Gently Does It by Alan Hunter: Book Review

When I saw that Gently Does It by Alan Hunter was available as an e-book I bought it because I’d enjoyed watching the TV version with Martin Shaw as Chief Inspector George Gently. First published in 1955, this is the first in the Chief Inspector Gently series, set in Norfolk (unlike the TV version, set in Northumbria).

Product Description from Amazon

The last thing you need when you’re on holiday is to become involved in a murder. For most people, that would easily qualify as the holiday from hell. For George Gently, it is a case of business as usual. The Chief Inspector’s quiet Easter break in Norchester is rudely interrupted when a local timber merchant is found dead. His son, with whom he had been seen arguing, immediately becomes the prime suspect, although Gently is far from convinced of his guilt. 

Norchester City Police gratefully accept Gently’s offer to help investigate the murder, but he soon clashes with Inspector Hansom, the officer in charge of the case. Hansom’s idea of conclusive evidence appals Gently almost as much as Gently’s thorough, detailed, methodical style of investigation exasperates Hansom, who considers the murder to be a straightforward affair.

Locking horns with the local law is a distraction Gently can do without when he’s on the trail of a killer.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed Gently Does It. I liked the portrayal of George Gently, a patient, thoughtful policeman, never hurried or distracted, quiet and persistent. He eats a lot of peppermint creams and doesn’t follow normal police procedures, as he admits:

I oughtn’t to tell you this ‘“ I oughtn’t even to tell myself. But I’m a very bad detective, and I’m always doing what they tell you not to in police college. (page 36)

but he does get results. He takes his time and despite disagreeing with Inspector Hansom, from the local police force, he gradually works his way through the various suspects, all of whom have secrets that he winkles out.

About the Author (copied from the e-book version)

Alan Hunter was born in Hoveton, Norfolk in 1922. He left school at the age of fourteen to work on his father’s farm, spending his spare time sailing on the Norfolk Broads and writing nature notes for the Eastern Evening News. He also wrote poetry, some of which was published while he was in the RAF during the Second World War. By 1950, he was running his own book shop in Norwich and in 1955, the first of what would become a series of forty-six George Gently novels was published. He died in 2005, aged eighty-two.

There are more Gently books that I’m aiming to read. I love the titles and they’re all available as e-books!

House of Silence by Linda Gillard: Book Review

I’ve read several of Linda Gillard’s books and House of Silence is definitely one of her best. It’s only available on Kindle but you can download it onto your computer to read if you don’t have a Kindle.

It’s one of those books that makes you want to carry on reading although you know you’ve lots of things you should be doing apart from reading, but you read on anyway.

It’s a novel about families and their secrets – in particular one family, the Donovans. When Gwen Rowland met Alfie Donovan she becomes interested in his family and persuades him to let her spend Christmas with them at the family home, Creake Hall. Gwen comes from a dysfunctional family – mother died of an overdose, aunt from drink and uncle from AIDS, whereas Alfie is the youngest and much-loved younger brother of four sisters and the model for his mother’s best selling children’s books about Tom Dickon Harry.

But  their family life  is not as Gwen imagined it. Although Gwen immediately finds a kindred spirit in Hattie, Alfie’s sister nearest to him in age, and Viv his oldest sister she soon finds there is a secret they’re all hiding. The only person who seems to be open with her is Tyler, the handsome Polish gardener. Alfie, himself seems different and his mother keeps mainly to her room, her mind drifting back to the past. Gwen is puzzled by an old photo of Alfie and then discovers scraps of letters that eventually lead her to the truth.

This is a book in which it is so easy to lose yourself, at once emotional and mysterious. I really enjoyed it – the characters are so distinctive and complex, and the setting in an old Elizabethan manor house is perfect. It raises issues of memory and identity, mental illness, loss and love.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1125 KB
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language English
  • ASIN: B004USSPN2
  • Source: I bought it

Crime Fiction Alphabet – Letter E

I’ve chosen Edgar Wallace’s The Clue of the Twisted Candle to illustrate the letter E in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet. This is the first book by Edgar Wallace (1875 – 1932) that I have read. I downloaded it from Gutenberg. I’m not sure when it was first published – from different sources it appears to between 1916 and 1918. Edgar Wallace was a prolific writer and produced 175 novels, including The Four Just Men, screenplays, including the original draft of King Kong and many short stories.

