Styx and Stones by Carola Dunn

I always intend to write about the books I read soon after I’ve finished them, whilst the details and my reaction are fresh in my mind.  But recently I haven’t managed to do so and now have four books to review. I can deal with one of them quickly because I don’t have much to say about it – Styx and Stones by Carola Dunn. This is the seventh book in the Daisy Dalrymple Mystery series (there are 22 in total so far). I’ve read the first three and have been waiting to find the fourth to read them in order, but gave in when I saw this secondhand copy.

Set in the 1920s this is a cosy mystery that doesn’t tax the brain too much. Daisy’s brother-in-law, Lord John Frobisher, asks her to investigate a series of poison pen letters that many of the local villagers including himself have been receiving. So Daisy and her step-daughter, Belinda, go to stay with her sister and brother-in-law. Lord John is anxious to avoid a scandal, but when a murder is committed the local police have to be informed about the letters. Daisy’s fiancé, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard is concerned about Daisy and Belinda, so he gets involved informally, all the time trying to keep Daisy out of danger. The village is a hotbed of gossip, intrigue and resentment, with plenty of people with possible cause to commit murder. I liked the interaction of the members of the WI, bossed by the vicar’s wife and the way Daisy managed to get each of them to talk to her.

Styx and Stones is a quick and easy read, (although I didn’t guess the identity of the murderer until quite near the end) with the focus on Daisy and Alec’s relationship as well as on the poison pen and murder mysteries.

The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley

17742272I had little idea what to expect from Martha Ockley’s first Faith Morgan mysteryThe Reluctant Detective as I hadn’t come across the author before and all I had to go on was the description on LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers page last month:

‘Former cop Faith Morgan may have quit the world of crime, but crime has not let her go. Now a priest in the Church of England, she is assigned to the improbably named village of Little Worthy, and within an hour of her arrival she witnesses the sudden, shocking death of a fellow priest. To her distress, the detective assigned to the case is Ben, her former partner and former boyfriend.

As she meets her parishioners she learns some surprising details about her apparently well-loved predecessor, and starts to suspect a motive for his death. The cop may have donned a clerical collar, but the questions keep coming. How will she reconcile her present calling with her past instincts? Is she in danger herself? What should she do about Ben?’

I thought a detective who  was a priest and who used to be a policewoman sounded interesting. So, I am very pleased that The Reluctant Detective turned out to be a good read. Faith Morgan is a well-rounded character; she’s very likeable, observant, compassionate and the sort of person that people feel comfortable talking to – a bit like a young Miss Marple. Indeed, the book has an Agatha Christie feel to it – set in an apparently idyllic country village, with interesting and somewhat quirky characters and although there is one rather gruesome death, it’s not a gory thriller. In short it’s the type of murder mystery that I like, with plenty of complications that kept me guessing about the identity of the murderer for most of the book.

The church and village location are convincing. The parish church of St John is an old building dating from Saxon times, with a tower and church bells, set in the English countryside:

Faith avoided the main approach and followed a gravel path around the back of the church. A creamy cloud of ivory clematis cascaded over a grey stone wall. Beyond a solitary pony raised its chestnut head to gaze mournfully at her from a field of weeds. Some way off squatted a group of ramshackle farm buildings. (page 9)

Faith’s ex – Detective Inspector Ben Shorter, reluctantly allows Faith to contribute to the search for the murderer and the chemistry between the two of them is clearly evident even though he can’t understand why she left the police force for the church. Indeed, Faith herself wonders if she has done the right thing, cutting herself off from her old life and her old self as she realises that she likes investigating, and analyzing people, their expressions and body language and working out what makes them tick. But these are assets for a priest as well as for a police officer. And as for death:

It struck Faith how death is always startling, facing us with the greatest mystery: how the particular and the individual can vanish from this world so completely in a moment. (page 17)

The back cover reveals that Martha Ockley lives in the North East of England and has close links with the church, having grown up as the daughter of a minister. She is a full-time writer of both fiction and non-fiction. I was curious about Martha Ockley and wondered why she had given ‘special thanks to Rebecca Jenkins’ on the title page, so I searched online and discovered that ‘Martha Ockley’ is actually a pseudonym of Rebecca Jenkins, the daughter of the Rev David Jenkins, formerly the Bishop of Durham.

