Death Has Deep Roots by Michael Gilbert (British Library Crime Classics)

 

Death has deep roots

Poisoned Pen Press| 5 November 2019| 288 pages|reprint edition| 4.5*

Death Has Deep Roots: a Second World War Mystery by Michael Gilbert was first published in 1951. This edition, published in association with the British Library, has an introduction by Martin Edwards.

I thoroughly enjoyed Death Has Deep Roots. Set in 1950 it’s a mix of courtroom drama, spy novel and an adventure thriller. Victoria Lamartine, a hotel worker, and an ex-French Resistance fighter is on trial for the murder of Major Eric Thoseby, her supposed lover, and alleged father of her dead child. The story alternates between the courtroom scenes, where QC Hargest Macrea is in charge of Vicky’s defence, and the investigations of solicitor Nap Rumbold in France, and his friend Major Angus McCann, who now keeps a pub in Shepherd Market.

Vicky is the obvious suspect – she was found standing over Thoseby’s dead body in his room at the Family Hotel in Soho, a room that was only accessed by one staircase – making this a variation on a locked room murder mystery. In evidence was also against her as Thoseby had been stabbed using the same method that the Resistance fighters had been taught. But she insists that she is not guilty.  Macrea and Nap believe her and Nap sets out to find the Englishman, Julian West, who Vicky says is the father of her dead child, whilst McCann investigates events in London.

I always like courtroom dramas and I think the courtroom scenes are impressive and persuasive as Macrea questions the prosecutions witnesses and manages to stall proceedings whilst Nap is away in France. It is, of course, much more complicated than I’ve described – there is a lot of information about the war in France and the work of the French Resistance, and the dangers that confront Nap as he digs deeper into what had happened to Wells. And I enjoyed the thrill of the chase as he travels through France with only a week to discover the truth.

I think what makes this book so good is not just the murder mystery, which I couldn’t solve, but also the setting and the characters. It was written not long after the end of the Second World War and it conveys a vivid impression of what life was like in both France and England, with memories of the war still fresh on people’s minds. Whilst Vicky is maybe a stereotypical character Nap, in particular, comes across as a more developed character – and a very likeable one too. It’s described as a book in the Inspector Hazelrigg series, but he only makes a brief appearance, with Nap, Macrea and McCann doing the main investigations.

Michael Gilbert was a British lawyer who wrote police procedurals, spy novels and many short stories, courtroom dramas, classical mysteries, adventure thrillers, and crime novels. I have another one of his to read, Smallbone Deceased and I hope to get round to it soon.

Many thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for a review copy via NetGalley.

Library Loans 24 January 2020

I regularly borrow books from the library, although I haven’t written about them for a few months. These are the ones I have on loan at the moment:

Lib loans Jan 2020

The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble. This novel was on the mobile library van shelves and caught my eye because I’ve enjoyed the other books by her that I’ve read. Anna is a child of special, unknowable qualities. She is happy, always willing to smile at the world around her, but she also presents profound challenges. For her mother Jess, still in her early 20s, her arrival will prove life-transforming.

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn, non-fiction about Henry VII. I reserved this after FictionFan recommended it, describing it as: ‘very detailed but well written and not too academic in tone‘. Hilary Mantel is quoted on the cover: ‘Compelling … Fascinating‘. With two such recommendations how could I resist reading it? So I was delighted to find the library has a copy.

The Last Ragged Breath by Julia Keller, the 4th book in her Bell Elkin’s mystery series set in West Virginia. I haven’t read any of her books before but I was reading about her latest book on Kay’s Reading Life and found this book on the shelves when I went to the library yesterday. Royce Dillard doesn’t remember much about the day his parents-and one hundred and twenty-three other souls-died in the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster. But now Dillard, who lives off the grid with only a passel of dogs for company, is fighting for his life one more time: He’s on trial for murder.

Happy Old Me:How to Live a Long Life and Really Enjoy It by Hunter Davies. This is another book I reserved. Davies is the editor of The John Lennon Letters (which I’m currently reading) and the author of Wainwright: The Biography (which my husband is currently reading and I want to read it too). This is his third autobiographical book, described on the book sleeve as ‘part memoir, part self-help … a moving, uplifting and often amusing account of one year in Hunter Davies’ life, navigating bereavement and finding hope for the future.‘ I’m currently reading it and so far (up to chapter 4) I’m loving it.

I love libraries and have used them all my life (well from the age of 3). At the moment the library service is carrying out a survey about our use of the libraries, how often we borrow books etc, etc  – and especially about our use of the mobile library service, and I fear that cutbacks may follow, so I make sure I use the libraries whilst I still can.

Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements

Hitler's secret

Bonnier Zaffre| 23 January 2020| 339 pages| e-book| review copy via NetGalley| 4 stars

Description from the author’s website:

In late autumn 1941, Nazi Germany has conquered most of western Europe and is now laying waste to the Soviet Union with a relentless drive towards the East. But a secret from Hitler’s past life threatens to destabilise the Nazi regime – and there are men who will stop at nothing to prevent it coming out. 

My thoughts

I enjoyed Rory Clements’ first book in his Tom Wilde series, Corpus so much that I decided to look out for more of his books. But somehow I missed the next two books as Hitler’s Secret is the fourth book in the series. Luckily for me, it reads perfectly as a standalone, although at some point I would like to read the books I missed.

This is a complicated novel and I am not going to attempt to describe all the details.  Just before the USA’s entry into the Second World War, Cambridge professor Tom Wilde, an American, is smuggled into Nazi Germany at the instigation of an American intelligence officer to collect a mysterious package from Berlin. He isn’t told what is in the package, but I thought it was obvious from quite early in the book what it was.  I think that increased the tension and suspense throughout the book and at several points in the story, I just couldn’t imagine how Tom would succeed in his mission as he is pursued by numerous people including the powerful Nazi, Martin Borman and his agents. Hermann Goering and his wife Emmy also play an important role in the story as does the internal struggle for power under Hitler, whereas Hitler himself does not appear.

I enjoyed all of it – the somewhat predictable plot, the amazing coincidences, the chase across Germany and the Baltic, the doubtful characters, as well as all the twists and turns and seemingly impossible situations that they encounter. It’s fast paced, full of action, danger, violence and double-cross – a most satisfying and compelling thriller. The ending in England is also intriguing, full of heart stopping moments in scenes that had my head whirling. Needless to say really, but I was gripped by this book and I just had to find out what happened. I think the last final twist about Hitler’s secret was very well done.

Short Stories on Sunday

Over several years I’ve been reading my way through Agatha Christie’s books and short stories. I’ve read all her detective/mystery novels and some of her short story collections. In an attempt to read more of the short stories I’ve decided to read some each Sunday, beginning with the stories collected in Miss Marple and Mystery.

IMG_20180513_095855842.jpgThis collection contains 55 stories, 20 of them featuring Miss Marple. There is an Short Story Chronology in the Appendix with a table aiming to present all Agatha Christie’s short stories published between 1923 and 1971, listed in order of traced first publication date. Counting how many there are in total is a difficult task – some stories that first appeared in weekly or monthly magazines were later  re-worked and became chapters in a larger work, some in Partners in Crime were sub-divided into smaller chapters, 13 were re-worked into the episodic novel, The Big Four, and some were rewritten so substantially that they appear separately in different books!

I’ve read some of these in other short story collections but there are still many I haven’t read.

The Girl in the Train is one I haven’t read before. It was first published in Grand Magazine in February 1924 and was adapted as one of the Agatha Christie Hour drama series for by Thames Television in 1982 as part of their ten-part programme. It’s a very short story that also appears in The Listerdale Mystery collection of short stories.

George Rowland is the heir to his Uncle William’s wealth but is left without a job or a home when William throws him out on his heel. On a whim George Rowland decides to catch a train down to Rowland’s Castle, a village which happens to bear his name. A beautiful girl bursts into his compartment, frantically begging to be hidden.  She gives him a package saying it is the key to everything and he is to guard it with his life. Jumping out of the train at the first stop she tells him to follow the little man with a small dark beard getting on the train. His life changes dramatically as he follows her instructions.

It’s a bit of nonsense really, in the same vein as Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence stories. A quick easy read, but entertaining nevertheless and possibly the first of books entitled The Girl … 

My Friday Post: A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill

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.

A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill is one of the books I’m thinking I’ll read next. It’s the 6th Dalziel and Pascoe novel

A killing kindness

 

… it was green, all green, all over me, choking, the water, then boiling at first, and roaring, and seething, till all settled down, cooling, clearing, and my sight up drifting with the last few bubbles, till through the glassy water I see the sky clearly, and the sun bright as a lemon, and birds with wings wide as a windmill’s sails slowly drifting round it, and over the bank’s rim small dark faces peering, timid as beasts at their watering, nostrils sniffing danger and shy eyes bright and wary, till a current turns me over, and I drift, and am still drifting …

What the hell’s going on here! Stop it! This is sick …

I wasn’t sure what was going on either …

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

30879-friday2b56These 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: it’s becoming clearer now what was going on –

… all over me, choking, the water all boiling at first, and roaring, and seething …. Pascoe shook the medium’s taped words out of his mind and went on with his reading.

There was a degree of lividity down the left side which was unusual for a corpse taken from the water, but could be explained by the fact that the body seemed to have been wedged in the debris by the canal bank rather than rolling free in the current.

Blurb:

When Mary Dinwoodie is found choked in a ditch following a night out with her boyfriend, a mysterious caller phones the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet. The career of the Yorkshire Choker is underway.

