Thursday, 23 November 2017

A couple of crime titles

I see I haven't posted since the beginning of the month, that's because I'm jigsaw puzzling again and when that happens my reading gets slower. Anyway, two crime titles today, two very different books but both top-notch writing and enjoyable.

First up, Sleep No More by P.D. James which is, I believe, the last anthology of crime stories the author wrote. There are six stories in this volume.

1. The Yo-yo. An old man finds a red yo-yo in a box of things which need sorting out. He remembers the Christmas it came into his possession when, as a young boy, he was driven to his grandmother's home instead of taking the train as per usual. In the car, one of his teachers, a man despised by all the boys at the private school. Something happens on the way there... An excellent story this, P.D. James gets nicely into the head of a boy with a strong sense of his own superiority.

2. The Victim. An assistant librarian marries an extremely pretty shopgirl. Before long she gets a new job, falls for her boss and leaves him. The librarian sets out to get revenge. Nicely told story with a good twist at the end.

3. The Murder of Santa Claus. Another schoolboy story with a Christmas theme. The boy concerned, Charlie, is sixteen this time and sent to spend Christmas with a step-uncle. Various people are present, strangers, so he's not comfortable at all and his uncle's oddness adds to the boy's unease. It seems the uncle like to dress up as Santa and visit his guest's rooms at one in the morning. But more than one person is abroad in the dead of night and when the uncle is found dead the next morning there are quite a few suspects... Another good story with quite a creepy atmosphere. I liked the 'anyone could have done this' aspect and had no idea who'd done it until the end.

4. The Girl Who Loved Graveyards. A ten year old girl is taken to live with her aunt and uncle after some kind of trauma but she seems to have blanked it from her mind so the reader has no idea what it is. Next to the house is a graveyard and the girl becomes obsessed with it. As she grows up she also becomes obsessed with finding her father's grave and sets about this task when her aunt and uncle emigrate to Australia. I think this was the best story in the book. It's nicely written and recounted, beautiful detail and a nice twist at the end.

5. A Very Desirable Residence. Harold Vinsom is on trial for attempting to murder his wife, Emily. The narrator of the story is a fellow teacher who is one of the few friends the married couple have. He observes that he hadn't known them very long before he realised that Harold was a sadist, subjecting his timid wife to constant verbal and mental abuse. So it came as no surprise when he learnt of the attempt on her life by her husband. Nice twisted little story this, very good observations of a marriage turned sour.

6. Mr. Millcroft's Birthday. A brother and sister, Rodney and Mildred Millcroft, are driving down to spend some time with their father on his birthday. He lives in a retirement home but is not happy there - he wants to move to another, more luxurious and relaxed place. There's plenty of money, he's given his fortune to these children, but they're being mean and keeping him in the cheaper, more regimented, place. During a picnic lunch Mr. Millcroft suddenly announces that he killed his brother who was about to change his will, leaving the famly fortune elsewhere. But is he telling the truth? Nice vein of humour running through this story. I like the vengeful father getting his own back on his selfish adult children.

This small volume of crime based short stories is excellent. Each one is very individual, very well told, and a joy to read. The writing is absolutely superb. I liked it so much I bought another of P.D. James' Christmas short story collections, The Mistletoe Murder and other stories.


The Distant Echo by Val McDermid, my book 4 for Peggy's Read Scotland 2017 challenge.

It's the late seventies and four male students from the university of St. Andrews are making their drunken way home in the early hours of the morning. One of them, Alex Gilbey, falls into an ancient Pictish burial site and discovers the body of Rosie Duff, a local girl who works in a popular bar. The boys are immediately prime suspects for the murder, but the police can find no real proof, despite the boys' movements that night being a bit suspicious. Mud sticks and twenty five years later this one accidental discovery has basically ruined their lives in one way or another. And then one of them dies in a house fire followed by another dying in suspicious circumstances. The police reopen this cold-case but Alex fears that if he doesn't surrepticiously help, then the remaining two of the original four will also die.

