Wednesday 17 April 2024

Reading as a retreat from reality

I've been so grateful to be a reader since my husband passed away, just over a month ago. Not that I wasn't before of course, but having somewhere to escape to, where reality doesn't intrude, has been a huge comfort. For a few days even books didn't help but slowly I managed to get back into a book and the author I turned to was Agatha Christie. I have no idea why but she worked for me and the couple of books I read by her were a real escape.

I'll quickly list the books I read in March with one longer review that I had already written weeks ago.

18. The Last Bookshop in London - Madeline Martin

19. A Death in the Parish - Richard Coles

So, this is book two in the author's fairly new 'Canon Clement' mystery series. A new associate vicar is on the scene, Chris Biddle. He's taking over a couple of churches in Daniel Clement's parish so Daniel will have to work with him. But it's not easy as their views on church matters are opposing, Chris being of a more fundimental bent and Daniel, not. All this has to be put to one side though when the ritualistic murder of a teenage boy is discovered on a disused airbase. Policeman and friend of Daniel's, Neil Vanloo, is brought in to investigate and Daniel, as in the first book, helps him to solve the crime. Running alongside this are a couple of other issues including an elderly woman, nearing death, being preyed on by a couple who make it their business to insinuate themselves into death-bed families like this, hoping to pick up a legacy. (I'm assuming this is a 'thing'.) I thoroughly enjoyed this second book about Daniel and his parishioners. I like his mum, Audrey, far from any perfect vicar's mother, judging by what she was up in this instalment. There is some personal stuff which took rather an unexpected twist right at the very end. A genuine 'Wut?' moment. I hesitate to call this a 'cosy' because it has a slight edge in that some of the situations feel very real and quite gritty, but they're not written in a gritty manner. Coles writes in a gentle, non-judgemental, way about human foibles and mistakes and it's actually really well done. There is plenty of humour too. I suspect some situations are based on his personal experiences or that of people he knows and I found some of his theological explanations really interesting too. I gave it five stars on Goodreads, no agonising required.  I gather the next book is based in a monastery and as I love a good monkish murder story I can't wait for that. Murder at the Monastery is out in June I think. 

20. The World's Greatest Sea Mysteries - edited by Michael and Molly Hardwicke. What it says on the tin, an anthology of mysterious happenings on sea voyages etc. Entertaining in places but not fantastic. 

21. Lending a Paw - Laurie Cass.  Book one in the author's cost mystery series: 'Bookmobile Cat Mystery'. This is set in Michigan and revolves around a mobile lending library. There's a murder and a cat and lots of books so what's not to like? I loved it.

22. The Hairy Bikers, Blood, Sweat and Tyres - Si King and Dave Myers. This is a biography of the TV British cooking duo who're household names in the UK. Particularly poignant now of course because Dave Myers died of cancer about 2 months ago. A really enjoyable biography of two lovely men.

23. Best Detective Stories of Cyril Hare. I've been reading this vintage collection for several months and can't recommend it highly enough, it has some really excellent crime short stories in it.

24. Crooked House - Agatha Christie. Terrific story about a family living in a huge house and the death of the patriarch with all the money. Who, amongst the dozens of suspects, knocked him off? Agatha Christie at her best.

25. Passenger to Frankfurt - Agatha Christie. This spy type yarn didn't work quite so well for me and is known as one of her odder books I believe. But I still enjoyed it and noted that, as they say, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same' because much of what Christie worries about in this book are things which are still worrying us now. 

So that was my March reading. Six fiction books, two non-fiction, eight books in all. Personally, one of the strangest and most unsettling months I've experienced in my life and April is not much different if I'm honest. Books continue to be the place I retreat to and so far this month I've finished just two.

Silent Creed by Alex Kava is book two in her 'Ryder Creed' K9 series of crime novels. Quite gritty and scary in its background premise of experimental labs where we have no idea what's goes on inside and what happens when one is destroyed in a landslide. Really good.

Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley. This is a really excellent biography of the iconic crime writer. Having read Christie's own autobiography I thought it might be just a rehash of that but it wasn't at all. There was a lot more comment than I expected and clearly heaps of research done. A really good read and I also highly recommend the accompanying BBC documentary Lucy Worsley made. 

My current read is this:

A cosy murder mystery set at a writing weekend for authors who write erotic fiction: the narrator is there by mistake. The setting of Tuscany is gorgeous, the writing style is gently funny, and I'm really enjoying it.

I hope you're all doing well, enjoying the spring when it's not pouring with rain, and finding lots of good books to read.