On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill

I’ve been doing quite well with reading books for my 10 Books of Summer Challenge – but not so well at writing reviews of them.

On Beulah Height (Dalziel & Pascoe, #17)

So here is a quick review of the first of my 10 Books. It’s also one of my TBRs, a book I’ve owned for a couple of years:

I loved On Beulah Height is Reginald Hill’s 17th Dalziel and Pascoe novel. He wrote 25 in this series and although it would probably make sense to get a picture of their development I’ve been reading them out of order. It doesn’t seem to matter much, but in this one there are a few references to something that had happened in an earlier case (told in The Wood Beyond) that had affected Pascoe personally. It had  filled him with anger and it is still affecting him, whilst investigating this case. But this book can easily be read as a standalone novel.

It is not just a crime fiction novel, it is also a book that raises many issues about parenthood, the relationship between families and their children and the devastation and anguish of parents and a community at the loss of a child.

I’d really like to re-read it some time as it is a complex book, that begins with a transcript written by Betsy Allgood, then aged seven, telling what had happened in the little village of Dendale in Yorkshire before the valley was flooded to provide a reservoir. That summer three little girls had gone missing. No bodies were ever found, and the best suspect, a strange lad named Benny Lightfoot, was held for a time, then released. Benny then disappeared from the area

Fifteen years later another little girl, Lorraine, also aged seven went out for a walk one morning with her dog before her parents got up and didn’t return home, reviving memories of the missing children from fifteen years earlier. It was a case that has haunted Dalziel – and the fears increase when a message appeared, sprayed on the walls: BENNY’S  BACK. It’s been a hot, dry summer and the buildings beneath the reservoir are gradually becoming visible and tensions are rising as memories of the missing children increase the fears for Lorraine’s safety.

This book is tightly plotted with many twists that made me change my mind so many times I gave up trying to work out who the murderer was and just read for the pleasure of reading. Hill’s descriptive writing is rich and full of imagery. The main characters are fully rounded people and the supporting cast are believable personalities, often described with wry humour.

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (30 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007313179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007313174
  • Source: I bought the book
  • My rating: 5*

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

Pan Macmillan, Mantle|3 May 2018 |603 pages|e-book |Review copy|4*

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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’s book is The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, one of the books for my 10 Books of Summer Challenge.

The Woman in Cabin 10

It begins with a dream

In my dream, the girl was drifting, far, far below the crashing waves and the cries of the gulls, in the cold, sun-less depths of the North Sea. Her laughing eyes were white and bloated with salt water, her pale skin was wrinkled, her clothes ripped by jagged rocks and disintegrating into rags.

and continues with

Part One – Friday 18 September

The first inkling that something was wrong was waking in darkness to find the cat pawing my face. I must have forgotten to shut the kitchen door last night. Punishment for coming home drunk.

Blurb (from the back cover):

This was meant to be the perfect trip. The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blacklock to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse.

Except things don’t go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted and emotional, Lo has to face the fact that she may have made a mistake – either that, or she is now trapped on a boat with a murderer…

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

I haven’t read any of Ruth Ware’s books, but I like the look of this book and the opening paragraph in part one amused me – if we don’t shut the bedroom door I’m often woken by the cat pawing my face … fortunately I’m not planning to go on a cruise!

Six in Six: 2018

I’m pleased to see that Jo at The Book Jotter  is running this meme again this year to summarise six months of reading, sorting the books into six categories – you can choose from the ones Jo suggests or come up with your own. The same book can obviously feature in more than one category.

Here are my six categories (with links to my reviews):

Six books I have enjoyed (just some of the 5* books I’ve read this year)

  1. After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell
  2. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
  3. Watching You by Lisa Jewell
  4. Munich by Robert Harris
  5. The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor
  6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Six new authors to me

  1. Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale
  2. Force of Nature by Jane Harper
  3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  4. The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox
  5. The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie
  6. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simsonson

Six books from the past that drew me back there

  1. The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin
  2. The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
  3. The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey
  4. The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
  5. Her Hidden Life by V S Alexander
  6. The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor

Six Non-British Authors

  1. Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
  2. The Midnight Line by Lee Child
  3. Time is a Killer by Michel Bussi
  4. A Dying Note by Ann Parker
  5. The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas
  6. The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Six  Golden Age Mysteries

  1. The Secret Vanguard by Michael Innes
  2. Bump in the Night by Colin Watson
  3. Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith
  4. The Daffodil Affair by Michael Innes
  5. Bats in the Belfry by E C R Lorac
  6. Fire in the Thatch by E C R Lorac

Six authors I read last year – but not so far this year and their books I hope to read

  1. Colin Dexter – The Riddle of the Third Mile
  2. Peter May – Coffin Road
  3. Beryl Bainbridge – Another Part of the Wood
  4. Gillian McAllister – No Further Questions (to be published in October)
  5. Ann Cleeves – Wild Fire (to be published in September)
  6. Ian Rankin – In a House of Lies (to be published in October)

How is your reading going this year? Do let me know if you take part in Six in Six too.

