David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

4*

All I knew about David Copperfield: The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account) by Charles Dickens is that it is said to be his most autobiographical novel. I think I must have watched a TV serialisation years ago but I remember very little about it. It was first published as a serial in 1849 and 1850, and then as a book in 1850.

It’s a long novel with a multitude of characters, including David’s cruel stepfather, Mr Murdstone, the family housekeeper Peggotty, his school friends Steerforth, who he mistakenly idolises and, my favourite character, Tommy Traddles, who has a heart of gold, and a remarkable upstanding head of hair. Then there’s another favourite character, David’s great aunt Betsey Trotwood, who wages war against marriage and donkeys and her companion, the simple-minded Mr Dick; Mr Micawber, always in debt and in and out of the debtor’s prison, and the odious and nauseating Uriah Heep are both memorable characters.

I was totally immersed in their world, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Victorian England, the living conditions of the poor contrasting with the decadent wealth of the rich, and the dramatic intensity of episodes such as the terrible storm at sea off Yarmouth. There’s drama, comedy and tragedy, melodrama and pathos as the story follows David’s life from his birth to his adulthood, covering his childhood, early schooldays, his time as a young boy working in a factory, then as a student in Canterbury where he lodged with the lawyer Mr Wickfield and his daughter, Agnes.

Betsey later established him in London where he worked in the Doctor’s Commons, under the tutelage of Mr Spenlow, whose daughter, the beautiful, frivolous and to my eyes, the utterly pathetic Dora totally captivated him. The sections of the book involving Dora are rather too sentimental for my liking. Then there’s Pegotty’s family – her brother Daniel, a fisherman, their nephew Ham and niece, Little Em’ly who is David’s childhood friend and sweetheart. They live in a converted boat on the beach at Yarmouth. And not forgetting Barkis, who marries Pegotty, after telling David to tell her, ‘Barkis is willing‘. Their sections of the book are the ones I enjoyed the most. I could go on and on, not forgetting David himself as describes the misfortunes and obstacles he met and the friends he makes.

I enjoyed reading David Copperfield, which was Dickens’ own personal favourite of all his novels, but it is not mine – it’s a bit too long for me. I think my favourite is Bleak House, which I read after seeing the TV adaptation in 2005 with Anna Maxwell Martin, Gillian Anderson, Denis Lawson, and Charles Dance. Maybe I’ll read it again to see what I think of it now. These days I prefer shorter books and Bleak House, like David Copperfield is long with many characters and sub-plots.

The Chalet by Catherine Cooper

3*

The Chalet, by Catherine Cooper, is a fast-paced murder mystery, set mainly in La Madière, a fictional ski resort in the French Alps. It is her first published full-length novel, though she has also written several (unpublished) thrillers for teens and a (what used to be called) chick lit novel set in TV production.

Synopsis

French Alps, 1998 -Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.

20 years later – Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting. Someone knows what really happened that day.

And somebody will pay.

The Chalet is Catherine Cooper’s first published full-length novel, though she has also written several (unpublished) thrillers for teens and a (what used to be called) chick lit novel set in TV production.

I read The Chalet quickly. It’s well written, easy reading, with a beautiful setting in the French Alps. It began well and I was quickly drawn into the drama of the story. The narrative moves between 1998, and 2020 and is told from several of the characters’ perspectives. None of the characters are particularly likeable and they all seem to have something to hide.

It’s a story of revenge, stemming from the events in 1998 when two brothers go skiing with their girlfriends and only one of the brothers returns. The weather conditions were bad and on a difficult off-piste route they lost contact with their guides and only one of them was found, but he couldn’t remember anything about what had happened. The body of the other brother was only found 20 years later after an avalanche hit the resort.

In 2020 a group of people, four couples mixing business with pleasure are staying at the same resort in a luxury chalet. The atmosphere is a difficult one as the couples’ relationships begin to breakdown, particularly when the weather worsens and a storm sets in, leaving them somewhat isolated. Various past events became clearer as secrets are revealed. Although there are plenty of twists and turns, it really wasn’t hard to work out what had happened and who was seeking revenge. An entertaining read, but maybe a bit too predictable by the latter half of the book. The last paragraph promises there is more to come in this story – I’ll be interested to see what happens next, if there is a sequel.

  • ASIN: ‎ B086JJ2TK1
  • Publisher: ‎ HarperCollins (31 Oct. 2020)
  • X-Ray: ‎ Enabled
  • Print length: ‎391 pages
  • My Rating: 3*

My thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins, the publishers for a review copy.

