Appleby’s End by Michael Innes

3*

Appleby’s End was first published in 1945.

Description

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.

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder

Canongate Books|30 August 2018|417 pages|Review copy|5*

The Way of All Flesh is the debut novel from Ambrose Parry: co-written by best-selling crime writer Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman.

I knew as soon as I began reading The Way of All Flesh that I was going to enjoy it – it’s historical crime fiction at its very best.

Full of atmosphere and historical detail, I could easily believe I was there in Edinburgh in 1847 as Dr James Young Simpson, a professor of midwifery, discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform. It combines fact and fiction most successfully, the social scene, historical and medical facts slotting perfectly into the plot.

It begins with the death of Evie, a prostitute in Edinburgh’s Old Town, found by Will Raven, a young medical student about to start his apprenticeship with Dr Simpson. Will, Evie’s friend is suspicious, the place was reeking of drink and Evie’s body was in a state of contortion. He flees the scene, not wanting to be implicated in her death. There is a mystery surrounding Will – he has a past that he wants to conceal, and he is in trouble with a couple of villains who beat him, slashing his face when he is unable to repay his debt to a moneylender.

Will is anxious to fit in with the more genteel society of the New Town, where Dr Simpson has his surgery, a place where people from all levels of society congregated – the poor who attended his clinics, the wealthy who also wanted treatment, and the medical students and colleagues experimenting with new drugs and medical techniques. When Will comes across similar deaths during his work with Dr Simpson he is determined to find out who is responsible  – was it the same person who had killed Evie?

Sarah, Dr Simpson’s housemaid is an ambitious and enterprising young woman who would love to have a career in medicine just like the male medical students. Initially she dislikes Will, but eventually they join forces to uncover the killer in the depths of Edinburgh’s dark underworld . Through Sarah’s eyes we see the frustrations and limitations that all women experienced and through Will’s eyes we see the grim realities and danger that women at all levels of society faced with childbirth and unwanted pregnancies, and the brutally primitive state of the medicine of the period. The medical scenes are indeed gruesome and the attitudes of some of the clergy with their opposition to the use of anaesthetics is deplorable. The authors have combined their specialities to provide a compelling murder mystery interwoven with the exciting discovery of chloroform and how it transformed surgery.

This is without doubt an impressive and well written book that gripped me throughout – definitely one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year.

And I am so pleased that this is not the end of Will as Chris and his wife, Marisa are planning more novels revealing the development of medicine and the part that the Simpson household played. Also, I see that Benedict Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch production company has secured the TV rights to The Way of All Flesh.

Thank you to Canongate Books and NetGalley for my copy of this book for review.

10 Books of Summer – Wrap Up

Cathy’s summer reading challenge ends tomorrow. I opted for the 10 book version. I revised my original list but still didn’t manage to read all 10. But I did read 7 of them and reviewed 5. I also read the first story in Daphne du Maurier’s short story collection and will read the rest maybe for the R.I.P. Challenge that started yesterday.

  1. On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill 
  2. Darkside by Belinda Bauer 
  3. Ruined Stones by Eric Reed
  4. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
  5. Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie
  6. Camino Island by John Grisham  – review to follow
  7. Cecile is Dead by Georges Simenon – review to follow
  8. Don’t Look Now and other stories by Daphne du Maurier – I’ve read the first story

The two I haven’t read are:

  1. Appleby’s End by Michael Innes – I’ve started it but I’m not impressed so far!
  2. Coffin Road by Peter May – I will definitely read this one – possibly also one for the R.I.P. Challenge.

Six Degrees of Separation from Where Am I Now? to The Book of Illusions

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.

This month the chain begins with with Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson, subtitled True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame. Mara Wilson is a former child actress best known for her starring roles in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire. I haven’t read this book which tells the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity. 

Where Am I Now?

As the title of Mara Wilson’s book is a question my first link is to another book with a question in the title. When Will there Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson. A tale of disasters beginning when six year old Joanna witnessed the murder of her mother, older sister and baby brother. It’s the third in her Jackson Brodie series. I raced through this very quickly as I was so keen to find out what happened. I know I missed the clues and I’d love to re-read it sometime!

When Will There Be Good News? (Jackson Brodie, #3)One Good Turn (Jackson Brodie #2)Three Act Tragedy (Hercule Poirot, #11)

The second link is to another book by Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn. This is the second  Jackson Brodie book, a cleverly constructed and complicated murder mystery. It’s a puzzle and like the Russian dolls within dolls (which also feature in this book), there is a thread connecting it all together. I didn’t think it was quite as good as When Will There Be Good News?, but still enjoyed it.

Another book with a number in the title is Agatha Christie’s  Three Act Tragedy, also a book containing lots of puzzles to be solved. Poirot plays a secondary role, preferring to think rather than act and it is Mr Satterthwaite and Sir Charles who investigate the deaths of two of the guests at Sir Charles Cartwright’s party. This is one of Christie’s earlier books (1935) and I really enjoyed it.

Mr Satterthwaite, along with Mr Harley Quin, also features in Agatha Christie’s short story collection The Mysterious Mr Quin, first published in 1930 . This is my favourite of her collections, containing some of her very best short stories.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin (Harley Quin, #1)The Breaking Point: Short StoriesThe Book Of Illusions

My fifth link is to another collection of short stories: The Breaking Point by Daphne du Maurier. These stories are dark, difficult, perturbing – and sometimes shocking, telling of double lives, split personalities, paranoia and conflict, each one with a ‘breaking point’. One of the stories is The Menace about a silent movie star, a heart-throb until the advent of the ‘feelies’ when it is discovered that his magnetism is almost non-existent.

