read_warbler

Sunday, 24 March 2019

City of the Lost


City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong has languished on my Nook for a couple of years. My eldest daughter recommended the series but I completely forgot about it, and even that I had the first book, until I saw Kay's post and a bell went off in my addled brain. I do find that ereaders, Kindles and Nooks (and I have both), are basically gigantic black holes for books though. No matter, I found the ebook and spent last week reading it.



Casey Duncan is a police detective living the city life in Canada (I didn't catch which city, Toronto I assume). She has a secret: she killed someone when she was in her teens. Her friend, Diana, who knows about this, has problems of her own. Her abusive and controlling ex-husband is making life intolerable to the point of violence against her. The two need to escape, move on again, but where? They hear about a place, deep in the Yukon forests, where people who need to escape from something can go. At a price. But 'price' to Casey is not an issue, her parents left her comfortably off when they died.

The town of Rockton is not easy to get into. You need good reasons to get past the ruling council, who don't themselves live there. Casey is helped by the fact that she's a detective and the town is in need of one to assist the sheriff. Eventually the two women manage to get in, Diana going ahead first, Casey following a few weeks later.

On arrival Casey is immediately taken up by the local law-enforcement officers, who are basically the sheriff, Eric Dalton, and Will Anders, a deputy. It's clear from the off that the sheriff is a difficult personality and Casey struggles to get along with him, suspecting that he doesn't trust her. He's in need of help though, as people are disappearing into the forest and dying, killed by persons unknown. Half the town are criminals but also out in the forest live several different kinds of undesirables, some a lot more undesirable than others. The situation is dangerous and highly volatile and Casey's life is further complicated by the fact that her friend, Diana, has managed to get in with a Bad Lot. How can life here in a small town in the Canadian wilderness possibly be more complicated than it was in a large metropolitan city?

Kelley Artmstrong's most famous series is of course 'Women of the Otherworld', a werewolf based horror series. I've tried so hard to like them but with zero success, something about them just doesn't appeal. I like her writing though, she's always very readable, and I've always regretted that I didn't like the Otherworld books, hoping that she might write something else that I like more.

Well she has. This crime based series is much more my thing though it has to be said, it does come really close to 'horror' without actually being of that genre. Armstrong really ramps it up with her hints of 'what's out there in the forest', aided and abetted by descriptions of what happens to people who inadvertently, or otherwise, go wandering off. I know there are plenty of 'winderness horror' books out there, I haven't read any, but I suspect this is possibly an acceptable alternative for wimps like me who don't actually want to be terrified, just mildly alarmed.

For that reason and for a very strong sense of place I have to say I enjoyed the book very much. I'm not so sure about the main characters. I quite liked Casey but wasn't ecstatic over her, same for Sheriff Dalton. I think, like many series, it's necessary to read several books in to really get used to the characters and allow them to grow on you. That's happened to me with a lot of series so I'm happy to persevere. Plus, I'm intrigued to see where the author can go with such a small community as it seems to me that options are limited and I'm not sure that 'quirky wilderness characters' will be enough to keep my interest. We'll see.

City of the Lost is my 4th. book for The 12th. Annual Canadian Book Challenge, which is being hosted by The Indextrious Reader. I suspect I'm not going to complete this. I came to it 4 months late and it being to read 13 books by the end of June, I doubt I'll manage it. What I'll probably do is sign up again and give myself a full year to do it properly. So far though I have visited Quebec, twice, Toronto, and now The Yukon, so that's not bad, but I am hoping to cover all 13 provinces and terrtiories at some stage.

It's also my 10th. book for Bev's Mount TBR 2019 challenge and also qualifies for her Calendar of Crime challenge under the December category 'Author's birth month'.

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 16 March 2019

The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin


Please ignore, this is repeated from my last post to enable me to post it on the Calandar of Crime Link site.


The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin by Georges Simenon qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the December category of 'A book title starting with the letter D' (the 'The' doesn't count). I'm also using it as my first book for The European Reading Challenge 2019 as it is set in Belgium.

Rene Delfosse and Jean Chabot are two young lads out on the town in Liége, in Belgium. The bar they're in is known as a bit of a den of iniquity and it makes the boys feel grown-up being there. They're keeping company with a dancer, Adéle, who suddenly moves away to entertain a man who appears to be from Greece. Also present, drinking in the bar, is a heavily built Frenchman that no one has seen before. The two boys are up to no good. They have a plan to hide in the cellars after closing time, creep back up to the bar, and rob the till. Putting their plan into action it all goes smoothly, until they realise there's a dead body behind the bar. It's the Greek looking gentleman from earlier in the evening. Terrified, the boys make a run for it thinking they can just disappear and no one will be any the wiser, but they've reckoned without the heavily built Frenchman...

