Saturday, 30 January 2010

Review:- Martin EDWARDS – “The Coffin Trail”

Year Published: - 2004
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 7490 8320 4
Pages: - 293pp
Genre: - Crime
Location:- A fictional valley in the Lake District
How I came across it: - Reviewed on a blog
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:- Daniel Kind, an Oxford historian and Miranda, a London journalist, decide to get away from their pasts and set up home together in the Lake District. They buy a cottage in which a murderer is said to have lived but he died before he could be arrested and tried. Daniel knew the man as a youngster and finds it difficult to believe he could have been a killer. He stirs up a hornet’s nest just as a new crime unit is set up under DCI Hannah Scarlett to review cold cases.

General comments:- A most readable story with the added attraction for me of using a Lake District background. Martin has since added two more stories to this series ands a fourth book is due this year.
Lake District Mysteries
1. The Coffin Trail (2004)
2. The Cipher Garden (2005)
3. The Arsenic Labyrinth (2007)
4. The Serpent Pool (2010)

“Thoreau opted out of corporate America a century and a half ago and made his home in a log cabin in the backwoods of Massachusetts.”
“A role model, then?”
“Not exactly. He only stuck it for a couple of years.”
“And after that?”
“Back to the city. The simple life wasn’t quite as simple as he hoped.”
“What happened?”
“He tried to cook a fish for supper and ended up burning down three hundred acres of woodland. Some people called him the Sage of Walden. To the locals, he was the fool who set fire to the forest.”

A blackboard outside bore the legend: I wandered lonely as a cloud and then I thought – sod it, I fancy a pint.

Martin Edwards was born at Knutsford, Cheshire in 1955 and educated in Northwich and at Balliol College, Oxford University, taking a first class honours degree in law. He trained as a solicitor in Leeds and moved to Liverpool on qualifying in 1980. He published his first legal article at the age of 25 and his first book, about legal aspects of buying a business computer at 27. He became a partner in the local law firm of Mace and Jones in 1984. He is married with with two children and lives in Lymm. Martin is a member of the Murder Squad collective of crime writers and is chairman of the nominations sub-committee for the CWA Diamond Dagger (crime writing's most prestigious award). In 2007 he was appointed the Archivist of the Crime Writers Association. He is the author of a series of crime novels featuring Harry Devlin. I’m pleased to say he has commented on my book blog in the past without – and this is the important bit – attempting to blow his own trumpet in the process.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Review:- Michael JECKS – “The Bishop Must Die”

Year Published: - 2009
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978 0 7553 4420 8
Pages: - 404pp
Genre: - Historical mystery
Location:- Exeter and London (and N France) - 1326
How I came across it: - On the new books shelf
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Continuing the sage of ex-bailiff Simon Puttock and Keeper of the King’s Peace, sir Baldwin de Furnshill as they become embroiled in fighting plots to kill the Bishop of Exeter.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:- Queen Isabella is immured in Farnce, refusing to return to Edward II and flaunting her relationship with Roger Mortimer. Meanwhile the country is getting more than fed up with the parasitic Hugh le Despencer and the money-grabbing activities of the Bishop of Exeter. Ome folk decide to take the matter into their own hands and seek to kill the Bishop who turns to Baldwin and Simon for help.

General comments:- As enjoyable as his previous novels about 14th Century Exeter and the activities of that era.

AUTHOR Notes:- See The Malice of Unnatural Death

Thursday, 28 January 2010


"Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow..."
Lawrence Clark Powell
(American Librarian, Writer and Critic, 1906-2001)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Quotation - Susan Hill

"But if the books I have read have helped to form me, then probably nobody else who ever lived has read exactly the same books, all the same books and only the same books, as me. So just as my genes and the soul within me make me uniquely me, so I am the unique sum of the books I have read. I am my literary DNA."
Susan Hill “Howard’s end is on the Landing”

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Review:- David ATTENBOROUGH et al – “Amazing Rare Things”

Year Published: -2008
Where the book was from:- My own copy – present from Helen and Ian Christmas 2009
ISBN: - 978 1 902163 46 8
Pages: - 225pp
Genre: - Natural History; Art; Royal Collections;
Location:- ----
How I came across it: - Saw it in Linghams Bookshop
Rating: - ***** *****

One sentence summary:- The art of natural history in the age of discovery.

