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

Thursday 31 December 2020

The New Murray, and What I Read in November and December

 Okay, a bit of a busy posting! 

First, The Status of Murder, a Murray novella, is out - if you're on the mailing list you may already have had this.

Second, The Dead Chase, Murray 12, is now on pre-order. This takes Murray to London and Sussex in pursuit of Blair and Isobel.

Third, the newsletter is out so if you were expecting it and didn't get it, let us know!

 Now, what have I  been reading?                                                               

Criminal Shorts: UK Crime Book Club Anthology

Criminal Shorts, ed. Kath Middleton and Will Templeton: Yes, I have a story in this, but there are twenty-one more and they’re pretty good! It’s difficult to pick out favourites – all of them have charm of one kind or another – so I’m not going to, but I will say that I enjoyed the authors I’d read before and found a few new ones to follow up. Lots of variety – you never know what you’re going to find next!

I Will Miss You Tomorrow (Thorkild Aske, #1)

I Will Miss You Tomorrow, Heine Bakkeid: Signed copy by the author, who very kindly wrote ‘En kjempestor klem fra Thorkild og meg’ – but I’m not sure I really want a great big hug from Thorkild, the tortured, damaged ex-policeman who is thrown into investigating the disappearance of a young man from an old lighthouse in northern Norway. This is a disturbing, haunting story, very well written and paced, but I think in the end it’s Thorkild that needs that hug, and more besides! Well worth a read.

Street Cat Blues

Street Cat Blues, Alison O’Leary: ‘In his experience, the world was divided into those that told other people when to move, those that moved when they were told, and cats.’ Aubrey was a street cat though he now has a good home – and before that, his previous owner was murdered. Now there have been other murders – not all of them to Aubrey’s disadvantage – and his new owners are growing anxious. Not exactly a cosy, despite the cats, this is an engaging and exciting book and I’m looking forward to another in the series.

The Hope That Kills (DI Fenchurch, #1)

Ed James, The Hope that Kills: This is much darker and less amusing than the Scott Cullen series – it’s good, but I’m not sure that I like it as much. The seamier side of east London (and so much of it is indeed seamy) is very well portrayed, but I just didn’t like the characters so much and found the police team much more superficially connected with each other than the Edinburgh team in the Cullen series. That said, Fenchurch’s father is a treasure.

The Reach of Shadows (DI Bliss, #4)

Tony Forder, The Reach ofShadows: These really do improve as they go on. This is a tangled tale involving a charismatic environmental group and threats from Bliss’s past. The two cases don’t come together in some improbable ballet but are kept separate and intertwining, with a satisfactory resolution to one and a fairly reasonable solution to the other. Space, then, for moving on to the next book, and the next stage in the Bliss/Chandler relationship.

CONSTABLE BY THE STREAM a perfect feel-good read from one of Britain's best-loved authors (Constable Nick Mystery Book 11)

Constable by the Stream, Nicholas Rhea: I’ve read a more mainstream crime novel by Nicholas Rhea before but this is the reminiscences, very entertainingly told, of a country bobby in the mid 20th century. Some of the situations are rather over-explained and repetitious, but the overall effect is charming. – I gather since that this is the series that Heartbeat was based on.

Falling Fast (McGregor and Drummond, #1)

Falling Fast, by Neil Broadfoot: Interesting but noir start, centring around a nasty individual who doesn’t kill but likes to see things suffer, including people. The main character is a journalist for whom the story is all, but he’s a likeable person and he’s friends (perhaps this might end up going further?) with a senior police officer. The Edinburgh setting feels real and the plot is pleasantly complex (bereaved politician not as upset as he should be, and various people undergoing violence for different, connected reasons).

The Unburied Dead (Thomas Hutton, #1)

The Unburied Dead, Douglas Lindsay: One of those present tense jobs that needs to earn its keep. This one sort of does, in that it’s a first person running commentary on a cop’s life and quite entertaining in a blackish way. There are unexpected elegances of language, as if the cop is trying hard to crush his own educational background in order to get through the day. The body count is high!

The Death of Justice (DI Bliss, #5)

OTony Forder, The Death ofJustice: I liked ‘her mind was flypaper to his words’ of a young officer taking orders, and the analysis of how finding a headless corpse can affect someone. This is a bit of a ‘take Murder on the Orient Express and think what might happen afterwards’ kind of plot, a feature I enjoyed. There were a few Americanisms I liked less, like measuring someone in pounds rather than stone, and the endless parking up – why not just park? I still find Bliss rather ponderous and wordy, and not half as impressive as his underlings seem to think he is, but he’s evidently well-meaning – just a bit pi, to use an old expression.

