Friday, 16 August 2019

Three crime titles


Three books to review briefly today, all, unintentionally, connected to the two world wars. It'll be interesting to add up, at the end of December, exactly how many war themed books I've read this year.

First up, An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear. This qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the September category of 'Month related item on cover - people working, picnic scene, means of travel'.


The son of Maisie's sponsor, James Compton, is thinking of investing in some property belonging to the Sandemere Estate near a village in Kent. There has been a spate of petty robberies and arson attacks. James wants to be sure his money will be safe so he asks Maisie to undertake some investigations. The area in Kent is famous for its hop picking and that season has, coincidentally, arrived. Maisie's assistant, Billy Beale, usually goes with his family so she asks him to keep an eye out while he's there for anything that seems amiss. When Maisie herself travels down she finds a village that feels like it's harbouring a secret. No one wants to talk about the fires and the villagers themselves are blaming their current problems on the gypsies who are also there for the hop picking. Maisie feels that she's never been around a village that feels quite so uncomfortable with itself, what's going on?

Yet another excellent instalment of this fascinating series. There's always so much going on in every Maisie Dobbs book, nothing is ever as it seems and the answer is almost always related to something in the past - often the First World War. And that's something that's surprised me a bit - that even 10 or 12 years after the finish of it, the war is still impacting what's going on in the country. It shouldn't surprise me, after all it was an event of massive proportions and also, as a child, in the 1950s and 60s, adults were still talking of what happened to them in World War 2. And the time frame is about the same, early 60s just 15 to 20 years after WW2, Maisies Dobbs, a similar distance from WW1. When I think that the year 2000 feels like yesterday but is in fact nearly 20 years ago, I now understand why my parents' generation talked about the war so much. Noticeably though, it was never the terrible stuff they told you about, it was always the crazy things they got up to, or the ridiculous goings on. Anyway, this series continues to enthrall and, looking at some of the upcoming titles and how interesting they sound, I think I shall have to be strict with myself and not gobble them all up at once.


Next, Black Roses by Jane Thynne. This is my 7th. book for the European Reading Challenge 2019 which is being hosted by Rose City Reader. It covers the country of 'Germany'.

Escaping an unwanted engagement, actress, Clara Vine, travels to Berlin in the hope of a part in a film. It's 1933 and the Nazis have recently come to power in Germany. Things are becoming dangerous for anyone who is Jewish or has Jewish connections. Clara finds herself invited to parties where high-up Nazi officials are present and thus she becomes part of their wives' set, particularly that of Magda Goebbels who wants Clara to model her new Nazi fashion line. Leo Quinn, an undercover spy for British Intelligence, comes into Clara's life and manages to convince her to report back to him on what the wives are involved in and talking about. A secret in Clara's background gives her a reason to agree to this espionage but 1930s Berlin is a very dangerous place and Clara has no experience of this kind of thing. How far is she prepared to go?

Well, this one was certainly a bit different. Not at all your average whodunnit, more of an historical fiction story with intrigue and skulduggery. It starts with a death and then procedes to go back in time and explain the events leading up to it. Some of it is chilling. The story details the beginning of the persecution of the Jews and their powerlessness to stop it. Some dug in and hoped for better times, for the population to come to its senses. It didn't of course and it was interesting how many knew the situation wouldn't improve and got out, heading to Britain and the USA if they could get in. Leo Quinn's official job was at the embassy dealing with the hordes of people trying to leave Germany. It was heart-breaking. This is a very well written and absorbing book, I gather the author is a journalist and that always shows I think. The next book, The Winter Garden or Woman in the Shadows, is set in a Nazi bride school, which I had no idea existed. I'll definitely be reading it. I need another new series naturally...


Lastly, Superfluous Women by Carola Dunn, book 22 in the 'Daisy Dalrymple' series. This is my book 17 for Bev's Mount TBR 2019 reading challenge.

Daisy is recovering from a bad bout of bronchitis and heads off to a hotel in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire to recuperate. She has an old school friend, Wilhelmina, living in the town with two other friends, all of them women who lost someone in the Great War and now find themselves alone. In those days they were known as 'superfluous women'... hence the title. Once well enough, Daisy and Alec go to dinner with the three women. A chance comment leads to Alec picking the lock of the cellar and there they find the body of a woman. Her identity is unknown but the police work on the assumption that it might be the previous owner, a Mrs. Gray, recently widowed in suspicious circumstances. Once again Daisy is drawn into a police investigation against the better judgement of her detective husband, Alec.

I felt this was a more serious instalment of 'Daisy's adventures with dead bodies' than most of the previous 20 or so books. This is probably because of the poignancy of the 'superfluous women' issue. It was noticeable how scathing some of the comments were about them and I felt this was uncalled for given how supportive I suspect most women were in the war effort and how many had lost sons, husbands, fianc├ęs, brothers. I think the figure was two million 'superfluous women' which is quite tragic. Bit shocked that the wonderful Tom Tring had retired but excellent to see him still appearing. Nice sense of the English shires too. Enjoyed this one very much.

~~~oOo~~~

7 comments:

Nan said...

Why be strict with yourself? hahaha! I love those books. I remember the hop picking with fondness. Yet another thing gone by the wayside.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

You are streaks ahead of me with the Maisie Dobbs books - I can't think why I don't read more of them. I want to really, but other books keep getting in front of them in the queue. And I also keep delaying reading Jane Thynne's books and Carola Dunn's too ...

Anyway I'm so glad you're enjoying them!

Cath said...

Nan: I think strict because if I read them all quickly I'll have no more to look forward to reading until JW produces another. I'm not keen on the whole 'waiting for a new book to arrive' thing. I have quite a few series I treat like this.

Margaret: Well the trouble is there are just 'so many' good books aren't there? And we all have our top favourites that we go to on a regular basis and they're not necessarily the same as other peoples'. So I quite understand your dilemma... there are only so many hours in the day and summer is a busy time... grandchildren, the garden and so on.

TracyK said...

That book by Jane Thynne sounds good, but the last two books I read about that time period in Germany were very depressing. But I do like espionage stories.

I may get back to the Maisie series and the Carola Dunn books someday.

Cath said...

Tracy: I can well imagine that the two books you read about that period were depressing... I can't say that Black Roses was a particularly cheery read either. But I quite liked the espionage angle even though I'm not a fan of such books normally.

TracyK said...

I will have to find Black Roses then. Jane Thynne was the wife of Philip Kerr, who wrote one of the two books set in Germany that I read this month (If the Dead Rise Not). A very good book, but dark, edgy, and depressing.

Cath said...

Tracy: Oh, that's interesting. I like these literary connections. I seem to have read so many books with a war setting this year and must say have really 'enjoyed' doing so, if that's the right word to use about books about such a dark period.