Monday, 20 December 2010

An update

Help - I never realised ISBNs have the same number of digits and format as phone number and so if you want to dial an ISBN (not recommended) you might be surprised who you reach!!!

Bringing my reading list up-to-date. These are the bookd I have read since the last time I posted:-

Anthony Trollope – “The Warden” ***** ***** (for the second time)
First of the Barchester series

“Barchester Towers ***** **** (for the second time)

Dr Thorne ***** *** (for the second time)

The Small House at Allington ***** **** (for the second time)

Bernard Cornwell – “Redcoat” ***** ****

Thomas Hardy “The Mayor of Casterbridge” ***** ** (for the second time)

Thomas Hardy - “Far from the Madding Crowd” ***** **** (for the second time)

Paul Doherty – “Murder most Holy” ***** ***

One of the sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan

Veronica Stallwood – “Oxford Proof” ***** ***

Janie Bolitho – “Plotted in Cornwall” ***** ****

Ken Follett – “Paper Money” ***** ***

Pamela Oldfield – “The Great Plague” ***** *

Amanda Quick – “The Paid Companion” ***** **** Regency romance

Terry Pratchett – Truckers” ***** ****

Terry Pratchett – “Diggers” ***** ****

Terry Pratchett – “Wings” ***** ****

Terry Pratchett – “Carpet People” ***** ****

Emma Dent Diary Reardon Publishing, Cheltenham 1998 2nd ed 1999
ISBN 1 873877 28 5 56pp Selected writings from an exhibition at Sudeley Castle

Ronald Blythe "The Penguin Book of Diaries" 1989
0 14 012231 1 365pp

William Allingham 'A Diary 1824-1889' 1907
Introduced by John Julius Norwich. 0 14 057025 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              0 14 057025      end_of_the_skype_highlighting 404pp

Henry Kelsall Aspinall 'Birkenhead and its surroundings' 1903

Margaret Harris & Judith Johnston – the Journals of George Eliot 1998
0 521 57412 9 448pp

P J Harris 'The Movers and Shakers of Victorian England' 2006
10 1 90562 406 9 160pp

Colin Twist "A History of Liverpool Parks" 2000
1 872839 06 1 72pp

Richard Whittington-Egan "Liverpool Murders" 2009
9781904438885 381pp

Fred H Crossley "Cheshire" 1949

Ian Boumphrey "Yesterday's Liverpool" c2007
1-899241-25-6 128pp

Frank O'Reilly "The Liverpool Firebobbies" 2008
Vol 1 978-1-906823-08-5 312pp

Peter Aughton "Liverpool – A People's History" 1990
0-948789-43-3 232pp

S G Kendall "Farming Memoirs of a West Country Yeoman" 1944

Valerie Porter "Times Past in the Countryside" 2009
978-0-276-44404-3 256pp

Andrew Kerr-Jarrett "Life in the Victorian age" 1993
0 276 42121 3 160pp

Helen Kelsall & Keith Kelsall "Diary of a Victorian Miss on Holiday" 1992
1-8747128-00-8 156pp

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Review:- Ken FOLLETT – “The Third Twin”

Year Published: - 1996
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 333 66809 X
Pages: - 503pp
Genre: - Thriller; genetics
Location:- Baltimore
How I came across it: - Library book sale
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- In the course of her work a young woman comes across two men who appear to be identical twins and yet who have different parents and her investigations end up threatening her life – and those of others.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Jeannie Ferrami tries to trace how two boys from different mothers, born on different days and hundreds of miles apart can in all respects appear to be identical twins. Her investigations initially threaten only her job but soon she upsets folk enough for her life to be threatened.

AUTHOR Notes:- Kenneth Follett – see previous post.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Review:- Ken FOLLETT – “A Dangerous Fortune”

Year Published: - 1993
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 333 58031 1
Pages: - 434pp
Genre: - Historical thriller
Location:- Victorian England (1866-1890)
How I came across it: - Library book sale
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- The Pilasters, a great family of merchant bankers, are beset by greed and ambition in their bid for wealth and power but young Hugh Pilaster seems set to buck the Pilaster trend.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- In 1866 a fellow pupil of Hugh Pilaster and his cousin Edward is drowned at their public school and the ramifications of this event affect the Pilaster family for many years to come. Meanwhile, as the Pilaster banking empire grows Hugh, a poor relation, has varied fortunes as he falls in love, works hard and fights the villainy of his relatives at every turn.

General comments:- An excellent ‘’family empire’ tale from a master storyteller.

AUTHOR Notes:- Ken Follett, born in Wales in 1949, was only twenty-seven when he wrote Eye of the Needle, the award-winning novel which became an international bestseller and a distinguished film. Before that, he had been a newspaper reporter and a publishing executive after studying philosophy at University College, London. He has since written ten equally successful novels and the non-fiction bestseller, On Wings of Eagles. Ken Follett lives with his family in London and Stevenage.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Review:- David DICKINSON – “Death on the Holy Mountain”

Year Published: - 2008
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 9781845296032
Pages: - 312pp
Genre: - Historical Crime
Location:- Ireland, 1905
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- In 1905, Lord Francis Powerscourt investigates a series of art thefts from stately homes of the Protestant gentry in Ireland.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Powerscourt’s investigation is hampered by the fact that none of the gentry will reveal the contents of the blackmail notes he assumes they have received. Meanwhile, some local folk are building an oratory on the top of Croagh Patrick – hopefully in time for the annual pilgrimage to the summit. With his friend Johnny Fitzgerald Powerscourt slowly closes in but discover that their own patriotism is called into question.

General comments:- Humour, excellent writing, a wonderful summary of the Irish question and a cosy crime plot to boot – what more could one ask for from a book?

Lord Francis Powerscourt Series
1. Goodnight, Sweet Prince (2002)
2. Death and the Jubilee (2002)
3. Death of an Old Master (2004)
4. Death of a Chancellor (2004)
5. Death Called to the Bar (2006)
6. Death on the Nevskii Prospekt (2006)
7. Death On the Holy Mountain (2008)
8. Death of a Pilgrim (2009)
9. Death of a Wine Merchant (2010)
10. Death in a Scarlet Coat (2011)

And he knew that one of the many divisions into which the world’s population was split – those who can whistle and those who can’t, those who adore Venice and those who complain about the smell, those who can order drinks in theatre bars at the interval and those who can’t – was the distinction between those who can unwrap parcels neatly and those who can’t. Powerscourt knew his wife Lucy would have the thing open, the string tied neatly in a ball, the box itself virtually intact and the available for reuse in a minute or two.

He looked around the library once more, filled with words, millions of them. the most dangerous word in Ireland, he decided, inspecting critically a section devoted to theological works, was God. God or [perhaps Nation. On balance, he thought, God had it.

... genteel poverty, eking out the tea leaves for another afternoon, water the only drink in the house apart from the cheap whiskey which her father consumed to ease his sorrows. Even then he diluted it so heavily that the taste of the whiskey was like a noise heard far away, remote and distant as though a visitor was tiptoeing away from your house in the dark.

“No pain, no poem. I’ve never had much to do with the women myself,” he admitted, “too temperamental for me, but I’ve always understood that the one thing they’re good for is a bit of inspiration for the poetry writing classes when the normal things like drink have failed.”

“Too much history, that’s the trouble with Ireland,” said Powerscourt. “Pity you can’t sell bits of it off to some of these new places where they haven’t got any at all.”

AUTHOR Notes:- David Dickinson was born in Dublin. After receiving a first class honours degree in Classics from Cambridge he joined the BBC where he became editor of Newsnight and Panorama as well as being series editor on Monarchy, a three part programme on the current state and future prospects of the British royal family. David now lives in Barnes, South West London, Somerset or France accortding to which source you read!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Review: - Veronica BLACK – “Vow of Evil”

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 7090 7690 8
Pages: - 224pp
Genre: - Cosy Crime
Location:- Cornwall
How I came across it: - Library sale
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Sister Joan of the Order of the Daughters of Compassion has a habit of finding bodies and following an outbreak of vandalism in the village it looks like she is about to find another one.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- In addition to the vandalism, the devil is sighted in the churchyard and a dog is poisoned. The lack of new postulants in the order means that the postulancy is available for rent to a deserving family – but are they as deserving as they are made out to be.

