Rather belatedly - the last two weekends have been hopelessly busy - here are my two challenge books for February, and some other things I've been enjoying.
The Hidden Ways by Alistair Moffat was my non-fiction book for February. An intriguing premise, finding and walking some of Scotland’s lost byways. The description is good and you feel you’re there with the author. The accounts of the actual journeys (not always walks, he is happy to admit) are densely packed with information. Sometimes the analyses are simplistic and even naïve, but I suppose to give a full account of the events and theories would have made this a huge book. However, now and again it would have been helpful to introduce an element of doubt, or a couple of basic references, so as not to mislead readers for whom this might be a primary source. I'm also a little uneasy about his dependence on a mobile phone compass - don't do it! Take a real one! They're not expensive, and they don't need a signal to work!
Now for the crime fiction!
The Hunting Party, by Lucy Foley
There isn’t a person to like at all amongst the guests bound for a posh hunting lodge for New Year, and the staff, too, have histories that could make them act strangely. You don’t find out who the victim is until about the same time as you discover the murderer, and the story is written from about five different points of view in two timelines. Don’t let any of that put you off – this is very readable and an enjoyable mystery. And I think the publisher deserves a prize for a completely unexpected cover - no stressed females, no red coats, no dark country lanes - well done!
The Heir to Marshingdean, by Cecilia Peartree
A good historical mystery here from the author of the Pitkirtly series – appealing characters and an interesting setting. In one respect, though, it’s unusual: it’s the first in a group of novels which all fit together, so don’t expect to get all the answers in this one! And I’m looking forward to finding out at least one parallel story in the next one.
A Quest in Berlin, also by Cecilia Peartree
The next in the Quest series by the author of the Pitkirtkly series. I like Clemency and Andrew very much as they guide us through a post-war adventure, amongst characters who appear trustworthy, though of course not all of them are …
Cops and Robbers by Ed James
Previously published as Bottleneck, this was a thoroughly enjoyable police procedural set in Edinburgh and, this time, Glasgow and Angus. The mystery is good, the action exciting, and there appears to be just a danger that Cullen is growing up!
The Vixen’s Scream by John Dean
This started oddly and I wasn’t sure whether or not to plough on past the first chapter or so, but I did and found it a very good read, a conventional police procedural with a decent plot and convincing characters. I’ll look out for more.
Next Victim by Helen H. Durrant
A police procedural – not sure if it was me but I didn’t find it particularly gripping though the plot was interesting enough (oh, look, there's that lone female, though!).
The Mechanical Devil, by Kate Ellis
A rather creepy one from Kate Ellis’ Wesley Peterson series. As usual a plot in the past informs and entwines with the present day, and this one I found particularly intriguing. As usual the police are a delight, a family one enjoys revisiting.
Meanwhile, A Deficit of Bones is half-written but going slowly, simply because as I say things have been exceptionally busy recently. At least, I hope it's exceptional! Happy reading!