Bookshelf Travelling: 11 July 2020

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times. Judith hasn’t posted on her blog since June 23 and I’m hoping that she’s OK and that, rather than anything else, it’s an internet problem, as where she lives high winds cause branches and trees to topple on power lines.

One of my favourite genres is historical fiction, including historical crime fiction. I don’t arrange my books by genre, so these books are shelved with the rest of my fiction in author order. For this week’s post I’ve picked out just four novels, none of which I’ve read yet.

From the bottom up:

River of Darkness by Rennie Airth is a book recommended by fellow book blogger Ann at Café Society. It’s the first novel in his John Madden trilogy, published in 1999. It was shortlisted for four crime fiction awards and won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France. My copy is a hardback, in good condition, that I got from Barter Books in Alnwick.

It is 1921 and a terrible discovery has been made at a manor house in Surrey – the bloodied bodies of Colonel Fletcher, his wife and two of their staff. The police seem ready to put the murders down to robbery with violence, but DI Madden from Scotland Yard sees things slightly differently.

Next up is The Winding Road by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, a big hardback of 662 pages, that I bought in a library sale. There are 35 books in the Morland Dynasty series and I haven’t read any of them. This is the 34th book in the series, so I am hoping it will read well as a standalone. It’s set in the 1920s, the Jazz Age is in full swing in New York, the General Strike is underway in London, the shadows are gathering over Europe and the Wall Street Crash brings the decade to an end.

The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton is another book I got from Barter Books. This is set in 1809 in Northumberland and it’s a spin-off novel from Catching the Eagle, which features Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods. A beautiful young heiress disappears from her locked bedchamber at Linn Hagh. The local constables are baffled and the townsfolk cry ‘witchcraft’.

The heiress’s uncle summons help from Detective Lavender and his assistant, Constable Woods, who face one of their most challenging cases: The servants and local gypsies aren’t talking; Helen’s siblings are uncooperative; and the sullen local farmers are about to take the law into their own hands. Lavender and Woods find themselves trapped in the middle of a simmering feud as they uncover a world of family secrets, intrigue and deception in their search for the missing heiress.

And finally on top of the pile is The River Midnight by Lilian Nattel, a Canadian author I found through reading her blog, Lilian’s Journal. I found this paperback copy in a secondhand bookshop – The Old Melrose Tea Rooms and Bookshop, tucked away down a little lane between the Eildon Hills and the River Tweed, about two miles from Melrose in the Scottish Borders. The bookshop is upstairs in the barn.

The River Midnight is about the fictional village of Blaska, a small Jewish community in Poland at the turn of the 20th century, when Poland was under Russian occupation. It is told from the perspective of a group of women, including Misha, the midwife, Hannah-Leah, the butcher’s wife, and Faygela, who dreams of the bright lights of Warsaw.
Myth meets history and characters come to life through the stories of the women’s lives and prayers, their secrets, and the intimate details of everyday life.

I love the cover of this book – different from the cover available on Amazon.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read any of these books, or are tempted by any of them.

Six Degrees of Separation: from What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt to

It’s time again for 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.

This month the chain begins with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt a book I read and loved some years ago.

In 1975 art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a New York gallery. He buys the work, tracks down its creator, Bill Weschler, and the two men embark on a life-long friendship.

This is the story of their intense and trouble relationship, of the women in their lives and their work, of art and hysteria, love and seduction and their sons – born the same year but whose lives take very different paths.

Keeping the World Away by Margaret Forster – this is the story of a painting, a variant of Gwen John’s The Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris, as over the years it passes from one woman to another. Her room was the image of how her lover, Rodin, wished her to be and she painted a sunlit corner of it where it was “all peace and calm and serenity” in contrast to Gwen herself who “radiated energy”.

Theft by Peter Carey is set in the art world, about forgeries and details of the international art scene. The book ranges from Australia to Japan and America, with the two Boone brothers, Michael the artist, and Hugh his ‘broken’ brother, who he is ‘looking after’.

Peter Carey is an Australian author, as is Jane Harper. Her book The Lost Man is set in the Queensland outback, hundreds of miles from anywhere and revolves around the death of Cameron Bright, one of the three Bright brothers. They are part of a dysfunctional family. Cameron is found dead, lying at the the base of the headstone of the stockman’s grave. It was the location Cameron had painted – a painting that had won him a prize.

