June's Books & Crime Fiction Pick of the Month

I read six books in June, a bit less than usual as one of the books, Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens is a long book. Three are books from my backlog of to-be-read books, two are historical fiction and one was a re-read. All but one are crime fiction!

June 2013

  • A Fearful Madness by Julius Falconer – after the violent death of a part-time cathedral verger the dead man’s sister, anxious to see justice done, and two of the police suspects, both released without charge carry out their own investigations into his death. A complex mystery that kept me guessing right to the end.
  • The Third Pig Detective Agency by Bob Burke – a fairytale detective story in which Harry, the third little pig is employed by Aladdin to find his stolen lamp, aided or hindered by numerous characters, and finding himself in all sorts of tricky and dangerous situations.
  • The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland – a tale of witchcraft and pagan superstition set in 1321, mystical and mysterious and tragic as it explores the struggle to survive and the battleground between the old pagan beliefs and Christianity.
  • Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter by Ruth Rendell – this begins with the shooting of Sergeant Martin of Kingsmarkham CID whilst he was standing in a queue at the local bank. Then DCI Wexford is faced with more murders a few months later, when author Davina Flory, her husband and daughter, are shot dead at Tancred House.
  • Raven Black by Ann Cleeves – a re-read. This is the first of the Inspector Perez books set on Shetland, in which Perez investigates the death of a schoolgirl. I had forgotten who the culprit was and as on my first reading I failed to identify the murderer.
  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens – historical murder mystery set in England in the 1770s and the Gordon Riots of 1780. This  is now one of my favourite of Dickens’s books.

My Crime Fiction Pick of the Month is: Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter by Ruth Rendell, a book I just did not want to put down.

Kissing the Gunner's DaughterFor more Crime Fiction Picks of the Month see Kerrie’s blog, Mysteries in Paradise.

May's Books 2013 & Crime Fiction Pick of the Month

I’ve read ten books this month and have only written about five of them – I don’t think I’ll get round to writing about all of them now. More reading means less writing!

I read five crime fiction novels:

May bks

  • The Chessmen by Peter May. This is the third in his Lewis Trilogy, a fascinating and compelling book in which the body of an old friend of Fin McLeod’s is discovered seventeen years after he had disappeared. Whilst the books in this trilogy can be read as stand-alones I think it’s best to read them in sequence, because the second and third books refer to events and characters covered in the first book.
  • The Frozen Shroud by Martin Edwards, the sixth in his Lake District Mysteries with another cold case and a possible copycat murder five years later for Daniel Kind and DI Hannah Scarlett to solve. An excellent book.
  • Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola Dunn, Daisy Dalrymple and DI Alex Fletcher are faced with the murder of an opera singer during a performance of Verdi’s Requiem. A quick, easy read.
  • Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie (Poirot 4 short stories), longer than the average short stories (and so more satisfying) these feature some of Agatha Christie’s plot elements and endings, with Poirot performing his usual final denouements.
  • Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie – an excellent murder mystery – I want to write about this in more detail in a later post.

My Crime Fiction Pick of the Month is The Frozen Shroud by Martin Edwards. See Kerrie’s blog, Mysteries in Paradise for more Crime Fiction Picks of the Month.

The other five books I finished reading in May are:

  • The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris – I wasn’t too keen on this one.
  • Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé by Joanne Harris and again was rather disappointed. I may write more about the latter book and feel a bit differently about it. Sometimes writing about a book makes me appreciate it more. It’s as though it crystallises my thoughts and I can evaluate it better.

I may also write about these books:

May bks

  • Ignorance by Michèle Roberts on Kindle – historical fiction set in France before and during the Second World War. a book about guilt, desire and love.
  • Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts, non-fiction, about his journey from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, although this book only covers his journey to the Danube between what were in 1934 Slovakia and Hungary.
  • Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville – a beautiful book, also historical fiction set in Australia during the early/mid 19th century. A book about race, family, secrets and love.

April's Books

I read 8 books in April.