General comments:- I haven’t read any Veronica Black before and was delighted to find a new cosy crime author. Definitely one to check out in the library.

AUTHOR Notes:- Veronica Black is a pseudonym of Maureen Peters (1935 - 2008) was born in Caernarvon, North Wales. She was educated at grammar school and attended the University College of North Wales, Bangor, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree and a diploma of Education. For some time she taught retarded children, and then took up writing. She has produced many books and contributed short stories to many magazines. Her other pseudonyms include Catherine Darby, Elizabeth Law, Judith Rothman, and Sharon Whitby.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Review:- Alexander McCall Smith – “The Double Comfort Safari Club”

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 1 4087 0105
Pages: - 248pp
Genre: - Cosy / General Fiction
Location:- Botswana
How I came across it: - New books shelf
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- In the latest installment from the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Mma Ramotswe searches for the beneficiary of a woman’s legacy and the fiancĂ© of her assistant, Mma Makutsi, meets with a serious mishap. During the course of their investigations they visit a safari park in the Okavango Delta.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- For those who don’t know the background to the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series they are set in Botswana and Mma Ramotswe, a traditionally-built lady, is a philosophizing detective married to a typically hard-working and kind motor mechanic, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. McCall Smith’s love of Botswana, its history and its people is apparent on every page.

General comments:- This is the eleventh book in the series. According to my blog I’ve missed the tenth ‘Tea Time for the Traditionally Built’ so I must hunt it out soon.

“All these facts were indeed both incontestable and well known; whereas Mma Ramotswe’s pronouncements, to which she attributed the special status of being well known, were often, rather, statements of opinion. There was a difference, thought Mr J.L.B. Maketoni, but it was not one he was planning to point out; there were some things, after all, that it was not helpful for a husband to say to his wife and that, he thought, was probably one of them.”

“That was the way the world was; it was composed of a few almost perfect people (ourselves); then there were a good many people who generally did their best but were not all that perfect (our friends and colleagues); and finally, there were a few rather nasty ones (our enemies and opponents). Most people fell into that middle group – those who did their best – and the last group was, thankfully, very small. and not ,much in evidence in places like Botswana, where he was fortunate enough to live.”

AUTHOR Notes:- Alexander McCall Smith – see The Right Attitude to Rain

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Review:- Sam SAVAGE – “Firmin”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978 0 7538 2339 2
Pages: - 232pp
Genre: - General Fiction
Location:- Boston
How I came across it: - Found in a charity shop
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- The brilliant tale of Firmin a self-educated rat who lives in a bookstore in the 1960s in a part of Boston scheduled for demolition.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

This is the remarkable tale of Firmin the rat – subtitled the adventures of a metropolitan lowlife. Born in a bookstore in a blighted 1960's Boston neighbourhood, Firmin miraculously learns how to read by digesting his nest of books. Alienated from his family and unable to communicate with the humans he loves, Firmin quickly realizes that a literate rat is a lonely rat. Following a harrowing misunderstanding with his hero, the bookseller, Firmin begins to risk the dangers of Scollay Square, finding solace in the Lovelies of the burlesque cinema. Finally adopted by a down-on-his-luck science fiction writer, the tide begins to turn, but soon they both face homelessness when the wrecking ball of urban renewal arrives.

General comments:-

“A wonderful celebration of the way reading enriches your life” (Guardian)

This described in my edition as Savage’s first novel but Fantastic Fiction shows he published a previous novel, “The Criminal Life of Effie O.”, in 2005.


“Obviously even at that early age I was already suffering from the catastrophic gifts of lexical hypertrophy, which has since done so much to mar the smooth course of what might otherwise have been a perfectly ordinary life.”

“I realized that this incredible disorder was one of the things that they loved about Pembroke Books.... They called it browsing, but it was more like excavation or mining. I was surprised they didn’t come in with shovels. They dug for treasures with bare hands, up to their armpits sometimes, and when they hauled some literary nugget from a mound of dross, they were much happier than if they had just walked in and bought it.”

“Unrequited love is bad. But unrequitable love can really get you down.”

“I always think everything is going to last forever, but nothing ever does. In fact nothing exists longer than an instant except the things that we hold in memory.”

“Mine was a large family, and soon thirteen of us were cruddled in its struins, to speak like itself, ‘chippy young cuppinjars cluttering round, clottering for their creams’...”

“Even though I consider myself lucky to have lived the liofe I did. I would not like to be that lucky twice.”

AUTHOR Notes:- A native of South Carolina, Sam Savage received his doctorate in philosophy from Yale.. He has worked as a bicycle mechanic, carpenter, commercial fisherman and letterpress printer. He now lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Review:- Rachel KING – “The Sound of Butterflies”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978 0 330 44916 8
Pages: - 354pp
Genre: - General Fiction
Location:- London and the Amazon rain forest, 1903
How I came across it: - Charity shop - serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- In 1903, Thomas Edgar, a passionate collector of butterflies, is given the opportunity to visit the Amazon rain forest but he returns a totally changed and his wife must try to find out why.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Edgar’s main aim is to find a mythical butterfly with one yellow wing and one black wing. If successful he will name it after his wife, Sophie, with whom he is much in love. But the events that occur in the jungle are such that he returns unable to speak and Sophie has to resort to devious means to find out what occurred.

From the demure gentility of Edwardian England to the decadence and horrors of the Brazilian rubber plantations the book explores the passions of the collector and the beauties of the butterflies that he chases.

General comments:- A stirring book, beautifully written and deeply moving.

The cover is a real work of art.

AUTHOR Notes:- Rachael King was born in New Zealand in 1970 and lives in Wellington. Her father, Michael King (who died in 2004), was one of New Zealand's most prominent authors, and her mother, Ros Henry, is a publisher. After leaving school, Rachael embarked on a university education, but was distracted along the way playing bass guitar in several rock bands and touring the country. Rachel has worked in radio, television, and magazines and played bass guitar in several bands. She won the 2005/6 Lilian Ida Smith award.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Review:- Colin WATSON – “Coffin, scarcely used”

Year Published: - 1958
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 1 84262 421 0
Pages: - 286pp
Genre: - Fun cosy crime
Location:- Lincolnshire, England
How I came across it: - Book sale at library
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- Following the funeral of Cllr Harold Carobleat the apparent;ly respectable inhabitants of Flaxborough discover that he is but the first of their number to require a coffin.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Inspector Purbright becomes involved and tries to work out how a series of adverts for antiques in the local newspaper impacts upon his case.

General comments:- The first in the series, this is the second Flaxborough book I’ve read – see The naked nuns

AUTHOR Notes:- Colin Watson (1920-1982)was a British writer of detective fiction and the creator of characters such as Inspector Purbright and Lucilla Teatime. He is most famous for the twelve 'Flaxborough' novels, typified by their comic and dry wit and set in a fictional small town in England.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Catching Up Again

Some of the recently read books that I didn’t get around to reviewing (not that the recent reviews have been in any depth).

Victoria Hanley – The Healer’s Keep *****
Manda Scott – Boudica ***** ***
Stephen Leather – The Bombmaker -***** ****
Michael Jecks – The Tolls of Death ***** ***
Tina French – The Likeness ***** *
Dam Brown – The Da Vinci Code ***** ****

Monday, 20 September 2010

Review:- Cora Harrison – “Eye of the Law”

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 0 7278 6873 2
Pages: - 219pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- The Burren, Ireland, 1510
How I came across it: - Continuing the series
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Mara, Brehon of the burren, has to investigate a twenty year old secret when a young man turns up claiming that the wealthy Ardal O’lochl;ann is his father.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- The young man and his uncle – from the Aran Islands arrive at a feast with their claim about the young man’s parentage. But the young man is soon killed and a murder investigation begins.