Thanks to LibraryThing and Lion Fiction/Kregel Publications for providing a copy for review. Based on my reading of The Reluctant Detective I shall certainly seek out more books by Martha Ockley/Rebecca Jenkins. There are two more Faith Morgan books:

  • The Advent of Murder
  • A Saintly Killing (to be published in October 2014)

And writing as Rebecca Jenkins:

The R F Jarrett books (the Regency Detective)

  • The Duke’s Agent (1997)
  • Death of a Radical (2010)

also Non Fiction:

  • Free to Believe (David Jenkins and Rebecca Jenkins (1991)
  • Fanny Kemble: a reluctant celebrity (2005)
  • The First London Olympics 1908 (2008)

Knavesborough Stories by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

Recently Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen kindly made two of her short stories available to me (e-books) for review. They are both about the Gershwin family in Knavesborough, a fictional village in Yorkshire, namely Ding Dong Bell, the Kitten in the Well and Green Acres. I often find short stories lack the necessary depth to be convincing – either weak plots and/or characterisation, but these short stories are both convincing and satisfying. Maybe it helps that they are continuations of other stories, or in the case of Ding Dong Bell, the Kitten in the Well, a prequel.

Ding Dong Bell, the Kitten in the Well goes back in time to Rhapsody Gershwin’s childhood in the early 1990s. Rhapsody is the vicar’s daughter first featured in The Cosy Knave. In this short story Rhapsody and her sisters are worried about the disappearance of the black kitten they have called Black Pete. The last time they had seen him was when they had played in old Ursula Abbot’s garden and they wondered if he had he got locked in her cottage. Ursula had died but as she was nearly ninety it wasn’t entirely an unexpected death … but she had been in good health. Is Ursula’s death connected to Black Pete’s disappearance?Rhapsody helps to solve the mystery.

Green Acres* takes us to the latest in the Gershwin and Penrose Mysteries series. Green Acres, once a country mansion, has been converted into a home for the elderly. Rhapsody visits Rowan Dougal, a farmer who has broken his hip and is currently living at Green Acres. Lavinia Banbury staying in the room next to Rowan dies in her sleep. Nothing unusual in an old people’s home, but is her death really a natural one?

Green Acres* was originally published in the anthology The Red Shoes. This is a new and longer version.

I like these stories. They’re humorous crime fiction, with colourful characters all with quirky names. There’s no blood and gore and each story has an unexpected twist at the end. In other words, they are cosy crimes (if any crime could really be considered as ‘cosy’, that is).

Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen is Danish. After many years as a teacher she is now concentrating on a writing career, publishing in both Danish and English. As well as writing her cosy mysteries she has also written a full length psychological murder mystery novel, Anna Marklin’s Family Chronicles, which I thoroughly enjoyed too – see my post here.

Book Notes: Daisy Dalrymple

I’ve now read the first three books in Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series – all borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. I wrote about the first book Death at Wentwater Court in this post. It’s a typical country house murder mystery.

I’ve recently read the second and third books, The Winter Garden Mystery, another country house murder mystery and Requiem for a Mezzo. These are quick, light, easy and enjoyable to read, not requiring much brain power to work out who did the murders. They provide an interesting glimpse of life in the 1920s..

Set in 1923 Daisy is visiting Occles Hall in Cheshire, the home of her school friend Bobbie, to write an article for the Town and Country magazine and discovers a corpse buried in the Winter Garden. It’s the body of Grace Moss, the blacksmith’s daughter and parlour maid at the Hall. She had gone missing three months earlier.The under-gardener is arrested. Daisy convinced of his innocence contacts Detective Inspector Alex Fletcher of Scotland Yard and their relationship develops as they set about discovering the murderer.

In this book Daisy and DI Alex Fletcher are at the Albert Hall watching a performance of Verdi’s Requiem in which her neighbour, Bettina Westlea is singing , until she drops dead, apparently from cyanide poisoning.  Alex reluctantly lets Daisy help with the investigation into her murder.

Bettina had made many enemies and it surfaces that there are several possible motives and suspects. Daisy has a knack of getting people to talk to her, but I did find this just a little repetitive as Alex tried to stop her involvement. However, this didn’t detract from their continuing relationship.

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn

I first came across Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple books on Geranium Cat‘s blog and on Read Warbler‘s blog a couple of years ago and have been meaning to read them ever since.

Death at Wentwater Court is the first in the series. It’s a quick and easy read, a mix of Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse, set in 1923 at the Earl of Wentwater’s country mansion, Wentwater Court. The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple, keen to be independent and earn her own living, is on her first writing assignment for Town and Country magazine, writing about country houses. It’s Christmas and the family and guests at Wentwater Court are enjoying the snow and in particular skating on the frozen lake.

But all is not well. One of the guests, Lord Stephen Astwick is found dead in the lake and it appears he has had a skating accident. However, Daisy’s photos suggest that the hole in the ice had not occurred naturally – there were signs that someone had cut a hole and not that the ice had simply weakened. Enter Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, who is also investigating a jewel robbery at Lord Flatford’s house nearby.

This is a typical country house murder mystery, with plenty of suspects. Daisy is a likeable, lively character and it looks as though her relationship with Alec could become more personal by the end of the book. An enjoyable book, but not one to overtax the brain. I hope it’s not too long before I read the next one in the series – The Winter Garden Mystery.

