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

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Books in December and January

 It's not my intention to keep doubling up months! Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know I've been busy - more below on that topic, but here's my reading for December and January.

Cecilia Peartree, Pamela Prendergast and the Fatal Accident: the latest from an author I love, but the first in what I believe is to be a new series. This is not quite as whimsical as her Pitkirtly series but it does start with a recently widowed woman being presented by a stranger with two dogs, just as she is moving house to Cramond. The setting plays quite a part in the book and the plot is constantly intriguing. It might be borderline cosy, I suppose. Pamela is an interesting character, quite resourceful, and her new friends are equally appealing.

Rex Stout, Fer-de-Lance: It’s a long time since I read one of this series, and a long time since this was written, back in the time of the Great Depression in the 1920s. Perhaps some of the attitudes of the characters are a little dated, but it’s a clever tale with its own excitements and amusements, and the narrator, Archie Goodwin, is entertaining particularly in his relationship with the lead detective, Nero Wolfe.

Neil Lancaster, The Blood Tide: I was distracted from a good plot by the number of typos, mostly missing speech marks, but another riproaring plot and great action, with a touch of humour for one’s sanity.

Vaseem Khan, The Dying Day: ‘She hesitated. Should she trust him? He was a writer, and in her experience writers could rarely be relied upon for their discretion. Any number of them had wandered through the Wadia Book Emporium over the years: novice writers seeking inspiration, failed writers in their cups, and renowned authors launching their latest bestsellers. On the whole, she liked them, but trust – that was a different matter.’ What an excellent book – a proper puzzle in the tradition of the great detective writers, but with such a good setting in 1950s Bombay. And how lovely to see a redemption of the swastika symbol that the Nazis took and spoiled, or at least a lament for its passing. Persis Wadia is a wonderful heroine, and her relations with the misfits in her office, and in her home, are wonderfully portrayed. I like this series more and more.

Peter Boland, The Charity Shop Detective Agency: Thoroughly cosy, this is great fun but the plot is tight and clever, too. I haven’t worked in a charity shop but have friends who do and this rings quite true. Full of eccentrics but sympathetic and entertaining.

Elly Griffiths, Bleeding Heart Yard: Once again I forgive the author for writing in the present tense. I have to with hers – they’re so good, so resoundingly human, and witty and observant. I love this new series, and while I had slight misgivings about Harbinder moving to London I’m enjoying seeing it through her eyes.

Sharon Penman, Dragon’s Lair: This starts off with the same promise as the others, even if there’s a touch too much switching of points of view for my sanity. But the scenes in Wales are well done, and the plot works well for me. I bought these three books as a box set, and though it has taken me a while to get through them, each time I settle down to read I enjoy them very much.

Carol McKay, White Spirit: I didn’t much warm to the main character, even though he was a useful example of someone being diagnosed with Addison’s. This is an interesting police procedural though it didn’t have much of a Scottish feel – could have been set anywhere, for the most part. But it was published in a good cause, and the story was sound.

Mark Richards, Salt in the Wounds: There’s a slightly muddly style to this, nipping back and forth from past to present and also into possible present, and I spent quite a bit of time rereading pages trying to work out what had actually happened. The setting is good, as the detective (an ex-copper) has come home to Whitby with his teenage daughter after the death of his wife. Whitby is fine but I felt I’d met the ex-copper a few times recently, one way and another. Still, his local connexions make for some interesting relationships, including with his loathsome brother-in-law, the actual cop investigating the death of his old friend and determined to put the blame on the best friend’s lovely wife.


Trevor Wood: One Way Street and Dead End Street: The second and third in this trilogy - it's rare for me to go straight on to a sequel after reading a book, but these are so strongly written and the characters so engaging that I had to. I think the author is wise to leave it as a trilogy, but what a trilogy - really good.

Alison O'Leary, Christmas Cat Blues: Ah, these lovely cats and this lovely family! A treat for Christmas, and a decent length, too - but not so Christmassy you can't read it any other time of the year.

Lesley Kelly, Songs by Dead Girls: The second in this extraordinary series about peri-pandemic Edinburgh, written before the pandemic. It's clever and funny and a very convincing world - if you haven't read these, you really should!

Dick Francis, Slay RideI haven't read a Dick Francis in years so I went looking for a cheap ebook of one I haven't read, and was pleased to find Slay Ride, set mostly in Norway. I love Norway so this was a bonus, and the mixture was much the same as before - horse racing, crime, learning some new things, some slightly dated romantic encounters. When I read ebooks I tend to read several at once, 10% of each of them. I was amused to find that I read this one just as I would have read a paperback Dick Francis years ago - straight through. Quick and entertaining, though not as many horses as usual.

Nikki Copleston, The Price of Silence: A prequel to other books in the series, this is an excellent mystery where no one is quite what they seem. It's a good series, police procedural with sound characters and plenty of interest.

Dale H. Lehman, The Fibonacci Murders: Clever plot, interesting characters that could carry a series well, maybe a touch short but a good read.

Right, well, I was about a quarter of the way through the seventh book in the Hippolyta series when I was interrupted, and ended up instead writing A Vengeful Harvest. The first draft was finished yesterday, so now for the edit! 

It's set in Aberdeen just at the outbreak of the Second World War, and the detective is the quiet and thoughtful Inspector Alec Cattanach, sorting out the puzzles of two nasty lorry crashes. More information to follow!