One of the characters in The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster is a silent movie star – Hector Mann. There are many layers to this novel; it’s a detective story with gothic overtones, a love story and a novel about the passing of the 20th century, ending as the last weeks of the century approach. It’s a circular story as well, ending with the hope that it ‘will start all over again.’

And this completes my chain beginning and ending with books about movie stars, passing through murder mysteries and short story collections, and moving from the US to the UK and back to the US, linked by the titles, authors and characters.

Next month (October 6, 2018), we’ll begin with a book I haven’t read (or heard of before) – a story of teenage rebellion, The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.

He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr

He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr was my Classics Club Spin book for August. It was first published in 1946. Carr (1906 – 1977) was an American writer who also wrote under the pseudonym of Carter Dickson and Carr Dickson. In 1936 he was elected to the Detection Club in London. He Who Whispers is one of his ‘locked room’  mysteries/impossible crimes, featuring Dr Gideon Fell, an amateur sleuth.

He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr

I really didn’t know what to expect so I was pleased to find that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s well written, set in 1945 just after the end of the Second World War when Miles Hammond is finding it hard to getting used to peacetime. London is still showing the scars of the war and he feels that his life is unreal. He has been discharged from the Army after being in hospital suffering from diesel-oil poisoning.

Then, gasping out to the end like a gauleiter swallowing poison, the war is over. You come out of hospital – a little shakily, your discharge papers in your pocket – into a London still pinched by shortages; a London of long queues, erratic buses, dry pubs; a London where they turn on the street-lights and immediately turn them off again to save fuel; but a place free at last from the intolerable weight of threats.

People didn’t celebrate that victory hysterically, as for some reason or other the newspapers liked to make out. What the newsreels showed was only a bubble on the huge surface of the town. Like himself, Miles Hammond thought, most people were a little apathetic because they could not yet think of it as real. (page 6)

His friend, Dr Gideon Fell, has invited him to dinner as a guest at the Murder Club, their first meeting in five years, where the speaker is Professor Rigaud. But when he arrives he finds none of the members of the Club have turned up. The only other people there are the Professor, and a beautiful blonde called Barbara Morell. Rigaud, however, tells them the story he had prepared for the Club – a tale of an impossible murder on the top of a ruined tower, that had once been part of a French chateau burnt down by the Hugeunots in the 16th century, and a mysterious woman, Miss Fay Seton.

The body of Howard Brooke was found lying on the parapet of the tower by two children between 10 minutes to 4 and 5 minutes past 4. He had been stabbed through his body with a sword-stick and yet the evidence showed conclusively that during this time not a living soul came near him. Rigaud points out the difficulties of scaling the wall of the tower, leading Miles to suspect he is alluding to ‘some sort of supernatural being that could float in the air‘ – in other words, a vampire.

Now, six years later Miles, Rigaud and Barbara together with Dr Fell set about trying to solve the mystery. I was fascinated by Dr Fell, supposedly based upon G. K. Chesterton (author of the Father Brown stories), in his appearance and personality. He’s immensely tall and fat, with a big mop of grey-streaked hair, and wearing a long, dark cape. He strides along ‘with a rolling motion like an emperor, and the sound of his throat-clearing preceded him like a war-cry‘.

I thought the characterisation was excellent and there is a great sense of location. The book is full of tension and there is a real sense of approaching danger and disaster as the characters struggle to uncover the truth. It is only due to Dr Fell’s ingenuity that their fears are calmed and he produces a rational explanation and reveals the truth. I too was puzzled and the book had kept me guessing right to the end. Even then when I knew what had happened I was so involved with the characters that  I was left wondering –  what happened next? 

Now, I’m keen to read more of John Dickson Carr’s books. There are a lot of them – see the list at Fantastic Fiction.

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books in association with H.Hamilton (1953)
  • Source: I bought my copy
  • Rating: 4*

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

Yesterday I went to my favourite bookshop Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. This is where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves.

These are the books I brought home:

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A Killing of Angels by Kate Rhodes (a new-to-me author) – the second book in her Alice Quentin series. I haven’t read the first book but I thought this looks good – it’s a psychological thriller. At the height of a summer heatwave, a killer stalks the City of London.The avenging angel leaves behind a scattering of feathers with each body – but why these victims? What were their sins?

Winter Garden by Beryl Bainbridge – described on the back cover as ‘surreal’ (TLS) and ‘very funny as well as a frightening book’ (Guardian), I’m not sure what I’ll make of this book about a womaniser who begins an extra-marital affair, but I’ve liked other books by Beryl Bainbridge.

The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell. I’ve enjoyed a couple of his books before, so this Inspector Wallander book caught my eye. A little raft is washed ashore on a beach in Sweden. It contains two men, shot dead. They’re identified as criminals, victims of a gangland hit. Wallander’s investigation takes him to Latvia.

The Widow’s War by Sally Gunning – another new-to-me author. This is historical fiction set in 1761 about a whaler’s wife in the Cape Cod village of Satucket in Massachusetts, living with the daily uncertainty that her husband Edward will simply not return. And when her worst fear is realised, she finds herself doubly cursed.

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