New Additions

We went to Barter Books in Alnwick yesterday and I came home with this pile. I didn’t realise until I took this photo that they’re all a variation on a black/white colour scheme! It wasn’t intentional.

I go armed with a notebook listing books and authors to look for and so I was delighted to find two books by Truman Capote as I enjoyed reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s recently and am keen to read more of his books – and two more of Reginald Hill’s books that are on my list of his books to find.

BB bks March19

From the bottom up they are:

  • The Collaborators by Reginald Hill, a standalone novel of wartime passion, loyalty – and betrayal. Set in Paris from 1940 to 1945, when Janine Simonian stands accused of passing secret information to the Nazis that led to the arrest and torture of several members of the French Resistance.
  • A Pinch of Snuff by Reginald Hill – the 5th of his Dalziel and Pascoe novels, this was first published in 1978. When Peter Pascoe’s dentist suggests that one film in particular shown in the Calliope Club is more than just good clean dirty fun, the inspector begins to make a few discreet inquiries and ends up with a homicide to investigate.
  • Beneath the Surface by Jo Spain, the second novel in the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. I’ve read three of her books and am always on the lookout for more of hers. Set in Dublin, DI Tom Reynolds and his team investigate the murder of Ryan Finnegan, a high-ranking government official in Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament.
  • Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas. I’ve read two of her books previously and loved them. This one is about the disappearance of twenty-one year old Sophie Collier. Twenty years later a body has been found and her friend Francesca goes back to her home town to discover the truth about what had happened to Sophie.
  • The Weight of Angels by Catriona McPherson. I’ve read several of her Dandy Gilver books and enjoyed them. This book is a standalone psychological thriller, in which Alison McGovern takes a job as a beautician in a private psychiatric facility near her rented cottage and the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey.  A body is discovered in a shallow grave by the abbey on Ali’s first day at work.
  • Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote, a collection of his writings, both fiction and nonfiction – a book of reminiscences, portraits and stories, including ‘A Beautiful Child’ an account of a day with Marilyn Monroe and ‘Handcarved Coffins: a Nonfiction Account of an American Crime’.
  • In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences by Truman Capote, probably one of the best known ‘true crime’ books. Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers of four members of the Clutter family on November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas.

~~~

So, seven more books added to my TBRs and I’d love to start reading them all – now!

Have you read any of these? Do they tempt you too?

First Chapter First Paragraph: Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’m featuring Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce, one of the books I’ll be reading soon.

Dear Mrs Bird

 

London, December 1940

Chapter One

An Advertisement in the Newspaper

When I first saw the advertisement in the newspaper I thought I might actually burst. I’d had rather a cheerful day so far despite the Luftwaffe annoying everyone by making us all late for work, and then I’d managed to get hold of an onion, which was very good news for a stew. But when I saw the announcement, I was cock-a-hoop.

Blurb (Amazon)

London, 1941. Amid the falling bombs Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmy instead finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of Unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted.

But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she simply must help and secretly starts to write back – after all, what harm could that possibly do?

~~~

Seeing all the 5 and 4 stars this book has gathered I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it too.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Arsonist to The Ashes of London

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.

The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire

This month the chain begins with The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper, a book I haven’t read. In fact, it isn’t to be published in the UK until May 2019. It’s non fiction about the scorching February day in 2009 that became known as Black Saturday, when a man lit two fires in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.  It is also the story of fire in Australia, and of a community that owed its existence to that very element.

My chain begins by using the word ‘Saturday‘ as the link. It’s Saturday by Ian McEwan which follows one day in the life of a neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne as his life takes an unexpected turn of events. A minor car accident brings him into confrontation with Baxter, a man on the edge of violence.

Also following the life of one person in one day is Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, in which Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of party she is to give that evening. Elsewhere in London, Septimus Smith is suffering from shell-shock and on the brink of madness. Mrs Dalloway first appeared in Virginia Woolf’s short story, Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street published in The Dial magazine in 1923.