The Clue of the Twisted Candle is not the one of the most puzzling murder mysteries I’ve read. It’s a bit rambling and disjointed. Basically it’s about John Lexman a writer of crime novels, his wife Grace, and Remington Kara a wealthy Greek/Albanian, a rich and handsome man who is also a notorious criminal. Grace fears Kara, whose marriage proposal she had rejected. T X Meredith, an Assistant Police Commissioner and friend of Lexman’s is investigating Kara, who in apparent fear of his life has made his bedroom into a virtual safe:

… its walls are burglar proof, floor and roof are reinforced concrete, there is one door which in addition to its ordinary lock is closed by a sort of steel latch which he lets fall when he retires for the night and which he opens himself personally in the morning. The window is unreachable, there are no communicating doors, and altogether the room is planned to stand a siege.

Lexman is found guilty of killing a moneylender, Vassalaro and imprisoned. He escapes from prison just after, unknown to him, he has been pardoned and T X is convinced that he and Grace have been abducted by Kara. In due course, Kara is found murdered inside this locked room and a small twisted Christmas candle is found inside in the middle of the room, along with the stub of an ordinary candle under the bed. The mystery is who murdered Kara and how did the murderer escape from the locked room? Why does Belinda Mary, Kara’s secretary disappear, and what is the explorer, George Gathercole’s  role? It’s not too difficult to work out who killed Kara. Everything is explained before a gathering of international police officials at the end of the book and the ingenious method of escaping from the locked room is revealed. All in all an entertaining book, but not one to tax the ‘little grey cells’ very much.

Ink in the Blood by Hilary Mantel

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 134 KB
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (15 Dec 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • ASIN: B004GJXQ0C
  • Source: I bought it

Product Description  from Amazon

During the summer after Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, she fell very ill. Just how ill is described in her extraordinary diary, Ink in the Blood. Originally published in the London Review of Books, it is one of the most incredible and haunting essays published in a very long time. In the diary she explores in forensic detail her loss of dignity, her determination, the concentration of the senses into an animalistic struggle to get through, and the attendant hallucinations she was plagued by.

My view

This is a short memoir which I read quickly and easily on my Kindle – it’s only available on Kindle! Quite ironic that the first ebook (ie inkless) I read should be called ‘Ink in the Blood’! I was really pleased to find this because I loved Wolf Hall and had tickets for Hilary Mantel’s talk at the Borders Book Festival at Melrose in the summer.  She had to cancel that because she wasn’t well – I didn’t know just how ill she was. Ink in the Blood reveals all – how she had surgery to remove an intestinal obstruction that ended up in a marathon operation, followed by intense pain, nightmares and hallucinations.

Illness she found knocks down our defences, revealing things we should never see, needing moment by moment concentration on breathing, on not being sick and being dependent on others for your well-being. She read Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill, which she thought was piffle, describing decorous illnesses such as fainting, fevers and headaches. She wonders what sort of wuss was Woolf as she obeyed her doctors when they forbade her to write, whereas writing was Hilary Mantel’s lifeline – it was the ink as she wrote in her diary that reassured her she was alive.

It’s amazing how much she has managed to pack into this short memoir and one that repays more than one reading.

Ermintrude

100 Years of Ermintrude: a Life in 33 Stanzas written by Tom Evans and designed by Jacquetta Trueman is the first e-book I’ve read. When I was asked to review it I thought it sounded interesting and different. It is, but I can’t say that I’d like to read many books like this. However, as it is very short it isn’t difficult.

The four-line stanzas are simple to follow – one to a page and each one illustrated. It’s narrative poetry on a small-scale . We get glimpses of the highs and lows of Ermintrude’s life as the years roll back almost to her conception. Each stanza covers a brief memory of different events – some happy and some sad. I did find myself wishing there was more information about each event, but then maybe that’s how it is when you get to be 100. This is a good example of how to compress a life into a few short verses and still retain an interesting story as the milestones in Trudi/Emintrude’s life come back to her as she reached her 100th birthday.

This little book made me pause for thought.