The Queen’s Lady by Joanna Hickson

Harper Collins|20 January 2022|451 pages|e-book via NetGalley|Review copy|4*

Publishers’ Description:

As lady-in-waiting and confidante to Queen Elizabeth, wife of Henry VII, Joan understands royal patronage is vital if she and her husband, Sir Richard, are to thrive in the volatile atmosphere of court life.

But Tudor England is in mourning following the death of the Prince of Wales, and within a year, the queen herself. With Prince Henry now heir to the throne, the court murmurs with the sound of conspiracy. Is the entire Tudor project now at stake or can young Henry secure the dynasty?

Drawn into the heart of the crisis, Joan’s own life is in turmoil, and her future far from secure. She faces a stark choice – be true to her heart and risk everything, or play the dutiful servant and watch her dreams wither and die. For Joan, and for Henry’s Kingdom, everything is at stake…

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Joanne Hickson’s first book in her Queens of the Tower series, The Lady of the Ravens (my review), so I was keen to read the sequel, The Queen’s Lady, continuing the story of Joan Vaux, Lady Guildford. She was a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Henry VII and had became a good friend and confidante of Elizabeth. Her son Henry, known as Hal, had also became a good friend to the young Prince Henry.

It begins one evening at the Tower of London in April 1502. There’s strange atmosphere, as the ravens sit hunched in silence in the trees around the White Tower, Joan thought, as if awaiting some sad event, sensing death. One of the things I had particularly enjoyed in The Lady of the Ravens was Joan’s fascination for and care of the ravens of the Tower of London firmly believing in the legend that should the ravens leave the Tower for good then the crown would fall and ruin would return to the nation.

1502 had begun with pageantry and the New Year celebrations for the wedding of Prince Arthur, the heir to the throne, and Katharine of Aragon. It looks as if the ravens had indeed sensed death because in April he became seriously ill and died. It was Joan who had to break the news to Elizabeth and help console her in her grief. His death left Prince Henry as the heir to the throne.

In addition King Henry’s agents had uncovered a new Yorkist plot against the throne. Joan’s husband, Sir Richard Guildford is a Privy Councillor and loyal to Henry, but Henry is persuaded that he could be guilty of treason and he is imprisoned. Joan’s life is suddenly turned upside down. What happens next is fascinating to read covering Joan’s involvement in both national affairs and in her personal life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is beautifully written, grounded in its historical context, full of colour and life. At the end of the book there’s a Glossary of words and terms that are not commonly in use today, which I wish I’d realised was there earlier. Intriguingly, Joanna Hickson promises in her Author’s Note that she has ‘more fascinating fifteenth century lives in sight’. I’m looking forward to see what she writes next.

The Author:

Joanna Hickson became fascinated with history when she studied Shakespeare’s history plays at school. However, having taken a degree in Politics and English she took up a career in broadcast journalism with the BBC, presenting and producing news, current affairs and arts programmes on both television and radio. Now she writes full time.

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

Nonfiction November: Week 2 Book Pairings

Week 2: (November 8-12) – Book Pairing with Katie at Doing DeweyThis week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. 

Earlier this year I read the novel A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville and I’m pairing it with Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge by Michelle Scott Tucker, which I haven’t read yet.

Kate Grenville is one of my favourite authors, so I was very keen to read A Room Made of Leaves. It’s historical fiction telling the story of the Macarthurs, Elizabeth and John Macarthur, who settled in Australia at the end of the eighteenth century. It’s based on the real lives of the Macarthurs using letters, journals and official documents of the early years of the New South Wales colony. Her writing suits me – historical fiction, with good descriptive writing setting the scenes vividly in their locations. I find her books difficult to put down and they stay in my mind long after I’ve finished reading. This one is no exception.

Whenever I read historical fiction I always want to know how much is fact and how much is fiction, how accurate it is. And so this novel intrigued me because Kate Grenville’s book begins with an editor’s note about ‘the ‘incredible discovery of Elizabeth Macarthur’s secret memoirs’ in a tin box containing old papers, revealing the real person behind the few letters she wrote home to her family and friends and a lot of ‘dull correspondence with her adult children’. Was this true, I wondered. So I turned to the back of the book to read Grenville’s Author’s Note and in that she clarifies that this is not history and, although the extracts from Elizabeth’s letters are from the letters of the real Elizabeth Macarthur, she has ‘taken some liberties in order to shape this work of fiction’. The old documents were Grenville’s ‘inspiration and guide’. In other words you have to bear in mind the epigraph, an actual quotation from one of Elizabeth’s letters: Believe not too quickly, a reminder that this is fiction.