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

 

Random House UK Cornerstone|12 July 2018|496 pages|e-book |Review copy|5*

Six Degrees of Separation from Tales of the City to Fear in the Sunlight

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)

Completely Unexpected TalesDon't Look Now and Other StoriesThe Man in the PictureThe Picture of Dorian GrayOscar Wilde and the Candlelight MurdersFear in the Sunlight (Josephine Tey, #4)

This month the chain begins with Tales of the City, the first in a series by Armistead Maupin – yet another book I haven’t read or even heard of before! But it brought to my mind another book of tales –

Completely Unexpected Tales by Roald Dahl, described on the back cover as a collection of macabre tales of vengeance, surprise and dark delights. I used to enjoy these tales in the TV series, Tales of the Unexpected, years ago.

That takes me to the second link in the chain which is another collection of short stories, Don’t Look Now and Other Stories  by Daphne Du Maurier. The title story is a supernatural tale involving a British couple on holiday in Venice to escape the pain of their young daughter’s recent death.

Another book set in partly in Venice is The Man in the Picture: a Ghost Story by Susan Hill . The narrator is having a meal with his old college professor one bitterly cold January evening in  Cambridge, listening to a strange tale of a Venetian painting, of death and damnation.

And so to the fourth link both by its title and its subject – a story of the supernatural, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, a Gothic horror story in which Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty.

Oscar Wilde is the main character in Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders by Gyles Brandreth, a detective story of corruption and intrigue in which Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle investigate a murder. This is a book that mixes fact and fiction by using real people as characters. As does my last book –

Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson, set in the 1930s, in which writer Josephine Tey joins her friends in the holiday village of Portmeirion to celebrate her fortieth birthday. Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, are there to sign a deal to film Josephine’s novel, A Shilling for Candles.

 ~~~

My chain is made up of a mixture of books that I’ve read or are on my TBR shelves and a mix of short stories, ghost and horror stories and crime fiction. Books about the supernatural, books set in Venice and books  that mix fact and fiction.

Next month (August 4, 2018), we’ll begin with Atonement by Ian McEwan. Hurrah – a book I’ve read and loved!

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

‘… in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.’

The Grapes of Wrath

Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic remains his undisputed masterpiece.

Set against the background of dust bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit. (Amazon)

I loved The Grapes of Wrath. It’s a book that totally surprised me by how much I loved it and I’m sure that whatever I write about it will not do it justice – my post merely skims the surface of this brilliant book. My copy has an Introduction by Robert DeMott, who is an American author, scholar, and editor best known for his influential scholarship on John Steinbeck and in it he writes that The Grapes of Wrath is the greatest of Steinbeck’s seventeen novels.

Steinbeck’s aggressive mixture of native philosophy, common sense politics, blue-collar radicalism, working class characters, folk wisdom, and home-spun literary form – all set to a rhythmic style and nervy, raw dialect – qualified the novel as the ‘American book” he set out to write. (page 1)

Cannery Row was the first of Steinbeck’s novels that I read and I thought then that Steinbeck’s style is perfect for me. With both books I felt that I was there in the thick of everything he described. His writing conjures up such vivid pictures and together with his use of dialect I really felt I was there in America in the 1930s travelling with the Joad family on their epic journey from Oklahoma to California. What a long, hard journey with such high hopes of a better life and what a tragedy when they arrived to find their dreams were shattered, their illusions destroyed and their hopes denied.

I liked the structure of the book with chapters advancing the story of the Joad family’s journey interspersed with general chapters about the current situation in the country giving snapshots of living conditions. But it’s the landscape and the characters (so many of them) together that made such an impression on me. I liked all the details Steinbeck gives, for example how everything, no matter how small has meaning and memories attached, how to decide what to leave and what to take as the Joads packed up to leave their home. Their belongings and their land is their whole being:

How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past? No. Leave it. Burn it. They sat and looked at it and burned it into their memories. How’ll it be not to know what land’s outside the door? How if you wake up in the night and know—and know the willow tree’s not there? Can you live without the willow tree? Well, no, you can’t. The willow tree is you. The pain on that mattress there—that dreadful pain—that’s you. (page 93)

Throughout the book, Steinbeck shows the inhumanity of man to man and also the dignity and compassion, the essential goodness and perseverance of individuals against such appalling conditions and inhumane treatment. Inevitably, I found myself comparing it to the situation today with the influx of migrants and refugees and the problems of illegal immigrants.

Steinbeck’s first wife, Carol chose the novel’s title from Howe’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ –  Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord, He is trampling on the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored… , which in turn is taken from the Book of Revelation Ch14:19-20: ‘So the angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes, and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.'(NIV)

~~~

This book slots into the only reading challenge I’m doing this year – What’s in a Name 2018. It fits into the category of a book with a ‘fruit or vegetable‘ in the title. It is also one of my TBR books (a book I’ve owned prior to 1 January 2018) and also a book on my Classics Club list.

  • Format: Paperback
  • Print Length: 476 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Modern Classics 2000 (first published 1939)
  • Source: A present
  • My Rating: 5*