The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

Penguin| 16 September 2021| 422 pages| Review copy| 1*

I don’t want to say much about this book. If you’re expecting crime fiction that exercises your ‘little grey cells’ this is not the book for you. Granted it is complicated and there’s lots going on, plenty of murders, drug dealers, spies and mobsters etc, etc. But essentially it is light easy reading,with the sort of humour that makes you groan in despair, and a great deal of waffle and tedious wittering on.about various mundane matters. As you can see I’m not the target market for this book and with nearly 8,000 ratings on Amazon, 96% of which are 5 and 4 stars, I am definitely in the minority. I was hoping I’d enjoy it more than his first book, The Thursday Murder Club, but sadly I think it’s worse.

Here’s the synopsis:

It’s the following Thursday.

Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life.

As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus?

But this time they are up against an enemy who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them? 

My thoughts:

It follows on from Richard Osman’s first book about four residents of Coopers Chase retirement village, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim, four septuagenarians, who call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth is a former MI5 agent and this book reveals a lot about her life as a spy. Needless to say she is clever, with the answers to all the problems that are thrown at her when her ex-husband appears on the scene, having stolen 20 million pounds of jewellery from the Mafia.

As in The Thursday Murder Club, the text is written in the past tense interspersed with extracts from Joyce’s diary written in the present tense. Joyce is an irritating character, and her diary is where most of the waffling and wittering on is found. She also explains what has been happening as though having read it already the reader is too dim to understand it. Then we are treated to DCI Chris Hudson’s cringey romance with Patrice, PC Donna de Freitas.

Overall the characters are rather stereotypical, and the plot is over complicated and unconvincing. Richard Osman’s type of humour does not match mine, so I doubt very much that I’ll be reading any more of his books – I see he has another one in the pipeline!

A Z of TBRs: E-Books – J, K and L

It’s been a long time since I last looked at the forgotten e-books on my Kindle, so it’s time to dip into it again. I have a bad habit of downloading books and then forgetting all about them – it’s as though they’ve gone into a black hole.

Today I’m looking at books with titles beginning with the letters J, K and L, with a little ‘taster’ from each. The summaries are from Goodreads.

Jeremy Hutchinson’s Case Histories by Thomas Grant – I bought this in February 2020 after watching the BBC series,The Trial of Christine Keeler, the story of the Profumo affair in 1962 as seen from her perspective. Hutchinson was Keeler’s defence barrister.

Summary: Born in 1915 into the fringes of the Bloomsbury Group, Jeremy Hutchinson went on to become the greatest criminal barrister of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The cases of that period changed society for ever and Hutchinson’s role in them was second to none. In Case Histories, Jeremy Hutchinson’s most remarkable trials are examined, each one providing a fascinating look into Britain’s post-war social, political and cultural history.

A cartoon by Cummings appeared in the Daily Express on 10 July 1963 headed ‘The adventures of James Macbond’. It showed the beleaguered figure of Harold Mavmillan fleeing from three assailants. Kim Philby and his fellow spy John Vassall are both dressed as shady hoodlums, one wielding a knife, the other a pistol both aimed at Macmillan. Christine Keeler is the third, incarnated on the page as a sort of vampiric harpy, her long-nailed hand outstretched trying to clutch the Prime Minister’s coat tails.

That year was a kind of horror show for Macmillan, and he was not to see out 1963 as Prime Minister. His resignation was accepted by the Queen in October.(page 95)

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan – I bought this in May 2017 and can’t remember how I first came across it.

Summary: Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them.

He took a sip from his drink and lovingly kissed the cold glass of the photograph before replacing it on the table next to his chair. She was not a classic beauty; a young woman with wavy hair and large dark eyes that shone, even in an old black and white photograph. But she was wonderfully striking, with a preserve that still reached out from all those years ago and captivated him. She had been dead for forty years, but she was still his life, and her death had given him his purpose. It had made Andrew Peardew the Keeper of Lost Things. (page 4)

The Lady of Sorrows by Anne Zouroudi – I bought this in April 2013! It is the fourth in Anne Zouroudi’s Mysteries of the  Greek Detective series featuring Hermes Diaktoros. Hermes is a detective with a difference. Just who he is and who he works for is never explained. I have read three of the books in the series. Each one features one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Summary: A painter is found dead at sea off the coast of a remote Greek island. For our enigmatic detective Hermes Diaktoros, the plot can only thicken: the painter’s work, an icon of the Virgin long famed for its miraculous powers, has just been uncovered as a fake. But has the painter died of natural causes or by a wrathful hand? What secret is a dishonest gypsy keeping? And what haunts the ancient catacombs beneath the bishop’s house?