General comments:- I’m sure this is the third Mara novel I have read recently but there is only one other on this blog. Perhaps the other was ‘My Lady Judge’.
Burren Mysteries
1. My Lady Judge (2007)
2. Michaelmas Tribute (2008)
aka A Secret and Unlawful Killing
3. The Sting of Justice (2009)
4. Writ in Stone (2009)
5. Eye of the Law (2010)

AUTHOR Notes:- Cora Harrison

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Review:- Terry PRATCHETT - "I Shall Wear Midnight"

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- My Own Copy
ISBN: - 978 0 385 61107 7
Pages: - 345pp
Genre: - Humour
Location:- Discworld !
How I came across it: - Always get any new Pratchett as soon as published
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- The fourth Tiffany Aching book in the Discworld series.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Tiffany Aching knows that being a witch is not the most rewarding of jobs but when people start viciously turning against her she realizes something is amiss. A tangled ball of evil and spite has woken up. Her friends the Nac Mac Feegles get involved (of course) and Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg turn up near the end to see what’s going on.

General comments:- Ostensibly the Tiffany Aching books are for younger readers but all are quite readable for adults and this, in particular, is quire worthy of simply being classed as a general Discworld book.

AUTHOR Notes:- Terry Pratchett – see catching up.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Review:- James McCLINTOCK – “The Stonehenge Companion”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- Helen’s
ISBN: - 10 1 90562 408 5
Pages: - 157pp
Genre: - Non-fiction; Stonehenge; myths; prehistory
Location:- Stonehenge, Wiltshire
How I came across it: - Browsing Helen’s bookshelves
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- A dirst-class whistle-stop tour through the history, myth and magic of Stonehenge.

It sidetracks down every ley line available and ranges from white horses to the Waitapu stone circle in New Zealand.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Review:- Ed. Hilary McGLYNN – “Loads of Lists”

Year Published: - 2001
Where the book was from:- Helen’s
ISBN: - 1 85986 360 4
Pages: - 539pp
Genre: - Non-fiction – lists; trivia
How I came across it: - Checking out Helen’s bookcases
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- As it says on the cover – loads of lists to browse, dip into, skim or read from cover-to-cover (which I bet few people have).

1500+ thematically arranged lists to amuse, excite, entertain as much as to inform – covers the serious to the seriously whacky.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Review:- Roger ORMEROD – “Third Time Fatal”

Year Published: - 1992
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 7089-4712-3
Pages: - 380pp (Large print)
Genre: - Cosy Crime
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- Philipa Lowe’s schoolfriend Heather is at last taking the plunge and getting married but there is a hitch...

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- When Philipa and her friend Oliver go to attend the wedding all goes awry, not least because the groom’s bed is occupied by another woman – naked and deceased.

Quotations:- This has one of the best dedications I have come across“Dedicated with gratitude to Dorene for her invaluable advice on various aspects of the sex scene in Chapter four!”

AUTHOR Notes:- Roger Ormerod was born in 1920 and spent most of his life in the civil service. He has over 30 novels to his name.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Book Cycle

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Review:- Chips BARBER – “The Lost City of Exeter”

Year Published: - 1982
Where the book was from:- Charity Shop
Pages: - 152pp
Genre: - Non-fiction; topography
Location:- Exeter, Devon
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- A well-written guide book with lots of information about the immediate area surrounding Exeter.

It ranges from the heart of Exeter itself to the villages and suburbs now absorbed by its growth.

All fascinating stuff and illustrated with a number of black and white photos of Exeter as it was in olden days.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Review: - Kathy REICHS – “Bare Bones”

Year Published: - 2003
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 434 01036 7
Pages: - 306pp
Genre: - Forensic crime
Location:- Charlotte & Mecklenberg, USA -
How I came across it: - Knew Reichs by reputation
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Dr Temperance Brennan, Charlotte-Mecklenberg’s medical examiner has the remains of a baby to examine before going on holiday but then other bodies start turning up.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- A Cessna plane crashes into a rock increasing Tempe’s workload. A cache of bones then turns up in a remote corner of the county making her vacation slip even further. Well plotted, good characterisation and up to the standard I had expected of Reichs. I have read one some years ago but cannot recall what I thought of it.

AUTHOR Notes:- Kathy Reichs, born 1950, is forensic anthropologist for the Offices of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina, and for the Laboratorie de Sciences Judiciaires et de M-decine L-gale for the province of Quebec. A professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she divides her time between Charlotte and Montreal and is a frequent expert witness in criminal trials.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Review:- Paul DOHERTY – “The Mysterium”

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978 0 7553 5457 3
Pages: - 312pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- London 1304
How I came across it: - Continuing to read this author
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- It is 1304 and London is in crisis following a succession of brutal murders when Walter Evesham, Chief Justice of the king’s Bench, falls from grace.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
It appears the Mysterium, a killer once brought to justice by Evesham has returned. Sir Hugh Corbett is ordered to investigate.

General comments:-
This is the seventeenth Hugh Corbett mystery.

AUTHOR Notes:- See Paul Doherty

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Review: Paul ADAM – “Sleeper”

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- Exeter Library
ISBN: - 0 316 72432 7
Pages: - -
Genre: - Thriller, Crime
Location:- Italy and England
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- A brilliant story of the murder of an elderly violin-maker whose two friends (one a police officer) travel around Italy and England in search of a missing Stradivari that they believe caused the murder.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- A fascinating account of violin-making and its history together with a well plotted crime story. Myth, music, mystery and murder all rolled into one. Definitely an author to follow in the future.

“He has a reputation as a man who would not only sell his own mother, but put them out to tender.”
“In days gone by, the Venetians had a reputation for savage cruelty... still coontinue in a modified form in St Mark’s; not the garrote or the rack of yore, but something infinitely more subtle and pitiless – the cafe orchestra.2
“ Cremona is a bit like the appendix; people have heard of it, know vaguely wehere it is, but they can’t quite recall what it’s for.”

AUTHOR Notes:- Paul Adam (b 1958) is a journalist and the author of six novels. The blurb says “He has recently returned to the city of his birth after spending several years in Nottingham.” Unfortunately it doesn’t mention where the city of his birth was!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Review - Aubrey MALONE - "Literary Trivia"

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- Helen's (Helen originally got it from me - I recognised the pencil marks in it!)
ISBN: - 1 85375 474 9
Pages: - 304pp
Genre: - Trivia, literature
Location: - -
How I came across it: - Meandering around Helen's bookshelves
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- An excellent book of literary trivia and the weird and wonderful behaviour of the world's wordsmiths.

General comments:- Having commented about poor indices in other trivia books the first point I should make is that this has an excellent one.

There are lists of every type imaginable and some that you could never have imagined!

An ideal book for both dipping into or reading from cover to cover.

AUTHOR Notes:- Aubrey Malone has published a number of humorous volumes including The Cynic’s Dictionary.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Review:- Vivian COOK - "Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary"

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- Helen's
ISBN: - 1 86197 623 2
Pages: - pp
Genre: - Orthography
Location: - British and American English
How I came across it: - Browsing Helen and Ian's bookshelves
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A great book for those who want to learn to spell better or who think they already know how (and may be proved wrong).

General comments:- A book that can either be dipped into or read cover to cover. As well as covering many of the rules of spelling, the differences between American and British English and word games this book has a wide variety of miscellaneous trivia related to spelling.
Annoyingly there is no index. What is it about these dip-into, trivia type books that they are either not indexed or poorly indexed. They are just the sort of book one wants to check things in.

"It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word."
US President Andrew Jackson

AUTHOR Notes:- Vivian Cook is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Newcastle University.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Review:- James McClintock - "The Stonehenge Companion"

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- Helen's
ISBN: - 10 1 90562 408 5
Pages: - 157pp
Genre: - Non-fiction; Antiquities; Miscellanea and trivia
Location: - Stonehnge
How I came across it: - Browsing Helen and Ian's bookshelves
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A miscellany of myths, theories, trivia and facts about Stonehenge and other antiquities.