The book I enjoyed the most is After Flodden by Rosemary Goring, which is to be published in June (I read an Advanced Proof Copy supplied by Love Reading).

The full list is (with links to my posts on the books):

  1. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (TBR book) – historical fiction
  2. After Flodden by Rosemary Goring – historical fiction
  3. The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn (Daisy Dalrymple 2) (Kindle) – historical crime fiction
  4. Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine (TBR book) – historical fiction
  5. Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo by Julia Stuart (TBR book) (review to follow)
  6. Short Sentence: A crime short story collection from Bloomsbury: 10 stories of dastardly deeds (Kindle) – crime fiction
  7. The Blackhouse by Peter May (library book) – crime fiction
  8. The Lewis Man by Peter May (Kindle) – crime fiction

My Crime Fiction Books of the Month:

Blackhouse& Lewis Man

CF Pick of the monthOf the 8 books, 4 are crime fiction. It’s a tie this month for Crime Fiction Book of the Month between The Blackhouse  and The Lewis Man both by Peter May. I really couldn’t decide between them. I’ll post my thoughts about The Lewis Man soon. For more Crime Fiction Books of the Month go to Kerrie’s blog Mysteries in Paradise.


Notes on the books without reviews:

  • The Winter Garden Mystery* by Carola Dunn (Daisy Dalrymple 2). A quick, easy and enjoyable read. Set in 1923, Daisy is visiting Occles Hall in Cheshire, the home of her school friend Bobbie, to write an article for the Town and Country magazine and discovers a corpse buried in the Winter Garden. It’s the body of Grace Moss, the blacksmith’s daughter and parlour maid at the Hall. She had gone missing three months earlier.The under-gardener is arrested and Daisy convinced of his innocence. Enter Detective Inspector Fletcher of Scotland Yard.
  • Short Sentence: A crime short story collection from Bloomsbury: 10 stories of dastardly deeds*.  This is a free Kindle edition of short stories from Parker Bilal, Alex Cooper, Sarah Evans, Conor Fitzgerald, Calum Macleod, Jan Snook, Mary Waters, Anne Zouroudi, Thomas Mogford and James Runcie. Very quick reads – each just 1000 words or less on the themes of Deception, Bad Judgement, Payback, Secrets and Lies and Obsession. I prefer a more complicated plot and character development, but these are OK for their length. My favourite was Secrets and Lies by Jan Snook (a new-to-me author).

Books Read in March 2013

After a slow start to the year I read 10 books in March, so doubling the total for the year. The books I enjoyed the most are The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell and The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves.

The full list is (with links to my posts on the books):

  1. Wildwood: a Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin (Non Fiction)
  2. The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
  3. Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (review copy) (Non Fiction)
  4. The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
  5. The Sleeping Policeman* by Andrew Taylor (library book)
  6. Small Kindnesses by Fiona Robyn (Kindle) (from TBR books)
  7. Airs and Graces by Erica James (borrowed
  8. The Glass Room* by Ann Cleeves (library book)
  9. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien (Kindle) (from TBR books)
  10. Mrs McGinty’s Dead* by Agatha Christie (library book)

Of the 10 books, just 3 are crime fiction (marked with *) and of these my Crime Fiction Book of the Month is The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves.

Notes on the books without reviews:

  •  The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas – romantic historical fiction set in the 1940s and the present day with a predictable ending. Mair Ellis goes to Kashmir to find more about a shawl found in her grandmother’s belongings. The story switches between Mair’s journey and that of Nerys Watkins, her grandmother, a missionary’s wife, living in India during the Second World War .
  • Small Kindnesses by Fiona Robyn – an interesting gentle book, full of reminiscences as Leonard Mutch, a widower discovers his wife had a secret she kept from him for forty years. 
  • Airs and Graces by Erica James – romantic fiction, a predictable story that doesn’t tax the brain.  Ellen, a divorcee struggles to decide who she should marry Duncan, a wealthy lawyer or Matthew an artist.

