Sunday 4 February 2018

A couple of crime titles

First up, The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude. This is my first book for the What's In A Name? challenge which is being hosted by The Worm Hole. This one covers the category: A Shape.

One Colonel Cotton, while enjoying an after-dinner drink with his friend Mr. Buller, is shot through the back of the head by an arrow and killed. They both live in Regency Square in Cheltenham, it's quite up-market and peopled by a very motly crowd of individuals. What many of them have in common, unfortunately, is a love of archery. Superintendant Meredith is, coincidently, staying with a friend in the square and is brought in to help the local CID solve the murder. An archery expert calculates that the arrow must've been shot from a certain house across the square. But the house is empty, locked up, and on inspection it's clear no one has been there or could gain access. And although there are plenty of suspects - practically all of the inhabitants - they have either rock-solid alibis or absolutely no motive whatsoever. Thus, it's one of those impossible crimes.

Excellent vintage crime story, this. Quite complicated with a large cast of characters but a diagram of the square, its house and occupants, at the start of the book, was very useful indeed. I didn't have a clue who'd done the deed until the police realised, but it was huge fun trying to work it all out as dribs and drabs of information were revealed. Nice sense of the area, Cheltenham and The Cotswolds, and a very nice 1930s feel to the whole book. I remain a bit smitten with these BLCC books.

Next, The Birdwatcher By William Shaw.

I absolutely love the opening lines to this book:

There were two reasons why William South did not want to be on the murder team.

The First was that it was October. The migrating birds had begun arriving on the coast.

The second was that, though nobody knew, he was a murderer himself.

So, William South is a sargeant in the Kent police force. He's also a very keen birdwatcher and a bit of a loner, with very few friends. One of these friends, Bob Rayner, is found brutally murdered in his home at Dungeness, a headland and vast shingle beach on the Kent coast. Despite knowing the deceased, South is assigned the case along with a new to the area CID officer, DS Alexandra Cupidi. She has a teenage daughter and doesn't want to discuss the reasons for her move from London. South is not a happy man. So far throughout his entire career he's managed to avoid murder cases; this is his first, and it's his best friend. Or was he? It turns out South knew very little about Bob. Bob had secrets and discovering what these are is proving quite tricky for the police duo. But South has secrets too. Can he discover the identity of a killer and not reveal his own very dark secret to the world?

This was a random grab from the library... 'grabbed' because of its title. I too am a bit of a birdwatcher so a book with that title is naturally going to appeal. Sometimes these grabs work out, sometimes they don't... this one very definitely did. I love these murder mystery books where the writing is such that nothing holds you up and you can just read and read thereby wallowing in the case and the characters and the setting. The setting is marvellous. Sadly, I've not been to Kent so the Dungeness area is only familiar via TV programmes, Gardener's World featured it once for instance... the difficulties of gardening on shingle and with all that salt in the air. So I did know what it was like but not from personal experience. The author makes the area really come alive, and the windswept, lonely atmosphere is tangible. I liked South even though he's grumpy and anti-social. His background was fascinating. I'm not going to say what it is as that would be a spoiler, the details are slotted into the storyline seamlessly and to me were quite chilling. Anyway, this is a prequel book apparently. William Shaw is going to write a series about DS Cupidi, the first book, Salt Lane is due out in May. I shall be reading it.



Kay said...

Both of these sound really good. I notice my library has The Birdwatcher and probably has the other book as well. I've been hesitant to get actual print books from the library because the flu has been so bad here. And with my husband's surgery, we have been taking big precautions. However, I'll keep it in mind. Maybe on audio. We'll see.

Love your new header.

DesLily said...

I had to check The Bird Watcher.. when I can look in the book the writing is strange... part dark black part gray... I guess I'll keep it on my mind. lol.. like I need more books.. gah!

TracyK said...

I saw on Goodreads that you had read The Birdwatcher and I hoped you would review it. It sounds very interesting to me. My father was somewhat of a birdwatcher, liked to identify birds but not hardcore, so I always find that subject interesting. I will definitely be looking to pick up this book sometime.