Note: Carola Dunn is a prolific author, with 21 books in the Daisy Dalrymple series alone – see Fantastic Fiction for her bibliography.

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter Y

Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet has reached the letter Y – an easier letter to illustrate than last week’s letter X. My choice this week is …

Murder by Yew by Suzanne Young. (The first book in the Edna Davies Mysteries series) I read this on Kindle.

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

When her handyman dies of taxine poisoning, Edna Davies, amateur herbalist, becomes the prime suspect. Nearly certain that she hadn’t concocted a poisonous potion and desperate to save herself from arrest, Edna taps into strengths she never before realized she possessed. Shunned by the townsfolk, questioned by the police, and threatened by thieves, she follows the clues of a forty-year-old disappearance to capture a killer.

My View

Suzanne Young is an American author with a degree in English from Rhode Island University. She has worked as a writer, editor and computer programmer. She now writes fiction full time. For more information see her website

Murder by Yew is the first book by Suzanne Young that I have read. It’s an entertaining ‘cosy’ murder mystery, set in mainly in Rhode Island, a light and quick read. The story is told in the third person from Edna’s perspective. It’s clearly written, with well described locations. The dialogue is lively, apart from one section with reported dialogue which isn’t so convincing.

Edna and her husband, a retired doctor, have recently moved to Rhode Island and she is getting to know her neighbours. She employs Tom Greene to do jobs around the house and garden. The former owner of the house was a keen gardener and had left notebooks filled with comments on the plants in the garden, along with recipes for home-brews and potions and Edna is enjoying herself making some of them, such as chamomile tea with a touch of lemon balm. When Tom collapses and dies the police take samples of her tea mixes and suspect that he had been poisoned by the addition of yew to one of Edna’s tea blends.

Tom’s little grandson, Danny, who is deaf with a speech problem, holds the key to the mystery, but his mother won’t allow Edna to talk to him. Things go from bad to worse for Edna as people begin to shun her and then a storm hits Rhode Island. The cast of characters is well-drawn, with Edna as a most likeable amateur sleuth. She has to discover the motive for killing Tom – was it to do with his present day work,or did it lie further back in his past? Does the recent spate of robberies have a link to his murder and what is the significance of the presence of Edna’s housekeeper in a photo taken in Boston by Edna’s daughter? Edna proves most resourceful in sorting it all out and discovering the murderer’s identity. I had my suspicions about one character quite early on in the book – and I was right, so maybe it was just a bit predictable, which isn’t a bad thing!

Suzanne Young has written two more Edna Davies mysteriesMurder by Proxy and Murder by Mishap, both also available on Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading them.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 348 KB
  • Print Length: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Mainly Murder Press; 1 edition (27 Nov 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003P8P8G0
  • Source: I bought it
  • My Rating 3.5/5

Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham


Faithful Unto Death (Misomer Murders -€¦Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham is a Midsomer Murder Mystery. I’ve enjoyed watching the TV series over the years. Midsomer is obviously a dangerous place to live with all those murders happening so regularly, but they are not the gory kind – it’s murder of a sanitised nature. Inspector Barnaby is a genial character, although an astute detective, one who is not quite up to date with modern police methods but relies on intuition and thinking.

So I was a bit surprised reading this book that the characters are a bit different, especially Sergeant Troy who is nothing like the TV character. On TV Troy was a bit naive and usually didn’t have much of a clue about solving the murders, but a likeable chap who got on OK with Barnaby. Troy in the book is sharper, meaner, spiteful and inwardly critical of Barnaby. He’s insecure, resentful and sees any creative or intellectual prowess in others as a criticism of his own life.

Set in Fawcett Green, an unspoilt peaceful village the book begins with the disappearance of Simone Hollingsworth, soon followed by her distraught husband’s death, apparently suicide, then the disappearance of their neighbour’s daughter. Barnaby and Troy, with the doubtful assistance of the local policeman Constable Perrot work their way through interviewing the village’s inhabitants and gradually unravel the mystery.

It’s an entertaining and satisfying book, full of detail and clues as to the eventual outcome, which I did work out before the end. The characters stand out as real people, and are described with humour and empathy. I don’t remember seeing this on TV but reading about it online it seems it’s differed from the book, so that’s not too surprising. As in the TV version Barnaby is a patient, tolerant man,  also a bit grumpy and moody, who is trying and failing to lose weight, and who loves music. So many fictional detectives seem to like music and food!

This is the first Midsomer Murder mystery I’ve read and much as I like the TV series I prefer the book version – it has more bite and more substance. I’m taking part in the Cozy Mystery Challenge and although I’m still not too sure about the classification of “cozy” murder mysteries, I think this book can count as one.