Monday 26 August 2019

Catching up

Two quick catch-up reviews today. Having rather a slow reading month due it being August and the school hols and so forth.

First up, The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispen. This is my 25th. book for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge, qualifying under the September category of 'Setting = Place of Employment'.

A group of actors are putting on a play at the Oxford Repertory Company. The play's author is a famous writer and actor, Robert Warner, the rest of the company are a motley crew, currently coverging on the city to start rehearsals. One of their number, Yseut Haskell, whom no one likes, is a nasty piece of work, given to wreaking havoc wherever she goes. Thus, no one is much surprised when she's found dead in the room of one of the professors at the university. Gervase Fen, himself an Oxford don, lends the police a hand in finding the murderer but it's tricky as it seems as though no one could have done it but everyone had a motive. Somebody did the deed though, but who?

I do like this series, I find the books beautifully written with a nice vein of humour running throughout each one. I suppose Gervase Fen reminds me a bit of Lord Peter Wimsey in his eccentricity and speech and perhaps that's why I like the books so much. This is the first book in the series and I must admit I did get bogged down a bit with the first few chapters, so many characters and rather a lot of waffle I thought... plus, I'm not a theatre buff and it probably helps if you are with this one. Nevertheless, it's an entertaining read and very hard to work out who the culprit was and indeed I did not. Had no idea and the reveal was a surprise, but then it was rather a 'locked room' sort of plot and I'm never good at solving those.

Lastly, The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid.

Jane Gresham who lives in run-down part of London but is from a farm in the Lake District, is a Wordsworth scholar. She's had a theory for a number of years that Fletcher Christian - he of the Mutiny on the Bounty notoriety - was not killed on Pitcairn but instead returned to his birthplace in Cumbria. He apparently knew Wordsworth growing up and Jane thinks he came back in order to get his friend Wordsworth to write down the truth of what happened on The Bounty for him. She also thinks Wordsworth may have turned the tale into an epic poem and that it was suppressed and hidden amongst the poet's numerous papers. A peat-bog body is discovered on the fells so Jane gets leave from work to investigate, theorising that it could be Fletcher Christian due to some unusual tattoos but a killing in London concerning a young friend of hers, Tenille, grossly complicates matters before she can set off. In The Lakes at last and suddenly everyone is interested in Jane's research. The problem is, who on earth can she trust?

Very enjoyable this one. It took a while to get going and some of the detail of the plot in London is very sad, bordering on distressing if I'm honest. Once it got to The Lakes it took off and became very much about Wordsworth's life there, family history, and Jane's search for the truth. I also found the little insertions about Fletcher Christian and what happened to him in the south seas rather fascinating... in fact there're quite a lot of books about the mutiny so I might get one to read. (Proof that one book quite often leads to another and another...) This is only the second book I've read by Val McDermid, the first was the first book in one of her series, can't remember which now, but I notice she has other standalones and I might try more. I also rather fancy Naked Came the Phoenix, a book she's co-authored with thirteen other female crime writers... it sounds like a lot of fun and some very famous names there.



Nan said...

From the television I watch, and the Guardian reading I do, it seems to me that London is both very, very rich and very poor. And this may be the way it is in many cities now. Not a lot of people in the middle, and the extremes seem to be so extreme.

I read Dead Beat by VM, and remember liking it, but apparently not enough to read more. It was four years ago and I can't really remember much. I seem to recall it being a bit dark.

Sam said...

I was fascinated by the whole Mutiny on the Bounty thing when I was a kid, and that's exactly what drew me to The Grave Tattoo. Val McDermid is someone I enjoy reading, but I don't run across her books all that often here so I've only read three of her books. The other two are: "A Darker Domain" and "Charming Billy." I was suitably impressed by both.

Kay said...

I always mean to read more of Val McDermid's books and then I don't. I was a fan of her Tony Hill series, but I haven't read all that many of them actually. I watched a lot of the TV adaptations of that series. Probably my favorite of the McDermid books I've read is A Place of Execution, which also has a TV movie adaptation (that I liked). Have heard really good things about her Karen Pirie series. And, yes, I think her books are probably all a bit dark.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

Both books sound so good, even with the waffle and distressing details!

DesLily said...

There is never anything "slow" about your reading and puzzles!!! It does sound like you had two good ones here. I need to post my last book for this month..then get ready for the "hurricane"?

TracyK said...

I have read one of McDermid's Karen Pirie series and liked it, but the first book in the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series completely turned me off.

I am 50/50 on Edmund Crispin. I did not like Gilded Fly at all, but then I loved The Moving Toyshop. I should try more of his books. My husband passed on several of his copies to me.

Cath said...

Nan: I think you're spot on about London and yes, other cities seem to be the same now.

I read the first Karen Pirie book by VM but, like you, apparently not enoguh to read more. I liked this standalone more though.

Sam: Yes, that's why I brought the book home from the library too, the Bounty connection intrigued me. I remember watching the film one Sunday afternoon... as kids there was always a 'Sunday matinee' on the TV. Saw so many wonderful old films that way. A huge favourite was High Noon.

Kay: Yes, I fancy she does write books that are quite dark. Parts of this certainly were. I can't remember about that first Karen Pirie book but suspect it was similar. Like you, I meant to read more by her but did not end up doing so. Slightly odd.

Margaret: Yes, both were good, excellent writing which often makes up for shortcomings in other directions.

Pat: I really have had a slower month than the previous two. But no matter, that's the way it is sometimes. You take care with that storm coming.

Tracy: Yes, that's the only other VM I've read, the first Karen Pirie. Seem to recall she wasn't in it very much. I don't know the series you mention but I can well imagine why it turned you off.

Edmund Crispin's books vary. The humour is always good but he could waffle for England. The Gilded Fly is not my favourite of his, I liked Buried for Pleasure and The Moving Toyshop. There are also a few I haven't read yet.