Margaret at Booksplease has been reading this Val McDermid series and inspired by her I thought I would try this, book one, of her 'Karen Pirie' series which are, I believe, all based on cold-cases. The surprise for me was that Karen Pirie was not in this book a lot, the centre of attention all the way through was the four boys. I'm thinking this is perhaps an introduction sort of a book and perhaps she'll feature more in future books of this series. Anyway, regardless of that, this was an excellent read. Quite complicated, quite a lot of people to keep tabs on and a lot of history of the original case to get through before it was brought up to date for the reopening of the case. I must confess here that I guessed the culprit quite early on. Of course, I didn't know if I was right so the books was not spoilt... to be honest it's so well written and so much in it that it couldn't be spoilt anyway. Possibly this book is not for everyone. The exploits of four uni students in the seventies are a bit eye-rolling and, if I'm honest, none of them were really likeable, not awful, but not terribly sympathetic characters. But I didn't mind that, I got very involved in the mystery aspect and the deatils of the investigation, and enjoyed the book very much indeed.

~~~oOo~~~

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Update on the book series I read

Goodness, time flies. It's well over 2 years since I updated my list of the series I read, June 2015. I thought it was last year! I always find it an interesting exercise. Some of the series I knocked off as I no longer have any interest in them, a few new ones have been added etc. Plus it's always fascinating to see which series I like to keep fairly up to date with and which ones I haven't touched in a couple of years but still want to read... at least... I think I do. Sometimes I fancy I kid myself. I also fine these posts serve to remind me of these neglected series and spur me on to to catch up with them. I'm missing Flacia de Luce for instance, I'm 3 books behind with that series. Kate Burkholder, the Reverand Clare Fergusson, Kate Shugak in Alaska... though I did read one of hers in January. I need to pull my finger out. Perhaps I should make 2018 'The Year of Catching up on My Book Series'. It's a thought.


Crime - modern and historical:

Charlie Parker - John Connolly - (read 11... up to book 12)
Matthew Shardlake – C.J. Sansom (read 3)
Flavia de Luce - Alan Bradley (read 6)
Daisy Dalrymple - Carola Dunn (read 21)
Rizzoli and Isles - Tess Gerritsen (read 8)
Ruth Galloway - Elly Griffiths (read 8)
Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes – Laurie R. King (read 5)
The Lewis trilogy - Peter May (read 2)
Lord Peter Wimsey - (read 6)
Gordianus the Finder - Steven Saylor (read 2)
Medicus - Ruth Downie (read 2)
Kate Burkholder - Linda Castillo (read 2)
Reverand Clare Fergusson - Julia Spencer-Fleming (read 3)
Temperance Brennan - Kathy Reichs (read 2)
No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency - A. McCall-Smith (read 11)
Kate Shugak - Dana Stabenow (read 6)
Sea Detective - Mark Douglas Home (read 2)
Hannah Scarlett - Martin Edwards (read 6)
Jacquot - Martin O'Brien (read 5)
Armande Gamache - Louise Penny (read 6)
Enzo McLeod - Peter May (read 2)
Inspector Wexford - Ruth Rendall (read 2)


Sci Fi, Fantasy and horror - both adult and young adult:

Mercy Thompson - Patricia Briggs (read 6)
Jackelian - Stephen Hunt (read 2)
Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch (read 4)
Liveship Trader - Robin Hobb (read 1)
Astreiant - Melissa Scott - (read 2 1/2)
Hyperion - Dan Simmons (read 1)
Lady Trent - Marie Brennan (read 2)
Cloud Roads - Martha Wells (read 1)
St. Marys - Jodi Taylor (read 1)


Sundry:

Barsetshire - Angela Thirkell - (read 5)
The Little House series – Laura Ingalls Wilder (read 5 up to book 6)
The Barchester Chronicles - Anthony Trollope (read 2)


Series I want to read: (mainly fantasy)

The Wit’ch series – James Clemens
Alpha and Omega - Patricia Briggs
Starborn - Lucy Hounsom
The Tawny Man trilogy – Robin Hobb



The Coldfire trilogy – Celia Friedman
The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Gardella Vampire Chronicles – Colleen Gleason
Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner

I wrote this 2 years ago:

I think what this post underlines more than anything is how much my reading tastes have switched from fantasy/horror to crime. I still read the former but am much more into crime stories these days, especially vintage and historical it would seem. And that's fine. Things change and I always believe in going with the flow.

Basically that still applies. I've become a serious crime fic reader, with a definite bent towards vintage crime and anything set overseas, especially the USA or France. I also seem to have shifted slightly from being a fiction reader to someone who also reads a fair bit of non-fiction. Given that I'm not a speedy reader that means something has to give and it's tended to be my series reading. And I actually don't mind that, it means I'm open to change and flexible as regards what I read.

~~~oOo~~~