General comments:- The index is annoyingly poor but that apart this is a great book to dip into or browse through at leisure.

AUTHOR Notes:- -

Monday, 23 August 2010

Review:- Lin ANDERSON – “Final Cut”

Year Published: - 2009
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 0 340 92244 6
Pages: - 344pp
Genre: - Crime
Location:- Glasgow and surrounding area
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- Lost in a snow storm after her mother’s car crashed, a young girl is found in woods clutching a skull; thereby distracting forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod from investigating a body in a burned skip.

General comments:- This is the sixth Rhona MacLeod book.

I don't like the cover - which shows a damaged doll. A skull would have been acceptable but the damaged doll makes it seem like a horror story - it nearly put me off reading it.

AUTHOR Notes:- Lin Anderson was born in Greenock of Scottish and Irish parents. A graduate of both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, she has lived in many different parts of Scotland and also spent five years working in the African bush. A teacher of Mathematics and Computing, she began her writing career four years ago. Her first film, Small Love, which was broadcast on STV, was nominated for TAPS writer of the year award 2001. Her African short stories have been published in the 10th Anniversary Macallan collection and broadcast on BBC Radio Four.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Review:- David ARMSTRONG – “A Kind of Acquaintance”

Year Published: - 2007
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978-0-7278-6579-3
Pages: - 214pp
Genre: - Cosy Crime
Location:- English Midlands
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *
One sentence summary:- D I Frank Kavanagh and his girlfriend DC Jane Salt hunt for the killer of an author who lived on a houseboat on the canal and in so doing find themselves involved in the decades old disappearance of a paper boy.

General comments:- This is the fourth Kavanagh and Salt novel.

AUTHOR Notes:- David ARMSTRONG, born 1946, held various jobs before going back to college and reading English at university. He then taught English in Shropshire where he still lives.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Review:- Craig RUSSELL – “Blood Eagle”

Year Published: - 2005
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 09 180014 5
Pages: - 405pp
Genre: - Crime
Location:- Hamburg
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *
One sentence summary:- A rather complex German police drama.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- A serial killer with a horrific trademark is active in Hamburg but when Erster Kriminialhauptkommisar Fabel begins to investigate he finds that various other branches of the police and security forces are involved, making him question who are the good guys and who are the baddies.

General comments:- The various branches of the police and security forces are confusing for a non-German and the plot itself gets a bit difficult in its later stages. Nevertheless, the writing and the characterization make it a worthwhile read.

This is the first of five Jan Fabel novels.

AUTHOR Notes:- Craig Russell was born in Scotland in 1956.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Review: - Paul ADAM – “Knife Edge”

Year Published: - 2008
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978-0-95572777-0-2
Pages: - 428pp
Genre: - Crime
Location:- London, East Anglia
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- Excellent thriller with some remarkable – and horrifying – insights into the fearful and impoverished lifestyles of illegal immigrants, the use of what is effectively slave labour in the food industry, and the fight to cut costs in the supermarket chains.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Following the death of an illegal immigrant, an investigative reporter goes undercover and gets himself smuggled into the UK and poses as an Albanian migrant worker. The book delves deeply into the cutthroat, cut-price food and agri-industries. What we pay for cheap food comes at a price.

General comments:
- An exhilarating mix of high precision plotting, gripping action and thought-provoking social realism, Knife Edge affirms Paul Adam’s reputation as one of the masters of the contemporary thriller.

AUTHOR Notes:- Paul Adam, born 1958, is a journalist . Paul Adam has written eleven critically-acclaimed thrillers for adults. His books have sold widely around the world and have been translated into several foreign languages. He has recently returned to the city of his birth (which is what??) after spending several years in Nottingham.

Review:- Jane A ADAMS – “Heatwave”

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0-7278-6141-7
Pages: - 204pp
Genre: - Crime
Location:- England
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *
One sentence summary:- Ex-policewoman Naomi Blake – blinded in a car accident – is caught up in a bank robbery that goes wrong adn ends up with the staff and customers being held hostages.

General comments:- Easy-going crime novel of no great shakes but a pleasant enough read.

AUTHOR Notes:- Jane A Adams was born in Leicestershire where she still lives. She has a degree in sociology and has held a variety of jobs including lead vocalist inb a folk-rock band. Her first book, The Greenway, was short-listed for the CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Review:- Terry JONES – “Medieval Lives”

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 1 4056 4800 7
Pages: - 296pp (Large Print)
Genre: - Non-fiction - History
Location:- Britain
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A very funny, intriguing and educational guide to some of the lesser known facts about the Middle Ages and life therein.

General comments:- Sid you know that England once had a King Louis, that no pone in the middle ages really believed the world was flat or that monks didn’t wear underpants? Just a few of the fascinating things that emerge when you read this book which was the basis of a TV series (or vice versa).

AUTHOR Notes:- Terry Jones - Terence Graham Parry Jones (born 1 February 1942) is a Welsh comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director, children's author, popular historian, political commentator and TV documentary host. He is best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy team.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Review:- Clare CURZON – “Last to Leave”

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 1-84395-722-1
Pages: - 394pp (large Print)
Genre: - Cosy Thriller
Location:- London and Venice
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *
One sentence summary:- An eightieth birthday party turns out to be more of an event than expected when the house where the family are gathered burns down around them.

General comments:-
A fairly typical family intrigue story with the added bonus of a murder, an assault, a kidnapping and a few other things thrown in. Spt Mike Yeadings of the Thames Valley police gets involved. At first it was a credible story but sadly it got less credible as it went on. Quite enjoyable but I prefer even my cosy crime / thrillers to be a bit more believable.

AUTHOR Notes:- Clare CURZON began writing in the 1960s and has published more than forty novels under a variety of pseudonyms. She studied French and psychology at King’s College, London and much of her work is concerned with the dynamics of close-knit communities. A grandmother to seven she also enjoys painting. Last to Leave is the tenth in the Mike Yeadings series.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Review:- Martin EDWARDS – “The Arsenic Labyrinth”

Year Published: - 2007
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 7490 8111 2
Pages: - 380pp
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- Lake District, England
How I came across it: - Continuing to read this author’s works
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- ‘Cold case’ investigator, DCI Hannah Scarlett examines the disappearance of a woman ten years earlier only to find the case is linked with both older and newer crimes.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- After a newspaper does an article about the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Emma Bestwick the cold case team are told to investigate it. Their findings are not what anyone expected.

General comments:- A particularly good plot and this being the third Hannah Scarlett book I’ve read i quite like the various characters who are in each one.

AUTHOR Notes:- Martin Edwards – see The Coffin Trail

Monday, 9 August 2010

Benjamin HOFF – “The Tao of Pooh”

Benjamin HOFF – “The Tao of Pooh”
illustrated by E. H. Shepard; Methuen 1982.

This is an extract from a review I wrote many years ago:-

A remarkable book – so clever in capturing two concepts – the innocent ramblings of Pooh Bear and the depth of the Tao te ching. It is wise in its conclusions.

You can own a book – as I do this one. but occasionally there comes along a book which owns you. It cries out to be treated in some special way. One wants to publicise its brilliance and help it to stand out amongst its fellows with signs saying “Read Me” and “I’m Special”. The Tao of Pooh is just such a book.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Review:- Ann GRANGER – “A Better Quality of murder”

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 0 7553 4908 1
Pages: - 312pp
Genre: - Historical Crime
Location:- Victorian London, 1867
How I came across it: - Reading through this author’s works.
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- This is the third Lizzie Martin and Inspector Ben Ross crime story.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

A spooky creature known as The River Wraith is frightening prostitues alongside the Thames but is he responsible for the murder of a woman in London’s Green Park. As Ben begins to investigate his wife Lizzie gets herself involved.

