Adding to the TBR Shelves

A few days ago I rearranged my bookshelves – and now I’ve got to make space for a few more books, because I went to Barter Books in Alnwick on Tuesday and came home with more books to add to the TBR shelves.

Dead Scared pile I really enjoy going to Barter Books, wandering around the shelves and browsing. But I also take with me lists of books I want to look at including a list of the Agatha Christie books I haven’t read and don’t already own. There is always a good selection of books, the stock regularly changes, so there are always ‘new’ books to look at. (Barter Books is, as its name indicates, a sort of exchange of used books; you take some in and choose others in exchange. You can, of course, just buy the books if you haven’t any credit.)

I’m very pleased with this little pile of books because I’ve been on the look out for some of them for quite a while, although one of them is a book (Talking to the Dead) that I only read about on Tuesday morning on Alex’s blog Thinking in Fragments. They are (from top to bottom):

  • The Floating Admiral – this wasn’t on my list of books to look for, but it was filed with the Agatha Christie books (I always look there first) and I thought it looks good. It’s a collaboration by Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and ten other crime writers from the Detection Club, with a prologue by G K Chesterton. It was originally published in 1931 and this new edition published in 1911 has an introduction by Simon Brett.
  • The Mysterious Mr Quin by Agatha Christie, featuring Mr Satterthwaite and Mr Quin, the man ‘who appears from nowhere‘ and ‘unravels mysteries that seem incapable of solution’. It is one of the early Christie books, first published in 1930. This edition is one of the Penguin Crime fiction books in green and white reprinted in 1961 for 2/6. This fills a gap in my reading of her earliest books.
  • The Mousetrap and Selected Plays by Agatha Christie. There are three other plays in this collection – And Then There Were None, Appointment with Death and The Hollow, adapted by Agatha Christie from her novels, which, with the exception of Appointment with Death, I have read, so it’ll be interesting to see how they differ from the originals.
  • The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam. This is the only non crime fiction book in the pile, by the author of Old Filth, which I loved. It’s described on the front cover as ‘Brilliant, wickedly comic … masterly and hugely enjoyable‘. It’s about a do-gooder and promises to be a refreshing change from the crime fiction.
  • Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham – the book recommended by Alex. It’s the first in the Fiona Griffiths series, a crime thriller in which police woman Fiona Griffiths investigates the death of a woman and her six-year old daughter. It is described on the back cover as ‘a stunner with precision plotting, an unusual setting, and a deeply complex protagonist … breathtaking.’
  • Dead Scared by S J Bolton. I like S J Bolton’s books and I’ve been looking out for this one, the second in her Lacey Flint series ever since I read the first book, Now You See Me. This is another crime thriller featuring a police woman, this one investigating a spate of suicides – all female university students.

Crime Fiction Alphabet: N is for …

 … Now You See Me by S J Bolton

I’ve enjoyed S J Bolton’s earlier books, but I hesitated several times before deciding to read Now You See Me, because it begins with such a brutal killing. I’d read the opening pages on Amazon using the ‘Click to Look Inside‘ feature and didn’t like it. I usually steer clear of books with such graphic descriptions of murder, but I knew that I liked S J Bolton’s writing and that others had given it good reviews, so eventually I read further on.

I’m glad I did because, despite the brutal murders, it is compelling reading, with a complex plot and convincing characters.

Summary from S J Bolton’s website:

Despite her life-long fascination with Jack the Ripper, young detective constable Lacey Flint has never worked a murder case or seen a corpse up close. Until now ‘¦

As she arrives at her car one evening, Lacey is horrified to find a woman slumped over the door. She has been brutally stabbed, and dies in Lacey’s arms.

Thrown headlong into her first murder hunt, Lacey will stop at nothing to find this savage killer. But her big case will also be the start of a very personal nightmare.

When Lacey receives a familiar letter, written in blood, pre-fixed Dear Boss, and hand delivered, it is clear that a Ripper copycat is at large. And one who is fixated on Lacey herself. Can this inexperienced detective outwit a killer whose infamous role model has never been found?

I don’t have a fascination with Jack the Ripper and began to be a bit  weary about the copycat nature of the killings, but then the scenario changed and it became clear that there was more to the killings than just copying the Ripper. It’s narrated by Lacey, a strong character, one who thinks for herself, is a loner, and is not content to merely follow police procedure. But I didn’t warm to her until near the end of the book. She knows more than she is letting on to her fellow police officers and I was very suspicious of her motives and conscious that she was not a reliable narrator.

S J Bolton is very skilled in leading the reader up the garden path, providing plenty of hints that could be significant or be dead ends. This book (like her others) is fast-paced, full of suspense and tension, with a chilling and dramatic ending.

