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

Thursday 9 March 2023

February's books - not quite as late as usual!

Just the one month's reading this time, and as usual a bit of a hotchpotch - some of it stimulated by a reading challenge!

Old Haunts by [Kath Middleton]

Kath Middleton, Old Haunts: Another lovely read from Middleton – emotion, suspense, laughter, kindness, characters you want to spend time with and memories that haunt you. A delight.

Carl Ashmore, The Time Huntersand the Box of Eternity: This is a book for about twelve to fourteen year olds (very roughly) but it’s very entertaining for anyone to read. Becky and Joe have an uncle, Percy, who travels in time, along with a bunch of his cronies, and when the children go to stay with him they become involved in his adventures. The over-arching plot is that the villain has been instrumental, apparently, in 'losing’ their father somewhere in time, and uncle and his friends are trying to find him and rescue him. Pirates, parrots and zombie sharks, and a guest appearance by Al Capone – why not?

Quentin Bates, Cold Steal: This is the second I’ve read in this series, and they have a sort of sensible, unsensational tone as Gunna, the detective, just gets on with life and the random things it throws at her – like murders, office rivalries, and unplanned grandchildren. In crime fiction terms they’re what I would call trad, neither cosy nor noir. This maybe doesn’t sound like a great advert but there’s something very real and solid about them that I like a great deal.

Marco Vichi, Death in Florence (trans. Steven Sartarelli): Written in the 1960s this is quite dated in some ways (attitudes to forensics, women, smoking and litter, for example), and focuses on the violent death of a young boy, so there’ll be many who won’t want to read this anyway. The main character is constantly struck by memories of the war in which he served, and by waves of depression and loneliness, and this is the Florence of the locals, not the tourists. However, there is a great description of the great 1966 flood breaking the banks of the Arno and its aftermath, and like pretty much every crime novel I’ve read set in Italy there are reflections on the state of the nation and its addiction to corruption. The crime is a particularly nasty one. This seems to be the last in this short series – not sure if I would go back and read the others or not.

Rhys Dylan, The Engine House: I was disappointed to find that this was mostly in the present tense. However, the story starts well even if there’s that fairly common theme of ‘guess what’s wrong with the policeman’ that’s happening these days. Two bodies turn up on a Welsh coastal path, dragging a retired policeman back into a cold case that he always hoped he would solve. The plot is unexpected and very good, and I’ll probably read on in the series.

Denzil Meyrick, For Any Other Truth: I’d slightly lost track of this series, not sure why, but it was easy to slip back in with sarky Scott and ancient Hamish and the others in Kinloch. The boss’s past is trying to catch up on her again and a very odd aeronautical accident is keeping the police busy when someone they’re all very fond of disappears.

Louise Penny, The Brutal Telling: It’s hard, I think, to describe these books without making them sound cosy, but they’re really not. Yes, the setting is usually a beautiful, charming village called Three Pines, full of wonderful food, delightful scenery and barking eccentrics. Yes, the main detective is happily married. But there is an extraordinary depth to the stories and the characters, and you find yourself coming back to the series again and again to see another layer peeled gently away, to find another pain, another tragedy, another secret, and to learn from it and feel that you and the characters grow in strength and wisdom together. But Penny is not above humour, either – or indeed a nice Shakespearean allusion – a couple who moved to the village and had a son called Havoc. ‘And once there, they’d created Havoc. ‘Havoc!’ his mother cried, letting the dogs slip out as she called into the woods.’

I've  been very busy finishing A Vengeful Harvest, the first in the Alec Cattanach series set in Second World War Aberdeen, and getting back into Hippolyta VII, A Day for Death, which is now almost half-written. Cover reveals coming soon!