Another dysfunctional family, is the subject of Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver. This is set in a remote hamlet in the Suffolk Fens, an eerie waterlogged landscape where Edmund Stearn, a historian, and his family live in a large manor house, Wake’s End. Edmund eventually went mad and spent the rest of his life in an asylum, where he created three paintings that astonished the world – grotesque paintings full of colour and tiny malevolent faces leering out of the canvas, the stuff of nightmares.

Another manor house is the setting of The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. Beginning in 1862, when a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor in rural Berkshire. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins. it’s a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss.

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal is about Iris, a young woman who worked painting dolls in Mrs Salter’s Dolls Emporium, but who dreamed of being an artist. It tells of her involvement with the Pre-Raphaelite artists and the Great Exhibition of 1851. It was a time when the young artists who had recently formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, were challenging the art world with their vivid paintings.

~~~

The books in my chain are all linked by art, beginning in New York and moving to London, via Berkshire, the Suffolk fens, the Australian outback and Paris. Other links are the authors’ nationality, dysfunctional families and manor house settings, in both historical and crime fiction.

Next month (1 August 2020), the chain begins with – How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell, a book I’ve never come across before.

Bookshelf Travelling: 26 June 2020

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times. I’ve got several bookcases of unread novels and most of them are double shelved. This is another shelf of mixed genre fiction, beginning with three of Reginald Hill’s books. It’s a double stacked shelf, so my other Reginald Hill books are sitting behind these.

This shelf is a mixture of crime fiction, spy fiction, general fiction and one book of short stories.

Child’s Play by Reginald Hill is the next Dalziel and Pascoe novel I’m going to read. It’s the 9th book in the series. I’ve been reading them in sequence and each one has been better than the ones before. From the description on the back cover this looks to be a complicated murder mystery with plenty of suspects.

Another murder mystery is Murder in the Glen: a Tale of Death and Rescue on the Scottish Mountains by Hamish MacInnes, a book I bought whilst on holiday in Glencoe a few years ago. It’s set in the 1970s and although fiction it gives a ‘true portrayal of Highland life by a world authority on mountain rescue as well as the the Scottish Highlands.’ On his website the novel is described: ‘A Highland Laird is killed by a high velocity bullet. The action doesn’t stop there, but escalates in a series of deaths and incidents which appear to hinge round a mountain rescue team. There is no cheating on the part of the author; the plot is logical but few who-did-it guru’s have managed to point a finger at the murderer until the second last chapter.’

I first read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré many years ago (1979), when I watched the BBC series with Alec Guiness as George Smiley. I bought this copy after watching the more recent series (2016) of The Night Manager (I have that on my Kindle) and fancied re-reading Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I started reading it – my bookmark is between pages 88 and 89 – I’ll have to go back to the beginning again to refresh my memory before I can finish it.

My final choice from this shelf for today is Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy, containing, all three books, The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City and Friends and Heroes. I read the first two books years and and still have the third to read! The trilogy is a semi autobiographical account of a British couple, Harriet and Guy Pringle living in the Balkans during World War Two.

This shelf is in one of the bookshelves that greet you as you walk in our front door.

Bookshelf Travelling: 20 June 2020

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times. I’ve got several bookcases of unread novels and most of them are in alphabetical author order and are double shelved. This is the shelf I looked at last week.

This week I’m focusing on four more books on this shelf, beginning with The Man of Property by John Galsworthy. I am so embarrassed that I haven’t read this as I’ve written so many times that I’m going to read it and it’s still sitting there on the shelves unread!

