Sunday 23 June 2019

Catching up on Crime

Murder mysteries seem to be my drug of choice these days as regards books and reading. Years ago, deeply into science fiction in my teens, historical romance or fiction in my twenties and thirties, addicted to Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories in my forties and fifties and never having bothered myself with crime fiction at all apart from Ellis Peters' wonderful Cadfael, I honesly never would have imagined this happening.

Is it my age? I do know that little old ladies are supposed to be avid crime fiction readers. (Not that I'm many people's idea of 'little'.) Author, John Connolly, made us all laugh when Hubby and I went to hear him speak in Waterstones, Swansea back in April. He writes the rather frightening horror/crime series about Charlie Parker and described how an elderly lady approached him to say there was only one thing wrong with one of his books (I forget which now). He imagined all kinds of things but not that she would say, 'There wasn't enough blood and gore!' So us older ladies have form on this.

It's curious... because the thing is, most other women I know who read crime fic have always read it. None have had a sudden conversion like me. At some stage I'll have to check which year it happened, but I don't think it's farther back than ten years. Annoyingly my Goodreads year records only go back to 2014 at which point I was already into the genre but possibly not as heavily as I am now. Nowadays if I go more than a week with no crimefic I get twitchy. I'll have to check my hand-written records but it is very odd.

Anyway, enough waffle. Two books to catch up on, first up, The Body on the Doorstep. This book qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the May category of, 'Primary Action takes place in this month'. It's also my 14th. book for Bev's Mount TBR 2019 challenge.

The Year is 1796 and the place is the county of Kent in the South Eastern corner of England. Reverend Hardcastle, vicar of St. Mary in the Marsh near Romney Marsh, is alerted to noises outside the Rectory late one night. On investigating he's nearly killed himself as shots are fired and a man collapses on his doorstep, shot. Within minutes the man is dead having muttered several cryptic last words. The local lord asks The Reverand to investigate and at first glance this appears to be a falling out amongst smugglers, smuggling being rife on the south coast (it was the same in Cornwall of course). But things are often not what they seem. Very quickly Reverand Hardcastle realises he has no idea who he can trust. Even his new side-kick, the widow, Mrs. Chaytor, has secrets. Has he been handed a poisoned chalice?

Well we all know the answer to that question, it wouldn't be any fun whatsoever if the answer was 'no'. I wasn't sure about this when I first started it. Despite the dramatic opening it progressed quite slowly, plus I got confused with shootings here, shootings there, shootings every-bloomin'-where. Couldn't quite get the gist of what was going on and why. It did eventually sort itself out though and I very much enjoyed the interactions between the two investigators, the Rev. Hardcastle and Mrs. Chaytor. Nice touch to have one of them be a mature woman rather than a 19 year old femme fatale. Made it much more interesting to me. The author, A.J. MacKenzie is a husband and wife duo I gather and that could explain the unusal female character for the time and setting. Anyhow, not a bad first outing for this series. If I have a complaint it's that I found Hardcastle's drinking tedious, I know they did drink a lot back then, but it would be nice to have the occasional detective who wasn't an alcoholic. Just saying. Anyway, I liked it enough to grab books 2, The Body in the Ice, for my Kindle as it's only 98p at the moment.

Lastly, Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Crofts. This is my 15th. book for Bev's Mount TBR challenge.

The director of Birmington (if you're like me you'll read that as 'Birmingham' all the way through the book) zoo, George Surridge, is a worried man. Not only is he a gambler, but he's married to a demanding wife who wants to be kept in the style to which she was accustomed before their marriage. George can't afford the lifestyle which he has created for himself. There is light at the end of the tunnel, an elderly aunt is very ill and George knows that he's her heir. All fine and dandy he thinks, but he thinks wrong. No, she doesn't disinherit him, something else happens and a train-wreck ensues and it's all quite rivetting...