It made me want to know more about the Macarthurs, and what was indeed their history, so I was delighted to find out that Kate Grenville references Michelle Scott Tucker’s biography: Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World as the standard biography in her Acknowledgements and I was even more delighted to see that it’s available as a ebook. So it is now in my Kindle and I’m keen to read it as soon as possible. I want to see what Michelle Scott Tucker has made of the same historical sources – history, after all, is an interpretation of the facts from the records, trying to explain what happened and why, dependent on available evidence. Fiction is more flexible and can fill in the gaps where the documentary evidence is lacking.

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?

A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

Random House UK, Cornerstone Digital| 19 August 2021| 368 pages| Review copy| 4*

Synopsis:

There has never been a murder on Alderney.

It’s a tiny island, just three miles long and a mile and a half wide. The perfect location for a brand new literary festival. Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne has been invited to talk about his new book. The writer, Anthony Horowitz, travels with him.

Very soon they discover that not all is as it should be. Alderney is in turmoil over a planned power line that will cut through it, desecrating a war cemetery and turning neighbour against neighbour.

The visiting authors – including a blind medium, a French performance poet and a celebrity chef – seem to be harbouring any number of unpleasant secrets. When the festival’s wealthy sponsor is found brutally killed, Alderney goes into lockdown and Hawthorne knows that he doesn’t have to look too far for suspects.

There’s no escape. The killer is still on the island. And there’s about to be a second death…

A Line to Kill is the third in Anthony Horowitz’s Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery series. I have read the earlier books, The Word is Murder and The Sentence is Death and I think it really it best if you read these books in order to fully understand the main characters and their relationship. Daniel Hawthorne, an ex-policeman, is now a private investigator, who the police call in to help with their more complicated cases. Anthony Horowitz himself plays a major role as one of the main characters, recruited by Hawthorne to write a book about him and the cases he investigates and he’d agreed to a three-book contract with Hawthorne.

This third book is about the third case they investigate. I loved the setting on the island of Alderney where the literary festival is being held. I enjoyed the interplay between Hawthorne and the fictional Horowitz, a somewhat difficult relationship as Hawthorne is particularly secretive about his personal life and about the reason he left the police force. In a way he is a Sherlock Holmes type of character keeping Horowitz very much in the dark about what he thinks about the identity of the murder. He is not an easy person to like, single minded with a somewhat superior air about him, but he does get results.

Like the two earlier books this is a complicated murder mystery, with a type of ‘locked room’ puzzle to be solved. As you would expect it is full of red herrings and multiple twists and turns. I was soon totally immersed in this fascinating novel. The characters are fully formed, all with secrets they want to keep hidden and clues are all there, but so well hidden that I was once again totally bemused by it all.

The fictional Horowitz is by now, thoroughly intrigued by Hawthorne himself – just what is he keeping hidden about himself, why did he really leave the police force? Will the writer Horowitz reveal the secret is his next book – if there is to be one? I do hope so.

Thank you to Anthony Horowitz, Random House and NetGalley for an ARC of A Line to Kill.

Coming Up For Air by Sarah Leipciger

A remarkable true story richly re-imagined

On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toy-maker is on the cusp of a transformative invention, all the way to present-day Canada where a journalist, battling a terrible disease, risks everything for one last chance to live.

Taking inspiration from a remarkable true story, Coming Up for Air is a bold, richly imagined novel about the transcendent power of storytelling and the immeasurable impact of every human life.

Coming Up For Air is Sarah Leipciger’s second novel. It is a beautiful novel, a story of three people living in different countries and in different times. How their stories connect is gradually revealed as the novel progresses. As the author explains at the end of the novel is is a mix of fact and fiction and has its basis in truth. There is grief and loss and despair in each story, but above all, it is about love, and the desire to live.

Each story was compelling and, for once in a book that alternates between the characters, I thought the changes were just at the right moment in each one.