It’s the first installment of The Forsyte Saga, which I loved when it was serialised on the BBC in 1967 with Nyree Dawn Porter as Irene. It’s set in London in 1906 when the Forsyte family gather to celebrate the engagement of young June Forsyte to an architect, Philip Bosinney. Why haven’t I read it???

Next Bilgewater by Jane Gardam, another book I’ve said on this blog that I’m going to read – and haven’t. I’ve liked the other books of hers that I’ve read, so I’m expecting to like this one too. It’s described on the back cover as ‘One of the funniest, most entertaining, most unusual stories about young love’. ‘Bilgewater’ is the name Marigold Green calls herself – a corruption of ‘Bill’s daughter’.

Then, there is The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. This is historical fiction. I was going to read it until I saw the BBC dramatisation some years ago and it put me off! Set in 1464 it’s about the Wars of the Roses and Elizabeth Woodville the White Queen, married to Edward IV. If you have read this book, do let me know what you thought about it.

And finally, Earth and Heaven by Sue Gee. A novel about a painter and his family in the aftermath of the First World War. The back cover reveals that it is a ‘detailed portrayal of an era which refuses to become part of the past, even today.’ I bought this book because I’d read and enjoyed Sue Gee’s novel The Hours of the Night.

I’m enjoying looking at books I’d forgotten about, and although it’s good to know I’ll probably never run out of books to read, I hope that one day I’ll read all the books on my shelves and Kindle!

Have you read any of these?

Bookshelf Travelling: 13 June 2020

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times. I’ve got several bookcases of unread novels and most of them are in alphabetical author order and are double shelved.

Today I’m focusing on a few of the books on the second shelf down in the photo, containing books beginning with Gone Girl by GilIan Flynn. These are the books that were at the back of the shelf. I’ve removed the front row of books and pulled these forward. They are books that I haven’t seen for some time and I’d forgotten about them.

First of all, Gone Girl. This is a secondhand book I bought 6 years ago from the local village hall when I went there to vote. It’s a book that lots of book bloggers had written about and I thought I’d like to read it – but haven’t yet!

The blurb on the back describes it as ‘The addictive No.1 US bestseller that everyone is talking about’. Nick Dunn discovered on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary that his wife Amy had disappeared. The police suspect Nick and friends reveal that Amy was frightened of him.

Parade End by Ford Madox Ford has been on my shelves for seven years. I bought it after watching the BBC series and the front cover shows Benedict Cumberbatch as English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens. This edition of the novel includes all four parts, originally published separately between 1924 and 1928. A novel about the First World War it was based on his personal experiences of war. I loved the TV series – and I’m hoping to love the book!

The next one is The Secret Place by Tana French. I bought this five years ago at Barter Books in Alnwick (a large secondhand book shop that is run on an exchange basis) because I’ve enjoyed a couple of her books in the past. It’s crime fiction set in an exclusive girls’ boarding school in Dublin. Detective Stephen Moran investigates the death of Christopher Harper, a boy from the neighbouring boys’ school, who was found murdered on the grounds. It’s a long book in a small font, which is probably why I haven’t read it yet.

And finally, Missing Joseph: An Inspector Lynley Novel by Elizabeth George is another book I bought from Barter Books in November last year. I haven’t read any of the Inspector Lynley novels, although I’ve watched the TV adaptations. This is the sixth in the series, telling the story of a woman’s quest to solve the mystery of the death of her friend, an Anglican priest. Deborah and her husband, Simon, turn to their old friend, Inspector Lynley.

I really like the look of this book, set mainly in Lancashire and in her Aknowledgements Elizabeth George refers to Mist Over Pendle by Robert Neill, one of my favourite books. But it is very long and yet again in a small font.

I’m going to keep these books on display (moving the books that were previously in front of them to the back of the shelf) so that I don’t forget about them again. And I might focus on some of the other books on this shelf in a future Bookshelf Travelling post.

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions to My TBRs

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog. This week’s topic is Books I’ve Added to my TBR and Forgotten Why, but instead I’ve listed ten of the e-books I’ve added to my TBRs since the lockdown.

They are:

  • The Boy Who Fell by Jo Spain – An Inspector Tom Reynolds Mystery Book 5. Jo Spain is one of my favourite crime fiction writers. In this one Tom investigates the death of Luke Connolly who was found in the garden of an abandoned house.
