My Friday Post: The Lake House by Kate Morton

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.

This week I’m featuring The Lake House by Kate Morton. This is one of my TBRs.

It begins in Cornwall in August 1933:

The rain was heavy now and the hem of her dress was splattered with mud. She’d have to hide it afterwards; no one could know that she’d been out.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  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

Sadie pictured the muddy lake and its eerie avian population. ‘Yes, that’s it. What happened there?’

‘A terrible business,’ Louise said, with a sad shake of her head. ‘Back in the thirties, before I was born. My mother used to talk about it, though – usually when she wanted to stop us kids from wandering too far. A child went missing on the night of a grand party. It was a big story at the time; the family was wealthy and the national press paid a lot of attention. There was a huge police investigation, and they even brought down the top brass from London. Not that any of it helped.

What a coincidence! I think these two extracts sum up what this book is about – an unsolved mystery of a child who disappeared without a trace.

I’ll be reading this book soon. What do you think? does it tempt you too?

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Midnight Line by Lee Child

eca8f-fistchapEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros to share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that she’s reading or is planning to read soon.

Last week I featured one of my Christmas presents, so I thought I’d follow that with another one of my Christmas presents, The Midnight Line by Lee Child.

The Midnight Line (Jack Reacher, #22)

 

It begins:

Jack Reacher and Michelle Chang spent three days in Milwaukee. On the fourth morning she was gone. Reacher came back to the room with coffee and found a note on his pillow. He had seen such notes before. They all said the same thing. Either directly or indirectly. Chang’s note was indirect. And more elegant than most. Not in terms of presentation. It was a  ballpoint scrawl on motel notepaper gone wavy with damp. But elegant in terms of expression. She had used a simile, to explain and flatter and apologize all at once. She had written, You’re like New York City. I love to visit, but I could never live there.

Blurb:

Jack Reacher takes an aimless stroll past a pawn shop in a small Midwestern town. In the window he sees a West Point class ring from 2005. It’s tiny. It’s a woman cadet’s graduation present to herself. Why would she give it up? Reacher’s a West Pointer too, and he knows what she went through to get it.

Reacher tracks the ring back to its owner, step by step, down a criminal trail leading west. Like Big Foot come out of the forest, he arrives in the deserted wilds of Wyoming. All he wants is to find the woman. If she’s OK, he’ll walk away. If she’s not … he’ll stop at nothing.

He’s still shaken by the recent horrors of Make Me, and now The Midnight Line sees him set on a raw and elemental quest for simple justice. Best advice: don’t get in his way.

∼ ∼ 

Lee Child is a new-to-me author, but by no means a new author and this is the 22nd Jack Reacher thriller. The thing that strikes me about this opening paragraph is the straight forward style of writing and the short sentences, almost staccato, which makes me think this will be a fast-paced book. When I wrote about it in my Christmas Books post I was encouraged by some of the comments about his books, so I’m looking forward to reading it very soon.

What do you think – would you read on?

Six Degrees from No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency to White Nights

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.

This month the chain begins with Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, a book I haven’t read although I have watched the TV version.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency  (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #1)

Precious Ramotswe is a kind, warm-hearted and large African lady. She is also the only female private detective in Botswana. Her agency – the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – is the best in the country. With help of her secretary, Mma Makutsi, and her best friend, Mr JLB Matekoni, she solves a number of difficult problems. A missing husband, a missing finger and a missing child – she will solve these mysteries in her own special way.

Although I haven’t read No.1 Ladies Detective Agency I have read a few of Alexander McCall Smith’s books including The Careful Use of Compliments, an Isabel Dalhousie Novel, one of the Sunday Philosophy Club series, set in Edinburgh.

The Careful Use of Compliments (Isabel Dalhousie, #4)

Isabel has just had a baby, Charlie, and is in a relationship with his father, Jamie (14 years her junior) who is her niece’s, ex-boyfriend. There is a mystery about a painting, whether or not it is a forgery, but for me it’s the philosophical questions that are always uppermost in Isabel’s mind and conversations, her way of ‘interring’ in matters which she considers ‘helping’, and her kindhearted nature that was more interesting.

