It's been a busy month again and now we're into Crazy September, my annual galloping panic. But here are last month's reads - some really good ones here! Amazon are not helping, though: I used to arrange my Kindle into collections like 'Currently reading' and 'For review', but now this apparently doesn't work any more, so if I miss something for review I must apologise.
Elizabeth Bailey, The Gilded Shroud: The first in the Lady Fan series of Georgian crime novels. I had not read these before as for some reason I had thought they were set in Japan! Not that I have anything against books set in Japan (I’ve read a few) but they hadn’t particularly drawn my attention till I ‘met’ the author in a Facebook group. So here I am, belatedly. And while I’m on timing, I’m really glad I didn’t read these when I was starting out, or I might have lost heart altogether. This was a very well-written, well-drawn book. If I had any criticism to make it was that the description of the various entrances to the house where the murder took place lost me completely, but I loved Ottilia and the Dowager, and the cleverly-depicted period.
Valerie Keogh, No Past Forgiven: This starts with lots of little cases and some hope for Mike and Edel. It feels bitty until they head off to Clare Island and get involved in a local case. There has to be some suspension of disbelief at the way Edel is constantly allowed to attend crime scenes and interviews, but once past that it’s a good, interesting plot, with an ending that spins us on to the next book.
Shani Struthers, Rise to Me: I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed the first one in this series, set in East Sussex where I lived for a while, and I was a bit cross with myself for leaving it so long before going back for the second one. Nevertheless it was an easy catch-up, and a good, exciting plot all rounded off nicely at the end.
Peter Boland, The Beach HutMurders: Despite my mild misgivings about the first in the series (or rather, the author’s comments about it), I thoroughly enjoyed the second outing for the charity shop detectives. Each plays nicely to their own strengths and they pick up some useful friends along the way in this atmospheric cosy. I thought I had guessed the means of murder, but I was still not quite right, and certainly didn’t spot the killer!
Rhys Dylan, Suffer the Dead: If nothing else, I’m seriously impressed by the MC’s ability to converse on his mobile while opening one of those little tubs of UHT milk in hotel bedrooms. One handed? Wow! But it’s another entertaining, scary and tragic episode in the lives of the team, transported to North Wales for this particular book. The portrayal of rural life and the threat of rural crime was well done.
J.D. Kirk: In Service of Death: As always, we have pathos, bathos, humour and violence in an adroit mix here, and Hoon, too. Hang on to your hats – it’s the usual terrific ride. Only misgiving is the use of the Commando memorial on the cover - it didn't feel quite right to me.
Catriona Keith, The Devil and Daniel Singer: I don’t like books written in the present tense, though at least this is first person narrative which makes it slightly more credible. The presentation, too, is not wholly conventional, and there are many things about it I did not like or found awkward. I was wary about a particular sect being picked out in the book description and thought the author might be getting herself into trouble, and apart from the setting there was little in the description that appealed to me about the book. So there – this book was not setting out to attract me. Yet I was caught at once by the quality of some of the writing and the two main characters, who are distinct and in one case well-drawn. This still needs editing, but it is an unexpectedly interesting read. Expensive for a first e-book from an unknown author, though: £5.99.
Alex Walters, Old Evils: The fourth Annie Delamere book. This is an author whose books I’ll buy as soon as I see there’s a new one, and I had the good fortune to attend a workshop he ran at Cromarty last year. Here’s a plot that unfolds leaf by leaf, all the leaves neatly joined, with strong, interesting characters and enough over-arching plot to sustain interest book by book. Looking forward to the next one.
Anna Penrose, Dead Winter Bones: I’ve been looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. Mal is a terrific main character, and what a good plot! Apparently the third is on its way, which is great news.Also this month I'm going to make mention of a new online magazine, Writers' Narrative, a packed production full of interest for writers in any genre. Regular features such as best libraries, writing groups, independent bookshops and so on are mixed in with interviews and articles - the second edition focussed particularly on marketing, always a tough subject with authors! At present it's a free publication - maybe time to sign up! email@example.com.
And what am I doing? Apart from trying to stay on the horse's back as I gallop through September, I'm still writing the first in the Robert Wilson series, now called The Business in Blandyce - there's a cover and everything! And I'm over 3/5 through the first draft. Coming up is a visit to Orkney with a talk at the Orkney Viking Festival, and with a view to writing (yes, I know, it's been a while) No. 5 in the Orkneyinga Vikings series!!! Don't hold your breath - there's only the ghost of a plot so far, but the hope and intention are there. Fingers crossed!