‘Allow me to introduce myself. I am Hermes Diaktoros, of Athens. Diaktoros being, as you may know, an ancient word for messenger. My father has a strange idea of humour. He’s something of a scholar of the classical world.’

Politely, the priest took the fat man’s hand, which was, in spite of the day’s heat was quite cool to touch.

‘Father Linos Egiotis,’ said the priest.

‘A pleasure,’ said the fat man. ‘Now, I know you must be anxious to close up for siesta, and I won’t keep you.’ He turned back to the icon. ‘She’s very lovely, isn’t she?’ he said. ‘I have been wanting to make her acquaintance for many years. Quite by chance we were passing within a few miles, and had time enough before my next engagement to make the detour. She has quite a reputation, I believe, for performing magic tricks. Magic tricks are a paerticular interest of mine.’

‘Magic tricks?’ queried the priest, with annoyance. ‘The Lady occasionally sees fit to grant miracles. They are acts of divine grace, not magic tricks.’ (page 31)

So, three very different books from the depths of my Kindle. I’m not sure which one to read first. If you’ve read any of these books please let me know what you think. Or if you haven’t read them do they tempt you?

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas

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 Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas. I’ve read three of Claire Douglas’s books before and loved each one, so I have high hopes for this one. They are dramatic, tense, and full of atmosphere and suspense.

The Book Begins:

I’m in the front garden pulling at weeds that spill out from the borders of the driveway, like gigantic spiders, when I hear yells. Deep and gutteral.

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. 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:

Lorna had envisaged the day she’d become a grandmother. She knew she wouldn’t be old, because she’d been such a young mother. But she’d expected to be older than forty-sodding-one. What will Alberto think?

Summary::

When Saffron Cutler and boyfriend Tom move into 9 Skelton Place, they didn’t expect to find this.

Two bodies, buried under the patio over thirty years ago.

When the police launch a murder investigation, they ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – Saffy’s grandmother, Rose, whose Alzheimer’s clouds her memory.

But it is clear she remembers something . . .