If Superintendent Dalziel is unimpressed by the literary phone calls, he is downright angry when Sergeant Wield calls in a clairvoyant.

Linguists, psychiatrists, mediums – it’s all a load of nonsense as far as he is concerned, designed to make a fool of him.

And meanwhile the Choker strikes again – and again…

~~~

Have you read this book? What did you think?

WWW Wednesday: 15 January 2020

IMG_1384-0

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 I’m reading three books:

Charles Dickens oliver twist etcOliver Twist by Charles Dickens, my Classics Club Spin book. It’s one of those books that I think I know the story from watching TV adaptations, but I have never read it. I’ve discovered that I only ‘know’ the beginning of the book up to the part where Oliver is rescued by Mr Brownlow from Fagin’s clutches, only to be snatched back by Nancy. After that the story is totally new to me.

John Lennon LettersI’m also reading The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies. It includes a brief biography and using almost three hundred of Lennon’s letters and postcards, to relations, friends, fans, strangers, and lovers follows his life more or less chronologically. It’s a large, heavy hardback book, illustrated with photos and reproductions of the letters etc. This is going to be a long-term read for me.

The Windsor StoryThe third book is one I’ve only just started – I’ve been struck by some of the parallels between Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 in order to marry Wallis Simpson and the current situation of Prince Harry and Meghan in wanting to step back as senior royals, and I remembered I have The Windsor Story by J Bryan III and Charles V Murphy. It looks remarkably comprehensive and is another book that I think will take me a long time to read.

Lady of the ravensThe last book I finished reading is  The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson, historical fiction about about the early years of Henry’s reign as seen through the eyes of Joan Vaux, a lady in waiting to Elizabeth of York, whose marriage in 1486 to Henry united the Houses of Lancaster and York after the end of the Wars of the Roses.  I found this a fascinating book and posted my review a few days ago.

Tinker tailorI have several books lined up to read next including Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré because over the Christmas period I watched the film starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley, along with Colin FirthTom HardyJohn Hurt and others. I began reading the book years ago and have a bookmark at page 88, but I’ll have to go back to the beginning now.

A killing kindnessBut I’d also like to start A Killing Kindness, the next Dalziel and Pascoe novel, the 6th one in Reginald Hill’s series. It looks good – about Mary Dinwoodie whose body is found choked in a ditch following a night out with her boyfriend, and a mysterious caller phones the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet.

But knowing how long it could be until I start the next book, it could be something completely different!

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

A Pinch of Snuff by Reginald Hill

A Pinch of Snuff

HarperCollins|2003|362 pages|Paperback|my own copy|4* 

A Pinch of Snuff is Reginald Hill’s fifth Dalziel and Pascoe novel, first published in 1978. It was televised in 1994 by Yorkshire Television, two years before the BBC series began. The characters of Dalziel and Pascoe were played by comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, with Christopher Fairbank as Sergeant Edgar Wield. It was not a success and Reginald Hill was said to have been unhappy with the series. Subsequently the Dalziel and Pascoe books were adapted for BBC television from 1996 to 2007 with the actors Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan in the lead roles.

I finished reading A Pinch of Snuff just before Christmas and didn’t have time to review it then, so these are just a few notes of what I thought about it. It is better than the earlier books, almost as good as the later books and I enjoyed it very much. It begins as Jack Shorter, Pascoe’s dentist, tells him that he thinks that in one of the blue movies shown at the Calliope Club, an actress wasn’t acting but that she really was beaten up and that her teeth were actually broken. However, when Pascoe begins to investigate his dentist’s allegations it seems that the dentist’s fears were unfounded as the actress in question assures Pascoe that she was acting and certainly wasn’t hurt. But then the cinema is wrecked and its owner killed. Shorter, meanwhile, is accused of molesting an underage patient and is allegedly responsible for getting her pregnant.

All in all, this is a complicated book involving child abuse, pornography, violence towards women and snuff films. It starts slowly, but as the various twists and turns crop up the pace quickens. The events are shown through Pascoe’s eyes and we see his relationships with Dalziel and Sergeant Wield develop.  Elly, Pascoe’s wife, still doesn’t get on with Dalziel, and her feminism comes to the fore in her antagonism against him. 

The 6th book in the series is A Killing Kindness and I shall be reading that very soon.

These are the Dalziel and Pascoe books I’ve read so far:

1. A Clubbable Woman (1970) 
2. An Advancement of Learning (1971)
3. Ruling Passion (1973)
4. An April Shroud (1975) 
8. Exit Lines (1984)
11. Bones and Silence (1990) 
14. Pictures of Perfection (1993) – read, no post
17.On Beulah Height (1998) 
20. Death’s Jest Book (2002) 
21. The Death of Dalziel (2007)