My Friday Post: A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill

Book Beginnings Button

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.

A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill is one of the books I’m thinking I’ll read next. It’s the 6th Dalziel and Pascoe novel

A killing kindness

 

… it was green, all green, all over me, choking, the water, then boiling at first, and roaring, and seething, till all settled down, cooling, clearing, and my sight up drifting with the last few bubbles, till through the glassy water I see the sky clearly, and the sun bright as a lemon, and birds with wings wide as a windmill’s sails slowly drifting round it, and over the bank’s rim small dark faces peering, timid as beasts at their watering, nostrils sniffing danger and shy eyes bright and wary, till a current turns me over, and I drift, and am still drifting …

What the hell’s going on here! Stop it! This is sick …

I wasn’t sure what was going on either …

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These 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 becoming clearer now what was going on –

… all over me, choking, the water all boiling at first, and roaring, and seething …. Pascoe shook the medium’s taped words out of his mind and went on with his reading.

There was a degree of lividity down the left side which was unusual for a corpse taken from the water, but could be explained by the fact that the body seemed to have been wedged in the debris by the canal bank rather than rolling free in the current.

Blurb:

When Mary Dinwoodie is found choked in a ditch following a night out with her boyfriend, a mysterious caller phones the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet. The career of the Yorkshire Choker is underway.

If Superintendent Dalziel is unimpressed by the literary phone calls, he is downright angry when Sergeant Wield calls in a clairvoyant.

Linguists, psychiatrists, mediums – it’s all a load of nonsense as far as he is concerned, designed to make a fool of him.