General comments:-
Some non-fiction is educational; some is beautiful; and some is simply fascinating. This is all three. Created to accompany a 2008 exhibition of the Royal Collections it

This extraordinary book accompanies the 2008 exhibition which was selected from the Royal Library by curators of the Royal Collection in collaboration with the distinguished naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. It brings together the works of four artists and a collector who have shaped our knowledge of the world around us. Leonardo da Vinci, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Alexander Marshal, Maria Sibylla Merian and Mark Catesby are diverse figures who shared a passion for enquiry and a fascination with the beautiful and bizarre in nature. All lived at a time when new species were being discovered around the world in ever increasing numbers. Many of the plants and animals represented in the exhibition were then barely known in Europe. Today some are commonplace, others are now extinct.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Review:- Paul DOHERTY – “The House of Death”

Year Published: - 2001
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0-7531-6795-6
Pages: - 380pp
Genre: - Historical mystery
Location:- The Hellespont 334BC
How I came across it: - New book shelf
Rating: - ***** **

One sentence summary:- Alexander the Great is poised to launch an invasion of the Persian empire of Darius III but first he has to have the murder of his guides solved.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
It is 334 BC and the young Alexander the Great waits with is troops by the hellespont, poised to att many sacrifices, but the omens are not good. Worse still, his guides are being brutally murdered.

General comments:-
This is not my favourite period of history and there seems to be less historical detail thatn in some of Paul Doherty’s novels.

AUTHOR Notes:- see Paul Doherty

Friday, 22 January 2010

Review:- Paul DOHERTY – “The House of Shadows”

Year Published: - 2003
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 0 7553 0776 3
Pages: - 312pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- London 1380
How I came across it: - Looking for Paul Doherty novels
Rating: - ***** ***

One sentence summary:-
Brother Athelstan investigates murders which may have their source in a daring robbery twenty years earlier.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
A series of brutal murders at a Southwark tavern interrupts Brother Athelstan's rehearsals for the annual Christmas mystery play. He resolves to solve not only these grisly deaths, but also their source - the Great Robbery of the Lombard treasure, which occurred in Southwark some 20 years earlier.

General comments:-
This is the first Brother Athelstan book I have read but it won’t be the last. A cut above the average cosy crime.

The previous list of -
Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan
1. The Nightingale Gallery (1991) (writing as Paul Harding)
2. The House Of The Red Slayer (1992) (writing as Paul Harding)
aka The Red Slayer
3. Murder Most Holy (1992) (writing as Paul Harding)
4. The Anger Of God (1993) (writing as Paul Harding)
5. By Murder's Bright Light (1994) (writing as Paul Harding)
6. The House Of Crows (1995) (writing as Paul Harding)
7. The Assassin's Riddle (1996) (writing as Paul Harding)
8. The Devil's Domain (1998)
9. The Field Of Blood (1999)
10. The House of Shadows (2003)

AUTHOR Notes:- see Paul Doherty

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Review:- Alis HAWKINS – “Testament”

Year Published: - 2008
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978-0-230-70638-5
Pages: - 568pp
Genre: - Historical mystery
Location:- Salster - a fictional S English town.
How I came across it: - On the new book shelf in library
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- A historical mystery that brings the mystery forward to the present day.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

In the 14th century master mason Simon of Kinnerton is preparing plans for his magnum opus, a college to rival anything in England. His work only interrupted when he becomes father to the son he has longed for for twenty years. Six hundred years later Damia Miller is employed to promote revered Kinnerton and Dacre college. It doesn't take her long to recognise that a grotesque antique painting recently uncovered on one of the college's walls might hold the key to the college's financial future. Damia grows increasingly obsessed with the mysterious wall-painting and the college's dark history. What is the painting trying to tell her? Why was the college named after its mason as well as its founder? And who does the statue of the  boy in the Toby Yard represent? In mediaeval Salster, Simon of Kinnerton is struggling to come to terms with the fact that his son is  ‘cursed’ in the eyes of many of Salster's townspeople. But just as Simon himself is coming to accept young Toby a tragedy occurs whose repercussions will echo until the present day.

General comments:-

An excellent first novel but I have to confess I am beginning to tire of books that flit backwards and forwards between centuries.

AUTHOR Notes:-
Brought up in west Wales, Alis Hawkins read English at Oxford before training as a speech and language therapist. She lives in Canterbury with her partner and teenage sons.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Review:- Kenneth BURNLEY & Guy HUNTINGTON – “Images of Wirral”

Year Published: - 1991
Where the book was from:- My own copy (bought second-hand)
ISBN: - 0 9517961 0 0
Pages: - 160pp Large Format
Genre: - Non-fiction – Topography / History
Location:- Wirral, Cheshire
How I came across it: - Serendipity - Charity shop
Rating: - ***** *
One sentence summary:- A rather over-weening account of Wirral,  full of extravagant praise and exuberant compliments, the style of which rather detracts from what is essentially an interesting and attractively illustrated account.