  • Six Wicked Reasons by Jo Spain – a standalone book, crime fiction, a thriller set in Wexford and Spanish Cove in Ireland about a dysfunctional family.
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov – a powerful picture of Stalin’s regime in this allegorical classic. I’ve seen favourable reviews on other blogs.
  • The Godfather by Mario Puzo – a story of the Mafia and the Corleone family. I’ve seen the film and want to read the book to see how it compares.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – another book other bloggers recommend. It’s historical fiction about a man who is sentenced to permanent house arrest in the luxurious Metropol Hotel in Moscow. 
  • The Second Sleep by Robert Harris – another favourite author. 1468. A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote Exmoor village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor.
  • Miss Austen by Gill Hornby historical fiction that delves into why Cassandra burned a treasure trove of letters written by her sister, Jane Austen – an act of destruction that has troubled academics for centuries.
  • Conviction by Denise Mina – crime fiction, about a woman listening to a true crime podcast when she realises she knows the victim and is convinced she knows what really happened.
  • Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce – Obsession, revenge, lust and murder play out on the pages as a female barrister tries to hold her life together while her personality tries to tear it apart.
  • An Air That Kills by Andrew Taylor – the first book in the Lydmouth series. I’ve read this one already – here’s my post.

Six Degrees of Separation: from Normal People to The Inheritance of Loss

It’s time again for 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.

This month the chain begins with Normal People by Sally Rooney. This is one of my TBRs. I did begin it but it didn’t appeal to me. I’m in the minority, though, as I know it is very popular, many people love both the book and the TV series and it  has won several awards. It’s the story of two people who try to stay apart but find they can’t.

Normal People

Sally Rooney is an Irish author, as is Maggie O’Farrell, whose book Instructions for a Heatwave was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award. Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone.

Also shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award was All the Birds, Singing by Australian author Evie Wyld, a book I would like to read. This is a novel, using reverse chronology techniques, telling the story of Jake Whyte who lives on an unnamed island off the coast of Britain, tending her flock of sheep with her dog, Dog. Someone, or something, is killing her sheep, and her investigations lead her and the reader back to her time in Australia to the ‘original sin’ that sets everything in motion.

Another novel featuring the killing of sheep is Seeking Whom He May Devour by French author, Fred Vargas. It’s set in the French mountains. Johnstone, a Canadian is living there whilst he films a documentary about wolves. The problems start when more and more sheep are found with their throats torn out. This is the second in her Commissaire Adamsberg series. I thought it was quite quirky with touches of humour.

Thinking about wolves reminded me of Stef Penny’s novel, The Tenderness of Wolves, another Costa Award winning book. 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. It begins as she describes the last time she saw the French-Canadian trapper, Laurent Jammet alive.  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.

Next I thought of another book set in Canada, The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson. This is a beautiful book set in  in Northern Canada about two brothers, Arthur and Jake Dunn who grow up on a small farm near Struan (a fictional town) in the 1930s. Arthur is older, shy, dutiful, and set to inherit his father’s farm. Jake is younger and reckless, a dangerous to know. When Laura arrives in their 1930s rural community, an already uneasy relationship is driven to breaking point. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2006.

And that brings me to the last book in the chain – the winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2006 was Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. This is set in the Himalayas where a judge and his granddaughter live in a dilapidated mansion. The judge, broken by a world too messy for justice, is haunted by his past. His orphan granddaughter has fallen in love with her handsome tutor, despite their different backgrounds and ideals. The cook’s heart is with his son, who is working in a New York restaurant, mingling with an underclass from all over the globe as he seeks somewhere to call home.