Not my favourite Maigret so far (Maigret in Holland, The Misty Harbour, The Judge's House, Maigret and the Flemish Shop) but enjoyable nevertheless. Nice sense of the city of Liége during the wars, it was Simenon's home city and his love for it shows. The two feckless lads, one from a rich family, the other a poorish one, are depicted as rather amoral. Simenon picked one of them to concentrate on and the boy's increasing sense of desperation as he tries to hide his crimes from his parents and steer clear of the police is very well portrayed. I gave it a 3 star rating on Goodreads, rounded down from 3.5 as they don't do halves on there. For me it was not one of his best as it lacked the atmosphere of some of the novels I mentioned previously. I must admit I do enjoy these occasional Maigret reads and what a shame ITV have seen fit to cancel their excellent series with Rowan Atkinson, I felt it had a lot of potential.

~~~oOo~~~

Friday, 15 March 2019

Catching up on crime novels


First up, Miss Marple's Final Cases by Agatha Christie. This qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the September category of 'Author's birth month'.

There are nine stories in this anthology, seven Miss Marple stories and two supernatural. Some of my favourite stories: Sanctuary, where Miss Marple and her god-daughter, Bunch Harmon, a vicar's wife, join forces to solve the mystery of a dead man in the church. The Case of the Perfect Maid where Miss Marple's maid asks her to help her friend, Gladdie, who's been dismissed from her job as a maid with two sisters. Very ingenious solution to this one. The Dressmaker's Doll, a supernatural story about a doll in a dressmaker's shop which moves of its own accord. In a Glass Darkly, another wierd tale, a man dressing in front of a mirror sees a strangling reflected in said mirror, when he turns around there's nothing there. Greenshaw's Folly is a tale of a new will, witnessed by Miss Marple's nephew, Raymond. The writer of the will is then murdered with an arrow... this is another story with an ingenious solution.

This was an all round excellent anthology. I enjoyed every story and thought the two supernatural tales were particularly good. I'm also very taken with Christie's use of humour in her books. I don't think she gets full credit for this and it certainly isn't reflected in the very latest TV adaptations. This, from The Perfect Maid made me giggle:

The dim light showed her to be a thin, indecisive-looking creature, with a good deal of greyish-yellow hair untidily wound around her head and errupting into curls, the whole thing looking like a bird's nest of which no self-respecting bird could be proud.

Wonderful. I've reserved another Miss Marple anthology, Thirteen Guests, from the library.


Next, The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin by Georges Simenon. This qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the December category of 'A book title starting with the letter D' (the 'The' doesn't count). I'm also using it as my first book for The European Reading Challenge 2019 as it is set in Belgium.

Rene Delfosse and Jean Chabot are two young lads out on the town in Liége, in Belgium. The bar they're in is known as a bit of a den of iniquity and it makes the boys feel grown-up being there. They're keeping company with a dancer, Adéle, who suddenly moves away to entertain a man who appears to be from Greece. Also present, drinking in the bar, is a heavily built Frenchman that no one has seen before. The two boys are up to no good. They have a plan to hide in the cellars after closing time, creep back up to the bar, and rob the till. Putting their plan into action it all goes smoothly, until they realise there's a dead body behind the bar. It's the Greek looking gentleman from earlier in the evening. Terrified, the boys make a run for it thinking they can just disappear and no one will be any the wiser, but they've reckoned without the heavily built Frenchman...

Not my favourite Maigret so far (Maigret in Holland, The Misty Harbour, The Judge's House, Maigret and the Flemish Shop) but enjoyable nevertheless. Nice sense of the city of Liége during the wars, it was Simenon's home city and his love for it shows. The two feckless lads, one from a rich family, the other a poorish one, are depicted as rather amoral. Simenon picked one of them to concentrate on and the boy's increasing sense of desperation as he tries to hide his crimes from his parents and steer clear of the police is very well portrayed. I gave it a 3 star rating on Goodreads, rounded down from 3.5 as they don't do halves on there. For me it was not one of his best as it lacked the atmosphere of some of the novels I mentioned previously. I must admit I do enjoy these occasional Maigret reads and what a shame ITV have seen fit to cancel their excellent series with Rowan Atkinson, I felt it had a lot of potential.

~~~oOo~~~


Wednesday, 13 March 2019

New books!


I did a quick flit around several charity shops yesterday while my husband was at the drs. I wasn't holding out a lot of hope as I tend to look for more unusual books, the usual I can find in the library generally speaking. But Marie Curie and Cancer Research came up trumps. Really delighted with the four I found.



From the bottom:

Erebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin. This is basically what it says on the tin, a non-fiction story of the history of HMS Erebus, the ship that was involved in the ill-fated Franklin expediton of 1845. This one has a beautiful front cover too.

















Munich by Robert Harris. This one is based around Chamberlain's efforts to prevent World War 2 and is, I gather, rather good.


Pole to Pole by Michael Palin. Based on the TV series where the intrepid Palin travels from the North to the South Pole along the line of longitude, 30 degrees east.


The Magnetic North: Travels in the Arctic by Sara Wheeler. This charts the author's travels around the Arctic Ocean and the lands which surround it. This is also rather good I've heard and also has a nice cover.

















The last two books are not charity shop buys but were sent to me by the British Library publishers for review. They're two science fiction volumes, The Darkest of Nights and The Tide Went Out both by Charles Eric Maine. Nice covers on these too.