The next link in my chain is to an another book set in Edinburgh. The Inspector’s Daughter by Alanna Knight, the first in the Rose McQuinn Mystery series, set in Edinburgh in 1895, when the Forth Railway Bridge had just been opened.

The Inspector's Daughter

Rose, recently returned from America’s Wild West, steps into the shoes of her father, DI Faro. She lives in an isolated house at the foot of Arthur’s Seat and is helped by a wild deerhound who appears just when she needs him.

Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano within Holyrood Park, east of Edinburgh Castle is also mentioned in Ian Rankin’s The Falls, the 12th Inspector Rebus book.

The Falls (Inspector Rebus, #12)

Rebus investigates the disappearance of ‘Flip’ a university student. One lead is a carved wooden doll found in a tiny coffin. Rebus concentrates on the tiny coffin and finds a whole series of them had turned up over the years dating back to 1836 when 17 were found on Arthur’s Seat.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Tales of Terror

In The Falls Rankin also refers to Burke and Hare, the 19th century resurrectionists and this leads me on to the next link in my chain – to The Body Snatcher, which is one of the Tales of Terror by Robert Louis Stevenson, published in the same volume as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. This is a traditional Christmas ghost story, beginning with four men gathered in an inn on a dark winter’s night telling tales of grisly deeds as they sit round the fireside. One of the stories is based on the activities of body snatchers, Burke and Hare in Edinburgh in the 1820s.

The next book, also by Robert Louis Stevenson is in contrast to his tale of terror  – it’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, poems I loved as a child.

This is one of my favourite poems – it brings to mind the power  and fury of the wind:

Windy Nights

Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?

Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he;
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.

The last link in my chain is to a book with Nights in its title – White Nights by Ann Cleeves, the second in her Shetland Quartet, featuring DI Jimmy Perez. The ‘white nights’ are the summer nights when the sun never really goes down.

White Nights (Shetland Island, #2)

It’s set mainly in Biddista, a fictional village where artist Bella Sinclair throws an elaborate party to launch an exhibition of her work at The Herring House, a gallery on the beach. The party ends in farce when one the guests, a mysterious Englishman, bursts into tears and claims not to know who he is or where he’s come from. The following day the Englishman is found hanging from a rafter, and Jimmy Perez is convinced that the man has been murdered.

From books about different detective series my chain moved through a tale of terror, then to a children’s book of poetry and back to another murder mystery –  from Botswana to Edinburgh and the Shetland Isles.

Next month (February 3, 2018),  the chain begins with the book that won the Man Booker Prize in 2017 – Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

Crime Fiction read in 2017

Crime fiction has made up a large section of my reading this year- 49 books, out of a total of 106. Most of them are by authors known to me, and some by new-to-me authors.

These are my top ten in A-Z author order:

Crime Fiction 2017(1)

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey, the seventh Maeve Kerrigan book and it is no less intriguing and complex than the earlier books. I loved it. These are police procedurals, fast-paced novels, with intriguing and complex plots and developing the relationships between the main characters.

Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas, in which the secrets and lies never stop coming, right up to the end of the book. Right from the beginning of the book I was hooked – I was never really sure who I could believe, and just who was telling the truth. It’s one of those books that keeps you guessing right up to the end and this one is excellent, dramatic, tense and so very, very twisty.

.Justice by Another Name by E C Hanes. I had no idea when I began reading just how much I was going to enjoy it. I had never heard of E C Hanes and had no expectations that a murder in the hog-producing industry would be so enthralling. But as soon as I began reading I had a feeling that this was going to be a good book as in a dramatic opening two boys are drowned in a violent storm. I was engrossed in the mystery, amazed that I found the details of the pig farming industry so interesting.

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, a mystery full of red herrings and multiple twists. It’s a very clever and different type of murder mystery. I don’t think I’ve read anything like it before, one in which the author himself plays a major role. At first I was slightly confused – were the details about Horowitz fact or fiction (a lot of it is true), was Hawthorne a real person or a fictional character, what was fact and what was fiction? It really is one of the most complicated and bemusing books I’ve read.

Crime Fiction 2017(2)

Eyes Like Mine by Sheena Kamal, – everything about this book fascinated me from the characters and in particular the main character, Nora Watts, the gripping storylines that kept me racing through the book, to the atmospheric, gloomy setting in Vancouver and in beautiful British Columbia with its snow, mountains and plush ski resorts.