I haven't read anything by Bude yet. I have picked up several BLCC books by other authors but not read any of them yet.

Cath said...

Kay: I completely understand your reluctance to venture to the library for fear of the flu. It's been rampant here too and it makes you pause before you risk it, and you have your husband to consider. We just had the cold bug, but it took my husband four weeks to get over, heaven knows how long he would take to get over real flu.

Thank you about the header, I'm currently working on a new 'book' jigsaw which I like even more so a pic of that will probably replace it.

Pat: That's wierd that the writing was strange as mine was ok. I suppose your US version might be different. This is another book with good writing, like Peter May and Mark Douglas Home.

Tracy: The Birdwatcher was excellent. There were historical elements I would not normally want to read about but worked very well here. I'm not a hardcore birdwatcher either - we call those 'twitchers' - but I love watching them in my garden or at the beach etc.

The BLCC books are a different animal to modern day crime books, something between cosy and hard crimefic. Nice to read for a change and also to see how much attitudes have changed in eighty years or so.

jenclair said...

I really liked The Birdwatcher. The bleak setting and the connection to The Troubles in Ireland kept my interest throughout.

Judith said...

Hi Cath,
Both books interest me--I'm immediately adding them to my "WannaRead" file in my computer. Excellent descriptions--both sound like they are right up my alley.

Cath said...

Jenclair: Yes, and really reading about The Troubles is not at all my thing, possibly because the memories of it all are a bit too fresh. But that didn't put me off the book at all. It was very good.

Judith: I wonder if your 'WannaRead' file is as long as mine. LOL I keep mine on Goodreads and there're a *lot* of books on there.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I enjoy any genre of crime writing, from BLCC right through to modern and, on occasion,
dystopian themes. Both great new titles ad new to me authors to bear in mind, like I need any more right now!!

Kelly kind of coerced me into signing up for the 'What's In A Name Challenge', however I can't see me getting very far with it somehow. I am definitely spending more time promoting books and taking part in Blog Tours, than I am actually reading and I can't see that changing any time soon.

We visited Kent a couple of times during my childhood, but only on family holidays to Margate and Ramsgate. As my dad worked for the railways we generally went by train, so didn't really ever venture outside the towns. I did go on a school trip to an outward bound centre at St. Mary's Bay in Kent and one of the day trips was to visit Dungeness Lighthouse, which is a day I would rather not remember, as I didn't exactly cover myself in glory. We all duly climbed the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse, which was great until we needed to head down again and I discovered my fear of heights! Some time later, after having had to wait for all the other kids to descend and then having to crawl my way down backwards - well you can imagine who was the butt of all the jokes for days!!

A couple of good books, thanks for sharing :)


Cath said...

Hi Yvonne. I enjoy most genres of crime writing too but not keen on the really gritty 'city' type ones though I would never count anything out altogether.

Well, as they say, 'It's better to travel hopefully than to arrive'. I'm sure you'll have fun with whatever you do read for What's In A Name?

Thank you for sharing your memories of your childhood and Kent. I really enjoyed hearing about what you did. I will definitely get over there one day, keen to visit Kipling's house and Churchill's as well. (I think they're both in Kent...)

Sandra said...

Hi Cath, I too read The Birdwatcher last month - and I read it whilst staying on the shingle at Dungeness! It really added to the experience! I'll be posting about it on my own blog eventually (I always seem to be playing catch up) but I agree with your sentiments. An excellent read.

Cath said...

Sandra: Wow, that must've been a delightful experience! I've never been over that way but definitely plan to eventually.

I've added you to my 'following' list, partly because I'm from Cornwall (born and brought up in Penzance) so your blog is very interesting to me, and partly to catch your review of The Birdwatcher. Thanks for stopping by.

Sandra said...

Thanks for the follow, Cath :) I struggle to follow blogspot blogs; I've tried to follow you before - the Cornish/West Country connection and books is too good to miss. But I'm best when I get an email if a post has been published and I've not been able to make that happen with your blog. I'll try to remember to keep looking in though, and I'll try not to keep you waiting too long for the Birdwatcher!