So, I'm in the mood for a bit of a crime yarn binge at the moment. Always a fun thing to do as I seem to have no trouble finding three or four good mysteries in a row, whereas I'm struggling in other genres. For instance, I thought I would indulge in a personal challenge to read more science fiction this year and I have, but the books have been very variable and that's being 'kind'. Crime fiction doesn't do that to me, although it could also be that I've become very adept at judging which ones I'm going to like.
Anyway, first up, Death of an Author by E.C.R. Lorac. This is my 7th. book for Susan's Bookish Books Reading Challenge.
Author of popular crime fiction, Vivian Lestrange, is a recluse. Not just a 'bit' of a recluse, but an obsessive one, to the point where hardly anyone knows who he or she is. It's thought it's a man because of course only men can write really intense crime stories... And then his secretary, one of two people who know him, reports him missing. She's turned up for work and both him and his house-keeper have gone. But can her word be trusted? It's not long since she herself pretended to be Lestrange, sent by him to fool people. And is it a double-bluff? Is she in fact the author? The police, CI Warner and Inspector Bond, are completely at sea. They have no clue who's telling the truth and no idea how to proceed. As one of them stresses, what they could really do with is a dead body! It's only when Warner follows a lead to the beautiful countryside around the river Wye in Gloucestershire that things start to become clearer, or do they? E.C.R. Lorac is definitely my favourite of the authors that the British Library have 'rediscovered'. I honestly can't think how she disappeared as her books are so well written and so 'meaty'. This book was complicated and twisty. It's thought Lorac was poking fun at people who thought only men could write crime fiction although why they would've thought that back then when Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and so forth were so hugely popular is hard to say, but there you go. I so enjoyed this book and had no idea until quite near the end what was going on. Highly recommended along with her, Murder in the Mill-Race, Fire in the Thatch and many others.
Next, A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone. This was a book mentioned by Margot at Crime Writer Margot Kinberg wherein you will always find a lot of excellent posts about all aspects of crime fiction and loads of excellent recommendations. I highly recommend her blog and also her Youtube channel.
So this is an Edinburgh based story. Jim and Dorothy Skelf, both in their early seventies, run a funeral business and do private investigating on the side. When Jim dies, Dorothy, their daughter, Jenny, and grand-daughter, Hannah, feel completely adrift because he had handled most of the business side of things. Dorothy notices money has been going out of the account every month to a certain person, something she didn't know about. This forces her to wonder if she ever really knew her husband. Jenny, divorced and in her forties, has just lost her job so, reluctantly, moves back into the family home to help out. Hannah, at uni, needs help... her flat-mate has gone missing but the police will not help, citing anyone's right to go off if they want to. Hannah does not believe Mel would do this. The book is written from the pov of the three women and it's beautifully done, each woman having a very clear and succinct personality as portrayed by Doug Johnstone. Like all of us, they have life issues they're dealing with while trying to solve several cases at once, and all felt very real to me and representative of their own age-groups. I loved this one 'but' I think I should warn readers that there's a lot of detail of the work of funeral directors. 'Minute' detail. It will not be for everyone, in fact my husband picked it up off the library pile and after I had told him what it was about he quickly put it back again. Personally, I found it fascinating but then I am slightly weird. (Only 'slightly'?) This book has a twisty, convoluted, edgy feel to it, secrets abound, people are not what they seem and the women soon realise that jumping to hasty conclusions is not a good idea. I found the family dynamics endlessly fascinating too... three generations of women trying to get along and work together to solve cases. I loved it and will read on in the series, I think there're another three or four. Thanks for the recommendation, Margot!
Two five star Goodreads ratings in a row! That doesn't happen every day! I hope you too are finding some good books to read in June.