As usual I'm waaay behind with reviews, four to be precise, so I'm going to do a quick run-down of three of the books I've been reading since the beginning of the month.
First up, Bats in the Belfry by E.C.R. Lorac.
Author, Bruce Attleton, has disappeared. His wife and friends all thought he was on a trip to Paris but at a recent dinner party they had all been discussing how you would get rid of a murdered body and two of his friends become concerned enough at his lack of communication to investigate. The police, in the form of Chief Inspector MacDonald, are called in but they struggle to get anywhere at first. It turns out there's blackmail involved, not to mention infidelity, mad artists, impersonation... and an old, rambling house, 'The Belfry' in London's Notting Hill. It's quite complicated to be honest and I struggled a bit, not only to keep up with the intricacies of the plot, but to remember who was who, and what relation they bore to everyone else and what was going on. Nevertheless I enjoyed it a lot (no harm in giving an addled brain a good workout) because E.C.R. Lorac's writing is never anything less than superb and I will read anything at all written by her. I wondered if this book was the origin of the term, 'Bats in the Belfry', meaning mad or eccentric, but apparently not, it's thought that that term originated in America at the beginning of the 20th. century.
Next, Fat Dogs and French Estates, a non-fiction book, by Beth Haslam.
The author, Beth Haslam, and her husband, Jack, decide to retire to France. They enjoy shooting game and want to buy a house with land, including plenty of woodland, so they can start a shooting business. Sounds pretty straightforward? Er... no. It seems Estate Agents are the same the world over... you tell them what you want and they try to bamboozle you into thinking something entirely the opposite is precisely what you asked for. Beth lines up lots of viewings and her and husband and the two dogs, Biff and Sam, set off on a very long road-trip. Their experiences are catalogued in this, part one, of what is, I think, a four book series telling of their adventures in France. I loved it. Partly because some of their journey was familiar to me from our own trips to France but also it's beautifully written in a very funny, self-deprecating manner and the dogs are as much a star of the show as the humans. Plus, the eccentricities of the owners of the houses they view are beyond belief at times, and the estate agents are not far behind. I will definitely be reading on in this series.
Lastly, Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall, another non-fiction.
Geography was probably my favourite subject at school, apart from possibly Maths, so this one was a bit of a must-get for me when I spotted it on Goodreads. It concerns Geopolitics, which looks at the way international affairs can be viewed and understood through geographical factors. It stands to reason really, except that I'd never given it much thought until I read Krakatoa by Simon Winchester wherein he discusses that quite a lot. Tim Marshall considers the history and politics of various areas of the globe from the point of view of their rivers, mountains, seas, plains and so on: Russia, China, The USA, Western Europe, Africa, The Middle East, India and Pakistan, The Arctic, Korea and Japan and Latin America. The most interesting for me was The Arctic - with the ice rapidly disappearing who's going to lay claim to the waters? Answer, probably Russia and of course there's absolutely 'no' potential for conflict there! I appreciated the author's attempt to explain The Middle East and its divisions and wars, because I gather even experts have trouble with that. Really the author made me think about things that I never had before, or more about things I was only vaguely aware of. Some of it was scary, especially when discussing the potential for conflict just about 'everywhere'. It made me wonder how there are any humans left on the planet, let alone 7 billion of us. An interesting read. The author states, 'Geography has always been a prison', and I understand now what that means.
So, four down, one to go. I shall do a longer review of Case Histories by Kate Atkinson I think. Interesting book.