Thursday, 8 July 2021

Several crime fiction titles

As always I'm behind with reviews... right back into June for one of these in fact. I'm reading a lot faster than I can review at the moment and at some stage I'm just going to have to concede that I can't review everything, try as I might.

First up, Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear.

Maisie is unsettled. She feels as though she's reached some kind of  crossroads in her life and that it's concerned with travelling, - with following in the footsteps of her late mentor Maurice Blanche and going to India. The trouble is, she's engaged to be married and her fiance, James, is off to Canada and wants her to go with him. It's a dilemma she's trying to deal with when an Indian man asks her to take on the case of the death of his sister, Usha Pramal. Usha had travelled to England as a governess with a family but for some reason left them and ended up in a hostel run for Indian ayahs cast out by English families who no longer need their services. How she ended up dead by the side of a canal is a shocking mystery and Maisie takes the case on after the police had failed to get anywhere. Another case Maisie takes on involves a missing teenage boy so she's busy enough to keep her mind off her current dilemmas. Indian women being brought back to England to continue working with families they worked for in India and then being dismissed when they were no longer needed, in a foreign country, was not something that I was previously aware was happening in the 1930s. So I learnt something from this book. To be honest I learn something every time I pick up a Maisie Dobbs book. Jacqueline Winspear has a habit of finding a new slant on known issues that I'd never thought of before or even issues I'd never even heard of like this one. I like how much her books make me 'think'. I can also understand Maisie's personal problems and will be very interested to see what she does next. I understand the next book, A Dangerous Place, is set on Gibraltar so that should be rather interesting. Of course WW2 is fast approaching in the books and I'm fascinated to see how that's handled in this excellent series. 

Next, The Searcher by Tana French.

Chicago detective, Cal Hooper, has retired and moved to Ireland. 'Rural' Ireland. It's all woods and fields, endless rain, and a village where everyone knows everyone else's business. The locals are friendly though and happy for him to buy a dilapidated cottage and fix it up. It's not long though before Cal realises he's being watched and eventually a young boy creeps into his field of consciousness and starts to help Cal with the carpentry. As the days progress the boy asks for help in finding his brother, Brendan, aged 19, who disppeared six months ago. Cal is at first very reluctant having decided to leave this kind of thing behind him in Chicago. The boy, Trey, persists and eventually Cal agrees to help him having absolutely no idea of the can of worms he's about to open. There's quite an air of hidden menace in this novel. Tana French does not write cozy crime stories and she gets right to the nitty-gritty of rural Ireland, which looks so idyllic but has all the same problems they have in the city but on a much more personal level because everyone knows everyone. I've read one book by Tana French, In the Woods, so I knew her writing was superb and that I would find myself really immersed in the story. And the story is heart-breaking in places and scary because you know there is impending menace from the locals but you don't know who. And there was one real curve-ball that took me completely by surprise... evidence that I need to keep my wits about me a bit more. An excellent read, although I would be interested to know whether the ex-American cop rings true to American readers. 

Lastly, Swansong by Damien Boyd. 

This is the fourth book in the author's 'DI Nick Dixon' series, set in Somerset in areas I know very well. In this installment Nick goes under cover to work as a trainee teacher in a boarding school in Taunton. A girl has been found dead in the school grounds, murdered with her ring finger cut off. What Nick hasn't told his boss is that the case mirrors a murder that happened at his old boarding school, when he was sixteen, and his then girlfriend was killed. The crime was never solved. Nick feels certain that it's the same killer and now feels in a position to find his girlfriend's murderer but really he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near this case. I like school based fiction so rather enjoyed this one. It's very much a police procedural yarn with lots of twists and turns and dashing up and down the M5 in a Landrover! I wouldn't fancy trying to do that in the middle of summer (this was set in December). So, a very pacey story with a lot going on and I really do enjoy the 'local to me' aspect of this series.


DesLily said...

Hmmm, I used to read Tanya French... I don't know why I stopped.?.

Mary said...

I've read all the Maisie Dobb's series so far and have even gone back to reread several. So good.

As for crime mysteries--well, I can handle the cozy ones, but my imagination is too overstimulated by the gruesome or un-cozy ones. Leads to nightmares. :(

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Hope to get to The Searcher soon (I've been saying that for a while now.) I've never read any of the Maise Dobbs = not sure why.

Lark said...

Swansong sounds awesome...that whole boarding school thing. It's one of my favorite settings in a book. And I want to read The Searcher, too. Tana French's books are always intense, aren't they? You definitely get immersed in them. :)

Vallypee said...

