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!