AUTHOR Notes:- see A Rare Interest in Corpses

Monday, 2 August 2010

Review:- Jeffrey ASHFORD – “Fair Exchange is Robbery”

Year Published: - 2003
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0-7278-7390-3
Pages: - 304pp (Large print)
Genre: - Crime
Location:- England
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- A cleverly crafted crime story.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

A bank’s computer whizz-kid is kidnapped on his way home from work but when the kidnapper’s hit a pedestrian and change their plans. The result for the innocent kidnap victim is devastating.

AUTHOR Notes:- Jeffrey ASHFORD has published over 130 books under various pseudonyms. His Inspector Alvarez series is one of his most popular ones and is published under his real name, Roderic Jeffries. RODERIC JEFFRIES was born in London in 1926 and was educated at Southampton's School of Navigation. In 1943 he went to sea with the New Zealand Shipping Company and returned to England in 1949 where he was subsequently called to the Bar. He practiced law for a brief period before starting to write full time.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Review:- Martin EDWARDS – “The Serpent Pool”

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978-0-7490-0789-8
Pages: - 350pp
Genre: - Crime
Location:- Lake District
How I came across it: - Continuing to read his books
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- A good modern day crime novel set in a fictional but credible valley among my childhood haunts.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

Hannah Scarlett, the Lake District’s cold case specialist once again becomes personally involved as she investigates a case which was at the time considered to be a possible suicide. In the meantime her partnership with bookseller Marc Amos comes under threat as they both meet folk who incite unexpected feelings.

General comments:- A thoroughly enjoyable cosy crime with the added advantage of being set in the Lake District (though surely the Serpent Pool should have been called Snake Tarn!)

De Quincey:- “If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.”

AUTHOR Notes:- See The Coffin Trail

Friday, 30 July 2010

Review:- Janie BOLITHO – “Lessons in Logic”

Year Published: - 2002
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 7540 7486 2
Pages: - 281pp (Large print)
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- Fictional Rickenham Green (S England)
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- A series of obscene phone calls to a number of women become even more serious wehn one of them is murdered.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- DCI Roper and his team go from investigating nuisance phone calls to a murder; with the threat of more deaths to come. A number of suspects are placed before the police This is the twelfth book starring DCI Roper.

General comments:- A clever plot and well delineated characters make for an enjoyable but not spectacular read.

AUTHOR Notes:- Born in Falmouth, Cornwall, Janie Bolitho enjoyed a variety of careers - psychiatric nurse, debt collector, working for a tour operator, a book-maker's clerk - before becoming a full time writer. Sadly, Janie Bolitho died of breast cancer in 2002.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Review:- Ariana FRANKLIN – “Mistress of the Art of Death”

Year Published: - 2007
Where the book was from:- Pensby library
ISBN: - 9780553818000
Pages: - 507pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- Cambridge 1171
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- An excellent mystery set in Henry II’s reign as a female doctor from Salerno sets out to investigate the deaths of children which have been blamed on the local Jews.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- In Cambridge a child has been hideously murdered and some others have disappeared. The King of Siciliy sends one of his ‘fixers’ together with a female doctor from Salerno and her Arabic eunuch servant. This unlikely trio join some pilgrims from Canterbury and arrive at Cambridge just as the other children’s bodies are discovered. It is a great crime story, a fine historical tale and a well characterised work. I shall certainly be hunting other Ariana Franklin works. So far there are four books in the series:-

1. The Mistress of the Art of Death (2007)
2. The Serpent's Tale (2008)
aka The Death Maze
3. Relics of the Dead (2009)
aka Grave Goods
4. A Murderous Procession (2010)
aka The Assassin's Prayer

General comments:- This story has a certain basis in fact and I certainly seemed to recognise parts of it. I have a feeling that I have not only read about the events themselves but also another work of fiction with the same subject. Nevertheless, this is a first class work.

AUTHOR Notes:- Ariana Franklin is a pseudonym used by Diana Norman. After working on local newspapers in Devon and the East End of London, Diana Norman became, at twenty years of age, the youngest reporter on what used to be Fleet Street. She married the film critic Barry Norman, and they have settled in Hertfordshire with their two daughters. Her first book of fiction, Fitzempress's Law, was chosen by Frank Delaney of BBC Radio 4's Bookshelf as the best example of a historical novel of its year. She is now a freelance journalist, as well as a writer of biographies and historical novels.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Review - Peter MARREN (author) & Richard MABEY (editor) – “Bugs Britannica”

Year Published: - 2010
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978-0701181802
Pages: - 512pp (A4 format)
Genre: - Science and nature; invertebrates
Location:- Britain
How I came across it: - Recommended by Amazon
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- An eclectic mix of stories, scientific fact and general observations about the invertebrates of Britain.


General comments:-  

Undoubtedly my book of the year.

This wonderful collection does not set out to be a field guide or a comprehensive review of the many species of invertebrate but looks at each group and its relationship to man and his culture. It contains amusing stories; folklore; unusual scientific trivia; wonderful illustrations and is the sort of book you can either dip into or read from cover to cover. In closing their blog which sought contributions, the authors and publishers thanked “our many helpers and contributors who have enlivened the book with fascinating personal encounters with the invertebrate world. Whether or not your stories, anecdotes, poems and pictures appear in the book, we are grateful for them all. Together they indicate that the ongoing relationship of the British and their bugs is based not simply, as in times past, on whether we find them useful or harmful. We have developed a sympathy for other lives and a concern for the shrinking space we can spare for wild land in a crowded island. Your stories also tell of the constant pleasure we take from watching insects, whether it is enjoying the sight of dragonflies hawking over the garden pond, or moths arriving on a brightly lit sheet, or simply hearing the comforting hum of bees on a warm summer afternoon.”

Truly marvelous and a worthy successor to Flora Britannica and Birds Britannica,

AUTHOR Notes:- Peter Marren is the author of The New Naturalists (1995); Nature Conservation (2002); and co-author Art of the New Naturalists (2009).

Richard Mabey (born 20 February 1941) is a naturalist and author. He has been called by The Times 'Britain's greatest living nature writer'. Among his acclaimed publications are Food for Free, The Unofficial Countryside and The Common Ground, as well as his study of the nightingale, Whistling in the Dark. His book about Gilbert White won the 1986 Whitbread Biography of the Year. Richard Mabey devised, researched and wrote the ground breaking bestseller Flora Britannica, which won the British Book Awards’ Illustrated Book of the Year and the Botanical Society of the British Isles’ President’s Award and was runner-up for the BP Natural World Book Prize.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Review:- Catherine AIRD – “Losing Ground”

Year Published: -2007
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978-0-7490-8050-1
Pages: - 222pp
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- Fictional Calleshire (S England)
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *
One sentence summary:- The theft of an 18th century painting precedes a fire in the building depicted in it causing the Calleshire police to find a very tangled web surrounding the house and some bones that are found in it.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- This is the 21st story starring Detective Inspector Sloan and his colleagues.

General comments:-
I thoroughly enjoyed this story but have knocked it down by two stars because the plot makes an inaccurate assumption that is key to the solution. I can’t say what it is without spoiling the plot for anyone who hasn’t read it but anyone who has worked in local government and as a company secretary will appreciate that what is supposed to have happened would have been extremely unlikely.

AUTHOR Notes:-
Catherine Aird (born 1930) holds an honorary MA from the University of Kent and was made an MBE. In addition to her crime stories she has written a series of village histories.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Review:- P D JAMES – “Innocent Blood”

Year Published: - 1980
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 7540 1678 1
Pages: - 427pp (large print)
Genre: - Crime, psychology
Location:- London
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** *****
One sentence summary:- An eighteen year old adopted girl decides to find out who her real parents were but the answer is shocking in all senses of the word.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Philippa Palfrey had always fantasized that she was the daughter of an aristocrat and a parlourmaid but the truth is far more shocking than that. And her meeting with her birth mother creates the setting for a potential murder.

General comments:- Probably the best P D James i have read. The characters are all so credible and the plot twists its way through the book towards a finale which can hardly be guessed at. A really 'unputdownable' crime novel.