And meanwhile the Choker strikes again – and again…

~~~

Have you read this book? What did you think?

A Pinch of Snuff by Reginald Hill

A Pinch of Snuff

HarperCollins|2003|362 pages|Paperback|my own copy|4* 

A Pinch of Snuff is Reginald Hill’s fifth Dalziel and Pascoe novel, first published in 1978. It was televised in 1994 by Yorkshire Television, two years before the BBC series began. The characters of Dalziel and Pascoe were played by comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, with Christopher Fairbank as Sergeant Edgar Wield. It was not a success and Reginald Hill was said to have been unhappy with the series. Subsequently the Dalziel and Pascoe books were adapted for BBC television from 1996 to 2007 with the actors Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan in the lead roles.

I finished reading A Pinch of Snuff just before Christmas and didn’t have time to review it then, so these are just a few notes of what I thought about it. It is better than the earlier books, almost as good as the later books and I enjoyed it very much. It begins as Jack Shorter, Pascoe’s dentist, tells him that he thinks that in one of the blue movies shown at the Calliope Club, an actress wasn’t acting but that she really was beaten up and that her teeth were actually broken. However, when Pascoe begins to investigate his dentist’s allegations it seems that the dentist’s fears were unfounded as the actress in question assures Pascoe that she was acting and certainly wasn’t hurt. But then the cinema is wrecked and its owner killed. Shorter, meanwhile, is accused of molesting an underage patient and is allegedly responsible for getting her pregnant.

All in all, this is a complicated book involving child abuse, pornography, violence towards women and snuff films. It starts slowly, but as the various twists and turns crop up the pace quickens. The events are shown through Pascoe’s eyes and we see his relationships with Dalziel and Sergeant Wield develop.  Elly, Pascoe’s wife, still doesn’t get on with Dalziel, and her feminism comes to the fore in her antagonism against him. 

The 6th book in the series is A Killing Kindness and I shall be reading that very soon.

These are the Dalziel and Pascoe books I’ve read so far:

1. A Clubbable Woman (1970) 
2. An Advancement of Learning (1971)
3. Ruling Passion (1973)
4. An April Shroud (1975) 
8. Exit Lines (1984)
11. Bones and Silence (1990) 
14. Pictures of Perfection (1993) – read, no post
17.On Beulah Height (1998) 
20. Death’s Jest Book (2002) 
21. The Death of Dalziel (2007)

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

Lady of the ravens

Harper Collins|9 January 2020|400 pages|e-book via NetGalley|Review copy|5*

Publishers’ Description:

Elizabeth of York, her life already tainted by dishonour and tragedy, now queen to the first Tudor king, Henry the VII.

Joan Vaux, servant of the court, straining against marriage and motherhood and privy to the deepest and darkest secrets of her queen. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, as conspiracy whispers through the dark corridors of the Tower.

Through Joan’s eyes, The Lady of the Ravens inhabits the squalid streets of Tudor London, the imposing walls of its most fearsome fortress and the glamorous court of a kingdom in crisis.

My thoughts:

The Lady of the Ravens opens in 1485 just weeks after Henry Tudor had taken the throne to become King Henry VII of England and Lord of Ireland. This is historical fiction about the early years of Henry’s reign as seen through the eyes of Joan Vaux, a lady in waiting to Elizabeth of York, whose marriage in 1486 to Henry united the Houses of Lancaster and York after the end of the Wars of the Roses.

Henry comes across as a competent king, which is really all I knew of his reign before reading this book. I’ve read Joanna Hickson’s earlier book about him, The Tudor Crown, which is about his early life and how he gained the English throne. Joan Vaux also features in a small way in this book. In The Lady of the Ravens he is shown to be determined to hold on to his throne, dealing with several Yorkists’ claims to the throne, in particular those of Lambert Simnel, who claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, Elizabeth’s cousin, and Perkin Warbeck, who claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, who was the second son of Edward IV, Elizabeth’s brother, one of the so-called Princes in the Tower. It is also about his family life – his marriage to Elizabeth,,the births of their children (three of them died in childhood), and his concern for his subjects – for example both he and Elizabeth were present at Joan’s wedding and we also see him enjoying dancing at court.

Joan Vaux is also a real historical character – her mother, Katherine was French and had been a lady-in-waiting to the former queen Margaret of Anjou (the wife of Henry VI).. Joan had served Elizabeth as a woman of her bedchamber before Elizabeth’s marriage to Henry and, after her own marriage to Sir Richard Guildford, as a lady-in-waiting. And before that she had been brought up in the household of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother. Joan became a good friend and confidante of Elizabeth, even after her marriage and the birth of her son Henry, known as Hal, who also became a good friend to the young Prince Henry.

The fictional element is in the story of 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 will fall and ruin will return to the nation. I came to really like Joan, a warm and caring woman. Joanna Hickson goes into detail describing the traumatic birth of her son and the lives of ordinary people outside the royal court. It is a rich and vibrant novel, full of action and political unrest.

I particularly like the glimpses we see of the ill-fated Prince Arthur and his bride, Katherine of Aragon. And I was especially delighted by the portrait of Prince Henry (who later became Henry VIII) as a young charismatic child of nearly three. His father was  furious about the imposters’ claims to the throne and had decided the best response was to invest his younger son as the trueborn and genuine Duke of York. Little Henry, with his bright red Tudor hair, was mounted on a gleaming black warhorse strapped into a specially made high-backed jousting saddle and escorted by his great-uncles, the Yeoman of the Guard and the King’s Archers as they processed around the streets of London to Westminster.  He was in his element, waving to the crowd who cheered and threw flowers as he went by.