It begins with the unknown young woman in Paris, L’Inconnue, telling the story of her life that led to her suicide. Her death in the Seine is vividly described. As she fell in the cold water, initially she discovered the desire to live, as her body thrashed about not wanting to drown, her lungs fighting for air, for oxygen. It’s poignant and moving, set at the end of the 19th century bringing the city to life, where she lives as a lady’s companion to an old friend of her grandmother’s.

The second story is that of Norwegian, Pieter Akkrehamn, beginning in 1921, when he used to spend his summers with his grandparents on Karmoy Island. He went swimming in the North Sea, diving down several metres, holding his breath for over a minute in the freezing cold water, as the cold reached his chest, squeezing his lungs. His story is revealed, as he grieves for his little son. He is a toymaker, bored with making wooden toys, who turned to soft plastics and began making dolls with soft faces and bendable knees. What he eventually developed was truly remarkable.

The vital importance of being able to breathe comes to the fore in the third story – that of Anouk, a journalist in Canada. Anouk has cystic fibrosis and is on the list for a lung transplant. Her story is one of how she and her parents dealt with her illness, enabling her to combine her love for water and swimming with managing her cystic fibrosis, all the time struggling to breathe.

I think Sarah Leipciger is a great storyteller. It is an inspiring book, beautifully written, which emphasises the importance of the air we breathe and the desire to live. I loved it so much that I hope to read her first novel, The Mountain Can Wait.

With my thanks to NetGalley and to Random House for my review copy.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House UK Transworld Digital (19 Mar. 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 320 pages

My Friday Post: Checkmate to Murder by E C R Lorac

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. You can also share from a book you want to highlight just because it caught your fancy.

This week I’m featuring one of the books I’m currently reading, Checkmate to Murder: a Second World War Mystery by E C R Lorac, first published in 1944. One of the things I like about this book is the setting and atmosphere of wartime London, when details such as blackouts, fire-watching and air raid precautions were everyday events.

It begins:

The vast studio had two focus points of light; between two pools of radiance was a stretch of shadows, colourless, formless, empty. At one end of the long, barn-like structure, where the light was most strongly concentrated, was a model’s platform. A high-backed Spanish chair stood upon it, with a dark leather screen as background. On the chair sat a man arrayed in the superb scarlet of a Cardinal’s robe, the broad-brimmed Cardinal’s hat upon his head.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to Page 56 or 56% on your  ereader . If you have to improvise, that is okay. *Find a snippet, short and sweet, but no spoilers!

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.
  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:

“Deceased was a miser, one of the real old-fashioned storybook misers. I won’t say I haven’t met one before – I have, though they are getting less common than they used to be. D’you remember old Simple Simon, who was always getting run-in for begging on the Embankment – £525 we found under the boards in his bedroom when he died, and another fifteen pounds odd in his filthy bedding. He died of starvation at last.”

~~~

About the book:

On a dismally foggy night in Hampstead, London, a curious party has gathered in an artist’s studio to weather the wartime blackout. A civil servant and a government scientist match wits in a game of chess, while Bruce Manaton paints the portrait of his characterful sitter, bedecked in Cardinal’s robes at the other end of the room. In the kitchen, Rosanne Manaton prepares tea for the charlady of Mr. Folliner, the secretive miser next door.

When the brutal murder of ‘Old Mr. F’ is discovered by his Canadian infantryman nephew, it’s not long before Inspector Macdonald of Scotland Yard is called to the scene to take the young soldier away. But even at first glance the case looks far from black-and-white. Faced with a bevy of perplexing alibis and suspicious circumstances, Macdonald and the C.I.D. set to work separating the players from the pawns to shed light on this toppling of a lonely king in the dead of night.

What do you think – would you read this book?

Cruel Acts and The Cutting Place by Jane Casey

This month I have caught up with reading two of Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan books, and having read these two in quick succession I’m feeling as though I’ve overdosed on crime fiction. Too many murders in quick succession. I need to space them out.

Maeve is a Detective Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police – in the first six books she was a detective constable – and her boss Detective Inspector Josh Derwent are the two main characters. They have a confrontational working relationship and their spiky relationship is a recurring theme in the books. In fact they are both strong characters described in depth and completely believable. They’ve both changed as the series has grown, which is why it’s better to read the books in sequence to see how have they’ve developed.

The first book in Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series was The Burning, published in 2010, but I didn’t get round to reading it until February 2015. I was hooked immediately and read the next five books in quick succession by the end of August 2015. These are all police procedurals, fast-paced novels, with intriguing and complex plots and developing the relationships between the main characters. So, I think that although the books read well as stand-alones, it helps enormously to read them in order, especially to follow the relationship between Maeve and DI Josh Derwent.

Cruel Acts is the 8th book in the series and I enjoyed it more than The Cutting Place, the 9th book.

Blurb:
A year ago, Leo Stone was convicted of murdering two women and sentenced to life in prison. Now he’s been freed on a technicality, and he’s protesting his innocence. DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent are determined to put Stone back behind bars where he belongs, but the more Maeve digs, the less convinced she is that he did it. Then another woman disappears in similar circumstances. Is there a copycat killer, or have they been wrong about Stone from the start?

The Cutting Place

Blurb
Everyone’s heard the rumours about elite gentlemen’s clubs, where the champagne flows freely, the parties are the height of decadence . . . and the secrets are darker than you could possibly imagine.

DS Maeve Kerrigan finds herself in an unfamiliar world of wealth, luxury and ruthless behaviour when she investigates the murder of a young journalist, Paige Hargreaves. Paige was working on a story about the Chiron Club, a private society for the richest and most privileged men in London. Then she disappeared. 

It’s clear to Maeve that the members have many secrets. But Maeve is hiding secrets of her own – even from her partner DI Josh Derwent. Will she uncover the truth about Paige’s death? Or will time run out for Maeve first?