This reminded me of the same author's excellent 12.30 to Croydon in that you get almost all of the book from the perpetrator's point of view - his initial problems, exactly how he manages to make things ten times worse, and the repercusions. Inspector French comes in by accident after a friend mentions the case and he's intrigued. He's get assigned to look into an 'accidental death' verdict and like a blood-hound, never loses the scent. I do like Freeman Wills Crofts writing. I gather he changed the focus of his books when he got interested in the psychological aspect of crime and criminals, their motivations and so on. It certainly worked as this is an excellent read with many twists and surprises. You'll be able to indulge in a lot of eye rolling and head shaking, plus... a truly unusual setting of a zoo and its reptile house. I have the author's The Hog's Back Mystery on my library pile and am really looking forward to reading it.



DesLily said...

I am guessing I am one of those old ladies that likes mystery and crime.. just a guess mind you! I never got into the romance novels.. just Fantasy and directly to blood and gore and opium under the streets of old LOndon! lol

Kay said...

You know that I'm another that loves crime novels. Yes, I've always enjoyed mysteries - from my early days of reading Nancy Drew and other teen sleuths. I went through my romance phase and my family saga books. I've read inspirational fiction and Gothic suspense and now, psychological thrillers. As I list all of these, it's curious how the 'names' for types of fiction have changed over the years. That the publishers doing I suspect and keeping things current (or PC). I've not read much sci fi or fantasy, but one never knows. Ha!

Peggy Ann said...

Another old lady that loves mystery and crime! I did start with Agatha Christie when I was young though. It's always been my genre. Blogging has widened my interest though to many other types of books, but not science fiction or fantasy. Just can't get interested in them. Wish I could like fantasy as that is the favorite genre of alloy kids and grandkids. Would be nice to read and enjoy the same books with them. These two books sound really good, Cath!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I must say that I have never really gone through phases of reading books from certain genres. Even as a child and young person, I never restricted myself to certain sections of the library shelves.

I have always enjoyed an eclectic mix of books and like the variety of never knowing what I am going to choose next from my TBR pile.

These days, I have to admit that my reading schedule is more or less set by authors and publishers, depending on my review / Blog Tour schedule, but that's okay by me, as I generally get to mix things up a bit.

I do also have to agree with Kay, that I can't keep up with all the new genres and sub-genres, which seem to be popping up at a great rate of knots!

Even reading / writing has to be constantly re-inventing itself - that's what makes me feel old!!

I do enjoy a healthy dose of historical crime fiction, so there's another couple for my list :)


Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I've read crime fiction from my teens - but back then only Agatha Christie. I used to read quite a lot of science fiction, but my favourite genre for many years was historical fiction. I began reading more crime fiction after I began blogging, but I still read historical fiction, so I love books that combine the two and The Body on the Doorstep fits right in for me. I've not read it, although I have read the next Hardcastle and Chaytor Mystery, The Body in the Ice, which I enjoyed.

I've read two of Freeman Wills Crofts books - but not Antidote to Venom - one to look out for, I think.

Cath said...

Pat: LOL... I love your description... 'blood and gore and opium under the streets of old LOndon!' Exactly!!!

Kay: With me it wasn't Nancy Drew as those weren't available in our town library in the 1950s and 60s. Although if they had been I suspect I would have gobbled them up. No, it was Enid Blyton's Famous Five mysteries which gripped whole generations in this country from the 1950s to the present day I suspect. By the sound of it you've been through pretty much the same phases, reading-wise, as me.

Peggy: Yes, blogging has really widened my interests books-wise too. I read books now that I probably would not have picked up years ago.

I was lucky to like fantasy books as these were the books my grand-daughter liked too, and the whole family to be honest, so we were able to have some nice family discussions.

Yvonne: I can't say that I ever restricted myself to certain shelves in the library, I didn't mean to mislead you. I read all kinds of books, but liked certain genres more than others.

One of the reasons I don't accept many ARCs is because I wouldn't care to have my reading schedule partly set by authors and publishers. I'm a bit too much of a free spirit but I'm glad it works for you, that's what's important.

Margaret: Yes, I'd forgotten that I did indeed read a bit of Agatha Christie when in my teens too. Yes, I was the same with historical fiction, Anya Seton was a huge favourite. Interesting that you've read the 2nd. book in the H&C series, I'm planning to read that soon. I think you would enjoy Antidote to Venom.