Saturday 21 July 2018

Catching up

A bit busy at the moment and thus several book reviews behind on here. So, this is a 'catch up' post, wherein I make an effort to be brief and fail dismally.

First up, Death on the Riviera by John Bude.

Detective Inspector Meredith and Acting Sergeant Strang are heading by car to the south of France. They've had information that 'Chalky' Cobbett, a notorious counterfeiter, is plying his trade in Menton, and the idea is to catch him at it and send him back to England. The trail leads to The Villa Paloma where Nesta Hedderwick, a middle-aged wealthy woman, holds court and and has constant house guests and permanent lodgers of the artistic persuasion. Her neice is one of those staying and when Strang comes across her in an art gallery it proves to be a convenient 'in' to the secrets of the villa and of those staying there. But what's all this got to do with Chalky Cobbett? And should Meredith and Strang be enjoying themselves quite so much when this is, after all, a police assignment?

This has got to be one of the best British Library Crime Classic books I've read so far. I really enjoyed the setting of the south of France, and feel the author got the hedonistic lifestyle of some of the foreigners who lived there spot-on. I'm currently reading a non-fiction book about it and although it deals mainly with a slightly earlier era, the details haven't changed much and John Bude clearly knew his stuff. This one was written and set in the early 1950s and the war was still very fresh in people's memories, but it still came as quite a shock to me to see Dunkirk described as still wrecked and practically unnavigable. Little things like that bring history home with a jolt and I like these reality checks. There's a touch of romance in this, humour, skulduggery, food and drink porn, and an excellent sense of place... loved it.

Next up, Valour's Choice by Tanya Huff.

The Confederation is an alliance of planets in which the populations have become too peaceful to fight their own wars. When 'The Others' start attacking from another galaxy they offer membership to several other less pacifist planets on the condition that they fight The Others for them. Another warlike race, the Silsviss, a reptilian species, is set to join The Confederation to help in the fight and Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr is sent, with a small brigade of her men, to accompany the diplomats who're going to negotiate. *Not* her usual kind of mission. It's all going well until their ship is shot down over a wild area where young males of the planet spend time working off their severe aggression. Suddenly that aggression is pointed at the diplomats and their protectors. Who will prevail?

I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads which was possibly a bit miserly of me. 3.5 would've been more accurate as I enjoyed it and read it quite quickly. It comes under the heading of 'Military Science-fiction' I believe... these days science-fiction seems to have been compartmentalised into far more categories than it ever was years ago... and I'm not sure it's my thing precisely. I'm OK with it in small doses perhaps but endless battle scenes do bore me a bit and about half of this book concentrates on the long battle to survive against the rampant young males. I did think the various alien races were well imagined and depicted, especially the Silsviss and their planet. I'm curious about The Others as not much is said about them in this book. And I rather liked Torin Kerr as the main protagonist, her honest, no nonsense approach to everything was refreshing. So, whether I'll read more in this series is uncertain. It's a trifle too military for me *but* the world building and characterisation are both really excellent. Perhaps I'll see where the next books are in the Devon library system and go from there.

Lastly, Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Harriet Vine and Lord Peter Wimsey are now married. They head off to a large house in the village where Harriet grew up, for their honeymoon... Peter decided to buy it because Harriet always loved it as a child. The seller is supposed to be there to meet and help them settle in, but for some reason he's not there. Eventually they gain entrance and the housekeeper, gardener, vicar, chimney sweep, Uncle Tom Cobley, and Bunter, Peter's valet, all help get the house ready to live in. But where *is* the owner? 'In a neighbouring town attending to business', suggests the housekeeper. And they all accept this explanation until something is required in the cellar...

I gather Dorothy L. Sayers wrote this as a love story about Peter and Harriet after their wedding, with a little murder and mayhem thrown in to keep crime readers happy. It's not the place to start if you've never read any of her Wimsey books as this is the last novel she wrote about him, the final volume being a book of short stories I believe. I thought it was delightful, full of humour, quite a lot of romance, and the murder aspect was actually very good. I didn't solve it and had no idea who the culprit was until it was revealed at the end. The thing about Harriet and Peter is that they've neither of them had an easy time of it. Harriet was accused of murdering an ex-lover, culminating in a notorious court case (Strong Poison), and Peter has not been the same since he fought in World War One (the same can be said for the men I knew who fought in World War Two). So it's brilliant to have a book where they've both found happiness at last and I can't help but feel they're perfect for each other. I have an anthology of all of the Wimsey short stories Sayers wrote, Lord Peter, and I honestly can't wait to read them now, plus I have a few of the early Wimsey novels still to read.



Kay said...

Nice to hear what you've been reading, Cath! Hope your summer is going well!

BooksPlease said...

You do well with your catching up posts - I end up just writing about one book or at the most two - three is impressive.

Nice to know that you enjoyed Death on the Riviera so much - I must try it soon, the library has a copy. Oh, too many books at the moment all sound good, but I'm not really tempted by military sci-fi - battles are boring even in space, whereas the Sayers' book does tempt me - hope Barter Books will have a copy! Failing that I see the library has an audio book of it.

Nan said...

This was the first Harriet/Peter book I ever read - ages ago. I've since bought the others, and have read the first one.

Cath said...

Kay: Thank you. Summer is going fine. Schools have just broken up so it'll get busier but nice. A little too dry for the garden but we did have some rain the other night.

Margaret: I cheat... I tend to do these catch up posts over a number of weeks rather than all at once. LOL

Glad I'm not the only one who finds endless descriptions of battles to be boring. I rather suspect it might be a feature of the series.

I hope BB has a copy of the Sayers book.

Nan: I think DLS was one of the best writers of her age. Apparently she made non-crime readers and writers stop being so snooty about crime fiction, her writing was that good.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

I used to read DS books all the time, probably at a much younger age than I should have done, as I used to 'borrow' my dad's library books when he had finished with them and before they needed to be returned.

As with so many of the other classical authors, I long to have the time to re-read some of these all time greats, but alas, time waits for no man, and there are just too many books hitting the shelves day in, day out, to even contemplate going back - at least not until I hang up my blogging keyboard and concentrate on what I enjoy the most .. reading!

I must admit that I don't recall ever reading anything by John Bude, so that will be my excuse for delving into this relaunched series, where the cover art of the titles they have so far revisited, looks amazing!

I love your mini catch up posts and reviews, thanks for sharing :)


Cath said...

Yvonne, sorry for the delay in replying, busy with the grandchildren at the moment.

I must admit that like you I long to reread a lot of books but have so many new ones that it's just not feasible. I'm not a huge rereader anyway, if I'm honest, a book has to have been superb or to have affected me emotionally for me to want to read it again. But I do have a small number of books that come into that category.

John Bude was unknown to me before I started reading the BLCC books. So many excellent authors all but forgotten until the BLCC began reissuing them. Not all are wonderful but many are very good indeed.

Thank you, it's nice of you to say that. :-)

Have a lovely *cool* weekend now the heatwave has broken. It's so nice here today.

TracyK said...

Sorry to be so late to see this, but I enjoyed the reviews. I re-read Busman's Honeymoon fairly recently and enjoyed it a lot. I think I remember some slow spots, but I did enjoy the mystery and we watched a film adaptation too. You have definitely got me interested in Death on the Riviera. Another British Library mystery I will have to find.