The charity shop buys seem to centre around my love of reading about cold places... generally mountains... I haven't read a lot about Arctic and Antarctic exploration, looks like I'm about to start. Anyway, very pleased with my book haul (especially as I was actually looking for jigsaws) and rather fancy I should troll around the charity shops a bit more often.

~~~oOo~~~

Saturday, 9 March 2019

The European Reading Challenge


Well, I lasted just over a month. The European Reading challenge 2018 finished at the end of January of this year. I'm already doing 5 other challenges so I decided that I probably shouldn't do this as well. Famous last words. I really really miss it and am going to sign up for another year. This is the link to the sign-up post for The European Reading Challenge 2019, where you will find info and rules. The host is Rose City Reader.



The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour.

These are the standard European countries:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

I'm going to do the FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE) which is to: Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

Last year I managed eight books for this challenge and would hope to do as well this year too. I loved doing it and know it'll be great fun to do again.

~~~oOo~~~

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Weekend at Thrackley


Could the covers of these British Library Crime Classic books possibly be any prettier?


Gorgeous. (Hands up who read that in the voice of Craig Revel-Horwood.)

Anyway. Weekend at Thrackley by Alan Melville is my book 8 for Bev's Mount TBR challenge, my 3rd. book for Becky's World at War challenge covering the category 'A fiction book set in the 1930s', and my 8th. book for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge covering the December category of 'House Party'.

Jim Henderson is down on his luck. A veteran of World War One, he's not been able to get a job, is thus very hard-up, and has to live in a lodging house with a Mrs. Bertram who, 'read the newspapers rather more than was good for her'. When he receives an invitation to a House party from an Edwin Carson, who claims to have been a friend of his father, he looks upon it as weekend of free food. He's even more pleased to discover that a friend of his, Freddie Usher, has also been invited, although Freddie has no idea why he's on the invitation list.

The two motor off to Surrey and discover on arrival that Thrackley is a large, forbidding establishment in the middle of some dark pine woods. Both of them start to wish they'd not come but standing on the entrance steps is an actress that Freddie's a bit keen on, so stay they do.

As well as the actress and themselves, there're a couple of artists, a Lady Stone and Carson's daughter, Mary. None of them have the first clue why they've been invited but Freddie was asked to bring the family jewels as Carson is an expert in precious stones and wants to see the collection.
The women of the group also have expensive jewellery on them. Jim is confused. He has no expensive gems for his host to study so why is he here?

As a whodunnit this really isn't. There is a dead body but it's way into the book and it's quite clear who did the deed. The book is more of a mystery story to be honest, a slightly obvious one if you read a lot of crime fic as I do, but that didn't matter a jot, the air of menace as the book proceeds and things turn nasty is quite tangible and the change of atmosphere is depicted very cleverly by the author.

Everything about the book is slightly unusual, it's written with a very light hand, Edmund Crispin springs to mind in regard to the humour that's very prevalent at the beginning of the book. I loved Mrs. Bertram, Freddie Usher is straight out of P.G. Wodehouse and Edwin Carson and his rather strange staff fitted into it all very neatly as traditional villains. It even felt a trifle Ealing Comedy-ish... all a bit bonkers... slightly like one of those Brian Rix farces we used to see on the telly, only with a menacing atmosphere.

This was recommended to me by a couple of people and I'm grateful to them as it was definitely one of the best BLCC books I've read. I think Alan Melville wrote quite a few more crime books including Quick Curtain and Death of Anton, both available from the BLCC.


~~~oOo~~~

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Maisie Dobbs


I posted this brief review in my 'Books Read in February' post earlier today, but when I tried to list it on the Calendar of Crime review page it gave me every pic in that post to choose from except 'Maisie Dobbs'. So I'm blogging it separately and hopefully it will now work.




This book was a reread for me from at least ten years ago. I hadn't been all that smitten with it back then but during a blog chat with Judith from Reader in the Wilderness about the series I decided to give it another go, given how popular it is with a lot of people. Basically, Maisie Dobbs has set up a private detective agency after serving in WW1 as a nurse and going to Cambridge university. She has a very humble background but was sponsored by Lady Rowan Compton when she was caught reading in the library in the middle of the night, something maids were obviously not supposed to do. The Great War interupts her studies at Cambridge. Maisie goes to The Front to be a nurse where she falls in love with a doctor. What happens there, how Maisie subsequently sets up her agency and conducts her first case is the subject of the book.

I have to say I enjoyed it much more than the first time around. So much seemed unlikely back then, such as a member of the peerage sponsoring a maid, but perhaps I'm less critical these days: more accepting. Whatever... I'd forgotten how good the book is on nursing in WW1, the full horror is there, particularly as regards the facial injuries of some wounded soldiers. I wouldn't call this a murder mystery. This is more social history with a mystery thrown in and as that it works very well. Looking at some of the upcoming books, there are 15 altogether, I find myself eager to find out what happens to Maisie so have reserved book 2, Birds of a Feather, from the library.

Maisie Dobbs qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime under the May category 'Military figure has major role'... in fact there are two or three in the book. It also qualifies for Becky's World at War challenge under the category 'A fiction book set in the 1920s'.

~~~oOo~~~