Oh Cath, I want to read them all! Each of them sounds like one I'd enjoy for different reasons. I like mysteries very much and all these sound as if they'd tick my boxes.

TracyK said...

The most interesting one to me in this group is Swansea, the police procedural. I have always like police procedurals and can usually depend on them to keep me interested.

I am sure I will read The Searcher someday, bit I have one more of the Dublin series to read and The Witch Elm, and those I already have.

Cath said...

Pat: I stopped too. Read In the Woods twelve years ago (you were the one who recommended it to me) and then didn't read any more till now. I think to be honest she's not my favourite author and reading one of her books occasionally is enough.

Mary: Pleased to hear that you're clearly affected by these Maisie Dobbs books in the same way I am. There's something about them, so thoughtfully written and 'thought-provoking' which is an over-used term in my opinion, but appropriate here.

With crime mysteries I take the middle road. I don't mind the odd cosy at all, I'm really not too keen on horrific or gory murder stories, but I do enjoy the well written not too violent 'middle of the road' sort of murder mystery.

Diane: Yes, I put off and put off reading The Searcher and I've no clue why. I think, although I like Tana French's writing, I don't feel inclined to gobble up her books as I do with some writers.

Cath said...

Lark: I'm hardly surprised to learn that you like boarding school stories too. LOL! Too funny. Yes, Tana French's books are quite intense and I have to be in the mood for that. Very good though. I liked the slight supernatural bent of In the Woods.

Val: They were all very good. I seem to be on a roll at the moment and picking some good books to read. Although I have reached the age where if a book is not working for me I tend to abandon it.

Tracy: The DI Nick Dixon series is very much a police procedural one. I'm sure though that one of the main reasons I like it is that I know most of the places that get mentioned.

I ought to carry on with the Dublin murder series and will at some stage. I must check out The Witch Elm too at some stage as it sounds like my kind of thing. Hopefully the library might have it.

Sam Sattler said...

All interesting choices, Cath. I particularly enjoyed your take on the Tana French book because that's one of the two of her novels I've read to this point, and it's still pretty much my favorite of the two. I'll be getting back into her series soon, I suspect, because I just found copies of two more of them in a used-book bookstore this morning during a brief bookstore run.

The cop in The Searcher did ring true to me...entirely based on my nonexistent experience of knowing such a person. :=) I can say that nothing glaringly out of place about the character jumped out at me.

Tina said...

I love Tana French but admit to enjoying her Dublin Murder squad mysteries the most.

Susan said...

I enjoy French's books. THE SEARCHER was a bit different than her others, but I liked it as well. It's been too long since I read it, though, so I don't remember if the American cop seemed authentically American. He must have done if I don't recall any glaring errors!

CLM said...

I did not think he seemed authentically American at all but I assumed she wanted him a) to be a complete outsider, b) not to have any way of researching the locals through police records, and c) wanting him to rely on old fashioned seat of the pants police work.

Would you want to live there after all this? Not I!

Cath said...

Sam: Like you, I've just read two Tana French novels, In the Woods and this one. She certainly is a superb writer and no mistake. Whether I 'love' her books is completely another matter. Interesting that you thought Cal rang true as a Chicago cop, whereas Constance, below, did not. I, of course, have no idea. LOL!

Tina: Yes, French's Dublin murder squad series is certainly more well-known and thus has the better reputation than her standalones. I need to read more of the Dublin books to compare.

Susan: It must be so difficult to write a person from another country and from a background too that you have no experience of. Quite brave to be honest and I admire her for it.

Constance: So interesting that you felt Cal didn't ring true. I just wondered why he didn't involve the police when things got very hairy. No, I certainly would not have decided to stay after all that happened... I'd be on the first bus out of there sharpish. How would you ever feel safe?

CLM said...

Not only would you never feel safe but - apart from the home improvements - what is there to stay for? Friendship with the girl, whose name I've forgotten, isn't really practical and the sort-of girlfriend didn't seem to have much potential.

Of course, it's not usually practical to abandon a house you've paid for and may not be able to re-sell.

I am not familiar with Damian Boyd so will have to check him out!

Vintage Reading said...

I like your description of Swansong. Will check it out.

Cath said...

Constance: Well quite. 'Trey' her name was and yes, hardly practical for him to have much of a friendship with her as it might seem odd to the neighbours and who knows what they might do if they get it into their heads!

Nicola: Swansong was very good, the whole series is quite solid really.