~~~

The books in my chain are linked either by the authors’ nationality, prize winning books and books about the killing of sheep! 

Next month (July 6, 2020), the chain begins with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt – a book I loved!

My Friday Post: Cruel Acts by Jane Casey

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.

Cruel Acts is the 8th book in Jane Carey’s Maeve Kerrigan series

The house was dark. PC Sandra West stared up at it and sighed. The neighbours had called the police – she checked her watch – getting on for an hour earlier, to complain about the noise.

 

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

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These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  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.

Page 56:

Freedom was within his grasp but it wasn’t his quite yet.

Blurb:

Guilty?
A year ago, Leo Stone was convicted of murdering two women and sentenced to life in prison. Now he’s been freed on a technicality, and he’s protesting his innocence.

Not guilty?
DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent are determined to put Stone back behind bars where he belongs, but the more Maeve digs, the less convinced she is that he did it.
 
The wrong decision could be deadly…
Then another woman disappears in similar circumstances. Is there a copycat killer, or have they been wrong about Stone from the start?

~~~ 

I’ve read the earlier books, except for the novella, One in Custody, and enjoyed them all, so I have high expectations that I’ll enjoy this one too.

Remain Silent by Susie Steiner

‘The dead cannot speak. But they still have a story to tell.’

I’ve enjoyed two of Susie Steiner’s earlier books so I was keen to read her latest book, Remain Silent and once more I was totally immersed in the story. It’s the 3rd Manon Bradshaw book and I loved it.

Remain silent

The Borough Press | 28 May 2020 | 368 pages | review copy | 4*

‘By turns warm and witty, gripping and terrifying, heartbreaking and uplifting, Susie Steiner’s fourth book is both a literary tour de force and one of the finest crime novels of recent years.’ (extract from the publishers’ blurb)

My thoughts:

This is not just a police procedural and a gripping mystery it is a tragedy, a scathing look at modern life, centred on the exploitation of immigrant labour, racism and abuse that some of the foreign workers have to endure.

Manon Bradshaw is a Detective Inspector, a working mother with a young toddler, Teddy, her adopted teenage son, Fly and her partner, Mark Talbot who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. She is working in the Major Crime Unit on cold cases on a part-time basis and is not getting on well with her new boss, Detective Superintendent Gloria McBain. Despite that when she finds the body of Lukas Balsys hanging from a tree with a note attached saying ‘The dead cannot speak’,  McBain puts her in charge of the investigation into his death – did he commit suicide or was he murdered?

The story, as in the earlier books, has a complicated plot. This one revolves around the plight of a group of Lithuanian immigrants living and working in terrible conditions under a cruel gang master, Edikas. There is a large cast of characters –  as well as the Lithuanians and the police there is a local racist group leading a campaign of hatred with protest marches and the threat of violence.  All come over as incredibly real people, with the star characters being Manon, Lukas, his friend Matis and Elise who falls in love with Lukas, despite her racist father’s hatred of the immigrants.

This has all the ingredients of a successful crime novel for me. Although it starts off slowly building up a picture of the characters and their situation, it is gripping and intense, dealing with problems of prejudice and downright hatred and xenophobia – a most thought-provoking and shocking novel.

The Author

Susie Steiner is a novelist and freelance journalist. She began her writing career as a news reporter first on local papers, then on the Evening Standard, the Daily Telegraph and The Times. In 2001 she joined The Guardian, where she worked as a commissioning editor for 11 years. In May 2019 she was diagnosed with a brain tumour (Grade 4 Glioblastoma) and spent most of 2019 undergoing treatment: six hours of brain surgery, chemo radiation, and six cycles of chemotherapy. My best wishes for her recovery. For more information see her website, susiesteiner.co.uk

WWW Wednesday: 27 May 2020

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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 Yesterday’s Papers by Martin Edwards – On Leap Year Day in 1964, an attractive teenager called Carole Jeffries was strangled in a Liverpool park. The killing caused a sensation: Carole came from a prominent political family and her pop musician boyfriend was a leading exponent of the Mersey Sound. When a neighbour confessed to the crime, the case was closed. Now, more than thirty years later, Ernest Miller, an amateur criminologist, seeks to persuade lawyer Harry Devlin that the true culprit escaped scot free. Although he suspects Miller’s motives, Harry has a thirst for justice and begins to delve into the past. But when another death occurs, it becomes clear that someone wants old secrets to remain buried – at any price.

Recently Finished: I’ve just finished Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu, translated by fellow blogger Marina Sofia – A shadowy killer stalks the streets of Bucharest, seeking out victims from among the Roma minority. But this is not the usual police procedural as it focuses on the effect the serial killings have on the political scene. I’ll write more about it later on.

Reading Next: I’m never really sure, but it could be Dead Man’s Footsteps by Peter James. I’m reading his Superintendent Grace books in order and this is the 4th one.

Amid the tragic unfolding mayhem of the morning of 9/11, failed Brighton businessman and ne’er-do-well Ronnie Wilson sees the chance of a lifeline: to shed his debts, disappear and reinvent himself in another country. Six years later the discovery of the skeletal remains of a woman’s body in a storm drain in Brighton leads Detective Superintendent Roy Grace on an enquiry spanning the globe, and into a desperate race against time to save the life of a woman being hunted down like an animal in the streets and alleys of Brighton.

What do you think – which one would you read next?

This post has taken me hours to write using the new Block Editor which I find most confusing. I’m wondering how other WordPress users are getting on – any tips that would help me would be most welcome!