Lethal Secret (A Cavendish & Walker Novel, #4)

Lethal Secret, Sally Rigby: This is a bit clunky and shallow but still very readable, with pleasant lead characters looking into apparent suicides linked with a wellness centre with cultish features. The friendship between the somewhat awkward forensic psychiatrist and the police officer is realistic. I also liked the uncommunicative pathologist – definitely not one who’s going to involve herself in the investigation. I was a bit worried, though, that the police officer felt she needed her friend’s input to decide whether or not a witness was lying – what do other police officers do?

The Great St Mary's Day Out (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #7.5)The Great St. Mary’s Day Out, Jodi Taylor : I’m constantly in awe of this writer’s ability to switch effortlessly between historical periods and give each of them a distinctive, authentic flavour – never mind the complex plots and laugh-out-loud humour. I’ve read several St. Mary’s shorts recently and found them all atmospheric, enthralling, and very good value for a short story!

The Christmas Mystery

OtheThe Christmas Mystery, Jostein Gaarder; Lovely, atmospheric, intriguing, charming – Joachim goes shopping with his father for an Advent calendar and comes home with an old unused one they find in a bookshop – one without chocolates, just the pictures. But when Joachim opens the first door he finds the picture and a little piece of paper, the first in twenty-four episodes in the story of Elisabet, a little girl who runs out of a busy department store after a come-to-life toy lamb, heading back through time to Bethlehem. This is a beautiful, layered book with reflections on European history and geography, Biblical references, humour, mystery and delight.

Flotsam & Jetsam: What secrets will be washed ashore? (Inspector Torquil McKinnon Book 4)

Flotsam and Jetsam, Keith Moray: Couldn’t resist this as an antidote to some intense reading, and it did not fail. They are very entertaining, and not too demanding.

The Big Man Upstairs (DCI Logan Crime Thrillers, #7)

The Big Man Upstairs, J.D. Kirk: Logan is back, but he needs to make up with the people he abandoned before he can really settle in. Another entertaining mystery, up to the usual high standard.

The Haunting of Bregoli Estate (A Riveting Haunted House Mystery Series, #18)

The Haunting of Bregoli Estate, Alexandria Clarke: An odd book, set on an island at a writers’ retreat. The place seems to be enormous, and it’s haunted, not only by a cat and by its recently late owner, but also by more malevolent spirits. Daisy has unexpectedly inherited the place, just as the retreat is about to start, and though I should probably feel more sympathetic I find her attitude and those of her allegedly more experienced writer friends very immature, and the hostile board of directors a tableful of two-dimensional threats. However, I did keep reading partly because the sense of place is very strong and fairly charming. And the main character did improve – though I found her leaps in confidence a bit sudden. There are some true-to-life reflections on the publishing industry and the choices authors have to make these days. The real threat, though, aside from the board of directors, are the hostile spirits.

Penitent (DI Munro & DS West #9)

Pete Brassett, Penitent: I’ve seen these advertised a lot, and something always put me off – probably the ‘twist you never saw coming’ type of subtitles. This is No.9 in a series, but I plunged in anyway, and I think even if I had read the first eight before it I might have found it a bit confusing, random characters and timelines. Nevertheless I liked the tone which is reminiscent of Keith Moray’s books, and I rather liked the baffling phrase, ‘Carrying himself with the unflappable demeanour of a comatose koala’. Some of the sentences are the length of Cicero’s – a few full stops wouldn’t go amiss if you were looking for a suitable Christmas present – and the whole thing is brimming with similes. Still, it’s amusing, and rattles along at a fair pace – lots of fun.

Deadly Engagement (Alec Halsey Mystery, #1)

Deadly Engagement, Lucinda Brant: An early Georgian setting for this book which starts abruptly enough with an unexpected and to the hero unwelcome engagement. There was a bit too much switching of point of view, and some anachronisms (I don’t think cheroots were around in this period, for example, nor tea trolleys, nor describing someone as ‘certifiable’. But I may be wrong). One murder leads to another at a grand country house near London, and the hero, irresistible to women and skilled in every direction but detested by his brother, must sort things out as only he can. It’s a bit dark and gloomy, but it gets there in the end and despite a rather unhealthy body count comes good.

The Lost Children

The Lost Children, Theresa Talbot: I went back to this eventually and began to find some interest in it. I still couldn’t like the main character, which is a problem for me in a book, but I could see that she was trying to be likeable, to relate to people, and actually finding it very hard.