Books Read in February 2013

I enjoyed all the books I finished reading in February and my Pick of the Month goes to two excellent books – Dead Water (Shetland series 5) by Ann Cleeves and The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona MacLean, both books being crime fiction.

Dead Water & Alex Seaton

The other books I read are also fiction, although Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon is fictionalised autobiography. Two of the books are from my stock of unread books bought before January 2013, two are books from my local library and one is an e-book borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

The links are to my posts on the books – I have yet to write my thoughts about Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons.

  1. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (from TBR books). This novel tells the story of Harrison Shepherd, the son of a Mexican mother and an American father. It’s told through his diaries and letters together with genuine newspaper articles, although whether they reported truth or lies is questionable.
  2. Dead Water by Ann Cleeves, crime fiction continuing the Shetland series featuring Inspector Jimmy Perez. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this –  a mixture of mystery and the creation of totally believable characters, set in Shetland Mainland.
  3. Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sasson (library book). Sassoon was born in 1886 and in this book he relives his childhood, youth and experiences as an officer during the First World War. He comes across as a likeable young man, shy, reserved, and modest, happy-go-lucky but aware of his own shortcomings. But all this changed with the onset of the First World War.
  4. The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona MacLean (library book)  I think this is one of the best novels I’ve read recently. It’s historical crime fiction set in Scotland in the 1620s, mainly in the town of Banff, where on a stormy night Patrick Davidson, the local apothecary’s assistant collapses in the street. The next morning he is found dead.
  5. Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (Kindle) – this is crime fiction, the first in the Daisy Dalrymple series and it’s a quick and easy read, a mix of Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse, set in 1923
  6. Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie (Poirot)

I’ve also been reading two non-fiction books in February and am still reading them –  Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain and Wildwood: a Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin. It takes me longer to read non-fiction than fiction as I read it more slowly, especially these two books that are packed with facts and ideas. But I’m nearing the end of both of them.

After that I’m planning to finish reading The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell, which I first started reading last year and put to one side. I’ve had to start reading it again!

Other books waiting to be read, if not in March then later in the year are Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon, which I’ve borrowed from my local library. This is the next book in his fictionalised autobiography  I’ll also be reading (because it’s my book group choice for March) The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas, a story of wartime, family secrets and forbidden love, set against in the 1940s in Kashmir.

I’ve got a pile of other books from the library which I’m itching to read soon – I think I’ll do a separate post on these books. I’m always tempted to borrow more books than I can possible read in the loan period, but that’s me! As if I don’t have enough of my own unread books to keep me going all year and beyond.

November’s Crime Fiction Pick of the Month

I read seven books in November. Six were fiction, five of those being crime fiction and two were non-fiction* – two memoirs. I read two of the books on my new Kindle Fire.

  1. Murder by Yew by Suzanne Young (Kindle)
  2. The Whispers of Nemesis by Anne Zouroudi (from TBR books) (Kindle)
  3. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
  4. Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin
  5. Adventures of a One-Breasted Woman* by Susan Cummings (review copy)
  6. At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie
  7. Full Tilt: Dunkirk to Delhi by Bicycle* by Dervla Murphy

My Crime Fiction Pick of the Month is Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin. I wrote about the opening of the book in this post.

Summary from Amazon:

It’s twenty-five years since John Rebus appeared on the scene, and five years since he retired. But 2012 sees his return in STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN’S GRAVE. Not only is Rebus as stubborn and anarchic as ever, but he finds himself in trouble with Rankin’s latest creation, Malcolm Fox of Edinburgh’s internal affairs unit. Added to which, Rebus may be about to derail the career of his ex-colleague Siobhan Clarke, while himself being permanently derailed by mob boss and old adversary Big Ger Cafferty. But all Rebus wants to do is discover the truth about a series of seemingly unconnected disappearances stretching back to the millennium. The problem being, no one else wants to go there – and that includes Rebus’s fellow officers. Not that any of that is going to stop Rebus. Not even when his own life and the careers of those around him are on the line.

