Late again! It's almost traditional. But here's what I read in May:
Lynda Wilcox: A Traitor at Tower Bridge: A painter (of Tower Bridge, not a landscape artist) turns up dead, and Lady Eleanor is obliged to go south of the river to investigate amongst a class of whom she knows little. A very good yarn, with interesting characters and a strong sense of the period.
Cecilia Peartree, Rights and Wrongs: The next Max Falconer book, dealing with animal rights and Max's obscure museum. As usual the secondary characters are fascinating and amusing, just as much as the main ones, making for an entertaining read and a growing feeling of coming home to a new book.
Wendy Percival, Blood-Tied: This is the first in the Esme Quentin series, a genealogical mystery series. I had previously, some time ago, read a short story in the series and had always meant to come back to it: Esme is a gentle but determined character with a mysterious past and a scarred face, and the mystery here involves her own family, a sister that turns out not quite to be a sister and a connexion with the local landed gentry that is not all it seems.
Violet Moller, The Map of Knowledge: This readable account of the transmission of classical learning, mathematics, medicine and astronomy, in the ancient world is scholarly and informative. It conjures up vivid pictures of, in turn, Alexandria, Baghdad, Cordoba, Toledo, Salerno, Palermo, and Venice, their origins and how they came to play a part in the history of knowledge. There is a touch of the formula about each chapter: she begins with a specific incident, a human touch, in each place, that demonstrates the status of the city, then goes on to explain its history, its rise to greatness, its relationship with previous cities, and what happened afterwards, but the accounts of both places and people are fascinating. I perhaps don’t altogether sympathise with her enthusiasm over Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, however. About a third of the book is actually bibliography and footnotes, so don’t go expecting extra cities after 1500!
Ross Greenwood, Death on Cromer Beach: A shocking start and an unusual leading detective, Ashley, who may have the almost standard troubled background but is somehow very real. There’s a good deal of talking but the pace is good and the plot interesting, the results, it appears, of a beach tragedy years before where a teenager died. A very satisfactory start to a new series.
Ed James, The Turning of our Bones: The start of a new series here, as a London police detective returns home to the Scottish Borders to pursue a serial killer. This did not have the instant appeal of the Scott Cullen series for me, but I preferred it to the one book I’ve read of James’ London series: like the Barnett book below, it took a while to grow on me, and in the end I might well read another.
Andrew Barnett, Death Warning: A while since I read one of these, and it took me a good bit to get into it again. Eddie is a fully-paid-up member of the awkward squad, and there seemed to be a plethora of unlikeable characters throughout the book. Slowly it worked its charm on me and as always I did enjoy it.
David Gatward, Restless Dead: A terrible car accident and some sheep rustling closer to home involve the team in an investigation where it seems even the supernatural might be to blame. An intriguing plot, which edges over into the next book. This really is a very enjoyable series. I carried on to Death's Requiem and am now in the middle of the next one - the team here is very appealing, even when the crime is nasty.
Rhys Dylan, Ice Cold Malice and Caution Death at Work: Another series that is picking me up and carrying me off, this time set in Wales, but as with David Gatward the team is the draw here, a cast of characters with whom one wants to spend time. Well plotted, too!
Elly Griffiths, The Last Remains: Maybe I'm alone in not feeling I needed a resolution to the Ruth/Nelson relationship (I've never been that keen on Nelson, though I like Ruth tremendously). But this was as satisfying as the other books in the series and the author has hinted that there might eventually be a return! In the meantime, she has the Harbinder Kaur series to enjoy (and the 1950s one, too, though it's less my thing).
Moray Dalton, Death in the Dark: This was a surprisingly charming little mystery starring a circus performer who, for the purposes of investigation, goes to stay in a private zoo. It's a bit oddly paced, and the guilty party is fairly obvious, but I liked the feel of the book and enjoyed it.
And what else? Hippolyta VII, A Day for Death, is available for preorder now (printed version almost ready), and I'm in the midst of research for another book, set in (probably) 1816 ...