The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor

Harper Collins UK|5 April 2018|448 p|e-book |Review copy|5*

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

Harper Collins UK|7 April 2016|497 p|e-book|Review copy|5*

New-to-Me Books from Barter Books

Barter Books in Alnwick was looking very festive yesterday with a Christmas tree made out of books. It’s my favourite bookshop, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain with books galore, open fires and plenty of places to sit and peruse the books. (See this Picture Gallery for more photos)

I browsed the shelves to see which ones jumped out, shouting ‘read me’ And these are the books I brought home:

Where Roses Fade by Andrew Taylor – psychological crime fiction, one of his Lydmouth series, in which Mattie, a waitress drowns  – did she fall, or did she jump? Rumours circulate that her death wasn’t accidental – and then comes another death. I’ve read Andrew Taylor’s Roth trilogy, but none of his Lydmouth series.

You Made Me Late Again! by Pam Ayres – a collection of poems, anecdotes and short verses, covering a wide range of subjects from a nervous racehorse, a proud granny, to a dog reunited with his master at the Pearly Gates. I fancied some light relief after all the crime fiction I’ve been reading lately and this collection of witty poems appealed to me.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – a thriller set on a luxury cruise ship going to see the Northern Lights, a body overboard – but there are no missing passengers.  I was looking in the ‘W’s for a book by Louise Welsh (I didn’t find one I hadn’t read) but this book caught my eye. I haven’t read any of Ruth Ware’s books, but have seen her mentioned on other book blogs.

Loitering With Intent by Muriel Spark – Would-be novelist Fleur Talbot works for Sir Quentin Oliver at the Autobiographical Association.  Mayhem ensues when scenes from Fleur’s novel-in-progress begin to come true with dangerous and darkly funny results. One of my favourite books is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, so I’m hoping to love this book too.

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale –  after an illicit affair Harry Cane, is forced to travel from Edwardian England to the town of Winter in Canada  to start a new life. I’m currently reading and enjoying Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition, so when I saw this book on the shelf I had to get it.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear – a Maisie Dobbs novel, set in 1932 when Maisie takes on an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service. I like the Maisie Dobbs books and began reading the several years ago, but I haven’t kept up with the series. This one is book 8.

What I love about Barter Books is that it’s not only filled with thousands of books, but it works on the swap system – you bring in books, they make an offer for them and your credit can then be used for books to bring home. I’m in credit, so I didn’t have to pay anything for these books – brilliant! Plus, it’s in a lovely building that was Alnwick’s beautiful old Victorian railway station and you can get tea, coffee, hot food (I love their macaroni cheese) and cakes etc in the Station Buffet. Yesterday we were there early and David had a Bacon Buttie from the Breakfast Menu – I had some of it too.

My Friday Post: Call the Dying by Andrew Taylor

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.

This week’s first paragraph is from Call the Dying by Andrew Taylor, crime fiction set in the 1950,  the seventh in Taylor’s Lydmouth series.

Call the Dying (Lydmouth, #7)

It begins:

 

I saw a ghost today. It was very foggy, I know, but I’m sure I wasn’t mistaken. He was coming through the door of Butter’s, and he looked like a ghost because of the fog. But he really was a ghost from a time that’s dead and gone.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  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 55 (page 56 is blank)

I’ve done nothing wrong. Not really. So it’s not fair. It’s as if everyone’s ganging up against me.

Or is it just me? Am I going mad? did I really see him?

I’m afraid. I’m lonely, too. Keep busy that’s the answer. Make my self tired. You don’t have time to feel afraid when you’re deadbeat, you just sleep instead.

I like the thought of sleeping. I can’t remember when I last had an unbroken night.

From the back cover:

Love and need make unexpected bedfellows, and both are blind. As the grip of a long hard winter tightens on Lydmouth, a dead woman calls the dying in a seance behind net curtains. Two provincial newspapers are in the throes of a bitter circulation war. A lorry-driver broods, and an office boy loses his heart.

Britain is basking in the warm glow of post-war tranquillity, but in the quiet town of Lydmouth, darker forces are at play. The rats are fed on bread and milk, a gentleman’s yellow kid glove is mislaid on a train, and something disgusting is happening at Mr Prout’s toyshop.

Returning to a town shrouded in intrigue and suspicion, Jill Francis becomes acting editor of the Gazette. Meanwhile, there’s no pleasure left in the life of Detective Chief Inspector Richard Thornhill. Only a corpse, a television set and the promise of trouble to come.

I bought this book a couple of years ago, keen to read it as I’d enjoyed Taylor’s Roth trilogy so much.

My Friday Post: The Scent of Death

Book Beginnings ButtonEvery 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.

This week’s book is a library book I’m thinking of reading. It’s The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor. I borrowed it because I’ve enjoyed some of his other books. It begins:

This is the story of a woman and a city. I saw the city first, glimpsing it from afar as it shimmered like the new Jerusalem in the light of the setting sun.

Synopsis:

August, 1778. British-controlled Manhattan is a melting pot of soldiers, traitors and refugees, surrounded by rebel forces as the American War of Independence rages on. Into this simmering tension sails Edward Savill, a London clerk tasked with assessing the claims of loyalists who have lost out during the war.

Savill lodges with the ageing Judge Wintour, his ailing wife, and their enigmatic daughter-in-law Arabella. However, as Savill soon learns, what the Wintours have lost in wealth, they have gained in secrets.

The murder of a gentleman in the slums pulls Savill into the city’s underbelly. But when life is so cheap, why does one death matter? Because making a nation is a lucrative business, and some people cannot afford to miss out, whatever the price’¦

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

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  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:

You’re a thief, a damned pickpocket. There were two empty purses in your bundle. And those shoes you had on your feet – well they tell their own story don’t they?