My view:

I’ve read all of the other Rebus books and the Fox books and so was very keen to read this latest book from Ian Rankin. I liked it – I liked it a lot. It was like meeting up again with an old acquaintance. Rebus is older and fatter but he hasn’t really changed. He still likes working best on his own, taking risks, and having a few too many drinks and a smoke. He can’t keep away from police work and is currently working for SCRU – the Serious Crime Review Unit, a Cold Case unit of retired police officers (like the TV series New Tricks).  Nina Hazlitt contacts SCRU (I like the acronym) about her daughter Sally who has been missing since 1999, convinced that it linked up with the disappearance of other young women, all in the vicinity of the A9. Rebus then links it with the current case of Annette McKie, aged 15, who has recently gone missing after getting off a bus at a petrol station in Pitlochry, also on the A9.

Rebus manages to assist in the current investigations, thanks to Siobhan Clark, who is now a Detective Inspector, although he is not a serving policeman. This involves him in travelling up and down the A9 and surrounding areas. The hardback copy of the book has coloured endpapers illustrating OS maps of the area, although if you want to follow the routes closely  it’s best to use another map as well:

I  was engrossed in the book and liked the way Rankin included characters from earlier books, such as Big Ger Caffety and in particular Malcolm Fox. Rebus does not like Fox, describing seeing him, ‘sliming his way around HQ‘ and he tells Siobhan not ‘to hang sound those scumbags.’ Fox, meanwhile, has got his eye on Rebus and the dislike is mutual, as he tells Siobhan:

John Rebus should be extinct, Clarke. Somehow the Ice Age came and went and left him still swimming while the rest of us evolved. (page 85)

I liked Fox in The Complaints and The Impossible Dead, but in this book he comes over as a changed character, vindictive and out to get Rebus. The contrast between the two characters is strong, with Fox twenty years younger, a stone and a half lighter, with a smarter appearance, looking as though he ‘could have been middle management in a plastic company of Inland Revenue.’ They meet in the police cafeteria where Fox has a banana and a glass of water, whereas Rebus has a bottle of Irn Bru and a caramel wafer, belching as he drinks, and looking a good deal scruffier. (page 73)

I don’t want to give away the plot, and will just say that I think the ending lets the rest of the book down. The identity of the killer came as a surprise to me and I thought that Rebus had maybe gone too far in acting on his own initiative, so risky! I had to re-read the book just to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Having said that, I was delighted with Standing in another Man’s Grave. I wondered, along with Rebus himself, how he would fit in with the changes:

‘The job’s changed, Siobhan.  Everything’s … ‘ He struggled to find the words. ‘It’s like with Christine Esson. Ninety percent of what she does is beyond me. The way she thinks is beyond me. (page 188)

At the beginning of the book, Rebus is considering applying  to rejoin the police force, as the retirement had recently been changed, so that those of his vintage are eligible. Whether he does, or not, is left open at the end. But I suspect that he will and that he and Fox will finally cross swords. I hope the next book will not be too long in coming.

See what others have chosen as the Pick of the Month for November.

August’s Books and Crime Fiction Pick of the Month

Most of my reading time in August was taken with reading Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, but I did read 7 other books too, all 7 of them crime fiction, although you could consider Our Mutual Friend as a type of crime fiction too. They are (in the order I finished reading them):

  1.  Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
  2. Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson
  3. Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie
  4. Guilty Consciences a collection of short stories edited by Martin Edwards
  5. A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths – post to follow
  6. The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh
  7. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  8. The Old Man in the Corner by Baroness Orczy

The links are to my posts on the books.

My Crime Fiction Pick of the Month is The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh. Actually with the exception of Postern of Fate and The Old Man in the Corner it’s a close call between the other books.

The Girl on the Stairs is Louise Welsh’s latest book. It’s a tense psychological thriller about Jane, who is pregnant and living in Berlin, suspicious about her neighbours, as she hears screams from the next apartment, sees shadows on the stairs and feels she is being watched. Are her suspicions justified or is she paranoid? Read more …

Kerrie has a round-up post of bloggers’ book choices for the month, so for more recommendations, go to Mysteries in Paradise.