Monday, 21 May 2018

More crime fic


A couple of quick crime book reviews today.

First up, one of the British Library Crime Classics, Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon.

Petty thief, Ted Lyte, breaks into Haven House on the outskirts of a quiet coastal village in Essex. Intending only to lift a few silver spoons he gets more than he bargains for when he finds seven dead bodies in one of the rooms. Leaving in quite a hurry he's apprehended by Thomas Hazeldean, a yachtman who's just put into harbour. DI Kendall takes the case on and decides to accept Hazeldean's help. The yachtman takes off for Boulonge in France, to see if he can find the niece of the house, Dora Fenner. Find her he does... and quite a lot more.

Well, this has to be one of the more unusual classic crime books from the BLCC. The book was written in 1939 and involves all kinds of shenanigans not normally associated with crime novels, which I won't go into for fear of spoilers. I liked the French connection and the weirdness of the French house and the people in it. You never really knew what was going on until the closing chapters and then it was all quite surprising. J. Jefferson Farjeon (wonderful name) was the author of the very popular, Mystery in White, which the BLCC put out several years ago and which I also really enjoyed. As always, there is a lovely cover involved, sadly no artist named, but it's from the National Railway Museum (York?) as it's one of those fab Railway posters.


Lastly, Have Mercy On Us All by Fred Vargas.

A woman comes to see the police to report strange symbols marked on the doors of her appartment block - a backwards 4 with two small slashes - but not on all of the doors, just some. At the same time the town crier, Joss Le Guern, is reading out some very odd messages left by persons unknown. Messages which refer, in very old fashioned terms, to The Black Death as though another outbreak is imminent. Principal Commissaire Adamsberg is disturbed by these occurrences but cannot say why. His unease becomes justified when a corpse is found, looking to all intents and purposes as though the person has died of the plague. How to avoid panic setting in in Paris? Answer: find the killer before he or she kills again...

Honestly, this series goes from strength to strength. I never think the next book will be as good as the last but it always is. Each book teaches me something too. In one I learnt a little about The French Revolution and Iceland (yes, in the same book), another the Mercantour National Park in southern France near the border with Italy. In this book The Black Death takes centre stage and fascinating it is too. Adamsberg is a detective with flaws (aren't they all?) and in this he really messes up as regards a particular relationship. It's all good stuff and I love it. Fred Vargas is surely going to be my favourite author of 2018.

~~~oOo~~~

5 comments:

DesLily said...

Wow! As usual you are speeding ahead with your reading!!! I will have to look into Fred Vargus a bit! You've read over double what I have ! I am reading though.. But this book is over 700 pages so I will be lucky to finish it in time to have read 2 books this month! .. (and yes most of the book is taking place in old London! "By Gaslight by Steven Price") I will never know how you can read so much AND do all the puzzles!

Kay said...

I'm glad you're enjoying your series books. I love it when I find a new-to-me series that I am tempted to binge-read. I've been like that with Joy Ellis' Nikki Galena books. I'm trying to space them out, but it's hard. LOL

BooksPlease said...

You are tempting me with J. Jefferson Farjeon - I haven't read any of his books, although I've seen the BLCC has published some recently. It's good to know you enjoy them. And I agree about the cover - it is lovely.

I haven't read Have Mercy On Us All - yet. I've loved all of Vargas's books though - she writes so well and has such interesting plots and I think Adamsberg has to be one of the best fictional detectives, flaws and all.

Cath said...

Pat: 700 page books take ages... read one recently and it easily took me a couple or three weeks. Hope it's a good one.

Kay: It is hard to space out books from a series you love. It's not so bad to binge read when there're plenty of them but the Vargas books only number eight or nine I think so I'll soon be at an end.

Margaret: Yes, the BLCC have republished a couple of JJF's books, possibly more. The two I've read have been good.

The Vargas books have all been excellent, no duds at all. I like Adamsberg too, he's a bit different, plus of course I like the French settings and history.

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