AUTHOR Notes:-
P D James see The Lighthouse

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Review - Lilian Jackson BRAUN – “The Cat who Talked Turkey”

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 7531 7011 6
Pages: - 172pp (large Print)
Genre: - Weird, cosy crime
Location:- Moose County, USA
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - *****
One sentence summary:- The town of Pickax prepares to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for a new bookstore but Jim Qwilleran knows all is not well when his cat Koko gives a yowl that suggests an untimely death has taken place.

General comments:
- I’m not sure who is more weird – the ‘hero’ Jim Qwilleran – or his cats that have e.s.p. Even though between them they made for a story which I had to finish I’ll not be reading another. I think you have to have a certain sense of humour to get the best out of Braun’s 30 cat novels and I haven’t quite got it.

AUTHOR Notes:-
From Fantastic Fiction:-
The history of Lilian Jackson Braun (b 1913) is perhaps as exciting and mysterious as her novels. Between 1966 and 1968, she published three novels to critical acclaim; The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern and The Cat Who Turned On and Off. In 1966, The New York Times labeled Braun, "the new detective of the year." Then, for reasons unknown, the rising mystery author disappeared from the publishing scene.

It wasn't until 1986 that the Berkley Publishing Group reintroduced Braun to the public with the publication of an original paperback, The Cat Who Saw Red. Within two years, Berkley released four new novels in paperback and reprinted the three mysteries from the sixties.

Even though Braun claims that her cats have never done anything extraordinary, her fictional cats, Koko and Yum Yum, solve crimes and delight fans in book after book. Braun says the reason for her success is that "people are simply tired of all the blood. I write what is called the classic mystery." She says that while "not all mystery fans may like cats, all cat-fanciers seem to like mysteries. That makes for a large audience, since 26% of all American households own 53.9 million cats between them."

Braun was the "Good Living" editor of The Detroit Free Press for 29 years. She is retired from journalism and is currently writing mysteries full-time. She lives with two Siamese cats and her husband, Earl Bettinger, in North Carolina.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Review:- June BARRACLOUGH – “Deadly Grief”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 1-84617-438-4
Pages: - 416pp (large print)
Genre: - Cosy Crime
Location:- East Anglia
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- The occupants of a quiet East Anglian close appear to be a typical bunch of people but an attack on a young girl, followed by a suspicious death leads to the discovery that they nearly all have their secrets.

General comments:-
This cosy crime novel is made a cut above the average by the skifull plotting.:

AUTHOR Notes:-
June Barraclough, born 1930, died in 2006 and this was the last of her 24 fiction books to be published.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Books at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Dunham Massey country house in Cheshire has a wonderful looking library.  Imagine bein able to explore this at length.  (Though I have no doubt a lot of the titles will be boring theological tracts from times gone by.)

And there are, of course, other collections of books scattered around the house like those in this cabinet (by Chippendale?).

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Review – Matthew HART – “The Irish Game”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 1 84617 307 8
Pages: - 264pp (Large Print)
Genre: - Non Fiction, Crime, Art
Location:- Ireland, USA, Norway
How I came across it: - Serendipity
Rating: - ***** ****

One sentence summary:- A true story of crime and art including how Vermeer’s “Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid” – on of the world’s most expensive pictures - was stolen twice and recovered by two Irish policemen – a father and son.

“If they lose it again, they can get it back themselves”, said Liam Hogan to his father. Ned Hogan pondered this remark and then amended it, “If we get it back again,” he said, “we keep it”.

Both times it was recovered the art restorers who had it in their hands discovered something new about the painting and the techniques that Vermeer used.

Goya, Rembrandt, Rubens – the Beit art collection was worth millions. For twenty-two years, Sir Alfred and Lady Beit lived peacefully at Russborough House in Ireland. Then people started stealing their paintings. From the burglary at Russborough by IRA-sympathiser Rose Dugdale to the break-in by the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill, Matthew Hart follows the fortunes of Sir Alfred’s stolen paintings. Hart uncovers the webs of intrigue that surround these and other major art thefts, and how masterpieces are used as collateral in multi-million deals by arms and drugs barons.

The story is cleverly put together to give a sequence to a series of separate crimes with separate motives so that a most enjoyable tale emerges. It includes the theft and recovery of The Scream.

Rerview – Ann GRANGER – “Mud, muck and dead things”

Year Published: - 2009
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 0 7553 2051 6
Pages: - 281pp
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- Cotswolds
How I came across it: - Continuing to read this author’s works
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Inspector Jess Campbell investigates the discovery of a dead girl in a lonely and deserted barn while ta the same time coping with a new superintendent, Ian Carter.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Lucas Barton hates the countryside. To him it’s nothing but mud, much and dead things. Unfortunately when he turns up at a lonely barn for an illicit rendezvous he finds out that the dead things can include young girls. He flees the scene but is spotted by Penny Gower, a local stable owner. It isn’t that long before Barton gets a visit from someone he’d rather not get involved with...

General comments:- This new series of Campbell and Carter looks like a worthy partner for the Mitchell and Markby crime novels. Ann Granger is rapidly becoming one of my favourite cosy crime writers.

AUTHOR Notes:- See A rare interest in corpses.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Review:- Nicola UPSON – “An Expert in Murder”

Year Published: - 2008
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: -978 1 40742 904 5
Pages: - 440pp (Large Print ed.)
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- London, 1934, West end theatre world
How I came across it: - Serendipity – noticed the name Josephine Tey (one of my favourite crime writers) on the cover.
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Josephine Tey travels down from her Inverness home to take the plaudits of her fans as the last week of her play ‘Richard’ commences but one fan gets killed on the train and more look set to follow.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Using the real-life Josephine Tey as a basis for this crime novel the author gives her a fictional friend who just happens to work for Scotland Yard. When a fellow traveller on her train is murdered the connection between Tey’s play and the victim is soon apparent. More villainy soon follows...

General comments:- Well-written, a clever mix of using the real-life Josephine and the real setting of the New Theatre with a plot almost worthy of Tey herself. This has been followed up with a second Josephine Tey novel – “Angel with two faces”.

AUTHOR Notes:- Nicola Upson was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, and is the author of two non-fiction works, and the recipient of an Escalator Award from Arts Council England. She lives with her partner and splits her time between Cambridge and Cornwall, where the next novel in the series is set.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Review:- Ann GRANGER – “A Restless Evil”

Year Published: - 2002
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 7472 7472 X
Pages: - 280pp
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- Cotswolds
How I came across it: - Continuing this author’s works
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- Detective Superintendent Alan Markby and his fiancee Meredith Mitchell go house-hunting only to find themselves embroiled in a twenty year mystery and a much more recent murder.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Markby is foolish enough to house-hunt in the very village which had left him with an unsolved case twenty years earlier. The finding of some old human bones in the local wood lead to death rearing it’s ugly head.

General comments:- A great skill at story-telling combined with a good plot, realistic locations and a likeable pair of sleuths make this a first rate cosy crime novel.

The series so far:-
Mitchell and Markby Village
1. Say It With Poison (1991)
2. A Season For Murder (1991)
3. Cold In The Earth (1992)
4. Murder Among Us (1992)
5. Where Old Bones Lie (1993)
6. A Fine Place For Death (1994)
7. Flowers For His Funeral (1994)
8. Candle For A Corpse (1995)
9. A Touch Of Mortality (1996)
10. A Word After Dying (1996)
11. Call The Dead Again (1998)
12. Beneath These Stones (1999)
13. Shades of Murder (2000)
14. A Restless Evil (2002)
15. That Way Murder Lies (2004)

AUTHOR Notes:- Ann Granger, born 1939, held various jobs in the diplomatic service and now lives near Oxford.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Review:- Susanna GREGORY – “The Mark of a Murderer”

Year Published: -2005
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 316 72640 0
Pages: - 465pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- Cambridge, 1350s
How I came across it: - Library
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Another Matthew Bartholomew tale in which the strange behaviour of our hero physician is as much the talk of the town as is the latest series of murders in which he is involved.