The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie was also published in 1923, her second book featuring Hercule Poirot. She had the idea for the book after reading newspaper reports of a murder in France, in which masked men had broken into a house, killed the owner and left his wife bound and gagged. From these facts she then invented her plot, setting the book in the fictional French town of Merlinville next to a golf course and overlooking the sea.

SaturdayMrs DallowayThe Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot, #2)The Chalk Circle ManTitus GroanThe Ashes of London (Marwood and Lovett, #1)

The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas is also set in France, her first book featuring Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. Strange blue chalk circles start appearing on the pavements of Paris and increasingly bizarre objects are found within them, including the body of a woman with her throat savagely cut. Like Poirot, Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg is a detective who works on intuition.

Vargas’s books are full of eccentric characters as is Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, the first of his Gormenghast books.  It begins with the birth of Titus, soon to be the 77th Earl of Gormenghast. His father, Lord Sepulchrave has endured despair and then madness after his beloved library was burnt down and Steerpike, a disrespectful youth, has clawed his way out of the castle’s kitchen to a position of some power, by manipulation and deceit.

This brings me full circle to a book about fire, or rather the aftermath of a fire in The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor as people set about rebuilding London after the Great Fire had reduced a large part of it to ashes and rubble. Interwoven with a murder mystery, and the hunt for the regicides responsible for the execution of Charles I, it brings home the reality of being homeless – a refugee in your own country. I could hear the noise of the fire, smell the smoke and almost feel the heat and the pain of the victims of the fire.

So, the last link in my chain takes it back to the start of the chain, but to the results of a fire started by accident rather than arson. This month my chain has travelled from Australia to the United Kingdom, via France and the fantasy world of Gormenghast, connected by names, dates of publication, settings and eccentric characters.

Next month (April 6, 2019), the chain will begin with Ali Smith’s award-winning novel, How to be Both.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

I Found You

Arrow Books|2016|438 pages|Library book |4*

After I’d enjoyed reading Watching You by Lisa Jewell so much I looked for more of her books to read and borrowed I Found You  from my local library.

Blurb:

Surrey: Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one.

East Yorkshire: Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.

But who is he, and how can she trust a man who has lost his memory?

My thoughts:

I Found You plunged me straight away into the mystery of the identity of the man Alice Lake found sitting on the beach at Ridinghouse Bay (a fictional seaside resort) in the pouring rain. He can’t remember who he is, or how or why he is sitting there. And, of course, I thought he must be Lily Monrose’s husband, Carl who has gone missing. These two strands of the story are written in the present tense. They alternate with another strand written in the past tense about events that took place 22 years earlier when a family of four, teenagers Kirsty and Gray, with their parents, are spending their summer holiday in Rabbit Cottage, a former coastguard’s cottage. That holiday changed all their lives.

One of the things I liked about this novel is its strong sense of place. Ridinghouse Bay is a small seaside town with the usual attractions for holidaymakers –  a pub, a seafood restaurant, cafe, a beach bar and a fairground . And there is a map showing all the locations around the Bay.

Alice’s cottage is tiny, an old coastguard’s cottage built over three hundred years ago.

Beyond her window, between Victorian street lights, a string of sun-faded bunting swings back and forth in the boisterous April wind. To the left there is a slipway where small fishing boats form a colourful spine down to a concrete jetty and where the great dreadful froth of the North Sea hits the rocky shoreline. And beyond that the sea. Black and infinite. (page 2)

Alice is a bit eccentric, a generous and kind-hearted woman, living on her own with her four children and three dogs. The cottage is too small for her family, cramped, with low ceilings that slope and bulge, but she invites the man in to stay in the studio/shed in her back yard which is where she makes art from old maps to sell on the internet. The children decide to call him ‘Frank’ and she tries to help him remember what had happened to him. Then Frank begins to have flashbacks and thinks he may have killed someone.

Lily, meanwhile is trying to find Carl. They had met and married in the Ukraine and although she has spoken to his mother on the phone she has never met her. The police tell her his passport is a fake and his mother isn’t answering her phone, but she finds her address and goes to see her. But the house is empty.

