First Chapter First Paragraph: Rumpole by John Mortimer

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 Rumpole by John Mortimer, one of the recent additions to my TBRs. There are many collections of John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey stories. My copy was published in 1994 by the Folio Society and has ten of the Rumpole stories – they are longish short stories, thirty to fortyish pages long.

Rumpole

I must thank Margot (Confessions of a Mystery Writer)  for reminding me about both the books and the TV series in her In the Spotlight post on Rumpole. The same day I read her post I went to Barter Books in Alnwick and found three books by John Mortimer, including this one, a great find! The collection Margot wrote about includes the first story in my collection, but the rest are different.

Mortimer has chosen ten of his favourite Rumpole stories, saying that they are

the stories I enjoyed writing most, those which made me laugh a little when I was writing them (the only reliable test of a successful piece of work), and which drew some laughter from the actors when they read through the television versions.

It begins with an Introduction:

About eighteen years ago I thought I needed a character, like Maigret or Sherlock Holmes, to keep me alive in my old age. I wanted a sort of detective, who could be the hero of a number of stories but whose personality and approach to life were more important than the crimes with which he was concerned. He would have to be a comic character, as well as being courageous and more than usually astute, because I believe life to be best portrayed as comedy.

and the first story is Rumpole and the Younger Generation, which begins:

I, Horace Rumpole, barrister at law, sixty-eight next birthday. Old Bailey hack, husband to Mrs Hilda Rumpole (known to me only as She Who Must Be Obeyed) and father to Nicholas Rumpole (lecturer in social studies at the University of Baltimore, (I have always been extremely proud of Nick); I who have a mind full of old murders, legal anecdotes and memorable fragments of the Oxford Book of English Verse ( Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s edition) together with a dependable knowledge of bloodstains, blood groups, fingerprints, and forgery by typewriter; I, who am now the oldest member of my Chambers, take up my pen at this advanced age during a lull in business (there’s not much crime about – all the best villains seem to be off on holiday in the Costa Brava) in order to write my reconstructions of some of my recent triumphs (including a number of recent disasters) in the Courts of Law, hoping thereby to turn a bob or two which won’t be immediately grabbed by the taxman, or my clerk Henry or by She Who Must Be Obeyed, and perhaps give some sort of entertainment to those, who like myself, have found in British justice a life-long subject of harmless fun.

Phew! that is just one sentence! The rest of the story is not like that and the narrative moves along briskly and as Margot says in her post there’s a great deal of wit in the stories and courtroom repartee.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard

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 The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard, one of the books I’ve borrowed from the library.

The Twilight Hour

It begins:

Eleanor woke to what was not there. Outside, the wind still roared,dashing pellets of rain against the windows; inside it was too silent, not a breath or a heartbeat save hers. The darkness felt uninhabited. Before she reached out her hand, groping past the water jug and the vase of dying flowers to touch the bed and find it empty, the blanket thrown back and the pillow dislodged, she knew she was alone. She let fear seep through her, into every space in her body. She could taste the muddy, metal ache of it in her mouth; feel it in the palms of her hands and the base of her spine and in her throat like a rippling, oily snake; she could smell it on her skin, sour as spoilt milk.

That’s a terrifying feeling to wake up with – that image of a rippling, oily snake in her throat leaves me feeling sick –  and wondering why she is so scared.

Blurb:

Eleanor Lee has lived a fiercely independent existence for over ninety years, but now it’s time to tidy her life away – books, photographs, paintings, letters – a lifetime of possessions all neatly boxed up for the last time. But amongst them there are some things that must be kept hidden. And, nearing blindness, Eleanor needs help to uncover them before her children and grandchildren do.

Peter, a young man with a broken heart who feels as lost as Eleanor’s past, is employed to help with this task. And together they uncover traces of another life – words and photographs telling a story of forbidden love, betrayal, passion, grief and self-sacrifice, which Eleanor must visit one last time.

By speaking her memories out loud, and releasing the secrets of her past, Eleanor can finally lay them to rest. To honour them at last, and protect those who must never know.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

First Chapter First Paragraph: The Ghost by Robert Harris

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.

I’m currently reading The Ghost by Robert Harris, about a ghostwriter, not a tale of the supernatural.

The Ghost

 

The moment I heard how McAra died I should have walked away. I can see that now. I should have said, ‘Rick, I’m sorry, this isn’t for me, I don’t like the sound of it,’ finished my drink and left. But he was such a good storyteller, Rick – I often thought he should have been the writer and I the literary agent – that once he’s started talking there was never any question I wouldn’t listen, and by the time he had finished, I was hooked.

