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

Monday 1 January 2024

November and December's reading, and a cover reveal!

It's been a busy few months, but I think I have a small chance to catch up on a few things, so here we are!

Dale Lehmann, True Death: A well-constructed, multi-threaded plot, interesting, rounded characters, and a good sense of settings – some of the best American police procedural work I’ve read. This is the sequel to The Fibonacci Murders and is, perhaps, better than that. I look forward to the next one, Ice on the Bay.

Tormod Cockburn, The Bone Trap: Someone has apparently found a unicorn skull in the Western Isles, and a dead end archaeologist is sent to investigate, only to find that the matter is more current than he might have thought. The start of a promising series: though I wasn’t keen on the leaps back and forth between past and present tense, the characters are interesting and the plot intriguing.

Hannah Dolby, No Life for a Lady: Violet’s mother appears to have bolted when she was young, but Violet has always wanted to know where and why, not least because it affects her own reputation with the stream of young men her father presents as possible husbands. The detective she has employed is very uninspiring and rather sleazy, so she tries to recruit another one, who has retired and refuses to take her case. How she worrits the poor man into helping her and finds out what happened to her mother, as well as equipping herself for life as a lady detective, is very amusing indeed.

Clifford Witting, Catt out of the Bag: A man goes missing during a carol-singing outing – has he run away or has something more sinister happened? This has a good between-the-wars feel to it, with amateur sleuths and local characters and a spot of Christmas merriment. I spotted the miscreant early on, but it was an entertaining read, all the same.

Peter Boland, Death at the Dog Show: Fiona and her colleagues are once again quick to snatch up the reins of investigation when a prize winning dog owner is killed by lethal injection. Cosy but compulsive, this is a great series for a light read – and I have to keep catching myself now every time I think I might be Partial to something.

Jodi Taylor, The Good, The Bad and the History: Another excellent episode in this wild and eccentric series, the usual mixture of rapid-paced adventure, high-risk time travel, laugh out loud incidents and tragedy – not sure how she keeps all this going but she does!

Carmen Radtke, Ghost takes a Vacation: Lots of fun here as Genie takes her ghostly relative to Italy in search of some of her old possession. The ghost is not only an animal whisperer but also a ferocious matchmaker, but Genie and she make an excellent team in this Italian romp.

Ross Greenwood, Death at Paradise Park: The second in this new series, and we’re back with Ashley and Hector, a really interesting pairing. They’re investigating a number of murders in the upmarket end of a caravan park, but what connects them with the death of a minor criminal in a chippie car park?

Nikki Copleston, A Strange and Murderous Air: I like the detective here and can feel for him as he is partly estranged from his usual team to investigate an abduction with roots in the past. We’re led up and down various red-herring trails, and nothing is quite as it seems until we reach a satisfying solution.

Fiona Veitch Smith, The Picture House Murders: This has a nice period feel though some expressions are a bit off (Joe Soap and topping himself and ducks in a row all feel a bit Second World War or later to me, but I could be wrong). But it’s a good plot, a fine traditional tone, and a good set up for a series.

Jason Vail, The Richest Man in Town: Stephen, the hero, is caught between a number of conflicting duties here as he has to break into Ludlow Castle to further the cause of his employers, and investigate the death of a wealthy merchant. As always the fight scenes are the best bits in these books, but the humour is also appealing and there’s an excellent sense of place and time, though someone should tell him we call Simon de Montfort 'de Montfort' and not just 'Montfort'.

B.R.M. Stewart, The Deaths on the Black Rock: I was on a panel with this author at Angus Literary Festival (standing in for someone) and bought this book from him based pretty much on the title alone! However, it proved to be a very good read. There was a touch too much sleazy porn for my liking but it fitted with the plot – but if this is a series then I’m not sure what direction it’s going to take! I’ll look forward to finding out. No idea what's happened the formatting here ...

Ruth Dudley Edwards, Matricide at St. Martha’s: A politically incorrect yet ultimately charitable tale of murder at an undistinguished Cambridge college, entertaining and appalling at the same time.

Ruth Dudley Edwards, Ten Lords A-Leaping: The outrageous Jack Troutbeck has been made a baroness and is determined to save fox-hunting for the nation, in the face of a really ludicrous number of deaths. If you’re in almost any way sensitive probably best to leave this one, but it’s an entertaining read picked up, with its predecessor, by chance.

Cecilia Peartree, The Riverton Inheritance: I had some chilling flashbacks here to unruly estate office records in my past! Our heroine Kitty is trying to recover her inheritance, Riverton, which seems to have been usurped by a periodically charming naval captain. Kitty is quite prepared to cast all propriety aside to deal with the villain, but fortunately she has Will on her side to keep her on the straight and narrow through all the perils ahead. Very amusing, and very charming!

Gemini Gibson, The Augmentors: This is a steam-punk fantasy thriller, set in an alternative Victorian London. George has been taken in by his respectable uncle as a secretary when his father is disgraced, but finds himself reluctantly allied with a persecuted underbelly class keeping London going at great risk to themselves. “Father always says that the telephonic apparatus is one of the few modern inventions that has little future. There are so few people worth talking to.” The excitement builds relentlessly but there’s enough time taken to make sure that the plot all hangs together, there is some fantastic detail (the arm sleeves will live with me), and as a bonus, the artwork is really good!

And amongst other things I'm catching up on, I'm now nearly 2/5 through the first draft of The Fate of the Sea Stag, the fifth Orkneyinga book. And here's the lovely cover - 

Ballater Bugle

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