AUTHOR Notes:- See “A plague on both your houses

Review:- Ann GRANGER – “A Mortal Curiosity”

Year Published: - 2008
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 0 7553 2048 6
Pages: - 312pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- Hampshire, 1864
How I came across it: - Continuing this author’s works
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- The second Lizze Martin /Ben Ross crime story sees Lizzie involvced in more murders as she goes to be a companion in Hampshire.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Lizzie is asked to be a companion to a woman who is recovering from childbirth but whose child has died. The woman will not accept that herchild is dead but there’s no do8bting the corpse in the garden has departed this life.

General comments:- Set in 1864 the background detail is as much fun as the criminal element of Ann Granger’s story

AUTHOR Notes:-
Ann Granger, born 1939, held various jobs in the diplomatic service and now lives near Oxford.

Review: James FOLLET – “The Temple of the Winds”

Year Published: -
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 9780727855688
Pages: -
Genre: - Science Fiction
Location:- fictional – nr Chichester
How I came across it: - Pensby Library booksale
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Science fiction in the John Wyndham style about a town cut-off from the rest of the country after a strange occurrence in the local swamp.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
In Pentworth, near Chichester, supplies of electricity, gas and water are mysteriously diminishing. Then, suddenly, a force field surrounds the town, through which no-one can pass, and the population is completely cut off from the outside world by an unknown force.

General comments:-
Is there such a thing as cosy science fiction? If so, this is it.


AUTHOR Notes:-
James Follett (born in the UK in 1939) has written twenty bestselling novels, including The Tiptoe Boys (filmed as Who Dares Wins), over fifty radio and TV scripts and numerous computer games strategies. He created BBC Radio 4's widely acclaimed SF serial, Earthsearch. He lives in England and Spain.

Monday, 21 June 2010

More catching up

Having finished the adult Discworld books I have now just read the three Tiffany Aching children's books by Terry Pratchett.

The Wee Free Men

A Hat full of Sky

The Wintersmith

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Catching up

Some of the books I have read over the last few weeks-

James FOLLET – “The Temple of the Winds” (cosy science fiction) ***** **

Peter TREMAYNE – “Act of Mercy” (Sister Fidelma – Irish mystery 666AD) ***** ***

W. J. BURLEY – “Wycliffe’s Wild-goose Chase” (cosy crime) ***** **

W. J . BURLEY – “Wycliffe and the Quiet Virgin” (cosy crime) ***** **

S. T. HAYMON – “Death of a Warrior Queen” ( D I Ben Jurnet – cosy crime) ***** **

Ruth RENDELL – “No More Dying Then” (Wexford - crime) ***** **

Terry PRATCHETT – Discworld Series

I’m in the process of re-reading the whole Discworld series – I’m up to 24 so far..... It’s hard to decide what rating to give them. First time round many of them would have rated a ten. Second time round a few still do. I’ve tried to rate them as I would have done first time round.

1. The Colour of Magic (1983) ***** *****
2. The Light Fantastic (1986) ***** *****
3. Equal Rites (1987) ***** *****
4. Mort (1987) ***** *****
5. Sourcery (1988) ***** ****
6. Wyrd Sisters (1988) ***** *****
7. Pyramids (1989) ***** ****
8. Guards! Guards! (1989) ***** *****
9. Eric (1990) ***** ****
10. Moving Pictures (1990) (not re-read) ***** ****
11. Reaper Man (1991) ***** *****
12. Witches Abroad (1991) ***** *****
13. Small Gods (1992) ***** *****
14. Lords and Ladies (1992) ***** *****
15. Men at Arms (1993) ***** *****
16. Soul Music (1994) ***** ****
17. Interesting Times (1994) ***** *****
18. Maskerade (1995) ***** *****
19. Feet of Clay (1996) ***** ****
20. Hogfather (1996) (not re-read) ***** ****
21. Jingo (1997) ***** *****
22. The Last Continent (1998) ***** ****
23. Carpe Jugulum (1998) ***** *****
24. The Fifth Elephant (1999) ***** *****
25. The Truth (2000) ***** *****
26. Thief of Time (2001) ***** *****
27. Night Watch (2002) ***** *****
28. Monstrous Regiment (2003) ***** *****
29. Going Postal (2004) ***** *****
30. Thud! (2005) ***** *****
31. Making Money (2007) ***** *****
32. Unseen Academicals (2009) ***** *****

Terry Pratchett is one of the most popular authors writing today. He lives behind a keyboard in Wiltshire and says he 'doesn't want to get a life, because it feels as though he's trying to lead three already'. He was appointed OBE in 1998. He is the author of the phenomenally successful Discworld series and his trilogy for young readers, The Bromeliad, is scheduled to be adapted into a spectacular animated movie. His first Discworld novel for children, THE AMAZING MAURICE AND HIS EDUCATED RODENTS, was awarded the 2001 Carnegie Medal.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Review:- Kate PENNINGTON – “Tread Softly”

Year Published: - 2003
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 9780340873434
Pages: - 247pp
Genre: - Historical
Location:- Plymouth and London; 1585
How I came across it: - Pensby Library booksale
Rating: - *****
One sentence summary:- An average historical novel about the a girl who makes the cloak with which Walter Raleigh saves his Queen’s shoes from the mud.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
The one sentence summary has done so though there are conspiracy and murder thrown in for good measure!

General comments:-
Not my scene – a bit shallow and lacking in historical detail though it makes plenty of use of the characters of the time.

AUTHOR Notes:-
Kate Pennington is a pseudonym for Jenny Oldfield. She was born and brought up in Harrogate, Yorkshire, and even as a child she wrote stories and made tiny books, complete with illustrations. At school her favourite subjects were English, although she preferred creative writing to comprehension, and Art. Jenny went on to study English at Birmingham University, where she did research on the Bronte novels and on children's literature. Jenny still lives in Yorkshire and says that she loves the countryside and enjoys walking, gardening, playing tennis, riding and travelling with her two daughters, Kate and Eve.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Review:- David GUTERSON – “Our lady of the Forest”

Year Published: - 2003
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 7475 6045 5
Pages: - 325pp
Genre: - General fiction
Location:- North Fork, Washington
How I came across it: - Pensby Library booksale
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- The story of a young girl’s visions (or delusions?) and the impact it has on a number of the residents of the area where it takes place.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
The story of a teenage girl who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary. Ann Holmes seems an unlikely candidate for a revelation. A sixteen-year-old runaway, she is an itinerant mushroom picker who lives in a tent. One November afternoon, in the foggy woods of North Fork, Washington, the Virgin comes to her, clear as day. Is this delusion, a product of her occasional drug use, or a true calling to God? Gradually word spreads, and thousands converge upon the already troubled town having an instant impact on the local residents.

General comments:- 

Guterson has a great way with words but very unconventional as the quotations below demonstrate.  Tthis is writing by a skilled craftsman.

A fair amount of soul-searching is inevitable among the various witnesses to Ann’s visions. In turn there is opportunity for a bit of soul-searching among the book’s readership. This is one of those books that makes you think outside the box.

“Well who’s the patron saint of lunatics?”
“Strange you should ask because I happen to know. Christina the Astonishing, she was called. Her feast day is my birthday, July twenty fourth. She’s also the patron of therapists.”

There are no words, God is ineffable, the name of God cannot be spelled, to look for God with the tools of man is like trying to capture the sun’s light in our hands, perhaps, he thought, I should have been a Jew, that quaint Jewish simile makes perfect sense...

Did God make sense, though, in the end? The God who turned Lot’s wife into a salt pillar merely for looking back at the brimstone falling as prophesied across the plain, the God who spoke with Abraham as though they were negotiating the price of a used car to determine the number of righteous men it would take to save the two cities? God wanted fifty but Abraham worked him down to ten by employing deference, humility and flattery, I who am but dust and ashes, let not the Lord be angry and so on, the same God who later toyed with Abraham by asking him to bind his son, arrange the boy on a sacrificial pyre, then slit his throat with a knife. Just kidding, said God at the last moment. Just checking to see how loyal you are. God the insecure Mafia don. God the malevolent psychotherapist.