Blurb:

Britain’s former prime minister is holed up in a remote, ocean-front house in America, struggling to finish his memoirs, when his long-term assistant drowns. A professional ghostwriter is sent out to rescue the project – a man more used to working with fading rock stars and minor celebrities than ex-world leaders. The ghost soon discovers that his distinguished new client has secrets in his past that are returning to haunt him – secrets with the power to kill.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

First Chapter First Paragraph: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is one of the books I’m currently reading. It’s the first book in the All Souls Trilogy series.

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls, #1)

The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable. To an ordinary historian, it would have looked no different from hundreds of other manuscripts in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, ancient and worn. But I knew there was something odd about it from the moment I collected it.

Blurb:

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires.

Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted to read this book as I don’t often read books about witches or vampires, although I have read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. It was the opening paragraph that made me decide to try it – for several years I worked in the Archives Department of a County Council, so anything to do with ancient manuscripts fascinates me. I’m up to chapter 7 and it’s slow, easy reading and Diana is as much a reluctant witch as I am a reluctant reader of vampire stories.

First Chapter First Paragraph: Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge

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.

Down to the Woods by M J Arlidge is one of the books I’m currently reading.

Down to the Woods (Helen Grace #8)

She reached out and found only emptiness. The silky fabric was cool to her touch, which confused her. Where there should be a warm sentient being, there was just … a void.

Blurb:

There is a sickness in the forest. First, it was the wild horses. Now it’s innocent men and women, hunted down and murdered by a faceless figure. Lost in the darkness, they try to flee, they try to hide. In desperation, they call out for help. But there is no-one to hear their cries here…

DI Helen Grace must face down a new nightmare. The arrow-ridden victims hang from the New Forest’s ancient oaks, like pieces of strange fruit. Why are helpless holidaymakers being targeted in peak camping season? And what do their murders signify? Is a psychopath stalking the forest? Is there an occult element to the killings? Could the murders even be an offering to the Forest itself? Helen must walk into the darkness to discover the truth behind her most challenging, most macabre case yet.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

This is the 8th DI Helen Grace thriller. I haven’t read any of the earlier books but although it’s obvious there’s a lot of back story, it doesn’t seem to matter as I’m following this fast paced mystery with no problems. And it’s scary, set in the depths of the New Forest where evil is at large.

First Chapter First Paragraph: Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

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.

My book this week is one of the books I’ve been thinking about reading soon. It’s Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton.

Dead Woman Walking

 

‘This woman – Jessica Lane – should have died. Eleven people were killed in that crash. Not only did Lane survive, she walked away. She’s still walking.

‘So, I want to know where she’s going. I want to know why she hasn’t been in touch. Why she isn’t seeking help. Why she’s deliberately avoiding the police.

‘I want to know who she’s running from.

‘Most of all I want her found.’

Blurb:

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all . . .

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Well, I will – I want to know the answers too. And as I always find that Sharon Bolton is a brilliant storyteller I may just start reading it today.

First Chapter First Paragraph: I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May

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.

My book this week is one of the books I’m planning to read soon. It’s I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May.

I'll Keep You Safe

First from the Prologue:

All she can hear is the ringing in her ears. A high-pitched tinnitus drowning out all other sounds. The chaos around her has no real form. Flaming fragments from the blast still falling from the night sky, bodies lying on the concrete. The shadows of figures fleeing the flames extend towards her across the square, flickering like monochrome images on a screen.

and from Chapter One:

The last hours of their life together replayed themselves through a thick fog of painful recollection. Did people really change, or was it just your perception of them? And if that was true, had you ever really known them in the first place?

Blurb (Amazon):

WHATEVER HAPPENS

Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane co-own the Hebridean company Ranish Tweed. On a business trip to Paris to promote their luxury brand, Niamh learns of Ruairidh’s affair, and then looks on as he and his lover are killed by a car bomb. She returns home to Lewis, bereft.

I’LL ALWAYS BE THERE FOR YOU

Niamh begins to look back on her life with Ruairidh, desperate to identify anyone who may have held a grudge against him. The French police, meanwhile, have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder – and sent Detective Sylvie Braque to shadow their prime suspect: Niamh.

I’LL KEEP YOU SAFE, NO MATTER WHAT

As one woman works back through her memories, and the other moves forward with her investigation, the two draw ever closer to a deadly enemy with their own, murderous, designs.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Peter May is one of my favourite authors so I’m anticipating that I’ll really enjoy this book, set mainly on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The blurb seems to tell a lot of what happens in the book placing it as a crime thriller novel, but then the reflective, philosophical tone of the opening of  paragraph of Chapter One seems to me to indicate that maybe this book is more than that …