A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride, a gripping page-turner that kept me glued to the book – I didn’t want to put it down. I wasn’t at all sure that I would like it thinking it might be too ‘noir’ for me, but whilst it is dark with some violent and disturbing scenes I was soon hooked into the mystery. It’s a fantastic book, complex, compelling and it kept me guessing right to the end.

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid, this is the first Karen Pirie book. Karen doesn’t play a major role – only appearing in Part Two as a Detective Constable, re- investigating the murder described in Part One, 25 years later. A major twist completely threw me before the dramatic ending.

The Body in the Ice by A J MacKenzie – this is the 2nd Hardcastle and Chaytor Mystery set in Romney Marsh and the surrounding countryside in 1796-7, where a body is found frozen into the ice face down. Reading historical crime fiction is a different experience from reading modern crime fiction – no modern technology, just old-fashioned crime detection and deduction and a certain amount of intuition. I enjoyed it immensely.

Crime Fiction 2017(3)

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, this was my first venture into Icelandic Noir and the first in a new series – the Children’s House thriller series. I loved it and once I started reading I just didn’t want to put it down. It’s dark, mysterious and very cleverly plotted, full of tension and nerve-wracking suspense. Although I thought I’d worked out who the murderer is I was completely wrong, but looking back I could see all the clues are there, cunningly concealed – I just didn’t notice them.

A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas, the 9th Commissaire Adamsberg book. I had high expectations for this book and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s as quirky and original as the other Commissaire Adamsberg books I’ve read (I’ve read five of them, including this one). As in earlier books, Fred Vargas brings in elements of the supernatural, of folk tales, myths and legends, all of which is fascinating and intricately woven into the murder mystery. I loved all of it.

I loved all these books, but the one that stands out most in my memory; the one that gripped me most and kept me glued to the pages, full of suspense and tension, is

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

White Bodies by Jane Robins

A Tale of Obsession and Manipulation

Publication date 28 December 2017, HQ

Review copy from the publishers, via NetGalley

My rating:  2.5 stars (I’ve rounded this up to 3 on Goodreads)

Blurb:

‘He’s so handsome and clever and romantic. I just wished he hadn’t forced Tilda under the water and held her there so long.’

Callie loves Tilda. She’s her sister, after all. And she’s beautiful and successful.

Tilda loves Felix. He’s her husband. Successful and charismatic, he is also controlling, suspicious and, possibly, dangerous. Still, Tilda loves Felix.

And Callie loves Tilda. Very, very much.

So she’s determined to save her. But the cost could destroy them all…

Sometimes we love too much.

My thoughts:

Twins, Callie and Tilda are two very different people, both in appearance and personality. The blurb doesn’t give away much of the book but the idea interested me. It begins with Felix’s death and then goes back over the events that led to his death. So far, so good and I thought this was an interesting opening and that I was going to enjoy this book, even though it’s written in the present tense (not my preferred style). But very early on I realised what the eventual outcome would be when a certain film was mentioned and I know this is not unique – many other books are based on earlier books or plays and it is said that there are just seven basic plots in literature – but it really irritated and disappointed me. So it has left me in two minds about this book.

Parts of it fascinated me (I wanted to know how Felix died for example), the characters are certainly interesting/weird – not likeable, except for Wilf, Callie’s boyfriend. It’s really a story of obsession in various forms, manipulation and the dangers of the internet. Callie’s obsession with Tilda (eating her hair, teeth etc), Tilda’s obsession with herself and Felix’s obsession with OCD, control (re-organising Tilda’s flat), tidiness and neatness (aligning cutlery and wrapping crockery etc in clingfilm). The events are seen through Callie’s perspective and at times I felt sympathy for her in her desire to protect Tilda from the dangers she could see she was in from Felix. But is her view skewed? And her foray into an internet forum is the beginning of the end for her.  But overall, I wasn’t convinced by the book and I didn’t find it particularly tense or chilling, just rather strange. Maybe I’ve been reading too many books in this genre to be convinced.