What happened thirty years ago?
What part did her grandmother play?
And is Saffy now in danger? . . .

~~~

What do you think – does this book appeal to you too?

Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers

I’ve read some of Dorothy L Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery series and enjoyed them immensely. But up until now have not read the first book in the series, Whose Body?, first published in 1923. It’s an amusing Golden Age mystery that kept me entertained throughout. Lord Peter is a wealthy amateur detective, a friend of Inspector Charles Parker, a Scotland Yard detective. He called ‘Lord’ as he is the younger son of a duke.

When the naked body of a man, wearing only a pair of pince-nez is found in Mr Alfred Thipp’s Battersea bathroom, Lord Peter is asked by his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Denver, to help solve the mystery of whose body had found its way into the bath. The police investigation is being led by Inspector Sugg, who doesn’t welcome what he calls Lord Peter’s ‘interference’ in the case. He thinks the dead body might be that of Sir Reuben Levy, a wealthy London financier who had vanished from his bedroom, leaving no trace. Meanwhile Charles is investigating Sir Reuben’s disappearance himself. Although the body in the bath at first appears to be Sir Reuben it soon becomes clear that it is not and that the two cases are not connected. But are they?

As I began reading I was a bit put off by the dialogue between Lord Peter and his valet Bunter, who used to be his batman in the army. The dialogue is supposed to be witty banter between the two of them but to my mind it was irritating and superficial, definitely dated, and reminded me a just a tiny bit of the Jeeves and Wooster stories. But that was just at the start – it’s not at all like Jeeves and Wooster! I enjoyed watching the mystery unfold, which put Lord Peter’s life into grave danger. There are many complications and twists and turns that did stretch my credulity. It has a serious side too as events trigger traumatic memories for Lord Peter of his time in the trenches of the First World War

My rating: 4*

There are 15 books in the series (linked to my reviews when I’ve read the book):


   1. Whose Body? (1923)
   2. Clouds of Witness (1926)
   3. Unnatural Death (1927)
   4. Lord Peter Views the Body (1928)
   5. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)
   6. Strong Poison (1930)
   7 Five Red Herrings (1931)
   8. Have His Carcase (1932)
   9. Hangman’s Holiday (1933)
   10. Murder Must Advertise (1933)
   11. The Nine Tailors (1934)
   12. Gaudy Night (1935)
   13. Busman’s Honeymoon (1937)
   14. In the Teeth of the Evidence (1939)
   15. Striding Folly (1972)

Throwback Thursday: The Ghosts of Altona

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for Throwback Thursday. It takes place on the Thursday before the first Saturday of every month (i.e., the Thursday before the monthly #6Degrees post). The idea is to highlight one of your previously published book reviews and then link back to Davida’s blog.

Today I’m looking back at my post on The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell, which I first posted on 29 September 2015..

Here’s the first paragraph:

Last week I quoted the opening paragraphs and the description of The Ghosts of Altona by Craig Russell, a novel, which won this year’s Bloody Scotland Crime Novel of the YearIt’s an outstanding book, one of the best I’ve read this year. I suppose it can be called a modern Gothic tale as well as being a crime thriller. Russell is a new author to me, but by no means is he a new author, The Ghosts of Altona being his 7th book featuring Jan Fabel, the head of Hamburg’s Murder Commission. However, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment that I’d jumped into the series right at the end. And in a way it didn’t matter at all as in the first chapter Jan has a near-death experience when he is shot by a suspected child killer, which has a profound effect on his life and the way he views death.

Click here to read my full review

The next Throwback Thursday post is scheduled for November 4.

A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry

Canongate Books| 19th August 2021| 405 pages| Review Copy| 5*

This is the third book in Ambrose Parry’s historical series starring Will Raven & Sarah Fisher, set in 19th century Edinburgh. I loved the other books, The Way of All Flesh and The Art of Dying and A Corruption of Blood is equally as good, if not better.

Description

Edinburgh. This city will bleed you dry.

Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman.

Back at 52 Queen Street, Sarah Fisher has set her sights on learning to practise medicine. Almost everyone seems intent on dissuading her from this ambition, but when word reaches her that a woman has recently obtained a medical degree despite her gender, Sarah decides to seek her out.

Raven’s efforts to prove his erstwhile adversary’s innocence are failing and he desperately needs Sarah’s help. Putting their feelings for one another aside, their investigations will take them to both extremes of Edinburgh’s social divide, where they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.

Ambrose Parry is the pseudonym of crime fiction author, Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman, a consultant anaesthetist. Will is a doctor working with Doctor James Young Simpson, a professor of midwifery, who discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform (a real historical character), and Sarah, is the Simpsons’ housemaid, but she now assists Professor Simpson and is studying medicine. The two of them have a complicated and somewhat spiky relationship, which continues in this novel.

The combination of a crime fiction writer and an anaesthetist works excellently in Ambrose Parry’s novels. The research into the history of medicine is extensive, making this book a combination of historical fact and fiction, a tale of murder and medical matters, with the social scene, historical and medical facts slotting perfectly into an intricate murder mystery. 

The mystery begins when the body of a baby wrapped in a parcel, is found floating in the Forth. The child had been strangled with a length of white tape. Sarah meanwhile is involved in finding a missing child. When Sir Ainsley Douglas, a prominent and wealthy member of Edinburgh society is found dead from arsenic poisoning, Will reluctantly gets involved in the murder investigation. How the mysteries interlink gradually becomes clear and although I soon realised how Sir Ainsley had been murdered, I was puzzled about who did it and was completely taken by surprise when the culprit was revealed.

Like all good historical fiction, this book weaves together fact and fiction. The Historical Note at the end of the book sorts out what was real and what was invented. The subjects covered include details about infectious diseases, the difficulties women experienced in obtaining a medical degree, and crimes children suffered in the 19th century. I think A Corruption of Blood is an exceptionally excellent murder mystery and an informative historical novel, with great period detail and convincing characters. I look forward to reading more books by Ambrose Parry.

The Survivors by Jane Harper

Jane Harper’s The Survivors is out in paperback today.