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552159816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552159814
  • Source: My own copy
  • My Rating: 3.5/5

For more Crime Fiction Alphabet posts see Kerrie’s blog Mysteries in Paradise. The posts must be related to either the first letter of a book’s title, the first letter of an author’s first name, or the first letter of the author’s surname, or even maybe a crime fiction “topic”. But above all, it has to be crime fiction.

Blood Harvest by S J Bolton: a Book Review

I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Harvest, even though (or maybe because) it’s a dark, scary book and one that I found disturbing, but thoroughly absorbing . Each time I had to stop reading it I was eager to get back to it. I’ve previously read S J Bolton’s earlier books – Sacrifice and Awakening – and think that Blood Harvest surpasses both of those.

It’s set in the fictional town of Heptonclough in Lancashire and there is a very helpful map at the start of the book showing the layout of the town. There are two churches, the ancient ruined Abbey Church and standing next to it the ‘new’ church of St Barnabas. The Fletchers have just moved into a new house built on the land right next to the boundary wall of the churchyard:

The Fletcher family built their big, shiny new house on the crest of the moor, in a town that time seemed to have left to mind it’s own business. They built on a modest-sized plot that the diocese, desperate for cash, needed to get rid of. They built so close to the two churches – one old, the other very old – that they could almost lean out from the bedroom windows and touch the shell of the ancient tower. And on three sides of their garden they had the quietest neighbours they could hope for, which was ten-year-old Tom Fletcher’s favourite joke in those days; because the Fletchers built their new house in the midst of a graveyard. They should have known better, really. (page 17)

Tom has a younger brother, Joe and they’re playing in the graveyard when they catch glimpses of a girl watching them, and hear voices. Their little sister, two-year old Millie sees her too.  Tom is terrified, convinced something terrible will happen and then Millie disappears. Harry is the new vicar, getting to know the locals and their strange rituals and traditions. He too hears voices, in the church but can’t find anyone there. Evi, a psychiatrist has a new patient, Gillian, unemployed, divorced and alcoholic, who can’t accept that her daughter died in the fire that burnt down her home. The Renshaws own most of the land, old Tobias, his son Sinclair and his two daughters, Jenny and Christiana.

Heptonclough is not a good place for little girls, three have died over the past ten years and Christiana asks Harry to tell the Fletchers to leave:

‘So many little girls’, she said. ‘Tell them to go, Vicar. It’s not safe here. Not for little girls.’ (page 353)

It’s not safe at all for the Fletcher family. I was completely convinced not only by the setting but also by the characterisation that this place and these people were real. It’s full of tension, terror and suspense and I was in several minds before the end as to what it was all about. I had an inkling but I hadn’t realised the full and shocking truth.

An excellent book to read for Carl’s RIP IV Challenge.

Book Beginnings

I’ve been reading books recently and not writing about them. I didn’t have the impetus at the time (too many other things going on in my life right now to distract me), but I hope to write about them quite soon:

  • The Hanging Wood by Martin Edwards – excellent
  • Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie  – very good
  • Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner – a bit disappointing

I’m about to start reading S J Bolton’s second book Awakening. Here are the opening sentences from the Prologue:

The darkest hour I’ve ever known began last Thursday, a heartbeat before the sun came up.

It was going to be a beautiful morning, I remember thinking, as I left the house; soft and close, bursting with whispered promises, as only a daybreak in early summer can be. The air was still cool but an iridescence on the horizon warned of baking heat to come. Birds were singing as though every note might be their last and event the insects had risen early.

This opening is full of threat. Even though it is a beautiful morning it foreshadows some dreadful event coming soon, in contrast to the fine day.

I decided to read Awakening after finishing Sacrifice, which I wrote about in my last post, especially as several people commented that her later books are better.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.

Sacrifice by S J Bolton: a Book Review

I found most of Sacrifice an absolutely compelling book to read. It begins with the discovery of a corpse buried in the peat in Tora Hamilton’s field on Shetland. This is no ordinary corpse because the heart has been removed and there are marks etched into the skin that look very similar to the carvings Tora has seen in the cellar of her house. Tora is an obstetric surgeon. She had recently moved to the Shetland Isles with her husband Duncan, who although he had been born on the Isles, hadn’t been back there for twenty years.

Tora uses her position at the hospital to search patient records and aided by D S Dana Tulloch begins to discover some very suspicious and sinister facts. Despite opposition from her boss and from Dana’s boss the two women dig deeper and become involved in a very dangerous and bizarre situation, endangering both their lives.

I was swept along with the story, but as more twists and turns in the plot developed with links to folklore and myth I found it became rather far- fetched the more I read. But, having said that I did like the book. I liked the drama, the characters were well-defined, and I liked the tension that built up between the characters as Tora began to wonder who she could trust. I liked the setting of a mysterious, remote and isolated place where outsiders find it difficult to fit in and where dark deeds could take place. I liked it enough to want to read more books by S J Bolton.