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

Other people, however, have enjoyed this book far more than me – for example see Fanfiction’s review and this one from Cleo.

Amazon UK link
Amazon US link

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

Barter Books in Alnwick was looking very festive yesterday with a Christmas tree made out of books. It’s my favourite bookshop, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain with books galore, open fires and plenty of places to sit and peruse the books. (See this Picture Gallery for more photos)

I browsed the shelves to see which ones jumped out, shouting ‘read me’ And these are the books I brought home:

Where Roses Fade by Andrew Taylor – psychological crime fiction, one of his Lydmouth series, in which Mattie, a waitress drowns  – did she fall, or did she jump? Rumours circulate that her death wasn’t accidental – and then comes another death. I’ve read Andrew Taylor’s Roth trilogy, but none of his Lydmouth series.

You Made Me Late Again! by Pam Ayres – a collection of poems, anecdotes and short verses, covering a wide range of subjects from a nervous racehorse, a proud granny, to a dog reunited with his master at the Pearly Gates. I fancied some light relief after all the crime fiction I’ve been reading lately and this collection of witty poems appealed to me.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – a thriller set on a luxury cruise ship going to see the Northern Lights, a body overboard – but there are no missing passengers.  I was looking in the ‘W’s for a book by Louise Welsh (I didn’t find one I hadn’t read) but this book caught my eye. I haven’t read any of Ruth Ware’s books, but have seen her mentioned on other book blogs.

Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark – Would-be novelist Fleur Talbot works for Sir Quentin Oliver at the Autobiographical Association.  Mayhem ensues when scenes from Fleur’s novel-in-progress begin to come true with dangerous and darkly funny results. One of my favourite books is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, so I’m hoping to love this book too.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale –  after an illicit affair Harry Cane, is forced to travel from Edwardian England to the town of Winter in Canada  to start a new life. I’m currently reading and enjoying Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition, so when I saw this book on the shelf I had to get it.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – a Maisie Dobbs novel, set in 1932 when Maisie takes on an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service. I like the Maisie Dobbs books and began reading the several years ago, but I haven’t kept up with the series. This one is book 8.

What I love about Barter Books is that it’s not only filled with thousands of books, but it works on the swap system – you bring in books, they make an offer for them and your credit can then be used for books to bring home. I’m in credit, so I didn’t have to pay anything for these books – brilliant! Plus, it’s in a lovely building that was Alnwick’s beautiful old Victorian railway station and you can get tea, coffee, hot food (I love their macaroni cheese) and cakes etc in the Station Buffet. Yesterday we were there early and David had a Bacon Buttie from the Breakfast Menu – I had some of it too.

A Maigret Christmas by Georges Simenon

A Christmas Mystery

Publication date 2 November 2017, Penguin Books (UK). Newly translated by David Coward

Review copy from the publishers, via NetGalley

My rating: 4 stars

The review copy of A Maigret Christmas and Other Stories by Georges Simenon I received contains just one of the three stories in this collection, A Maigret Christmas which was first published in 1950 as Un Noël de Maigret.

It’s set in Paris on Christmas Day. Inspector Maigret has the day off and Madame Maigret, hoping to bring him croissants for his breakfast in bed, as she usually does on Sundays and public holidays, is disappointed to find that he had got up before she returned from the corner shop. Both Maigret and his wife are feeling not exactly depressed but rather melancholy, with no family to visit at Christmas.

Their plan to spend a quiet morning cocooned in their apartment is disrupted by the arrival of two ladies, Madame Martin and Mademoiselle Doncoeur, who live in the apartment opposite in the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir. Colette, a little girl staying with her aunt and uncle, Madame Martin and her husband, had woken in the night and seen Father Christmas in her room, making a hole in the floor. He gave her a present, a big doll and then held up his finger to his lips as he left. But who was he and why was he trying to take up the floorboards?

Maigret, concerned about Colette, decides to help and, phoning his colleagues at the Quai des Orfevres for information, he spends the rest of the day solving the mystery. As the mystery is unravelled it turns out to be anything but simple. I enjoyed this story for the mystery itself, but I also liked the light it throws on Maigret and his wife, their relationship and the sadness they feel at being childless, particularly so at Christmas.

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.

Amazon UK link