tom Ripley. He wanted money, success, the good life – and he was willing to kill for it.
The White Family by Maggie Gee. I read one of Maggie Gee’s books years ago, The Cleaner, and wanted to read more. She’s published 12 novels and The White Family is her seventh. On the back cover it’s described as a novel on the subject of racial hatred as it looks at love, hatred, sex, comedy and death in an ordinary British family.
Longbourn by Jo Baker is a book I’ve dithered about reading for ages, finally I decided that I do want to read it. I wasn’t sure as it’s about the Bennet family (in Pride and Prejudice) but from the servants’ perspective. I dithered as I’m often disappointed by modern versions of classics, sequels and prequels etc. But this has so many good reviews that I’ve been persuaded to read it.
I’ve added Rory Clements to my list of favourite authors. He writes historical fiction and The Heretics is one of his John Shakespeare series of Elizabethan mysteries. Spanish galleys land troops in Cornwall in 1595 – is this a dry-run for a new invasion (seven years after the Armada) or something more sinister – a threat to Queen Elizabeth I’s life?
I loved Henning Mankell’s first Kurt Wallender mystery, so the second book, The Dogs of Riga is another book I’m really keen to read. Two bodies wash ashore on the Swedish coast in a life raft. The dead men were criminals, victims of what seems to have been a gangland hit. But what appears to be an open-and-shut case soon takes on a far more sinister aspect.
Rule Britannia by Daphne du Maurier. I’ve read a lot of her books, so when I saw this at Barter Books I picked it up immediately. However, when I got it home I looked it up in Margaret Forster’s biography of du Maurier and my enthusiasm fell, because she described it as the poorest novel du Maurier had ever written. Still, I want to read it to see for myself. Du Maurier described it to her granddaughter as ‘very funny, at least I think so … it takes the mickey out of everything, including as a family.’ First published in 1972 in this novel the UK has withdrawn from the Common Market (as it was then called) and has formed an alliance with the United States – supposed to be an equal partnership but it looks to some people like a takeover bid. Was du Maurier able to foresee the future, I wonder?
Another Agatha Christie novel I really want to read is The Complete Parker Pine, as I haven’t read any of the Parker Pine stories. Plump and bald, Christopher Pyne (although he is always referred to as J Parker Pyne) is a retired civil servant. Having worked as a government employee for 35 years, during which time he tirelessly compiled statistics, Pyne decides to set himself up as a private investigator, describing himself as a ‘heart specialist’.