Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Ballater Bugle

The usual quick post to say the newsletter and a Murray short story went out today, so if you haven't received it and expected to let us know at contact@kellascatpress.co.uk. A couple of people seem to have changed addresses since we last sent one out!

Dragon in the Snow is now fully drafted, but will require a good edit (what doesn't?) before its appearance!


Tuesday, 9 June 2020

May's reading

See that time lag again this month? That's because I was determined to finish Tombland before I posted my reviews!

So here we go:

Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)

Tombland, C.J. Sansom: Complex, nuanced, subtle and intriguing – just as good as ever. A shame my arthritic thumbs made reading much of the heavy paperback at any time a rather painful experience, but that’s not the author’s fault and at least it made me pace it. The plot is very rich, particularly as it draws heavily on real events, though Shardlake’s doings are interwoven seamlessly with them. It could have done with a touch more editing, but it is a huge book. Towards the end it became more and more grim and for a while I had to force myself to read one more chapter, just one more chapter – then resolution began, and again it flowed.
Here's a non-crime:


The Binding

Bridget Collins, The Binding: Clever concept and a thought-provoking, emotional book, in which books are only rarely ‘made up’ but instead are the repository of memories of people who have visited a binder. To destroy a book is to restore those memories to the person, usually with resulting trauma: memories can be removed through kindness, but also for commercial or personal gain. To say more might be to give away too much: this is a twisty book, stretching the ideas into strange shapes in a society something like Victorian England.
As it happens, I managed to read a non-fiction in May, too:

All That Remains: A Life in Death

All that Remains, Sue Black: My usual resistance to factual books slowed me on this but it really is a fascinating book – very strange in places, and more about her relationship with death than either her life or her career. She touches with sensitivity on real cases and her experiences in Kosovo, and to an extent Thailand post-tsunami. It is very well written and flings us from humour to pathos and back through the realms of scientific explanations with great ease.
Now for May's crime fiction:

Dog in the Dark (Three Oaks Book 1)

Gerald Hammond, Dog in the Dark: This has the feeling of a slightly mournful and bad-tempered Dick Francis, which from me is a compliment. I was immediately drawn into the world of dog-training and eager to learn more (the reason I like Dick Francis is that I always learn something from them). In the end the plot was quite good but some of the attitudes felt more dated than the late 1980s. Still, I liked the general idea and several of the relationships, and might well go back for another one.

The Bride's Trail (The Trail Series Book 1)

A.A. Abbot, The Bride’s Trail: Intriguing missing person / identity theft mystery involving gangsters and city types. Amy the heroine was annoying na├»ve but otherwise this was entertaining and exciting.
Dying in the Wool (Kate Shackleton, #1)
Frances Brody, Dying in the Wool: I enjoyed this, liking both the setting and the main character. She was intelligent without being too precocious and stayed quite well in her historical place. The plot worked, and the characters were pleasantly ambiguous.

Black Summer (Washington Poe, #2)

M.W. Craven, Black Summer: Tilly and Poe are back for another chase, cleverly plotted and North Country-set. This is a very enjoyable series – Tilly and Poe are excellent characters – but I must try Craven’s other one, too, beginning with Born in a Burial Gown (Avison Fluke, I think?).

Careless Death (Pitkirtly Mysteries Book 19)
Cecila Peartree, Careless Death: How did I miss this one? I’ve read the following one! Anyway. One always feels for at least some of the characters in the Pitkirtly series – Christopher, mostly – but this time our sympathies focus on Mollie the librarian, trying to cope with a trying mother, and then accused of trying to murder her. It’s still funny, but Mollie’s problems are real and very sad. But our valiant cast saves the day as always: the world needs Pitkirtly just now!
A Trail Through Time (The Chronicles of St. Mary's, #4)
Jodi Taylor, Roman Holiday, When a Child is Born and A Trail Through Time: two novellas and the next episode in this hilarious series – hilarious, thrilling, exciting, and very well researched. Max and Leon head a cast of complete misfits, some good, some bad, in plots that gallops through history but always return to mad St. Mary’s to find some new way to blow the place up. Really good fun.
Bad to the Bone (DI Bliss, #1)
Tony Forder, Bad to the Bone: An appealing police procedural, with interesting, if often dim, characters and a decent plot, though the setting (Peterborough) is almost deliberately dull. Bliss did not seem to care much about his dogs, but that happens. There were some fumbly bits of dialogue and description and though I liked the main characters I didn’t think they were very bright, but generally it was a very enjoyable read that I came back to each evening with pleasure. I don’t like the phrase ‘park up’, though – what’s wrong with just parking?
The Snow Killer (DI Barton, #1)
Ross Greenwood, The Snow Killer: I had to stop reading this at first as it was set in Peterborough as was another one I was reading (the Tony Forder). I don’t usually like to hear the perspective of the killer but this was rather different and very compelling, if upsetting. When we moved on to the police procedural bit it was again well done (though I hope Nav has not just retired completely out of the series), with real people and proper issues convincingly presented. Again we have people parking up (up what?) – perhaps it’s some weird Peterborough thing? But it’s an exciting conclusion and very enjoyable.
The Art of Dying (Raven, Fisher, and Simpson, #2)
OAmbrose Parry, The Art of Dying: Life has moved on a little for Sarah and Raven, but it doesn’t take long until they are once more embroiled in mystery. The medical descriptions are great, the balance between the characters is appealing, and the plot is pleasantly busy. It would be quite nice if Raven were right about something for a change and Sarah were wrong, but the ending was beautifully ambiguous and I’m of course looking forward to the next one.
Well, after all that if anyone's still here I can say that I'm a bit over two-thirds of the way through Dragon in the Snow, the third Orkneyinga Murders book. The plan is that it will be out in late summer / early autumn ... I also now have a website! The content is a little basic just now but things will be added - feel free to drop in and see what you think (and let us know if anything doesn't work!). It's at www.lexieconyngham.co.uk - come and visit!