I like the promise of this book – historical crime fiction set during the American War of Independence, a war about which I know only the briefest of details.

New-To-Me Books August 2015

Aug 15 bksAnother visit to Barter Books in Alnwick resulted in another pile of books to add to my TBR shelves.

From top to bottom they are:

  • The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter – to fill in my gaps in reading his Inspector Morse books. This is the 6th in the series – Inspector Morse isn’t sure what to make of the truncated body found dumped in the Oxford Canal. He suspects it may be all that’s left of an elderly Oxford don last seen boarding a London train days before.
  • Hangman’s Holiday and Other Stories by Dorothy L Sayers – the ninth in her Lord Peter Wimsey series, this includes  four Wimsey stories, six stories featuring Montague Egg (travelling salesman for Plummet & Rose, Wine & Spirits), and two more separate stories.
  • Death Comes as the End by Agatha Christie – this is one of the last few books of hers I have yet to read. It’s historical crime fiction set in Egypt 4,000 years ago, written drawing on her experience of several  expeditions to the Middle East with her husband, Max Malloran, an eminent archaeologist.
  • The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) – one of her psychological thrillers, described on the back cover as ‘a chilling tale of ambition, obsession and bad blood.‘ I still have a lot of Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell books to read.
  • Call the Dying by Andrew Taylor – I’m jumping into a series with this book as this is the 7th in the Lydmouth mysteries and I haven’t read any of the others. They are all are set in and around a fictional town on the Anglo-Welsh borders in the years after World War II.
  • The Secret Place by Tana French – the 5th in the Dublin Murder Mystery series. I read the first,  In the Woods a few years ago and liked its psychological elements and the twists and turns.  In this book Detective Stephen Moran investigates the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper when sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him a photo of Chris with the caption, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.
  • Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson – a complete change from crime fiction – a book I bought in Tescos for £1. It’s described on the book cover as  ‘a novel about love – love of women, love of literature, love of laughter. It shows our funniest writer at his brilliant best.‘ I felt like reading something different.

If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to know what you think about them.

The Office of the Dead

The Office of the Dead by Andrew Taylor is the third book in the Roth Trilogy. I read the first two, The Four Last Things and The Judgement of Strangers a couple of years ago and I wish I’d read this one straight afterwards, because I had to refresh my memory before I started The Office of the Dead.

It’s set in the 1950s, some twenty years earlier than The Judgement of Strangers, and completes the story of the Byfield and Appleyard families. I absolutely loved it. As it says on the back cover this is a chilling novel of crime and retribution. It works perfectly well on its own, but is even better if you’ve read the first two books. The way Andrew Taylor has constructed this trilogy, working backwards in time is just perfect.

Synopsis from Andrew Taylor’s website:

It’s 1958, and the party’s over for Wendy Appleyard: she finds herself penniless, jobless and on the brink of divorce. So she runs to her oldest friend Janet Byfield, who seems to have everything Wendy lacks: a handsome husband, a lovely little daughter, Rosie, and a beautiful home in the Cathedral Close of Rosington. David Byfield is on the verge of promotion, and Janet is the perfect wife for an ambitious young clergyman.

But perfection has always been dangerous, and gradually the idyll sours. Old sins come to haunt the present and breed new sins in their place. The shadow of death seeps through the Close, and with it comes a double mystery stretching back to turn-of-the-century Rosington, to a doomed poet-priest called Francis Youlgreave.

Only Wendy, the outsider looking in, glimpses the truth. But can she grasp its dark and twisted logic in time to prevent the coming tragedy?

My view:

The Office of the Dead answers many of the questions I had from the other two books – questions about David Byfield, the theologian who can barely control his emotions; Reverend Francis Youlgreave, the turn of the century canon librarian and poet, and most of all about Rosie, David and Janet’s daughter. In this book she is a small and very self absorbed little girl who has her 5th birthday during the course of the book. She calls herself ‘Nobody‘, because ‘Nobody’s perfect‘ and she can’t be parted from her doll, Angel.

There is also an excellent portrayal of senile dementia in Janet’s father – John Treevor. Janet says he is ‘getting a bit confused‘, but at times he was capable of acting perfectly rationally and at times not – which made it all the more difficult to know what was true and what only took place in his mind, and so all the more tense and sinister. Did John Treevor commit suicide or was he murdered and if so, was it the stranger he said was watching the house, or someone else?

Running alongside the story of the Byfields are several other inter-connecting strands, Wendy (who is the narrator) and her estranged husband, Henry; the man with the bald spot roughly the shape of a map of Africa, who is following Wendy – who is he working for and why is he interested in Canon Youlgreave. Youlgreave, a character from the past who had died in 1903? He is described by old Mrs Gotobed as a ‘good man‘, but he had been forced to resign after he had ‘lost all touch with reality ‘ and had caused a scandal.

In fact the overall mood of the book is about the difficulties in remembering, or is it twisting, the past, about mental breakdowns and about the effect the past had on the future. In that respect I think it’s best to read the books in order.

I’ve just seen that there is a new short story, €˜The Long Sonata of the Dead‘, about the continuing legacy of Francis Youlgreave, due to be published on Kindle on 1 April. I’m looking forward to reading it.

And then I’d like to read the first two books in reverse order and see what it effect that has on the story. There is so much more I could write about this book – about the characters (totally convincing), about the setting and the writing (well written etc) and about the pace – the creation of tension and suspense etc (just right), but really all I need to say is that I thought it was brilliant!