This novel is beautifully written, grounded in its historical context, full of colour and life. I loved all the descriptions of the various settings, especially the Tower of London, and the ravens. My grasp of English history in this period was very hazy and I learned a lot reading this book, especially as the characters came to life on the pages, but most of all I loved the portrayal of Joan Vaux, Lady Guildford. And I see from the Author’s Note at the end of the book that there is more to come about her, including a mystery, her second marriage and her close relationship with Katherine of Aragon and the early years of Henry VIII’s reign. I’m looking forward to reading that!

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. The Lady of the Ravens is her sixth novel. 

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

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Searching for Sylvie Lee

John Murray|17 October 2019|341 pages|e-book via NetGalley|Review copy|4*

Description extracted from the publishers’ blurb:

It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother – and then vanishes.

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. 

My thoughts:

I loved Searching For Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok.  I enjoyed reading its beautiful descriptive language and the mystery of what had happened to Sylvie. I think the characterisation is very good, the three main characters, Sylvie, her younger sister Amy and their mother Ma are each clearly recognisable by the way they speak. The story alternates between the two sisters and their mother’s perspectives, as the details of what happened to Sylvie are revealed.

Sylvie had left her home in the USA to visit her dying grandmother in the Netherlands where she had lived until she was nine. After the funeral she was supposed to return home, but she never arrived. Amy and her parents are distraught and she flies to the Netherlands to find out what had happened to her.

This is a mystery full of suspense and it is also a story about family relationships, about secrets and the barriers that language can raise – Amy’s dominant language is English, whereas her mother and father, Chinese immigrants living in America, have just a basic grasp of English and still speak Chinese. Sylvie also speaks Dutch as until the age of nine she had lived with the Tan family, Chinese immigrants living in the Netherlands. It’s not just the language but also the different cultures and the racism they experienced that separated the characters.

I had realised quite early on what the family secret was and what had happened to Sylvie, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. My only criticism is that in the latter part of the book, particularly as Sylvie describes her visit to Venice I thought that the book veered offline. Although the episode is essential to the plot the detailed description took away the momentum of the mystery and my attention wandered a bit. But the ending made up for that!

The Author:

I would like to read more of Jean Kwok’s books. She is trilingual, fluent in Dutch, Chinese, and English, and studied Latin for seven years. Jean immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn when she was five and worked in a Chinatown clothing factory for much of her childhood. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard and completed an MFA in fiction at Columbia University. She currently lives in the Netherlands. Her work has been published in twenty countries and taught in universities, colleges, and high schools across the world.  

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Winter 2019-2020 To-Read List

TTT christmas

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

Here are some of the books I’d like to read this winter. Realistically I know it’ll take me longer than that (some are long) and that there’ll be some I won’t get round to and others that I’ll read instead.

  • Winter by Ali Smith – 4 four people, family and strangers spend Christmas in a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall but will there be enough room for them all? This is a library book, so I’ll probably read this first.
  • The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies. This is a long book and one that I’ll take my time reading.
  • Peterloo: the English Uprising by Robert Poole about the rally of around 50,000 people held in St Peter’s Field in Manchester on 16th August, 1819, to demand greater representation in Parliament. They were attacked by armed cavalry and 18 people were killed and some 700 injured. This is another long-term read as it looks so detailed and comprehensive.
  • The Dressmaker of Dachau by Mary Chamberlain, a WW2 novel about a young English seamstress who is taken prisoner and sent to Germany as slave labour. I really must read this one soon as a friend lent me this book months ago.
  • The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson, historical fiction set in the late 15th century, set in the Tower of London. Joan Veaux is lady in waiting to Elizabeth of York, who is married to Henry VII. She is the Lady Of The Ravens, who cares for and protects the famous ravens. Due to be published in January this is one of my NetGalley books.
  • Hitler’s Secrets by Rory Clements, another NetGalley book to be published in January. This is historical fiction and a spy thriller, featuring American Cambridge don Tom Wilde, beginning in autumn 1941 when the war is going badly for Britain and its allies.
  • Giant’s Bread by Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott. This is not one of her crime fiction novels. Last year I enjoyed Absent in the Spring another book she wrote as Mary Westmacott.
  • The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis, historical fiction set in Georgian London in the summer of 1763. Anne Jaccob, the elder daughter of well-to-do parents, meets Fub the butcher’s apprentice and is awakened to the possibilities of joy and passion.
  • A Killing Kindness by Reginald Hill, the 6th Dalziel and Pascoe novel. I’m currently reading the Dalziel and Pascoe novels in the order of publication and have nearly finished the 5th book.
  • Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert or whichever book comes up for me in the Classics Club Spin. I hope it’ll be this one but will have to wait and see … if it isn’t I’ll definitely be reading it some time next year.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

‘He’d do what he always did, find the sweet among the bitter.’

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Allison & Busby|2013 paperback edition| 396 pages| 5*

It’s not that often that a book brings tears to my eyes, but reading the ending of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet did just that. It is a beautiful book moving between two time periods, the early 1940s and 1986, mainly in Seattle.

Synopsis (Amazon):

1986, The Panama Hotel

The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War. Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel, stands Henry Lee, and, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, he is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his young heart to, so many years ago.

My thoughts:

I had little idea when I began reading this book how much I would enjoy it and how much I would learn from it. It moves at a much slower pace than I would like but this means that I could absorb the detail easily and follow the story without puzzling out the sequence of events. I had no problem at all in moving between the two time periods, as I have in some other books, the characters come across as real people with real lives and real problems. The settings are remarkable, even though I have never been to Seattle, and knew nothing about its history – its Chinatown and the Japan town, Nihonmachi – it came to life as I read on.

In 1942 in Seattle Henry Lee, a 12 year old Chinese American boy meets Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American girl and they become great friends, even though Henry’s father is against the Japanese because of the enmity between China and Japan. He makes Henry wear a badge “I am Chinese” so that people won’t think he is Japanese.

As the war progressed the persecution of Japanese Americans intensified and they were removed from their homes and interned. I knew this had happened after Pearl Harbour, but this book brings home the reality of the situation, of how their lives were uprooted and the prejudice and the terrible conditions that they experienced. Keiko and her family are moved to Camp Harmony, a temporary relocation centre at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, and not allowed to take their belongings with them. Many Japanese families, including Keiko’s, manage to store some in the basement of the Panama Hotel. Henry is devastated, certain he won’t see her again, especially when the families are moved to a permanent relocation centre, Minidoka in Idaho. But his search for Keiko didn’t end there and with the help of his friend Sheldon, a black jazz musician he continued to look for her.

The book is not just about Henry and Keiko it’s also about family relationships, about the importance of communication, of talking and sharing experiences and feelings and about friendships. And it’s a love story – of both a love lost and a love found as Henry and Keiko grow into adulthood. It is a bitter sweet story of commitment and enduring hope and one that I loved.

About the author:

Jamie Ford grew up in Seattle’s Chinatown and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was his debut novel. His second novel, Songs of Willow Frost was published in September 2013. Love and Other Consolation Prizes, was published in September 12, 2017 and is also set in Seattle, inspired by a true story, about a half-Chinese orphan boy whose life is transformed at Seattle’s 1909 World’s Fair. And so one book leads on to yet more books to read …

Two Crime Fiction Titles

I’m behind with reviewing the books I’ve read, so here are short reviews of two crime fiction novels I’ve read recently:

Broken ground

Broken Ground by Val McDermid, the 5th Karen Pirie book. 4*

This begins in 1944 when two men bury a couple of wooden crates in a peat bog in Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands. Seventy four years later Alice and her husband Will are on a treasure hunt, following a map Alice’s grandfather had left her. But they are astonished when discover the body of a man in the peat bog together with one of the crates. Perfectly preserved it appeared at first that this was a case for Karen’s friend Dr River Wilde, the forensic anthropologist. But the fact that the man was wearing a pair of Nikes, dating the body back to the 1990s ruled out that idea, which made it a case for Karen Pirie and her Historic Cases Unit.

This is a very readable book, moving swiftly along, that I really enjoyed. Karen has to cope with the unwelcome addition to her team of DS Gerry Mcartney. The ACC, Ann Markle and Karen just don’t get on and Karen suspects Markle is using McCartney to keep tabs on her and find a way to close the Unit down. It is a complicated case as attention switches back to events in 1944, the 1990s and the present day, although the actual murder mystery isn’t that difficult to work out.

Not Dead EnoughNot Dead Enough by Peter James, the 3rd Detective Superintendent Roy Grace book. 4*

It’s set in Brighton and begins with the murder of Katie Bishop. The immediate suspect is her husband Brian, but it appears that he couldn’t be the murderer unless he could have been in two places at once. Then Sophie Harrington is killed. She had been having an affair with Brian thus intensifying the police investigation into his movements and background.

Grace’s wife, Sandy, had disappeared nine years earlier and he is still wondering what happened to her even though he is now involved with Cleo Morey, the Chief Mortician and he takes a quick trip over to Munich when his friends tell him they had seen her there.

This is a re-read. I first read it in January 2014 and it was only when I reached the part about Sandy that I realised I had read it before. I think that this is because the two murders are particularly gruesome and either I’d scan read them before or had blocked them out of my mind. Apart from the gruesome murders I enjoyed this book and intend to carry on reading the Roy Grace books.