I read a review copy in October last year. Set in Evelyn Bay on the island of Tasmania, Bronte, a waitress at the Surf and Turf bar, is found dead on the beach, which stirs up memories of the events of twelve years ago. Just who and what the ‘Survivors‘ are plays a major role in the story – along with the sea, the caves and the tides. It’s a slow-burner at first, that turns into an emotionally charged book rather than one of high tension and suspense. Once it got going I just had to read on.

Jane Harper is one of my favourite authors. I can recommend her earlier books too –The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man, which all had me enthralled.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas

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’s extracts are from This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas. This is the 9th in the Commissaire Adamsberg series. When three elderly men are poisoned by spider venom, everyone assumes that the deaths are tragic accidents. But at police headquarters in Paris, Inspector Adamsberg begins to suspect that the case is far more complex than first appears.

Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, sitting on a rock at the quayside, watched the Grimsey fishermen return with their daily catch, as they moored their boats and hauled up their nests. Here, on this tiny island off the coast of Iceland, people called him simply ‘Berg’.

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. 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:

And that very day, a local newspaper reported that a woman, Jeanne Beaujeu, who had just returned from three weeks’ holiday and heard about the deaths, had gone to hospital in Nimes, asking to have her own wound, now healing, to be examined. She stated that she had been bitten by a spider on 8 May, but since the bite had not spread beyond a slight irritation, she had merely taken the medicine prescribed by her doctor. She was forty-five.

Adamsberg stood up and went to gaze at the lime tree outside his window. So it wasn’t just old people.

I’ve read 5 of Fred Vargas’ books. They’re quirky and original and I like Adamsberg, an expert at untangling mysteries, a thinker, who doesn’t like to express his feelings, but mulls things over. I bought this book a couple of years ago and fully intended to read it at that time – but it got buried in my Kindle!

Books Read in August 2021

August was a busy month for me and it didn’t leave much time for reading or writing reviews! But I did read 5 books, and as both Framley Parsonage (684 pages) and Dead Tomorrow (663 pages) are very long books, it took me over half of August to read just those two!

  1. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope 4* – see my review
  2. The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant 4*
  3. The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray 3*
  4. Dead Tomorrow by Peter James 3*
  5. Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch 4*

The only book I reviewed was Framley Parsonage. So, before I begin September’s books here are just a few brief thoughts on the other 4 books.

The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant – historical fiction with a dual timeline set in 1584 and 2021. I read this quickly drawn along by the plot and keen to know the links between the two main characters, Mathilde in the present day and Tom in the 16th century. I was more interested in Tom’s story. He is deaf and dumb, but he can lip read. He is an apothecary and also a spy, working for Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s spymaster, during the period leading up to the Babbington Plot. Mathilde has inherited a medieval mansion, Lutton Hall, and she is surprised to find that she has family there she had never heard of before. The two timelines interlink as Mathilde discovers the secrets hidden at Lutton Hall.

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray. Crowd behaviour fascinates me, so I hoped this book would cast some light on the subject – it certainly did. There are sections on sexuality, gender, technology and race, including a chapter on transgender, which I found the most enlightening. The synopsis describes how Murray “reveals the astonishing new culture wars playing out in our workplaces, universities, schools and homes in the names of social justice, identity politics and ‘intersectionality’.” Some of it I found shocking and infuriating.

Dead Tomorrow by Peter James – the 5th book in his Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series. Grace and his team investigate the deaths of three teenagers found by a dredger at the bottom of the English Channel, which leads them to a gang of human traffickers operating from Eastern Europe. Parallel with their investigation a desperate mother is fighting for her daughter’s life. One of the things I like about the Roy Grace series is the continuing story of Grace’s personal life. But what I find irritating is the way Peter James describes what all his characters are wearing and the details of all the little details of their surroundings. And this book in particular is far too long and drawn out.

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch, the second Rivers of London novel. I loved the first book, Rivers of London. These are fast-paced police procedurals of a very different kind – urban fantasy, set in the real world of London, a mix of reality and the supernatural. You could probably read them as standalones, but I really think it’s best to read them in order to get the full background to what is going on and what has already happened to the main characters.

DC Peter Grant is assigned to work with Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale (who is the last wizard in England) as part of a special and secret branch of the Met, dealing with all things magical and supernatural. Moon Over Soho begins with the murder of Cyrus Wilkinson, a part-time jazz saxophonist, who had apparently dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig in a Soho jazz club. Peter can hear music coming from his corpse. What follows is a complicated story full of twists and turns, humour, and some gruesome and unusual murders.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

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.

I’ve been looking through my TBR books on my Kindle and came across The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths, the 12th in her Ruth Galloway series. I’ve read most of the series, so, I think I’ll read this next.

It begins with a Prologue:

10 July 2007

She has been walking for a long time. It’s funny but she hadn’t thought that there was so much space in England.

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. 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 a note, scrawled on a folded piece of lined A4 paper.

‘If you want to know more about Ivor March meet me at The Hanged Man on Newnham Rd tonite at 7.30. Ask for John.’

Blurb:

Everything has changed for Dr Ruth Galloway.

She has a new job, home and partner, and is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this, and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried – but only if Ruth will do the digging.

Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travellers to their deaths.

Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over?

Of course, now I want to know more. Do you?