General comments:-
Some good – if generally unspectacular- photos help to make this story of some of Wirral’s attractions acceptable. In the main the topography and history is of the sort well known to anyone who has lived on the Wirral and taken an interest in it but the occasional lesser known item makes it worth reading.  Certainly a book that should be on the shelves of any Wirral resident.

Keith Burnley and Guy Huntington
were both born on The Wirral in 1949. The former is the author of other Wirral books and Editor of the Wirral Journal. Guy Huntington is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.

Review – Paul DOHERTY – “The Darkening Glass”

Year Published: - 2009
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978-0-7553-3852-8
Pages: - 304pp
Genre: - Historical crime
Location:- Northern England in the year 1312
How I came across it: - On the new books shelf
Rating: - ***** ***
One sentence summary:- Edward II is in conflict with his Earls over his favouritism towards the Gascon, Gaveston, and everywhere that Gaveston goes his faithful retainers drop like flies; deaths investigated at the King’s request by Mathilde of Westminster.

General comments:-
This is not just a cosy historical crime novel – it is too well-researched to be called that. The use of language, the way in which the atmosphere is set and the detail in the book all demonstrate Doherty’s love of history and his knowledge of his subject. His skill at creating a who-dunnit is equally good and the mystery of who is carrying out the murders and why is maintained right to the end.

I shall certainly be seeking out more Paul Doherty books in the near future.

Paul DOHERTY see :- The Templar

Monday, 4 January 2010

Review:- Hazel HOLT – “A Death in the Family”

Year Published: - 2006
Where the book was from:- Pensby Library
ISBN: - 978-0-7490-8095-2
Pages: - 285pp
Genre: - Cosy crime
Location:- S W England
How I came across it: - Author recommended by Nan
Rating: - ***** *
One sentence summary:- Amateur sleuth Shiela Malory is visited by her boring second cousin as part of his genealogical research but when he is found dead it seems his research may have upset someone.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
Shiela Malory is visited by her boring second cousin, Bernard Prior, as part of his genealogical research but when he is found dead it seems his research may have upset someone. Shiela, noted for her tenacity in looking into suspicious deaths leaves no branch of the family undisturbed in her efforts to find out what exactly happened on the night Bernard died.

General comments:-
This is the second Hazel Holt ‘Shiela Malory’ story I have tried. The first – “A Time to Die” - I slated but perhaps I should have given it more of a chance. Certainly this one was quite enjoyable though I guessed the guilty party fairly early on.  I'm not sure I shall bother with any more though.  There are too many better cosy crime stories out there.

HAZEL HOLT was born in 1928 in Birmingham. She studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, and went on to work at the International African Institute in London, where she became acquainted with the novelist Barbara Pym, whose biography she later wrote. Holt wrote her first novel in her sixties, and is a leading crime novelist. She is best known for her "Sheila Malory" series. Her son is the novelist Tom Holt.

Sunday, 3 January 2010


I found this blog a little hard to keep going at times during 2009. i have therefore decided to simplify the format a little.
Each book will have the same starting details –

Year Published: -
Where the book was from:-
Genre: -
Location: -
Pages: -
How I came across it: -
Rating: -
One sentence summary:-

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-

General comments:-


AUTHOR Notes:-

Friday, 1 January 2010

2009 – A summary

During 2009 I read at least 89 fiction and 21 non-fiction books. I probably forgot to record another one or two and I dipped into a few more.

My top ten titles for the year are:-

Boyd, A. W. The Country Diary of a Cheshire Man - which I had read before but which remains one of the best ever nature diaries of England.

Finlay, Victoria
Buried Treasure - a marvellous study of gems and their origins.

Seierstadt, Asne
The Bookseller of Kabul - a fascinating and controversial look at Afghanistan and Muslim life.

Drayson, Nicholas A Guide to the Birds of East Africa - brilliantly funny, romantic and entertaining fiction.

Haddon, Mark The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time –a marvellous, different piece of writing with a real insight into Asperger's

Pratchett, Terry
Unseen Academicals - not Pratchett’s best Discworld novel but still gets ten stars in my rating system.

Shreve, Anita Resistance – A well-written story of the Second World War.

Shaffer, Mary Ann The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society - War stories are not my normal reading and yet this is another Second World War book giving a fascinating insight into life in occupied Guernsey.

Farooki, Roopa The Corner Shop - A truly delightful story.

Faulks, Sebastian The Girl at the Lion d'Or - Excellently written. I just wanted more and more.

And since I cannot count well – here’s an eleventh.

Cornwell, Bernard
Azincourt - if only because historical novels are usually my favourites and this is as good as they come.