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

Tuesday 1 August 2023

Reading for June and July

 Two months' worth again - I lost track of the dates and decided just to plough on!

Death from a Shetland Cliff (The Shetland Sailing Mysteries Book 8) by [Marsali Taylor]

Marsali Taylor, Death from a Shetland Cliff: I love this series, so it was great to be back with Cass who pretends, for various reasons, to be a maid to an elderly woman. When the relatives gather around the woman and one of them dies, it’s hard to know if someone’s after the inheritance or hiding a family secret. A good traditional puzzle here, and a satisfying conclusion.

No Obvious Cause: A Gripping Crime Mystery (The Dublin Murder Mysteries) by [Valerie Keogh]

Valerie Keogh, No Obvious Cause: It’s been a while since I read the first in this series, though I enjoyed it. It was good to reacquaint myself with Garda Sergeant West, a pleasant man, and his sidekick Pete Andrews. This was an interesting little plot involving Guyanese vegetables. I’ve bought the set of six, and am looking forward to the rest.

The Medici Murders (A Venetian Mystery Book 1) by [David Hewson]

David Hewson, The Medici Murders: I was recommended this for its portrayal of an archivist – hm, a rather odd, pretentious archivist, more interested in archival theory than the practicalities of the job. However, the setting is attractive – Venice, with a plot involving papers relating to a murder amongst the Medici. The portrayal of a popular television ‘historian’ is quite amusing, if rather bitter (which fits the characters). All the characters are two-dimensional, though. The idea that the Italian for ‘history’ is the same as the Italian for ‘story’ holds true for several languages and is not unique to Venice. I was not convinced that the police, in a hurry to solve a murder, would call in this pedantic (ironic, since I’m being pedantic enough myself) little man to help out. His knowledge of Venice, after only three months there, seems ambitious, and he is a very specific kind of archivist, I should say. Still, it was an interesting read – not sure I’ll be rushing to read another one.

No Time Like The Past (Chronicles of St. Mary's Book 5) by [Jodi Taylor]

Jodi Taylor, No Time Like the Past: In the usual slightly episodic style this rackets along, drawing all the episodes together in an exciting climax, with some very important progress in the whole overarching plot of the series. Best read in order – or just best read.

The Magus of Hay (Merrily Watkins Series) by [Phil Rickman]

Phil Rickman, The Magus of Hay: it’s a while since I read one of these, and though I really enjoy them I remember the last one dragging a bit – perhaps because I wasn’t so much in the mood at the time. This one I took to almost straightaway, with its Hay-on-Wye book town setting. Very interesting background and a good plot, so I’m back on track!

The Filey Connection (#1 - Sanford Third Age Club Mystery) (STAC - Sanford Third Age Club Mystery) by [David W Robinson]

David W. Robinson, The Filey Connection: The lead character in this, Joe, is a bad-tempered cafĂ© owner with a track record of solving minor local crimes. When an acquaintance, known as ‘Knickers Off’, is killed in apparent hit-and-run, he is quick to step in and interpret it as murder, even though he’s busy organising the local Third Age weekend by the sea. I didn’t much like Joe – he’s unnecessarily rude – but his sidekicks are good. Lots of twists and turns, and one or two difficult to follow steps, but on the whole a satisfying read.

Murder at The Mill : Introducing Amy Rowlings: A gorgeous cosy 1930's crime series (Amy Rowlings Mysteries Book 1) by [T.A. Belshaw]

T.A. Belshaw, Murder at the Mill: Set in early 1939 in a snowy town in Kent, the plot revolves around the murder, at a clothing factory, of Wandering Handsley, the slimy son of the owner. Amy, one of the machinists, soon hooks up with Bodkin, the police detective, to investigate. This is a rather chirpy, cheery book, with some nice period detail but a few errors, calling Bodkin ‘Detective’, for example, anachronistic speech and lots of wandering punctuation. You have to suspend disbelief a bit to allow young Amy quite such free rein in the investigation, and there are more divorced couples than I would have expected in the 1930s working class, but it’s entertaining stuff.

A Song of Winter by [Andrew James Greig]

Andrew James Greig, A Song of Winter: Quite a scary setting in a climate crisis way – Finlay and Jess with their children and dog have to go into hiding as Finlay is involved in discovering a major climate event about to hit Scotland. Government conspiracies to conceal the crisis to avoid greater catastrophe provides another plot line. I’d expected better of the grammar, for some reason – I’m sure the editing in general was better in the previous book I’d read by him – but the plot is certainly gripping.

A Tangled Web: Mata Hari: Dancer, Courtesan, Spy by [Mary W. Craig]

Mary W. Clark, A TangledWeb: This is a biography of Mata Hari, Dutchwoman and self-styled exotic dancer and courtesan, who in 1917 was accused of spying for Germany, condemned and shot by the French. It’s immensely detailed and interesting, with a lengthy epilogue debating the possible truths of the case. Mata Hari does not come across as very intelligent and certainly ends as a pathetic figure, and the selection of photographs included emphasises that.

No More Lies: 2023’s most chilling suspense novel yet from the queen of psychological thrillers by [Rachel Abbott]

Rachel Abbot, No More Lies: The lovely Tom is back, solving a case that has its origins in a group of friends and their last night together before heading off to university and other points. This one I did solve, but that doesn't detract from the quality of this series - excellent suspense.

Blood Sport: A Yorkshire Murder Mystery (DCI Harry Grimm Crime Thrillers Book 7) by [David J. Gatward]

David Gatward, Blood Sport: did I review this before? This had me on tenterhooks because of the potential animal cruelty involved, but it's a good strong plot that I almost solved but not quite! These really need to be read in order for best impact.

Cold Sanctuary: A Yorkshire Murder Mystery (DCI Harry Grimm Crime Thrillers Book 8) by [David J.  Gatward]

David Gatward, Cold Sanctuary: A grim start to this, not necessarily because of the manner of the death but because of the relationship between parents and grown-up son. I was relieved when the usual team appeared, and while there were some real upsets along the way it was another terrific read.

One Bad Turn: A Yorkshire Murder Mystery (DCI Harry Grimm Crime Thrillers Book 9) by [David J.  Gatward]

And another Gatward, One BadTurn: This one gets extra points for referring to Local Hero, one of my favourite films, as well as a good portrayal of PTSD for one of the team. 

And where am I? Well, I'm nearly a quarter of the way through the first book in the new series  - no proper title yet, and going slowly as there's lots of research to be done along the way.