I read this quickly, it’s very readable. The characters are realistically drawn with depth – and the puzzle about Frank’s identity kept me guessing. It’s not as clear-cut as it first appeared and I kept changing my mind as I read on. It certainly isn’t the ‘cosy’ mystery, that the opening pages seem to indicate, but it is a story that me gripped as the tension rose to a dramatic and violent climax.

I’ll certainly be looking out for more of Lisa Jewell’s books to read.

There will be a new Lisa Jewell novel – The Family Upstairs which is out on 25 July. Her earlier books are:

Ralph’s Party (1999)
Thirtynothing (2000)
One-hit Wonder (2001)
A Friend of the Family (2003)
Vince and Joy (2005)
31 Dream Street (2007)
The Truth About Melody Browne (2009)
After the Party (2010)
The Making of Us (2011)
Before I Met You (2012)
The House We Grew Up In (2012)
The Third Wife (2012)
The Girls (2015)
aka The Girls in the Garden
I Found You (2016)
Then She Was Gone (2017)
Watching You (2018)

The Wych Elm by Tana French

The Wych Elm

Penguin UK Viking|21 February 2019 |517 pages|e-book |Review copy|4*

Excellent Intentions by Richard Hull

Excellent Intentions

Poisoned Pen Press|2 October 2018 |227 pages|e-book |Review copy|2.5*

This edition, published in association with the British Library, has an introduction by Martin Edwards. It was first published in 1938 by Faber and Faber. It’s the second book by Richard  Hull that I’ve read. However, I didn’t think Excellent Intentions was as enjoyable as the first one, The Murder of My Aunt.

Henry Cargate, of Scotney End Hall, died on a train for London, from a heart attack brought on when he inhaled snuff laced with potassium cyanide. He was an unpleasant man, the most disliked person in the village of Scotney End and several people were suspected of murdering him. One of those suspects (who is not named until near the end of the book) was arrested and is on trial for his murder. The potassium cyanide crystals, mixed into Cargate’s snuff had been bought to destroy a wasps’ nest. So, Inspector Fenby’s investigation concentrates on the limited opportunities available for the murderer to add the poison to Cargate’s snuffbox, which he kept in his study.

The book begins as the counsel for the prosecution makes his opening speech and makes his case for the judge and jury. It then follows the trial through its various stages to the verdict and subsequent appeal.

My problem with this book is that it is so very factual and focused on the times that no one was in Cargate’s study, concentrating on four people that Fenby suspected had an opportunity to tamper with the snuff, and on the position of the bottle of potassium cyanide – whether it was on the desk or on the window sill. It’s clever, but it’s also repetitive and very long-winded. But, I liked the twist in the conclusion.

My thanks to the publishers, Poisoned Pen Press, for my review copy via NetGalley.

This is qualifies for the Mount TBR Challenge and for the Calendar of Crime Challenge for September in the category of the author’s birth month.

First Chapter First Paragraph: An Advancement of Learning by Reginald Hill

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’m featuring An Advancement of Learning by Reginald Hill, one of the books I’m currently reading.

An Advancement of Learning (Dalziel & Pascoe, Book 2)

There had been a great deal of snow that December followed by hard frost. A few days before Christmas a thaw set in, temperatures rose steeply, the snow became slush. The sun greedily sucked up the moisture until it saturated the air and impinged on all the senses.

Blurb (Amazon)

All is not well at Holm Coultram College: lecturers having affairs with students, witches’ sabbaths, a body buried under a statue.

Detective Superintendent Dalziel, despite his cynical view of academics, doesn’t feel murder fits in here – let alone a rash of killings. But when he and DS Pascoe are sent to investigate a disinterred corpse at Holm Coultram College, that’s exactly what they find…

~~~

 This is the second Dalziel and Pascoe book. I’ve read some of the later books in the series and am now going back to the early ones that I haven’t yet read.  I first came across Dalziel and Pascoe via the TV adaptations and I think I remember watching the TV version of this one several years ago. Maybe it’s because I saw the TV versions before I read the books that I enjoy both so much – Warren Clark as Dalziel was so right in the role.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?