AUTHOR Notes:-
David Guterson was born in Seattle in 1956. Guterson received his M.A. from the University of Washington, where he studied under the writer Charles Johnson. It was there that he developed his ideas about the moral function of literature: "Fiction writers shouldn't dictate to people what their morality should be," he said in a recent interview. "Yet not enough writers are presenting moral questions for reflection, which I think is a very important obligation."

After moving to Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, Guterson taught English at the local high school and began writing journalism for Sports Illustrated and Harper's magazine, where he is now a contributing editor. His books include a collection of short stories, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind (coming from Vintage in Spring 1996), Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, and Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Review:- Rob EASTAWAY – “How many socks make a pair?”

Year Published: - 2008
Where the book was from:- Gift from Mark
ISBN: - 978-1-906217-59-4
Pages: - 174pp
Genre: - Popular Mathematics
Location:- -
How I came across it: - Gift from Mark
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- A refreshing look at mathematics and some of the many different ways it impacts upon our life.

General comments:-
Described as showing the world of mathematics to be ‘surprising, amusing and even beautiful’. I can accept the first two but ‘beautiful’ ??? The book certainly gives some fascinating insights to someone like me who has little knowledge and understanding of the subject. Maths remains ‘not my cup of tea’ but it was an interesting read.

AUTHOR Notes:- Rob Eastaway is one of the UK’s leading pupularisers of maths and has written a number of books and articles. He even appears on radio and live on stage at locations ranging from the Royal Institution to Pentonville Prison.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Review:- Alanna KNIGHT – “The Coffin lane Murders”

Year Published: - 1998
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 7540 3723 1
Pages: - 235pp (Large print)
Genre: - Victorian Crime
Location:- Edinburgh
How I came across it: - Pensby library booksale
Rating: - ***** **
One sentence summary:- The eleventh in a series of books about Edinburgh’s Inspector Faro

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Another Case for Inspector Jeremy Faro, Edinburgh's Victorian Detective The frantic arrival of PC Dean at Inspector Faro's door one winter morning brings news of the first killing in Coffin Lane. Accompanied by his step-son Vince and Vince's partner at the surgery, Dr Conan Pursley, Faro rushes to a horrific scene. For a trail of blood through the snow leads to the body of a young woman, a knife wound in her chest. Molly Blaith had been on her way to post a letter for her employer Miss Errington. Or had she? For such a journey should not have taken her down Coffin Lane. Did she have an assignation?

General comments:- 
Fairly typical cosy crime with an unusual setting - Edinburgh in Victorian times.   The 'villian' was a bit predictable but one perhaps shouldn't judge a whole series on the basis of one novel. 
Inspector Faro novels
1. Enter Second Murderer (1988)
2. Blood Line (1989)
3. Deadly Beloved (1989)
4. Killing Cousins (1990)
5. A Quiet Death (1991)
6. To Kill a Queen (1992)
7. The Evil That Men Do (1993)
8. The Missing Duchess (1994)
9. The Bull Slayers (1995)
10. Murder by Appointment (1996)
11. The Coffin Lane Murders (1998)
12. The Final Enemy (2002)
13. Unholy Trinity (2004)
14. Faro and the Royals (2005)
15. Murder in Paradise (2008)


AUTHOR Notes:- Alanna Knight was born in Scotland in 1923 and also writes under the name Margaret Hope.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Review:- Marina LEWYCKA – “A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian”

Year Published: - 2005
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 978-0-141-02052-5
Pages: - 325pp
Genre: - General fiction, Humour, Ukraine
Location:- UK
How I came across it: - much reviewed
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- A hugely enjoyable account of the reaction of two warring systems when they are brought together by a common enemy – their father’s new girlfriend.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
“For years, Nadezhda and Vera, two Ukrainian sisters, raised in England by their refugee parents, have had as little as possible to do with each other - and they have their reasons. But now they find they'd better learn how to get along, because since their mother's death their aging father has been sliding into his second childhood, and an alarming new woman has just entered his life. Valentina, a bosomy young synthetic blonde from the Ukraine, seems to think their father is much richer than he is, and she is keen that he leave this world with as little money to his name as possible. If Nadazhda and Vera don't stop her, no one will. But separating their addled and annoyingly lecherous dad from his new love will prove to be no easy feat - Valentina is a ruthless pro and the two sisters swiftly realize that they are mere amateurs when it comes to ruthlessness. As Hurricane Valentina turns the family house upside down, old secrets come falling out, including the most deeply buried one of them all, from the War, the one that explains much about why Nadazhda and Vera are so different. In the meantime, oblivious to it all, their father carries on with the great work of his dotage, a grand history of the tractor.”

General comments:-
Orange Prize for Fiction (nominee)
Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing
The Booker Prize (nominee)
Waterstone's Newcomer of the Year

The author’s own background suggests there is an element of the autobiography in this “riotous oil-painting of senility, lust and greed..’ (Economist)

Between seven and ten million people died across Ukraine during the man-made famine of 1932-3.

“...if all women were to wear paint on their faces, just think, there could be no more natural selection. The inevitable result would be the uglification of the species.”

He shifts his voice into an easy narrative gear. He is in control now, driving his tractor across the crumbling furrows of the past.

I remember when Christmas dinner was a big fat bird with salt-crisped skin and oily h
juices oozing out of it, fragrant with garlic and marjoram and kasha stuffed in its plump tummy and roasted shallots and chestnuts round the side, and home-made wine that made us all tipsy, and a white cloth and flowers on the table, even in winter, and silly presents, and laughter and kisses. This woman who has taken the place of my mother has stolen Christmas and replaced it with boil-in-the-bag food and plastic flowers.

“Nadia, why do you always go scrabbling around in the past?” Her voice is tense, brittle. “The past is filthy. It’s like a sewer. You shouldn’t play there. Leave it alone. Forget it.”


AUTHOR Notes:- Marina LEWYCKA was born of Ukrainian parents in a refugee camp in Kiel, Germany, at the end of World War II and grew up in England. She teaches at Sheffield Hallam University and is married with a grown-up daughter.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Review:- Jason GOODWIN – “The Janissary Tree”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 1 84632 791 1
Pages: - 504pp large print
Genre: - Crime, Ottoman Empire,
Location:- Istanbul 1836
How I came across it: - Pensby Lib book sale
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- Yashim the Eunuch is given two task at the same time – trace the murders of four of the Sultan’s new guard and find out who strangled one of the Sultan’s ‘daughters of felicity’ within the harem.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Istanbul has had ten years to recover from the ‘Auspicious Event’ which is how the Sultan titled the removal of the Janissary – guards / soldiers who had got too big for their boots. But has it? Or are there still rumblings under the surface as Mahmut II is about to issue a major Edict. Yashim the eunuch is chosen by the head of the Imperial Ottoman army to investigate the disappearance of four of his officers but Yashim is distracted by a request from the Sultan’s mother to find her missing jewels and trace the killer of a girl in the harem.

General comments:-
As always i enjoy learning about times past and places far away. The atmosphere of nineteenth century Istanbul is captivating and the underlying humour of the book doesn’t hide a cleverly crafted plot. The New York Times described it as ‘The perfect escapist mystery’.

There are now three Yashim the Eunuch novels:-
1. The Janissary Tree (2006)
2. The Snake Stone (2007)
3. The Bellini Card (2008)


Already his story, somewhat improved from its first rendition, was being retailed with appropriate embellishments among latecomers to the scene, and within the hour several versions of events were circling through the city. By lunchtime these stories were so finely rounded that two of them were able to actually pass each other without the slightest friction...

AUTHOR Notes:- Jason GOODWIN studied Byzantine history at Cambridge and has written several books on cultural history and travel. He lives in Sussex and is married with four children. He speaks German and French and once walked from Istanbul to Poland.