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

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Reading in February - part two


Probably a bit of March here, too, to be honest! Again, a mixture, the second half of the alphabet.

Bad Debt

William McIntyre, Bad Debt: Nice start at a funeral in very wet weather, and we continue with a book written with a very dry sense of humour. McIntyre is a practising advocate, and I found myself chuckling quite a bit at the asides of the defence lawyer taking on a client bequeathed to him by a dodgy lawyer friend, while managing his retired footballer brother and his semi-celebrity life. This isn’t the first in the series, but I liked the author in his session at Granite Noir, and needed a book with a purple cover for a reading challenge I’ve joined. There’s a shovelful of legal terminology here but it’s all explained as you go along, which is at a great rate as the plot is pacy. Just as entertaining as the book is the author’s note at the back, which talks of the real-life cases that inspired the book – entertaining, but just a bit worrying!

Sheena Macleod, Tears of Strathnaver: This book demonstrates deft handling of a large cast and neat contrasts between Strathnaver and crofting life and the landlady’s London grandeur. The situations are cleverly evoked and I had a real sense of landscapes, townscapes and buildings. The historical detail was rich, fascinating and not overly-lecturing - I liked the scene where Mhairi is horrified at the danger of burning coal indoors – and the author has woven historical figures like Sellar and McKid into the plot with some conviction. 

The Conversos (The Seton Chronicles #2)

V.E.H. Masters, The ConversosThis is good. The history is rich and thick without being lecturing, the setting completely convincing, the characters strong, real, complex people. There’s delightful detail throughout. Though it’s not the first in the series, the explanations of what has gone before are lightly done to make it an easy read, and the plot is nicely rounded and satisfying even though it clearly leads on to a sequel. I didn’t see the need for it to be written in the present tense, but that’s a personal taste and otherwise this was a very satisfying read – one of those books where you forget you’re reading and feel you are there.

Through His Eyes

Kath Middleton, Through His Eyes: Another cracking read from Middleton. As usual this author has given us lovely real people that you feel you know, which makes what happens to them all the more convincing and alarming! The heroine's struggles over what to tell Tom and how much were so genuine, and the plot was chilling. Loved it.

Bury Them Deep: Inspector McLean 10 (The Inspector McLean Series) by [James Oswald]

James Oswald, Bury Them Deep: Another good installment in the Tony McLean series, one of those that makes you look around Edinburgh and wonder if anywhere is safe.

The Case of the Late Capybara (Max Falconer Mysteries Book 2)

Cecilia Peartree, The Case of the Late Capybara: The second in the Max Falconer series, with the additional appeal of a capybara, albeit a taxidermied one. I like these quirky mysteries very much, and have already bought No.3. These books seem to be set in a world that is more real than Pitkirtly but they are still very good fun.

Isle of Somewhere by [Eileen Rolland]

Eileen Rolland, Isle of Somewhere: Immensely detailed, close narrative of Ros finding her way into a revival of her life after a bad relationship. Her repetitive dreams are intriguing as they develop, and the character of Suzanne does just what she needs to do in the course of the story. The ‘real life’ story of Ros’ mother and her experiences dealing with the medical services after a fall is all too realistic, but the way Ros learns to deal with it all is very appealing and sympathetic.

Silent Tide (DCI Boyd, #1)

Alex Scarrow, Silent Tide: Boyd has just moved to Hastings after a couple of years compassionate leave, and is thrown straight into a murder enquiry with no body, just lots of blood and a few bits of ‘human tissue’. The setting felt alive, the Sussex town of Hastings with its picturesque old town and deprived new parts, its issues with gulls and its relationships with Eastbourne and Brighton. The new team was intriguing, too. While DCI Boyd seems a sympathetic man, I can’t love someone who drapes ketchup over their chips. It’s simply not right. I did love the point, though, where he turns up with his daughter and dog to meet an informer, and I’ll be heading off to the next one.

Alana: A Novel

Palo Stickland, Alana: This novella-length book is a touching portrayal of a young, bereaved woman confused by the loss of her beloved grandfather, and how she comes to terms with her life and finds a place to flourish, in the midst of apparent betrayal and mystery. I found the mystery intriguing, particularly as Alana’s expectations and perceptions of her family shifted and changed in the course of the book. I felt it could have been longer! It would have been fun to see more of some of the characters and their stories.

Lies to Tell (Detective Clare Mackay, #3)

Enlarge coMarian Todd, Lies to Tell: Enjoyed this very much, though I have to wonder at Claire’s personal judgement sometimes! This remains the best contemporary series I know set in St. Andrews, St. Andrews as I recognise it – maybe just my perspective, but I did live there for seven years.

Caesar's Gladiatrix

OAnthony Watt, Caesar’s Gladiatrix: This is a pacy, exciting read, full of action, with bloody and realistic fight scenes and some good strategy and tactics. The main character is strong and striking, and the supporting cast are well-written, too. There’s a good historical basis to the background and a nice sense of the Rome of the period, though the author takes the liberty of deviating from actual history for a dramatic climax.

H.L. Welsh, Flegg Family Gatherings: An intriguing time-slip story for young adults, with a striking cover. This is the third in a series and the cover theme is carried through all three. This is set just after lockdown but written during lockdown, which makes for an interesting perspective – the book’s own little time-slip. The heroine, who is and evidently has been a difficult, slightly prickly person with a very challenging background, mellows even in the course of this story. I liked the way her encounters in the present day and with 16th century family taught her to think differently and to grow as a person.

Greta Yorke / Gemma Jones, Elbo the Elf and the Christmas Hulabaloo: This children’s story book about Santa’s elves is delightful, with a timely moral about spending less time on playing electronic games in bed. There is a good balance of text and illustration, and the illustrations have plenty of clever details for reader and child to find together. There’s also a Scottish touch with Santa’s bonnet and Mrs. Claus’ tartan petticoat. The book is a good size and weight for the intended readership, the cover is bright and Christmassy, and one nice touch is an envelope inside the back cover to hold the reader’s own new year’s resolution.

And what am I doing? Writing a kind of sequel to The Slaughter of Leith Hall - I'm about 3/10 through and it's going, so far, all right, after a slow start. I was ready to begin this last summer but couldn't get into the archive to do the last bit of research. After that's finished, it's Murray's turn again!

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