~~~

I enjoy crime fiction because I like trying to work out happened and why. But I don’t like reading about horrific murders that are described in gory technicolour detail. Whilst there are brutal murders in these books they’ve not been too much for me to read. They are gritty stories but in The Cutting Place the murders and abuse of women and the violence involved is just a step too far for me. One of the changes in Maeve’s life came about in that book was when she acquired a new boy friend – the lawyer Seth Taylor – I didn’t like him straight away and I was right. Now I would like to know what happens next between Maeve and Josh as it seems to me that their relationship took a significant turn in The Cutting Place! So, I am hoping there will be a 10th book.

Jane Casey’s writing makes compelling reading, always satisfying even if her books take me to places and situations that appal and terrify me. Her books are down to earth and based on real life. As she explains at the end of the book, she is married to a criminal barrister ‘who makes sure her writing is realistic and as accurate as possible.’

Her next book is a standalone thriller, The Killing Kind, to be published 27 May 2021, featuring barrister Ingrid Lewis – one to look out for.

Measure of Malice: Scientific Detection Stories edited by Martin Edwards

The Measure of Malice edited by Martin Edwards is one of the more enjoyable short story collections that I’ve read. It contains 14 stories in which scientific/technological methods are used in the detection of crime. There is an excellent introduction by Martin Edwards with information about the authors, five of whom were doctors, two were engineers and one was an academic chemist.

As always with short story collections some stories are better than others. I’m highlighting a few of the better ones here:

The Boscombe Valley Mystery by A Conan Doyle was originally published in the Strand Magazine in October 1891, and is the first short story to feature Inspector Lestrade. It’s a solid story, solved by Sherlock Holmes by inspecting and analysing the footprints and signs at the scene of the crime.

The Horror of Studley Grange by L T Meade and Clifford Halifax (1894), from Stories for the Diary of a Doctor, originally published in the Strand Magazine. I enjoyed this one although it was pretty easy to predict. Ostensibly a ghost story, the solution involves the use of a laryngoscope.

After Death the Doctor by J J Connington, a Scottish professor of chemistry. This one was first published in 1934, involving a contemporary scientific gadget. The doctor in question is Doctor Shefford who together with Sergeant Longridge, investigate the murder of old Barnaby Leadburn, found dead with his throat cut.

The next two are the ones I enjoyed the most:

The Broken Toad by H C Bailey, first published in 1934, featuring the surgeon and Home Office Consultant, Reggie Fortune as he considers the death of a police constable from poisoning. I enjoyed all the detailed complications and Bailey’s literary mannered style of storytelling.

In the Teeth of the Evidence by Dorothy L Sayers, first published in 1939, about forensic dentistry, which starts as Lord Peter Wimsey is sitting in his dentist’s chair. The police had just visited the surgery, wanting to see his predecessor’s records to identify the victim of a burnt out garage. An upper right incisor crown and the filling in a molar provided the clues to his death. Gory if you actually visualise what is involved!

  • Publisher : Poisoned Pen Press (4 Feb. 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1492699624
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1492699620
  • Source: The Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley
  • My Rating: 3.5*