As always, I didn't have heaps of time to read over the Christmas holidays and I knew this would happen so I kept the books I did read fun and easy to read. I'll just talk about them briefly and that'll wrap up my books for 2010. First up, Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn.
It is the late 1920s and Daisy Dalrymple is a journalist. She is in fact a society girl from a wealthy background, but circumstances have forced her to earn her own living so she has taken a job with magazine. Her latest assignment is to write articles on the stately homes of England - which is how she comes to find herself at Wentworth Court just after Christmas. With snow on the ground and comfortable in the company of the great and the good, this should be an idyllic assignment. But one Lord Stephen Astwick is present at the house party and Daisy senses that all is not well. He seems to have a history with many of the other guests, some of whom seem to actually fear him. When his dead body is discovered, early one morning, on the frozen lake it's assumed he's had a fatal skating accident but Daisy's photos, taken of the crime scene, would seem to suggest otherwise. Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher arrives to investigate and Daisy finds it a pleasure, in more ways than one, to help him with his investigations.
This is the first book in a series that has now reached about eighteen in number I believe. I now own the first eight and I'm pleased about that as I enjoyed this one immensely. Daisy is intensely likeable as a main character, great fun but also with a strong streak of common sense and clear headed in an emergency. The plot itself is a typical country house mystery, along the lines of Agatha Christie, so you know exactly what you're getting, or hope to get, and the author doesn't disappoint. I didn't work out who'd done the deed, so finding out who and why was a surprise. All in all, a good start to the series and I'm looking forward to reading more.
Next, The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley.
Michael Vyner has recently lost his mother, his father having died a few years ago in Afghanistan (in the 1800s), saving the life of Sir Stephen Clarendon. Thus, he is now an orphan. Sir Stephen has offered to take him in and Michael goes to stay with him at Chrstmas to see whether they suit. The house is in the middle of a marsh in East Anglia. Travelling there and nearing the house, Michael sees the apparition of a woman and it is clearly connected to the house, Hawton Mere. Arriving, the boy finds his new guardian is almost insane and the rest of the household also very odd. The house, dark and lonely, is clearly harbouring secrets. How did Sir Stephen's wife die? And who is the ghostly woman Michael sees again and again? Michael knows somehow that it's his task to find the answer to these questions.
Yet another excellent book from Chris Priestley. His 'Tales of Terror' series of three is excellent and so is this stand alone novel which is very much in the vein of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill or Willkie Collins' books... but for young adults. The story is seriously creepy, very atmospheric and beautifully written. I don't know why Chris Priestley is not more well known as, in my opinion, he is a class act in the genre of YA horror.
And just to add to the illustrations for this post, something else I've been doing this Christmas:
I was an avid jigsaw puzzler as a child and the habit never left me, though I haven't done any in quite a few years now. Then I saw this one in charity shop and you know how certain things scream, 'Buy me!' the minute you set eyes on them? Well, that's what happened. So, I bought it and have had a lovely time doing it over the last week or two. So much so, that I went out and got two more charity shop buys:
Just exactly what I need... another addiction.
Happy New Year!